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« Reply #8460 on: Sep 02, 2013, 06:55 AM »

September 1, 2013

Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Charged With Inciting Murder


CAIRO — Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered former president Mohamed Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders on Sunday to stand trial on charges including inciting murder, the state news media reported. The order seemed to extinguish hope of a political resolution that would bring the Brotherhood out from underground and back into the political process.

The authorities, who allege that Mr. Morsi stoked deadly clashes outside his palace in December, did not detail the evidence against him on Sunday. There is no public record of statements he may have made to incite violence. Since Mr. Morsi was deposed on July 3, setting off protest rallies and sit-ins across the country, the authorities have killed more than 1,000 of his supporters and jailed much of the Brotherhood’s senior leadership. The former president himself had been detained without formal charges since his overthrow.

The developments on Sunday seemed to close off any chance for an imminent settlement to the standoff between the Islamists of the Brotherhood and the military, and marked another confounding turn for Egypt’s chaotic political transition. As the country has lurched between military rule and fledgling democracy, its judiciary has remained marred by politics, one of many lingering remnants of Egypt’s authoritarian past.

The timing of the prosecutor’s order reinforced that feeling: Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was charged with capital crimes 12 days after his autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was released from prison, though he remained under house arrest as he awaits a second trial on charges of complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters.

“The military and the state are trying to push the Brotherhood to lose any hope that he will be reinstated,” Khalil al-Anani, an expert on Islamist movements at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said of the order to prosecute Mr. Morsi. “It’s an attempt to paralyze the movement, and affect its activism. It’s very symbolic — this is a political move by the state against the Brotherhood.”

The charges were announced on the same day that Egypt’s military-backed government named a 50-person committee to amend a draft constitution. Like the government, the committee includes only a few Islamists, effectively marginalizing the country’s leading political movements as the country’s basic charter is rewritten. Officials said members of the Brotherhood had declined invitations to participate.

The charges lodged against Mr. Morsi and 14 of his aides and colleagues in the Brotherhood relate to fatal clashes between the president’s supporters and his opponents during one of the darkest periods of Mr. Morsi’s troubled presidency.

On Dec. 5, Brotherhood leaders, apparently worried that the army and police had refused to protect the presidential palace from protesters, summoned their civilian supporters to do the job. In late afternoon, Islamists attacked a sit-in by Mr. Morsi’s opponents outside the palace. Then, after dark, thousands of Mr. Morsi’s opponents retaliated, and a nightlong street fight ensued.

The abuses committed by the Islamists included beating or interrogating dozens of their opponents, detaining some for hours with their hands bound.

Human rights advocates were especially troubled by statements Mr. Morsi made afterward, in which he cited confessions made by the detainees as proof that they were paid to protest against him.

In a statement on Sunday, the chief prosecutor, Hesham Barakat, said that two of the president’s aides called on supporters that night to defend the palace, after the Republican Guard and the police refused to come to Mr. Morsi’s aid, in order “to protect the lives of the protesters.”

According to the statement, senior Brotherhood leaders including Essam el-Erian “incited the forcible dispersal of the sit-in.” Mr. Morsi was charged with “inciting his supporters and aides to commit the crimes of premeditated murder and to use violence and thuggery to impose their power.”

The statement said Mr. Morsi’s supporters killed a journalist, Al-Hussein Abu Deif. But it made no mention of at least eight other people, all supporters of Mr. Morsi, who were killed that night, nor any charges against the perpetrators of those killings. No trial date was announced.

Prosecutors have also been investigating Mr. Morsi on charges related to his prison escape during the 2011 uprising against Mr. Mubarak, saying the escape was part of a conspiracy with the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Mr. Morsi’s supporters have continued their protests despite the crackdown, though they have begun to de-emphasize demands that he be reinstated, perhaps hoping to broaden their appeal among Egyptians.

Mr. Anani speculated that the decision to charge Mr. Morsi might be intended to finally wrest a settlement with the Islamists on the military’s terms, or it might be a final step before formally ordering the Brotherhood dissolved. “I think it’s the second one,” he said. “And it might provoke them, or encourage them, to protest more.”

David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.

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« Reply #8461 on: Sep 02, 2013, 06:59 AM »

Nigeria's child brides: 'I thought being in labour would never end'

Though child marriage is prohibited under Nigerian law, a toxic blend of routine and religion continues to ruin young lives

Monica Mark in Gusau, Zamfara, Monday 2 September 2013 10.26 BST   

Ibrahim Kanuma winces as he recalls the moment a 63-year-old man asked him for his teenage daughter's hand in marriage. The proposal was not unusual in north-western Nigeria's remote, dust-blown state of Zamfara, but he considered the suitor too old for his only daughter, Zainab, 13.

"Even if he had been aged up to 50 – OK. But that old, he'll soon die and leave her lonely," says the civil servant in his peeling office in Gusau, the state capital.

To protect his school-aged child from the crushing stigma of widowhood, Kanuma instead gave his blessing to a union with a "reasonably aged" colleague – in his 40s – even though such a betrothal is illegal.

For Kanuma and many others in northern Nigeria, the recent outcry over child marriage is puzzling. Zainab's marriage is prohibited under Nigeria's Child Rights Act, which bans marriage or betrothal before the age of 18. But federal laws compete with age-old customs, as well as a decade of state-level sharia law in Muslim states.

"I wouldn't force my daughter to marry somebody she doesn't like, but as soon as a girl is of age [starts menstruating], she should be married," Kanuma says.

Four of the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in west Africa's Sahel and Sahara belt. In the years when rains or crops fail, so-called "drought brides" – who bring in a dowry while being one fewer mouth to feed – push numbers up dramatically.

But the practice came under scrutiny in July, when legislators tried to scrap a constitutional clause that states citizenship can be renounced by anyone over 18 or a married woman, apparently implying women can be married under 18.

The obscure ruling will have little direct impact on the one in four rural northern Nigerian girls married off before they turn 15, but it reveals prevailing attitudes in a nation with acute gender disparity.

A successful vote was later derailed by senator Ahmed Yerima, who in 2010 married a 13-year-old from Egypt. A former Zamfara governor who introduced a rigidly enforced version of sharia law in the north in 2000, Yerima argued that a married girl was considered an adult under certain interpretations of Islamic law.

That prompted outrage. "Does it then follow that the married girl who is below 18, at election time, would be permitted to vote?" says Maryam Uwais, a lawyer and child rights advocate in the northern capital of Kano.

Other grassroot Muslim activists, however, fear the oxygen of negative publicity trailing the high-profile Yerima, coming most vocally from non-Muslims, could trigger a backlash among conservative, rural Muslims. This would threaten painstaking progress towards modernisation over the past decade.

In the week headlines erupted over Yerima, Aisha, nine, was quietly rushed through the corridors of Zamfara's Faridat Yakubu general hospital. Its cheerful cornflower blue walls belie stories of the hidden horrors of early marriage. Aisha does not have the words for what happened to her on her wedding night. Her husband, she says, did something "painful from behind".

Nearby, Halima was on her third visit in three years. "I like it here. It is the only time I ever see a television," she says. Just shy of 13, the newlywed came under pressure to demonstrate her fertility. "I thought [being in labour] would never end," she adds softly.

In the tradition of the rural Hausa people of the north, women are expected to give birth at home. Crying out while in labour is seen as a sign of weakness. But after three days close to death in her village, Halima begged to be taken to a hospital. By the time her relatives had scraped together enough to ferry her to the state capital, it was too late. The baby had died.

The prolonged labour left Halima with a fistula, which causes uncontrolled urination or defecation. "Fistulas can happen to anyone, but are most common among young women whose pelvises aren't at full capacity to accommodate the passage of a child," says Dr Mutia, one of two practising fistula surgeons in Zamfara.

Despite the obvious link, he is reluctant to blame child marriage for Nigeria having the highest global rate of fistula. "The problem is not early marriage. It is giving birth at home," he says.

Small victories

There have been small victories in reversing the ripple effects of early and forced marriage, defined as forms of modern-day slavery by the International Labour Organisation.

Fifteen years ago, Zamfara's statistics director, Lubabatu Ammani, carried out a census to record the number of girls attending secondary school in the state. The results were shocking: fewer than 4,000 girls were enrolled out of a population of 3.2 million.

"It was a combination of dropouts, early marriage and religious misinterpretations," explained Ammani, who proposed creating a female education board to help remedy the problem. "We asked all the local emirs and found the main problem was that parents didn't want girls who had hit puberty to be in co-ed schools."

Female enrolment in Zamfara is at its highest since independence five decades ago, with 22,000 secondary school students. On most days, Ammani visits wavering parents to encourage them to keep their daughters in school.

Ammani welcomes the reawakened debate on child marriage but warns of its limits: "The fact is, a lot of people [here], when they hear the campaigning is by people from a different tradition or religion, they won't agree with it."

Others are more blunt. Haliru Andi, who served as Yerima's top aide while he led the call for sharia, bristles at the idea of interference with his faith. "How I even use the toilet, how I share my time with my family – everything is contained in my religion," he says in his Persian-carpeted living room. "How, then, can I take instructions from anybody who does not have a deep understanding of Islam?"

Cultural norms further muddy the issue. Posters outside Mutia's office exhort against another disturbing practice related to child marriage. In one, a woman is being forcibly restrained on a woven palm-frond mat. An assistant grabs her legs; another sits on her chest, and yet another reaches between her legs with a razor blade.

The scene shows a common recourse when a child bride refuses to sleep with her husband, prompting her parents or in-laws to drag her to the wanzan, or traditional barber. "This traditional barber, he doesn't understand anatomy. He thinks there's something obstructing the girl down there, and that's why she fears her husband. So anything he sees, he will just use his knife to cut it," Mutia explains. "They think they are helping."

None of the northern-based grassroots Muslim activists the Guardian interviewed wanted to go on the record about child marriage – reflecting, says one activist, the difficulties women face "going against the grain".

The storm of Twitter and online commentary has translated into a handful of protests in the more liberal south, which is predominantly Christian but also home to millions of Muslims.

In the tiny village of Rigasa, flanked by baobab trees and fields of millet, Nafisa, 14, draws letters in the powdered maize she grinds every morning for herself and her in-laws. A-B-C-D, she writes. It is all she remembers. "My husband gets angry any time I asked him if I can take up my schooling again, so I stopped asking. But my heart is in school," she says.

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« Reply #8462 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:16 AM »

09/02/2013 12:07 PM

Shadow Boxing: Merkel's Rival Swings and Misses in Debate

By Charles Hawley

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is notoriously difficult to pin down. Try as he might during Sunday evening's debate, her center-left challenger Peer Steinbrück was unable to land a damaging blow. Yet he may still have emerged as the victor.

There was a moment towards the middle of Sunday evening's debate when Chancellor Angela Merkel's cumulative speaking time was several minutes longer than that of her challenger, Peer Steinbrück. The result was a few questions in a row for Steinbrück -- and he used the opportunity to go on the attack. He threw one roundhouse after another, not unlike a boxer pinning his opponent against the ropes.

Except, as became clear throughout the debate, Merkel is almost impossible to strike cleanly. The harder a well-prepared Steinbrück swung on Sunday night, the wider was the margin by which he missed.

The 90-minute debate on Sunday evening was the only time the two candidates are to meet for a face-to-face chat ahead of the general election on Sept. 22. Merkel has done her best throughout the campaign to ignore her challenger as best she can, and limiting the number of debates to one was also her way of sending the central message: My challenger is hardly worth talking about.

Steinbrück was clearly eager to change that narrative on Sunday. He was quick to list the numerous things that Merkel had not managed to accomplish in her last eight years in the Chancellery: Improvements to old-age care, establishment of a comprehensive minimum wage, a clear plan to control energy prices and sufficient attention to economic stimulus in Southern Europe.

On almost every single one of those issues, Steinbrück was able to clearly, if a bit wonkily, pinpoint Merkel's shortcomings and gain the rhetorical upper hand. At least temporarily. Repeatedly, however, Merkel was able to wriggle out of the trap that Steinbrück had set, returning to her talking points and placidly listing her government's accomplishments. It is, she said at one point, "relatively sensational" what her center-right coalition has accomplished in the last four years. She followed up with such trenchant observations as "our work is not over yet," "we have demonstrated that we are capable" and "Germany is a motor for growth" and an "anchor of stability."

Almost Smug

And that is the central problem facing Steinbrück as the campaign enters its final weeks. Even as Merkel's wait-and-see leadership style is often infuriating, the economic numbers make Steinbrück's uphill battle even steeper. The job market is strong, growth is returning to both Germany and the euro zone and, for all the current discussion about a third aid package for Greece, the euro crisis has faded temporarily into the background.

The result was a strikingly confident, almost smug, Merkel calmly responding to the attacks from Steinbrück, only occasionally raising her voice so as to be allowed to finish some oft-repeated campaign platitude before being interrupted by one of the debate's four moderators. She was more like a grandmother at a fireside chat -- albeit one wearing a necklace in the colors of Germany's flag -- than a politician battling for re-election. Whereas Steinbrück repeatedly broke out his unbecoming open-mouthed sneer coupled with a clipped, biting tone, Merkel would only give him a condescending smile. If the SPD candidate was trying to demonstrate why he lags so far behind the chancellor in personal popularity ratings, he was successful.

Even in the discussion over the possible third aid package for Greece, an issue on which Steinbrück has been consistently blasting the chancellor for not being honest with the German electorate, the SPD candidate was unable to score many points. To be sure, he repeated his charge that Merkel's crisis policies were doing more to harm Southern Europe than help it -- and accused her of not coming clean about how much saving Greece will ultimately cost. But when he himself was asked what the price tag might ultimately be, he -- perhaps unwisely -- answered honestly, professing that it was impossible to know.

There was, however, one moment in the debate when Merkel was completely out of sorts. Towards the end of what was largely a tedious hour-and-a-half, one of the moderators drilled Merkel about the vast data surveillance undertaken in Germany and around the world by the US intelligence agency NSA. If, Merkel was asked, a German sent an email from one German city to another German city, but it was routed across a server in the US and landed in the American surveillance net there, was that a violation of German law?

Decisive Blow?

Merkel is not one who fidgets often. But she fidgeted while formulating the only answer possible. No, that would not represent a violation of German law, she said, attempting to wrap the answer in sufficient rhetoric about the intricacies of data privacy and Internet law. Steinbrück, in response, accused Merkel's government of not doing enough to defend Germans' constitutional rights and called Edward Snowden, the man responsible for the revelations of NSA surveillance, "courageous."

That, though, was just one moment. And, unfortunately for Steinbrück, it was a moderator who had struck the decisive blow, rather than he himself.

Still, as the SPD candidate repeatedly said toward the end of the evening, a few weeks remain in the campaign and his passable performance in the debate could ultimately help him close the wide gap separating him and Merkel. Most surveys taken immediately after the show ended indicated that viewers felt that Steinbrück had won. One flash poll taken after the debate Sunday night also showed that he had massively reduced the "likeability" gap between himself and Merkel by 17 percentage points and now trails her by just 3 points at 45 percent.

Such ephemera, however, is often just that. And pinning down Merkel will only become more difficult as the campaign reaches its end. The chancellor, after all, can now go back to largely ignoring her challenger, a strategy which has proven wildly successful thus far.


08/30/2013 06:00 PM

'Germany Votes White': Chocolate Ad Sparks Racism Accusations

By Thomas Rogers

Candy company Ferrero has pulled an election-themed commercial for white chocolates after viewers compared its taglines -- which include "Germany votes white" and "white nuts stay" -- to those of far-right extremists.

The Italian chocolate manufacturer Ferrero has raised eyebrows in Germany this week with a commercial that is drawing accusations of having a hidden xenophobic message.

The election-themed ad was part of a campaign advertising the launch of white chocolate Ferrero Küsschen, or "little kisses" -- which had thus far only been available seasonally. The uproar about the ad, which has now been withdrawn, sparked a discussion about the limits of political correctness -- and the apparent insensitivity of the advertiser to issues of race.

In the ad, which was created by M&C Saatchi, one of the world's largest advertising companies, a giant talking chocolate package stands at a podium and gives a speech in front of cheering supporters holding placards and chanting "Yes Weiss Can" ("Yes White Can") and "Weiss Nuss Bleiben" ("White Nuts Stay"). "We all want to change the country for the tastier, we want white Ferrero Küsschen forever," the anthropomorphic package says before a triumphant poster unfurls on the stage saying "Germany Votes White."

The ad prompted a quick, dumbfounded reaction on social media platforms. On Twitter, users compared the campaign to that of the NPD, the far-right German party associated with the neo-Nazi movement that is known for making racist and anti-immigrant statements. "Has Ferrero Weiss become the main sponsor of the NPD?" asked one user on Twitter. "As of now, the NPD will be eating nothing but Ferrero Küsschen," tweeted another.

The Facebook page for the campaign became the site of an acrimonious debate about the ad, in which one user said, "I hope the advertisers behind this dumb campaign get a chocolate kiss stuck in their throats, and there aren't any Nazis around to dislodge it." Others complained that it was ridiculous that an advertiser couldn't use the word "white" in an ad without being accused of racism. In the wake of the public reaction, Ferrero pulled the ad to "make changes."

'Subtle Racism' in Germany

"It is important for us to clearly stress that we are strictly against any form of xenophobia, right-extremism or racism," Ferrero said in an email statement to SPIEGEL ONLINE. "All of our assertions were purely about white chocolate -- and without xenophobic intent. We regret that the commercial was misunderstood and the product messaging was otherwise construed."

According to Tahir Della, Chairman of the Initiative for Black Germans (ISD), the fact that this commercial made it to air "shows how subtle racism can be in Germany. It's recognizable to people who are affected by it but the majority doesn't catch on so quickly." He says Germany has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to race and racial awareness. Despite the country's growing diversity, he says, it still largely sees itself as a homogenous place, and because much of the post-war discourse has dealt with guilt over the Holocaust, it hasn't fully grappled with its problematic colonial history. "It's a standard reaction to say that people in Germany are being overly pestered about political correctness -- when I think it's actually the opposite of that," he says.

This isn't the first time a German ad campaign has sparked accusations of racial insensitivity. Two years ago, a bakery chain caused an uproar when it advertised a chocolate cake with a photo of a black baby and the words: "Chocolate dream. Only as long as supplies last." In 2009, German food company Spehe marketed fried chicken with a curry dip as "Obama fingers," seemingly oblivious to the loaded association between African-Americans and that particular food. In 2004, the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden advertised a performance of Wagner's "Parsifal" -- conducted by famous US conductor Kent Nagano -- with a poster showing a digitally altered Wagner making slanted eyes with his fingers, an apparent reference to Nagano's background. Not only did the ad go largely unremarked upon when it appeared, German advertisers awarded it a prize the next year.

Xenophobia has become an especially loaded topic in Germany since a series of racist neo-Nazi terrorist attacks killed nine immigrants between 2000 and 2006 (a string of attacks by a group called the National Socialist Underground, for which the last surviving member, Beate Zschäpe, is currently on trial).

Della also points to current debate surrounding a new refugee center in Berlin's Hellersdorf district as an example of Germany's continuing struggle with racism. Over the last several weeks, the opening of the center, which is meant to house refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Serbia, has become a rallying point for far-right extremists. Neo-Nazi groups have staged protests against the opening of the center and one man was arrested for making a Nazi salute. The incident has once again brought discussions of German xenophobia into the headlines.

But Della doesn't believe the Ferrero campaign was the result of conscious, racist decision-making, and was merely a mistake. He believes the fact that the company reacted so quickly is a sign of progress. "This is a learning process," he says, "and their reaction -- to take the ad off the air -- is a good step."

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« Reply #8463 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:20 AM »

It's absurd that Golden Dawn is being allowed to hound my friend into court

The trial of Savvas Michael-Matsas, one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, is a cheap sop to neo-Nazis

Maria Margaronis   
The Guardian, Sunday 1 September 2013 19.45 BST   

"I'm the embodiment of every fascist's fantasy. I'm a Jew, a communist – and a heretical communist, a Trotskyist, at that. I don't fit anywhere. The only thing I happen not to be is homosexual."

My old friend Savvas Michael-Matsas – activist, internationally respected writer on philosophy and literature, general secretary of the Greek Revolutionary Workers' party (EEK), utopian thinker, fiery speaker and wild white-haired survivor of 17 courses of chemotherapy ("No compromise with death") – is on trial in Athens on Tuesday, 3 September, for "libelous defamation," "incitement to violence and civil discord", and "disturbing the public peace".

The suit against him has been brought by members and supporters of the neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn; the background is a call to an anti-fascist protest issued by EEK in May 2009, which ended with the slogan: "The people don't forget, they hang fascists" (it's catchier in Greek). As Anny Paparousou, Savvas's lawyer, explained to me, this is effectively a prosecution of political speech – the first prosecution of an anti-fascist slogan in Europe. It's as if the National Front had sued the SWP for shouting "Smash fascism" – and been taken seriously. But with 18 seats in parliament, 13% in the polls and muscle-bound thugs on the streets, Golden Dawn makes the old NF look harmless and almost sweet.

Though Golden Dawn's suit was filed against a long list of individuals and organisations, only Savvas and Constantinos Moutzouris, former chancellor of the National Technical University of Athens, have so far been called to trial. Moutzouris's alleged offence is that he allowed the radical website Athens Indymedia to use the university's server; his prosecution may be seen as part of the government's campaign to shut down the "alternative space" in which leftists, anarchists and anti-austerity activists have thrived for many years. Savvas's trial fits that category, too: EEK is a meeting place for Marxist and anarchist currents, advocating, in Savvas's words, "not exit from the euro, which is a Talmudic discussion, but exit from the system". There's also a darker side: it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Savvas has been selected not only as a radical but as a Jew.

The progress of the trial thus far raises questions about whether, and if so to what extent, the authorities are colluding with the neo-Nazis. Several of Golden Dawn's members have serious charges pending but never seem to see the inside of a courtroom. Themis Skordeli, a signatory to this suit, was charged with stabbing an Afghan man in September 2011; her trial has been postponed eight times. The MP Ilias Panagiotaros, another of the complainants, owns a shop called Phalanga that sells street-fighting paraphernalia; he told the BBC last year that Greece is heading for civil war.

But picking out the Jew to be the first to walk the plank is sleazy beyond belief, a cheap sop to the fascist gallery. As one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, Savvas has long been targeted by neo-Nazi websites, with slogans like "Crush the Jewish worm" and claims that he can be found lurking under every stone, fomenting civil war among pure-blooded Greeks in order to establish a Judeo-Bolshevik state. He has also been accused of being both an agent of Iran and a fully paid-up member of the international Zionist conspiracy (in fact he's a fierce anti-Zionist), as well as having long hair (he does, despite the chemo and the rabbinical hat he bought in case he lost his locks).

The absurdity of all this doesn't make it less dangerous. "There is nothing reassuring about the repetition of a historical tragedy as farce," writes Savvas in his recent book, The Horror of a Parody: Three Talks About Golden Dawn. Article 192 of the Greek penal code, under which Savvas is charged, has been used twice against minority groups in the last 25 years; both times there were convictions. The rise of the far right in crisis-ridden Greece has both fed on and fuelled a blood-and-belonging nationalism and hatred of the other for which antisemitism is the original historical pattern. "Kill the Jew you carry inside you and is your negative self, incapable of giving your life meaning through a higher ideal," counselled Golden Dawn's first declaration of ideological principles. "Then, fight the Jew around you."

The Greek government has made common cause with these people in its desperate effort to drive home the neoliberal agenda of its creditors and protect Greece's own corrupt elites. The admittedly violent rhetoric of parts of the Greek left is equated with the widespread physical violence of the extreme right, which is cosseted and supported in its crusade against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, misfits of all kinds. There is to be no room in the new order for anything counter, original, spare, strange.

I first met Savvas years ago at a conference celebrating the centenary of the Greek surrealist poet and visionary Andreas Embeirikos. We spoke about the writer's relationship to the work of Herman Melville, especially Moby-Dick, and Savvas still puts me in mind of the white whale: a force of nature sounding to great depths, bent on a single quixotic quest, not for revenge but for liberation – no less vital for being always out of reach. The black-shirted skinheads of Golden Dawn, driven by fear and hate, are the Ahabs of this world. They must not be allowed to win.

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« Reply #8464 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:22 AM »

Ex-SS man on trial charged with killing Dutch resistance fighter

Dutch-born former Nazi Siert Bruins to appear before German court accused of killing Aldert Klaas Dijkema in 1944

Agencies, Monday 2 September 2013 08.47 BST   

A 92-year-old who served in the Waffen-SS is due to go on trial in Germany on charges of killing a Dutch resistance fighter at the end of the second world war.

Dutch-born Siert Bruins will appear in court in the western city of Hagen charged with murder after being found medically fit for the proceedings. He is accused of shooting the resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema in the back in September 1944.

Bruins, who volunteered for the SS after Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1941, served time in prison in Germany in the 1980s after being found guilty of the murder of two Jewish brothers in April 1945. His lawyer declined to comment on the new charge.

In an televised interview with the broadcaster Das Erste, Bruins said he had been present at the murder of Dijkema but claimed another soldier, now dead, had shot him.

"I walked on the right [of Dijkema]," he said. "He was on the left. Then suddenly I heard the shots, and someone fell."

The court wrote in a statement: "The accused is alleged to have taken Mr Dijkema on the orders of his superior … in a car near to a factory. There, the accused and his accomplice are alleged to have shot Mr Dijkema four times.

"He was hit in the back of his head, among other places, and died immediately. Later on, the accused and his accomplice admitted that Mr Dijkema was shot as he tried to flee."

The trial is expected to extend over 11 hearings until the end of September.

In the last few years, German prosecutors have actively sought out the last surviving Nazi war criminals to bring them to justice.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre in July launched its Operation Last Chance II, a campaign to root out surviving Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice before they die.The hunt is no longer for high-level perpetrators of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were murdered, but for thousands of accomplices in the crime.
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« Reply #8465 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:25 AM »

Pope Benedict's righthand man turns on 'vipers' within Catholic church

Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican's 'prime minister' under last pontiff, defends his record during papacy overshadowed by scandal

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Monday 2 September 2013 13.48 BST

The Italian prelate who was Pope Benedict's righthand man in the Vatican during his scandal-dogged papacy has defended his much-criticised record, insisting he "gave everything" to the job despite the activities of "vipers" in the Roman curia.

Speaking a day after Pope Francis named a Vatican diplomat as his new secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone appeared defiant as he was asked about his time in office.

"I see the record of the past seven years as positive. Of course, there were a lot of problems, especially in the last two years," he said, according to the Ansa news agency, hitting out at "a combination of crows and vipers".

"But this should not cloud what I consider to be a positive record," he added. The Italian word corvo (crow) is used pejoratively to describe informants or people who leak secrets.

The final years of Benedict's papacy were overshadowed by scandal, most prominently the so-called "Vatileaks" affair that depicted the Vatican's swollen bureaucracy as a hotbed of conspiracy and cronyism.

Bertone, who was appointed by Benedict in 2006 to occupy a role often described as the Vatican's prime minister, was blamed for much of the papacy's disfunction and poor decision-making. The German pontiff came under pressure from some senior clerics to fire Bertone, but refused.

"I always gave everything but certainly I had my shortcomings," said Bertone, 78, on Sunday. "But this does not mean that I did not try to serve the church."

He said it was not true that the secretary of state "decides and controls everything" within the Vatican.

Announced on Saturday, the move to replace Bertone – which had been widely expected – has been greeted as a vital step forward in Francis's agenda for reforming the Vatican.

However, observers said the appointment of Pietro Parolin, a career diplomat who will return from his posting as nuncio in Venezuela to start the job on 15 October, signalled less a desire for wholesale reform than the wish to revive the old-style Vatican system that flourished under John Paul II.

Bertone had no diplomatic background when he was appointed, while Parolin served as Vatican undersecretary for relations with states – effectively deputy foreign minister – from 2002 to 2009.

He has worked in Nigeria and Mexico, and is known as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue who stayed out of the tense exchanges between the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and the Catholic church.

"A veteran Vatican diplomat, Parolin … has been on the front lines of shaping the Vatican's response to virtually every geopolitical challenge of the past two decades," wrote John L Allen, of National Catholic Reporter, on his blog.

"By naming a consummate insider, Francis appears to want to 'reboot' the Vatican's operating system back to a point when it was perceived to operate efficiently, rather than scrapping it entirely."

Parolin, a 58-year-old Italian archbishop, said in a statement he would give Francis "complete availability to work with him and under his guidance for the greater glory of God, the good of the holy church and the progress and peace of humanity, that humanity might find reasons to live and to hope".

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« Reply #8466 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:34 AM »


Russian anti-gay law prompts rise in homophobic violence

Activists say legislation outlawing 'homosexual propaganda' has emboldened rightwing groups to step up attacks on gay people

Alec Luhn in Moscow, Sunday 1 September 2013 15.01 BST   

Russia has experienced an upsurge in homophobic vigilantism following the introduction of legislation outlawing "homosexual propaganda" in June, gay and lesbian groups say.

The new laws, which have cast a shadow over the Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi early next year, ban the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations" among minors.

Activists say the legislation has emboldened rightwing groups who use social media to "ambush" gay people, luring them to meetings and then humiliating them on camera – sometimes pouring urine on them. These groups often act against gay teenagers, several of whom told the Guardian that rising homophobia and vigilante activity force them to lead lives of secrecy.

The Russian LGBT Network said the harassment of gay people was being organised nationally for the first time through groups known as Occupy Gerontophilia and Occupy Paedophilia, who claim to be trying to "reform" homosexuals.

Igor Kochetkov, the head of the network, said Occupy Paedophilia – which focuses on gay adults – had uploaded hundreds of videos and garnered hundreds of thousands views on social media sites. Occupy Gerontophilia, which focuses on teenagers, had uploaded dozens of videos to the social network VKontakte before its page, which had 170,000 subscribers, was shut down for invading the privacy of minors.

"The latest laws against so-called gay propaganda, first in the regions and then on the federal level, have essentially legalised violence against LGBT people, because these groups of hooligans justify their actions with these laws," Kochetkov said. "With this legislation, the government said that, yes, gays and lesbians are not valued as a social group.

"It is an action to terrorise the entire LGBT community," he added.

Kochetkov said most homophobic violence was not reported to the police, but a recent study by his organisation found that of 20 attacks that had been reported recently, four were investigated and only one resulted in a court case. Russian law did not outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, he said.

One gay teenager, Robert, who lives in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, said he narrowly avoided exposure at the hands of Occupy Gerontophilia.

"They tried to trick me into a meeting but I immediately saw the ruse," Robert said, recounting an online chat, supposedly with a 22-year-old man, who had offered him money to meet up. After being confronted, the man admitted he was from Occupy Gerontophilia, Robert said.

In a series of interviews with young homosexuals, the Guardian found that widespread fear means their relationships are nearly always clandestine and abuse is commonplace. As well as vigilante violence, they are also scared of negative reactions from family and friends. And if life in Moscow and St Petersburg is hard enough, then in the Russian provinces homosexuality is the love that dare not even whisper its name.

Recently an MP in the Siberian region of Zabaikalsk called for a law allowing gays to be publicly flogged by Cossacks.

Fifteen-year-old Robert said vigilante groups had expanded in his city following the new legislation. "In general, people's attitude here toward LGBT has worsened after long-running homophobic propaganda in the mass media," he said. "As soon as the hoopla started with the passage of the law, branches of organisations like Occupy Paedophilia and Occupy Gerontophilia appeared in our city."

Whereas the relatively cosmopolitan Moscow and St Petersburg have several gay clubs and bars – one of Moscow's best-known nightclubs, Propaganda, also hosts a gay party every Sunday night – other cities in Russia are generally more conservative. A poll in April found that 43% of Russians considered homosexuality to be "licentiousness, a bad habit" and 35% said it was an "illness or the result of psychological trauma".

Teenagers suffer the most from homophobia, and studies have found that LGBT youth commit suicide at much higher rates than their peers. People "scorn and hate lesbians, and hate and beat gays", said Lena, a 14-year-old from Abakan, a city of 170,000 in Siberia. She said an acquaintance had tried to trick her into going on a date with a girl. "It was a good thing my friend was able to talk me out of it, since I found out later that several homophobes were waiting for me there," she said.

Ruslan, a 17-year-old living in Tambov, where both Occupy Gerontophilia and Occupy Paedophilia have been particularly active, said he tried to "prepare a person" by talking about homosexuality in general before he told them about his sexual orientation. If they reacted negatively he wouldn't say anything. Most did, he said, adding that only his closest friends knew that he was gay.

"My parents are extremely conservative. If I tell them they will throw me out of the house," he said.

Marina, a 17-year-old who lives in the small city of Bronnitsy, in the Moscow region, said she tried to come out to her mother but "turned it into a joke" when she heard her mother's reaction. "I told her, 'I've fallen in love with a girl.' At first she said it was affection, not love, and then that I wouldn't be able to have children," Marina said. "Then I understood how limited her perception of same-sex couples is."

Artyom Reutov, a 15-year-old from the city of Veliky Ustyug, in the north of Russia, said his teachers were openly homophobic, suggesting that LGBT should be exiled or given compulsory medical treatment. "At the end of the last school year, I heard a ton of homophobic statements from teachers," Reutov said.

He hasn't come out to his conservative mother, who would prefer him to watch football rather than engage in his hobbies of drawing and singing. "If I was a bad student and hung out in the courtyard, drank and swore, it would be better [for her] than me being who I am now," he said.

The only public support is Deti-404, a group for LGBT teenagers that has pages on Facebook and VKontakte. Several times a day different users post photos, personal stories and statements of support. Several of the teenagers said the group had helped them come to terms with their orientation and find friends.

"I can go on [the Deti-404 site] and see that there are other teens with non-traditional orientations and people who wish me happiness and don't hate me," Lena said. "I write a lot. I can get all my emotions out and put them on the site, where people appreciate them."


Team GB to go to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics despite Russia's anti-gay law

• Curling team are first confirmed squad members for Games
• 'Why should we penalise the athletes?' says chef de mission

Press Association
The Guardian, Wednesday 28 August 2013 18.03 BST   

Great Britain's chef de mission for Sochi, Mike Hay, insists GB athletes will go to the 2014 Winter Olympics despite the controversy surrounding the Games over Russia's anti-gay law.

Speaking after the women's curling team were confirmed as the first athletes to represent Great Britain next February, Hay, a former world curling silver medallist, said: "We are better off being there. Why should we penalise the athletes? The British Olympic Association is a non-political organisation as we have proved in the past, even when the government advised us not to, we went to the boycotted Games of 1980 in Moscow when Russia invaded Afghanistan.

"And our chairman just happens to be Lord Coe, who was very strong in the fact that athletes had trained for a lifetime to go.

"Of course, the athletes will have the option: it is up to them to compete or not. But I think we have to give a loud, clear message to athletes that the British Olympic Association will be going to Sochi."

Eve Muirhead and her team of reigning women's world champions including Claire Hamilton, Anna Sloan and Vicki Adams were confirmed as Team GB representatives.

The 23-year-old, who made her Olympic debut when she skipped a different Great Britain curling team to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, claimed a thrilling final stone victory for Scotland over Sweden in Riga in March to win her first senior world title.

Muirhead is hoping to use that morale-boosting victory as a springboard to Olympic success.

She said: "If I got the chance to go to the Olympic Games as world champions, or not world champions, I would have chosen the former all day long.

"It can only be a positive going in as one of the favourites and we have to use it to help us.

"It is going to put a massive target on our back and weight on our shoulders but we know we are capable of winning world championships, so it definitely helps. But there is no guarantee."

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« Reply #8467 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:36 AM »

08/30/2013 04:52 PM

Selling Lies: Alibi Agencies Help Create Double Lives

By Barbara Hardinghaus

An episode of Germany's top crime show recently highlighted a secretive business: helping clients create and maintain lies. Now one such agency is struggling to keep up with the demand.

For his best clients, Patrick Ulmer says he goes out and arranges the lie personally. In one instance, he got into his car and drove south to Cologne, where he rang the doorbell at an apartment.

The door opened to reveal his client. The client's clothing was scattered around the apartment. His cologne and even the cloths he used to clean his glasses were there. The refrigerator contained his favorite foods, from chocolate pudding to melons. All the signs suggested that this was where the client lived.

But appearances can be deceiving. The truth is that this man leads a double life and doesn't want his wife to know.

The client told his wife his work requires him to be in Cologne during the week. Because she occasionally wants to visit her husband there, Ulmer rented this apartment for him, filling it with the man's belongings to lay a false trail. He even drops by, presenting himself as a colleague from work, when the man's wife is visiting. During his visit, he asks innocently where the bathroom is, as if he didn't already know.

The Business of Lies

Ulmer laughs when talking about it. He finds stories like this one amusing. Sitting in a café called Garbs am Markt, in Weyhe, near Bremen, he lights a cigarillo. The 28-year-old is a tall, rotund man who doesn't seem to find anything about his job disturbing. And perhaps he has no reason to.

Ulmer runs an agency that specializes in fabrications. His clients can purchase lies both small and large, from a text message to get them out of a tight spot to an entire package of assistance in managing a complicated double life. Ulmer considers this an ordinary service, much the same as driving a taxi. His clients include men and women in equal measure. Most of them come from southern Germany or Austria, more conservative regions where there is apparently a great need for keeping secrets.

Leaving his client's Cologne apartment, Ulmer offered a cheery goodbye. "The colleague thing makes it especially believable," Ulmer says. His home visit is part of the package.

Ulmer's client paid for 12 months up front at the start of the year, a flat-rate, all-inclusive price for which Ulmer organizes the man's double life. The truth is that this man doesn't work in Cologne at all. Cologne is his alibi.

In reality, he works in Switzerland. He also lives in Switzerland, with his wife, the one who sometimes visits him in Cologne. But he also has a second wife and a second child in a different Swiss city. He doesn't want either family to learn of the other's existence, so he tells one he's working in Cologne when he wants to visit the other.

Ulmer also set up a telephone number with a Cologne area code for his Swiss client. The client can call both his wives from this number and both of them can also reach him -- their calls are routed, via the Internet, to his cell phone. And when one of the women expresses a desire to visit her husband in Cologne, he moves into his alibi apartment there for a few days.

Television Spotlight

"All the client has to do is open the door, everything else is done," Ulmer says. The price of such an alibi varies according to the amount of work it requires, but falls in the four-figure euro range. Ulmer's other services come at a set price. A text message costs €9 ($12), while an address and accompanying mail service is €59 a month. Booking a vacation costs €89. An invitation is €69, or €99 if the person issuing the invitation should also be reachable by phone.

Ulmer also recently added a "car service" to his offerings, in which he racks up the mileage on a client's car. This is useful, for example, for someone who lives in Stuttgart and claims he has to travel regularly to the Ruhr region for work, but in fact only goes as far as Mannheim to visit a lover there.

Ulmer has been running his agency for five years, but business only recently took off after the German broadcaster ARD aired an episode of the popular crime series "Tatort" that featured an alibi agency and a man with two families.

Frank Koopmann, one of the two screenwriters of the "Tatort" episode, was 22 when he found out that his father had a second family, including a daughter. His father described how difficult it had been to keep his other family a secret, such as the time when he accidentally left his wallet in a telephone booth in a city where he had no reason to be. Wondering how people these days deal with similar problems, the "Tatort" writer did a Google search for companies specializing in such cases.

Dreams of Making It

There are just three such alibi agencies in Germany, none as professional as the fictional one featured on "Tatort." Since that episode aired, though, people now know that such a thing as lies for hire really does exist, and that purchasing such a service is an option.

Once again, Ulmer has worked through the night to keep up with the many requests he receives. He does everything himself, serving as director, webmaster, layout designer and head of marketing. He works from home, under a sloping attic roof that grows hot in the summer.

The agency on "Tatort" operated out of a large, bright office, with a boss who wore elegant suits and directed beautiful secretaries and a host of other employees. That's where Ulmer wants to end up.

Ulmer's father worked as a scaffolder and his mother worked in retail. He spent most of his time on his computer and rarely left his room. He started training to be a pastry chef, but quit before he had finished the program. He has worked for a butcher, in dry wall construction, in a warehouse and at a call center. He never completed a degree, but he met a lot of people over the course of those years and he studied their behavior.

Ulmer came to understand that many lives don't run a straight course. Some wind up in dead ends, others in labyrinths. He himself stumbled into a marriage and then met his second wife by chance online. He and his second wife now live together with two children in a rowhouse with a wading pool in the backyard.

Giving People 'Freedom'

From the café in Weyhe, Ulmer gazes out at a large parking lot, where families are packing groceries into their cars. "Believe me," he says, "there's nothing that doesn't exist somewhere."

Ulmer believes he's making the world better in his role as a liar for hire. As he sees it, the people who book his services are the liars, not him. He is simply the one who organizes things, a specialist in tangled lives.

Liars, scientists say, are not prepared to accept the truth. The people most likely to have affairs are those with low self-confidence. And often it is people with high incomes who tell lies, people who can afford to buy anything, but feel no internal security -- people who can't stand to see their dreams not come true.

"I give people the freedom they need," Ulmer says. He created business cards and a letterhead for an unemployed man who wanted to create the impression that he still had a job. Ulmer sent a retiree, who wanted to travel without his wife, an invitation to a fictional IT seminar.

People need lies, psychologists say, when desires and reality diverge. For example, last year about 3.5 million Germans a month went online to look for "erotic contacts." Such "casual dating" is all about "fulfilling intimate fantasies. Love and sex are kept strictly separate," promises one such website.

"If we can control our secrets, making sure they occupy the place we want them to, then our lives can seem manageable," writes American psychologist Gail Saltz. "But when our secrets start to control us -- and far too often they do -- then a normal life clicks over into something else: a secret life." Feelings of guilt develop, sometimes even making the person sick. Typical symptoms include stomach problems, breathing difficulties and heart trouble.

Famous Second Lives
A year and a half a go, a supermarket manager in England killed himself after it came to light that for 21 years he had maintained a second family just a 20 minutes' drive away. On Long Island, in the US state of New York, a doctor's biggest secret emerged when he was in car accident and his two girlfriends ran into each other in the hospital emergency room. Not until long after his death did it come out that the pilot Charles Lindbergh had, in addition to his family in the US, a second life in Germany. François Mitterrand, former president of France, had his official family but also a mistress and a secret daughter, Mazarine Marie, who wasn't allowed to call her father "papa" when they went out to restaurants or on outings together.

There are advantages to telling lies. Doing so gives the liar a feeling of being in control of his or her complicated life. And telling a lie means not having to entirely deny the normal degree of ambivalence that everyone feels. In this sense, Ulmer is right when he says he's doing something good.

"Here," Ulmer says, laying a piece of paper on the café table. The subject line reads, "Alibi request." The client is a married man who also had a girlfriend, but is no longer with her. That former girlfriend is now in a relationship with one of the client's colleagues. The client can't stand seeing the two of them together at the office and wants to break them up.

He believes his colleague is quick to jealousy and looking for a stable relationship. He also believes the girlfriend is looking for adventure. The client called Ulmer, asking for someone to call his former girlfriend and propose an orgy. The client feels certain that his ex would be interested, and that throwing out this bait would compromise her current relationship with his colleague.

"Target: R., current lover, still married, quiet but arrogant, tendency to jealousy," reads the paper. "Goal: to draw him out." Ulmer sends this assignment to Munich, to one of his 43 freelancers.

An Actor for Hire

The freelancer in question is waiting in a beer garden, with a beer-and-lemonade mixture in front of him. His name is Florian, and he is an actor by trade. He spent the morning rehearsing for his role as the soldier Beckmann in a production of "The Man Outside." In a moment he will call the target and propose an evening of group sex.

It's a sunny afternoon and Florian is wearing a black T-shirt. His thumbs are stained yellow from smoking. He had a position at Munich's National Theater until last October. At first he was just curious when he came across an ad for Ulmer's agency on eBay.

He takes out a cell phone, checks to make sure it is set to block his number and takes a deep breath. But when he calls, someone other than the intended target answers, and says the man Florian is trying to reach isn't there and won't be back for an hour.

Florian says he's learned a lot from this job about the things people have to put up with. One time, his task was to accompany a lesbian to a company party. He says that at first he thought, "Why don't you just tell them you're not into guys?" But as he walked to the salad bar hand in hand with the client, past a horde of testosterone-driven men, he found himself understanding why the woman didn't want to come out to this group. He has learned that lies can protect people.

He calls the target's phone number again. "Hello," he says. "I ran into Martina recently, at a hotel, and it occurred to me that we could…" But then he breaks off. "Damn, he hung up."

'What about morality?'

The next weekend, standing at Gate C 08 at Hamburg Airport, Ulmer says that failing sometimes is simply part and parcel of intruding on strangers' lives. Today, Ulmer is flying to Vienna to meet with a woman working for his company's new Austrian branch. He rarely flies and he's nervous. Onboard, he videos the takeoff with his iPhone, then takes pictures of the flight data, the plane's elevation and speed. Perhaps he'll show these pictures to his wife later, to set her mind at ease. She's taking the children to the playground alone today, something the family usually does together every Sunday. Ulmer says his family's well-being is very important to him.

He meets with his new employee at a Starbucks in downtown Vienna. Both of them order coffee with ice cream, then settle down to talk shop. "You should always give the client the impression that anything is possible," Ulmer says. "You need to find a solution right there during that first conversation. You need to be unscrupulous."

His employee is silent for a bit. Previously, she worked at a wholesaler, selling lamps, and she has three children. She pokes holes in the whipped cream on her ice cream with her straw, then asks, "What about morality? What if we're destroying families?"

"We aren't destroying them, we're maintaining them," Ulmer says.

They sit there quite a while longer, haggling over the price of "morality." In the past, she says, people kept their secrets locked away in a box. These days, that box is the Internet. People find advice there, friends, lovers, sex. People don't need anyone anymore -- they have their computer, their iPad or their cell phone. But what is morally defensible?

Avoidance of Reality

Not far from Vienna, Peter Stiegnitz walks into a health resort in the small Austrian city of Bad Vöslau. He is 76, a dapper gentleman, a psychologist with his own practice in Vienna. For the last 30 years, he has concerned himself with the dividing line between justifiable lies and those that are not.

Stiegnitz is married and his wife is currently undergoing treatment in Bad Vöslau. He has accompanied her here. "Look," he says, "a lie is nothing more than an avoidance of reality." And that avoidance, he adds, can sometimes do us good.

Stiegnitz researched why people lie and found that about 40 percent lie to spare themselves trouble or punishment, about 14 percent lie to be polite and avoid insulting someone, and 6 percent do it out of laziness. He also found that older women in particular also lie to be loved.

He says women blush when they lie, stare at their conversation partner and are quick to change the subject. Women lie somewhat less often than men, because they are better at coming to terms with reality. Men become agitated when they lie, cross their legs, scratch themselves and sweat.

Being Honest about Lies

What would happen if people didn't lie anymore? "Then this planet would end up completely deserted. There would be 100 wars," Stiegnitz says. "Truth fanatics lie to themselves," he adds, saying that in claiming to know the truth, such people are actually running away from reality. Stiegnitz advises, "Let us be honest about our lies!"

Why, then, does lying have such a bad image? "Lying has limits," Stiegnitz says, and not all people abide by them. "The limit comes when I cause harm to myself or someone else with my lies."

As in the case of an affair? "Oh," he sighs, "if it doesn't become an ongoing relationship, that's not overstepping the line."

A double life, then? "People who lead a double life feel powerful for a while, they're flying. But no one can keep that up very long. No person has two lives in them."

What about an alibi agency? "Well, that says something about our condition," Stiegnitz says. "When we lived in a hierarchical society -- with family, church, job -- we had less freedom, but we also didn't have to learn how to handle freedom. Now, we no longer know where we stand. And what do we do? We flee further into freedom."

In closing, Professor Stiegnitz offers a piece of advice meant to protect people: "Never love too much!"

A Woman's Double Life
Is this truly all that the clients in Ulmer's files are doing, then, protecting themselves?

What are we to think, then, of a client of Ulmer's who has been leading a double life for the past couple of years? This woman, let's say, comes from the western German city of Bielefeld. Let's also say her name is Sarah. She chose to travel to Hamburg for this conversation. When she walks in the door of a bar called "Schönes Leben," which translates to "Wonderful Life," nothing seems particularly unusual about her, a doe-eyed, cool-looking woman in her mid-40s. She answers every question, but doesn't want all of her answers to appear in print. She doesn't want too much information revealed -- not when her double life is running so smoothly.

Man number one is a manager from southern Germany, divorced, with a house and children, a freedom-loving guy who enjoys the good things in life. Man number two is a police officer, down-to-earth and funny, who likes bread and butter and is right now waiting at a hotel for Sarah to return. Man number one sent her flowers the day before, with a card wishing her a good time on her "little trip." She has a long-distance relationship with man number one. Man number two lives very close to her.

She spends a couple of days with one man, then a couple of days with the other. She generally takes her vacations with friends or with man number one, because man number two doesn't like to fly. She celebrates her birthday with friends and Christmas with her mother. And when she finds herself in a tight spot, with both men wanting to see her, she decides at the spur of the moment which man to see and asks Patrick Ulmer to call the other one. Ulmer or one of his assistants then plays the role of Sarah's supervising officer, telling the man in question that Sarah, who often travels for work, was urgently needed at the last minute for a project and is already on the plane. Sarah pays the agency €2,000 a year to organize this life. Even her wardrobe is neatly divided between elegant skirts and heels for man number one, jeans and sneakers for man number two.

Who knows about her double life? "Two friends."

What precautions does she take? "My cell phone is password-protected, and I take it with me into the bathroom when I shower."

With which man does she have more fun? "Man number two."

In whose arms would she rather be lying? "Man number one."

Sex? "Not much with either of them."

Guilty conscience? "I block it out."

Why is she doing this at all? "Because I'm so happy. I love man number one, and one of the things he loves about me is how free I am."

She doesn't worry about losing him? "No, I do. I worry something will happen to me while I'm out somewhere with man number two and I'll end up in the hospital. I know both of them would want to visit me."

Does she think about ending this? "I think about it sometimes, but then I go on with it."

Honest within Limits

Sarah talks calmly and laughs here and there as she tells her story. She is clearly at home in this life. She feels independent and wanted. She's grown used to gazing into the eyes of both men, waking up next to both of them, telling both of them, "I miss you."

Earlier, when she was at the hotel, she says, man number one wrote and asked, "Nice hotel?" She answered, "Riverside." As she got in the elevator, she realized that hadn't been particularly smart. Man number one might try to reach her on her cell phone or even on the room phone, in which case under no circumstances could she let man number two, who came with her here to Hamburg, pick up the phone. But she found a simple solution: "I went to the reception and asked them not to put any calls through."

Sarah says she tries to lie as little as possible, so there's less to keep track of. She wants to be honest within the existing limits. As for the bigger lies, the ones that are too much work, she lets the agency take care of them. Lying is exhausting.

Sarah, too, is not entirely able to say where the line between good and bad lies falls. Perhaps the limit comes when people who love each other cause each other harm. Or is it no longer love as soon as you hurt the other person?

Or are people happier not knowing some things? Does happiness come from truth, from knowing everything?

Active Versus Passive

Couples therapist Andrea Bräu talks not about people being "victims" and "perpetrators," but rather of them being "active" or "passive." In the case of a double life, she says, everyone involved suffers -- including the active party, who at some point is no longer able to please everyone, least of all him or herself. Bräu knows that two out of three couples won't survive a long-term affair, because in the course of the arguments and discussions that follow its revelation, they learn their relationship isn't as stable as they thought. Often, Bräu says, it is not so much the affair itself that is so hurtful, it is the tangle of lies that destroys trust.

In his attic office in his family's rowhouse, Ulmer is at his computer. He's having problems with his website, but he's also already working on his next client's alibi. A man wants to travel to the Philippines for two weeks without his wife, so Ulmer is preparing an invitation for him to a course on "burnout prevention" in northern Germany.

Typing away, Ulmer sets out arrival and departure dates and times, a telephone number and a note that course costs will be covered by the participant's employer. He also encloses a flyer from the clinic offering the course. The clinic is in on the plan and its reception has been informed, just in case the man's wife calls. For this assistance, Ulmer says, the clinic receives "a small fee."

Outside, Ulmer's wife and children are playing with a ball in the backyard, then they have ice cream. On the trip to Vienna, Ulmer related in passing that his wife also once had an affair. He says it took him a year and a half to come to terms with that. In fact, he says, it sometimes still haunts him.

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

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« Reply #8468 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:41 AM »

Pakistan orders fresh murder charges against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, September 2, 2013 7:34 EDT

Pakistan police on Monday registered murder charges against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in connection with the death of a radical cleric during the siege of a mosque in 2007.

It is the latest in a series of charges dating back to Musharraf’s 1999-2008 rule, which the retired general has faced since returning from self-imposed exile in March.

Radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi was one of more than 100 people killed after Pakistani troops stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad on July 10, 2007. Ghazi’s brother, Abdul Aziz, escaped in a burqa.

The operation opened the floodgates to a Taliban-led insurgency that has killed thousands of people in Pakistan.

“The High Court ordered Islamabad police to register murder charges against Musharraf on a petition filed by the son of Rashid Ghazi,” said Tariq Asad, a lawyer who represented Ghazi in court.

“The court ordered police to register the case earlier as well but their instructions were not followed. Today, the court made Islamabad police officials write the case inside the court room and comply with the orders right there,” he said.

Police confirmed that the charges had been registered.

“We have booked Musharraf under section 302/119 of the law, which deals with murder charges,” Qasim Niazi, a senior police official, told AFP.

An anti-terrorism court last month charged Musharraf with the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack after a political rally in December 2007.

It was the first time a head of Pakistan’s army has been charged with a crime, challenging beliefs that the military is immune from prosecution and threatening to fan tensions with civilian institutions.

While murder will be difficult to prove, it may embolden efforts to try Musharraf for treason for seizing power in 1999 and for violating the constitution by sacking judges and imposing emergency rule in 2007. Treason can carry the death penalty.

Musharraf also faces murder accusations over the 2006 death of Baluch rebel leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Musharraf has been under house arrest at his plush villa on the edge of Islamabad since April.

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« Reply #8469 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:43 AM »

Iran frees six Slovaks accused of spying

Paragliders detained on suspicion of taking photographs near uranium facility in central Iran

Reuters in Prague, Monday 2 September 2013 11.30 BST

Six out of eight Slovak citizens detained in Iran since May on suspicion of spying have been released and returned home, the prime minister, Robert Fico, said.

Iranian state media said they had been held on suspicion of taking photographs of restricted areas while paragliding. The group was picked up near the central Iranian city of Isfahan, where there is a uranium conversion facility.

Speaking at a news conference attended by the freed Slovaks, Fico said the government had a plan to secure the release of its two remaining citizens.

"Negotiations were fair and their result is the release of six out of eight detainees," Fico said in a recording of Sunday evening's briefing posted on the government's website.

He said Slovakia did not make any "financial commitments" in the process.

Iran has repeatedly levelled accusations of espionage against foreign nationals and Iranians in recent years.

Last year, Iranian-American Amir Hekmati was sentenced to death for spying for the CIA but judges overturned the decision and ordered a retrial.

One of the released paragliders, Vladislav Frigo, said the group had not been aware that they were breaking any rules.

"We had information that there was a ban on taking photographs below the height of 2,300 metres. We were taking pictures from higher [altitudes]," Frigo said.

Frigo said the detainees were well treated, had access to television, a refrigerator and could cook for themselves as well as getting regular meals.

In 2011, Iran freed two US citizens – Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer – who had been sentenced to eight years in jail for spying after being arrested while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border in 2009. They denied being spies.Oman helped secure their release by posting bail of $1m (£64,000).

A third person detained with them, Sarah Shourd, was freed in 2010.

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« Reply #8470 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:48 AM »

Anger at the Nirbhaya rape case should lead to reform, not revenge

The answer to India's failures on rape is not to hang perpetrators but to make policing and justice more effective

Kishwar Desai   
Guardian, Monday 2 September 2013   

She is known as Nirbhaya, the fearless one. She has been turned into a modern Indian heroine. Poems and plays have been written about her and people have poured on to the streets to support her cause. Yet, when the first sentencing in the case of her gang rape and murder was delivered by a special juvenile court on Saturday, the anger against it was palpable.

Nirbhaya's family has been outraged by the judgment, feeling cheated by the fact that the underage rapist, now 18, has been sentenced to just three years in a reformative institution. Her brother said the verdict was "unacceptable", while her father asked whether it was a crime to be born a girl in India. Amid tears her mother spoke of how she had hoped that all the rapists would be hanged. In this, they are joined by a multitude of voices.

Yet this case, among the most closely followed in recent Indian history, is at least reaching its conclusion, unlike so many others. And the sentence is the maximum the offender could have received under existing law. He was just a few months short of 18 at the time of the attack. He raped Nirbhaya twice, and even inserted an iron rod into her, pulling out her intestines and damaging other organs. The verdicts and sentencing of the remaining four adults are expected over the next few days. The sixth defendant, Ram Singh, was found dead in jail, allegedly having committed suicide.

Despite the outpouring of public anger, little appears to have changed in the nine months since Nirbhaya's rape. In fact, on the day of the sentencing last week four people, including two policemen, were arrested on suspicion of raping a woman outside Delhi.

Yet, the country had hoped a more empathetic police force and judicial system would lead to enhanced security for women. Apart from the anti-rape legislation, the government had promised all kinds of measures.

But the reality is that it is doubtful whether the same attention will ever be paid to less high-profile cases. In 2012, according to government figures, out of 100,000 pending cases in courts, only 14,700 resulted in a verdict being delivered at all. And out of this only about 3,500 of the accused were convicted.

And then, there are many who question whether nine months – the time since the December gang rape – really indicates speedy justice. Given the sense of anger and the mood of the nation, the overall sentiment is that the pronouncement should have been made within weeks, if not days. Thankfully, despite the pressure, the case has been dealt with according to all legal procedures; the prosecution, basing its case on the police investigation, has done a thorough job, and the defence has also been allowed sufficient time to state its case. This is important in a country where even the judiciary has, sometimes, been accused of corrupt practices and endless delays.

But no matter how carefully the judge sifts through the arguments and delivers the final verdict, the fact is that nothing less than capital punishment is expected – or will be accepted by an angry people – for the rest of the accused. Politicians and activists, both men and women, have vociferously advocated hanging not only for these men if found guilty, but for everyone else who is convicted of rape as well.

This desire for retribution and summary justice is born out of frustration at the longstanding failure to address rape and other forms of violence against women. If this case does finally change Indian attitudes, we must hope that the change is not simply an increase in the desire for bloody revenge against rapists, but a demand that police and judicial effectiveness be ratcheted up. Then, perhaps, there would be less clamour for the harshest possible punishment.


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August 30, 2013, 11:14 am

For Girls in India, the Pressure to Conform Comes From Family


I recently watched the remarkable Malala Yousafzai speak at the United Nations to commemorate a day that is named after her. The 16-year-old who was shot by the Taliban, and has since become a celebrated activist for education and women’s rights, said that Malala Day was for “every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.” She bravely reinterpreted Islam and accused the extremists of being afraid of books, pens and education. “The power of the voice of women frightens them,” she said.

Malala is the same age as my older daughter. While she uses her voice to assert her rights, her use of the word made me think of the many other voices that my daughters and girls all over the world hear, telling them what to wear and how to behave. I have a ringside view of how this plays out with my two daughters, who were born in the United States but now live among our family in India, where the pressure on young girls to conform comes not just from society, but from family. It would be ridiculous to compare it to the limits on Malala and the young women of the Swat Valley, but its root lie in similar expectations.

Seven years ago, my husband and I uprooted our two daughters, Ranju and Malu, from their comfortable lives in Manhattan and moved to India to be closer to our aging parents, and to allow our American-born children to know their Indian heritage.

Today, Ranju is 16 and Malu, 11. They are entrenched in India and surrounded by family. For my daughters, dealing with their grandparents, aunts and uncles regularly is both comforting and demanding. Their grandparents’ notion of what is right is very different from theirs.

It is harder for my teenager, Ranju, who goes to a school that is no different from an American private school. Ranju wears Western clothes that she buys online or during trips abroad: typical teenage wear from Target or Gap. Occasionally, my sari-clad mother will tell her not to wear such “tight and skimpy clothes.” My dad will admonish her for going out to parties “at night.”

“Why can’t you go out with friends during the day?” he will ask. “Why don’t you go to lunch instead of to nightclubs?”

My mother-in-law will offer to massage their hair with coconut oil so that it grows long and lustrous. She will encourage them to speak Tamil, our mother tongue. This is all very nice once in a while, but when the advice, admonitions and loving instructions are constant, it gets wearying. I sympathize with my daughters when both grandmothers and assorted aunts hover around with food, oil, clothes, dos and don’ts, but I also expect them not to be rude to elders.

I would like to say that this dance of voices is an Eastern thing, but I am not sure that it is true. Girls in developing countries face enormous pressure to conform to the norms set by elders in their villages and towns. But I also imagine that a 16-year-old girl in Memphis who lives amid a close-knit extended web of family and friends has a nodding acquaintance with emotional expectations.

My girls are slowly learning to push back without being rude. When my mother-in-law brings in coconut oil the day before a party or event, Ranju will laugh, give her a hug and say, “Tomorrow.” She may joke about its strong smell. Jokes work to defuse and distract, she has found. The affection she gets from grandparents is wonderful and boundless, but it also clouds boundaries of self and personal space.

Occasionally, Ranju comes to me in a bad mood. “Can’t you tell them to lay off?” she asks. That’s when I give her a hug. “Think of it as practice for life,” I say. “If you can say ‘no’ to persistent Indian grandparents, you can say ‘no’ to anyone.”

So Ranju learns to look for the tricky balance between being assertive and courteous. She will tell her 81-year-old grandfather that although he thinks it is weird that she goes out every Saturday night, her school friends actually party four times a week. By asking for one weekend night out, she is actually compromising for the family and not straying off the path. She eats almonds; she oils her hair because they nag her to.

Young Malu wants to be a pastry chef. Ranju wants to be an entrepreneur. Both their ambitions usually get shot down at family weddings.

“Become a doctor,” an uncle will say. “It is more respectable than a pastry chef.”

“Don’t start your own business,” an aunt will tell Ranju. “It’s too risky.”

All these voices mean well, but they mean their version of well. Ranju and Malu are learning to accept the affection while asserting their independence.

It isn’t always easy or graceful. When my girls whine about “being forced” to wear Indian saris for family weddings, I get irritated. I call them drama queens. I have (and I say this sheepishly) used Malala and her cohorts as a tool as well. I talk about girls whose basic rights and choices are dictated by others, and here are my girls making a fuss about wearing a sari. But I do understand that they feel constrained.

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. But for girls, particularly in the East, it is also a matter of silencing voices and swimming against the village tide.

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« Reply #8471 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:50 AM »

August 31, 2013

Women, Bought and Sold in Nepal


NEPAL may be known for natural beauty and Mount Everest, but there is a dark side to this small, picturesque country. Women and girls are being bought, sold and smuggled across the Nepal-India border. Although reliable data on the scope of the issue is difficult to gather, Unicef reports that as many as 7,000 women and girls are trafficked out of Nepal to India every year, and around 200,000 are now working in Indian brothels.

I traveled to Nepal last spring to document the growing problem of sex trafficking and unsafe migration, spending the majority of time in Katmandu and along the Nepal-India border.

One of the women I talked with was Charimaya Tamang, who 19 years ago went out to the fields to cut grass in her village in Nepal. Typically she would have gone with other women from her village, but that day she was alone. A group of men grabbed her from behind, tied her hands and made her swallow “a powder.” When she woke up she was in a city in northern India. “I had never seen tall buildings before,” she recalled. It was a lot hotter than her village and the men offered her a soda. “I didn’t want to drink it but I was so thirsty,” she said. The heat and soda were her last memories before finding herself in a Mumbai brothel under the care of a woman she called “Auntie,” where she remained in forced prostitution for 22 months.

The sex trafficking starts with the procurers in Nepal, who might be anyone: a stranger with a fake job to offer — or a girl’s own brother in-law. Then someone else escorts the women across the open border and out of the country. “The pimp might take a girl across the border in a cycle-rickshaw and put a tikka dot on her forehead so it looks like she and he are married,” said Pamela Gurung, an activist affiliated with the Nepalese branch of the Catholic nonprofit group Caritas Internationalis, which among other things fights human trafficking throughout Nepal. Anti-trafficking workers have started to train border police officers to be on the lookout for scared-looking women, suspicious couples or men with multiple women. But border police officers are not paid much. Many are bribed as part of the vast criminal network of trafficking between India and Nepal.

A brothel pimp or madam pays close to $2,000 for one trafficked Nepalese girl, according to Rupa Rai, head of Caritas Nepal’s gender department. The girl is then obligated to repay this fee over time. Charimaya Tamang was the first woman in Nepal to file charges against her trafficker and win. The very same men that made her drink that soda were caught and put in jail, she said.

Ms. Tamang then began advocating on behalf of other trafficked women. Today she is married with two children and lives in a small room on the third floor of a dilapidated concrete building in Katmandu. On the wall above her bed is a glass display case nearly 12 feet long filled with awards. The situation in Nepal is improving in certain ways, thanks to activists like her, international pressure and better coordination with the Indian police. But the problem is daunting, and the number of trafficked women continues to grow.

Katie Orlinsky is a photographer, journalist and cinematographer.

Laura Sheahen contributed reporting and research.

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« Reply #8472 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:53 AM »

September 1, 2013

Senior Chinese Official Falls Under Scrutiny as Some Point to Larger Inquiry


HONG KONG — The Chinese Communist Party announced Sunday that a senior official responsible for overseeing state-owned corporations was under investigation, and people with knowledge of that case and many others said that, according to senior officials, the inquiries were part of a larger corruption investigation encroaching on the retired chief of the domestic security apparatus.

The former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, stepped down last year from the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, after years as one of the most powerful and divisive figures in Chinese politics. The investigations swirling around him appear to be part of the boldest efforts yet by China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to consolidate his authority, convince officials he is serious about deterring corruption and extinguish Mr. Zhou’s lingering influence.

The senior official under scrutiny, Jiang Jiemin, the director of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, “is suspected of grave violations of discipline and is currently under investigation,” said a brief statement issued by Xinhua, the main state news agency. The term “violations of discipline” almost invariably refers to corruption or abuses of power.

Mr. Jiang is the most senior central official and first full member of the elite Central Committee to be publicly singled out on such charges under President Xi, who came to power in November vowing to stamp out corruption and extravagance by Chinese officials. There has been no public announcement about any investigation of Mr. Zhou, who is a much more powerful figure, even in retirement.

Before his appointment in March to the assets commission, which supervises China’s biggest state conglomerates, Mr. Jiang was the general manager and then the chairman of the China National Petroleum Corporation, where four senior managers were also removed on similar charges last week. Mr. Jiang’s ouster was so abrupt that throughout Sunday his picture and speeches remained on the commission’s Web site even after the state news media announced the inquiry. By Monday, content about Mr. Jiang had been removed from the site.

Mr. Jiang’s downfall appears to follow a pattern related to anticorruption inquiries against officials who rose in the footsteps of Mr. Zhou, 70, who worked at the China National Petroleum Corporation and in Sichuan, also the scene of an expanding corruption investigation. Four people with knowledge of the inquiries, each citing comments by senior officials, said those investigations were linked to a larger, secretive inquiry in which officials had detained or questioned a son and associates of Mr. Zhou.

“It makes logical sense that this is aimed at Zhou,” said Chen Ziming, a political commentator in Beijing. “It’s all too concentrated, all follows this same line to him. China National Petroleum Corporation and Sichuan are both places he worked. It’s a step by step process, questioning people associated with him, former secretaries and so on.”

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, reported Friday that Mr. Zhou was under investigation. Chinese Web sites that focus on news and rumors have also said that an investigation is under way.

The four people who spoke to The New York Times — a former senior anticorruption investigator, a Chinese businessman with high-level connections, a political analyst with ties to senior officials and a businesswoman with family ties to Chinese elites — spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the risk of recriminations for discussing secretive political decisions.

“The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has established a case group to deal with Zhou Yongkang,” said the former anticorruption official, who cited a conversation in recent days with a central government security official. The former official said that the investigators looking into corruption in Sichuan had questioned Zhou Bin, Mr. Zhou’s son and a businessman. But he had not heard of any interrogation of Zhou Yongkang.

An investigation focused on Mr. Zhou would be a departure from the unspoken norm that Politburo Standing Committee members, including retired ones, are immune from investigations on corruption charges.

“They’re getting closer and closer to him, one step at a time,” said the former official, who likened the investigation to one against Chen Liangyu, the former party chief of Shanghai, who was toppled in 2006 and sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2008, after investigations of his family members, subordinates and associates. “I don’t think they’ve reached a decision yet whether to take down Zhou Yongkang himself.”

Mr. Zhou started his career in the oil sector and rose to become general manager of the China National Petroleum Corporation. From 1999 to 2002, he served as party secretary of Sichuan Province, where dozens of officials and businessmen have been detained or questioned since late last year as part of corruption investigations led by the party’s anticorruption agency.

The officials removed last week after being accused of “violations of discipline” include Li Hualin, an oil executive. He is a former aide to Mr. Zhou, according to two people familiar with the case. Two officials under investigation in Sichuan, Li Chuncheng and Guo Yongxiang, rose through the ranks while Mr. Zhou was party chief there.

“There are a lot of indications that point in the direction that they’re going after Zhou Yongkang,” said Andrew Wedeman, a professor of political science at Georgia State University who studies corruption in China.

Mr. Zhou’s influence has also been a source of contention among elites. Last year, many observers said Mr. Zhou was overly protective of Bo Xilai, the former politician who was tried recently on charges of corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power in an effort to cover up his wife’s role in a murder.

Mr. Zhou was weakened by Mr. Bo’s fall and its reverberations. Mr. Bo said in his recent trial that the commission under Mr. Zhou ordered him to take steps to cover up his former police chief’s flight to an American consulate.

The Chinese businessman, citing an official in the party leadership’s main office, said the investigations might not lead to criminal charges against Mr. Zhou himself or his relatives. In China, senior officials usually face police investigations only after party investigators have finished their inquiries and political leaders have decided whether to seek criminal punishment.

To go forward with the investigation, the Communist Party leader, Mr. Xi, secured the approval of senior officials, including retired figures like Jiang Zemin, the party leader who stepped down from that post in 2002, the businessman said.

Li Weidong, a former magazine editor in Beijing who closely follows party affairs, said, “I think it’s certain that the investigators received authorization to look into Zhou Yongkang’s cronies and family, but I’m very skeptical that Zhou would ever be punished.” He added: “I think they’ll use this to break his influence — to go against his people, but not him. He knows too much, and that would be too dangerous for Xi.”

Multiple attempts to contact Mr. Zhou’s son, Zhou Bin, have been unsuccessful, and Mr. Zhou himself is unreachable, like other members of China’s party elite.

It is unclear whether Mr. Zhou has been detained; party authorities monitor the movements of all retired senior officials, even when there are no allegations of misdeeds. Calls to the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection were not answered.

Chris Buckley reported from Hong Kong, and Jonathan Ansfield from Beijing. Edward Wong contributed reporting from Beijing.

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« Reply #8473 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:54 AM »

September 2, 2013

South Korea Pledges Aid to North in Bid to Ease Tension


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea promised $8.4 million worth of aid to North Korea on Monday, a conciliatory gesture that follows recent steps toward easing inter-Korean tensions and reviving economic and humanitarian cooperation.

The South Korean government will provide $6.3 million to help finance the World Health Organization’s efforts to improve medical service for malnourished infants and children in North Korea, the Unification Ministry of South Korea said in a statement.

Separately, Seoul will allow 12 South Korean private relief groups to send a total of $2.1 million worth of medical supplies, baby formula, vitamins, soy milk, stationery and shoes for North Korean children.

The developments follow the two Koreas’ agreement last month to restart a program that reunites family members who were separated by the Korean War six decades ago. The next reunions are scheduled to begin on Sept. 25.

The family reunion program, which began in the 1980s, was scuttled in 2010 amid souring inter-Korean relations. Ties deteriorated further after the North tested a nuclear device in February. But hopes for a thaw on the divided Korean Peninsula have grown in recent weeks.

In July, the South approved a total of $7.3 million in aid for children and pregnant women in the North, through Unicef and in direct shipments by private aid groups. Last month, North and South Korea agreed to reopen the jointly operated Kaesong industrial park, which had been idled since the North pulled its workers out in April.

North Korea still experiences dire food shortages despite international aid and gradual improvements in grain production in recent years. Nearly 28 percent of North Korean children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to United Nations surveys.
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« Reply #8474 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:56 AM »

Kevin Rudd denounces Tony Abbott's 'John Wayne' views on Syria

Australian PM condemns opposition leader's remarks about conflict consisting of 'baddies v baddies'

Bridie Jabour in Sydney and agencies, Monday 2 September 2013 10.50 BST   

Kevin Rudd has attacked the Australian opposition leader, Tony Abbott, as being from the "John Wayne school of international relations" after Abbott was asked about the escalating Syrian conflict and replied: "It's not goodies versus baddies: it's baddies versus baddies."

The prime minister said the comment was the most simplistic analysis of an international issue he had ever heard.

"I think people just scratch their head," he said. "The last time I used the term goodies and baddies, I think, was when I was playing cowboys and indians in the back garden. I think I stopped doing that at the age of 10.

"We're talking about serious questions of national security, serious questions of international relations, and the alternative prime minister of Australia is referring to this as no more complex than goodies v baddies or baddies v baddies."

Abbott has defended his comments, saying David Cameron and the former US president Bill Clinton both used similar colloquialisms when talking about complex problems.

Abbott said Labor was "hyperventilating", and argued other international leaders had used expressions such as "bad guys" when talking about international conflicts.

"I think the odd use of colloquialisms is perfectly appropriate if you are trying to explain to the public exactly what the situation is," he said at a press conference in Sydney on Monday morning.

"One thing I would never do is use a profanity in relation to a very important world power, which, as we know, the prime minister did after Copenhagen."

Rudd reportedly described the Chinese as "ratfuckers" after the 2009 UN climate change summit in the Danish capital.

The shadow foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, also defended the comments, using a similar argument to Abbott's.

"What Tony Abbott was articulating is what many foreign policy analysts are saying: the situation in Syria is far more nuanced than the ... world view of good versus evil; on both sides of this conflict are the bad guys," she said on ABC radio on Monday morning,.

"Both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have used the phrase 'the bad guys' in the past. And, in fact, David [Cameron] has said of Syria [that] the rebel forces in Syria include, quote, a lot of bad guys. So, according to Labor, that makes President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron unsophisticated. I don't think so."

Australia has taken over the rotating presidency of the UN security council while the permanent members – China, France, Russia, Britain and the US – are at loggerheads over whether international intervention is needed in Syria as its civil war escalates, with allegations of chemical weapons being used.

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