The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Tuesday, June 28, 2011, are:
Feds step in to try New Orleans cops for Katrina killings
US police on trial over Katrina killings
Five New Orleans police officers accused of killing civilians in the days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are set to go on trial.
The police, whose trial begins on Monday, originally contended they had come under fire from someone on a bridge and were defending themselves.
Yet no guns were ever found, and the only person charged with attacking the police was cleared of all charges.
After a local judge dismissed the charges against six others, the US Justice Department stepped in and is bringing the officers to trial in a federal court.
But beyond this case, federal authorities say the police department is riddled with deep-rooted flaws.
Puerto Rico rocked by two years of austerity, protests
Puerto Rico: The fiscal experiment
Dozens of university students are arrested for demonstrating against a tuition hike. But Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno remains steadfast in charging students more to help close a $3.2 billion budget gap.
The students’ fight is representative of a larger debate in Puerto Rico, and in the US, about how to solve a severe budget crisis – and at what cost.
Fortuno, a hawkish fiscal conservative, laid off 20,000 government workers in 2009, and suspended all labour negotiations, just like governors on the US mainland are doing today. But two years later Puerto Rico’s labour unions are still scrambling to reorganise a largely unemployed population – nearly 17 per cent.
Puerto Rico is in its fifth year of recession, and expected to be the world’s slowest growing economy if its situation does not improve. At question is the degree of economic and social responsibility the US has to its commonwealth state.
Greek austerity protests turn ugly as strike begins
Greek riot police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators Tuesday, as thousands rallied to protest proposed austerity measures on the first day of a two-day strike.
Twenty-one police officers and one demonstrator were hurt, and at least five people have been arrested, police said. About 3,000 officers are deployed on the streets of Athens.
The protesters are rallying outside the Greek Parliament building in the center of the country’s capital, where lawmakers are set to vote Wednesday on a tough five-year package of tax increases and spending cuts.
European Council President Herman van Rompuy urged them to pass the measures, for the sake of Greece and the wider economy …
As the demonstration carried on into the evening, thousands of protesters — some newly arrived — continued to face police in riot gear manning barricades outside the Greek Parliament, but the mood had quietened.
Earlier Tuesday, live television footage showed clouds of tear gas as police and protesters clashed, and black smoke from small fires billowing through the streets. A truck belonging to a mobile telecom company was also set alight.
Police appeared to be trying to force protesters out of Constitution Square, CNN reporters said, but some were returning and others gathered in side streets ready to move back in.
Drumming and music reverberated around the square, as well as shouted slogans.
One group of protesters chanted “Bread, education, freedom,” an old rallying cry from 1973, when thousands of students clashed violently with police during protests against the military government.
The 48-hour general strike kicked off in the early morning hours, hobbling most of Greece’s transportation systems but freeing workers to participate in demonstrations.
Stop bombing, Gadhafi’s lawyers say
The NATO intervention in Libya must come to an end now that the international court has issued an arrest warrant for Moammar Gadhafi, his lawyers said.
The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Gadhafi, one of his sons and the country’s intelligence minister for crimes against humanity committed against the civilian population beginning in February.
The U.N. Security Council referred Gadhafi to the ICC earlier this year and authorized international military force to protect civilians from attacks by his loyalists.
Gadhafi’s South African and Italian lawyers in a memo said they expect NATO to stop the aerial campaign and “abandon its threat to kill” Gadhafi so the ICC process can run its course.
“Furthermore, NATO should immediately announce a cease-fire to guarantee the safety of the legitimate Libyan leader, Col. Gadhafi and other representatives and officials of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to exercise their right to defend themselves in a fair tribunal,” they said.
Syrian opposition comes out against opposition conference
Syria dissidents meet in Damascus to discuss transition
At least 150 Syrian dissidents have met publicly for the first time at a hotel in the capital, Damascus, to discuss the current crisis in their country.
The meeting’s organiser, Louai Hussein, called for an end to the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters and for a peaceful transition to democracy.
The event took place after government officials said they would not object.
Afterwards, the opposition was invited to joint talks to discuss the framework for a national dialogue conference.
The state news agency, Sana, said amendments to the constitution would be on the agenda at the conference on 10 July, including Article 8, which grants the Baath Party unique status as the “leader of state and society”.
Participants would also examine proposed new laws on political parties, elections, local administration and the press, it added.
Sana said there was no alternative but to “open the door wide” to all Syrians, and to take part in building a “democratic, pluralistic society meeting the aspirations of the people” …
In the opening address, Mr Hussein said it was an unprecedented event, and that no such conference had been held in Syria for decades.
“Those attending this meeting are not armed, [as they are not] terrorists or saboteurs,” he said.
“We are meeting today… to put forward a vision about how to end tyranny and ensure a peaceful and secure transition to the hoped-for state: the state of freedom, democracy and equality.”
In a final communique, the participants declared their support for the “popular uprising seeking a peaceful transition to a democratic, civil and pluralistic state”, and called for an immediate end to the government crackdown and the withdrawal of the army from all towns and cities.
They also called for an independent committee to investigate the killings of civilians and security forces personnel, the release of all political prisoners, and the right to peaceful protests without official approval.
Human rights groups say more than 1,300 civilians have been killed and thousands arrested since pro-democracy protests began on 18 March. Several hundred soldiers and police are also said to have died …
Notably absent were members of the Local Co-ordination Committees, which have sought to speak on behalf of young protesters. They refuse to begin dialogue while suppression continues and hundreds remain in detention.
“The Damascus Declaration coalition – this is the main opposition coalition in Syria – have actually come out against this meeting,” Malik al-Abdeh, an editor of Barada TV, a Syrian opposition channel, told the BBC World Service.
“The regime is obviously happy for this conference to take place.”
“In Syria, there are three or four opposition figures who spent time in jail, who are actually attending this meeting. But apart from that, all the other people I have seen on the list, they are not known to be opposition figures,” he added.
“So this certainly is not an opposition conference, this is just a meeting of intellectuals all discussing the future of Syria under – I have to stress this – under the close watchful eye of the Syrian security.”
Undercover footage shows a starving, struggling North Korea
ABC News (Australia)
N Korean children begging, army starving
Footage shot inside North Korea and obtained by the ABC has revealed the extent of chronic food shortages and malnutrition inside the secretive state.
The video is some of the most revealing footage ever smuggled out of the impoverished North Korean state.
Shot over several months by an undercover North Korean journalist, the harrowing footage shows images of filthy, homeless and orphaned children begging for food and soldiers demanding bribes.
The footage also shows North Koreans labouring on a private railway track for the dictator’s son and heir near the capital Pyongyang.
Strolling up to the site supervisor, the man with the hidden camera asks what is going on.
“This rail line is a present from Kim Jong-il to comrade Kim Jong-un,” he is told.
The well-fed Kim Jong-un could soon be ruling over a nation of starving, impoverished serfs.
The video shows young children caked in filth begging in markets, pleading for scraps from compatriots who have nothing to give.
“I am eight,” says one boy. “My father died and my mother left me. I sleep outdoors.”
Many of the children are orphans; their parents victims of starvation or the gulag.
But markets do exist – private markets that stock bags of rice, pork, and corn. The state no longer has any rations to hand out.
But the state wants its share of this embryonic capitalism.
In the footage, a party official is demanding a stallholder make a donation of rice to the army.
“My business is not good,” complains the stallholder.
“Shut up,” replies the official. “Don’t offer excuses.”
It is clear that the all-powerful army – once quarantined from food shortages and famine – is starting to go hungry.
“Everybody is weak,” says one young North Korean soldier. “Within my troop of 100 comrades, half of them are malnourished,” he said.
New dangers of cocaine use: “It’s like playing Russian roulette”
The New York Times
Hazards: Cocaine Users May Face Danger to Skin
Doctors are warning cocaine users they may develop a painful, disfiguring skin reaction after taking the drug, because it often is mixed with levamisole, a veterinary medicine that can set off severe allergic reactions.
In a paper published online June 9 in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, physicians at the University of California, Los Angeles, described six patients who developed patches of purple, discolored skin after using cocaine. A few suffered permanent disfigurement to the ears, and several experienced neutropenia, abnormally low white blood cell counts …
Almost 70 percent of cocaine in the United States is adulterated with levamisole, an antiparasitic drug banned for human use, according to the Department of Justice. In December 2009, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that 21 cocaine users in New Mexico and Washington State had developed agranulocytosis, an acute systemic disease. One of the patients died.
Though only a small fraction of cocaine users will have acute reactions, Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center and an author of the report, said, “It’s like playing Russian roulette.”
US approves job screening firm that searches everything you do online
How anything you’ve EVER said on the internet could be seen by employers as Feds approve firm that dishes dirt on applicants
The Federal Trade Commission has approved a controversial firm which scours social media sites to check on job applicants.
It means anything you’ve ever said in public on sites including Facebook, Twitter and even Craigslist could be seen by your would-be employer.
The Washington-based commission has ruled the firm, Social Intelligence Corporation, complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act – even though it keeps the results of its searches on file for seven years.
It raises the frightening prospect of any social media posting, even it’s years old or was meant as a joke, being used in background checks.
Applicants who use online pseudonyms aren’t safe, either – the firm uses special software to link those nicknames with real, offline names known to employers.
One applicant found himself out of the running for a job after being branded racist because he once joined a Facebook group called ‘I shouldn’t have to press one for English. We are in the United States. Learn the language.’
Social Intelligence Corp scours everything from social networking sites, such as Facebook, to video and picture sharing websites as well as blogs and wikis.
Is Chicago covering up Memorial Day beach violence?
Woman Believes Beach Violence Covered Up
A Chicago woman who played witness to a beach melee on Memorial Day weekend wants Chicago police and officials to come clean about what happened along the lakefront in May.
On May 30, city officials closed tNorth Avenue Beach because of excessive heat, but Amy Schwartz says no one is talking about the excessive violence that prompted her to call 911 that day.
“There’s a fight breaking out on the beach because there’s nothing but animals covering this beach today,” Schwarz phoned into the police. “What the hell is going on.
Schwartz said she was walking from Oak Street Beach toward North Avenue Beach on Memorial Day when she witnessed a woman being beaten by a gang of people on the beach.
“They were being rude and abusive and throwing trash around and defecating,” Schwartz said. “The crowd became very animated. They were cheering on the beating and more people joined in, so I kept walking forward. I was afraid I could be next.”
Schwartz believes the story of what really happened that day is being purposely downplayed in the name of saving Chicago’s summer tourist business and the reputations of the city’s new mayor and police superintendent.
Both Garry McCarthy and Rahm Emanuel have said the people suffering from heat exhaustion was the only reason for closing the beach. A city spokesman says the violence calls were handled promptly, and deny there’s any attempt to spin the facts.
But they haven’t convinced everyone.
“There were other calls that I heard on the tapes reporting the same incident I saw,” Schwartz said. “I know we didn’t all have the same hallucination. Denial is not protecting anyone. I expect them to acknowledge the truth and do something about it.”