Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ukraine Protesters 'Ready For Bullet To The Head'

Watchdog Report Says N.S.A. Program Is Illegal and Should End 

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The 238-page report is likely to inject a significant new voice into the debate over surveillance, underscoring that the issue was not settled by a speech President Obama gave last week.

Australia accuses Snowden of ‘treachery’

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Australia’s foreign minister accuses US whistleblower of ‘unprecedented treachery’ as the country’s rift with Indonesia deepens amid spying allegations

Ukraine Protesters 'Ready For Bullet To The Head'

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Clashes see demonstrators torch barricades and hurl Molotov cocktails, as police use tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

India reels from another horrific gang rape case in wave of sexual violence 

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Tribal elders ordered a 20-year-old woman to be raped in public by up to 12 men for an 'unauthorised' relationship, police say.

Anastasia Taylor-Lind's best photograph: A wedding in Nagorno-Karabakh 

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'The couple, Artak and Armine, received £470 at their wedding, then £150 for their first child. Families with six kids get a house'
In 2011, the world's population reached 7 billion. When I looked into this more, I found that reduction programmes like China's one-child policy had been well documented – but nothing had been done on birth-encouragement schemes. Nagorno-Karabakh, a small region in Azerbaijan that has declared itself independent but remains unrecognised by the rest of the world, was one place actively trying to increase its population – by giving out cash at births and weddings.
This couple, Artak and Armine, received around £470 at their wedding. They could go on to get £150 for their first baby, £310 for the second, £780 for the third, and £1,110 for the fourth. Families with six children under the age of 18 get a house. These are significant amounts in a country where income is very low. Within three years of the incentive being introduced, the birth rate had spiked by 25%.
It was July 2011 and the celebrations began at Armine's house, where she was getting ready with her friends. It is traditional to have two wedding parties, beginning at the bride's village and ending at the groom's. The day is long, there are lots of formalities – and even more drinking, eating and dancing. It was a challenge for me to keep moving and not to drink too much vodka, or eat too much of the delicious homemade cheeses and meats.
This was taken at the second celebration, in Artak's village. Artak and Armine are sitting in between their "best couple" – a pair who have been married for a few years and whose job it is to be their guardians, a bit like god parents. They will guide them through marriage, giving advice and support. Behind me are about 200 people eating and drinking. I think Armine looks sad because it was all so overwhelming. Not only had she just got married, she had also moved house – she wouldn't be going back to her village. After the wedding, she would live with Artak's family.
Although the distance is only 50km, it takes about five hours to reach Artak's village, which is on the border with Azerbaijan, inside a demilitarised zone. The driving is difficult – no tarmac, no gravel, sometimes no track.
My fixer and I got a lift with one of the guests and we booked a taxi for the return. I knew this guest was drunk, but I hadn't realised how badly. It took us seven hours because he kept stopping to drink. I thought I might die – we were being driven by a drunk Russian on mountain tracks with sheer drops. I nearly got out to walk, but the fixer said we might get shot walking at night. The demilitarised zone is heavily patrolled – by the Armenian army on the Nagorno-Karabakh side and by the Azerbaijani army on the other. They often have stand-offs, he said. Soldiers and civilians get killed.
By the time we got to the reception, we only had 20 minutes till our taxi. I thought: what a waste of money, and what a terrible risk to take, for nothing. I had only had time to take this one photograph. I was in a stinking mood, but I loved the picture when I saw it.


Born: Swindon, 1981.
Studied: BA documentary photography at Photography at Newport University and MA LCCLondon College of Communication
Influences: Alfredo JaarDonald WebberRob Hornstra, Donald McCullin
High point: "My first assignment for National Geographic."
Low point: "Claiming housing benefit because I couldn't afford my rent."
Top tip: "Photojournalism isn't dead and don't listen to anyone who says it is." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Israel claims to have foiled al-Qaida attack on Tel Aviv

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Shin Bet intelligence agency says it has arrested three Palestinians it accuses of plotting an attack on US embassy
Israel has said it has foiled an "advanced" al-Qaida plan to carry out a suicide bombing on the US embassy in Tel Aviv and other targets.
The Shin Bet intelligence agency said it had arrested three Palestinians who allegedly plotted bombings, shootings, kidnappings and other attacks. It said the Palestinian men, two from Jerusalem and one from the West Bank, were recruited by an operative based in the Gaza Strip who worked for al-Qaida leader Ayman
al-Zawahiri.The US state department said it
was not yet able to corroborate the Israeli claims.
While a number of groups inspired by al-Qaida have carried out attacks against Israel before, this appeared to mark the first time an attack was directly planned by al-Qaida leaders.
The Shin Bet said the Palestinians planned on attacking a Jerusalem conference centre with firearms and then kill rescue workers with a truck bomb. Al-Qaida also planned to send foreign militants to attack the US embassy in Tel Aviv on the same day using explosives supplied by the Palestinians, it said.
It said five men whose identity and nationality were not disclosed were to fly into Israel with fake Russian passports to attack the American embassy. It was not clear where the men are located.
The Palestinian operatives had planned on several other attacks, it said. One included shooting out the tyres of a bus and then gunning down passengers and ambulance workers.
The agency said it the plot was in "advanced planning stages" but gave no further information on how close the men got to carrying it out. It said the Palestinians from Jerusalem had used their Israeli resident cards to scope out and gather intelligence on targets. They were arrested in the past few weeks, it said.
A number of al-Qaida-inspired groups have carried out rocket attacks from Gaza and Egypt's Sinaipeninsula, as well as shootings in the West Bank. Israeli intelligence calls these groups part of a "global jihad" movement.
Aviv Oreg, a former head of the Israeli military intelligence unit that tracks al-Qaida, said the plot marked the first time it has been directly linked to an attempted attack in Israel.
"This is the first time that Ayman al-Zawahiri was directly involved," he said. "For them, it would have been a great achievement."
The Shin Bet said the three suspects made contact with al-Qaida over the internet. It said they planned on travelling to Syria, where various jihadist groups are battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, for training.
Oreg said that many foreigners fighting the Assad regime are from Chechnya and predominantly Muslim parts of Russia and speculated that the militants with the phony documents would be from there.
Zawahiri's location is unknown, but he was last believed to be in Pakistan. He is the subject of an intense manhunt and is not believed to personally go online or pick up the phone to discuss terror plots, experts say.
Last year, a threat that began with a message from the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to Zawahiri led to the closures of embassies across the Middle East and Africa, a US official said at the time. The message essentially sought out Zawahiri's blessing to launch attacks.
Al-Qaida-inspired groups are on the rise in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Islamic militant Hamas.
These groups accuse Hamas of being too lenient because it has observed cease-fires with Israel and has stopped short of imposing Islamic religious law, or sharia, in Gaza.
In the West Bank, Israel and the Palestinian Authority of the western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, have cracked down on Islamic militants. Three Salafis, members of a movement that advocates a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law, were killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank last November.
In Washington, state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said US investigators and intelligence officials were not yet able to corroborate the Israeli information and declined comment on specifics of the case.
"Obviously we're looking into it as well," Harf told reporters on Wednesday. "I don't have reason to believe it's not true. I just don't have independent verification."
She said there were no plans to evacuate the US embassy in Tel Aviv and was not immediately aware of stepped-up security measures there in light of the arrests. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Al Qaeda chief Zawahri tells Islamists in Syria to unite: audio

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ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on militant rebel factions in Syria to stop fighting each other and set up a judicial committee to sort out their differences, according to an audio recording released on Islamist websites.


Vigilantes clash with Mexican cartels 

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Armed groups take justice into their hands to drive away a violent cartel in Mexico. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.
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Elton John condemns Russia's 'vicious' anti-gay legislation

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Following Putin's recent comments which hailed the singer as an 'outstanding individual', Elton John has written an impassioned statement describing the disturbing impact of Russia's 'homosexual propaganda' law

• Read Elton John's full statement here 
• Elton John: why I performed in Russia 
• Alexis Petridis meets Elton John
Elton John has issued a statement condemning Russia's "vicious" anti-gay legislation and has offerered to introduce Vladimir Putin to members of his country's LGBT community.
Just one month after performing in the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan, Sir Elton has used hiswebsite to publish a letter calling for Russia to drop its "homosexual propaganda" law and change the way it treats its gay and lesbian citizens. In what are by far his most strongly-worded comments on the matter to date, the singer recalled the stories of Russian fans who had been threatened, insulted and attacked for being gay.
"What I heard [in Russia] reinforced all the media stories that have been circling since the propaganda bill became federal law," Sir Elton wrote. "Vicious homophobia has been legitimised by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people's basic human rights."
"The people I met in Moscow – gay men and lesbians in their 20s, 30s and 40s - told me stories about receiving threats from vigilante groups who would 'cure' them of homosexuality by dousing them with urine or beating them up," he went on. "One young man was stalked outside a gay club by someone posing as a taxi driver who tried to garrote him with a guitar string because he was a 'sodomite'. Everyone shared stories of verbal and physical abuse – at work, in bars and restaurants or in the street – since the legislation came into force last June. And, some of the vital work providing HIV prevention information to the gay community has been labelled 'homosexual propaganda' and shut down."
In many ways, Sir Elton's message seemed directed at Putin himself. "President Putin asserts that [these results were] not the intention [of this law], but it is undoubtedly the effect that this law has had by promoting misunderstanding and ignorance," he wrote. "Whatever the intention, ... I am absolutely clear from my own personal experience that it is proving deeply dangerous to the LGBT community and deeply divisive to Russian society. I would welcome the opportunity to introduce President Putin to some Russians who deserve to be heard, and who deserve to be treated in their own country with the same respect and warm welcome that I received on my last visit."
Although Sir Elton has discussed Russia's anti-gay legislation before, including in a statement defending his decision to perform there, his previous comments have not been as forceful. The 66-year-old did not make a speech about the issue when he appeared in Kazan, and in Moscow he took a more compassionate tone. "You've always welcomed me with warmth and open arms every time I visited [here] ... so I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community," he said then. "The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don't leave it behind when you leave tonight."
In an interview last weekend, president Putin denied that Russia's LGBT community is "discriminated against in any way", using Elton John as an example of Russian tolerance. "He is an outstanding individual ... loved by millions here, sincerely so, despite his orientation," Putin said. "His orientation is not a factor in how he is perceived, especially as an outstanding musician." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Spain Unemployment Stays at 26%

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Unemployment in Spain was unchanged at 26% in the fourth quarter of 2013, after declining for two consecutive quarters, official data showed.

Elton John: Russia's homosexuality propaganda laws are deeply dangerous to LGBT community 

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The singer writes a forceful letter to Russia and Vladimir Putin following a recent visit to Moscow – read the full letter here

• Elton John condemns Russia's 'vicious' anti-gay legislation - news
One month after performing in the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan, Sir Elton John has published a letter on his website,, calling for Russia to drop its "homosexual propaganda" law and change the way it treats its citizens. Here the singer recalls the stories of Russian fans who had been threatened, insulted and attacked for being gay:

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