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In the USA...United Surveillance America

Ban Ki-moon: FGM a 'human rights violation' that must end

UN secretary general says 'practice must cease' and backs Guardian campaign to end female genital mutilation in the US

Amanda Holpuch in New York, Monday 12 May 2014 23.16 BST   
The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on Monday described the practice of female genital mutilation as a “human rights violation” that needed to end, on the day the Guardian threw its weight behind a campaign against the practice in the US.

Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old American who was mutilated as a child, is leading the campaign to end FGM in the US with a petition urging the Obama administration to commission a report into how many women are affected and at risk today.

Dukureh launched the campaign at the Guardian’s New York office with UN representative Nafissatou Diop, US congressman Joe Crowley and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger.

“I know it's hard to believe, but a lot of girls in New York, in Atlanta and throughout America have been through FGM, and even though our storylines might differ, the pain, trauma and horror are the same for every single one of us,” Dukureh said.

Dukureh, a mother of three who lives in Atlanta, was mutilated at a week old in Gambia, where she was born. Later, as a child bride, she endured the practice of "reopening", in New York, where she moved when she was 15.

The US government outlawed FGM in 1996, but at least 228,000 women in the US are thought to be affected, according to research from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston.

“At times, I feel like the government is afraid to address FGM because they fear dealing with our African cultures,” Dukureh said. “I say: history has taught us to do away with harmful cultures and traditions. Slavery was a culture in America for over 300 years. If culture is harmful and if culture triggers human rights violations, then that piece of the culture must go. I am a proud African woman from this culture, and I say not one single ounce of good comes of mutilating girls.”

Ban Ki-moon endorsed the campaign, and sent Diop, of the UN’s United National Population (UNFPA) and Unicef joint program on FGM, to the camapign's launch.

“This is a serious health and human rights issue,” said Diop, speaking on behalf of Ban. “The effects include depression, insecurity, pain, infections, incontinence and deadly complication in pregnancy and childbirth. While some may say FGM is a tradition, it constitutes a human rights violation that must cease.”

The UN’s program is aimed at helping those communities that practice FGM to abandon it. “These agencies have adopted a human rights-based approach to encourage communities to act collectively, so that girls or their families who opt out do not jeopardize their marriage prospects or become social outcasts,” Diop said.

Rusbridger said he was hopeful about the campaign’s success in the US because of the Guardian’s experience in the UK, where Fahma Mohammed, a young British activist, spearheaded a campaign that led education secretary Michael Gove to write to all schools in England and Wales, warning teachers about the dangers of FGM.

"I think the hope of everybody involved in this field is that it is possible to eradicate this, and that there is the real, tangible hope of improving the health, expectations and happiness of million girls and women in more than 30 countries where this problem affects so many lives,” Rusbridger said.

Crowley, the Democratic congressman for New York’s 14th district, also spoke at Monday’s event, where he said he is looking to emulate the work done in the UK.

Crowley is circulating a letter around Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the State Department, calling for greater awareness among professionals who might come into contact with FGM victims.


American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action

Jaha Dukurah urges health and human services nominee to carry out study on practice 'happening here to American girls'

Alexandra Topping in New York
The Guardian, Monday 12 May 2014 14.10 BST   

Jaha Dukureh: 'There is no way you should be born in America and still be worried about FGM.'

A 24-year-old American survivor of female genital mutilation called on the US government on Monday to help bring an end to FGM in the United States by gathering vital information about the practice in an effort to protect girls across the nation.

Jaha Dukureh, a mother of three from Atlanta, is urging President Barack Obama to order the department of health and human services to carry out a new study on FGM in the US that would establish how many American women and girls are at risk of the practice – the first step in tackling a crime that experts say stubbornly persists despite legislative efforts.

NGOs and survivors from affected communities have told the Guardian that American girls are being taken overseas to be cut, while others are cut by hired women on US soil. When legislation outlawing FGM in the US was passed in 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services put the number of women and girls affected or at risk at 168,000. But as affected communities have grown, the number is believed to have grown by 35% to at least 228,000 by 2000, according to research from the African women’s health center of Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has endorsed Dukureh’s campaign, which is being highlighted by the Guardian, calling FGM “a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States”. Supporters can sign her petition on the website.

“There is no way you should be born in America and still be worried about female genital mutilation,” said Dukureh. “America is the land of the free. In this country girls are protected. But FGM is not something that is happening in a far away place, it is happening here to American girls. They may come from immigrant communities, that doesn’t make it acceptable.”

Ban Ki-moon said FGM had to be tackled as a human rights issue. “I am proud to lend my voice to this important campaign. Governments around the world must work to protect girls from the barbaric practice of FGM,” he said.

He added that he had been inspired by meeting Fahma Mohammed, the young British activist who spearheaded a campaign in the UK, which resulted in the British government writing to all schools warning teachers about the dangers of the practice.

“Her courage and conviction show that one person can make an enormous difference. Now we are seeing Jaha Dukureh taking up the challenge in the United States, where I hope she will have equal success,” he said. “FGM is a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States and other countries where the practice is not well-known. We have to break all taboos about speaking out against this practice so that we can end it.”

He added his voice to the call for better data collection and more government and public commitment to tackle the practice. “We need more information on how many girls are sent from the United States for FGM, we need more discussion about the issue – and above all, we need action,” he said.

FGM on a minor has been illegal in the United States under federal law since 1996 and 22 states have passed their own FGM laws. Last year, through the Girls Protection Act, Congress closed a loophole which meant girls could still be taken back to home countries in the summer – a practice known as “vacation cutting”. Only six states have outlawed vacation cutting.

Joe Crowley, the Democratic congressman for New York’s 14th district – who alongside Republican Mary Bono Mack spearheaded the passing of the Girls Protection Act in 2013 – said: “People have the idea that this is happening elsewhere and not right here in their backyard. The reality is FGM is taking place here and is happening to US citizens.”

He called for greater awareness among professionals who might come into contact with victims. “We have the laws we need in place,” he said. “What we now need is a campaign of education, of understanding and compassion by law enforcement, by educators and by the medical community We need to bring all forces that can be brought to bear to eradicate FGM in this country. “

Without a prosecution under federal law and little awareness of the highly secretive ritual, experts warn that the practice is still being carried out when girls are taken to meet extended families, or is happening by hired “cutters” on American soil.

Mariama Diallo, African Community Specialist at Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit that works with affected communities, said she regularly came across cases of high school students who had been taken “home” to be cut. “We also hear from community members that families pay for flights for cutters to come to the US and do it, but this is more likely to affect babies so no one will find out.”

Shelby Quast, senior policy advisor at Equality Now, said: “We think that with the growing immigration there is quite a big problem with women at risk in the US as well women who have been subjected to FGM. We need to do a great deal more in educating people, making it known what FGM is, and making sure that there are places that girls who are at risk can report and those that hear them have some place that they can go.”

More than 140 million women and girls worldwide have suffered FGM, with up to 98% of girls mutilated in certain African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. The practice – typically carried out on girls between the ages of four and 12, though victims can be as young as just a few weeks old – involves the removal of part or all of a female’s outer sexual organs. In some instances part or all of the clitoris is removed while in the most extreme cases, girls are sewn up with only a small hole left to pass urine and menstruate.

Related complications – both physical and psychological – can be lifelong and catastrophic. The Guardian spoke to Naima Abdullahi, who went through FGM in Kenya when she was nine years old. She still suffers from trauma and hip problems related to struggling when she was being pinned down by two women in order to be cut. “This is something I live with every day. It is something I carry and every woman like me has learnt to carry,” she said. Other related issues include recurrent infections, reduced fertility, complications during childbirth and severe pain during sex.

Among other survivors interviewed by the Guardian, some like Leyla were cut on a family holiday, during their first visit to their parent’s home country. “There was no anaesthetic, no gloves, no pain medication after – no nurse to take care of you,” she said. “It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced.”

Deeply rooted in some cultures where it has been practised for thousands of years, FGM – sometimes referred to a female genital cutting – is traditionally seen as a way of maintaining a girl’s virginity before marriage, but condemned by campaigners as a means of controlling women's fertility and sexual desire.

Despite the passing of laws the US government and public at large have been reluctant to tackle FGM head on because of cultural sensitivities, said long-term campaigner Taima Bien Aime, now executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “FGM is a taboo that is yet to be broken in the States,” she said. “People, both in the community and outside it, just do not want to talk about it. And that makes it very difficult for women to stand up and say ‘this happened to me.’”

But it is time for survivors to speak out and for government action, said Dukureh, who has set up a grassroots organisation – Safe Hands for Girls – to raise awareness about FGM. “Someone has to talk about this, someone has to say what is going on,” she said. “Most of the time, what we hear from government officials is –this is their culture. But I’m a woman from this culture and I’m saying, this is not to my benefit. This is abuse and it is time we did something to stop it.”


Jaha Dukureh: 'In Washington, they don't want to talk about vaginas'

An Atlanta woman who is a survivor of female genital mutilation is leading a campaign for the US to take action on a brutal practice happening in its own backyard

• Sign the petition to end FGM

Alexandra Topping, Monday 12 May 2014 14.09 BST   

Jaha Dukureh does not give up easily. When, aged just 15, she was sent to New York from Gambia for an arranged marriage, it looked like her dream of getting an education was over. But she refused to stop trying.

“I went to school after school, begging them to let me join, but because I didn’t have my parents with me they said I couldn’t enrol,” she says. “At the last school I just told them I was all on my own, and I sat in the principal’s office and cried until finally they gave in.” Within days, she had joined the class. “You don’t even know how happy that made me. I was so excited just to sit in class and learn,” she says.

Now Jaha is facing a new challenge: trying to help bring an end to female genital mutilation, otherwise known as FGM, in the US. The 24-year-old mother of three, who now lives in Atlanta, went through the practice – which involves removing some or all of a girl’s outer sexual organs – when she was only a week old. But she knows many girls who, despite being born and raised in the United States, were taken as children back to their family’s country in order to be cut and hears stories that cutters are also at work on American soil.

“FGM is not something that is happening in a far away place. It is happening here to American girls,” she says. “When these kids are being sent back they are told they are going to meet their families. Often the parents are not to blame, they take their kids back home and it can be done without your permission – you go out and come back to a mutilated child.”

After hearing about the campaign of British schoolgirl Fahma Mohamed – who headed a successful Guardian-backed campaign to get more education about FGM in schools – Jaha started a petition on the campaigning website She is calling for a new study to find out just how many girls and women are affected by FGM in the US, as the first step to forming a national action plan to tackle the brutal practice.

“There is such a culture of silence about FGM in America. If you stand up and say ‘This happened to me’, people will scrutinise you, but someone has to stand up and say, this can’t go on happening. This is a human rights abuse and it has to stop,” she says.

A culture of silence and fear around the subject – coupled with public apathy and lack of awareness – has allowed the practice to continue under the radar, she says. “When people come to this country they bring their traditions with them – they eat the same food, dress in the same way – what makes people think that they won’t continue with FGM?” she asks. “Yes it’s a cultural issue but I’m from this culture and I am saying, this is not to our benefit. This is abuse.”

Jaha has already spent her life challenging accepted cultural norms. As one of five girls and three boys, she grew up in Gambia and was among the first girls in her family to go to school. “Some family members would complain because instead of coming home and learning to be a woman, I’d be in talent shows and after-school classes,” she says. “My mom was so proud of me, she would sell clothes or take African products to the UK to sell so she could pay my school fees. She wanted me to become a doctor.”

But when she was in 7th grade her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Unable to find treatment in Gambia she went to the UK, taking Jaha with her. “She wanted me to go to school, but it just wasn’t possible, so when I was 14 I just spent all my time going back and forward to hospital.” When her mother was told she had three months to live, she sent Jaha back home. “She didn’t want me to see her die.”

On her return, without a mother to protect her, she was told she had to go to New York to marry a man in his 40s. Still just 15 when she arrived, she soon found out that not only had she gone through FGM as a child, she had been subjected to the most extreme form. Jaha had type 3 FGM, where the clitoris and labia are removed before the girl is stitched together, leaving only a very small hole to urinate and menstruate.

“I went through days and weeks of excruciating pain when [my husband] was trying to have sex with me,” she says. She was taken to a doctor in Manhattan who opened her vagina, and told her she had to have sex that day or the wound would close again. “This happened in America – it was like I went through the FGM all over again.”

When the marriage broke down, Jaha refused to stay with her husband and was taken in by family members. Without anyone to vouch for her, she went to 10 different schools where she was told her she could not be enrolled without a guardian’s consent, before the 11th agreed. “I went to school during the day and waitressed in Harlem in the evening for lunch money and clothes,” she said. “But you know, I went to the prom. I saved up and I bought my prom dress, I got a date – I was a real American girl.”

When she was 17 she moved to Atlanta to be married for a second time. “I was very lucky because my husband understands my passion for education and he is the best dad for my kids I could ask for,” she says. She finished high school and put herself through college, and started work as a bank teller. In three and a half years she has been promoted three times and now works as a personal banker. “When people ask where I am from, I say I’m a Georgia peach,” she says. “This is home now. There are so many opportunities here and there is no way that girls should miss out on that because of FGM. That does not sit well with me.”

Her campaign has not been easy. After she spoke publicly for the first time, Jaha suffered immediate and severe backlash. “People called my husband, my sister, my dad. They said I wanted to get people locked up, break up families – but that is not my message,” she says. Jaha’s husband and father both respect her decision to lead the campaign, as hard as it may be and she refuses to be scared into submission. “Whatever they do, I am not afraid. They are not going to make me stop. The safety of our daughters is more important than that”.

Between looking after her young family and working as a personal banker she tours schools, colleges and community groups to talk about the dangers of FGM , and with other survivors has set up a foundation called Safe Hands for Girls.

But now she is taking her campaign to the top by asking for better data on FGM in the United States and as a first step to creating a national action plan to train educators, health professionals and police – and give survivors a safe place to seek help.

“In Washington they don’t want to talk about vaginas, they don’t want to hear about this issue and they don’t want to address it,” she says. “Sometimes, I feel is Washington afraid to tackle FGM – are they scared of it?”

She is determined to keep fighting until FGM is recognised as a real risk for American girls and policies are put in place to protect them. “I don’t want to be poster child. I want every woman who has been through this to be able to speak out,” she says. “But you know, in every revolution one person has to stand up to be counted, then other people follow. Right now everyone is turning a blind eye and pretending nothing is wrong – but once we stand up together, they won’t be able to ignore us any more.”


Freedom? Republican Run States Are Now Telling People What They Can and Can’t Buy

By: Rmuse
Monday, May, 12th, 2014, 10:09 pm   

Republicans hate regulations nearly as much as they hate taxation, and according to their Libertarian mindset, the concept of government interference in free market capitalism is tantamount to seizing the one percent’s wealth and assets and giving everything to undocumented immigrants, gays, and people of color. However, during the past year Republicans have interfered with private businesses simply because the companies failed to adhere to GOP regulations against union representation and renewable energy sources. In Republican-controlled states, GOP legislatures have forbidden business owners from providing overtime pay, sick leave, or raising the minimum wage, and still have the temerity to decry tyrannical government interference in business over gender pay equity, attempts to raise the minimum wage, or enforcing 14th Amendment protections against discrimination in the workplace. In a relatively new form of Republican fascism and regulatory overreach, Republican states have told consumers what they can and cannot purchase, and enacted regulations forbidding one company from conducting business in their states.

Missouri is the latest state to attempt to ban residents from purchasing cars from Tesla by inserting new language in an existing bill that forces consumers to buy new cars and trucks only through franchised dealerships. The legislation, HB 1124 was passed late last year without anti-Tesla language, but Republicans resorted to their now-typical stealth tactic and slipped new language to put a screeching halt to Tesla selling cars in Missouri; a clear violation of Republican libertarian policy against government dictating how free market capitalism is conducted. The Missouri senate version of the bill passed without the public’s knowledge and moves to the House for passage without debate because powerful car dealers and the oil industry ordered Republicans to protect their monopoly on pollution-causing vehicles without the public’s knowledge.

Powerful auto manufacturers already paid the Chris Christie administration to shut down Tesla in New Jersey because the company does not use middlemen (franchises), and the Christie administration supported banning Tesla because Republicans contend “Tesla shouldn’t have the right to unilaterally change the way cars are sold.” Free market capitalism is not free in Republicans’ minds and they will not allow Tesla, or any company to sell cars unless manufacturers profit from dealership franchise fees, dealerships profit as middleman, and the oil industry profits from selling gasoline and oil that Tesla CEO Elon Musk clearly understands is the rationale behind forbidding consumers from purchasing what they want. According to Musk, the electric cars need far less service than gas-powered cars so the need for a dealership franchise profiting off of regularly scheduled dealership maintenance is non-existent. He said,  ”There are no oil, spark plug or fuel filter changes, no tune-ups and no smog checks needed for an electric car. Overcharging people for unneeded servicing (often not even fixing the original problem) is rampant within the industry and happened to me personally on several occasions when I drove gasoline cars.”

The Federal Trade Commission weighed in and came down on the side of Tesla’s right to sell vehicles directly to consumers without the necessity of a middleman. The FTC said In a blog post, “Regulators should differentiate between regulations that truly protect consumers and those that protect the regulated.” In a separate letter signed by over 70 leading economists under the banner of the International Center for Law & Economics soundly dismissed every single car dealer argument and concluded that these bans are entirely motivated by “economic protectionism that favors dealers at the expense of consumers and innovative technologies.” Elon Musk agreed with the economists and Federal Trade Commission saying, “When Tesla came along as a new company with no existing franchisees, the auto dealers, who possess vastly more resources and influence than Tesla, nonetheless sought to force us to sell through them. The reason that we did not choose to do this is that the auto dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between promoting gasoline cars, which constitute virtually all of their revenue, and electric cars, which constitute virtually none.”  Republicans love conflict of interest when it profits the oil and auto industry and the concept of free market capitalism is thrown out the window when their donors’ profits are jeopardized by a product that cuts into their bottom line.

Nearly all car manufacturers profit handsomely from granting individually-owned dealerships the right to sell their cars, so Tesla is facing pressure for Republicans beholden to automobile manufacturers and dealers wielding inordinate political power stemming from their political contributions. For example, a powerful lobbying group representing car and truck dealers, the National Automobile Dealers Association, spent $3 million in political contributions in 2012 and an additional $3 million on lobbying to prohibit consumers from buying a car they want and force them to purchase only vehicles their clients sell. Missouri Republicans  resorted to an increasingly common practice and asked New Jersey, Texas, and Arizona to “show me” how to force consumers to purchase gas-guzzling vehicles and restrict free market capitalism by using stealth legislation to forbid Tesla from participating in what Republicans claim is commerce untouched by government intervention.

Republicans are once again displaying the hypocrisy that has become one of their defining characteristics when it comes to their cherished free market capitalism free from government intervention and interference that is more often than not from Republicans. In fact, they are going far beyond just butting in to a business, they are deliberately prohibiting Tesla from exercising their right to commerce and boldly telling consumers which product they can buy and which one the oil industry and automobile manufacturers and dealerships are forcing on them. Tesla is in the early stages of the appeal process in New Jersey to be afforded the same opportunity to take part in what the Republicans claim is the American dream of researching and developing a product, manufacturing that product, and taking it to consumers and let the market decide if it is a success or failure. However, in the Republicans’ donors minds, an electric car that does not require oil and gasoline to operate, or costly regularly scheduled repair and maintenance dealership visits does not deserve to participate in free market capitalism because the only government interfering in business is Republican state legislatures that are now telling consumers they can only purchase Republican, automobile manufacturers and dealers, and oil industry-approved products in what can only be termed fascist capitalism Republican style.


John Boehner Goes Orange, Dark, and Gloomy By Saying He’s Living on Borrowed Time

By: Jason Easley
Monday, May, 12th, 2014, 5:20 pm      

At a luncheon in Texas today, Speaker of the House John Boehner refused to pledge that he will serve another full term as speaker because he literally thinks he is going to die soon.

According to Politico:

    The Ohio Republican, speaking to a luncheon here sponsored by a group of local chambers of commerce, said he can’t “predict what’s going to happen,” and stopped short of fully committing to serving another full two-year term.

    “Listen, I’m going to be 65-years-old in November,” Boehner said. “I never thought I’d live to be 60. So I’m living on borrowed time.”

With an attitude like that, it is pretty easy to see why John Boehner probably drinks alone. The last few years have been rough for the Speaker of the House. Boehner finally achieved his dream job only to wake up and realize that he is leading a group of Republicans that can’t agree with each other on anything. Boehner did initially try to teach the tea crowd how this whole government thing works, but after many failures, he eventually gave up and just started reading the script that his tea party hostage takers placed in front of him.

The fact that he has stopped trying to pretend to lead the House is how the government shutdown happened. It’s how the country’s debt rating got lowered, and it is also why there will be a special committee to investigate Benghazi. Boehner played a big role in creating his own mess by willingly leaping into bed with the tea party only to find out later that the bed was on fire.

John Boehner has been without a doubt one of the worst Speakers in American history. Under his non-leadership, the House has dissolved into chaos. Boehner has regularly placed keeping his speakership ahead of doing what is right for the country. It is John Boehner’s fault that the legislative process is completely dysfunctional to the point where major accomplishment is impossible. John Boehner may live to be 100, but he is signaling that the end is near for his time in Congress.


House Republicans Admit Defeat By Scheduling No Hearings or Votes to Repeal Obamacare

By: Jason Easley
Monday, May, 12th, 2014, 1:40 pm   

Republicans have quietly tried to change the subject away from healthcare, and the ACA. The shift is so dramatic that no Republican committee in the House has an Obamacare hearing planned, and there are no repeal votes scheduled.

According to The Hill:

    House Republicans have no scheduled votes or hearings on ObamaCare, signaling a shift in the party’s strategy as the White House rides a wave of good news on the law.

    Not a single House committee has announced plans to attack the healthcare law in the coming weeks, and only one panel of jurisdiction commented to The Hill despite repeated inquiries.

    GOP campaign committees also declined to say whether they will launch any new efforts on the law.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee responded with a statement that claimed that there is no evidence that they are talking about Obamacare less. The statement was a nice dodge, but it isn’t even close to the subject being discussed. House Republicans might be talking about Obamacare until they are blue in the face, but they have ceased efforts to repeal the law.

In this case, actions really do speak louder than words. The Republican majority’s actions are an unspoken admission of defeat. The day after the ACA sign up numbers came out, House Republicans began their new push on Benghazi. This is not a coincidence, and only the Republican base is gullible enough to believe that the strategic shift was not deliberate and intentional.

House Republicans aren’t fooling anyone. They literally stopped talking about Obamacare on the same day that the final numbers were released. They finally realized that campaigning on taking away healthcare from tens of millions of Americans was not a good idea.

Republicans needed a new issue fast, so they went back to the Benghazi well once again. The American people and the media still aren’t buying Benghazi as a legitimate news story. House Republicans still have no healthcare legislation of their own. Democrats, even in red states, are starting to pummel Republicans with the ACA.

The louder that House Republicans scream about Benghazi, the more obvious their defeat on Obamacare becomes. A party with no issues, no ideas, and no consensus has nothing to run on. Obamacare will still be a dog whistle term that will be used to get out the Republican vote, but to really understand what the Republican Party is up, always ignore their words and watch their deeds.

The actions of House Republicans tell us that they lost, and the Obamacare fight is over.


A Plurality of Kentuckians Like Obamacare, As Long as It’s Called Something Else

By: Sarah Jones
Monday, May, 12th, 2014, 11:58 am      

But a plurality of registered voters – 29% – have a favorable impression of Kynect. Kynect is Obamacare, by a different name. Twenty-two percent have an unfavorable impression of it, and 27% have never heard of it while 21% are unsure.

And just to prove that it’s all in the name, not in what it actually does, a plurality 43% of registered voters strongly think the “health care law” is a really bad idea. Just 27% think it’s a good idea. But they love Kynect.

I’ll bet if the questions were worded differently in order to explain what it does, the results would be different. For example, “Do you think it is a good idea to have affordable healthcare available for everyone so that everyone pays their share and no one is cut off from medical help due to an inability to pay?” “Do you think it’s a good idea to stop insurance companies from canceling insurance policies when a person gets sick?” “Do you think it’s a good idea to give women free mammograms?” Etc.

The truth is that Americans love what Republicans call socialism, so long as it’s not called socialism. Waving hello to the Tea Partiers against socialism who carry signs telling the government to keep their hands off of their Medicare.

A negative 1% “haven’t heard of it (Obamacare)”. That’s pretty astounding for a policy, but who could miss it with Republicans fear mongering about it, tossing coffins on lawns, sending threats to lawmakers, and Sarah Palin’s Death Panels. You’d have to be living in a cave to have missed the idea that Obamacare was going to kill you and fundamentally change America to a socialist Fascist state of doom forever, as not shown in every other industrialized nation which have affordable health insurance.

The key here is that Obamacare is in operation now and people are beginning to see that the world has not ended. In time, what Republicans fear the most will happen: People will embrace Obamacare as they do Medicare and Social Security, thus harming Republicans’ efforts to keep Americans from having a government that works for them instead of the elite. Every time a voter sees the government working to help citizens, a Republican has to spend more money to fool the voters come election season.

Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, of Embrace Obamacare and Attack Kentucky Republicans with It fame, has a 63% approval rating and a 22% disapproval, with 14% unsure. In other words, we might question conventional “wisdom” (aka, beltway agreement) that claims Democrats are fighting an uphill battle in 2014 because of Obama’s bad approval ratings and Obamacare. The truth is that Democrats are fighting an uphill battle because the press aids and abets Republicans in their Obama/Obamacare fear-mongering, fail at fact-checking, and run bogus Benghazi email and bogus IRS stories based on uncorroborated Republican sources. If the press did their job, the people would not be so misinformed as to only like Obamacare when it’s called something else.

Sure, Obama’s approval ratings are nowhere near as low as W’s, but the press totally buys it when Americans tend to not approve of Obama after all they hear of the President – from same press – is that he is lying about a cover up in Benghazi and using the IRS to hunt down enemies.

The same caveat can be applied to Americans supposed dislike of Obamacare. All they’ve heard of it is scary Republican ads about Obama’s death panels and Obama stealing from Medicare. The loudest voices have the most money to spread their “message”. The Koch brothers are spending millions on ObamaScare ads. These things tend to make an impression on the public, especially when they aren’t paying enough attention to know who is behind the claims.

Those polled in the NBC poll were majority white, mostly landlines (some cell phone users), with a majority “registered Democrat”. The caveat here is that with the Tea Party splitting from the GOP and embarrassed/disenchanted conservatives pretending to be “Independents”, it’s hard to know if the Independents in polls really represent Independents, or are comprised of enough embarrassed Republicans to actually belong in the Republican column.


Senate Republicans forfeit vote on Keystone XL pipeline by blocking energy bill

By Reuters
Monday, May 12, 2014 20:11 EDT
By Thomas Ferraro and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Monday blocked an energy-efficiency bill backed by manufacturers and environmentalists, forfeiting a chance to vote on the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

On a nearly party-line vote of 55-36, President Barack Obama’s Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bipartisan energy bill supported by the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, had offered a vote on a separate bill to take the final decision on Keystone out of Obama’s hands and give it to Congress if Republicans allowed passage of the energy bill.

But Republicans refused. They complained that Reid barred them from offering amendments to the bill, including one that would have reined in emissions-cutting regulations on coal-fired power plants, a top strategy in Obama’s fight against climate change.

The blocked energy-efficiency bill would cut electricity use by imposing tough building codes and requiring federal data centers to find ways to consolidate and become more efficient.

In turn, the bill, sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, would help protect the environment, create nearly 200,000 jobs, and save consumers billions of dollars a year by 2030, backers said.

“Today’s failure to move forward on a bipartisan energy efficiency bill is yet another disappointing example of Washington’s dysfunction,” Portman said.

“It’s a sad day in the U.S. Senate when more than 270 organizations – from business to environmental groups – can get behind a good, bipartisan effort, but we can’t get votes on a few amendments to pass it.”

TransCanada Corp’s proposed pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels per day of oil sands petroleum from Canada’s Alberta province to Texas refineries.

Democrats accused Republicans of being more interested in making Obama’s repeated delays on Keystone an election-year issue than voting to build the project or pass an energy bill.

Congress has not passed significant energy legislation since 2007. Shaheen and Portman hoped their bill would not suffer the same fate as the sweeping climate bill the Senate killed in 2010. But now it looks as if energy efficiency is doomed until after the November 4 election.

Reid had offered a vote on a Keystone measure sponsored by all 45 Republicans and 11 of the 55 Senate Democrats in return for the bill.

It was unclear if they could get the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation, which would allow congressional approval of Keystone. But even if approved, Obama was certain to veto it.

A Senate vote on Keystone would have shown broad bipartisan support for the project and put more pressure on Obama to end years of delays and finally make a decision.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the chief Democratic sponsor of the Keystone bill, said: “This is just the latest skirmish, and the battle to build Keystone is not over.”

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Sandra Maler, Peter Cooney and Andre Grenon)

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« Reply #13381 on: May 13, 2014, 08:20 AM »

Pro-Moscow Rebel Survives 'Assassination Attempt' in East Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 May 2014, 16:25

Separatists in eastern Ukraine claimed that the self-styled governor of the rebel-held Lugansk region survived an assassination attempt on Tuesday, two days after the region held a referendum on self rule.

The rebel official, Valery Bolotov, was wounded when unidentified assailants shot at his car, a spokesman for the rebels told reporters.

"They shot with automatic weapons," the spokesman Vasily Nikitin said, adding that Bolotov was hospitalized.

"He lost a lot of blood but everything is fine now. His life is not in danger."

AFP was unable to independently verify the claim.

On Sunday, the Russian-speaking regions of Lugansk and Donetsk held self-rule referendums, with rebels claiming that an overwhelming majority chose to split from Ukraine.

Nikitin, the spokesman for the "Lugansk People's Republic", blamed central Kiev authorities for the shooting.

"We believe that the assassination attempt on Bolotov is Kiev's response to our referendum," he said.
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« Reply #13382 on: May 14, 2014, 06:02 AM »

Ukraine agrees to talks on Moscow-backed plan for eastern regions

Prime minister to chair discussions on OSCE peace proposals day after six Ukrainian soldiers killed in rebel ambush

Shaun Walker in Donetsk and agencies, Wednesday 14 May 2014 09.01 BST

The Ukrainian government has agreed to launch discussions on giving more powers to the regions under a peace plan brokered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – a roadmap backed by Moscow but regarded with scepticism by Kiev.

Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is to chair the first in a series of meetings that will include national MPs, government figures and regional officials in line with proposals drafted by the OSCE – a transatlantic security and rights group that includes Russia and the US.

A solution to the crisis in east Ukraine had seemed remote on Tuesday, when six Ukrainian army servicemen were killed in an ambush by rebels and attempts to get Kiev and the armed separatists to negotiate came to nothing.

Ukraine's defence ministry released a statement saying six of its soldiers had been killed and a further eight wounded during an ambush outside the town of Kramatorsk, in Donetsk region. The attackers used grenade launchers and automatic weapons to fire at the Ukrainian column, hitting an armoured personnel carrier.

More than 50 people have died in Donetsk since Kiev began its "anti-terrorism operation" in the area, but Tuesday's attack represents the largest loss of life for the Ukrainian army in a single incident.

The de facto separatist government in Donetsk repeated on Tuesday lunchtime that the Ukrainian army was considered to be an "occupying force", and the ambush appeared to be a bloody restatement of their case.

The "Donetsk People's Republic" was proclaimed on Monday, after a hastily arranged referendum resulted in nearly 90% of votes in favour of state sovereignty. Critics have pointed out that there were no observers and that most of those who remain loyal to Kiev simply stayed at home. Nevertheless, the region announced independence and immediately appealed to Russia to accept it as a new region.

The Ukrainian government and western powers have rejected the referendum as a sham.

In Brussels on Tuesday, Yatsenyuk thanked the OSCE for its plan but said Ukraine had its own proposals for ending the crisis and that the people of his country should settle the issue themselves. He disclosed no details of that plan.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk republic took its first tentative steps on the international stage on Tuesday, imposing sanctions on three individuals – the US president, Barack Obama, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel and the EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton – who are banned from entering the territory as well as flying over it. The reason given is that they support the Kiev government's operation's against armed separatists in the east of the country.

In a document, the separatists also gave David Cameron a sharp warning, saying: "PS British prime minister David Cameron is on a provisional list (without the sanctions being enforced in practice) and is advised to think carefully about his attitude to the Kiev junta, especially given the traditional good relations between Britain and the Donbas region."

Donetsk was founded by a Welshman, John Hughes, in the 1870s, and for a time the city even bore his name.


Six Ukrainian soldiers killed in Donetsk ambush

Attack comes as separatists repeat assertion that pro-Kiev forces are considered to be an 'occupying force' in east Ukraine

Shaun Walker in Donetsk, Tuesday 13 May 2014 17.52 BST   
A solution to the crisis in east Ukraine seemed as far away as ever on Tuesday, as six Ukrainian army servicemen were killed in an ambush by rebels and attempts to get Kiev and the armed separatists to negotiate came to nothing.

Ukraine's defence ministry released a statement saying that six of its soldiers had been killed and a further eight wounded during an ambush outside the town of Kramatorsk, in Donetsk region. The attackers used grenade launchers and automatic weapons to fire at the Ukrainian column, hitting an armoured personnel carrier.

More than 50 people have died in Donetsk region since Kiev began its "anti-terrorism operation" in the area, but Tuesday's attack represents the greatest loss of life for the Ukrainian army in a single incident.

The de facto separatist government in Donetsk repeated on Tuesday lunchtime that the Ukrainian army was now considered to be an "occupying force", and the ambush appeared to be a bloody restatement of their case.

The "Donetsk People's Republic" was proclaimed on Monday, after a hastily arranged referendum resulted in nearly 90% of votes being given in favour of its creation. Critics have pointed out that there were no observers and that most of those who remain loyal to Kiev simply stayed at home. Nevertheless, the region announced independence and immediately appealed to Russia to accept it as a new region.

Russia is unlikely to annex the territory as it did with Crimea, and so far has merely called for talks between Kiev and the separatists in the east. However, Denis Pushilin, one of the separatist leaders, said on Tuesday that the only thing he could talk to Kiev about was hostage exchanges.

The region's Kiev-appointed governor said that he completely dismissed the claims of the separatists and added that preparations were under way for holding Ukrainian elections in Donetsk region.

"The Donetsk People's Republic does not exist," said Serhiy Taruta at a press conference in Donetsk on Tuesday. He said that he had been negotiating with some representatives of the separatists but that each time there were different interlocutors, so it was impossible to decide who was calling the shots.

Taruta has claimed that Kiev was still in control of the region but it seems unlikely that the elections will take place in the current climate.

"We are not going to hold elections for the president of a neighbouring state on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic," said Pushilin on Tuesday.

The self-proclaimed republic took its first tentative steps on the international stage on Tuesday, slapping sanctions on three individuals – Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Catherine Ashton – who are banned from entering the territory as well as flying over it. The reason given is that they support the Kiev government's "anti-terrorist operation" against armed separatists in the east of the country.

David Cameron is given a sharp warning by the document: "PS British Prime Minister David Cameron is on a provisional list (without the sanctions being enforced in practice) and is advised to think carefully about his attitude to the Kiev junta, especially given the traditional good relations between Britain and the Donbas Region). Donetsk was founded by a Welshman, John Hughes, in the 1870s, and for a time the city even bore his name.


Maidan Square activists urged to fight for Ukraine in the east

Chief of rally's fighting wing aims to co-opt Kiev protesters into battalions opposing pro-Russian rebels

Howard Amos in Kiev, Tuesday 13 May 2014 17.15 BST       

Andrei Vlasov admitted that it used to be more exciting. Since November the 33-year-old has been living in a tent in Kiev's Maidan, or Independence Square, the focal point for Ukraine's protest movement.

But revolutionary fervour has faded and instead of the pitched battles with riot police that characterised the first months of the uprising, activists now spent time dealing with drunks and managing the day-to-day running of the camp. "It's boring here," he said, adding that only TV and the internet went some way towards relieving the tedium.

After Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country in February, the centre of unrest shifted, first to the Crimean peninsula, and then to the east where armed pro-Russian insurgents are now defying the interim government.

In central Kiev, burnt-out cars and barricades of cobblestones and tyres still litter the streets. Molotov cocktails, improvised clubs, stretchers and shields remain close to hand, but they have not been used since the fall of the regime.

The state of limbo has posed many questions about Maidan's future. Some say it should become a semi-permanent feature of political life, others that it should disperse after the presidential elections scheduled for 25 May.

In a government office a few miles up the road the former commander of the protest camp's fighting wing, Andriy Parubiy, is now at the heart of the Kiev's attempts to counter the rebellion in the east. As head of the national security and defence council, he oversees Ukraine's security forces.

"There was a time to throw stones, but now is the time to collect stones," Parubiy said about the remaining protesters in Maidan.

Officials are acutely aware of the potential threat posed by the large groups of men, many well-armed, that make up Maidan's self defence force. Extremist rightwing elements, which led much of the violence against the previous government, also have a prominent presence in the square.

In late March, rightwing radicals blockaded the Ukrainian parliament after a leader of the radical ultranationalist Right Sector group was killed by security forces during an attempted arrest. The interim Ukrainian president, Oleksandr Turchynov, warned at the time of "destabilisation".

Parubiy is spearheading attempts to co-opt Maidan activists into volunteer units that will fight alongside police, the army and special forces in the east.

Billboards across Kiev call for recruits for the re-formed national guard, which already has one battalion of about 400 volunteers deployed around the rebel-held town of Slavyansk.

"When we set off to Maidan we did not go to fight, but that's what life threw up, that's what fate decreed for us," said Parubiy. "A lot of people on Maidan still think that they need to protect Kiev … we are calling on all these people, especially young men, to join our [volunteer] battalions and go to where there are currently real barricades."

The strategy is not without risk. Some volunteer groups under the official jurisdiction of the interior ministry have been accused of leading the deadly violence in Mariupol and Krasnoarmeisk last week that helped to push local people into the arms of the rebels.

In another effort to boost fighting power, Kiev announced on 1 May that it  was reintroducing conscription because of threats to the country's territorial integrity. The Ukrainian military was strongly criticised for its passivity as a string of administrative buildings in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk fell to pro-Russian irregulars in recent weeks.

"You can see how the army fights," said Svyatoslav Tsegolko, a deputy director and presenter at Ukraine's Channel 5 television station, which provided extensive coverage of the Maidan protests. "People joined the army to get flats."

While there appears to be strong support for the action of Ukraine's security forces in the east, there is also an awareness of the risks.

"People need to understand that they belong in Ukraine," said Anna Calyack, 24, a civil servant, who was walking with a friend through central Kiev on Saturday evening. "If we force them, then we will be just the same as Yanukovych."

Observers in Russia and Ukraine have hurried to describe events in the east as a civil war but people in Kiev tend to shy away from such language.

Parubiy said an unconventional war was being waged by Russia against Ukraine, and described pro-Russian irregulars as terrorists.

Others contrast the fast-paced propaganda campaign in the media with the relatively limited action on the ground.

Irina Rozsoshko, 29, said there was no sign, at least in Kiev, of a traditional war with tanks and people in uniform "but there is an information war going on".

Vlasov believed he had a better idea than most about the nature of the conflict in the east; he said he was from Kramatorsk, one of the towns taken by pro-Russian rebels last month, and he was sharing his tent with a group of activists from the eastern regions.

"Those who have seized power in Kramatorsk are all acquaintances of mine and it has become like the 1990s there – all the bandits have returned," he said. "About 70% of people support a unified Ukraine but they can't go against automatic weapons."

He said that many of the fighters there were being paid, and he did not believe the conflict would be over soon. While it continued there was no way he could return to his wife and children, he said. "If I go back I will be shot."

While Vlasov feared for his life, others remained on Maidan because they were convinced the uprising had not ended with the removal of Yanukovych and had not yet been completed.

Parliamentary elections should follow the inauguration of the country's new president, said Alexander Borshulyak, a vintage-car collector who arrived to protest in Kiev last year.

Borshulyak and three other volunteers from Maidan Square run a small charity helping the thousands of people who fled to Kiev after Russia annexed Crimea in March. "When I left my two sons last year I embraced them and said that I will only return to a different town in a different country," he said. "If I go back now when prices have risen, all the gold has been stolen and there are barricades on every street, what can I say to my children?"


Confusion over Rival Claims to Control Ukraine's Donetsk

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 May 2014, 21:55

Middle-aged municipal worker Masha bent down in her green parks department overall to tend the pristine flowerbeds on a tree-lined avenue in downtown Donetsk.

"We don't know who will be paying our salaries from now on," she said, digging around in the soil with her trowel.

"Last month it was the local town authorities but who knows in future."

The uncertainty came to the fore as the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Kiev-appointed regional governor tussled Tuesday over who was actually in charge.

The dispute arose a day after rebels claimed to have founded their own independent state and asked to join Russia following a referendum Sunday rejected by Ukraine's central government.

"As for the Donetsk Republic -– such a republic does not exist legally or politically," regional governor Serhiy Taruta told journalists at a press conference.

"There is only a dreamed up name and nothing else."

Unfortunately for Taruta -- a billionaire oligarch appointed by Kiev to run the restive region following the ouster of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February -- he was being forced to talk to journalists from a meeting room in a luxury hotel.

A five-minute walk away the rebels have turned what should be his office on the top floor of the region's barricaded administration building into the headquarters of their self-declared state.  

Still, the bespectacled industrialist scoffed at the separatists' insistence that the result of their referendum, in which they claimed millions of voters backed splitting from Kiev, has to be respected.

"You can't call it a referendum as we have a precise definition in our law of what a referendum is. You can call it a social survey and that is how we should relate to it -- what are the opinions of those who went and what they want," Taruta said.

The rebels have demanded that the region's police and the government troops deployed against them across the region either switch sides or leave.

"Who is there to cross over to?" Taruta asked.

"They have no economic and social programs, no investment programs, no law enforcement," he said.

Despite separatist claims that they would not let a presidential election planned for May 25 take place in the region, Taruta insisted it would go ahead and said a separate referendum should be held later on devolving powers to the regions.

An hour later across the city center, rebel leader Denis Pushilin hunched over journalists' microphones in the room Taruta should have been speaking in and was in a feisty mood.

"We've seen interviews before with Taruta when he's said he's here in his office on the eleventh floor working as normal when we've been sitting in it," Pushilin said.

"It is difficult to believe any of his plans -- he can say whatever he likes," said the bearded joint chairman of the rebel's ruling people's council.

He said there was no way the rebels would allow the election "of a neighboring country" take place on their territory, adding that the Ukrainian army in the region had now become "occupiers" on foreign soil.

Wandering around the deserted and litter-strewn offices in their headquarters -- one of a few buildings they have seized in the city -- it does not appear that the insurgents have the capability to run much and concrete policies remain vague.  

When asked about his new nation's economic plans, Pushilin admitted that they were still to be worked out.

He did admit reluctantly that for the payment of social benefits like pensions it was still Kiev  in charge and not the rebel authorities. They have yet to start collecting taxes, he said.

Questions also remained over who exactly was in charge of the rebels after rumors had swirled that the self-proclaimed state had seen a putsch by its military wing before it had even barely managed to declare itself independent.

"There has been no coup and no seizure of power," Pushilin said.

Talk that the commander-in-chief of the separatists' armed forces -- a shadowy figure known as Igor Strelkov, whom Kiev accuses of being a Russian intelligence agent – was just "the latest provocation," Pushilin said.

"We don't have just one main person who is in charge -- we are a collegial organ," he said.


EU Sanctions Hit Web Sensation Crimea Prosecutor, pro-Moscow Rebels

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 May 2014, 17:40

Among those hit by new sanctions imposed by Brussels on pro-Russian officials are Natalya Poklonskaya, the prosecutor of Crimea who became an Internet sensation for her good looks, and a self-styled mayor of the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the hugely influential first deputy chief of Russian President Vladimir Putin's staff, and Vladimir Shamanov, a military commander who gained notoriety for his heavy-handed tactics in volatile Chechnya, were also on a new sanctions list released by the European Union.

According to the EU, as commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, Shamanov was responsible for the deployment of Russian airborne forces in Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in March.

The global community has condemned the takeover of Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula as annexation but Putin has said the term was inappropriate because no blood was spilled.

A Russian lawmaker responsible for the legislation facilitating the takeover of Crimea, Vladimir Pligin, and Roman Lyagin, who organized an independence referendum in Donetsk on Sunday, have also been sanctioned.

Pro-Moscow militants claimed a overwhelming majority in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk voted at the weekend to split from the ex-Soviet republic, in a vote Ukraine and the West condemned as illegal.

Following the plebiscite the EU on Monday ramped up sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis, adding 13 people and two Crimean firms to an existing blacklist.

Of the 13 names on the list, Poklonskaya, the Crimean prosecutor known for her good looks and stern demeanor, is perhaps the most famous.

The uniformed 34-year-old blonde has become a web sensation around the world and images of her as a heroine of Japanese-style manga comic portraits have gone viral on the Internet.

Earlier this month Putin formally appointed Poklonskaya, who publicly condemned the Ukrainian authorities, the peninsula's top prosecutor.

Also on the sanctions list are pro-Moscow rebels from east Ukraine including Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-styled mayor of the rebel-held city of Slavyansk.

The EU has so far targeted Russians and Ukrainians blamed for compromising the country's integrity, stopping short of introducing broader punitive measures that would hit Russia's economy.

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« Reply #13383 on: May 14, 2014, 06:08 AM »

Woman 'confesses to killing Spanish politician Isabel Carrasco'

55-year-old is said to have told police she planned attack as revenge after daughter lost job at León provincial council

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid, Wednesday 14 May 2014 12.21 BST   

A woman arrested on Monday by Spanish police has confessed to killing the politician Isabel Carrasco, telling investigators she had held a grudge against the leader of the León provincial government since her daughter lost her job at the council in 2011, local newspapers reported.

The 55-year-old woman told police she had been planning the attack for weeks as revenge for the way her 35-year-old daughter had been treated, according to the Diario de Léon.

In 2011, the daughter's temporary contract with the León provincial council expired and another candidate was chosen to replace her. A labour dispute soon erupted after the council said it had mistakenly overpaid her €12,000 and asked that the money be returned. Days before the killing, the dispute was settled in favour of the council and the daughter was asked to pay €6,500.

The role that the daughter, who was also arrested on Monday night, played in the killing is still being investigated by authorities.
Isabel Carrasco shooting scene Flowers and candles left on the footbridge where Carrasco was shot. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Carrasco, described as the most powerful woman in León during the past decade by Spanish media, was a prominent politician from Spain's governing People's party. Since 2004, she had led the party in the province and in 2007 she became leader of the provincial government.

Police believe the pair waited on several occasions outside Carrasco's house, El País reported. They chose to target the politician on Monday, said police sources, when they saw the 59-year-old politician walking alone on the street.

Carrasco was shot several times in broad daylight as she walked the short distance from her home to the local party headquarters. A retired police officer happened to be on the pedestrian footbridge where the killing occurred, and watched as a woman wearing a hat and scarf shot Carrasco several times. He followed as she and another woman walked away and continued to trail one of the women after the pair split up. He called police and the pair were arrested minutes later when they met up and attempted to flee in a grey Mercedes.

The two women were taken into police custody on Monday afternoon. The husband and father of the pair, a chief police inspector in the nearby town of Astorga, has requested he be relieved of his duties.

On Tuesday evening, a third woman was arrested in connection with the killing. A 41-year-old police officer with the city of León, she was taken into custody after turning in the weapon used to kill Carrasco. She told police she had found the weapon in the back seat of her car, speculating that it had been ditched by the daughter, who she said was a friend of hers.

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« Reply #13384 on: May 14, 2014, 06:11 AM »

Welcome to Brčko, Europe’s only free city and a law unto itself

Unshackled from Bosnia's bloody history, seemingly thriving as a beacon of multi-ethnicity, is Brčko a model for urban success?

Peter Geoghegan in Brčko, Wednesday 14 May 2014 10.00 BST          

Brčko looks like any small Bosnian city. Smoke-filled cafes line the pedestrianised main street, serving bitter coffee against the blaring backdrop of another regional speciality: high-octane turbo-folk music.

But behind Brčko’s quotidian façade lies a novel political experiment. In the impressive Hapsburg-era city hall sits a municipal assembly with powers that more closely resemble a sovereign state. Brčko (pronounced "Britchko") is almost entirely self-governing. As well as its own education system, the city has free-standing courts and separate health and police services. It is, in essence, a free city in Europe.

Brčko has profited by being unshackled from Bosnia. While ethnic tension arguably holds the rest of the country back, this city of 100,000 people has become a beacon for multi-ethnicity: the mayor is Croat, his deputy is Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and the assembly’s speaker is Serb. The concept of a free city in Europe may not be new – the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (now Gdansk) was semi-autonomous between the two world wars, while Fiume (now Rijeka) was once administered separately from both Hungary and Croatia-Slavonia – but Brčko has given the idea new life.

The unusual arrangement is a product of Brčko’s bloodstained recent history. A border city, pressed close against Croatia and Serbia, it was mainly Bosniak when war broke out in 1992. Brčko became caught in the "corridor" linking two big chunks of Serb-held territory – one in north-western Bosnia, the other in the east. Serb forces needed it desperately, and stormed into the city, expelling Bosniaks and detaining hundreds in brutal camps. Torn apart during the fighting, Brčko then became a thorn in the peace: both the Bosniak/Croat and Serb contingents claimed it as their own. An inability to agree about the destiny of the city almost scuttled the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the war.
Brčko was strategically vital in the Bosnian war, a mainly Bosniak city caught in the corridor between two Serb-controlled areas

In 1999, presided over by the US diplomat Roberts Owen, arbitrators announced a controversial decision: Brčko would formally be part of both parts of the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Federation and Republika Srpska – but it would also be a separate "mixed" entity. Brčko District, an appellation lifted straight from US constitutional jargon, was born, overseen by an international supervisor.

For people whose lives had been destroyed by tribal hatred, Brčko became a chance to experiment in multi-ethnicity. For example, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina education is often segregated, Brčko took a different approach. All pupils study a single, common curriculum: Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats are mixed in every classroom.

You can see the results on presentation day at Šesta primary school on the edge of town. Girls in traditional dresses with flowers in their hair twirl through a Bosnian folk dance. Seamlessly, the music changes and the children move into an up-tempo Serbian routine. Parents seated on rows of wooden benches clap, cheer and take photographs on smartphones.

"There is no difference between us, we are all the same," says 15-year-old Emira Alić. Her Bosniak parents fled Brčko during the war, only to return a decade ago. In the autumn, Emira will go to a mixed high school. She dreams of becoming a teacher.

Education has not been the only success for Brčko. In its early days the international community, keen to make the free city work, pumped in cash. Brčko was rebuilt. Between 2001 and 2004, more than 200km of roads were built and 8,000 jobs created. Thousands returned to city. Better pay and conditions paved the way for radical reforms in education and policing.

The town’s Arizona market – a haven for drugs, prostitution, guns and counterfeit merchandise during and after the war - was transformed into a licensed, regulated bazaar. While other Bosnian cities struggled, Brčko thrived – going from the most divided city in Bosnia to the most multicultural.

"We were a lighthouse," says Ismet Dedeić of the Bosniak party Union for a Better Bosnia and Herzegovina. "Whoever wanted to return could return without any obstacles." Rather than being Bosniak, Croat or Serb, Brčko residents "saw themselves as citizens of the District", says Dedeić.

However, though Brčko remains one of the most mixed towns in Bosnia, there are increasing signs of division. Self-segregation is rampant. A red, white and blue Serbian flag flies from the bell tower of an orthodox church; at the bus station, a Bosniak fleur-de-lis is spraypainted on a wall. A new multi-ethnic housing scheme at Ilićka, on the outskirts of town, has now become almost entirely Serb, after returning Bosniaks and Croats sold the houses they received. The local assembly was unable to agree on a single, shared war memorial: instead, rival Bosniak and Croat monuments sit within yards of each other near city hall, with a separate sculpture for fallen Serbs beside a nearby hotel.

The ethnic politics that has created gridlock in postwar Bosnia has become the norm in Brčko, too. The assembly recently passed a law making it obligatory for ID cards and driving licences to state whether bearers are citizens of Republika Srpska or the Bosniak and Croat-dominated Federation. The measure, which does not exist anywhere else in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was ostensibly aimed at encouraging the up to 30,000 Brčko residents that are citizens of neither entity to take up citizenship so they can vote.

But with citizenship often a cipher for ethnicity, the move has been interpreted as an attempt to reinforce divisions for political advantage: those with the most to gain from a swath of fresh voters on the electoral roll are the ethnic parties that dominate the assembly. One District civil servant, Mujo Hadžić, is challenging the law in the courts.

Corruption, too, is a particular problem of the free city. Because so many "national" powers are concentrated in a small cadre of people, graft is even worse than in the rest of Bosnia, where it is endemic. "This is a very small community, everyone knows everyone," says police chief Goran Lujić. "That can be a problem."

The future of Brčko is uncertain. The powers of Brčko's international supervisor – who in theory could block laws and introduce new ones – were frozen in 2012, part of a general trend for the international community to have a decreasing role in Bosnia.

Though Brčko was once the most successful of Bosnian cities (it still has a greater municipal budget than others its size), it has not been immune from the economic crisis that has battered the country. Wages are as low as 400 convertible marks (£160) a month. The main government offices are still marked by stains from eggs thrown by angry demonstrators during the protests that swept through the Federation in February. Though the protests had no real ethnic component, any change to Brčko’s unique status could inflame ethnic tensions.

The current supervisor, Tamir Waser, says the free city continues to thrive. "It has broadly been a success story," he says. But Matthew Parish, former chief legal advisor to the Brčko supervisor, disagrees. "The multi-ethnic dream that was Brčko District fell apart more or less from the first elections in 2004," says Parish, author of A Free City in the Balkans. "The veneer of multi-ethnicity is in fact just that."

Fadil Redžić thinks it's not that simple. He spent months in a Serb-run camp for local Bosniaks and Croats at Brčko’s port. Now he is president of the Brčko branch of the Bosnia and Herzegovina association of concentration camp-detainees. "Brčko is Brčko. Things develop differently here," he says, surrounded by grainy colour photographs of the victims of the camp; a museum, part funded by the local assembly, will open at the port next month. "But compared with other cities it is much better. People co-operate here, people spend time together."

Brčko is likely to remain a one-off, but its postwar history can teach us about the viability of "shared" cities in countries riven by ethnic conflict. Back at Šesta primary school, Stefan Tomić, 14, explains that even though Brčko’s classrooms are mixed, pupils are still taught religion and "mother tongue" separately. When Stefan heads off to Serbian lessons, his Bosniak friends go to the library to study Bosnian. "We are a small class. When we are separated, we are even smaller. It’s not fun," he says. "I like it best when we are all together."

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« Reply #13385 on: May 14, 2014, 06:14 AM »

Russia puts international space station on table over Ukraine sanctions

Moscow says it will reject US request to prolong life of ISS beyond 2020 in retaliation for Washington's sanctions

Reuters in Moscow, Tuesday 13 May 2014 19.58 BST   

Russia cast doubt on the long-term future of the international space station, a showcase of post-cold war cooperation, as it retaliated on Tuesday against US sanctions over Ukraine.

The country's deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, said Moscow would reject a US request to prolong the station's use beyond 2020, and ban Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites.

Moscow took the action, which also included suspending the operation of GPS satellite navigation system sites on its territory from June, in response to Washington's plans to deny export licences for hi-tech items that could help the Russian military.

"We are very concerned about continuing to develop hi-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicises everything," Rogozin told a news conference.

Washington wants to keep the international space station in use until at least 2024.

Russia's threat to part ways on a project which was supposed to end the space race underlines how far relations between the former cold war rivals have deteriorated since Russia annexed Crimea in March.

Since the end of the US space shuttle project, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been the only way astronauts can get to the space station, whose crews include both Americans and Russians.

At a time when Moscow is struggling to modernise its space programme, Rogozin said US plans to deny export licences for some hi-tech items were a blow to Russian industry. "These sanctions are out of place and inappropriate," he said. "We have enough of our own problems."

Rogozin said Moscow was planning strategic changes in its space industry after 2020 and aimed to use money and intellectual resources that now go to the space station for a project "with more prospects".

He also suggested Russia could use the station without the US. "The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one. The US one cannot," he said.

Nasa is working with companies to develop space taxis with the goal of restoring US transport to the station by 2017, and in the meantime the US pays Russia more than $60m per person to fly its astronauts to the station.

The upheaval in Ukraine, where Washington says Russia is backing separatists and the Kremlin accuses the US of helping protesters to topple a Moscow-friendly president in February, has led to the worst east-west crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In addition to the hi-tech sector sanctions, the US has imposed visa bans and assets freezes on officials and politicians and targeted companies with links to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. The EU has also imposed sanctions.

The Russian foreign ministry said earlier on Tuesday that the latest EU measures were an "exhausted, trite approach" that would only deepen discord and hamper efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

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« Reply #13386 on: May 14, 2014, 06:16 AM »

Spain's everyday internet warrior who cut free from Google's tentacles

Mario Costeja González says search engine 'is now perfect' as it can police data affecting 'people's honour and dignity'

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid, Tuesday 13 May 2014 18.24 BST   
A Spanish man who has spent the past five years waging a legal battle against Google over the "right to be forgotten" on the internet has applauded a landmark European Court ruling against Google on Tuesday.

"Like anyone would be when you tell them they're right, I'm happy," Mario Costeja González told the Guardian over the phone from the north-western city of A Coruña. "I've been saying to people, if Google was good before, now it's perfect."

The ruling says that Google and other search engines must remove data from past results if requested to do so by a member of the public.

Costeja González's battle began in 2009, when Costeja he discovered that a Google search of his name pulled up legal notices from the late 1990s, and after a fruitless conforntation with the publishing newspaper he eventually found allies at Spain's data protection agency.

Tuesday's ruling has implications for all online search engines, in that it notes that European privacy law allows the public to request that links to private information be removed. The court specified that search engines operating in Europe must find a balance between offering information in the public interest and protecting people's rights to privacy and protection of personal data. When an agreement cannot be reached, the ruling said the matter can be taken to a local judge or regulator.

Complaints will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, an approach that should appease any worries Google might have had about freedom of expression, said Costeja. "They don't have to get rid of everything.

"I was fighting for the elimination of data that adversely affects people's honour, dignity and exposes their private lives. Everything that undermines human beings, that's not freedom of expression."

He framed the ruling as a decisive victory in a long-running battle over an idea. "People ask me how much I spent on this. It did cost me money but at the end all that's important is the fact that ideas won out." He refused to even estimate what he had personally spent on the case, saying that a number would only "dirty what was a fight for ideals".

For his lawyer, Joaquín Muñoz, a key point in Tuesday's ruling was the recognition that search engines are involved in processing data. "When you search for something in Google, they don't scour the entire internet for you and then give you a result. They've stored links, organised them and they show them based on a criteria they've decided upon." This act of processing information confers upon them responsibilities in certain cases, he added.

The ruling would now be used to address the more than 200 cases waiting in Spanish courts, he said, the majority of which involve asking Google to eliminate links. The cases will likely test the limits of this ruling; in one case, a plastic surgeon in Madrid has asked Google to remove a link to a 1991 El País report about a malpractice lawsuit launched against him after an allegedly botched breast surgery.

It's one of the many questions about the ruling to be answered in the days to come, said Muñoz. But on Tuesday he was content to bask in the idea that Abanlex, his tiny law firm based in Madrid, had taken on Google and won. "The resources Google has at their disposal aren't like those of any other citizens."

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« Reply #13387 on: May 14, 2014, 06:20 AM »

French book publishers risk being lost in translation without global reach

France's literary market has great potential, yet big firms remain reluctant to learn the language of international rights trading

Pierre Astier and Laure Pécher   
Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 13 May 2014 14.33 BST    

Six thousand languages are spoken worldwide, but few have a market for books. French is the fifth-largest language pool, coming after Chinese, English, Spanish and Hindi. So there is a sense of responsibility for the transmission of knowledge.

How are the book markets organised in the four post-colonial language pools of English, Spanish, French and Portuguese? How have they evolved since we gained access to the internet, with the increasing circulation of published materials, ideas and people, and deepening cultural and commercial links? Depending on the language, the picture is very different.

The market for books in English is by far the largest, and is driven by vigorous marketing. It leads the pack in terms of professionalism, innovation and its record for initiating long-term trends. The Spanish market, meanwhile, is extremely buoyant due to rising living standards in Latin America and public policies to promote books and reading.

Both markets are huge and dynamic, with high growth. Large international firms operate alongside much smaller companies. These markets were ready for the emergence of a middle class eager to consume books, and western firms started developing their operations early on. They established subsidiaries, trained professionals and encouraged the transfer of skills. The resulting companies now operate independently with their own editorial and commercial policies.

Because of this, British or American publishers such as Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins and Macmillan can be found in India, South Africa and Australia. In Latin America, other publishers have taken root, such as Planeta, Santillana and Random House-Mondadori, recently renamed Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial. The publishing business in Brazil has operated separately from Portugal for some time, though Spanish subsidiaries have launched there recently, working on similar lines.

Such emerging markets have thrived, leading to a boost in the range of books on offer and encouraging the creation of national firms and a host of innovative independent organisations – Seagull Books in India, Sexto Piso in Mexico and Cosac Naify in Brazil are now cited as models. The co-existence of large companies and independent operations has been a force for good, fuelling diversity in the industry.

Moves such as these, outside of historic publishing bases, have proven to be beneficial for all involved, including the writers. The number of authors has increased in all these markets.

Instead of exporting books from Europe, publishing rights are sold in any of the main markets, in Europe, Asia and South America. This has helped to create a more developed rights market, that's international, decentralised and professional. As a result, it's now commonly accepted that dynamic markets for rights and books go hand in hand.

Here again the English-speaking world has prospered. A network of literary agents and sub-agents developed decades ago, covering the globe. The Hispanic world followed suit. The French market, which has long been professional and creative, is still largely centred on Paris. Yet, according to forecasts of population growth, its language pool will comprise some 700 million French-speakers by the middle of the century. Demand is set to rocket, but it appears increasingly that the supply side cannot keep pace.

French publishers seem to have assumed that the market in the French-speaking world would never develop, so they've done little to explore its potential. The trade has remained compartmentalised, in keeping with "old world" practices. Large French firms have gone on exporting books, and have done little to transfer their know-how. None of the top French publishers – among them Gallimard, Grasset, Le Seuil and Albin Michel – is represented in the French-speaking world by an independent editorial body. There are, of course, exceptions. They include Hachette Antoine in Lebanon, Bayard Jeunesse Canada and Flammarion Québec.

So books, it would seem, travel in one direction: from France to Switzerland, Belgium and Canada; from France, the former colonial power, to its ex-dependencies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. Even more worrying, the big names in French literature have been sucked into the centre. Paris imports talent and exports books, but neither trade names nor rights. Why has a firm like Hachette not started subsidiaries in South America, India, China or Russia? It has precious few even in French-speaking countries. Hachette Livre International has offices in Africa, but mainly for distribution. When Gallimard launched a publishing house in the Canadian province of Quebec earlier this year, it gave it another name, as if the big Parisian names were reserved for the homeland.

The picture regarding writers is no better. An author published by one big firm in Paris cannot work with anyone else. It is still difficult to sell French-language publishing rights inside the French-speaking world. So for books by French writers from Switzerland, Belgium, Quebec, sub-Saharan and northern Africa, the West Indies, the Middle East or the Indian Ocean to be sold in other French-speaking countries, they must go via Paris. Which means that when they are available in a writer's own country, if it's in the developing world, it will only be in a library because retail prices bear no relation to living standards. Meanwhile equally talented but less well-known writers may be published at home, but have to make do with the local market.

Amazing things have, nevertheless, been achieved by small, independent publishers who have developed and now exist in their own right, with no help from Paris. These include: Elyzad and Ceres in Tunisia; Barzakh and Chihab in Algeria; Editions d'En Bas and Bernard Campiche in Switzerland; Ecosociété, Lux Éditeur and XYZ in Canada; Jeunes Malgaches in Madagascar; Luce Wilquin and Maelstrom in Belgium; Le Fennec and Tarik in Morocco; Dar Al-Farabi in Lebanon; Donniya and Jamana in Mali; Presses Universitaires d'Afrique and Ifrikya in Cameroon; Nouvelles Editions Africaines in Senegal; and Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes in Ivory Coast.

French media tend to ignore such efforts. French book prizes largely disregard them too, though Switzerland's Editions Zoe has had several titles shortlisted in recent years.

Such indifference passes without comment, which is alarming for a cultural vector as important as the written word. Short-sightedness on the part of publishers is equally worrying.

What might be the long-term consequences of the French failure to engage with a huge market, which could well slip from their grasp? In the absence of a properly organised book market, many countries may well switch to an all-digital market entirely controlled by the giants of the internet age. African and West Indian writers, who often live in the US or Canada rather than France, are trying to find literary agents in South Africa, Spain or the US to manage their rights. The big names in French publishing may find themselves sidelined in a market that has learned how to do without them.

So much needs to be done – the world over but particularly in the French-speaking world – to improve the terms of trade, establish fair, mutually acceptable commercial ties, build up skills at all levels, and learn how to work together. The market for books in French has great potential.

We urgently need to cast off outdated attitudes. Is the French market so concerned about its centre that it cannot to see what the future holds?

This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde


Crisis at French Daily Le Monde as Head Editor Resigns

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 14:01

France's prestigious daily Le Monde plunged further into crisis Wednesday with the resignation of its managing editor who is faced with a newsroom rebellion over the paper's digital strategy.

The resignation of Natalie Nougayrede comes after most of the paper's chief editors stepped down last week, angry at top management's lack of communication as the paper struggles to chart its way into the digital era.

In a letter to announce her decision, Nougayrede said she no longer had the authority to do her job with the "peace of mind and serenity" necessary.

"I cannot accept being undermined as head of the paper," she said. On Friday, her two deputies, also under accusation by a large part of the newsroom, stepped down as well.

Le Monde, a center-left daily founded in 1944, is France's newspaper of record and played a prominent role in the coverage of the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The editors' gripes centered on Nougayrede whom staff said was "very difficult to talk to", according to a source who spoke to AFP.

Nougayrede, a veteran reporter for the paper, took up her post in March last year, succeeding the highly respected Erik Izraelewicz who died suddenly of a heart attack in his office in November 2012

The crisis at the daily comes as the press in France -- as in many other Western countries -- suffers as the Internet eats into readership and advertising.

With a circulation of over 330,000 last year, Le Monde slightly trails behind its rival Le Figaro daily.

Like many newspapers around the world, the daily has been expanding its digital offering in a bid to keep its head afloat, but the internal source said management was not competent in this area.

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« Reply #13388 on: May 14, 2014, 06:22 AM »

Iran Nuclear Talks Enter Sensitive New Phase

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 13:43

Diplomatic efforts by Iran and world powers towards a potentially historic nuclear deal entered uncharted territory Wednesday with a new round of talks in Vienna.

After three meetings that Washington says have enabled both sides to "understand each other's positions", the negotiators aim this time to start drafting the actual text of an accord.

Success could resolve one of the most intractable geopolitical problems of the 21st century, but failure might plunge the Middle East into conflict and start a regional nuclear arms race.

"If the odds of the talks collapsing are high, the stakes of failure are higher," Ali Vaez, Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, told AFP. "Time is of the essence."

"We are now hoping to enter a new phase in the negotiations in which we will start pulling together what the outline of an agreement could be," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the powers' chief negotiator.

"All sides are highly committed and ready for intensive discussions," he told reporters, saying the discussions, expected to last until Friday, would be "of course very difficult and complicated".

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany want Iran to take steps to assure the international community that it is not about to build a nuclear bomb.

In return the Islamic republic, which says its nuclear activities are purely peaceful, wants the lifting of all U.N. and Western sanctions, which have hit its economy hard.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, installed by bridge-building new President Hassan Rouhani last year, said after the last round in early April that there was agreement on "50-60 percent" of issues.

But with both sides sticking to the mantra that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" – U.S. official liken the process to a "Rubik's Cube" -- this is not enough.

Arriving in Vienna Tuesday, both Iran and the United States sought to dampen expectations that a deal was within easy reach, with Zarif saying a "lot of effort" was still required.

A senior U.S. official said the talks would be "very, very difficult" and that there were still "significant gaps", warning that optimism in some quarters has "gotten way out of control".

"We do not know if Iran will be able to make the tough decisions they must to assure the world that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that their program is for entirely peaceful purposes," the official said.

The parties aim to build on an interim deal from November under which Iran froze certain activities for six months and converted some material in return for minor sanctions relief.

This expires on July 20.

One major issue, the Arak reactor, appears to have been resolved, with Iran indicating the design could be modified to ease concerns that it could produce weapons-grade plutonium.

But others, most notably uranium enrichment and the sequence of sanctions relief "could be harder to bridge," Kelsey Davenport from the Arms Control Association told AFP.

Iran already has enough of low-enriched material for several bombs if it decided to "break out" and use its 20,000 so-called centrifuges to enrich this stockpile to weapons-grade.

The powers may therefore want Iran to slash the number of centrifuges, or to cap output per machine, but this may be a hard sell to hardliners in Iran.

Other tricky issues include Iran's development of new centrifuges that it claims can enrich many times faster than the current models, and tougher inspections by the U.N. atomic watchdog.

Also of concern are Iran's ballistic missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads -- it denies wanting atomic weapons -- and its answers to questions about past alleged "military dimensions" to its nuclear work.

"Iran continues to deceive the world and advance its nuclear program," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose country is widely believed to have nuclear weapons itself, said late Tuesday in Japan.

"Clearly the Ayatollahs cannot be trusted," he added, saying that "rogue state" Iran was passing nuclear technology to North Korea.


Iran Probing Evin Prison Abuse Claims

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 14:53

Iran is investigating claims that guards at Evin Prison beat inmates during a routine inspection last month, one of the country's vice presidents said Wednesday.

The April 17 incident inside the jail's Section 350, which holds political prisoners, prompted relatives of inmates to protest outside the presidency.

It also triggered reports from international rights monitors that abuses were committed by staff at the notorious prison in north Tehran.

Vice President Mohammad Baqer Nobakht announced a government inquiry was under way.

"The justice and intelligence ministries will prepare a report about the incident at Evin," he told ISNA news agency.

"We are waiting to receive that report and people will be informed about it."

According to opposition websites, several Section 350 inmates were beaten after scuffles broke out at a cell block, with some of them seriously hurt and taken to hospital.

Iranian officials dismissed the accounts as inaccurate and said it was the prisoners who resisted an inspection and started a fight with the guards.

Amnesty International reported last month that 100 guards dressed in riot gear had entered Section 350, purportedly to conduct a search.

According to the rights monitor, at least four badly injured prisoners were transferred to an outside hospital, while another 26 inmates were hurt.

But Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi denied wrongdoing at the jail and said "only one or two prisoners suffered minor injuries" after inmates resisted the search.


Iran Women Flout Dress Code in Facebook Campaign

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 May 2014, 18:40

Thousands of Iranian women have come together in an online campaign for greater social freedoms, posting pictures of themselves flouting the Islamic dress code required of all women in public.

More than 146,000 people have supported the Facebook page "Stealthy Freedoms of Women in Iran," which was created just 10 days ago with the aim of sparking debate on whether women should have the right to choose to wear the hijab.

It has yet to provoke an official response from the Iranian authorities, who fear people are letting Islamic values slip as they turn towards a more Western lifestyle.

The hijab, which is obligatory in Iran, requires women to cover their hair and much of their body in loose clothing in public. It has become a defining feature of Iran's interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law, since the 1979 revolution.

More than one hundred photos have already been posted on the page, with young women posing bare-headed in the countryside, suburbs, by the sea and even in cities.

"This is me committing a crime," wrote a girl who posted an image of herself sitting in the middle of a secluded road in Nour Forest in northern Iran, with her headscarf resting on her shoulder. "Covertly, but in absolute peace," her caption said.

Another photo shows a grandmother, a mother and her daughter together on a pavement.

"In one frame, three generations secure freedom at a corner of this street," read the caption.

"Here's hoping the day comes when the next generation can exercise its most basic right, before their hair goes grey."

For more than a decade, the issue of the hijab has been hotly contested between hardline authorities and ordinary women pushing its boundaries.

A dedicated morality police has long handed out fines, verbal notices or even arrests to women it considers are not observing the hijab rules properly.

The unit has reportedly been ordered to exercise more restraint since President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate, took office in August promising greater social freedoms.

But regime hardliners are opposed to any relaxing of the rules.

Last week, thousands of religious conservatives held an unauthorized protest in Tehran, urging the government to confront what they say is the increasing flouting of the Islamic dress code.

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« Reply #13389 on: May 14, 2014, 06:23 AM »

Afghan Election Results Delayed over Fraud Probe

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 12:48

Afghanistan's presidential election result was delayed on Wednesday as authorities said they had not completed fraud investigations into the first round of voting to find a successor to Hamid Karzai.

Full results from the April 5 election were released late last month, but the final declaration will factor in the outcome of weeks of deliberation over fraud allegations.

"The final result has been delayed for an unknown number of days," Independent Election Commission (IEC) spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP.

"We still have not received the ECC (Election Complaints Commission) decisions and findings. We hope we receive them as soon as possible."

In the preliminary results, none of the eight candidates appeared to have gained more than 50 percent of the vote, pointing to a second round run-off between the two top names as Afghanistan undergoes its first democratic transfer of power.

The head-to-head contest would pit former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who took 44.9 percent of the first-round vote, against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, on 31.5 percent.

Karzai, who has ruled since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, is constitutionally barred from a third term in office, and the next president will lead Afghanistan into a new era as U.S.-led combat troops withdraw by the end of the year.

Abdullah said on Wednesday that his campaign had evidence of fraudulent voting that could have a "significant impact on final results".

The ECC said it would deliver its report to the IEC on Wednesday.

"We finished our work last night and it is being sent to the IEC today," ECC spokesman Nader Mohseni told the Tolo News TV channel.

Election officials have penciled in June 14 for the run-off.

On Sunday, Abdullah received a major boost with the endorsement of third-placed Zalmai Rassoul, a close ally of President Karzai, who has stayed publicly neutral in the election.

Another costly, and potentially violent, election could be avoided by deal-making in the coming weeks -- and Rassoul's support for Abdullah increased pressure on Ghani to concede.

The United Nations' mission has welcomed Afghanistan's conduct of the vote but warned officials that they must address all fraud allegations openly.

The 2009 election, when Karzai retained power after defeating Abdullah, was marred by ballot-box stuffing in a chaotic process that shook the multinational effort to develop the country after the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime.

The first-round election last month was hailed as a success, with turnout far better than in 2009 and the Taliban failing to launch a major attack despite threats to disrupt the vote.

A run-off vote in June -- at the height of the Taliban's traditional "fighting season" -- is likely to prove more difficult for Afghanistan's stretched security forces.

Abdullah's support is strongest in Tajik and Hazara ethnic areas due to his role as a close advisor to the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, a celebrated Tajik leader who fought the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule.

Ghani, a Pashtun who spent many years studying and teaching in the United States, has repeatedly said he will fight on despite falling far behind Abdullah in the first round.

Both candidates have pledged to explore peace talks with the Taliban and sign a deal with Washington that could allow up to 10,000 U.S. troops to stay on after this year on a training and counter-terrorism mission.

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« Reply #13390 on: May 14, 2014, 06:29 AM »

Modi Eyes Decisive Majority after Indian Exit Polls

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 May 2014, 21:24

India's triumphant right-wing opposition said Tuesday it was headed for a decisive majority in the world's biggest election after exit polls showed its hardline leader Narendra Modi closing in on victory.

Stock markets surged to record highs on hopes of a business-friendly government under Modi after a decade of rule by a left-leaning coalition, while U.S. President Barack Obama said he looked forward to working with the new administration in New Delhi.

"Modi at Delhi Gate" said a headline in the Mail Today, while the Hindustan Times read simply "Exit Polls: Enter Modi" after surveys released after voting ended Monday pointed to a big win.

All forecasts showed Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies trouncing the Congress party which has been in power for a decade, and most indicated they would seal a narrow majority.

Official results are due on Friday, with some still cautioning against over-confidence in a BJP victory given notorious forecasting errors at the last two general elections.

Modi was keeping a low profile, but senior BJP figures were bullish.

"These elections have been fought on a hope that the country will get a good, stable government," V. K. Singh, a former army chief of staff who is now a senior BJP leader, told reporters at party headquarters.

"My personal view is that we will get around 300 seats" of the 543 seats in parliament, said Modi's chief lieutenant Amit Shah.

The BJP is open to working with any other party that wants "to work for the nation," Shah told the Headlines Today network.

A new exit poll by Times Now channel late Tuesday forecast the BJP and allies would reach 292 seats, comfortably crossing the threshold of 272 needed to form a majority coalition.

The Congress party put on a brave face, calling pollsters "doomsayers."

Reacting to the end of five weeks of voting that saw a record turnout of 551 million people, U.S. President Barack Obama said India had "set an example for the world."

He said Washington looked forward "to working closely with India's next administration to make the coming years equally transformative."

Modi's election would present a headache for the U.S., which refused to deal with him for years in the aftermath of religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002 shortly after he became its chief minister.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the violence, which critics say Modi did little to stop, even though a court-appointed investigation team cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Washington only ended its boycott of Modi in February when Nancy Powell, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to India, met him for talks in Gujarat.

European countries also refused to deal with him for years in the wake of the 2002 riots, for which Modi has refused to apologize.

Foreign and domestic investors have few misgivings about his past, however, and appeared in no mood to heed the warnings about unreliable pollsters.

"The expectation is (the BJP alliance) will get to form the government comfortably and even if they need more allies they will not present a stumbling block for reforms," Harendra Kumar, head of Mumbai-based brokerage Elara capital, told Agence France Presse.

The benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange index, known as the Sensex, hit a new record high and has now gained around 22 percent since the BJP chose Modi as its prime ministerial candidate in September.

New data on Monday showed industrial production shrank in March for the fifth time in sixth months, underlining the scale of the challenge for the next government in reviving growth.

Modi has largely steered clear of Hindu nationalist rhetoric on the campaign trail, promising to focus on development by rolling out the red carpet to companies and restore badly battered business confidence.

While a victory by the BJP was expected, the predicted scale of defeat for Congress was still striking, with exit polls showing support for the party, which has ruled India for most of the post-independence era, at an historic low.

Party leaders insisted Friday's results would surprise the pollsters and hand the Congress-led alliance a third term in power.

They have begun rallying around Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who led his first national election campaign -- widely panned as lacklustre and uninspiring.

Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul's mother, as well as local Congress leaders had fought the election together and shared responsibility for the outcome.

"It is all collective," he said.

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« Reply #13391 on: May 14, 2014, 06:33 AM »

Vietnam Shaken by Worst Anti-China Unrest in Decades

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 08:21

Anti-China protesters have set more than a dozen factories on fire in Vietnam in the biggest eruption of rage against Beijing for decades over the deployment of an oil rig in contested waters.

China expressed "serious concerns" after Vietnamese workers went on the rampage Tuesday, looting goods and attacking offices in a rare outburst of public unrest in the authoritarian communist nation.

Riot police were deployed after violence in the southern province of Binh Duong forced several factories to temporarily suspend operations, including a supplier for Nike and Adidas.

Taiwanese and South Korean plants were affected along with Chinese factories.

"Huge fires have engulfed many of the Taiwanese plants. It would be impossible to estimate the losses. The attacks were totally unexpected," a Taiwanese man who fled the unrest told reporters at an airport in northern Taiwan.

Police said they had detained 500 people for looting and arson, as the authorities struggled to cool tensions that have boiled over since Vietnam's communist rulers -- who usually tightly control dissent -- allowed mass rallies against Beijing at the weekend.

The riots show the "hazards of nationalist fervor unleashed, particularly in repressive institutional environments such as Vietnam," said Professor Jonathan London at City University of Hong Kong.

Nearly 20,000 workers poured onto the streets Tuesday and a hardcore began looting and attacking security guards and factory management before setting fire to at least 15 factories, local authorities said in a statement.

There was a "massive mobilization" of local forces, with riot police brought in as reinforcements, the Binh Duong People's Committee said.

Videos and images posted on dissident blogs showed thousands of workers -- many waving the Vietnamese flag -- destroying factory gates, smashing windows and damaging offices.

Export-orientated manufacturing is a key pillar of Vietnam's economy, with high-profile firms -- from electronics giants such as South Korea's Samsung to U.S. sportswear companies -- producing goods there.

China made "solemn representations" and asked Vietnam to take all necessary steps to stop and punish the crimes, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.

A number of Taiwanese, Japanese and South Korean businesses have reportedly temporarily shut their plants and sent workers home, hanging Vietnamese flags outside their business in a bid to deter looters.

"We made the decision to give our people a day off today as the situation is pretty tense in Vietnam right now," said Jerry Shum of Taiwanese footwear manufacturer Yue Yuen, which is a supplier to brands such as Nike and Adidas and employs around 100,000 people in Vietnam.

Taiwan condemned the violence and said it had called on Vietnam to guarantee the safety of its nationals.

"We urge the Vietnamese people to exercise restraint and not to take violent and non-rational actions as this would affect Taiwanese businessmen's willingness to invest," Foreign Minister David Lin said.

Singapore, Vietnam's second-largest foreign investor after Japan, called on Hanoi to take urgent action before "the security situation worsens and investor confidence is undermined".

The riots were the worst anti-China unrest since reunification in 1975, according to Vietnam expert Carl Thayer, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

There could be an element of "latent economic grievances" surfacing in the attacks on factories, he said.

The authoritarian government will crack down hard on the violence as it is concerned that it could "mushroom into protests against corruption, jailing of bloggers, human rights and religious freedom," Thayer added.

China and Vietnam are locked in long-standing territorial disputes in the South China Sea over the Paracel and Spratly islands, which both claim.

There have been repeated skirmishes near the controversial oil drilling rig in recent days involving vessels from the two countries, with collisions and the use of water cannon.

Beijing said Vietnamese ships rammed its vessels 169 times on Tuesday. Hanoi has also accused Chinese ships of ramming its vessels.

Southeast Asian leaders voiced "serious concern" over the worsening sea tensions at a summit on Sunday in Myanmar, after Vietnam and the Philippines led a successful push to put Beijing's territorial assertions high on the agenda.

The Philippines warned on Wednesday that China may be building an airstrip on a reef in the South China Sea as the Asian superpower asserts its claim to most of the strategic area.

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« Reply #13392 on: May 14, 2014, 06:35 AM »

China May Be Building Airstrip at Disputed Reef

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 13:12

The Philippines warned on Wednesday that China may be building an airstrip on a reef in the South China Sea, boosting the superpower's claim to most of the strategic Asian waters.

Filipino surveillance aircraft have been monitoring large-scale reclamation and earth-moving activity on Chinese-held Johnson South Reef since January, the defense department said.

Asked if China was building an airstrip on the reef, also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said: "That's one possibility".

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, would not confirm the Philippine claim, but asserted the outcrop was Chinese territory.

"Whatever construction China carries out on the reef is a matter entirely within the scope of China's sovereignty. I don't know what particular intentions the Philippines has in caring so much about this," she said at a regular press briefing Wednesday.

Last week, the Chinese press downplayed the activity at the reef, saying it was merely to renovate the living facilities for troops stationed there.

"We can confirm that there is ongoing reclamation or earth-moving activities in that portion," Filipino defense department spokesman Peter Galvez told reporters Wednesday.

"It has been getting bigger and bigger."

Del Rosario told reporters the Philippines had filed a diplomatic protest against China's reclamation works on the reef last month, but Beijing rejected it on grounds the reef is part of Chinese territory.

The Philippines calls the outcrop the Mabini Reef, while China calls it Chigua Reef. Internationally, it is recognized as the Johnson South Reef.

It is part of the Spratly chain, and is located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) west of the large western Philippine island of Palawan.

China seized the reef and other outcrops from Vietnam in a deadly 1988 skirmish.

It is not the first time the Philippines has made allegations against China over construction at disputed outcrops in the sea.

In September last year, Manila accused Beijing of laying concrete blocks on disputed Scarborough Shoal that it said could be a "prelude to construction".

However, in an embarrassing about-face, Manila dropped the allegations weeks later after concluding that the concrete blocks were previously-existing structures.

The Philippines said China took effective control of the shoal in 2012, stationing patrol vessels and shooing away Filipino fishermen, after a stand-off with the Philippine Navy.

Beijing's claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, which straddles vital sea lanes and is believed to sit on vast oil and gas reserves, has strained its ties with neighbors.

Earlier this month, Vietnam accused China of ramming its ships in an encounter near another part of the sea where Beijing had deployed a deep-sea oil rig.

Those actions were described as "provocative" by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The Philippines in March filed a formal plea to the United Nations challenging Beijing's alleged territorial claims to about 70 percent of the South China Sea, in defiance of Chinese warnings that it would seriously damage their already-frayed relations.

Manila contends that, under international law, it has exclusive rights to exploit the resources of waters and outcrops within its "exclusive economic zone", defined as those within 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) of its coast.

Beijing has rejected U.N. arbitration and urged Manila to settle the dispute through bilateral talks instead.

The Chinese claims to the sea also overlap those of Taiwan as well as Brunei and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Philippines said Wednesday two of the 11 Chinese fishermen arrested last week by Filipino police in another area of the Spratlys were flown to Guangzhou late Tuesday.

Manila filed charges against their nine colleagues for poaching and collecting protected species, but freed the two because they are minors.


China cracks down on dissent ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

Lawyers, activists and intellectuals detained as authorities attempt to silence opposition on 25th anniversary of massacre

Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing, Tuesday 13 May 2014 16.50 BST      

China has jailed scores of lawyers, activists and intellectuals weeks before the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, underscoring Beijing's resolve to wipe the event from the country's collective memory.

Authorities in southern China's Guangdong province have detained five activists – Xie Wenfei, Luo Xiangyang, Wu Bin, Yang Chonghe, and Zhang Wanhe – for expressing solidarity with a sixth, Li Weiguo, as he stood trial for seeking legal permission to hold a Tiananmen-related demonstration. All have been charged with disorderly behaviour, the rights website Weiquan Wang reported on Monday.

Police in the eastern city of Hangzhou have detained Xu Guang, a 45-year-old activist, for planning a hunger strike to commemorate the killings Lu Gengsong, an author, was also held for criticising Beijing's human rights record in an online essay.

Last Wednesday, Beijing police detained Chen Guang, 43, a Beijing-based artist, soon after he privately staged a work of abstract performance art to commemorate the crackdown. Chen, a People's Liberation Army soldier at the time, was dispatched to quell the protests and much of his work draws from the experience.

China forbids open discussion of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on 4 June 1989, in which soldiers opened fire on crowds of unarmed pro-democracy protesters, killing hundreds. Authorities strictly censor mentions of the event online. An official death count has never been released.

"The breadth and scope of the crackdown is worrying, and definitely an increase from previous years," said William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher at Amnesty International. "Clearly, the government is worried that it being the 25th anniversary this year, there's a heightened sense of significance."

In the early hours of 6 May, Beijing police detained Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer who helped organise the 1989 demonstration; three days prior, he had participated in a private panel discussion commemorating the massacre. Authorities accuse Pu – who has represented scores of high-profile clients, including dissident artist Ai Weiwei – of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles". About 15 people attended the event, five of whom were detained: Pu, freelance writer Liu Di, social scientist Xu Youyu, pro-democracy activist Hu Shigen, and Beijing Film Academy professor Hao Jian.

Police threatened the remaining attendees with criminal detention if they spoke to foreign media, went online, "or ever did anything similar again", according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The state-run Global Times newspaper blamed Pu and other civil rights lawyers for supporting and joining illegal activities and harbouring "wild intentions to challenge and change the law".

Chinese law allows police to hold suspects in criminal detention for up to 30 days before the case must be dropped or handed to prosecutors.

The detentions appear to be part of a broader crackdown on free speech and dissent, as Beijing seeks to tighten its control over the internet.

On 3 May, authorities arrested Xiang Nanfu, a retired Beijing resident, for "damaging the nation's image" by posting what they claimed were false stories on Boxun, a US-based Chinese-language news aggregator. State television broadcast Xiang's admission of guilt, saying that Xiang fabricated information including a claim that the Chinese government "harvested organs from living humans and buried people alive", the state newswire Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

Last week, Beijing police confirmed the late-April arrest of 70-year-old journalist Gao Yu on suspicion of leaking state secrets. Gao was imprisoned in 1993 on the same charge for her writings during the 1989 demonstrations.

Gao appeared late last week on the state broadcaster CCTV wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. "I think what I did touched on the law and endangered the interests of the nation. What I have done was very wrong," she said in a televised interview. "I have sincerely learned my lesson."

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« Reply #13393 on: May 14, 2014, 06:37 AM »

Nigeria willing to talk to Boko Haram to free kidnapped schoolgirls

International rescue effort intensifies with Canada joining US, UK, France and Israel in offering help to find missing girls

Harriet Sherwood, Wednesday 14 May 2014 11.16 BST

The Nigerian government has signalled it is ready to negotiate with the Islamist militants who are holding more than 200 schoolgirls captive, as international assistance to the search and rescue efforts intensifies.

Canada is the latest country to disclose that it has sent special forces to Nigeria, joining teams from the US, UK, France and Israel.

The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, said his country's forces would not engage in combat but were "to provide liaison and to assist Nigerian authorities in their search".

Britain has offered surveillance aircraft and a military team, David Cameron told parliament on Wednesday. The prime minister said: "Today I can announce we have offered Nigeria further assistance in terms of surveillance aircraft, a military team to embed with the Nigerian army in their HQ, and a team to work with US experts to analyse information on the girls' location."

The abduction of the girls was, Cameron said, "an act of pure evil", adding: "The world is coming together not just to condemn it but to do everything we can to help the Nigerians find these young girls."

British Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds will meet officials in Abuja on Wednesday to discuss further assistance. A UK team of military advisers and family liaison officers, led by Brigadier Ivan Jones, has been in Nigeria since Friday.

In Abuja, the special duties minister, Taminu Turaki, said the government was open to talks with Boko Haram, the Islamist group that abducted the girls a month ago from their school in Chibok, in the north-east of the country.

"Nigeria has always been willing to dialogue with the insurgents," he told AFP. "We are willing to carry that dialogue on any issue, including girls kidnapped in Chibok."

A group of about 130 of the kidnapped girls appeared on a video released this week by Boko Haram, After a special viewing for parents, all the girls were confirmed as students of the Government Girls secondary school in Chibok. Although most of the abducted girls are Christian, all were wearing Muslim dress and two were singled out to say they had converted to Islam.

The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls could be released in exchange for jailed militants. "I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured," he said in the video.

Amid fears that the girls have been forced into sex slavery or will be trafficked to other countries, international assistance to the Nigerian government is mounting.

The US has launched airborne surveillance missions over the Sambisa forest, where the girls are believed to be being held. It is likely that the US and UK are offering the Nigerians sophisticated surveillance and eavesdropping technology as well as satellite imagery.

France is to host a summit on Saturday with representatives from several African countries, including Nigeria, to discuss ways of dealing with the threat from Boko Haram.

Israeli experts are thought to be in Nigeria following last weekend's offer of help by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to President Goodluck Jonathan. A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to give further details.

China has also offered assistance. Colonel Ku Hang Li, the Chinese defence attache to Nigeria, said the government would do everything in its power but declined to give details of its security intervention.

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« Reply #13394 on: May 14, 2014, 06:40 AM »

Obama Imposes Sanctions on Former CAR Leaders

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 May 2014, 06:38

U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday imposed sanctions against the former Central African Republic leaders Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia and three other officials, the White House said.

The move comes on the heels of U.N. sanctions announced Friday by the Security Council -- against three of the same five men.

The sanctions aim to send "a powerful message that impunity will not be tolerated, and that those who threaten the stability of the CAR will face consequences," the White House said in a statement.

In addition to Bozize and Djotodia, Obama's order targets the leader of the anti-Balaka militia, Levy Yakete; the Seleka militia's number two Nourredine Adam; and Abdoulaye Miskine, also of the Seleka. All five see any assets in the U.S. frozen.

The Security Council sanctions targeted Bozize, Yakete and Adam.

Obama has also put in place a framework for potentially wider sanctions, calling the situation in the Central African Republic a "threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States," in a letter to Congress about the measures.

"The United States continues to work with the international community, regional partners, and CAR’s transitional authorities to help set the country on a path toward recovery," the White House statement said. .

"We strongly support the African Union, French, and European Union forces who have been working to reestablish security for the people of the CAR, and the U.N. peacekeepers who will continue their heroic work," it added.

"We urge all parties to end the violence, to ensure justice and accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses," it said

"We stand with the courageous individuals who continue to call for peace and reconciliation."

Deeply impoverished Central Africa has been gripped by crisis since the mainly Muslim rebels of the Seleka alliance seized power from Bozize in a March 2013 coup led by Michel Djotodia.

Splinter groups of Seleka rebels went rogue, embarking on a campaign of killing, raping and looting.

Bozize "provided material and financial support to (anti-Balaka and former army officers) militiamen who are working to destabilize the ongoing transition and bring him back to power," the U.N. Sanctions Committee said Friday.

"Forces loyal to Bozize have become involved in reprisal attacks against CAR's Muslim population," it added.

Yakete was accused of having ordered the arrest of people with ties to the Seleka and of having organized the distribution of machetes to young, unemployed Christians to attack Muslims.

Adam, who headed the intelligence services under the new regime, was accused of arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions.

Some 5,000 troops in the African MISCA force along with 2,000 French soldiers under a U.N. mandate have been deployed for months to help restore order and security in the country.

A small European Union force has also been operational since the end of April; it will number some 800 in June.

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