Nine Circles of Hell!: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 Nine Circles of Hell!

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The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – today’s nine most hellish news stories, including a bonus link on police-gang violence around the world, another link to another strike, and an additional article on Boko Harum, for Tuesday, February 7, 2012, are:

“Real war on the streets between young people, who are fighting, dying”

US stepping up inquiry against News Corp for hincty payments

Internet is a “significant vehicle for promoting violent radicalism”

Unions call Greek cuts, “brutal, cynical blackmail”

22,000 Mali refugees living without shelter, water, food, medicine

Nigerian war with Boko Harum claims more lives

Uganda brings back anti-gay bill – this time without executions

Refugees mistaken for sub-Saharan mercenaries killed in camp

Pakistan’s high fuel, food prices pushes kids out of school

“Real war on the streets between young people, who are fighting, dying”
Al Jazeera
(2/7/12)

Gangster’s Granny

Ecuador is caught in the cross hairs of Latin America’s drug war. Gangs of every size and dimension can be found on the streets of this tiny country.

But now, an ageing peace activist is trying to give the young people in these gangs hope and a way forward. She has built a haven for the gangs called Barrio de Paz, ‘Neighbourhood of Peace’, and has become a grandmotherly figure to the gang members, helping to guide them into a life of non-violence …

Curiously, the brains behind this novel version of the beautiful game has never kicked a football around in her life. Nelsa Curbelo is a bespectacled 70-year-old who spent decades as a nun before helping broker peace processes in Latin America’s bloody civil wars.

But the concept of Ecuador’s street football fits in perfectly with the philosophy of all of Curbelo’s work – promoting peace and believing in the essential goodness of human beings.

“These people you see are no different from you and I,” Curbelo says. “We have just had different opportunities. They need a chance to transform themselves and an environment that will allow them to do it.”

The idea of peace processes for gang members, gangsters and street thugs is an important concept in Latin America today.

Across the continent, from Mexico’s border cities to Brazil’s favelas, criminal violence is overwhelming communities and leaving never-ending piles of corpses.

Most governments have opted for military approaches, sending soldiers onto the streets to shoot the gangs into submission. In many cases, the troops have also shot dead bystanders and inflamed the violence further.

Curbelo has a very different approach. Her foundation Ser Paz – which literally means ‘Being Peace’ – tries to give gangsters a chance to lay down their guns and escape the street war.

Furthermore, rather than getting the bosses to leave their gangs, she encourages them to use their organisations and structures in a positive way.

“The [gang] organisations can be used for good. When a member is sick they will often get support from other members,” Curbelo says. “But the organisations can also be used for bad and create problems that are very hard to deal with. It is better to work with them than against them.”

Ecuador currently has less severe gang-related violence than Colombia or Mexico, but it has similar root problems to these countries – including millions of poor, marginalised young people and weak government institutions.

In Guayaquil, which has a population of 2.3 million, there are an estimated 60,000 gang members, in groups including the Latin Kings, Masters and Iron Nation.

Gang members were involved in many of the city’s 600 homicides last year.

Curbelo said that after decades of fighting the repression of military dictators and insurgent guerrilla groups, she saw that there was a new problem right outside her front door.

“There is real war on the streets. And it is between young people, who are fighting and dying,” she says.

Curbelo went into the cities’ worst slums and talked directly with the toughest crime bosses.

After gaining their trust, she brokered peace processes between gangs and the government. Gang members handed hundreds of weapons in to the army and, in return, the government helped them set up businesses, including a printing shop and a barbers.

Many gang bosses made the deal because they were looking for a way out of their violent lifestyles – lifestyles in which they were constantly watching their backs, fearing that rivals might be trying to kill them.

But they also trusted the elderly former nun because of her particular human qualities.

“She came to visit me while I was in prison. She listens and understands and offers advice. She is a great human being,” says Jorge Arosemena, the scarred boss of the Iron Nation gang.

Giving gang bosses a ticket out of jail and money to start a business is controversial. Many politicians say that street thugs need punishment not amnesty.

But Curbelo’s programmes have had concrete results – reducing violence in certain neighbourhoods, at least in the short-term.

  • Just a quick follow-up to yesterday’s Circle! we linked to on police-gang violence in Brazil, Reuters reports today, “Brazilian state’s death toll tops 100 as police strike“:
    A toll of 115 murders and widespread looting, assaults and vandalism in the past week are roiling Brazil’s third-biggest city, casting doubts over upcoming carnival celebrations and raising questions about security ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
    More than 3,000 federal troops were dispatched to the northeastern state of Bahia in recent days to restore order after much of the state’s military police force went on strike last Tuesday to demand higher wages. The military police force, normally charged with routine order and security in Brazil, has stood by as criminals, some of them allegedly members of the police force themselves, have run rampant.
    About 20 percent of the state’s police, or about 6,000 officers, have taken part in the strike, the government said.
    The city of Salvador, the state capital known as a locus of Afro-Brazilian culture and popular as a foreign tourist destination, has borne the brunt of the spree of violence. Less than two weeks before the start of Salvador’s popular carnival celebration, which regularly draws a half-million visitors to its seaside colonial streets, the chaos is prompting residents to stay home while shopkeepers to shutter their doors and would-be visitors to cancel their plans.
    Brazil’s recent economic boom has brought growing prosperity to Bahia and much of the rest of the country’s historically poor northeast but the strike and its fallout underscore what many Brazilians say remains a fragile state of preparedness in public services and institutions. The fragility, analysts say, manifests itself anytime a contingency tests reflexes for everything from natural disasters to transport strikes to organized crime waves.
    “There’s a contrast here between rapid economic growth and a sluggish ability for many public institutions to evolve,” said Claudio Couto, a professor of public administration at the Fundacao Getúlio Vargas, a business school in Sao Paulo. “The government isn’t able to keep up and that shows in its overall preparedness.”
    The issue of preparedness is critical in places like Salvador, one of 12 Brazilian cities chosen as a venue for soccer’s World Cup, just two years away. The tournament, along with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is highly anticipated in Brazil as a chance for the country to showcase its recent progress on the global stage.
    In Salvador and the rest of Brazil’s northeast, the economic progress has brought an unwelcome consequence – skyrocketing crime. Fueled by a growing drug trade, an inflow of poor migrants and still lingering inequality between the region’s haves and have-nots, northeastern cities regularly rank among the most violent in Brazil.
    “The management of public security there is a failure,” Jose Vicente da Silva, a retired police colonel and former national security secretary, said in a televised interview on Tuesday.

US stepping up inquiry against News Corp for hincty payments
Reuters
(2/7/12)

U.S. authorities looking into Murdoch foreign payments

U.S. authorities are stepping up investigations, including an FBI criminal inquiry, into possible violations by employees of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire of a U.S. law banning corrupt payments to foreign officials such as police, law enforcement and corporate sources said.

But U.S. investigators have found little to substantiate allegations of phone hacking inside the United States by Murdoch journalists, the sources added.

The FBI is conducting an investigation into possible criminal violations by Murdoch employees of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a law intended to curb payment of bribes by U.S. companies to foreign officials, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

The U.S. official said that if any law enforcement action was pursued by U.S. authorities against Murdoch employees, it would most likely relate to FCPA.

If it is found to have violated the FCPA, Murdoch’s News Corp, which has its headquarters in New York, could be fined up to $2 million and barred from U.S. government contracts, and individuals who participated in the bribery could face fines of up to $100,000 and a jail sentence of five years.

Executives could be liable if they authorized bribes or knew about the practice but failed to stop it.

In practice, U.S. authorities have usually settled FCPA cases in return for large cash payments from companies, who can sometimes avoid legal admissions of guilt.

Much of the evidence police are examining in the News Corp case was handed over to investigators by the company, who have set up a special clean-up unit in London and hired batteries of lawyers in Britain and the United States, some of whom specialize in FCPA cases, company sources said.

The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission also have jurisdiction to pursue civil cases against alleged violators of the law.

Bloomberg news service reported last year that Justice Department prosecutors sent News Corp, U.S. parent of Murdoch’s UK media properties, a request for information on alleged payments which journalists made to British police officers in return for news tips.

Sources close to News Corp said the Management and Standards Committee (MSC), the unit which the company set up to deal with phone hacking and related investigations, for some time had been concerned about the consequences of U.S. investigations of possible FCPA violations.

Internet is a “significant vehicle for promoting violent radicalism”
The Washington Post
(2/7/12)

U.K. may clamp down on the Internet

Britain’s Home Affairs Committee published a report Tuesday on the roots of violent radicalization and it found one culprit: The Web.

“The Committee concludes that the Internet is one of the most significant vehicles for promoting violent radicalism— more so than prisons, universities or places of worship,” a report on the Parliament Web site begins. “The Committee recommends that Internet service providers themselves should be more active in monitoring the material they host… [and] for the removal of material which promotes violent extremism.”

The U.K. already removes plenty of material from the Web. When an outcry began in India on Monday after Google and Facebook announced they were removing pages within the country, a Google Transparency Report showed the U.K. removed just as much.

The British government made 65 separate requests to Google to remove content between January and June of last year, 82 percent of which Google complied with.

Unions call Greek cuts, “brutal, cynical blackmail”
The New York Times
(2/7/12)

Greek Workers Strike Against New Round of Austerity

Greek workers walked off the job on Tuesday to protest a new barrage of austerity measures being demanded by the country’s foreign creditors in exchange for a second bailout of $170 billion without which Greece faces a potentially catastrophic default within weeks.

The general strike, the second this year, comes as government officials continued tense talks with representatives of the so-called troika of foreign lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — on the terms of a new loan program. Negotiations on a crucial writedown on Greek debt, expected to wipe $130 billion off the country’s debt, were continuing in parallel but depend on the success of the bailout deal.

Although airports operated as normal, other transport services were disrupted. Ferries remained moored in the country’s ports and train services were suspended. Public transport workers ran a limited service in Athens to allow protesters to join rallies in the city center. The police said about 10,000 people marched peacefully to Parliament. There was also a separate demonstration by about 10,000 Communist unionists. No arrests or injuries were reported.

The walkout also closes government offices, schools and courts and left hospitals operating on emergency staff. Many shopkeepers, exasperated at the impact of higher taxes and reduced consumer spending, closed down for the day.

The country’s two labor unions are appealing to austerity-weary Greeks to come out in force and protest the measures proposed by creditors which include cuts of around 20 percent in private sector wages, reductions in supplemental pensions, thousands of civil service layoffs and additional cuts to state spending. The measures follow two years of tax increases and wage cuts in the state sector that have pushed the country into a deep recession. Unemployment stands at 19 percent and is quickly rising while the economy, in its fourth year of recession, is expected to contract by 6 percent, according to estimates by the I.M.F.

Unions condemn the proposed measures, touted as the only alternative to bankruptcy for Greece, as extortion. “It is a brutal, cynical blackmail against an entire nation,” said the head of the private sector workers’ union, Yiannis Panagopoulos. “This is not a negotiation,” he said, referring to the talks between government officials and creditors which have dragged on for days.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was expected to meet the three leaders of his uneasy coalition later on Tuesday …

  • Speaking of strikes, but on a much smaller scale, here’s a follow-up to yesterday’s story on the Reuters strike, from Reuters, entitled, “Reuters UK journalists plan 48-hour strike this week.” By the way, we will not run Reuters stories during this 48-hour period:
    Reuters journalists in Britain plan to stage a two-day strike on Thursday and Friday this week, their first in more than 25 years, after rejecting parent company Thomson Reuters’ offer of 3 percent allocated in the budget for pay increases.
    London-based members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are protesting against the offer of a minimum 1.75 percent rise for all staff, with the remainder allocated according to individual employee performance. Retail prices increased by 4.8 percent in Britain during 2011, one of western Europe’s highest inflation rates.
    “We tried very hard to reach a settlement with management but the company’s refusal to improve its below-inflation offer of 1.75 per cent, which follows years of effective pay cuts, has compelled Thomson Reuters journalists to vote overwhelmingly for strike action for the first time in more than 25 years,” said Reuters NUJ officers Mike Roddy and Helen Long in a statement.
    Stephen Adler, Editor-in-Chief of Reuters News, said the company had been informed by the union that about 150 staff were being called out on strike. In a statement issued from the company’s New York headquarters, Adler added: “We respect the right of our colleagues to engage in this job action as part of the bargaining process and look forward to welcoming them back to work on their next work day.”
    Adler said the news agency, which divides the editing of its news output between regional desks in London, New York, Washington DC and Singapore, had put in place contingency plans to ensure the continued delivery of news to clients during the strike.

22,000 Mali refugees living without shelter, water, food, medicine
The Independent
(2/7/12)

22,000 have fled Mali, says UN

About 22,000 people have fled fighting in Mali to the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, the United Nations said today.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva that most of the 10,000 refugees who have arrived in Niger are sleeping in the open with little access to shelter, clean water, food or medicine.

He said a further 9,000 have arrived in Mauritania and 3,000 have fled to Burkina Faso because of attacks that started Jan. 17 by a Tuareg rebel group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad.

The rebels claim they are fighting for independence from the Malian government. Many have returned from Libya following the death of leader Moammar Gadhafi, who included Tuaregs in his armed forces.

In just over two weeks, the rebels have attacked at least six towns in the north of landlocked Mali. It’s the first time the Tuaregs have picked up arms since the last rebellion ended in early 2009.

Felix Kambire, a spokesman for Burkina Faso’s security minister, said the 3,000 refugees who have fled there include army officers, paramilitary and high-ranking civil servants.

Ousmane Ag Dala, a former civil servant in charge of coordinating development activities in northern Mali, said thousands more refugees have fled to Burkina Faso and even more are expected.

“We are fleeing insecurity because we have come to understand that there is difference between those fighting in the north and the rest of us who suddenly found themselves out of their homes and offices,” Dala told The Associated Press today.

“We have made peace in 1963, in 1990 and in 2000 to show the Malian people that we are a nation,” Dala said alluding to the various Tuareg rebellions that occurred in Mali.

Col. Assane Ag Medi, a former rebel officer of the Malian army, said he arrived in Burkina Faso with some 60 vehicles full of refugees.

“Despite my loyalty to the defense and security forces of my country, I have been forced to leave my country like many others including family members of ministers, officers, diplomats,” he said. “That means national unity is endangered.”

Nigerian war with Boko Harum claims more lives
Reuters
(2/7/12)

Bomb rocks army barracks in Nigeria’s Kaduna

A suspected suicide bomber disguised in military uniform was killed on Tuesday when his car bomb exploded under fire from soldiers outside a military base in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, the army said.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on military and other targets to have hit northern regions of Africa’s most populous nation in the past months.

“The soldiers repelled the attack and were able to stop what will have been a suicide bombing. However, after firing (at) the suicide bomber who tried to force his way, the bomb exploded and shattered the glasses that adorn the frontage of the headquarters. The suicide bomber was the only casualty,” the statement signed by Raphael Isa, director of Nigerian army public relations, said.

Radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds this year in bomb and gun attacks in northern Nigeria. Kano, around 200 km (120 miles) north of Kaduna, was the scene of the deadliest attack by the sect, in which 186 people were killed last month.

The military said it killed eight Boko Haram members in a raid on one of the sect’s Kano camps in the early hours of Tuesday. A gun battle raged for over four hours, they said.

“We also recovered 10 AK-47s (rifles), 106 live ammunitions, 26 gun magazines and seven bags of fertilizer in the hide out,” Kano police commissioner Ibrahim Idris told Reuters.

Boko Haram is waging a low level insurgency against the government and says it wants to impose sharia law across the country of 160 million people split evenly between Muslims and Christians.

The sect has become President Goodluck Jonathan’s biggest security headache and a major distraction from plans to reform Africa’s second biggest economy, as he has come under increasing fire for failing to quell the insurgency in the north.

The past three months have seen a surge in violence by the sect, a movement loosely modeled on Afghanistan’s Taliban whose name means “Western education is sinful.”

Nigerian secret service sources said they arrested the purported spokesman for Islamist militant sect Boko Haram Abu Qaqa last week, although a man claiming to be him telephoned journalists from the sect’s heartland of Maiduguri to deny it.

In an interview with Reuters on January 26, Jonathan challenged Boko Haram militants to come out of the shadows and identify themselves as a basis for talks, an offer they have yet to take up.

  • Al Jazeera gives a little more background in their coverage, “Explosion rocks military base in Nigeria“:
    Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group, has been blamed for scores of bomb attacks in northern Nigeria.
    The group is waging a low-level campaign against the government and says it wants to impose Islamic law across the country of 160 million people split evenly between Muslims and Christians.
    An army source said earlier on Tuesday that security forces had killed eight suspected Boko Haram members in a raid on an alleged hideout of the group in Kano that prompted a five-hour shootout.
    The raid, on the outskirts of Nigeria’s second city, was carried out Monday evening as the attackers, believed to be Boko Haram members, bombed a police station in another city neighbourhood, where they also shot an officer in the leg.
    “The military succeeded in killing eight gunmen, arrested five others and discovered five high-calibre bombs and 15 other low-calibre bombs. All these are homemade,” the military source, who requested anonymity, said
    Residents who visited the alleged Boko Haram hideout in Kano’s Mariri neighbourhood told the AFP news agency that parts of the floor were blood-stained.
    The military source said some attackers escaped during the raid and that security forces found a large cache of guns and ammunition inside.
    “The first indications are that this is an armoury for the sect,” the source said.

Uganda brings back anti-gay bill – this time without executions
BBC News
(2/7/12)

Uganda revives anti-gay bill but drops death penalty

A Ugandan MP has revived a controversial anti-gay bill but dropped the provision for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts.

A BBC correspondent says MPs laughed, clapped and cried out: “Our bill, our bill,” when its architect David Bahati reintroduced the draft legislation on Tuesday.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved in 2011 after an international outcry.

It still increases the punishment to life in prison for homosexual offences.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda – a largely conservative society, where many condemn homosexuality.

Anyone failing to report to the authorities a person they knew to be homosexual would also be liable to prosecution.

The BBC’s Joshua Mmali in Kampala says Mr Bahati, the primary backer of the bill, has confirmed the draft legislation has changed in one fundamental way.

Those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – would no longer face the death penalty, as originally proposed.

Refugees mistaken for sub-Saharan mercenaries killed in camp
Al Jazeera
(2/7/12)

Gunmen kill seven at Libyan refugee camp

Gunmen have killed seven Libyan refugees at a camp in a Tripoli suburb, residents and hospital sources said.

The attackers came to the gate of the makeshift settlement in a disused naval academy in Janzour on Monday saying they wanted to arrest young men, and opened fire as people gathered to protest.

“Men from Misrata came to the camp at 10 o’clock. We knew they were from Misrata because it was written all over their cars,” camp resident Huda Bel-Eid said at Tripoli Medical Hospital.

“Around 15 of them started shooting us. All the women escaped but the young men stayed. My brother was there and I went to help him because he was shot in the head and neck, then they shot me (in the leg),” she added.

Officials from Misrata military council denied involvement.

Residents of the camp, black Libyans originally from the town of Tawergha, said they are being persecuted over accusations they collaborated with slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the country’s revolution.

Many say they are also regularly mistaken for sub-Saharan African mercenaries who revolutionary fighters said fought for Gaddafi.

Abdelhafid Suleiman, head of the military council of Janzour, told Reuters news agency that a group from the Tawergha camp later took to the streets to protest against the deaths. He said more violence erupted when Janzour fighters, who were on the streets to maintain security, tried to take knives and sticks off the Tawergha refugees.

Pakistan’s high fuel, food prices pushes kids out of school
Reuters
(2/7/12)

Millions pushed into child labor in Pakistan

Tears tracing lines of dirt on his face, six-year-old Pakistani boy Nabeel Mukhtar cries while crouching on a pavement to scrub motorbikes, his job for nine hours a day, six days a week.

He is one of millions of children driven into labor by poverty in a country where the unpopular government is seen as too corrupt and ineffective to care for its citizens, even the young and helpless.

“I want to study and become a doctor but we don’t have any money,” said Mukhtar, who helps his family make ends meet.

Rising food and fuel prices and a struggling economy have forced many families to send their children to search for work instead of to the classroom.

Frequent political crises in U.S. ally Pakistan means the South Asian nation’s leaders are unlikely to end child labor, or a host of other problems from a Taliban insurgency to power cuts, any time soon.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to send my son to school but we have so many expenses … We struggle to put food on our table,” said Mukhtar’s mother, Shazia, who also has a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter.

Her husband, Mohammed, a street barber, earns only 7,500 rupees ($83) a month, not enough to support the family.

“He’s learning to work and he also earns around 300-400 rupees. So what’s wrong in that. We are poor,” Mohammed said of the boy.

Pakistan needs to take immediate measures to stabilize growing budget pressures and to raise interest rates to contain rising inflation, the International Monetary Fund warned on Monday.

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Nine Circles of Hell!: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
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