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« Reply #8190 on: Aug 17, 2013, 07:17 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/16/2013 03:18 PM

M, F or Blank: 'Third Gender' Official in Germany from November

By Friederike Heine

Germany is set to become the first country in Europe to introduce a third, "indeterminate" gender designation on birth certificates. The European Union, which is attempting to coordinate anti-discrimination efforts across member states, is lagging behind on the issue.

The option of selecting "blank", in addition to the standard choices of "male" or female" on birth certificates will become available in Germany from November 1. The legislative change allows parents to opt out of determining their baby's gender, thereby allowing those born with characteristics of both sexes to choose whether to become male or female in later life. Under the new law, individuals can also opt to remain outside the gender binary altogether.

Germany is the first country in Europe to introduce this option -- Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung is referring to the change as a "legal revolution". It remains unclear, however, how the change will affect gender assignment in other personal documents, such as passports, which still require people to choose between two categories -- "F" for female and "M" for male. German family law publication FamRZ has called for the introduction of a third category, designated by the letter "X".

The law was passed back in May, but has only now been reported on, following an article this month in FamRZ -- just six weeks after Australia became the first country in the world to introduce legal guidelines on gender recognition. Under the Australian system, which applies to all personal documents, individuals can select the third category irrespective of whether or not they have undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy.

Brussels Under Pressure

Finland is the only EU member state aside from Germany to have made significant progress in the area of third gender recognition. Despite its efforts, bureaucratic hurdles in the Nordic country have meant that there is still no concrete legislative change in sight.

According to Silvan Agius, policy director at human rights organisation ILGA Europe -- the European chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association -- the European Union is lagging behind on the issue. Though Brussels commissioned a report on trans and intersex minorities in 2010, and has since attempted to coordinate efforts to prohibit gender discrimination, progress has been halting.

"Things are moving slower than they should at the European level", says Agius. "Though Brussels has ramped up efforts to promote awareness of trans and intersex discrimination, I would like to see things speed up."

The subsequent EU report on potential changes to European Union law, which was published in 2012 and co-authored by Agius, found that discrimination against trans and intersex people was still "rampant in all EU countries."

"Germany's move will put more pressure on Brussels," Agius concludes. "That can only be a good thing."


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« Reply #8191 on: Aug 17, 2013, 07:20 AM »

SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/16/2013 04:51 PM

German-Turkish Voters Turn Away from SPD

According to a poll commissioned by the online newspaper Deutsch-Türkisches Journal (DTJ), 90 percent of German-Turks intend to vote in the German elections in late September -- a 15 percent increase over the last election in 2009.

But their growing political participation is bringing with it a change in their political affiliations. Marking something of a departure from their previous behavior at the ballot box, the poll shows that 43 percent plan to cast their votes for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) -- compared to 50 percent in 2009 -- 22 percent for the Green Party and 20 percent for Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-left Christian Democrats, up from 11 percent during the last election.

Ever since the first Turkish "guest workers" began arriving in Germany over 50 years ago, the majority of the community has lent its support to the SPD, traditionally the party of choice for blue-collar voters. But recent years have seen the SPD hemorrhage core voters, and German-Turks are joining the exodus.

Changing Demographics

The results of the survey were presented in Berlin on Thursday at a press conference co-hosted by the DTJ's editor-in-chief Süleyman Bag and Bekir Yilmaz, president of the Turkish Community in Berlin (TGD).

"The SPD and the Green Party still dominate," said researcher Kamuran Sezer, director of the Futureorg Institute which carried out the poll, at the press conference. But less then they used to. As Sezer pointed out, both parties are attracting around 10 percent fewer voters than they did in the last elections in 2009, with a growing number defecting to the Christian Democrats and the Alliance for Innovation and Justice (BIG), a party founded by Muslims in 2010 aimed at voters with immigrant roots. The Futureorg poll put its support at 6.9 percent among voters of Turkish descent, the only other party to gain over 5 percent of German-Turkish votes.

One reason for this gradual shift is demographic: "The first guest workers from Turkey mainly found jobs in mines and unions," pointed out Süleyman Bag, which gave them an obvious affinity for the SPD. Now, however, "there is greater economic plurality among Turks in Germany." From 1961 to 1973, more than a million Turks moved to Germany to work. Close to half of all those who came stayed, and today the country is home to around 3 million people of Turkish heritage.

For his part, Yilmaz hailed the growing popularity of the CDU within the Turkish community as evidence that Turkish immigrants "have finally arrived in Germany" and no longer base their vote on specifically immigrant issues.

Winners and Losers

But remarks by Kamuran Sezer suggested quite the opposite. In his view, the SPD fell significantly out of favor with the Turkish community in the wake of a controversial book published in 2010 by Thilo Sarrazin, then a member of the board at the Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, and a former SPD finance minister in the Berlin city-state government.

"We attribute (the drop in support for the SPD) to Thilo Sarrazin and the ensuing debate," said Sezer.

Not only were Sarrazin's views of immigration considered offensive by the country's population of 4 million Muslims, but the SPD was widely seen as too slow to distance itself from the man and his views. Turkish voters may now be poised to punish the party for its inaction.

The Green Party, meanwhile, lost points among traditionalists with its support for the recent protests in Turkey against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Sezer.

The CDU, however, has been seen to be reaching out to the Turkish community, he said, pointing to the appointment of Lower Saxony's social minister, Aygül Özkan, the first person of Turkish origin to be appointed as a state minister in Germany.

Approximately 50 percent of the Turks living in Germany have German citizenship and are therefore eligible to vote.


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« Reply #8192 on: Aug 17, 2013, 07:28 AM »

In the USA...

SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/16/2013 05:17 PM

Spying on Its Own: The NSA's Deep Bag of Tricks

By Christian Stöcker

Spy on US citizens? We don't do that, the American government claimed. But new NSA documents published by the Washington Post show that the intelligence service violates the law in thousands of instances. Analysts with the agency are free to pick targets as they choose.

With each new publication of documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the scope of the United States' spying system becomes ever clearer. And each piece of the puzzle reveals yet more lies and half-truths that those who are supposed to be providing oversight for the NSA have used to defend the practices.

New revelations published on Friday in the Washington Post make clear that the legal controls intended as checks and balances for this surveillance system are, at best, ineffective. And the power that NSA analysts have to monitor Internet and telephone data according to whim is enormous. At the same time, intelligence workers take significant efforts not to overburden supervisory authorities with too much information.

"I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal e-mail," Snowden told the Guardian in an interview published in June. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said of Snowden's assertion, "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."

But the new documents show that Snowden wasn't lying, and it was Rogers who had it wrong. Whether Rogers did so knowingly or because the Congressman had been deceived by the intelligence service must still be clarified.

Thousands of 'Incidents'

Some 2,776 "incidents" are listed in the classified quarterly report from 2012 that the Washington Post has published in its entirety, with the exception of a few areas that have been blacked out. The report encompasses incidents from the previous 12 months. The report only covers incidents involving NSA facilities in the Washington DC area; the actual global figure could be considerably higher. The "incidents" referred to data for which the NSA does not have authorization to collect, store or analyze.

The only information collection that is not permitted is that of American citizens, but the report shows that their data often lands in the NSA's digital dragnet as by-catch. Each "incident" means that e-mails have been read, contact networks have been mapped and communications have been intercepted. In some cases such data has even been passed on to other US government agencies, like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

"The majority of incidents in all authorities were database query incidents due to human error," the report, written by the director of oversight and compliance for the NSA's Signals Intelligence Directorate, states. The systems most often involved in those incidents are powerful spying tools like XKeyscore and the NSA's Pinwale database, which can save large quantities of Internet communications data for years.

Among the most common causes given for the unauthorized surveillance is "lack of due diligence," as well as issues like typographical errors, using the wrong search parameters or overly broad syntax in searches. In some cases, data collection continues even though the related order to intercept it has long since expired.

No Built-In Safeguards

A breakdown of the causes of the errors shows that NSA analysts do in fact decide to use the powerful tools at their disposal to conduct surveillance on the people or entitites they want, just as Snowden described. And if they punch in the wrong name or an incorrect email address, then they will also be snooping on the wrong person. The automated systems used to conduct this spying do not appear to have built-in safeguards or controls to prevent unauthorized spying.

A further document published by the Washington Post shows that reporting is required for certain "incidents" and that in those cases, collection must be stopped "immediately." One example given is that of an analyst deliberately targeting a foreign entity who regularly corresponds with a certain person inside the United States with the sole purpose of gathering information about the American citizen. But in other cases, the breaches are not even required to be reported internally. When, for example, a legitimate foreign entity is monitored and communications "to/from/about a US person" are also captured, it is considered "incidental" and does not require reporting.

No 'Extraneous Information'

A further document states that, "While we do want to provide our FAA overseers with the information they need, we DO NOT want to give them any extraneous information." The FAA is a reference to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a US intelligence law designed to control electronic surveillance. It is followed by detailed examples of the kind of information the person doing the reporting should not provide, including, for example, "proof of your analytical judgement" that the monitoring is actually appropriate and necessary.

At times, the new report shows, the NSA doesn't even consider it necessary to inform its own regulatory overseers. The Washington Post reports on how the NSA accidentally intercepted a "large number" of calls placed from Washington in 2008 when a programming error confused the US area code 202 for 20, the international dialling code for Egypt. The NSA deemed it did not have to report the error, according to a secret memo from March 2013 cited by the paper. The memo's author determined there were "no defects to report" because "the issue pertained to metadata only" -- in other words, telephone numbers, times calls took place and their duration.

Reggie Walton, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the secret court charged with critical oversight of the government's vast spying programs, issued a written statement to the Washington Post in which he wrote: "The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of non-compliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing (government) compliance with its orders." In addition to providing oversight of the NSA, FISC must also approve many of its activities.

In June, after the first revelations from Snowden were published, President Obama said federal judges had been put in place for the job "who are not subject to political pressure. They've got lifetime tenure as federal judges, and they're empowered to look over our shoulder at the executive branch to make sure that these programs aren't being abused."

The Washington Post also quotes a senior NSA official stating: "We're a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line." The unnamed official added that if the errors are viewed as a percentage of the NSA's total activity, then the figures are relatively small.

But in absolute terms, a small percentage of the NSA's total activity is still vast. Even larger, though, is the number of NSA targets affected who are not US citizens. And they enjoy no protections at all.

*************

NSA revelations of privacy breaches 'the tip of the iceberg' – Senate duo

Leading critics of NSA Ron Wyden and Mark Udall say 'public deserves to know more about violations of secret court orders'

Spencer Ackerman in Washington
theguardian.com, Friday 16 August 2013 22.05 BST   
   
Two US senators on the intelligence committee said on Friday that thousands of annual violations by the National Security Agency on its own restrictions were "the tip of the iceberg."

"The executive branch has now confirmed that the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans' have been violated thousands of times each year," said senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, two leading critics of bulk surveillance, who responded Friday to a Washington Post story based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg."

On July 31, Wyden, backed by Udall, vaguely warned other senators in a floor speech that the NSA and the director of national intelligence were substantively misleading legislators by describing improperly collected data as a matter of innocent and anodyne human or technical errors.

In keeping with their typically cautious pattern when discussing classified information, Wyden and Udall did not provide details about their claimed "iceberg" of surveillance malfeasance. But they hinted that the public still lacks an adequate understanding of the NSA's powers to collect data on Americans under its controversial interpretation of the Patriot Act.

"We believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans' phone and email records under the Patriot Act," Wyden and Udall said.

"The public should also be told more about why the Fisa court has said that the executive branch's implementation of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has circumvented the spirit of the law, particularly since the executive branch has declined to address this concern."

In October 2011, the Fisa court secretly ruled that an NSA collection effort violated the fourth amendment, a fact first disclosed last year by Wyden. The Post disclosed the effort involved diverting international communications via fiberoptic cables inside the US into a "repository."

Shortly before Wyden and Udall hinted at even broader NSA violations of its surveillance authorities, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee came to the NSA's defense.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the majority of "compliance incidents" are "unintentional and do not involve any inappropriate surveillance of Americans."

"The large majority of NSA's so-called 'compliance incidents' are called 'roaming' incidents, in which the NSA is collecting the phone or electronic communications of a non-American outside the United States, and that person then enters the United States," Feinstein said.

"The NSA generally won't know that the person has traveled to the United States. As the laws and rules governing NSA surveillance require different procedures once someone enters the U.S.—generally to require a specific FISA court order—NSA will cite this as a 'compliance incident,' and either cease the surveillance or obtain the required FISA court order."

Feinstein's counterpart in the House of Representatives, Mike Rogers of Michigan, issued a similar defense of the NSA.

"The disclosed documents demonstrate that there was no intentional and willful violation of the law and that the NSA is not collecting the email and telephone traffic of all Americans, as previously reported," Rogers said.

"Congress and the court have put in place auditing, reporting, and compliance requirements to help ensure that the executive branch, the Congress, and the court each have insight into how the authorities granted to the NSA are used. As a result, even the inadvertent and unintentional errors are documented.

"We demand these reviews so the NSA can constantly improve and correct any technical missteps that may impact Americans. The committee has been apprised of previous incidents, takes seriously each one, and uses the oversight and compliance regime to provide us insight into these operations and whether further adjustments must be made.

"The committee does not tolerate any intentional violation of the law. Human and technical errors, like all of the errors reported in this story, are unfortunately inevitable in any organization and especially in a highly technical and complicated system like NSA. The committee will continue to work with the executive branch to reduce these errors."

Feinstein also denied an aspect of the Post's reporting that claimed she was unaware of a 2012 NSA "compliance" report. Feinstein said that she received it in a different format.

But Feinstein also suggested that her committee does not have full visibility into the NSA's operations.

"The committee does not receive the same number of official reports on other NSA surveillance activities directed abroad that are conducted pursuant to legal authorities outside of Fisa (specifically executive order 12333), but I intend to add to the committee's focus on those activities."

Executive order 12333 is one of the foundational texts of modern US intelligence. A decades-old presidential order, it is an informal guide to the rules and regulations of American spycraft, such as the nominal ban on assassinations. It lacks the force of law in name if not in practice; lawyers in the intelligence agencies keep copies on their desks. "It is the Bible," said Vicki Divoll, a former legal counsel for the CIA and the Senate intelligence committee.

The Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, a former senior member of the House intelligence committee, criticized the NSA on Friday, saying reports that it had overstepped its boundaries "extremely disturbing."

"Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of non-compliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated," Pelosi said.

Pelosi was one of very few legislators briefed about the expansions of NSA surveillance activities after 9/11. She became a vocal critic of them when they were partially exposed under the Bush administration, yet once Barack Obama took office, her criticism ceased. She and the rest of the Democratic leadership worked hard last month to quash a legislative effort to end the bulk collection of Americans' phone records.

The office of the director of national intelligence and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.


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« Reply #8193 on: Aug 18, 2013, 05:40 AM »


Egypt: mosque is stormed as generals plan to outlaw Muslim Brotherhood

Death toll continues to soar, with government saying 173 killed across country on Friday

Ian Black and Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
The Observer, Saturday 17 August 2013 18.35 BST   

Egypt's descent into violent chaos entered a new phase on Saturday as the military-backed government signalled a plan to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood, while troops cleared a Cairo mosque of Brotherhood supporters who were protesting against the removal of President Mohamed Morsi last month.

New deaths fuelled a grimly confrontational mood at the end of a week that saw around 800 people killed, and fast-fading hopes for the future of the 2011 revolution that had come to symbolise the Arab spring. Talk of the risk of an Egyptian civil war is no longer outlandish.

The government said that 173 people had died across the country on Friday alone. The latest victims included the son of Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's leader.

After two days of tense confrontation at the al-Fath mosque near Cairo's Ramses Square, security forces moved in to arrest the last of the protesters. The end of the standoff came after a day of rumour and confusion, punctuated by gunfire and the sound of explosions from inside the building. At one stage, live on TV, a gunman fired at soldiers and police from the minaret of the mosque, with security forces shooting back at the building – close to the capital's main railway station.

Government loyalists swamping the surrounding streets cheered and chanted support for the armed forces' commander, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and urged the army to deal with the "terrorists" inside. But a man who said he supported the Brotherhood whispered: "The army is killing us."

Badie's son, Amar, was one of about 95 people killed nearby on Friday, designated a "day of rage" to protest against the carnage at the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in in eastern Cairo two days earlier. Morsi supporters were trapped inside during the night-time curfew and were not permitted to leave when it ended. It seemed clear that the mosque siege was intended to forestall another prolonged sit-in that would allow the Morsi camp to gain a new foothold.

In political developments, the government said that the prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, was "studying" plans for the legal dissolution of the Brotherhood, a move that would force it back underground and justify a crackdown that would return it to its position during the days of deposed president Hosni Mubarak and his predecessors.

"There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions," Beblawi told reporters. Beblawi is a respected figure but said to be under pressure from hardline Mubarak-era security officials who were brought back after Morsi's removal and are now orchestrating the no-holds-barred campaign against the Islamists.

Government sources hinted at attempts to split the Brotherhood by coaxing the moderate elements to break away.

Its political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, won all five elections that followed the toppling of Mubarak. Morsi – who famously promised to rule for "all Egyptians" – governed the country for a year until he was undermined by huge rallies called by opponents who denounced him as incompetent and partisan. Morsi's supporters insisted his removal on 3 July was a military coup engineered by Egypt's shadowy "deep state". Others called it a continuation of the revolution. But plans to formally crush the Brotherhood – portrayed universally as "terrorists" in the official media – appear to spell an end to even slim hopes for political dialogue that might defuse the crisis.

"I have been saying that we need to keep the Brotherhood on the political field to guarantee their political and civil rights," said the leftwing commentator Hani Shukrullah. "A considerable number of people who had been involved in the revolution from the start have been urging that."

It is certainly hard to find Egyptians or informed foreigners who can identify a sliver of hope about the way ahead. "It's like being in a car that's going at 100 miles per hour and everyone wants to keep pressing down on the accelerator instead of the brake," said the journalist Abdel-Rahman Hussein. "The course has been set and there's no way out of this impasse after the massacre at Rabaa. This could all have been avoided, but I don't see how we can extricate ourselves now."

The interior ministry said on Saturday that 1,004 Brotherhood "elements" had been arrested in the past 24 hours. Among others detained were Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of the Egyptian-born al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The ministry also said that 57 policemen had been killed and 563 wounded since Wednesday.

Fighting was reported on Saturday in Suez, where state TV showed men in civilian clothes firing a rocket-propelled grenade.

The Brotherhood shows no sign of backing down and has urged its supporters to continue taking to the streets. "Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon," it said.

The government also said that 12 churches had been attacked and burned on Friday. The Brotherhood has denied responsibility.

**************

Egypt: panic and fear as stun grenades shake Cairo's besieged mosque

They huddled on floors and hid behind pillars – and the terror of Brotherhood supporters was seen on a chilling video feed

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo, and Peter Beaumont   
The Observer, Saturday 17 August 2013 20.49 BST   

In a room inside the al-Fath mosque complex in Cairo's Ramses Square, two black uniformed police special forces officers paused for a moment during their assault on hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters trapped inside to pose with their guns and balaclavas for a Reuters photographer.

In the background were scorch marks on an ornate arch over a door. Other photographs depicted soldiers, weapons held at the ready, in another room close to the doors barricaded by supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

Elsewhere in the mosque the scenes were of terror and panic. These were relayed not by photographers accompanying the assault but by the social media video streaming site Bambuser, which depicted what was happening on the other side of the mosque's barricades, where Islamist protesters have been under siege since Friday.

The intermittent feed showed those inside, some wearing gas masks, milling around on the mosque's green-carpeted floor as detonations – from what appeared to be stun grenades and teargas rounds – shook the building.

As some of those inside brought chairs and other furniture to reinforce the door – amid shouts and cries of "Alahu Akhbar" – yellow flashes and clouds of smoke were clearly visible. Other people were filmed hiding behind the mosque's heavy pillars, lying on the floor, or huddled against walls or on the floor, in scenes of abject terror.

At times the video cut out, leaving only frightened voices in the background against the sound of gunfire.

The two scenes provide the starkest of metaphors for the conflict in Egypt today, split between an army and interim government that has appeared determined to ruthlessly suppress the Brotherhood, and an organisation under siege determined to hold its ground at almost any cost.

By late afternoon on Saturday, security sources were claiming that the mosque had been retaken. According to state media all those inside had been moved out and many had been arrested, bringing to an end one of the last major remnants of the Brotherhood's sit-ins. By late afternoon, OnTV, the Egyptian live streaming service, was broadcasting pictures of lines of detained protesters kneeling on the floor surrounded by security forces.

The scenes of its siege – and the live feed from inside – will not be forgotten in a hurry. Those watching and commenting on the unfolding events included Egyptians and Arabs from across the Middle East.

One of those trapped inside was Hanan Amin, a professor at Zagazig university, who had been holed up for 24 hours in a cramped second-floor room. By midday she reported she was finding it difficult to breathe. One woman, she added, had already suffocated.

On Friday, the al-Fath mosque had simply been a place of prayer. Then it was turned into a makeshift field hospital to deal with those shot by police at a nearby pro-Morsi protest.

Some, women and children, had been allowed to leave. Bodies were also removed. But many stayed inside, vowing to remain until everyone was given safe passage. "If we are going to go," said Amin, "we will go with honour."

Another woman trapped inside the mosque was Omaima Halawa, an Irish Egyptian, who told al-Jazeera on Saturday morning there was shooting inside and outside the building. Automatic gunfire and screaming could be heard in the background as she spoke.

"How can we co-ordinate with the army and police when they are co-ordinating with the thugs [outside]? The thugs are in front of the mosque saying they will slaughter you. They are not protecting [people leaving]: they are trying to take them hostage. If we leave now we will be taken prisoner."

She was one of the trickle to emerge during the day. Her sister Fatima told the same channel that they were too frightened to leave despite the promise of safe passage by the military, having seen other women set upon by an angry mob as they tried to go. At one stage large numbers of vigilante groups, some armed with wooden staves, surrounded the mosque trying to get inside.

Television footage on Saturday showed surging groups of men attempting to attack one middle-aged man who had left the mosque. He was clutching a bloody head and was being pushed away by police with sticks.

The situation at the mosque escalated after several figures in the mosque's minaret appeared to open fire from a window near the top at police and soldiers beside their armoured personnel carriers in the square below.

Who fired and why became the subject of immediate claims and counterclaims, with the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the mosque's administrators claiming that the two doors to the minaret were not under the control of the protesters but the security forces.

According to one version of events, which could not be confirmed, tensions in the square appeared to escalate when a woman wearing a niqab tried to walk out of the mosque, according to an eyewitness who spoke to Reuters.

The eyewitness added that a group of about 10 soldiers had been telling people to leave the mosque and that they would be in no danger.

When the woman approached them, people in the mosque could be overheard saying that she was the wife of a Brotherhood leader and was in danger of being arrested.

She walked back into the mosque, looked up and said something to a group of pro-Morsi gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles. That is when the shooting started, said the witness.

For its part, the Egyptian presidency claimed that Saturday's gun battle was triggered by snipers inside the building.

The shooting provoked hectic scenes as soldiers and the gunmen exchanged heavy bursts of fire and gas was fired into the mosque.

Uncertainty about the exact state of affairs in and around the mosque and square was compounded by the assaults and detention of reporters attempting to cover the unfolding events, including Guardian and Observer correspondent Patrick Kingsley, who was arrested twice and robbed.

Kingsley was surrounded by a mob and accused of being a Brotherhood spy. After several blows, he was bundled on to a moped, relieved of his laptop and telephone and driven five miles to an unknown location – where two teenagers dragged him from one moped to another, and delivered him to a police station in Abbassiya, east Cairo.

"The problem," said one officer at the police station, nodding at televised footage of the mosque, "is that these people are terrorists."

VOICES OF CONFLICT

'Where are we going with this?Are we just going to fight one another endlessly?'

One young man asks another watching at the edge of the Ramses Square battle.

'Nobody here is safe, they are shooting inside the mosque.'

A woman speaks to al-Jazeera TV

'One man who has escaped from Ramses Sq mosque in Cairo tells me he counted 72 bodies inside.'

Tweet from Channel 4 foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Rugman

'They are surrounding us. Every window, every door. There are men, women and children here also – and they are using teargas.'

Omaymah, a woman speaking from the al-Fath mosque as security forces attempt to enter

'The police and the people are standing together in the face of the treacherous terrorist scheme against the Brotherhood.'

Government statement

'I am here for the blood of the people who died. We didn't have a revolution to go back to a police and military state again and to be killed by the state.'

Tawfik Dessouki, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter

'There was a group of ladies who left. When they left they were attacked and taken. We are not safe.'

Omaima Halawa, one of three Irish citizens trapped in the mosque in which they had sought refuge

'We do the work and the army watches.'

Security police at the burned-out Rabaa mosque in Nasr City

'The hatred on both sides is so overwhelming it makes me ill. Terrorists and murderers, they both call each other.'

Tweet from Ethar El-Katatney, an Egyptian journalist

'Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon.' Muslim Brotherhood statement


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« Reply #8194 on: Aug 18, 2013, 05:42 AM »


Syrian refugees pour into Iraq as Baghdad asks US for military help

UN high commissioner for refugees says some Syrians waiting near border for three days before crossing into Iraq

Peter Beaumont   
The Observer, Saturday 17 August 2013 20.55 BST   

The slender green span of a new pontoon bridge crossing the Tigris river from the Syrian bank to the Iraqi province of Dohuk is almost invisible beneath the weight of refugees.

They stretch at least a dozen deep for hundreds of metres back into the evening light. The dust from the feet of the crowd on the far side, waiting to cross, is lit up by the setting sun.

The first group to cross was small, according to the UN refugees agency (UNHCR) in Geneva. On Thursday at lunchtime some 750 crossed into Iraq. By afternoon thousands had followed them.

"The factors allowing this sudden movement are not fully clear to us," UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva. Some of the Syrians had reportedly been waiting near the Tigris river for two to three days. UNHCR monitors at the border saw buses arriving on the Syrian side dropping off more people seeking to cross. Edwards added that both the Syrian and Iraqi sides of the frontier at the Peshkhabour crossing are normally tightly controlled.

According to the UN, many of the arrivals had travelled to the border from Aleppo, Afrin, Hassake and Qamishli. Some families told UNHCR they had relatives in northern Iraq. "UNHCR and partner agency teams, together with local authorities, worked into the early hours to aid the new arrivals," Edwards said.

With refugee numbers from the war in Syria totalling 3 million in the region, the latest arrivals in Iraq, which has increasingly been destabilised by the war in its neighbour, have raised renewed concern about Baghdad's ability to deal with the fallout from the Syrian conflict.

On Friday, Baghdad requested help to fight extremists less than two years after the withdrawal of US combat troops. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said he had asked for a US assistance package including advisers, intelligence analysis and surveillance assets, including lethal drones.

US troops left Iraq in December 2011, as required under a 2008 security agreement. Both countries tried to negotiate plans to keep at least several thousand US forces in Iraq beyond the deadline to maintain security. However, the proposal fell through after Baghdad refused to give the troops immunity from legal charges.


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« Reply #8195 on: Aug 18, 2013, 05:44 AM »


Uganda: Rigged elections and mysterious killings … it's the Mugabe script with a different cast

Patience Akumu of the Kampala Observer asks why the west continues to back Uganda's leader for the last 27 years as his regime clamps down on dissent

Patience Akumu   
The Observer, Sunday 18 August 2013   

Much of the world looked on with dismay as Zimbabwe held another disputed presidential election this month, handing 89-year-old Robert Mugabe a seventh term in office. Newspapers sent their correspondents to report allegations of ballot fraud and intimidation. Television reports around the world featured the angry face of Morgan Tsvangirai as he denounced the election as a farce.

In Uganda, liberals and politicians rolled their eyes and sighed wearily. For we have our own Mugabe figure, but no one seems to care. For the last decade, Ugandan activists of various stripes have been trying to draw attention to Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's brutal regime. The difficulty is getting anyone to listen.

Museveni, 69, has ruled the country for 27 years, six fewer than Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But while the world recognises Mugabe as a dictator, Museveni is still, to them, the same blue-eyed boy who was once feted as the ideal of democracy and transformation in Africa.

Like Mugabe, Museveni came to power after a western-backed coup, apparently committed to democracy and speaking the language of human rights. His regime is credited for reforming the East African country's economy, which, after the ravages of the years of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, was on the verge of collapse, with inflation at more than 200% when Museveni took power in 1986. Uganda has made some strides in the fight against HIV/Aids and the country has enjoyed relative peace and stability. But his legacy is souring.

Before Museveni's drastic transformation from democrat to autocrat, he said that Africa's biggest problem was that leaders stayed too long in power. Today, he sings another tune, arguing it is important for leaders to "consolidate" their achievements. The latest Uganda Human Rights Commission Report shows that, just as in previous regimes, people are tortured and dissidents mysteriously disappear. Museveni seems to have suddenly decided that human rights are an import from the west that cannot be tolerated; and that democracy is compatible with a politician holding a life presidency – provided the person in power is a visionary like him.

In 2005 Museveni amended the constitution to remove term limits, allowing him to be a candidate for the presidency as many times as he wished. He has won the last three elections amid allegations of unlimited bribery, disenfranchisement, intimidation and violence. Attempts by the opposition to challenge the elections in court were futile. The legal system upheld them even though it was recognised that there was evidence of malpractice.

Rising inflation, fuel and food prices led to opposition-led protests in 2011. Museveni reacted by ferociously clamping down on all dissent. Ugandans got used to the sound of gunshots and the sting of teargas. Fearing an Arab spring kind of uprising, Museveni ordered the police to shoot whoever participated in the protests.

Opposition leaders who dare question Museveni's regime are routinely arrested and harassed. A recent investigation by Kampala's Observer newspaper, which I work for, found that opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been arrested and charged 34 times in five years. That figure does not include the times when security officials have simply barricaded his home and in effect prevented him from leaving his house. Or the other less high-profile politicians whose arrests may or may not make the local news, depending on their luck.

In May, Museveni shut down independent media in Uganda, after they published a general's memo claiming Museveni was grooming his son for the succession. General David Sejusa was forced to flee to the UK, fearing for his life. He has since joined the numerous opposition voices against Museveni.

Three months down the road, a law has now been passed forbidding public gatherings and political debate. Under the law, more than two people can meet in a public place only after notifying the police seven days in advance. The police have discretionary powers to stop such a meeting. The truth is that public debate was stifled long before the act. Parliament is also considering a law that will give the government power to shut down critical media.

So where is the international outrage when it comes to Uganda? In 2009, the world successfully put pressure on Uganda to drop the anti-homosexuality bill that proposed the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. Why, as the voices of protest and democracy are silenced, do the leaders of the western world continue to wine and dine Museveni? Why do they continue to hand over generous donations to Museveni's government that the people never see, turning a blind eye to issues of human rights and democracy?

Britain's Department for International Development budget for Uganda is £60m. Most of this money is supposedly intended for projects concerning democracy, health and human rights. Even with all that is happening in Uganda, the country is still masquerading as an African democracy.

It is not all bad. While half the population still live on less than a dollar a day, Uganda has halved poverty that was at 56% in the early 1990s. The country's economy is said to be growing and literacy rates stand at 73%, with more people attaining secondary education.

But look at this tale of rigged elections, opponents in exile, mysterious disappearances and killings, torture, clampdown on the media – it is the Mugabe script but with a different cast.

Inexorably consolidating his power, Museveni has built himself a mansion and stocked up on military jets. There is no sign he will step aside and he has promised he will be the one to usher the country into becoming a "middle income" state. This is a feat he has been having a go at for the last 27 years.

The reality is that Ugandans have been beaten into docility by hunger, disease, poverty and sheer need. The unprecedented rise in the cost of living and the deplorable state of hospitals have put the people in the exact position that Museveni and his cronies want them to be – a place where many are too worried about their next meal to care about abstract political ideas and rights.

Sure, the 1960s happened a long time ago and Africa cannot forever blame its ills on colonialism. But Ugandans cannot help but question the integrity of countries that continue to accommodate one dictator, while condemning the other. Tyrants who have squeezed life out of the country now coo about the new African revolution. And the world nods and cheers and promises Africa that things will improve. They will not. Not until the root of all this evil is totally uprooted.

Diplomacy may be the game, but what if it comes at too high a cost – more deaths, more disease and an eventual economic collapse? The argument often goes that Zimbabwe is an extreme case and Uganda still manages to function from day to day. Critics say this is nothing more than "western hypocrisy," a necessary evasion of responsibility because Museveni is still the west's "yes boy," in various international bodies.

The message is loud and clear to all dictators: you can arrest the opposition every other day, pass draconian laws and let your country wallow in poverty, as long as your troops are available for us when we need to go on a peace keeping mission in, say, Somalia. As long as you vote on our side when we sit on the [UN] Human Rights Council and sign as many human rights treaties as is required. Democracy? No, you do not have to be democratic. It is enough for you to appear democratic.

Patience Akumu was a winner of the 2013 David Astor journalism awards, nominated for her work on human rights in Uganda


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« Reply #8196 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:00 AM »

Gunmen kill woman politician who belonged to Pakistan’s Awami National Pary –known for its anti-Taliban views

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 17, 2013 9:10 EDT

Gunmen shot dead a secular female politician from Pakistan’s troubled northwest after breaking into her home at night, police said on Saturday.

Najma Hanif, 35, was a senior member of the Awami National Pary (ANP) which is known for its outspoken views against the Taliban and backed military operations against the insurgents while it ruled the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Police said the attackers, who have not yet been identified, used a silenced pistol.

“One or two attackers entered the house and killed her,” Mohammad Faisal, a senior police officer said.

The motive behind the shooting was unclear but Hanif’s husband and son along with their bodyguard were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in November 2011.

The ANP led the province and was a member of the ruling coalition in the centre from 2008 until elections earlier this year.

The party has been relentlessly targeted by the Taliban, losing hundreds of activists, with attacks stepped up during the run up to the May polls.

Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has now formed a coalition government in the province but ANP leaders remain in the militants’ sights.

************

Pakistani court acquits Muslim cleric in blasphemy case

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 17, 2013 21:51 EDT


A Pakistan court acquitted a Muslim cleric who accused a Christian girl of blasphemy before he himself was arrested on similar charges, a lawyer said.

The girl, Rimsha Masih, was arrested in August 2012 for allegedly burning pages containing Koranic verses but the case against her, which drew widespread international condemnation, was quashed.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the cleric who made the allegations, was accused of desecrating the Koran and tampering with the evidence against Rimsha.

But his lawyer, Wajid Ali Gilani, told AFP: “The court has dismissed all charges against Khalid Chishti and has acquitted him in this case.”

Gilani said the prosecution had failed to prove the charges while all the witnesses had withdrawn their accusations.

Rimsha, who lived in a poor, run-down neighbourhood on the edge of Islamabad, spent three weeks on remand in one of Pakistan’s toughest jails and could have faced life in prison if she had been convicted.

She and her family were forced into hiding, living under government protection in fear of their lives. Rimsha is now in Canada.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, and insulting the Prophet Mohammed can be punished by death under the country’s penal code.

Even unproven allegations can provoke a violent public response.

Local media previously said Rimsha was as young as 11, but an official medical report classified her as “uneducated” and 14 years old, but with a mental age younger than that.

Pakistani Christian leaders last year paid tribute to Muslim clerics, members of the media and civil society for highlighting the injustice done to Rimsha.

In 2011, politicians Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for demanding that the blasphemy law be reformed.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, remains in prison after being sentenced to death in November 2010 after other women claimed she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #8197 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:03 AM »

August 17, 2013

Sectarian Attacks Return With a Roar to Iraq, Rattling a Capital Already on Edge

By TIM ARANGO
IHT

BAGHDAD — The black-masked soldier stood at the army checkpoint examining the identification cards of each passenger, denying entry to anyone who did not live in the Sunni district of Ameriya. One resident later said entering his neighborhood now felt like crossing the border into a different country.

“This neighborhood is full of bad people,” said the soldier at the checkpoint as police officers rounded up people suspected of being terrorists in Ameriya, an operation that locals said targeted them only for being Sunni.

Across the country, the sectarianism that almost tore Iraq apart after the American-led invasion in 2003 is surging back. The carnage has grown so bloody, with the highest death toll in five years, that truck drivers insist on working in pairs — one Sunni, one Shiite — because they fear being attacked for their sect. Iraqis are numb to the years of violence, yet always calculating the odds as they move through the routine of the day, commuting to work, shopping for food, wondering if death is around the corner.

Adel Ibrahim, a 41-year-old engineer, guessed wrong. On Aug. 6, to prepare for the evening iftar, the meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast, Mr. Ibrahim went to a butcher shop in the central Karrada neighborhood to pick up meat for kebabs. Outside the shop, a Kia minivan exploded, killing Mr. Ibrahim and five others.

The next day Mr. Ibrahim’s father, Saleem Ibrahim, was in tears. “They took my son and my dream away,” he said.

The drastic surge in violence — mainly car bombs planted by Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate against the Shiite majority, and the security sweeps in majority-Sunni neighborhoods that follow — has lent a new sense of Balkanization to this city. Security forces have increasingly restricted the movements of Iraqis in and out of Sunni areas, relying on the neighborhoods listed on residence cards as an indicator of a sect. Sunnis also fear reprisals from reconstituted Shiite militias, groups once responsible for some of the worst of the sectarian carnage that gripped Iraq just a few years ago.

Even for the hardened residents of the capital, long accustomed to the intrusion of violence into everyday life, the latest upswing in attacks has been disorienting, altering life and routines in a manner that has cast a pall of fear over this city.

The targets of the attacks are not usually government ministries or luxury hotels, places many ordinary Iraqis can safely avoid. They are the markets and cafes, mostly in Shiite areas, that dominate neighborhood routines. During morning commutes, some Iraqis are taking circuitous routes to work to avoid central streets where bombs have struck. The sight of a Kia minivan, a vehicle of choice for bombers, caught in traffic causes fear. Neighborhood soccer teams are canceling matches because those, too, have become targets.

Taxi drivers are again making decisions about where to drive based on the rising sectarian tensions that have resulted from the resurgent violence. “Last year the situation was better,” said a Sunni taxi driver who gave his nickname of Abu Omar. “I wasn’t afraid to go anywhere, but this year I am worried about going to Shiite neighborhoods, like Shula or Hurriya, because I keep hearing that the militias are coming back.”

After Mr. Ibrahim was killed, the next wave of attacks came four days later, on Saturday evening, as Iraqis were celebrating the end-of-Ramadan festivities known as Id al-Fitr. A young bride-to-be, in her white wedding dress, sat in a hair salon when a parked car just outside blew up. The woman survived with only a small injury to her hand.

“She was so brave, she cried for a few minutes, but then decided to continue, and made it to her wedding,” said Said Haneen, the owner of the salon. “That’s how we Iraqis are.”

Across town that evening, a cigarette vendor named Jalal Hussain was wounded in another explosion. The next morning his stall was back in business. “It’s a struggle for existence,” he said, as he sold a customer a pack of Marlboros. “I have to feed my family. I have to open again, as long as I am alive. I have witnessed many other explosions, but this one was the closest. We have to keep on surviving. If you are lucky, you will survive another day.”

Often, the fear briefly abates after a day of bombings. Surely, the thinking goes, big attacks will not come on back-to-back days. “Customers are already calling to see if we opened or not,” Mr. Haneen said on the morning after the explosion near his salon. “Today, I know there will be no explosions, as yesterday there were many. Maybe in the next two or three days we will witness another wave of bombings, but not today.”

For Iraqis, the violence feels permanent, their country’s perpetual decline, inevitable. The space between ordinary citizens and their political leaders, garrisoned in the increasingly fortified Green Zone, where the government has positioned new tanks and soldiers and sought to make entry even more restricted, has never felt wider.

Iraqis long ago lost confidence in the ability of their security forces, trained by the Americans at a cost of billions of dollars, to protect them.

Now they feel increasingly mocked by their leaders, whose latest pronouncements of security successes are met with revulsion.

A few hours before the attacks on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki sent a text message to every citizen with a mobile phone, wishing all a happy Id al-Fitr and “security, stability and prosperity.”

Hours after the attacks, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Saad Maan, appeared on state television, praised the security forces for a job well done and said that only two people had died, including an officer trying to defuse a bomb.

But according to an Interior Ministry official and news reports, more than three dozen people were killed, and more than 100 were wounded.

This prompted mocking comparisons on Facebook between Mr. Maan and the Saddam Hussein-era information minister, Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, who in 2003 proclaimed the Iraqi Army was valiantly pushing back the American invaders, who were in fact fast closing in on Baghdad.

This violence is real, and it appears at least partly driven by events beyond the borders of Iraq, in Syria, where a civil war is raging. The United Nations recently warned that the sectarian battlefields of Syria and Iraq are “merging,” as the border between the two countries has become a revolving door for Sunni extremists.

At the same time, Shiite militiamen from Iraq, supported by Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, head over to support the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, while also reasserting themselves on the streets of Baghdad.

At the checkpoint at the entrance to Ameriya, the Sunni district, the soldier sent away a man who was trying to get to his job at a cafe.

“I’ve worked there for years,” the man said. “You know me. Take my ID. I have to go to work.”

Inside Ameriya, Othman al-Kubaisi, who owns a cosmetics store, said customers from other parts of the city had stopped coming.

“The government treats us like we have been torturing them for years, and now it’s time for them to take revenge on us,” he said.

Like many in this fractured city these days, Mr. Kubaisi tries to stick close to home when he can, routinely leaving only to stock up on supplies for his store.

“It’s better to avoid problems and stay home,” he said.

Duraid Adnan and Yasir Ghazi contributed reporting.


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« Reply #8198 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:15 AM »


India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy
August 16, 2013, 10:20 am

India’s Doubting Fathers and Sons Embrace DNA Paternity Tests

By ANJALI THOMAS

In 2007, a 28-year-old man was propelled from obscurity to prominence when he turned to the Delhi High Court to seek a public acknowledgement of paternity from a senior Congress Party leader, N.D. Tiwari. Rohit Shekhar, who said that he was the result of an affair between his mother and Mr. Tiwari, spent five years trying to force the politician to take a DNA test, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Mr. Shekhar’s favor last year.

The high-profile nature of the case contributed to the public’s growing awareness of the role of DNA in establishing biological ties, and these days, paternity tests are much more commonplace, with private labs offering home testing kits for 10,000 rupees ($160) or less, with no need for a judge’s permission. A person can swab the inside of a child’s mouth at home, send the samples from the adult and child back to the lab and receive the results within two weeks.

Ritu, the director of DNA Center India in Hyderabad, said her company has seen a clear increase in interest in its DNA paternity tests in recent years. “Initially, we could get around 10 calls a month, but over the last two years or so this has increased to around 40,” said the director, who goes by one name. Not every call leads to an order, she said, but “those who do avail of our services tend to opt for the ‘peace of mind’ home testing kit.”

People have a variety of reasons for ordering paternity tests, but some DNA testing centers say that many clients are doubting fathers or men who are seeking to end a marriage, and it’s this group that worries some advocates of women’s rights. Veena Gowda, a lawyer in Mumbai who has been practicing for over 15 years, contends that these men are using the tests to deprive women of their right to alimony or child support by accusing the women of adultery, which is illegal in India.

“It’s almost as if science is always twisted to suit patriarchal norms,” Ms. Gowda said. “Putting a child through paternity tests without court orders only reinforces the thought that marriage is nothing more than controlling a woman and her womb.”

In the United States, the demand for paternity tests is fueled in part by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which gave child-support agencies the authority to order DNA tests without prior judicial consent. State-based child support enforcement agencies remain some of the biggest clients for DNA paternity tests. However, the technology revealed its double edge when men began using it not just to establish paternity but to distance themselves from the burden of child support once they could prove the absence of biological ties.

Indian courts have been circumspect in ordering paternity tests, especially in the death throes of a marriage. Currently, the law places less weight on DNA ties and instead establishes the marital presumption of paternity, which sees the husband as the father of any children conceived during the marriage. Children born during a legal union or within 280 days after a marriage has dissolved are considered the legitimate offspring of the husband, unless the husband can prove that he had no access to his wife during the time the child would have been conceived.

Even when DNA evidence proves a biological tie between a father and child, the courts will still continue to favor longstanding familial relationships over genetics. In the Tiwari case, for example, the DNA test showed that the Congress leader was indeed Mr. Shekhar’s biological father, but the law still considers B.P. Sharma, who was married to Mr. Shektar’s mother when Mr. Shektar was born, as the legitimate father. (Mr. Shektar’s legal battle continues as Mr. Tiwari has refused to accept the results of the DNA test and declined to participate in the court mediation process.)

Women are generally entitled to spousal support after a divorce, but a paternity test that shows no biological connection to a child can be used by a man to get an exemption from paying alimony and child support. However, lawyers say that courts have on occasion ordered a nonbiological father to offer some financial support to prevent the child from living in poverty and to minimize psychological damage.

The courts have been reluctant to order paternity tests even when the petitioner is the mother. A few years ago, a woman from Orissa approached the Orissa State Women’s Commission asking that a paternity test be conducted after her estranged husband claimed he was not the father of her child. The commission granted permission, and the decision was upheld by the Orissa High Court. The husband challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, arguing that the test was an invasion of his privacy and that the divorce had not been finalized.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that a paternity test to determine the identity of a child especially during matrimonial disputes should not be done in a routine manner because it infringes on the right to privacy and may have a devastating effect on the child. “Sometimes the result of such scientific test may bastardize an innocent child even though his mother and her spouse were living together during the time of conception,” the judges said in their ruling.

Currently, DNA home testing kits are not considered admissible in court because there is no verifiable chain of custody. A court-ordered paternity test has to be conducted in a government-certified forensic center with a chain of custody to ensure that the evidence has not been tampered with.

Private labs do offer more expensive DNA tests that follow a documented chain of custody, which can be presented as evidence in court. Ms. Gouda, who has challenged the legality of such tests in court cases, finds them unethical.

“The authority is with the courts to determine whether a paternity test should be ordered. The principal of the law is to protect the child,” she said.

Women’s rights activists are concerned that as cohabitation without marriage and divorce become more common as Indian society changes, the demand for paternity testing will rise, which they say would ultimately harm the children involved if the courts indiscriminately order DNA tests.

Kanti Sathe, who has been practicing family law in Mumbai for 25 years, predicted that this decade will see more people seeking paternity tests. She said she doesn’t oppose paternity testing in all cases – in fact, such tests could help a child with unmarried parents receive financial support from the father. “Children are entitled to financial support and inheritance from their biological father. What we can count on, and what is always required is judicial discretion.

“What’s being played out in courts is the conflict between encroaching on an individual’s right to privacy and the rights of a child,” said Ms. Sathe.

She recalled one of her recent cases, in which the couple was seeking a divorce, and the husband, unwilling to pay child support, claimed that he was not the father of their child. The matter was resolved outside the court when he backtracked from taking a paternity test. “He accepted that the child was his, and a settlement was reached. Imagine the damage it would have inflicted on the child if our courts insisted on paternity tests for every case,” said Ms. Sathe.

DNA home tests also come with legal pitfalls for the labs themselves. Ravi Kiran Reddy, director of DNA Labs India in Hyderabad, is being sued by the wife of a client who had recently approached the lab for a home paternity test. The test found that there was a 99.9 percent chance that the client was not the father of the child, as he was led to believe. However, the mother is now challenging the result in court and blaming the biotechnology company for tarnishing her reputation, said Mr. Reddy.

“It’s not worth the trouble, really,” he said. “The DNA sequencing machines we use cost crores [tens of millions] of rupees, and genetically testing for parenthood does not even cover the cost of running the laboratory or maintaining the equipment.” The bulk of the forensic center’s work comes from clients asking for their DNA to be sequenced for health reasons and those who need to establish familial ties either for immigration or for an infant born via a gestational surrogate.

This is the sort of legal complication that will occur repeatedly if men are allowed to use these tests to accuse their wives of infidelity, women’s rights advocates say.

“If home testing kits were legally admissible, every person would be under the scanner, every woman be suspect of cheating, and every child’s paternity questioned,” said Ms. Sathe.

Anjali Thomas is a recent graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Ms. Thomas has worked with the Times of India and Daily News and Analysis in Mumbai.

*************

India's unfair obsession with lighter skin

The Dark is Beautiful campaign hopes to halt India's huge appetite for skin whitening products, and has a new champion in film star Nandita Das

Monisha Rajesh   
Wednesday 14 August 2013 17.32 BST
The Guardian

"You look green!" said a friend. "Are you ill?" asked another. Last year, a respected Indian newspaper published a photograph of me online which had been lightened so drastically by the art director's magic wand that I called the editor to complain and he apologised and replaced it with the original. The art director had thought he was doing me a favour by whitening my skin.

India's obsession with fair skin is well documented: in 1978, Unilever launched Fair & Lovely cream, which has subsequently spawned numerous whitening face cleansers, shower gels and even vaginal washes that claim to lighten the surrounding skin. In 2010, India's whitening-cream market was worth $432m, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18% per year. Last year, Indians reportedly consumed 233 tonnes of skin-whitening products, spending more money on them than on Coca-Cola.

Cricket players and Bollywood stars regularly endorse these products. But now the film star Nandita Das has taken a stance against the craze and given her support to the Dark is Beautiful campaign which challenges the belief that success and beauty are determined by skin colour. "I want people to be comfortable in their own skin and realise that there is more to life than skin colour," she says, adding that an Indian paper had written "about my support for the campaign and then lightened the photo of me that went alongside it".

While she agrees that there is a long history behind the obsession with skin colour, owing to caste and culture, she thinks the current causes should be targeted first. "Indians are very racist. It's deeply ingrained. But there is so much pressure by peer groups, magazines, billboards and TV adverts that perpetuate this idea that fair is the ideal," she says.

Das has often faced directors and makeup artists trying to lighten her when she plays the role of an educated, upper-class woman. "They always say to me: 'Don't worry, we will lighten you, we're really good at it,' as a reassurance. It's perpetuating a stereotype that only fair-skinned women can be educated and successful."

In 2005, the cosmetics company Emami launched Fair & Handsome for men, with an ad featuring the Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan tossing a tube of whitening cream to a hopeful young fan, which the Dark is Beautiful campaign is seeking to have withdrawn. "Shah Rukh Khan is saying that to be successful you have to be fair," says Das. "Don't these people have any kind of conscience? You can't be naive; you know what kind of impact you have and yet you send out the message that says: 'Forget about working hard, it's about skin colour.'"


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« Reply #8199 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:31 AM »

August 17, 2013

Prominent Advocate Held in Southern China

By CHRIS BUCKLEY
IHT

HONG KONG — The police in southern China have detained an outspoken advocate of democratic rights on charges of disrupting public order, his lawyer and human rights groups said Saturday. They called his detention another step in a government effort to stifle dissidents who have challenged the Communist Party over censorship and officials’ wealth.

The advocate, Yang Maodong, who is better known by his pen name, Guo Feixiong, was detained on Aug. 8, but the police notified his family only on Saturday, his lawyer, Sui Muqing, said by telephone from the city of Guangzhou, where Mr. Yang also lives. Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an international advocacy group, also reported Mr. Yang’s detention on its Web site, and it posted a copy of the police notice listing charges of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.”

Mr. Yang, 47, is the second well-known member of China’s “rights defense” movement to be arrested recently. In mid-July, the police in Beijing arrested Xu Zhiyong, a legal advocate who has also long been a prominent member of that loose campaign, which seeks to expand citizens’ rights through litigation, petitions, publicity and training.

“I think the general reason is that the authorities are putting pressure on many dissidents, and Yang Maodong is one of them,” Mr. Sui said. “I think the direct reason may be his involvement in the protests at the Southern Weekend.”

Mr. Yang was among a group of activists who gathered near the offices of the newspaper Southern Weekend in Guangzhou in January, offering encouragement to reporters and editors there who were protesting what they called heavy-handed censorship of an editorial.

The government gave some ground to the protesting journalists. But since then, the Communist Party authorities have tightened media and Internet controls and sought to rein in dissidents. The police have brought Mr. Yang in for questioning about the Southern Weekend protests and other issues several times since March, Mr. Sui said.

Mr. Yang, formerly a novelist and a businessman involved in publishing, has been among the members of China’s human rights advocacy movement who favor a more combative approach and more ambitious demands. He first became widely known in 2005, as an organizer of villagers on the outskirts of Guangzhou protesting official corruption and land seizures.

In 2007, he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of illegal publishing activities, although he and his supporters maintained that the charges were a baseless excuse to silence him. He was released in late 2011, having already served some of his sentence in detention before his conviction.

Mr. Sui said he would try to meet with Mr. Yang, who is being held in a detention center in Guangzhou. If Mr. Yang is formally charged, indicted and convicted, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. “It’s still too early to know what will happen to him,” Mr. Sui said.

Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting from Beijing.

***********

Hiring in China By JPMorgan Under Scrutiny

By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG, BEN PROTESS and DAVID BARBOZA
IHT

Federal authorities have opened a bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business in the booming nation, according to a confidential United States government document.

In one instance, the bank hired the son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate, according to the document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, as well as public records. After the chairman’s son came on board, JPMorgan secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate, including advising a subsidiary of the company on a stock offering, records show.

The Hong Kong office of JPMorgan also hired the daughter of a Chinese railway official. That official was later detained on accusations of doling out government contracts in exchange for cash bribes, the government document and public records show.

The former official’s daughter came to JPMorgan at an opportune time for the New York-based bank: The China Railway Group, a state-controlled construction company that builds railways for the Chinese government, was in the process of selecting JPMorgan to advise on its plans to become a public company, a common move in China for businesses affiliated with the government. With JPMorgan’s help, China Railway raised more than $5 billion when it went public in 2007.   

The focus of the civil investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s anti-bribery unit has not been previously reported. JPMorgan — which has had a number of run-ins lately with regulators, including one over a multibillion-dollar trading loss last year — made an oblique reference to the inquiry in its quarterly filing this month. The filing stated that the S.E.C. had sought information about JPMorgan’s “employment of certain former employees in Hong Kong and its business relationships with certain clients.”

In May, according to a copy of the confidential government document, the S.E.C.’s anti-bribery unit requested from JPMorgan a battery of records about Tang Xiaoning. He is the son of Tang Shuangning, who since 2007 has been chairman of the China Everbright Group. Before that, the elder Mr. Tang was the vice chairman of China’s top banking regulator.

The agency also inquired about JPMorgan’s hiring of Zhang Xixi, the daughter of the railway official. Among other information, the S.E.C. sought “documents sufficient to identify all persons involved in the decision to hire” her.

The government document and public records do not definitively link JPMorgan’s hiring practices to its ability to win business, nor do they suggest that the employees were unqualified. Furthermore, the records do not indicate that the employees helped JPMorgan secure business. The bank has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Yet the S.E.C.’s request outlined in the confidential document hints at a broader hiring strategy at JPMorgan’s Chinese offices. Authorities suspect that JPMorgan routinely hired young associates who hailed from well-connected Chinese families that ultimately offered the bank business. Beyond the daughter of the railway official, the S.E.C. document inquired about “all JPMorgan employees who performed work for or on behalf of the Ministry of Railways” over the last six-plus years.

A spokesman for JPMorgan said, “We publicly disclosed this matter in our 10-Q filing last week, and are fully cooperating with regulators.”

The Ministry of Railways, which has since been restructured into various agencies, and the China Everbright Group did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the S.E.C. declined to comment.

Attempts over the weekend to reach Ms. Zhang and Tang Xiaoning, both of whom have left JPMorgan, were unsuccessful.

Western companies have been aggressive in trying to snag a share of riches in China’s fast-growing economy in recent years. Some have come under fire over their business practices there, including GlaxoSmithKline, whose employees are said by Chinese officials to have confessed to bribing doctors to increase pharmaceutical sales.

Global companies also routinely hire the sons and daughters of leading Chinese politicians. What is unusual about JPMorgan is that it hired the children of officials of state-controlled companies.

It is even less common for American authorities to scrutinize such practices. Only a handful of Wall Street employees have ever faced bribery accusations, including a former Morgan Stanley executive in China who pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2012, admitting to “an effort to enrich himself and a Chinese government official.”

In recent years, the S.E.C. and the Justice Department have each stepped up their enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 federal law that essentially bans United States companies from giving “anything of value” to a foreign official to win “an improper advantage” in retaining business.

The S.E.C. created its own corrupt practices unit, which since 2010 has filed about 40 cases against companies like Tyco and Ralph Lauren. Over that same period, the Justice Department has leveled charges in more than 60 cases.

Legal experts note that there is nothing inherently illicit about hiring well-connected people. To run afoul of the law, a company must act with “corrupt” intent, or with the expectation of offering a job in exchange for government business.

“While the hire of a son or daughter itself is not illegal, red flags would be raised if the person hired was not qualified for the position, or, for example, if a firm never received business before and then lo and behold, the hire brought in business,” said Michael Koehler, an expert on the corrupt practices act who is an assistant professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Law.

The inquiry into JPMorgan comes when the bank is already the focus of investigations in the United States by at least eight federal agencies, a state regulator and two foreign nations. Many of the cases, including a civil and criminal investigation in California, involve JPMorgan’s financial-crisis-era mortgage business.

The multitude of cases has led some lawmakers to question whether JPMorgan, which has operations in more than 60 countries, is too big to manage.

The potential perils of JPMorgan’s size also came to light with a multibillion-dollar trading blowup last year that came to be known as the “London Whale.” The trading losses, stemming from a bad bet on the exotic financial instruments known as derivatives, prompted Congressional hearings and wide-ranging investigations.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced criminal charges against two of the bank’s former traders in London, accusing them of masking the size of the $6 billion loss.

The S.E.C., conducting a parallel investigation, is seeking to extract a rare admission of wrongdoing from the bank related to the losses. A settlement, which could come as soon as this fall, will also include a hefty fine, according to people briefed on the matter.

The agency’s bribery inquiry could pose an even steeper challenge to JPMorgan. Although banks are prone to the occasional trading blunder — JPMorgan produced record quarterly profits despite the losses in London last year — a corruption inquiry could leave a more lasting mark on its reputation. It might also spur the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation.

The families of the ruling elite in China see great value in finding work at Wall Street banks. While the jobs often pay token sums, finding such work bolsters the résumés of aspiring financiers and lends credibility in the Chinese business world.

In the case of Mr. Tang, the S.E.C. is seeking his salary, “employment file” and “communications” he has had with JPMorgan since he left in December 2012. The agency is also requesting documents that “identify all persons involved in the decision to hire” Mr. Tang, who is believed to have joined the bank in 2010.

The S.E.C.’s document appears to be looking for connections between his hiring and business JPMorgan won from the China Everbright Group and its banking subsidiary. In its confidential request, the S.E.C. asked the bank to “identify and produce all contracts or agreements between JPMorgan and China Everbright.”

Before hiring Mr. Tang, JPMorgan appeared to do little if any business with China Everbright, based on a review of securities filings and news reports. Since then, though, China Everbright has emerged as one of its prized Asian clients. In 2011, its banking subsidiary hired JPMorgan as one of 12 financial advisers on its decision to become a public company. Amid global economic turmoil and questions about China’s banking system, that deal was delayed.

Yet in 2012, JPMorgan was the only bank hired to advise China Everbright International, a subsidiary focused on alternative energy businesses, on a $162 million sale of shares, according to Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ, a research service. JPMorgan, according to securities filings, owns a stake in the subsidiary.

The same year, JPMorgan guided China Everbright through its role in what was, according to Dealogic, the largest-ever private equity deal in China. The deal involved reshaping Focus Media, a digital advertising firm, into a private company owned, in part, by China Everbright.

The S.E.C. is investigating similar aspects of JPMorgan’s hiring of Ms. Zhang, whose father is Zhang Shuguang, former deputy chief engineer of China’s railway ministry. Before joining JPMorgan, Ms. Zhang attended Stanford University, according to her LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

In addition to requesting her employment file and compensation earned from JPMorgan, the S.E.C. is asking the bank to turn over “all contracts or agreements between JPMorgan and the Ministry of Railways of the People’s Republic of China.”

The Ministry of Railways has never hired JPMorgan directly, securities filings and news reports suggest. But those records indicate that the China Railway Group, the construction company whose largest customer is thought to be the Chinese government, hired JPMorgan to take it public in 2007. Ms. Zhang was hired around this time.

About four years later, when Ms. Zhang was an associate at the bank, JPMorgan won out again. This time, according to media reports, the operator of a high-speed railway from Beijing to Shanghai picked the bank to steer it through its own public offering. That deal fell apart after a 2011 train collision killed 40 people and injured hundreds. The incident — just a month after the Chinese government announced the project — spotlighted the dangers of corruption in China’s railway system.

The railway minister at the time, Liu Zhijun, has since received a suspended death sentence for accepting bribes in exchange for government rail contracts over a 25-year period, according to reports. Ms. Zhang’s father, the former deputy chief engineer, was also detained on suspicion of corruption, according to China’s official state-run news agency. It is unclear whether that case is still pending.

The S.E.C., in its request to JPMorgan, questioned whether the bank had “investigated the reported arrest.”
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« Reply #8200 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:38 AM »

Mexico arrests Gulf cartel boss

Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino captured by army near Texas border – the latest high-profile scalp in war on drug gangs

Associated Press in Mexico City
theguardian.com, Sunday 18 August 2013 03.41 BST   

Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, a top leader of Mexico's Gulf cartel, has been captured near the Texas border. It is the second arrest of a major drug boss since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December.

Mexico's government said the army netted Ramirez, a drug boss in Reynosa who had been vying to take over the cartel since the arrest of the Gulf's top capo, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias El Coss, in September 2012. Opinion is split on whether Ramirez succeeded or the cartel has continued to be split into factions.

The US state department has been offering a reward of $5m for his capture. Ramirez, who was born in 1962 according to the US government, is wanted on several federal drug charges.

Tamaulipas state government spokesman Rafael Luque said there was a major operation of the Mexican military about 1pm local time on Saturday with helicopters in the town of Rio Bravo. He could not confirm if there were deaths or injuries in the offensive.

The once-powerful Gulf cartel still controls most of the cocaine and marijuana trafficking through the Matamoros corridor across the border from Brownsville, Texas, and has an international reach into central America and beyond. But it has been plagued by infighting since Costilla's arrest, while also being under attack in its home territory by its former security arm, the Zetas.

On 15 July, in the first major arrest of a Capo during Peña Nieto's administration, authorities in northern Mexico captured Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias Z-40, leader of the brutal Zetas cartel. In October 2012 Mexican marines killed the Zeta leader and founder Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias El Lazca.

Authorities are still waiting for the fallout from Trevino's capture as lieutenants battle to take over the Zetas.

**********

Young Mexicans embrace the seductive charms of the dance that Cuba forgot

Danzón has all but died out on the island where it was born. But across the Yucatán Channel, the precise, elegant style thrives in classes and festivals

Nina Lakhani in Mexico City
The Observer, Sunday 18 August 2013   

Every weekend, hundreds of couples descend on Mexico City's Plaza de la Ciudadela to gently seduce each other in the elegant dance known as danzón. The dancers converge in the pretty square, known locally as the Plaza de Danzón, to dance to classic Cuban melodies in what could be mistaken for a scene from a 1940s film.

In fact, it is part of an extraordinary effort to help danzón thrive in Mexico, while it has effectively vanished in Cuba, where it originated almost 150 years ago. The effort is working, as growing numbers of children and young Mexicans flock to festivals and join classes to learn the elegant steps and dress up in the flamboyant costumes of danzón.

The finest danzón groups from across Mexico recently assembled in the capital to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the acclaimed group Siglo XXI (21st Century). They danced to love songs performed by the Children and Youth orchestra from Oaxaca (Danzonera Infantil y Juvenil de Oaxaca), which with 25 musicians aged between nine and 20 is one of the youngest groups in Mexico.

Danzón is popular in 25 of Mexico's 32 states, with more than 200 registered dance troupes and 20 orchestras.

"Tournaments and galas have increased significantly in the past eight years, which have encouraged people to take an interest in the dance, as well as bringing communities back together in public spaces," said Anaid Chávez of the National Centre for Research and Dissemination of Danzon.

Siglo XXI is led by Armando Sanchez, 43, and Karla Amparo, 24, and the duo are passionate about danzón's charms. Amparo said: "Ten couples from Siglo XXI frequently participate in exhibitions across the country, but we have almost 50 members with students as young as four, five and six who are becoming beautiful dancers, right up to our adored 80- and 85-year-old members. What we have in common is a great love for danzón as an art form."

Amparo's dance partner, Sanchez, attracts youngsters from across the capital to his thrice-weekly classes in the plaza. Sanchez was introduced to danzón as a 16-year-old at Salon Los Angeles, the capital's oldest dance hall, and has been zealously promoting it ever since.

"Forget Cuba, danzón is dead over there, it is now 100% Mexican," said Sanchez. "Danzón is classy, elegant, precise, unique, and each state has its own distinct style. It is strong in Mexico and growing. Just look around at how many people come here each week, it is very much alive."

Like most Latin dances, danzón is as much about style as the steps. The square is filled with pachucos, zoot-suited, flamboyant men who follow the 1940s Latino style that developed in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The classic pachuco look is finished with a fedora sporting a single feather at the back, and a zoot-chain hanging from one trouser pocket.

The women, pachucas or rumberas, wear jaw-dropping high-heels, sparkling makeup and dresses; the purists always dance with a fan to shoo away the heat.

But the styles came much later than the elegant three-step which can be traced back to Matanzas on Cuba's northern shore, in 1870. It was soon introduced into Mexico by traders and refugees of the 10 years' war that began in 1868, arriving through the Caribbean ports of Veracruz and Yucatan.

The father of danzón, Miguel Failde, mixed European and African rhythms to which couples moved gracefully and precisely, gently flirting with each other, storytelling with their bodies. The women, holding a fan or flowers, are dipped and twirled, but with only fleeting touches and eye contact.

In Cuba, it died out as son music and sexier more tactile dances such as mambo, cha cha cha and salsa grew in popularity in the second half of the 20th century. But in Mexico, efforts to save danzón over the past 25 years have paid off. Three Generations, a troupe from Veracruz, were established in 1989 in order to promote danzón among children, at a time when its fate in Mexico seemed sealed with the dying dancehall scene.

It is rarely on the radio or television, so the main advert is the dancers themselves; around half the regulars in Plaza de la Ciudadela are over 60. This attracted Guadalupe Andrade, 78, who started classes last year and is now a regular with her 80-year-old partner.

At the other end of the spectrum, Luis Albarran, 16, is one of the youngest and most stylish pachucos around. He was also inspired by the dancers in the square, and paired up with his older sister to join a troupe at the age of 12. "Our friends are put off by the slow rhythm and old style, but we are different and love everything about danzón," said Albarran. "We don't mind being the young ones, I love learning from the original pachucos."

Chávez added: "Today, danzón is danced in large parts of our territory, in public squares, parks and dance halls, adopted by people of all ages not only as a hobby, but as a lifestyle. The last 20 years has seen a gradual increase in dancers and orchestras, following in the steps of groups like Three Generations in Veracruz, and if this trend continues, there will be danzón for many years more."
LATIN RHYTHMS

Salsa (right) Originating in Cuba, salsa is influenced by African rhythms and instruments and quickly spread through the metropolitan areas of the Caribbean and the US. Dancers incorporate a range of hand movements, and complex swirls in their routines.

Cha-cha Another to originate in Cuba, cha-cha is danced to the music of the same name introduced by Cuban musician Enrique Jorrín in 1953. Its basic move involves quick pattering of the feet forwards and backwards. While Cuban music is still used, many also perform the dance to Latin pop and rock.

Samba Began as a Brazilian carnival dancing game in the 1800s, becoming a formal dance in the 20th century when American musicians and performers became interested in the dance form. Performed as a lively partner performance, influenced by both Brazilian and American rhythmic patterns.

Tango Created in Buenos Aires, now one of the world's most popular dances. Its five key foot positions let dancers smoothly interact with each other, while it's music incorporates a lively medley of drumbeats and quick guitar strumming.


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« Reply #8201 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:40 AM »

August 17, 2013

Jamaica Fights to Break Grip of Violent Past

By DAMIEN CAVE
IHT

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Gunshots every night, burned-down businesses and corpses — up to a half-dozen a day — used to define the neighborhood of Mountain View on the eastern hillsides of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. But not anymore.

Now, the nights are filled with barefoot soccer matches under streetlights or block parties that bring together former rivals from local gangs. No one has been murdered in Mountain View for three years.

“The dark cloud is moving away,” said Keith Nugent, 76, a tailor in the neighborhood who counsels former criminals. “Young people here are beginning to gravitate to a sense of life, and function.”

Jamaica is emerging as a rare bright spot in the hub of the fight against drugs and organized crime that extends across South America and the Caribbean. After more than a decade fighting lawlessness, with limited success, this small island with a reputation for both carefree living and bloodshed has begun to see results. Jamaica’s murder rate, while still high, has fallen by 40 percent since 2009, and a respected study recently reported that “Jamaica has fallen from one of the more corrupt countries in the Americas to one of the least.”

The situation here differs markedly from elsewhere in the region, in Central America and Mexico, where militarized, transnational drug cartels battle among themselves over the main smuggling routes into the United States. But experts and American officials say that as drug traffic shifts back to the Caribbean — because of intensifying enforcement elsewhere — Jamaica has done far more than many other countries to protect itself, by working transparently to strengthen weak institutions while welcoming assistance from outsiders.

“There’s an awful lot of introspection that’s been going on in Jamaica,” said Pamela E. Bridgewater, the American ambassador. As a result, she added, cooperation with the United States and other countries has “risen to a different level.”

Since 2009, no other country has received more American aid from the $203 million Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, yet relatively little of it has been directed toward the muscular, militarized efforts financed elsewhere as part of the war on drugs.

The new emphasis — on community policing, violence reduction and combating corruption — grew partly from crisis. In May 2010, Christopher M. Coke, one of Jamaica’s most powerful drug lords, fought an attempt to arrest and extradite him to the United States, prompting a neighborhood siege by the authorities, which left at least 70 people dead.

His surrender a few weeks later helped break up gun and drug networks, according to Jamaican officials, and allowed the country to zero in on longer-term projects, with imported expertise.

The United States, for example, is about to set up a vetting center for the Anticorruption Bureau of the Jamaican police, complete with polygraphs and training for operators.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office also notes that the Americans are giving Jamaican officers utility belts with only a baton and pepper spray in an effort to discourage deadly armed conflicts. The next weapons most likely to be delivered — Tasers — are more aggressive, but still a far cry from the helicopters, boats and Special Forces troops the United States is pushing into Central America.

Jamaica, though, has a different historical relationship with the United States and the war on drugs.

The Caribbean was the main trafficking route for cocaine heading to the United States in the ’80s and ’90s, which means Jamaica was among the first countries in the region to join international efforts against transnational crime. Jamaican and American officials say that as a result, sensitivities about foreign intervention are less intense here than in Central America and Mexico, and there are fewer institutional rivalries or disagreements about when the police or the military should intervene in the fight against traffickers.

“As long as we are aligned in the fight against organized crime, I’m willing to work with anyone,” said Peter Bunting, Jamaica’s minister of security.

Jamaica, as a longtime hub of marijuana production and consumption, has generally been more open about its weaknesses. Officials acknowledged the need for new levels of help nearly a decade ago, even putting foreigners in charge of the national police.

“Jamaica was on a precipice; it was about to become a narco state,” said Mark Shields, a former British police officer appointed deputy police commissioner in 2005.

The government also created or strengthened anticorruption commissions to keep a close watch on elected officials, contracts and the police. Forensic audits became required annually, for senior officials and beat officers alike. And laws have been toughened so that those found with suspicious windfalls must prove how they obtained the money or else be fired or prosecuted.

The goal, Mr. Bunting said, is to focus less on drugs and more on ill-gotten gains. “The kingpins are not the ones on the go-fast boat,” he said. “They’re usually closer to their money, so we’re going after the money.”

Eduardo A. Gamarra, a professor of international relations at Florida International University, said Jamaica’s approach had taken hold only because the arrest of Mr. Coke forced residents to see their country at rock bottom. A tipping point was reached, he said, as Jamaicans witnessed the power of Mr. Coke (nicknamed Dudus), who avoided extradition for nearly a year with the help of well-connected political allies, and as bodies piled up from the conflict between his supporters and the authorities.

“You have to have these momentous events to transform societies,” Mr. Gamarra said. “What is it that produced the change in Jamaica? Dudus Coke.”

The positive results have been obvious in areas like Mountain View. For many residents there, the Coke affair — which took place a few miles away in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood — still stings like lingering tear gas. Local gangs with ties to Mr. Coke resent what they describe as a police “incursion” characterized by officers killing civilians and other examples of excessive force.

But even the angriest Mountain View residents say they have chosen calm over chaos. Oswaldo Kemp, 34, who spent two years in prison in connection with the shooting of a police officer, now worries mostly about work. “I’m just trying to get my little farm running again,” he said, standing between a fattened pig and a row of vegetables.

Around the corner, Kachif Benjamin, 27, shirtless and wearing a pink backpack, said many gang members and drug dealers also decided they had had enough of the bloodshed. “We’ve been there, done that,” he said.

Violence remains a significant problem. On July 22 in Montego Bay, a teenager was stabbed to death by an angry mob in what appeared to be an antigay attack, and Jamaica’s murder rate is still 40 per 100,000, compared with 22 per 100,000 in Mexico and 87 per 100,000 in Honduras.

Bruce M. Bagley, a professor of international studies at the University of Miami, said it is still not clear if the improvements here and in other parts of the Caribbean are enough to withstand the increase in drug trafficking that experts are predicting. “The underlying socio-economic problems, the institutional problems and the rerouting of drugs back through the Caribbean are a very powerful combination,” he said.

But for Mr. Nugent, the tailor, and for many other residents, peace carries its own momentum. Gaunt and goateed, standing near a faded sticker on the wall of his home reading, “Celebrate forgiveness,” he said he sees hope in all the people asking him to mend clothes for work, and in the young men who seek guidance or help paying for school. Praising the police for spending more time getting to know the community and for starting youth clubs for teenagers, he said the future looked more bright than dark.

“Light attracts light,” he said. “Everything good must have a beginning.”


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« Reply #8202 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:47 AM »


Ibiza: 'Nothing is innocent and dealing is normal'

As two women who worked on the island face drug-smuggling charges in Peru, other Britons who work there warn of how easy it is to be drawn into the culture of crime

Tess Reidy in San Antonio, Ibiza
The Observer, Saturday 17 August 2013 22.00 BST   

A crowded dancefloor is hemmed in by multiple VIP areas. Topless men with flawless physiques perform camp manoeuvres on a stage. As Ibiza's flagship club, Pacha, celebrated its 40th year of existence, its denizens were in party mood last week.

Built in 1973 on former wasteland, a place that started life as an all-night cosy party venue attended by friends, hippies and locals has become the venue of choice for those with deep pockets. Entry can be as much as €100 (£85), or €440 for a VIP table, "mixer" drinks are around €20 and a bottle of water costs €12. But for those able to afford it, all the fabled glamour of Ibiza is here.

Outside it is something of a different story. For all the hands-in-the-air moments, this ever-popular hedonistic island has a dark side that is getting darker. Ibiza is now operating at two different speeds. On the streets of San Antonio, "looky looky" men loiter and ask people if they want to buy sunglasses, and then ask if they want drugs.

"I've seen English dealers running after them at the end of the season when they don't pay their debts," said Peter Nee, Privilege club PR manager. "The police chase them on their bikes sometimes, but it's all cat and mouse."

Following the arrest in Peru of Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Co Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, 19, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, who were stopped at Lima airport for allegedly smuggling £1.5m of cocaine, Ibiza's drug culture is in the headlines again.

Like hundreds of others, Connolly and Reid had spent the summer working in clubs and bars on the island, where the lure of illicit substances, to consume or sell, is constant.

In the early days, there was a "happy" drug culture of marijuana, then LSD in the 1970s and ecstasy in the 1990s. Now, people opt for ketamine, GHB and cocaine.

Given the high prices in clubs such as Pacha, some succumb to the lavish lifestyle by dealing drugs; others fall into a pattern of free parties at villas and on yachts, sometimes thrown by dubious hosts. Many avoid overpriced drinks altogether, taking drugs as a far cheaper alternative.

This young summer workforce, employed as dancers, flyer distributors, waiters and hospitality staff, earn just about enough to live. The Spanish landlords of the cramped apartments, where two or three people share a room, charge them around half their monthly pay. There is hot competition for each job and a constant tussle to get the bar and restaurant owners to pay them the right amount, and on time. Fern Bowler, 20, from Guildford, Surrey, a waitress in San Antonio, said she could see how people can fall into the Ibiza drug culture.

"Dealing over here isn't like back home, it's normal," she said. "Doing ketamine would be frowned on in the UK, but here every Tom, Dick and Harry does it.

"They sell drugs behind the bars and some people even brought some over with them in protein tubs. Nothing is innocent here." Another worker, who has been here for five summers, agreed: "Workers on the island can easily fall into the wrong circles.

"It's not the first time someone on the island will have done this. When they look at those girls, people are saying: 'It could have been me'."

In July, a British mother of two drowned after going for a late-night swim in Ibiza having taken a cocktail of illegal drugs. Next day, her body was found washed up on the shore.

In recent weeks, Grant Weston, 24, from Pembroke, died after falling from a balcony following a night out with friends, and Michael Jordan Hill, 19, from Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham, was seriously injured after falling from the fourth floor of a hotel.

But despite the seamier underside to life on the island, its reputation and prestige persist. More than 600,000 Brits went on holiday to Ibiza in 2012 and tour operators are reporting even higher booking levels this year. Clearly, though, something has been lost through the sheer commercial success of the Ibiza brand.

Terry Farley, co-founder of the record label Junior Boys Own, whose artists have included Underworld and the Chemical Brothers, has been going to the island since the early 1990s. He thinks the VIP culture of clubs such as Pacha has become a micro-climate of corporate brands and a world turned upside down by money: "The VIP culture has ruined the island for everyone – apart from investment bankers and drug dealers," he said.

Bill Brewster, co-author of Last Night a DJ Saved my Life, said: "It always had that element of celebrity, but it never felt like that; it felt like everybody dancing together in a cosmopolitan way.

"I do still enjoy it, but the purity of it all has been dissipated by the money. For me, it seems to be a bit of a cash cow for British promoters to fleece gullible clubbers of their money."

Though many former punters might agree with that assessment, there are more than enough new recruits to take their place. But after the events of last week, the high-roller side of the island has been overshadowed by the story unfolding in Peru.

The Spanish owner of the Amsterdam bar in San Antonio, where McCollum Connolly briefly worked, has lived in Ibiza for 40 years. He said drugs were ruining the island.

"It's run by an English mafia between Manchester and Liverpool, there were shootings between them a few years ago. Two people have died from drugs just in the last few weeks."

He added: "Ibiza destroys young people. It's paradise, but it's also hell."
ISLAND LIFE

1960s Tourism to Ibiza started to boom in the 1960s when the island played host to an influx of young hippies arriving from across Europe. They were attracted by the weather, relaxed attitudes and the island's natural beauty, and were part of the blossoming of the flower power revolution.

1970s The first nightclubs and discos opened in the 1970s, attracting a new range of young people. Among them was the Pacha dance club, a mainstay of the island's nightlife ever since.

1980s New clubs emerged, including Paradis and the Star, which catered to both British and continental tastes. The island became associated with the rise of house, electronic and rave music – and the birth of what became known as the Balearic sound. More young Britons took their holidays on the island than ever before.

1990s By the end of the decade, Ibiza had become a premier destination for Britons. Club entry prices were high, and many areas filled with drunken tourists over the summer. Sky TV released a documentary series on such holidays called Ibiza Uncovered.

2000s There was a boom in tourists arriving on all-inclusive cut-price package deals soon after the millennium. Many cheap apartments were bought up by British and European businesspeople. While droves of young Britons were still out to enjoy themselves, resentment was growing among some the island's locals.

Hussein Kesvani

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Peru to charge British and Irish women with drug trafficking

Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum to spend several months in custody before hearing, say police in Lima

Dan Collyns in Lima
The Guardian, Wednesday 14 August 2013 22.22 BST   

Public prosecutors in Lima have announced that they will formally charge Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid with drug trafficking on Monday or Tuesday next week.

They will then spend several months in custody – probably in the heavily overcrowded Santa Monica women's prison – before appearing before a judge in a trial or for sentencing, according to the Peruvian police.

Police colonel Tito Perez, in charge of drug trafficking investigations, said the young women had been interviewed by a detective from the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency, Irish and Spanish police and Interpol.

Reid, 19, from Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, and McCollum Connolly, 20, from Co Monaghan, Ireland, had both been in Ibiza before turning up in Peru. They claim they were forced to carry bags in their luggage, unaware they contained drugs.

"The women's movements are consistent with the methods used by the drugs gangs who use people as a means of transport for their merchandise," Perez said.

Both women had spent a week in Cusco and visited Machu Picchu before they were arrested at Lima's Jorge Chávez international airport with 11kg of cocaine in their luggage on 6 August.

Customs stamps in their passports indicated that Reid had entered Peru on 31 July and McCollum Connolly had arrived on the following day, Perez said.

He added that if the women confessed to the crime and co-operated with the police, they could receive a reduced sentence of around six years and be freed in half the time. A not guilty plea would attract a lengthier sentence of eight years or more, he added.

In a video released by the police, Reid tells officials that she was forced to take the bags in her luggage and was not aware that they contained drugs.

In a statement, Peter Madden, solicitor for McCollum Connolly's family, said: "Michaella has been questioned by the police and has denied involvement in any criminal offence."

Sean Walsh, an archbishop with the Eastern Catholic Church, who has visited the pair, said: "If they enter into a plea bargaining position then they would get reduced sentences but … if you are completely innocent and you plead guilty to a lesser charge you're still not telling the truth and so they have to be true to themselves."

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Peru drug arrests: Spanish police cast doubt on UK women's claims

Officer says he does not believe the two British women were forced to carry drugs by armed gang members

Dan Collyns in Lima and agencies
theguardian.com, Saturday 17 August 2013 10.01 BST   

Spanish police have cast doubt on claims by two women from the UK arrested in Peru for cocaine smuggling that they were forced to carry the drugs by armed gang members.

Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly said they were forced at gunpoint to make the journey from the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza – where they had been working in bars – after being befriended by a man from London.

They said they were shadowed by gang members throughout the journey and warned that if they did not pick up the drugs in Peru and bring them back to Spain their families would be killed.

However, the head of the Ibiza police unit responsible for countering organised crime, first sergeant Alberto Arian Barilla, said he did not believe they were acting under duress.

"In my experience I don't think these two girls were forced to do this because – particularly when you go to South America – you need to pass several controls," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"The first thing you do is go to the passport control and say: 'Listen, this is what is happening to me.' The policeman will react so I don't think they were forced."

Reid, from Scotland, and McCollum Connolly from Dungannon in Northern Ireland, were arrested last week as they attempted to leave the Peruvian capital, Lima, on a flight to Spain.

They are suspected by police of trying to leave the country with 11kg of cocaine in their luggage worth £1.5m.

They may be held pre-charge for up to 30 days and could then spend up to three years in prison before a trial.

Peter Madden, a Northern Ireland lawyer, arrived in Peru to defend Michaella McCollum on Friday.

He said that he arrived in the anti-drugs police HQ on Friday morning as police were about to question McCollum Connolly formally without the presence of a lawyer. He asked for the statement to be postponed, and after "much arguing" they agreed to his request. He said he had now hired a Peruvian lawyer.

"I have already advised Michaella and heard the details of her ordeal. She was in fact kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced by threat to obtain and carry drugs back to Lima. She was not offered any money; she was threatened and held," he said.

"She is now prepared and ready to give full details to the police in a questioning process. Once that questioning process is over, the results of the questions … will go to the judge. There is a presiding judge, who will then decide whether there is a prima facie case and that will probably be next week … probably Tuesday."

"Michaella is denying any wrongdoing. She was kidnapped, she was put through an ordeal, as was the other young girl, Melissa. They were both taken advantage of by a gang of up to 14 men with guns … she was under severe pressure and fear during this process."

Asked if she had any proof of her story or names of the men who kidnapped her, Madden said: "It's a very difficult situation. People didn't give names but she is going to do her best to help the police."

He said he understood that under the Peruvian system there was no chance of a deal once the charges had been formally laid, which was likely to happen early next week.

Asked if McCollum Connolly could avoid a jail term, he said: "I think there is hope but it depends very much on the attitude of the prosecuting authorities here as to whether or not they are going to do this fairly. Michaella is now in a position where she has to prove her innocence."


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« Reply #8203 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:56 AM »

PIG PUTIN'S RUSSIA...

Alexei Navalny won't make Moscow mayor but he has shaken up the campaign

On the hustings Alexei Navalny is winning friends, but he faces smear tactics and the money power of unloved Sergei Sobyanin

Kevin O'Flynn
The Observer, Saturday 17 August 2013 15.49 BST     

It was, for Moscow, a rather extraordinary event. A popular candidate to become the city's mayor stood on a small stage in a street, a few hundred metres from a much-loved pirate music market in the north-west of the city, and answered questions from ordinary Muscovites.

It was corruption investigator turned mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny's fourth hustings of the day.

"I have worked out that, if I have 100 of such meetings before the election, and don't go completely mad along the way, I will have spoken to 1% of the Moscow electorate," Navalny told his audience. "It is not many … but the electoral power of each person is enormously powerful. If you speak to 10, you will convince six of them … through you I can speak to millions."

A question-and-answer session followed. One person got his name wrong, another asked if he would "go bad once he got into power", and a third, a man with a long white beard, asked if e-government would turn everyone into robots.

Navalny did not correct the first questioner, but the audience did. He promised the old woman who asked the second question that he would not "go bad", and politely disagreed with the robot man.

A standard political exercise then, but one that appears fresh and novel in a country that – in the era of President Vladimir Putin – has forgotten the meaning of real political activism and electioneering.

Navalny, who made his reputation on the internet with a popular blog campaigning against corruption, is only running in the election after he was released from custody unexpectedly last month, after being convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years. His trial had all the hallmarks of a political hit.

His release is believed to have been backed by Moscow's mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and the theory is that Navalny's candidacy will give a Sobyanin victory a degree of legitimacy. Sobyanin was not voted into power but was appointed mayor in 2010.

For Sobyanin, things seem to be going according to plan. Navalny, who emerged as the clear leader of the opposition movement following protests after the tainted 2011 parliamentary elections, is trailing the current mayor by a mile – 19% to 63% – and will almost certainly not win the 8 September polls.

Nevertheless, the campaign has shaken the Sobyanin campaign out of its complacency, throwing up corruption allegations and exposing other opposition parties as fake and jaded. If Navalny does manage to get through to a second round, things may become more unpredictable.

A day before Navalny's meeting, Sobyanin had held his own event with voters at a cultural centre. Activist Nikolai Levshits, who attended the meeting, said that Sobyanin's gathering had been packed with city workers who were forced to attend. They had turned up two hours before the meeting began, and either asked Sobyanin easy questions or lavished him with praise.

Although he is popular in Moscow, Sobyanin is a career bureaucrat with as much charisma as a Moscow traffic jam on a snowy February morning. He is not loved like his predecessor, Yuri Lushkov, and certainly would not inspire a crowd to wait two hours just for a chance to see him. It is common for pro-government meetings to be packed with city workers and teachers who are forced to attend by their employers, or with paid supporters.

Last week the website massovki.ru ran an advert looking for people ready to take part in a meeting with a mayoral candidate for a fee of around £100. The date and time match Sobyanin's meeting.

"I don't like Sobyanin, I categorically don't like what he has done to the city," Andrei, an activist at the Sobyanin campaign headquarters, told the weekly magazine Bolshoi Gorod. "But I worked out that I can earn 20,000 roubles. That's more than you get handing out leaflets in a supermarket."

Across the city, the Navalny campaign has set up spots where genuine volunteers work for free, handing out leaflets and speaking out for the candidate. Most of the volunteers are young and inexperienced, and the campaign has offered training on how to deal with hecklers and provocateurs.

Among the advice offered on the Navalny site are the instructions: "You are not a zombie, listen to people," and "If a maniac with a chainsaw grabs the leaflets off you, it's better to hand them over. We can easily print more leaflets, but printing a new one of you will be more difficult."

While the Navalny campaign has taken to the streets to reach people who may not know their candidate – he is blacklisted on state national television – the Sobyanin team has also gone to the internet.

But the results are often risible. One site asking people to send in their pets photographed with a Sobyanin emblem has proved popular, although political spin doctors might see the disadvantages in associating a candidate with the support of animals including pigs, crocodiles and snakes.

The pressure is building up on Navalny as new allegations have appeared against him. First came reports that his campaign has received funding from abroad – Navalny's team say Russian expatriates have contributed to the funds – and then police raided a flat where illegal campaign material was allegedly stored.

Candidates from Russia's major parties have often been as harsh about Navalny as Sobyanin, fuelling widespread belief that they themselves are in the pocket of the Kremlin. The candidate from the Fair Russia party reported the "illegal" campaign material to the police and was in attendance as police broke down the door and arrested the people inside.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic party, produced a characteristic outburst after the allegations against Navalny were reported, linking the candidate to the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

"He should be in jail like Khodorkovsky," said Zhirinovsky, adding that the oligarch should endure the sentence of the Count of Monte Cristo and remain in jail forever. "He should be buried in a prison cemetery. And Navalny too." Some candidates are more comical than sinister. The less than impressive Liberal Democratic (LDPR) mayoral candidate, Mikhail Degtarev, released a video last week of himself in a sauna with Zhirinovsky. One of his campaign promises is to create the biggest beach in Europe in Moscow.

"Somebody had to be put up," one LDPR party member told a reporter from Bolshoi Gorod who went undercover as a volunteer. "How can a person who has never lived here, who doesn't know what problems there are, be mayor of Moscow? Nobody knows why he was chosen."

One incident above all may have triggered the latest attacks on Navalny. In the space of a few days last week, he produced documents that appear to show that Sobyanin's 16-year-old daughter has a flat worth an estimated £3.4m in Moscow while another daughter, aged 25, apparently owns a flat worth £2.2m in St Petersburg.

The Sobyanin campaign dismissed the allegations, which have not been aired fully on Russian television.

As the pressure mounts, there are fears that Navalny could be barred from the election or be arrested again, but he shows no sign of stopping the attacks on his opponent. "I would like to become a mayor of whom you know how his daughters got their flats," said Navalny.

"We love him and we are afraid for him," said Galina, 63, who attended the hustings on Thursday. She watched the candidate debates on local TV, which Sobyanin refused to take part in, and was impressed by Navalny's attacks on corruption at the highest level of Russian government.

"When he started talking about Pig Putin and all those around him I was really worried," she said. "It's dangerous. I was on the edge of my chair."


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« Reply #8204 on: Aug 18, 2013, 06:59 AM »

August 17, 2013

A Secret Race for Abandoned Nuclear Material

By ELLEN BARRY
IHT

Working in top secret over a period of 17 years, Russian and American scientists collaborated to remove hundreds of pounds of plutonium and highly enriched uranium — enough to construct at least a dozen nuclear weapons — from a remote Soviet-era nuclear test site in Kazakhstan that had been overrun by impoverished metal scavengers, according to a report released last week by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard.

The report sheds light on a mysterious $150 million cleanup operation paid for in large part by the United States, whose nuclear scientists feared that terrorists would discover the fissile material and use it to build a dirty bomb.

Over the years, hints emerged that something extraordinarily dangerous had been left behind in a warren of underground tunnels — like the American aerial drones that circled over the site, looking for intruders, or the steel-reinforced concrete that was poured into tunnels and over stretches of earth.

Among the report’s new revelations is that the Soviet testers left behind components, including high-purity plutonium, that could have been used to build not just a dirty bomb but a “relatively sophisticated nuclear device,” an American official told the report’s authors.

American scientists spent years trying to coax information about Soviet-era testing from their counterparts in Russia.

It was a white-knuckle effort at times, since local scavengers in search of scrap metal were regularly digging “within yards” of the fissile material.

Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, described his astonishment when he first visited the site in 1998, cruising past unattended gates.

“When I went out there, I was expecting to see guys on camels, pulling on copper cables,” Mr. Hecker told the authors. Instead, he saw miles of trenches that had been dug by teams with excavating machines — evidence of what he called “a major industrial enterprise,” which dug up miles of irradiated copper cable and sold it to Chinese dealers.

Mr. Hecker concluded that the site contained nuclear material “in reasonably concentrated form, easily picked up, completely open to whoever wants to come.”

The report describes a project driven forward almost entirely by Russian and American scientists, without the “elaborate, negotiated state-to-state agreements of the kind used for arms control during the cold war.”

Mr. Hecker said he understood his counterparts’ reluctance; the mixture of plutonium isotopes used in Russian nuclear bombs was a closely guarded secret that Americans might discover if they gained access to the tunnels.

Mr. Hecker recalled going to a small city in Russia for an informal meeting with Radi Ikayev, director of the first Soviet nuclear-weapons laboratory, and showing him photographs of the excavating that was going on at the site, in Semipalatinsk.

“Radi was just silent,” Mr. Hecker recalled. “He just looked at me, and looked at the photos. And he said, ‘I’ll have someone talk to you in the morning.’ ”

From that point onward, a handful of Russian scientists began sharing information about the site. Underneath a formation called Degelen Mountain, 209 nuclear tests had been carried out in 181 tunnels, coating the earthen walls with plutonium residue; but not all the devices had detonated. Pure plutonium and highly enriched uranium remained, in chunks or inside the duds.

The Russians also knew about explosions that had been set off inside large metal containers called Kolbas, some of which had been left deep within the maze of tunnels.

Mr. Hecker then showed the same photographs to high-level American officials, warning them that scavengers could recover as much as 440 pounds of plutonium at the site.

In 1999, on the margins of an international nonproliferation conference, the United States agreed to finance the cleanup effort; Russia agreed to provide information and scientists, and Kazakhstan to do the fieldwork. The signers celebrated their agreement with vodka toasts, beginning a project that would stretch on for more than 10 years, as scavengers penetrated closer to fissile material. Step by step, the team began encasing the fissile material in concrete, rendering it virtually unusable in a bomb.

When a New York Times reporter visited the site in 2011, the effort was shrouded by a heavy veil of secrecy.

“People ask me, are we doing the right thing, closing access to the tunnels?” said the official overseeing the test site, Kairat K. Kadyrzhanov, general director of the National Nuclear Center, at the time. “And I say I do not know what is there, and I do not have the right to know.”

The effort had a year and a half to go at that point. In October 2012, Mr. Kadyrzhanov was one of a small group of scientists — American, Russian and Kazakh — who gathered for a picnic to mark the completion of the cleanup. A monument now stands at the site, with the inscription: “1996-2012. The world has become safer.”


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