Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Months Later, Sniper Attack at Power Hub Still a Mystery - NYTimes

Months Later, Sniper Attack at Power Hub Still a Mystery

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"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack, but says it has no evidence of terrorism nor any suspects." 
Mike Nova comments: The proof of the pudding is in the pudding. 

SAN FRANCISCO — A mysterious and sophisticated sniper attack last year on a Silicon Valley power substation has underscored concerns about the vulnerability of the country’s electrical grid and prompted debate over whether it was an act of terrorism.
The chain of events is not in dispute: Shortly before 1:30 a.m. on April 16, 2013, one or more people methodically cut communication cables near a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in San Jose, sprayed more than 100 rifle bullets and knocked out 17 of the station’s 23 transformers before fleeing and avoiding capture. A grainy black-and-white surveillance video released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office in a search for leads shows shots being fired for about a minute at the substation. 
Though the utility was able to prevent a power failure by diverting electricity from other areas, the damage took 27 days to repair, said Brian Swanson, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the attack, but says it has no evidence of terrorism nor any suspects.
“The F.B.I. at this time does not believe it is related to terrorism, based on the initial assessment of the investigation,” Peter Lee, an agency spokesman in San Francisco, said, adding that he was unable to disclose further details. The agency also considers the attack an isolated one, Mr. Lee said.
“There was an incident in Arkansas, but at this time we believe it is separate,” he said, referring to several episodes of sabotage last fall against the power grid in central Arkansas, for which a 37-year-old man was charged in November.
But Jon B. Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time of the San Jose attack, said Wednesday in an interview, “I believe this was, in essence, terrorism,” adding that the attack was carried out by “a group of individuals who were intent upon disrupting parts of the grid.”
Debate over the attack was prompted by a Wall Street Journal article published Wednesday that took an in-depth look at the episode, which was a topic of discussion at a congressional hearing in December and was examined by Foreign Policy magazine the same month.
A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said the situation so far was ambiguous.
“When you don’t know who did it and you don’t know what their motives were, it is very hard to say whether it was terrorism or not,” the official said. “Some people said it looks like they had military training, some people say that you can learn this from a video game. We just don’t know.”
With few witnesses and little other evidence, the F.B.I.’s investigation has made little progress. In the coming weeks, the bureau may have to change its tactics and reach out to the public for help in identifying suspects.  
Mr. Wellinghoff said that he had brought some experts from the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, who train Navy SEAL units, to San Jose and that they had told him “they believed this was a very professional, very well organized, well thought out and well-executed action that took place.”
Based on that assessment, “this could have been a dry run” for an even bigger attack, said Mr. Wellinghoff, a former Nevada consumer advocate who is now a lawyer in San Francisco.
The attack has renewed anxiety over the potential vulnerability of the power grid to physical attack, adding to worries about cybersecurity and the ordinary adversaries of hurricanes, floods, wild animals and falling trees.
On Wednesday, utility officials tried to tamp down concern. “It’s harder to knock out the lights than people think because of redundancy and resilience,” said Gerry W. Cauley, president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nonprofit group that sets standards for the nation’s utilities. Substations like the one attacked in San Jose are clusters of transformers that change the voltage of electricity, increasing it to higher levels for transmission and reducing it to lower levels for distribution. At high voltage, line losses are smaller.
The three power grids in North America — one covering Texas, and one each covering the eastern and western portions of the United States and Canada — have thousands of substations. Mr. Wellinghoff said that the ones most urgently needing protection were the ones connecting transmission lines of various high voltages, and that this was a “limited number,” but he would not say what it was.
The substation hit in San Jose, he said, ranked No. 45 in California, meaning it was not critical.
Most of the substations are owned by publicly traded utilities; a few are owned by government agencies. Mr. Wellinghoff said, “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a comprehensive plan developed” to defend them.
The location of substations is public, but it is a closely guarded secret what combination of them would have to be knocked out to cause extensive harm. It could be as few as a handful in each of the three grids, the eastern continent, from Halifax to New Orleans, the western continent, from New Mexico to Vancouver, and Texas.
In response to the April attack, the nation’s electric utilities began a two-and-a-half-year program to identify what substations or combinations of substations were most critical to the operations of the continent’s three power grids, how to minimize damage to them once an attack was detected, how to bring in law enforcement personnel before sending in the repair crews, and how to reconfigure the system after an attack to achieve maximum capacity.

Recent Announcements Give Boost to Gay Rights Advocates - VOA

Recent Announcements Give Boost to Gay Rights Advocates 

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A pair of high-profile announcements, one from the government and the other from an athlete, have bolstered gay rights advocates in the United States. Married same-sex couples in the United States will be entitled to more benefits because of a new Justice Department policy, announced on Saturday, that expands federal recognition of same sex marriages. The new guidelines will allow these couples, for example, to jointly file for bankruptcy and will give them more rights in the criminal...

U.S. Debates Drone Strike on American Terrorism Suspect in Pakistan 

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The discussion about targeting a citizen, who is believed to be plotting terrorist attacks, is the first time officials have considered killing an American overseas since President Obama imposed limits on drone strikes in May.

House GOP homes in on debt-ceiling plan tied to military pension benefits - Washington Post

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Washington Post

House GOP homes in on debt-ceiling plan tied to military pension benefits
Washington Post
House Republican leaders spent Monday trying to finalize a plan to increase the Treasury's borrowing authority and avoid a federal default by urging GOP lawmakers to rally behind a proposal that ties a debt-ceiling increase to a plan to restore full pension...
House Republicans Move Toward Debt Ceiling VoteTIME
Boehner's debt-limit gambleMSNBC 
Bill to eliminate local-state conflicts in election law passes Colorado SenateColorado Springs Gazette

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Schoolboy Daniel Morcombe ‘died within an hour’ of being abducted

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Prosecutor tells jury of evidence against accused Brett Peter Cowan collected during elaborate police sting operation

Court Gives California More Time to Ease Prison Crowding - New York Times

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Court Gives California More Time to Ease Prison Crowding
New York Times
LOS ANGELES — In what amounts to a legal and political victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, a panel of three federal judges ruled on Monday that California can have two more years to reduce severe overcrowding in state prisons, a decision that gives the governor ...

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Religious groups lodge same-sex marriage challenge

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Catholic, Protestant and Mormon bodies make submission to federal appeals court calling for Utah and Okalhoma bans to be upheld

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Salvation Army chief unprepared for the 'full horror' of sex abuse revelations

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Andre Cox tells commission he was disturbed ‘to the very depths of his being’ by news of abuse in Australia

Boy George: No obligation to 'come out' 

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80's pop icon Boy George shares his advice on "coming out" in light of Michael Sam's recent announcement.
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Majority of Americans Favor Ties With Cuba, Poll Finds

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In Florida, an even higher number approve of normalizing relations with Havana, according to the survey’s results, described as an unprecedented reflection of shifting American attitudes.

Alexander Litvinenko death: verdict on public inquiry due

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High court judges to announce decision on wife’s bid for wider-ranging investigation than inquest that is under way

Hollande state visit to US 

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French President Francois Hollande begins a state visit to the United States, flying with President Barack Obama to pay homage at the home of francophile US ...
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Second round of Syrian peace talks open in toxic atmosphere - Irish Times

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Second round of Syrian peace talks open in toxic atmosphere
Irish Times
The second round of Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva were launched in a toxic atmosphere yesterday as the government and opposition accused each other's fighters in Homs of firing on UN convoys escorting hundreds of civilians from the besieged old ...

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Israel, Turkey Near Repairing Alliance

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Turkey and Israel are nearing a settlement over a four-year feud that left their once-allied governments estranged, officials from both countries said, a development that would restore stability to a vital regional relationship.

Spain seeks arrest of former Chinese president over Tibet

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MADRID/BEIJING (Reuters) - A Spanish judge on Monday sought the arrest of China's former president and premier over accusations of genocide in Tibet in an eight-year-old case that prompted a sharp rebuke from Beijing.


Child killed in suspected mafia hit 

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CNN's Erin McLaughlin reports on the short life and death of a boy whose family had apparent mafia connections.
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Bin Laden death images subject to purge, emails reveal

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US military chief ordered his subordinates to destroy any photographs of Osama bin Laden's body or give them to the CIA
Eleven days after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the US military's top special operations officer ordered subordinates to destroy any photographs of the al-Qaida founder's corpse or turn them over to the CIA, according to a newly released email.
The email was obtained under a freedom of information request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. The document, released on Monday by the group, shows that Admiral William McRaven, who heads the US Special Operations Command, told military officers on 13 May 2011 that photos of Bin Laden's remains should have been sent to the CIA or already destroyed. Bin Laden was killed by a special ops team in Pakistan on 2 May 2011.
McRaven's order to purge the bin Laden material came 10 days after the Associated Press asked for the photos and other documents under the US Freedom of Information Act. Typically, when a freedom of information request is filed to a government agency under the Federal Records Act, the agency is obliged to preserve the material sought – even if the agency later denies the request.
On 3 May 2011, the AP asked Special Operations Command's Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Division office for "copies of all e-mails sent from and to the U.S. government account or accounts" of McRaven referencing bin Laden. McRaven was then vice-admiral.
A response on 4 May 2011 from the command's FOIA office to the AP acknowledged the Bin Laden document request and said it had been assigned for processing. AP did not receive a copy of the McRaven email obtained by Judicial Watch.
The Department of Defense FOIA office told the AP in a 29 February 2012 letter that it could find no McRaven emails "responsive to your request" for communications about the bin Laden material.
The Special Operations Command is required to comply with rules established by the chairman of thejoint chiefs of staff that dictate how long records must be retained. Its July 2012 manual requires that records about military operations and planning are to be considered permanent and after 25 years, following a declassification review, transferred to the National Archives.
Last July, a draft report by the Pentagon's inspector general first disclosed McRaven's secret order, but the reference was not contained in the inspector general's final report. The email that surfaced onMonday was the first evidence showing the actual order.
In a heavily blacked-out email addressed to "gentlemen", McRaven told his unnamed subordinates: "One particular item that I want to emphasise is photos; particularly UBLs remains. At this point – all photos should have been turned over to the CIA; if you still have them destroy them immediately or get them" a blacked-out location. UBL refers to Bin Laden.
At the time the inspector general's report came out, a spokesman for the Special Operations Command referred questions back to the inspector general.
A CIA spokesman said at the time that "documents related to the raid were handled in a manner consistent with the fact that the operation was conducted under the direction of the CIA director", then Leon Panetta. The CIA statement also said "records of a CIA operation such as the raid, which were created during the conduct of the operation by persons acting under the authority of the CIA director, are CIA records".
In a letter on 31 January this year to Judicial Watch in response to its request for all records relating to McRaven's "directive to purge", the Pentagon's office of general counsel said it had been able to locate only document – Raven's redacted email.
The Judicial Watch president, Tom Fitton, said on Monday the email "is a smoking gun, revealing both contempt for the rule of law and the American people's right to know".

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford launches YouTube channel and talks about drug use 

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford launches YouTube channel and talks about drug use

More Rob Ford videos: http://bit.ly/1ky6XUI Subscribe to ITN News: http://bit.ly/1bmWO8h
Troubled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has launched his own YouTube channel...
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Silvio Berlusconi corruption trial begins in Naples

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Former Italian PM accused of giving €3m to senator from anti-corruption party in effort to undermine government in 2006
Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi faces his latest trial starting on Tuesday in Naples for allegedly bribing a senator to join his party's ranks, even as he attempts to retain a leading political role.
The billionaire tycoon - who lost his parliamentary immunity when he was ejected from the senate last year over a tax fraud conviction – is not expected at the hearing and is not obliged to attend under Italian law.
The 77-year-old is accused of giving €3m(£2.5m) in 2006 to Sergio De Gregorio, then a senator from the anti-corruption Italy of Values party, to join his People of Freedom party and help undermine the centre-left government in power at the time.
A former Berlusconi aide, Valter Lavitola, is also on trial for being the alleged intermediary for the bribe.
The trial is in Naples as it was the seat occupied by De Gregorio, who is collaborating with investigators. The two first hearings in the trial on Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to be largely procedural.
Among the issues on the table will be a request from the senate speaker, Pietro Grasso, to be considered a plaintiff in the trial – a move that has proved hugely controversial among Berlusconi's supporters.
A new judge is also due to be named as the current one has declared a conflict of interests – she is married to a prosecutor who worked in another trial in which Berlusconi was convicted for having sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute and abuse of office.
The list of witnesses for the trial includes former prime minister and former European commission president Romano Prodi, as well as two former senators expected to say they were offered bribe money by Berlusconi.
De Gregorio has told investigators he received €2m in cash and €1m for his political movement "Italians in the World".
Berlusconi's lawyers Michele Cerabona and Niccolo Ghedini are expected to argue that corrupting the senator would have been impossible since every lawmaker can vote freely, whatever their party affiliation.
Berlusconi this year will also be appealing his prostitution and abuse of power convictions, as well as one for leaking a confidential police wiretap in an attempt to damage a centre-left political rival.
The three-time former prime minister was forced out of parliament for the first time in his 20-year political career in November following a tax fraud conviction.
While Berlusconi does not have to go to prison because of his age, a court in April will decide whether he has to do a year of community service or house arrest for that crime and he has lost his parliamentary immunity.
The ban from parliament has not prevented Berlusconi from seeking to remain a powerful force, however.
While some of his former proteges have switched to the new centre-right party in a ruling coalition with the prime minister, Enrico Letta, Berlusconi is rallying support for his re-founded Forza Italia (Go Italy) party.
He is unrepentant despite his frequent run-ins with the justice system, dismissing charges against him as politically motivated, and he still enjoys the support of six or seven million Italians according to polls.
Berlusconi has vowed a robust campaign ahead of the European elections in May and on Saturday he declared that the euro was "a foreign currency" for Italians.
In a phone-call to supporters this weekend, he got confused about where he was calling and joked that it must be the fault of "some leftwing secretary".
But after 20 years of "Berlusconism" and a two-year economic crisis, there are indications that the attention in Italy is shifting away from Berlusconi.
The main political interest now is on the centre-left – the rivalry between Letta and the ambitious new head of the Democratic Party, 39-year-old Matteo Renzi.

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Italy, U.S. police break up big drug, arms trafficking operation

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ROME (Reuters) - Police said on Tuesday they had broken up a major organized crime operation between clans in Italy, Canada and the United States that conspired to smuggle huge amounts of drugs and weapons from South America to Italy.

Falling in love 

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The science behind falling in love.Videographic.
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Russia decries U.N. draft on Syria aid, urges resolution on 'terrorism'

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday a draft U.N.resolution on aid access in Syria was "detached from reality" and urged the West to refrain from what it called one-sided accusations against Damascus. 


US House to Vote on Debt Increase Measure

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The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this week on a plan to increase the nation's borrowing authority, which is set to expire by the end of February. The plan was presented Monday to Republican lawmakers, who control the chamber. Republican leaders want to extend the government's borrowing authority for a full year, while repealing a reduction in the cost-of-living benefits for military retirees. House Republicans are proposing to extend current cuts in Medicare, the...

Lions issue statement supporting openly gay prospect Michael Sam - The Detroit News

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Lions issue statement supporting openly gay prospect Michael Sam
The Detroit News
Michael Sam had 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season for the Tigers, who went 12-2 and won the SEC's East division. (Tim Sharp / Associated Press). The Lions have joined a few other NFL teams in support of Michael Sam, Missouri's All-American...
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Thousands of Eritreans enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt 

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Human Rights Watch report says state authorities have either turned a blind eye or colluded with perpetrators
Tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees have been enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt in the past 10 years, enduring weeks or months of violence and rape for the purpose of extortion by traffickers often working with the collusion of state security forces.
Some of the refugees have died, and many have been scarred for life – both physically and psychologically – as a result of mutilation, burning, beatings and sexual assault, according to dozens of testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch in a report published on Tuesday.
I Wanted to Lie Down and Die: Trafficking and Torture of Eritreans in Sudan and Egypt says state authorities have failed to identify and prosecute perpetrators, and have often colluded with them in the kidnap and abuse of refugees.
Traffickers demand ransom money to halt the torture, either from the refugees or from their relatives, who are forced to listen to their loved ones screaming down telephone lines. Even after money has changed hands, traffickers sometimes sell refugees on to another group rather than release them.
The 79-page report quotes a 23-year-old Eritrean man, who was kidnapped by traffickers in Sudan in 2012 and then handed over to Egyptian traffickers in the Sinai desert. "They beat me with a metal rod. They dripped molten plastic on my back. They beat the soles of my feet and then they forced me to stand for long periods of time, sometimes for days. Sometimes they threatened to kill me and put a gun to my head," he told HRW.
"They hung me from the ceiling so my legs couldn't reach the floor and they gave me electric shocks. One person died after they hung him from the ceiling for 24 hours. We watched him die.
"Whenever I called my relatives to ask them to pay, they burnt me with a hot iron rod so I would scream on the phone. We could not protect the women in our room: they just took them out, raped them, and brought them back."
HRW also spoke to two traffickers, one of whom said he had made $200,000 (£120,000) profit in less than a year. "I know this money is haram [shameful], but I do it anyway."
His most recent group was four Eritreans, whose relatives were told to pay $33,000 each for their release.
"Sometimes I tortured them while they were on the phone so the relatives could hear them scream. I did to them what I do to everyone, I beat their legs and feet, and sometimes their stomachs and chest, with a wooden stick. I hang them upside down, sometimes for an hour. Three of them died because I beat them too hard. I released the one that paid."
According to HRW, more than 200,000 Eritreans – most of them Christians - have fled repression and destitution since 2004. Some of those quoted in the report said they paid people smugglers, but were sold on four or five times to different traffickers.
Until recently, many were heading to Israel until a new 240km (150 mile) steel border fence blocked access from the Sinai desert.
"Over the past three years, Sinai has increasingly represented a dead-end comprised of captivity, cruelty, torture and dearth," the report says.
Some refugees have been forced to work for traffickers, as builders or domestic servants. One Bedouin leader in the Sinai, Sheikh Mohamed, told HRW: "I know of hundreds [of Eritreans] at this very moment who are forced to work on construction sites. They are building houses for the kidnappers, who pay for the construction materials with the ransom money."
In June last year, the US state department reported that "human trafficking, smuggling, abduction, torture and extortion of migrants" in the Sinai was increasing. Victims were "brutalised, including by being whipped, beaten, deprived of food, raped, chained together and forced to do domestics or manual labour at smugglers' homes".
Collusion between traffickers and Sudanese and Egyptian police and military is widespread, according to HRW. Both countries are breaching their obligations under national and international anti-trafficking laws, international human rights law and national criminal law.
Gerry Simpson, the report's author, said: "So far, police and soldiers in Sudan and Egypt helping traffickers kidnap and torture refugees have nothing to fear. Some police in eastern Sudan are so emboldened by their impunity, they hand refugees over to traffickers in police stations."
Some security officials in Egypt "even return escaped trafficking victims to their captors in Sinai", he added.
"The time has long passed for authorities in both countries to arrest and prosecute traffickers for these terrible crimes, and to have zero tolerance for security officials colluding with them."
Egypt had prosecuted one trafficker and no security officials up to December 2013; Sudan had launched 14 prosecutions of traffickers and four of police officers in connection with trafficking and torture.

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China bristling, Spain seeks to limit its judges' international rights powers

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's parliament will debate a bill on Tuesday to limit the power of judges to pursue international human rights cases, a day after Spanish arrest orders were issued for former Chinese officials accused of genocide in Tibet.

US, Russian officials may meet Syrian delegates in Geneva Friday - The Province

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US, Russian officials may meet Syrian delegates in Geneva Friday
The Province
GENEVA - A Syrian opposition figure says delegates to the peace talks in Geneva may hold bilateral meetings with U.S. and Russian officials on Friday. The U.N. says there will be a three-way meeting in Geneva Friday including U.N. mediator Lakhdar ...

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US and Italy target mafia suspects in joint raid

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Police swoop on alleged members of New York's Cosa Nostra Gambino family and the 'Ndrangheta mafia in Italy
Italian and US officers arrested dozens of people on Tuesday in a joint operation that exposed alleged drug trafficking links between New York's Cosa Nostra Gambino family and the 'Ndrangheta mafia in Italy.
Andrea Grassi, a police chief in charge of the two-year investigation, told the Italian news channel SkyTG24 that 26 people were arrested and 40 more placed under investigation in Italy and the US.
Eight of the people arrested are alleged members of the Gambinos, one of the "five families" that have traditionally controlled the mafia in New York.
Other arrests were carried out in the Calabria region in southern Italy, the bastion of the 'Ndrangheta mafia which plays a lynchpin role in the global cocaine trade.
"The charges range from mafia association to international drug trafficking to money laundering," Grassi said. "This investigation reveals a criminal relationship between a 'Ndrangheta family and the Gambino family in New York."
The investigation found that drugs from South America transited through the container port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria, hidden in cans of fruit.
FBI agents travelled to Italy to carry out arrests together with Italian police.

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10 Things to Know for Today - MiamiHerald.com

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Macon Telegraph

10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today: 1. SHIRLEY TEMPLE, ICONIC CHILD STAR, DIES. The dimpled, curly-haired child star who sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of...

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Tons of ivory seized

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A wildlife operation involving dozens of countries and organizations, seized more than three tons of ivory and a bevy of rare wildlife products as well as rare wood.

Syrian foes meet face to face in Geneva

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GENEVA (Reuters) - The Syrian government and the opposition met face to face on Tuesday and observed a minute of silence for people killed in the three year conflict after a first round of talks last month failed to make significant progress, delegates said. 

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100 years later, WWI sparks a new battle in Britain 

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LONDON — The plan was for curious schoolchildren to wander foreign battlefields, for grateful communities to repair crumbling monuments and for an entire nation to solemnly recall a war that cost more British lives than any other.
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Greek god statue mystery: 2,000 year old bronze Apollo surfaces in Gaza 

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A 2000 year old bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo surfaces in Gaza. . Report by Mark Morris.
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Oppressed Majority: the film about a world run by women that went viral 

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Eléonore Pourriat's short film imagines how a man might experience a sexual assault in a matriarchal society. 'I wanted it to be not so realistic but frightening,' she says
Have you seen the film Oppressed Majority (Majorité Opprimée)? In less than a week since its directorEléonore Pourriat uploaded it to YouTube, the version with English subtitles has been watched over 2.3m times – and rising. The 10-minute film tells the story of Pierre, an ordinary guy, on an ordinary day, in an unnamed French town. But something is different in Pierre's world. Women are in charge. They run around barechested – hey, it's hot! – piss in an alley, and offer sexual favours to Pierre when he is stuck at a red light. (He's riding a bike, so his lack of physical barriers provides an opportunity if not a provocation.) Events culminate when Pierre is sexually assaulted at knifepoint. Inevitably, the police officer who takes Pierre's statement is female. She raises an eyebrow, but only to check for accuracy: "She pinched my testicles … then she took my penis in her mouth and bit it"?
Ouch. Why that particular assault? "It is the complex of castration," Pourriat says, speaking from Paris. "The worst fright of men. I wanted it to be not so realistic but frightening."
Pourriat made her film five years ago. It won an award at a festival in Kiev but made little impact in France or online. So why its contagion now?
"Actually, when I made it I hoped there would be an interest like this," she says. "In France five years ago people asked me if being a feminist was so contemporary. Today no one asks. The feminist fight is more important now. Five years ago I felt like an alien. Now my film is making a buzz because rights are in danger. You see that in Spain with abortion rights. The whole thing about marriage for all, the homophobia and sexism. It is like a black tide today in France."
One of the strengths of Oppressed Majority is the completeness of its matriarchal vision. No woman lets the side down. They all play their part, right down to Pierre's wife, whose lack of sympathy chills. She would have come to Pierre's side sooner but was held up at work. "I couldn't get out of the meeting … But I think I really knocked 'em dead." Why is she so brutal?
"I wanted her not to imagine, not to sympathise, not to be able to feel what he feels," Pourriat says. "So often when women get assaulted, people say it's their fault. Even close people. That's what I wanted to say with this character." She says that the film "came from a personal experience. I was a woman. I was 30 years old. And my husband didn't believe that I was – I was not assaulted, but I got remarked on in the street. Very often. He said, 'Wow. That's incredible.' His surprise was the beginning of the idea for me. Sometimes men – it's not their fault – they don't imagine that women are assaulted even with words every day, with small, slight words. They can't imagine that because they are not confronted with that themselves."
Pourriat realised that the film had gone viral only when she started seeing activity on Facebook. Her YouTube mailbox filled up, but the messages were so aggressive she deleted them. "I kept one though because really, you can't believe it. Someone said: 'More patronising feminist bullshit. Keep whining, bitches!' When I read that, I was more convinced than ever that I have to continue to make films." She is already working on her next project – a mockumentary about the removal of pubic hair.

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Falcons use guile to track down prey 

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Computer modelling of pursuit strategies reveals birds use motion camouflage to deceive their targets
Falcons are well known for the speed at which they dive (up to 322 km/h), but until now no empirical work had been done on how they track their prey, because it was technically too difficult to record their trajectory in three dimensions. While modelling raptor pursuit strategies, Suzanne Amador Kane, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Haverford College, Pennsylvania, watched wildlife documentaries and became convinced that fitting the birds with miniature video cameras could overcome this difficulty. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the conclusions of her research last month.
In partnership with professional falconers, Kane fitted gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus), peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus – pictured) and hybrids with miniature videocameras – on their head or back, depending on size. She was thus able to film 48 pursuits targeting carrion crows, bustards and other species in various parts of rural Belgium, Great Britain and the US, and the desert in Dubai. "We analysed the video images, one at a time using software, in order to determine the prey's apparent position in the bird's visual field, as well as other factors such as their relative speed and the distance between them," Kane says. The data was then interpreted using computer simulations based on predator-prey pursuits involving insects and mammals. The results differed from what was expected.
"The simplest way to pursue a prey is to fly straight at it. So you expect to find the prey in the middle of the video image," Kane explains. "Another idea, proposed by the biologist Vance Tucker in 2000, was that falcons fly along a spiral trajectory so as to keep their prey at a roughly 45-degree angle in their visual field, the angle at which they have the highest visual acuity."
Both these assumptions proved incorrect and the researchers turned to bats and dragonflies to gain an understanding of how falcons operate. "Previous work shows that these animals use a pursuit strategy known as motion camouflage," Kane adds. "The predator anticipates the point at which it will intercept the prey based on its speed and sets its course for that spot, keeping the prey at a constant angle in its field of vision. Which is exactly what we observed with the falcons."
This is a highly effective strategy because it fools the prey. The predator's apparent position in its target's visual field does not change, giving the latter the impression that the threat is still at a distance, until it is too late. Sailors are familiar with this manoeuvre, steering a course at a constant angle to the vessel they aim to board. The collision course falcons deliberately adopt is exactly the same.
However, despite its apparent sophistication this pursuit strategy fails three-quarters of the time. If, for instance, the prey turns and flies towards the predator, it upsets the pursuit. Kane now plans to study other raptors – goshawks and sparrowhawks – that have developed their own pursuit strategies.
This article appeared in Guardian Weeklywhich incorporates material from Le Monde

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Iran says nuclear program 'forever', dismisses military talk

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UN: don't overlook access to information in goal on governance

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Civil society groups have called for more committment from those shaping the new development framework to uphold accountability with media freedom and information access
Last week, 195 civil society groups from around the world came together to call on the UN to make access to information and media freedom central to the post-2015 development agenda. Signatories included organisations from 77 countries on five continents, working in fields as diverse as poverty, health, religion, the environment, indigenous rights, free expression.
Their statement, issued by the right to information group Article 19 and the Global Forum for Media Development, coincided with the 8th open working group on the sustainable development goals(SDGs). The group, made up of representatives of 30 UN member states, gathered in New York to hear from a range of civil society organisations on issues that include biodiversity, equality, conflict prevention and governance.
While the majority of the delegates acknowledged the importance of access to information and transparency in the SDGs, discussions continue about exactly how to incorporate greater accountability into the development agenda. Some delegates want to treat accountability as a cross-cutting theme, that would run across all the potential SDG's, while others prefer the solution Article 19 is advocating for - a distinct global development goal on good governance, with access to information at its heart.
Quality, current and accessible information is crucial to establishing the scope and nature of development challenges. It empowers people to hold their leaders to accountand participate in the decisions that affect their lives.
It also forms the basis of a free and independent media, which, as media development NGOs such asInternews have emphasised, plays a vital role in safeguarding development. A free media informs, facilitates public participation through open debate and helps to hold those in power to account.
The lack of information about development targets is considered to be a significant factor in the failure to meet previous targets. The UN secretary general's special adviser on the millennium development goals Jeffrey Sachs, publically acknowledged how problems posed by out of date data have hindered progress on achieving MDG targets.
Last week's joint statement is the latest example of a groundswell of support for a development agenda that includes greater accountability. A broad base of civil society groups is on board, and political support appears to be growing. In August, a report by a UN high-level panel - chaired by UK's prime minister David Cameron, the Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – recommended governance be included in the SDGs. The report, specifically suggested a clause to "ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information" and to "guarantee the public's right to information and access to government data."
Recognition is growing for what Article 19 has championed for some time. Making freedom of information laws accessible and easier to understand has helped boost enrolment in schools in Indonesia and helped community groups in Bangladesh to take legal action against illegal wood and husk mills that caused health problems to local residents.
Without access to information and media freedom, we risk an unsustainable and top-down development agenda. Since you can only manage what you can measure, the post-2015 agenda must contain specific targets that will increase accountability.
These targets should include that states adopt a comprehensive legal framework guaranteeing public access to government information in accordance with international standards. In addition, states should introduce sectorial legislation that guarantees public access to areas of specific importance to sustainable development, such as the Bali guidelines relating to environmental matters.
There must also be a specific target that requires states to ensure they have a legal framework which guarantees media freedom and the public's right of freedom of expression, judged against theUnesco media development indicators. This target should also include eliminating impunity for acts of violence against journalists and human rights defenders in accordance with the joint declaration on crimes against free expression.
States should also have a legal and regulatory environment that protects civil society space, recognising the independence of civil society groups and their right to work peacefully without fear of harassment, reprisal and discrimination. Civil society plays a crucial role in charting, designing and implementing development initiatives and fostering greater public participation in decision making processes. The Civicus enabling environment index would provide means of measuring the progress of states respect to this target.
Different development groups have different concerns, and they are working hard to ensure these are properly reflected in the SDGs. When drawing up their list of demands, development professionals must remember – accountability is central to ensure that specific development endeavours can be meaningfully achieved. When campaigning, we must not think of accountability as an optional extra.
Thomas Hughes is executive director of Article 19. Follow @thomasmhugheson Twitter
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