Showing posts from May, 2012

Sudanese woman sentenced to stoning death

A young mother found guilty of adultery in Sudan has been sentenced to death by stoning. Intisar Sharif Abdallah was tried without access to a lawyer and is being detained with her four-month-old baby Amnesty puts Abdallah's age at 20; Human Rights Watch says she may be under 18. Her family is appealing against the execution and it is unclear when it will be carried out. Abdallah admitted to the charges only after her brother reportedly beat her. The conviction was based solely rests on this testimony. The man held with her reportedly denied the charges and was released. Abdallah is said to be shackled by the legs and in psychological distress, unable to understand the nature of her sentence. Her other children are being cared for by family, who are of filing an appeal in Ombada. Jean-Baptiste Gallopin of Amnesty's Sudan team said: "The case is emblematic of the failure of the Sudanese judicial system. Intisar Sharif Abdallah was tried without access to a lawyer or a t

Writer’s block in Nepal: Manjushree Thapa

What do you do if you’re the high-caste leader of a democratic party faced with a vote that will end your caste’s supremacy? You avoid voting at all costs. This is what the leaders of the Nepali Congress party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) did in Kathmandu on May 27. Their refusal to compromise with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and other parties led to the failure to pass a new Constitution and the dissolution of the country’s only democratically elected body, the 601-member Constituent Assembly. This was an unforgivable betrayal of public trust: the citizenry had waited for four years for a new Constitution that would mark the birth of a “New Nepal”. It also plunged Nepal into a constitutional crisis: the country now has a caretaker President, a caretaker Prime Minister, and a caretaker Cabinet, but no representative body. The judiciary, the bureaucracy and the security forces remain, of course. But no one is sure what is legitimate and

Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be. Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.  “He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his nationa

Blind Activist Calls For End To 'Lawlessness' In China

How China Flouts Its Laws By CHEN GUANGCHENG SINCE I arrived in the United States on May 19, people have asked me, “What do you want to do here?” I have come here to study temporarily, not to seek political asylum. And while I pursue my studies, I hope that the Chinese government and the Communist Party will conduct a thorough investigation of the lawless punishment inflicted on me and my family over the past seven years. I asked for such an investigation while I was hospitalized in Beijing, after I had left the refuge of the United States Embassy and American officials negotiated my reunification with my family. High officials from the Chinese government assured me that a thorough and public investigation would take place and that they would inform me of the results. I hope that this promise will be honored. But the government has often failed to fulfill similar commitments. I urge the government and people of the United States and other democratic countries to insist that the Chin

Disgusted and scared to live in Kerala, land of killers: Mohanlal

Malayalam superstar and national award winning actor Mohanlal has expressed deep anguish and disgust over the murder of TP Chandrasekharan, the CPM-dissident, who was hacked to death at Kozhikkode in north Kerala on May 5th.  I don’t want to talk about the politics behind this murder. I don’t know. But, I do want to say that I feel thoroughly disgruntled to live in a state where there are people who kill and make others kill.  I feel scared and disgusted. Is Kerala turning into a mad house? “I feel disgruntled to live in a place where people kill and make others kill,” he said. “I feel disgusted and scared.”Writing a solemn note on his blog to express his deep pain on his 52nd birthday, he said an otherwise joyous day has been shrouded by the sadness of Chandrasekharan’s murder. He said he can very closely personalise the intense sorrow of the slain leader’s mother.  Mohanlal is one of the very few cultural icons in the state who have spoken out against the murder. A few days ago, t

Flame computer virus can spy on every action of user

Iran and other Middle East countries have been hit with a cunning computer virus that can eavesdrop on computer users and their co-workers and filch information from nearby cellphones, cybersecurity experts said Tuesday. And suspicion immediately fell on Israel as the culprit. The Russian Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab ZAO said the “Flame” virus is unprecedented in size and complexity, with researcher Roel Schouwenberg marveling at its versatility. “It can be used to spy on everything that a user is doing,” he said. Computers in Iran appear to have been particularly affected, and Kaspersky’s conclusion that the virus was crafted at the behest of a national government fueled speculation it could be part of an Israeli-backed campaign of electronic sabotage against the Jewish state’s archenemy. The virus can activate a computer’s audio systems to listen in on Skype calls or office chatter. It can also take screenshots, log keystrokes and — in one of its more novel functions— steal

Syrian massacre child-survivor tells how his family were slaughtered

An 11-year old boy has described how he smeared himself in the blood of his slain brother and played dead as loyalist gunmen burst into his home and killed six members of his family during the start of a massacre in Houla, central Syria. The young survivor's chilling account emerged as Russia continued to blame both Syrian troops and opposition militias for the weekend rampage in the town that left at least 116 people dead and prompted fresh outrage against the regime's crackdown. It comes on the eve of Kofi Annan's scheduled meeting on Tuesday in Damascus with Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, which is seen as the last hope of salvaging the UN special envoy's failed peace plan. Speaking to the Guardian, the young survivor said government troops arrived in his district at around 3am on Saturday, several hours after shells started falling on Houla .  "They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks," said the boy. "They shot five bullets t

The butler did it

One of the Vatican's biggest scandals in decades has widened, with the pope's butler agreeing to co-operate with investigators over confidential documents allegedly found at his home Gabriele, the pope's personal butler since 2006, was arrested last Wednesday after documents he had no business having in his possession were found inside his Vatican City apartment . In custody in a Vatican detention facility, accused of theft, he has been allowed to see his wife and his lawyers. Gabriele's lawyer Carlo Fusco said his client would "respond to all the questions and will collaborate with investigators to ascertain the truth". The 46-year-old Gabriele was always considered extremely loyal to Benedict and to his predecessor, John Paul II, for whom he briefly served. Vatican insiders said they were baffled by his alleged involvement in the scandal. Fusco reported on Monday that Gabriele was "very serene and calm". So far, he remains the only person who

Afghan grandmother is a crimebuster on wheels

It's unusual for a woman to be a leader in Afghanistan but Zarifa Qazizadah has become the country's only female village chief through force of personality and determination to get things done - even if that means cross-dressing, wearing a false moustache and driving around on a motorbike at night. "I tell the men of the village, all I want is your prayers," she says. "When you have a problem, I'll speak to the government on your behalf and whenever there is any disturbance at night-time, I'll pick up my gun and come to your house to see what's going on." When the mother of 15 first sought political office, and told local men she wanted to connect the village to the electricity grid, they laughed . That was in 2004. She lost the election, but she got the electricity all the same, and two years later the men asked her to apply for the post of head of the village - Naw Abad in the country's northern Balkh province. Now she guards the elect

Ahmed Rashid: Why Are We Abandoning the Afghans?

What will Afghanistan look like in 2014, after a dozen years of occupation, more than 2,800 NATO soldiers killed, and an expenditure of $1 trillion? If the participants in this week’s NATO summit in Chicago are to be believed, what they will leave behind is little more than a series of fortresses in enemy territory: Kabul and the other major cities will be protected by Afghan forces, while the countryside falls back into the hands of the Taliban. NATO leaders all but acknowledged that much of Kandahar & Helmand provinces - where 30,000 US marines had launched “the surge” two years ago to root out the Taliban - would quickly revert back to Taliban control once the Americans left. President Barack Obama has said that the promise to end combat operations by next summer and withdraw all Western troops by 2014 is “irreversible.” In other words, whatever happens on the ground when authority is handed over to the fledgling, largely illiterate, and drug infested Afghan army will not stop

DRUG-FINANCED SALAFI JIHADISM: The Afghan Drug Trade, threat to Russia and U.S.-Russian Relations

What particularly concerns me is the relative absence of public response in America to a long-term Pentagon-CIA agenda of aggressive military expansion... No doubt many Americans may think that a global pax Americana will secure a period of peace, much like the pax Romana of two millennia ago. I myself am confident that it will not: rather, like the imperfect pax Britannica of a century ago, it will lead inevitably to a major conflict, possibly another nuclear war.. . few in America seem to care about Washington’s global domination project. We have seen critical examination of why America fought in Vietnam, and even the American involvement in the Indonesian massacre of 1965. Chomsky and Bill Blum have chronicled America’s criminal acts since World War II. But only a few, like Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, have written about the consolidation of a war machine that now dominates America’s political processes.. . The U.S. dollar, weakening as it is, still depends largely on the

Paul Fussell, ex-soldier, literary Scholar & critic, dies at 88

Out of the mass experience of pointless death, a new way of speaking and writing, devoid of euphemism, arose, a plain style we associate with Hemingway..  The Great War chronicles the loss of the old rhetoric, of high pieties, of sacrifice and roseate dawns, in favor of “blood, terror, agony, madness, shit, cruelty, murder, sell-out, pain and hoax,” as Fussell lists it at one point; the sound of “ominous gunfire heard across water.” Fussell himself fought in World War II, and himself wrote in a candid style. “I am saying,” he concludes one chapter.. as if replying to a margin note from a junior editor, “that there seems to be one dominating form of modern understanding; that it is essentially ironic; and that it originates largely in the application of mind and memory to the events of the Great War.” Paul Fussell, the wide-ranging, stingingly opinionated literary scholar and cultural critic whose admiration for Samuel Johnson, Kingsley Amis and the Boy Scout Handbook and his wither

Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha, Ali Akbar Khan, George Harrison in The Concert for Bangladesh August 1971

"In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh. It was a fantastic occasion ..." -  Ravi Shankar.  “a brief incandescent revival of all that was best about the Sixties”. Editors, Rolling Stone The “warmth, care and goodwill” of the August 1971 concerts “echoed all over the world” - Bangladesh historian Farida Majid.  Watch and hear it at : The Concert for Bangladesh was the name for two benefit concerts organised by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, held at noon and at 7pm on Sunday, 1 August 1971, playing to a total of 40,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The shows were organised to raise awareness and fund relief efforts for refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) following the 1970 Bhola cyclone and the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. The Concert for Bangladesh was also the title of the accompanying live album, a boxed three-record set, released in December 1971 a

Revealed: Hundreds of words to avoid using online if you don't want the US government spying on you

The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S. The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda', 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork', 'cloud', 'team' and 'Mexico'. Released under a freedom of information request, the information sheds new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats. The words are included in the department's 2011 'Analyst's Desktop Binder' used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify 'media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities'. Department chiefs were forced to release the manual following a House hearin

China's lost history of famine

The great famine that devastated China half a century ago killed tens of millions of people - but is barely a footnote in history books. There are few open public records of an event that is seared into the memories of those who survived this largely man-made disaster. A documentary maker now hopes to redress that imbalance by collecting the stories of hundreds of people who lived through the famine. He has sent young film-makers across China to video the survivors' testimonies. Some of those videos have already been shown to the public in screenings at the 798 arts district on the outskirts of Beijing. Stories are still being collected and the long-term aim is to bring all these video memories together. Wu Wenguang, the man behind the project, said: "If we don't know about the past, then there will be no future." Armed with video cameras, Mr Wu's researchers have already travelled to 50 villages in 10 provinces across China. So far they have collected more th

Does globalization mean we will become one culture?

the very psychology that allows us to form and cooperate in small tribal groups, makes it possible for us to form into the larger social groupings of the modern world Stroll into your local Starbucks and you will find yourself part of a cultural experiment on a scale never seen before on this planet. In less than half a century, the coffee chain has grown from a single outlet in Seattle to nearly 20,000 shops in around 60 countries. Each year, it’s near identical stores serve cups of near identical coffee in near identical cups to hundreds of thousands of people. For the first time in history, your morning cappuccino is the same no matter whether you are sipping it in Tokyo, New York, Bangkok or Buenos Aries. Of course, it is not just Starbucks. Select any global brand from Coca Cola to Facebook and the chances are you will see or feel their presence in most countries around the world. It is easy to see this homogenization in terms of loss of diversity, identity or the westernizati

Israelis attack African migrants during protest against refugees

Demonstrators have attacked African migrants in Tel Aviv in a protest against refugees and asylum-seekers that indicates an increasingly volatile mood in Israel over what it terms as "infiltrators". Miri Regev, a member of the Israeli parliament, told the crowd "the Sudanese are a cancer in our body". The vast majority of asylum-seekers in Israel are from Sudan and Eritrea. Around 1,000 demonstrators took part in the demonstration on Wednesday night, waving signs saying: "Infiltrators, get out of our homes" and "Our streets are no longer safe for our children." A car containing Africans was attacked and shops serving the refugee community were looted. Twelve people were arrested. A reporter for the Israeli daily Maariv described it as an "unbridled rampage" and explosion of "pent-up rage". "Suddenly one of [the protesters] noticed that in one of the cars waiting for traffic to move were two young dark-skinned men, appar

Book Review - Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life

  “I’m no parasite. I’m a poet, who will bring honor and glory to his country.” Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life : By Lev Loseff Brodsky’s behavior in the Soviet Union in 1964 was astonishing, a sign both of the changing times and of his extraordinary courage. He did not cave or confess or plead for forgiveness, nor did he make a stirring political speech. He had not publicly opposed the Soviet system or its censorship (even though he had suffered from it), and he had no political message to communicate. Joseph Brodsky caught the attention of the outside world for the first time in 1964, when he was tried in Leningrad for the crime of writing poetry. That is not how the indictment read, of course: his “crime” was that he did not have a regular job, and was therefore a “parasite.” But a scurrilous article attacking Brodsky in the Evening Leningrad newspaper not long before his trial gave the game away. He was charged with being a “literary drone,” a writer of pointless doggerel, an

Human Rights Work of Russia's “Memorial” group

“Memorial” began initially as an historical and educational association with a significant part of its work dedicated to protecting human rights. Each of “Memorial”'s regional divisions is involved in protecting human rights, specifically in vindicating the rights of former prisoners. The organization appeals to society to not forget the cruel and massive human rights violations in our country's past, but also not to ignore that human rights violations continue to occur. In the spring of 1989, authorities brutally broke up a meeting in Tbilisi, leading to many deaths. In Moscow, “Memorial” organized a series of protest actions. Through the year, “Memorial” repeatedly posted pickets at the building of the General Procurator of the U.S.S.R. demanding freedom for all the then-remaining political prisoners in the U.S.S.R. Towards autumn, a legal defense group grew out of this work: the association “Memorial”. In 1991 “Memorial”'s Human Rights Center was established to organiz

Book review: Orlando Figes and Stalin's Victims

By Peter Reddaway and Stephen F. Cohen Many Western observers believe that Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime has in effect banned a Russian edition of a widely acclaimed 2007 book by the British historian Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia . A professor at University of London’s Birkbeck College, Figes himself inspired this explanation. In an interview and in an article in 2009, he suggested that his first Russian publisher dropped the project due to “political pressure” because his large-scale study of Stalin-era terror “is inconvenient to the current regime.” Three years later, his explanation continues to circulate. We doubted Figes’s explanation at the time—partly because excellent Russian historians were themselves publishing so many uncensored exposés of the horrors of Stalinism, and continue to do so—but only now are we able to disprove it. (Since neither of us knows Figes or has ever had any contact with him, there was no personal animus in our

Time is almost up for the old city of Kashgar

China's plan to transform the heart of Uyghur culture, learning and urban settlement - Kashgar old city - is well underway. The Uyghurs themselves have no voice in this process.. For the last three years, and over the silence of the international community, the din of bulldozers has reverberated across this ancient Silk Road hub. The demolition of the heart of Kashgar, a process accompanied by countless individual stories of loss, heralds the end of a distinct Uyghur culture. In the People's Republic of China, development planning equates to a no-choice acceptance of whatever blueprint for the future of communities the party-state chooses. Kashgar old city has long held a central place in Uyghur culture and history. A distinguished line of Uyghur scholars, such as the renowned 11th-century Turkic-language lexicographer Mahmud Kashgari, made Kashgar a focal point of learning. Throughout its many-layered existence - as a major Silk Road trading axis, "great game" li

Putin and the loneliness of the long distance president

An ideal Russia, in Putin’s paranoid logic, would be a Russia without its people. outside Russia no one, apart from a handful of lost souls, needs Putin. This may not be the best news for him, especially bearing in mind his offshore oil and gas plans, but it’s not critical. But it looks as though things aren’t that much better at home – and here I’m not even talking about the wide-ranging opposition to his rule. In terms of internal politics, we can see through another decision, one even more jaw-dropping than his refusal to meet the G8. In this case, it is true, all the analysts have worked it out: the appointment of Aleksandr Tkachov, a former mechanical engineer, as his special envoy to Abkhazia is less a question of pandering to public opinion than a demonstration of his terminal mistrust of his own, ‘putinist’ elite... Vladimir Vladimirovich’s self appointment as president was the act of a petty tyrant and marked the beginning of the slow but sure suicide of the post-Yeltsin r