Daily Archives: June 21, 2011

Blind Chinese activist who exposed abuses in Beijing’s population control policy beaten unconscious during raid

A blind Chinese activist who exposed abuses in Beijing’s population control policy was beaten unconscious by dozens of men led by a communist party official, his wife has alleged in a letter to a religious rights group.

Telegraph | Jun 17, 2011

Human rights groups earlier reported an attack on activist Chen Guangcheng in February, but the account from his wife – who said she was also severely abused and remains under house arrest – offered graphic new details.

Yuan Weijing said that 70 to 80 men stormed their home in February. She said around 10 beat her husband for more than two hours while the others trashed the property, taking away a computer, video-camera and even flashlights.

“Some of them twisted his arms forcefully while the others were pushing his head down and lifting his collar up tightly. Given his poor health condition of long-time diarrhoea, Guangcheng was not able to resist and passed out after more than two hours of torture,” she wrote.

The letter was released by ChinaAid, a US-based religious rights group. It said it received the letter on Wednesday.

Yuan said the couple was not allowed medical treatment. She said she was covered with a blanket and beaten, which she believed caused her broken ribs. She said she could not see for five to six days and still cannot stand up straight.

Yuan said that the assailants were led by a local communist party vice secretary and included policemen, although they did not wear uniforms or show legal documents.

Yuan said that authorities have stepped up pressure on them since the beating, with their five-year-old daughter also under house arrest and Chen’s mother followed constantly by three men.

Previous attempts to verify the couple’s condition independently were unsuccessful. Reporters from Western news organizations said they were roughed up in February when they tried to reach Chen’s home in the city of Linyi.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer blind since childhood, served more than four years in prison after he exposed widespread late-term abortions and forced sterilisations under China’s policy of restricting most families to one child.

He was released in September and put under house arrest. He later made a daring video, also released by ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke up.

Nato loses unmanned helicopter drone over Libya

MQ-8B Fire Scout: the type of small helicopter that Nato spokesmen denied that enemy fire had brought down Photo: ALAMY

Nato said it has lost an unmanned helicopter drone over Libya, denying reports on Libyan state television that it was a manned Apache aircraft.

telegraph.co.uk | Jun 21, 2011

A Nato statement said the “unmanned autonomous helicopter drone” was on an intelligence surveillance mission over Libya and lost contact with its command centre.

“We are looking into the reasons behind the incident,” Nato military spokesman Wing Commander Mike Bracken said in the statement.

He denied a Libyan state television report that a Nato Apache attack helicopter came down over Libya.

“Nato confirms it has not lost any attack helicopter,” he said.

Nato officials declined to identify the nationality or type of the aircraft, but Nato sources said the alliance has been operating the MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter drone, made by US firm Northrop Grumman, over Libya.

The aircraft is the first reported lost by Nato over Libya since took over the air strike mission on March 31.

A US F-15E fighter jet taking part in pre-Nato-led strikes on Libya by a Western coalition crashed in March. Its crew ejected safely and the United States blamed a mechanical failure for the crash.

Unasur Forecast Greater Role For Latin America In New International Order

Following the ‘lost’ decade of the 1980, the ‘frustrated’ decade of the nineties, the current decade is “South America’s decade”.


BUENOS AIRES, June 21 (BERNAMA-NNN-MERCOPRESS) — A new global order is emerging as a result of the world crisis and recession in developed countries and Latin America has a crucial role to play given its very satisfactory economic performance in recent years, Latin Unasur bloc Secretary General Maria Emma Mejia said.

Meeting in Madrid for the tenth anniversary of the Spanish foreign affairs think-tank Royal Institute Elcano, Ms Mejia together with other world experts and politicians were invited to discuss the international crisis, the emergence of new powers and if the world is heading for a new international order.

Ms Mejia said that the region’s economy expanded 6% last year and is expected to grow 4.5% this year, of which certainly “the U.S and particularly Europe would feel very envious”.

She added that “undoubtedly a new international order is emerging and Latin America believes it has a crucial role to play”.

However the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) secretary general admitted that inequality and poverty are the main pending issue of Latin America. In spite of the successful economic performance there are still 124 million people living in poverty.

Ms Mejia said that Inter American Development Bank (IADB) president Luis Alberto Moreno had indicated that Lat Am “could double its GDP in the next 14 years which would enable the region to cut poverty from 32% to 10%”

“This is our pending task in Latin America. Inequality and asymmetries are very serious, we have 124 million poor and 13% of our population is indigent, in spite of the huge efforts from countries such as Chile and Brazil” added Ms Mejia.

Following the ‘lost’ decade of the 1980, the ‘frustrated’ decade of the nineties, the current decade is “South America’s decade” said Ms Mejia who described the current situation as “most encouraging” as well as regional integration experiences such as Unasur (Union of South American Nations), through which the region can contribute to the world order and economic development.

However other guests were not so enthusiastic about the coming changes in the world order and what this could mean.

Robin Niblett, head of British Chatman House said the world was not going from an international order dominated by a certain part of the world to one dominated by another part, but rather in coming years “we will have to see how interdependence works out and not who dominates”.

In spite of the fact that the current crisis is “western”, Niblett cautioned “not to underestimate the strength of the U.S and Europe”, that have “some of the most competitive powers and corporations” and a “very strong social security system”.

Another participant at the forum was Yan Xuetong from the Tsinghua University Institute of Modern International Relations, considered one of the most prestigious institutions of China in this field.

“China is not a global power. From an economic point of view China is second in the world but this is not the case regarding political or military influence” said Yan Xuetong, who forecasted that China’s influence in coming years will be “mostly economic”.

“China needs plenty of time, possibly twenty years to become a truly world power”, said the Tsinghua university expert, who is also the editor of China’s Journal of International Politics. He added that “the peaceful rise of China will help to strengthen world stability”.

Genetically modified marijuana growth on the rise in southwest Colombia


colombiareports.com | Jun 20, 2011

by Marguerite Cawley

The cultivation and sale of genetically modified marijuana is becoming more common in southwest Colombia, leading to an increase in prices, newspaper AFP reported.

Locals reported that in the mountains near the city of Cali (Valle del Cauca), where marijuana has long been cultivated, prices of the drug have risen, making it even more tempting to turn to marijuana sales to make a living.

The phenomenon of small-scale farmers choosing marijuana as the crop with the most profit potential has reportedly intensified with the arrival of genetically modified seeds from Europe and the U.S, which allows a “change in the mode of cultivation, with better production and better quality, in less time, with a variety of the so-called ‘creepy’ [potent marijuana],” said local police.

According to a foreign investigator, there is even a strain in Europe that is named after a Cauca department town, called “La Cominera,” because that is where the variety most prospered.

“Its market value is much greater than that of normal marijuana,” for its higher concentration of THC, explained the investigator. The higher quality marijuana is grown in greenhouses and the head of a farm told AFP that this genetically modified variety is sold for about ten times the rate for “normal” marijuana.

Police, meanwhile, said that in this region of Colombia, marijuana is the principle method of financing the FARC’s 6th Front. “It is a big problem; the [FARC’s] 6th Front finances 90% [of its operations] with marijuana,” Cauca Police Commander Coronel Carlos Rodriguez said.

According to organized crime website InSight, the FARC have become the country’s primary marijuana dealers, with the majority of seizures, normally between one and four tons, occurring along the Pacific coast, particularly in Cauca. In early June, authorities seized 14 tons of marijuana in the department’s Toribio village.

The drug is usually sent to the Buenaventura port or to departments bordering Venezuela, to be sold in Ecuador or Venezuela.

New Orleans police face trial over Katrina killings, cover-up

Louisiana State Police use an armored vehicle to patrol Canal in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the aftermath of Katrina (AFP/File, James Nielsen)

“This department is engaged in horrendous acts against its citizens.”

AFP | Jun 21, 2011

By Jordan Flaherty

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Five New Orleans police officers accused of indiscriminately shooting people in the chaos unleashed by Hurricane Katrina face a high-profile trial in the coming week.

The deadly 2005 shooting on the Danziger Bridge and resulting cover-up came to epitomize the city’s failure to protect its citizens and exposed deep-rooted corruption in the police department which many say remains unaddressed.

“This trial is going to show the country and the world that we have a serious problem with our police department,” said Eddie Jordan, the city’s former District Attorney.

“This department is engaged in horrendous acts against its citizens.”

Fear soon followed the deadly floodwaters which swallowed 80 percent of New Orleans and left thousands stranded on their rooftops after Katrina smashed through the city’s poorly maintained levees on August 29, 2005.


Trial opens for New Orleans police officers charged in deadly bridge shootings after Katrina

Reports of widespread looting and armed gangs roaming the city shifted the government’s already botched response from humanitarian aid to a military operation.

Then-Governor Kathleen Blanco sent in National Guard troops, announcing “These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will.”

Warren Riley, then-second in charge of the New Orleans police department (NOPD) reportedly instructed officers to “take the city back and shoot looters.”

In the following days, six people — almost all of them African American — were killed under suspicious circumstances in incidents involving police. Scores more were injured.

“We had more incidents of police misconduct than civilian misconduct,” Jordan, the former district attorney, told AFP. “All these stories of looting, it pales next to what the police did.”

The Danziger Bridge case is the most notorious of at least nine incidents being investigated by federal agents.

A group of officers, who had apparently heard a misleading radio report about shootings in the area, began firing on two families who were simply trying to escape the floodwaters.

Ronald Madison, a mentally challenged man, was shot in the back at least six times, then stomped and kicked by an officer until he was dead, officers who pleaded guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence have testified.

James Brissette, a high school student, died after he was shot seven times.

Four others were badly wounded, including Susan Bartholomew, 38, whose arm was shot off her body.

For years, family members and advocates called for official investigations and were rebuffed.

That changed when President Barack Obama’s newly appointed attorney general took over in 2009 and the US Justice Department decided to look into the accusations.

It has been one of the most wide-ranging investigations of a police department in recent US history. Dozens of officers are facing lengthy prison terms, and corruption charges have reached to the very top of the department.

In a scathing 158-page report released in March, the Justice Department declared that the New Orleans police department has deep structural problems beyond what has been revealed by the Danziger incident.

“Basic elements of effective policing — clear policies, training, accountability, and confidence of the citizenry-have been absent for years,” the report concluded.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman said public distrust in the police department is real.

“We see the effects of that on a daily basis in criminal court. When we question jurors, there are jurors that say they don’t trust the police.”

But positive changes have already taken hold, Bowman said.

“You have to look at an entire criminal justice system that is reforming itself,” he told AFP.

Criminal justice reformers disagree, saying that the problems are systemic and that even the Justice Department investigations, which have focused mostly on the NOPD, don’t go far enough.

They complain of judges who are too close to prosecutors, a coroner who sides with the police version of events, and a city jail that is the largest per capita jail in the United States.

“Danziger is not something that happened in isolation,” said Rosana Cruz, the associate director of V.O.T.E., an organization that seeks to build civic engagement for formerly incarcerated people.

“Everyone’s job in the criminal justice system depends on there being a lot of crime in the city. As long as that’s the case, we’re not going to have safety.”

Jury selection in the Danziger Bridge trial begins Wednesday and opening arguments are expected the following week.

Sergeants Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius and Officers Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon are accused in both the shooting and the cover-up and face life sentences if convicted.

Sergeant Arthur Kaufman, who was not present at the shooting, is accused only in the cover-up, and faces a maximum penalty of 120 years in prison.

Seeking the truth behind the royal mystery of Richard III

Would you trust this man? Richard III, as played by Laurence Olivier Photograph: Getty Images Photograph: Felix Man/Getty

A scholarship created in memory of a Yorkshire historian could help unveil the true mystery behind England’s most controversial Yorkist monarch.

What is known for certain is that on 1 November 1461, Richard gained the title of Duke of Gloucester; sometime before 4 February 1466, he was invested as a Knight of the Garter. Following the death of King Edward IV, he was made Lord Protector of England. Richard held this office from 30 April 1483 to 26 June 1483 when he made himself king of the realm.

The search is on for the truth behind one of Yorkshire and Britain’s most enduring Royal mysteries.

guardian.co.uk | Jun 20, 2011

by Martin Hickes

Every history scholar knows the story behind the Yorkist monarch Richard III – the alleged hunchbacked, scheming monarch and eponymous Shakespearean subject from the turbulent Wars of the Roses period. Or so it seems.

Now a group of devotees from the highly-respected Richard III Foundation Inc, is hoping to fathom out the truth once and for all about Richard’s shady past.

The group is offering up a special bursary – named specially in memory of a late Yorkshire member of the society – in a bid to seek out the real story behind Richard’s reign.

Shakespeare, among other chroniclers of the time, had it that the infamous Yorkist monarch – formerly Richard, Duke of Gloucester – had many an opponent murdered to gain access to the throne of England.

Amongst other clever plotting at the height the intrigue of medieval England, key among his dark deeds are alleged to be the deaths of the so-called Princes in the Tower, Edward V of England and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York who were the only sons of the Yorkist Edward IV of England.

Both princes were declared illegitimate by an Act of Parliament of 1483 known as Titulus Regius, believed by some to be ushered in by Richard, who later assumed the throne as Richard III.

Their fate, and the true identity of their murderer remains disputed, however. Many historians have until recently presumed that they either died or were killed in the Tower of London in 1483 by Richard.

Richard, of the House of York, is also credited with other machinations – including a hand in the deaths of other English nobles at the time of the famous rivalries between the Houses of York and Lancaster, both of which vied for the English throne.

But now, thanks to a scholarship legacy from a late Yorkshire historical devotee and member of the Richard III Foundation, it is hoped the ‘truth’ might soon be revealed.

The group, a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to research into the life and reign of Richard III, has launched a student program, The John Davey Research Grant for Medieval Studies.

The grant will be awarded annually to a deserving applicant currently studying an aspect of English history dating from the Ricardian period (1450-1485).
Candidates must be engaged in ongoing research projects designed to increase the historical understanding of King Richard III and his era.

The grant is named after John Davey, a patron of the Foundation, who passed away in 2006.

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A Cold Spring in Seattle: Nearly 75 Percent Of Days Colder Than Average

Highs At Sea-Tac Average Or Warmer On Only 19 Days

KIRO 7 | June 21, 2011

by Morgan Palmer

SEATTLE — While La Nina has left the Pacific, the legacy of this unusually cold spring lasts. The numbers bear out the fact that nearly three-quarters of all spring days in 2011 were colder-than-normal as measured at Sea-Tac.

The coldest month, in relation to averages, was April with only one of its days with a high temperature warmer than the 30-year average.

We have done better so far in June, though the majority of days have still been cool.

Awaiting the final numbers from Sea-Tac for today (with a normal high of 70), we look at 92 days during spring 2011.

Equal or above-normal: 19 days (26 percent)

Below normal: 73 days (74 percent)