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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1082014 times)
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« Reply #7470 on: Jul 12, 2013, 06:32 AM »

'Dead' man elected mayor of Mexican village

Lenin Carballido wins election three years after faked death certificate was used to convince police to drop arrest warrant

Associated Press in Mexico City, Friday 12 July 2013 11.08 BST   

Prosecutors are investigating how a man was elected mayor of a village in southern Mexico three years after he was certified dead.

Authorities say relatives of Lenin Carballido used a death certificate showing that he died of a diabetic coma in 2010 to convince police to drop an arrest warrant against him for allegedly participating in a 2004 gang rape.

A living Carballido later ran in, and narrowly won, Sunday's election in San Agustín Amatengo in Oaxaca state. In his campaign, he posted photos of himself all around the village of 1,400 residents, with slogans such as: "Now is the time," and: "United for development."

But shortly after his victory, the death certificate surfaced with his full name of Leninguer Carballido.

Officials in Oaxaca said on Thursday that the certificate had been drawn up and signed by a public registry official, but that the information had been faked.

Carballido's party, the leftist Democratic Revolution party, known as the PRD, said it had been fooled by the candidate.

"When he registered as a candidate, he presented all his paperwork, his birth certificate, a letter stating he had no criminal record," said Rey Morales, the state leader of the PRD. "He fooled the prosecutors' office, he fooled the office of records, he fooled electoral officials."

"If all this is true, he cannot take office as mayor," said Morales.

Carballido did not answer his phone on Thursday.

Haydee Reyes Soto, the director of the Oaxaca public records office, said the registry official who drew up the fake death certificate had used a real official form, signed it and stamped it with an official seal, and even listed it under a file number used to record a real death.

"The form is real. What is false is the information," Reyes Soto said, adding that "the decision has already been made to fire" the official, Abel de la Rosa Santos, who is also being questioned by prosecutors.

According to records, a woman accused Carballido and four other men of having raped her in Oaxaca city in 2004.

Mayra Ricárdez, spokeswoman for the Oaxaca state prosecutors' office, said the arrest warrant against Carballido was "never served, because his family showed officers a false death certificate".

Ricárdez said the statute of limitations had not run out on the crime.

"The prosecutors' office is taking all the legal steps necessary to revive the case and serve the arrest warrant that is still pending," she said.

It seems unlikely that Carballido will be able to take office in San Agustín Amatengo, an impoverished village near the city of Oaxaca where many residents left in the 2000s to seek work in the United States and elsewhere.

One San Agustín Amatengo official, who said he could not speak on the record about a criminal case, said residents had not been aware of the candidate's past; the rape did not take place in the village.

"All of this came out after the elections were over," the official said.

On Thursday, the Oaxaca state prosecutors' office issued a statement saying it would do everything it could to put him in jail, even if he is formally sworn in as mayor, and was considering whether he might also face charges on election-law violations.

"The state attorney general's office will investigate and bring charges, even if the suspect is recognised by electoral authorities as a municipal authority," the office said, referring to him by his full name, Leninguer Raymundo Carballido Morales. He ran for office simply as "Lenin Carballido".

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« Reply #7471 on: Jul 12, 2013, 06:34 AM »

South American leaders to discuss U.S. spying

By David Ferguson
Friday, July 12, 2013 7:43 EDT

Leaders of a South American trade bloc that includes Brazil and Venezuela meet Friday for a summit that will focus on allegations of US spying that have outraged US allies and rivals alike.

The group of Mercosur nations, which also includes Argentina and Uruguay, was due to discuss the possibility of readmitting suspended member Paraguay into the fold during talks in Montevideo.

But the region has been consumed by reports in Brazilian daily O Globo that the US National Security Agency conducted electronic espionage in several Latin American nations, notably allies Mexico, Brazil and Colombia as well as leftist rival Venezuela.

Foreign ministers met Thursday to prepare the summit that will bring together Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Uruguayan host Jose Mujica.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua told AFP that his counterparts agreed that Mercosur should “condemn the surveillance and global control being developed by the US government, which violates the privacy of citizens and sovereignty of nations.”

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said the South American nations could take “action within certain legal frameworks” before “multilateral” organizations, but he did not give more details.

The case of US fugitive Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor whose leaks have rocked the US government, will also be discussed amid open political asylum offers from Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Jaua told AFP that Snowden has yet to respond to his country’s asylum offer and that no contact has been made with the 30-year-old computer whiz, who has been stranded and out of sight in a Moscow airport for almost three weeks.

Bolivian President Evo Morales was also invited to the summit, and Jaua said his counterparts would likely issue a stern condemnation after several European nations were accused of denying him acess to their airspace last week as he flew home from Russia.

Morales has accused France, Italy, Spain and Portugal of blocking their airspace over suspicions that Snowden was hiding in his jet, forcing him to make an unscheduled layover in Vienna that he branded a “13-hour kidnapping.”

Turning to their original agenda, the leaders will seek common ground to reinstate Paraguay, which was suspended after then president Fernando Lugo was impeached by his Congress and removed from office last year.

Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Almagro said there is “more willingness from every Mercosur member that this will happen on August 15,” when Paraguayan president-elect Horacio Cartes takes office.

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« Reply #7472 on: Jul 12, 2013, 06:36 AM »

Hubble telescope discovers alien 'deep blue' planet

The ageing space telescope has been used to identify the true colour of a planet beyond our solar system for the first time

Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 12 July 2013   

The heavens are home to an alien world that shines a deep cobalt blue in a solar system far, far away from our own.

Astronomers used the ageing Hubble space telescope to determine the true colour of the distant world, the first time such a feat has been achieved for a planet that circles a star other than the sun.

Unlike the pale blue dot that harbours all known life in the cosmos, the "deep blue dot" is an inhospitable gas giant that lies 63 light years from Earth. On HD189733b, as the planet is named, the temperature soars to 1,000C and glassy hail whips through the air on hypersonic winds.

Though the planet is hostile to life as we know it, the same technique could be used to spot potentially habitable worlds, through changes in cloud cover and other features.

Frederic Pont at Exeter University observed the planet before, during, and after it passed behind its star. When the planet was on either side, the telescope collected light from the star along with light reflected from the planet's surface. But as the planet moved behind the star, the light it reflected was blocked out.

Using an instrument onboard the telescope called an imaging spectrograph, Pont noticed that blue light dimmed sharply as the planet passed behind its star, but brightened again when it emerged on the other side. "As far as I am aware, nobody has had actual results on the colour of an exoplanet," Pont said. "Now we can say that this planet is blue."

The deep cobalt colouration is thought to come from a similar process to that which makes Earth look blue from space, namely the scattering of blue light in the atmosphere. On the planet Pont observed, the scattering is probably due to a fine mist of silicate particles that are blown around by 7,000kph winds.

With more advanced technology, the colour of a planet could help astronomers work out which ones might be habitable. Most planets in our solar system are either entirely covered by cloud, or have no clouds at all. Earth is unusual in that roughly half of its surface is obscured by cloud, a product of the water cycle that is essential for life.

"If you could see the colour of an exoplanet change over time it would be very revealing. At first, the cloud cover would be the thing to go for," Pont said.

While future instruments could be sensitive enough to observe the changing hues of alien worlds, there may be no suitable telescopes in space to put them on. The Hubble observatory is more than 20 years old and was last repaired by a dedicated space shuttle mission in 2009. Without Hubble, there are no other space telescopes that could look at planets in visible wavelengths. Hubble's replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, will pick up infra-red light only.

"Most colleagues in the field focussing on habitability concentrate on the detection of molecules in the infra-red, like water, carbon monoxide and methane," Pont said. "That's useful information of course, but my opinion is that we might be giving too much weight to this compared to visible colour, which gives a different kind of information, but maybe just as crucial to understand the general state of an Earth-like planet."

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« Reply #7473 on: Jul 12, 2013, 06:38 AM »

The Christian Science Monitor

NASA's IBEX maps solar system's tail for the first time

By Elizabeth Barber, Contributor / July 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm EDT

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, has for the first time mapped the tail – or, tails – that stream out behind our solar system as it moves through the galaxy.

Researchers have for years theorized that our solar system should have a tail, just as a comet hurdling through Earth’s atmosphere would have particles streaming out behind it. Telescopes have also spotted tails protruding from other stars, some of them several light-years in length. But this is the first data to confirm the assumption about our own sun, offering a broad portrait of our solar system.

“For the first time ever, humanity has an image of this protective bubble that surrounds the solar system,” said David McComas, lead author on the paper and principal investigator for IBEX at Southwest Research Institute, in a phone interview. “Ibex has allowed us to fill in the hole in that image and measure one of the heliosphere’s biggest features, the heliotail.”

The heliosphere is a magnetic region extending about 8 billion miles from the sun to the heliopause, the outermost boundary of our solar system. It is inflated with what is known as the solar wind: fast and charged particles blowing out at millions of miles per hour from the sun in all directions, carrying with them the sun’s magnetic field. Those particles then collide with neutral atoms entering the solar system from elsewhere in the galaxy and in that collision exchange an electron. That creates a fast neutral atom and a slow-moving particle.

Some of those neutral atoms, released from the sun’s magnetic field, then ricochet back in a straight line toward IBEX, which is in orbit around Earth. Researchers use the received data to put together a picture of the activity at the solar system’s boundary, mapping the charged particles that are still held in the magnetic field and that trail out like a tail behind the solar system. That trail is a result of the relative motion between the heliosphere and the local interstellar medium as they travel through the galaxy.

The mapping technique is known as energetic neutral atom imaging and differs from most space imaging, which usually depends on light.

The first IBEX images, released in 2009, initially pictured a streamer-like band of high energetic neutral atom emissions circling the upwind side of the solar system. But subsequent images revealed much more to the picture, imaging four different lobes all making up the tail. The results are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

“An earlier analysis made the tail looked much smaller. We’ve realized that the original tail was just a fraction of a much larger structure,” said Dr. McComas.

The researchers are using seafaring terms to distinguish the lobes, only two of which are pictured in the visualization. One lobe is called the port and the other the starboard. In that analogy, the heliosphere is referred to as the vessel, ferrying the solar system through the galaxy.

To visualize the tail, picture a globe rendered two dimensionally. The side of the globe we are looking at is the downwind side. The opposite side is the upwind side. It is unknown exactly how much distance is between the two - in other words, how long the tail is.

"The tail's end is somewhat ambiguous," said Eric Christian, IBEX mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, noting that is estimated to be about 100 billion miles long.

The port side of our 2-dimensional globe, some 10 billion miles wide, is to the east, and the starboard side is to the west. The low-latitudes of the globe are filled with slow moving particles, and the fast moving particles are at the northern and southern most end of the visualization. That's because fast-moving particles tend to originate from the sun's poles.

The globe, not quite symmetrical, is tilted to put the port side somewhat higher than the starboard side. That comes from the heliosphere’s interaction with the interstellar magnetic fields as it moves – the magnetic field exerts a force on the tail, flattening it and somewhat twisting it.

Dr. Christian told the Monitor that IBEX researchers are next looking to understand how time influences the heliotail, since the sun’s behavior changes in an 11 year cycle. The data received is from the sun during its quiet phase, and the particles blown out during the sun's current active phase will take some 3-5 years to reach IBEX, he said.

Much is unknown about the outer edge of our solar system. Researchers are still waiting for Voyager 1, launched some 35 years ago and now more than 11 billion miles afield from the sun, to leave the heliosphere for interstellar space.

In June, the spacecraft identified a previously unknown space region called the magnetic highway, or the depletion region. Scientists are hoping – but still unsure – that this is the region directly abutting the heliopause and is the final area through which Voyager 1 must pass to exit the solar system.

"We're still understanding our own solar system," said Dr. Christian. "These thing are close, on relative scale, but we don’t know anything about them."

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« Reply #7474 on: Jul 12, 2013, 06:44 AM »

In the USA...

Tempers flare as Republicans boo Rep. Corrine Brown for shaming them over food stamp cuts

By David Edwards
Thursday, July 11, 2013 16:12 EDT

Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday threatened to strike a Democratic representative’s words from the record and then booed her after she shamed them for cutting food stamp funding from the farm bill.

“The Bible says, to whom much is given, much is required,” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) observed during debate over whether funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be stripped from the farm bill. “And this is a sad day in the House of Representatives. Shame on the Republicans! Shame on the House of Representatives!”

After an objection from Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), Speaker pro tempore Kevin Yoder (R-KS) ordered Brown to “suspend” and “be seated.”

“Excuse me,” Brown replied, glaring at Yoder. “What did I say that was incorrect?”

In a point of parliamentary inquiry, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) pointed out that Republican members of Congress had often called out President Barack Obama and even said, “Nancy Pelosi’s a train wreck.”

“And their words have not been taken down and they’ve not been seated,” Edwards insisted. “Is it not in order for the gentle lady to be recognized and to be able to speak on this issue, merely saying ‘Republicans’?”

Yoder then gaveled for Edwards to “suspend” and noted that Woodall had demanded that Brown’s words be taken down.

After about five minutes of discussion, Yoder returned to the podium to say that Woodall had decided to withdraw his objection and Brown was allowed to continue.

“This is a sad day in the House of Representatives, and to separate the farm bill from the elderly, from the children, this is a shame!” Brown exclaimed. “Mitt Romney was right. You all do not care about the 47 percent!”


Gohmert repeatedly shouts ‘Objection!’ to silence claims food stamp cuts hurt hungry families

By David Edwards
Thursday, July 11, 2013 14:28 EDT

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Thursday objected over and over again in order to keep statements out of the congressional record that accused Republicans of hurting working families by taking food stamps out of the farm bill.

Before a vote could be taken on the Republican farm bill that drops the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — or food stamps — Democrats attempted to voice their unhappiness by inserting statements into the record.

“Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in strong opposition to the farm bill rule and the underlying bill because it will increase hunger in America,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said.

Although requests to “revise and extend” remarks are routine, Gohmert immediate shouted, “Objection!”

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-IL) next asked permission to “revise and extend” his remarks in opposition to the farm bill “because it takes food nutrition away from working families.”

“Objection!” Gohmert yelled.

“What he is doing is he is not even giving members on our side the courtesy inserting their statement in the record?” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) asked.

As several more Democratic representatives attempted to insert remarks that the bill “hurts the working poor” and “increases hunger and poverty,” Gohmert repeatedly objected.

“I think it is extremely unfortunate that that members on the other side of the aisle would deny members on this side of the aisle the ability to insert written materials in the record,” McGovern noted. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen such uncourteous gesture.”

“Will the gentleman yield?” Gohmert asked, apparently wanting time to explain his objections.

“I will not yield,” McGovern replied.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any farm bill which does not include funding for the food stamp program.


Can the Democrats really win back the House in the 2014 midterms?

By Harry Enten, The Guardian
Thursday, July 11, 2013 20:06 EDT

The word “spin” can mean many things. One definition is to present information in such a fashion that it makes people see something that isn’t really there. A classic example would be a memo from the Democratic firm Democracy Corps on a recent poll they conducted in “competitive House districts” for the 2014 midterm elections.

The memo’s authors want readers to believe that the Democrats have a chance to win back House of Representatives in the midterms based on Democracy Corps data. History and their own polling data, in fact, suggest the very opposite.

The president’s party rarely picks up seats during midterm elections. It has occurred only three times since the American civil war: 1934, 1998, and 2002. All three featured presidents who were very popular. President Clinton in 1998 and President Bush in 2002 had approval ratings into the 60s in most surveys. Despite that high approval, their parties picked up only five and eight seats respectively. The Democrats need to pick up 17 to gain control of the House in 2014. The president’s party has not picked up more than nine seats in a midterm since 1865.

In order for that to occur, we would almost certainly need to see an extremely popular president. We don’t.

Among registered voters, President Obama’s approval rating is in the mid 40s. No poll since the middle of May has had President Obama’s approval rating above his disapproval rating among registered voters. The best estimate I have is that President Obama has somewhere in the neighborhood of a -4pt approval among registered voters. It’s probably slightly worse among those who turn out to vote in midterm elections.

Indeed, the Democracy Corps survey shows that President Obama’s approval rating in the swing districts is a measly 44%. His net approval among these 2014 likely voters is -8pt. This is despite the respondents saying that they voted for President Obama by a 3 pt margin in 2012. It’s very difficult to imagine that Democrats can win back many seats when Obama is this disliked in these districts. In the last two midterms, the percentage of the vote won by the president’s party was pretty much equal to the percentage who approved of the president’s job performance.

You might say that the Republican brand is so toxic that House Democrats can overcome a relatively unpopular president. The Democracy Corp poll demonstrates the opposite. The tested Republican candidate in the poll has a 2pt advantage over the Democratic candidate. That’s little changed over the 3pt margin by which respondents said they voted for Republicans in 2012. Such a difference is worth a few seats at most, but certainly not 17.

A closer look illustrates more problems for a possible Democratic takeover. In the seats that Democracy Corps identifies as the most vulnerable, Republican candidates are 1pt ahead. In this same category at this point in the 2012 cycle, Republican candidates were actually down 1pt. A few months before the 2012 election, Republicans were down 6pt in this category.

So, the most vulnerable Republican candidates are actually in a stronger position now than they were for the 2012 election. When Republicans were far more at risk in 2012, they lost only 11 seats in this category and eight overall.

The reason Republicans lost fewer seats overall than just the Republican vulnerable category is because it isn’t just Republicans who are vulnerable. The poll also asked 500 respondents in Democratic districts how they planned to vote. Democrats lead in these districts by 2pt. This certainly does not spell a Republican wave, but it’s worse than the 4pt edge these same respondents said they gave to Democrats in the 2012 elections. This could lead to a few Democratic seats actually falling to the Republicans.

The overall picture the ballot test points to, at this point, is a status quo election. That matches the Washington expert ratings of the Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report – both of which have a near equal number of Democratic and Republican seats up for grabs, with, in fact, a few more Democratic-held seats in play.

Could the political environment change to favor Democrats? It can, but I doubt that would be enough. Joseph Bafumi, Bob Erikson, and Chris Wlezien have shown that the president’s party position in the ballot test deteriorates as you move closer to the actual date of the midterm election. It’s why the Democrats lost all of their Democracy Corp-designated most vulnerable seats in 2010, even though they had a 4pt lead in them at this point in the cycle.

Given the president’s approval rating at this point, it’s more likely for the Democrats to lose ground than gain it. Only an unlikely 15pt improvement in Obama’s approval might conceivably reverse it.

The truth is that Democrats face a very uphill battle to take over in the House of Representatives. The actual data from Democracy Corps, whose polling I trust, proves Democrats are quite unlikely to take back the House. No amount of spin will change that fact. © Guardian News and Media 2013

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« Reply #7475 on: Jul 12, 2013, 09:30 AM »

Snowden meets with rights groups, seeks temporary asylum in Russia

By Phil Black. Laura Smith-Spark and Alla Eshchenko, CNN
July 12, 2013 -- Updated 1506 GMT (2306 HKT) 

Moscow (CNN) -- American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden met with human rights activists and lawyers Friday in a transit zone of a Russian airport, in his first public appearance since he left Hong Kong last month.

He has asked rights groups to lobby the Russian government to grant him temporary asylum, Russian Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina said. Snowden also said he wants to move to Latin America once he is able to do so, she said.

A photograph provided by a Russian Human Rights Watch staffer at the meeting shows him sitting behind a desk, looking much as he did when last photographed.

The former National Security Agency contractor is believed to have been holed up in a transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport since leaving Hong Kong for Russia on June 23.

The meeting with Snowden began at around 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).

A CNN team at the airport saw about half a dozen people -- including Russia's human rights ombudsman and representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Russian human rights groups -- enter a door marked "Private" in Terminal E. Police and security officers then kept the media at a distance.

The many mysteries of Snowden's transit zone

Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International's Moscow office, who was at the meeting, said he was pleased to voice the organization's support for Snowden in person.

"We will continue to pressure governments to ensure his rights are respected -- this includes the unassailable right to claim asylum wherever he may choose," he said in a statement.

"What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified."

Snowden exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programs, and states that try to prevent him from revealing such unlawful behavior "are flouting international law," Nikitin said.

"Instead of addressing or even owning up to these blatant breaches, the U.S. government is more intent on persecuting him. Attempts to pressure governments to block his efforts to seek asylum are deplorable," he said.

Russian asylum conditions?

WikiLeaks said in a post on Twitter that it would release Snowden's statement to human rights groups later Friday.

The group, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website, has been aiding Snowden in his bids for asylum.

Snowden's desire to be granted temporary asylum in Russia may represent something of a turnaround.

He last week reportedly withdrew his asylum request with Russian authorities after President Vladimir Putin said he would have to "stop his work aimed at harming our American partners" if he wanted to stay in the country.

"Snowden did voice a request to remain in Russia," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on July 2, according to the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

"Then, yesterday, hearing President Putin outline Russia's position regarding the conditions under which he could do this, he withdrew his request for permission to stay in Russia."

It's not clear if a request for temporary asylum would entail different conditions.

Snowden has been technically a free man while in Moscow but has been unable to travel after U.S. authorities revoked his passport when he was charged with espionage.

U.S. accused of 'unlawful campaign'

A letter purportedly e-mailed by Snowden that invited human rights groups and others to the meeting blasted the United States for "threatening behavior" and carrying out illegal actions against him.

In the letter, posted on Lokshina's Facebook page, the writer praises the "brave countries" that have offered him support, in the face of what he describes as "an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum."

He also accuses the United States of "threatening behavior" on an unprecedented scale, citing the temporary grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane last week. The jet, which had left Moscow, was forced to land in Austria after other European countries allegedly closed their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was aboard.

"Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President's plane to effect a search for a political refugee," the letter says.

The writer invited those addressed to join him at Sheremetyevo airport "for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation."

They were instructed to gather in the arrival hall at Terminal F, where an airport staff member would meet them holding a sign labeled "G9." They should bring the invitation and identification documents "as security will likely be tight at this meeting," the letter said.

In her Facebook post, Lokshina, the Russian Human Rights Watch staffer, said she received the e-mailed invitation close to 5 p.m. Thursday and acknowledged that she did not know if it was real.

A large group of Russian and international journalists gathered at the airport in anticipation of the meeting.

Latin American asylum offers

Since his arrival in Moscow, Snowden -- who faces espionage charges in the United States -- has requested asylum in dozens of countries, sparking a surge in speculation about his next steps.

The presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia have said their countries would give him asylum, and Nicaragua's president said he would offer it "if circumstances permit."

Is Snowden worth the risk? Latin America weighs the pros and cons

Snowden has admitted releasing classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs to the media and argues that he did so to expose serious violations of the U.S. Constitution.

He is slammed as a traitor by critics and hailed as a hero by his supporters.

WikiLeaks said in a Twitter post Wednesday that Snowden's "flight of liberty" campaign was starting, promising further details.

But details about where Snowden is going -- and how he'll get there -- have remained hard to come by.

U.S. officials told Chinese officials in Washington this week that they're disappointed with the way China and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, saying their actions undermined trust. China said that Hong Kong authorities acted in accordance with the law.

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« Reply #7476 on: Jul 13, 2013, 06:33 AM »

07/12/2013 06:06 PM

Girl Rising: Malala Fires Up a New Generation


Last fall Malala Yousafza, a 15-year-old blogger in Pakistan, was gunned down for demanding the right to an education. She has taken her message to the UN, and girls worldwide are fighting back against violence and oppression. A global movement is taking shape.

For Diya, the rebellion began in India on the day she sat at the police station, a shy 13-year-old girl, and was able to find words for the unspeakable: "He did something bad to me." She chose not to be silent though the man had said: "If you tell on me, I will kill your brother." She chose to testify.

She told the police about how she had left the house, a girl with barrettes in her hair clutching a metal bucket. Diya's parents had sent her out to fetch some water from the village faucet, which was only a few steps from her house. She was anxious to get back home quickly. It was her favorite time of the day, the few hours before going to sleep. Diya loved the stories she saw on TV when her family watched together in the evenings. She liked Bollywood star Salman Khan, especially his smile. That was in April.

Now it's May and Diya wants to learn now to break a man's nose. She wants to learn how to knock out a man, how to trample on his testicles and jam a key into his eye. She wants to learn how to kill a man.

Diya has been her name since that evening, when a man grabbed her in the village and dragged her into the courtyard of an empty house, and pressed his mouth against hers so violently that she couldn't even scream. It's a name she is supposed to hide behind. By law, no one is permitted to reveal the name of a rape victim. But Diya doesn't want to hide. She comes from a poor Dalit family, or "untouchables," the lowest rung in the Indian caste system. The man who took away her childhood was an alcoholic without a wife or a job. But he was from a higher caste, and he believed that Dalit girls could be used. It had always been that way in the past. But this time he was mistaken.

In the past, Diya's father probably wouldn't have urged her to tell the truth, and they probably wouldn't have gone to the police, either. But much had happened in the preceding months in India, and elsewhere.

A Children's Rights Movement?

All around the world there are stories like Diya's, stories that depict the world as a barbaric place and stories about children who have decided to fight back. There is the story of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old blogger from Pakistan who paid for her love of learning with two bullets in her head, who survived and continues to fight for girls' education. There are the "wedding busters" in Bangladesh, young people who go into villages to protect children from forced marriages. And there are the Kenyan girls who refuse to submit to female genital mutilation, knowing full well that their refusal could destroy their families.

Western reactions to stories like these tend to slide between horror and apathy. In their book "Half the Sky," American authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that the ordinary is often overlooked. "We journalists tend to be good at covering events that happen on a particular day, but we slip at covering events that happen every day, such as the quotidian cruelties inflicted on women and girls."

Women are disappearing. Development experts estimate that, for various reasons, there is a shortage of 60 to 100 million women in the world. Female fetuses are more likely to be aborted. Girls die of neglect, or as a result of complications from genital mutilation or domestic violence. Sometimes girls who are still children themselves die while giving birth. In fact, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among female teenagers in the developing world.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has focused on children's rights since leaving office, has presented a study on the issue, and he believes that something resembling a children's rights movement is emerging. Brown writes that, for the first time, it isn't adults but girls who see themselves as the leaders of their movement, girls who become involved in political battles or even ignite such conflicts. After the shooting of Malala in Pakistan, Brown wrote: "For one Malala shot and temporarily silenced, there are now thousands of younger Malalas ready to come forward who will not be silenced."

Malala Speaks at the UN

Today, Malala will give a speech at the United Nations. A UN petition for girls' education titled "I am Malala" is attracting attention around the world. A "Generation Malala" has come of age, and it includes girls and young women like Diya in India, Isadora in Brazil, Valentini in South Africa, Sina in Cambodia and Nahla in Egypt. They are part of a generation that is no longer willing to take for granted that being a woman can be life-threatening. Is it the beginning of a rebellion, or even a revolution?

India has changed radically in the past few months. After the ordeal of a young woman named Jyoti Singh Pandey, who was tortured and raped by six men on a bus and later died in a hospital, a new rage erupted over things that had long been commonplace. Suddenly newspapers were constantly writing about the suffering of India's daughters, and about the rapes of four- and five-year-old girls. Suddenly tens of thousands of women were taking to the streets all over India. In Delhi, government offices were inundated with women applying for a gun license. In the state of Bihar, women attacked a man who had allegedly raped his nine-year-old daughter, and shaved off his hair, eyebrows and moustache. There was even a lynching in a Mumbai slum, where four women killed a man whom they viewed as an offender when he emerged naked from his hut.

Indian women have resorted to vigilante justice, because they no longer believe that the men in law enforcement will protect them from other men.

Diya's Rebellion in India

Diya, who is growing up in this rough time, sits on a bed in a small house in Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, her spindly legs hanging over the edge. She looks at the teenage girls who have come rushing into the room, members of a martial arts group called the "Red Brigade." They are wearing long, red shirts. Red is the color of danger and combat, they say.

They talk about the school principal who touched a girl's breasts, and the female classmate who was raped and never returned to school afterward. They talk about ways to defend themselves.

For two years the girls practiced fighting with words, listening to the advice of their leader, a 25-year-old woman they call "big sister." Big sister had told them to ask their parents questions like: Why does my brother get more food than me? Why does he get milk while I don't? Why is he allowed to continue going to school while I am not?

They have been learning kung fu since January, and Diya is now part of the group. Her father called the leader of the Red Brigade, thinking that perhaps the girls could somehow help his daughter.

The girls in the group stick together, even across caste barriers, which is almost unheard of in India. It helps make her new life more bearable. Diya's old life no longer suits her. Her family had intended to marry her off next year, at 14, which is still fairly common in India. But they stopped talking about marriage after Diya was raped. It will be difficult to convince a man to marry a girl who has been raped.

Diya's new life begins with her going back to school, like the other girls in the Red Brigade. The group wants to get her books and a school uniform, which she wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. The man who raped Diya on that evening in April tried to deprive her of her future. Now the girls of the Red Brigade are trying to help give her a different kind of future.

Isadora's Rebellion in Brazil

For Isadora, the rebellion began last summer, when her sister told her about a Scottish girl who had photographed her disgusting school meals and placed the photos on the Web for the whole world to see.

Isadora Faber, 14, is a girl in jeans, a T-shirt and red sneakers. She lives with her parents, her grandmother and her grandmother's poodle in a flat-roofed house in a middle-class neighborhood of Florianópolis. She grew up with the Internet and Facebook and is aware of what's happening around the world.

She knows about Jyoti in India, and of course she knows about Malala. When she read about Malala being shot on Facebook, she wrote in her blog: "I would never have imagined that it would come to this point." And then she kept going.

Today her blog, Diário de Classe, or "Class Diary," numbers some 600,000 readers and has become a significant political force in Brazil. Isadora is as hated as she is admired. She has even received death threats.

Taking on the School System

Brazil is an emerging nation, a rising economic power where things seemed to be in order, but in fact were not. Isadora is child of globalization who loves the band Nirvana and watches "CSI: Miami" on TV. When she looks out at the world and compares it with Brazil, she doesn't like what she sees. In fact, the protests in Brazil's streets attest to the fact that more and more young people are as dissatisfied as she is.

The country is spending at least €30 billion ($39 billion) on the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, even as public schools are falling apart. Those who have the means send their children to private schools. Isadora, who attends a public school, the only one in her neighborhood, used her mobile phone to record its many deficiencies: the broken door to the girls' bathroom; the cables from a broken fan, which are hanging openly from the ceil; the broken windows in a classroom; the run-down athletic facilities, which should have been painted long ago (the painter was paid but never showed up); the chaotic conditions during math class, where students jumped across the benches while the teacher stood back and did nothing.

Isadora started Diário de Classe on July 11, 2012. After three weeks, she already had 3,000 readers. Many sent photos and accounts from their own schools, images of ruined, run-down and flooded buildings, or fights and vandalism in the classroom, and of weeping and shouting teachers. The local newspapers reported on Isadora, and television crews turned up outside her school. The principal conceded that there were some deficiencies.

Law Suits and Death Threats

After two months, Isadora had 30,000 readers, and her blog featured heated discussions about serious problems within Brazil's education system, provoking anger among the objects of the criticism. Teachers complained that they were being unjustly attacked. One teacher filed a libel complaint. Other students threatened Isadora.

Four weeks later, unknown assailants threw rocks at the wall of her parents' house. Her grandmother was hit in the forehead and required stitches, but the culprits escaped without being recognized. In February, someone using a false name sent her a death threat on Facebook: "Keep your eyes open when you leave the house." She filed a complaint and the police investigated the incident.

She set a major movement into motion, something seemingly much too big for a girl of 14. She is a child of the digital modern age who is using the power of the media to stage the sort of rebellion that didn't exist in the past.

One of the reasons girls like Isadora are so special is that they are so young. That's why their message is passed on, from the local to the national to the international media. The story of Isadora Faber, for example, has already reached the United States and Europe. The Financial Times named her as one of the 25 most influential people in Brazil.

Valentini's Rebellion in South Africa

For Valentini, the rebellion began when she was cleaning a hotel room and suddenly came face-to-face with Lindiwe Mazibuko. Mazibuko is the opposition leader of the South African parliament, a woman from a township who made it to the top and is known for her skillful opposition to the male-dominated government. Valentini had cut her picture out of newspapers, because the politician was her most important role model, next to US First Lady Michelle Obama. They were two distant, unreal idols, the kinds of people the child of farm workers couldn't hope to meet.

But suddenly her role model was standing in front of her. She was staying in the hotel to attend a wedding, and she started asking Valentini questions: How old are you? What are your concerns? What are your dreams?

Valentini is 17, a girl in a brown-and-yellow school uniform who lives on an apple plantation in South Africa's largest fruit-growing region, which produces Pink Lady apples for export to Europe. The Monteith Farm belongs to a wealthy white farmer. Valentini's parents, and everyone else in the area, work for him. There are few alternatives in South Africa for so-called "coloureds," or mixed-raced individuals like Valentini Valentine and her family.

Some time last year, during the harvest, she was walking to the bus in the morning, along the rows of fruit trees, and watching as female apple pickers sorted apples. She thought to herself: I don't want to live like they do. Not like those day laborers, slaving away for the boss and raped by their husbands, who drink too much. Not like those women, who know nothing other than everyday life on the farm, who are poor and kept uneducated, and who become resigned to their fate at an early age.

From the Farm to the Classroom

The farm is like a trap, she says, but many don't even realize it, or at least not early enough. Why did she realize it? Perhaps because she has a mother who worked her way up to an office job and tells her daughter, "Go your own way!" Or because she has a young, dedicated teacher (a rarity among the many apathetic educators) who tries to build the girls' self-esteem, and tells them: Believe in yourselves!

Teachers like that are having an impact, as more and more girls go to school, in South Africa and around the world. Education creates a thirst for more education. And education brings with it the knowledge that things don't have to be the way they are.

Last summer, when she was feeling especially dissatisfied, she heard about a meeting of female farm workers and decided to go. For the first time, she encountered rebellious girls who had the courage to have an opinion and be vocal. The girls asked themselves: Why is life so hard? How can we change that? It feels good, she says, this new feeling of not being alone. This is our rebellion, she says.

Valentini now makes public appearances where, glowing with pride, she talks about the plight in education to groups of 200 girls. The girls list their demands, dance, sing old anti-Apartheid songs and clench their fists.

The Search for Universal Values

Education, as the globalization of knowledge, conveys new ideas. It conveys news about countries where women are the heads of companies, and about other countries where women are not even allowed to drive cars. There are countless ideas about what the life of a woman should be like -- so how can one be pushed aside for another? Can universal values exist?

The hope that they can has been around since the Enlightenment. In 1791, French feminist Olympe de Gouges wrote a "Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen" in response to the "human and civil rights" declared in the French Revolution. In it, de Gouges wrote: "The woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Women have the right to mount the scaffold; they must also have the right to mount the speaker's rostrum…"

Women's rights have been codified since 1948, when the United Nations published its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is meant to apply to everyone, "without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex." It is not a treaty that is binding under international law, but merely a guideline, and yet it is one that girls learn about in school.

'That Sort of Thing Must Not Happen'

Or at least in a good school. Many schools in South Africa are not good, including, in Valentini's opinion, the school she attends. Valentini calls herself and her comrades-in-arms "Survivors," people who are surviving a situation that many see as hopeless.

She does have opportunities, better opportunities than her mother, her grandmother or her great-grandmother had. She has the means to network with her female friends, through text messaging or Mxit, a social network used by many young people in Africa. She knows more than they did. She is a part of the world, much more so than her mother and her grandmother were.

And yet she has a lingering fear. Valentini talks about a girl she once knew, who became pregnant when she was 12. But she doesn't say what happened to the girl. "That sort of thing must not happen. It simply must not happen."

A 12-year-old girl usually can't defend herself. No matter how determined she is, she simply lacks the necessary physical strength.

Sina Vann's Rebellion in Cambodia
For Sina Vann, the rebellion began when she was freed, at 15, after three years of slavery. Now she walks around at night in search of herself.

Or rather, she searches for the girl she once was, for srey kouc, or "broken women," as the Cambodians call their prostitutes. "Because things can't stay the way they are," she says through an interpreter. And because she wants to do something about the fact that girls, the kind she once was, are sold in Cambodia every day and forced into prostitution.

The broken women are easy to find. There are thousands of them in the capital city of Phnom Penh. As Sina approaches, they step from the shadows of doorways and dark parking lots, wearing high heels, always smiling the famous, enigmatic smile of the Khmer.

You have to look these women in the eye, says Sina, "because their eyes aren't smiling." The Tuol Kork neighborhood, where Sina herself was once trapped, is known as a streetwalkers' district for construction workers, truck drivers and craftsmen, where sex can be had for $3, and where the brothels are simple wooden huts with a karaoke bar in front, as camouflage. Sina hands out condoms and bars of soap, and she gives the woman pieces of paper with the contact information for the foundation that liberated her from prostitution, the Somaly Mam Foundation.

The Power of Commerce

Somaly Mam, who escaped a life of sex slavery, established the foundation and serves as a bridge to the Western world. There are photos showing her together with actress Meg Ryan, fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg and singer Queen Latifah.

There are plenty of advocates for the girls, people who lend their names, faces and sometimes their presence to the cause. At glamorous conferences like the "Women in the World Summit," for example, celebrities like Chelsea Clinton, Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie appear by the dozen to campaign on behalf of the oppressed. A growing number of organizations, like Girls not Brides, Girl Upand Educate Girls (which funded the recent documentary "Girl Rising"), are specifically addressing girls' rights.

For authors Kristof and WuDunn, who have long supported Somaly Mam's foundation, this is what the issue boils down to: "In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world."

Not everyone thinks in such moral terms. For modern capitalism, liberating women is a prerequisite for economic modernization.

Economists at the World Bank believe that "investing in girls is both smart economics and the right thing to do." The American Center for Injury Prevention and Control coldly calculates that domestic violence causes more than $4 billion in medical costs. In a 2008 report, Goldman Sachs concluded: "Gender inequality hurts economic growth."

As disconcertingly mercantile as this sounds, it still helps, because it raises awareness, not to mention money.

It helps Sina Vann and her organization. It enables her to tell the girls about the foundation's shelters, and to tell them that they will be safe there, can learn to read and write, be trained to become a seamstress or a beautician, and that they'll have enough to eat.

Kidnapped by Human Traffickers

Sina Vann, the young woman who went from being a sex slave to a rebel, was kidnapped 12 years ago in her native Vietnam. Human traffickers smuggled her across the border to Cambodia, where Vietnamese women are in demand because of their light complexion -- the whiter the skin, the higher the price.

She woke up on a bed in Phnom Penh, drugged, naked and bleeding. Her virginity had been sold to a sex tourist for a few hundred dollars. She doesn't know where he was from. Then she was locked up, bound and beaten. She was sold as a virgin four or five more times, to Cambodian customers who didn't notice that her vagina had just been sewn shut -- a common practice to ensure that the women bleed. She was tortured with electroshocks when she refused to service customers. The advantage of electroshocks is that they produce no visible damage that would reduce a girl's value. She was tormented, dispossessed, dehumanized.

She escaped during a police raid initiated by Somaly Mam. Sina was given a place to live, hope and an education, and she later joined the struggle alongside the woman who had rescued her. She is 29 today and working on the streets on behalf of the foundation.

"Are you here voluntarily?" Sina asks a girl with sleepy eyes. The girl nods. "Are they giving you drugs? Do they hit you?" When she hears about especially serious cases during these conversations, cases of torture or of minors or even small children, some only three years old, being sold into prostitution, she notifies the police. If she's lucky, they'll raid a brothel.

Sina and her girls have also started targeting men, potential johns. They address them directly and explain what is actually going on. Girls lecturing men: a true revolution.

Nahla's Rebellion in Egypt
For Nahla, the rebellion began in Tahrir Square, and that's where it continues, often under extremely dangerous circumstances -- as on Jan. 25, 2013, the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. Tens of thousands had congregated on the square, many of whom wanted to fight back against the revolution, especially the role women had in it.

Perhaps they were plainclothes policemen or enraged civilians. In any case, they were strangers who attacked the women, who groped and molested them. Later on, there were reports of rapes. Nahla, 24, was one of the youngest women on the square. Men put their hands in her pants, tugged at her shirt and pushed her onto the ground. Nahla Enany and her mother were surrounded by men. "They were choking us. It was hell."

Nahla gets onto a subway train, talking about the hell she experienced on that January day, and yet she is headed back to Tahrir Square. She changed her clothes before leaving her apartment, choosing black to be less conspicuous: black tracksuit pants, a black T-shirt and sneakers. Still, people stare at her on the train, because she is the only passenger in the women's car wearing neither a headscarf nor a niqab, her shoulder-length, dark-brown hair out in the open. And they stare at her on Tahrir Square because her T-shirt is skintight and barely covers her shoulders.

Nahla quickly walks across the square, ignoring the looks of the older men sitting on low walls in the heat. She ignores the groups of young men who jump around her, grabbing at her and ogling her. She no longer notices the looks, she says, and she no longer hears the things they shout after her.

The Mothers and Daughters of Tahrir

Nahla approaches three older women. One of them, also in black, with a bob haircut and gold jewelry, is her mother, attending one of the many demonstrations that will culminate in the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.

Since the beginning of the Egyptian revolution, the mother and daughter are at almost every demonstration, part of the protests fighting for democratic rights, for women and for everyone. Men and women, side by side -- it was revolutionary.

And then came the counter-revolution. One reason the Muslim Brotherhood was elected is that they could depend on the traditional, patriarchal majority in the country, and on the old way of thinking, which holds that honorable women have no business being in the streets, and when they are, only behind a veil. It's the same philosophy that tells men they can punish women if they don't abide by the rules, that disobedient women deserve to be groped, harassed and debased.

Life became dangerous for Egypt's women, in the streets, on the subway and, most of all, at demonstrations. There were no reports of abuses during the 18 days of the revolution. But after that, things became even worse than before. According to a recent UN study, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women now say that they have been sexually harassed.

Men as Monsters, Men as Protectors

It is, of course, men who grope, expose and debase the women on Tahrir Square.

It is men who, as teachers, try to keep girls like Valentini in their place. "Do you think you can explain the world to us?" they ask when she contradicts them.

It is men who abduct girls like Sina Vann in Cambodia -- and men who use them for their pleasure. About 70 percent of Cambodian men experience sex for the first time with a prostitute, and 5 percent of Cambodian men admit that they have been involved in at least one gang rape.

It sounds as if men were simply monsters, but it isn't that simple. It isn't the case, of course, that men are always the enemies and women are always advocates of the girls.

There are men who try to protect women on Tahrir Square and bring them to safety. There are men in India who take to the streets to express their rage over crimes against girls. There are men like Malala's father, who has encouraged his child. And there are men who view their daughters, sisters and wives as valuable human beings.

Women of the Patriarchy

There are also women who are responsible for destroying the lives of girls. In Cambodia, there are women who sell their daughters to brothels in the city as if they were livestock. There are women in Africa who subject their daughters to genital mutilation. And there are women all over the world who bully their daughters into forced marriages and, when a daughter flees from a violent husband, often drive them back into his arms.

There are many reasons why a mother might become a threat to their daughter. She does it because she has been brutalized or demoralized by poverty, or because she thinks that, in a brother, a girl can at least earn some money.

In societies in which a single woman is considered worthless, and where marriage is the only option, mothers believe that they are doing their daughters a favor by pushing them into forced marriages. It can be difficult for a woman to abandon brutal practices, especially when she thinks: I've gone through all of this. If I admit that it doesn't have to be this way, I will have thrown away my own life.

Egyptian Women Speak Out

It is especially difficult for Muslim women to overcome tradition, as Nahla knows all too well. She attended the American University in Cairo, and she works for a company and earns her own salary, and yet she isn't allowed to live alone and has to be home by 10:30 p.m., as required by her father.

Nahla continues to demonstrate and blog about the plight of Egyptian women. They are publicizing their complaints, on television and on the Internet, and they are creating networks and aid projects. The women have had the courage to take to the streets to demand new policies and a new society, and the world knows what they are doing. There was, for instance, the "girl in the blue bra," as she became known, whose harrowing ordeal was captured on video and broadcast to the rest of the world. A dozen soldiers ripped the black abaja from her body on Tahrir Square, exposing, mistreating and beating her nearly to death.

The protesters remember her for her courage and the conservatives for her debauchery. "What business did she have going to Tahrir Square?" they ask. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, Muslims in various countries were surveyed about their views. Only about half of Egyptians -- but more than 80 percent of Tunisians and Moroccans -- said that it should be up to a woman to decide whether she should wear a headscarf. Three-quarters of Tunisians and Moroccans felt that a woman should be allowed to get a divorce, while only 22 percent of Egyptians agreed. In all three countries, about 90 percent of the men and women surveyed said that a woman should obey her husband.

Nahla says that she can't imagine being in an ordinary Egyptian marriage. She still remembers the day when she, as a child, pointed to her mother's cheek and thought she had a piece of candy in her mouth. But that wasn't the cause of the swelling. After that, there were many other occasions when her father hit her mother, her siblings and Nahla herself.

Her father, 65-year-old Nader Enany, says: "Egypt has other problems than the rights of women."

He is leaning back in a large armchair in the family living room. Enany fought against former President Anwar Sadat in the 1970s and was in prison several times. He made a lot of money exporting textiles, but those days are long gone, and now he is hard-pressed to pay the tuition for his son's private university. His daughter's education is unimportant to him, although he has at least tolerated it.

He tolerates the political involvement of his wife and daughter, but he doesn't explain why. Is he at odds with himself? Or does he tolerate their behavior because he is helpless? Has he learned anything? If so, he doesn't say what. After a long pause, he says: "Egypt has a different mentality. Egypt has religion." How does he feel about his daughter's ideas? "I don't know anything about her ideas," he says.

Nahla's ideas have ensured that she keeps on going -- that she has been out on the streets again during the unrest of the past week. She has been in Tahrir and at the presidential palace, to demonstrate against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. When the head of the army announced Morsi's overthrow on Wednesday evening, the cheering was so loud that she could hardly understand him.

Girl Power Goes Digital

It is a new rebellion, with new tools: mobile phones, the Internet and the global public. The goal has existed for a long time and remains a utopia: that a woman be allowed to make her own decisions about her body and her mind, and that she can learn what she wishes and love whom she pleases.

What is new is that not just women, but girls, too, are now fighting for space on the global stage. These girls dare to make plans, to desire a different world, and to believe that true change is possible.

The belief in modern capitalism -- the belief that the social modernization they want will bring about economic modernization -- offers them their best chance.

Their revolution can be a quiet one, like Sina's reeducation of men. It can be digital, like what Isadora achieves with her blog. It can be loud, like the revolution of girls like Diya, Valentini and Nahla -- one that can be heard in the streets.

What they need to make their rebellion a success are role models, like the ones Valentini had in South Africa, and modern tools, like the ones Isadora uses in Brazil. They need solidarity, the way Diya experienced it in India, and they need a historic moment that allows traditional roles to fade, as with Nahla in Egypt. And sometimes they just need someone to step in. Without help, Sina in Cambodia would still be a sex slave.

Sina Vann says that she wants to keep doing what she does, because there are so many broken women.

Valentini says that she eventually wants to live in the countryside and be a social worker.

Isadora wants to be a journalist, so she can "know the truth," as she puts it.

Nahla says she would like to study abroad.

Diya says she would like to continue going to school and eventually become a police officer. Then the female rape victims will come to her, and she will help them.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


Malala delivers defiant riposte to Taliban militants as UN hails 'our hero'

'They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed,' says Malala, 16, at UN to push campaign for girls' education

Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian, Friday 12 July 2013 17.44 BST   

When the Taliban sent a gunman to shoot Malala Yousafzai last October as she rode home on a bus after school, they made clear their intention: to silence the teenager and kill off her campaign for girls' education.

Nine months and countless surgical interventions later, she stood up at the United Nations on her 16th birthday on Friday to deliver a defiant riposte. "They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed," she said.

As 16th birthdays go, it was among the more unusual. Instead of blowing out candles on a cake, Malala sat in one of the United Nation's main council chambers in the central seat usually reserved for world leaders.

She listened quietly as Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, described her as "our hero, our champion"; and as the former British prime minister and now UN education envoy, Gordon Brown, uttered what he called "the words the Taliban never wanted her to hear: happy 16th birthday, Malala".

The event, dubbed Malala Day, was the culmination of an extraordinary four years for the girl from Mingora, in the troubled Swat valley of Pakistan. She was thrust into the public glare after she wrote a pseudonymous but later celebrated blog for the BBC Urdu service describing her experiences struggling to get an education under the rising power of Taliban militants.

By 11 she was showing exceptional determination, calling personally on the US special representative to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, to use his influence to combat the Taliban's drive against education for girls. By 14, she was on the radar of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who put her forward for the international children's peace prize, and by 15 she became the youngest Nobel peace prize nominee in history.

But such dizzying global attention came at a price. Death threats followed her growing recognition, and on 9 October 2012, following a meeting of Pakistani Taliban leaders, the gunman was dispatched to remove what they called the "symbol of infidels and obscenity".

Multiple operations in Pakistan and the UK followed the attack on the bus, including the fitting of a titanium plate on her left forehead, and a cochlear implant to restore her hearing. She now lives with her family in Birmingham and does what the Taliban tried to stop her doing: goes to school every day. "I am not against anyone," she said in the UN chamber, having taken this day out from the classroom. "Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group."

Malala responded to the violence of the Taliban with her own countervailing force: words against bullets. "I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him."

She spoke confidently, with only an injured eye and a slightly drooping left side of her face to hint at such fresh traumas. There was one other unstated allusion to the horror of her past: she wore a white shawl belonging to a woman who was also targeted by extremists but who, unlike Malala, did not survive to tell the tale: Benazir Bhutto.

"The extremists are afraid of books and pens," the teenager continued. "The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them."

She cited last month's attack on a hospital in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, and killings of female teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. "That is why they are blasting schools every day – because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring to our society."

And she gave her own opposing interpretation of Islam to the Taliban's. "They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child's right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility."

Such ability to articulate what normally remains unarticulated – to give voice to young people normally silenced – has generated its own response. The "stand with Malala" petition, calling for education for the 57m children around the world who do not go to school, has attracted more than 4m signatures – more than a million having been added in the past few days.

At the start of her speech, Malala said: "I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say."

She need not have worried.


Malala Yousafzai: 'Our books and our pens are the most powerful weapons'

Malala delivered this address on education to the United Nations Youth Assembly on 'Malala Day', her 16th birthday

Malala Yousafzai, Friday 12 July 2013 17.15 BST          

This is a transcription of the speech that Malala Yousafzai gave to the United Nations on 12 July 2013, the date of her 16th birthday and "Malala Day" at the UN.

In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful.

Honorable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honorable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum.

Today is it an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honor for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.

There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand. So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.

I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword." It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist why are the Taliban against education? He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said, "a Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book."

They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people's heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child, that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.

In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up. So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favor of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.

We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, color, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we ware all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us wage, so let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.


Malala Yousafzai and girls' access to education – get the data

How big is the gender gap at schools around the world? How has the picture changed in recent years?

Malala Yousafzai – the young campaigner who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan last October – has drawn the world's attention to the fight for girls' access to education.

On Friday, she marks her 16th birthday by delivering a speech at the UN, and a petition calling on the general assembly "to fund new teachers, schools, books and recommit to getting every girl and boy in school by December 2015".

Globally, more children are in primary school than ever before. Yet an estimated 57 million remain out of school, and gender disparities are large in many countries. How big is the gender gap in schools around the world? How has the picture changed in recent years?

The UN uses a gender parity index (GPI), comparing girls' gross enrollment rates to those of boys, to track progress towards the millennium development goal (MDG) target to achieve parity in primary and secondary education by 2015. A GPI lower than 1.0 signifies more boys in school than girls, with scores above 1.0 reflecting more girls than boys.

At the global level, the MDG target on parity at primary school has already been met. Estimates of global progress can mask stark differences at the country or regional level, however. Today, the gender gap in primary education is concentrated in a much smaller group of countries. The visualisation above shows how the picture has changed since the 1970s.

In Pakistan, there are an estimated 82 girls for every 100 boys at primary school. While still far from parity, this reflects significant progress since 1990, when there were only 52 girls for every 100 boys, and even more since the early 1970s, when estimates suggest boys outnumbered girls by almost three to one. The table below compares Pakistan's progress towards gender parity at primary school with four nearby countries – Afghanistan, Iran, India and Tajikistan.
Gender disparities at primary school

Pakistan and nearby countries. Download the full data below.

Country      1975  1985        1995        2005           2010

The UN considers a gender parity index (GPI) value of between 0.97 and 1.03 as the achievement of gender parity. A GPI below 1.0 signifies more boys at school than girls. A GPI above 1.0 reflects the opposite.
Source: Unesco
Pakistan    0.321    0.357    0.765    0.755
Afghanistan   0.148    0.464    0.368    0.328    0.506
Iran            0.585    0.701    0.839    0.964    0.963
India            0.464                 0.642    0.822    0.918
Tajikistan              0.831    0.866

At the secondary school level, less than 40% of countries have met the MDG target on gender parity. The remaining 60% are roughly split between those where boys outnumber girls and others where girls outnumber boys.

In higher education, the global gender gap is significant – but at this level, women outnumber men. In 2011, there were 108 women studying at this level for every 100 men.

Men outnumbered women in higher education until the late 1990s, when the world reached parity. Since 2004, however, the number of women in post-secondary school globally has exceeded that of men, with the gap steadily growing. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the ratio of women to men studying at this level has dropped – from 66 women for every 100 men in 2000 to 61 in 2011.

Last month, the UN warned that progress on reducing the number of children out of school has ground to a "virtual standstill". Between 2008 and 2011, the number of out-of-school children of primary age fell by only 3 million.

"If this rate of change continues over the next few years, the world will still be far from the goal of UPE [universal primary education] in 2015," warned a report from Unesco and the Education for All campaign, which pointed to declining donor support for education.

International aid for basic education dropped 6% between 2010 and 2011, with six of the world's top 10 donors – Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and the US – cutting spending. Aid to secondary education declined by 11% between 2010 and 2011.

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« Reply #7477 on: Jul 13, 2013, 06:50 AM »

Edward Snowden accuses US of illegal, aggressive campaign

Whistleblower uses first public appearance since surveillance leaks to defend decision and praise states that offered asylum

Alec Luhn and Miriam Elder in Moscow, Paul Lewis in Washington
The Guardian, Friday 12 July 2013 19.16 BST   

The American whistleblower Edward Snowden has accused the US of waging a campaign of "historically disproportionate aggression" against him during an extraordinary meeting with human rights activists and Russian officials at the Moscow airport where he has been trapped since 23 June.

In his first appearance since disclosing his identity in the Guardian last month, Snowden insisted he had no regrets and had made a "moral decision" to leak dozens of secret documents outlining US surveillance programmes. He also announced that he would apply for political asylum from the Kremlin and appealed to those present for help in leaving the airport.

The US has lobbied governments around the world to refuse entry to Snowden and has invalidated his US passport.

Last week, a plane carrying the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, was grounded in Vienna after several European countries blocked their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was on board.

"The government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have," Snowden said. "I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression."

White House spokesman Jay Carney has accused Russia of "providing a propaganda platform" for Snowden, which "runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality".

He said during a White House briefing: "It's also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr Snowden to further damage US interests." He urged Russia to hand Snowden over to face charges in the US but added that the US didn't want the affair to damage America's relations with Russia. Pointedly, he said the Russian government should permit human rights groups to do their work "throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow transit lounge".

The US president, Barack Obama, spoke to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, by telephone on Friday evening but there was no breakthrough on the issue.

Carney said: "We continue to discuss with Russia our strongly held view that there is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to be returned to the United States, to face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorised leaking of classified information."

Asked about the involvement of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which sent representatives to meet Snowden, Carney replied: "Those groups do important work. But Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony counts, and should be returned to the United States, where he will be afforded full due process."

Snowden appeared relaxed and in good spirits in camera-phone footage posted on the website of the Russian tabloid newspaper LifeNews. At one point, as he was assailing the US for attempting to "legitimise an illegal affair", an airport announcement broke in. He smiled: "I've heard this many times."

Snowden said he would request asylum in Russia until he was permitted to travel to Latin America. Venezuela has offered him political asylum but he remains unable to travel there without travel documents.

Snowden praised Venezuela, as well as Russia, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador for "being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless" and for "refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation".

Russia has one of the world's poorest reputations for human rights. In the past week alone, it brought in two big decisions against its main whistleblowers: the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was found posthumously guilty of committing tax fraud, and a judge announced he would soon issue a verdict against corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Several officials close to the Kremlin attended Friday's 5pm meeting at Sheremetyevo, including Vyacheslav Nikonov, an MP with Putin's United Russia party, and Vladimir Lukin, Putin's human rights ombudsman. Nikonov said he had asked Snowden how he was enjoying his time in Russia. "He laughed – and said, it's safe here," Nikonov said.

Earlier this month, Snowden withdrew a request for asylum in Russia, a move the Kremlin explained by saying he had not agreed with terms set out by Putin calling on him to "stop bringing harm to our American partners". According to attendees, Snowden argued that his leaks were serving, rather than harming, the American people. "He said he doesn't want to bring harm to the United States and sees himself as a law-abiding citizen and a patriot," Nikonov said.

Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the Duma and a close Putin ally, said Russia should grant Snowden asylum.

Nikonov and other attendees, including Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch and Sergei Nikitin of Amnesty International, were swarmed by journalists as they arrived at Sheremetyevo. Correspondents mobbed the activists as they made their way toward an airport employee with a sign reading "G9", identified in Snowden's invitation email as the marker that would lead them to him.

Lokshina said the US embassy had contacted her en route to the airport urging her to tell Snowden that the US position was that "he is not a human rights defender, he is not a whistleblower, and that he violated the law and should be held responsible". She said she told Snowden, who responded that "he understands that the US authorities look at the situation in that way, but he completely disagrees with that approach".

The horde followed the airport employee upstairs, with journalists running up downward escalators to get ahead, and the invitees were ushered through a service door guarded by police and into a hallway with a metal detector. Lokshina later said that they did not undergo any security checks and were only asked to not film the event.

The atmosphere was tense as journalists crowded to get footage and quotes after they emerged from the 45-minute meeting. At least one fistfight erupted between two cameramen who punched each other in the ribs.

Friday's proceedings left little doubt that the Russian authorities are actively involved in Snowden's stay at Sheremetyevo. Airport staff organised and conducted the event, and order was kept by a small cadre of police officers. Attendees said the meeting was watched by men in suits, whom Nikitin said looked like government operatives: "I'm no expert, but if a man in a tie is standing there with a military bearing and a serviceman's expression, who is he, a school teacher?"

Nikonov, the Kremlin-friendly MP, agreed: "I think that he [Snowden] has guards, given the circumstances."

Russia has denied any involvement in Snowden's plight and continues to insist he is not on Russian territory since he has not crossed the border at Sheremetyevo. Snowden stressed in his statement that he "did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice."

Attendees said Snowden looked mentally and physically healthy, despite weeks in the halls of Sheremetyevo. "He smiled, he looked confident, he looked like he believes he's in the right," Nikonov said. "I can't say he impressed me as a well-fed young man, but he's never been very bulky. And he has a great haircut.

"He didn't joke, because he understands the seriousness of the situation."

Nikitin said: "He didn't look scared, he looked cheerful … although his face looked a little pale, you can understand why if a person is located the whole time within four walls."

Some attendees said Snowden appeared desperate to get out of the airport. "I got the feeling that after all this, he just wants to physically get out of these premises, and this is the only way to get out of them," Nikitin said.


Edward Snowden caught in asylum catch-22

No valid passport, conditional asylum offers and US diplomatic pressure make it hard for NSA whistleblower to leave Moscow

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, Friday 12 July 2013 17.29 BST   

Media at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where Edward Snowden is based in a transit lounge
Media gather in Terminal F at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where Edward Snowden has been locked in the limbo of a transit lounge for 20 days. Photograph: Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media

Edward Snowden is not just trying to find his way out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. He is also attempting to navigate his way through a thicket of international law on political asylum while staying beyond the reach of the US and its allies.

It is a perilous balancing act that has so far proven hard to pull off. Washington has made it clear to friend and foe alike that there would be a heavy price to pay for providing shelter to the runaway American intelligence analyst.

Hence the extraordinary step taken last week by France, Portugal, Spain and Italy, of denying airspace to Bolivian president Evo Morales's executive jet, wrongly suspected of carrying Snowden from Moscow to Latin America.

And hence the hedged nature of most of the asylum offers Snowden has received to date. Pig Putin said two weeks ago that Russia would provide asylum on the condition he stop "harming our American partners"; in other words, shut up and stop leaking to the press.

Overtures from Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua meanwhile, have been conditional on Snowden applying on their territory. Venezuela's offer seems firm, but Snowden must still get to Latin America to benefit from it – a big condition in view of his circumstances for the past 20 days, locked in the sterile limbo of the Sheremetyevo transit lounge without a valid passport.

His press conference was an attempt to escape that catch-22.

Widney Brown, Amnesty International's senior director for international law and policy, said the Latin American states involved could theoretically have sent envoys to Sheremetyevo to furnish Snowden with travel documents.

"However, that would be a highly unusual procedure for use in extremis," Brown said. "It may be that these states would prefer to go through the normal procedures for adjudicating asylum claims."

Snowden's strategy – to appeal for temporary asylum in Russia to allow him to file for asylum elsewhere – is a reaction to these conditions. He is responding to Putin's conditionality by insisting he has no intention of harming the true interests of his home country, but it is not clear whether he would agree to a temporary gag while in Moscow. Judged on his record so far, it would seem out of character, but he may have little choice, and a Russian member of parliament has suggested the American fugitive was prepared to agree to such a deal.

Temporary haven in Russia would give Snowden protected status so that even if there were a sealed Interpol warrant waiting for him when he emerged on to the streets of Moscow, his pending asylum request should, under international law, take precedence and be ruled on before any extradition requests.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said Snowden has a good prima facie case for asylum, based on a well-founded fear of political persecution. Snowden's public statement at Sheremetyevo, couched in the language of the US constitution and international law, will have served to entrench that case.

Human rights lawyers say those grounds have been strengthened by the extraordinary lengths to which Washington has gone to try to get him back, as well as the lack of whistleblower protection for national security officials in the US under the Espionage Act, the brutal treatment of the soldier behind the WikiLeaks revelations, Bradley Manning, and the prospect of long-term incarceration before trial, possibly in solitary confinement.

Human Rights Watch notes: "The US should also keep in mind that for many decades it has offered political asylum to people who suffer severe penalties for criticising their governments." It has called on Washington not to play by double standards. The Obama administration is unlikely to appreciate the implicit comparison with the world's dictatorships, but right now, Snowden just needs to persuade Pig Putin.


Edward Snowden inflames US-Russian tensions with Moscow meeting

Obama and Pig Putin to discuss situation after NSA whistleblower meets representatives of human rights agencies in Moscow

Paul Lewis in Washington, Friday 12 July 2013 22.46 BST   

The White House openly criticised Russia for giving Edward Snowden a "propaganda platform" on Friday, after the whistleblower was permitted to meet human rights activists in the Moscow airport where he has been trapped for three weeks.

Hours before Barack Obama was due to speak with Vladimir Putin on the telephone, senior US officials publicly chided Moscow for facilitating the high-profile event.

Snowden, a former contractor who leaked classified National Security Agency information about US surveillance tactics, has been trapped in a Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong on 23 June.

In his first public appearance since identifying himself as the source of the leaks last month, Snowden met human rights lawyers and announced that he intends to renew an earlier request for asylum in Russia, although in the longer term he said he will seek safe passage to Latin America.

Those present at the Moscow event said it must have been sanctioned or even choreographed by Russian officials; airport employees organised and conducted the event, and order was kept by a small cadre of policemen.

In Washington, Obama's press secretary Jay Carney said the president would discuss Snowden's case with Putin during a scheduled phone call. "I would simply say that providing a propaganda platform for Mr Snowden runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality, and that they have no control over his presence in the airport," he said.

"It is also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr Snowden to further damage US interests."

He added: "We don't believe this should - and we don't want it to - do harm to our important relationship with Russia. We continue to discuss with Russia our strongly held view that there is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorised leaking of classified information."

Asked about the involvement of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which sent representatives to meet Snowden, Carney replied: "Those groups do important work. But Mr Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony counts, and should be returned to the United States, where he will be afforded full due process."

In comments unlikely to smooth diplomatic relations, he said the Russian government should permit human rights groups to do their work "throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow [airport] transit lounge".

The White House would not be drawn on the likely content of Obama's phone call with Putin, but it seems inconceivable that the plight of the former NSA contractor will not be the subject of a difficult conversation.

Putin's spokesman repeated the Russian president's previous declaration that Snowden should stop harming the interests of the US if he wants asylum. But in a sign that Moscow may be inclined to grant Snowden safe haven, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker who attended the airport meeting, said the former spy appeared to be willing to meet that condition.

At the Moscow airport meeting, Snowden said the US was undertaking "unlawful" attempts to prevent his arrival to countries in which he has been granted asylum. In a statement read at the meeting and released later by WikiLeaks, he described his decision to leak secret NSA documents to the Guardian and Washington Post as a "moral decision".

"I did what I believed right," he said. "I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice."

Despite Obama having claimed publicly that the US does not intend to expend much energy in securing the extradition of a "a 29-year-old hacker", the reality is that senior officials have been lobbying hard behind the scenes, particularly in Latin America, where three countries - Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia - have offered to grant Snowden asylum.

Vice-president Joe Biden is known to have been instrumental in persuading Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa not to offer asylum to Snowden.

The US is also widely believed to have been behind the decision by European countries to block a plane carrying the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, from traveling through their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was on board.

On Friday, a senior State Department official told the New York Times that countries throughout Latin America had been made aware of the repercussions of granting asylum to Snowden.

Relations with any country seen to be helping the former NSA contractor would be "in a very bad place for a long time to come", the official said.

At a State Department press conference, chief spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US was disappointed that Russia appeared to have facilitated Snowden's high-profile meeting with human rights activists.

Echoing the language used by the White House, she said: "Our concern here is [Snowden] has been provided this opportunity to speak in a propaganda platform, that Russia has played a role in facilitating this, that others have helped elevate this," she said.

She said that Moscow's handling of the case risked damaging its relationship with the US, but added: "we are not at this point yet".

Psaki said that Russia "still has the opportunity to do the right thing and help return Mr Snowden to the US".


07/12/2013 02:58 PM

'United Stasi of America': Light Artist Wanted by Berlin Police

By Charles Hawley

Berlin police are investigating a light artist for projecting the phrase "United Stasi of America" onto the the US Embassy in Berlin. The phrase refers to the former East German secret police and was meant as a protest against American spying. But can the artist really be prosecuted?

It was meant to be a publicity stunt -- a political prank aimed at voicing displeasure over vast US Internet surveillance and spying activities. But Oliver Bienkowski, the light artist who projected the words "United Stasi of America" onto the US Embassy late Sunday night now finds himself in hot water with the Berlin police after authorities opened an investigation.

Officially, a Berlin spokesman confirmed on Friday, Bienkowski is suspected of having violated a law against "insulting organs and representatives of foreign countries." So far, however, the artist has not yet even been approached by the authorities, though the Berlin police said he would soon be invited in for questioning.

The projection, which included an image of Internet activist and hacker icon Kim Schmitz, aka "Kim Dotcom," took place at around 1 a.m. local time on Sunday night and lasted for a mere 30 seconds before police guarding the embassy asked him to move on. "Stasi" is a reference to the infamous East German Ministry for State Security, which managed a vast network of spies and informants in communist times -- but which also persecuted the state's political opponents.

Bienkowski told SPIEGEL ONLINE that his goal was to "do things that people will see and try to get them to think." Specifically, he wanted to voice criticism of US web surveillance, the vast scope of which was revealed recently by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Bienkowski says he even spent €5,000 ($6,500) out of his own pocket to finance the costs of the guerilla light projection.

Free Speech?

Despite the slow pace of the investigation thus far, the artist has already hired a lawyer. And in a press release issued this week, the law firm made clear that it sees the case as having little merit. For one, the law firm D. Breymann Rechsanwälte says that a complaint has to have been made by the US Embassy for the case to be pursued. But the embassy has told Berlin daily Tagesspiegel that it does not intend to file such a complaint. For another, the supposed insult was not directed at a specific individual.

Mostly, though, Bienkowski's lawyer makes clear that the projection on Sunday night should be protected by the right to free speech. "By making use of the artistic form of satire, which has always been characterized by exaggeration and hyperbole, Bienkowski was protesting in a legitimate manner the massive degradation of civil rights, particularly via the recently revealed attacks on the private spheres of (not just) German civilians through intercontinental surveillance measures," the lawyer's statement reads.

Bienkowski, for his part, seems unconcerned as well, telling SPIEGEL ONLINE on Friday that it is a cut-and-dry case of freedom of expression. He also seems to harbor little animosity toward the Berlin police themselves -- even if they forced him to turn off his projector just seconds into his protest. "They were very friendly," he says.

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« Reply #7478 on: Jul 13, 2013, 06:52 AM »

07/12/2013 06:11 PM

Democratic Deficits: Prague Slides into Central European Trap

By Benjamin Cunningham in Prague

The Czech Republic has a new government. But the way it got there, following a sordid scandal involving the country's prime minister and a power grab by the president, has raised concerns that democracy in Prague is beginning to emulate that of its neighbors.

Scandal is as much a part of the Czech political calendar as elections or cabinet meetings. But even jaded observers note that more than patience is being tested these days as the country's parliamentary system and democratic credentials are drawn into question. Even worse, it marks the continuation of a trend that has developed elsewhere in Central Europe.

The Czech saga starts with former Prime Minister Petr Nečas. He met with police on Friday as part of investigation into Jana Nagyová, a one-time top advisor who doubled as Nečas' mistress. In a sordid series of events that ultimately brought down the center-right Nečas government, Nagyová is alleged to have used state intelligence services to spy on opponents and on Nečas' own wife. Nagoya was arrested on June 12 and, along with other key players, remains incarcerated awaiting her day in court. The day after the arrests, police seized 150 million Czech crowns (€5.8 million, $7.5 million) in cash and a trove of gold in a series of raids across the country tied to the case.

But that's not all. In a parallel case, prosecutors are asking parliament to strip Nečas, who remains a parliamentarian, of his immunity from prosecution. He would then face charges for awarding two troublesome lawmakers from his own party cushy bureaucratic jobs in exchange for dropping opposition to a piece of legislation.

The Nečas scandal is deep and racy, yet far deeper issues have been raised in its aftermath. On Wednesday, President Miloš Zeman opted to bypass the will of parliament and appoint Jiří Rusnok, a former ally from Zeman's own days as prime minister, to lead a caretaker government. The heavy-handed move prompted cries that Zeman is usurping power and that his disregard for protocol represents a deviation from the parliamentary system.

'Envious Idiots'

Zeman was undeterred. During the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, he advised his new government to ignore "the media criticism of envious idiots who have never done anything proper in their lives."

The moves have sent the entire political spectrum scrambling as even Zeman's purported ideological allies on the left would prefer early elections they would almost certainly win. One parliamentary insider, a member of the Social Democrats -- the party likely to win an election and one originally brought to prominence by Zeman himself -- admits they are "in a bit of a pickle."

Given the squalid details, it is tempting to see Nečas fall as merely a Berlusconi-esque drama playing out in Central Europe. But it has revealed the kind of democratic shortcomings that its neighbors Poland, Slovakia and Hungary have also suffered from. The so-called Visegrad Four all saw communism end in 1989, joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. And today, they are all faced with concerns that genuine pluralism is at risk in their respective political systems.

"In recent years, the trends have not been good," said Lubomír Kopeček, a political scientist at Masaryk University in Brno. "All four countries function, but some liberal democratic aspects are under threat."

The manner and degree of the trend varies, but it is notable nonetheless. Crisis-addled Hungary saw Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party take a two-thirds majority in parliament and begin molding state institutions in their favor. In Poland, there is a lack of political alternatives on the left and questions remain as to whether the two dominant right-of-center parties can even survive once leadership is passed from their powerful chairmen. Slovakia has seen the reverse, with a cohesive left under the sway of charismatic Prime Minister Robert Fico splintering and obliterating a disorganized and scandal-ridden right.

'Zero Sum Game'

"A high level of corruption and patronage," remains a problem in such systems, said Fernando Casal Bértoa, an expert on party systems at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands. "When you get into government and you are not sure you will get back into government, you take advantage of the state. Political competition becomes a zero sum game."

Corruption, of course, has long posed a challenge in Central Europe. But recent signs that pluralism is at risk may indicate that democratic roots in the region remain shallow. Oversized personalities and populism increasingly dominate political discourse, whether the rhetoric be anti-Russia, anti-Germany, anti-EU or anti-banker.

Poland's Kaczynski brothers, for example, proved exceedingly adept at instrumentalizing history. Today, Poland's ruling Civic Platform is a party "based on the individual popularity of (Prime Minister) Donald Tusk," says Lukasz Lipiski, deputy director of Polityka Insight in Warsaw. The personalization of politics is even more strongly embodied in the figures of Orbán, Fico and Zeman and their vague blends of anti-elitist nationalism.

"We have some experience with semi-democratic management in Slovakia, with (1990s-era Prime Minister Vladimír) Mečiar," says Mikuláš Dzurinda, a two-time Slovak prime minister. "And now we are seeing it in some neighboring countries."

Dzurinda himself is no stranger to the shadier sides of democracy. While among Fico's biggest critics, scandals in his own party -- including alleged mass bribery of state officials by a leading Bratislava investment group -- led the country's political right into oblivion. Still, the 11-faction coalition government Dzurinda strapped together from 1998 to 2002 would represent a paragon of pluralism in the region today.

Greater Presidential Power

In his recent power play, Zeman argues he has a mandate to break constitutional and cultural precedence. While previous Czech presidents Václav Havel and Václav Klaus were chosen via convoluted wheeling and dealing in the halls of parliament, Zeman was the first to become head of state through a public vote earlier this year. He contends this gives him a free hand to intervene and he has repeatedly asserted that the roughly 3 million votes he received in the presidential runoff represent far more support than any single parliamentary party has received.

Given the intractability of Czech politics in recent years, there are some who would welcome a tectonic shift toward greater presidential power.

"Such a transition occurred in France near the end of the 1950s and democracy survived," Kopeček said. "I am not comparing Zeman to DeGaulle, but pointing to possible change underway."

Among Central Europe's uneasy electorate and unstable party systems, counteracting pluralism's drift toward personalized politics almost certainly requires alliances of smaller players in the face of the dominant individual personalities now holding sway. But in a region reputed for zero sum politics, such collaboration is rare. "In the blood, it is not natural to share power," Dzurinda admitted.

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« Reply #7479 on: Jul 13, 2013, 06:54 AM »

07/12/2013 01:54 PM

Weed War: Marijuana Plants Sprout across German City

By Anna-Lena Roth

The German university city of Göttingen is being taken over by marijuana plants. Behind the phenomenon is a group of pro-pot activists who planted seeds around town to stir debate over the plant's illegal status. City authorities are not amused.

The university town of Göttingen is getting greener and greener. But not everyone is pleased: The new plants sprouting up in parks, planter boxes and gardens across the city aren't part of an official city-beautification project. They're part of a pro-marijuana protest.

In early June, a group calling itself "A Few Autonomous Flower Children" spread several kilograms of marijuana seeds throughout the city. Only now are the fruits of their labor beginning to emerge from the soil. "We can't set eyes on this useful and beautiful plant because it's absolutely forbidden in Germany to grow it," the group wrote in a letter claiming responsibility for the action. And they say that's not right.

Planting the seeds was a protest against Germany's "restrictive drug policies," the group said, arguing that it's incomprehensible "why cannabis, unlike alcohol, cannot be legally purchased." They called the absolute ban on the cultivation of marijuana plants -- even ones with low levels of the psychoactive agent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- absurdly strict, and said their actions were a "sign against the demonization of cannabis." The group emphasizes that the strain of cannabis they planted across the city had low THC content.

Thedecriminalization of marijuana in Germany has been a controversial issue for years, as it has been in many countries around the world. Opponents argue that the drug is by no means harmless, which is why it should remain illegal.

Proponents say the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous than cannabis -- and they use numbers to back their argument up. Tens of thousands of people in Germany die each year from causes related to alcohol and tobacco consumption. They also argue that the criminalization of marijuana brings users in contact with crime rings, where harder drugs also circulate.

'The Majestic Beauty of this Magnificent Plant'

The Flower Children have found support in the local chapter of the Green Youth (GJ), the youth wing of the Green Party. "The legalization of hemp is a matter of interest for us," a spokesman said. A similar pot-planting protest took place last year in Göttingen, he said, but on a much smaller scale. "Now the plants are spread out across the whole city."

In order to increase the public discussion of the issue, the GJ started a photo competition, now in its second round. About 40 photos of pot plants were submitted, but no winner will be chosen. "The beauty of the photos is enough," a spokesman said.

The GJ published the photos on its website (German only), and called on the readers to "enjoy with deep relaxation the majestic beauty of this magnificent plant!" The pot plants appear in meadows and in front of houses -- even in front of the city's police station.

The police, not surprisingly, are not as taken with the plant's supposed beauty and have launched an investigation for violation of narcotics laws. "This action is a big deal, people really put effort into it," said Göttingen police spokeswoman Jasmin Kaatz. Everywhere seeds could be sown, hemp plants are sprouting, she said.

The police said they are using the photos on the GJ website to identify numerous spots where the plants are appearing. Patrolling officers are vigilant, Kaatz said, and destroy any plants they see while on duty. "Everything that looks like hemp is torn out," she said.

Employees of the parks department are also working to rid the city of the plants. Detlef Johannson, spokesman for the city government, said 70 plants have been removed so far and that more should be expected.

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« Reply #7480 on: Jul 13, 2013, 06:58 AM »

07/12/2013 05:39 PM

Eco-Blowback: Mutiny in the Land of Wind Turbines

By Matthias Schulz

Germany plans to build 60,000 new wind turbines -- in forests, in the foothills of the Alps and even in protected environmental areas. But local residents are up in arms, costs are skyrocketing and Germany's determination to phase out nuclear power is in danger.

The German village of Husarenhof, just north of Stuttgart, nestles picturesquely between orchards and vineyards. Peter Hitzker's house stands on a sharp bend in the road. "Sometimes I get up in the morning and find a couple of totaled cars in the front yard," he says. "But I guess nowhere's perfect."

Still, he finds the wind turbine behind his garden fence harder to cope with. The tower is 180 meters (590 feet) high, and the whirr of the blades and grinding of the actuators are clearly audible.

"When I leave my local bar in Heilbronn, 15 kilometers from here, I find my way home by heading for the turbine," he quips.

But he can't think of anything else positive to say about the turbine. "It's dreadful," he says. "And it's split the village. It's war here."

The wind turbine, an Enercon E-82, has been there for over a year. When it was inaugurated, the local shooting club, the "Black Hunters", fired their guns in celebration, and the local priest delivered a sermon on protecting God's creation.

But not everyone is happy. Some are angry at the way the landscape, celebrated by German Romantic poets such as Hölderlin and Mörike, is being butchered. The opponents protest with images of the Grim Reaper holding a wind turbine rather than his traditional scythe.

The situation in Husarenhof can be found across Germany. After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima and Germany's swift decision to abandon nuclear energy and embrace renewable energy as part of its so-called Energiewende, the country's 16 federal states reacted with a sort of excessive zeal. The northeastern state of Brandenburg plans to set aside 2 percent of its land for wind farms. The western state of Rhineland-Palatinate intends to more than double the amount of wind power it generates. North Rhine-Westphalia, its neighbor to the north, is planning an increase of more than 300 percent.

The winds of change are blowing in Germany -- and hard. Flat-bed trucks laden with tower segments make their way slowly across boggy fields. Cranes crawl up narrow forest paths to set up outsized wind turbines on the tops of mountains. Germany aims to increase its production of wind power from 31,000 to 45,000 megawatts over the next seven years. By the middle of the century, it hopes to be generating 85,000 megawatts in wind power

With the prime coastal locations already taken, operators are increasingly turning their attention to areas further inland. Even valuable tourist regions -- such as the Moselle valley, the Allgäu and the foothills of the Alps -- are to be sacrificed. Sites have even been earmarked by Lake Constance and near Starnberg, where the Bavarian King Ludwig II drowned.

At the moment, things are still in the planning, reporting and application stage. Local authorities' filing cabinets are overflowing with authorization documents and wind strength measurements. Plans call for some 60,000 new turbines to be erected in Germany -- and completely alter its appearance.

The Backer-Opponent Divide

But what's really going on? Are politicians wisely creating the tools needed to prevent the end of the world as we know it? Or are they simply marring the countryside?

More than 700 citizens' initiatives have been founded in Germany to campaign against what they describe as "forests of masts", "visual emissions" and the "widespread devastation of our highland summits."

The opponents carry coffins symbolizing the death of environmental protection. They organize petitions on an almost daily basis. Local residents by Lake Starnberg have even filed a legal complaint alleging that the wind turbines violate Germany's constitution.

The underlying divide is basic and irreconcilable. On one side stand environmentalists and animal rights activists passionate about protecting the tranquility of nature. On the other are progressively minded champions of renewable energy and climate activists determined to secure the long-term survival of the planet.

The question is: How many forests must be sacrificed, how many horizons dotted with wind turbines, to meet Germany's new energy targets? Where is the line between thoughtful activism and excessive zeal? At what point is taxpayer money simply being thrown away?

The wrangling over these issues has led many in Germany's Green Party to question what their party really stands for. Enoch zu Guttenberg, a founding member of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), noisily left the association last year because of its support for wind power. Since then, he has felt a "panicky need" to warn humanity about the "giant totems of the cult of unlimited energy."

Michael Succow, a prominent German environmentalist and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, is also threatening to abandon ship. He fears soulless stretches of land and lost tranquility.

And his fears are not unfounded. Back in the 1980s, tree-huggers put up Aeroman wind turbines in their front yards -- but those days are long gone. Just the masts of today's wind turbines can reach up to 160 meters high. When active, they kill so many insects that the sticky mass slows the rotors down.

The sweeping blades of the Enercon E-126 cover an area of seven football fields. The rotors of modern wind turbines weigh up to 320 metric tons. There are 83 such three-armed bandits in Germany's largest wind farm, near the village of Ribbeck, northwest of Berlin.

As they drive their SUVs through these turbine forests, tolerantly minded city-dwellers sometimes comment on how ugly eastern Germany has become. Others find them attractive -- as they speed past.

But local Nimbies ("Nimby" = Not In My Back Yard) are indignant. Apart from everything else, the value of their homes has plummeted.

Even sparsely populated areas are beginning to take action. Take, for example, the campaign "Rettet Brandenburg" ("Save Brandenburg"). This eastern state surrounding Berlin is already home to more than 3,100 wind turbines, more than any other federal state. Now, however, the powers-that-be want to build 3,000 more turbines, but state residents are up in arms and have launched a citizen's initiative. At a protest day held in late May, its members railed against "wind-grubbers" and "monster mills."

Maxing Out Turbine Size

Nevertheless, their protests will do little to stop wind-turbine manufacturers from eagerly building taller and taller models. For the relatively weak inland winds to generate sufficient energy and profits, Germany's wind farmers need to reach higher and higher into the skies.

The goal is to get away from the turbulence found near the ground and to climb up into the Ekman layer, above 100 meters high, where the wind blows continuously. Up there, the forces of nature rage freely, creating enough terawatts to meet the energy needs of the global population hundreds of times over. Or at least that's the theory.

Inland, the "technical trend" toward bigger wind turbines "continues unabated," according to a study recently published by the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES).

A visit to the IWES test center in the northern port city of Bremerhaven reveals what lies in store. The center is home to a next-generation rotary blade: flexible, wobbly even, weighing 30 metric tons and stretching 83.5 meters across.

The mammoth prototype blade is currently at the testing stage. Hydraulic presses and cables bend and buffet the blade millions of times over, simulating the stress exerted by storms and gusts of wind.

IWES meteorologist Paul Kühn thinks that the mast themselves, without the blades, could grow to up to 200 meters high. Anything taller would be unprofitable due to the "square-cube law."

Growing Intolerance

So, might we one day see wind turbines with blades stretching up almost 300 meters into the clouds -- a somber memorial to Germany's nuclear phase-out? Even hip urban fans of renewable energy think that would take some getting used to.

Recent studies by bird protectors reveal how the giant blades chop up the air in brutal fashion. "Golden plovers avoid the wind turbines," says Potsdam-based ornithologist Jörg Lippert. Swallows and storks, on the other hand, fly straight into them. The barbastelle bat's lungs collapse as it flies by. A "terrible future" awaits the lesser spotted eagle and red kite, Lippert says.

German citizens are also having to make sacrifices to meet the ambitious goals of the new energy policy. In England, large wind turbines must be situated at least 3,000 meters away from houses in residential areas. In Germany, which is more densely populated, local planners place turbines much closer to homes. In the southern state of Bavaria, for example, the minimum separation is 500 meters, while it's just 300 meters in the eastern state of Saxony.

In the early days, when everyone was still very excited about clean wind power, some farmers in northerly coastal areas allowed turbines to be erected even 250 meters from their cottages. And then they received large compensation payments when the noise from the rotors triggered stampedes in their pigsties.

But now even those in northern Germany are grumbling. Many old wind turbines are being replaced with new, more powerful ones in a process known as "repowering." Instead of 50 meters tall, these new turbines are more than 150 meters high, have flashing lights on them to prevent aircraft from hitting them and make a lot of noise as they rotate.

The result? Complaints about the noise everywhere.

Legal Turbulence
The victims of this "sound pollution" typically have bags under their eyes and a tremor in their voices. They are the movement's martyrs. Klaus Zeltwanger is one such victim. He lives just 370 meters from the turbine in Husarenhof. "It whirrs and it hisses," he says, "and then it drones like an airplane about to take off."

To date, the courts have rejected such complaints. Since wind turbines enjoy special rights, fighting them in court is an uphill battle.

But one woman brought a successful case in the northwestern city of Münster back in 2006. She lived just 270 meters away from a wind turbine. She based her plea on the "requirement to be considerate," under which technical equipment and machines cannot be located so close to a residential property that they become "visually oppressive." The experts talk of a "feeling of being dwarfed."

After a long battle, she won the case -- and the giant turbine was torn down.

Other legal grounds can also apply. According to the German Emission Control Act, noise levels in mixed-use residential areas may not exceed 45 decibels at night. For a long time, no one knew what that meant exactly in terms of distance in meters.

Now the courts have ruled on this, too, in a case that might just upset Germany's entire energy revolution. A woman from Marxheim, a town in western Bavaria, brought a case in the Munich Higher Regional Court. Her typical farmer's house, decorated with flowers, was situated 850 meters from an Enercon E-82. She claimed that the sound waves boomed "across field and forest" to where she lived.

The case documents talk of "hissing," "whizzing" and "puffing noises." A specialist in acoustics recorded a volume of 42.8 decibels, adding a further 3 decibels to this because of what is known as the "impulsiveness" of the noise.

The result? The wind turbine now has to operate at a reduced speed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., which renders it unprofitable.

Enercon is appealing to the Federal Administrative Court. But its chances of winning look slim. Hundreds of propellers are located in the zone that has now been deemed forbidden. Could a large-scale thinning out of turbines now be in the cards?

Attorney Armin Brauns from Diessen, in Bavaria, is predicting a "wave of cases," and his office is overflowing with case files. "Some local authorities behave unfairly with respect to protecting the countryside, circumventing existing laws," he says.

Bloated Capacity and Costs

These disputes come at a very awkward time for the wind-power industry. The country is expecting to see many thousands of new wind turbines up and running in the near future. But, at the moment, orders are few and far between.

For a long time, the companies grew fat on feed-in tariffs, which provide guaranteed prices for green energy at above-market prices subsidized by the government via surcharges on consumers' power bills. Indeed, an entire industrial sector developed into a subsidy giant. The result? Bloated firms with excess capacity.

International markets are also collapsing, which makes things even worse for the industry. The two most important countries for wind power have both reigned in further construction projects. The United States is instead going for cheaper "fracking," the controversial method of using hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas. China, on the other hand, has problems with its power grids, which is dampening its enthusiasm for wind turbines.

Stephan Weil, the governor of the northwestern state of Lower Saxony, recently warned that 10,000 jobs in the state's wind industry were at risk. The Danish manufacturer Vestas has already been forced to cut some 1,400 positions.

The mood is correspondingly tense. The CEO of WeserWind says that a "regulating hand" is nowhere to be found, leaving everything in "total chaos."

Cem Özdemir, the national chairman of Germany's Green Party, claims that environmental protection "is a great opportunity for our country -- economically, too." But, in reality, everything is getting more expensive. At the European Energy Exchange in Leipzig, electricity costs less than 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). But consumers currently pay 27 cents for each kWh because the price is overloaded with taxes and environmental fees.

There are many reasons for this. For example, all the electrical work involved in setting up offshore wind turbines and connecting them to the onshore grid is much more costly than was originally thought. The acrobats on the high seas are doing pioneering work, and the risks of failure are high.

Rather than calmly developing elegant offshore technology, German politicians have put themselves under pressure by setting the deadline for ending the production of nuclear power in Germany at early in the next decade. Everyone is in a rush. So when costs go up at sea, the wind turbines immediately swarm inland.

But that leaves just one more problem: Things aren't much cheaper on land, either. Giant electricity highways are needed to transport the energy southward from the turbines along the northern coastline. And that necessitates a complete restructuring of the national power grid.

"We're planning nothing less than a technical revolution," says a spokesman for the environment ministry of Lower Saxony, in Hanover. "In the past, villages in the middle of nowhere were connected (to the grid) using the thinnest cables possible. Today, we need the thickest cables there because the wind farms are in the outback."

Around 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) of new extra-high voltage lines are needed, plus 7,000 kilometers of distribution networks. Cost estimates put the figure at between €10 million and €20 million.

Delays and Demands

It's a massive undertaking. To get things moving, Germany's federal government introduced the Infrastructure Planning Acceleration Act back in 2006. This was followed in 2009 by the Power Grid Expansion Act. And, just five weeks ago, Germany's federal parliament passed the Federal Requirement Plan Act.

But despite the legislation, the actual amount of new electricity grid infrastructure that has been constructed is surprisingly small: Just 268 kilometers of the planned grid expansion is currently up and running.

Why the delay? One reason is the many thousands of hysterical "electrosmog" campaigners who fight every new section of 110-kilovolt line as if it were the work of the devil. And the wind farms are always accompanied by their ugly step-sister: the overhead power masts carrying the power lines.

What about underground cables, then? This is what the protestors are demanding. What they forget is that 380-kilovolt lines laid underground require copper strands as thick as your arm to avoid overheating. And they are incredibly expensive: All in all, underground cables can cost up to 10 times as much as overhead cables.

Often, the bottlenecks in the grid are already so big that the wind turbines are turning for no reason. When there is a stiff breeze, they have to be held back. This led to 127 gigawatt hours of power being wasted in 2010, or enough to meet the annual energy requirements of 100,000 residents.

Winners and Losers
But scare tactics won't work here. The costs of disposing of nuclear waste are also enormous. And nobody likes the moonscapes left behind by coal mining.

People are beginning to have second thoughts. The eastern state of Saxony has already downscaled its expansion plans. And the state of Thuringia to its west doesn't want any wind turbines located in its forests.

Overall, however, the ranks of fearless politicians whose goal is to build an environmental utopia in Germany remain by and large unbroken.

Robert Habeck, a member of the Green Party who serves as environment minister for the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, sees himself as an agent in the "undertaking of the century." To underline his determination, he even calls himself the "Minister for the Energiewende." Today, we are building the infrastructure that will ensure that energy is "as good as free for our children," he says.

It's hard to see exactly what he bases his calculation on. Consumers are currently paying more and more for power, while others are making a killing. Members of community-owned wind farms are being tempted with returns of between 6 and 9 percent. These profits are fed primarily by subsidies that have previously been hijacked from citizens.

Farmers are also making good money on the shift to wind power. Desirable locations for wind turbines can bring in more than €50,000 ($65,000) a year in rent in Bavaria. With prices like that, who wouldn't want to help promote the cause of clean energy?

Baron Götz von Berlichingen, from the village of Jagsthausen in Baden-Württemberg, is a direct descendant of the knight celebrated by Goethe. Together with the power company EnBW, he is building 11 wind farms on his property. Used for farming, the land generated at the most €700 per hectare (2.5 acres) -- a fraction of what it earns as a site for wind turbines.

According to opponents of wind power, that's why permits to build wind farms are being handed out like there's no tomorrow. They complain about "brainwashed climate apostles," "traitors of the countryside" and "greedy power gamblers" who are prepared to sacrifice every last inch of the country to the Energiewende.

Sacrificing the Forests

They are right in claiming that growth is rampant. The German government wants to have renewable sources supply 35 percent of Germany's energy by 2020. And, in their excessive zeal, the federal states have already designated enough land for green infrastructure capable of lifting this figure to 80 percent within the same period.

Instead of banishing the noise-makers to industrial wastelands or erecting them along freeways, they are scattering them across graceful mountain landscapes and areas full of lakes.

These plans have admittedly not been properly thought through. But it is the large-scale attack on forests that wind-turbine opponents find the most appalling. The Nordic pine forests, which formed the magical, emotion-filled realm of the German Romantics, as well as the homes of the ash and the oak, are all threatened by the relaxing of the laws.

From the Odenwald mountain range stretching across southwest Germany to the birch forests of Mecklenburg in the northeast, giant trucks are pushing their way into the woodlands. Johannes Remmel, a member of the Green Party who serves as environment minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has announced that he would like to put up around 2,000 wind turbines in the region's forests. The state of Hesse also wants to cut down thousands of hectares of trees.

Some pioneering projects are already underway, such as that in Ellern, a small town in the low mountain range of Hunsrück in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Ellern has recently become home to a record-breaking wind turbine some 200 meters tall, or far above the treetops.

Semi-trailers pulled nacelles, the enormous housings for wind turbine engines, and transformer stations up the narrow forest roads. A 1,000-ton crane made its way up the slippery slopes to the peak; trees were felled at the side of the road to make way for it. At the top, the forest was cleared to nothing with chainsaws so that concrete foundations could be laid for the turbines.

No one knows what the impact of such activities will be on the flora and fauna. The offensive into this mountain range took place "without checks," protests Germany's Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). In any case, the group says, the idea of generating wind power in the forest should be "rejected on principle."

Lies and Deception

The decision to not build offshore wind farms turns out to be misguided not just for environmental reasons, but also for economic ones. At sea, turbines can achieve 4,500 full-load hours a year. By the coast, the figure is 3,000. Inland, a site is considered good if it produces 1,800 hours.

The turbines currently being built across Germany, from the Ore Mountains in the east to Lake Constance in the west, are weaker still. Statistics show that the turbines in the south of the country are generating significantly less power than was predicted. The biggest wind farm in Baden-Württemberg, at a height of 850 meters in the Northern Black Forest, has been a flop for years.

"It's all an enormous swindle," says Besigheim-based auditor Walter Müller, 65, whose former job involved calculating the value of bankrupt East German factories. Today, he takes the same hard-as-nails approach to examining the books of wind farm companies.

His verdict? A fabric of lies and deception. The experts commissioned by the operators of the wind farms sometimes describe areas with weak breezes as top "wind-intensive" sites to make them appear more attractive, he says. "Small-scale investors are promised profits to attract them into closed funds for wind farms that do not generate enough energy," he says. "Ultimately, all the capital is eaten up."

The wind turbines, whose job it was to protect the environment, are not running smoothly. Germany's biggest infrastructure project is a mess. Everyone wants to get away from nuclear. But at what price?

Even Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of Baden-Württemberg and the first Green Party member to govern any German state, is sounding contrite. But his resolve remains as firm as ever: "There is simply no alternative to disfiguring the countryside like this," he insists.

The question is: Is he right?

Translated from the German by Nick Ukiah

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« Reply #7481 on: Jul 13, 2013, 07:00 AM »

07/12/2013 05:04 PM

Own Goal: German TV Blasted for Sexist Football Ad

Women's sports are often touted as a means of female empowerment, so a number of viewers who tuned in to the start of the Women's Euro 2013 soccer tournament on Thursday night were shocked to see an ad for the event that was steeped in gender stereotypes.

Germany tied the Netherlands on Thursday night in the opening match of the Women's European Football Championship tournament. But rather than focusing on the result, many German viewers were expressing their outrage over a "sexist" television spot used to advertise the event on German public broadcaster ZDF.

The 22-second clip shows a woman dressed in a crisp national team uniform as she kicks a muddy soccer ball. But the player, who is shown only from the neck down, is not aiming for a goal. Instead, she takes a perfect shot right into an open washing machine. She then sets the cycle and perches on top of the counter in a spotless laundry room, crossing her legs and twiddling her thumbs as the suds bubble. A woman's voice concludes: "Ballsauber in Schweden." The play on the German near-homophones "sauber" (clean) and "zauber" (magic), suggests that instead of working magic with the ball in Sweden, the women on the pitch will be doing cleaning work instead.

The spot, which tapped into obvious gender stereotypes, sparked a hail of angry Tweets and Facebook posts, with users describing it as sexist, embarrassing, disrespectful and clichéd. Up-and-coming young feminist Anne Wizorek tweeted that the spot was "apparently straight out of 1979, complete with a washing machine."

'Spectacularly Bad'

There was also a litany of criticism to be found in a number of German dailies on Friday morning. Tabloid Bild said that ZDF deserved a "red card" for the ad, running an editorial suggesting that the broadcaster ought to have thrown it in the trash.

Star national player Fatmire Bajramaj also criticized the clip. "The spot is not a good idea," the 25-year-old midfielder told the paper. "One would rather prefer that it was about football and not washing machines."

Women's magazine EMMA, founded by respected German feminist Alice Schwarzer, wrote: "It strongly calls to mind the times when the women players were fobbed off with a coffee service as a prize for a European Championship victory."

Conservative daily Die Welt called it "spectacularly bad," while Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel said the ad was an "embarrassing own goal" for ZDF.

Exaggerated Political Correctness?

On its early "Morgenmagazin" show Friday morning, the broadcaster addressed the criticism, calling in social media manager Michael Umlandt, who acknowledged that people were "not speaking very positively about it."

He highlighted a few choice tweets, including one from viewer @yscherf, who wrote: "Dear ZDF, you can take your sexist gender role clichés and shove them."

On Facebook, viewer Frieda Himbeere wrote: "Football has absolutely nothing to do with laundry, and if this was about men's football, no one would think to create such a tongue-in-cheek commercial."

"Harsh," responded the presenter, acknowledging the "flood of reactions."

But Peter Frey, ZDF's chief editor, was unmoved by the criticism. "I don't think we need to exaggerate when it comes to political correctness," he said on the show. "A spot should stand out and pique interest. In this case, it really worked. It catches the eye, and for me that's the end of the matter."

Still, it would appear that the broadcaster is taking the criticism to heart -- to a certain extent at least. A spokesman told Bild that while they wouldn't take it off air completely, they were considering a possible alteration. "We thought there would be a reaction, but this time we underestimated it," Alexander Stock told the paper. "When it comes to these clichés, there is more sensitivity in Germany than in other countries."

The ad, he continued, was not intended to be misogynistic.

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« Reply #7482 on: Jul 13, 2013, 07:04 AM »

Portugal's borrowing costs rise after Socialist leader rejects bailout terms

Opposition head António José Seguro causes market turmoil as he calls for deal with Brussels to be renegotiated

Phillip Inman, economics correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 12 July 2013 20.18 BST   

Portugal's opposition Socialist party spooked financial markets and pushed up the government's cost of borrowing after it demanded Lisbon renegotiate the terms of its bailout deal with Brussels.

The news came as Fitch became the third ratings agency to strip France of its AAA rating, to AA+. In Portugal, the Socialist leader, António José Seguro, said he was ready to discuss a pact with the prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, but any coalition needed to agree that austerity measures agreed with Brussels had failed. "We have to abandon austerity politics. We have to renegotiate the terms of our adjustment programme," Seguro told parliament. "The prime minister has to recognise publicly that his austerity policies have failed."

The political turmoil has already forced Lisbon to request a delay in the eighth review of the bailout by its creditors, initially due to start on Monday, until the end of August or early September.

The delay drove up yields on Portuguese government bonds, which determine Lisbon's borrowing costs, with 10-year yields surging 90 basis points to 7.87%.

The euro stayed relatively calm, maintaining its value against sterling at just over 86p, as the markets viewed Portugal's problems as self-contained and affordable under existing bailout programmes.

The bad news coming out of Portugal was offset by Ireland's efforts to shrug off the financial crisis, which received a boost after Standard & Poor's said its debt burden may fall faster than expected.

The credit ratings agency maintained the BBB+ rating on Dublin's sovereign bonds but upgraded the outlook from stable to positive.

The upgrade comes before a planned year-end exit from its international bailout, and backs its status as Europe's strongest bailed-out economy amid the political turmoil in Portugal and Greece.

"The outlook revision reflects our view that Ireland's general government debt burden is likely to decline more rapidly, as a percentage of GDP, than we had previously expected," S&P said in a statement.

"Ireland's economic recovery is under way."

Greece is braced for a general strike next week while Portugal faces the collapse of its coalition government and a general election next year.

The president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, threw Portugal into disarray this week by refusing to allow the premier to heal a rift in the ruling coalition with a controversial cabinet reshuffle, calling for a cross-party agreement to last until the end of the bailout programme in June 2014, to be followed by early elections.

The Socialists have blamed the government's austerity drive under the €78bn (£67bn) bailout for pushing Portugal into its biggest economic slump since the 1970s and unemployment to record levels of around 18%.

"More time is something which we have always fought for. More time so our adjustment curve is not so steep and we can relieve sacrifices families and businesses have to make," Seguro, whose party leads in opinion polls, said.

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« Reply #7483 on: Jul 13, 2013, 07:06 AM »

Erdoğan's chief adviser knows what's behind Turkey's protests – telekinesis

From Lufthansa to the CIA, Turkey's government has come up with some worrying conspiracy theories to explain Gezi Park

Fiachra Gibbons, Saturday 13 July 2013 12.00 BST   

It has to be said that when the Turkish government began to flail around for the "real reasons" behind the Gezi protests, their initial conspiracy theories lacked imagination – the CIA, Europeans jealous of their economic success, unspecified foreign forces in cahoots with terrorists, Twitter, the "interest rate lobby", and, of course, the international Jewish conspiracy. What would a search for a scapegoat be in Turkey (or indeed Greece) without our old friends the Elders of Zion?

Since it was obviously inconceivable that the Turkish people themselves – knowing they were living through a golden age of good governance, piety and profit – would ever take to the streets, there must have been a plot.

Well now we have the answer – it was all a giant telekinetic attack by dark forces to discredit Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, because he had made Turkey a "model for the world". Quite rightly, the man who made this astonishing discovery, Yiğit Bulut, has just been made Erdoğan's chief adviser. No, this is not a joke. Telekinesis, you may have noticed, is a Greek word.

Ministers, and the majority of Turkey's media, have been outdoing each other for the last month with outrageous theories and often outright lies to mask Erdoğan's staggering mishandling of a minor planning dispute over an Istanbul park that brought millions on to the streets in protest at his authoritarian style and police violence against demonstrators.

His ruling AK party has variously claimed that the Gezi protests were the work of CNN or the BBC and even Reuters (after one of the agency's reporters asked Erdoğan an "unapproved question"). In one faked newspaper interview, CNN's Christiane Amanpour "confessed" to starting the protests "for money". Fingers were also pointed at leading liberal journalists, some of whom have since been sacked by media owners afraid of incurring further government wrath (Turkey is already the world's No 1 jailer of journalists).

More shocking even than the smearing of those killed by police is that Erdoğan's AK party – once a slick media machine – can still not put a consistent conspiracy story together. It has to be said that Egypt's military coup has not helped the mood of Turkish Islamists – or that in a self-fulfilling prophecy amid so much nuttiness, Turkish bond rates have near doubled in as many months.

What all the many theories lacked – apart from facts, which would "be shortly announced" but never were – was a protean element: something that would lift the whole puzzling debacle of Erdoğan thrashing his own and his country's reputation over a scraggy patch of grass out of the rational altogether and into another dimension.

Step forward Bulut – TV presenter, commentator, and climber of many greasy poles – who until Gezi was best known for his inordinate use of hair oil. Having got his astral ball rolling by declaring that the protests were paid for by the German airline Lufthansa, afraid that "100 million passengers would be diverted from Germany to Turkey" by a controversial monster airport Erdoğan wants to build near Istanbul, Bulut then took flight.

Turkey's enemies, he claimed, were planning to assassinate Erdoğan – by telekinesis. "There is work going on in many centres in the world to kill Erdoğan from afar through methods like telekinesis," Bulut told TV viewers last month. This week Bulut became Erdoğan's official eminence grise.

Utterly mad it may sound, but there may be method to it – a message to diehard religious supporters that Erdoğan's erratic, confrontational behaviour may be because he is engaged in a life-or-death struggle behind the scenes.

Should Turks be worried? They should if this offers a glimpse of Erdoğan's own state of mind. At a mass rally in Istanbul at the height of the protests, he compared himself to Adnan Menderes, the first elected Turkish leader who was hung by the military on a short rope on the prison island where the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is now held.

Since then, rather than building bridges, Erdoğan has been busy tightening his grip and settling scores – the latest being robbing engineers and architects who so irritated him over Gezi Park of their overseeing role in planning.

Yet in reality the greatest danger to Erdoğan has always been Erdoğan himself and the company he keeps – from his property tycoon son-in-law to his old Kasimpaşa pals who go everywhere with him and once locked him inside his armoured Mercedes outside a hospital when he passed out during Ramadan. Only five years ago his new chief adviser was attacking him and his party as a "fascist" threat to Atatürk's secular republic. As a hopeless nostalgic for the Ottoman empire, Erdoğan might be wise to remember that far more sultans died at the hands of their retainers than ever did in battle.

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« Reply #7484 on: Jul 13, 2013, 07:10 AM »

Alexander Litvinenko death: request for public inquiry denied

Russian spy's widow labels home secretary's move a 'political' decision and says she intends to seek a judicial review

Esther Addley, Friday 12 July 2013 14.00 BST   

The government has refused a request for a public inquiry into the death of the Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, in what the dead man's widow called a "political" decision that showed more concern for British-Russian relations than getting to the truth.

Sir Robert Owen, the coroner overseeing the inquest into Litvinenko's 2006 death, told a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that he had received an eleventh-hour letter from the home secretary, Theresa May, declining his call for a public inquiry, which had thrown the timescale for his long-delayed inquest into further disarray.

Owen wrote to May to request an inquiry last month, after concluding that he could not otherwise consider secret intelligence evidence relating to Russia's involvement in the killing. Pre-inquest hearings have already heard that the government's evidence amounts to a "prima facie case" that the Russian state was responsible.

The coroner made clear his displeasure at being notified by letter only shortly before Friday's hearing, and added that the Home Office decision means it is "inconceivable" Litvinenko's inquest will open on 2 October as planned.

Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who had been granted British citizenship after fleeing Russia, died in November 2006 after being poisoned by radioactive polonium, allegedly administered in a cup of tea during a meeting with two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. His widow's legal team have told the coroner that he was a paid MI6 agent at the time.

Lugovoi and Kovtun deny murder.

Ben Emmerson QC, representing Marina Litvinenko, said the decision was "a sign of something gone awry at the heart of government decision-making", adding that she intended to challenge the ruling by seeking a judicial review.

He said the government had shown "utter contempt to the position of Mrs Litvinenko and her son Anatoly", treating them in the "ultimate shabby way".

"On the face of it, it might be thought from this disastrous catalogue of indecision that those who are charged with the responsibility of making these decisions are simply caught in the headlights," he said.

The killing prompted a diplomatic crisis between Britain and Russia after the director of public prosecutions announced in May 2007 that he would seek to charge Lugovoi with murder. After Russia refused a request for Lugovoi's extradition, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats, which was met by a tit-for-tat expulsion of four British embassy staff from Moscow.

The two countries agreed to reopen diplomatic relations in May, however, since which time David Cameron has hosted Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, at Downing Street and at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Marina Litvinenko has previously said she believes the two countries have struck a pragmatic deal to bury her husband's killing. Asked after the hearing whether Britain was more concerned with good relations with Russia than justice, she said: "We can all see this. This is what it looks like."

Alex Goldfarb, Litvinenko's close friend who was also in court, accused the two states of "collusion". This case, he said, "will stand in the same line as the long history of appeasement to dictatorships. It's a shame and it will have consequences in the long run – the regime in the Kremlin will be emboldened to kill more people."

The dead man's widow is not eligible for legal aid and her legal team are working pro bono, meaning that she could be exposed to huge losses if she loses a judicial review.

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