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« Reply #19485 on: Today at 06:46 AM »

Turkish Man Jailed for Erdogan Assassination Attempt

by Naharnet Newsdesk 17 April 2015, 18:52

A Turkish man was sentenced Friday to almost twelve years in jail for attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he was still prime minister, state media said.

An Istanbul court convicted Ferhat Yildiz of "attempting to kill a public servant" and sentenced him to 11 years and eight months in prison, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Yildiz was found guilty of attempting to assassinate Erdogan during a an event he attended in the Sultanbeyli district on the European side of the city on May 2014.

Citing the indictment, Turkish media said that Yildiz had bought a gun before the event, which he followed via social media for days.

On the day of the incident, the suspect reportedly approached within three meters (10 feet) of Erdogan and pulled the trigger, but the gun failed to fire.

Erdogan's guards subdued him before he could make a second attempt, the indictment said.

Yildiz told the court that he had staged the attack as "an act of protest" and had no intention of killing Erdogan.

"I set off after his motorcade passed by. It was impossible for me to shoot the prime minister from where I stood. I deeply regret what I did even if it was just a protest," he was quoted as saying by Anatolia.

Very few details had circulated about the incident at the time.

At Friday's hearing, judges initially sentenced Yildiz to life in prison, but reduced the sentence because the attempt had failed.

Prosecutors had demanded up to 26 years for him on charges of "planned murder", "insult" and "possession of an unlicensed firearm."

The indictment said Yildiz had insulted Erdogan and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials in a series of social media postings before committing the offense.

Opponents accuse Erdogan of increasing megalomania, and the authorities of setting up a cult of personality around the man who has ruled Turkey either as president or prime minister since 2003.

His personal doctor said in March that every meal prepared for Erdogan is rigorously tested both at home and abroad for fear of a possible assassination bid.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19486 on: Today at 06:47 AM »

Iran Vows Nuclear Enrichment 'without Limits' unless Sanctions End

by Naharnet Newsdesk 17 April 2015, 22:40

Iran is ready to resume nuclear enrichment "without any limitations" unless sanctions are totally and immediately removed at the end of negotiations, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Friday.

Speaking to TV channel Euronews in Lisbon, Zarif said: "We can have the path of confrontation or we can have the path of co-operation, we cannot have a little bit of each."

"If we take the path of confrontation, the U.S. and the U.N. will continue with their sanctions, and Iran will continue with its enrichment program. Without any limitations," Zarif said.

"Unfortunately the United States started... using the phrase 'phased sanctions',"  Zarif added.

"If you go through the joint statement you will not even see the word 'suspension' and you will not see the word 'phase'. It's clear that all sanctions, all economic and financial sanctions will be terminated."

Global powers reached a framework agreement for a nuclear deal with Iran on April 2.

They must now resolve a series of technical issues by a June 30 deadline for a final deal, including the steps for lifting sanctions on Iran, and remaining questions over the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.

Zarif told Euronews that there were discrepancies between the framework agreement and the "fact-sheet" released by the United States to explain what had been decided.

"On the day that we agree we will go to the Security Council and the Security Council will adopt a resolution which will terminate all the previous resolutions and will set the stage for termination of all sanctions. This is very clear, there won't be phased, there won't be suspensions, it is very clear in the agreement that we announced." he told Euronews.

He said negotiations were at times difficult because Western powers had "come to believe that sanctions were an asset, were something that they should not relinquish so easily".

"Now we start the difficult part, the difficult path of negotiating and writing the final agreement," said Zarif.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19487 on: Today at 06:48 AM »

Five Abducted Shiites Beheaded in Afghanistan

by Naharnet Newsdesk 17 April 2015, 22:53

Militants have beheaded five Shiites who were recently abducted in southeastern Afghanistan, officials said Friday, highlighting a growing pattern of insurgent assaults on ethnic minorities.

The ethnic Hazaras were kidnapped on Wednesday in the restive province of Ghazni after they traveled out of their home district to shop for cattle.

"Their bodies were found today afternoon in Malistan district. All five were beheaded," district governor Ramin Ali Hedayat told AFP, claiming that insurgents linked to the Islamic State group were behind the killings.

But Ghazni's deputy governor laid blame on the Taliban, saying the group that has been waging a 13-year war against U.S. and Afghan forces were seeking the release of their fighters held by the government.

"Their demands were not met so they beheaded the Hazaras," Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told AFP without offering any more details.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the beheadings, which come after the high-profile abduction of 31 Hazaras in southern Afghanistan in February, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

Those kidnappings triggered speculation that the men had been seized by Afghan insurgents who have pledged allegiance to IS.

The Taliban have seen defections to IS in recent months, with some insurgents voicing their disaffection with their one-eyed supreme leader Mullah Omar, who has not been seen since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has also raised the ominous prospect of IS making inroads into the country, though the group that has captured swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq has never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19488 on: Today at 06:50 AM »

India's Powerful Farming Lobby Turns on Modi

by Naharnet Newsdesk 18 April 2015, 09:13

Farmer Tarachand Mathur was one of millions of Indians who voted Narendra Modi into power last year, but the government's push to make it easier for big business to forcibly acquire land means he won't be backing the premier again.

Mathur, 64, believes Modi has turned his back on the plight of farmers, many of whom have seen their crops devastated by unseasonal rains since the start of this year.

"I am on the brink of ruin," he said, close to tears, as he tended the wheat growing on his smallholding in Kanjhawala village around 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of New Delhi.

"The rain gods don't hear us and Modi has also turned deaf to our cries."

India's poor but powerful farming lobby flocked to Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the general election last May, when the Hindu nationalist premier won the biggest mandate in 30 years.

But anger in rural areas has been mounting over his government's bid to overhaul land purchasing laws, compounding woes over extensive damage to winter crops due to unseasonal rain across northern India.

The government argues the changes are needed to spur development -- from building new cities and factories to more roads and industrial corridors.

But its attempts to push the Land Acquisition Bill through parliament have been stonewalled by a united opposition, which controls the upper house.

While the government has issued a temporary order making it easier to buy land for projects, the changes need parliamentary approval before they can be made permanent.

The left-leaning opposition Congress party will on Sunday lead a mass street protest against the legislation in the capital before the reopening of parliament, when the government is expected to reintroduce its bill.

The new bill overhauls legislation passed by the previous Congress-led government in 2013, which was a key initiative of its decade in power.

It would exempt projects related to defense, rural housing and power, along with industrial corridors, from the requirement that 80 percent of the affected landowners must agree to a sale.

It also does away with the need for a "social impact assessment" to find out how many people would be affected by the loss of land.

The BJP says these rules are restrictive and deter the investment needed to fuel India's growth.

"To be able to push the manufacturing sector, you need land," party spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told AFP.

"And that land can come only from the existing land available... Industries can't come up in (a) vacuum."

Critics, however, say India's development should not come at the cost of its poorest.

"The government thinks it owns the resources. This is wrong," said Sanjay Parikh, an expert on land and environmental laws.

"Resources ultimately belong to the people. The land must remain with the farmers."

Modi recently used his monthly radio show to appeal to farmers not to oppose the bill, repeatedly assuring them that acquiring their land would be a "last resort".

But the unpopular bill has given a boost to the ailing Congress party, whose vice-president Rahul Gandhi this week returned from a sabbatical of nearly two months to lead Sunday's protest.

Bhupender Rawat, from the non-profit National Alliance for People's Movements, believes the land bill could inflict serious political damage on the BJP government.

"Farmers are not fools, they can see what Modi is trying to do," he told AFP.

"Modi has been going abroad and telling investors: 'Come to India, we will give you cheap land and labour'. The farmers are feeling cheated, and rightly so."

Many have good reason to be skeptical about the government's assurances.

Baljeet Singh, another Kanjhawla farmer, said the government forcibly acquired the deeds to his land in 2005, but had yet to take possession of it or provide adequate compensation.

"We thought Modi's government would address our problems, that is why we voted for him. But look what he is doing. We will not back him again," said the 70-year-old as he smoked a hookah pipe.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19489 on: Today at 06:51 AM »

Terror Arrests in Australia over Planned Anzac Day Attack

by Naharnet Newsdesk 18 April 2015, 07:48

Two men were arrested in Melbourne on Saturday for allegedly planning an Islamic State-inspired attack at Anzac Day commemorations honoring soldiers who fought and died for Australia -- the country's most important national event.

Seven search warrants were executed in the country's second largest city by a joint counter-terrorism team of 200 officers, two months after Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned the threat from home-grown extremists was worsening.

Police said two 18-year-olds were held over terrorism-related offenses with one of them, Sevdet Besim, charged. He appeared briefly in court accused of conspiring to commit a terrorist act and was remanded in custody.

"It is alleged both men were undertaking preparations for planning terrorist acts in Melbourne, which included targeting police officers," Victoria state and federal police said in a joint statement.

"Part of their alleged planning included targeting an Anzac Day ceremony."

Ceremonies are due to be held in towns and cities across the country on April 25 to remember those who served as Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers.

This year's events have assumed added significance with the day marking a century since the bloody World War I Gallipoli campaign in what is now Turkey.

More than 60,000 Australian and New Zealand troops joined an Allied expeditionary landing on the peninsula in 1915, and 11,500 of them never returned.

The arrests come just days after Australia began deploying 330 more troops to Iraq for two years to train local soldiers fighting jihadists including the Islamic State group, joining an aerial and special forces contingent in the region.

A third man held on Saturday, also 18, was arrested on weapons charges with two other teenagers, aged 18 and 19, in custody and assisting with inquiries.

Police said was it believed the attacks would have involved "edged knives", reportedly including a sword, although there was no direct evidence to suggest a beheading, a killing method favored by jihadists.

"At this stage we have no information that it was a planned beheading. But there was reference to an attack on police," Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told a news conference.

"Some evidence that was collected at a couple of the scenes and some other information we have leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired."

ISIS is another name used to refer to the Islamic State group.

Police confirmed that the men, who resisted arrest, were associates of Numan Haider, who was shot and killed by counter-terrorism forces in September last year in Melbourne after stabbing two police officers.

Abbott said while authorities had more than 400 investigations under way into potential threats "this was the only attack that we were aware of at an advanced stage of planning".

He added that the best way to react was to lead normal lives.

"The greatest act of defiance that Australians could make towards those who would do us harm is to turn up in very large numbers at Anzac Day services to show support for our country, our values and our armed forces."

Australia raised its threat level to high last September and has since carried out a series of counter-terrorism raids, with alarm fueled by the departure of more than 100 of its nationals to Iraq and Syria to fight with jihadists.

At least 150 Australians were supporting them through recruiting and fundraising, Abbott said.

A string of incidents, including a December siege in a Sydney cafe by a self-styled cleric who attempted to link his actions to Islamic State, have raised awareness about radicalization among Muslims in Australia.

In February, two men were charged after police thwarted an "imminent" attack in Sydney, seizing an Islamic State flag, a machete and an Arabic-language video detailing the alleged plot.

The same month Abbott, in a national security address, warned of a long-term era of heightened threats from "home-grown" extremists as he announced fresh measures to combat the issue including revoking citizenship for dual-nationals linked to terrorism.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19490 on: Today at 06:53 AM »

Boko Haram Kills 10 Civilians in Cameroon Village

by Naharnet Newsdesk 17 April 2015, 22:29

Islamist fighters from Nigeria's Boko Haram group have killed at least 10 civilians in a cross-border raid on a village in northern Cameroon, security sources told AFP on Friday.

"Boko Haram attacked the village of Bia overnight" Thursday to Friday, one source said, on condition of anonymity. "The toll is 10 civilians killed and a large number of livestock stolen."

A source within the administration said there had been "a dozen deaths" in the raid.

Bia, in the Far North region, which borders  Lake Chad, has been identified previously by security forces as a recruiting ground for Boko Haram militants.

The Nigerian-based Islamists also attacked a Cameroon army position in Amchide, on the border with Nigeria. "They burned houses in Amchide, but without losses on our side. The attack was repulsed. We don't know yet about casualties on the enemy side," the security source said.

Cameroon is taking part in a four-country offensive against Boko Haram, together with Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19491 on: Today at 06:54 AM »

Al-Qaida-Linked Jihadists Claim U.N. Suicide Attack in Mali

by Naharnet Newsdesk 17 April 2015, 22:25

A jihadist group led by al-Qaida-linked Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide attack on the United Nations in Mali, in a recording released Friday by Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar.

Two civilians were killed and nine peacekeepers from Niger wounded when a militant set off explosives as he attempted to drive into a camp used by the U.N.'s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Ansongo, in the northern region of Gao, on Wednesday.

The al-Murabitoun group said in an Arabic-language audio message it had targeted Niger nationals because of the participation of President Mahamadou Issoufou in the Paris demonstration against the jihadist attack on satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo in January.

The group said the suicide bombing, was also an act of revenge for Niger allowing American and French troops on its soil.

Al-Murabitoun had claimed responsibility for the March 7 attack on a Bamako nightclub frequented by Westerners that left a Frenchman and a Belgian dead, as well as three Malians.

It described Wednesday's assault as "the second operation to avenge insults against the Prophet", referring to Charlie Hebdo's cartoon depictions of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

Mali's government said a civilian MINUSMA worker and a child died in the attack, adding that the suicide bomber was also killed and 21 people, including the peacekeepers, were wounded.

Alakhbar regularly publishes statements said to be from al-Qaida-linked jihadists, which are never denied.

Divided into rival armed factions, plagued by drug trafficking and infiltrated by jihadist groups, Mali's desert north has struggled for stability since the west African nation gained independence in 1960.

The country descended into chaos in 2012 when an insurgency by Tuareg rebels led to a coup in the capital Bamako. Militants linked to al-Qaida then overpowered the Tuareg to seize control of Mali's northern desert.

A French-led military operation launched in January 2013 drove the extremists into the bush but the Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants remain active throughout the northeast of the country.

The Islamists have staged attacks on U.N. forces, with at least 35 peacekeepers killed since MINUSMA was deployed in July 2013 -- one of the highest tolls for a U.N. peace mission -- and more than 140 wounded.

- 'The Uncatchable' -

Al-Murabitoun was formed in 2013 by the merger of the Signatories in Blood group led by Belmokhtar and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which had been highly active in the Gao region.

One-eyed Belmokhtar, a former chief of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is wanted by the security services of several countries after allegedly masterminding a siege in January 2013 of an Algerian gas plant in which 38 hostages, including three Americans, died.

Branded "The Uncatchable", the jihadist is also thought to have been behind twin car bombings in Niger in May of that year that left at least 20 people dead.

He broke away from AQIM in 2012 and was involved in the fighting against Chadian forces in Mali before he was reported to have been killed in action in March 2013.

The reports, however, were never confirmed and he is now thought to have sought refuge in Libya after losing his stronghold in northern Mali.

He has been designated a foreign terrorist by the United States since 2003, with the State Department offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

MUJAO broke away from AQIM in mid-2011 with the apparent goal of spreading jihad further into areas of west Africa not within AQIM's scope.

It was one of a number of Islamist groups that occupied northern Mali in 2012, imposing a brutal interpretation of Islamic sharia law characterized by amputations, beatings and executions, before being ousted by the French.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19492 on: Today at 06:56 AM »

U.N. Warns of Burundi Election Violence

by Naharnet Newsdesk 18 April 2015, 07:10

The U.N. Security Council on Friday warned that upcoming elections in Burundi could turn violent and vowed to take action against those who are fomenting unrest.

The 15-member council called on the government and the opposition to refrain from acts of violence and intimidation ahead of the May parliamentary vote and the presidential polls that will follow.

"The upcoming elections are an extremely sensitive issue that has the potential to spur violence and undermine the peace sustained for almost a decade in Burundi," the council said in a statement.

The members vowed "to respond to any actions in Burundi that threaten the peace, security or stability in Burundi by actively facilitating violence, including by reportedly distributing weapons to youth groups."

Burundi, a small landlocked nation in Africa's Great Lakes region, emerged in 2006 from a brutal 13-year civil war.

Police on Friday fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in Bujumbura calling for President Pierre Nkurunziza to step aside and not run for a third term.

Nkurunziza has not yet confirmed whether he intends to attempt to try stay in power.

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Wednesday warned that the country was at a "crossroads" between a fair vote that would boost the country and a route back to its "horrendously violent past."

Also Friday, the U.S. State Department said it was deeply concerned by the rising tensions in Burundi and called on all parties "to play a constructive and peaceful role in this electoral process."

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19493 on: Today at 06:57 AM »

U.S. Condemns 'Brutal' FARC Attack in Colombia

by Naharnet Newsdesk 18 April 2015, 07:13

The United States branded a FARC attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers "brutal" Friday and accused the Marxist guerrillas of violating their unilateral ceasefire.

The attack on Tuesday-Wednesday came as the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are in peace talks that have been under way in Havana since November 2012 in a bid to end more than five decades of conflict that have killed over 200,000 people.

Bogota accused the FARC of committing a war crime by ambushing a resting army unit with unconventional weapons in the attack in the western rebel bastion of Cauca.

Marie Harf, acting State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement: "We reaffirm our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.

"We condemn the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

"The offensive was in direct violation of the unilateral ceasefire they committed to last December."

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos lifted a suspension of air strikes on the rebels in the wake of the attack but did not call a halt to the peace talks.

"It is our sincere hope that negotiators reach an accord soon to bring peace to all Colombians," Harf added.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19494 on: Today at 06:58 AM »

Mexico Drug Lord's Arrest Sparks Gunfights, Three Dead

by Naharnet Newsdesk 18 April 2015, 08:25

A cartel attacked Mexican security forces Friday in reaction to a drug lord's arrest in a city near the U.S. border, unleashing gunfights that killed at least three gunmen and wounded two officers.

The gang torched several vehicles, including a school bus, and used trucks and cars to block streets in Reynosa, sowing panic in the city of 610,000 people across from McAllen, Texas.

Terrified Reynosa residents posted pictures on Twitter of burning vehicles and people taking cover on the ground, while the U.S. consulate urged Americans to stay indoors.

The firefights began after a leader of the Gulf cartel was arrested in the city, two federal officials said on condition of anonymity, identifying the suspect as Jose Tiburcio Hernandez Fuentes, also known as "El Gafe" (The Jinxed One).

His arrest dealt a new blow to the gang, which holds sway in northern Tamaulipas state but has seen several leaders taken down, triggering deadly internal power struggles that have surged along the border this year.

The Gulf gang's violent reaction echoed similar operations launched by another criminal group, the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, against security forces.

The New Generation launched two ambushes on federal and state police in the western state of Jalisco that left a total of 20 officers dead in recent weeks in apparent revenge over the takedown of gang members.

- Cartel 'resistance' -

A Tamaulipas security task force issued a statement saying that army troops and federal police had detained an unspecified number of gang members.

"Resulting from the operation, members of the same criminal group reacted by attacking federal and Tamaulipas forces, setting up blockades in the city," the Tamaulipas Coordination Group said.

"Up to now, three armed civilians are reported dead, and two members of the Tamaulipas Force were wounded in the attacks," it said.

The city's mayor said the gun battles began around noon. Authorities said federal and state force retook control of the situation at 6:00 pm.

One of the federal officials said the gang burned several vehicles to terrorize the population and distract police forces.

"There's obviously resistance that emerges when people of this nature are arrested," Reynosa Mayor Jose Elias Leal told Radio Formula, adding that he expected the situation to calm down overnight.

The city government issued a "red light" alert on Twitter, urging residents to avoid some areas.

The local daily El Manana reported that two U.S.-Mexico border crossings were temporarily closed.

In a separate operation further west along the border, federal forces detained the suspected leader of the Juarez drug cartel, Jesus Salas Aguayo, alias "El Chuyin," in Chihuahua state, an official said on condition of anonymity.

Authorities believe he succeeded Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias "El Viceroy," who was arrested in October.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #19495 on: Today at 07:00 AM »

Brazil's 'bullets, beef and bible' caucus wants to imprison 16-year-olds

Bolstered by rising resentment toward President Dilma Rousseff, Jair Bolsonaro and other rightwing politicians want to lower age of criminal responsibility

Bruce Douglas in Rio de Janeiro
Friday 17 April 2015 12.00 BST

Among Brazil’s weak and demoralised leftwing members of Congress, they are known as the “Bancada BBB”: Bullets, Beef and Bible Caucus.

These conservative hardliners – from Brazil’s security forces, agricultural sector and evangelical churches – triumphed in last October’s legislative elections, while President Dilma Rousseff, of the leftwing Workers’ Party (PT), only narrowly won re-election.

Over the past few months, the president’s authority has been undermined by a massive corruption scandal, major street protests and the open revolt of many of her former political allies.

With a survey this week showing that 63% of Brazilians would support impeachment proceedings against her, an energised coalition of rightwing deputies are attempting to impose their agenda on Congress.

Their long-term aims include liberalising Brazil’s gun laws and opening up its indigenous territories to industry. But their first goal is to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16.

Under Brazil’s Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA), the maximum legal punishment for someone ages 12-18 is three years’ internment in a juvenile socio-educative detention centre. In theory, such a sentence is only applicable in cases involving violence, though judges often interpret the law to include drug-trafficking.

One of the prime movers behind the attempt to change the age of criminal responsibility is Jair Bolsonaro, 60, a six-time federal deputy, who won more votes than any other congressman in Rio de Janeiro in the 2014 elections.

Speaking to the Guardian at his house inside an immaculate gated community in Rio’s upmarket suburb of Barra da Tijuca, Bolsonaro said: “An adolescent can rape and kill 200 people and he is still not treated like a criminal in Brazil. Most minors know that if they are going to commit a robbery, it is better to kill the victim as there is less chance of being caught, and if they are, the punishment will be the same.”

According to Unicef, however, Brazilian adolescents are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators: of the 21 million aged 12-17, just 0.013% committed murder, robbery with murder, rape or bodily harm, while homicide was the cause of 36.5% of all adolescents’ deaths by non-natural causes. Thirty-three thousand Brazilian adolescents were murdered in Brazil from 2006 to 2012.

Bolsonaro’s response to such statistics is to argue that PT’s social assistance programmes have encouraged “irresponsible paternity”. This has created a generation of Brazilians “who, sadly, have no future whatsoever” and who are prone to violence because of the lack of a rigorous criminal justice system.

The former army captain, who hopes to run for the presidency in 2018, is the indisputable poster child of the insurgent Brazilian right, and repeatedly courts controversy with gratuitously offensive speeches.

On Tuesday he was ordered by a federal judge to pay R$150,000 (£33,000) in damages for homophobic comments he made on Brazilian TV in 2011. In an interview with Playboy that same year he said he would “rather his child died in an accident than be gay”.

He is also being sued by Maria do Rosário, a former human rights’ minister from the PT, after he described her, in Congress, as “not worth raping”. Over 10 years earlier he had told her the same thing, at the end of a televised discussion on the age of criminal responsibility.

While claiming he exaggerated “a little” over his comments to Playboy, he was unrepentant over the comments to Do Rosário. “Who is tougher on rape? I have presented two projects to Congress on the issue: first, to strengthen the sentencing for rape; second, to offer chemical castration to offenders. But the PT has blocked them both.”

With over 550,000 inmates, Brazil has the world’s fourth-largest prison population. More than 40% of those incarcerated are still awaiting trial. But Bolsonaro believes prison is the best way to reduce the country’s extremely high level of violent crime. “I prefer a prison full of criminals than a graveyard full of innocent people,” he said.

On 31 March, the bill to lower the age of criminal responsibility passed its first legislative hurdle. A Datafolha opinion poll published on Wednesday showed that 87% of Brazilians are in favour of the bill. With such popular and congressional support, Bolsonaro is confident that finally, after almost two decades of trying, he will succeed. “As soon as the law is passed, I will put forward another constitutional amendment, to lower the age to 14,” he said.

However, even if Congress approves the bill, it would still require ratification by the senate. It may also face obstacles in the supreme court. Earlier this week President Rousseff used her Facebook feed to condemn the proposal.

“Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will not solve the problem of juvenile delinquency,” she wrote, though she added that she had instructed her justice minister to begin a debate over the ECA.

Even those opposed to a lowering of the age of criminal responsibility question whether the three-year maximum sentence is sufficient.

Julita Lemgruber, a former director of Rio de Janeiro’s prison system, said there was a debate to be had over extending the period of custody for adolescents convicted of serious crimes. But she added the real issue was the state’s failure to implement existing legislation.

“The law is very clear on the services that should be provided to adolescents when they are deprived of their liberty. But they never get them. On the contrary, instead they are put into these filthy and overcrowded places with nothing to do.”

But Lemgruber is worried that Bolsonaro will get his way. “The reality is that the federal government is very vulnerable at the moment. Everything is negotiable,” she said.

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« Reply #19496 on: Today at 07:02 AM »

Cuba's love for Obama swells: Bay of Pigs veterans reflect on the 'inconceivable'

Fifty-four years after the invasion that put US and Cuba’s relationship at rock bottom, Obama’s popularity is even higher than Fidel and Raúl Castro

Joe Lamar at Bahía de Cochinos
Friday 17 April 2015 18.03 BST

As he has done every April for the past 53 years, Percy Gómez Darna will mark Sunday’s anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion by remembering his fallen comrades and celebrating what is known in Cuba as the first great Latin American victory over “US imperialism”.

The retired militiaman, who led a mortar brigade during the three-day conflict from 17 to 19 April 1961, has been fighting the United States ever since – both as a soldier and a fiery critic of Washington’s policy in the region.

But when Gómez and his fellow veterans gather for the usual commemorative activities this weekend, there will be an unusual note of optimism – and even amiability – in their speeches and reflections on the current resident of the White House.

Following a breakthrough meeting last Saturday between Barack Obama and the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, even such battle-hardened anti-imperialists as Gómez are starting to think the US may finally have a president who understands Latin America.

“We could never have imagined Raúl would shake hands with a US president. It was inconceivable during the invasion,” he said. “But as long as it means future generations will have a better life, we will support what our government and our party decides.

Fellow veteran Roberto Navarro Rodríguez agrees. “I thought I would die before such a thing could happen,” he said. “The only one over all these years who decided to make a change was Obama. I’ve read about him. He is a good man. He is progressive.”

The praise from this unlikeliest of fan bases comes after a giddy whirly of diplomacy between the cold war enemies that has raised hopes that – more than half a century after one of its most embarrassing failures – the US may at last be getting its Cuban policy right.

In the past 10 days, the leaders of the two nations have phoned each other twice, shaken hands and held their first hour-long meeting since the Eisenhower era. At the Summit of the Americas last week, Raúl Castro gave a personal endorsement of Obama, declaring him “an honest man”. Days later, the US president announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

This has made Cubans even more enamoured of Obama, who was already popular as a result of his joint announcement with Castro on 17 December to normalise relations between the two neighbours.

Even before last week’s summit, an unauthorised poll by a Miami-based company suggested Obama enjoyed an 80% approval rating in Cuba, well above that of Fidel or Raúl Castro. As independent polling is prohibited in Cuba, it is hard to gauge the accuracy of that survey. But based on dozens of interviews by the Guardian over the past week, it is hard to dispute one of the key findings: Obama enjoys a level of popularity in Cuba than he could only dream of in the US.

That was evident on the three-hour drive from Havana to the Bay of Pigs, arguably the most iconic site of revolutionary resistance to the US. The turnoff towards this Caribbean inlet is marked with a giant propaganda billboard proclaiming: “This is the way that the Cuban people came to defend socialism.” The road to the coast is flanked with mangrove swamps, a crocodile farm and dozens of stone memorials, marking the points along the roadside where Cuban militiamen fell in the conflict.

Two successive US presidents – Dwight Eisenhower and John F Kennedy – approved the CIA-funded and organised amphibious assault on 17 April 1961 by 1,400 Cuban exiles, which aimed to overthrow the two-year-old government of Fidel Castro.

The conflict was not so much a battle as a rout. The invading force were defeated in just 65 hours. The victors took more than a thousand prisoners, who were paraded in public trials. The US was humiliated. Castro, meanwhile, had the victory he needed to consolidate revolution on the island and export his ideals across Latin America. Survivors of the generation of rebels that followed have since taken power in Nicaragua, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.

“It served as an example to the people of Latin America that they could fight for their freedom,” said Pedro Pérez, the guide at a museum on Girón beach where visitors can see the tanks, mortars and bullet-holed uniforms of the combatants. But he too said the political winds were changing as a result of the recent thaw, which he expected to bring in more US tourists and improve the Cuban economy. For this he credited Obama.

“I’m 27 years old and I have never seen a US president with this perspective. What he is doing will be good for us and good for them,” he said. “Obama is popular. Most people support what he has done.”

Expectations on the island are growing for an official visit by Obama before he leaves the White House at the end of next year. If such a trip goes ahead – and there are still many steps before that might be possible – he would be the first US president to visit since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

“If Obama comes to Cuba he would get a great reception,” says bartender Danny Morejón, who works across the street from the museum at Girón. “He’s the first US president to understand Latin America. He really wants to help and everyone likes him. It’s a big change.”

There is a similar level of enthusiasm on the nearby beach, where invading troops landed 54 years ago. These days it is a somewhat-the-worse-for-wear tourist resort. Beatrice Bueno, who sells Panama hats and other souvenirs, grins at a mention of the US president.

“I like everything about Obama, even as a man. He’s friends with Raúl now. They shook hands so we should get more tourists in the future, which means more business.”

The one somewhat discordant voice came further along the coast at Playa Larga, the other of the two main landing sites. Ricardo Peña, a 78-year-old engineer, remembers hearing mortar shells exploding. One of his friends – a 16-year-old militiaman named Hiraldo Díaz – died in the fighting. Pointing across the street from his home, Peña says two local girls were killed in that spot by the invaders. As he prepared to remember their deaths on the anniversary, he has only faint praise for Obama. “He’s the best of the bad capitalists. I don’t trust him. He should never have won the Nobel peace prize. He has been good recently with Cuba, but elsewhere he is responsible for many killings.”

Such criticism among the revolutionary old guard may grow if Obama goes ahead with promises to push for more democracy on the island. But for now, the momentum is in favour of warmer ties. Castro needs support for an ailing economy and a fledgling reform program. Obama wants to end US isolation in Latin America and win over more domestic Hispanic voters.

His popularity on the island will no doubt face more tests in the months ahead, but this weekend, the anniversary of a low point in US-Cuba relations comes at a time of rising hopes for a new start.

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« Reply #19497 on: Today at 07:03 AM »

Dark matter may actually interact with itself

April 16, 2015
Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

By observing colliding galaxies with the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found evidence suggesting for the first time that dark matter may interact with other dark matter in a way other than through gravity.

The discovery, which was reported Wednesday in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, appears to contract what we already known about the mysterious substance that accounts for 85 percent of the mass of the universe and suggests that it may not be invisible after all.

Possible non-gravitational dark matter interactions found

Dr. Richard Massey, a research fellow at the Durham University Department of Physics as well as a member of the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, and his colleagues used Hubble and the VLT’s MUSE instrument to get an up-close look at four colliding galaxies in the cluster Abell 3827, which Discovery News said is a common “hunting ground” for gravitational lenses.

While dark matter cannot be directly seen, its location can be deduced using the technique of gravitational lensing, which occurs when its gravitational pull bends light from distant galaxies. As it happens, the collision they observed took place directly in front of a distant and unrelated source, and it allowed them to both pinpoint the location of the mass in the system and compare the distribution of the dark matter with the position of the luminous galaxies.

“Although dark matter is invisible, we can map it using a effect first predicted by Albert Einstein and known as gravitational lensing, Looking past something heavy (like dark matter) is similar to looking through a bathroom window,” Dr. Massey told redOrbit via email. “Although the glass is transparent, you can tell it is there because street lights over the road appear distorted.”

“By calculating the extent of the distortion, it’s possible to work out the thickness of the glass,” he added. “We do the same with very distant galaxies (6 or 7 times further away than the ones we’re interested in). The distant images appear distorted, and we can work out where the dark mass was along our line of sight, to cause that distortion.”

Even if you remove the gravitational influence of the visible galaxies, there is still a tremendous gravitational component remaining, which allowed Dr. Massey’s team to accurately measure the quantities and locations of dark matter clouds within the cluster. Using this method to map out the four colliding galaxies, they determined that the dark matter associated with each galaxy has a lag of approximately 5,000 light-years behind the normal matter there.

So exactly what’s causing that lag to happen?

In their study, the researchers report that it is likely caused by some type of interaction between the galactic halos of dark matter contained within those colliding galaxies. As they collide, the visible matter within the galaxies interact as expected, but there appears to be some sort of drag effect impacting the dark matter halos and causing the drag, according to Discovery News.

Dr. Massey explained that astronomers had previously believed that dark matter remains in one place and has no influence on its surroundings other than its gravitational pull. However, if dark matter is being slowed down during the collisions, it would provide the first-ever evidence for rich physics in the hidden parts of the universe known as the dark sector. Additional research is required to rule out other possible causes of this lag, however, he added.

This potential dark matter interaction appears to contract a recent survey of 72 galaxy cluster collisions which found little to no self-interaction amongst dark matter. However, the new study looks at individual colliding galaxies, not entire clusters, and these collisions have likely lasted far longer than those observed in the previous study, increasing the observed lag effects.

Dr. Massey explained to redOrbit that the two papers tell two parts of the same story. While the previous results found that dark matter interacts “very little – in particular units, by a value lower than 0.5,” the professor said that the new result “is that it interacts very very little, but not zero. In the same units, it is a value bigger than 0.001.”

“There have been lots of negative results over the past decade, saying that dark matter interacts less than this,” he said via email. “Our previous result dropped the bar a lot further, but all these results were fundamentally saying that we see dark matter being boring.”

“This is the first time we’ve caught dark matter in the act of doing something interesting,” Dr. Massey added. “I’m excited to finally to give a positive result because there is a HUGE difference between zero interactions (as the old ‘Cold Dark Matter’ theory would suggest), and nonzero (albeit tiny) interactions. Once the dark Universe around us is allowed to interact at all, the possibilities for what it could get up to are rich and varied.”

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« Reply #19498 on: Today at 07:04 AM »

Spitzer telescope finds one of the most distant planets ever

April 16, 2015
Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Thanks to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and a technique known as microlensing, a team of astronomers has located one of the most distant exoplanets ever discovered – a remote gas planet located approximately 13,000 light-years from Earth.

The location of this far-off new world demonstrates how Spitzer can be used to help determine how planets are distributed throughout the Milky Way, according to NASA. The discovery is the topic of three new studies published recently in The Astrophysical Journal.

Using microlensing to discover new worlds

Jennifer Yee, a NASA Sagan research fellow and a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, and her colleagues used both the space-based instrument and the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) Warsaw Telescope in Chile to search for new planets by taking advantage of a phenomenon known as microlensing.

Microlensing, the US space agency explains, occurs when one star passes in front of another. Its gravity acts like a lens to magnify and brighten the light of the more distant star, and if the star in the foreground has a planet it orbit around it, it can cause a blip in the magnification.

Those blips can be used by astronomers to locate and characterize planets tens of thousands of light-years away in our galaxy’s central bulge, where these star-crossing events tend to be more common. To date, the process has led to the discovery of nearly 30 new planets, with the farthest of the new worlds resting approximately 25,000 light years away, the agency noted.

“Microlensing experiments are already detecting planets from the solar neighborhood to almost the center of the Milky Way,” explained co-author Andrew Gould of the Ohio State University in Columbus . “And so they can, in principle, tell us the relative efficiency of planet formation across this huge expanse of our galaxy.”

Monitoring a microlensing event

While the microlensing technique can be used to complement other planet-hunting tools such as the Kepler mission, it has one major drawback: it cannot always precisely determine the distance of the planets and stars that are being observed. In fact, of the nearly 30 planets that have been located to date using this method, about half cannot be placed at an exact location.

To help out, researchers use Spitzer and take advantage of the telescope’s remote Earth-trailing orbit. The instrument monitors a microlensing event at a distance of about 128 million miles (207 million kilometers) away at the same time as a telescope on the surface, but it sees the brightness at a different time due to the distance between the two telescopes. This is known as parallax.

Yee said that Spitzer is “the first space telescope to make a microlens parallax measurement for a planet,” and that typically, parallax techniques use multiple ground-based telescopes. The length of the microlensing event used to discover the newfound exoplanet was unusually long (a period of about 150 days), with Spitzer seeing it 20 days after OGLE, NASA said.

The time delay between OGLE’s viewing of the event and Spitzer’s was used to calculate how far away the star and its planet were, and knowing that also enabled the researchers to figure out the mass of the planet, which is approximately half that of Jupiter. It was the 23rd microlensing collaboration between Ogle and Spitzer, and the space-based telescope is currently scheduled to observe an additional 120 microlensing events over the course of the summer.

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« Reply #19499 on: Today at 07:08 AM »


New Poll Reveals That Nearly Half of America Is Stupid

By: Rmuse
Friday, April, 17th, 2015, 10:33 am   

As comedian George Carlin once said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups” and he was certainly referring to Americans loyal to the Republican movement. It is possible that in many Americans’ cases, stupid is the wrong term and denial a more apt descriptor; although a combination of the two terms is likely apropos when referring to half of America. In fact, it is safe to say that the two terms accurately describe Republican voters as a whole because it takes a particularly stupid person to deny what they know have experienced and seen with their own eyes; something results of a Bloomberg poll released yesterday revealed in grand fashion.

The good news is that 49 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of President Obama’s economic record and it seems to put Republicans in a very unfavorable position. In fact, the poll revealed that overall the President’s approval rating is positive in no small part due to a recovering economy that even Republicans cannot deny or take any credit for after spending six long years doing nothing. Those numbers are bad news for Republicans who continue claiming errantly that the economy is lagging regardless corporate profits are raging, unemployment is falling, GDP is up, the debt is falling, and the stock market continues setting new records. Even for stupid Americans, it is obvious that the economy under President Obama has been steadily improving and shows no signs of slowing any time soon according to economic experts forecasting continued growth with one caveat; the majority of the population is not seeing their personal finances keep pace with the rich and corporations in a growing economy. It was the one part of the poll results that a substantial majority of Americans were in complete agreement about.

What was curious about the poll results, though, was that although 69 percent of Americans say a growing problem is the widening income gap between the very rich and the rest of the population, there was a relatively even split on how best to address the economic discrepancy favoring the one percent; that is where the stupid factor is manifest. Americans who agreed that it is “better for the government to implement policies to shrink the income gap” made up 46 percent of respondents, and 47 percent said it is better “for the government to stand aside and let the market operate freely; even if the income gap gets wider.” Now, it is belligerently stupid for respondents, 69 percent of them, to acknowledge that, on the one hand, there is a growing income gap between the richest one percent and the rest of the population that has to be confronted and solved, and yet 47 percent believe the best way to address the problem is for government to ‘stand aside‘ and let the market take care of the problem; “even if it makes the gap wider.” Maybe the 47 percent agreeing with that statement failed to read the last phrase.

Obviously the stupid 47 percent who want to solve the income gap issue by, as Republicans preach, “getting government out of the way” have spent an inordinate amount of time getting their economic policy solutions from Republicans and Fox News. They also apparently have a serious issue with reality because study after report after study after life experience has revealed that nationally and particularly in states where Republicans have “got government out of the way,” economic growth is non-existent, job creation is lagging, people are getting poorer while the rich get richer, and deficits are exploding. Only a stupid person would think, even for a second, that adhering to Reagan-Republican policies founded on getting government out of the way that are proven to kill jobs, increase debt and deficits, and make the income gap wider is a valid solution for reducing the income gap that is destroying the middle class and sending more Americans into poverty.

Before the Koch brothers bought control of Congress, Republicans in the House spent the major portion of their time passing legislation to ‘get government out of the way’ for the rich and corporations to get richer; since Republicans have had control of both chambers it has only gotten worse. For example, Republicans attempted to get government out of the way by eliminating overtime pay, blocked Democrats attempt to pass an equal pay for equal work law, obstructed every attempt by President Obama to create jobs, and slashed federal spending that killed jobs. Republicans have also spent the last few months getting government out of the way of the rich getting richer by attempting to pass legislation giving the rich greater tax breaks as part of their failed trickle down scam; a scam that is a historical failure at growing the economy, creating jobs, or reducing the income gap. Either 47 percent of the respondents are too stupid to understand that the Republican anti-government approach to the economy has failed every economic test over the past thirty years, or they know it increases the income gap and foolishly think that if the richest one percent gets richer, their own financial situation will improve. If left on its own, the market will always favor the rich and it is a mystery why more Americans cannot comprehend that simple fact; or that it is the government that prevents the market from sending more Americans into poverty.

What is really curious is that everything President Obama has proposed, or presided over, is responsible for an improving economic picture and ways the government can reduce the income gap a substantial majority of Americans acknowledge is a serious issue that needs addressing. Obviously everything Republicans have proposed under the heading of getting government out of the way such as eliminating overtime pay, keeping the minimum wage at poverty level or abolishing it altogether, and giving more money to the rich is contrary to decreasing income disparity. The good news is that nearly half the population comprehends that only government can address income inequality and in that respect President Obama is, and has been recognized as, a champion for the 99 percent. He has made it easier for workers to organize, badgered Republicans relentlessly to raise the minimum wage, created millions of jobs, reduced the cost of healthcare, and created initiatives to increase funding and jobs in the burgeoning green and renewable energy industry. Conversely, he has held the line against Republican attempts to increase the income gap with more tax cuts for the rich by wielding his veto threat with increasing regularity.

The only reason there is a destructive income gap in America is because for the past thirty years Republicans have been on a crusade to get government out of the way and it has created an environment that is conducive to corporate profits and increased wealth for the richest one percent at the expense of the rest of the population. One has to hand it to Republicans for convincing nearly half of the Bloomberg poll’s respondents that going forward with an economic agenda that enriches the already wealthy at the expense of the rest of the population by eliminating government is the solution to the widening income gap. Republicans understand that at least half of America is stupid and will continue falling for the same failed approach to the economy regardless the disastrous economic consequences, and there is little doubt they will work tirelessly to convince the rest of the population that eliminating government will make them filthy rich. The good news is that half of the population understands that without government protections, the market would crush the economic life out of them. It is a message that President Obama has preached for six years and if Republicans had not been obstructionists, the economy would be doing better than it is and the income gap would be declining, not growing.

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