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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 419047 times)
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« Reply #8385 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:45 AM »


Swedish boarding school shut down after bullying claims

Inspectors announce immediate closure of elite Lundsberg school, likened by one pupil to Lord of the Flies

David Crouch in Gothenburg
The Guardian, Wednesday 28 August 2013 17.51 BST

A private school for children of Sweden's wealthy elite has been shut down following accusations that boys were burned with hot irons by older pupils.

The latest allegations about severe bullying at Lundsberg boarding school emerged at the weekend after one of the boys was taken to hospital and the police were informed. Nine boys were involved in the assault, police said.

Following a visit to the school in rural Värmland, in south-west Sweden, inspectors announced its immediate closure until measures are taken to prevent abuse.

The schools inspectorate said it had criticised Lundsberg on several occasions and repeatedly demanded that it take steps to address the problem.

The school, whose motto displayed prominently on its website is mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a healthy body), has around 200 pupils, many of whom have wealthy parents working abroad but who want to send their children to a Swedish school.

Allegations of brutal bullying at Lundsberg first emerged in 2011 when pupils made anonymous phone calls to the media and the schools inspectorate alleging physical and sexual abuse. One pupil told Swedish television: "It's like Lord of the Flies."

Other former pupils have publicly defended the school and dismissed the allegations as motivated by social envy.

Lundsberg is one of only three boarding schools in Sweden. Established in 1896, it was explicitly modelled on England's elite public schools. The annual fee is around £20,000.

Under Sweden's system of free schools, which have served as a model for David Cameron's government, Lundsberg pupils receive money from the state to pay for their education, which is topped up by their parents.

The closure of Lundsberg is only the second time the schools inspectorate has ordered the immediate closure of an educational institution.

The Lundsberg director Sofia Orre said she was appalled by the decision. "The only thing I can say with such short notice is that it is a disaster for the students who attend the school and who are happy in school. This is devastating for the students," she told the Swedish news agency TT.

Petter Sandgren, a postdoctoral researcher at the European University Institute in Florence and a specialist on Swedish boarding schools, said that despite the allegations of bullying, Lundsberg could not be closed earlier because of the "old boys' network" surrounding it.

"Previously when the system of 'fagging' got too intense, it was resolved by the lawyers of the different families," Sandgren said. "This is the first time in the school's history that pupils have gone to the press. There is less loyalty to the school among its nouveau riche students."

Anita Sätereie, who worked in the kitchens at Lundsberg in the 1950s, said: "It's like time has stood still since I worked there – there is exactly the same spirit now as it was then, the school still lets the older pupils harass the younger ones and be cruel to them.

"I am so relieved that eyes have been opened and people see it for what it is. I never saw class society revealed so obviously as at Lundsberg – and it is still the same, like Upstairs Downstairs."

Lundsberg school did not answer the phone on Wednesday.


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« Reply #8386 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:48 AM »


Bulgaria: ‘Massive administrative reshuffle’

Trud,
28 August 2013

The Bulgarian government on August 26 embarked on an unprecedented programme to replace top-ranking public officials, which several observers have described as a political purge, reports Trud.

Public servants in charge of the state Fund for Agriculture, Investment Agency, Archives Agency, Customs Service, military police and National Statistics Institute, as well as the chairman of the National Agency for Transport Infrastructure are all to be replaced.

For its part, the country’s parliament has announced its intention to close the Centre for the Study of Public Opinion, Bulgaria’s main polling organisation, which it described as “pointless”.


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« Reply #8387 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:50 AM »


Austrian Elections: ‘Campaign fairy tales and reality’

Die Presse, 29 August 2013

With just four and half weeks left to run before general elections in Austria on September 29, Die Presse lists seven lies that have been put about in the course of election campaigns, which are now “approaching a climax.”

“Fairy tales” about possible coalitions are high on the list presented by the newspaper. The social democrats (SPÖ) have warned against a coalition of conservatives (ÖVP) and liberals (FPÖ), while the ÖVP has fretted over the possibility of a coalition between the SPÖ and the Greens. Both of these hypotheses, argues the daily, are completely unrealistic in a context where the two parties of the outgoing coalition, the ÖVP and the SPÖ, will win the most votes.

The SPÖ has also falsely accused the ÖVP of wanting to introduce 12-hour working days, whereas in fact, the aim “is to allow 12-hour shifts that will enable workers to take advantage of reduced hours on other days,” points out the newspaper. For their part, the conservatives are criticising the SPÖ for planning to impose a wealth tax on the middle class, when in fact the proposal will only apply to people whose wealth or inheritance exceeds €1m, remarks the daily.


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« Reply #8388 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:51 AM »


Czech Republic: ‘Klaus gives up on elections, ODS relieved’

Lidové noviny , 29 August 2013

Former Czech president Václav Klaus has announced that he will not run in early general elections to be held on October 25 and 26.

The news comes as a relief for the conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which has been rocked by a scandal that brought down the coalition government led by Petr Nečas. Klaus, who founded ODS in 1991, had suggested that he might have unveiled a new Eurosceptic liberal party in the elections: a move that would have threatened the survival of ODS, which, according to the polls, will barely obtain enough support to enter parliament.

For Lidové noviny,the former president’s decision —

    … shows that he has not lost touch with reality. […] At age 72, he knows that he only has one chance, and that it would be unwise to waste it in a situation where a major victory for the left is to be expected.


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« Reply #8389 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:53 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/28/2013 04:38 PM

'Everyday Racism': Turkish Community Responds to NSU Report

The Turkish Community in Germany has published a report responding to a series of racist murders authorities failed to detect for years. The paper is intended to complement recommendations put forward by a parliamentary committee.

In response to recommendations published last week by a committee in the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament, the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) has put out its own report on the crimes of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) -- the murderous neo-Nazi terrorist cell uncovered nearly two years ago.

The 80-page report, presented by TGD chairman Kenan Kolat at a Berlin press conference on Tuesday, calls for Germans to develop "a new sensitivity for hidden forms of everyday prejudice". It also advocates a complete overhaul of the country's domestic security operations.

The NSU is believed to have committed 10 murders between 2000 and 2007, and eight of the victims were of Turkish origin. Rather than looking into racial motivations for the murders, police in a number of the slayings immediately suspected the victims were involved in organized crime and drug trafficking.

Time For Change

The TGD report, which was researched and co-authored by Hajo Funke -- a well-known political scientist with a focus on right-wing extremism in Germany -- suggests a fundamental overhaul of the country's domestic security operations is necessary.

It recommends that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution -- the body tasked with gathering intelligence on racially motivated crimes in Germany -- be disbanded. A new, independent and fully financed investigative body, as well as a series of new recruits with fresh ideas would be the only way to institute change, said Kolat.

Also notable among the Turkish Community's recommendations is a proposed ban on racial profiling by police and other security officials, the elimination of the government's large network of undercover informants within the far-right scene and the introduction of a permanent parliamentary committee tasked with overseeing racially motivated crime investigations. The report also suggests erecting a memorial site in the German capital to commemorate the victims.

An Institutional Problem

The news comes in response to a report issued last week by a committee of German lawmakers, detailing how members of the NSU were able to commit dozens of crimes without arousing the suspicion of law enforcement.

The report, which lays out 47 recommendations on how to improve the German state security system, has been heavily criticized. In addition to the fact that its suggestions are non-binding, critics also argue they would be difficult to implement on a nationwide basis. In Germany's decentralized system of federal states, any kind of affirmative action program would face immense challenges.

The report also came under fire from lawyers representing the families of those murdered by the NSU for not addressing what they view as the "decisive problem" in the investigation into the slayings -- namely "institutional racism" within the German police and government authorities. Sebastian Edathy, chairman of the parliamentary committee with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), was quick to dismiss the criticism. "I wouldn't refer to it as institutional racism," he said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper last week. "There were isolated cases of racists in our police force who do not belong there."

'Structural Racial Prejudices'

Although the Bundestag report does include one recommendation stating that "German society is diverse -- and that this diversity should be reflected by the police authorities, who must also be able to competently deal with this diversity," it does not make any explicit mention of the possibility of institutionalized racism within the police or government agencies. The only such comments come at the end of the report, where individual political parties provided responses.

Neither Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, her government's junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, nor the Green Party said anything in the report on the possibility of institutionalized racism. However, the opposition SPD and Left Party both commented extensively on the phenomenon -- at least as it pertains to the NSU investigation.

The SPD wrote that "structural racial prejudices had been a major cause of the lack of openness in the investigation into the murders and bombing attacks committed by the NSU." The party also lamented "prejudiced routines in the police's work" that led to "routine prejudicial structures against people with immigrant backgrounds," although the party said it was a "structural" rather than intentional problem. Such routines, it said, were often racist. The Left Party lamented that "structural and institutional racism had been a trait of the" police work relating to the NSU series of murders. The Green Party does, however, call in the report for regular "anti-racism training" for police, prosecutors and judges.

Kenan Kolat, meanwhile, has been more explicit in his assertions. The aim of the Turkish Community's efforts, Kolat said at Tuesday's press conference, was to eliminate "everyday racism, which also exists within institutions."


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« Reply #8390 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:57 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/28/2013 05:15 PM

German Interior Minister: 'US Takes Privacy Concerns Seriously'

In an interview, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich discusses his confidence in the United States and its claims it is not conducting mass spying on Europe, concerns about Facebook and a determination to continue the fight against terrorism.

SPIEGEL: Minister Friedrich, can we take a quick look at your mobile phone?

Friedrich: All of them?

SPIEGEL: How many do you have?

Friedrich: Three. One phone on which conversations are encrypted, and one that has special security features. I use the third phone, which I have here in my pocket and which has for example newspaper apps installed, to go on the Internet.

SPIEGEL: Is that phone bug proof?

Friedrich: No. It's an ordinary mobile phone.

SPIEGEL: After coming into office, you banned all BlackBerrys and smartphones from your staff meetings, because of the risk of information "getting into the wrong hands and ears," as was said at the time. From today's perspective, that sounds almost prophetic.

Friedrich: It wasn't prophetic, just realistic. The networks are relatively open, and you can penetrate them with ordinary tools, which crime organizations and criminals certainly use to their advantage. That's why we only use official devices for official matters.

SPIEGEL: Is it just criminal organizations that are getting in, or also intelligence services?

Friedrich: Intelligence services, too, if you insist. There are, after all, plenty of those in the world.

SPIEGEL: Do you think it's reasonable that citizens must assume that their telephone conversations are being wiretapped and their emails read?

Friedrich: As a rule, citizens can assume that their telephone conversations are not being wiretapped, at least not by Western intelligence agencies. But, once again, other groups, such as criminal organizations, do have the technical means to listen in on phone conversations and read emails. In other words, you have to take extra steps if you want to communicate securely, such as using encryption technologies. You can compare it to sending a postcard when you're on vacation. Everyone knows that others can read it. Letters are more secure.

SPIEGEL: In the case of telephone conversations, we had assumed until now that they were constitutionally protected and took place within a confidential framework. Since the leaks by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the US's NSA intelligence agency, we have to assume that we are being systematically wiretapped and skimmed. Does that worry you?

Friedrich: So far, we have no indications that the American and British agencies, the NSA and GCHQ, are wiretapping phones in Germany.

SPIEGEL: According to the Snowden documents, GCHQ hacks into trans-Atlantic data communications passing through the TAT-14 fiber optic cable and stores the content for several days. A large share of German telephone conversations and emails abroad pass through this cable. Don't you have a problem with that?

Friedrich: Communications pass through fiber optic cables worldwide. Intelligence services also tap into those cables to filter the flow of data. When the electronic filter signals that someone is dialing the telephone number of a presumed terrorist, perhaps in Pakistan or in Yemen, this information may be the first step toward preventing a possible terrorist attack, which could cost many lives. One thing is clear: This does not affect ordinary citizens. We are talking about strategic telecommunications reconnaissance, which is primarily the evaluation of connection data, not the content of conversations. When you make a phone call, the conversation doesn't just pass through one fiber optic cable, but in several packets and through various connections.

SPIEGEL: The intelligence agencies' spy programs then reassemble these data packages and make them readable.

Friedrich: That step only comes later. It's when they sort the data by content. If a terrorist in Yemen is talking about building a bomb in Hamburg, that is, when there is an initial suspicion of terrorism, additional steps are taken. It enhances the security of our citizens.

SPIEGEL: But the intelligence agencies' dragnet method doesn't just affect terrorists. Were you surprised by the scope of data surveillance revealed in recent weeks?

Friedrich: If you are implying that people all across Germany are being spied on, I can tell you that this isn't the case. The datasets that the Americans allegedly "siphoned off" consist of connection data from crisis zones, specifically from Afghanistan. These are not telephone calls in Germany, but calls outside Germany, in which, for example, planned attacks on soldiers are being discussed. I think preventing these acts of terror was the right thing to do.

SPIEGEL: The main accusation goes well beyond that, namely that the NSA and GCHQ are monitoring a large share of global data communications and that Germany is a central surveillance target.

Friedrich: There is no proof behind the allegation that Germany is a central surveillance target. Besides, the NSA isn't operating in an extralegal setting, but is in fact operating on a clear legal basis, not unlike the BND (Germany's foreign intelligence agency) and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV, its domestic intelligence agency) in Germany. The NSA has provided written assurances to that effect.

SPIEGEL: Communication among German citizens is not protected by US laws. Do you believe the protestations of US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had to admit that he had not told the US Senate the truth?

Friedrich: The American intelligence service has the clear legal mandate to fight terrorism, organized crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

SPIEGEL: Then what is your assessment of the eavesdropping operations on European Union offices in Brussels and Washington mentioned in the Snowden documents? And why does Britain's GCHQ run its own Internet café to spy on diplomats who have traveled to the G-20 summit? Does that fall under the agencies' legal mandate?

Friedrich: Certainly not. If what you are saying were true, it would be unacceptable.

SPIEGEL: You are relying on promises and assurances. If you were a ticket inspector on the subway, would you believe a passenger who assures you that he has a ticket in his pocket?

Friedrich: It's a poor comparison. We are talking about assurances at the highest level of intelligence service, which reports to the US president. The Americans take our data privacy concerns seriously.

US Intelligence Agencies 'Abide by the Law'
SPIEGEL: If you are still in the middle of the investigation, how can you claim publicly that all accusations have "vanished into thin air"?

Friedrich: I made it clear that Snowden's core accusation, namely that the NSA collects 500 million pieces of data relating to German citizens in Germany each month, has been clearly refuted. Should there be new accusations, we will review them carefully.

SPIEGEL: We never said that we were talking about data relating to German citizens. The (business-friendly Free Democratic Party) FDP wants more explanations from the United States and Great Britain. Do you consider it a confidence-building measure when English intelligence agents march into the offices of the Guardian newspaper and demand the destruction of data storage devices?

Friedrich: First of all, there are still a few inconsistencies that have to be cleared up. Why, for example, is the editor in chief of the Guardian publishing this story four weeks after it happened? Why doesn't an editor in chief defend the freedom of the press, secure evidence and let the whole thing be decided in court? There is a very different discussion of the case in England. It's certainly questionable when anyone destroys evidence for fear of a trial.

SPIEGEL: For journalists like us, protecting sources is our highest precept. We cannot hand over information that could endanger an informant. Can you imagine BND employees showing up at the reception desk here and demanding that we hand over data storage devices?

Friedrich: Of course I can't imagine that.

SPIEGEL: What you call the "super basic right of security" seems to be so important to you that you accept the questionable methods of intelligence services with a shrug of the shoulders.

Friedrich: I firmly reject that assertion. But I have no reason whatsoever to accuse our American partners of anything. The United States is a free and liberal state governed by the rule of law, with an independent press and independent courts. It also has a democratically elected congress, including an opposition, which also poses critical questions.

SPIEGEL: It doesn't give you pause that the US intelligence agencies don't even abide by the law on their own soil?

Friedrich: They abide by the law, but they also make mistakes that shouldn't be accepted. The authorities admitted that this is the case. But there is a difference between individual mistakes being made and constitutional rights being systematically and consciously violated millions of times over.

SPIEGEL: If all of this isn't so serious, Mr. Friedrich, then why do we need a no-spy treaty with the Americans?

Friedrich: It's our way of reacting to suspicions. Besides, the whole purpose of written agreements is to document the basis of a business relationship between two parties.

SPIEGEL: Ironically, the treaty is to be negotiated by the NSA and the BND. In doing so, aren't we just putting a fox in charge of the henhouse?

Friedrich: I think it's the right approach for the expert agencies to speak to each other first, but I would also welcome a legally binding treaty between governments.

SPIEGEL: Chancellor (Angela) Merkel has said that she wants to make Germany more independent of the United States in the area of IT security.

Friedrich: IT security is a very important topic, which I have been discussing with German industry for some time. It's important for a country, and Europe, to be in a position to control the key infrastructure components of the network themselves.

SPIEGEL: This week a government commission will officially present its report, which critically addresses the anti-terrorism laws of the last 10 years. Isn't this overreach?

Friedrich: No. We have good anti-terrorism laws, which have ensured that we have been largely spared Islamist attacks on a larger scale so far. But I can only caution against letting our guard down against terrorism in a highly perilous situation. The NSU series of murders has also shown that we must ensure that what individual government agencies know is used to effectively avert threats. That's why we have made sure that we have a joint center of defense against right-wing extremism, based on the model of the joint counterterrorism center.

SPIEGEL: You are constantly transferring new powers to the security authorities. We are under the impression that for you, data privacy is one of the eggs that has to be broken to make an omelet.

Friedrich: Your impression is completely wrong. Data privacy is important to me, both as a minister and a citizen. But not all data is equal. In fact, we're discussing this issue at length with the European Commission, which takes a very static view in this respect. You just can't compare a bakery storing information about people who subscribe to a baking magazine to private companies with giant computer centers storing all of my medical data. It's a completely different degree of threat to individual privacy. The latter is something we have to prevent. I can tell you very clearly that I don't want a surveillance state.

SPIEGEL: You threatened Google and Facebook with a red card in 2011, but you only asked them to sign up to a voluntary code of conduct. That didn't happen, but neither did the red card.

Friedrich: Because the companies didn't want a voluntary commitment, we will now write it into law at the European level. Let me say something very clearly: The freedom of human beings is threatened by the unchecked concentration of power. Someone who, like an Internet company, can paint an exact picture of my personality on the basis of data gathered online, without being sufficiently governed by the law, has a far greater potential for power than any democratically controlled intelligence service.

SPIEGEL: There is only one difference. People voluntarily provide Facebook and Google with their information. That's stupid. But the NSA and GCHQ simply take what they want.

Friedrich: Once again, what does the NSA want with your data? What one person says to another on the phone is completely irrelevant to the intelligence service's mandate, unless he is someone who wants to build bombs and use them to blow up Hamburg's central train station. The intelligence services' mandate is to find that person, and nothing else. But it makes me nervous when a private company knows more about me than I know about myself.

SPIEGEL: The fact that the NSA can obtain the data from companies like Facebook makes other people nervous. Are you still on Facebook?

Friedrich: Of course. I don't mind if Facebook knows that I went for a walk yesterday and then paid a visit to (Bavarian Governor) Horst Seehofer.

SPIEGEL: Minister Friedrich, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Martin Doerry, Hubert Gude and Jörg Schindler. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Fidel Castro denies Russian claim that Cuba snubbed Edward Snowden

Former president responds to reports in Kommersant newspaper that Cuba bowed to US pressure over NSA leaks

Reuters
theguardian.com, Wednesday 28 August 2013 13.42 BST

Fidel Castro has criticised a claim in a Russian newspaper that his country buckled to US pressure and blocked the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden from travelling through Cuba to exile in Latin America.

Castro, who ceded the Cuban presidency to his brother, Raúl, in 2006, and is rarely seen or heard from in public, said the article in the Kommersant newspaper on Monday was a lie and libel.

Castro, in a column carried by official media on various international issues, from Syria and Egypt to robots doing police work and Snowden, praised Snowden and out condemned US spying as repugnant.

"It is obvious that the United States will always try to pressure Cuba ... but not for nothing has (Cuba) resisted and defended itself without a truce for 54 years and will continue to do so for as long as necessary," Castro wrote.

Snowden, who is wanted in the US for leaking details of US government surveillance programmes, had planned to fly to Havana from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport a day after arriving from Hong Kong, on 23 June.

But Snowden, who eventually accepted a year's asylum in Russia after spending nearly six weeks at Sheremetyevo, did not show up for the flight, although he had been allocated a seat.

Citing several sources, including one close to the US state department, Kommersant said the reason was that at the last minute Cuba had told officials to stop Snowden from boarding the Aeroflot flight.

It said Cuba had changed its mind after pressure by the US, which wants to try Snowden on espionage charges.

Castro, in his column, criticised Kommersant as a well-known "counter-revolutionary" and "mercenary" newspaper.

"I admire the courageous and just declarations of Snowden," Castro wrote.

"In my opinion, he has rendered a service to the world, having revealed the repugnantly dishonest policy of the powerful empire that is lying and deceiving the world," Castro continued.

According to the Russian newspaper, Havana informed Moscow that it would refuse to let the Aeroflot plane land if Snowden was on board.

Castro did not speculate as to why Snowden skipped the Aeroflot flight.


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« Reply #8391 on: Aug 29, 2013, 06:59 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/28/2013 02:15 PM

Market Crash: Could Istanbul's Grand Bazaar Collapse?

By Hasnain Kazim

It's one of largest and most popular covered markets in the world -- but now management claims vendors have weakened the structure of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar to the point it may collapse. Merchants view the situation differently.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is an ancient labyrinth: The plaster is falling from the vaulted ceilings; in many places the paint has chipped; the colorful patterns desperately need to be redrawn. "It's been a long time since that was done," says cloth merchant Mehmed. "Maybe 30, 40 years."

This centuries-old indoor market -- one of the largest tourist attractions in Istanbul, attracting thousands of people every day -- is in danger of falling apart and desperately needs to be refurbished. At least that's what the management of the bazaar is saying. The managers claim that many of the vendors have, without permission, hollowed out walls in order to create more space for their stores. In several cases, they have supposedly broken down walls and created illegal basements. This, they say, endangers the stability of the building.

An investigation conducted on behalf on the market's management revealed that 135 businesses had removed and 926 had thinned walls to make more space for their wares. And even the roofs are unstable, because they have to support the weight of ever more air conditioners, water tanks and satellite dishes. According to the Turkish newspaper Zaman, the responsible vendors may face penalties.

The inspection report, which came out last week, makes it sound like the building's vaults -- which are located in Eminönü, the old European part of the city -- are in danger of collapsing; as if the bazaar, in which people have haggled and traded, gossiped and drunken tea for half a millennium, is imperilled if nothing happens soon.

'This Isn't Going to Collapse Tomorrow.'

Mehmed, third-generation cloth vendor, stands in front of his shelves, filled with sauna towels, and waves it off. "That's nonsense. Yes, it is time that something is done about it -- but this isn't going to collapse tomorrow." Aydin runs the business next door, selling cloths made of cotton and traditional utensils for the hammam. He doesn't believe in an impending catastrophe either. "This is actually about deciding who is supposed to pay for the refurbishing," he says -- about putting the vendors under pressure. "I don't accept that we should carry the costs all on our own."

The problem is the tortuous ownership situation. Some of the premises belong to the vendors, some to the city, and many others to the state or to foundations. "The city itself contributed to things here falling apart," says Aydin. The city, he says, had removed the roof cladding because it apparently contained lead, and replaced it with tiles. "Now it's moist in the halls -- there are always shortcuts being made," claims the businessman.

Several vendors claim the penalties and announcements of rehabilitation work are only threats. "I've worked here for more than 20 years," says one older gentleman who sells pipes from Anatolia. "How many times have I already heard that the market halls were going to collapse? How many times did they threaten to remove illegal additions? Nothing has ever happened." He sees one danger though: "If there is ever another serious earthquake -- like the ones Istanbul has frequently had in the past -- all of this really will collapse."

Others point to the bazaar's long history, that it has survived every quake, every fire and every political crisis. Sultan Mehmed II commissioned the construction of the indoor market in 1461, after the conquest of Constantinople. Over the course of the centuries, more and more people arrived, until at some point, the bazaar became the biggest covered market in the world. The Turks call it Kapali Carsi, which means "covered market." Merchants and members of the bazaar association say it contains up to 4,000 businesses in 64 streets and alleys and that 20,000 to 25,000 people work here.

Treasures and Trash

In earlier times, the market was a meeting point for locals, a place to congregate after a visit to the nearby mosques and, of course, a trading venue, where merchants offered gold, gems or fine fabrics. Ever more vendors came along, and now there is a large range of wares: From antiquities and alleged antiquities, to furniture, calligraphies and books. "Unfortunately there's also a lot of junk too," says Aydin. "Cheap clothes from the Far East and plastic toys." There are banks, currency exchanges, tea and coffee houses, and police and mail services.

"Tourists have been our most important economic factor for a while," says Mehmed. The vendors make good money from the visitors, because all of the guide books say that you need to haggle in the bazaar, and they include a tip: Don't be ashamed to start by offering one-third of the vendor's proposed price -- that way you'll end up at half of the vendor's initial offer. Because the vendors know this, they start with unrealistically high prices, and that way, both sides are happy with their purchase: Tourists believe they got a bargain thanks to their haggling skills and the vendor makes a killing.

Vendors say claims that the halls may collapse endanger their economic well-being. "In the end the tourists won't come any more because they are afraid," says Mehmed.


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« Reply #8392 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:01 AM »

Pakistan orders retrial of doctor who helped find bin Laden

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 29, 2013 8:08 EDT

A Pakistani official on Thursday overturned the 33-year jail term handed down to a doctor who helped the CIA track Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and ordered a retrial, a lawyer and an official said.

“The Commissioner of Peshawar has set aside the decision of the Political Agent of Khyber agency and ordered the retrial,” lawyer for doctor Shakeel Afridi told AFP.

“The case has been resent to the Political Agent of Khyber agency who earlier awarded 33 years imprisonment to Shakeel Afridi,” he added.
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« Reply #8393 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:07 AM »

August 28, 2013

Iran Slows Its Gathering of Uranium, Report Says

By WILLIAM J. BROAD
IHT

In their first report since a new Iranian president took office, international nuclear inspectors said Wednesday that Iran was slowing its accumulation of uranium that could be quickly turned into fuel for an atomic bomb.

The new report also disclosed that Iran had agreed to hold a new round of talks with the inspectors next month to discuss outstanding issues, including what the West sees as military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. The last such meeting, in May, ended with no agreement on how to proceed.

But the quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also detailed how Iran is expanding its installation of a new generation of advanced equipment for the purification of uranium, which can fuel nuclear reactors or atomic bombs. Iran has long insisted that its program is entirely peaceful, which the West disputes.

Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who took office early this month, has called for “greater transparency” in Iran’s nuclear activities and is seen by some analysts as more agreeable than his predecessor to compromising with the West in the atomic standoff, which began more than a decade ago.

The new report’s disclosure of the slowing accumulation of medium-enriched uranium is significant politically. It delays the day when Iran could breach what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel last fall called a “red line” beyond which Iran would not be allowed to pass — the point at which it has enough purified uranium to quickly make a single nuclear weapon.

According to the agency’s report, Iran is diverting much of the disputed production into making fuel for a research reactor.

The new report said that since the last quarterly accounting, Iran has added only 3.8 kilograms, or about 8.4 pounds, of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity to its stockpile, bringing its total of the medium-enriched material to 185.8 kilograms, or about 410 pounds.

When Mr. Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations last fall, it appeared that Iran would reach his red line — about 240 kilograms, or about 529 pounds, of uranium — by early this summer. Earlier reports said the slowdown had begun earlier this year.

On the other hand, the new report says Iran is expanding its installation of advanced machines known as IR-2s, short for Iranian second generation, which spin incredibly fast to purify uranium and in theory work more efficiently than Iran’s first-generation devices.

The machines, known as centrifuges, gather up a rare form of uranium that can fuel atom bombs or nuclear reactors.

The agency’s February report put the number of IR-2s being installed at the sprawling Natanz nuclear facility in the Iranian desert at 180. Its May report raised the number to 689. The new report says the number now stands at 1,008.

Like the medium-enriched stockpile, these machines foster considerable unease among Western analysts because they can enrich uranium more quickly — in theory up to four times as fast. They are seen as giving Iran the capability to make a quick dash for a nuclear weapon.

The new I.A.E.A. report notes, however, that Iran has introduced no uranium into the new generation of machines. So the perceived threat, like much in the Iranian program, remains latent for now.

It outlines publicly, apparently for the first time, the nuclear agency’s proposal to resolve its outstanding concerns with Iran. The seven-point proposal emphasizes clear distinctions among issues and stringent steps to their solution.

“The agency needs to be able to request further information and conduct follow up actions as it considers necessary,” the report said.

“While taking into account Iran’s security concerns, these follow up actions should not be subject to undue restrictions” on the agency’s access to relevant information, sites, material and personnel.

The report said a meeting to discuss how to resolve the impasse is set for Sept. 27 in Vienna.


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« Reply #8394 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:10 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/28/2013 03:19 PM

Economist Jayati Ghosh: India's Woes Foretell 'Chaos and Violence'

Indian economist Jayati Ghosh believes her country's current financial problems are of its own making. She also warns of widespread chaos and an increase in violence if India's economic imbalances are not tackled head on.

Jayati Ghosh, 58, is an economist specializing in globalization and international finance. She teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and acts as an advisor to the Indian government. She also recently co-authored a book titled "Economic Reform Now: A Global Manifesto to Rescue Our Sinking Economies."

SPIEGEL: Ms. Ghosh, when the global financial crisis broke out in 2008, the demise of the West seemed to be sealed. Now, however, China is suffering from a banking crisis, and in India the situation is even more dramatic. Economic growth has almost halved, and panicking investors are abandoning the rupee. Is the Asian Era over before it has even begun?

Ghosh: Our two countries have big problems, but the situation is completely different. China is fundamentally strong; it has a huge trade surplus. India, however, suffers from a huge current account deficit, which we are trying to partly fill with hot money, or speculative investment, from abroad. China first and foremost has to control its illegal shadow banks, but that is not at all comparable to the mess that we are now facing in India.

SPIEGEL: Overall, money inflows into emerging markets are beginning to slow, and investors are also reacting to the possibility raised by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke of an end to quantitative easing.

Ghosh: Certainly, countries like India and Brazil have a problem if suddenly less hot money flows in. But our government in particular cannot simply put the blame for the fall of the rupee on external factors like Bernanke. This can only explain to a small extent why the rupee is now one of the worst performing currencies among developing countries.

SPIEGEL: How threatening do you think the present rupee crisis is? Does the government have the situation under control?

Ghosh: Our government reacts with panic measures. For example, it desperately attempted to attract more capital into the country by easing rules for external commercial borrowing. This, however, only worsens the structural causes of the rupee crisis. Our much vaunted economic boom was essentially a debt-driven consumption spree, financed by short term capital inflows. Those who profited were mostly construction companies and the real estate sector. India's boom was also peculiar in that it did not generate any new jobs, but instead deepened the gap between rich and poor.

SPIEGEL: China also suffers from an inflated real estate sector, when its state-sponsored capitalist sytem artificially pumped up the economy after the Lehmann crisis of 2008. Is that now coming back to haunt China?

Ghosh: I am fundamentally in favor of a bigger role for the state in order to direct investments and control banks. However in China, as in the rest of Asia, a big real estate bubble was created. Instead, China should have strengthened domestic consumption in order to free itself from the dependence on exports.

SPIEGEL: Does this mean that the decoupling of Asia from the West -- which experts have been predicting for a long time -- is moving further into the future?

Ghosh: China won't be able to break away from the West for a long time. And since the rest of Asia depends on China -- it's the biggest trade partner for many -- they also cannot break away. To be sure, China strives for a leading global role. But for the time being, the weight of traditional industrialized nations is still too strong.

SPIEGEL: Indeed, parts of the West look surprisingly strong just now: Innovations like the iPhone are being created above all in the United States.

Ghosh: If I look at the 21st century I see a huge imbalance. The most important economic currents flow from South to North: the trade in ever-cheaper products which the emerging markets produce; the capital investments -- because these countries invest their surpluses in US bonds; the cheap labor which they export, and with which they help solve the problems of those aging societies. But why does the North still dominate? Because it still invests a lot of money into research and development, and it controls intellectual property.

SPIEGEL: India in particular is falling behind in the race to catch up to industrialization. Why is it so much more difficult for your country than for China to escape poverty?

Ghosh: We can't manage the simplest things, because our starting point was completely different. When China began its reform process at the end of the 1970s, almost everybody there already had enough to eat. There were roads in almost every village, and there was medical care. In China, society was by and large equal. In contrast, a third of Indians still don't have electricity. We fight against the legacy of a caste system which condones inequality and discrimination. India's elites put up with conditions which are extremely damaging.

SPIEGEL: So you wouldn't blame democracy for India's problems? In a democracy, you can't simply order progress to happen as you can in communist China.

Ghosh: The problem is the nature of our democracy, which developed on the basis of a strictly hierarchical society. We actually need more democracy. Only democracy can create the necessary social pressure to eliminate crass injustices.

SPIEGEL: Could India's chronic corruption problem then also be overcome?

Ghosh: Corruption is a question of development. The more developed a society is, the less it will tolerate corruption.

SPIEGEL: In contrast to China, India does not owe its economic miracle to industrial mass production. India started from above, as it were, with software companies that employ well-educated, English-speaking programmers. Now, however, many of those experts are becoming redundant because computers can do their work faster and cheaper. Does India need a new development model?

Ghosh: Many Indians believed we could become a service economy straight away and leapfrog industrialization. But that's ridiculous, it doesn't work. Even now, the IT sector only employs around 2.5 million people in our country -- compared to a working population of almost 500 million. We can't avoid the hard task of industrializing our country from the bottom up. Almost 60 percent of our population are younger than thirty; these people need jobs. We are sitting on a ticking time bomb.

SPIEGEL: Your government promises to open up the country further for big foreign corporations like Wal-Mart and Ikea. Is this really the way to create enough new jobs?

Ghosh: These measures only destroy jobs. Everybody knows that retail multinationals employ much fewer people per product and per turnover than the small shops that dominate in India. Instead, we have to invest in the basics, in infrastructure: A road to every village. Water, electricity and housing for everyone. Access to bank credit for everyone -- not just for rich entrepreneurs. We have to concentrate on things that create jobs. Then India's economy will grow on its own.

SPIEGEL: Ahead of the parliamentary election next year, nobody believes the government has the courage to reform. What happens if your country falls even further behind in the process of catching up?

Ghosh: Then we will face political and social chaos on a mass scale, and an increase in violence against women, as we are already seeing.

SPIEGEL: So the shockingly high number of rapes in India has economic causes?

Ghosh: Yes, and the degree of viciousness has gone up. Many unemployed young men see no future for themselves. They hang around on the streets, they see how others are enjoying their wealth, and that drives them mad. Then they go out and rape women, or vent their frustration at Muslims or members of lower castes. We will see much more of this kind of violence. It really scares me.

Interview conducted by Wieland Wagner

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

Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal captured by security forces

One of India's most wanted Islamist terrorists arrested after international manhunt ends on border with Nepal

Jason Burke in Delhi
theguardian.com, Thursday 29 August 2013 10.02 BST

One of India's most wanted Islamists has been arrested in a security forces operation on the border with Nepal.

Yasin Bhatkal is accused of involvement in a string of recent attacks including a 2010 blast at a bakery patronised by international tourists in the city of Pune that killed nine and injured 60.
Yasin Bhatkal Yasin Bhatkal in a picture released by Indian police officials last year

The 30-year-old is said to be one of the founders of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) militant organisation. "Yasin Bhatkal has been traced and detained ... His interrogation is going on," Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in Delhi on Thursday morning.

India has been hit by a series of high-profile attacks involving both local and overseas-based militants. The most spectacular recent strike was launched by Pakistan-based extremists against hotels and other targets in Mumbai, the country's commercial capital, in 2008. However, there have been dozens of smaller-scale operations which do not attract international attention.

Indian counter-terrorist officials said the detention of Bhatkal was their biggest success for several years. Experts say Bhatkal, who has been pursued for a decade, would rank among the top five wanted Indian Islamists.

"He is known to have personally done a number of attacks and has been linked to several others," said Saikat Datta, a respected Delhi-based journalist who has written extensively on extremist violence in India.

Top of India's wanted list is Dawood Ibrahim, the gang lord blamed for massive bombings in Mumbai in 1993 and widely reported to be living now in Pakistan. Next are Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, relatives of the arrested Yasin, who are seen as the leaders of the IM network, Datta said.

Local authorities are believed to have tracked Yasin Bhatkal, who fled India in 2008 following a narrow escape from detention in the western city of Kolkata, through Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Gulf before eventually arresting him on the porous border between India and Nepal on Wednesday evening.

Bhatkal's real name is Muhammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa. He and his relatives all come from the town of Bhatkal in the southern Karnataka state, which is known for sectarian tensions between Muslims and Hindus. They are accused of founding the IM, dedicated to a strategy of violence, six years ago.

Many younger Muslim men from Bhatkal and surrounding areas have spent time working in Gulf countries where they have been exposed to conservative strands of Islamic practice and highly politicised militant ideologies.

Indian security authorities have struggled to contain intermittent waves of militancy involving a tiny minority among India's 160 million Muslims.

Bhatkal is also suspected of involvement in a 2011 attack in Mumbai in which 26 died.

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

August 29, 2013

Suspect Held in Killing of Anti-Mystic Activist in India

By ELLEN BARRY
IHT

NEW DELHI — The police on Wednesday detained a member of Sanatan Sanstha, a right-wing Hindu organization, in the killing last week of an activist who often debunked village mystics and had campaigned for a law banning “black magic.”

The police detained the man, Sandeep Shinde, at the organization’s headquarters in the coastal state of Goa, said Rajesh Bansode, the deputy police commissioner in Pune, where the killing took place. Mr. Shinde will be questioned by investigators in Pune, he said.

The killing of the activist, Narendra Dabholkar, who had delivered lectures to generations of schoolchildren, prompted a wave of emotion last week. The governor of Maharashtra State, where Pune is located, signed the so-called black magic act into force as an ordinance, and police officials had come under intense pressure to crack the case.

Associates of Dr. Dabholkar, a nonpracticing physician, said that over the years he had received threats from right-wing organizations, and that hecklers sometimes interrupted his lectures, on one occasion splashing his face with black ink.

A spokesman for Sanatan Sanstha, a religious group active in the region, said the police began questioning its members immediately and had a list of 70 members they had planned to interview. The spokesman, Shambhu S. Gaware, said the organization viewed Dr. Dabholkar as an ideological opponent but “always chose legal means to oppose him, legal and peaceful means.


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« Reply #8395 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:15 AM »

August 28, 2013

Leftist Leaders Accused of Trying to Overthrow South Korean Government

By CHOE SANG-HUN
IHT

SEOUL, South Korea — Agents from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service raided the homes and offices of an opposition lawmaker and other members of a far-left opposition party on Wednesday, detaining three of them on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

The highly unusual raids and charges of treason touched off a political storm in a country already rocked by accusations of meddling in domestic politics by the country’s powerful intelligence agency. Opposition politicians said the conservative government of President Park Geun-hye was resorting to a witch hunt to divert attention from a scandal involving the agency.

A spokesman for the intelligence agency said it worked with state prosecutors in conducting the raid.

South Korean media showed intelligence agents hauling away boxes filled with documents from the National Assembly office of Lee Seok-ki, one of the six lawmakers affiliated with the far-left party, the United Progressive Party. Officials of the party vehemently protested the raid, shouting slogans condemning what they called political oppression.

“Faced with an unprecedented crisis, the presidential office and the National Intelligence Service are concocting a Communist witch hunt in the 21st century,” Lee Jung-hee, the head of the party, said in a statement. “Just as they attacked opposition supporters as pro-North Korean followers during the last presidential election, they are now strangling democratic forces with treason charges.”

Ms. Lee was referring to the indictment of Won Sei-hoon, a former head of the spy agency, on charges of ordering a team of intelligence agents to start an online smear campaign last year against government critics, including candidates who ran against Ms. Park in the presidential election in December.

Prosecutors in that case said the agents often derided the candidates and their parties as sympathetic to North Korea. But the prosecutors did not establish whether the smears affected the outcome of the election. The country’s political parties have been squabbling over whether to appoint a special prosecutor for a new investigation.

Those detained for questioning on Wednesday include three leaders of the progressive party, one of them a provincial vice chairman, Hong Soon-soek. Mr. Lee, the lawmaker whose office was searched, was not detained because members of the National Assembly are generally immune from arrest while it is in session.

“If the charges are true, this is shocking beyond word,” said the president’s chief spokesman, Lee Jung-hyun, whose office denied that the investigation was politically motivated.

Neither prosecutors nor the intelligence service revealed details of the treason charges against the opposition politicians. The national news agency Yonhap, quoting unnamed intelligence officials, reported that they were accused of plotting to sabotage communications, oil facilities and other installations as part of a plot to overthrow the South Korean government, a charge the progressive party called absurd.

Like many other members of his party, Mr. Lee, the lawmaker, is a former student activist who was prosecuted under the country’s anti-Communist national security laws. He served a prison sentence for participating in an underground political party that was manipulated by the North Korean government during the 1990s.

Since he and other progressives won seats in the National Assembly in 2012, some conservative South Koreans have attacked them as “jongbuk,” or blind followers of North Korea. The progressive party’s platform calls for “rectifying our nation’s shameful history tainted by imperialist invasions, the national divide, military dictatorship, the tyranny and plunder of transnational monopoly capital and chaebol,” the latter referring to South Korea’s giant family-controlled business conglomerates. The party wants to end the American military presence, dismantle South Korea’s “subordinate alliance with the United States” and unify the North and the South. In a television interview last year, Mr. Lee said that “a problem far bigger than jongbuk” was blindly following the United States, or “jongmi.”

Conservatives have often accused progressives here of being too quick to question their country’s alliance with Washington but too reluctant to say a harsh word about North Korea over human rights abuses and the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Before she was elected president, Ms. Park once proposed a parliamentary vote to force Mr. Lee from the legislature, calling his ideology “questionable.”

Treason charges were sometimes used by South Korea’s former military dictators to arrest dissidents, but after the country was democratized, the tables were turned: two former presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were convicted in 1996 of mutiny and treason for their roles in a 1979 military coup and 1980 crackdowns on a pro-democracy uprising in the southern city of Kwangju that left hundreds killed.

On Wednesday, the United Progressive party said that the raid was reminiscent of the Yushin, or “revitalization,” era, when Ms. Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, ruled the country with an iron fist. He came to power in a military coup in 1961 and ruled for 18 years; during his tenure, dissidents were tortured and sometimes executed without a proper trial on the same kinds of accusations now leveled at Mr. Lee. The National Intelligence Service, once known as KCIA, was a favorite tool in campaigns to frame the dictators’ political opponents as North Korea sympathizers; successive governments since then have vowed to reform the agency and keep it out of domestic politics.
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« Reply #8396 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:17 AM »

August 29, 2013

Woman Who Drew Ire in Philippine Corruption Case Surrenders

By FLOYD WHALEY
IHT

MANILA — The woman at the center of a wide-ranging corruption scandal in the Philippines surrendered to President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday night, ending a nationwide dragnet that had detectives searching airports and yacht clubs.

Janet Lim-Napoles, a wealthy Manila businesswoman, was arrested on a warrant accusing her of the “illegal detention” of a witness who claims that she helped divert billions of pesos away from poverty-reduction programs and into the coffers of lawmakers and their associates. Justice Department officials have said they are preparing additional charges against Ms. Lim-Napoles related to the scandal.

The case triggered outrage in the Philippines when photos on social media emerged of Ms. Lim-Napoles’s daughter enjoying lavish vacations in Europe and the United States, posing on a Porsche and in a limousine, and hobnobbing with celebrities.

On Monday, tens of thousands of Filipinos gathered here in Manila to protest the brewing corruption scandal. A government investigation, and subsequent local media reports, discovered muddy mountain tracks where multimillion-peso government-financed roads were supposed to have been built. Other bogus projects included ramshackle buildings that were financed as modern community centers.

The government investigation, which alleged that at least 6.1 billion pesos, or $140 million, was diverted from poverty programs into the pockets of politicians, also found that bogus organizations were set up to receive the funds. In some cases, the relatives of politicians authorizing the payments were the directors of the organizations receiving the money.

Ms. Lim-Napoles met Wednesday night with Edwin Lacierda, a presidential spokesman, in a Manila cemetery and asked to be allowed to surrender directly to the president. Mr. Lacierda said she was taken to Mr. Aquino, who assured her of her safety and told her that she would be given due process in her defense.

On Thursday, Mr. Lacierda denied that Ms. Lim-Napoles had received special treatment by being allowed to surrender directly to Mr. Aquino. He noted that other high-profile fugitives have turned themselves into presidents.

“Let me just say that the president is an honorable man,” Mr. Lacierda said at an afternoon news conference. “It is in our culture that if the fugitive throws himself at the mercy of the highest official, the president is honor-bound to secure and receive the fugitive.”

Ms. Lim-Napoles, who has denied the allegations against her, was taken to the Philippine National Police Headquarters before her transfer to a city jail.

Mr. Aquino has made the battle against corruption a hallmark of his three-year-old administration, but he has faced a series of high-profile allegations in recent months: police officers engaging in extrajudicial killings and thefts; immigration officers allowing a fugitive to escape the country; and diplomats sexually harassing Filipinos working in the Middle East.

Despite the problems, Mr. Aquino has received positive marks from financial ratings agencies and international organizations for his efforts to address persistent corruption in the country.

The latest Global Corruption Barometer report, produced by Transparency International and released in July, pointed to the Philippines as one of only 11 countries out of 107 where people reported a general improvement in the corruption situation.

But the report said Mr. Aquino had not been effective in reforming government institutions like the police and customs departments, nor had he pushed through pending anti-corruption legislation, including a freedom of information act and a whistle-blower protection law. “The government has initiated a number of anti-corruption frameworks, plans and road maps, and the strategies can be overwhelming and confusing,” the report said. “Moreover, there is no synergy among the government agencies tasked to implement them and, in the end, nothing gets accomplished.”

Lawmakers in the Philippines are no stranger to corruption allegations and legal problems. According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 504 candidates in the national elections in May had been charged at some point with corruption or other crimes and more than half of them were elected, including 17 candidates who had been convicted.

“If you can’t jail them, elect them,” said Malou Mangahas, executive director of the center. “If you do jail them, well, you can always elect them again.”


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« Reply #8397 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:19 AM »


Colombian court rejects challenge to Farc peace talks

Colombia's constitutional court upholds law that was prerequisite for negotiations to end five-decade civil war

Reuters in Bogotá
theguardian.com, Thursday 29 August 2013 07.44 BST   

A Colombian high court has upheld a law that allows peace talks with Marxist Farc rebels, rejecting a challenge based on the constitution that could have jeopardised efforts to end five decades of war.

The legal framework for peace, which was approved in congress last year, modified the constitution and laid the foundation for the punishment of war crimes, reparations for victims and eventual peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

"The constitutional court considered that to reach stable and lasting peace, it is legitimate to adopt transitional justice measures like the mechanisms of selection and ranking" of crimes, the court said a statement read by its top judge, Jorge Iván Palacios.

The court's decision came on the same evening that Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced his government was ready to prepare for peace negotiations with the Farc's smaller counterpart, the National Liberation Army (ELN). The announcement had been expected after the ELN met Santos's pre-condition for talks by freeing a Canadian hostage it had held for seven months.

Though the legal framework for peace is a prerequisite for talks with the rebel movements, the reform has been harshly criticised by the opposition and human rights groups as an inadequate law that offers a "backdoor amnesty" for war crimes and may force victims to turn to the international courts for redress.

Gustavo Gallón, a lawyer with the Colombian Commission of Jurists, filed the legal challenge to three phrases in the text of the law that he said would allow congress members to choose which cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes could be investigated and punished, leading to impunity for many.

Supporters of the reform argued that any change to its wording could weaken the scope of the entire law, throwing negotiations in Cuba between the rebels and the government into doubt.

The law became the foundation that drew the Farc, Latin America's biggest rebel group, into peace talks late in 2012. At least 200,000 people have been killed in Colombia's internal conflict.

Only members of the Farc and ELN stand to benefit from the law. It excludes criminals involved with drug cartels or former paramilitary groups.

Santos argued that it was unrealistic to attempt to investigate and punish all violations and war crimes during the conflict and called the court's ruling an important step towards ending decades of violence.

"For this process to be successful depends in large part on the justice system, and that we find the middle point between justice and peace that enables us to put a definitive end to this conflict which has been bleeding us for 50 years," he said.

Opposition leaders, however, argue that the law would allow rebels responsible for war crimes to benefit from soft prison sentences or walk away free. Santos's predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, said it violated international treaties because it would effectively pardon crimes against humanity.

The 8,000-member Farc has been weakened by a decade-long US-backed offensive, but a recent rash of attacks against oil installations and heavy military combat losses have proven it is still a force to be reckoned with.

The two sides have already reached a partial agreement in Havana on rural development, the first issue on a five-point agenda. They are now negotiating the terms under which the rebels would be incorporated into the political system. They also will seek agreement on the drug trade, reparation of victims and ultimately an end to the conflict.


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« Reply #8398 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:21 AM »


Panama: North Korea arms shipment broke UN sanctions

Weapons on freighter seized after leaving Cuba were 'without a doubt' being traded in breach of embargo, ministry says

Associated Press
theguardian.com, Thursday 29 August 2013 06.12 BST   

A preliminary report by a team of United Nations experts has determined that a North Korean cargo ship seized in Panama for carrying weapons violated sanctions, the Panamanian government has said.

A security ministry statement said the Cuban weapons found under sacks of sugar, including equipment for launching missiles, "without a doubt" violated sanctions meant to halt sophisticated arms sales to North Korea.

The ministry did not give further details and no one at the ministry answered phone calls from the Associated Press seeking comment.

The statement comes a day after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute gave a similar assessment that it said was based on photographs and reports from Panamanian and UN authorities.

A UN panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea visited Panama in mid-August to investigate the arms seizure. Its report has yet to be made public.

After the seizure Cuba said the cargo included "obsolete defensive weapons" including two MiG-21 jet aircraft and 15 motors, nine missiles in parts and two anti-aircraft systems that were being shipped to North Korea "to be repaired and returned".

North Korea said it had a "legitimate contract" to overhaul "ageing weapons" to be sent back to Cuba.

UN sanctions state that member states must prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of all arms and materiel to North Korea, and related spare parts, except for small arms and light weapons.

The panel of experts could recommend the security council add individuals or entities involved in the transfer to a UN sanctions list. Member states could then decide to follow up by imposing travel and financial restrictions on those added to the list.


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« Reply #8399 on: Aug 29, 2013, 07:22 AM »

Fidel Castro denies Russian claim that Cuba snubbed Edward Snowden

Former president responds to reports in Kommersant newspaper that Cuba bowed to US pressure over NSA leaks

Reuters
theguardian.com, Wednesday 28 August 2013 13.42 BST

Fidel Castro has criticised a claim in a Russian newspaper that his country buckled to US pressure and blocked the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden from travelling through Cuba to exile in Latin America.

Castro, who ceded the Cuban presidency to his brother, Raúl, in 2006, and is rarely seen or heard from in public, said the article in the Kommersant newspaper on Monday was a lie and libel.

Castro, in a column carried by official media on various international issues, from Syria and Egypt to robots doing police work and Snowden, praised Snowden and out condemned US spying as repugnant.

"It is obvious that the United States will always try to pressure Cuba ... but not for nothing has (Cuba) resisted and defended itself without a truce for 54 years and will continue to do so for as long as necessary," Castro wrote.

Snowden, who is wanted in the US for leaking details of US government surveillance programmes, had planned to fly to Havana from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport a day after arriving from Hong Kong, on 23 June.

But Snowden, who eventually accepted a year's asylum in Russia after spending nearly six weeks at Sheremetyevo, did not show up for the flight, although he had been allocated a seat.

Citing several sources, including one close to the US state department, Kommersant said the reason was that at the last minute Cuba had told officials to stop Snowden from boarding the Aeroflot flight.

It said Cuba had changed its mind after pressure by the US, which wants to try Snowden on espionage charges.

Castro, in his column, criticised Kommersant as a well-known "counter-revolutionary" and "mercenary" newspaper.

"I admire the courageous and just declarations of Snowden," Castro wrote.

"In my opinion, he has rendered a service to the world, having revealed the repugnantly dishonest policy of the powerful empire that is lying and deceiving the world," Castro continued.

According to the Russian newspaper, Havana informed Moscow that it would refuse to let the Aeroflot plane land if Snowden was on board.

Castro did not speculate as to why Snowden skipped the Aeroflot flight.


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