Daily Archives: July 16, 2008

Italy’s “Solution” to “Problem-Gypsy” fingerprinting Reaction: Fingerprint ALL citizens

Young gypsy girls in Rome. In a bid to defuse the controversy over fingerprinting gypsy children, Italy is now considering fingerprinting ALL its citizens

Italy’s plan to defuse uproar over fingerprinting of gypsy children: demand ALL citizens be fingerprinted

Daily Mail | Jul 16, 2008

Italy may demand all its citizens be fingerprinted, a move aimed at defusing widespread criticism of government plans to force Roma people and their children to provide fingerprints as a way of tackling criminality.

That policy has been condemned by the European Parliament, by Romania, where many Roma come from, and by religious groups who have compared it to the tagging of Jews by Nazis and fascists in the 1930s.

A parliamentary committee agreed on Wednesday that from 2010 all identity cards, which Italians already have to carry, should include the fingerprints of the bearer. The measure still has to pass through parliament.

“It will defuse the Roma question, (fingerprints) will be taken from everyone,” opposition deputy Antonio Misani was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper’s website.

Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a landslide at an April election on a promise to get tough on crime which many Italians blame on immigrants.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the staunchly anti-immigrant Northern League party, is pushing the measure to fingerprint people living in Roma camps. He has said only people who cannot provide valid identification will be fingerprinted.

Berlusconi has defended the policy, saying it would help the state clean up Roma camps, which are often squalid shanty towns on the outskirts of major cities. There are about 140,000 Roma in Italy, where they are known as “nomads”.

“The Italian government wants to guarantee Roma children can go to school and wants to integrate these European citizens,” Berlusconi said on Tuesday.

Commenting on the plan to fingerprint Roma, Italy’s privacy watchdog said it was “absolutely necessary to avoid recourse to techniques based on discriminatory criteria, especially if ethnic or religious” but said fingerprinting the whole population would not be discriminatory.

“Now we need immediately to suspend the Roma measure as it looks like there will be a decision that will be valid for everyone,” said opposition leader Walter Veltroni.

Decks cleared for Maoist dictatorship in Nepal

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

– Mao Zedong

The main communist party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), is expected to join the Maoist-led new government.

Related: Nepal Maoists hail global revival of Communism

Indo-Asian News | Jul 14, 2008

After a 10-year war to capture power by the gun, Nepal’s Maoists on Monday began edging closer to their target with the caretaker parliament clearing the decks for the formation of a new government under their leadership.

”We will form the new government by this week,” Maoist lawmaker and deputy commander of the party’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Janardan Sharma, better known by his war name Prabhakar, told a news agency.

”In the next 48 hours, we expect the election of Nepal’s first president to be held. After that, the new government will be announced,” he said.

The Maoists, who fought an election this year after more than a decade and stunned the world by emerging as the largest party, began hectic consultations with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), the second largest party in the newly elected constituent assembly, as well as other parties for a coalition government.

”Today’s talks will decide if the NC will sit in the government,” Prabhakar said.

However, even if there is no consensus, the Maoists will still be able to go ahead with their plans for a new government as the assembly Sunday night approved of an amendment to the constitution to make their dream of capturing power a reality.

Of the 449 lawmakers attending the session, an overwhelming 442 approved the fifth change to the constitution, which will now enable the prime minister to be elected – and removed – on the basis of a simple majority in the house if there is no consensus.

Though the Maoists emerged as the largest party after the April election, they had not been able to muster the earlier two-thirds majority required.

The almost nine-hour marathon session also saw the house agree that republic Nepal’s first president, who will replace deposed king Gyanendra as head of state, will be chosen by a simple majority vote. However, to remove the president, who would be only a ceremonial head, a two-thirds majority will be needed.

The main communist party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), is expected to join the Maoist-led new government.

A strong indication came during Sunday’s vote in the assembly when the UML sided with the Maoists to defeat overwhelmingly the proposal by the prime minister’s party to allow the chief opposition party to send a member to the National Security Council.

Though the election was held on April 10, the inordinate delay in the formation of a new government occurred first due to Koirala’s party refusing to cooperate unless he was made the first president of Nepal.

But mounting pressure both at home and from the diplomatic community made Koirala finally resign last month. The appointment of a Maoist successor was still delayed by nearly a fortnight due to protests by three regional parties from the Terai plains which paralysed the assembly.

The Terai parties, who want the government to create an autonomous Madhes state in the plains, boycotted Sunday’s vote and may in future launch fresh protests.

If that happens, the Maoists will have to wait even longer.

Though the once underground party is holding its silence, it is said to have finalised its list of ministers.

The chairman of the party and the supreme commander of the PLA, Pushpa Kamal Dahal – or Prachanda – has announced his intention to lead the new government.

Black Magic Killer executed for 42 murders

Ahmad Suradji (Left), 57, was executed by firing squad on Thursday evening, authorities announced today. Over 10 years, police said he strangled the victims aged 11 to 30 and drank their saliva in a bid to enhance his powers. He gave religious advice to other prisoners, among whom he was a popular figure.

Telegraph | Jul 11, 2008

By Thomas Bell

Indonesia has executed a shaman known as the Black Magic Killer after he murdered 42 women and girls and drank their saliva, believing it would enhance his magic powers.

His victims came to him hoping that he would solve their problems.

He lured them into a field and buried them up to the waist, pretending it was part of the cure, before strangling them.

They were later buried in the field with the heads pointing towards Suradji’s house.

The killing spree began in 1986 when Suradji said his late father appeared to him in a dream ordering him to kill 70 women. He was arrested in 1998 when the bodies were discovered.

“His last wish was to meet with his first wife and that was fulfilled,” said Bonaventura Nainggolan, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office.

Suradji married three sisters and the first of them, Tumini, is serving a life sentence as an accomplice to his crimes.

Indonesia is a Muslim country but belief in witchcraft and magic is widespread. Shortly before his death, Suradji said: “The black magic came from God. I don’t have it anymore, I have repented. I hope I have a chance to live.”

But his final plea for clemency was turned down.

Suradji became a devout and orthodox Muslim and gave religious advice to other prisoners, among whom he was a popular figure.

Young girls think self-harming is a normal way to manage stress

The teenage sub-culture emo, short for emotional hardcore, is associated with self-harm and originates from the alternative US music scene.

The group behind the research, said the trend was worrying

The Times | Jul 14, 2008
by Joanna Sugden

Young girls consider self-harm to be normal teenage behaviour, according to research by mental health and volunteer organisations published today.

A study of the attitudes of 10 to 14-year-old girls found that two fifths know someone who has harmed herself and many believe it to be an accepted way of dealing with teenage angst.

Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, the group behind the research, said the trend was worrying.

“Self-harm is so common when dealing with stress that it’s seen as normal,” he told The Times. “It’s a sign that we’re failing to give young women the lives that we should be giving them.”

Self-harming can be triggered by emotionally distressing events such as bullying or family breakdown.

The most common forms are cutting, burning, scratching, hair pulling and swallowing objects or toxic substances.

A national inquiry on the subject published in 2006 found that one in 15 young people harmed themselves and latest estimates indicate that three teenagers deliberately injure themselves every hour.

The results of the survey suggest that widespread anxiety among a generation of young girls is brought on by exams, celebrity culture and the pressure to grow up too quickly.

One third answering the online questionnaire said that a friend had suffered from an eating disorder and nearly two in five knew someone who had panic attacks. Three quarters admitted feeling anxiety about testing and schoolwork.

When asked during face-to-face interviews about self-harm, many girls felt strongly that it was a typical teenage coping strategy. They said that it was not necessarily a sign of mental health problems as long as the person was not self-harming regularly.

One girl who took part in the research said: “I think cutting your arm the first time you do it is OK – it might just be stress.”

Not until someone had cut themselves deliberately three times would it be considered a mental health issue, she added.

Dr Tanya Byron, a child psychologist, said that more and more young people were harming themselves. It was a behaviour of choice for young people. “Among young peer groups a number of them will take up self-harm together as part of the emo culture,” she said.

The teenage sub-culture emo, short for emotional hardcore, is associated with self-harm and originates from the alternative US music scene.

Another girl in the study spoke of a friend who cut her own wrist. “She was doing it to fit in with the emos,” she said.

Dealing with extreme swings of emotions was difficult for most girls, according to the study, with half saying that they found anger hard to manage and one in six often having angry feelings. Twenty-eight per cent said that they worried regularly and felt that no one understood them.

The survey of more than 350 girls aged 10-14 and in-depth focus groups was carried out for Girl Guiding UK, Britain’s largest voluntary youth organisation, which has about 580,000 members.

Lesley Knighton, the chief commissioner of Girl Guiding UK’s Midlands region, said: “What concerns us is that girls are facing tremendous pressure today. Self-harm could be a result of this pressure. The girls feel that they are being required to grow up too quickly.”

Giorgia Smith-Marr, 15, a guide from West London, said that she knew at least three people her age who self-harmed.

She said: “It’s how people cope, because there are so many problems. It’s not surprising that they act in self-destructive ways.”

Cow farts collected in plastic tanks to fight global warming

Argentine scientists are strapping plastic tanks to the backs of cows

Scientists are examining cow farts and burps in a novel bid to combat global warming.

Telegraph | Jul 9, 2008

By Rupert Neate

Experts said the slow digestive system of cows makes them a key producer of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that gets far less public attention than carbon dioxide.

In a bid to understand the impact of the wind produced by cows on global warming, scientists collected gas from their stomachs in plastic tanks attached to their backs.

The Argentine researchers discovered methane from cows accounts for more than 30 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse emissions.

As one of the world’s biggest beef producers, Argentina has more than 55 million cows grazing in its famed Pampas grasslands.

Guillermo Berra, a researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology, said every cow produces between 8000 to 1,000 litres of emissions every day.

Methane, which is also released from landfills, coal mines and leaking gas pipes, is 23 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Scientists are now carrying out trials of new diets designed to improve cows’s digestion and hopefully reduce global warming. Silvia Valtorta, of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Investigations, said that by feeding cows clover and alfalfa instead of grain “you can reduce methane emissions by 25 percent”.

Czar Nicholas II beats out Stalin and Ivan the Terrible for “Greatest Russian”

Czar Nicholas II, left, and his son Alexei Nikolaievitch are shown in this undated photo sawing wood to heat the Siberian prison camp where they were held during the Russian Revolution.

Greatest Russian? Czar Nicholas leads vote

Stalin, Lenin close behind; Yeltsin in 11th place, ahead of Ivan the Terrible

MSNBC | JUL 15, 2008

MOSCOW – Ninety years after he was executed, Czar Nicholas II is leading a tight race to be named the greatest Russian in history.

His closest competitors? Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state that killed the last czar and his entire family.

The contest, sponsored by state-owned Rossiya television, is a Russian version of the 2002 BBC show “Great Britons,” which was won by Winston Churchill.

A U.S. version in 2005 declared Ronald Reagan, the former president who had died the year before, to be the “Greatest American.”

As of Tuesday, Nicholas II was ahead with more than 267,000 of the 2.4 million votes cast in the Internet poll.

Stalin, who like Churchill led his nation to victory in World War II, was close behind with about 263,000 votes. Lenin trailed with 187,000.

Until recently, Stalin was dominating the poll, despite his political purges that sent millions of his countrymen to their deaths. But as the anniversary of the July 18, 1918, execution of the imperial family approaches, monarchists have been rallying support for the martyred czar.

The Internet poll allows for multiple voting and thus can be easily swayed.

The top 12 vote-getters are to be discussed in televised debates in September, with one figure then chosen the “Name of Russia.”

The top 12 now includes other former leaders: Peter the Great (No. 5), Catherine the Great (No. 7), Boris Yeltsin (No. 11) and Ivan the Terrible (No. 12).

Vladimir Putin, the extremely popular former president who is now prime minister, did not qualify for the contest because he is still alive.

He may, however, have given a boost to Stalin’s candidacy. In helping to restore Russians’ pride in their Soviet-era history, Putin’s Kremlin played up Stalin’s role in building a strong state while glossing over his bloody rule.

If Russians tire of the virtual political battle shaping up between the monarchists and Communists, they could always throw their Internet vote behind the fourth name on the list: Vladimir Vysotsky, the beloved actor and singer who died in 1980.

US and Georgia play war games under Russia’s nose

Georgian soldiers gather during the opening ceremony of “Immediate Response 2008” at the Vaziani military base, outside Tbilisi, Georgia, on Tuesday.

U.S.-Georgia training begins amid Russia strain

Officials: Exercises unrelated to friction between Moscow, ex-Soviet state

MSNBC | Jul 15, 2008

VAZIANI, Georgia – One thousand U.S. troops began a military training exercise in Georgia on Tuesday against a backdrop of growing friction between Georgia and neighboring Russia.

Officials said the exercise, called “Immediate Response 2008,” had been planned for months and was not linked to a stand-off between Moscow and Tbilisi over two Russian-backed separatists regions of Georgia.

The United States is an ally of Georgia and has irritated Russia by backing Tbilisi’s bid to join the NATO military alliance.

“The main purpose of these exercises is to increase the cooperation and partnership between U.S. and Georgian forces,” Brig. Gen. William B. Garrett, commander of the U.S. military’s Southern European Task Force, told reporters.

The war games involve 600 Georgian troops and smaller numbers from ex-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

The two-week exercise was taking place at the Vaziani military base near the capital Tbilisi, which was a Russian air force base until Russian forces withdrew at the start of this decade under a European arms reduction agreement.

Close cooperation

Georgia and the Pentagon cooperate closely. Georgia has a 2,000-strong contingent supporting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and Washington provides training and equipment to the Georgian military.

Georgia last week recalled its ambassador in Moscow in protest at Russia sending fighter jets into Georgian airspace. Tbilisi urged the West to condemn Russia’s actions.

Russia said the flights were to prevent Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from launching a military operation against the separatist South Ossetia region.

Moscow accuses Saakashvili of preparing to restore Tbilisi’s control over South Ossetia and the second breakaway region of Abkhazia by force. Tbilisi says that is a pretext for Russia to effectively annex large chunks of Georgian territory.

EU proposes closer ‘strategic partnership’ with Mexico

Forbes | Jul 15, 2008


BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union’s executive commission on Tuesday proposed to upgrade ties with Mexico, recommending the North American nation be made a “strategic partner” for the 27-nation EU.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external relations commissioner, said Mexico has become a key partner in Latin America.

“Our relationship with Mexico has been growing and deepening in the last decades and Mexico has become one of our important partners,” Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.

She said widening ties will allow the two sides to work more closely together to tackle everything from climate change, terrorism to drug and human trafficking.

The plan, which still needs the backing of EU nations and the European Parliament, was also seen to improve European access to Mexico’s oil reserves and bolster its influence in the region dominated by the United States.

Mexico is the world’s sixth-largest oil producer.

The EU and Mexico already have a free trade pact, which came into force eight years ago.

By considering a strategic partnership with Mexico, the European Union is recognizing the growing leverage of the Latin American country in international affairs. Brussels usually reserves such a status for its most important global partners including Russia, China and the United States.

The proposal suggests holding EU-Mexico summits every two years to coordinate policies.

The 27-nation EU is Mexico’s second-biggest trading partner after the United States.

The two have already been in talks to widen a 2000 agreement to further free services, investment and agricultural trade.