Nine Circles of Hell!: Thursday, March 1, 2012
The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – today’s nine most hellish news stories, including three bonus stories on your privacy, and three extra articles on Iran-Israel tensions, for Thursday, March 1, 2012, are:
Immigration stories breaking across America’s south
Los Angeles Times
New round of immigration battles set in the South
The Deep South, already the nation’s hottest illegal immigration battleground, will see more action in the coming days, with Mississippi considering an Alabama-style immigration crackdown bill and a federal appeals court set to consider Thursday whether the Alabama law, and a similar one in Georgia, are constitutional.
The legislation and the courtroom battle will serve as a prelude to April 25, when the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over Arizona’s SB 1070, the controversial 2010 law that triggered a wave of state-level efforts nationwide to get tough on illegal immigrants.
A ruling from the high court will probably give some guidance on how vigorous states can be in tackling immigration, a realm of policy that has traditionally been the bailiwick of the federal government.
But in Mississippi, proponents of the bill see no reason to wait on the justices for guidance. Rodney Hunt, who heads the group Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, said the law was needed as soon as possible to help bring down the state’s 10.4% unemployment rate.
Republicans in neighboring Alabama have argued that their state’s law, which took effect in September, was a key reason the state had the most dramatic unemployment rate reduction in the nation in the last months of 2011, as undocumented workers left the state or otherwise dropped out of the workforce.
“I just think you should not sit back and wait when the citizens want protection,” Hunt said.
Passage of the bill in Mississippi, which is likely given Republican control of the Legislature and governor’s office, would create a contiguous four-state swath of the South — including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina — with Arizona-style laws on the books.
Like similar immigration laws in Utah and Indiana, all of the Deep South laws have been challenged and temporarily blocked, in whole or in part, by federal judges.
In Alabama, however, important provisions of the law were upheld in September by U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn, including a section that empowers police to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants.
Opponents of the laws have accused Southern lawmakers of racism and xenophobia, but the fate of the measures may turn on more complicated arguments about the states’ proper role in handling immigration-related matters.
On Thursday in Atlanta, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments against the Alabama law by the Justice Department and lawyers for a coalition of civil rights groups, which sued separately to block the law.
IMF says global economy faces “major downside risks”
IMF: Global Economy Still Facing Major Risk From Europe
The global economy faces “major downside risks” as its recovery continues to be threatened by stresses in the euro area, the International Monetary Fund said in a report prepared for the Group of 20 nations.
The world economic expansion will slow to 3.3 percent this year from 3.8 percent in 2011, according to the surveillance report prepared for the meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Mexico City Feb 25-26. The euro economy is forecast to contract 0.5 percent this year, compared with growth of 1.6 percent in 2011.
“The overarching risk remains an intensified global ‘paradox of thrift’ as households, firms, and governments around the world reduce demand,” the Washington-based IMF said in the report. “This risk is further exacerbated by fragile financial systems, high public deficits and debt and already-low interest rates.”
“Advanced economies are experiencing weak and bumpy growth, reflecting both the legacies from the crisis and spillovers from Europe,” according to the report.
European finance ministers are set to support a second rescue for Greece today to avoid what Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has described as a potential “brutal outcome” for the Greek economy. The gathering in Brussels today, before a summit of leaders from the 27-nation European Union, will review Greece’s progress on meeting the conditions of the 130 billion- euro ($173 billion) aid package, which they approved last week.
EU agencies say Google breaking law: commissioner
France’s data protection watchdog, the CNIL, has also cast doubt on the legality of the policy and informed Google it would lead a European-wide investigation into this.
Reding told BBC Radio Four data control authorities in Europe asked French counterparts to analyze the new policy.
“And they have come to the conclusion that they are deeply concerned, and that the new rules are not in accordance with the European law, and that the transparency rules have not been applied,” Reding said.
Users cannot opt out of the new policy if they want to continue using Google’s services.
Asked in what respects the policy could be breaking EU law, Reding said: “In numerous respects. One is that nobody had been consulted, it is not in accordance with the law on transparency and it utilizes the data of private persons in order to hand it over to third parties, which is not what the users have agreed to.”
It would have been impossible for Google to instigate the policy under proposed legislation she laid out on January 25, Reding said.
“Protection of personal data is a basic rule of the European Union. It is inscribed in the treaties. It is not an if, it is a must,” she said.
Google earlier posted a blog defending its policy after what it called “a fair amount of chatter and confusion.”
At the same time, for people concerned about erosion of online privacy going too far, the company and outside watchdogs offer a range of choices that can help people travel the Web, and Google’s own sites, a little more anonymously.
Here are a few options to note:
Divide and conquer. Instead of relying on Google for e-mail (Gmail), Web searches, and various other services, you can migrate one or two major activities to another provider. Some alternatives for e-mail include Hotmail or Yahoo. Other search-engine options include Bing, ask.com, Yahoo search, and DuckDuckGo.
This way, you’re not giving Google as much data to track.
If you’d like to do something along these lines, but worry about losing data now stored with Google, note that Google offers a “data liberation front” (visible with its other privacy tools, linked below). This is the company’s pledge to make it easy to export your data if you ever choose to shut down a Google account.
You can also try a similar “divide and conquer” approach by setting up more than one Google account, and signing into one for, say, YouTube, and another for e-mail.
Use Google’s privacy tools. The company offers a range of privacy tools designed to allow users some choice of the experience they get. Consider your preferred settings, for example in the “Ad Preferences Manager,” “Search Personalization Opt-out,” “Web History Controls,” and the “Incognito” mode in Google’s Chrome Web browser.
Another tool, “Google Dashboard,” gives users some hint of what information Googel is tracking.
Sign out before you search. If you sign out of your Google account while doing Google searches, the company is not linking your search activity to your personal account.
Although Google’s move has stirred controversy because of the firm’s size and its vast user base, the company is traveling a path similar to what other firms are doing, including rival Web giants like Facebook.
And many Web users know that when they visit “free” websites, the company delivering the service or content wants to earn some revenue, usually through advertising. The better-targeted the ads, the greater the revenue from them.
In Google’s case, what it has described as a move toward “one beautifully simple, intuitive user experience” is also a bid for bigger earnings.
- And there’s yet another to this unraveling story in The new York Times story, “Et Tu, Google? Android Apps Can Also Secretly Copy Photos“:
It’s not just Apple. Photos are vulnerable on Android phones, too.
As Bits reported this week, developers who make applications for Apple iOS devices have access to a person’s entire photo library as long as that person allows the app to use location data.
It turns out that Google, maker of the Android mobile operating system, takes it one step further. Android apps do not need permission to get a user’s photos, and as long as an app has the right to go to the Internet, it can copy those photos to a remote server without any notice, according to developers and mobile security experts. It is not clear whether any apps that are available for Android devices are actually doing this.
- In other insane phone news, NBC News offers this investigative report, “Is phone company ripping off American troops?“:
Army Sgt. Richard Corder and his unit were headed to Iraq in May when their military charter made a refueling stop in Leipzig, Germany. It was Corder’s third tour in Iraq. His unit had lost 28 soldiers during a previous deployment, so his family was especially worried.
“Both my kids, they were in tears. Wife was in tears when we left,” he said. “I just wanted them to know that everything was going to be fine, that I was going to come home.”
So Corder decided to make a quick call home, using a bank of pay phones inside the secure area at the Leipzig-Halle Airport where the troops hang out, and paying with his debit card. He didn’t reach his wife, so he left a 3-second message: “Hey honey it’s just me. I’m trying to call you. All right, love you. Bye.”
Then came the bill – for $41. Corder felt ripped off.
“It’s terrible that they would do that to us,” Corder said. “I mean we volunteer to serve our country. … We fight for their freedom. And they’re going to scam us, take our money, rip us off?”
Now Corder and his wife, Dharma, are suing a U.S. company they allege is responsible for gouging thousands of troops for phone calls to loved ones while headed to and from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The company — BBG Communications — is headquartered in a gleaming glass office building in San Diego, with its own sculpture garden.
“Our service members have had millions of dollars taken out of their pockets to enrich the coffers of BBG,” said John Mattes, one of the Corders’ attorneys.
In the last four years, more than 800,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines have traveled through the refueling stop in Leipzig, heading to and from a war zone, according the U.S. Transportation Command.
It’s not clear how many used the phones, but blogs and emails complaining about the phones date to 2008, from privates to senior officers: “robbed by BBG”; “half our unit used this stupid phone”; “sick to my stomach thinking about how much money this company has taken from all those marines,” read just a few.
Army Lt. Col. Kathy Urick told NBC News that she used one of the phones in December 2010 while headed to Afghanistan. She left a 20-second message for her husband and was shocked when the bill arrived. “I knew it would be expensive but I didn’t expect $40. That’s outrageous!” Urick said. “I thought of all the soldiers on a limited budget who’d used those phones.”
Army Sgt. Jeremy Burnes said he was stunned to be charged $176.25 for two calls of under 5 minutes each from Leipzig to tell his wife he was safely out of Iraq and what time he’d be arriving home. “There’s no sign or anything like that,” Burnes said. “It was a rip-off.”
The Better Business Bureau said it’s had 453 complaints about BBG in the last three years and gives the company an “F” rating.
“That somebody would be looking to make a buck on the fact that they’re coming and going from a war zone … I find that disgusting,” said Brenda Linnington, director of the BBB’s Military Line.
BBG’s lawyer, who spoke on background, told NBC News that the San Diego company only handles billing and collections on these calls, and that the long distance services are actually provided by a sister company, BBG Global, located in Switzerland.
NBC News visited BBG Global’s headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, on Friday and found only a small office in a multi-use building with a simple sign on the door. A producer knocked on the door during normal business hours, but no one was there. The building handyman said that he seldom sees anyone in that office.
After we contacted the company through the lawyer, BBG Global responded with this statement: “Any accusation, or inference, that American Military Personnel are being targeted with inflated rates is untrue and offensive.”
BBG Global said the Leipzig phones are operated by a German firm, which charges the same fee for international operator assisted credit card calls on all its pay phones in Germany. It also said that it complies with all applicable German laws and that customers can get the price of a call by pressing “3.”
US cops can now search your phone without a warrant
U.S. court approves warrantless searches of cell phones
U.S. police can search a cell phone for its number without having a warrant, according to a federal appeals court ruling.
Officers in Indiana found a number of cell phones at the scene of a drug bust, and searched each phone for its telephone number. Having the numbers allowed the government to subpoena the owners’ call histories, linking them to the drug-selling scheme.
One of the suspects, Abel Flores-Lopez, who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, argued on appeal that the police had no right to search the phone’s contents without a warrant.
The U.S. Court of Appeal for the 7th Circuit rejected that argument on Wednesday, finding that the invasion of privacy was so slight that the police’s actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches.
The case gave the court an occasion to examine just how far police can go when it comes to searching electronic gadgets.
“Lurking behind this issue is the question whether and when a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or other type of computer (whether called a ‘computer’ or not) can be searched without a warrant,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the three-judge panel.
He raised the example of the iCam, which allows someone to use a phone to connect to a home-computer web camera, enabling someone to search a house interior remotely.
“At the touch of a button, a cell phone search becomes a house search,” he wrote.
Posner compared the cell phone to a diary. Just as police are entitled to open a pocket diary to copy an owner’s address, they should be able to turn on a cell phone to learn its number, he wrote. But just as they’re forbidden from examining love letters tucked between the pages of an address book, so are they forbidden from exploring letters in the files of a phone.
Netanyahu wants ‘explicit threat of action’ against Iran from Obama
Israeli PM demands Obama commit to military action if Iran sanctions fail
Israel is pressing Barack Obama for an explicit threat of military action against Iran if sanctions fail and Tehran’s nuclear programme advances beyond specified “red lines”.
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is expected to raise the issue at a White House meeting on Monday after weeks of intense diplomacy in which Obama has dispatched senior officials – including his intelligence, national security and military chiefs – to Jerusalem to try and dampen down talk of an attack.
Diplomats say that Israel is angered by the Obama administration’s public disparaging of early military action against Iran, saying that it weakens the prospect of Tehran taking the warnings from Israel seriously.
The two sides are attempting to agree a joint public statement to paper over the divide but talks will not be made easier by a deepening distrust in which the Israelis question Obama’s commitment to confront Iran while the White House is frustrated by what it sees as political interference by Netanyahu to mobilise support for Israel’s position in the US Congress.
“They are poles apart,” said one diplomatic source. “The White House believes there is time for sanctions to work and that military threats don’t help. The Israelis regard this as woolly thinking.
They see Iran as headed towards a bomb, even though they agree there is no evidence Tehran has made that decision yet, and they want the White House to up the ante. The White House has the Europeans behind its position but it’s losing Congress.”
The mood is not helped by worsening distrust between the two leaders. Relations soured within weeks of Obama coming to power after he attempted to pressure Netanyahu to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that Iran will dominate his talks with Obama.
“There is no doubt that one issue will be at the centre of our talks, and that is, of course, the continued strengthening of Iran and its nuclear programme,” he said.
- In case that’s not scary enough, consider the Haaretz report, “U.S. has military plan should Iran conflict erupt, says air force chief“:
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said Wednesday that Washington has prepared military options to strike Iran’s nuclear sites should conflict erupt, Bloomberg reported.
Just four days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, Schwartz told reporters that military options are being prepared in the event of a conflict.
“What we can do, you wouldn’t want to be in the area,” Bloomberg quoted Schwartz as telling reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
According to Bloomberg, which quoted Pentagon officials, some of the preparations include providing aerial refueling for Israel Air Force planes and attacking the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iranian military bases, and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since the plans are confidential.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. military is increasingly confident that its air force’s “bunker-buster” bombs could take out Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Fordo, which is deeply buried underground.
Haaretz reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to try to pressure U.S. President Barack Obama in their meeting next week to publicly support an attack on Iran should the latter cross certain “red lines.”
Officials in both Jerusalem and Washington acknowledge a serious lack of trust between Israel and the United States with regard to the issue of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. A senior U.S. official who is involved in preparing Netanyahu’s visit to the United States – and who asked to remain anonymous – said intensive preparations are underway to guarantee the success of the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama and to bridge this lack of trust.
- In case THAT’S not scary enough, Reuters has, “Israel permissions missile test to stamp Iran war fears“:
Israel took the unusual precaution of announcing on Thursday that it would soon test-fire a ballistic interceptor missile, hoping to avoid stoking war tensions with Iran.
Missile trials from a launch base near Tel Aviv, most recently in November, were not published in advance. As a result, the first Israeli media reports on them were based on often breathless witness accounts, rocking world energy markets until defense officials provided explanations.
State-run Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said in a statement that it would conduct its first test of the Arrow 3, a system developed in cooperation with the United States to shoot down ballistic missiles in space, “in the near future.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made veiled threats to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to rein in its nuclear program. U.S. President Barack Obama, whom Netanyahu will visit next week, wants to pursue sanctions for now and has voiced concern about the risk of an Israeli-Iranian war.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Arrow 3 test would entail firing a missile into space from Palmachim base south of Tel Aviv. It would take place after Monday’s White House talks between Obama and Netanyahu.
“Yes, it’s new,” the official told Reuters about the decision to issue the IAI statement on Thursday.
“We want to avoid misunderstandings.”
The official confirmed Israel wanted to limit the risk of aggravating the stand-off with Iran. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weaponry and has vowed to retaliate for any attack with missile strikes against Tel Aviv and U.S. assets in the Gulf.
- Meanwhile, the plot thickens north of America’s border, in the Toronto Globe and Mail story, “In Ottawa visit, Netanyahu will seek backing for strike on Iran“:
Stephen Harper is caught between two allies. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to North America in a high-stakes gambit to find political support for a strike on Iran, Mr. Harper wants to back his Israeli ally without ticking off a bigger one in Washington.
The two prime ministers are planning to stand side by side at a press conference on Friday, where Mr. Netanyahu’s case for war to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is likely to be the hot topic. Mr. Harper faces a decision about whether to endorse it, or urge restraint.
For the Israeli Prime Minister, it’s a stop on the way to a far more charged meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration has urged Mr. Netanyahu to cool the rush to strike Iran. The Israeli leader will look to Mr. Harper, a staunch supporter, for signals of sympathy.
Mr. Netanyahu made the purpose of his trip clear on Monday when he said that in both meetings with Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper, Iran’s nuclear program “will be at the centre of our talks.” Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, citing a senior official, said Mr. Netanyahu will push Mr. Obama to go beyond his line that an attack is “not off the table” and threaten to strike Iran if its nuclear program crosses “red lines.”
Ottawa could be his first platform in a North American campaign to gain some international backing for an early strike. If Mr. Netanyahu is true to past form, that effort could see him appeal over Mr. Obama’s head to American public opinion in an election year.
Mr. Harper has already offered some rhetorical support, in January, when he said Iran is the greatest threat to global security, in language that lends credence to a pre-emptive strike.
“In my judgment, these are people who have a particular, you know, fanatically religious worldview, and their statements imply to me no hesitation of using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purposes,” he told the CBC.
Senior U.S. officials have since taken issue with that mad-mullahs analysis. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, described Iran as a “rational actor” and opined that a strike now would be premature. But officials in the United States have floated concerns Israel will strike this spring, as early as April.
- In the end, it doesn’t seem the Israeli public is as hungry for war as their leadership is, at least according to The Christian Science Monitor article, “The Israeli public is chomping at the bit for air strikes against Iran’s nuclear program right? Wrong.”
A new poll run by the University of Maryland’s Sadat Chair for Peace and Development Shibley Telhami was released as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets ready to decamp to Washington next week, for direct meetings with President Obama and a speech at the upcoming AIPAC conference.
The annual meeting of AIPAC, a pro-Israel advocacy group with political views aligned with Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud, is expected to be a platform for warnings of the Iranian threat, calls for unbreakable solidarity between the US and Israel, and demands that the US provide assistance to the Jewish state if it decides to attack the Islamic republic. Netanyahu has promised to make Iran the “center” of his talks with Obama.
That last bit is understandable, since Israel doesn’t have the ability to decisively destroy Iran’s hardened and widely disbursed nuclear assets from the air. But the notion of an Israel marching inevitably closer to war with Iran is undercut by the Maryland poll, conducted between Feb. 22-26.
Given three options, 43 percent of Israeli Jews said their country should strike Iran “only if Israel gains at least American support” and 32 percent were opposed to a strike in any circumstances. Some 22 percent supported a strike “even without the support of the US.”
As for the US being drawn into the war if Israel acted alone, 28 percent expect the US would join the war on Israel’s behalf, 37 percent expect the US would support Israel diplomatically but not militarily and 16 percent expect the US would “punish Israel by reducing its current support.” Some 74 percent of Israeli Jews and 68 percent of all citizens expect that Hezbollah, the Lebanon based Shiite militia and political party, would retaliate along with Iran in the event of an Israeli attack.
Interestingly, Israeli Jews appear to have a slight preference for Barack Obama over the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney. Some 32 percent of Israeli Jews prefer Obama over Romney, while 29 percent prefer the Republican. Among all Israelis, both candidates have 29 percent support – which indicates a more negative view of Obama among Israel’s 20 percent Arab minority than among Israeli Jews.
Gruesome stories, witchcraft form pattern in UK child abuse
Accusations of witchcraft are part of growing pattern of child abuse in UK
When 15-year-old Kristy Bamu left his parents in Paris on 16 December 2010, he was looking forward to spending the Christmas holidays with his siblings, visiting their sister and her boyfriend in London.
On Christmas Day he was found by paramedics in the bathroom of an east London high-rise flat. His body had been mutilated, teeth were missing and he was covered in deep cuts and bruising. In the last four days of his life he had suffered acts of unspeakable savagery, doled out by a man he called “uncle” and one of his own sisters.
Why? Because Eric Bikubi, a powerfully built football coach, and Magalie Bamu were convinced the boy was a witch, possessed by spirits who wanted to bring evil into their home. On Thursday they were convicted of murder. They had earlier admitted actual bodily harm against Kristy’s sister Kelly and a younger sister, who cannot be named.
The judge, Mr Justice Paget, exempted the jury from jury service for the rest of their lives because of the “strain” of the trial, adding it was a case “every one of us will remember”. The story of Kristy’s last days is difficult to hear, and harder to comprehend. He was starved and deprived of water and sleep, punched and kicked repeatedly, floor tiles were smashed over his head, his teeth were hit out with a hammer and a pair of pliers were used to twist his ear. Throughout the ordeal, his siblings – two of whom were themselves accused of being witches by the couple and abused – were forced to watch or take part in the torture.
But despite the extraordinary horror of this case, African groups have warned that belief in witchcraft is increasingly common in some communities and that other children in the UK are “suffering in silence” after being branded as witches.
“We were concerned about this before this trial of Kristy Bamu,” said Debbie Ariyo, executive director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), who added that a boom in pentecostal churches was leading to more children being accused of witchcraft. “This is not a problem with all pastors or all churches, but the branding of children as witches is not abating. It is a growing problem. There are so many children suffering in silence.”
In response to the case the Victoria Climbie Foundation announced on Thursday that in April it would be launching a cross-border initiative with Kelly Bamu and some of the teenager’s friends who would work in schools and in communities to highlight the dangers of ritualised child abuse and witch branding. “A lot of awareness raising has been done, but this is also a problem in other EU countries such as Belgium,” said director Mor Dioum.
The 83 incidents uncovered in the past decade only scratch the surface of a hidden crime, according to Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, head of the child abuse investigation command at Scotland Yard.
An average of eight children a year in Greater London are victims of abuse based on witchcraft-style exorcisms, but this only reflects cases resulting in police investigations.
Sharpe detailed the horrific abuse, including being beaten or forced to drink unknown liquids, starved or deprived of sleep, blindfolded and having their hair shaved off.
Power struggles breaking out in Native American communities
The New York Times
Power Struggle Over Indian Tribe Splinters Into Violence in California
For two months, after a disputed election, the fight for control of the Chukchansi Indian tribe was a standoff: two groups claimed to be the rightful tribal council, each holding separate meetings and appealing to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for official recognition. But the bureau said it was an internal tribal matter, and the two sides had to work it out on their own.
Here is what working it out on their own looked like: supporters of Morris Reid, who said he was elected the new tribal council chairman in December, cut locks and smashed a window to gain access to one of the tribal government offices early Monday morning.
Then late that night, across the street from the glittering Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, supporters of Reggie Lewis, the council chairman before the election, tried to smoke Mr. Reid out. Power to the building was cut. A window was broken. Bear spray was discharged into the building. A smoldering log was thrown inside. More windows were broken, and objects were thrown from the building.
The sheriff kept watch, but no arrests were made — on Indian land, he said he had no jurisdiction to deal with property damage.
The standoff finally ended on Tuesday, after a melee outside the building involving at least 20 people from the opposing sides. One man was stabbed in the abdomen, though he was expected to live, while a security guard was bashed over the head, and two suspects were detained. Only then did the local sheriff’s department come in from the sidelines, with more than 100 officers from multiple agencies, and begin clearing the premises. By day’s end, neither faction had control of the building.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs said it was an internal tribal matter and we had to resolve it through a tribal process,” Mr. Reid said. “That means we had to take possession, and we tried to do that without breaking any laws.”
The fight for control of the Chukchansi is only the latest — and among the ugliest — in a long string of power struggles in tribes across the country. Whereas courts swiftly step in to decide disputed elections in most of the country, federal courts have no jurisdiction over Indian tribal lands, which are considered sovereign nations, while the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the agency responsible for maintaining the relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes, is hesitant to intervene in tribal squabbles.
With no external government agency to enforce the law, tribal elections frequently resemble elections in developing countries — sitting chiefs refuse to give up power, struggles for control sometimes turn violent and possession is at least nine-tenths of the law.
“Power struggles seem to be more common than not in Indian country,” said David Wilkins, a Lumbee Indian and professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota.
Indigenous in the way of Nicaraguan miners, loggers, farmers
The Christian Science Monitor
Land disputes trigger old racial tensions on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast
An eastward push by Nicaraguan cattle ranchers, loggers, and farmers looking for cheap land has suddenly met an unexpected hurdle. The country’s marginalized indigenous groups, who have populated the remote Caribbean “Mosquito Coast” long before Nicaragua was even a country, are taking a stand, and calling for respect of autonomy and indigenous rights to land.
Tensions over indigenous property rights have been heating to a slow boil for years, but finally shook the kettle Feb. 9 when the indigenous Miskito community of Lapan (see map here) rose up and captured 12 non-indigenous outsiders, including six volunteer policemen. The indigenous community says it won’t release the hostages until some 600 “colonist” families (non-indigenous Nicaraguans, or Mestizos) leave this land the indigenous see as their own.
The hostage situation has exacerbated racial tensions and stirred memories of a violent past. In the early 1980s, the Sandinistas’ “Red Christmas” massacre and forced relocation of indigenous communities near the Honduran border sparked a bloody Miskito uprising led by an indigenous group known as The Children of the Mother Earth, or YATAMA.
While the recent indigenous push-back against outsiders is nothing on the scale of the Miskito rebellion in the early ‘80s, local leaders warn it has the potential to quickly spiral into violence because the issues are similar.
“This is a time bomb,” Miskito leader Reynaldo Francis, the regional YATAMA leader said in a phone conversation from Bilwi, the capital of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region on the Caribbean coast.
“This is a very dangerous situation,” Mr. Francis says. “The Nicaraguan government has to respond quickly to this situation because it could get out of hand fast.”
“Is Arctic ice in a death spiral? Maybe not yet, but it’s in big trouble”
Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice & More Powerful Storms?
New research suggests disappearing sea ice at the top of the planet is playing a “critical” role in driving colder, snowier winters here in the United States.
Retreating Arctic sea ice, according to the researchers, helps alter the atmosphere in two ways.
First, scientists found that less ice is causing a change in atmospheric circulation patterns, weakening the westerly winds that blow across the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans. That weakened jet stream, in turn, allows more frequent surges of bitter cold Arctic air not only into the U.S., but also in Europe and east Asia.
“We have more cold air outbreaks,” said Jiping Liu, a senior research scientist in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, and a co-author of the new study released today.
The second factor, Liu said, is that more water is evaporating into the air as Arctic ice at the ocean’s surface melts away.
“This greatly enhances the transfer of moisture from the ocean to the atmosphere,” Liu said. That humidity, he says, essentially acts as fuel to help supercharge “Snowmageddon”-type storms like the ones that paralyzed parts of the northeastern U.S. in 2010. A more recent, deadly deep freeze in Eastern Europe left 650 people dead.
“The record decline in Arctic sea ice is at least a critical contributor to recent snowy winters in northern continents,” Liu said.
Liu says the new research may also help connect the dots between human-caused global warming, vanishing ice and our changing weather.
Climate researchers believe that the three-decade decline in Arctic sea ice cannot be explained by natural causes alone. The National Center for Atmospheric Research, for example, recently found that roughly half of Arctic sea ice decline from 1975 to 2005 can be blamed on the increasing amount of climate-changing greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, that humans are releasing into the atmosphere.
“Is Arctic ice in a death spiral? Maybe not yet, but it’s in big trouble,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, recently told ABC News, pointing out that the five lowest amounts of Arctic sea ice on record (since 1979) have all been recorded in the last five years.