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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1076306 times)
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« Reply #7560 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:11 AM »

Pig Putin's Russia.........

07/16/2013 07:39 PM

Antarctic Angst: Russia Blamed for Failed Nature Reserve Talks

Hopes had been high for the creation of two vast nature preserves off the coast of Antarctica. But a key meeting in Germany ended without agreement. Environmental groups are pointing their fingers at Russia.

There had been optimism in some quarters that countries around the world would be able to agree this week on the establishment of two vast marine preserves in the oceans surrounding Antarctica. But on Tuesday, the Commission of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a group of 24 countries plus the European Union, was unable to reach consensus at their special meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany. And environmental groups were left accusing Russia of being responsible for the failure.

"I have never been part of such disappointing negotiations," said Greenpeace activist Iris Menn in a statement on the environmental group's German website. She was seconded by several other organizations. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a collection of prominent personalities around the globe, said that the meeting's failure was "the loss of an extraordinary opportunity to protect the global marine environment for future generations."

The meeting in Bremerhaven was just the second such special session of the CCAMLR since it was founded in 1982. Germany, as the host, had been hoping to broker a deal, with German Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner saying prior to the event that it was a "unique opportunity" for the CCAMLR to "write history." The group was addressing the creation of a 2.3 million-square-kilometer (890,000-square-mile) reserve in the Ross Sea, as well as a further 1.9 million square kilometers along the eastern coast of Antarctica. The plan was to introduce fishing quotas and other restrictions in both areas.

Russia, however, had long voiced opposition to the proposal and in the meeting in Bremerhaven, voiced doubts as to whether the CCAMLR even had the authority to create such protected zones, Germany's delegation leader Walter Dübner told reporters on Tuesday. Ukraine joined Moscow in the complaint.

'A Golden Opportunity'

Environmentalists were not impressed. "The behavior of the Russian delegation endangers the two main pillars of the global effort to protect our oceans: international cooperation and international goodwill," said Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Southern Ocean Sanctuaries Project of the Washington-based Pew Charitable Trusts, in a statement. "We have missed a golden opportunity."

The creation of the Ross Sea preserve had been proposed by the US together with New Zealand. The other site had been put forward by the European Union, France and Australia. The oceans around Antarctica are some of the most pristine waters on the globe and are home to many species, including penguins, seals, whales, dolphins, squid and albatross. The region also provides all important breeding grounds to myriad species of krill, an important early link in the food chain.

Russia was not the only country to voice skepticism at the establishment of the preserves. Norway in particular catches vast quantities of krill off the coast of Antarctica for use in large salmon farms back home.

Despite the collapse of the talks this week, all hope has not been lost. The next regular meeting of the CCAMLR is planned for October. "We should begin looking for compromise solutions for the two proposals that are on the table," said Dübner.


John Kerry vows to fight on for Antarctic marine haven

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:12 EDT

US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed to keep up the battle to set up a sanctuary to protect the unique marine ecosystem in parts of the Antarctic.

And he voiced “regret” that attempts to create the world’s largest ocean sanctuary in the Ross Sea were blocked, with environmental groups accusing Russia of raising objections to the move.

Australia and New Zealand also said they were deeply disappointed, but vowed to push ahead.

“There’s simply no comprehensive effort to protect Earth’s most critical resource that doesn’t include an equally comprehensive effort to create marine protected areas,” Kerry, who is on a visit to Jordan, said in a statement.

“The Ross Sea is a natural laboratory. Its ecosystem is as diverse as it is productive, and we have a responsibility to protect it as environmental stewards-just as we do the rest of the ocean.”

Three days of talks in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, had gathered 24 nations plus the European Union (EU) in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a 31-year-old treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.

One proposal for a marine sanctuary, floated by the United States and New Zealand, covered 1.6 million square kilometers (640,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica’s Pacific side.

The other backed by Australia, France and the EU, would protect 1.9 million square kilometers of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent’s Indian Ocean side.

But representatives at the talks said Russia questioned the meeting’s legal right to create such sanctuaries.

The waters around Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, as well as unique species of fish, sponges and worms that are bioluminescent or produce their own natural anti-freeze to survive in the region’s chilly waters.

Kerry said “a tremendous amount of work has gone into developing the science that underpins our joint proposal.”

“To leverage action, we’ll be doubling down on sharing the findings of our scientists who spend those critical months in the dead of winter at McMurdo Station researching and understanding the realties that face all of us.”

Although “the road has been harder than we hoped,” the top US diplomat said he was pleased so many countries had been able to find common ground and “were willing to work together towards this crucial objective.”

“We didn’t agree on all of the specifics, but there’s an emerging consensus that the Antarctic region requires protection,” he added. The next CCAMLR meeting is in Hobart, Australia, from October 23.

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« Reply #7561 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:13 AM »

07/17/2013 02:17 PM

Neo-Nazi Trial: Damaging Testimony Against Zschäpe

A police officer who interrogated an alleged accomplice of the NSU terrorism group claims that Beate Zschäpe, the main defendant in the Munich neo-Nazi trial, was an "equal member" in the trio that is believed to have shot dead 10 people, most of foreign origin.

A federal police officer questioned in Germany's neo-Nazi terrorism trial in Munich on Tuesday provided testimony that is some of the most damning yet for the main defendant, Beate Zschäpe, who is accused of being an accomplice in 10 murders and a member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist group.

The officer said the alleged accomplice Holger G., accused of supporting the NSU, had said during interrogation that Zschäpe had been an "equal member" in the group alongside the other two members, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.

The NSU claimed responsibility for murdering nine mostly Turkish immigrants and a German police officer. Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed suicide as police were closing in on them after they robbed a bank in November 2011. Holger G. also said Zschäpe came across "like a wife" with two husbands. "Decisions were always made together with Ms. Zschäpe," he allegedly said.

'Assertive' and 'Prepared to Use Violence'

Holger G. allegedly told the police officer he had experienced Zschäpe within the group as a person who was "assertive" and also "prepared to use violence". He said she wasn't the kind of woman who subordinated herself to others. Holger G. allegedly told the police officer about one incident when Zschäpe slapped a punk woman on a bus because she had "looked at her in a funny way."

Holger G. told the police officer that Zschäpe was responsible for the group's finances. He also spoke of "benefit concerts" and "ballad nights" at which money had been collected within the far-right scene for the group in hiding. G. himself donated 3,000 deutsche marks (just over €1,500 or $2,000) for the purpose -- money he was later paid back by Zschäpe. The police asserted that G. had accused co-defendant Ralf Wohlleben of helping to organize the concerts.

Holger G. looked very similar to Böhnhardt, and allegedly made both his passport and his driver's license available to the group as well as other documents, making it possible for them to rent vehicles used in bank robberies and to help facilitate their lives underground. He was indispensable to Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe. But it was a role he wasn't entirely comfortable with. G. reportedly told the federal police officer that he was concerned the second time he secured a passport for Böhnhardt. He didn't want to lose everything that he and his girlfriend had built up over the years.

Help for the Sake of Friendship

At the beginning of the Munich trial, Holger G. testified that he had broken with his right-wing radical past when he moved from the former East Germany to Hanover and met a girlfriend there. Still, the federal police officer testified that he had continued to be available to support Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe afterwards for pure reasons of friendship.

The testimony from the police officer could prove damaging to the defense because Holger G. spoke often during his interrogations of "the three," or "the trio". It indicates there were no differences in the hierarchy and could prove important to prosecutors in proving that Zschäpe was a member of a terrorist organization.

In addition to aiding the terror group, Holger G. is also alleged to have delivered a pistol to the group. The gun was allegedly bought by co-defendant Ralf Wohlleben. The federal police officer said Holger G. had brought the investigation forward "massively" by saying who obtained the weapon. Initially, G. told police he didn't know he had been carrying a weapon, but he eventually conceded his knowledge of it.

A Weapon Delivered Despite Reluctance

Holger G. said he was reluctant to deliver the weapon but did so because he didn't believe Böhnhardt or Mundlos would use it. This came despite the fact that there had been numerous discussions within the inner circle of the NSU about whether the group should be armed. Both Böhnhardt and Mundlos had clearly stated they were prepared for violence.

Wohlleben has been charged with being an accomplice to murder in the case and Holger G. with supporting a terrorist group. The only reason G. hasn't been charged with being an accomplice to murder as well is that the weapon he delivered to the group has not been linked to any of the killings.

Holger G. had a close relationship with the group and even went on vacations with them -- trips that Zschäpe allegedly paid for in exchange for yearly "system checks" by Holger G. to ensure that the cover he provided them in securing documents under Uwe Böhnhardt's name would still work.

So far, Holger G. has not been willing to be questioned in court.

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« Reply #7562 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:15 AM »

07/16/2013 07:17 PM

'Not Too Late': Nazi Hunters Launch Poster Campaign

By David Crossland

The Simon Wiesenthal Center will hang posters in major German cities next week as part of its campaign to bring surviving Nazi war criminals to justice almost 70 years after the end of World War II. It is offering rewards of up to €25,000 for information.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said on Tuesday it was launching a poster campaign in major German cities, calling on the public for information to help it track down surviving Nazi war criminals.

The posters, which will go up on on July 23, will feature a photo of the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and the slogan, "Late. But not too late! Operation Last Chance II."

The Wiesenthal Center is offering rewards of up to €25,000 ($33,000) for information leading to arrests and prosecutions. The posters will appear in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne and will have a hotline number for people to call if they have information.

Operation Last Chance II was launched in December 2011 to help step up prosecutions following a legal precedent set by the conviction that year of John Demjanjuk, found guilty by a Munich court of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews while he was a guard at Sobibor in occupied Poland.

'Contribution Against Forgetfulness'

Legal experts say the Demjanjuk verdict in a Munich court paved the way for convictions of other surviving death camp guards. In what lawyers called a significant reinterpretation of the law, the court ruled that prosecutors no longer need to establish culpability in specific murders to secure a conviction. Having been a guard in a death camp is now seen as proof enough of having assisted in murder.

"Every single prosecution is an important reminder that justice can still be achieved for the victims of the Holocaust," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office.

"This also is an important contribution against forgetfulness of future generations. The advanced age of the perpetrators should not be a reason to discontinue prosecution, since the passage of time in no way diminishes their guilt, and old age should not protect murderers."

Nazi hunters welcomed the prosecution last month in Hungary of 98-year-old Laszlo Csatary for helping to deport Jews to Auschwitz and the arrest in Germany of Hans Lipschis, a suspected former guard at Auschwitz.

Zuroff, a historian, coordinates the Center's research into Nazi war crimes and organizes its efforts to track down war criminals.

The Wiesenthal Center's Operation Last Chance campaign was first introduced in 2002.

Lipschis is among 50 Auschwitz guards who are still alive in Germany today and who are now being investigated following the Demjanjuk conviction.

Some legal experts say Germany's late rush to bring the surviving lower-ranking suspects to trial looks implausiblegiven the lenience shown for decades to people who were in more senior positions in the Holocaust machinery, most of whom are now dead.

In the 1960s and 1970s, German courts argued that the top Nazi leadership was principally to blame for the Holocaust and that people carrying out orders were bound by a chain of command and therefore had limited culpability.

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« Reply #7563 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:16 AM »

07/17/2013 11:12 AM

Hitler-Stalin Pact?: Hungary Warns of German EU Leadership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told diplomats on Tuesday that closer ties between a Germany-led EU and Russia were enough to make people check to see if their "children are still in the yard" -- an oblique yet unmistakeable reference to the Hitler-Stalin pact.

The latest remarks by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán are unlikely to improve his fractured relations with Germany or the EU. Speaking on Tuesday, he invoked the memory of World War II to warn against German leadership of the European Union.

"When a person reads about a rapprochement between Russia and an EU led by Germany, he looks out to see whether his children are still in the yard," Orbán said on Tuesday in remarks to an annual meeting of Hungarian ambassadors, according to the German news agency DPA.

Orbán made the comment in answer to a question by one diplomat about relations between the EU and Russia.

Many people in Central and Eastern Europe are wary of any signs of closer ties between Moscow and Berlin because they remember the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact which carved up much of Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.

Orbán has drawn widespread international criticism for weakening Hungary's democratic institutions through the introduction of a new constitution and a host of other controversial laws.

In May, Orbán had made a remark about Nazi tanks in the context of Germany's policy towards Hungary, drawing an unusually sharp rebuke from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

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« Reply #7564 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:18 AM »

07/17/2013 12:58 PM

Suspected Terrorist Network: Police Raid Neo-Nazi 'Werwolf' Cell

By Sven Röbel and Jörg Schindler

German prosecutors have been investigating six neo-Nazis suspected of forming a terrorist group, SPIEGEL has learned. Police searched homes, offices and prison cells in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland in raids on Wednesday.

Police and anti-terrorism units raided 11 homes, offices and prison cells in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland on Wednesday in a joint operation targeting a suspected international neo-Nazi cell.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the raid is part of a secret investigation launched months ago by Germany's Federal Prosecutor's Office on suspicion that several individuals were planning to form a terrorist group.

Six neo-Nazis, together with an unkown number of accomplices, are suspected of planning bomb attacks to overthrow the German politicial system, investigators believe.

The plot was named "Werwolf," in memory of the Nazi "Werwolf" plan for a commando force to launch attacks behind enemy lines in the final stages of World War II.

Prosecutors suspect two Swiss right-wing extremists, named only as Robert S., 54, and Sebastien N., 25 of leading the group. Sebastien N., who is in prison in Switzerland, has Nazi symbols tattooed on much of his body.

He is alleged to have shot a young man in Zurich in May 2012, and was arrested in Hamburg 48 hours later before being extradited to Switzerland. His prison cell was searched on Wednesday along with the cell of another neo-Nazi, Roberto K.

Data Encryption Complicating Investigation

In Germany, police searched the homes of Denny R., 29, and Heiko W., 32, in the northern states of Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania respectively.

No arrests are believed to have been made. The investigation so far is based on witness testimony and is proving difficult because the suspects have been using an encryption system they developed for their electronic communications. The police have also been unable to gain evidence of any concrete plans for attacks.

Police confiscated computers and other data storage devices in the raids.

Awareness of the threat of neo-Nazi terrorism has grown since the chance discovery in November 2011 of the National Socialist Underground. The group is believed to have committed at least 10 murders between 2000 and 2007, killing eight immigrants of Turkish descent, one Greek man and a German policewoman, as well as orchestrating a nail bomb attack in Cologne in which 22 people, most of them Turkish immigrants, were injured.

The trial of the last surviving member of the three-person cell, Beate Zschäpe, and four alleged accomplices started in May.

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« Reply #7565 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:19 AM »

07/17/2013 01:12 PM

Greece on the Brink: Athens May Need 10 Billion More

Greek parliament on Wednesday is considering yet more public sector cuts. But even that might not be enough, according to a German newspaper report. With German elections pending, though, any immediate additional relief is unlikely.

The Greek recovery may be facing yet another hurdle. According to a report by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the beleaguered country needs another massive influx of money if it is to avoid insolvency. The paper cites an unnamed official at the European Commission as saying that the "financial gap" could be as large as €10 billion.

The news comes at a difficult time for Greece and its relations with Germany. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is set to visit Athens this Thursday for consultations with his Greek counterpart Yannis Stournaras and with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Schäuble is highly unpopular in Greece for his consistent insistence on austerity. And with German elections looming in September, it seems unlikely that additional aid money for Athens will be forthcoming anytime soon.

That, though, could create further problems for Greece. The International Monetary Fund -- part of the troika of lenders keeping Athens afloat -- is only allowed to provide aid to countries whose finances are guaranteed 12 months into the future. Otherwise, it must withdraw funding. Should that happen, countries like Germany and Finland, who have made their own participation in the bailout contingent on IMF involvement, could withdraw as well.

Concerns that Greece could be in need of additional assistance are not new. France, for example, recently called for direct EU assistance for wobbly Greek banks. In addition, Greek Economy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told German daily Die Welt earlier this month that he expects Europe to agree to another debt haircut for the country, a conjecture with which he is not alone. Indeed, senior economists in Schäuble's own ministry told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday that a further reduction in the country's debt load is necessary.

"There will be a significant cut," Jörg Rocholl, president of the European School of Management and Technology and a member of an advisory council for the Finance Ministry, told the paper. "Greece's ability to shoulder its debts has not been guaranteed."

The anticipated funding shortfall is partly a function of Greece's economy remaining stuck in recession as well as the slow pace of the country's privatization program and other reforms.

More Protests on Wednesday

Indeed, when EU leaders approved the latest tranche of aid money for Greece earlier this month, they elected to spread it out over several months so as to increase the reform pressure on Greece.

The results of that pressure are coming to a head on Wednesday, with parliament set to address the slashing of thousands of public sector jobs by the end of this year. To protest the measure, labor unions on Tuesday staged their fourth general strike of the year, paralyzing the capital with peaceful marches. While it is widely expected that the Antonis government will be able to pass the measures demanded by the EU and the IMF, his margin for error is tiny. One party recently left his coalition in protest at ongoing austerity, leaving Antonis with just a three seat parliamentary majority.

And public employees will be doing their part on Wednesday to remind parliamentarians of their opposition to austerity. Athens is seeing further protests with mayors from around the country marching on parliament as municipal police officers staged a demonstration as well.

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« Reply #7566 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:23 AM »

Turkey gives $1bn in humanitarian aid but global funding gap grows

Pakistan received most emergency aid, according to latest figures, as donors urged to act earlier to save more lives

Mark Tran, Wednesday 17 July 2013 12.01 BST   

Turkey contributed more than $1bn (£66m) in humanitarian aid last year, making it the fourth-largest government donor, highlighting the role of new countries in the aid landscape.

Turkey, which also received official development assistance, ranked behind only the US ($3.8bn), the EU ($1.9bn), and the UK ($1.2bn), according to the global humanitarian assistance report 2013, released by Development Initiatives (DI), a research group.

It is likely that a significant proportion of Turkey's contribution was spent on housing Syrian refugees within Turkey. The UN has appealed for $5.2bn to deal with the Syria crisis, where 6.8 million people are in need, including 1.6 million refugees and 4.25 million internally displaced people.

Last year governments gave $12.9bn for humanitarian assistance, defined as aid to save lives and ease suffering in the aftermath of emergencies such as drought or floods. The scale of humanitarian needs fell marginally, but the funding gap in the UN's consolidated appeal process (Cap), led by the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was at its widest in more than a decade. Only $5.6bn of the $8.9bn funding requirement was met.

Pakistan, Somalia, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip received the most humanitarian assistance in 2011, the latest year for which figures exist. Pakistan received $1.4bn, Somalia $1.1bn, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip $849m. Many of the poorest countries provide humanitarian assistance by hosting refugees – Pakistan hosted more than 1.7 million refugees in 2011, Kenya 567,000 and Chad 367,000.

DI urges donors to provide predictable multi-year funding for chronic crises; spend more on disaster preparation (still only 4.7% of the total in 2011) in close collaboration with governments of affected countries; focus on early response and the interconnectedness of risk; and promote access to information and better reporting.

Early intervention in Somalia could have saved lives, the report said. An estimated 257,000 Somalis (or 4.6% of the population) died of hunger between 2010 and 2012.

"The data shows that the response to slow-onset crises such as Somalia is often late, resulting in huge numbers of unnecessary deaths," said Judith Randel, executive director of DI. "By intervening earlier, as well as investing in mechanisms that reduce risk, donors could save more lives and protect more livelihoods – probably at lower cost."

The latest UN appeal for Somalia plans for 2013-17, which DI says is a major advance on previous one-year appeals, and a step towards recognition that many humanitarian crises are acute manifestations of chronic problems – and should be funded and managed accordingly.

The report outlines reforms to make humanitarian aid more effective, including more cash transfer schemes, a focus on resilience, greater access to information, and more investment in disaster prevention and preparedness. The EU has made cash and voucher programmes a priority and all European community humanitarian office food aid programmes in Haiti and Pakistan contain a cash or voucher element. Cash transfer programmes are intended to boost local markets.

The needs of older people and young children are not being catered for in humanitarian responses, according to a separate report by HelpAge International and Save the Children.

Of 2,800 project proposals submitted to the Cap, only 60 (2.1%) included at least one activity targeting older people – and only 30 of these were actually funded, according to the report.

Only 2.3% of projects reached children under five. Of the 2,800 proposals submitted, 111 projects included at least one activity for under-fives and just 65 were funded. Humanitarian operations are not focused on meeting the specific needs of vulnerable population groups, according to the report.


The Egyptian coup is a warning to Turkey – but will Erdoğan listen?

Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Erdoğan's AK party has alienated opponents. Ennahda in Tunisia shows a way forward for democratic Islamists

James E Baldwin   
The Guardian, Tuesday 16 July 2013 19.38 BST   

Egypt's coup was not just a major shock for Mohamed Morsi, but also for the Middle East's most successful Islamist party: Turkey's AK party. When news of the Egyptian army's deposing of Morsi broke, Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, cut short his holiday on the Aegean coast and convened a crisis meeting of senior ministers. Over the following days Erdoğan strongly condemned the coup, calling it the "killer of democracy and the future" and referring to Egypt's "so-called administration". Why does the coup matter so much to Erdoğan's AK party?

One problem is that the Egyptian coup upsets the AKP's vision of exporting its brand of populist democratic Islamism throughout the Middle East. The AKP saw the Islamist parties that were elected after the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt as following its lead, and cemented this connection with aid – including training and equipment for Tunisia's police and a $1bn loan to Egypt.

Erdogan has cultivated an impressive profile in the Middle East, and now tweets in Arabic more often than in Turkish. Meanwhile, Morsi held up the AK party as the model for a democratising Arab world in his address to the party's congress last autumn. Erdogan's role as self-appointed mentor chimed with the AK party's "neo-Ottoman" approach to foreign policy that positioned Turkey as a regional power.

The AKP also downplayed the scale of popular opposition to Morsi, and presented the coup as a plot hatched by the Egyptian generals. And it used the coup as a metaphor to discredit Turkey's Gezi Park protest movement. Some drew a direct connection: Hatam Ete of the pro-AKP thinktank SETA tweeted that "what was attempted in Turkey has succeeded in Egypt".

Such conspiracy theories are the legacy of years of oppression of Turkish and Egyptian Islamists by the military-backed secular establishments. But the problem for the AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood is that their paranoid style is now losing its resonance outside their bases. The narrative of victimhood stopped attracting broad sympathy once they moved from persecuted opposition to power.

The uncomfortable truth the AKP does not want to accept is that the massive protests that preceded the coup represented a broad-based rejection of Morsi's policies. It should acknowledge this fact, and recognise that it was not political Islam the protesters rejected. Although many of the individual protesters are hostile to political Islam, others are Islamists. Neither do the Gezi Park protesters want to exclude Islamism from Turkish politics. What both movements reject is an aggressive majoritarian understanding of democracy, according to which the election winner takes all and imposes his agenda on the rest of society. The protest movements, by contrast, insist that vibrant opposition is as important a part of democracy as an elected government. The protesters' key demand was to be taken seriously and listened to. The demonisation of opposition as the work of mysterious foreign forces, by both the AK party and the Muslim Brotherhood is therefore not just a misdiagnosis of the problem, it is the problem.

Tunisia shows a different way forward for democratic Islamists. The Islamist Ennahda party, elected in Tunisia after the first revolution of the Arab spring, has also publicly opposed the Egyptian coup. But despite the similarity between Tunisia and Egypt, the coup is less threatening in Tunis than in Ankara. Some of Ennahda's opponents have formed a tamarod (rebel) campaign in imitation of Egypt's, but have had limited success. Unlike Morsi, Ennahda has not attempted to use a narrow poll victory to implement an aggressively partisan agenda, instead governing in coalition with two centre-left secular parties, Ettakatol and the Congress for the Republic. The relative success of Ennahda, despite potentially divisive disagreements over the place of Islam in the constitution, shows the value of this inclusive approach.

The dismissal of opposition as unpatriotic, and the presentation of political struggle as a zero-sum conflict between Islamism and secularism, adopts the narratives of the old regimes in both Turkey and Egypt, but with the roles reversed. Political Islam remains a powerful political force with a large constituency. However, the large, legacy Islamist parties face trouble if they attempt to use their plurality of votes to steamroller opposition. A common thread running through not just the Arab revolutions but recent protest movements worldwide is the demand for a plural political sphere. If democratic-Islamist parties are to avoid alienating their opponents, they must respond to this.

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« Reply #7567 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:27 AM »

Stolen Picasso 'burned in stove' in Romania

Museum analyses ashes for proof they are paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others stolen from Rotterdam gallery

Associated Press in Bucharest, Wednesday 17 July 2013 09.32 BST

A Romanian museum is analysing ashes found in a stove to see if they are the remains of seven paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others that were stolen last year from the Netherlands, an official has said.

The prosecutor's spokeswoman, Gabriela Chiru, told Associated Press that Romania's National History Museum was examining the ashes found in the stove of Olga Dogaru. She is the mother of Radu Dogaru, one of three Romanian suspects charged with stealing the paintings from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery in a daytime heist.

It was the biggest art theft in more than a decade in the Netherlands. The stolen works have an estimated value of tens of millions of dollars if they were sold at auction.

Dogaru told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.

Chiru indicated that authorities did not necessarily believe Dogaru's account. She said it could take months for the results of the tests to be known.

Thieves broke into the museum on 16 October through a rear emergency exit, took the paintings from the wall and fled, all within two minutes.

Police who arrived less than five minutes after the break-in triggered an alarm found nothing but empty spaces on the walls, broken hanging wires and tyre tracks in grass behind the gallery.

The stolen paintings were: Picasso's 1971 Harlequin Head; Monet's 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London; Matisse's 1919 Reading Girl in White and Yellow; Paul Gauguin's 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window; Meyer de Haan's Self-Portrait, around 1890; and Lucian Freud's 2002 work Woman With Eyes Closed.

Radu Dogaru, the alleged ringleader, remains in custody along with two other suspects as investigators seek the paintings and other evidence.

The stolen paintings came from the private Triton Foundation, a collection of avant-garde art put together by multimillionaire Willem Cordia, an investor and businessman, and his wife, Marijke Cordia-Van der Laan. Cordia died in 2011.

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« Reply #7568 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:32 AM »

What is the meaning of the 'vampire graves' unearthed in Poland?

Decapitated skeletal remains in eastern Europe are often believed to be vampire bones, but there could be a less spooky explanation

Leo Hickman   
Tuesday 16 July 2013 14.52 BST The Guardian

The world's media have been getting their teeth into the story of a "vampire grave" uncovered last week by archaeologists at a roadside construction site in the town of Gliwice in southern Poland. When four skeletons were found with their skulls placed between their legs, speculation followed that these were suspected vampires that had been prevented from rising from the grave through the once-ritualistic local practice of decapitation.

"It's very difficult to tell when these burials were carried out," Dr Jacek Pierzak, the lead archaeologist, told the Dziennik Zachodni newspaper. Early indications, he said, suggested the grave could be dated to the 16th century. Other clues possibly suggesting a vampire burial included the skeleton's lack of any personal items, such as jewellery. Meanwhile, other local newspaper reports noted that an alternative theory suggested they were not vampires, but victims of an execution at a known nearby gallows.

Whatever the truth – the Guardian adopts a firmly sceptical position on the undead – the discovery of so-called vampire graves is not uncommon across eastern Europe. Last year, archaeologists in Bulgaria found two medieval skeletons with iron rods driven through their chest. According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, who runs the National History Museum in Sofia, about 100 such skeletons have been uncovered in Bulgaria, with the gruesome practice known across the Balkans, where fear of vampires has been at its strongest over the centuries.

The root of the vampire legend goes right back to ancient Egypt and Greece, says Dr Tim Beasley-Murray, a senior lecturer at UCL's School of Slavonic and East European studies who teaches on a course entitled Vampires, Society and Culture: Transylvania and Beyond. The myth, he says, then spread up through the Balkans into eastern Europe where it proved fertile during the pre-Christian era: "There is a strong Slavic belief in spirits. Romanian folklore has vampiric figures such as the moroi and strigoi. The word 'mora' means nightmare. But these are common to many cultures. We often see bird- or owl-like figures that swoop down and feed on you."

But beyond the specific dread of vampires, there has long been a fear of the dead rising up to terrorise the living. In 2008, archaeologists found a 4,000-year-old grave in Mikulovice in the Czech Republic in which the skeleton had been weighed down at the head and the chest by two large stones. "Remains treated in this way are now considered as vampiric," Radko Sedlacek, the director of the East Bohemia Museum, told reporters at the time. "The dead man's contemporaries were afraid that he might leave his grave and return to the world."

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« Reply #7569 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:34 AM »

Women on frontline in struggle for Western Sahara

Unusually for a Muslim country, Sahrawi women are leading the disputed territory's fight for independence from Moroccan rule

Loveday Morris for the Washington Post
Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 16 July 2013 13.59 BST   

As dusk enveloped the salmon-pink houses of Laayoune, the brightly coloured robes of women stood out in a mass of protesters in the centre of the capital of Western Sahara chanting for independence from Morocco.

While other African colonies threw off occupiers one by one, this desert expanse on the continent's north-western coast remains a disputed territory controlled primarily by next-door Morocco and locked in a nearly 40–year struggle for the right to choose its fate. Unusually for a Muslim society, women play a prominent role in Western Sahara's independence movement.

Their involvement has spanned a guerrilla war and, for the past two decades, a mostly peaceful protest movement. Female activists in the former Spanish colony attribute this to a combination of the Sahrawi population's moderate interpretation of Islam and the freedom they derived from their nomadic roots – but also to the prevalence of traditional gender roles, which they say give women the time to demonstrate.

"This is a pride for us, that this is led by women," said Arminatou Haidar, a Nobel peace prize nominee and the most recognisable face of Western Sahara's nationalist movement.

But as its duration shows, the campaign is an uphill battle that has so far been won by Morocco, which annexed most of Western Sahara after the Spanish withdrawal in 1976. Morocco argues that Western Sahara with its rich fishing grounds, lucrative phosphate mines and offshore oil – is an integral part of its territory and that separatists represent a fraction of the population of about 500,000.

That is now probably the case, because Moroccan citizens – whom the Moroccan government entices to the area with tax breaks – are now believed to outnumber the 150,000 or so Sahrawis inside the territory by at least two to

Most nations, including the US, do not recognise Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, but calls by the Sahrawi people for a referendum on independence have made little traction. Experts say that is due to a combination of Moroccan lobbying against the proposal, lack of international will to upset one of the region's most stable countries and arguments between Morocco and the Sahrawis' rebel movement-turned-government-in-exile, the Polisario Front, over who should vote.

one. Moroccan officials argue that an independent Western Sahara is not viable and that its longtime enemy Algeria is backing the cause to stir problems.

"There is no room for a failed state in the region," Moroccan deputy foreign minister Saadeddine Othmani told reporters in May. "It will fall into the hands of extremists."

Despite regular protests, victories are small. Still, it appears to have brought about a shift in Moroccan policy, which now supports making Western Sahara an autonomous region within the Moroccan state.

"Even if I don't reach that day when the Sahara is independent, I am completely convinced that the next generation is going to live the day of independence," Haidar said.

Instead of the dozens of people that most protests draw, the May march drew well over 1,000, hundreds of them women. Some activists described it as the largest in the history of the independence movement, and they attributed the crowd in part to anger over a recent UN security council decision not to approve a US proposal to grant the UN peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara a mandate to monitor human rights. The United States later abandoned the proposal after strong opposition from Morocco, which cancelled a joint military exercise between the two countries in protest.

The role of women can be partially attributed to the Sahrawis' nomadic background, said Djmi El Ghalia, a prominent activist. While men travelled, women controlled household finances and ran the community. That legacy was consolidated in the refugee camps in Algeria, home to the Polisario Front and an estimated 165,000 Sahrawis who fled during the 16-year war with Morocco, which ended in 1991. Women are responsible for much of the administration of the camps.

"Compared to the status and role of women in the Islamic societies along the Mediterranean coast, Arabia . . . women in Western Sahara enjoy significant advantages," said Jacob Mundy, an assistant professor at Colgate University and co-author of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution.

"The war gave women in the camps more opportunities to become involved in the daily operations of the independence struggle and the effort to build a state in exile," he said, while across the border in the territory, female activists play a "huge role".

Sahrawi female activists say they generally have freedom to express their political views, and women divorce without stigma.

Female empowerment spans both ends of the political spectrum, and some women work in support of the Moroccan government. Malainin Oum El Fadl is among them. She heads Espace Associatif Laayoune, a women's collective that gives grants to small businesses and was established after thousands of Sahrawis set up a protest camp near the capital in 2010, which was later dismantled by Moroccan authorities.

"We wanted to absorb that tension," El Fadl said. "We are not concerned with politics . . . To us, bread comes before politics."

And not all is positive for women in the Algerian camps, where there have been reports of women being imprisoned for adultery and they remain excluded from the highest political posts. In Western Sahara, too, while traditional gender roles have freed women to push for independence, those norms also often mean they do not pursue careers.

"It's about the space provided," El Ghalia said. "Women stay at home and get more involved; at the same time, men don't want to lose their jobs."

Women have paid a high price for their role in the struggle. Both El Ghalia and Haidar spent years in detention centres in the late 1980s, when forced disappearances of Sahrawis were widespread.

Sitting in a traditional tent erected on the rooftop of her Laayoune home, El Ghalia pulled back her headscarf to show her scarred scalp, which she said was doused in chemicals while in detention. She said she spent most of nearly four years blindfolded and was often stripped naked and subjected to torture. "I still have the scars from the dogs biting my flesh," she said.

Though the darkest abuses are over, they still go on. Last month, Human Rights Watch reported that Moroccan courts have convicted Western Saharan activists on the basis of confessions obtained through torture or falsified by police.

In a hotel in Laayoune, another activist, Sultana Khaya, recalled a 2007 protest during which she said a policeman beat her face, causing her to lose one eye. She showed bruises from a recent run-in with police.

"This is just small testament compared to the testaments of other Sahrawi women since 1975," said Khaya, 32. "The Sahrawi woman is very great; she's very powerful. I don't even think about getting married until the Sahrawi women become independent."

This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Washington Post

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« Reply #7570 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:36 AM »

Ethiopia's special police seek to build trust after rights abuse claims

Tainted by allegations of violence, Liyu police look to strengthen ties in Somali region by boosting development and investment

William Lloyd George in Jijiga, Wednesday 17 July 2013 07.00 BST   

On the newly paved main road that runs through eastern Ethiopia's arid Somali region lie several reminders of the violence the area has endured. Several burnt-out Russian tanks litter the barren terrain, evidence of the 1977-78 Ethiopia-Somalia war.

Further along the highway, a scorched bus symbolises an ongoing conflict destabilising the region. Fighting between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which wants self-determination for the region, and the Ethiopian military since 1984 has left a deep scar on the civilian population.

But at a tea shop in a village close to where the locals claim the ONLF had one of its first headquarters, Mohammed, 71, a village elder, says the Liyu police, an Ethiopian regional state security force, has increased safety in the area and improved their lives. "Before, the rebels used to terrorise us every day, always accusing us of supporting the government. Since the Liyu has come, the rebels never bother us any more – we can live our lives normally again, without fear."

Abdihadar agrees. When he was 14, he had his ears cut off by the Ogaden rebels, who accused him of spying for the state. "For years, I never went outside the home, I was too scared, I could never look at guns. Then the Liyu police came, and the situation improved," he says.

Many others who live along this main road, which cuts through the cities in the region, feel the same.

But the sentiments are at odds with previous reports on the Liyu, a force created in 2008 to offer a more effective response to the rebels than the Ethiopian military, which had been losing ground and was criticised for what some human rights groups called "genocidal tactics" against the Ogaden people.

Human Rights Watch says the Liyu police force has committed atrocities during their counterinsurgency activities, with reports of rape, torture and executions of civilians and several clashes with different clans on the region's borders.

Controversially, the UK's Department for International Development is considering giving millions of pounds to agencies to conduct human rights training for the Liyu force. According to a DfID official, the training is still in the "pre-design" stage. The department considers the behaviour of the Liyu police to be a precondition for lasting peace in the region, says the official, but funding would not be released until DfID was confident the training would contribute to a broader effort for the Liyu's reform.

"The Liyu is made up of men who have come from their communities, who have witnessed atrocities by the rebels, and want to protect their families," Abdullahi Yusuf Werar, the region's vice-president and head of security told the Guardian. "This was always bound to be more effective".

While the regional government and local NGOs claim the ONLF's military strength has been diminished in recent years by the Liyu force, Ogaden leaders say there are still pockets of rebel support across the region. The Liyu control the main roads and cities, but locals say the ONLF roam much of the region at night.

The Liyu has primarily been a counterinsurgency and security force. Werar says he wants this to change, to use the Liyu to help bring development and investment to the region.

"The Liyu was created to be a combat force, to fight the rebels. Now we have achieved our goal, we want to become a force for development in the region and assist development projects," he says.

Three hours' drive east from the region's capital, Jijiga, is a water supply project. According to the chief engineer, sent from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, the Liyu helped dig the canal, which will house the water pipe. "Without the Liyu, the project site would not have been secure, and we would not have dug the canal so quickly," he says.

There are also five-star hotels under construction in Jijiga, and many of the returning diaspora say the Liyu has made it possible for them to go home.

According to the country director of an international NGO, which has worked in the Somali region for more than a decade, who declined to be named, Liyu human rights abuses have decreased. "We are not getting as many reports as we used to," he says. "It appears they could be improving."

But not everyone is convinced. On a recent visit to the area, Olad Guled, a former civil servant in the region who has now left the country, says he believes it would be a waste of British taxpayers' money to fund human rights training for the Liyu.

"First we need to address the basic structural issues of the Liyu police," Guled says. "The force needs to be more inclusive of all the clans in the region, needs to stop acting like they're above the law, and needs to be accountable for their actions."

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« Reply #7571 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:38 AM »

07/16/2013 03:22 PM

Egypt in Turmoil: Salafists Gain Strength amid Political Chaos

By Raniah Salloum, Daniel Steinvorth and Volkhard Windfuhr

After the killing last Monday of more than 50 Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Egypt has become all but ungovernable. The new unity government in Cairo is already crumbling, and now it's the ultra-conservative Salafists who stand to benefit.

There are only a few meters between Mohammed Morsi and the soldiers of the Republican Guard. The heavily armed troops keep a straight face as the man approaches. Morsi steps up to the wall of bricks piled up by protesters in front of the soldiers' barracks in the Cairo district of Nasr City, and says: "We will remain peaceful, even if you continue to shoot at us." Then he steps back again.

Morsi, 51, has a long gray beard and is wearing a galabiya, the traditional robe worn by Egyptian men. He has the same name as the ousted president, but this Morsi is a Salafist, which makes him even more pious than his namesake from the Muslim Brotherhood.

For days, he has been camping in a tent city in the eastern part of Cairo, together with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. There are piles of garbage along the side of the road, and men doze in the shade of their tents. It is hot and dusty, and it's also Ramadan, the period of fasting, which poses a special challenge to the protesters, who don't want to give in until the president is back in office.

"He must be returned to office. It is God's will," says Morsi, the Salafist. He too was disappointed by the 368 days in which the Muslim Brotherhood was in office, but he also fears the loss of significance that religious groups will experience if they are forced completely out of power. That's why he is aligning himself with the Muslim Brotherhood, even though he doesn't actually like the group.

Dissolution of a Rare Pact

It was less than two weeks ago that General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, announced the removal of Egypt's first democratically elected president, in the wake of the largest mass protests the country had ever seen. On July 3, an alliance of liberals, leftists, Nasserists, revolutionary youth, Coptic Christians and Salafists appeared together on television for a harmonious group picture.

But the rare pact was fragile. When soldiers opened fire on protesting Morsi supporters last Monday and at least 51 people died, the Salafists of the Al-Nour Party, or Party of the Light, demonstratively revoked their cooperation with the transitional government -- albeit only temporarily.

In fact, the Salafists need to maintain cooperation with the military and the transitional government in order to remain influential. Under Morsi's presidency, they had the same problems as the secular opposition. They were marginalized, and important positions went to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now Bassam Sarka, the deputy party leader, has renewed his support for the state, saying that Al-Nour will "demonstrate responsibility" and "cooperate with the military to prevent worse things from happening." The reward came quickly, when the military leaders decided to keep a controversial article in the constitution, whereby the principles of Sharia law are the "primary source of legislation" -- despite the fact that the liberals had just rejected the very same article.

Will the Salafists Unite or Divide?

On the other hand, the new leadership in Cairo is also dependent on the Salafists, if it wants to avoid alienating the religious portion of the population. The Salafists are seen as the "pure" faithful, and as an indication of their popularity, almost a quarter of citizens voted for the Party of the Light in Egypt's parliamentary election. They could now be the force that either unites the country or divides it even further.

The signs currently point toward retribution, suspicion and polarization, not reconciliation. Arrest warrants were reportedly issued against 300 Muslim Brotherhood officials. And more than 10 days after the military stepped in, it is still unknown where the deposed president and his advisors are being held. The only thing the authorities are willing to say is that Morsi is being treated "with dignity." The United States has been critical of the generals' tough approach, saying that the leadership in Cairo must stop its "arbitrary" arrests of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

How can all of this coincide with the goal of "national reconciliation" that el-Sissi and the transitional government are calling for? Is it still possible to avert a civil war, which would probably entail a long period of military rule? These are the questions that will be answered in the coming days. But one thing is already clear: How the Islamists behave will be critical.

Bitterness of the Brotherhood

Especially since the events of July 8, Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been filled with anger and frustration. The bloody clash between Brotherhood supporters and the military destroyed any hope that a peaceful settlement could be reached. And since then, the Muslim Brotherhood has decided against any participation in the transitional government, as the new president, Adly Mansour, had suggested. In response, the Brotherhood mobilized its supporters for yet another pro-Morsi mass protest, and some 200,000 people gathered in Cairo alone.

"Sm ppl r asking us 2 accept #Military_Coup & 2 die silently so not 2 discomfort their 'army-led democracy' brought abt by tanks & junta," tweeted Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad.

But it isn't clear who is to blame for the bloodbath in Nasr City. Employees of Amnesty International spoke with protesters and visited hospitals. Although they confirmed that the army treated the demonstrators with excessive brutality, they also said that the escalation was partly the demonstrators' fault. According to the Amnesty International employees, the demonstrators reacted violently from the very beginning to all attempts by the army to break up the protest. Government newspapers referred to the protesters as "terrorists," while the independent newspapers Al-Masry al-Youm and Al-Watan wrote of a "conspiracy of the armed Brotherhood."

In this overheated mood, precisely what the military sought to prevent with its coup could in fact happen: The Islamists could become radicalized. Last week, Egyptians experienced a taste of what that could mean, when a 60-year-old Coptic Christian was beheaded and a priest was shot on the Sinai Peninsula. In a village in Upper Egypt, a mob beat a Christian supporter of the Tamarud movement to death, while other Copts were stabbed to death and about 20 houses owned by members of the religious minorities were torched. On Monday night, seven people were killed and more than 250 were injured in clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters in Cairo.

Pious Rivals
When General el-Sissi read out his declaration on July 3, Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, was sitting next to him. This has prompted some Morsi supporters to see a Christian conspiracy at work. "Down with the dominance of the pope!" some are now chanting at their protests.

It seems odd that Egypt's largest Salafist party is opposing the Muslim Brotherhood in this power struggle. The fundamentalist Al-Nour Party has ideological similarities to the Muslim Brotherhood, but many of its members are significantly more radical. During the 2011 parliamentary election, a few of the Al-Nour candidates called for strict gender separation and a comprehensive ban on alcohol in Egypt, and there was even talk of covering up "Pharaonic idols." Nevertheless, the two Islamist groups became rivals.

The Salafists fear the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood, while at the same time rejecting their political claim to power. Both groups exploit the distinctions between the two. The Salafists were already sharply critical of the Brotherhood in 2011, calling it "capitalist" and "loyal to the system," while Muslim Brotherhood members used the radical competition to portray themselves as "moderate Islamists." In last year's presidential election campaign, the Al-Nour Party did not support Morsi at first, but rather Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Brotherhood. The Salafists only threw their support behind Morsi in the second round of the election.

Al-Nour on the Rise?

Cairo analyst Ashraf al-Sharif sees a long-term strategy in their maneuvering. "The Salafists want to replace the Muslim Brotherhood as the most important Islamist player in Egypt," says Sharif. He notes that one also shouldn't forget that Al-Nour has an important sponsor, Saudi Arabia, and that it wants to keep down the Muslim Brotherhood, both in Egypt and the kingdom. A monarchy has no place in the Brotherhood's philosophy, whereas the Salafists are more flexible.

If Al-Nour truly aims to replace the Brotherhood, it will have to come to terms with the military. And it will also have to hold together the disparate forces within its own camp. Part of today's complex reality in Egypt is that even the ultra-religious group is divided.

Quite a few Al-Nour supporters are critical of the course taken by their leadership. Some, like Salafist Morsi, are now demonstrating alongside the humiliated Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Nasr City. And some stay out of politics altogether, while others have sided with Tamarud, the revolutionary youth movement.

One of them is Nabil Naim, 56, who trims his moustache in the Salafist manner. From his office near Tahrir Square, Naim organizes a group he calls the Jerusalem Rescue Front. Naim was part of the jihadist movement among the Salafists. He fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia before he was arrested and subsequently imprisoned in Egypt for 18 years.

Ironically, it was the military regime that released him after the 2011 revolution, so it stands to reason that Naim is one of the Salafists who admire the military. "Our military chief is a clever man," says Naim. A surprising number of the ultra-religious share this sentiment.

And Morsi? He was very pleased that the Muslim Brotherhood leader was removed from office, says Naim. He argues that the former president was neither a revolutionary nor particularly pious. Naim believes that politics in Egypt will not be shaped in palaces in the future, but rather "on the streets."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #7572 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:39 AM »

July 16, 2013

Sudan’s President One Step Ahead of a Suit and a Warrant


PARIS — Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, made a brief appearance at an African Union summit meeting in Nigeria but vanished after human rights groups filed a lawsuit calling for his immediate detention on an international arrest warrant for charges of genocide.

Mr. Bashir had arrived in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, for a two-day meeting on health issues with other African heads of state and attended Sunday night’s opening reception. But delegates at the conference said that in the middle of an official lunch on Monday, he abruptly left the room. During the afternoon session, when Mr. Bashir was scheduled to speak, he could not be found.

A Sudanese Embassy spokesman said Mr. Bashir had left Abuja by 3 p.m. that day. He arrived in Khartoum, Sudan, on Monday night.

A government spokesman denied that the president’s early departure had anything to do with the threat of being arrested.

“Most presidents don’t attend entire conferences, and he had matters to attend to in Khartoum,” the spokesman, Iman Sid Ahmad, said.

But Nigeria appeared to be the latest hurdle in Mr. Bashir’s travel plans since the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued the warrant for him in 2009. The court ordered him to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity after a campaign of killing, torture and rape against civilians in the Darfur region, where about 300,000 people died and more than two million were uprooted in years of fighting between the government and rebels. Judges later added three counts of genocide.

Countries that are signatories to the court, Nigeria included, are obligated to honor its warrants. On Monday, judges in The Hague issued a statement reminding Nigeria of its responsibilities.

But a Nigerian government spokesman, Rueben Abati, defended the decision to welcome Mr. Bashir at the meeting. “Nigeria is just hosting it,” Mr. Abati said. “It’s not Nigeria that invited him. He is here to participate in an African Union summit, and Nigeria is not in a position to determine who attends an A.U. event and who does not attend.”

Human rights groups in Nigeria had agitated against Mr. Bashir’s visit, and on Monday morning, as the meeting began, lawyers filed a suit with the Federal High Court in Abuja demanding that he be handed over to the international court.

“We don’t want him in Nigeria, except for him to be arrested,” Chino Obiagwu, one of the lawyers involved, said in a phone interview from Abuja. “We are fighting for the victims in Darfur. We don’t want him here for a conference or for a holiday.”

Mr. Bashir has denied the charges against him and has retorted with a public campaign to try to undermine the international court, accusing it of bias because all of its cases are against Africans.

He has made a point of traveling outside Sudan to show that his critics have not succeeded in isolating him. But while he has been received in some countries, including China, Egypt, Chad and Qatar, others, including South Africa, Uganda and Turkey, have disinvited him to international gatherings.

Mr. Bashir has stopped his customary visits to the United Nations in New York. And in one embarrassing episode, he arrived a day late in 2011 to an official visit to Beijing after his plane was forced to turn back while in Turkmenistan airspace.

On the sidelines of the summit meeting in Abuja, Mr. Bashir met with the presidents of Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya, according to Mr. Ahmad, his spokesman. “They discussed matters relating to the conference, Sudan and South Sudan and Africa,” he said.

Mr. Bashir has something in common with Kenya’s president, the recently elected Uhuru Kenyatta. He, too, has been ordered to stand trial at the International Criminal Court. Mr. Kenyatta faces charges of crimes against humanity in connection with the waves of violence after Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections.

Mr. Kenyatta has not been served with an arrest warrant because he has pledged to cooperate with the court.

Isma’il Kushkush contributed reporting from Khartoum, Sudan.


Al-Qaeda Yemen branch says No 2 killed in U.S. drone strike

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 5:40 EDT

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has confirmed the death in a US drone strike of its deputy leader Saeed al-Shehri, whose killing has been announced several times by Sanaa.

Shehri was released from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2007 and was flown to Saudi Arabia, where he was put through a rehabilitation programme.

After completing the programme, the militant leader disappeared only to resurface later as AQAP’s number two.

“Sheikh Saeed al-Shehri, aka Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, was killed in a US drone strike,” said a leader in AQAP, Ibrahim al-Rubaish in a video posted on Islamist websites Wednesday.

Rubaish, who gave no indication of when Shehri was killed, said that “lax security measures during his telephone contacts has enabled the enemy to (identify and) kill him”.

In a eulogy to Shehri, he said he had “planned the kidnap of the Saudi deputy consul in Aden,” Abdullah al-Khalidi, who has been held captive by AQAP since March 2012.

AQAP militants are demanding the release of female Al-Qaeda-linked prisoners held in Saudi in return for Khalidi’s release.

Shehri had been hounded by Yemen’s security forces and had survived a number of attempts on his life.

His death has been announced several times by the Yemeni authorities, most recently on January 24.

In April, AQAP released an audio message purported to be a newly-delivered address by Shehri.

Last October, Shehri himself denied a September announcement by Yemen’s defence ministry that he had been killed in an army raid, in an audio message posted on extremist Internet forums.

An official Yemeni statement in January called him “one of the (Al-Qaeda) leaders who played a major role in the planning of local, regional and international terrorist acts”.

It said he was “the military commander of terrorist elements” during deadly clashes with the army in the southern Abyan province, which Islamist rebels largely controlled for a year before Yemeni forces recaptured it in June 2012.

AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising in 2011 against now-ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh to seize large swathes of territory across the south.

But after a month-long offensive launched in May last year by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.

AQAP is led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who in July 2011 reaffirmed the group’s allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of the worldwide Al-Qaeda network since the killing in May 2011 of its founder, Osama bin Laden.

The United States has stepped up its support for Yemen’s battle against AQAP, which it regards as the most active and deadliest franchise of the global Al-Qaeda network.

US drones strikes in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, from 18 to 53, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

In October 2000, Al-Qaeda militants attacked US Navy destroyer the USS Cole in Yemen’s port of Aden, killing 17 sailors and wounding 40.


July 16, 2013, 2:24 pm

Prominent Gay Rights Activist Is Found Dead in Cameroon


Eric Ohena Lembembe, a prominent activist in Cameroon for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, was found dead in his apartment in the capital of Yaoundé, soon after he wrote about attacks in the country on organizations that support homosexuals, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday.

The rights group, which has collaborated with Mr. Lembembe on reports, said his body was discovered by friends who had gone to his home after they had been unable to reach him by telephone for several days.

His front door was padlocked on the outside, but through the window they could see his body on the bed, and alerted the police, who broke down the door. According to one friend, the Human Rights Watch statement said, Mr. Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands and feet had been burned with an iron.

“We don’t know who killed Eric Lembembe, or why he was killed, but one thing is clear: The Cameroonian authorities’ utter failure to stem homophobic violence sends the message that these attacks can be carried out with impunity,” Neela Ghoshal, a senior L.G.B.T. rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.

    #Cameroon #LGBTI rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was found dead in his home last night with signs of torture on his body. Devastating.

    — Neela Ghoshal (@NeelaGhoshal) 16 Jul 13

As part of his activism, Mr. Lembembe was an author and a writer about issues affecting the L.G.B.T. community.

In his last blog entry this month for a Web site to which he contributed, Erasing 76 Crimes, Mr. Lembembe described attacks on groups that support gays and lesbians, the latest of which targeted the Access Center of Alternatives-Cameroon.

“At about 7 a.m. on June 26, the staff discovered flames coming from the office of paramedics/psychosocial counselors. Firefighters did not respond to the blaze, nor did neighbors. The center was consumed by the fire. Although no one was killed, most of the equipment (desks, chairs, computers, fans, patients’ medical records, cooking utensils, etc..) was completely destroyed,” Franz Mananga, a director of the center, was quoted as saying in Mr. Lembembe’s report.

“Cameroonian officials show no signs that they are aware of the problem. No one has denounced the attacks. No one has visited the scenes of the fire and the burglaries,” Mr. Lembembe wrote in the post, published on July 5.

76 Crimes monitors the human toll of anti-gay and anti-LGBT laws and the struggle to repeal them in 76 countries.

    Cameroon activist tortured, killed; the nation must respond

    — 76Crimes (@76Crimes) 16 Jul 13

Mr. Lemembe also spoke out about other attacks in a Human Rights Watch statement published on July 1. Ten days before the June 26 arson attack on Alternative-Cameroun, he wrote, assailants broke into the Yaoundé office of a prominent human rights lawyer, Michel Togué, stealing confidential information, and on June 1, a headquarters of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale, or Redhac) was burglarized.

“There is no doubt: antigay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Mr. Lemembe said in the Human Rights Watch statement. “Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes.”

Mr. Lembembe’s death was mourned by people involved in rights and social justice groups, including Eileen C. Donahue, the United States ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, and Wilson Cruz, a spokesperson for GLAAD.

    The name of Eric Ohena Lembembe, brutally murdered in #Cameroon, will burn bright forever in the hearts of all who defend LGBT rights

    — Eileen C. Donahoe (@AmbDonahoe) 16 Jul 13

    The WORLD is still an unsafe and frightening place for millions of LGBT people… My heart breaks for everyone…

    — Wilson Cruz (@wcruz73) 16 Jul 13

Cameroon is one of 38 African countries that criminalize homosexuality, said a report in June by Amnesty International, which also produced a video about rights abuses in Cameroon. As my colleague Adam Nossiter wrote last month, arrests of gay men, and long and abusive imprisonments, are regularly reported there, among other places in Africa.

Two of the organizations mentioned in Mr. Lemembe’s Erasing 76 Crimes blog post, Alternatives-Cameroun and Association for the Defense of Gays and Lesbians, were among the authors of an extensive report in March that noted that Cameroon prosecutes people for consensual same-sex conduct more aggressively than almost any country in the world.

The other contributors to the March report, the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, of which Mr. Lembembe was executive director, and Human Rights Watch – said they found that at least 28 people have been prosecuted for same-sex conduct in Cameroon since 2010. Most cases are marked by grave human rights violations, including torture, forced confessions, denial of access to legal counsel and discriminatory treatment by law enforcement and judicial officials, it said.

It included 10 case studies of arrests and prosecutions under an article of Cameroon’s penal code, which punishes “sexual relations between persons of the same sex” with up to five years in prison.

“Dozens of Cameroonians do jail time solely because they are suspected of being gay or lesbian,” it said.

« Last Edit: Jul 17, 2013, 07:59 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #7573 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:41 AM »

July 16, 2013

Israel Condemns New European Union Rules on Territory Seized in 1967 War


JERUSALEM — In a move Israeli leaders quickly condemned as undermining Secretary of State John Kerry’s push to revive peace talks, the European Union issued guidelines this week that for the first time ban the financing of and cooperation with Israeli institutions in territory seized during the 1967 war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening in a defiant statement that he would “not accept external dictates” on his country’s borders, and that the matter would be “solely resolved in direct negotiations between the sides.” Other senior Israeli ministers denounced the European action as “discriminatory,” “hypocritical” and “unhelpful.”

An American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the diplomatic process, also called the move “unhelpful.”

The guidelines, which are to be published Friday and take effect next year, reflect the increasing tension between Israel and Europe over Jewish settlements in the West Bank that world leaders have long considered illegal, as well as Europe’s efforts to press Israel to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians.

European Union officials played down the significance of the guidelines, which apply only to deals between Israel and the union itself, not its 28 member countries, saying they were simply an act of longstanding opposition to Israeli activities in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Approved on June 28, the guidelines say that agreements providing research grants, scholarships and cultural exchanges must state explicitly that they apply to Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

News of the rules, published Tuesday in an article in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, came as Mr. Kerry arrived in Jordan for his sixth visit in four months to the region, where he is trying to revive the long-stalled peace talks. They threatened to complicate that mission by appearing at least to buttress the Palestinian insistence that Israel’s 1967 borders be the starting point for negotiations, something Mr. Netanyahu has rejected.

Mr. Kerry had a five-hour dinner on Tuesday with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and planned to meet on Wednesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan and diplomats from the Arab League.

However, Mr. Kerry had no plans to go to Israel before returning to Washington on Thursday. That was seen here as a sign that Mr. Kerry has pushed the Israeli government about as far as it is prepared to go in making concessions and that he is now turning his attention to Mr. Abbas.

While the United States and Europe have long said that the 1967 borders, with minor adjustments, should be the basis of a two-state solution, since March the Obama administration has echoed Israel’s rejection of preconditions.

Daniel Levy, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the guidelines indicated that Europe, after years of criticizing Israeli settlement activity, was putting “its policy where its mouth is.”

“They have become convinced that they need to lean in a little,” Mr. Levy said, “in demonstrating that they are not totally toothless in translating those concerns into action.”

The European Union is Israel’s largest trading partner, with nearly $40 billion of imports and exports in 2011. The guidelines cover only projects financed directly out of the bloc’s next long-term budget, which covers 2014 to 2020; officials said that it was impossible to estimate the projects’ value, but noted that it was not a large sum.

“This is not about money,” said Rosa Balfour, a senior analyst at the European Policy Center, based in Brussels. “It’s about politics.”

Israeli politicians reacted with alarm to the new guidelines. Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister, said that the move would “impede Israeli organizations as a whole, and not only in the territories.”

Yair Lapid, the finance minister, called it “a miserable decision” that “sabotages” Mr. Kerry’s initiative by making Palestinians “believe that Israel will be forced to bow to the diplomatic and economic pressure.”

Uri Ariel, the pro-settlement housing minister, went further, saying the move was racist and “reminiscent of boycotts of the Jews in Europe over 66 years ago.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, welcomed the decision, saying in a statement that Europe “has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps, which constitute a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace.”

But a senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding Mr. Kerry’s diplomatic initiative, said Tuesday night that the Europeans were “intentionally or inadvertently undermining” the active American engagement in the peace process that they had been calling for for years.

“Why would any Palestinian leader agree to re-engage if they can get what they want without negotiating?” the official said. “Why enter the give and take of negotiations when you can just take what is offered by international bodies?”

The guidelines come as the European Union continues to debate whether to label products made in West Bank settlements, which some member countries have already done, making it easier to boycott them. Tzipi Livni, the Israeli minister in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians, cautioned in a recent speech that potential boycotts “won’t stop at the settlements” but will spread “to all of Israel” because it is seen as a “colonialist country.”

Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, said he saw the European move as a “good sign” because it distinguished between pre-1967 Israel and the territories rather than punishing the country as a whole.

“Given the trend and the waves of protest against Israel’s occupation and the call for boycott of the entire state, this distinction is interesting,” Mr. Ben-Ami said. “You delegitimize the occupation, not the state of Israel.”

Europe and Israel have a complex relationship colored by the memory of the Holocaust. Most current European leaders have been strong supporters of Israel and of the creation of a Palestinian state. But with the peace process stalled, public opinion in many countries has turned increasingly critical.

The union’s member countries are deeply divided on some questions dear to Israel — like a decision expected next week on whether to classify Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, as a terrorist group — but “on settlements policy they are quite united,” said Ms. Balfour of the European Policy Center.

Europeans have struggled to find a leadership role in the peace process, and have largely quieted moves to penalize Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians since Mr. Kerry began his push to revive negotiations this spring. The State Department, and many independent experts, believe that if Mr. Kerry’s effort does not yield results soon, Europe will take even harsher measures to isolate Israel.

“The ship is turned, it’s pointed in a certain direction,” said Mr. Levy, the analyst based in London, who lived in Israel and worked on its earlier negotiations with the Palestinians. “It still moves very slowly, but it’s going to be difficult to turn it back.”

Andrew Higgins contributed reporting from Brussels, and Michael R. Gordon from Amman, Jordan.
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« Reply #7574 on: Jul 17, 2013, 07:44 AM »

Riot in India as ‘poisonous’ school lunch kills 21 children

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:18 EDT

Twenty-one children have died after eating a free lunch feared to contain poisonous chemicals at a school in eastern India, officials said Wednesday, sparking angry protests as mobs ran riot.

Another 30 children remained ill in hospital after consuming the meal of lentils, vegetables and rice cooked at a village primary school in the dirt-poor state of Bihar on Tuesday.

“The death toll has risen to 21,” local government official Amarjeet Sinha told reporters, as suspicion focussed on the possible presence of insecticide in the food.

There were emotional scenes as children, their limbs dangling and heads lolling to one side, were brought to a hospital in the Bihar city of Chhapra.

Other children, lying listless on stretchers, were placed on intravenous drips amid chaotic scenes at the hospital. Outside, inconsolable relatives wept.

“My children had gone to school to study. They came back home crying, and said it hurts,” one distraught father told the NDTV network.

“I took them into my arms, but they kept crying, saying their stomach hurt very badly.”

Running to the school to find out what had happened, the father said he saw “many bodies of children lying on the ground”.

Bihar education minister P.K. Shahi said the midday meal “appears to be poisonous”.

The children, all aged under 10, were buried near the school in the village of Masrakh on Wednesday morning as angry residents armed with poles and sticks took to the streets of Chhapra.

The mob smashed windows of police buses and other vehicles and turned over a police booth in Chhapra, the main city of Saran district where the school is located.

“Hundreds of angry people staged a protest in Saran since late Tuesday night, demanding stern action against government officials responsible for this shocking incident,” said district government official S.K. Mall.

A preliminary investigation has shown the meal may have contained traces of phosphate from insecticide in the vegetables, Sinha from the local government told AFP.

He said doctors were treating victims with atropine, which is effective against organophosphate poisoning.

Media reports quoted villagers as saying the use of contaminated, foul-smelling mustard oil for cooking at the school could also have caused the deaths.

“Investigators are examining midday meal samples and samples of victims’ vomit. Only the final report of inquiry will reveal the real cause,” Sinha said.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar announced compensation of 200,000 rupees ($3,373) for each of the bereaved families.

Free lunches are offered to poorer students in state-run schools as part of government welfare measures in many of India’s 29 states.

Educators see the midday meal scheme as a way to increase school attendance. But children often suffer from food poisoning due to poor hygiene in kitchens and occasionally sub-standard food.

More than 130 students were taken to hospital in the western city of Pune last year after eating lunch at school, the Times of India reported. A probe revealed that the food was contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

Food prices have soared in India over the past six years, causing increased hardship for the 455 million people estimated by the World Bank to live below the poverty line.

Ahead of elections next year, the government this month announced a subsidised food programme to offer grains to nearly 70 percent of the population, or 820 million people, at a small fraction of market prices.

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