Daily Archives: August 25, 2008

Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda choses China over India

TIMES of India | Aug 24, 2008

By Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: Nepal’s new Maoist PM, Prachanda, has made his choice clear. Within a week of taking office, he is breaking bread with the Chinese leadership at the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing, preferring it over meeting the Indian leadership in New Delhi.

The political overflight of New Delhi has not gone unnoticed here. Prachanda would be the first Nepalese leader to make Beijing his first stop and not New Delhi.

However you look at it, it’s a snub, particularly since New Delhi had invited him to visit much earlier. It doesn’t begin the new government’s ties with India on a promising note. Prachanda even chose to ignore signals from India that it would not be “helpful” in relations with New Delhi.

There will be little comment from South Block, but it might be a while before Prachanda visits New Delhi. It’s more likely that the new Nepal president, Ram Baran Yadav, whose invitation to India is already in process, may make it here first.

Prachanda swore in his new government on Friday, and was off to Beijing on Saturday with an 11-member delegation. However, the Maoist minister for law and justice, Dev Gurung, said Prachanda’s visit to China cannot be regarded as directed against India. He said the Maoist-led government has vowed to follow the policy of “equidistance” from India and China.

Prachanda’s actions, said sources, follows his earlier statements where he wanted to review the India-Nepal friendship treaty, because it was “unequal”. This has been his way of showing that it would no longer be business as usual between India and Nepal, and henceforth, Nepal will be overtly open to Chinese overtures.

And there was no dearth of that in Beijing. According to reports, Prachanda met both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. Hu was reported as saying that China and Nepal were “good neighbours, good friends and good partners”. Hu noted that “the two countries have established a good neighbourly partnership and enjoyed friendship generation upon generation”.

Hu added, “This fully demonstrates the great attention Nepal attaches to relations with China and its profound friendship with the Chinese people. We highly appreciate that.”

Clearly, Prachanda is building up China as a hedge against India, much in the manner of all of India’s other neighbours. Which, in its own way, is not cause for alarm in New Delhi, except for what it might bring in its wake, in terms of greater Chinese access into Nepal. China has also promised a lot of assistance to Nepal, which widens its choices, from being dependent on India, a dependence that has ramifications in its domestic politics.

On the other hand, Beijing was never a supporter of the Maoists, and in fact, during the jan andolan, it had taken the side of the now deposed monarchy. Even now, China remains worried about Tibetan protesters continuing their protests in Nepal. The effects of a Chinese hug will soon be felt in Nepal, because China can be quite single-minded in advancing its interests rapidly. New Delhi has floundered with the Maoist victory and is yet to strike the right notes with the new formation there.

Despite the popular linkages between India and Nepal, more hard-nosed approaches may now become the norm between India and Nepal, said sources.

Park surveillance camera can zoom in and read what you’re reading

“It’s being done all over the U.S. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t have a problem with it.”

–  City Manager Curt Davis

Tribune-Democrat | Aug 24, 2008

Under the lens: Central Park camera raises privacy questions

By BERNIE HORNICK

Johnstown, PA and county officials – if they wanted to – could tell whether a Central Park lunchgoer’s ham sandwich came with seeded or unseeded rye bread.

Or, at 50 paces, whether that new lipstick you’re wearing is Ruby Red or Rosy Glow.

A surveillance camera on the second floor of the Central Park Complex at Franklin and Locust streets allows them that option.

Officials say they aren’t interested in being nosy for nosiness’ sake. But they want the camera – which came as a surprise to parkgoers – to stay, nonetheless.

“Central Park is so important to downtown – with concerts, the Christmas Village,” City Manager Curt Davis said.

“If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t have a problem with it. This gives me another tool to monitor Central Park, it doesn’t cost me anything, and I’m all for it.”

Davis has a monitor in his City Hall office. He said he watches park goings-on periodically, for a few minutes at a time.

The park is Davis’ latest cause: He has put up signs alerting residents of littering fines, and a half-dozen people have been banned from the park for various offenses. None of those bans apparently was related to the use of the camera.

The camera was installed in April after the Integrated Emergency Operations Center – a multitiered government venture – moved from Broad Street to the downtown offices.

Because the camera has been around awhile, officials couldn’t immediately say what it cost. Ebensburg Borough Manager Dan Penatzer estimated that a camera there cost a few thousand dollars.

The lens can rotate _360 degrees and zoom in and out. It isn’t hooked up to a tape machine but can recall images taken earlier.

“If you had a name tag like this,” Davis said at City Hall, displaying his own, “we could read it.”

And privacy experts said that’s precisely the problem.

Privacy concerns

“Cameras cut down on uninhibited activity and autonomy,” said Robert Ellis Smith, an attorney and publisher of the Privacy Journal in Providence, R.I.

“For instance, this camera can zoom way in. What if you’re reading a newspaper, or reading a book. People in a park: They date, they hold hands, they kiss. What if they’re holding a political meeting?” he said.

Americans are entitled to certain privacy protections even in public, he said.

“And we want people to be relaxed in a park setting,” he said.

“While it is legal, I _think it’s very, very inappropriate.”

Ron Springer, county emergency management director, disagrees.

“We aren’t here to spy on people, nor do we intend to,” he said. “We’re not trying to be the eye in the sky on a covert mission.

“If I could put it in a nutshell, it’s just another means of building security, say, if we had a building lockdown (at Central Park Complex) in a 9/11-type situation,” Springer said.

He said the camera will be monitored only if there is a special need to do so. And it can’t see very well at night.

But Davis said the camera could be useful in prosecuting crime in the park. If police are promptly notified, the camera can be “rewound” hours later to display the incident.

Who’s watching

According to Davis, the camera can be monitored from city Fire Chief Tony Kovacic’s office at Central Park Complex, from the sheriff’s department and from Davis’ office.

The camera isn’t the first in the city. Two years ago, the IEOC installed a camera atop the Inclined Plane to keep a watch over downtown during Thunder in the Valley. But trees obscured the view of the park.

Outdoor cameras also keep an eye on Washington Street in front of the Penn Traffic Building, home of U.S. District Court and the National Drug Intelligence Center. And lenses out back can film up into Prospect Hill. Some city parking garages have cameras hooked to VCRs.

Davis said vandalism at the Lincoln Street Garage was prosecuted through videotape. City police declined to comment.

“It’s being done all over the U.S. and in Pittsburgh, and it’s appropriate” in areas that require monitoring, Davis said. He also noted the trend toward light-pole cameras that catch drivers running red lights.

Kovacic, a member of the IEOC, agrees.

“It gives us an opportunity to cover a lot of ground in terms of public safety,” he said. For instance, Kovacic said, the camera would have been useful had it been operating when Chelsea _Clinton spoke at the park.

Smith, though, said such unregulated surveillance is disturbing.

“It is amazing in the United States, these cameras are just sprouting up without any regulation,” he said.

And he questioned whether, in this case, such cameras serve an appropriate emergency management purpose.

“It sounds like they_just had the money and decided they’d put it up,” he said. “More regulation is needed.”

Indian Maoists kill Hindus over Christian conversions

Police say by attacking Hindus the Maoists were trying to garner support among the region’s poor tribes, most of which had converted to Christianity.

Reuters | Aug 24, 2008

By Jatindra Dash

BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) – Suspected Maoists killed a senior Hindu leader and four others in a remote eastern Indian village, an attack that police said may be linked to a controversy over religious conversions in the area.

Armed men raided a Hindu school in Orissa’s rural Kandhamal district on Saturday and killed five people, including an octogenarian leader linked to India’s main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The remote, forested region is a hotbed of religious tensions between hardline Hindus who accuse Christian priests of bribing poor tribespeople and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.

Christian groups say lower-caste Hindus who convert do so willingly to escape the highly stratified and oppressive Hindu caste system.

Tensions came to a head on Christmas Eve last year when fights broke out in which one person was killed and churches and temples were damaged.

The region is a stronghold of Maoist rebels and police say they have evidence to link the guerrillas to Saturday’s attack.

“We have found a letter from the spot which indicates that it may be a Maoists attack,” Kishan Kumar, the area’s top government official, told Reuters, adding the automatic rifles used in the attack were similar to the ones used by the Maoists.

Police say by attacking Hindus the Maoists were trying to garner support among the region’s poor tribes, most of which had converted to Christianity.

“There are instances where the rebels have threatened Hindu temples here,” said Satish Gajbhiye, a senior police official.

The murdered Hindu leader was leading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus and tribal people from Christianity.

Saturday’s killings have sparked tension in the area with hundreds of Hindus blocking roads and stopping trains. Thousands of policemen were deployed to maintain peace. Reports said one church was burned down by Hindu crowds.

India’s constitution is secular, but most of its billion-plus citizens are Hindu. About 2.5 percent of Indians are Christians.

There have been attacks on Christians in the past in Orissa and other parts of India. In 1999, a Hindu mob killed Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two children by burning them in their car in Orissa.

Admission of Organ Harvesting in China ‘Undeniable,’ Say Investigators

Former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour and David Matas, a human rights lawyer, on August 22, 2008, released a new letter, describing new evidence about continued murder of Falun Gong practitioners in China for their organs.

Epoch Times | Aug 24, 2008

By Ben Bendig

New evidence of the Chinese regime’s practice of harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners has come to light through the admission of a Chinese doctor.

An audio recording of the doctor admitting to having taken part in harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners, together with a state-endorsed documentary in which the same doctor acknowledges taking part in the conversation, is “an undeniable, inculpatory admission of the harvesting of Falun Gong practitioner prisoners for profit,” say David Matas, a human rights lawyer, and David Kilgour, former Canadian secretary of state (Asia Pacific), in a letter released yesterday.

Matas and Kilgour had their investigators call Chinese hospitals inquiring about organ transplants, specifically if they could get organs from Falun Gong practitioners, the rationale being that Falun Gong practitioners are healthy, owing to their practice.

In one case, Dr. Lu Guoping at Minzu Hospital of Guangxi Autonomous Region said that his hospital used to have organs from Falun Gong practitioners, but didn’t any longer. Here is a portion of the transcript:

“Caller: …what you used before, were they from detention centers or prisons?

“Lu Guoping: From prisons.

“C: Oh, prisons. And it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners, the healthy Falun Gong right?

“LG: Right, right, right. We would choose the good ones, because we will assure the quality of our operations.

“C: That means you choose the organs yourselves?

“LG: Right, right, right.”

He later referred the caller to a hospital in Guangzhou, saying that this hospital would have Falun Gong organs.

Where the new evidence comes to bear is that in a documentary released by Phoenix TV, Lu Guoping admits to having received the call, and also to referring the caller to a Guangzhou hospital.

However, he denies what he said, stating in the interview, “I told her [the caller] I was not involved in the surgical operations and had no idea where the organs come from. I told her I could not answer her questions. She then asked me whether these organs come from prisons. I replied no to her in clear-cut terms.”

When shown a transcript of the interview on the video, Dr. Lu claims that it is a distorted version of the conversation. However, the documentary makes no mention of an audio recording, and no explanation for how the recording could have his voice saying some things that he admits, and other things he denies saying. Matas and Kilgour, in their report of the new evidence, make the point that the documentary suggests an altered transcript, but because there is no mention in the documentary of the recording, the recording itself is not being disputed.

Matas and Kilgour sum up the evidence: “So here we have on our recording an admission from a doctor that he and his colleagues used to go to a prison to select Falun Gong practitioners for their organs. He does not just say that someone else did this. He says that he and his colleagues used to do this themselves. Moreover, we have a further admission that the voice we have on our recording is the voice of the very person our recording says he is.”

One particularly damning aspect of the documentary is that it is available through Chinese consulates and embassies.

“[C]onsequently,” Kilgour and Matas state in their letter, concerning the documentary, “it has the sanction of the Government of China. The admission is, accordingly, one which is sanctioned and approved by the Government of China and can not credibly be denied by the Government.”

Kilgour and Matas have been investigating claims of Falun Gong organ harvesting since 2006. Some of evidence includes 40,000 transplants that have taken place in China with donors unaccounted for, since the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999. Additionally, waiting times for organs in China are on the order of weeks, while in Western countries, the wait can be months or years.

Matas and Kilgour’s letter, along with links to the Phoenix TV video (with English subtitles), Chinese and English-language copies of the transcript of the conversation with Dr. Lu, and the audio recording of Dr. Lu, are available at: http://organharvestinvestigation.net/Dr.Lu-Voice-Recording/