“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Women's rights supporters condemn Saudi Arabia as activists ordered to jail

Supporters condemn length of sentences as bid by authorities to silence criticism

The Guardian, The Observer, Tracy McVeigh, Sunday 29 September 2013

A Saudi Arabian woman drives a car as part of a campaign to defy the
ban on women driving. Photograph: AP

Two prominent female rights activists who went to the aid of a woman they believed to be in distress are expected to go to jail in Saudi Arabia on Sunday after the failure of their appeal against a 10-month prison sentence and a two-year travel ban.

Wajeha al-Huwaider, a writer who has repeatedly defied Saudi laws by driving a car, and Fawzia al-Oyouni were arrested for taking a food parcel to the house of someone they thought was in an abusive relationship. In June they were found guilty on a sharia law charge of takhbib – incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband, thus undermining the marriage.

Campaigners say they are "heroes" who have been given heavy sentences to punish them for speaking out against Saudi restrictions on women's rights, which include limited access to education and child marriage as well as not being able to drive or even travel in a car without a male relative being present.

In 2007 a Saudi appeal court doubled a sentence of 90 lashes to be given to a teenager because she had been in a car with a male friend when they were abducted and gang-raped by seven men.

Suad Abu-Dayyeh, an activist for the group Equality Now, said the authorities had been trying to silence the two women for years and their sentence "is unfortunate and scandalous". It marked a dangerous escalation of how far Saudi authorities were willing to go.

"These women are extremely brave and active in fighting for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, and this is a way for the Saudi authorities to silence them," she said. "If they are sent to jail, it sends a very clear message to defenders of human rights that they should be silent and stop their activities – not just in Saudi Arabia, but across Arab countries. These women are innocent – they should be praised for trying to help a woman in need, not imprisoned. They now find themselves at the mercy of the system they have fought so tirelessly to change."

According to reports, this is also the first time in Saudi legal history that a travel ban has been imposed in a case involving domestic issues.

"This case and the system of lifelong male guardianship of women in Saudi Arabia shows that protecting a husband's dominant, even abusive, position in the family is far more important than his wife's wellbeing," said Suad Abu-Dayyeh.

The women themselves believe they may have been set up, that they were contacted by text message by a woman claiming to be the mother of Natalie Morin, a Canadian national married to a Saudi who has herself been campaigning for several years to be allowed to leave the country with her three young children – something she says the authorities will not allow her to do.

The text, in June 2011, said she had been abused by her husband, an unemployed former Saudi intelligence officer, who had then left for a wedding and left her and her children locked in their apartment in the eastern city of Dammam for a week and that they were running out of food and water. When the two women arrived in Morin's street they were immediately arrested.

"Actually when we went to there, the minute we arrived a police car arrived," said Wajeha al-Huwaider. "I'm sure the judge knows that it was a trap and they meant to catch us at that time in order to make a case against us."

At first they were charged with trying to aid Morin escape to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, but the intervention of a local member of the Saudi royal family led to those charges being dropped, because, said Huwaider, even he was embarrassed at the obvious nature of the set-up.

Morin was also arrested and held for several hours. It was not until a year later that the two women were told they were to face the new charge of takhbib, a law that effectively puts all aid workers and activists helping Saudi women in need of protection from domestic violence, at risk.

Morin was not permitted to testify at their trial earlier this year that she had never met Huwaider and Oyouni. She has declared support for them on her blog writing: "I am sorry for what's happening to madam Wajeha al-Huwaider and her friend." She said the "two Saudi women find themselves in a serious legal problem with jail just for trying to help me … there is no evidence for the charges that are against her and her friend."

Huwaider and Oyouni's conviction has been condemned by numerous human rights organisations, including the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Equality Now and Pen International.

Related Articles:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tunisia's ruling Islamists agree to stand down

BBC News, 28 September 2013

Anti-government protesters have blamed Ennahda for the death of murdered
opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi

Tunisian transition

Tunisia's Islamist-led government has agreed to resign after talks with opponents that are to start next week.

It is hoped a caretaker government will be negotiated over the next three weeks that will prepare for new elections.

The decision marks a breakthrough in weeks of crisis involving the ruling coalition, led by the Islamist Ennahda party, and the secular opposition.

Anti-government protests intensified recently after the killing of two opposition figures.

The crisis has threatened to disrupt a transition to democracy that began after Tunisians threw out their decades-old authoritarian government at the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

The talks were announced on Saturday by the powerful UGTT labour union, which will act as a mediator.

The union urged both sides to set a date for next week.

Under the deal, the Ennahda party has agreed to three weeks of talks, after which it will hand power to an independent transition leadership and set a date for parliamentary and presidential elections.

In February, the murder of Chokri
 Belaid brought down the first
Islamist-led government
"The dialogue will start on Monday or Tuesday," said Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, according to Reuters.

"Ennahda has accepted the plan without conditions to get the country out of the political crisis."

While Tunisia's uprising spread through the Arab world, efforts to strengthen democracy at home have stalled due to political antagonism.

The opposition has accused the Ennahda party of pushing an Islamist agenda in the previously secular nation.

Threat of deadlock

The rivalry intensified this year after the murders of opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi in July and Chokri Belaid, a prominent leftist, in February.

The moderate Islamist government has blamed hardliners for the killings but the National Salvation Front-led opposition has accused Ennahda of failing to rein in radical Islamists.

Before the 2011 ousting of Tunisia's longtime leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the country had been known as one of the most secular in the Arab world.

The opposition has accused Ennahda of being too tolerant of radical Islamists trends.

Analysts say the talks could struggle to break a deadlock if the rival parties are unable to overcome differences over a new constitution and the running of elections.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wildlife group says poaching funds Somalia's Shebab

Google – AFP, 26 Sep 2013

Kenya officials supervise the counting of Ivory tusks at the Mombas
Port on August 21, 2013 (AFP/File)

Johannesburg — Somalia's Shebab militia, which carried out a bloody attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall, is in part funded by the poaching trade, wildlife activists said Thursday.

"Over the last 18 months, we've been investigating the involvement of the Shebab in trafficking ivory through Kenya," Andrea Crosta, executive director of the Elephant Action League told AFP.

The trade "could be supplying up to 40 percent of the funds needed to keep them in business."

The Islamist group has come under the spotlight after claiming responsibility for a four-day siege at the upmarket Westgate Mall in Nairobi which left at least 67 people dead by the time it ended Tuesday.

However the wildlife group said links have also cropped up in recent years between the poaching trade and groups like Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army or Darfur's Janjaweed.

But according to Crosta the Shebab are not involved in the actual killing of elephant or rhino.

Activists hope by highlighting security issues linked to the illicit trade it may spur governments to act.

"We're asking the international community to start considering all the ivory (and rhino horn) trade's stakeholders, ivory consumers, ivory shops and even governments, de-facto accessories to manslaughter, human exploitation and even terrorism," said Crosta.

According to sources within the Shebab group, one to three tons of ivory pass through the ports in southern Somalia every month.

The ivory fetches an estimated $200 per kilo.

The Shebab's ability to take advantage of the trade was hit when it lost control of southern ports in Kismayo and Merca, but the group still controls other hubs.

The illegal ivory trade, estimated to be worth between $7 billion and $10 billion (5.37 and 7.67 billion euros) a year, is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhino horns are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments.

Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Rouhani's visit to UN is unique chance for west and Iran, says Khatami

Exclusive: former Iranian president says opportunity to engage is unprecedented but consequences of failure could be global

The Guardian, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Monday 23 September 2013

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. He has the authority to resolve problems
 with the west diplomatically, says Mohammad Khatami. Photograph:
Vahid Salemi/AP

The leader of Iran's reformist movement, Mohammad Khatami, has urged the west to show courage and work with President Hassan Rouhani or risk losing an unprecedented opportunity to end the current standoff.

In an article published in the Guardian today, Khatami, a former president of Iran, said on the eve of Rouhani's eagerly anticipated visit to the UN that the moderate cleric had "the necessary authority" for a diplomatic resolution to the longstanding differences between Tehran and the west, not least on the nuclear issue. He warned that failure would strengthen extremists on both sides.

Speaking before leaving Tehran for New York , Rouhani pledged to revamp Iran's image, which he said had been distorted. But he fell short of blaming his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who delivered anti-western tirades each time he spoke at the UN.

Rouhani is scheduled to deliver his speech a few hours after Barack Obama's welcoming statement on Tuesday, amid speculation that the first face-to-face encounter between leaders of the two countries since the 1970s will take place. Rouhani will also be accompanied on his visit by Iran's only Jewish MP.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who met Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Monday in New York to talk about the country's nuclear programme, described her discussions as constructive. According to Ashton, Zarif and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, will meet on Thursday in what will become the first ministerial talks between Tehran and Washington since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, met Zarif for the first time on Monday night and discussed the nuclear issue and Syria. They also talked about the prospect of gradually restoring full diplomatic relations between the UK and Iran, which were severely damaged when the British embassy in Tehran was over-run by a mob in November 2011. Hague made clear Britain required solid guarantees from Tehran that its diplomats could operate in safety.

"We don't want a confrontational relationship with Iran," Hague said after the meeting with Zarif.

"We have discussed how to improve our bilateral relations but it will have to take place on a step-by-step basis. I think we are agreed on this. So we have asked our officials to some work on this. Ultimately for Britain to be able to operate an embassy in Tehran again, we would have to know that the embassy could perform all the normal functions of an embassy without harassment and difficulties that it had to face before."

British officials said that no further meetings had been scheduled but that British and Iranian diplomats would be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss how to re-establish confidence in Tehran's intentions..

Khatami, meanwhile, is throwing his weight behind Rouhani in the hope that lessons are learned from missed opportunities under his own presidency.

"For the first time there is an opportunity to create a national consensus above and beyond partisan factionalism, which may address the political predicaments of the country with an emphasis on dialogue and mutual understanding globally," Khatami writes in his first article published in a foreign newspaper.

According to Khatami, Rouhani enjoys backing from all segments of Iranian society in his bid to pursue "constructive engagement" with the west, including from the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who has shown some softening in his views about diplomacy recently.

In a further move to boost Rouhani's credibility at the UN, Khamenei on Monday declared an amnesty for 80 political prisoners, including many arrested in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election.

Khatami's intervention comes as 500 prominent Iranian intellectuals and activists wrote to Obama, telling the American president that it is now his turn to reciprocate.

Signatories to the letter – also published exclusively by the Guardian – include the Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi, the imprisoned reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh and the prominent intellectual Saeed Hajjarian.

"The people of Iran seized the opportunity to elect Hassan Rouhani … as a result, we have witnessed the release of several political prisoners and relative progress in the country's public and political atmosphere," the letter says.

"It is now your turn, and that of the international community, to reciprocate Iran's measures of goodwill and pursue a win-win strategy that encompasses the lifting of the unjust economic sanctions on Iran."

At least 88 of the signatories are former or current political prisoners, some still serving lengthy prison terms. Mohammadreza Jalaeipour, a former political prisoner who was behind the letter, said if Rouhani meets Obama, it will pave the way for a positive change in Iran's internal political atmosphere.

He said: "This letter … says with a loud voice that Rouhani has the support of reformists and those seeking for democracy in Iran."

Hajjarian, who was the target of an assassination attempt in March 2000, echoed Jalaeipour, saying sanctions have hurt the quality of ordinary people's lives in Iran. "The US has not yet realised the changes that have been taking place after people's vote [for Rouhani]," he told the Guardian.

Under Khatami's administration between 1997 and 2005, Iran opened up towards the west, even helping American forces in Afghanistan, but was nevertheless labelled a part of the "axis of evil", along with Iraq and North Korea, by George Bush. Khatami's support was crucial in Rouhani's sensational victory in the June election.

In his article, the ex-president warns that diplomatic mistakes now will have consequences beyond Iran's borders later. "Failure now to create an atmosphere of trust and meaningful dialogue will only further boost extremist forces on all sides. The consequences of such a failure will not only be regional but global," Khatami writes. "For a better world, not only for the Iranian people but for the next generation across the globe, I earnestly hope that President Rouhani will receive a warm welcome and meaningful responses during his visit to the UN."

Sadeq Zibakalam, a Tehran University professor and one of the signatories of the letter, said different factions within the Iranian establishment, including fundamentalists, had come to the conclusion that Iran needed a rapprochement with the US: "They have realised that without this, they can't bring changes to Iran's current dire situation, especially its economy."

Zibakalam warned that if Rouhani fails to engage with the US, "his position in Iran will be significantly weakened" and he will have a hard time in the next four years.

Iran's currency significantly recovered against the dollar on Monday, rising to its strongest value in several months. Expectations of a Rouhani-Obama meeting come as a poll commissioned by the international civic organisation Avaaz, was released showing strong support both in the US and in Iran for an improvement in bilateral relations. It showed that, of those who expressed an opinion, 74% of Americans and 80% of Iranians support direct talks.

Related Articles:

"Recalibration of Knowledge" – Jan 14, 2012 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: Channelling, God-Creator, Benevolent Design, New Energy, Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) SoulsReincarnation, Gaia, Old Energies (Africa, Terrorists, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela ... ), Weather, Rejuvenation, Akash, Nicolas Tesla / Einstein, Cold Fusion, Magnetics, Lemuria, Atomic Structure (Electrons, Particles, Polarity, Self Balancing, Magnetism), Entanglement, "Life is necessary for a Universe to exist and not the other way around", DNA, Humans (Baby getting ready, First Breath, Stem Cells, Embryonic Stem Cells, Rejuvenation), Global Unity, ... etc.) (Text Version)  

“…  I want you to watch some countries. I don't have a clock [this statement is Kryon telling us that there is no time frame on his side of the veil, only potentials]. I'll just tell you, it's imminent [in Spirit's timing, this could mean as soon as a decade]. I want you to watch some countries carefully for changes. You're going to be seeing changes that are obvious, and some that are not obvious [covert or assumptive]. But the obvious ones you will see sooner than not - Cuba, Korea [North]Iran, of course, and Venezuela. I want you to watch what happens when they start to realize that they don't have any more allies on Earth! Even their brothers who used to support them in their hatred of some are saying, "Well, perhaps not anymore. It doesn't seem to be supporting us anymore. "Watch the synchronicities that are occurring. The leaders who have either died or are going to in the next year or so will take with them the old ways. Watch what happens to those who take their place, and remember these meetings where I described these potentials to you. …”

Women in 15 nations need spouse's okay to work

Google – AFP, 25 Sep 2013

Women sell llama meat at a stall in a public market in La Paz, Bolivia
(AFP/File, Aizar Raldes)

WASHINGTON — At least 15 countries give husbands the power to prevent their wives from working, the World Bank said in a report on gender equality in business.

"Many societies have made progress, gradually moving to dismantle ingrained forms of discrimination against women. Yet a great deal remains to be done," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in the preface to the report.

Among 143 countries covered in the report "Women, Business and the Law 2014", 15 -- including Iran, Syria, Bolivia and Gabon -- give men the right to object to and prevent their wives from taking jobs.

In 79 countries, laws restrict the kind of work women can do, the report said.

Fifteen countries, including Iran, give
 men the right to object to and prevent
 their wives from taking jobs (AFP/File,
Atta Kenare)
"The most extensive restrictions on women's employment are in Eastern Europe and Central Asia," the report said.

In the Republic of Guinea, it said, a wife can fight her husband's decision in court, but she must prove that it is unjustified to have his decision overturned.

Such rules remain in part due to history.

"Vestiges of history remain codified in certain economies simply because legislation such as the Code Napoleon was adopted wholesale and not regularly reviewed or updated.

"The notion of head of household, for example, was removed from France's Civil Code in 1970 but persists in many civil codes throughout West Africa."

In Russia, women are banned from 456 professions, including drivers of farm trucks, conducting freight trains and woodworking.

Many of those rules were inherited from the former communist regime of the Soviet Union and were left unchang ed.

One result, the report said, was that the Russian Federation had a high earnings difference between genders during the transition to a market economy.

A woman merchant in Libreville, Gabon
(AFP/File, Wils Yanick Maniengui)
But at least 29 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Honduras and Senegal, have laws that systematically establish men has family heads giving them powers over crucial decisions such as where to live, obtaining important documents like passports, or opening bank accounts.

But the report notes that developed Western countries have also been slow to change their rules. Permission for women to launch their own court cases without their husbands' permission came in Spain only in 1981 and, in Switzerland, in 1984.

Progress continues, according to the report. In two years, 48 legal changes increased gender parity in 44 countries, including Ivory Coast's 2013 decision to allow women to work without their husband's permission.

On the other hand, Egypt recently moved the other way: in the wake of the country's revolution, and the political rise of Islamic forces, the country removed constitutional guarantees against gender discrimination.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

81 elephants die of poisoning in Zimbabwe: authorities

Google – AFP, 24 Sep 2013

An African elephant is pictured on November 19, 2012, in Hwange
National Park in Zimbabwe (AFP, Martin Bureau)

HARARE — More than 80 elephants and other animals have died of cyanide poisoning by poachers in Zimbabwe's largest game park, wildlife authorities said Tuesday.

The announcement came after a group of government experts visited Hwange National Park on Saturday to investigate reports of cyanide poisoning.

"When we left Hwange National Park on Sunday, the total number of elephants that had died from cyanide poisoning was 81," said Jerry Gotora, a director of the Zimbabwe parks department.

"Several other animals have also died, but we don't have the total number yet."

More than 25,000 elephants were poached last year, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The animals' tusks are highly sought after for Asia's ivory trade.

Nine people have been arrested on suspicion of poisoning watering holes in the game park to kill the elephants for their tusks.

However, Gotora said the poison had been "put at places where elephants graze, not in water as was being reported".

Two years ago nine elephants, five lions and two buffalo died from cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park.

Just 50 rangers patrol the 14,650-square kilometre (5,660-square mile) park, and wildlife authorities say 10 times that number are needed.

There are more than 120,000 elephants living in Zimbabwe's national parks.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Swiss village gives extra tax from GlencoreXstrata to affected countries

Hedingen donates some of its 'commodity million' from Glencore back to countries where the company is accused of exploiting people and resources for mining

The Guardian, Rupert Neate, Monday 23 September 2013

Ivan Glasenberg paid Rüschlikon village 360m Swiss francs (£246m) in taxes
linked to Glencore's flotation in 2011. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

A Swiss village has voted to donate 110,000 Swiss francs (£75,000) of taxes paid by Ivan Glasenberg, the billionaire chief executive of GlencoreXstrata, to charities in countries where the London-listed mining and commodity trading company is accused of exploiting people and resources.

The people of Hedingen, a village near Zurich, voted 764 to 662 in favour of donating the money in a "clear sign of solidarity with those suffering the consequences of the extraction of raw materials". The village will donate 10% of the "commodity million" Swiss francs it received out of taxes paid by Glasenberg in relation to Glencore's flotation in London in 2011.

Samuel Schweizer, a member of the citizens' committee that proposed the donation, said the villagers felt obliged to give back some of the "extraordinary wealth to the people who should have received it in the beginning".

He added: "It is extraordinary that our small community got more than 1 million francs of extra tax money from Glencore extracting raw materials in a number of very poor countries, where it is accused of polluting, abusing labour and not paying much in taxes. We had a unique opportunity to raise public awareness. We felt we must share this with the people who are suffering from the operations of Glencore."

The money will be paid to non-governmental organisations working on humanitarian projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia and Bolivia.

Glasenberg, who is worth $6.7bn according to Forbes magazine, paid 360m Swiss francs (£246m) in taxes linked to the flotation to the village of Rüschlikon, where he lives, in 2011. The money has since been redistributed between Rüschlikon, Hedingen and other communities in the Canton of Zurich.

Five of the villages are following Hedingen's lead and voting on whether to donate the money to charity over the next three months.

Schweizer said pressure is building on Rüschlikon, which kept 50m Swiss francs of Glasenberg's taxes, to donate some of the money to charity. Residents of Rüschlikon, already dubbed "the richest village in Switzerland", last year voted down a motion to give some of the money to an African charity.

Instead villagers voted to cut the local tax rate by 7%.

Schweizer added that if other villages follow Hedingen's lead, Rüschlikon "will be pressured into reconsidering its decision". "We wish that Rüschlikon would act in the same way [as Hedingen].

"We hope that people will open their eyes to the danger that raw material extraction will be the next reputational time bomb for Switzerland," he said. "Political leaders have not learned anything from the disaster of [Switzerland's role at the heart of the] banking industry."

The Berne Declaration, a non-governmental organisation campaigning against Switzerland's role in hosting global commodity companies, said: "While the decision makers in the capital Berne consider our commodities industry still only a political reputation risk, the landmark decision in the rural-conservative Hedingen shows that on the ground Glencore and their competitors already have a real reputational problem in this country.

"Remarkably and correctly, the people of Hedingen assume that tax money is not automatically white, clean or legitimate. As citizens, they take responsibility for that which the government still shies away from."

A Glencore spokesman said: "We believe that Glencore's global presence and economic strength have a predominantly positive impact on the communities in which we operate. We seek out, undertake and contribute to activities and programmes designed to improve quality of life for the people in these communities. In 2012, Glencore spent over $200m investing in the sustainable development of the communities in which it operates.

"Glencore's tax strategy and payments play a vital role in our intention to achieve long-term sustainable development. We are committed to full compliance with all statutory obligations, full disclosure to tax authorities and reporting transparently in the tax payments that we make to the governments of the countries in which we operate."

Egyptian court bans Muslim Brotherhood

Deutsche Welle, 23 Sep 2013

An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood. The move comes as part of a crackdown on the Islamist group in which more than 1,000 members have been arrested.

The Cairo court’s ruling specifically banned any activities by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, and any affiliated institutions. The court also ordered the seizure of any assets held by the Brotherhood, estimated by the interim military-backed government to have more than a million members. Additionally, judges recommended that Egypt’s caretaker Cabinet form an independent committee to follow up on the implementation of the ruling.

"The court bans the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood organization and its nongovernmental organization and all the activities that it participates in and any organization derived from it," presiding judge Mohammed al-Sayed said.

After Morsi's July 3 ouster, Muslim Brotherhood followers held numerous mass demonstrations calling for his reinstatement and denouncing the caretaker regime as illegal. In response, the interim authorities have waged violent crackdowns on demonstrators and arrested more than 1,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to heightened tensions in Cairo and several other major cities.

For decades under various governments, Egypt had banned the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, though the regime of Hosni Mubarak had largely tolerated the movement. Following Mubarak's ouster in Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood lanuched its own political faction, the Freedom and Justice Party, which won parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012. It remains unclear whether the court’s ruling will affect that party as well.

There were no immediate comments available from the Muslim Brotherhood.

mkg/hc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

At least 59 killed in Kenya mall siege

Google – AFP, Peter Martell and Aymeric Vincenot (AFP), 22 Sep 2013

A policeman carries a baby to safety after masked gunmen storm an
upmarket mall on September 21, 2013 in Nairobi (AFP/File, Simon Maina)

NAIROBI — At least 59 people have been confirmed killed in an attack by Somali militants on an upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi, a government minister said Sunday, as Kenyan troops battled gunmen still holding an unknown number of hostages.

Heavy gunfire could be heard as Kenyan security officials said they were attempting to kill or capture the remaining attackers and end the 24-hour-long bloodbath at the Westgate mall.

Among the dead was renowned Ghanaian poet and statesmen Kofi Awoonor.

Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels said the carnage at the part Israeli-owned complex was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said 59 people were confirmed dead.

The body of a woman is taken to a
 waiting van outside the Westgate 
shopping mall, Nairobi, Kenya, on 
September 21, 2013 (AFP/File, Simon
"A number of attackers are still in the building, and range between 10 to 15 gunmen," he said in a statement. "We believe there are some innocent people in the building, that is why the operation is delicate."

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation late Saturday that he had lost family members in the attack.

"Let me make it clear. We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them. We shall punish them for this heinous crime," he vowed.

The Westgate mall is popular with wealthy Kenyans and expatriates, and was packed with around 1,000 shoppers when the gunmen marched in at midday Saturday, tossed grenades and sprayed automatic gunfire at terrified people.

Security agencies have long feared that the shopping centre could be targeted by Al Qaeda-linked groups.

The attack was the worst in Nairobi since an Al-Qaeda bombing at the US embassy killed more than 200 people in 1998.

After a day and night of sometimes ferocious gun battles, security sources said police and soldiers had finally "pinned down" the gunmen. The Kenyan Red Cross appealed for blood donations and authorities urged residents to steer clear of the area.

Image from AFPTV shows Kenyan 
security forces inside a shopping
 mall following an attack in Nairobi, 
September 21, 2013 (AFPTV, Nichole
"We are still battling with the attackers and our forces have managed to maroon the attackers on one of the floors," said Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna.

"We still do not know the number of hostages nor the attackers but we hope to bring this to an end today."

One teenage survivor recounted to AFP how he played dead to avoid being killed.

"I heard screams and gunshots all over the place. I got scared. I tried to run down the stairs and saw someone running towards the top, I ran back and hid behind one of the cars," 18-year-old Umar Ahmed said.

In the hours after the attack began, shocked people of all ages and races could be seen running from the mall, some clutching babies, while others crawled along walls to avoid stray bullets.

"They spoke something that seemed like Arabic or Somali," said a man who escaped the mall and gave his name only as Jay. "I saw people being executed after being asked to say something."

Kenyan police, troops and special forces then moved in and went shop-to-shop inside the shopping centre. Foreign security officials -- from Israel, the United States and Britain -- were also seen at the complex.

An AFPTV reporter said she saw at least 20 people rescued from a toy shop, some of them children taken away on stretchers.

Kenneth Kerich, who was shopping when the attack happened, described scenes of utter panic.

"I suddenly heard gunshots and saw everyone running around so we lied down. I saw two people who were lying down and bleeding, I think they were hit by bullets," he said.

"The gunmen tried to fire at my head but missed. I saw at least 50 people shot," mall employee Sudjar Singh told AFP.

Ghanaian poet Awoonor, 78, who was once his country's representative to the United Nations, was killed while shopping with his son, who was injured in the attack, Ghanaian officials said.

A spokesman for Shebab said the attack was retaliation for Kenya's nearly two-year-old military presence in war-torn Somalia in support of the internationally backed Mogadishu government.

"We have warned Kenya of that attack but it ignored (us), still forcefully holding our lands... while killing our innocent civilians," Shebab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement.

"If you want Kenya in peace, it will not happen as long as your boys are in our lands."

An image grab from AFPTV shows a
 member of the Kenyan security forces
 taking position in Westgate shopping
 mall, Nairobi (AFPTV/AFP/File, Nichole
The group also issued a string of statements via Twitter, one of them claiming that Muslims in the centre had been "escorted out by the Mujahideen before beginning the attack".

Police at the scene said a suspect wounded in the firefight had been detained and taken to hospital under armed guard, and later died of his injuries.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "appalled by the brutal attack against innocent citizens" and sent her "sincere condolences to those who have lost family, friends and loved ones".

Paris confirmed that two French citizens were among those killed in what it condemned as a "cowardly" attack. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper said two Canadians, one of them a diplomat, were among the dead, while official Chinese news agency Xinhua said one Chinese woman was killed and her child wounded.

Two Indians and a South Korean were also among the dead.

The United States said its citizens were reportedly among those injured by the "despicable" act while British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there were "undoubtedly British nationals caught up in this so we should be ready for that".

The UN Security Council condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms".

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Phone app offers 'verbal autopsies' to improve death records

BBC News, Anne Soy and Anna Lacey,  Health Check, 21 Sep 2013

Verbal interviews with relatives of the deceased are recorded onto
the mobile phone app

Health Check

Two thirds of deaths worldwide go completely unrecorded, making it impossible to know if public health money is being spent in the right places. But could a mobile phone app be the answer?

Birth and death are perhaps the most significant moments of any human life - worth writing down for posterity.

But in many countries around the world, the systems set up to collect vital data about citizens have such low coverage that many deaths slip through the net.

Not knowing who has died, and what they have died of, makes it impossible to build an accurate picture of a nation's health.

Now technology - in the form of a specialist mobile phone app - could make all the difference.

Using a technique known as "verbal autopsy", field workers visit relatives to ask them about the circumstances of a family death.

By collecting the information digitally from currently hard-to-reach places, it has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of global health.

Mobile phone autopsies

In Malawi, any death that occurs outside a medical facility is not recorded.

Dr Carina King, a fellow at University College London, is overseeing the implementation of the mobile phone autopsies in the Malawian district of Mchinji.

"We found everyone surprisingly open, and I think they find the phone quite an interesting thing when we go for interviews," she told the BBC.

Verbal autopsies have been in use for about 20 years but the information was traditionally recorded on a paper questionnaire.

These often lengthy documents were supposed to be analysed by two doctors, who would use the answers to deduce the likely cause of death.

However the sheer scale of the task was often too great, meaning that many of the questionnaires ending up languishing in dusty rooms, completely unread.

"The mobile phone has been very good and means we don't have lots of paper forms," says Dr King.

"We have very quick access to the data and we can analyse it quickly to get the causes of death."

The phone software, known as MIVA, presents a series of questions that a trained field worker uses to find out information from the family.

Each question has a range of possible answers and the software intelligently skips to the next relevant question depending on the response.

Most important of all is that it is designed to quickly compute the most likely cause of death.

The result is stored in the phone and can be sent to a central database either by text message or internet upload.

'Cheap and robust' technology

Dr Jon Bird of City University, London, who was part of the team involved in creating the software, says mobile phones provide a particularly convenient way of collecting data.

"Mobile phones are probably one the most widespread technologies in the world. They're cheap, they're robust and everyone knows how to use one," he told the BBC.

"The everyday nature of mobile phones also makes them really valuable because the people that are being interviewed don't find them intrusive."

In Malawi, mobile phone autopsies are currently being used to record the cause of death in children.

The project is called Mai Mwana, meaning mother and child in the local Chichewa language, and it focuses on children who died before their fifth birthday.

The under-five mortality rate in Malawi is 71 per 1,000 live births according to 2012 figures from the World Bank - compared to just five per 1,000 live births in the UK.

Families are interviewed in the community by trained fieldworkers

Lazaro Cypriano lives in the village of Mzangawa in Mchinji district, central Malawi with his wife Magdalena and their toddler.

The couple lost their first two children.

Their second child died about a year ago, after a series of hospital visits due to fever. It is this death that will be the subject of the verbal autopsy.

'Highly sensitive'

Outside urban areas, one of the main problems for collecting data is finding out when a death has occurred.

To get around this, field reporters from the local community take on the responsibility of alerting the MaiMwana team of people who have died in their area.

This is how Lazaro's family was identified, and the visit now affords him his first opportunity to narrate what happened to his son and have that information recorded.

The interviewer asks the couple standard questions and matches their answers to the choices provided in the application's template.

It's a highly sensitive and skilled job - and one which field interviewer Nicholas Mbwana can see is made easier by using a mobile phone.

"We go to the households, ask about the causes of death - what really happened - and we also record the GPS in order to trace the household in future," he told the BBC.

Dr King says the system is key to the success of the project.

"GPS gives us the location of every household in the district so we can actually plot out on a map where people are dying of what, which means that you could design more sophisticated programs for targeting specific interventions."

The bigger picture

Mobile phone autopsies are being used on a limited scale at present. But the long term aim is to roll out the technique much more widely.

"The beauty of the system is that it's standardised and can be translated into any language you want," says Dr Bird.

"It's important when you're collecting data on a large scale that everyone is answering the same question, so that you know that the results are directly comparable from town to town and country to country."

Interviewees' answers are inputted directly into the mobile phone app

The World Health Organization (WHO) is already supporting the initiative and is working with institutions from the UK to Sweden to develop the technology further.

The data is currently being collected in a range of databases that can be accessed by researchers interested in public health.

As the project grows, researchers from the University of Umea in Sweden will co-ordinate the growing number of translations and the distribution of the technology around the world.

The government in Malawi is already keen to see the results of the project.

"It is important for us as a ministry to know what is killing Malawians out there so that we can plan ahead and put appropriate interventions in place to prevent that - and also to put out health messages," says Dr Charles Mwansambo, Malawi's Health Secretary.

The Ministry of Health has so far only been using information collected from medical facilities, which the health secretary concedes is biased data.

"We need comprehensive data from the hospitals and the community to plan well. We find ourselves planning for the small community that comes to hospital, not realising there is a bigger community out there that we need to budget for," he adds.

Significant inroads

Dr Mwansambo also acknowledges that a cultural practice of burying health documents with the dead makes it difficult to collect important information about deaths.

"When somebody dies people want to forget everything about them - those memories that will remind them of their loved ones. So unfortunately they bury the health passport along with their clothes and other possessions and we lose vital information in the process," he explains.

The health passports are documents issued to parents, which record the birth weight of the baby and its gain over time, as well as which immunizations were administered and when.

An elder at Mzangawa village, Kangkwamba Piri, is already talking to members of his community to drop that cultural practice.

"We've been doing this for a long time but it is wrong. What needs to be done is not to bury the documents and that's what we're encouraging people to do," he says.

For now, it is likely that millions of deaths will still go unnoticed by official figures. But verbal autopsies recorded on mobile phones are making small but significant inroads into solving the problem.

And for and his wife Magdalena, the chance to give information about what killed their child to an official is important.

Magdalena says: "What I have learnt from this interview will help me take care of my third baby so he can be healthy and live long."

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