Daily Archives: September 24, 2008

Nepal’s Maoists intensify land grab campaign

Kantipur | Sep 21, 2008

BY UPENDRA LAMICHHANE

BARA, Sept 22 – Not even a week after Maoist minister Matrika Yadav retook a huge swathe of land and house belonging to several locals of Siraha, discarding Home Minister Bamdev Gautam’s directives to vacate it on September 15, local Maoist activists here in Bara district captured seven bigha land belonging to former king Gyanendra’s elder sister Shanti Singh at Simara-2, Sunday.

Subsequently, Maoist cadres invited landless squatters over loud speaker and distributed land to them.

In the presence of their district committee member Jivan Kalikote and VDC secretary Bishnu Prasad Rijal, the Maoists gave away 10 dhur land to each squatter family.

“I came here after hearing on the loudspeaker that land was being distributed,” said an elated Hira Tamang of Amalekhgunj-2. “I plan to erect my house here.”

On Sunday, the Maoist cadres distributed the seized land to 61 such families of Pathalaiya, Simara and Amalekhgunj. They said the process would go ahead until all the land was given.

The land was under control of the Maoist-close All Nepal Transportation Workers’ Union for the last three years.

I resigned for PM’s ease: Matrika

Maoist leader Matrika Yadav said Sunday that he chose to quit the ministerial portfolio in order to make it easy for the prime minister to run the government.

Speaking at a programme at Haripur of Sarlahi, he also said he would never shun revolution and relationship with people.

He also claimed that his Siraha land grab was right in every way.

“While the centre of people’s war was Rolpa, the centre for land reforms movement will be Siraha,” he said while revealing that he would rather be active in such campaigns now onward.

On Friday, the then minister for Land Reforms and Management Yadav resigned from his post after he was severely chastised by partners of the coalition government and the party itself. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had even said the party would take action against Yadav as the latter’s act was against party policy.

New Thai prime minister submits cabinet lineup for royal approval by the king

Asia-Pacific News | Sep 23, 2008

Bangkok – Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat submitted his proposed cabinet lineup for royal approval Tuesday and expects to hold his first cabinet meeting as early as late this week.

Under Thailand’s constitutional monarchy the appointments are not official until approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is head of state. Somchai said he would not identify who is in his cabinet until they are approved.

After they are endorsed they can be sworn in and get to work, he said.

Somchai said there were 36 cabinet ministers in the lineup. He would not say if he planned also to serve as defence minister, as had former prime minister Samak Sundaravej who resigned earlier this month.

The opposition Democrat Party criticized him for taking so long to name his cabinet, and said the ministers could appear ‘uglier’ than those under Samak – who once alluded to his as an ‘ugly-duckling cabinet.’

‘In my view all 36 members of the new cabinet are all good-looking,’ Somchai countered. ‘Let’s give them an opportunity to work.’

Somchai added he would try and have his cabinet present a policy statement before Parliament by the end of this month.

Somchai, 61, was appointed last Thursday after Samak lost his post on September 9 when the constitution court found him guilty of illegal moonlighting by hosting television cooking shows.

Finland to change gun law in wake of latest school shooting

“We will now start the discussion about pistols and revolvers. Is it right that the people can carry those guns at their homes?’‘

– Finland Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen.

Xinhua | Sep 23, 2008

STOCKHOLM, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — The mass murders in a school shooting Tuesday in the Finnish town of Kauhajoki would lead to changes in the Firearms Act, Finland’s Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen has said, according to reports reaching here from Helsinki.

Addressing a news conference, Vanhanen said he expected a lively debate on gun control, reported Finnish News Agency STT.

“It goes without saying that one must analyze carefully what has happened and what sorts of changes may serve to prevent these kinds of situations from happening,” he added.

Matti Juhani Saari, 22, is suspected of killing at least ten people at the vocational school. He was taken into hospital after shooting himself and died in the early evening.

Finnish public broadcaster YLE reported that the suspected perpetrator had posted several videos in recent weeks on YouTube showing himself firing a pistol, which he bought last month. He was questioned by police concerning the videos Monday, but no further steps were deemed necessary.

About one year ago, an 18-year-old boy killed eight pupils and staff at his upper secondary school in Jokela in southern Finland before turning the gun on himself.

Henry Kissinger to teach Sarah Palin about foreign affairs

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, right, shakes hands with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after a meeting at his Park Avenue offices, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

News.com.au | Sep 24, 2008

By Stefanie Balogh in New York

REPUBLICAN vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is to take her first tentative steps on to the world stage, at UN talks with the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Related

John McCain’s selection of Ms Palin has been criticised due to her lack of foreign affairs experience.

The Alaskan Governor, who describes herself as a hockey mum and a pit bull with lipstick, has argued that she is ready for the world’s second most powerful job, despite never having met a foreign head of state before today.

She got her first passport last year.

Ms Palin defended her national security credentials in a television interview this month, during which she said she had insight into Russia because “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska”.

Today, Ms Palin will receive a crash course in international affairs from Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State to Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

He is renowned for pioneering “shuttle diplomacy”.

After being prepped, Ms Palin will hold high-level talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Afghan President Hamid Karzai who are in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

The day after she will have a joint meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko, before meeting separately with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

One of the highlights will be a meeting with Bono, lead singer of U2, who has become a global spokesman for humanitarian causes.

But perhaps Palin needed some worldly advice to come a bit sooner – in a move which is likely to alienate her from media across the globe, the vice presidential nominee has banned reporters from attending the meetings, allowing access only to photographers and a television crew.

CNN, which was providing the television coverage for news organisations, decided to pull its TV crew, effectively denying Palin the high visibility she had sought.

Earlier, former US President Democrat Bill Clinton, said he understands why Ms Palin is popular in the American heartland: because people relate to her.

“I come from Arkansas. I get why she’s hot out there, why she’s doing well,” he said.

Finland school shooting gunman planned massacre for six years

Saari had been fixated with the German singer Rudy Ratzinger (pictured) of the industrial goth music project Wumpscut, and quoted his lyrics on his YouTube profile. The songs refer to child murder, burned corpses and bloodshed and have titles including Slave to Evil, Death for the Masses and Line of Corpses. Saari had posted a video on YouTube featuring himself with the same gun used in the killing spree, under the alias of “Wumpscut86”.

A deranged gunman who killed 10 people and himself at a college in Finland left suicide notes which reveal he had been planning the massacre for six years.

Telegraph | Sep 24, 2008

By Nick Allen in Kauhajoki

Matti Juhani Saari, 22, left two handwritten notes explaining that his motivation for committing the mass slaughter was because “I hate the human race.”

Saari wrote that “the solution is Walther 22” which was believed to be a reference to the Walther .22 calibre handgun he used to carry out the atrocity.

The suicide notes were found in a dormitory at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality, 220 miles north of Helsinki, where Saari was a second year culinary student.

A police source said: “Saari left notes saying he had a hatred for mankind, for the whole of the human race, and that he had been thinking about what he was going to do for years. The notes show he was very troubled and he hated everything.”

The content of the notes will lead to questions over why Finnish authorities had failed to notice that Saari was dangerously unstable.

Flags are flying at half mast across the country today.

One day before the massacre Saari had been visited by police over a series of video clips he had posted on YouTube of himself at a shooting range firing the gun which would later be used in the college shooting.

In one clip he approaches the camera and chillingly warns “You will die next” before unleashing four shots. In another he empties his gun into a target, walks to the camera and says “goodbye.”

Despite the clear threats police allowed him to keep the automatic pistol, which he had bought a month before, because it was licensed and he had not broken any Finnish laws.

Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said: “The detective who handled the case did not think that the circumstances were such that they required a confiscation of the weapon or a withdrawal of the license.”

Police believe someone else operated the camera used to film the YouTube clips and they are now searching for that person.

At the college panic erupted as Saari, dressed in black and carrying a large bag, entered the building just before 11am local time on Tuesday.

He then put on a ski mask and calmly opened fire in a classroom where students were taking an exam.

He had with him some home made petrol bombs or Molotov cocktails which he set off during a 90-minute rampage, burning some of the bodies beyond recognition.

He then shot himself in the head and died later in hospital.

Nine of his victims were found in the classroom and one in the corridor. They included at least one teacher.

There were about 150 students and teachers in the college at the time and some of them fled down a nearby river on rowing boats as Saari fired.

School caretaker Jukka Forsberg said he heard “horrible screams of pain” as he raced out of the building.

He said: “Two girls came towards my room and said a weird man was shooting. I went to see and saw a guy leaving a big black bag in the corridor and going into classroom number three and closing the door.

“I looked through the window and he immediately shot at me. He fired at me but I was running zigzag. I ran for my life.”

Saari lived alone with his cat. One of his neighbours said he had appeared to be a normal, quiet person. The neighbour said: “He was like one of us, quiet but not a hermit.”

The gunmen had been fixated with the German “goth” singer Wumpscut and quoted his lyrics on his YouTube profile.

The songs refer to child murder, burned corpses and bloodshed and have titles including Slave to Evil, Death for the Masses and Line of Corpses.

On YouTube, Saari quoted from the song “War” with the words: “Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war.”

Amid national mourning the Finnish government is facing a backlash for having failed to tighten gun laws nearly a year after a previous massacre at a high school in Jokela, north of Helsinki.

On November 7, 2007, 18-year-old student Pekka-Eric Auvinen shot six students, the headmistress and a school nurse before killing himself. Before going on his deadly rampage, Auvinen had also posted a video on YouTube.

Finland has the world’s third highest gun ownership rate behind the United States and Yemen.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said: “We have to tighten the law significantly.”

In Kauhajoki, a sleepy town of around 14,000 people, streets were still jammed with police vans and military vehicles a day after the shootings.

Police wearing bullet-proof vests patrolled the college grounds and crowds of local people gathered behind police barricades.

Tuula Kyren, a spokeswoman for Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation, said: “During the night we have been trying to identify the victims but some of them have been severely burned so identifying them might take some time.”

Chinese babies were deliberately poisoned by milk companies with Communist Party collusion

Failing a generation: children undergoing medical checks for possible kidney stones wait with their parents at a hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan province  Photo: REUTERS

Tens of thousands of infants are sick after drinking tainted baby milk. But this isn’t an ordinary health disaster – the authorities colluded with the companies who deliberately contaminated their products and failed to warn the public.

The boss of Sanlu, now sacked and in police custody, was a senior party official, as are the leaders of most big companies in China.

Telegraph | Sep 24, 2008

The poisoning of China’s babies

By Richard Spencer

Disaster befell the parents of Jiao Zizhou because, poor as they were, they could afford baby milk. What they could not afford were hospital fees.

Visitors to China often look at its diversity, its grand civic buildings, its sweatshops, its new rich, its desperate poor, and compare it to Dickens, and talk about the growing pains of developing societies. Jiao Zizhou, a 10-month-old baby from southern China, gives growing pains a name.

Zizhou’s parents fed him on baby milk from a company called Sanlu, which means Three Deer in Chinese. At just under £3 for a 400g bag, it was cheap but reputable. Produced by the biggest formula manufacturer in China, it was consumed by babies from north to south, even in rural areas like the village in impoverished Guizhou province where Zizhou’s parents live.

Some ask why babies in China drink milk at all: cow’s milk is not something the Chinese have traditionally liked, so there was no particular reason for them to follow the worldwide trend towards abandoning the breast. But the question answers itself: China is modernising and, to many people, that means doing what the rest of the world does. In present-day industrial China, it also means building your own companies to provide what foreigners consume – but cheaper.

Few people questioned the competitive pricing, and certainly not Zizhou’s parents, until they started to worry about his health last month. He stopped being able to urinate and, though a local clinic was unable to diagnose the problem, he fell into a fever a week later. The children’s hospital in Guizhou’s provincial capital gave him an ultrasound scan on August 9, which showed a swelling in the kidneys. He was diagnosed with obstructions in his urinary tract and acute renal failure, and transferred to the region’s biggest city, Chongqing.

What his parents had no way of knowing was that Zizhou was one of more than 50,000 babies to have fallen sick from drinking formula milk. Most had drunk Sanlu, little knowing that its powder had been deliberately tainted with a chemical called melamine.

Melamine is a plastic, not a notorious poison. For a while in the Sixties, melaware crockery was all the rage in Western households. But you weren’t supposed to eat it, and melamine has side-effects: it causes kidney stones if it gets into the food chain. On the other hand, it also boosts nitrogen readings, often used as a rough test for protein content.

Melamine, in other words, makes low-quality food look better than it is, it was being poured into weak or watered-down milk supplies before it was collected, not only by Sanlu but by other manufacturers, before being turned into powder.

What has shocked many people in China, even those used to a heavily censored media, is how many people knew about the problem before it went public. Initial investigations by the government suggest that Sanlu first started receiving complaints in December of last year. By March, the number of complaints was sufficient for it to start its own inquiries. In May, a baby died in Gansu province in the far west and, by July, authorities there were concerned enough about the number of sick infants that they called in the ministry of health. Gansu officials suspected Sanlu was to blame – it was the only food many of the babies had consumed.

On August 1, Sanlu received the results of its own tests; the following day it told the authorities in the city where the company is based, Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing. The city authorities did nothing.

Even this late, a public warning would have made Zizhou’s parents – and the doctors who first saw him – aware of what might have been wrong with him. But there was another factor.

Three days before, Shijiazhuang had been host to the Olympic torch as it circled the country on its way to its triumphant arrival in Beijing for China’s long-awaited Games. It seemed wrong to spoil the moment: in fact, the central authorities had specifically warned the media that this was a sensitive time and “bad news” items such as health scares should be played down.

It was not until September 11 that a warning was finally given, as reports started appearing in the media of “a certain firm’s” problems with baby milk. Two days later, the New Zealand government, notified by Fonterra, a New Zealand company which owns a minority stake in Sanlu’s operations and has three directors on its board, told the Chinese leadership of its concerns.

Since then, the truth has slipped out little by little: the fact that liquid milk, as well as formula, was affected, and that China’s two biggest dairy names, Yili, an Olympic sponsor, and Mengniu, which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and has a joint venture with Arla, the European food giant, were implicated along with Sanlu.

The disaster has had one beneficial effect: the intervention by the New Zealand government showed China that it could no longer ignore advice from abroad. Meanwhile, the discovery of tainted products in places such as Hong Kong and Singapore, gateways to the international trading system, proved once and for all that a problem in one country is a problem for all. Even the European Commission has demanded an urgent review of all processed foods imported from China.

Other countries have health scares and cover-ups: Britain had BSE. But there was something particularly crude about China’s. It has some top-of-the-range dairy facilities. But it also has middlemen unscrupulous enough to water down milk and disguise it with melamine, and companies who at least turn a blind eye.

Even cruder was the story of Wang Yuanping, who for many has become the symbol of the moral dilemmas the Chinese face nowadays. In May, he told Sanlu that his daughter’s urine showed changes after drinking their product. The company said it would offer a refund, but that if it carried out tests on the powder they would not tell him the results because they would be “commercial secrets”.

After they offered him £200 of free milk to take down the internet post he wrote about his experiences, he approached the local commerce bureau with his complaint. They told him that he would have to pay a fee of hundreds of pounds for tests, which he couldn’t afford. So he took down the post, accepted the milk, and gave it to his friends – a decision that has racked him with guilt and made him an object of both criticism and sympathy. “You did your best,” some said.

As the number of babies known to have fallen sick has multiplied from the hundreds to the tens of thousands, and as humiliating detail has followed humiliating detail, some have asked how a government that can lay on such a magnificent Olympics can so spectacularly fail its citizens.

Wen Jiabao, the popular prime minister, has been touring hospitals, offering moral support to weeping mothers and threatening punishment all round. Li Changjiang, the minister in charge of product safety, has been forced to resign.

That was a telling moment. Mr Li became a celebrity last year for his handling of the row over poisoned Chinese exports, which began with pet food tainted with melamine and moved on to lead-coated toys. He said it was a “foreign plot” by Western countries to protect themselves from Chinese imports. That hubris has now been his undoing, as it has China’s.

This is not just because in its Olympic determination to show off its perfect new Beijing it overlooked the troubles of its less sophisticated hinterland; or because it thought that by winning prestige around the world the government could more easily win favour at home, though both are true.
It is also because the success of the Games has raised expectations.

Four years ago, there was another baby milk scandal, when 13 babies died in one province from drinking fake formula. The story made some waves locally, and brought exactly the same response from the government: threatened punishment and promises of better control. But then it was forgotten.

“On that occasion, it was the responsibility of local milk producers, but now all the major dairy brands in China are all involved in the scandal,” said Li Datong, a liberal commentator. “But the opening up of information and greater social development have made people more aware about the country. And they care more about their health than before.”

There is no sign that hubris will be followed by nemesis. Some scandals even seem to elevate the regard for central leaders like Mr Wen, who can use media controls to focus criticism on the local criminals responsible, rather than the political systems that let them get away with it.

But more and more people are noticing the central contradiction of a ruling Communist Party that says that it is modern and reforming, but shuts off the means of holding it to account. It has not gone unremarked that the boss of Sanlu, now sacked and in police custody, was a senior party official, as are the leaders of most big companies in China.

Whatever the political fall-out, it will be too late for Jiao Zizhou. China can lay on the Olympics but it cannot afford healthcare for its people, and Zizhou’s parents could not meet the bills the new hospital charged.

They took him home, and on September 3, a few days before the information that might have saved him was made public, he died.

New airport screening technology ‘could read minds’

Unlike current technology which aims to detect devices such as guns or explosives, MALINTENT focuses on the person who could pose the threat  Photo: NEWSCAST

US security officials could soon be screening potential terror suspects with a new type of technology capable of detecting “hostile intent”.

Telegraph | Sep 24, 2008

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles

The Department of Homeland Security is testing a type of body scanner that seeks out invisible clues that a person might be harbouring criminal intent, such as raised body temperature, pulse and breathing rate.

The system, called MALINTENT, uses a raft of “non-invasive” sensors and imagers to detect such factors remotely – subjects are not hooked up to anything. It also evaluates a person’s facial expression to help to gauge whether they could be planning to commit an attack or crime.

The technology, developed by the Human Factors division of Homeland Security’s directorate for Science and Technology, would be used at border checkpoints, airports and special events that require security screening.

Unlike current technology which aims to detect devices such as guns or explosives, it focuses on the person who could pose the threat.

The technology, dubbed Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST, deploys a range of “innovative physiological and behavioural technologies” to pick up “indications of malintent or the intent or desire to cause harm”, according to the DHS.

Still in the development stage, it is designed to streamline screening of people at security checkpoints enabling large numbers to be vetted swiftly.

“It would take imaging and sensor technologies to observe physiological changes that might indicate intent to harm, such as skin temperature, pulse, respiration and gestures,” said Amy Kudwa, a DHS spokeswoman.

She added it would be capable of distinguishing between someone with a hostile intent and a plane passenger, for example, who was merely stressed about missing a connection.

The technology is currently installed in a mobile unit, or demonstration laboratory, that scans people with multiple sensors while they walk through it. Last week it was tested in Maryland using nearly about 140 volunteers, Ms Kudwa said.

Some of the volunteers were told to act suspiciously as they walked past the FAST sensors.

“We’re still very early on in this research, but it is looking very promising,” John Verrico, a DHS spokesman, told New Scientist. “We are running at about 78 percent accuracy on mal-intent detection, and 80 percent on deception.”

If the sensors pick up anything considered alarming, analysts can decide whether to subject a person to questioning.

In a Homeland Security video showing the system in action, targeted subjects are asked questions such as “are you attempting to smuggle an explosive device” or “are you from the local area?”

During this stage, the MALINTENT technology judges “thermal” and “physiological” response as well as “situation awareness” and reads a person’s minute facial muscle movements for evidence of emotional state, mood and intention.

While some aspects of the system have triggered allusions to mind reading and the crime-predicting technology of science fiction film Minority Report, the DHS denies this is what the system is about.

Ms Kudwa stressed nothing about a person’s identity would be stored and the system would be subject to a “rigorous privacy review” before it was ever brought online.

“We are still very much in a testing and validation of concept stage trying to determine if it’s even feasible,” Ms Kudwa said. Any public use of the technology was “many years off”, she added.

Russia sends warships into America’s ‘backyard’ as new Cold War intensifies

Russian might: Peter the Great armed with SS-N-19 Shipwreck long-range anti-ship missiles. The warship will sail in an area where nine of every 14 barrels of imported oil to the US must transit.

Daily Mail | Sep 23, 2008

By Will Stewart In Moscow

Russian warships set off for the Caribbean yesterday for their first naval exercises on the U.S.’s doorstep since the Cold War.

The vessels from the Northern Fleet, including nuclear missile cruiser the Peter the Great, left their base in Severomorsk to hold joint manoeuvres with Venezuela.

The exercises are seen as retaliation to U.S. plans to install a strategic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It is also thought to be a response to Western support for Georgia, which was invaded by Moscow last month.

Last week, in a show of strength that echoed the Cold War, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers flew over the Caribbean into Venezuela – a close ally of Russia.

The Bush administration has accused the Kremlin of playing a ‘dangerous game’ by carrying out flights with strategic bombers near U.S. borders.

Igor Dygalo, an aide to the chief naval commander, said last night: ‘A flotilla of Russia’s Northern Fleet ships, including its flagship, the nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great, destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and escorting ships have left Severomorsk, the Northern Fleet’s base.

‘As a part of this trip, Russian warships will take part in joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy.’

Look out US: The Admiral Chabanenko, a Russian anti-submarine destroyer, Udaloy II class, has also set sail for Latin America

Deputy Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Nikolai Karachun added: ‘The ships are loaded with both training and live rounds, all is in good order and checked, the ships are technically sound, all crews are fully prepared, and spare parts are on board the warships and their escorts.’

Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by then-President Vladimir Putin.

Russian bombers have since carried out more than 90 strategic patrol flights and have often been escorted by Nato planes, including RAF interceptors.

The flights were designed to show the once-feared Russian Military had regained its confidence and aggression since decaying in the post-Soviet era.

Military leaders in the country have also threatened to base bombers in Cuba, deliberately evoking comparisons with the 1962 Cuba missile crisis in which the USA and the Soviet Union came close to all-out war after the Red Army shipped missiles to the Caribbean island.

President Hugo Chavez has embarked on a five-nation foreign tour which includes a red carpet visit to Moscow where he will be lauded for standing up the United States.

Kremlin prime minister Vladimir Putin’s push to the Caribbean will act as a warning to the next U.S. president, to be elected in November, that despite the world current financial turbulence, Moscow is again a force to be reckoned with following a massive oil-fuelled economic recovery since the fall of the USSR.

Military analyst Alexander Golts said: ‘It’s a show of the Kremlin irritation about the U.S. deployment to Georgia. It’s a signal to the United States: you have broken into our zone of influence, and we will show you that we can enter yours.’

He added that the small Russian squadron could not pose any threat to the United States.

‘Without protection from the air, it makes a sitting duck,’ he said.

‘It’s ridiculous to even talk about the Russian ships providing a counterweight to the U.S. Navy.’

The Peter the Great is armed with SS-N-19 Shipwreck long-range anti-ship missiles. The warship will sail in an area where nine of every 14 barrels of imported oil to the US must transit.

Finland shooting prompt calls for web monitoring and gun control

“We will now start the discussion about pistols and revolvers. Is it right that the people can carry those guns at their homes?’‘

– Finland Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said authorities needed to look into what can be done to better protect citizens, including possible changes in Internet monitoring and tougher gun laws.

Reuters | Sep 23, 2008

By Wojciech Moskwa

OSLO (Reuters) – A deadly shooting at a Finnish school on Tuesday raises questions over tougher policing of the Internet after news the gunman posted menacing videos of himself on the Web before killing 10 people.

Student Matti Juhani Saari, 22, also killed himself in the incident closely resembling a 2007 massacre at another Finnish school, where that gunman also published messages on Internet video sharing site YouTube.

Police were alerted to videos posted by Saari and even questioned him on Monday, a day before the attack.

He was not detained because the videos “did not threaten anyone” directly, said Finland’s police chief — highlighting the difficulty in judging the risk of postings on the Internet.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said authorities needed to look into what can be done to better protect citizens, including possible changes in Internet monitoring and tougher gun laws.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen told broadcaster YLE: “The Internet and YouTube forums … are not another planet. This is part of our world and we adults have the responsibility to check what is happening, and create borders and safety there.”

Several videos posted on YouTube by “Mr. Saari” over the past month showed a dark-clad man firing a handgun at a shooting range. The videos were removed by YouTube, owned by U.S. Internet giant Google, shortly after the killings.

One video on a different website showed what appeared to be the same man saying directly into the lens: “You will die next,” before firing off shots toward a camera on the ground.

In other footage, he emptied his pistol at an off-screen target, turned to the camera, said “goodbye” and walked off.

Finnish police declined to detail their Internet file on Saari or their talks with him on Monday, beyond they were carried out by “an experienced policeman”.

MASS OUTLET

Criminologists say video-sharing websites offer killers unprecedented scope to get their messages across.

“This type of networking was not possible before the Internet era,” Aarne Kinnunen, a trained criminologist and adviser to Finland’s justice minister, told Reuters.

“The Internet creates the image that there is a crowd of people that respect this type of behavior and … misrepresentation of reality.”

Videos linked to killing sprees gained widespread attention in 2007 when Cho Seung-Hui killed 33 people, including himself, at Virginia Tech university in the United States and mailed a film explaining his actions to U.S. broadcaster NBC.

Analysts say web monitoring for malicious intent would be difficult since such threats were often vague, hoaxes commonplace and police resources limited. Kinnunen suggested linking Internet background checks to new gun permits.

Google said in a statement the videos posted by the suspected gunmen on YouTube did not breach its “zero tolerance policy for threats and incitement to violence”.

YouTube, which said it receives 13 hours of new content each minute, removes material largely through a system of “community policing” if users themselves report inappropriate videos.

Saari’s profile on YouTube included a link to another YouTube content provider, “Lovehetar” whose listed interests included serial killers, mass murderers and the Columbine high school shooting in the United States in 1999.

(Additional reporting by John Acher and Sakari Suoninen; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Palin meets with global leaders at the United Nations

Sarah Palin is meeting several world leaders while in New York

BBC | Sep 24, 2008

US Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has met her first world leaders in what is widely seen as a crash course on foreign policy.

She met the leaders of Afghanistan and Colombia as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Alaska governor has faced strong criticism that she lacks experience in foreign policy.

She only got a passport last year and had not met a foreign head of state.

Analysts say Republicans want to bolster Sarah Palin’s foreign policy credentials ahead of a debate with her Democratic counterpart Joe Biden.

‘Right questions’

Mrs Palin, the running mate to presidential candidate John McCain, held brief meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Mr Karzai and Mrs Palin discussed security problems in Afghanistan, including cross-border insurgencies.

Mr Karzai later said she had “asked the right questions on Afghanistan”.

Mrs Palin then met Mr Uribe at the residence of Colombia’s UN ambassador, discussing the fight against drugs and trade issues.
In her meeting with Henry Kissinger, Mrs Palin asked for insights on Georgia, Russia, China and Iran.

Correspondents say Mrs Palin is being prepared for a debate on 2 October with Mr Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has broad knowledge of US foreign policy challenges.

On Wednesday, Mr McCain and Mrs Palin are expected to meet jointly with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Mrs Palin is then due to meet separately Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

An opinion poll released on Tuesday showed Democratic candidate Barack Obama holding slight leads in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and Minnesota.