Daily Archives: April 19, 2008

Pelosi, Gingrich team up for global warming TV ad

San Francisco Chronicle | Apr 18, 2008

The political odd couple of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has teamed up to film a new TV ad urging U.S. leaders — yes, that’s aimed at you, President Bush — to take immediate action on climate change.

It’s the second of the “Unlikely Alliances” spots filmed as part of former Vice President Al Gore’s $300 million “We” advertising and online activism campaign designed to get the American public to pressure their elected officials to address global warming.

The first ad featured left-leaning Rev. Al Sharpton and conservative Rev. Pat Robertson sitting on a couch on a beach in Virginia. The couch has been recycled in the latest ad, where Pelosi and Gingrich sit side-by-side before the backdrop of the U.S. Capitol.

“We don’t always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?” Pelosi asks.

“No,” Gingrich replies. “But we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.”

Pelosi and Gingrich have their bipartisan act down, but the acting is pretty stiff. They should have taken their cues from Sharpton and Robertson, who appeared to be having much more fun in their ad. Of course, they were at the beach. (Both the ads were produced by the Martin Agency, a Richmond, Virginia-based advertising firm.)

Bush made a Rose Garden speech this week on climate change, calling for a halt in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Critics lambasted his comments as a stalling tactic. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said emissions worldwide must start dropping by 2015 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Despite sitting side-by-side on the couch, Pelosi and Gingrich don’t share identical views on climate change. Pelosi is backing a mandatory cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions, while Gingrich would rather use tax credits and other incentives to get industry to switch to low-carbon technologies.

Gingrich made his views clear during a debate last year on climate change with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., where they agreed the problem is real, but differed on solutions.

But Cathy Zoi, CEO of Gore’s Palo Alto-based Alliance for Climate Protection, said the ad reminds people that climate change is not a partisan issue. “By bringing together top Republicans and Democrats, we are demonstrating both to the American public and to lawmakers that we can and must overcome partisan differences to solve the climate crisis,” she said.

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Bloodstained items found in secret underground chambers of children’s home

Bloody items found in Jersey home

BBC | Apr 18, 2008

Police investigating alleged abuse at a Jersey children’s home say they have found blood-stained items in two secret underground chambers.

The discoveries were made at Haut de la Garenne, the former children’s home where 100 people say they were abused.

Officers were searching the last of four cellars referred to as “punishment rooms” by people who claim they were physically and sexually abused.

Police say a skull fragment found in February probably pre-dates 1940.

However, they said their investigation remained a possible murder inquiry.

Meanwhile, Deputy Police Chief Lenny Harper said it was not clear at this stage whether there was an innocent explanation for the bloodied items, details of which have not been released.
He said: “In the last few days in cellars three and four we’ve found a number of blood-stained items.
“I would hesitate to assign a sinister motive to those, we just don’t know, there may possibly be an innocent explanation for them.

Covert investigation

“But the fact remains that, with the dogs’ assistance and the good work of the forensic examiners, we are still finding items which are of possible significance to the inquiry so it must go on.”

A major child abuse investigation is under way at Haut de la Garenne.

Scores of people have alleged that they were sexually and physically abused there as children.

In 2006, officers began covertly investigating claims of sexual and physical abuse of children dating back to the 1960s at Haut de la Garenne, following allegations by former residents.

The investigation was stepped up in February after police found the partial remains of a child’s skull buried in concrete in a stairwell.

Continued excavation

Police are continuing to excavate a network of four underground rooms which have been uncovered.

They have found a number of items, including shackles and a bath, which they say corroborate claims from victims.

One person has been charged in connection with allegations of abuse at the former children’s home.

The home’s former warder, Gordon Claude Wateridge, 76, has been charged with three offences of indecent assault on girls aged under 16 between 1969 and 1979.

He has appeared before St Helier Magistrates’ Court and was released on conditional bail until 12 May.

However, there are believed to be more than 40 suspects in the overall inquiry.

Germany to Allow Video Surveillance of Private Homes

schaeuble

Schaeuble’s proposals have been described as draconian

Be careful what you — and your friends — say at home

Not even the home will be safe from surveillance

Deutsche Welle | Apr 18, 2008

Changes proposed to the law governing Germany’s federal criminal police operations would allow investigators to use wire taps and surveillance cameras in homes of innocent citizens to keep tabs on terror suspects.

Under the government proposals, federal police would be permitted to install “hidden technical equipment, that is to say bugs or cameras inside or outside apartments … if there is a pressing danger for state security,” interior ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said at a news conference on Friday, April 18.

“I would urgently like to stress that there are very, very strict conditions … and it is not the case that everywhere in this country secret cameras or listening devices will be installed in living spaces,” he said. “It is about terrorist threats that would be averted through preventative measures by the federal police.”

He added that such methods were already allowed in several German states.

“Recording and filming must be restricted to the suspect and the suspect’s own home These methods are also permissible in the homes of other persons if evidence shows that the suspect is present or if employing these measures solely in the home of the suspect is insufficient to contain potential risk. The measure may also be taken if other persons are immediately at risk,” says paragraph 20 of the draft, according to the dpa news agency.

In the past, such measures were illegal on the grounds that they marked a breach of the sanctities of the home and the confidentiality of private conversations. Current regulations call for police to turn off their equipment when suspect talk about private matters.

A cabinet decision on what is known as the BKA law is expected this summer. The acceptability of using video cameras as well as microphones in private homes for up to a month has divided opinion among the Social Democrats, who share power at the federal level with Chancellor Angela Mekel’s Christian Democrats.

Skepticism persists

Cabinet ministers recently agreed spy software could be used in Germany
The new draft regarding video surveillance met with resistance among members of her party. Berlin’s Interior Minister Ehrhart Koerting (SPD) and Sebastian Edathy (SPD), the chairman of the Bundestag’s Interior Affairs Committee, were among those voicing strong skepticism.

“I see no need for video surveillance in private homes,” said Edathy in the daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Friday. “There is no apparent justification.”

He also stressed that his party would resist this most recent extension to BKA privileges.

After months of discussions, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries (SPD) and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (CDU) settled this week on a compromised version of the BKA Law, with Zypries drawing the line at allowing investigators to break into homes to install spyware programs on private computers.

As it stands, investigators may only access private computers via the Internet.

Resistance remains

The SPD’s interior affairs expert Dieter Wiefelspuetz had similar reservations about the online searches.

“This needs to be looked into carefully,” he said, also expressing the hope that the Christian Democrats’ push to allow police to break into private homes would be unsuccessful.

“If they try to get this through, they will soon end up in the country’s Constitutional Court,” he predicted. “Covertly entering people’s homes to install spying software would only be acceptable if the Constitution is changed,” he stressed.

Interior ministers’ conference

Germany’s state interior ministers are ending their spring conference in the spa resort of Bad Saarow in Brandenburg on Friday.

Topping the agenda were the issues of online searches and a possible ban on the far-right party, the NPD.

In Friday’s edition of the daily Schweriner Volkszeitung, Edathy criticized the participants’ failure to make progress on the latter issue:

“The majority of the CDU and the CSU are unwilling to discuss creating a framework that would allow an NPD ban,” he complained.

Related

Fear of the Stasi Secret Police Lives On in Eastern Germany
People are whispering once again.

Chinese troops patrol streets of Zimbabwean city as arms are shipped to brutal dictator

zimbabwe_arms

Zimbabweans demonstrate in Pretoria, South Africa, over the arms shipment from China

Independent | Apr 19, 2008

By Ian Evans in Cape Town

Chinese troops have been seen on the streets of Zimbabwe’s third largest city, Mutare, according to local witnesses. They were seen patrolling with Zimbabwean soldiers before and during Tuesday’s ill-fated general strike called by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Earlier, 10 Chinese soldiers armed with pistols checked in at the city’s Holiday Inn along with 70 Zimbabwean troops.

One eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said: “We’ve never seen Chinese soldiers in full regalia on our streets before. The entire delegation took 80 rooms from the hotel, 10 for the Chinese and 70 for Zimbabwean soldiers.”

Officially, the Chinese were visiting strategic locations such as border posts, key companies and state institutions, he said. But it is unclear why they were patrolling at such a sensitive time. They were supposed to stay five days, but left after three to travel to Masvingo, in the south.

China’s support for President Mugabe’s regime has been highlighted by the arrival in South Africa of a ship carrying a large cache of weapons destined for Zimbabwe’s armed forces. Dock workers in Durban refused to unload it.

The 300,000-strong South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to touch the cargo of ammunition, grenades and mortar rounds on board the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang anchored outside the port.

A Satawu spokesman Randall Howard said: “Our members employed at Durban container terminal will not unload this cargo, neither will any of our members in the truck-driving sector move this cargo by road. South Africa cannot be seen to be facilitating the flow of weapons into Zimbabwe at a time where there is a political dispute and a volatile situation between Zanu-PF and the MDC.”

Three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes are among the cargo on the Chinese ship, according to copies of the inventory published by a South African newspaper.

According to Beeld, the documentation for the shipment was completed on 1 April, three days after the presidential vote.

Zimbabwe and China have close military ties. Three years ago, Mr Mugabe signed extensive trade pacts with the Chinese as part of the “Look East” policy forced on him by his ostracising by Western governments over human rights abuses. The deal gave the Chinese mineral and trade concessions in exchange for economic help.

The shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague called on David Miliband to demand a cessation of arms shipments.

A South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said it would be difficult to stop the shipment.

Cops Point Firearms, Arrest 10-year-old For Making Noise

“They called me a b-i-t-c-h,” Lucasz said, spelling out the word instead of saying it. “They kept on swearing at me like a criminal.”

The Ottawa Citizen | Apr 18, 2008

By Andrew Seymour

The parents of a 10-year-old boy who was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police cruiser for being too noisy intend to file a complaint against Ottawa police today, alleging that at least one officer went too far in the way he treated their son.

Thomasz and Santana Gurzynski say police drew their firearms before entering their Norberry Crescent apartment and scratched the back of their son, Lucasz, while forcing him to sit down for questioning without an adult present.

Mrs. Gurzynski, 35, believes it was an overreaction by police, who were responding to a neighbour’s complaint that the Grade 5 student and five friends were playing video games too loudly and play fighting with wooden sticks.

“They shouldn’t be that loud, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” said Mrs. Gurzynski, who was walking home from her mother’s nearby house with her husband when the police arrived and apprehended her son shortly after 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Lucasz said he and his friends had been playing video games and fighting with the wooden sticks for about 40 minutes when a male neighbour yelled at them to quiet down and threw an empty beer can at their balcony, breaking a window.

Frightened, Lucasz said he and his friends left the apartment. When he returned with a 12-year-old female friend between five and 10 minutes later, three police officers were waiting for him in the hallway.

After he unlocked the apartment for the police, two of the officers drew weapons and kicked the door open before returning the guns to their holsters.

Lucasz said one officer then grabbed him by the shoulder and sat him down on a chair, scratching his back. He said the officer spotted a knife in the kitchen and told Lucasz that, if he had been holding it when they came in, he would have been Tasered.

The officer also wanted to know the names of the other children who had been at the apartment.

“After they finished questioning me, they handcuffed me,” Lucasz said yesterday, adding the officers ignored his request to speak to an aunt who lives in the same building.

Throughout the questioning, Lucasz alleged, the officers used foul language.

“They called me a b-i-t-c-h,” Lucasz said, spelling out the word instead of saying it. “They kept on swearing at me like a criminal.”

Lucasz, who was placed in the back seat of a police cruiser, said he was in tears when his parents arrived at the apartment about 20 minutes later. He was later released into their custody.

“I thought I was never going to see my parents again because they said something about child services,” Lucasz said, adding he was still having nightmares about the incident.

While acknowledging they were called to a “disturbance” at that address on Sunday, police declined comment on the incident.

Const. J.P. Vincelette said officers would handcuff children if they felt they were a risk to themselves or the officers. Const. Vincelette said it was generally at an officer’s discretion when to draw a firearm, but they often do it when there is a potential that other weapons are involved.

The amendments build on previous reforms by the then Howard government which required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement wiretapping provisions in VoIP services.

Private organisations will be handed “quasi-police” powers under separate government plans announced on Monday.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said business owners will be handed powers to intercept employee e-mails without notice in a bid to prevent cyber-terrorism.

Consumer advocacy groups are outraged by the reforms and have questioned the motives of the government, labelling the move as a blatant invasion of privacy.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties president, Cameron Murphy, said the changes are unnecessary and will inadvertently subject hundreds of people to privacy violations.

“These laws will massively increase the number of interception points available for techniques such as wiretapping,” Murphy said.

“Everything from online chatting, to Skype (VoIP) and mobile phone calls will be open to interception.”

He believes the changes are being driven by law enforcement which is effectively offloading its work on the private industry.

The reforms also violate the privacy of other parties involved in a monitored communication channel, according to the Council, the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) and the Electronic Frontiers Association (EFA).

The organisations told Computerworld that NSW law, which allows businesses to intercept employee e-mails with consent, is a breach of the TIA and the Privacy Act. The problem arises from ambiguity in the law which does not stipulate rules for dealing with third party information, and what constitutes consent.

Stalin’s space monkeys

Legend has it that the institute, which opened in 1927, was born of a secret Soviet plan to create a man-ape hybrid that would become a Soviet superman and propel the Soviet Union ahead of the West. The Soviet elite, goes the apocryphal tale that has appeared widely in Russian media, wanted to create a prototype worker that would be inhumanly strong and mentally dulled, to carry out the gruelling work of industrialising the vast expanses of newly Sovietised territory.

Independent | Apr 15, 2008

From the old railway station, now a hollow shell covered in weeds, a long concrete stairway, sheltered by sub-tropical foliage, winds from the centre of Sukhumi up to a collection of buildings, many pocked with bullet holes or crushed by bombs.

The first thing that registers is the putrid smell of animal faeces, then from inside one building comes a primeval squawking that sounds like a child being tortured. Cage after cage of distraught-looking monkeys come into view, nearly 300 in all, gnawing at mandarins and scampering around their enclosures.

This is what remains of the Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy, the first primate testing centre in the world, and possibly the site of a macabre Stalinist experiment to breed a human-ape hybrid. Set amid palm trees and lush greenery on a hill just outside the centre of Sukhumi, it was once the envy of the West. Its behavioural and medical experiments set it at the forefront of groundbreaking medical discoveries, and trained monkeys for space travel.

But the years of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, then the Georgian-Abkhaz war, took a heavy toll on the centre. Most of its scientists left to set up a new centre in Russia, along with most of the monkeys that were not killed. What is left today is a disturbing shadow of the institute’s former glory.

Legend has it that the institute, which opened in 1927, was born of a secret Soviet plan to create a man-ape hybrid that would become a Soviet superman and propel the Soviet Union ahead of the West. The Soviet elite, goes the apocryphal tale that has appeared widely in Russian media, wanted to create a prototype worker that would be inhumanly strong and mentally dulled, to carry out the gruelling work of industrialising the vast expanses of newly Sovietised territory.

Scientists at the institute today admit that these experiments did go on at the institute, though they deny it was part of any overarching plan for the creation of a new race. The tests were performed by Ilya Ivanov, an eminent Russian biologist who had also collaborated with the Pasteur Institute in Paris. About the turn of the century he had perfected the technique of artificially inseminating mares, and had also produced cross-breeds between various different species. Then, Europe was alive with ideas of eugenics, and the Soviets were out to prove once and for all that Darwinism had superseded religion.

“Professor Ivanov started these experiments in Africa and continued them here in Sukhumi,” says Vladimir Barkaya, who started at the institute in 1961 and is now scientific director. “He took sperm from human males and injected it into female chimpanzees, although nothing came of it.” Professor Barkaya denies monkey sperm was used on human females, although letters were apparently received by the institution by people of both sexes offering to participate in the experiments.

In time, the institute evolved from science fiction to evidence-based practice. Work at the institute was instrumental in the creation of a Soviet polio vaccine, and its scientists worked on all the major diseases of the 20th century.

One man’s name is synonymous with the centre. Boris Lapin was born in 1921 and after a heroic turn in the Second World War, started work at the Sukhumi monkey colony in 1949. In 1959 he was appointed director of the institute, and ran it up until 1992, when during the Abkhaz-Georgian war he fled along with the majority of employees and monkeys across the border to Russia. Despite being in his late eighties, he still runs the institute set up at Adler in Russia.

“My biggest achievement over all this time is that we were able to build the institute up from scratch again,” he says, from his Adler office, plastered with photographs of famous visitors to the Sukhumi institute over the years, from Nikita Khrushchev to Ho Chi Minh.

In the 1950s, as Professor Lapin was taking over, word got out to the rest of the world about the uses to which monkeys were being put at Sukhumi. “At the time of Sputnik, there was a huge amount of curiosity in the West about what else the Soviets might have up their sleeves in the fields of science and technology,” says Douglas Bowden, an American primatologist who has co-operated with the Sukhumi, then Adler centres since 1962. An expert commission headed by President Dwight Eisenhower’s personal doctor went to the Soviet Union in 1957 and visited Sukhumi. “They were so impressed with what they found there that when they came back to the US they recommended to Eisenhower that a similar institute should be set up in the US.” In the end, seven centres were set up in the US.

As time went on, the centre also became closely involved with the Soviet space programme, training six monkeys to send into space. “We had to make sure they were intelligent monkeys to perform all their duties in space,” Professor Lapin says. “Not every monkey was capable of that sort of thing.” After the monkeys blasted off, the centre’s employees would watch them on television at Sukhumi.

Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was a disaster for scientists across the vast empire. They went from the pride of the country to being neglected and unfunded. “They were terrible times,” says Professor Barkaya. “Many monkeys died, and many people too. We had nothing to feed the monkeys with, and there was no electricity or heating. Many of them simply froze to death.”

Violeta Agrba, who was the acting director of the institute during the war, while Professor Lapin was arranging the transfer to Adler, says: “I remember walking around the cages in the winter of 1992, during the war, and seeing a baboon shivering in his cage. It was so sad. But even though we couldn’t do any medical work, and there was a war on, we all came to work every day.” Professor Agrba once found an unexploded shell on the conference table in her office. There was a huge hole in the ceiling.

The centre also had 1,000 monkeys that lived freely in a special zone in the mountains in the south of Abkhazia, where they were monitored and their behaviour studied. When the war started, many died in the crossfire; some were stolen by troops and used as mascots. “Some are still alive,” Professor Agrba says. “But after everything that happened in the war, they are so scared of people they don’t approach anyone. We need to do a helicopter survey and find the remaining ones, but there’s no money for that.”

Today, the centre at Sukhumi, where a few staff who refused to leave during the war have bravely remained and tried to resurrect their scientific work, is struggling to get back on its feet. A German scientist who worked with the institute before the war and took pity on their situation ships them medicines and equipment each year. But most of the best employees went to Alder, and the monkeys seem to have nothing to eat except mandarins.

“The level we had before is very difficult to attain now,” Professor Barkaya says. “But while we used to write to people asking to co-operate with them, now they’re again coming to us. We had an interesting proposition from St Petersburg, from a company that has produced medicine to reduce blindness in old people. They’ve tested it on dogs and horses and now they want to test it on monkeys.”

The Adler centre in much better shape, with all the most modern equipment and is still at the forefront of medicine, working on stem-cell research and birdflu vaccines, and testing the effects of radiation on monkeys in preparation for a manned flight to Mars. “We’ve discovered that their immune systems are severely weakened by the radiation given off by solar flares,” says Professor Agrba. “Now we need to see how serious this is and how long it lasts.”

But even at Adler, the financial situation isn’t easy. “One girl used to work here as a lab assistant and got paid 3,000 roubles (£65) a month,” Professor Agrba says. “She left to work selling blankets in the market and now she makes 15,000 roubles (£325).”

Obtaining new monkeys is almost impossible now, with most countries banning their export. The days when Professor Lapin and colleagues would simply fly to Nigeria and spend weeks negotiating with tribes for the purchase of monkeys, as happened in the 1960s, are long gone. The Adler institute has a breeding programme, which ensures that its population of 3,700 monkeys is refreshed each year. But for Sukhumi, with just 286 monkeys, inbreeding is a serious problem.

The staff at both centres is split between dignified octogenarians with decades of scientific experience, and budding young scientists. The middle ground is missing. “It’s a problem across the former Soviet Union,” Professor Barkaya says. “The generation of scientists who came of age during perestroika went into business. Now there is again an interest in science, and it’s left to us to pass on our knowledge as best we can to the younger generation to ensure the good work continues.”

Ethical concerns that would undoubtedly surround such ventures in Europe are absent both in Abkhazia and in Russia. Neither institute has any security; the thought of animal rights protesters attacking does not even occur to the scientists.

“Of course, we’re aware of the ethical difficulties,” says Professor Lapin. “But in some cases monkeys are the only animals we can use. Thalidomide was tested on mice and other animals but not on monkeys, and you remember what happened there.”

Nato admits supplying arms and food to Taliban

The pallets were carrying rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, water and food.

Afghan politicians have said they do not believe the drop was an accident.

Guardian | April 18 2008

By Anil Dawar

Containers destined for local police forces were dropped from a helicopter into a Taliban-controlled area of Zabul province.

The coalition helicopter had intended to deliver pallets of supplies to a police checkpoint in Ghazni, a remote section of Zabul late last month.

By mistake they were dropped some distance from the checkpoint where it was taken by the Taliban, the Internal Security Affairs Commission of the Wolesi Jirga — the Afghan parliament’s lower house — was told.

Hamidullah Tukhi, a local politician from Zabul, told the parliamentary commission that the consignment had been taken by a local Taliban commander.

A Nato spokesman said the pallets were carrying rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, water and food.

Afghan politicians have said they do not believe the drop was an accident.

Nato’s General Carlos Branco blamed it on “human error” when the navigator confused two very similar grid references.

A spokesman at Nato headquarters in Brussels denied the suggestion the alliance had deliberately armed the Taliban. “We are aware of it but we are not fired up about it. It sounds like someone made a mistake. It was a cock-up rather than a conspiracy.

“The forces on the ground are working to get the message across that we do not deliberately supply the Taliban with arms.”