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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1083022 times)
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« Reply #6960 on: Jun 15, 2013, 07:12 AM »

The Christian Science Monitor

'Bonanza' of black holes has party, doesn't invite us

By Elizabeth Barber, Contributor / June 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm EDT

There’s a party in another galaxy, and none of us were invited.

Scientists have discovered a “bonanza" of black holes in the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the galaxies nearest to our own, some 2.5 million light years away.

As their name suggests, black holes are tough to find. These latest 26 black holes were found using more than 13 years of data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Scientists say they expect to find more in the galaxy, where nine had already been identified using previous research, bringing the total discovered there to 35.

"While we are excited to find so many black holes in Andromeda, we think it's just the tip of the iceberg," said Robin Barnard, of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the lead author of the paper that will be published later this month in The Astrophysical Journal, in a press release.

The Andromeda’s new black holes belong to the stellar mass category, which form when stars with masses about five to 10 times that of our sun collapse under the force of their own gravity. The result is an object of such small size, compressed into such a small volume, that its gravitational force is inescapable – even to light itself.

Astronomers can then detect these otherwise invisible objects when material is tugged from a companion star and heated up to produce radiation – visible with X-rays – before it disappears into the black hole.

The “bonanza” of black holes aren’t exactly “near Earth,” as a Fox News headline puts it. That would be worrying. They aren't even in our galaxy, and the galaxy where those black holes are housed won’t be near to us for several billion years, when the Andromeda and Milky Way are expected to collide, bringing the party to us.

* Andromeda-via-NASA-615x345.jpg (51.89 KB, 615x345 - viewed 78 times.)
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« Reply #6961 on: Jun 15, 2013, 07:23 AM »

In the USA...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Americans have no right to freedom from religion

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, June 13, 2013 17:15 EDT

During an announcement of the signing of the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said Thursday that freedom from religion was not included in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“I’m proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state,” Perry said. “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”

The new law states that students and school officials have the right to use religious greetings like “Merry Christmas” and display various religious holiday symbols on school grounds.

“I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Nichols remarked. “One of those freedoms is the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and as the governor was saying the Constitution refers to the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”

“So, challenges to these freedoms that we enjoy can come in a lot of different ways,” the state senator continued. “They can come in very large ways like the war on terror or our freedoms can be taken away in small ways like the removal of a Christmas tree from a classroom.”

Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below:


Texas Democrats accuse Perry of vetoing equal pay bill

By Arturo Garcia
Friday, June 14, 2013 17:49 EDT

Democrats in the Texas legislature accused Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Friday of vetoing a bill that would have given women more chances to fight pay discrimination, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The measure, HB 950, would have allowed women to sue their employers in state court beyond the current 180-day period after receiving a paycheck they claim was unfair and sue for two years of discriminatory payments. It passed in the state House in April 2013 and the state Senate in May 2013. But a spokesperson for state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who wrote the House version of the bill, said she was told by Perry’s office that he struck it down.

“I am very surprised that Governor Perry does not see the value in it,” state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) told the News. Davis introduced the Senate version of the bill.

Davis also told the Houston Chronicle that Perry vetoed the bill because it mirrored the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, a federal law passed in 2009. She questioned that reasoning in a press conference on Saturday, citing the bill’s provision allowing plaintiffs to sue in a state district court.

“These courts are less burdensome financially and are presided over by a judge elected by Texans, and consisting of a jury of their peers” Davis said at the press conference.

By vetoing the bill, Davis said, Perry showed “a callous disregard for the wages that are required to support Texas families.”

The state Supreme Court ruled in August 2012 (PDF) that the Lily Ledbetter Act may not be integrated into the state Commission on Human Rights Act.

Perry’s office did not comment on the allegations. According to the Chronicle, he has until Sunday to issue vetos.


The Republican Party is still ‘stuck on stupid’

By Crystal Wright, The Guardian
Saturday, June 15, 2013 8:33 EDT

Following two presidential election defeats in 2008 and 2012, the Republican party is still making the same mistakes

Stupid is as stupid does and, apparently, the Republican party didn’t get Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s “stupid memo” because it looks dumber by the day. After losing the 2012 presidential election the “GOP establishment” from former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and every white man in between acknowledged that the party must make “the tent” more welcoming to minorities and women – where the votes increasingly are. So what does the GOP do? It keeps headlining white men behaving badly.

Americans were treated to a double feature of GOP stupidity this week brought to you by the senator from Arizona on 12 June. Republican Senator Jeff Flake had to apologize for his 15-year-old son’s unsavory remarks on Twitter. According to Buzzfeed, Tanner Flake tweeted he would find “the faggot” who stole his bike and “beat the crap out of you.” Tanner also posted screenshots of his scores from an online game “Fun Run” where he used the handle “n1ggerkiller”.

If this isn’t enough to make anyone’s eyes roll in disgust, Buzzfeed reported that Tanner’s Twitter account, which is now locked, revealed his repeated use of the racial slurs in January and February. Tanner made equally offensive comments on YouTube, including “nigger” and “faggot” along with calling Mexicans “scum of the Earth”. Strong words for a 15-year-old, who also gleefully reminded everyone his father was a member of Congress, according Buzzfeed.

Issuing an apology, Senator Flake wrote:

“I’m very disappointed in my teenage son’s words, and I sincerely apologize for the insensitivity. This language is unacceptable anywhere. Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well.”

The burning question is where did Tanner hear this kind of “unacceptable” language? Typically, children repeat things they’ve heard their parents say or those close to them. The fact that Tanner Flake used these words with impunity across various social media platforms for months suggests he’s quite at ease with bigoted thinking. Whether the senator knew about it or not, it’s just another example of why blacks and other ethnic minorities don’t trust the GOP’s words of inclusion.

On the heels of the son-of-Flake hate rant, the good ole boys of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Bob Goodlatte (a Virginia Republican), thought now is the time to pass an abortion ban bill and alienate more women voters. As Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank aptly noted with sarcasm, not one of the 23 Republican members on the House Judiciary Committee is a woman. They are all white males dedicated to legislating women’s health issues. Do you see the irony in this?

The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks and has no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest or when the mother’s health is in jeopardy. In all his male wisdom, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said there was no need to include an exception because “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low“. Interesting, particularly when studies prove otherwise.

The bill has no chance of passing, “even if it clears the House”, Milbank wrote, because the Democrat majority in the Senate would almost certainly vote it down. Introducing the bill makes Republicans look stupid, and I say this as a member of the GOP and someone who’s against abortion. Now is not the time to try and open up Roe v Wade.

America has a severe jobs and economic problem. Republicans in Congress should be focusing on those issues “not trying to legislate morality”, as a good friend told me. I’m against abortion and the horror of how Kermit Gosnell killed live babies in Philadelphia is a tragic reminder that we as a society need to focus on the inhumanity of abortions through churches, charities and parenting that teaches morals and the value of life to young girls and boys.

After two presidential shellackings in 2008 and 2012, the Republican party seems to be stuck on stupid and doing business as usual. It’s been three months since the Republican National Committee issued its 100-page autopsy report about what went wrong in 2012 and promised to reach out to more non-white voters.

The country is still waiting for the RNC to actually do something. What’s evident is the GOP has the same white guys in charge doing and saying the same stupid things that lost them two presidential elections. The Republican party is rotting, but boys will be boys and that seems to be the way everyone in the establishment likes it.

 © Guardian News and Media 2013


Welcome to Utah, the NSA’s desert home for eavesdropping on America

By Rory Carroll, The Guardian
Friday, June 14, 2013 11:26 EDT

The NSA’s new $1.7 billion facility in the heart of Mormon country has the potential to snoop on US citizens for decades to come

Drive south down Camp Williams Road, a highway outside Salt Lake City, and your eye is drawn to the left. A gun-mounted helicopter and other military hardware marks the entrance of the Utah army national guard base. The ice-capped Rockies soar in the distance.

To the right there is little to see: featureless scrubland, a metal fence, some warehouses. A small exit – not marked on ordinary maps – takes you up a curving road. A yellow sign says this is military property closed to unauthorised personnel.

Further up the hill, invisible from the highway, you encounter concrete walls, a security boom and checkpoint with guards, sniffer dogs and cameras. Two plaques with official seals announce the presence of the office of the director of national intelligence and the National Security Agency.

A spokesperson at NSA headquarters in Maryland did not welcome a Guardian request to visit its western outpost. “That is a secure facility. If you trespass on federal property security guards will be obliged to do their jobs.” An interview was out of the question.

Welcome the Utah Data Center, a new home for the NSA’s exponentially expanding information trove. The $1.7bn facility, two years in the making, will soon host supercomputers to store gargantuan quantities of data from emails, phone calls, Google searches and other sources. Sited on an unused swath of the national guard base, by September it will employ around 200 technicians, span 1m sq ft and use 65 megawatts of power.

This week Utah roasted in near-record temperatures ideal for fires and thunderstorms, putting the state under a hazardous weather outlook advisory. The NSA could have done with a similar warning for the scorching criticism of its surveillance activities, a sudden reversal of scrutiny for the agency and its Utah complex.

Deep in Mormon country between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, nestled on the outskirts of Bluffdale (population 7,598), it was designed to be largely anonymous. Instead, after Guardian disclosures of data-mining programs involving millions of Americans, the Utah Data Center provokes an urgent question: what exactly will it do?

The NSA says it will not illegally eavesdrop on Americans but is otherwise vague. Its scale is not in doubt. Since January 2011 a reported 10,000 labourers have built four 25,000-sq ft halls filled with servers and cables, plus an additional 900,000 sq ft of space for technical support and administration. Generators and huge fuel and water tanks will make the site self-sustaining in an emergency.

Outside experts disagreed on the centre’s potential. Some said it will just store data. Others envisaged a capacity to not just store but analyse and break codes, enabling technicians here to potentially snoop on the entire population for decades to come.

William Binney, a mathematician who worked at the NSA for almost 40 years and helped automate its worldwide eavesdropping, said Utah’s computers could store data at the rate of 20 terabytes – the equivalent of the Library of Congress – per minute. “Technically it’s not that complicated. You just need to work out an indexing scheme to order it.”

Binney, who left the agency in 2001 and blew the whistle on its domestic spying, said the centre could absorb and store data for “hundreds of years” and allow agencies such as the FBI to retroactively use the information.

He said the centre will likely have spare capacity for “brute force attacks” – using speed and data hoards to detect patterns and break encrypted messages in the so-called deep web where governments, corporations and other organisations keep secrets. There would be no distinction between domestic and foreign targets. “It makes no difference anymore to them.”

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, said the public had yet to grasp the significance of Utah’s data-mining. “It’s basically a hard-drive. It’s also a cloud, a warehouse. It’ll be storing not just text and audio but pictures and video. There’s a lackadaisical attitude to this. People pay no attention until it’s too late.” Bamford wrote a cover story about the centre for Wired last year.

Brewster Kahle, a co-founder of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit that hoovers up knowledge in a digital equivalent of the library of Alexandria, said technology facilitated near-ubiquitous snooping. “If one had the opportunity to collect all the voice traffic in the US it would cost less than the Pentagon spends on paperclips. Storage these days is trivial, it’s not a problem.”

A rack of servers the size of a fridge can store 100 TV channels’ annual output, said Kahle. “What’s slow to dawn on people is that this level of surveillance is technologically and economically within our grasp.”

Some, however, disputed the image of Utah as an insatiable data Kraken. It will have no “operational function” – no eavesdropping or codebreaking – and will struggle to store data exploding from ever-expanding use of the internet, smartphones and tablets, said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and author of The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency.

“The intelligence people I’ve spoken are warning of data crunch – a polite way of saying they’re drowning. They say they don’t have enough capacity and will be back to Congress looking for more money to expand.” If so the site can do so. “It’s designed to be modular, you can add clip-ons. There is plenty of land.”

Utah has a colourful history of data management. Pony Express riders such as Buffalo Bill used to gallop through its deserts with sacks of mail dodging peril. “Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred,” said the famous – and possibly apocryphal – jobs advert. Mormons have long stored microfilms and documents in excavated chambers known as the Granite Mountain Vault.

The NSA chose the state apparently for a more prosaic reason: cheap electricity. It also helped that its conservative politicians, notably Senator Orrin Hatch, who served on the senate intelligence committee, supported post-9/11 security measures.

Revelations about surveillance programs such as Prism and Boundless Informant caused a small backlash this week. Several dozen people rallied outside the state capitol in Salt Lake City complaining of constitutional violations. “It’s just plain creepy!” said one placard. Others cited the fourth amendment and George Orwell’s novel 1984. Local newspapers’ op-ed pages also fulminated.

Others, however, have seen opportunity in the NSA’s arrival. The University of Utah has created a data-management course for students in consultation with the agency, which has promised internships at the data centre.

Officials in Bluffdale shrugged off privacy concerns. “They’re not a very open entity but if someone reads my emails they’ll be pretty bored,” said Mark Reid, the city manager. A deal to extend utilities to the centre, and to recycle water, helped open up scrubland for commercial development, he added. “It’s win-win.”

The NSA rejected a request from county mayors to tour the perimeter last month but Bluffdale’s mayor, Derk Timothy, was not offended. “I’ve never been inside the fence but it’s kind of to be expected with a facility like that.”Revelations about surveillance did not prove abuse of power, he said. “I don’t think they crossed the line. They’ve been good partners to us, especially when it comes to water.” The NSA was now part of the landscape. “They’ve been building that facility as if they’re going to stay forever.”

© Guardian News and Media 2013


Al Gore: NSA surveillance program ‘not really the American way’

By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Friday, June 14, 2013 19:56 EDT

Former vice-president – not persuaded by argument that program was legal – urges Congress and Obama to amend the laws

The National Security Agency’s blanket collection of U.S. citizens’ phone records was “not really the American way”, Al Gore said on Friday, declaring that he believed it to be unlawful.

In his most expansive comments to date on the NSA revelations, the former vice-president was unsparing in his criticism of the surveillance apparatus, telling the Guardian security considerations should never overwhelm the basic rights of American citizens.

He also urged Barack Obama and Congress to review and amend the laws under which the NSA operated.

“I quite understand the viewpoint that many have expressed that they are fine with it and they just want to be safe but that is not really the American way,” Gore said in a telephone interview. “Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that those who would give up essential liberty to try to gain some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Since the 2000 elections, when Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W Bush, the former vice-president has tacked to the left of the Democratic party, especially on his signature issue of climate change.

Gore spoke on Friday from Istanbul where he was about to lead one of his climate change training workshop for 600 global activists. Such three-day training sessions on behalf of the Climate Reality Project are now one of his main concerns.

Unlike other leading Democrats and his former allies, Gore said he was not persuaded by the argument that the NSA surveillance had operated within the boundaries of the law.

“This in my view violates the constitution. The fourth amendment – and the first amendment and the fourth amendment language is crystal clear,” he said. “It is not acceptable to have a secret interpretation of a law that goes far beyond any reasonable reading of either the law or the constitution and then classify as top secret what the actual law is.”

Gore added: “This is not right.”

The former vice-president was also unmoved by some recent opinion polls suggesting public opinion was in favour of surveillance

“I am not sure how to interpret polls on this, because we don’t do dial groups on the bill of rights,” he said.

He went on to call on Barack Obama and Congress to review the laws under which the NSA expanded its surveillance. “I think that the Congress and the administration need to make some changes in the law and in their behaviour so as to honour and obey the constitution of the United States,” he said. “It is that simple.”

He rejected outright calls by the Republican chair of the house homeland security committee, Peter King, for prosecution of journalists who cover security leaks, such as the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.

Gore did say however that he had serious concerns about some aspects of the testimony offered by national intelligence director James Clapper during testimony to the Senate intelligence committee last March.

Clapper, in response to pointed questions from Democratic senator Ron Wyden, had said during that appearance that the NSA did not collect data on Americans.

“I was troubled by his direct response to senator Wyden’s very pointed question,” Gore said. “I was troubled by that.”

Gore has long had qualms about the expansion of the surveillance state in the digital age. He made those concers public this year in his latest book, The Future: Six Drivers of Social Change in which he warned: “Surveillance technologies now available – including the monitoring of virtually all digital information – have advanced to the point where much of the essential apparatus of a police state is already in place.”

Within hours of the Guardian’s first story about the NSA, the former vice-president tweeted: “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?

He said on Friday: “Some of us thought that it was probably going on, but what we have learned since then makes it a cause for deep concern.”

© Guardian News and Media 2013


Suspected commander of Nazi SS-led unit found living in Minnesota

AP investigation alleges Michael Karkoc lied about his role in the second world war when emigrating to the US in 1949

Associated Press in Berlin, Friday 14 June 2013 17.30 BST   

A commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of torching villages filled with women and children lied to American immigration officials to get into the US and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after the second world war, according to evidence uncovered by Associated Press.

Michael Karkoc, 94, told US authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during the war, concealing his work as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defence Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Galician Division and a Ukrainian nationalist organisation in which he served were both on a secret US government blacklist of organisations whose members were forbidden from entering the US at the time.

Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm that the Ukrainian company he led massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader. SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the 1944 Warsaw uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.

The US justice department has used lies about wartime service made in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. The evidence of Karkoc's wartime activities uncovered by AP has prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough material to prosecute. In Germany, Nazis with "command responsibility" can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.

Karkoc, speaking from his home in Minneapolis, refused to discuss his wartime past, and repeated efforts to set up an interview, using his son as an intermediary, were unsuccessful.

Efraim Zuroff, the lead Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said that based on his decades of experience pursuing Nazi war criminals, he expected that the evidence showing Karkoc lied to American officials and that his unit carried out atrocities is strong enough for deportation and war-crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.

"In America this is a relatively easy case: If he was the commander of a unit that carried out atrocities, that's a no brainer," Zuroff said. "Even in Germany … if the guy was the commander of the unit, then even if they can't show he personally pulled the trigger, he bears responsibility."

Former German army officer Josef Scheungraber – a lieutenant like Karkoc – was convicted in Germany in 2009 on charges of murder based on circumstantial evidence that put him on the scene of a Nazi wartime massacre in Italy as the ranking officer.

German prosecutors are obligated to open an investigation if there is enough "initial suspicion" of possible involvement in war crimes, said Thomas Walther, a former prosecutor with the special German office that investigates Nazi war crimes.

The current deputy head of that office, Thomas Will, said there is no indication that Karkoc had ever been investigated by Germany. Based on AP's evidence, he said he was interested in gathering information that could possibly result in prosecution.

Prosecution in Poland may also be a possibility because most of the unit's alleged crimes were against Poles on Polish territory. But Karkoc would be unlikely to be tried in his native Ukraine, where such men are today largely seen as national heroes who fought for the country against the Soviet Union.

Karkoc lives in a modest house in north-east Minneapolis in an area with a large Ukrainian population. Even at his advanced age, he came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.

"I don't think I can explain," he said.

Members of his unit and other witnesses have told stories of brutal attacks on civilians.

One of Karkoc's men, Vasyl Malazhenski, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 the unit was directed to "liquidate all the residents" of the village of Chlaniow in a reprisal attack for the killing of a German SS officer, though he did not say who gave the order.

"It was all like a trance: setting the fires, the shooting, the destroying," Malazhenski recalled, according to the 1967 statement found by AP in the archives of Warsaw's state-run Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates and prosecutes German and Soviet crimes on Poles during and after the second world war.

"Later, when we were passing in file through the destroyed village," Malazhenski said, "I could see the dead bodies of the killed residents: men, women, children."

In a background check by US officials on 14 April 1949, Karkoc said he had never performed any military service, telling investigators that he "worked for father until 1944. Worked in labor camp from 1944 until 1945."

However, in a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defence Legion in 1943 in collaboration with the Nazis' feared SS intelligence agency, the SD, to fight on the side of Germany – and served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, until the end of the war.

It was not clear why Karkoc felt safe publishing his memoir, which is available at the US Library of Congress and the British Library and which AP located online in an electronic Ukrainian library.

Karkoc's name surfaced when a retired clinical pharmacologist who took up Nazi war crimes research in his free time came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division who emigrated to Britain. He tipped off AP when an internet search showed an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.

"Here was a chance to publicly confront a man who commanded a company alleged to be involved in the cruel murder of innocent people," said Stephen Ankier, who is based in London.

AP located Karkoc's US army intelligence file, and got it declassified by the National Archives in Maryland through a freedom of Iinformation request. The army was responsible for processing visa applications after the war under the Displaced Persons Act.

The intelligence file said standard background checks with seven different agencies found no red flags that would disqualify him from entering the US. But it also noted that it lacked key information from the Soviet side: "Verification of identity and complete establishment of applicant's reliability is not possible due to the inaccessibility of records and geographic area of applicant's former residence."

Wartime documents located by the AP also confirm Karkoc's membership in the Self Defence Legion. They include a Nazi payroll sheet found in Polish archives, signed by an SS officer on 8 January 1945 – only four months before the war's end – confirming that Karkoc was present in Krakow, Poland, to collect his salary as a member of the Self Defence Legion. Karkoc signed the document using Cyrillic letters.

Karkoc, an ethnic Ukrainian, was born in the city of Lutsk in 1919, according to details he provided American officials. At the time, the area was being fought over by Ukraine, Poland and others; it ended up part of Poland until the second world war. Several wartime Nazi documents note the same birth date, but say he was born in Horodok, a town in the same region.

He joined the regular German army after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and fought on the eastern front in Ukraine and Russia, according to his memoirs, which say he was awarded an Iron Cross, an award for bravery.

He was also a member of the Ukrainian nationalist organisation OUN; in 1943, he helped negotiate with the Nazis to have men drawn from its membership form the Self Defence Legion, according to his account. Initially small, it eventually numbered 600 soldiers. The legion was dissolved and folded into the SS Galician Division in 1945; Karkoc wrote that he remained with it until the end of the war.

Policy at the time of Karkoc's immigration application – according to a declassified secret US government document obtained by AP from the National Archives – was to deny a visa to anyone who had served in either the SS Galician Division or the OUN. The US does not typically have jurisdiction to prosecute Nazi war crimes but has won more than 100 "denaturalisation and removal actions" against people suspected of them.

Department of justice spokesman Michael Passman would not comment on whether Karkoc had ever come to the department's attention, citing a policy not to confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

Though Karkoc talks in his memoirs about fighting anti-Nazi Polish resistance fighters, he makes no mention of attacks on civilians. He does indicate he was with his company in the summer of 1944 when the Self Defence Legion's commander – Siegfried Assmuss, whose SS rank was equivalent to major – was killed.

"We lost an irreplaceable commander, Assmuss," he wrote about the partisan attack near Chlaniow.

He did not mention the retaliatory massacre that followed, which was described in detail by Malazhenski in his 1967 statement used to help convict platoon leader Teodozy Dak of war crimes in Poland in 1972. An SS administrative list obtained by AP shows that Karkoc commanded both Malazhenski and Dak, who died in prison in 1974.

Malazhenski said the Ukrainian unit was ordered to liquidate Chlaniow in reprisal for Assmuss's death, and moved in the next day, machine-gunning people and torching homes. More than 40 people died.

"The village was on fire," Malazhenski said.

Villagers offered chilling testimony about the brutality of the attack. In 1948, Chlaniow resident Stanislawa Lipska told a communist-era commission that she heard shots at about 7am., then saw "the Ukrainian SS force" entering the town, calling out in Ukrainian and Polish for people to come out of their homes.

"The Ukrainians were setting fire to the buildings," Lipska said in a statement, also used in the Dak trial. "You could hear machine-gun shots and grenade explosions. Shots could be heard inside the village and on the outskirts. They were making sure no one escaped."

Witness statements and other documentation also link the unit circumstantially to a 1943 massacre in Pidhaitsi, on the outskirts of Lutsk – today part of Ukraine – where the Self Defence Legion was based.Twenty-one villagers, mostly women and children, were slaughtered.

Karkoc says in his memoir that his unit was founded and headquartered there in 1943 and later mentions that Pidhaitsi was still the unit's base in January 1944.

Another legion member, Kost Hirniak, said in his own 1977 memoir that the unit, while away on a mission, was suddenly ordered back to Pidhaitsi after a German soldier was killed in the area; it arrived on 2 December 1943.

The next day, though Hirniak does not mention it, nearly two dozen civilians, primarily women and children, were slaughtered in Pidhaitsi. There is no indication any other units were in the area at the time.

Heorhiy Syvyi was a nine-year-old boy when troops entered the town on 3 December and managed to flee with his father and hide in a shelter covered with branches. His mother and four-year-old brother were killed.

"When we came out we saw the smouldering ashes of the burned house and our neighbours searching for the dead. My mother had my brother clasped to her chest. This is how she was found – black and burned," said Syvyi, 78, sitting on a bench outside his home.

Villagers today blame the attack generically on "the Nazis" – something that experts say is not unusual in Ukraine because of the exalted status former Ukrainian nationalist troops enjoy.

However, Pidhaitsi schoolteacher Galyna Sydorchuk told AP "there is a version" of the story in the village that the Ukrainian troops were involved in the December massacre. "There were many in Pidhaitsi who were involved in the Self Defence Legion," she said. "But they obviously keep it secret."

Ivan Katchanovski, a Ukrainian political scientist who has done extensive research on the Self Defence Legion, said its members have been careful to cultivate the myth that their service to Nazi Germany was solely a fight against Soviet communism. But he said its actions – fighting partisans and reprisal attacks on civilians – tell a different story.

"Under the pretext of anti-partisan action they acted as a kind of police unit to suppress and kill or punish the local populations. This became their main mission," said Katchanovski, who went to high school in Pidhaitsi and now teaches at the University of Ottawa in Canada. "There is evidence of clashes with Polish partisans, but most of their clashes were small, and their most visible actions were mass killings of civilians."

There is evidence that the unit took part in the brutal suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, fighting the nationalist Polish Home Army as it sought to rid the city of its Nazi occupiers and take control of the city ahead of advancing Soviet troops.

The uprising, which began in August 1944, was put down by the Nazis by the beginning of October in a house-to-house fight characterised by its ferocity.

The Self Defence Legion's exact role is not known, but Nazi documents indicate that Karkoc and his unit were there.

An SS payroll document, dated 12 October 1944, says 10 members of the Self Defence Legion "fell while deployed to Warsaw" and more than 30 others were injured. Karkoc is listed as the highest-ranking commander of 2 Company – a lieutenant – on a pay sheet that also lists Dak as one of his officers.

Another Nazi accounting document uncovered by AP in the Polish National Archives in Krakow lists Karkoc by name – including his rank, birthdate and hometown – as one of 219 "members of the SMdS-Batl 31 who were in Warsaw," using the German abbreviation for the Self Defence Legion.

In early 1945, the Self Defence Legion was integrated into the SS Galicia Division, and Karkoc said in his memoirs that he served as a deputy company commander until the end of the war.
American life and children

Following the war, Karkoc ended up in a camp for displaced people in Neu Ulm, Germany, according to documents obtained from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The documents indicate that his wife died in 1948, a year before he and their two young boys – born in 1945 and 1946 – emigrated to the US.

After he arrived in Minneapolis, he remarried and had four more children, the last born in 1966.

Karkoc told American officials he was a carpenter, and records indicate he worked for a nationwide construction company that has an office in Minneapolis.

A longtime member of the Ukrainian National Association, Karkoc has been closely involved in community affairs over the past decades and was identified in a 2002 article in a Ukrainian-American publication as a "longtime UNA activist".

The lights were on at Karkoc's home on Friday morning, but nobody answered a knock from an AP reporter seeking reaction to this story.

Karkoc's next-door neighbour said he had known the Ukrainian immigrant for many years, and was stunned to learn about the Nazi past of a man he has shared laughs with and known as a churchgoer.

"For me, this is a shock," said Gordon Gnasdoskey, 79. "To come to this country and take advantage of its freedoms all of these years, it blows my mind."

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« Reply #6962 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:03 AM »

Iran: Hassan Rouhani wins presidential election

Moderate candidate secures surprise victory in race to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with just over 50% of the vote

Saeed Kamali Dehghan   
The Observer, Saturday 15 June 2013 18.07 BST   

Iran was on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation on Saturday night after the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani sensationally secured enough votes to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani's victory delighted reformers who have been desperate for a return to the forefront of politics after eight acrimonious years under Ahmadinejad.

It will also lift the spirit of a nation suffering from its worst financial crisis for at least two decades as a result of the sanctions imposed by western powers in the dispute over its nuclear programme.

Rouhani, who favours a policy of political openness, as well as re-establishing relations with the west, is likely to soothe international tension. He has been described by western officials as an "experienced diplomat and politician" and "fair to deal with".

Iran's interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced on state television on Saturday night that 72% of 50 million eligible Iranians had voted, and Rohani had won just over the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff.

Rouhani, a PhD graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and a former nuclear negotiator, has pledged to find a way out of the current stalemate over Iran's nuclear programme, which is the cause of the sanctions crushing the economy.

Minutes after he was announced as the winner, thousands of jubilant campaigners and people across Iran poured into streets to celebrate. "Ahmadi Bye Bye", chanted a large group in central Tehran, according to witnesses, in a reference to Ahmadinejad. Car horns were honking in larger streets in Tehran and Rouhani supporters chanted.

The Iranian currency, the rial, recovered in value against the dollar by at least 6% on Saturday. Later on Saturday night, Rouhani issued a statement on television, saying "a new season of solidarity" had begun following a result that brought "rationality and moderation" as well as "peace, stability and hope".

The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, along with Ahmadinejad, congratulated Rouhani. Tehran's mayor, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, also conceded defeat by sending a congratulatory message to the president-elect. Other candidates did the same.

During Rouhani's term as a nuclear negotiator, Iran appeared more co-operative to the international community and, leading up to Friday's poll, he repeatedly pointed out that on his watch Iran's nuclear dossier was not referred to the UN security council.

Britain on Saturday night urged Iran's new president to set his country on a "different course" after years of deadlock and dispute with the west. The Foreign Office said that it hoped Rouhani would use his victory to engage with international concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions and develop a "constructive" relationship with the wider international community.

"We call on him to use the opportunity to set Iran on a different course for the future: addressing international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, taking forward a constructive relationship with the international community, and improving the political and human rights situation for the people of Iran."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians."

Analysts believe rigging was less likely this year because Ahmadinejad was not running and the government had not endorsed any of the candidates.

The endorsement of Rouhani earlier in the week by reformist leaders Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani injected last-minute excitement into the race, boosting his chances. The 65-year-old was the only cleric among the six presidential candidates.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian politics lecturer at the Inter-disciplinary Centre in Israel, described the results as a "total and absolute surprise. Based on the 2009 results, which many including myself believe were falsified, the expectation was that Rouhani's genuine votes would not be counted, as his views do not seem to be in line with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and the supreme leader, just like [opposition leaders] Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi's views were not," he said.

The former British foreign secretary Jack Straw knows Rouhani and described him as "warm and engaging".

"This is a remarkable and welcome result so far and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will be no jiggery-pokery with the final result," he said.

"What this huge vote of confidence in Rouhani appears to show is a hunger by the Iranian people to break away from the arid and self-defeating approach of the past and for more constructive relations with the west." He added: "On a personal level I found him warm and engaging. He is a strong Iranian patriot and he was tough but fair to deal with and always on top of his brief."

Speaking to the Observer, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Rouhani's deputy on Iran's national security council from 1997 to 2005, and a spokesman for Iran's nuclear negotiating team, said the results showed Iranians were desperate for change.

"The public support of Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Khatami and withdrawal of Mohammad-Reza Aref from the race had a major role in Rouhani's win," he said. Khatami and Rafsanjani played a significant role in Rouhani's victory by holding off declarations of support and persuading Aref to drop out to avoid a split vote.

"Hardliners remain in control of key aspects of Iran's political system, but centrists and reformists have proven that even when the cards are stacked against them they can still prevail due to their support among the population," Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council said.

The turnout for Friday's vote was so high that polling stations stayed open for five hours longer than planned.

Speaking after casting his vote in Tehran, Khamenei had urged a mass turnout to rebut suggestions by American officials that the election enjoyed little legitimacy.

"I recently heard that someone at the US national security council said, 'We do not accept this election in Iran'," he said. "We don't give a damn."

Among those voting was Ebrahim Yazdi, secretary general of the Freedom Movement of Iran, a banned group that is critical of the system.

"Today's election is about choosing between bad and worse," he told the semi-official Mehr news agency. "Voting is a national duty and a right given to you by God."

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« Reply #6963 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:13 AM »

June 15, 2013

Afghan Forces, Taking Lead, Hold Steady in Violent District


KABUL, Afghanistan — First, the British marines tried to pacify it, and lost more soldiers there than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Then the American Marines moved in, and suffered severe casualties, before finally subduing it after a large troop increase. Now the foreigners are mostly gone from Sangin district in the southern Taliban heartland, and its fate is up to the Afghans.

The Taliban insurgents, who never completely left the area, have wasted no time testing the mettle of Afghan government forces. So far, the Afghan security forces have held, but like the Americans and British before them, the price has been high, according to Afghan and Western officials and accounts by locals. The police and the Afghan National Army, or A.N.A., are taking heavy casualties in a battle that American and Afghan officials see as a crucial test of the Afghans’ ability to keep the Taliban at bay after the Western withdrawal.

“We hope the A.N.A. survives,” said one Western official familiar with the terrain. “But it is a real test.”

The Taliban started their offensive in Sangin about three weeks ago, as part of a publicized campaign to discredit Afghan forces and show their ability to disrupt territories across the country. Though the insurgents were reported to have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of Afghan troops, at one point Taliban fighters reached villages less than five miles from the district center, according to residents and local officials. The insurgents overran at least three and perhaps as many as eight Afghan Local Police checkpoints — reports vary — that the police were forced to abandon after running out of ammunition.

Along the way, the Taliban planted countless bombs, emptying several villages and intimidating Sangin residents who already had only limited faith in the government.

When the Afghan Army arrived, soldiers pushed the Taliban back, allowing the checkpoints to be re-established. But the fight is hardly done. On Wednesday, a motorcycle bomb detonated when Afghan National Army soldiers were in the main Sangin bazaar, killing a soldier and a civilian and wounding six others. A few days earlier they launched a suicide attack on a Georgian base in Now Zad, near the border with Sangin, killing seven Georgian soldiers.

Not counting Wednesday’s attack, the Afghan Army was reported to have lost six soldiers, and the police lost 13 men over the past three weeks of fighting, said Lt. Col. Mohammed Rasool Zazai, the press officer for the Afghan Army’s 215th Corps, and Ghulam Ali Khan, the Sangin police chief. An additional 35 members of the security forces were wounded and at least a dozen civilians were reported killed, they said.

“A large number of people have been displaced and some have been killed,” said Hajji Ghulam Jan, an Afghan Local Police militia commander who took over when the Taliban killed his brother in the recent fighting. “It is hard for people.”

For now, the American military commanders who are mentoring the Afghan Army say that they are optimistic, and that the Afghan Army has basically done well. That view is not necessarily shared by villagers, farmers, rural elders or even the Afghan Local Police who are the front line in the fight with the Taliban.

Mr. Jan, who said he had been forced to leave his security post after running out of ammunition, said the Afghan National Army came too slowly and left too much fighting to his men, irregular local militia forces who have received basic training from American Special Operations forces.

“The A.N.A. is not doing enough,” he said. “The Afghan forces are not weak against the Taliban, but they are not fighting with them. I told the district government and the A.N.A.: ‘For God’s sake, don’t let Taliban into my village, Sarwan Kala. We have controlled and secured it with much effort from the Taliban.’ ”

“But they didn’t pay attention, and they allowed the Taliban to take shelter and sow I.E.D.’s, which will be difficult for us to clear,” he added, using the military abbreviation for improvised explosive devices.

Hajji Mira Jan, a member of the Sangin district council, agreed that the Afghan forces were not doing enough, and complained that they lacked support from the NATO-led military coalition. “I don’t know the reason why the Americans are not taking part in this big battle,” he said.

The Americans say they are holding back on purpose — still present in case disaster strikes but trying to leave the fighting to the Afghans. While the American commanders said they had few illusions that it would be a quick or cost-free fight, given the heavy Western losses in Sangin, they say they have been encouraged by the improvement shown by the Afghan Army.

“It’s still a very dangerous place, you always have to be on your guard,” said Col. Austin Renforth, the commanding officer for the Regimental Combat Team 7 of the Marines, whose troops are mentoring the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province, which includes Sangin. “Could the A.N.S.F. have done this last year?” he said, referring to the Afghan National Security Forces. “I don’t think so, not without us. This year, we did very little.”

Lt. Gen. Nick Carter, the deputy commander of the coalition forces, known as the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, commended the Afghan Army’s performance in Sangin, but acknowledged that it was a real fight.

“Whilst a number of casualties were sustained by the police force, the fact of the matter was that with limited ISAF support, the corps commander, General Malouk, was able to resecure the upper Sangin Valley,” General Carter said, referring to Gen. Sayed Malouk. “An operation in which significant numbers of enemies were killed or captured.”

The Americans say that they provided satellite images to help the Afghans target groups of Taliban and evacuated wounded Afghan soldiers by air, but that they did not fight or provide the air support that they would have in the past.

For both sides, what is at stake in this fight is not just territory, but the psychological balance of power. A number of Sangin residents said repeatedly that they neither liked nor supported the Taliban, but that they also felt there was no government force that could effectively protect them.

A farmer from one of the villages overrun by the Taliban, Hajji Mohammad Naseem, said that he and many fellow villagers had fled their homes at night, leaving behind their crops and possessions, and now could not return because of homemade bombs.

“We were busy harvesting our wheat when the fighting erupted,” said Mr. Naseem, who went to stay with relatives in Kandahar. “We left everything on the ground and the fighting burned the crop. We ran with our families, without any shoes. We are in a desperate situation.”

The shooting began around May 20, after the opium poppy harvest had been brought in and the part-time fighter-farmers could join the insurgents for the summer fighting season, which by all accounts a number of people did.

How many Taliban took part in the initial assault is hard to say, but local estimates range from 600 to 800. The Americans believe the number that attacked was much smaller, probably fewer than 300.

The Afghan Army’s counterattack was slowed by the thousands of bombs laid by the Taliban, said Colonel Zazai, the Maiwand Corps spokesman. “It wasn’t easy fighting,” he said. “The heavy I.E.D.’s they planted also slowed down the progress of the operation. It doesn’t mean we are slow in removing the enemy, but we are looking at people’s living conditions. The enemy doesn’t care about people’s conditions.”

Colonel Zazai said the army regretted that so many fields burned in the fighting, but that there had been no way to avoid it.

Hajji Mohammed Dawoud, the Sangin district governor, described a nightmarish situation in which the insurgents planted bombs everywhere. “Even putting them on people’s gates, in their homes, and laying them in the open fields,” he said. “Anywhere they go they bury mines.”

While the number of Taliban fighters ultimately killed is highly unreliable because no one actually counted the bodies, estimates by the police chief and village elders suggest that at least 100 died and possibly as many as 160.

At least 25 of the Taliban fighters were close neighbors, and Taliban families sent village elders to pick up the bodies, said Shamsallah Sahrai, a farmer from the village of Bostanzo, one of the places with intense fighting.

For now, there is an uneasy quiet, local residents said.

“There is no fighting now, yet we cannot say it has stopped yet completely,” Mr. Sahrai said. “We think it will start again.”

Alissa J. Rubin reported from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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« Reply #6964 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:14 AM »

June 15, 2013

Attacks Test New Pakistan Government


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Islamic militants blew up a bus carrying female university students in Baluchistan Province in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday and then attacked a hospital complex where the wounded had been taken and local officials had gathered to comfort them, leaving at least 23 people dead.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned sectarian group with links to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Quetta, the provincial capital.

The violence shook the newly formed government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is trying to revive Pakistan’s foundering economy while grappling with an array of militant violence.

Earlier Saturday, separatists in another part of the province destroyed a historic building that was once used by the country’s founding leader. The mayhem in Quetta began when a bomb tore through a bus that was carrying students from Sardar Bahadur Khan University. The blast killed at least 14 women and wounded at least 19 others. It destroyed the bus, leaving behind a charred metal shell.

A short time later, a second explosion, believed to have been carried out by a suicide bomber, struck the Bolan Medical Complex, where the wounded from the bus bombing had been taken for treatment. Gunmen forced their way into the compound, where senior Quetta officials had gathered to visit the wounded, leading to an exchange of heavy gunfire with security officers that lasted for several hours.

Late Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that security forces had stormed the hospital and regained control. Four members of the security forces died in the gun battle, and Abdul Mansoor, the Quetta deputy commissioner, and four nurses were also killed, officials said. Four of the attackers died and one was arrested, Mr. Khan said.

In the separate attack hours earlier, Baluch separatists killed a policeman and destroyed the residence once used by Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Ziarat, about 74 miles southeast of Quetta.

Analysts said the attack on the Jinnah building, which had been designated a national monument, had symbolic importance, signifying the deep rifts in Pakistan where ethnic and nationalistic tensions are straining the national fabric.

At least five assailants attacked the building, known as Jinnah’s Residency, according to government officials, using rockets and hand grenades and killing a guard. Explosions caused a fire that quickly engulfed the two-story building. The facade was made of timber and was turned to ashes. A charred bricked structure remained barely intact; television images showed the smoldering remains.

The Baluch Liberation Army, a separatist group that is fighting for the independence of Baluchistan Province, a region with abundant mineral resources and natural gas deposits, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr. Khan, the interior minister, was quoted by the local news media as saying that the attackers replaced the country’s national flag at the building with the Baluch Liberation Army’s banner.

“In a way, it is an attack on the very symbol of Pakistan, the man who created Pakistan,” said Ejaz Haider, the editor for national security affairs at Capital TV, an Islamabad-based television network, and one of the country’s most widely read columnists.

Mr. Haider compared the assault on the building to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Those attacks were against the very symbols and values of the United States,” he said. “In a way, this attack is the same thing.”

It occurred just days after the installation of a new nationalist provincial government by Prime Minister Sharif. “The expectation was that with a new nationalist government, other secessionists’ groups could be brought in,” Mr. Haider said. “With this attack, at least the Baluchistan Liberation Army has said that ‘we reject the very basis of Pakistan.’ ”

Raza Rumi, a columnist and talk show host, said, “This is a hugely symbolic attack at the very idea of Pakistan that Baluch separatists are refusing to accept and struggling to undo.”

“Baluch nationalists and separatists hold Jinnah responsible for actions against their territory,” Mr. Rumi said. “After the attack, in some of the early reactions on social media, Baluch separatists portrayed the attack as a revenge for historical wrongs.”

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« Reply #6965 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:16 AM »

May 30, 2013

Plague of Corruption Rises Anew in Indonesia


JAKARTA — Fifteen years ago, Indonesia took its first step toward democracy with the ouster of an authoritarian president. By 2009, the country had one of the most open electoral systems in Asia, with direct balloting to elect government officials, from the president all the way down to district chiefs and mayors.

Candidates discovered that political parties and elections cost money, especially in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of 240 million people. As the country’s democracy has expanded, so has the need to pay for flights to rallies, local party offices, advertising, pollsters and consultants — not to mention the box lunches and T-shirts that are expected by voters who turn up at campaign events.

But Indonesia’s campaign finance laws have not kept up with these changes, analysts say. As a result, political parties here are increasingly financing their operations with the same shady practices that symbolized the era of President Suharto, whose tenure lasted from 1967 to 1998.

“That’s not a secret anymore,” said T. Mulya Lubis, chairman of the executive board of Transparency International Indonesia, which monitors political corruption. “It’s public knowledge. This is the biggest kind of corruption now.”

The most recent political scandal involves the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party, the fourth-largest party in the House of Representatives and a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s governing coalition. The party, known as the P.K.S. for the initials of its Indonesian name, has been under fire since its chairman was arrested in January over allegations that he accepted bribes from a local company to ensure that it received a larger share of a government-issued quota to import beef.

In the past month, other Prosperous Justice Party leaders have been accused of orchestrating a payoff of more than $1 million intended for the party’s 2014 legislative election campaign.

Separately, a corruption suspect has asserted that the party planned to exploit its control of several government ministries to amass a campaign war chest of about $204 million. Party officials have denied those allegations as well as all other accusations of corruption.

The beef scandal has prompted calls for Mr. Yudhoyono’s government and the legislature to overhaul the campaign finance laws before national elections next year. Proposals include making rules for the public disclosure of political parties’ expenditures and sources of income, setting limits on campaign spending, appointing corruption monitors and prosecuting party officials for violations.

Titi Anggraeni, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy, a nongovernmental organization, said the current law required parties to disclose donations, income and expenditures only in a single report endorsed by their own auditor, rather than to open their accounts to public scrutiny. As a result, Ms. Anggraeni said, it is easy to hide illegal contributions and spending.

“We have free and fair elections in Indonesia, but not free and fair competition,” she said. “Candidates use money as a shortcut to win elections.”

Under the current law, the only legal sources of revenue for political parties are member dues, capped donations from individuals and companies, and state subsidies for winning seats in the national and provincial legislatures.

But Ms. Anggraeni said her organization’s research found that the legal sources of income covered less than 15 percent of the operating expenses for political parties, which must maintain offices in all 34 of Indonesia’s provinces and in two-thirds of the 491 incorporated provincial districts to compete in elections.

“It’s not in the Indonesian culture for persons or companies to make political contributions, because people don’t trust political parties,” she said. “This creates a situation where political parties seek illegal funds.”

Effendi Gazali, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia, said that most of the illegal money flowing into political party coffers was generated by members of the Budget Commission of the House of Representatives, who have expansive powers to oversee even the smallest expenditures.

“They have very close ties with ministries and other state institutions, so they ‘cook’ the budgets of ministries and state institutions handled by ministers from coalition parties, and they also manage to get a kickback,” Mr. Gazali said.

Last month, a former senior National Police officer testified in court that the Budget Commission had received four boxes of cash in 2010 from a police general arrested last December in connection with a $20 million procurement scandal, according to local news reports. And in the past five years, dozens of current and former members of the national legislature have been convicted of corruption. In March, investigators from the Corruption Eradication Commission raided the offices of two national lawmakers from Golkar, Indonesia’s largest political party, in connection with accusations of corruption involving the construction of sports facilities for Indonesia’s 2012 National Games.

Analysts have been predicting a spike in illegal political financing before hotly contested legislative and presidential elections set for next year.

“The problem is, if there isn’t a good political party financing system, you’ll have political parties focusing on getting money rather than focusing on representing constituents or pursuing ideas that they can present as alternatives,” said W. Paul Rowland, a Jakarta-based associate with the Center for Democratic Institutions at Australian National University.

“The legal risk of being a political party treasurer is huge,” Mr. Rowland said. “If you look at the number of investigations against political party treasurers by the anti-corruption commission, you can certainly draw some conclusions. There’s certainly a connection between political parties, the positions they hold in ministries and these corruption cases.”

Another problem is that many of Indonesia’s 10 largest political parties have wealthy patrons, or a group of patrons, who pay for some party expenses in exchange for a top position or influence over legislation and government policies, analysts say.

Marcus Mietzner, a senior lecturer at Australian National University and the author of a forthcoming book on party and campaign financing in Indonesia, said that a sharp increase in public financing for political parties needed to be a major part of any effort to overhaul laws governing money in politics.

In 2005, annual state financing for political parties was reduced from 1,000 rupiah, about 10 cents, per vote won in national, provincial and district legislatures in the previous election to 21 million rupiah, about $2,135, for each seat won — which decreased total funds by about 90 percent, Dr. Mietzner said. In 2009, the annual amount was further reduced to 108 rupiah, about a penny, for each vote won.

“You can’t really have credible reform without a significant increase in state subsidies,” Dr. Mietzner said. “Most new and consolidated democracies offer state subsidies for parties, which usually cover 25 to 30 percent of total party expenditure. In Indonesia, it’s now probably 0.01 percent. The amount of state subsidies to parties is absolutely minimal.”

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« Reply #6966 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:17 AM »

Bangladeshi workers taken ill after drinking water at factory

Hundreds suffer vomiting and stomach problems, with many treated in hospital, police say

Associated Press in Dhaka, Sunday 16 June 2013 11.50 BST   

Several hundred garment workers have been taken ill at their factory outside Bangladesh's capital, apparently after drinking water there.

A police official, Mohammad Jahid, said many of the workers had been treated at various hospitals after the incident at East West factory in Gazipur district.

Jahid said most of the workers had suffered vomiting and stomach problems, which were not life-threatening. He said up to 4,000 workers were employed in the factory.

Earlier this month, contaminated drinking water caused illness among 450 workers at Starlight Sweater factory in the same area. Authorities cleaned the reservoir and reopened the factory a day later. Jahid said there had not been any legal action against that factory.

A building collapse near Dhaka in April killed 1,129 workers, injured many others and highlighted hazardous working conditions in the more than 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh earns about $20bn (£13bn) each year from exports of garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe, accounting for nearly 80% of the country's export earnings.

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« Reply #6967 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:22 AM »

Leaving the Land: China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities

Articles in this series look at how China's government-driven effort to push the population to towns and cities is reshaping a nation that for millenniums has been defined by its rural life.
June 15, 2013

BEIJING — China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years — a transformative event that could set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come.

The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers. So large is the scale that the number of brand-new Chinese city dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States — in a country already bursting with megacities.

This will decisively change the character of China, where the Communist Party insisted for decades that most peasants, even those working in cities, remain tied to their tiny plots of land to ensure political and economic stability. Now, the party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for a slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers.

The shift is occurring so quickly, and the potential costs are so high, that some fear rural China is once again the site of radical social engineering. Over the past decades, the Communist Party has flip-flopped on peasants’ rights to use land: giving small plots to farm during 1950s land reform, collectivizing a few years later, restoring rights at the start of the reform era and now trying to obliterate small landholders.

Children walked to school from a housing project in Chongqing, where their families were resettled after leaving their farmland. Justin Jin for The New York Times

Across China, bulldozers are leveling villages that date to long-ago dynasties. Towers now sprout skyward from dusty plains and verdant hillsides. New urban schools and hospitals offer modern services, but often at the expense of the torn-down temples and open-air theaters of the countryside.

“It’s a new world for us in the city,” said Tian Wei, 43, a former wheat farmer in the northern province of Hebei, who now works as a night watchman at a factory. “All my life I’ve worked with my hands in the fields; do I have the educational level to keep up with the city people?”

China has long been home to both some of the world’s tiniest villages and its most congested, polluted examples of urban sprawl. The ultimate goal of the government’s modernization plan is to fully integrate 70 percent of the country’s population, or roughly 900 million people, into city living by 2025. Currently, only half that number are.

The building frenzy is on display in places like Liaocheng, which grew up as an entrepôt for local wheat farmers in the North China Plain. It is now ringed by scores of 20-story towers housing now-landless farmers who have been thrust into city life. Many are giddy at their new lives — they received the apartments free, plus tens of thousands of dollars for their land — but others are uncertain about what they will do when the money runs out.

Aggressive state spending is planned on new roads, hospitals, schools, community centers — which could cost upward of $600 billion a year, according to economists’ estimates. In addition, vast sums will be needed to pay for the education, health care and pensions of the ex-farmers.

While the economic fortunes of many have improved in the mass move to cities, unemployment and other social woes have also followed the enormous dislocation. Some young people feel lucky to have jobs that pay survival wages of about $150 a month; others while away their days in pool halls and video-game arcades.

Top-down efforts to quickly transform entire societies have often come to grief, and urbanization has already proven one of the most wrenching changes in China’s 35 years of economic transition. Land disputes account for thousands of protests each year, including dozens of cases in recent years in which people have set themselves aflame rather than relocate.

The country’s new prime minister, Li Keqiang, indicated at his inaugural news conference in March that urbanization was one of his top priorities. He also cautioned, however, that it would require a series of accompanying legal changes “to overcome various problems in the course of urbanization.”

Some of these problems could include chronic urban unemployment if jobs are not available, and more protests from skeptical farmers unwilling to move. Instead of creating wealth, urbanization could result in a permanent underclass in big Chinese cities and the destruction of a rural culture and religion.

The government has been pledging a comprehensive urbanization plan for more than two years now. It was originally to have been presented at the National People’s Congress in March, but various concerns delayed that, according to people close to the government. Some of them include the challenge of financing the effort, of coordinating among the various ministries and of balancing the rights of farmers, whose land has increasingly been taken forcibly for urban projects.

These worries delayed a high-level conference to formalize the plan this month. The plan has now been delayed until the fall, government advisers say. Central leaders are said to be concerned that spending will lead to inflation and bad debt.

Such concerns may have been behind the call in a recent government report for farmers’ property rights to be protected. Released in March, the report said China must “guarantee farmers’ property rights and interests.” Land would remain owned by the state, though, so farmers would not have ownership rights even under the new blueprint.

On the ground, however, the new wave of urbanization is well under way. Almost every province has large-scale programs to move farmers into housing towers, with the farmers’ plots then given to corporations or municipalities to manage. Efforts have been made to improve the attractiveness of urban life, but the farmers caught up in the programs typically have no choice but to leave their land.

The broad trend began decades ago. In the early 1980s, about 80 percent of Chinese lived in the countryside versus 47 percent today, plus an additional 17 percent that works in cities but is classified as rural. The idea is to speed up this process and achieve an urbanized China much faster than would occur organically.

The primary motivation for the urbanization push is to change China’s economic structure, with growth based on domestic demand for products instead of relying so much on export. In theory, new urbanites mean vast new opportunities for construction companies, public transportation, utilities and appliance makers, and a break from the cycle of farmers consuming only what they produce. “If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.”

Skeptics say the government’s headlong rush to urbanize is driven by a vision of modernity that has failed elsewhere. In Brazil and Mexico, urbanization was also seen as a way to bolster economic growth. But among the results were the expansion of slums and of a stubborn unemployed underclass, according to experts.

“There’s this feeling that we have to modernize, we have to urbanize and this is our national-development strategy,” said Gao Yu, China country director for the Landesa Rural Development Institute, based in Seattle. Referring to the disastrous Maoist campaign to industrialize overnight, he added, “It’s almost like another Great Leap Forward.”

The old buildings under these high-rises in Chongqing have been marked for demolition. Some of the people moved from their farmland to a housing project in Chongqing dance outdoors, the sort of recreation they never had time for as farmers. Justin Jin for The New York Times

The costs of this top-down approach can be steep. In one survey by Landesa in 2011, 43 percent of Chinese villagers said government officials had taken or tried to take their land. That is up from 29 percent in a 2008 survey.

“In a lot of cases in China, urbanization is the process of local government driving farmers into buildings while grabbing their land,” said Li Dun, a professor of public policy at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Farmers are often unwilling to leave the land because of the lack of job opportunities in the new towns. Working in a factory is sometimes an option, but most jobs are far from the newly built towns. And even if farmers do get jobs in factories, most lose them when they hit age 45 or 50, since employers generally want younger, nimbler workers.

“For old people like us, there’s nothing to do anymore,” said He Shifang, 45, a farmer from the city of Ankang in Shaanxi Province who was relocated from her family’s farm in the mountains. “Up in the mountains we worked all the time. We had pigs and chickens. Here we just sit around and people play mah-jongg.”

Some farmers who have given up their land say that when they come back home for good around this age, they have no farm to tend and thus no income. Most are still excluded from national pension plans, putting pressure on relatives to provide.

The coming urbanization plan would aim to solve this by giving farmers a permanent stream of income from the land they lost. Besides a flat payout when they moved, they would receive a form of shares in their former land that would pay the equivalent of dividends over a period of decades to make sure they did not end up indigent.

This has been tried experimentally, with mixed results. Outside the city of Chengdu, some farmers said they received nothing when their land was taken to build a road, leading to daily confrontations with construction crews and the police since the beginning of this year.

But south of Chengdu in Shuangliu County, farmers who gave up their land for an experimental strawberry farm run by a county-owned company said they receive an annual payment equivalent to the price of 2,000 pounds of grain plus the chance to earn about $8 a day working on the new plantation.

“I think it’s O.K., this deal,” said Huang Zifeng, 62, a farmer in the village of Paomageng who gave up his land to work on the plantation. “It’s more stable than farming your own land.”

Financing the investment needed to start such projects is a central sticking point. Chinese economists say that the cost does not have to be completely borne by the government — because once farmers start working in city jobs, they will start paying taxes and contributing to social welfare programs.
Urbanization and Level of Income

Projected Spending on Urban Public Services

China issues different permits to urban and rural residents. Rural residents who move to cities without city permits do not have access to public services. If the Chinese government starts to provide services to migrants, spending is projected to go up by 1.5 trillion renminbi per year, or 2.5 percent of urban G.D.P. by 2025.

“Urbanization can launch a process of value creation,” said Xiang Songzuo, chief economist with the Agricultural Bank of China and a deputy director of the International Monetary Institute at Renmin University. “It should start a huge flow of revenues.”

Even if this is true, the government will still need significant resources to get the programs started. Currently, local governments have limited revenues and most rely on selling land to pay for expenses — an unsustainable practice in the long run. Banks are also increasingly unwilling to lend money to big infrastructure projects, Mr. Xiang said, because many banks are now listed companies and have to satisfy investors’ requirements.

“Local governments are already struggling to provide benefits to local people, so why would they want to extend this to migrant workers?” said Tom Miller, a Beijing-based author of a new book on urbanization in China, “China’s Urban Billion.” “It is essential for the central government to step in and provide funding for this.”

In theory, local governments could be allowed to issue bonds, but with no reliable system of rating or selling bonds, this is unlikely in the near term. Some localities, however, are already experimenting with programs to pay for at least the infrastructure by involving private investors or large state-owned enterprises that provide seed financing.

Most of the costs are borne by local governments. But they rely mostly on central government transfer payments or land sales, and without their own revenue streams they are unwilling to allow newly arrived rural residents to attend local schools or benefit from health care programs. This is reflected in the fact that China officially has a 53 percent rate of urbanization, but only about 35 percent of the population is in possession of an urban residency permit, or hukou. This is the document that permits a person to register in local schools or qualify for local medical programs.

The new blueprint to be unveiled this year is supposed to break this logjam by guaranteeing some central-government support for such programs, according to economists who advise the government. But the exact formulas are still unclear. Granting full urban benefits to 70 percent of the population by 2025 would mean doubling the rate of those in urban welfare programs.

“Urbanization is in China’s future, but China’s rural population lags behind in enjoying the benefits of economic development,” said Li Shuguang, professor at the China University of Political Science and Law. “The rural population deserves the same benefits and rights city folks enjoy.”

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« Reply #6968 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:25 AM »

North Korea proposes high-level talks with U.S.

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, June 16, 2013 2:39 EDT

North Korea proposed high-level talks with the US on denuclearisation and easing tensions on the Korean peninsula, just days after it abruptly cancelled a rare meeting with the South.

Tension has been high on the peninsula since the North’s third nuclear test in February that triggered new UN sanctions which ignited an angry response from Pyongyang, including threats of nuclear attacks on Seoul and Washington.

A rare high-level meeting between two Koreas scheduled for June 12 and 13, which would have been the first between the two sides for six years, was cancelled on Tuesday due to spats over protocol.

The latest proposal came as the North came under increasing pressure to abandon its atomic arsenal and its belligerent behaviour, not only from the US and its ally the South, but also Pyongyang’s sole major ally, China.

“We propose senior-level talks between… the (North) and the US to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region,” the North’s powerful National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by state media.

The North is willing to have “broad and in-depth discussions” on issues such as the building of “a world without nuclear weapons” being promoted by US President Barack Obama, it said, inviting the US to set the time and venue for the meeting.

“If the US has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the US mainland and the region, it should not raise preconditions for dialogue and contact,” it said.

Analysts said Washington is unlikely to accept the latest proposal without any concrete action from Pyongyang to move towards denuclearisation — a pre-condition for any talks long demanded by the US.

“The US has repeatedly made it clear that it was not interested in a dialogue for the sake of dialogue,” said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“So I’m not sure if Washington will respond to the talks offer, especially if it was made without any behind-the-curtain negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington in advance,” he said.

The nuclear-armed communist state said in Sunday’s statement that it was committed to denuclearisation of the peninsula but defended its atomic arsenal as “self-defence” against what it called military and nuclear threats from the US.

“The legitimate status of the (North) as a nuclear weapons state will go on… until… the nuclear threats from outside are put to a final end,” it said, urging the US to also scrap all sanctions against it.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who agreed at a summit with Obama earlier this month that the North must give up its nuclear arsenal, is also to hold talks with the South’s leader Park Geun-Hye on June 27.

“The North is hard-pressed to show some kind of reconciliatory gestures to avoid being further isolated in this dynamic, especially by China,” said Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

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« Reply #6969 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:34 AM »

Kerry: Syria developments 'threaten to put settlement out of reach'

Secretary of state doubts Assad's 'commitment' to negotiations given use of chemical weapons and involvement of Hezbollah

Matt Williams in New York, Saturday 15 June 2013 17.35 BST   

The American secretary of state, John Kerry, warned on Saturday that what the US believes to be Syria's use of chemical weapons against rebels and the creeping role played by Hezbollah in the conflict "threatened to put a political settlement out of reach".

In a phone call with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, Kerry reaffirmed that the US was seeking a non-military solution to the crisis, but doubted President Bashar al-Assad's "commitment" to negotiations, according to a state department statement.

The news comes amid reports in the US media that the CIA is poised to begin arming rebels in Syria through secret bases in Turkey and Jordan. The use of clandestine hubs to ship weapons and ammunition to anti-Assad forces could begin within weeks, the Washington Post claimed, citing an unnamed US official.

The White House announced on Thursday that it believed there was concrete evidence of the use of sarin nerve gas by pro-government fighters against rebel groups. "The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty date is likely incomplete," a White House statement read.

If true, it would confirm that Assad loyalists had crossed a "red line" set by President Barack Obama, triggering further intervention by the US and military support to rebels.

Damascus has responded by accusing Obama of lying over the use of chemical weapons as a pretext to America's involvement in the conflict. "The White House … relied on fabricated information in order to hold the Syrian government responsible for using weapons, despite a series of statement that conformed that terrorist groups in Syria have chemical weapons," a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said.

Yuri Ushakov, foreign policy adviser to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, cast doubt over the US assessment on the use of sarin gas. After being briefed by Washington, Ushakov noted that "what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing".

"It would be hard even to call them facts," he said.

Russia is likely to prove a stumbling block in efforts by the US to win broad international backing for an increase in support for rebel groups. Moscow has protected Assad from three UN security council resolutions aimed at forcing him to end the violence and has persistently opposed any foreign military intervention in the conflict.

Speaking on Saturday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, further outlined his opposition to American intervention. Noting media reports that the US plan included the imposition of a no-fly zone inside Syria, Lavrov said such a move would violate international law.

The comment referred to an article in the Wall Street Journal that suggested Washington intended to provide air protection for rebels, enforced by US and allied planes to be launched from Jordan. The standoff between the US and Russia over Syria is likely to come to a head next week, when Obama is due to hold one-on-one talks with Putin on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.


06/14/2013 06:12 PM

Chemical Weapons Charge: Berlin Rules out Arms for Rebels

The United States has shifted its course on Syria following chemical weapons revelations, but international support is limited. Germany refuses to arm the insurgents, and Russia is openly critical of President Obama.

Washington has said it may soon move to supply weapons to Syrian rebels, a move that has been met with reserve by the international community. Western diplomats also told the news agency Reuters that the US government is considering a no-fly zone in Syria.

But despite reports that the regime of dictator Bashar Assad may have used chemical weapons, Germany says it has no plans to deliver arms to the rebels, a government spokesman said on Friday.

Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrats, said Germany would stick with its position of not providing weapons to a country engaged in a civil war for "legal reasons". The opposition had made the same demand. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry said it had no information of its own about the use of deadly poison gas by the regime in Damascus.

Although Germany doesn't intend to provide weapons aid, the country has been providing "non lethal support" since the beginning of June in the form of bullet-proof vests and first-aid kit deliveries to the Free Syrian Army.

On Thursday, the United States officially declared it has proof that Assad's forces used chemical weapons, based on blood, urine and hair samples from two rebel fighters. A White House spokesman said that the use of these weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, crosses the "red line" President Obama established early on in the conflict for determining the necessity of Western intervention in Syria's civil war.

Speaking in the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament, on Friday, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. "We take the indication of the deployment of chemical weapons very seriously," he said. "We are urging a consultation at the Security Council of the United Nations with the aim of coming to a common position." He also confirmed Germany would not deliver weapons to Syria, a line that Berlin has stuck to for some time now despite the expiration at the end of May of a European Union arms embargo against the country. German law prohibits weapons from the country's companies to be supplied to crisis zones.

Syria Describes Allegations as 'Caravan of Lies'

A representative of the Foreign Ministry in Damascus denied the allegations coming from Washington, saying the US statement on Thursday was a "caravan of lies" and that rebels had deployed the chemical weapons themselves.

Moscow also sharply criticized the claims. "I will say frankly that what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing," said Yuri Ushakov, foreign policy adviser to President Vladimir Putin. He warned that a US move to arm Syrian rebels would jeopardize joint efforts to convene a peace conference. Earlier, Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, wrote on Twitter: "Information about the usage of chemical weapons by Assad is fabricated in the same way as the lie about (Saddam) Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq)."

In Britain, however, where preparations are underway for next week's G8 summit, the government is pleased that Obama now shares the government's position. Prime Minister David Cameron told the Guardian newspaper that Britain shares the "candid assessment" by the US. "I think it, rightly, puts back center stage the question, the very difficult question to answer but nonetheless one we have got to address: What are we going to do about the fact that in our world today there is a dictatorial and brutal leader who is using chemical weapons under our noses against his own people," he said.

'Urgent Discussions with International Partners'

The British position has been clear for months. Cameron was the first leader of a major country to speak publicly in favor of supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in an effort to convince the US to take action. However, a decision on the weapons deliveries envisioned by Washington still hasn't been made in London. "We are in urgent discussions with our international partners," a spokesman for Cameron told reporters on Friday.

The delay may be the product of considerable resistance in the House of Commons, where there is opposition to arming the rebels. The House would have to approve any such move, and Cameron's opposition in the Labor Party are opposed. Even within his own liberal-conservative coalition, there are plenty who would prefer that Britain not get involved. "We in the UK do not have to follow the US," John Baron, a member of the foreign affairs committee told the BBC. "Good friends sometimes say to each other, look, you're making a mistake." He warned it could be an error of historic proportions and compared it to the disastrous outcome of arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

dsl -- with wires


Nick Clegg: arming Syrian rebels is not the right thing to do now

Deputy prime minister says it would be fanciful to think Britain can provide solution to conflict

Patrick Wintour, political editor, Sunday 16 June 2013 11.24 BST   

Divisions of emphasis within the coalition over the provision of arms to the Syrian rebels emerged on Sunday when Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, stressed the conflict was a civil war and no UK decision on arming the rebels appeared imminent.

Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "At this point we're not providing arms. If we wanted to, we would do it. We clearly don't think it is the right thing to do now or else we would have decided to do it."

Clegg was speaking hours before David Cameron was due to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to discuss the crisis, before wider discussions on Monday at the G8 summit chaired by the UK in Northern Ireland.

Describing the provision of non-lethal equipment, which is the current strategy, he said it was possible for the UK to take a different position from that of the Americans, after Barack Obama, the US president, decided to arm the rebels. Asked if the UK should follow the US lead last week, he said: "We need to work in concert with our allies but we do not need to do the identical thing."

He said there was anguish in Britain at the sight of the deaths in Syria, adding: "We are a nation that wants to do things when we see things going on around the world."

But he added he did not want to get embroiled in a military conflict, saying: "Such a move would not be acceptable to the British people."

He said the conflict was different from both Iraq and Libya, saying: "This is a bloody civil war prosecuted by a brutal dictator, Assad, and the idea that we can provide a unilateral British solution to this is fanciful."

He said it was possible to strike a balance between being dragged into a military conflict and standing on the sidelines wringing our hands. He pointed out the coalition was already providing non-lethal equipment including body armour, armoured 4x4s and communications equipment.

Tory whips have warned Cameron that he could lose a vote on arming the rebels, and the Clegg position suggests Cameron does not have enough support across the coalition, including from some of his own ministers, to put the issue of arming the rebels to a vote yet.

Speaking on ITV's Murnaghan, Cameron stressed that he would give MPs a vote on any plans to arm Syrian rebels. He said: "I supported having a vote on the Iraq war. As prime minister I made sure there was a vote on the action we took in Libya. I think parliament should have a say."

He also tried to reassure his backbenchers that he understood the dangers of helping the rebels, saying: "Yes, there are elements of the Syrian opposition that are deeply unsavoury, that are very dangerous, very extremist and I want nothing to do with them. I'd like them driven out of Syria. They're linked to al-Qaida.

"But there are elements of the Syrian opposition who want to see a free democratic pluralistic Syria that respects the rights of minorities including Christians and we should be working with them. We are working with them and my point is this: that if we don't work with those elements of the Syrian opposition then we can't be surprised if the only elements of the Syrian opposition that are actually making any progress in Syria are the ones that we don't approve of."

But he seemed to puts arms low on the list of UK priorities, saying: "I think where we can actually give the greatest assistance to the official proper Syrian opposition is advice, is training and is technical support. That is where I actually think the British government, working with allies like the Emirates and the Jordanians … can have the greatest influence, play the greatest role."

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« Reply #6970 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:36 AM »

June 15, 2013

U.S. to Keep Warplanes in Jordan, Pressing Syria


WASHINGTON — Ratcheting up the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the United States will keep American warplanes and antimissile batteries in Jordan, officials said Saturday.

The decision, which came at the request of Jordan, means that a detachment of American F-16 warplanes and Patriot missile-defense systems would remain in Jordan after a military exercise there concludes next week. The move followed President Obama’s decision last week to send arms to Syrian rebels and came as efforts were being made on multiple fronts on Saturday to increase the pressure on the government.

In Cairo, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt announced that he was severing diplomatic relations with the Syrian government, withdrawing the Egyptian envoy from Damascus and closing the Syrian Embassy in Cairo.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry renewed his efforts to persuade Iraq to curtail Iranian air shipments of arms to Syria.

American officials said Patriot missiles and F-16s would be kept in Jordan to reassure an important ally that has aligned itself with the United States in the political and military campaign against the Assad government.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been training rebels in Jordan under a covert program, and weapons that are to be sent to the opposition by the United States are expected to be funneled through Jordan, both of which might heighten the risk of Syrian retaliation, including against possible training areas.

“The United States enjoys a longstanding partnership with Jordan and is committed to its defense,” said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary.

American, Dutch and German Patriot antimissile batteries have already been deployed in Turkey to augment that nation’s defense against the threat of an attack with chemical-tipped ballistic missiles.

Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, highlighted the challenges in imposing a no-fly zone in Syria in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, and made it clear that the White House was not eager to take on such an open-ended commitment.

But the Patriots and F-16s would have some utility if the United States decided to support the establishment of a buffer zone between Syria and Jordan. Contingency plans for such a zone, which would be enforced by Jordanian troops on the Syrian side of the border and supported politically by the United States, have already been developed.

The Obama administration is also trying to add to the diplomatic pressure on the Assad government. Mr. Kerry, in a phone conversation on Saturday with Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called on Iraq “to take every possible measure to help end the military resupply of the Assad regime” and thus increase pressure for a political settlement, according to a statement released by the State Department.

During a March visit to Baghdad, Mr. Kerry pressed the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to inspect Iranian flights that American intelligence says are carrying weapons, supplies and personnel to Damascus to support the Assad government. There was a lull in Iranian flights after Mr. Kerry’s visit, but the flights resumed in May.

Although Mr. Kerry told Mr. Zebari that the United States was still seeking a political solution for the Syrian conflict, he also said that the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons and the Lebanese group Hezbollah’s decision to join the fight on the side of the Syrian government “threatens to put a political settlement out of reach,” the State Department said.

Even as the United States sought to build up the pressure on Mr. Assad, however, Mr. Kerry’s Russian counterpart pushed back, condemning the White House decision to send arms to the Syrian opposition and challenging its assertions that Mr. Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.

At a news conference in Moscow, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that the evidence the Obama administration had relied on in making its charges of chemical weapons use was unreliable because the samples were not properly monitored until they reached a laboratory.

“There are rules of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which are based on the fact that samples of blood, urine, soil, clothing are considered serious proof only if the samples were taken by experts, and if these experts controlled these samples all the time while they are transported to a proper laboratory,” he said.

Mr. Lavrov asserted that the use of chemical arms by the Syrian government made no sense, given the current state of the conflict. “The regime has not been driven into a corner now,” Mr. Lavrov said. “What sense does it make for the regime to use chemical weapons, especially in such small quantities, only to expose itself?”

The White House referred questions on Mr. Lavrov’s charges of faulty intelligence to the director of national intelligence’s office, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, told reporters Thursday that chemical weapons were used “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.” Mr. Rhodes and other American officials said that the assessment was based on evidence that included physiological samples, intelligence on the Assad government’s plans for the use of chemical weapons, accounts of specific attacks, and descriptions of symptoms experienced by victims of the attacks.

Britain and France have also said there is convincing evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons, but neither they nor the United States have made their evidence public.

Russia has long supported the Assad government politically and by sending arms. A major concern of the Russians is that American accusations of chemical weapons use will become a rationale for greater American and Western involvement in the crisis, including possible military action.

Toward that end, Russia has also supported the Assad government’s refusal to agree to wide-ranging international inspections of potential chemical weapons use.

Mr. Kerry flew to Moscow last month and secured Russia’s agreement to hold an international conference that would bring the Assad government and the Syrian opposition to the negotiating table to try to bring an end to the fighting. Since then, however, the Obama administration has become concerned that the advances made by pro-government forces would give Mr. Assad little reason to negotiate a political transition in which he would give up power.

As a result, White House and State Department officials now favor delaying the talks. Supplying arms to the rebels, officials have said, is partly intended to turn the tide enough to force a real negotiation. Mr. Lavrov, by contrast, argued for moving forward with the international conference on Syria.

Egypt’s severing of relations with Syria also adds pressure on Mr. Assad. Mr. Morsi’s comments on Saturday amounted to a considerable hardening of his stance, after previously insisting on a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict and positioning himself as an interlocutor between Syrian allies like Iran and Mr. Assad’s regional opponents, including Saudi Arabia.

A senior adviser to the Egyptian presidency said Mr. Morsi had been swayed by what he said was the “confirmation” of chemical weapons use by the United States and other countries, as well as the reversal of opposition gains in Syria after the intervention by Hezbollah.

Speaking at a rally of his Islamist supporters in a Cairo stadium on Saturday, Mr. Morsi said that at the hands of Mr. Assad’s forces, Syrians were subject to “extermination” and “systematic ethnic cleansing sponsored by regional and international forces.”

He sharply criticized Hezbollah, saying the Lebanese Shiite militia “must leave Syria” and called for the imposition of a no-fly zone.

“This is serious talk,” Mr. Morsi said, to loud cheers.

Mr. Morsi’s speech, which was organized by Sunni clerics, seemed likely to satisfy Sunni conservatives throughout the region, who have increasingly framed the war in Syria as a sectarian fight against Shiites, especially Hezbollah.

American officials said that Mr. Morsi’s comments on Saturday were not prompted by the United States.

Reporting was contributed by David M. Herszenhorn from Moscow, Kareem Fahim from Cairo and Mayy El Sheikh from Assiut, Egypt.
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« Reply #6971 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:38 AM »

Saudi women get jail terms for trying to help Canadian woman get divorce

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, June 15, 2013 14:37 EDT

A Saudi court handed two Saudi women 10-month jail sentences on Saturday for seeking to help a Canadian woman who wanted to leave her Saudi husband with their children, human rights activists said.

The court also banned Fawzia al-Ayuni and Wajiha al-Huaider from leaving the kingdom for two years, rights activist Aql al-Bahli said.

They have a month to appeal against the judgment.

The two women were convicted of the Islamic sharia law offence of takhbib, or incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband, Bahli said.

They had been briefly detained by police a year and a half ago in the company of the Canadian woman who at the time wanted to flee the kingdom with her children after a row with her husband, he added.

Regional rights group the Gulf Forum for Civil Societies expressed “deep concern” over the jail sentences handed down against two women, who had “defended a humanitarian right”.

It urged the Canadian government to intervene with the Saudi authorities on the women’s behalf.

In ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, women are dependent on their male guardians in most aspects of their lives.

Women need a close male relative to accompany them if they enter government buildings and courts.

Saudi women are also banned from driving and are obliged to cover themselves from head to toe in public.
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« Reply #6972 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:40 AM »

Egyptian president cuts ties with Syria and calls for no-fly zone over country

Mohamed Morsi also urges Hezbollah to pull out and pledges to organise urgent summit of Arab and Islamist states

Reuters in Cairo, Saturday 15 June 2013 22.27 BST   

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus on Saturday and called for a no-fly zone over Syria, pitching the most populous Arab state firmly against Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing a rally called by Sunni Muslim clerics in Cairo, Morsi said: "We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian regime."

He also warned Assad's allies in the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah to pull back from fighting in Syria.

"We stand against Hezbollah in its aggression against the Syrian people," Morsi said.

"Hezbollah must leave Syria – these are serious words. There is no space or place for Hezbollah in Syria."

Morsi, who faces growing discontent at home over the economy and over fears that he will pursue an Islamist social agenda, said he was organising an urgent summit of Arab and other Islamic states to discuss the situation in Syria, where the US has in recent days decided to take steps to arm the rebels.

Morsi, who spoke at a packed 20,000-capacity stadium and waved Syrian and Egyptian flags after his entrance, also urged world powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.

The crowd of his supporters chanted: "From the free revolutionaries of Egypt: we will stamp on you, Bashar!"

Western diplomats said on Friday that Washington was considering a limited no-fly zone over parts of Syria.

But the White House noted later that it would be far harder and costlier to set one up there than it was in Libya, and said the US had no national interest in pursuing that option.

Russia, an ally of Assad and a fierce opponent of outside military intervention in Syria, said any attempt to impose a no-fly zone using F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles based in Jordan would be illegal.

Morsi said Syria was the target of "a campaign of extermination and planned ethnic cleansing fed by regional and international states", partly in reference to Iran, though he did not name the country.

Morsi said: "The Egyptian people supports the struggle of the Syrian people, materially and morally, and Egypt, its nation, leadership … and army, will not abandon the Syrian people until it achieves its rights and dignity."

Egypt has not taken an active role in arming the Syrian rebels but an aide to Morsi said this week that Cairo would not stand in the way of Egyptians who wanted to fight in Syria.

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« Reply #6973 on: Jun 16, 2013, 06:44 AM »

Threat of sectarian war grows in Syria as jihadists get anti-aircraft missiles

US warns of conflict spreading beyond national borders after Sunni group boasts of new firepower online

Martin Chulov   
The Observer, Sunday 16 June 2013   

Sunni jihadist groups in northern Syria have secured a large supply of the type of anti-aircraft missiles that the Obama administration has urgently tried to keep away from rebel groups fighting the civil war, video footage shows.

The missiles, believed to be shoulder- launched SA-16s, are displayed in a video allegedly made by a Chechen-dominated jihadist group of foreign fighters. They are known to pose a potent risk to most types of aircraft and have been urgently sought by all rebel groups as a means of breaking the dominance over Syrian skies enjoyed by President Bashar al-Assad's air force.

The English speaker on the jihadist video, who calls himself Abu Musab, does not specify where the missiles came from, but it is believed they may have been seized during a raid on the Brigade 80 military base, on the outskirts of Aleppo airport, in February.

Separate reports suggest some opposition groups may have found an alternative supply line from outside Syria. However, while some light weapons are allowed into Syria, the CIA has led intensive efforts to ensure anti-aircraft missiles, such as the SA-16s, are not allowed across the Turkish or Jordanian borders.

The video emerged as Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi announced he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus. He also said he would back a no-fly zone over Syria, an intervention western diplomats say is being considered by Washington.

The video underscores the increasing organisation of foreign jihadists in the north of the country and the prominent role they are playing in some areas of the conflict almost one year after they first arrived. The Chechen-dominated group is comprised solely of foreigners who see the civil war in Syria as an important theatre for global jihad — not a battle fought to change the leadership of a nation state.

Their presence, along with homegrown Syrian jihadists, has been a key reason for the reluctance of US and other western states to support the military opposition in Syria, which remains outgunned by the regime and is struggling to hold on to parts of the country it seized during fighting over the past 12 months.

Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, said the foreign groups have become more organised in recent months. "There is increasing evidence that foreign fighters are gathering under a more unified umbrella in Syria, and that the umbrella organisation may have a strong Chechen leadership," he added.

The foreign jihadists have a broadly similar worldview to the al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra, but operate largely independently from the group. All groups, along with the more mainstream nationalistic organisations, contest fiercely for power in northern Syrian society.

As community structures have steadily decayed over the past year, battlefield results have become an important benchmark for those seeking influence. Both the foreigners and al-Qaida groups make no secret of their determination to install an Islamic state in Syria.

The White House's decision to send military support to vetted areas of the opposition comes at the same time as extremist groups on both sides of the conflict – al-Qaida and foreign Sunni jihadists on one side, Hezbollah and Shia militants from outside Syria on the other – are playing a sharply increasing role in the conflict.

Western officials in Beirut said the decision to arm some rebels, after two years of refusal to do so, is designed largely to drive a wedge between both sides and stymie a slide into outright sectarian war that would spread beyond Syria's now fragile borders.

"The US does not want Chechens or anyone else getting their hands on these missiles, or Hezbollah getting its hands on important parts of the country," one official said.


Syrian rebels prepare for showdown in Aleppo

Rebels say regime troops and Hezbollah forces massing on outskirts, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia wait for US green light

Martin Chulov and Mona Mahmood, Friday 14 June 2013 17.19 BST   

From where he sits behind a ruined stone wall in Aleppo's old city, Abu Firas, a rebel gunner has had a clear view of his enemy for most of the past 11 months.

In the middle distance, ahead of the fist-sized hole through which he pokes his rifle, there usually isn't much to see. The Syrian army troops on this part of Aleppo's jagged front line dug in long ago. Abu Firas says he can sometimes see his foes scampering between positions, but he has never seen them advance.

"This week things changed," he says. "There was more of them than before and they were up to something. They looked urgent."

Across Aleppo, rebel groups who have held roughly 60% of Syria's biggest city since last July sense that something is about to break. Positions on the other side that had long been only defensive are now much busier. Rebels who could go for weeks with out seeing a regime soldier now say they are sighting them regularly.

Even scenes of battles past that have long been barren rubble-strewn wastelands mow seem to have come to life, rebel fighters in the city's southwest say. In Salahedin – the first district the opposition fighters entered when they stormed the city last July – men stationed nearby say they can hear the distant rumble of tanks and the crunching of boots on masonry and glass.

The echoes of past battles clearly resonate loudly in the minds' eyes of Aleppo's rebels. So do the more recent reverberations of a stinging recent defeat at the hands of Hezbollah in Qusair almost 125 miles away. But even so, from ravaged urban areas to the city's outskirts, there are unmistakable signs that the full ferocity of war will soon return to the ancient stone city.

The coming showdown even has a name among the rebels. "We named the battle for Aleppo the 'Qusair echo'," said a sniper in the rural north of Aleppo, who calls himself Abu Abbas. "The regime is massing tanks and soldiers. This has been going on for 15 days now."

Buoyed by the Hezbollah-led victory in Qusair, a town of 30,000 on the border with Lebanon, Syrian officials have over the past week pledged to retake Aleppo, a city that was once the engine room of its economy and for the last year has been a testament to its fatigued military's lack of success in most parts of the country.

The success that has revitalised the Syrian army has also motivated the opposition – and the US, which late on Thursday pledged to start arming some rebel groups, a move that overturns more than two years of reluctance to get directly involved in Syria's civil war.

The depth of Washington's commitment will be measured closely in the coming days, both on the planes of northern Syria, which are a short drive from warehouses holding weapons in Turkey and in the outgunned and desperate rebel posts in and around Aleppo.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the main suppliers of weapons to opposition groups, will be watching just as intently for a sign that the new US role is the green light they have been waiting for.

Until now both countries have been willing to supply the north with guns and ammunition that could sustain the battle, but not the larger firepower needed to win the war. "We simply cannot take the lead on this," said a senior Qatari official said in Doha late last month. "The Americans cannot walk away from the leadership role they have had in this part of the world for so long now. Without them, we can't get this done."

In Beirut, where one of the key protagonists, Hezbollah, is readying for the long journey to Aleppo, there is a clear sense that whatever takes place there will shape the fortunes of both cities. "They have rested for the past week, regrouped and prepared for the journey," said a Lebanese businessman with close connections to the powerful Shia militia on Thursday. "They will leave within 48 hours and there will be many, many thousands of them.

"This is a crossroads for Lebanon. And for Sunni, Shia relations in the region."

A senior official aligned to Lebanon's opposition, which is broadly supportive of the largely Sunni anti-regime forces in Syria, said Aleppo would be a much tougher proposition for both Hezbollah and the loyalist military.

"Qusair was a town of two kilometres by one kilometre and they sent say 1,500 troops and it took them three weeks," the official said. "Aleppo is much, much bigger and a far more powerful force awaits them. It will take many months, if not years, and they likely won't win."

Hezbollah's large-scale role in Qusair and its likely lead role in Aleppo sparked an urgent round of talks in Washington before the White House announcement on Thursday, which couched the decision to offer military support as a response to an assessment that Syrian forces had killed up to 150 people with chemical weapons.

In the Aleppo countryside, however, how people are being killed is now far less important than who is killing them.

"Hezbollah are coming to fight us in a sectarian war," said Abu Jafar, a foot soldier in a unit that fights under the Free Syria Army umbrella. "This drops the mask once and for all on the sectarian nature of the regime."

In Cairo on Thursday, 70 senior Sunni scholars were present as a call was made by seven influential sheikhs to send "money and arms to Syria" and "pursue all forms of jihad". The rhetoric was unmistakably sectarian. And the fallout will likely pour more fuel on crisis in which the regional stakes are now growing daily.

On a plateau north of Aleppo, Abu Abbas said there is now constant activity in two Shia villages, Nubul and Zahra. Rebels suspect that Shias from outside Syria have arrived to protect locals. They say some are wearing garments that identify them as fighters.

"I saw soldiers with yellow head ribbons and others with black, they might be Hezbollah or an Iraqi militia," said Abbas. "I saw them 10 days ago. They were here at the same time the battle was going on in Qusair."

Salma Bashier, a teacher from the same area said: "People are talking about the regime reinforcements heading to the two Shia villages. People have seen Hezbollah and Syrian soldiers reach the area. You can tell [Hezbollah members] from their Lebanese accents, let alone their uniforms and cars."

Whenever the showdown takes place, those who fight it out seem convinced that the war will be won, or lost, in Aleppo. The promise of new weapons, while seen as levelling the playing field by those who need them, is also seen by others as a portent for widespread destruction and uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Abu Abbas said confidence is up in the rebel ranks. "We do not have many weapons but we have men and high morale. To this point we haven't got anything new, but we are expecting the weapons to arrive soon."

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Fighting the poachers on Africa's thin green line

Underpaid, ill-equipped and outnumbered, park rangers fight a one-sided war against vicious gangs of poachers. Hundreds have been murdered in the defence of endangered wildlife, and their deaths leave their own families in jeopardy. David Smith reports from Zambia

David Smith   
The Observer, Saturday 15 June 2013 17.00 BST   

Esnart Paundi rarely smiled for the camera. One old photo shows her wearing her ranger's camouflage fatigues and a pensive expression as she crouches beside a mound of bushmeat and three despondent poachers, one handcuffed. In another she is in a black leather jacket at her sister's home, leaning against the TV with a baby under her arm and sad eyes.

Death stalked Esnart. When her mother died young, she stepped in to help raise her siblings and become the family breadwinner. One of her five brothers and two of her three sisters are dead. Twice married and twice widowed, she was a single mother of five children.

When death came to Esnart herself at the age of 38, it was sudden, brutal and senseless. She had caught two more poachers trying to smuggle butchered wildlife to Zambia's copper belt. One was hiding a machete and, though she tried to flee, he hunted her down and smashed her skull with it. Her orphaned children are now scattered among different homes. The state has done nothing to help them.

Esnart was one of the foot soldiers in what has been called the thin green line: park rangers faced with an unprecedented onslaught from vicious, well-armed criminal gangs in Africa and around the world. In the past decade at least 1,000 have paid with their lives for defending wild animals, according to the Thin Green Line Foundation, a charitable organisation which supports rangers in their work, and their families in the case of bereavement.

"Once you are deployed on patrol, you know for certain: I am going to war," says Liywali Akakulubelwa, 47, a senior intelligence and investigations officer at the Zambia Wildlife Authority. "You accept that is the nature of the job."

Respite is unlikely. Rangers are braced for an escalation in the "wildlife wars" – the increasing militarisation of the planet's most precious and fragile game reserves. The struggle is as ferocious as any in nature, but unlikely to be seen in a David Attenborough documentary.

In India, the foundation says, rangers have been buried alive in sawing pits by illegal timber poachers. In Colombia they are killed when dealing with drug cartels, land mines and militias. But Africa is probably the bloodiest battleground. Elephants and rhino are under siege as the black-market prices of ivory and horn rocket. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tormented by rebel militias, 183 rangers have been killed in just one national park over the past decade. Last year alone Kenya lost six rangers, including a pregnant woman who was ambushed and shot in the face, while in Chad's Zakouma national park five rangers were mown down by automatic weapons during their morning prayers.

And this is no even contest. Some poachers are former army soldiers who do not hesitate to kill animals or humans, and they come with powerful backers. Rangers are often older and underpaid and lack the equipment, resources and training to defend themselves in firefights. When they make the ultimate sacrifice, there is often no government assistance for their families, who face a life of poverty and destitution.

Zambia, a landlocked country generally seen as democratic, inoffensive and rich in wildlife, has suffered much down the years. Its rhino population was annihilated and most of its elephants wiped out in 1970s and 80s. Efforts to reintroduce and conserve the animals now mean the "big five" – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino – as they are a tourist drawcard.

In the early 1990s Esnart decided to become a park ranger to defend these crown jewels. Liywali, who trained with her for two years, recalls: "She wanted our animals to be protected so young ones could come and see elephants and buffalos. She wanted young people to see our natural resources in this country. She wanted to stop the trade in wildlife game meat. This is where death found her."

Esnart became a ranger in 1995, bringing a crucial income to an otherwise impoverished family. With her mother dead, Esnart helped her father with parenting. Her brother Mawto Paundi, 33, a taxi driver, recalls: "I remember she insisted that I go to school, but I refused. I now regret passing up the opportunity. She was ready to sponsor me."

Many former colleagues of Esnart claim she was aware of the risks of the job, but never dwelled on them. Mawto, however, says that she confided in him: "There was a time when she wanted to change career, get some money and do something else. She wanted to do something with computers so she could be in the civil service. It was because of the danger of going on patrol in the bush. She was concerned about the risks involved. It was around that time she died. Of course I was concerned as a brother, knowing the dangers of the job and what had happened to others who did it. A lot of other rangers have died. But I appreciated what she did for wildlife conservation."

By 2009 Esnart was working under William Soko, a senior ranger in Rufunsa district, about 80km from the capital, Lusaka, and earning about 1,350 kwacha (£160) per month. "She was very cheerful and obedient," Soko recalls from behind his desk in a modest office. "She was a fine lady, ever-smiling, everybody's darling."

Esnart was the only woman among Soko's 20 wildlife police officers, as rangers are formally called. "She was proud to be a pioneer. I gave her challenges, like patrolling through the escarpment. I thought she would say: 'No, I can't go' – I was shocked she went. It definitely changed my perception of women, because I know some males who are afraid to go there. I wouldn't hesitate to employ another female ranger. I still think about Esnart very much. She died a very sad death. She didn't deserve this type of death."

Esnart died on 14 September 2010 in Kabwe in Zambia's Central Province. She was on a route where poachers were known to transport bushmeat. A small, light truck approached her roadblock, executed a U-turn and sped away. Esnart, who was unarmed, and two other officers with rifles gave pursuit on foot into the bush. They found the vehicle abandoned and followed some tyre marks that led to a pile of bushmeat and two poachers, whom they arrested. One of the rangers then left to look for transport.

"One of the suspects had a panga [machete] hidden," Soko continues. "He moved like lightning. He struck the male officer on the head and knocked him unconscious. That officer has never been the same since – you can see he is not right any more."

Esnart ran but the poacher gave pursuit and rained blows on her head until she was dead. Soko was called to collect her body. "I cried," the 51-year-old admits. "It was a gruesome sight. I left with that grief in me and went to look for the suspects' house at 3am, and if I had found them, they would be have been mincemeat to bury."

But the suspects had gone and, more than two years later, are still on the run. It is thought one was Congolese and may have returned home. Soko adds: "If they are in Zambia, they will be caught. You can run for 10 or 20 years, but if you shed human blood you get caught. I can never forgive them. They have to pay."

Soko took Esnart's body back to her home village, where her father, himself a former park ranger, was "understanding". The funeral brought a big crowd of mourners and there were songs, Bible readings and preaching. As is traditional, Esnart's colleagues fired their guns in salute to a fellow ranger.

But since then Esnart's family have received no financial compensation from the authorities she served. Soko, who is also chairman of the Game Rangers Association of Zambia, complains: "The government should have done a lot more because of the misery the children are subjected to. Their life simply collapses when they lose the breadwinner. She was a single mother and when she died everything went.

"I don't know what the government is thinking. What I do know is that they are silent. The Thin Green Line is the only organisation in the world to come to the aid of the children."

Rangers in Zambia, Africa and the world should not be abandoned by their governments, Soko argues. "It is a very dangerous job. Every year we have a death. It's nonstop. For as long as there are poachers, there are going to be deaths. If my daughters wanted to become rangers, I wouldn't allow them."

A short walk from Soko's office is the rudimentary house where Esnart lived, built of a reddish mudbrick, with a flimsy wooden door and a corrugated roof weighed down by rocks. It is surrounded by bare earth and dust. The faceless, unnamed poacher whose machete struck down Esnart also splintered a family. Her five children now live far apart in three separate towns in the care of various relatives.

The eldest, Anna Phiri, 17, is not so different from many teenagers: she enjoys going out and her favourite TV shows are Hannah Montana and Shake It Up. Her best subject at school is English, and she wants to be a journalist one day. "I wouldn't be a ranger because there is not enough security," she says.

Anna's father, Gawa Phiri, also a game ranger, died from meningitis in 2006. She lives with his sister, Martha Phiri, a primary school teacher, her husband Maxwell, an accountant, and their four children in eastern Lusaka. The approach road is dusty, bumpy, unpaved and fringed with rubbish. Outside the grey concrete-block house is the stench of raw sewage. Anna's bedroom has two double beds shared by four children. Dolls and teddy bears are strewn around the room. A green curtain is strung up by the window and the walls are pockmarked under a corrugated roof and naked lightbulb. A shoebox is perched on top of a wardrobe.

Barefoot and wearing a turquoise dress with white leggings, Anna rummages in a suitcase and produced a homemade photo album. It includes a picture of her mother with short hair, a blue T-shirt, light trousers and an unsmiling, careworn look. "I feel very bad when I look at it." Among her most precious possessions is a red and white dress that belonged to her mother. "It means a lot to me. I will wear it one day."

Recalling the day of her mother's funeral, Anna is tearful yet composed. "I was told by my aunt. It was very disturbing and shocking. My mother was very brave. I'm proud of her. I think about her a lot. It's very difficult now because I don't get to see my brothers and sisters often. I don't know how they are doing."

Across the city Esnart's son, George, 14, lives with his uncle, Mathews Phiri. "Mum didn't tell me much about the job," George mumbles shyly. "But I knew it was dangerous."

The long flat ROAD to Mumbwa, 135km from Lusaka, passes through a broiling marketplace selling farm produce, knock-off furniture and Manchester City football mugs. A sign for a traditional healer from Malawi promises penis enlargements and the magical return of runaway spouses. In Mumbwa is the simple house that Esnart bought but never occupied. It is now home to her siblings and three other children: the boys Annex, 12, and Chimunya, eight, and her adopted seven-year-old daughter Irene. Their father Annex, a polygamist who already had a wife when he met Esnart, died from an illness. Now the trio lives alongside her sister Abigail's two children.

There is electricity here and a digital TV and DVD player, but water must be fetched from an outside pump. Beyond a torn sheet in a doorway is the main bedroom, where foam oozes out of a split mattress, paint is cracked on the walls and a weathered mosquito net hangs limp. The family toilet is a dark pit in the ground in a ramshackle backyard shed.

Abigail, 31, is in charge of Esnart's estate and has kept her sister's ranger's uniform. "It reminds me of her because she used to wear it often," she says, sitting in a cramped, stuffy lounge with a fridge parked in the corner. "But I rarely look at it because it's painful."

She still feels bitterness towards the poachers whose actions that day continue to ripple through numerous lives. "I can't forgive them, because the impact of what they did is still being felt now. The main problem is that I'm the only sister looking after the kids, and I don't have a job. Sometimes I do piece work, but it might not suffice to look after the needs of the children. They miss their mother. I would like them all to be in one place, but I can't manage to keep all of them. They miss each other very much."

Another of Esnart's brothers, Muyeni Paundi, 22, a taxi driver, chips in: "The authorities should have done more. When the incident happened, she had no firearm and they had no handcuffs. They should also give financial support, especially for the kids. They were supposed to. Esnart's children need to be together for that brother and sister relationship."

A family friend wanders in, wearing the camouflage uniform of a wildlife police officer. Ellison Kanyembo, 47, had known Esnart since they were at training school in the 1990s. "We were tribal cousins," he recalls fondly. "She was good to me. We were like brother and sister, helping each other. She was courageous. She admired the job and was not frightened. She liked going in the field and seeing animals. She liked adventure in the wilderness. She liked cooking and she cooked fritters for me sometimes. I saw her three days before she died. It was as if she knew she was going to die. She said: 'Look after my children – this one, that one – I don't know if I'll come back.' It was like she was saying goodbye."

Kanyembo says that news of her death had a terrible impact on him: "It pained me spiritually, physically. There was that hurt in me."

Esnart's story chimes with those of many park rangers: gratitude for a job of any kind to feed and clothe numerous dependents, but low pay and the constant threat of a violent demise. In the absence of government support, her family was rescued by donations from the Thin Green Line Foundation.

What safety net, then, for other grieving spouses and children left to pick up the pieces? It is a question that corrodes the spirit of the Kalounga family back in Rufunsa where, down a bone-shaking dirt track, is a gate to the Lower Zambezi national park decorated with the skulls of buffalo, elephant and sable. Mathias Kalounga, 49, is among the rangers who patrols and camps there for unbroken stretches of 15 days. He has a wife and nine children aged from three to 22.

"I love keeping God's creation," he says. "I'm not afraid of anything. I have been shot at. We met some poachers and they started shooting and there was an exchange of fire. The poachers ran off and left their cooking equipment. I was not afraid at all."

But the danger weighs heavily upon his wife, Loyce. "It was close to the camp and we even heard the gunshots. I was worried that my husband might be killed and not make it home. He was outnumbered – three rangers against four poachers. I wish he did a different job, because this one is very dangerous. When I worry, I don't feel well."

If the worst happened to Mathias, Loyce, a housewife, would be left alone to fend for her children. "The authorities don't care about other people's lives," she muses. "We see what happens. Esnart was working for the government, but when she died the government did not look after the orphans. It's a big responsibility to feed my children and send them to school. When my husband dies, the government will do nothing to help me and my children. We will be in very big problems."

Even in life, the family endures deep hardship. Mathias and Loyce share the sole bed while their children sleep on the floor. There is no electricity or running water. Mathias earns just 1,700 kwacha (£201) per month. "It's very little, not enough to pay for the children to go to school. Some of them do and some don't."

When Zambia's vice-president, Guy Scott, was informed that Esnart's family had still not received any government support, he said that something had gone wrong and asked for her name so that it could be rectified.

One of the FIERCEST battlegrounds is also one of the world's most popular tourist destinations: South Africa, where on average a rhino is poached every 11 hours. Backed by international crime syndicates feeding a demand for horn in the Far East, poachers have been known to use helicopters, specialised silent tranquillisers, body armour, night-vision equipment and mercenaries experienced in rhino tracking.

Officials have vowed to "fight fire with fire" and deployed troops in the famed Kruger national park, where gun battles are increasingly common. Major-General Johan Jooste, who heads the joint military, police and game ranger operations, recently described the influx of poachers from Mozambique as an "insurgency" requiring a "counter- insurgency".

Wanda Mkutshulwa, managing executive of corporate services for South Africa national parks (SANParks), says: "Except for an accident between a ranger and a soldier who mistook each other for a suspected armed and aggressive poacher, there have been no fatalities of rangers in the Kruger national park related to suspected poaching in the past five years. This is something we live in fear of and, with the escalating incursions into the park and the increasing aggression of the suspects, it is only a matter of time before this happens.

"We are dealing with an enemy that has no rules and respects none, while the rangers are expected to first attempt arrest and can only shoot once they are shot at. The poachers are in control of time and place, because you never know where or when they will surface due to the size of the park – which is about half the size of Switzerland and bigger than Swaziland."

The rangers are the "forgotten victims" of the poaching war, according to Sean Willmore, an Australian-based conservationist, documentary maker and president of the International Ranger Federation. Willmore is the driving force behind the Thin Green Line Foundation, whose champions include Jane Goodall, the celebrated British primatologist. "Rangers are often outgunned, outnumbered and outresourced by illegal commercial poachers," Willmore says. "And, sadly, on a weekly basis, they are shot at, hacked to death and sometimes even tortured if they survive the bullets. I have many graphic and horrifying examples."

The foundation says it has given support to 80 widows and more than 550 orphans of rangers killed in action, but still has more than 900 widows waiting for help. Willmore adds: "With little or no compensation, many rangers' widows and children are often left destitute and below the poverty line. The children are often taken out of school with no source of income for the family. The poverty cycle for these families is set in motion. This is the thanks we give these rangers and their families for risking their lives for the animals we all care about."

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