U.S. Park Police officer used an electronic stun gun on an Occupy DC protester. Police say he was tearing down fliers warning protesters about the ban on camping in McPherson Square. Police also said the unidentified man was charged with disorderly conduct. The arrest took place shortly after noon Sunday. It is reported that after the incident the man had a seizure, and was then refused medical treatment. A park police spokesman said the man became "aggressive and confrontational'' when officers tried to arrest him and that is why the stun gun was used. Video by MrFr0zak. Here is an other one..
31 Jan 2012
After the Arab Spring of 2011, many people living in Sub-Saharan Africa began to wonder when they would rise up and have an African spring. It is hard to say when that might happen, but if it does, the uprising already has a house band in Mali with several road-tested anthems. Anchor Marco Werman talks about SMOD, a Malian band, an acronym of the four members and friends Sam, Mouzy, Ousco and Donsky. The band creates a desert-dry groove punctuated by acoustic guitar and percussion.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has made two overtures to West Bank settlers in the run-up to his party’s leadership race on Tuesday: It’s offering financial incentives to those wishing to live in dozens of settlements and is opening the door to legalizing rogue outposts.
The gestures appear to be aimed at appeasing hardline elements in the ruling Likud Party who are sympathetic to settlers. While Netanyahu is expected to win the leadership race, a relatively strong showing by his ultranationalist rival would suggest that many Likud voters consider the prime minister too soft on peacemaking with the Palestinians.
A decade ago, the Israeli government halted generous financial enticements designed to encourage Israelis to settle in the West Bank, the occupied territory the Palestinians see as the core of their future state. But in this week’s government decision, 70 settlements appeared on a new list of 557 communities inside Israel and the West Bank that qualify for housing subsidies. The incentives, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office, are “meant to encourage positive migration to these communities.”
Parents who neglect basic duties such as preparing meals and enforcing bedtimes are breeding a feckless ‘underclass’ who cause mayhem on the nation’s streets, it was claimed yesterday.
Charlie Taylor, the Government’s behaviour tsar, criticised homes with ‘little conversation’ where children as young as eight are left to fend for themselves at mealtimes and play on the computer late into the night. Many of these youngsters end up ‘out on the streets’ by their early teens, he said. Some of the rioters responsible for wreaking havoc during last summer’s disturbances in cities around Britain came from homes where mothers and fathers fail to perform ‘the most basic of parenting duties’, he added.
Yeah, right… what a load of bollocks…
The internet is up in arms over the federal crackdown of file-sharing website Megaupload, from irate blog posts to coordinated digital attacks on secure government servers. The move appeared to be a sort of governmental muscle flexing in the wake of the successful internet protest of SOPA and PIPA. But was there another reason? In the weeks before the crackdown, Megaupload was planning on launching a new music sharing website called Megabox that looked like it had the potential to completely transform music distribution, and even find a way to pay musicians in the process. (Forbes)
Last Thursday the US Justice Department came down hard on Megaupload and its mega founder, Kim Dotcom. In the days since, there has been a shake-up of sorts in the digital storage realm. Several smaller sites have drastically changed their business models. Others, like MediaFire, reached out after this post was published attempting to distance themselves from Megaupload.
However, yesterday, a new theory surfaced that indicates Megaupload’s demise had less to do with piracy than previously thought. This theory stems from a 2011 article detailing Megaupload’s upcoming Megabox music store and DIY artist distribution service that would have completely disrupted the music industry.
More on TechCrunch
30 Jan 2012
Hundreds of soldiers from 3rd battalion The Parachute Regiment spent last week learning how to contain and arrest "rioters" in a series of exercises mirroring last summers violence. Defence sources have confirmed that if violence were to return to British cities, especially during the Olympic Games, the Paras would be "ideally placed" to provide "short-term" support to police forces around the UK.
Such a request would have to be made by the Home Office and would have to have Prime Ministerial approval, according to the source. During the exercises at the Lydd training base in Kent, the elite troops were pelted with petrol bombs and missiles and "fought" running battles with gangs of protesters as part of the battalion's "public order training". The battalion is the lead unit in the Airborne Task Force - the Army's premier rapid response unit and can be called on to deal with a wide range of emergency situations - from hostage rescue to riot control - around the world.
Occupy Oakland protesters broke into City Hall, stole an American flag from the City Council chamber and set it on fire Saturday night, punctuating a wild day in which police deployed tear gas, arrested more than 400 marchers and dodged hurling objects. Demonstrators spent the day trying to break into a convention center and temporarily occupying City Hall and a YMCA, all the while snaking around lines of riot-clad police periodically shooting bean bag projectiles, among other uses of nonlethal force.
Saturday marked the first major clashes between protesters and police since November and left three officers with minor injuries, as protesters threw bottles, metal pipes, rocks, spray cans and "improvised explosive devices," police said. Late Saturday, paramedics wheeled a pregnant protester away from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza after witnesses said she was hit in the kidney by a police baton. She yelled: "Police did this to me!"
29 Jan 2012
Google's new plan to link user data across its email, video, social-networking sites has come under fire from critics who say it's an invasion of privacy because of the sheer volume of information collected and the inability of users to opt out.
International pop star Youssou N'Dour has has been pushed back by police during a demonstration in Senegal, the news service Associated Press reports.
N'Dour had come on Saturday to the Criminal Investigation Division as part of a large crowd of opposition supporters who wanted to show their solidarity with Alioune Tine, a well-known human rights activist who is being questioned by police. Tine was the organiser of a demonstration on Friday that turned violent following the decision of Senegal's constitutional court to allow the country's leader to run for a third term.
The legal body approved President Abdoulaye Wade's third term bid, even though critics say the constitution allows a maximum of two. N'Dour wanted to run in the February presidential election but his candidacy has been rejected.
28 Jan 2012
Former NSA analyst, Jim Stone, argues that there was no earthquake. The tsunami was caused by nuclear bombs in the sea and the Fukushima explosion and meltdown was caused by mini-nukes hidden in cameras installed by an Israeli security firm. The motive: punish Japan for offering to enrich Iranian uranium and straying from Illuminati diktat.
When we compare the 6.8-magnitude earthquake which devastated Kobe, Japan January 17, 1995 with Fukushima, the evidence does not stack up.
A quick Google Images search of Kobe reveals incredible destruction of buildings, bridges, elevated highways, and other infrastructure.
The Fukushima quake, magnitude 9.0, struck about 70 km off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.
It sent a 30-meter tsunami crashing over perfectly undamaged bridges, houses, roads, and cars -- over a populace which had not been warned of the incoming tsunami, because there was no earthquake. They were taken completely off-guard. Yet helicopters were waiting, and people all over Japan got to watch the tsunami roll in on live TV.
What on earth was going on? Ordinarily, the Japanese people are warned of tsunamis. Why weren't they warned? Why was there no structural damage, no reason for them to suspect that a tsunami was coming?
The quake must have seemed like nothing special to a nation of people who are used to quakes. In a video taken in one Tokyo newsroom during the Fukushima quake, staff were seen to continue typing at their computer stations, totally unfazed by it.
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake is more than 100 times stronger than a 6.8. A 9.0 should have devastated everything within a 1,000-km radius. There should have been widespread urban carnage, even worse than what Kobe suffered.
Yet the Fukushima quake of 3/11/11 did not cause a single structure to collapse.
The bodies of 17 men arrested by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces during an armoured assault this week on the city of Hama were found dumped in the streets after being shot in the head, activists said on Saturday.
The reported killings mark an escalation in a five-month military crackdown on Hama, 240 km (150 miles) north of Damascus, where armed rebels are now backing protesters after tanks stormed the conservative Sunni Muslim city in August.
"They were killed execution style, mostly with one bullet to the head. Iron chains that had tied them were left on their legs as a message to the people to stop resisting," Abu al-Walid, an activist in the city, told Reuters by telephone. Another activist said the bodies, their hands tied by plastic wire and some with their legs chained, were dumped in the streets of five Hama neighborhoods on Thursday evening.
Twitter now censors the tweets:
“The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact … almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.”
As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.
Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.
"We will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees," the spokesman, Abu Qaqa, said in the group's first major interview with a western newspaper. "Once we see that things are being done according to the dictates of Allah, and our members are released [from prison], we will only put aside our arms – but we will not lay them down. You don't put down your arms in Islam, you only put them aside."
Qaqa, whose name is a pseudonym, said the group's members were spiritual followers of al-Qaida, and claimed they had met senior figures in the network founded by Osama bin Laden during visits to Saudia Arabia.
27 Jan 2012
Israel is proposing to essentially turn its West Bank separation barrier into the border with a future state of Palestine, two Palestinian officials said Friday, based on their interpretation of principles Israel presented in talks this week.
The officials said Israeli envoy Yitzak Molcho told his Palestinian counterpart that Israel wants to keep east Jerusalem and consolidate Jewish settlements behind the separation barrier, which slices close to 10 per cent off the West Bank. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing strict no-leaks rules by Jordanian mediators.
The proposal would fall short of what the Palestinians seem likely to accept, especially because it would leave Jerusalem on the "Israeli" side of the border.
26 Jan 2012
Russian police don't take kindly to opposition protesters – even if they're 5cm high and made of plastic.
Police in the Siberian city of Barnaul have asked prosecutors to investigate the legality of a recent protest that saw dozens of small dolls – teddy bears, Lego men, South Park figurines – arranged to mimic a protest, complete with signs reading: "I'm for clean elections" and "A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin".
"Political opposition forces are using new technologies to carry out public events – using toys with placards at mini-protests," Andrei Mulintsev, the city's deputy police chief, said at a press conference this week, according to local media. "In our opinion, this is still an unsanctioned public event."
Activists set up the display after authorities repeatedly rejected their request to hold a sanctioned demonstration of the kind held in Moscow to protest disputed parliamentary elections results and Vladimir Putin's expected return to the presidency in a March vote.
Supporters of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra picketed the Lobby restaurant over comments by Mr Abbott this morning that the tent embassy should close. As many as 200 gathered in front of the restaurant, banging on its glass walls and yelling "shame" and "racist".
French police are using overly broad powers to conduct unwarranted and abusive identity checks on black and Arab young men and boys, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 55-page report, “The Root of Humiliation: Abusive Identity Checks in France,” says that minority youth, including children as young as 13, are subjected to frequent stops involving lengthy questioning, invasive body pat-downs, and the search of personal belongings. These arbitrary stops can take place even in the absence of any indication of wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch found.
Insulting language, including racial slurs, are not uncommon, and some stops involve excessive use of force by the police.
“It’s shocking that young black and Arab kids can be, and are, arbitrarily forced up against walls and manhandled by the police with no real evidence of wrongdoing,” said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But if you are a young person in some neighborhoods in France, it’s a part of life.”
Doctors Without Borders is halting work in detention centers in the Libyan city of Misrata because detainees are "tortured and denied urgent medical care," the international aid agency said Thursday. The agency known by its French acronym MSF said it has treated 115 people with torture-related wounds from interrogation sessions.
Some of the patients treated were tortured again after they were returned to detention centers, according to the agency. "Some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct MSF's medical work," said Christopher Stokes, the agency general director. "Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions."
Libyan officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.
However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.
Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.
Ex-Apple Exec: 'People Would Still Be Really Disturbed If They Saw Where Their iPhone Comes From'... Deaths, Suicide Attempts... 'We Could Have Saved Lives'... Pay Withheld To Punish Employees... 'Culture Of Secrecy'
25 Jan 2012
The far-reaching tentacles of the CIA's Operation Mockingbird are, to this day, responsible for framing and manipulating our perceptions on a scale not easily believed.
Even the once ridiculed 'terrorist news' Al-Jazeera is getting a foothold on American televisions via cable and satellite networks thanks to it's willingness to follow CIA directives on how to present the news.
… says RT…
A woman was attacked in her car in Beit Shemesh Tuesday by ultra-Orthodox extremists - the latest in a series of incidents apparently sparked by what members of the town's Haredi community view as immodest dress.
A crowd of ultra-Orthodox men jumped on 27-year-old Natali Mashiah's car in the Haredi Ramat Beit Shemet Bet neighborhood, she said. Members of the crowd smashed her car windows and punctured her four tires before spilling bleach on the inside of her car, said the Beit Shemesh resident, adding that she believed the men were going to set her on fire. As she fled the car, she said she was hit on the head by a rock thrown from very close range.
David Cameron is seeking to change the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) so that it no longer serves as an automatic last resort for criminals, including foreigners awaiting deportation. But the proposal has been attacked by Labour who believe the prime minister may be paving the way to "walk away" from the court.
The prime minister will use Britain's presidency of the Council of Europe to attempt to make changes to the court and clear the massive backlog of cases across Europe awaiting consideration. However Downing Street has admitted that getting agreement on how to speed up the Court's operation will be an enormous challenge.
24 Jan 2012
A massive solar storm is hurtling towards the Earth after the biggest eruption on the sun in six years.
The radiation storm is expected to create spectacular displays of the Northern Lights - but there are fears it could also disrupt communications, damage satellites and cause power grid outages at northern latitudes.
That first, moderate flare triggered the release of billions of tons of charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere, now travelling towards the earth at speeds of up to 1400 miles per second, according to Nasa's Goddard Space Weather Centre.
This is a small excerpt from an infographic. Click for full size SOPA infographic on the matador network
23 Jan 2012
Scientist Finds 'Living' Objects In Photographs Taken By 1982 Soviet Probe. An article, printed in the Solar System Research magazine, highlighted several objects said to resemble living beings, which were photographed by a Soviet landing probe in 1982.
The Venus-13 mission, which was launched in 1981 and boasted a craft and a lander, was designed to explore the surface of the planet. Its launch was followed closely by Venera-14. Both took four months to reach Venus, deploying parachutes once they had entered the atmosphere. Alongside pictures, the probes took surface samples and seismic readings.
Leonid Ksanfomaliti, a scientist at the Space Research Institute of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, has published research analysing the pictures from the probe, which he describes as a “black flap”, a “scorpion” and a “disk” that "emerge, fluctuate and disappear".
Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers each year, mostly accused of throwing stones. Since 2008, Defence for Children International (DCI) has collected sworn testimonies from 426 minors detained in Israel's military justice system.
Their statements show a pattern of night-time arrests, hands bound with plastic ties, blindfolding, physical and verbal abuse, and threats. About 9% of all those giving affidavits say they were kept in solitary confinement, although there has been a marked increase to 22% in the past six months.
Few parents are told where their children have been taken. Minors are rarely questioned in the presence of a parent, and rarely see a lawyer before or during initial interrogation. Most are detained inside Israel, making family visits very difficult.
Human rights organisations say these patterns of treatment – which are corroborated by a separate study, No Minor Matter, conducted by an Israeli group, B'Tselem – violate the international convention on the rights of the child, which Israel has ratified, and the fourth Geneva convention.
Most children maintain they are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused, despite confessions and guilty pleas, said Gerard Horton of DCI. But, he added, guilt or innocence was not an issue with regard to their treatment.
also see Tikun Olam-תיקון עולם
22 Jan 2012
The religion centering on John Frum arose in the late 1930s, when Vanuatu was known as the New Hebrides. The movement was heavily influenced by existing religious practice in the Sulphur Bay area of Tanna, particularly the worship of Keraperamun, a god associated with Mount Tukosmera, Tanna's highest mountain. In some versions of the story, a native named Manehivi, under the alias "John Frum", began appearing among the native people of Tanna while dressed in a Western coat, making promises of houses, clothes, food, and transport. Others contend that John Frum was a kava-induced spirit vision. Said to be a manifestation of Keraperamun, John Frum promised the dawn of a new age, in which all white people, including missionaries, would leave the New Hebrides, and that the native Melanesians would gain access to the material wealth that white people enjoyed. For this to happen, however, the people of Tanna had to reject all aspects of European society (money, Western education, Christianity, work on copra plantations) and return to traditional kastom (a word for native Tannese customs).
In 1941, followers of John Frum rid themselves of their money in a frenzy of spending, left the missionary churches, schools, villages and plantations, and moved further inland to participate in traditional feasts, dances and rituals. European colonial authorities sought to suppress the movement, arresting Frum, humiliating him publicly, imprisoning him, and ultimately exiling him, along with other leaders of the cult, to another island in the archipelago
21 Jan 2012
In this instalment of the Ancient Technology series, join David Hatcher Childress in northern Mexico and the American Southwest as he searches for evidence of high technology in the ancient past.
Everyone loves chocolate. But for thousands of people, chocolate is the reason for their enslavement. The chocolate bar you snack on likely starts at a plant in a West African cocoa plantation, and often the people who harvest it are children. Many are slaves to a system that produces something almost all of us consume and enjoy.
The CNN Freedom Project sent correspondent David McKenzie into the heart of the Ivory Coast - the world’s largest cocoa producer - to investigate what's happening to children working in the fields. His work has resulted in a shocking, eye-opening documentary showing that despite all the promises the global chocolate industry made a decade ago, much of the trade remains unchanged. There are still child slaves harvesting cocoa, even though some have never even tasted chocolate and some don't even know what the word "chocolate" means.
In the documentary "Chocolate’s Child Slaves," CNN discovers a human trafficking network and farmers using child labour for an industry offering low prices and little more than broken promises.
20 Jan 2012
Etta James, who has died aged 73 after suffering from leukaemia, was among the most critically acclaimed and influential female singers of the past 50 years, even if she never achieved huge popular success. From her first R&B hit, in 1954, the risqué Roll With Me Henry – cut when she was only 15 – through a series of classic 1960s soul sides (the lush ballad At Last, the raucous house rocker Tell Mama and the emotional agony of I'd Rather Go Blind), then a series of critically acclaimed 1970s and 1980s albums that won her a broad rock audience, to more recent albums of jazz vocals, James proved capable of developing and changing as an artist.
Her approach to both singing and life was throughout one of wild, often desperate engagement that included violence, drug addiction, armed robbery and extremely capricious behaviour. James sang with unmatched emotional hunger and a pain that can chill the listener. The ferocity of her voice documents a neglected child, a woman constantly entering into bad relationships and an artist raging against an industry and a society that routinely discriminated against her.
Anonymous Responds To Megaupload Takedown and Claims Credit For DOJ, RIAA, MPAA, Universal Music Outages
The hacktivist group Anonymous launched its "largest attack ever" Thursday, claiming credit for a coordinated takedown of websites managed by the Department of Justice and organizations supporting controversial antipiracy legislation.
The attack, dubbed “Operation Payback,” came in response to Thursday's news that the Justice Department had shut down massive file-sharing site Megaupload. The attack also temporarily brought down the websites of the Recording Industry of America, the Motion Picture Association of America and Universal Music, among others, in retaliation for their support of antipiracy legislation in Congress, known as SOPA and PIPA.
This is 1 of 7 short films about childhood malnutrition for MSF/Doctors Without Borders and the VII Photo Agency. Other Short Films in the Series: Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Mexico, India, USA
Don't just watch. Take action and sign the petition: starvedforattention.org
19 Jan 2012
Norwegian authorities take away children from Indian couple because they were eating with their hands
An Indian couple have had their children taken away by Norwegian social workers because they were feeding them with their hands and sleeping in the same bed as them. Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya lost custody of their three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter eight months ago after authorities branded their behaviour inappropriate.
Father Anurup told Indian television channel NDTV: 'They told me ''why are you sleeping with the children in the same bed?'’. '(I told them) this is also a purely cultural issue. We never leave the children in another room and say goodnight to them.' Anurup added: 'Feeding a child with the hand is normal in Indian tradition and when the mother is feeding with a spoon there could be phases when she was overfeeding the child. 'They said it was force feeding. These are basically cultural differences
The drastic measure led to intervention from the Indian government who contacted Norwegian authorities in an a desperate attempt to return the children. The parents have been told that they can only see their children twice a year, for an hour during each visit until the kids turn 18 when they will no longer be bound by the current restrictions under current Norwegian law.
In a move bound to leave many Greeks and scholars aghast, Greece's culture ministry said Tuesday it will open up some of the debt-stricken country's most-cherished archaeological sites to advertising firms and other ventures.
The ministry says the move is a common-sense way of helping "facilitate" access to the country's ancient Greek ruins, and money generated would fund the upkeep and monitoring of sites. The first site to be opened would be the Acropolis. Archaeologists, however, have for decades slammed such an initiative as sacrilege.
Newt Gingrich has pledged that on his first day as president he will set up a constitutional showdown by ordering the military to defy a supreme court ruling extending some legal rights to foreign terrorism suspects and captured enemy combatants in US custody.
The Republican contender told a forum of anti-abortion activists ahead of South Carolina's primary election that as president he would ignore supreme court rulings he regards as legally flawed. He implied that would also extend to the 1973 decision, Roe vs Wade, legalising abortion.
"If the court makes a fundamentally wrong decision, the president can in fact ignore it," said Gingrich to cheers.
The Republican contender, who has made no secret of his disdain for the judiciary, said that as president he would expect to have repeated showdowns with the supreme court. He said the court would lose because it is the least powerful and least accountable arm of government.
18 Jan 2012
Goldman Sachs bankers in line for £1.5 BILLION pay and bonus pot (and that's just for London staff). With Britain in the grip of a recession, the announcement last night will only add to public fury over City payouts. The company, which is awarding its workers £8.2billion globally, has 5,300 staff based in Britain.
The news comes despite disappointing annual results from the investment bank. Goldman is expected to reveal profits fell to £1.95billion last year, from £5.5billion in 2010. This would make it its second lowest annual profit in almost ten years, reflecting the impact Europe's debt crisis is having on the Wall Street bank. The company's president, Gary Cohn, said the large payouts were necessary for staff retention. The total pot this year is £1.8billion less than the £10billion awarded for their efforts the previous year.
Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia: instead, they will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, and encouraging them to share their views with their elected representatives, and via social media.
17 Jan 2012
Young Jewish Amsterdammers are furious that their chief rabbi has signed a statement issued in America by 162 rabbis and Jewish leaders saying homosexuality is a disease which can be cured.
Aryeh Ralbag, who lives in New York and visits the Netherlands once or twice a year to rule on legal matters, signed the statement as chief rabbi of Amsterdam and de facto of the Netherlands, a young gay man wrote to the Volkskrant in an email. Ronnie Eisenmann of the Jewish Community Amsterdam told the paper he has asked Ralbag to delete his Dutch position from the list of signatories. 'Saying he is chief rabbi here gives the impression that the Jewish community in the Netherlands supports his view. That is not the case,' he said.
In a separate report, Trouw says medical organisations and health insurers do not want to pay for a therapy designed to teach homosexuals to repress their 'sinful urges'. The treatment is offered by the orthodox Christian organisation Different, a recognised provider of therapies in mental health care. Because it is officially recognised, health insurers cannot refuse to pay for the treatment, Trouw says. However, doctors and insurers say the treatment is damaging and even dangerous and want the health inspectorate to look into the matter.
Tourists like these are paying tens of thousands of pounds to legally hunt giraffe, the elegant, gentle giants of the animal kingdom. Many take the animals' heads home as a sick trophy of their African "adventure".
Giraffe expert Dr Julian Fennessey said: "Some come from Britain but the big majority are from North America, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia. "Some hunters just like to have photos taken next to the dead giraffe. But others pay taxidermists to mount the head so they can take them home as a souvenir. Or they might want to take the skin." The hunters pay up to £10,000 for the giraffe-hunting expeditions, which target the larger males.
Safari clubs and game reserves ask for a £1,500 trophy fee and add £1,000 a day for guides and trackers. The giraffe population has nearly halved since 1988 — falling from more than 140,000 to fewer than 80,000. They are now thought to be extinct in places such as Angola, Mali and Nigeria.
The price of crude oil and growing tensions with Iran are bubbling to the top of economists’ and policymakers’ worry lists for 2012, as U.S. and European Union sanctions threaten to reduce the sales of Iranian oil and put pressure on one of the world’s largest petroleum exporters.
“It’s been in the background for quite some time,” said Edward Yardeni, a leading investment strategist. “I’ve characterized it as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse for 2012. Now it’s come from behind to be at the head of the pack.”
A couple of years ago, a billboard appeared outside Columbia, S.C., looming above Interstate 26. Beady eyes stared out from a black balaclava emblazoned with an inscription from the Quran—clearly the eyes were meant to be those of a terrorist—and next to them were these words: “ISLAM RISING ... BE WARNED.”
Erected by the Virginia-based Christian Action Network, the sign advertised the group’s documentary about a charismatic Dutch politician with dyed-blond hair, a mysterious past, and a platform of paranoid hate. South Carolina seemed to offer a ready audience for Geert Wilders’s dire warnings against the Muslim religion. Today, with the Republican road show encamped in the state for the Jan. 21 presidential primary, the 48-year-old Dutchman is more than ever a man who needs to be watched and listened to carefully. At home in the Netherlands, his explosive theme of unrelenting hostility to Islam has built his xenophobic Party for Freedom, founded in 2005, into the country’s third-largest political party; across the Atlantic his message packs serious resonance in an American heartland still shaken by the 9/11 attacks. Wilders’s name and message have been invoked repeatedly in South Carolina and at least a dozen other state legislatures as they debate measures to ban an imagined threat: Islamic law.
That was then. These days the country’s ruling coalition stands or falls at Wilders’s discretion. And his antipathy toward Islam goes so far that when Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands wore a headscarf during a royal visit to the Gulf monarchies last week, Wilders complained that the Dutch government should have stopped her. “He has to move to the middle,” urges Hirsi Ali. “He has to distinguish between violent Islamists and nonviolent Muslims. You know, there are so many shades of Muslims right now, and he could use some of them as his allies.” But it’s as if the rhetoric has taken control of the speaker. “He has always loved attention and power,” says his largely estranged brother, Paul Wilders. “He has ruled out any sense of doubt.”
Like many politicians who boast of their own candor, Wilders keeps much of his life and work in the shadows. Apart from the boilerplate official biography that says he was raised a Roman Catholic in the town of Venlo, there’s little on the record from him about his family background, and he flatly refuses to talk about it now. According to his brother, some of the family’s roots extend deep into Indonesia, an outpost of the Dutch colonialist empire for nearly three and a half centuries. Long-ago intermarriage between European settlers and native “inlanders” might possibly account for the slightly almond shape of Wilders’s dull-blue eyes.
16 Jan 2012
Critics voiced concern after the EU’s attempts to raise their profile spread to classrooms across Britain. A council staged an EU event encouraging teachers to link up with schools on the Continent. Brightly coloured pencil cases bearing its 12-star logo have also been handed out to pupils across the country.
The EU Commission denies such initiatives amount to “propaganda’’ but some fear the aim is to brainwash schoolchildren into backing the EU. Andrew Allison, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be shocked to read the cash they pay to Brussels is being spent in this way. If schools want children to know about the EU, there are plenty of unbiased resources. Teachers don’t need to go to expensive conferences, and schools don’t need to buy books from the EU bookshop.’’
A growing body of evidence collected by the Guardian that shows Iraqi state security officers are systematically arresting people on trumped-up charges, torturing them and extorting bribes from their families for their release. Endemic corruption in Iraq has created a new industry in which senior security service officers buy their authority over particular neighbourhoods by bribing politicians, junior officers pay their seniors monthly stipends and everyone gets a return on their investment by extorting money from the families of detainees.
During two trips to the country before and after the US withdrawal from the country on 18 December, the Guardian interviewed 14 detainees and five officers in different branches of the security service in Baghdad. All the detainees said they had had to pay money to be freed, even though most had been acquitted in the courts. Some had been jailed for three days and some, like Yassir, for five years. In three cases, officers changed a detainee's "confession" – often extracted under torture – in return for money. In one case, an officer lost the detainee's documents in return for a bribe and he was released due to lack of evidence. One prisoner we interviewed is still in jail and in the middle of negotiations with officers.
Release does not mean escape. According to one officer we spoke to, men who are released are often detained again because a family that has paid once to get their sons out of a detention centre makes an easy target for more extortion.
15 Jan 2012
Iran has called on the United Nations to condemn the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist, calling it a "terrorist attack” orchestrated by foreign powers who want to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Iran's Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee called on the UN to condemn the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on January 11, as well as two previous attacks that left two nuclear scientists dead and another wounded.
The United States has condemned the killing of Ahmadi Roshan and has also denied any involvement. Israel has said it has no knowledge of who was involved.
As callous as this may seem, I admit to sharing the views of Israeli General Yoav Mordechai, who, when informed Wednesday of the assassination of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist, posted on Facebook: “I don’t know who took revenge on the Iranian scientist, but I am definitely not shedding a tear.” The “who,” of course, is almost certainly the Mossad, Israel’s secret service. (Lorne Gunter: It’s naive to think assassinating Iran’s scientists isn’t justified – National Post)
United Nations peacekeepers have carried a South Asian 'super bug' strain of cholera into the Western Hemisphere for the first time. The virulent form of cholera has already killed 7,000 people in Haiti, and more than 500,000 Haitians have been infected. Now, isolated cases have turned up in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Boston, Miami, and even New York...