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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1078434 times)
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« Reply #7080 on: Jun 22, 2013, 07:04 AM »

Tony Blair ready to answer Albania's call

Socialist frontrunner in weekend election lines up British former PM to advise on modernisation and EU membership

Peter Geoghegan in Tirana, Friday 21 June 2013 14.33 BST   

Tony Blair is expected to pop up in more unfamiliar territory after this weekend if, as expected, Albania's Socialist party emerges victorious in Sunday's elections.

The Albanian opposition has lined up Blair to offer advice on reshaping the government in the rough and tumble world of Balkans politics.

The Socialist party leader, Edi Rama, met Blair at the former prime minister's office in Mayfair last month. A formal contract has not been drawn up, but Rama expects Blair will advise on modernisation and reform to kickstart the impoverished country's stalled bid for European Union membership. Video footage of the meeting shows a smiling Blair telling Rama: "I will be very happy to help you, I am very interested in your country."

Rama, a former mayor of the capital, Tirana, said: "If we win, we will be very happy to work with [Blair] and to listen to him and to make the best out of his advice on reshaping the government and reshaping politics and policies here in Albania. Our party is very much inspired by and connected to the vision and way of thinking about things of New Labour and Tony Blair."

Blair, whose Government Advisory Practice has similar agreements in Colombia and Brazil, "was very clear in saying he wants to help and I trust him", Rama added.

In a seemingly unconnected move, Blair's former communications director Alastair Campbell has also been in Albania giving advice on election strategy to the Socialist party, which is ahead in opinion polls and is expected to return to power for the first time since 2005. Campbell said he had been to Albania "several times in the last year or so". "I've just been giving some friendly advice," he added.

"Edi [Rama] looks on New Labour as one of the success stories of the centre-left in Europe of our lifetime," Campbell said. "It's interesting how, overseas, New Labour is seen as one of the most successful political projects ever."

Blair remains a very popular figure in the region for his role in protecting ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by orchestrating the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

A spokesperson for Blair described his interest in Albania as "genuine". "As was accurately reported on Albanian TV, Mr Rama said that if he became prime minister, he would like Mr Blair's advice on how to modernise government and implement a reform agenda. Mr Blair said that he would be happy to help, as both Albania and the region mean a huge amount to him, with the conflict in Kosovo having been an important period in his premiership," the spokesperson said.

But the impact of Tony Blair and New Labour on outcome of Sunday's vote is likely to be minimal, according to Lutfi Dervishi, executive director of Transparency International Albania.

"Tony Blair is popular down here thanks to the war in Kosovo but I don't think it will make much impact because over our electoral history victories have been decided on the domestic ground, so it is the local dynamic which will be the key factor."

Albania's communist regime fell in 1991. Since then, elections have often been marred by violence, intimidation and vote-rigging. After the last vote, in 2009, the Socialists boycotted parliament for 18 months, accusing Sali Berisha, the prime minister and Democratic party leader and onetime personal physician to the dictator Enver Hoxha, of electoral fraud.

The current campaign has been peaceful so far but reports of vote-buying and irregularities in the registration process appear frequently in the media.

Rama is widely expected to defeat Berisha, who has dominated political life over two decades. A recent poll gave Rama's alliance 50% of the national vote, seven points clear of Berisha's coalition.

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« Reply #7081 on: Jun 22, 2013, 07:06 AM »

Madeleine McCann: UK prosecutors visit Portugal to discuss new leads

Review of case by Met police has uncovered a number of potential suspects who have not been interviewed

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 21 June 2013 18.14 BST   

Senior prosecutors have travelled to Portugal in a move that could pave the way for the Metropolitan police to begin a new investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Alison Saunders, the senior crown prosecutor for London, and her colleague Jenny Hopkins, head of the complex casework unit, discussed new leads in the inquiry with their Portuguese counterparts.

A £5m Met review of the case, which began in 2011, has uncovered a number of potential suspects who have not been interviewed. Detectives have said they need to be questioned in order for them to be eliminated or pursued further.

The visit of Saunders and Hopkins, accompanied by Met investigators, is a significant development – and adds to speculation that the Met are about to begin a new investigation into the disappearance of the three-year-old in May 2007.

A spokeswoman for the CPS confirmed that prosecutors from CPS London and investigators from the MPS had visited their Portuguese counterparts to discuss the disappearance.

Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, who supervised the Met review, said recently that there were a number of individuals who needed to be questioned in relation to the investigation as well as further forensic opportunities to examine.

It is understood that up to 20 individuals need to be questioned. These include some known child offenders who were in the Algarve at the time Madeleine disappeared.

The Met began a review into the case – funded by the Home Office – after Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, appealed to the prime minister, David Cameron, for help.

The Portuguese investigation was closed in 2008 and there have been repeated discussions between the British and Portuguese authorities with a view to reopening the inquiry. So far the Portuguese have refused to do so, saying concrete new evidence would be required.

An investigation led by the Metropolitan police would allow detectives in the UK to interview suspects.

The Metropolitan police is understood to have asked the Home Office to fund a full investigation. A development is likely within the next few weeks.

Madeleine went missing from her parents' apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007 as her mother and father dined with friends at a nearby restaurant.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the Met police review, said last year his team had identified 195 potential leads.

Scotland Yard also published an age-enhanced image of what Madeleine might look like today, aged nine, saying they had uncovered new information to suggest she could still be alive and living with her abductor.

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« Reply #7082 on: Jun 22, 2013, 07:08 AM »

Some of world’s largest cities are improving energy efficiency

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, June 20, 2013 16:26 EDT

Some of the world’s largest cities are improving their energy efficiency, a report said Thursday, while nations struggle to forge a global response to climate change.

Cities are taking action to reduce their carbon emissions and better manage their water strategy, said a report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which runs a platform for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information.

The 110-city report from the London-based organisation follows the G8 summit of world leaders hosted by Britain this week.

Los Angeles led the way, managing annual energy savings of $13 million (9.85 million euros) — largely by retro-fitting traffic signals and street lights –followed by Washington and Las Vegas with $6.3 million, the CDP found.

“Cities are hotbeds of innovation, and local governments have been quick to implement many new ways to combat and adapt to climate change and resource scarcity,” said Conor Riffle, head of CDP’s cities programme.

“These leading cities are enjoying multiple paybacks for their economies and communities. National governments should pay close attention.”

Cities that took part in the study included Toyko, Seoul, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Singapore, Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Moscow, Paris and London.

The study found that the European cities surveyed produced $12,502 gross domestic product per metric tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, with South American cities producing $6,816, East Asian cities $5,831 and North American cities $5,550.

The report found that one out of every two actions cities take to reduce emissions are focused on efficiency.

It found that 62 percent of such actions had the potential to attract new business and investment.

Meanwhile it found that 55 percent of the cities studied were undertaking initiatives to reduce emissions that promote walking and cycling.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “Saving energy and using our resources more efficiently is absolutely vital to the sustainability, diversity and full recovery of this city’s economy.

“The green sector represents a new area of expertise and innovation for London, providing jobs and attracting investment while significant carbon dioxide reductions can save businesses substantial sums, improve air quality and make the capital a better place to live and work.”

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« Reply #7083 on: Jun 22, 2013, 07:16 AM »

In the USA...

US files criminal charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Charges include theft of government property and unauthorised communication of national defence information

Agencies in Washington DC, Saturday 22 June 2013 06.02 BST   

The US has filed espionage charges against the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and reports say authorities have requested that Hong Kong detain him for extradition. Legislators in Hong Kong responded by calling for mainland China to intervene in the case.

Snowden, 29, is charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person, according to court documents.

Snowden is reported to be in hiding in Hong Kong. The Washington Post said the US had asked the autonomous Chinese territory to detain the former NSA contractor on a provisional arrest warrent, while other reports cited US officials as saying preparations were being made to seek his extradition.

One Hong Kong legislator, Leung Kwok-hung, said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition before the case was dragged through the court system. Leung also urged the people of Hong Kong to "take to the streets to protect Snowden". Another lawmaker, Cyd Ho, vice-chair of the pro-democracy Labour party, said China "should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR [special administrative region] government".

US prosecutors have 60 days to file an indictment and can then take steps to secure Snowden's extradition from Hong Kong for a criminal trial in the US. Snowden would be able to challenge the request for his extradition in court in Hong Kong.

The US extradition treaty with Hong Kong has an exception for political offences, which might include espionage.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic businessman linked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, said on Thursday he had readied a private plane in China to fly Snowden to Iceland if Iceland's government would grant asylum. Iceland refused on Friday to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden.

The complaint against Snowden was filed at the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia where Snowden's former employer, government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered. The complaint is dated 14 June, five days after Snowden was first revealed as the leaker.

The US and Hong Kong have a standing agreement on the surrender of fugitives. However, Snowden's appeal rights could drag out any extradition proceeding. The success or failure also depends on what the suspect is charged with under US law and how it corresponds to Hong Kong law. In order for Hong Kong officials to honour the extradition request they have to have some applicable statute under their law that corresponds with a violation of US law.

Advocacy organisation the Government Accountability Project said Snowden should be shielded from prosecution by whistleblower protection laws. "He disclosed information about a secret programme that he reasonably believed to be illegal, and his actions alone brought about the long-overdue national debate about the proper balance between privacy and civil liberties, on the one hand, and national security on the other," the group said in a statement.


Glenn Greenwald: Snowden’s revelations ‘not espionage in any real sense of the word’

By Arturo Garcia
Friday, June 21, 2013 22:23 EDT

Reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story about phone and internet surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) thanks to information provided by former contractor Edward Snowden, criticized the federal charges brought against him in a phone interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Friday.

“I think it’s very surprising to accuse someone of espionage who hasn’t worked for a foreign government, who didn’t covertly pass information to an adversary [or] enemy of the United States, who didn’t sell any top secret information,” Greenwald told Hayes, arguing that Snowden “simply went to newspapers, asked newspapers to very carefully vet the information to make sure that the only thing being published are things that informed his fellow citizens but doesn’t harm national security. That is not espionage in any real sense of the word.”

The charges against Snowden, who provided Greenwald and his newspaper the Guardian with information on the agency’s monitoring of U.S. citizens through programs like PRISM and “Boundless Informant,” were made public on Friday.

The 29-year-old former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a Defense Department contractor, was charged on June 14 (PDF) with giving national defense information to someone without a security clearance and revealing classified information regarding “communications intelligence” — both charges covered by the Espionage Act of 1917 — as well as theft of government property. Each charge carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence if Snowden is convicted.

“This is a 1917 statute enacted under Woodrow Wilson to criminalize opposition to World War I,” Greenwald continued. “It has been used very, very sparingly throughout American history until the Obama administration, which has embraced it with extreme vigor as a means of punishing and prosecuting whistleblowers, and so in that regard, I think it’s unsurprising.”

While Hayes did not hesitate to call the Espionage Act “a pretty terrible piece of legislation,” he still pushed back against Greenwald’s argument.

“Doesn’t the government have to do something?” Hayes asked Greenwald. “Someone who worked for the government and inside the government skips out with 1,000 classified documents. This is a fairly big breach, even if you think — as I, quite frankly, do — the net benefit has been huge, it has precipitated a really needed debate.”

From a basic institutional standpoint, Hayes continued, Snowden had to face some sort of consequences for his self-avowed actions.

“I don’t think you’ll find very many people who argue that he should not be charged with any sort of criminal offense,” Greenwald responded. “I think when he did what he set out to do that he understood that it was in violation of the law. He felt like it was a noble act, justified under basic theories of civil disobedience, and that he expected to be charged with a crime.”

But the issue, Greenwald argued, was what he described as the “extreme zealousness” exhibited by the White House regarding whistleblowers, which reflected a “vindictive mentality” toward people who try to bring transparency to government policy.

“If this administration were equitable and consistent in trying to punish people who leak classified information, you could look at this act and say, ‘I think it’s excessive but at least it’s consistent,’” Greenwald continued, saying various administration officials were not prosecuted despite leaking top-secret or classified information that made the White House look good.

“What you have here is a misuse — a manipulation of these laws,” he told Hayes. “Not to protect classified information, but to punish people who leak in a way that embarasses high-level political officials, and that’s what makes it so pernicious.”


Edward Snowden extradition attempts 'could take years'

Hong Kong legal experts say US could face lengthy diplomatic and legal process to try NSA whistleblower in American court

Conal Urquhart and agencies, Saturday 22 June 2013 10.22 BST   

Any attempt by the US to extradite the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden from Hong Kong for espionage could take years and be blocked by China, legal experts have said.

The warning comes after it emerged on Friday that the US has charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person. The latter two charges are part of the US Espionage Act.

Legislators in Hong Kong responded by calling for mainland China to intervene in the case. Snowden, 29, who is reportedly in hiding in Hong Kong, was last seen on 10 June. He is understood to have made contact with human rights lawyers in anticipation of a legal action from the US.

The US and Hong Kong have had an extradition treaty since 1998, a year after Hong Kong was transferred from British to Chinese rule. Scores of Americans have been sent back for trial under the treaty.

While espionage and theft of state secrets are not cited specifically in the treaty, equivalent charges could be pressed against Snowden under Hong Kong's official secrets ordinance, legal experts said.

The timeframe for such proceedings remains unclear, but Hectar Pun, a barrister with human rights expertise, said such an extradition could take three to five years.

If Hong Kong authorities did not charge Snowden with an equivalent crime, authorities could not extradite him, lawyers said. In the absence of charges, Snowden was also theoretically free to leave the city, one legal expert said.

Simon Young, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, said that while the first charge involving theft might readily find equivalence in Hong Kong, the latter two spying offences will likely attract "litigation and dispute" in the courts.

Under Hong Kong's extradition system, a request first goes through diplomatic channels to the government, who decides whether to issue an "authority to proceed". If granted, a magistrate issues a formal warrant for the arrest of Snowden.

Once brought before the court, the judge would decide whether there was sufficient evidence to commit Snowden to trial or dismiss the case, though any decision could be appealed in a higher court.

Snowden could claim political asylum in Hong Kong, arguing he would face torture back home. Article six of the treaty states extradition should be refused for "an offence of a political character".

"The unfairness of his trial at home and his likely treatment in custody" were important factors to consider when assessing Snowden's chances of claiming political immunity from extradition, said Young.

Should a Hong Kong court eventually call for Snowden's extradition, Hong Kong's leader and China could still veto the decision on national security or defence grounds.

Snowden has admitted leaking secrets about classified US surveillance programmes, which he said he did in the public interest. Supporters say he is a whistleblower, while critics call him a criminal and perhaps even a traitor.


Bill Clinton on NSA: Americans need to be on guard for abuses of power by U.S.

By Severin Carrell, The Guardian
Saturday, June 22, 2013 8:27 EDT

Former president tells Scottish audience there needs to be accountability and transparency when surveillance is used

Former US president Bill Clinton has said Americans need to be “on guard for abuses” of power by the US government through its secret interception of emails and phone calls in the name of national security.

In a question and answer session at a business dinner in Edinburgh, Clinton said the use of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications by foreign terrorists was justified.

And the US system also required a warrant from intelligence courts, backed up by sufficient evidence, for any surveillance activities against people within the US.

But he said it was crucial there was accountability and transparency in the use of surveillance and interceptions by agencies such as the NSA – an area which he said was “blurry, grey and made people uncomfortable”.

“There’s no question that it’s subject to abuse if people lie to the courts or if the wrong people get hold of the information and try to use it to embarrass people, but that has pretty much always been the case. It’s just we’re so aware of it now,” Clinton told his audience at the Scottish Business Awards.

“I believe the most important thing is that we have accountability. But I will say this – freedom and security are not incompatible; they’re mutually reinforcing.

“I think you’re more secure if you have more freedom. Therefore I think we should be on guard for abuses of the use of technology by our government.”

He said his own experience from two terms as US president was that governments had a duty to use that technology against threats and opponents, who planned to kill civilians.

“I can tell you from when I served that we did – and far more attacks were stopped than were pulled off,” he said.

New information technology, such as smartphones, had “dramatically changed” and shrunk the parameters of personal privacy but he warned that state security operations of this kind needed to be very closely monitored.

“So this is one of those areas, which in my opinion will always be blurry, grey and make people uncomfortable, and we wish we didn’t even have to talk about it or deal with it. But freedom and security are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

“You can destroy freedom with false claims that you have to do it to make everybody secure, but usually when somebody’s doing it, they don’t give a rip about security, they’re just trying to get more power.

“And so the key here is accountability, transparency and protection against use of information, inadvertently found, for other purposes.”

 © Guardian News and Media 2013


Mysterious privacy board touted by Obama has deep government ties

Privacy & Civil Liberties Board at the heart of Obama's effort to address NSA surveillance scandal is itself a Washington enigma

Dan Roberts in Washington, Friday 21 June 2013 18.33 BST   

The body charged by President Obama with protecting the civil liberties and privacy of the American people exists in shadows almost as dark as the intelligence agencies it is designed to oversee.

The Privacy & Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) was due to meet Obama at the White House on Friday afternoon at 3pm in the situation room to discuss growing concerns over US surveillance of phone and internet records – or, at least, that's what unnamed "senior administration officials" said would happen.

The meeting did not appear on the president's official diary issued to journalists, nor has the PCLOB issued much public confirmation beyond saying "further questions were warranted".

To be fair, that might be because the PCLOB does not have a website, nor an email address, nor indeed any independent full-time staff. Its day-to-day administration is currently run by a government official on secondment from the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In fact, even the office address given out by the PCLOB in the few public letters that exist does not appear to be functioning. A security guard at the federal buildings on 2100 K Street in Washington said he had no record of the mystery body that claimed to occupy suite 500.

On Tuesday, Obama announced that the PCLOB would be at the heart of his efforts to address the growing scandal over the National Security Agency's surveillance programmes.

"I'll be meeting with them and what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation not only about these two programs but also about the general problem of these big data sets because this is not going to be restricted to government entities," he told Charlie Rose in a TV interview.

Yet, the White House appears to be scrambling to set up infrastructure that can support such a conversation and has placed its trust in a body with a chequered history of independent scrutiny.

Set up as an agency within the Executive Office of the President in 2004, the PCLOB for many years had no members at all. After criticism, in the words of a congressional report, that it "appeared to be presidential appendage, devoid of the capability to exercise independent judgement and assessment or to provide impartial findings and recommendations", it was reconstituted as an independent agency in August 2007 on the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.

But even then, oversight moved at a glacial pace. Obama nominated two members in January 2011 and a further three in December 2012 but the Senate only confirmed four of them in August 2012. The fifth, chairman David Medine, was confirmed just last month.

Obama told Charlie Rose that it was "made up of independent citizens, including some fierce civil libertarians".

But there is little in the published biographies to elaborate on that.

Medine is a partner in the law firm DC WilmerHale and previously served as a senior advisor to the White House National Economic Council.  From 1992 to 2000, he worked at the Federal Trade Commission and previously worked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and US Securities and Exchange Commission. The White House says he has long been interested in "internet privacy and data security".

Three of the others meeting Obama on Friday have also worked for the government or courts. Rachel Brand is now a regulatory lawyer at the US Chamber of Commerce, but formerly worked at the Department of Justice. Patricia Wald is a former DC appeals court judge and Elisebeth Collins Cook is also a lawyer at Wilmer Hale, who once worked for the Department of Justice.

Only Jim Dempsey, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, does not appear to have worked for the government or served on the judiciary. The Washington Post described him as "a reasoned and respected civil liberties advocate routinely summoned to [Capitol] Hill by both political parties to advise lawmakers about technology and privacy issues."

Following a meeting with intelligence chiefs on Wednesday, Medine said: "Based on what we've learned so far, further questions are warranted." He told the Guardian by email on Friday that the board would issue a statement after the meeting with Obama.

NSA director Keith Alexander implied it understood the need for such programmes. "My deputy met with the board yesterday and actually briefed them for a couple of hours on both programs so that they understood," he told a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday.

Official board meetings of the PCLOB are closed to the public, because of the classified issues to be discussed, a notice published on the Federal Register said.

In his email, Medine told the Guardian that the board was moving ahead with plans to step up its operations. He said: "The bipartisan members of the independent board have been at work since last September. In the three weeks since I became chairman, the board is moving rapidly forward to complete its efforts to operate a website and hire permanent staff, the latter being something only the chairman has authority to do."

A senior administration official defended the White House's transparency record.

"Over the past few weeks, in the wake of disclosures related to sensitive NSA collection activities, the president directed the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to declassify information to better contextualize these programs, correct misrepresentations, and provide an opportunity for the dialogue he welcomes about the right balance between national security and privacy," said the official.

"In fact, yesterday (Thursday), at the request of the President, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco directed the DNI – in consultation with the DOJ – to review Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions and filings relevant to the programs and to determine what additional information the Government can responsibly share about the sensitive and necessarily classified activities undertaken to keep the public safe."
The official said the administration was seeking "to declassify a significant amount of information regarding these programs."

"The president's direction is that as much information as possible be made public while being mindful of the need to protect sources and methods and National Security." the unnamed official added. "In the last few weeks, we have provided enhanced transparency on, and engaged in robust public discussion."

Speaking later White House spokesman Jay Carney said the PCLOB was required to report to Congress at least twice a year.

"The president will be meeting with a range of stakeholders in the coming weeks on these issues," added Carney.

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« Reply #7084 on: Jun 23, 2013, 06:21 AM »

Edward Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow

NSA whistleblower left on Aeroflot flight to Moscow, Hong Kong government confirms, two days after US charged him with espionage

Tania Branigan in Hong Kong and Miriam Elder in Moscow, Sunday 23 June 2013 09.34 BST

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has flown out of Hong Kong, where he had been in hiding since identifying himself as the source of revelations on US surveillance programmes, despite a US request for his arrest.

The 30-year-old had previously said he would stay in the city and fight for his freedom in the courts. But the Hong Kong government confirmed that he left on Sunday, two days after the US announced it had charged him with espionage, saying documents filed by the US did not fully comply with legal requirements.

It also said it was requesting clarification from Washington on Snowden's claims that the US had hacked targets in the territory.

Snowden had been at a safe house since 10 June, when he checked out of his hotel after giving an interview to the Guardian outing himself as the source who leaked top secret documents.

Hong Kong's decision to allow him to leave comes a day after the US sought to turn up the pressure on the territory to hand him over, with a senior administration official telling the Washington Post: "If Hong Kong doesn't act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law."

Sunday's statement from the Hong Kong authorities said: "Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today [June 23] of his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.

"The US government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR [Hong Kong special administrative region] government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR government has requested the US government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions.

"As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

"The HKSAR government has already informed the US government of Mr Snowden's departure.

"Meanwhile, the HKSAR government has formally written to the US government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong."

According to the South China Morning Post, Snowden boarded an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, although the newspaper said Russia was not his ultimate destination. It suggested he might go to Ecuador or Iceland – having cited the latter as a possible refuge in an interview with the Guardian.

However, reports from Moscow indicate that Havana would be his next port of call, with the ultimate destination either Caracas in Venezuela or Quito in Ecuador.

The South China Morning Post claimed he took off from the airport at 10.55am on flight SU213 on Sunday morning and was due to arrive at Moscow's Shermetyevo International Airport at 5.15pm [local times].

It said the Russian embassy in Beijing would neither confirm nor deny he was on a flight to Moscow and the Russian consulate in Hong Kong declined to comment.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said: "I don't [know if he's planning to stay in Moscow]. I heard about the potential [arrival] from the press. I know nothing."

On whether Moscow would still consider a request for asylum from Snowden: "Every application is considered so it's standard procedure … We are not tracing his movements and I know nothing."

US authorities could not be reached for comment.

WikiLeaks tweeted to say that it had "assisted Mr Snowden's political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers and safe exit from Hong Kong".

On Friday, an Icelandic businessman linked to WikiLeaks told Reuters he had prepared a private plane for Snowden's use if the government was willing to give him asylum.

"A private jet is in place in China and we could fly Snowden over tomorrow if we get positive reaction from the interior ministry. We need to get confirmation of asylum and that he will not be extradited to the US. We would most want him to get a citizenship as well," said Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, a director of DataCell, which processed payments for WikiLeaks.

The Icelandic government has declined to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden and pointed out that he would need to apply in person.

Snowden has said he did not travel direct to Iceland from the US because he feared the small country could be put under pressure by Washington.

Lawyers have said the legal battle for Snowden's surrender could last for years, particularly if he argued that he should not be returned because his offence was political. But they had also warned that in the long run he was unlikely to prove successful.


Snowden spy squabble deepens as U.S. is accused of hacking China

By The Observer
Saturday, June 22, 2013 15:18 EDT

Edward Snowden, the former CIA technician who blew the whistle on global surveillance operations, has opened a new front against the US authorities, claiming they hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies to access millions of private text messages.

His latest claims came as some Hong Kong politicians called for Snowden to be protected from extradition to the US after the justice department in Washington filed criminal charges against him late on Friday.

The latest developments will raise fears that the US’s action may have pushed Snowden into the hands of the Chinese, triggering what could be a tense and prolonged diplomatic and legal wrangle between the world’s two leadingsuperpowers.

Snowden, whose whereabouts have not been publicly known since he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel on 10 June, was reported by the Chinese media yesterday to be in a “safe place” in the former British colony.

The 30-year-old intelligence analyst has over the past three weeks leaked a series of documents to the Guardian revealing how US and UK secret services gain access to huge amounts of phone and internet data, raising serious questions about privacy in the internet age.

On Friday, based on documents from Snowden, the Guardian reported that Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables carrying the world’s phone calls and internet traffic, without the authorities having made this known to the public. It was also reported that GCHQ is processing vast streams of sensitive information which it is sharing with its US partner, the National Security Agency.

On Sunday the former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who now chairs the intelligence and security committee, said the committee would launch an investigation into the latest revelations. The committee will receive an official report from GCHQ about the story within days and will then decide whether to call witnesses to give oral evidence. If it is then thought necessary, the committee can require GCHQ to submit relevant data.

Within hours of news breaking that the US had filed charges against Snowden, the South China Morning Post reported that the whistleblower had handed over a series of documents to the paper detailing how the US had targeted Chinese phone companies as part of a widespread attempt to get its hands on a mass of data.

Text messaging is the most popular form of communication in mainland China where more than 900bn SMS messages were exchanged in 2012.

Snowden reportedly told the paper: “The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data.”

As Snowden made his latest disclosures, he appeared to be gaining support from politicians in Hong Kong who said China should support him against any extradition application from the US. The US has charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person. The latter two charges are part of the US Espionage Act.

One legislator, Leung Kwok-hung, said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition before his case was dragged through the courts. Leung urged the Hong Kong people to “take to the streets to protect Snowden”. Another politician, Cyd Ho, vice-chairwoman of the pro-democracy Labour Party, said China “should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government” before the case goes before a court.

China has urged Washington to provide explanations following Snowden’s disclosures that NSA programs collect millions of telephone records and track foreign internet activity on US networks. In a press conference Hong Kong’s police commissioner, Andy Tsang, indicated that the normal legal process would be followed after the US filed their criminal charges. “All foreign citizens must comply with Hong Kong’s law,” said adding that the police would act on the request once it is received.

He declined to comment on reports in one Hong Kong newspaper that Snowden is already in a police safe house.

In response to the Guardian’s latest revelations regarding the surveillance activities of GCHQ, politicians and freedom of information campaigners last night raised concerns about the lack of oversight and up-to-date laws with which to monitor and regulate the activities of the secret services.

Former shadow home secretary and Foreign Office minister David Davis MP said documents containing an admission by GCHQ lawyers that UK oversight was “light” compared with that in the US was worrying. “This reinforces the view that the oversight structure is wholly inadequate. Really what is needed is a full-scale independent judicial oversight that reports to parliament.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: “It’s possible to be shocked but not surprised at this blanket surveillance on a breathtaking scale. The authorities appear to be kidding themselves with a very generous interpretation of the law that cannot stand with article 8 of the European convention on human rights.”To argue this isn’t snooping because they haven’t got time to read all this private information is like arguing we’d all be comfortable with our homes being raided and our private papers copied – as long as the authorities stored them in sealed plastic bags.”

Carl Miller, director for social media at the thinktank Demos, said: “Just like the rest of us, terrorists and criminals are increasingly using social media and other forms of online communication. So it’s clear that the intelligence services should be able to access this where it is necessary and proportionate. But this is the crucial point. What these latest stories reveal is that much of this surveillance is happening already, but without the security services having made the public argument for these powers. There is a clear need for a legal grounding or oversight structure that commands public confidence. © Guardian News and Media 2013


GCHQ monitoring described as a 'catastrophe' by German politicians

Federal ministers demand clarification from UK government on extent of spying conducted on German citizens

Conal Urquhart and agencies, Saturday 22 June 2013 18.03 BST   

Britain's European partners have described reports of Britain's surveillance of international electronic communications as a catastrophe and will seek urgent clarification from London.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the German justice minister said the report in the Guardian read like the plot of a film.

"If these accusations are correct, this would be a catastrophe," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in a statement to Reuters. "The accusations against Great Britain sound like a Hollywood nightmare. The European institutions should seek straight away to clarify the situation."

Britain's Tempora project enables it to intercept and store immense volumes of British and international communications for 30 days.

With a few months to go before federal elections, the minister's comments are likely to please Germans who are highly sensitive to government monitoring, having lived through the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany and with lingering memories of the Gestapo under the Nazis.

"The accusations make it sound as if George Orwell's surveillance society has become reality in Great Britain," said Thomas Oppermann, floor leader of the opposition Social Democrats.

Orwell's novel 1984 envisioned a futuristic security state where "Big Brother" spied on the intimate details of people's lives.

"This is unbearable," Oppermann told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "The government must clarify these accusations and act against a total surveillance of German citizens."


NSA leaks: US and Britain team up on mass surveillance

Latest revelations from Edward Snowden show that the state risks crossing ever more ethical and legal boundaries

Peter Beaumont   
The Observer, Saturday 22 June 2013 19.44 BST   

Twelve years ago, in an almost forgotten report, the European parliament completed its investigations into a long-suspected western intelligence partnership dedicated to global signals interception on a vast scale.

Evidence had been taken from spies and politicians, telecommunications experts and journalists. In stark terms the report detailed a decades-old arrangement which had seen the US and the UK at first – later joined by Canada, New Zealand and Australia to make up the the so-called "Five Eyes" – collaborating to access satellites, transatlantic fibre-optic cables and radio signals on a vast scale.

This secretive (and consistently denied) co-operation was itself the product of a mutual agreement stretching back to the first world war, expanded in the second, and finally ratified in 1948 in the so-called UKUSA agreement.

The problem for the authors of the Brussels report was that it had based its analysis on scattered clues and inferences. "It is only natural," its authors asserted ruefully, "that secret services do not disclose details of their work … The existence of such a system thus needs to be proved by gathering as many clues as possible, thereby building up a convincing body of evidence."

Despite the limitations of such detective work, the parliamentarians came to a deeply troubling conclusion: the "Five Eyes" were accessing the fibre-optic cables running under the Atlantic.

Not only that, the report concluded tentatively, but it was the UK specifically among the five partners – and GCHQ in particular – which it suspected had been given primary responsibility for intercepting that traffic.

"The practical implication," the report surmised, "is that communications can be intercepted at acceptable cost only at the terminals of the underwater cables which land on their territory.

"Essentially they can only tap incoming or outgoing cable communications. In other words, their access to cable communications in Europe is restricted to the territory of the United Kingdom."

That GCHQ was at the very heart of secret efforts to tap into the internet and cable-carried telephony was finally confirmed in the most dramatic terms on Friday by the latest batch of documents to be leaked by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is now being sought by the US government for alleged theft and breaches of the Espionage Act.

Those documents, published by the Guardian, not only describe the UK's lead role in tapping the cables carrying global internet traffic – enjoying the "biggest internet access" of the Five Eyes – but its efforts to suck up ever-larger amounts of global data to share with its partners, and principally with the US.

From a handful of cables at the beginning, the UK is now able, according to the documents, to access some 200 on a daily basis and store the information contained within for up to 30 days for analysis, including up to 600m "telephone events" each day.

GCHQ's own excitement at the scope of its reach is evident in the documents, in which there is an excited reference to an ability to collect "massive amount of data!" and to "producing larger amounts of metadata (the basic information on who has been contacting whom, without detailing the content) than NSA".

Up to the late 1980s, in excess of 90% of all international voice-and-data traffic, including diplomatic cables, was being carried by satellite and microwave networks. That began to change rapidly in 1988 when AT&T finished laying the first undersea fibre-optic fibre cable from New Jersey to the UK.

Even before that project was completed, the NSA was already experimenting how to gain access to the cables, efforts that would lead to the US making its first attempts to bug one in the mid-1990s with an underwater vehicle.

Now, the documents seem to suggest, access is achieved through some degree of co-operation – voluntary or otherwise – from the companies operating the cables or the stations at which they come into the country. And in addition to confirming details of how the partnership functions, the latest disclosures from Snowden also describe in detail what appears to be one of its latest iterations – Project Tempora, initiated some four years ago.

The direct descendent of earlier UKUSA treaty programmes, Project Tempora's purpose remains the hoovering up of the largest amount of signals intelligence, principally in the form of metadata. Then, as now, it appears the priorities are not only related to national security but also economic advantage – interventions which can be justified under UK law by reference to the ill-defined notion of "economic wellbeing".

In one sense, GCHQ is simply trying to keep up with the dizzying pace of technological development over recent decades. As the most recent batch of leaked documents has made clear – interception – like drugs-testing in sport – has tended to lag one step behind technology.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for GCHQ," the authors of one memo write, "to acquire the rich sources of traffic needed to enable our support to partners within HMG [Her Majesty's government], the armed forces, and overseas.

"The rapid development of different technologies, types of traffic, service providers and networks, and the growth in sheer volumes that accompany particularly the expansion and use of the internet, present an unprecedented challenge to the success of GCHQ's mission. Critically we are not currently able to prioritise and task the increasing range and scale of our accesses at the pace, or with the coherence demanded of the internet age: potentially available data is not accessed, potential benefit for HMG is not delivered."

But the dangers lie in the various legal and ethical thresholds being crossed in the race to catch up with the proliferating forms of communication. If that report from almost a decade and a half ago was prescient in one area, it was over the human rights, privacy and legal concerns that were raised by the ambitions of western intelligence. Those issues have only been brought into sharper focus as signals intelligence gathering has moved ever more forcefully into capturing the worldwide web.

According to the leaked Snowden documents, the latest attempts to improve interception of internet communications began in earnest in 2007. The first experimental project was run at GCHQ's outpost at Bude in Cornwall.

Within two years it would be judged enough of a success to allow analysts from the NSA to have access to the new project, which by 2011 would be capturing and producing more intelligence data in the UK than the NSA did in the US.

Other documents underline how the decades-old intelligence arrangement has worked, not least how within the UKUSA treaty different roles have been subcontracted to partners – for both practical and regulatory reasons.

In one document, the NSA's chief Lt Gen. Keith Alexander asks pointedly: "Why can't we collect all the signals all the time? … Sounds like a good summer project for Menwith" — a reference to GCHQ's Menwith Hill eavesdropping site in northern England.

On the legal front – as GCHQ's own lawyers boasted in advice to its US partners – Cheltenham had an advantage to its US partners: "We have a light oversight regime compared with the US".

Such potential subcontracting has long been at the heart of international legal concerns over how surveillance material is shared between the Five Eyes. The suspicion is that individual states within the agreement can produce material for partners that might be illegal to gather in the other collaborating states, including the US.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "The big point we should recognise is that states tend to have a broader licence to snoop abroad and a tighter one at home. What we are seeing in arrangements like this is states' ability to subcontract their dirty work to others."

Then there is the question of oversight. The UK government claims that the interception in such a broad fashion is authorised by ministers under at least 100 certificates issued under section 8(4) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Ripa) which allows sweeping an indiscriminate trawls of data. But Alex Bailin QC, an expert on surveillance at the Matrix Chambers, is sceptical. "We are told there is proper oversight but the question is whether ministers simply sign these certificates. But I wasn't even aware section 8(4) existed until Friday."

Like Chakrabarti, Bailin suspects that intelligence agencies are subcontracting out surveillance to foreign partners. "The reality is that Ripa is incredibly complex and full of legal loopholes that permit this kind of thing. The real question is whether the act is actually fit for purpose when you are dealing with interception like this."

The European parliament's thesis has been confirmed by the Guardian's revelations. Now the legal and ethical scrutiny can begin in earnest.


Support NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, says Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder releases statement after former contract worker is charged with espionage by US prosecutors

Tom Dart and agencies, Saturday 22 June 2013 19.59 BST   

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has called on the world to "step forward and stand with" Edward Snowden, after the NSA whistleblower was charged with espionage by US federal prosecutors.

According to a statement on the WikiLeaks website, Assange said: "A few weeks ago, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on an ongoing program – involving the Obama administration, the intelligence community and the internet services giants – to spy on everyone in the world. As if by clockwork, he has been charged with espionage by the Obama administration."

It was revealed on Friday that the US has charged Snowden with unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person – charges that are part of the US Espionage Act. The 30-year-old, who is reportedly hiding in Hong Kong, has also been charged with theft of government property. The Washington Post reported that US authorities have asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant with a view to extradition.

It is just over a year since Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault. He claims the allegations are politically motivated.

In the statement, Assange accuses President Barack Obama of going back on a promise to run a transparent administration and suggests he is the true "traitor" for supposedly betraying a generation of "young, technically minded people" such as Snowden and Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier charged with aiding the enemy who is presently on trial after he gave classified material to WikiLeaks.

"The US government is spying on each and every one of us, but it is Edward Snowden who is charged with espionage for tipping us off. It is getting to the point where the mark of international distinction and service to humanity is no longer the Nobel Peace Prize, but an espionage indictment from the US Department of Justice," said Assange.

"The charging of Edward Snowden is intended to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights. That tactic must not be allowed to work. The effort to find asylum for Edward Snowden must be intensified. What brave country will stand up for him, and recognize his service to humanity? Tell your governments to step forward. Step forward and stand with Snowden."

Several American politicians have backed the decision to charge Snowden. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and a member of the Senate armed services committee, said in a statement on Friday: "I've always thought this was a treasonous act. Apparently so does the US Department of Justice. I hope Hong Kong's government will take him into custody and extradite him to the US."

Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, also praised the move. "I fully support the efforts of the United States government to indict and prosecute Edward Snowden to the fullest extent of the law," he said, according to Fox News. "He has betrayed his country and the government must demand his extradition at the earliest date."

King last week called for the prosecution of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has been heavily involved in breaking the NSA surveillance stories.

John Miller, a CBS News correspondent who is a former government intelligence worker, said on CBS that the extradition treaty between the US and Hong Kong has been "used a lot … that's the good news, which is this won't be a rusty process. The complicating factor is it's a complicated process."

The Government Accountability Project, a US whistleblower support group, issued a statement backing Snowden. It read: "He disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal, and his actions alone brought about the long-overdue national debate about the proper balance between privacy and civil liberties, on the one hand, and national security on the other.

"Charging Snowden with espionage is yet another effort to retaliate against those who criticize the overreach of US intelligence agencies under this administration. The charges send a clear message to potential whistleblowers: this is the treatment they can expect should they speak out about constitutional violations."

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« Reply #7085 on: Jun 23, 2013, 06:27 AM »

Global protest grows as citizens lose faith in politics and the state

The myriad protests from Istanbul to São Paulo have one thing in common - growing dissent among the young, educated and better-off protesting against the very system that once enriched them. And therein lies the danger for governments

Peter Beaumont   
The Observer, Saturday 22 June 2013 22.00 BST   

The demonstrations in Brazil began after a small rise in bus fares triggered mass protests. Within days this had become a nationwide movement whose concerns had spread far beyond fares: more than a million people were on the streets shouting about everything from corruption to the cost of living to the amount of money being spent on the World Cup.

In Turkey, it was a similar story. A protest over the future of a city park in Istanbul – violently disrupted by police – snowballed too into something bigger, a wider-ranging political confrontation with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has scarcely been brought to a close by last weekend's clearing of Gezi Park.

If the recent scenes have seemed familiar, it is because they shared common features: viral, loosely organised with fractured messages and mostly taking place in urban public locations.

Unlike the protest movement of 1968 or even the end of Soviet influence in eastern Europe in 1989, these are movements with few discernible leaders and often conflicting ideologies. Their points of reference are not even necessarily ideological but take inspiration from other protests, including those of the Arab spring and the Occupy movement. The result has seen a wave of social movements – sometimes short-lived – from Wall Street to Tel Aviv and from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, often engaging younger, better educated and wealthier members of society.

What is striking for those who, like myself, have covered these protests is often how discursive and open-ended they are. People go not necessarily to hear a message but to take over a location and discuss their discontents (even if the stunning consequence can be the fall of an autocratic leader such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak).

If the "new protest" can be summed up, it is not in specifics of the complaints but in a wider idea about organisation encapsulated on a banner spotted in Brazil last week: "We are the social network."

In Brazil the varied banners underlined the difficulty of easy categorisation as protesters held aloft signs expressing a range of demands from education reforms to free bus fares while denouncing the billions of public dollars spent on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics two years later.

"It's sort of a Catch-22," Rodrigues da Cunha, a 63-year-old protester told the Associated Press. "On the one hand we need some sort of leadership, on the other we don't want this to be compromised by being affiliated with any political party."

As the Economist pointed out last week, while mass movements in Britain, France, Sweden and Turkey have been inspired by a variety of causes, including falling living standards, authoritarian government and worries about immigration, Brazil does not fit the picture, with youth unemployment at a record low and enjoying the biggest leap in living standards in the country's history.

So what's going on? An examination of the global Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a loose correlation between the ranking of a country on the trust scale and the likelihood of protests. The trust barometer is a measure of public confidence in institutions compiled by the US firm Edelman, the world's largest privately owned PR company.

In 2011, at the time the Occupy movement was being born in Zuccoti Park on Wall Street, the UK and the US were both firmly placed at the bottom of the "distrusters" while Brazil topped the "trusters". By this year Brazil had dropped 30 points on the table, while Spain and Turkey, which have both seen protests this year, were both in the distrusted category.

Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC2's Newsnight and author of Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, has argued that a key factor, largely driven by new communication technologies, is that people have not only a better understanding of power but are more aware of its abuse, both economically and politically.

Mason believes we are in the midst of a "revolution caused by the near collapse of free-market capitalism combined with an upswing in technical innovation" – but not everyone is so convinced.

What does ring true, however, is his assertion that a driving force from Tahrir Square to Occupy is a redefinition of notions of both what "freedom" means and its relationship to governments that seem ever more distant. It is significant, too, that many recent protests have taken place in the large cities that have been most transformed by neoliberal policies.

Tali Hatuka, an Israeli urban geographer, whose book on the new forms of protest will be published next year, identifies the mass mobilisations against the Iraq war in 2003 as a turning point in how people protest. Hatuka argues that, while previous large public protests had tended to be focused and narrow in their organisation, the Iraq war protests saw demonstrations in 800 cities globally which encompassed and tolerated a wide variety of outlooks.

"Most recently," Hatuka wrote in the journal Geopolitics last year, "this spirit has characterised the Arab spring and New York's Occupy Wall Street, which were protests based on informal leadership and a multitude of voices."

"Up to the 1990s," she said last week, "protests tended to be organised around a pyramid structure with a centralised leadership. As much effort went into the planning as into the protest itself. And the [impact on the] day after the protest was as significant as the event itself. Now protest is organised more like a network. It is far more informal, the event itself often being immediate."

Hatuka cautions against generalising too much – distinguishing between the events of the Arab spring, where mass protests were able to remove regimes, and protests in western democracies. But she does point to how the new form of protest tends to produce fractured and temporary alliances.

"If you compare what we are seeing today with the civil rights movement in the US – even the movements of 1989 – those were much more cohesive. Now the event itself is the message. The question is whether that is enough."

She suspects it is not, pointing to how present-day activism – from the Iraq war demonstrations onwards – has often failed to deliver concrete results with its impact often fizzling out. Because of this, current forms of protest may be a temporary phenomenon and may be forced to change.

Another key feature of the new protests, argues Saskia Sassen, a sociology professor at Columbia University, New York, is the notion of "occupation" – which has not been confined to the obvious tactics of the Occupy movement. Occupations of different kinds have occurred in Tahrir Square, Cairo, in Gezi Park, Istanbul, and during widespread social protests in Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital, in 2011.

"Occupying is not the same as demonstrating. Many of the [recent] protests made legible the fact that occupying makes novel territory, and thereby a bit of history, using what was previously considered merely ground," Sassen wrote recently. "Whether in Egypt, the US, or elsewhere, it is important that the aim of the occupiers is not to grab power. They were and are, rather, engaged in the work of citizenship, exposing deep flaws and wrongs in their polity and society.

"This is a very peculiar moment," Sassen told the Observer. "This form of protest is very amorphous in comparison with the movements that came before." She argues that one distinguishing factor is that many of the protest movements of the past decade have been defined by the involvement of what she calls "the modest middle class", who have often been beneficiaries of the systems they are protesting against but whose positions have been eroded by neoliberal economic policies that have seen both distribution of wealth and opportunities captured by a narrowing minority. As people have come to feel more distant from government and economic institutions, a large part of the new mass forms of dissent has come to be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate ideas of "citizenship".

"Often what people are saying is that you are the state. I'm a citizen. I've done my job. You're not recognising that."

Sassen's belief that many of the recent protests are middle-class-driven appeared to be confirmed overtly – in the case of Brazil, at least – by President Dilma Rousseff, when she acknowledged that the new middle classes "want more and have the right to more".

For an older generation of political theorists, as Sassen admits, not least those from a Marxist background, the current trends have sometimes been puzzling. "I remember talking to [British Marxist historian] Eric Hobsbawm – a dear friend. He asked me: 'What's up [with Occupy]?' I said it is a very interesting movement. But his reply was: 'If there is no party, then there's no future.'"

Indeed, it was precisely this concern two years ago that led Malcolm Gladwell – in a controversial essay for the New Yorker, Small change: why the revolution will not be tweeted – to ask a similar question: whether networks of activists modelled on social media and with "weak tie-ins" can sustain themselves in the long run.

"The old pyramid way of organising protests does have its limitations, but so too do the new ways of organising," says Hatuka. "Often it does not feel very effective in the long run. People will often go for a day or two and these protests are not necessarily offering an ideological alternative."

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« Reply #7086 on: Jun 23, 2013, 06:30 AM »

Latest Brazil protests bring 250,000 on to streets

Anger as legislation that ties federal prosecutors' hands when investigating crime is seen as a shield for corrupt politicians

Associated Press in São Paulo, Sunday 23 June 2013 05.24 BST   

More than 250,000 anti-government protesters have again taken to the streets in several Brazilian cities and engaged police in isolated intense conflicts. Demonstrators vowed to stay in the streets until concrete steps are taken to reform the political system.

Across Brazil protesters gathered to denounce legislation known as PEC 37 that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes. Many fear the laws would hinder attempts to jail corrupt politicians.

Federal prosecutors were behind the investigation into the biggest corruption case in Brazil's history, the so-called "mensalão" cash-for-votes scheme that came to light in 2005 and involved top aides of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva buying off members of congress to vote for their legislation.

Last year the supreme court condemned two dozen people in connection to the case, which was hailed as a watershed moment in Brazil's fight against corruption. However those condemned have yet to be jailed because of appeals, a delay that has enraged Brazilians.

The protests continued despite a primetime speech the night before from President Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was tortured during Brazil's military dictatorship. She tried to appease demonstrators by reiterating that peaceful protests were a welcome, democratic action and emphasising that she would not condone corruption in her government.

"Dilma is underestimating the resolve of the people on the corruption issue," said Mayara Fernandes, a medical student who took part in a march Saturday in São Paulo. "She talked and talked and said nothing. Nobody can take the corruption of this country any more."

The wave of protests began as opposition to transportation fare hikes, then became a laundry list of causes including anger at high taxes, poor services and high World Cup spending, before coalescing around the issue of rampant government corruption. They have become the largest public demonstrations that Latin America's biggest nation has seen in two decades.

Across Brazil police estimated that about 60,000 demonstrators gathered in a central square in the city of Belo Horizonte, 30,000 shut down a main business avenue in São Paulo and another 30,000 gathered in the city in southern Brazil where a nightclub fire killed over 240 mostly university students, deaths many argued could have been avoided with better government oversight of fire laws. Tens of thousands more protested in more than 100 Brazilian cities, bringing the nationwide total to 250,000, according to a police count published on the website of O Globo TV, Brazil's largest television network.

In Belo Horizonte police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who tried to pass through a barrier and hurled rocks at a car dealership. Salvador also saw protests turn violent.

During her pre-recorded TV speech Rousseff promised that she would always battle corruption and that she would meet with peaceful protesters, governors and the mayors of big cities to create a national plan to improve urban transportation and use oil royalties for investments in education.

Many Brazilians, shocked by a week of protests and violence, hoped that Rousseff's words after several days of silence from the leader would soothe tensions and help avoid more violence, but not all were convinced by her promises of action. Victoria Villela, a 21-year-old university student in the São Paulo protest, said she was "frustrated and exhausted by the endless corruption of our government".

"It was good Dilma spoke but this movement has moved too far, there was not much she could really say. All my friends were talking on Facebook about how she said nothing that satisfied them. I think the protests are going to continue for a long time and the crowds will still be huge."

In the north-eastern city of Salvador, where Brazil's national football team played Italy and won 4-2 in a Confederations Cup match, about 5,000 protesters gathered three miles (5km) from the stadium, shouting demands for better schools and transportation and denouncing heavy spending on next year's World Cup.

They blocked a main road and clashed with riot police who moved in to clear the street. Protesters said police used rubber bullets and tossed teargas canisters from a helicopter hovering overhead. The protesters scattered and fled to a nearby shopping mall, where they tried to take shelter in an underground parking garage.

"We sat down and the police came and asked us to free up one lane for traffic. As we were organising our group to do just that, the police lost their patience and began to shoot at us and throw [tear gas] canisters," said Rodrigo Dorado.

That was exactly the type of conflict Rousseff said needed to end, not just so Brazilians could begin a peaceful national discussion about corruption but because much of the violence is taking place in cities hosting foreign tourists attending the Confederations Cup.

Brazil's news media, which had blasted Rousseff in recent days for her lack of response to the protests, seemed largely unimpressed with her careful speech but noted the difficult situation facing a government trying to understand a mass movement with no central leaders and a flood of demands. With "no objective information about the nature of the organisation of the protests", wrote Igor Gielow in a column for Brazil's biggest newspaper, Folha de S Paulo, "Dilma resorted to an innocuous speech to cool down spirits".

At the protests' height an estimated million anti-government demonstrators took to the streets nationwide on Thursday night with grievances ranging from public services to the billions of dollars spent preparing for international sports events.

Outside the stadium in Belo Horizonte where Mexico and Japan met in a Confederations Cup game, Dadiana Gamaleliel, a 32-year-old physiotherapist, held up a banner that read: "Not against the games, in favour of the nation."

"I am protesting on behalf of the whole nation because this must be a nation where people have a voice … we don't have a voice any more," she said.

She said Rousseff's speech would not change anything. "She spoke in a general way and didn't say what she would do," Gamaleliel said. "We will continue this until we are heard."

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« Reply #7087 on: Jun 23, 2013, 06:50 AM »

June 22, 2013

Mexico Pursuing Vanished Victims of Its Drug Wars


MONTERREY, Mexico — Rosa González cannot shake the memory of the state investigator who was too afraid of reprisals to take a full report, the police officer who shrugged when the ransom demand came, the months of agonizing doubt and, most of all, the final words from her daughter before she disappeared.

“I am giving you a hug because I love you so much,” her mentally disabled daughter, Brizeida, 23, told Rosa hours before she was abducted with her 21-year-old cousin after a party more than two years ago.

In thousands upon thousands of cases, the story may well have ended there, adding to the vast number of Mexicans who have disappeared. Unlike those in other Latin American countries who were victims of repressive governments, many of Mexico’s disappeared are casualties of the organized-crime and drug violence that has convulsed this nation for years.

But here in Nuevo León State, prosecutors, detectives, human rights workers and families are poring over cases together and in several instances cracking them, overcoming the thick walls of mistrust between civilians and the authorities to do the basic police work that is so often missing in this country, leaving countless crimes unsolved and unpunished.

About 26,000 missing-person reports sit in the federal government’s database, everything from drug-related abductions to runaways, and the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December, has promised to do more to find out what happened.

Often, that would require the authorities to investigate themselves. This month, the national human rights commission said it was looking into 2,443 cases in which the police or military, corrupted by criminal gangs, appeared to be the abductors.

But public pressure from victims’ families and international groups has been mounting, repeatedly condemning the widespread failure to investigate the scourge of disappearances. After a series of protests by mothers of victims at the federal attorney general’s office in Mexico City, it announced two weeks ago that a unit was being assembled to delve into the cases.

“We are not doing magic,” the attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, told reporters at the announcement. “We are going to get as far as you can. We are going to exhaust all the options and speak with absolute truth about the possibility of results.”

Advocates for the victims remain skeptical, saying the real work needs to be done at the state and local level, where the cases are first reported and most investigators and leads reside.

Here in Nuevo León, one of the states hardest hit by violence, they have praised the prosecutor’s office for working with a local human rights group and family members to review several dozen cases, sometimes performing investigations that were never done in the first place.

Another look at Ms. González’s case last year helped lead the police to a gang leader who was arrested in January. He confessed to abducting and killing the women, and directed the authorities to the remains of the cousin; further testing of bones at the site is under way to determine if any belong to Ms. González’s daughter. “Whatever God may want,” Ms. González said through tears, “whether my daughter is alive or dead, I am resigned to whatever may come.”

Since agreeing in June 2011 to reopen dozens of cases, out of thousands here in the past several years, the authorities and their civilian counterparts have met monthly to go over leads and any progress made on them. Fifty-two cases have been resolved, with some people found dead and others alive, including 12 this year who were discovered to be in the custody of the authorities, unknown to their families. About 40 people have been arrested on abduction or homicide charges, 16 of them police officers.

“Nuevo León is one of the only states where you see prosecutors actually doing the due diligence of conducting investigations, meeting with families, going to the crime scene, taking common-sense steps to advance the investigation,” said Nik Steinberg, an investigator with Human Rights Watch, which in February published a damning report on the disappeared. “To search for the missing and find the people responsible for taking them, in Mexico where normally investigators don’t do any of that, that is progress.”

Mexico has only a rough sense of how many people have disappeared amid a surge of violence over the past several years that has left tens of thousands dead in battles between drug gangs, organized-crime groups, the police and the military.

Sometimes people vanish en masse; a dozen young people, two of them sons of convicted drug dealers, were kidnapped from a Mexico City bar last month and have not been found.

The federal government’s huge database of missing-person reports was compiled by the previous government, and last month the new interior secretary said the list was being combed through, expressing confidence that many cases were not abductions or the result of foul play, but rather more mundane instances of people leaving home and moving to new places, including the United States.

Still, many others are cold cases, with little forensic evidence to go on, witnesses who refuse to testify and concerted efforts by criminal gangs to do away with the bodies.

Maximina Hernández has been looking for six years for her son, José Lara Hernández, a police officer from a Monterrey suburb who apparently was intercepted on his way home from work and abducted by men in a sport utility vehicle. A witness saw the whole episode but refuses to give details to investigators, out of fear or possible involvement in the crime, she said.

“I don’t want to go against anybody,” she said. “I just want to know where my son is.”

Eduardo Ayala, who helps coordinate the investigations at the Nuevo León prosecutor’s office, acknowledged the challenge of the cases but said the authorities were making headway, in part because the state had fired about two-thirds of its police forces in a mass cleanup of corruption begun in 2011. “There is much left to do, but we are moving ahead,” he said. “The police now go to every corner of the state to investigate where they did not before.”

He said the state, working with the United Nations and experts from other countries, is writing a protocol to standardize how such cases should be handled.

Much of the impetus has come from Consuelo Morales, a Catholic nun who directs a local human rights organization known as Cadhac.

“We have a checklist,” she said. “Did they take a DNA sample, did they get cellphone records, if there was a license plate number of the car that took the victim did they check that?” Ms. Morales said that in many cases, initially, the answers were often no.

Ms. González, after chasing rumors that her daughter had been spotted in several other cities, took her case to Ms. Morales last November, two years after the abduction. They met with prosecutors and tracked down the case file, filling in details left out before and cross-matching it with current investigations.

The police were building a separate case against Jaime Cabello Figueroa, 40, an organized-crime boss who operated in the town where the women were seized. When he was detained in January, the police said he confessed to or was implicated in several killings and disappearances, including the case of Ms. González’s daughter and the cousin.

Ms. González now wants to speak directly to him, so he can see her pain and offer more information on her daughter. She said she had paid a ransom, but then contact with the captors ceased. The police never followed up, making her wonder if some were involved.

“They told me if I walk into that jail and talk to him, the bad guys will have eyes on me and have me followed outside,” she said. “But if they are going to kill me, they are going to kill me. I am fighting for my daughter to be found, wherever she is.”

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« Reply #7088 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:01 AM »

China worsens credit squeeze as manufacturing output declines

Credit default swaps (CDS) on five-year bonds rose by 33 basis points to 133bps, according to financial data firm Markit

Jonathan Kaiman, Beijing
The Guardian, Thursday 20 June 2013 21.18 BST   

The cost of insuring against a default on Chinese sovereign debt soared on Thursday as China's central bank worsened a credit squeeze by refusing to inject cash into the financial system.

Credit default swaps (CDS) on five-year bonds rose by 33 basis points to 133bps, according to financial data firm Markit, as Chinese officials signalled a determination to rein in risky lending practices.

The People's Bank of China increased the pressure on lenders this week by removing Rmb2bn (£211m) from the market amid mounting concerns over the sustainability of a credit boom driven by the Chinese shadow banking system. The announcement had an immediate impact: short-term interest rates spiked and the sale of 10-year government bonds hit its lowest level since last year. Interbank borrowing costs hit their highest level in six years, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong and the Shanghai SE Composite Index both dropped by nearly 3%.

Markit's director of credit research, Gavan Nolan, said the CDS widening was a "huge move". He said: "Only at the peak of the financial crisis have we seen moves of this size." The CDS jump means that the cost of insuring against a default on $10m of Chinese sovereign debt has climbed overnight from $100,000 to $133,000.

The news came amid further bleak economic indicators for the world's second largest economy. The country's manufacturing activity hit a nine-month low in June, down from 49.2 to 48.3, according to HSBC's flash purchasing managers' index, with a reading below 50 indicating contraction. Last year, China's economy slowed to its lowest rate in 13 years, mainly due to a drop in demand for exports from the US and Europe. Analysts say that China may narrowly miss its projected GDP growth target of 7.5% this year, as the country continues its transition from an export-led economy to one based on consumption.

"Nobody is entirely clear why the People's Bank of China is not coming in with liquidity," said Fraser Howie, the Singapore-based managing director of CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. "I see that it's a warning to the banks and the financial sector as a whole that they're trying to clamp down on misuse of capital."

On Wednesday, China's central government urged banks to contain financial risks and do more to support economic reforms. Analysts say that the message, delivered after a meeting led by premier Li Keqiang, imply that the country's credit shortage may last for at least another month.

"After Li's statement yesterday, the market now sees the crunch lasting longer. Until after mid-July, liquidity won't get better significantly," Zhou Hao, a Shanghai-based economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, told Bloomberg.

Zhang Zhiwei, economist at Nomura International in Hong Kong, told AFP: "We believe the government is committed to tolerating short-term pain to achieve its policy objectives - containing financial risks and secure sustainable growth in the long term."


June 22, 2013

Beijing Police Seek ‘Large and Vicious’ Suspects (With Wet Noses)


BEIJING — A boisterous 6-year-old golden retriever with tousled strawberry blond hair and a weakness for boiled carrots, Dou Dou hardly looks like Public Enemy No. 1.

But earlier this month, his unmistakable likeness began appearing on wanted posters across the capital; in recent days, the police have been scouring the gated apartment complex where he lives, hunting for him and other fugitive canines in a campaign that is striking fear into the hearts of otherwise law-abiding Beijingers.

“I feel like we’re living in one of those war movies in which the Communists are searching for the Japanese and threatening to wipe them out,” said the woman who considers herself Dou Dou’s adoptive mother. “How can the government be so cruel?”

Dou Dou’s is among the dozens of dog breeds, including supposed miscreants like collies, Dalmatians and Labradors, that the Beijing government has long banned from much of the city. But over the last 10 days, the prohibition against such “large and vicious dogs,” as they are officially branded, has been enforced with zeal, alarming pet owners who thought the size restrictions had long since lapsed.

“People are in a complete panic,” said Mary Peng, chief executive of the International Center for Veterinary Services, a pet hospital in Beijing. “My phone has not stopped ringing.”

The police, often tipped off by cynophobic neighbors, have been carrying out nighttime raids on homes, and scores of dogs have been wrenched from the grip of their distraught owners, even those that had been legally registered with the authorities.

Although the crackdown has its supporters, it has provoked fury from pet owners, a growing legion that includes young professionals and retirees, many of whom can be seen whiling away their days in Beijing’s hutongs, or alleys, accompanied by their wheezing, overfed companions.

The well-heeled have been bundling off their boxers and oversize poodles to kennels outside the city limits, while others who cannot afford such accommodations are keeping their pets hidden at home. “I’m not about to give up one of my dogs without putting up a fight,” said Huang Feng, 30, a pet-store owner who has a fondness for big, lumbering breeds. “What’s happening is criminal.”

Dog owners have been posting stories of heartbreaking encounters with the police, and a video that went viral last week shows an officer confiscating a small white dog whose owner claimed he left his dog license at home. A cartoon making the rounds on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, portrays a terrified dog chased by three policemen, one of whom is firing what appears to be a cannon. “How about catching thieves instead of little dogs?” reads the caption.

The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau did not respond to an interview request, but in public statements, the police have said they are simply enforcing the longstanding ban on dogs taller than 13.7 inches in the districts that make up the heart of the capital. Officials note that rabies last year killed 13 people in Beijing, more than double the number in 2011. Big dogs, the police contend, are incompatible with city living. “All resistance as well as violence against enforcement will be investigated and dealt with by the police,” they said in a statement.

The authorities appear to be so worried about a backlash that they have been deleting online criticism of the stepped-up enforcement. Last week they detained a woman who described how the police had kicked to death a golden retriever in front of its owner. The police later issued a statement saying the woman admitted to fabricating the account, a claim that has been met with widespread skepticism.

In addition to risking the seizure of offending dogs on the spot, owners can be fined $800, an amount that doubles if the owner is a business. Once confiscated, large dogs cannot be retrieved.

With the exception of high-end pedigrees, animal rights advocates say, many of the seized animals are likely to end up in the hands of dog meat traders.

“We wish the police could find a more humane way to deal with this issue,” said Feng Dongmei, who runs the dog and cat welfare program at Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based organization that wrote the government to plead for a change in the city’s dog regulations.

Other groups are asking the police to clarify what appear to be contradictions in the rules. Can a dog legally registered in rural areas come to Beijing for a checkup at the vet? And why, they ask, have the police in recent years been licensing large-breed dogs across the city and happily collecting the annual $160 registration fee?

For years, animal advocacy groups have been trying to make a simple point to the police: big does not necessarily equal vicious. In fact, many experts note that petite breeds like Chihuahuas, dachshunds and Jack Russell terriers are often nastier than the Afghans and English sheep dogs that are officially banned.

“There is no bona fide scientific correlation between size and behavior,” said Ms. Peng, the veterinarian.

Instead of hunting down large dogs, advocates say, the government should focus on administering rabies vaccines and requiring owners to leash their pets when out for a walk. Encouraging people to spay and neuter their dogs, especially males, they say, can also have a calming effect on canines.

Pet owners are scrambling for ways to keep their dogs out of harm’s way. Some have stashed their beloved animals at rented farms in Hebei, the province that surrounds the capital, while those of modest means have come up with creative ways to evade the dog catchers, some of whom have admitted operating under quotas that require them to bring in 10 dogs each.

One woman described how she sets her alarm for 2 a.m., taking her black Labrador retriever for brief walks when she knows the police are sleeping. Another woman no longer allows her 2-year-old husky to venture outside. Instead, he relieves himself on the balcony of her apartment after dark. “It’s getting disgusting out there,” she said.

Like most, a 25-year-old designer, who asked that only her surname, Gao, be printed, is hoping the take-no-prisoners campaign will blow over. Earlier this month, a squad of men swept through her neighborhood with nets and metal snares. Since then, she has been staying home from work, having been traumatized by the sight of a dozen unlicensed dogs, whimpering and bloodied, being thrown into a large metal cage on the back of a police truck.

“Every time there’s a knock at the door, my heart stops,” she said. “I just don’t understand why people think big dogs are a menace. My dog might be big, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Patrick Zuo and Sue-Lin Wong contributed research.

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« Reply #7089 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:03 AM »

June 23, 2013

Gunmen Kill Climbers in Northern Pakistan


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In one of the most brazen attacks on foreigners in the country in recent years, militants killed nine tourists and one Pakistani on a mountaineering expedition in northern Pakistan on Sunday, according to the country’s interior minister.

The dead included five Ukrainians and three Chinese, officials said. Their Pakistani guide was also killed in the attack. The nationality of the ninth tourist was unclear.

The attack occurred in far-flung Gilgit-Baltistan, a beautiful, mountainous part of northern Pakistan where attacks on foreigners have been rare in recent years, although there has been sporadic sectarian violence. Officials said that the foreigners were part of an expedition that planned to climb Nanga Parbat which, at 26,660 feet, is the world’s ninth highest mountain and Pakistan’s second highest peak.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, which he said was in retaliation for American drone strikes in the tribal belt.

Gunmen wearing police uniforms stormed into their camp around 1 a.m. Sunday morning and opened fire, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told Parliament on Sunday morning. The gunmen were said to have escaped after the attack.

The Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said they belonged to a Taliban affiliate named Jundul Hafsa, and that the attack was a response to an American drone attack that killed the Taliban deputy leader, Wali ur-Rehman, on May 29.

Mr. Ehsan added that the Taliban sought to ‘'awaken'’ international opinion about the drone campaign, although it was unclear how attacks on Chinese and Ukrainian nationals was a response to an American action — except, perhaps, to increase pressure on the newly installed government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In any event, the incident is likely to badly damage what remains of the country’s tourism sector. Until now, mountaineers were considered one of the few groups that remained impervious to the perceived perils of visiting Pakistan.

Drawn by the challenge of climbing some of the world’s most spectacular yet forbidding peaks, their greatest danger stemmed from the mountains themselves. The Pakistan Army has assisted in several daring high-altitude rescues of climbing expeditions that had gotten into trouble.

But Sunday’s attack introduced a new element of risk that is likely to affect such expeditions, at least in the short term.

Mr. Khan, the interior minister, said the government had suspended the police chief and the chief secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan. He portrayed the attack as an attempt to disrupt Pakistan’s relations with other countries.

‘'It is not just an attack on tourists,'’ Mr. Khan said. ‘'It is an attack on Pakistan.'’

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the attack as ‘'a heinous crime'’ that appeared to be ‘'attempting to disrupt the growing relations of Pakistan with China and other friendly countries.'’

A foreign ministry spokesman said that senior officials had called the ambassadors of China and Ukraine to express condolences on behalf of the government.

Mr. Sharif, the prime minister, condemned the attack and said his administration would make every effort to ensure Pakistan is safe for tourists.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Johannesburg, and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud from Islamabad.
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« Reply #7090 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:05 AM »

Turkish police use water cannon to disperse remembrance gathering

Erdoğan blames foreign-led conspiracy for Turkey and Brazil unrest as protests reignite in Taksim Square

Associated Press, Saturday 22 June 2013 23.43 BST   

Turkish police used water cannon to disperse thousands who had gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday to observe a memorial for four people killed during recent anti-government protests. The officers later fired teargas and rubber bullets to scatter demonstrators who regrouped in side streets.

The police move came as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that foreign-led conspirators he alleges are behind the anti-government movement in his country also are fomenting the recent unrest in Brazil.

The protests in Turkey erupted three weeks ago after riot police brutally cracked down on peaceful environmental activists who opposed plans to develop Gezi Park, which lies next to Taksim. The demonstrations soon turned into expressions of discontent with what critics say is Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian and meddlesome ways.

Erdoğan, who took power a decade ago, denies he is authoritarian and, as evidence of his popularity, points to elections in 2011 that returned his party to power with 50% of the vote and gave him a third term in office.

On Saturday, demonstrators converged in Taksim, where they laid down carnations in remembrance of at least three protesters and a police officer killed in the rallies. For about two hours, protesters shouted anti-government slogans and demanded that Erdoğan resign before police warned them to leave the square.

Some demonstrators tried to give carnations to the security forces watching over the square, shouting: "Police, don't betray your people." But after their warnings to disperse were ignored, police pushed back protesters with water cannon, even chasing stragglers down side streets and apparently blocking entrances to the square.

An Associated Press journalist said police drove back protesters into side streets off Taksim – including the main pedestrian shopping street Istiklal – and later fired several rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter the crowds who refused to disperse. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

Last week, police had used water cannon as well as tear gas and rubber bullets to clear Taksim and end an occupation of Gezi Park by activists. But the demonstrations had largely subsided in Istanbul in recent days, with many protesters using a new, more passive approach of airing their grievances: standing motionless.

Erdoğan has faced fierce international criticism for his government's crackdown on the protests, but he has defended his administration's actions as well as the tough police tactics. He also has blamed the protests on unspecified foreign forces, bankers and foreign and Turkish media outlets he says want to harm Turkish interests.

Brazil, meanwhile, has been hit by mass rallies set off this month by a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere. The protests soon moved beyond that issue to tap into widespread frustration in the South American nation over a range of issues, including high taxes and woeful public services.

During an address to tens of thousands of his backers in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun, the latest stop in a series of rallies he has called to shore up his political support, Erdoğan declared that Brazil was the target of the same conspirators he claims are trying to destabilize Turkey.

"The same game is now being played over Brazil," Erdoğan said. "The symbols are the same, the posters are the same, Twitter, Facebook are the same, the international media is the same. They (the protests) are being led from the same centre.

"They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey. It's the same game, the same trap, the same aim."

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« Reply #7091 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:15 AM »

Italy's workforce march on Rome to demand end to high unemployment

Union chiefs address an 100,000-strong crowd, criticising Prime Minster Enrico Letta for a lack of tangible economic policy

Reuters, Saturday 22 June 2013 17.27 BST   

Thousands of workers and unemployed people marched in Rome on Saturday to protest against record unemployment and call on Enrico Letta's two-month-old government to deliver more than empty rhetoric on the issue.

The rally, organised by the country's three largest unions was the first major protest since Letta's broad, left-right coalition took office following an inconclusive election in February.

Italian unemployment rose to 12% in April, the highest level on record, and joblessness among people under 24 is at an all-time high above 40%.

Union chiefs, speaking before a flag-waving crowd estimated at more than 100,000 by the organisers, criticised Letta for what they called a lack of action on an urgent problem.

"We can't accept these continuous promises that aren't translated into decisions that give a change of direction," said Susanna Camusso, leader of the country's largest union CGIL.

Luigi Angeletti, head of the UIL, said the country could not afford the piecemeal approach to policy adopted so far, especially when the ruling coalition is so fragile.

"In a country where the main concern is betting on how long the government will last, the message is that there is no more time for promises and announcements," he said in Piazza San Giovanni, the traditional venue of leftwing protests.

Letta's cabinet is due to unveil a package aimed at tackling youth unemployment next week, but Angeletti said the measures being mooted, such as tax breaks for firms hiring young people, were useless.

Italy's economy has contracted in every quarter since mid-2011 – its longest post-war recession – and companies are steadily shedding staff.

The unionists called on the government to intervene to prevent plans by white-goods manufacturer Indesit to lay off 1,400 workers in one of the most recent labour disputes.

"Indesit isn't in crisis, it just wants to use its profits to make investments in Turkey and Poland," Camusso said.

One marcher, Lorenzo Giuseppe, said he had turned out "to send a message to the government that jobs have to be the top issue on the agenda. If we have work we can move ahead."


June 22, 2013

Slurs Against Italy’s First Black National Official Spur Debate on Racism


ROME — When Cécile Kyenge accepted the post of minister of integration in Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s center-left government, she knew that as Italy’s first black national official she would be breaking new ground. What she may not have expected was the stream of racial slurs that have accompanied her first eight weeks in office.

Death threats have been posted on Facebook, and in one case this month, a City Council member in Padua called for Ms. Kyenge to be raped so that she could “understand” what victims felt. The councilor, Dolores Valandro, who made the comment in a discussion about a woman said to have been raped by an African man, was subsequently expelled from her party, the anti-immigrant Northern League.

The verbal attacks have been worrying enough that Ms. Kyenge, 48, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Italy at 19, now travels with heightened security. She has so far chosen not to respond directly to her detractors but instead has praised the many who have spoken out in her support to underscore the need for Italians to strive for civility.

“It’s up to the institutions, to the population, to give a response to these attacks,” Ms. Kyenge said in a recent interview in her stately office in central Rome. “I don’t respond because the stimulus for discussion emerges from that. You see the best of Italy when there is a response in the public domain.”

If discussion alone were the goal, then Ms. Kyenge’s appointment would have already succeeded. It has opened a national debate on the tension between the increasingly multicultural nature of Italian society and the undercurrent of racism that is increasingly difficult for Italians to ignore.

For the most part, the hate speech directed at Ms. Kyenge has been limited to xenophobic political movements, like the far-right Forza Nuova and the Northern League. But experts who track immigration issues say that more subtle and insidious forms of racism are pervasive in Italy as it struggles to come to terms with its rapidly changing demographics. In 2011, immigrants made up 7.5 percent of Italy’s population, more than double the percentage of just a decade before.

That influx has combined with Italy’s long economic crisis in ways that have frequently confused or obfuscated the causes of the malaise, with immigrants serving as easy scapegoats for the high unemployment numbers.

“Kyenge — the first black person, the first immigrant — became minister in a very difficult, tense moment,” said Ferruccio Pastore, director of the International and European Forum for Migration Research in Turin. “It will be a test of the maturity of the political system, of the civil maturity of Italians. It’s an important test.”

Ms. Kyenge was born in Katanga, a southern province of Congo, one of 38 brothers and sisters born of “numerous mothers,” she said. Her father is a chief, whom she has described as a sort of mayor of his village.

She moved to Italy alone to study medicine, paying her way through medical school by working as a home caregiver, like many of the foreign women who come to Italy to work. She now practices ophthalmology in Modena, a city in the northern Emilia-Romagna region, where she lives with her husband and their two daughters.

For nearly a decade, she toiled in local center-left politics and developed a reputation as an outspoken advocate of immigrant rights. This year, she won a seat in the lower house, becoming only the seventh legislator of non-European heritage. In April, she was appointed to head the Integration Ministry, which oversees immigration issues.

“The fact that there is a new Ministry for Integration,” she told reporters in Rome on Wednesday, is a sign that this government means to “take a different approach” to immigration, “one of reception and openness.”

She has deftly used her post to expand awareness and conversation on the subject.

“No one should be ashamed of who they are,” she said in an interview on the television network La7. “I have never been ashamed of my economic situation or my position, my skin color or my curly hair,” she said. “I am Italian, and I am Congolese.”

When asked in an interview whether she thought Italians were racist, Ms. Kyenge related a personal experience.

“One day I visited a 6-year-old who had drawn a picture of a doctor, a tall white male, while she was waiting to see me,” she recalled. “When we met, her only observation was that she was sorry she had drawn a man. She didn’t say a thing about color.”

“Kids don’t have ideas about race,” she continued. “It means that from the classroom you have to pass the culture that diversity is a resource and there’s no need to fear someone different.”

Until Ms. Kyenge’s appointment, the most notorious occurrences of racism had played out on Italian soccer fields, where xenophobic chants and insults are still common. In May, a match in the top league was briefly suspended for the first time because of racist chants directed at Mario Balotelli, the A.C. Milan forward born in Italy to Ghanaian parents and then adopted by an Italian family.

There may no more revealing mirror of the demographic transformation of the past two decades than the national soccer team, which includes Mr. Balotelli; his Milan teammate Stephan El Shaarawy, who was born near Genoa to an Italian mother and an Egyptian father; and the defender Angelo Ogbonna, whose parents are Nigerian.

It is also a revealing paradox. Like anyone born in Italy of foreign parents, Mr. Balotelli could not obtain Italian citizenship until he became 18. Even then, the process is far from automatic; critics say it is easier for the grandchildren of Italians who may have never set foot in Italy to gain citizenship than it is for someone born here to foreign parents and raised here.

Ms. Kyenge has vocally championed granting citizenship to those born in Italy, which quickly became a hot-button issue for populist lawmakers eager to exploit immigration as a contributing factor in an economic crisis that shows no signs of abating.

“There’s been an attempt to manipulate the issue, raising the specter of hordes of mothers from the third world coming to give birth here — as if citizenship automatically gives access to a radiant future,” said Fabio Marcelli, a legal expert for the National Research Council who compiled a recent book on citizenship rights. Noting Italy’s staggering youth unemployment rate — 40 percent of Italians under 25 are now jobless — he added, “I think young Italians can show how ridiculous an idea this is.”

Currently, there are nearly 30 different bills on citizenship pending in Parliament, including a petition backed by 220,000 signatures that calls for citizenship to be conferred on anyone born in Italy. An interparliamentary commission has been set up to analyze the proposals and to try to negotiate a draft that will receive broad support when it comes to a vote.

Last weekend, the government passed a measure to simplify the citizenship procedures for people born in Italy to foreign parents when they become of legal age. There is still a long way to go, Ms. Kyenge says.

Italy, she said, is already a multicultural society, “a mix of many cultures and people from many different countries,” she said. “It’s time to reflect on citizenship, to bring forward the discussion because the country has changed, and my role is to speak about that.”


June 23, 2013

Berlusconi Faces Verdict in Underage Sex Trial


ROME — A Milan court will decide on Monday whether Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with an underage prostitute and abused his powers to cover it up, with the former Italian prime minister facing a jail sentence of up to six years.

The verdict, which could have major political repercussions, closes a two-year trial which has captivated attention on billionaire Berlusconi's alleged "bunga bunga" sex parties in his private villa outside Milan while he was premier in 2010.

If the 76-year-old is found guilty it could weaken Prime Minister Enrico Letta's fragile, left-right coalition government which depends on the centre-right leader's support for its survival.

Several members of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party have urged him to withdraw his support and he may be more tempted to do so if he decides his backing for Letta is giving him no legal protection.

"He is expecting it to go against him, he has been telling everyone that the judges are prejudiced," said James Walston, politics professor at the American University of Rome.

Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with former nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, alias "Ruby the Heartstealer", when she was under 18, and of abuse of office to get her released from police custody on a separate occasion.

He denies all wrongdoing and says he is being persecuted by left-wing prosecutors. He says the alleged sex parties were elegant dinners where the female guests performed "burlesque" shows. El Mahroug denies having sex with Berlusconi.

Prosecutors say Berlusconi should serve one year in jail for paying for sex with a minor and should be given five years' imprisonment and a life ban from holding public office for the abuse of office charge, which they consider more serious.

In May 2010 the then prime minister called a Milan police station to instruct officials to release El Mahroug, who was being held on suspicion of stealing a bracelet.

A Brazilian prostitute who lived with El Mahroug had called the premier on his mobile phone to tell him she had been arrested.


Berlusconi's lawyers say he made the call to avoid a diplomatic incident because he believed that El Mahroug, who is actually Moroccan, was the grand-daughter of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The prosecution says he was anxious to cover up the relations he had with her at his sex parties.

The media tycoon has recently used his own television stations to promote his version of events, with his flagship Canale 5 channel broadcasting a prime-time documentary on the so-called "Ruby Trial".

Whatever the verdict on Monday, Berlusconi will not go to jail before he has exhausted his right to two appeals under the Italian legal system, which could take years.

The political consequences, however, could come sooner. Letta, from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), is likely to be rooting for a not-guilty verdict in the interests of his fledgling government's stability.

The case is only part of Berlusconi's legal problems. Last month an appeals court upheld a four-year jail sentence against him for orchestrating a tax fraud scheme connected with his business dealings - leaving him just one more appeal, at the supreme court, which could come within a year.

Despite Berlusconi's professions of loyalty to Letta, many analysts believe he will eventually prefer to gamble on fresh elections, in which he could potentially become prime minister once again, rather than risk a definitive sentence.

Even if Berlusconi opts to keep backing the government, a guilty verdict would make parts of the PD highly uneasy and increase the coalition's instability, said Giovanni Orsina, professor of contemporary history at Rome's Luiss University.

"The PD would be in the same majority with a person who has been condemned in the first degree for juvenile prostitution which is not a light issue," he said. "It would add up to a difficult situation."

(Editing by Pravin Char)

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« Reply #7092 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:18 AM »

Pig Putin's Russia .....

June 22, 2013

Human Rights Advocate Says He Was Beaten as Russian Officers Watched


MOSCOW — A prominent Russian human rights advocate said he was kicked and beaten during a forcible eviction before dawn on Saturday that came amid mounting pressure on civil society groups that publicly criticize the government.

The activist, Lev A. Ponomaryov, 71, said he was dragged across the floor and kicked by men in civilian clothing while riot police officers watched. He said paramedics found “more than a dozen bruises, scratches and other marks” when he received first aid afterward.

The authorities said the lease for Mr. Ponomaryov’s organization, For Human Rights, whose building is owned by the city government, expired in February and was terminated last month.

A Moscow police spokesman said Saturday that the mayor’s office had ordered the eviction. Police officers raided the office late Friday, but employees refused to leave. The spokesman said that the police “did not take any forcible measures,” and that the eviction was carried out by a private security company.

Late Saturday, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, a billionaire and former presidential candidate, offered to pay the organization’s rent, publishing a statement on Facebook that said, “I personally know Lev Ponomaryov and sincerely value the work that he does.

“Considering the ‘culture’ of the state’s attitude toward its citizens, something similar could happen to anyone in our homeland,” he wrote.

Mr. Ponomaryov, a former member of Parliament whose activism dates to the Soviet period, has been vocally defiant in recent months as President Vladimir V. Putin has taken steps to uproot organizations like For Human Rights that receive financial support from the West. Mr. Putin has said Western governments tried to stir up antigovernment protests with the help of Russian nonprofit groups.

Mr. Ponomaryov said he believed that the raid had been approved by Putin administration officials. He said he had never received official notice that his lease was to be terminated and had expected Moscow to extend it, as in previous years.

“I think there is a purge going on, Putin has untied his hands, and there is no reaction at all from the West to the fact that he is behaving this way,” said Mr. Ponomaryov, adding that the use of force in the raid was unusual because it occurred in public.

“Usually, if they beat us, it happens inside, like in the back of a paddy wagon,” he said. “It is secret — no one knows, no one sees. And here, there were 20 people standing in the room. These people beat me publicly, and they were employees of the mayor’s office.”

The United States ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, criticized the eviction in a Twitter comment, calling it “another case of intimidation of civil society.” Freedom House, a democracy watchdog organization, released a statement describing the raid’s “thuggish tactics.” It said, “People were thrown to the ground and violently beaten” but the police refused to intervene.

Russia’s human rights commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, told Interfax that he was “saddened and alarmed” by the episode, and that he was denied access to the building on the night of the raid, which he called “a gross violation of federal constitutional law.”

“Officials from the Moscow administration, the Interior Ministry and apparently some other organizations were trying to settle a dispute between the two bodies unilaterally, without judicial bodies, and therefore arbitrarily,” Mr. Lukin said. The Kremlin’s Human Rights Council has called a special meeting next week to discuss the episode.

Several dozen journalists and activists picketed during the day, displaying signs that read, “We will not give up” and “Riot police are morons.”

Mr. Ponomaryov was the victim of a beating in 2009, when a group of men ambushed him outside his home.

Anna Tikhomirova contributed reporting.

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« Reply #7093 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:21 AM »

June 22, 2013

Son and Heir? In Britain, Daughters Cry No Fair


LONDON — Viewers of “Downton Abbey” spotted the family-destroying potential of primogeniture in the first episode, when the Titanic sank and Lord Grantham, father of three daughters, was left with no obvious heir.

Luckily, the distant cousin who emerged as the next in line proved willing to ditch his dreary day job, marry one of the daughters and cleverly produce a son before his own abrupt demise last season.

But what of those poor, no-prospects daughters, forced to look alluring and wait around for suitable husbands?

The practice of primogeniture — in which titles and estates pass only to male heirs, even negligibly related ones excavated from other continents — may seem as outrageous and antediluvian as denying women the vote, but it is still the law of the land for the aristocracy in Britain.

“My father always said, ‘Remember to wear a safety belt, because your face is your fortune,’ ” said Liza Campbell, a daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor (yes, there is one in real life, not just in “Macbeth”), and now, after her father’s death, sister of the 26th.

Also known as the Earl of Cawdor, the current thane, Colin, is the middle child among five children. But he is the oldest boy, and was always considered the most important, for title-continuity purposes. “I love my brother, but it’s a peculiar situation,” said Ms. Campbell, 53, an artist and writer who grew up on the family’s Scottish estate — 50,000 acres, plus castle — but now lives in London. “There’s one chosen one in the family, and everyone else is superfluous to requirements.”

Until recently there has been little appetite to change the law, a reflection in part of Britain’s inability to decide, finally, whether its aristocracy is an essential part of its identity, a quaint vestige of the past or a bit of both.

“The posh aspect of it blinds people to what is essentially sexism in a privileged minority, where girls are born less than boys,” Ms. Campbell said.

But the issue has been percolating through Parliament since the recent passage of a law allowing the monarchy to be passed on to the monarch’s firstborn child, regardless of sex (this means that William and Kate’s impending baby will become the third in line to the throne, whether it is a boy or a girl). New legislative proposals would allow peerages — basically, inherited titles and the estates that can come with them — to be passed on this way, too, to the oldest child rather than the oldest son.

“We seem to have not got rid of titles, but I think since we have them, I would like to see them gender-blind,” said the bill’s sponsor in the House of Lords, Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall, who because of a historical quirk is one of the few hereditary peers whose titles can pass to girls as well as boys.

The House of Commons sponsor, Mary Macleod, a Conservative, pointed out that of 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords, just two are women. “It only affects a few people, but it’s symbolic,” she said of the proposal. “It’s saying that right now, do we think that men and women are equal?”

The current rules have created all manner of family trouble.

“When we were growing up, it was always, ‘When your brother lives here. ...’ ” said an aristocratic woman who grew up on a grand estate she loved, only to have her younger brother inherit it when their father died. The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not want to stir up family grievances, said that no one ever questioned the system.

“Even though my father had witnessed his mother’s near-collapse at not inheriting the house she grew up in, he did not adjust his own behavior towards his daughter,” said the woman, now in her late 50s. “Though I loved him and he loved me, the rule of inheritance was as strong for him as the rule that you do not have children out of wedlock.”

She is lucky: her brother lets her and her children visit the house whenever they want. Some sisters are not so fortunate. The children of the late Lord Lambton, for instance, have been locked in a nasty dispute over his multimillion-pound estate, which when he died in 2006 passed down entirely to his youngest child and only son, Ned.

Three of his five daughters have sued their brother, claiming that since Lord Lambton spent his last decades in his villa in Italy, his estate should be subject to Italian law, which does not have primogeniture. They are asking for $1.5 million apiece. The brother — whose arrival in the family, a much-wanted son after five daughters, was celebrated with an ox-roasting and a bonfire — has countersued in English court.

Citing the legal battles, the sisters did not want to comment. But Peregrine Worsthorne, a prominent writer and political commentator who is married to Lucinda Lambton, one of the daughters, said that the system had wreaked havoc on the family.

“It’s normal if everything is left to the eldest son that he will take some consideration of his siblings,” Mr. Worsthorne said. “They’re not being greedy. He is a very rich man.”

The situation is distressing in a different way for the Earl and Countess of Clancarty, who have an 8-year-old daughter but no one to take over the family title, hundreds of years old.

“There’s a feeling of the line stopping with you after all these centuries,” the countess said. “The title and any family memorabilia would go to someone we don’t even know. If they even exist, they would probably be in Australia.”

Interestingly, no one is campaigning to take the matter even further by, say, requiring that estates be divided among all the children and not left to just one. The system here has kept intact for centuries many of Britain’s grandest estates, including Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke of Marlborough; Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire; and Highclere Castle, home to the Earl of Carnarvon (and to Lord Grantham, in TV world).

In Europe, though, the opposite has happened: Estates have been broken up and fortunes diluted because of laws meant to make it impossible to disinherit even unsatisfactory children. These “forced heirship” laws require that a portion of an estate must be divided among the deceased’s children and spouse, and they apply in Scotland as well as much of the Continent, said Roderick Paisley, the professor of Scottish law at the University of Aberdeen.

“In Scotland, you have to make provisions for your children, and in England, you don’t have to leave them a bean,” Professor Paisley said. Speaking of the nobility in countries that do not have monarchs, he added, “Most European countries have abolished any notion of nobility, so the inheritance of the title is not done by any law recognized by the state. It might as well be a number plate on your car — that’s how most European states view these titles.”

In Britain, Lady Clancarty and others have started an online petition urging Parliament to enact the proposals and end sex discrimination among hereditary peers. Recently, dozens of people, including peers and wives and daughters of peers, signed a supportive letter in The Telegraph. But many others refused.

“Plenty of people are really worried,” Lady Clancarty said. “They don’t want to sign because they are so frightened of hurting their families. No one wants to fall out with a brother or upset a father or mother. There’s a code of omertà. We’re saying it’s O.K. to speak up.”

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« Reply #7094 on: Jun 23, 2013, 07:24 AM »

Al-Qaida linked operatives arrested in Spain, says minister

Eight men who formed part of recruitment network to send fighters to Syria held after raid, says interior secretary

Agencies, Saturday 22 June 2013 16.18 BST   

Spanish police have arrested eight men who formed part of a terrorist recruitment network that sent 50 men to carry out attacks for al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria, the interior minister said on Saturday.

Jorge Fernández Diaz said the arrests in the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta had disbanded and "neutralised" the network.

Fernández Diaz said those who went to Syria had fought against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and some had taken part in suicide bombings. He said 12 of the 50 militants who went to Syria had been recruited in Ceuta and the rest in Morocco, adding that some had been minors.

"We are not talking of combatants, soldiers, in the war in Syria, but of the capture of jihadists whose sole end was to carry out terrorist attacks," he said.

He said that recruits were given training and finance by the network, which had two bases, one in Ceuta and the other in Morocco.

Once trained to a point where they would be able to carry out terrorist attacks, the recruits were taken to Turkey, where they were transported to the border with Syria before being "introduced to the conflict zones."

He said police had been able to determine that the network's recruits had gone on to perpetrate terror attacks as part of the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra organisation and also the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni extremist group.

Fernández Diaz said that when members who had been involved in terror attacks in Syria returned to Europe they remained a threat to security, some as potential "lone wolf" terrorist who needed to be arrested.

He said these types of militants were highly radicalised and trained to continue with the jihad or holy war on an individual scale that was "a real and serious threat to our security."

The identities of those arrested were not revealed.

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