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by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 04:58:00 PM EST
BBC News - Russia joins Red Cross call for daily truce in Syria

Russia has joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in calling for a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.

In a statement, the foreign ministry called on the government "and all armed groups who oppose it" to agree to ceasefires "without delay".

Russia has twice vetoed Western-backed draft resolutions on Syria at the UN Security Council.

Its call came hours after clashes erupted in part of the Syrian capital.

The head of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger, had travelled to Moscow to discuss a ceasefire arrangement with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The organisation says a daily pause in fighting is needed to evacuate the wounded from the worst affected areas and allow in food and medicine.

Mr Kellenberger said Russia's support for its appeal was "very important" and that he noted it with "satisfaction and gratitude".

"The most important issue for us is to ensure humanitarian ceasefires as soon as possible," Russian media quoted him as saying.

He said the prospect of more Syrian cities being subjected to the intense military bombardment seen in Homs earlier this year was "absolutely unacceptable".

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:11:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria: leaked documents reveal Bashar al-Assad's role in crushing protests | World news | The Guardian

Leaks of what appear to be official Syrian documents reveal how its president, Bashar al-Assad, personally signs off plans drawn up by his government's crisis management centre, prioritising a security crackdown to prevent protests against his regime spreading to Damascus.

Hundreds of pages of confidential papers shown to al-Jazeera TV by a defector describe daily meetings of the heads of all Syria's security and intelligence agencies, who review events and issue orders that are then approved by the president.

The Interfax news agency also reported that a Russian military anti-terror unit had arrived in the Syrian port of Tartous aboard a tanker from the country's Black Sea fleet. The tanker had earlier passed through pirate-infested waters.

The troops arrived as the Russian government backed a call by the Red Cross for daily two-hour ceasefires to allow for aid to reach the areas worst hit by violence.

Amid reports of fighting on Monday in the Mezzeh area of Damascus - the heaviest in the capital since the uprising began a year ago - al-Jazeera said the documents were smuggled out of Syria by Abdel-Majid Barakat, head of information for the state crisis management unit, who is now hiding in Turkey with opposition activists.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:11:44 PM EST
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Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad: The good wife | World | DW.DE | 17.03.2012

Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad has been compared to Princess Diana for her youth, beauty and compassion. Now private e-mails leaked to the Guardian newspaper portray a woman who resembles Marie Antoinette.

Since the Syrian uprising led to a brutal crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's regime a year ago, his wife Asma has largely remained out of the spotlight, except for two public appearances supporting her husband. In January she was almost inconspicuous with a beret on her head, while clutching two of her young children and feigning a smile for the cameras as her husband gave a speech at a rally.

In late February, the first lady looking more confident and elegant in black, was seen smiling and greeting supporters alongside the President as they cast ballots in a referendum on constitutional reform, which was regarded as a farce by opposition forces and condemned by the West. At the same time, the city of Homs, which has been at the epicenter of the pro-democracy movement, was bombarded with mortars and rockets. At least 8,000 Syrians have been killed in the year-long bloodbath, according to UN estimates.

Earlier in February, the First Lady provoked outrage in Britain by sending an unsolicited e-mail to the Times newspaper, saying "The President is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the First lady supports him in that role."

She appears to communicate often by e-mail. On Thursday, Britain's Guardian newspaper published the first couple's private e-mail documents leaked by the opposition group Supreme Council of the Revolution. The e-mails portray a woman who ordered tens of thousands of dollars worth of chandeliers and candlesticks among other luxury items within the past eight month period, when her country was under siege and ordinary Syrians were facing food shortages.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:12:16 PM EST
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Protest jokes darken Arab rulers' humour - FT.com

The Arabs' pursuit of freedom has unleashed some of the worst state violence that the Middle East has seen in recent times. Fortunately, though, Arabs are not losing their sense of humour.

From the slogans of Tahrir Square - "Please go, my hand is hurting" - to "Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator", an online show in which finger puppets impersonate Bashar al-Assad, protesters, even those under enormous stress, have taken solace in the absurdity of autocratic rulers' battles for survival.

My personal favourite is one Lebanese stand-up comedian's hilarious take on the chaotic discovery of people power in the region. In the video titled "Demonstrations Delivery", the comedian poses as the provider of a full protesters service ("wonderful protesters, men, women, youth, whatever is required") from the comfort of his office and the end of a telephone line.

"You want 300 protesters in front of the electricity company? No problem, I will find the perfect sample . . . and if you pay more, I can offer 10 who can shout slogans in French and will throw in another five English speakers for free," he tells a caller.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:14:01 PM EST
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Libya, France, ICC seek extradition of ex-spy chief - LIBYA - FRANCE 24

Mauritania arrested Muammar Gaddafi's ex-spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, after he arrived on an overnight flight, officials said on Saturday, triggering a three-way tussle for his extradition.

Senussi, who for decades before the late dictator's fall inspired fear and hatred in ordinary Libyans, is sought by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity during last year's conflict.

But Libya's new rulers insisted he would have a fair trial there, while France - confirming it played a role in his arrest - stressed his alleged role in the 1989 bombing of an airliner over Niger in which 54 French nationals died.

"Today we confirm the news of the arrest of Abdullah al-Senussi," Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manee told a news conference in Tripoli.

"He was arrested this morning in Nouakchott airport and there was a young man with him. We think it is his son," he said, confirming a Mauritanian state news agency report that Senussi had been arrested with a false Malian passport arriving from Casablanca, Morocco.

France, which led Western backing for the popular uprising that toppled Gaddafi, said it had cooperated with Mauritanian authorities over the arrest and that it would be sending an arrest warrant to Mauritania.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:14:26 PM EST
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US soldier accused of Afghan massacre to meet lawyers - Americas - World - The Independent

Robert Bales, the staff sergeant accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians as they slept two Sundays ago, is set to meet his lawyers for the first time tonight, even as friends and relatives in US struggled to square what they thought they knew about him with the horror of the accusations levelled against him.

"It is too early to determine what factors may have played into this incident and the defence team looks forward to reviewing the evidence, examining all of Sergeant Bales' medical and personnel records, and interviewing witnesses," the defence lawyers said before meeting with their client, who is in solitary confinement at a military maximum security unit at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The defence team, led by John Henry Browne, has pushed back against US military claims that Sergeant Bales, 38, had been drinking before the killings and that he had been under pressure from marital and financial difficulties at home. They have been depicting him as exhausted by four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and potentially suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Among those who have followed bulletins about Sergeant Bales in disbelief is Michelle Caddell, 48, who knew him when he was growing up in Ohio.  "I wanted to see, maybe, a different face," she told the New York Times, "because that's not our Bobby. Something horrible, horrible had to happen to him."

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:14:57 PM EST
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Robert Fisk: Madness is not the reason for this massacre - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

I'm getting a bit tired of the "deranged" soldier story. It was predictable, of course. The 38-year-old staff sergeant who massacred 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, near Kandahar this week had no sooner returned to base than the defence experts and the think-tank boys and girls announced that he was "deranged". Not an evil, wicked, mindless terrorist - which he would be, of course, if he had been an Afghan, especially a Taliban - but merely a guy who went crazy.

This was the same nonsense used to describe the murderous US soldiers who ran amok in the Iraqi town of Haditha. It was the same word used about Israeli soldier Baruch Goldstein who massacred 25 Palestinians in Hebron - something I pointed out in this paper only hours before the staff sergeant became suddenly "deranged" in Kandahar province.

"Apparently deranged", "probably deranged", journalists announced, a soldier who "might have suffered some kind of breakdown" (The Guardian), a "rogue US soldier" (Financial Times) whose "rampage" (The New York Times) was "doubtless [sic] perpetrated in an act of madness" (Le Figaro). Really? Are we supposed to believe this stuff? Surely, if he was entirely deranged, our staff sergeant would have killed 16 of his fellow Americans. He would have slaughtered his mates and then set fire to their bodies. But, no, he didn't kill Americans. He chose to kill Afghans. There was a choice involved. So why did he kill Afghans? We learned yesterday that the soldier had recently seen one of his mates with his legs blown off. But so what?

The Afghan narrative has been curiously lobotomised - censored, even - by those who have been trying to explain this appalling massacre in Kandahar. They remembered the Koran burnings - when American troops in Bagram chucked Korans on a bonfire - and the deaths of six Nato soldiers, two of them Americans, which followed. But blow me down if they didn't forget - and this applies to every single report on the latest killings - a remarkable and highly significant statement from the US army's top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, exactly 22 days ago. Indeed, it was so unusual a statement that I clipped the report of Allen's words from my morning paper and placed it inside my briefcase for future reference.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FIrst posted by Helen.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 06:40:37 AM EST
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Afghans suspect US cover-up over soldier's killing spree | World news | The Guardian

When the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, called for an investigation to determine whether a US soldier who massacred nine Afghan children and seven other civilians had acted alone, he was voicing a question on the lips of most Afghans.

The 38-year-old staff sergeant Robert Bales has been depicted as a mentally strained, "rogue" killer by US and Nato military officials, who have shown Afghan officials surveillance video of his solitary return to base among other evidence that he acted alone.

In German, Spiegel reports second-hand evidence: they interviewed a relative of one of the victims, who was told by the surviving wife that multiple soldiers stormed their home and his husband was held down by some while another shot him.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 06:39:20 AM EST
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Does this mean that Bales will get a suspended sentence? If not, what reason is there for him to take part in the cover-up rather than naming the other soldiers?
by gk (gk) on Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 07:08:46 AM EST
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Bales's lawyers claim that he has no recollection of the incident, so for what did he turn himself in?

US soldier accused of Afghan massacre 'does not remember attack' - Telegraph

"He has an early memory of that evening and he has a later memory ... but he doesn't have memory of the evening in between," John Henry Browne told CBS News after meeting Bales for the first time at Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 08:43:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Uganda Attempts to Counter Image Presented by 'Kony 2012' - NYTimes.com

He has posted a long video to YouTube and sent Twitter messages to celebrities, but so far Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi of Uganda has yet to match the explosive virality of the original campaign against the wanted warlord Joseph Kony.

Perhaps that was not the point.

Mr. Mbabazi, who once directed forces against Mr. Kony as the head of the country's defense ministry, called the original viral video "slick" and, as if in deliberate contrast, his own presentation, posted over the weekend, lacked the flash and narrative spark of the work by Invisible Children. But he did have a similarly simple message: Uganda is safe.

Seated and staring at the camera in one long take, Mr. Mbabazi spoke slowly and deliberately as he attempted to present a vision of Uganda as a "modern developing country which enjoys peace, stability and security."

"Only a couple of months ago, Lonely Planet described Uganda as the best country in the world to visit in 2012," Mr. Mbabazi said in the 8-minute-long video.

The Lonely Planet did list Uganda first among an eclectic mix of places to visit this year, ahead of Myanmar and Ukraine.

Still, Uganda still isn't without its problems. Human rights abuses aren't uncommon, and the country breathes a collective sigh whenever President Museveni thinks of another ruse to stay in power for a few more years. But now, as ever, explorers in search of the source of the Nile won't leave disappointed.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:19:31 PM EST
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Protests as Maldives parliament opens - Central & South Asia - Al Jazeera English

The new president of the Maldives has opened parliament amid protests by the opposition, nearly six weeks after he took office in what his predecessor has called a coup.

Police fired tear gas earlier on Monday as several hundred demonstrators blocked roads and shouted slogans calling for the resignation of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan. Waheed was prevented from opening parliament on March 1 amid protests by opposition legislators.

Hassan was vice president when he replaced Mohamed Nasheed last month after his predecessor resigned following weeks of public protests and a loss of support from the military and police.

Nasheed later claimed that he was forced to resign at gunpoint in what he called a coup. He demanded that Waheed resign immediately and call fresh elections. Waheed says the power transfer was constitutional.

Television footage on Monday showed security staff in the parliament building forcibly removing four opposition legislators as they were trying to stop Waheed from making his opening speech.

After a few hours' delay, Waheed made his speech in which he called for national unity. However, street protests continued.

In Monday's speech, Waheed said the Maldives' constitution did not allow a presidential election before July 2013 and an early election would require constitutional amendment.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:19:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Drug-resistant white plague lurks among rich and poor | Reuters

On New Year's Eve 2004, after months of losing weight and suffering fevers, night sweats and shortness of breath, student Anna Watterson was taken into hospital coughing up blood.

It was strange to be diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB)- an ancient disease associated with poverty - especially since Watterson was a well-off trainee lawyer living in the affluent British capital of London. Yet it was also a relief, she says, finally to know what had been making her ill for so long.

But when Watterson's infection refused to yield to the three-pronged antibiotic attack doctors prescribed to fight it, her relief turned to dread.

After six weeks of taking pills that had no effect, Watterson was told she had multi-drug resistant TB, or MDR-TB, and faced months in an isolation ward on a regimen of injected drugs that left her nauseous, bruised and unable to go out in the sun.

"My friends were really shocked," Watterson said. "Most of them had only heard of TB from reading Victorian novels."

Tuberculosis is often seen in the wealthy West as a disease of bygone eras - evoking impoverished 18th or 19th century women and children dying slowly of a disease then commonly known as "consumption" or the "white plague".

by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:21:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People have been warning this was going to happen since 1975.  Been happening in India and Africa for five years (IIRC.)  Now that "trainee lawyers in London" are coming down with MDR-TB it's "A Plague."

OH!

And let's eliminate the Public Health Services as a waste of money.

Assholes.  Fuck 'em all with a rusty razor blade.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 07:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Khmer Rouge trial rocked by second resignation - News - Mail & Guardian Online
Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court was rocked on Monday by the second resignation of an international judge in recent months amid a row over whether to pursue more former regime members.

Swiss co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet said that his authority to investigate possible third and fourth cases at the tribunal had been constantly blocked by his Cambodian counterpart.

"Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet considers that the present circumstances no longer allow him to properly and freely perform his duties," a statement released by the court said.

In October, German judge Siegfried Blunk quit the court, blaming government interference in two potential new cases, in which five mid-level Khmer Rouge members face a string of allegations including mass killings and forced labour during the regime's 1975-1979 reign of terror.

The UN named Kasper-Ansermet, the reserve judge, as Blunk's replacement but Cambodia refused to recognise the appointment, prompting an unprecedented row and forcing the Swiss to work without the support of his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.

"The situation is completely blocked," Kasper-Ansermet said after announcing his resignation.

In the statement, he added that "You Bunleng's active opposition to investigations into cases 003 and 004 has led to a dysfunctional situation".
by Nomad on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 06:28:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colombia Reports: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the FARC lied during release negotiations for ten security force hostages, in a press release Sunday.
Related item HERE.

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban authorities detained a prominent dissident and dozens of her colleagues early Sunday, then rounded up more activists while they staged a weekly protest march through Havana just days before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
More Cuban Odds and Ends.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan prosecutors have appointed a group of experts to assist in an investigation into the killing of a Chilean diplomat's 19-year-old daughter by police. (...) Karen Berendique died after being shot by police on Friday night at an unmarked checkpoint in the western city of Maracaibo, the authorities said. Her father, Chilean honorary consul Fernando Berendique, called for better police training on Monday. He told the Venezuelan radio station Union Radio that at 9 p.m. on Friday, his son left home together with his daughter to drive her to a party several blocks from their home.

MercoPress: A Brazilian court barred 17 executives from Chevron and Transocean from leaving Brazil, pending criminal charges related to a high-profile oil spill last November. A second oil spill detected last week further complicated the situation.

BBC: A Brazilian federal judge has blocked a move to try a retired army colonel for abuses allegedly committed during the country's military dictatorship.  Prosecutors wanted Sebastiao de Moura to face criminal charges over the kidnap of five leftist guerrillas in the 1970s.

Tim's El Salvador Blog: In the past week, there has been a 53% decrease in the level of homicides in El Salvador from the weekly average in the first 9 weeks of 2012.   The online periodical El Faro published a report on Wednesday suggesting that this decrease was the result of a deal struck between the Salvadoran government and gang leaders.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) -- El Salvador's government is giving $50-per-month pensions to thousands of elderly former leftist rebels who fought in the country's 1980-1992 civil war. The office of President Mauricio Funes says more than 2,600 former rebels over age 70 will get the pension.


"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 09:38:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neil Livingstone, who claims to be a security expert, is running in the Republican primary for Governor of Montana. He has published a book, with the reasonable-sounding title Protect Yourself in an Uncertain World: A Comprehensive Handbook for Your Personal and Business Security, available (for now) from Amazon for a few dollars. But you don't have to order it; somebody has scanned and posted some of it, and another blog includes highlights:
Never give a hooker your real name.  Alternatively, use only your first name. On the one hand, some experts say that you should never take a hooker back to your hotel room or apartment, as this invites trouble. On the other hand, your hotel is the safest place for a tryst.

Select a high quality brothel.  Patronizing a high quality, and therefore generally more expensive, brothel or escort service is always preferable to picking up a bar girl or streetwalker. Most brother operators are required to scrutinize the health of their employees and offer a generally safe environment for patrons. Some tony London brothels, for example, offer a high degree of cleanliness and security.

Double Pleasure can be Double Trouble. Never take those two for one deals.  When you get the women back to your room, one may rifle through your pockets while the other takes you around the world.

by gk (gk) on Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 07:27:09 AM EST
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