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April 30, 2010

UN official: DR Congo is ‘rape capital of the world’

Filed under: Democratic Republic of the Congo — admin @ 5:00 am

UN official: DR Congo is ‘rape capital of the world’

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
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Wallstrom is the current envoy on sexual violence in conflict

A top United Nations official has called the the “rape capital of the world”. The UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, said that the UN Security Council needs to “punish the perpetrators in DR Congo”.

Data collected by the UN shows that 200,000 cases of sexual assault have been reported in the last 14 years, 8,000 of which occurred last year and 1,244 of which occurred in the first three months of 2010. The UN’s mission has been trying to combat the problem by escorting women when they go to market and working closely with the local officials.

Wallstrom released a statement after returning from a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said: “Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished. If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced.

The Harvard Humanitarian Society issued a report in April showing that in South Kivu, an eastern province in DR Congo, 60% of the women raped were raped by armed men. More than half were raped in their own home, and more civilians are committing the attacks than ever before.

Despite the country’s war ending in 2003, DR Congo is still plagued with militia violence.



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Taliban commander reportedly alive, despite claims of January death

Taliban commander reportedly alive, despite claims of January death

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Pakistan
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According to Pakistani intelligence, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, is still alive, contradicting claims by US and Pakistani officials that he was killed in a January drone attack.

At the time of the attack, officials reported that Mehsud was killed along with ten other rebels, but Pakistani sources now say he was only wounded in the attack. According to unidentified sources, his authority within the Taliban had significantly diminished after the attack, and is now overshadowed by other commanders such as Waliur Rehman. Four officers from Pakistan’s main spy agency said that they believed Mehsud was alive, citing both surveillance of the Taliban, as well as reports from sources within the Taliban.

Despite his apparent survival, US defense officials downplayed the significance of the revelation. A spokesman for the Pentagon in Washington, DC said that there was “no evidence” that Mehsud was “executing or exerting authority over the Pakistan Taliban as he once did”, adding: “I don’t know if that reflects him being alive or dead, but he clearly is not running the Pakistani Taliban anymore.”

The Taliban continuously denied reports Mehsud was killed, although they refused to offer proof such as videos, saying it could pin Mehsud to a specific location. According to the BBC, however, claims that Mehsud had been killed were always suspect, as the Taliban neither officially announced his death nor announced a new leader that would have taken his place – both common practices.



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Pakistani peace mediator killed in tribal area

Pakistani peace mediator killed in tribal area

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Pakistan
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Friday, April 30, 2010

Noted for his controversial attempts to foster peace deals with the Taliban, Pakistani NGO leader Khalid Khawaja was killed early today morning, a week after being kidnapped in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas while helping a British filmmaker. He was shot twice, in the head and chest, and his body was dumped near Miran Shah.

A former member of the Pakistani ISI and associate of Osama bin Laden, Khawaja fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and was an outspoken critic of the American-led invasion. The leader of the Defence of Human Rights NGO, Khawaja was often accused of being an apologist for Islamist militants due to his stringent demands for better treatment and legal rights for prisoners captured by both the American and Pakistani forces.

Khawaja had travelled into North Waziristan along with former ISI colleague Colonel Imam, to help British cameraman Ased Qureshi meet with Sirajuddin Haqqani and Wali-ur-Rehman as he sought to film a documentary about the rise of Islamic militancy in the region. The three were kidnapped, and their captors demanded the release of ten imprisoned militants, including Mullah Baradar, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah and Maulvi Kabir, as well as $10 million for the release of the two former ISI officers. Pakistani officials anonymously confirmed the money would likely be paid, but the insurgent leaders were unlikely to be released.

Khawaja had most recently landed on the legal defence team of five Americans arrested by Pakistan who were accused of membership in Jaish-e-Mohammed. Immediate reports suggest that a note was pinned to his body, claiming responsibility for his death in the name of the Asian Tigers which some have ironically theorised could be a splinter group of the militant organisation. The note also accused him of spying for the United States, and having taken the government’s side in the 2007 Siege of Lal Masjid. The note blamed the government for refusing to negotiate on the desired release of the jailed Pakistani militants.

The Taliban condemned those responsible for the kidnapping of the three men, noting that targeting retired officers was “an act of cowardly people”.

Unrelated to the death of Khawaja, and intending to honour the memory of those “who embraced martyrdom in the continuing war on terror”, the Pakistani government announced they were declaring April 30 Yaum e Shuhada, or “Day of the Martyrs”. Khawaja’s son Omar told the New York Times that his father “was fond of martyrdom […] and now he is lucky because he has it”.



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Controversial wind farm approved by US government

Controversial wind farm approved by US government

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Friday, April 30, 2010

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A map which shows the best wind power for the Cape Cod region

The US government today approved plans for a controversial wind power project off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, which, if built, would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

The company responsible for the project, Cape Wind, received a permit from the federal government to commence construction of the wind farm, which was announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Boston. Salazar said in statements at the event that he was “approving the Cape Wind project,” which would “be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.” Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said that “America needs offshore wind power, and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation.” He also commented that “Cape Wind is good for our environment and good for our energy needs,” despite opposition from some groups.

Construction of the wind farm in the near future is not certain, as there are additional regulatory procedures the company must complete, and opponents have threatened to take the project to court. According to the leader of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group opposed to the wind farm’s construction, numerous permits related to the project were being appealed, and close to a dozen parties intend to sue the project, claiming it violates environmental regulations.

Supporters of the project say that it will provide up to 75% of the power for the region, and will benefit the environment by providing a clean and renewable source of power, as well as providing hundreds of new jobs in the area during construction of the wind farm. Opponents, which included deceased US Senator Ted Kennedy, claim it will destroy the natural beauty of the region, and will raise the costs of electricity in the area.



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Belgium passes ban on full face veil

Filed under: Archived,Belgium,Crime and law,Europe,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

Belgium passes ban on full face veil – Wikinews, the free news source

Belgium passes ban on full face veil

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Belgium
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Lawmakers in Belgium voted almost unanimously to ban public wearing of full face veils on Friday.

The proposal received 134 votes in the lower house of federal parliament with two abstentions and nobody opposing. Under the new rule, any clothing that fully obscures the face will be prohibited in public areas such as parks and streets; anyone who ignores it will be fined $20 to $35 and/or a jail sentence of up to a week. Exceptions could be made during certain festivals, or if the wearer has police permission to use the veil.

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The proposal will now go to the Belgian Senate, where it is expected not to be blocked; some reports suggest it could become full law in June or July.

“It’s not about introducing any form of discrimination,” commented Daniel Bacquelaine, head of the liberal MR party in the parliament. He said that veils were “aimed at stopping people from being identified”.

Before the lower house voted, the vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, opposed the proposal, saying: “Today it’s the full-face veil, tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini skirts. The wearing of a full-face veil is part of the individual freedoms.”



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Algerian driver released by hostage takers in Niger

Algerian driver released by hostage takers in Niger

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Friday, April 30, 2010

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An Algerian driver has been released by his hostage takers in Niger. The man was abducted on April 20 along with a French tourist he was driving.

The Frenchman, who is in his 70’s, is still being held hostage; the pair were taken at gunpoint near the Mali and Algerian boarders. The gunmen are reported to have links to al-Qaeda.

It is reported that the driver was released in the last few days and has already returned to Algeria. Apparently, he was released in the Mali desert and made his own way back to Algeria. “Some people riding camels found him wandering. After some explanations, they took him to Algeria,” said a Nigerien military source to the Reuters news service.

The pair were abducted only days after four countries near the Sahara opened a military base to combat al-Qaeda. The vicinity in which the kidnapping took place is known as the “red zone”; foreign offices recommend that tourists avoid the area near the Sahara.

Hostage takings have become more frequent with governments having more trouble controlling the problem. Recently the Mali government sparked a row with Mauritania over the release of four militants.



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April 29, 2010

US official warns of Hezbollah missile threat

US official warns of Hezbollah missile threat

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, along with Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, warned yesterday that that the guerrilla group Hezbollah was in possession of more weapons than some governments.

Gates, after meeting with Barak, said that both Syria and Iran were responsible for providing weapons of “ever increasing capability” to Hezbollah, although he declined to confirm that the group had gained possession of ballistic missiles called Scuds that are capable of reaching targets within Iran. According to Gates, Hezbollah’s military capabilities were “obviously destabilising for the whole region.”

Barak said that missiles owned by Hezbollah had the potential to “disrupt the very delicate balance in Lebanon,” although he stated that a military conflict as a result of the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah was unlikely. He said that “We [Israel] do not intend to provoke any kind of major collision in Lebanon, or vis-a-vis Syria,” though he added that “we are watching closely these developments and think that they do not contribute to stability in the region.”

Syria has denied the charges of providing Hezbollah with weapons, saying that Israel intended to “further strain the atmosphere in the region.” The country’s prime minister also commented that Israel was only trying to find an excuse for military action.

Hezbollah in 2006 launched thousands of missiles into Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War, and Israel is concerned that it has replenished its armament to the extent that it could attack Israel on behalf of Iran if the latter, which provides both arms and monetary aid to Hezbollah, came under attack from Israel. These concerns were confirmed by an American report released last week, which said that Hezbollah had indeed rearmed itself to higher levels than during the 2006 conflict.



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Sixteen-year-old boy charged with murder over use of Playstation in Chile

Filed under: Chile — admin @ 5:00 am

Sixteen-year-old boy charged with murder over use of Playstation in Chile

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The brothers got in a fight over the use of a PlayStation 3

A sixteen-year-old boy from Santiago, Chile has been charged with the murder of his brother after the pair got in a fight over whose turn it was to use a PlayStation 3. Police reported that the sixteen-year-old had stabbed his eighteen-year-old brother after he turned the PlayStation on without his younger brother’s permission.

It’s reported that the younger brother entered the kitchen and took a knife; he then stabbed his brother in the chest. Chile police reported that the youth said that “things had got out of control”. If convicted, the boy would stay five years in prison.

At the time of the death there was no one else in the building. The boy’s birth mother had abandoned them ten years ago and they had been adopted by a Belgian woman. At the time of the attack, she was visiting her home country.



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New Jersey students protest proposed budget cuts

New Jersey students protest proposed budget cuts

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

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Thousands of New Jersey public school students walked out of classes Tuesday, in protest of Governor Chris Christie’s proposed budget cuts. Although there is no definite number, it is estimated that around 18,000 students did not attend classes.

The walk-out was spurred by a Facebook event calling on students to skip classes and picket their local school boards. The leader of the group, former student Michelle Ryan Lauto, said that she “just want to draw attention to the entire issue and I want to show both the governor and his administration that the youth is not apathetic towards these cuts and that we care very very much so about what happens to our education and our extra curricular activities.”

The demonstrations come soon after voters in 59% of the state school districts opposed a proposal to increase property tax levies to pay for schools.

The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, said that the students, who “were engaging in civil disobedience”, should not walk-out on classes.

The governor’s office responded to the protests in a statement, saying: “It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever — and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey. Students would be better served if they were given a full, impartial understanding of the problems that got us here in the first place and why dramatic action was needed.”



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16 year old boy charged with murder over use of Playstation in Chile

Filed under: Chile — admin @ 5:00 am

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The brothers got in a fight over the use of a Playstation 3

A 16 year old boy from Santiago, Chile has been charged with the murder of his brother after the pair got in a fight over whose turn it was to use a Playstation 3. Police reported that the 16 year old had stabbed his 18 year old brother after he turned the Playstation on without his younger brother’s permission.

It’s reported that the younger brother entered the kitchen and he took a knife; he then stabbed his brother in the chest. Chile police reported that the youth said that “things had got out of control”. If convicted, the boy should stay five years in prison.

At the time of the murder there was no one else in the building. The boy’s birth mother had abandoned them 10 years ago and had been adopted by a Belgian women. At the time of the attack, the woman was visiting her home country.



Sources

  • “Chile boy ‘kills brother’ over PlayStation row” – BBC News Online, April 29, 2010
  • “Chile police: Fighting for control of a PlayStation, boy fatally stabs his older brother” – Brandon Sun, April 28, 2010
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