Saturday, 25 May 2013

Brazil Police Arrest 9 for Abusing Indian Girls

36 Hours in Auckland, New Zealand Changing the World, Step by Step ‘The Art of Controversy’ by Victor Navasky Modular building, a design approach that once focused on single-family homes, is becoming increasingly popular for multi-unit residences.

European Soccer’s Biggest Star May Be a Song Op-Ed: Seaside’s Last Summer? Let’s help the opposition with secure Internet connections.

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Venezuela Prosecutor to Open Probe Over Leaked Recording

Opposition deputies on Monday broadcast the recording of a conversation they said was between powerful state television commentator Mario Silva and a Cuban intelligence agent and later requested an investigation of it.

The man identified as Silva in the recording accused Diosdado Cabello, Congress chief and vice president of the ruling Socialist Party, of conspiring against President Nicolas Maduro and of illegally appropriating dollars through the country's currency control system.

"I have requested that an investigation be opened over the alleged recording of Mario Silva," chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega said via her Twitter account.

Ortega could not immediately be reached for comment to confirm her remarks or to explain the extent of the planned investigation.

Her announcement came hours after opposition deputies asked state prosecutors to investigate the accusations made in the recording.

Silva - whose close relationship with late President Hugo Chavez led many to see him as more powerful than some cabinet ministers - denies having made the accusations, saying U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies manipulated recordings of his voice.

In the recording, the man identified as Silva says he received rifles from the ministry of defense for his own protection. He also questioned the results of last April's election, suggesting hackers had infiltrated the voting system to lower Maduro's margin of victory.

The person in the recording leveled accusations against a range of top officials, including First Lady Cilia Flores, Defense Minister Diego Molero, and Vice President Jorge Arreaza.

Opposition leaders called the recording evidence both of corruption and of a fierce power struggle at the top echelons of the ruling party following the death of Chavez in March.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and David Brunnstrom)

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Guantanamo Prisoners Tune In for Obama's Speech on Their Fate

"Detainees follow all coverage of Guantanamo closely, including today's speech, and the post-speech commentary, analysis and editorials," said Navy Captain Robert Durand, a spokesman for the Guantanamo detention operation.

"There is interest and discussion, but no discernible reaction," he said.

The camp holds 166 prisoners, most of whom have been held without charges for more than a decade. About 100 prisoners are on a hunger strike and dozens are being force-fed to keep them alive.

In a speech televised from Washington, Obama announced some steps toward meeting his goal of closing the detention camp. He lifted a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen and called on Congress to end restrictions on other transfers.

Durand did not specify how many detainees had watched the speech. He said about two dozen had unrestricted access to television in communal settings and many others held in single cells were allowed to watch live TV during certain hours, including programming in Arabic, Farsi, English, Russian, Spanish and other languages.

They also read about Guantanamo in newspapers, which usually arrive at the remote camp in eastern Cuba within a week of publication, Durand said.

In March, a U.S. Marine Corps general said Obama's failure to mention Guantanamo during his January inaugural speech or his February State of the Union speech had contributed to a sense of abandonment fueling a hunger strike at the base.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)

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Cayman Islands Ex-Premier Denies New Allegations

Rajat Gupta’s Lust for Zeros Summer Stages Throughout the Country Weddings and Celebrations Do consumers have the power to change factory conditions abroad?

Daft Punk Gets Human With a New Album Exposures: Prisoners Onstage Readers discuss how to adapt to a changing job market.

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Factbox: Obama Outlines Steps Toward Closing Guantanamo Prison

Following are some facts about the detention operation at the U.S. Naval base in eastern Cuba:

* The United States set up the prison after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in pursuit the al Qaeda network behind the hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

* Upon taking office in 2009, Obama ordered the detention operation at Guantanamo Bay closed by January 2010 but missed the deadline, partly because Congress imposed tough restrictions on where prisoners could be transferred. Repatriation of prisoners was not a policy viewed sympathetically by many Americans, even though the vast majority of the 166 inmates still at the prison have been held for more than a decade without charge.

* The first 20 prisoners arrived on January 11, 2002. They and other early arrivals were held at "Camp X-Ray," in chain-link wire cages that have long since been replaced by modern prison buildings. The prison has held a total of 779 foreign captives. Those who remain are from 23 nations and range in age from about 26 to 65.

* They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 plot, and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused of orchestrating a bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors aboard the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000. They also include low-level foot soldiers cleared for release by U.S. military and intelligence officials, and members of China's Uighur minority who were cleared years ago by a U.S. federal court.

* The ongoing tribunals at Guantanamo were authorized by President George W. Bush under rules that were later revised by the Obama administration. But only seven cases have been completed in 11 years, and convictions in two of those were overturned on appeal.

* Almost two-thirds of the Guantanamo prisoners - 103 of them - are taking part in a hunger strike to protest the failure to resolve their fate. With the fast now in its fourth month, 32 captives have lost so much weight that medics are keeping them alive by force-feeding them liquid nutrients through tubes inserted in their noses and down into their stomachs.

* Obama said on Thursday he had lifted a moratorium on repatriating prisoners to Yemen. He suspended transfers there in 2010 due to reports that an al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen was behind a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day 2009. A total of 86 Guantanamo prisoners have been cleared for release or transfer, 56 of them from Yemen, but Obama did not indicate when those Yemenis would go home.

* Obama also urged Congress to lift a ban on transferring Guantanamo prisoners to the United States and asked the Defense Department to designate a U.S. site to hold military tribunals for those facing charges.

* Nine prisoners have so far died at Guantanamo. Seven deaths were classified as suicides, mainly by hanging, and two were attributed to natural causes, namely colon cancer and heart attack.

* Many detainees have said they were tortured at Guantanamo. The U.S. government has acknowledged that interrogators used now-banned techniques that included sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and loud music. Prisoners were also chained in painful "stress positions." The CIA admitted using the simulated drowning technique known as "waterboarding" on three of the captives who were held at secret prisons and then transferred to Guantanamo.

* The United States spends $150 million a year to run the Guantanamo prison, or about $900,000 a year per prisoner, and the Defense Department has asked for some $200 million more to replace worn-out buildings that were meant to be temporary. By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend $60,000 to $70,000 a year to house each inmate. Guantanamo costs are high in part because of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, which forces the military to import food, fuel and supplies to the base from the United States.

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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Americas Coalition Puts Marijuana Legalization Up for Discussion

The report, released by the Organization of American States walked a careful line in not recommending any single approach to the drug problem and encouraging “flexibility.”

Prompted by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the Summit of the Americas last year to answer growing dissatisfaction and calls for new strategies in the drug war, the report’s 400 pages mainly summarize and distill previous research and debate on the subject.

But the fact that it gave weight to exploring legalizing or de-penalizing marijuana was seized on by advocates of more liberal drug use laws as a landmark and a potential catalyst for less restrictive laws in a number of countries.

“This takes the debate to a whole other level,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates more liberal drug use laws. “It effectively breaks the taboo on considering alternatives to the current prohibitionist approach.”

The report said “the drug problem requires a flexible approach,” and “it would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana.

“Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken,” it said. “On the other hand, our report finds no significant support, in any country, for the decriminalization or legalization of the trafficking of other illicit drugs.”

Some analysts interpreted the inclusion of decriminalization as a thumb in the eye to the United States, the country with the heaviest drug consumption and one that has spent several billion dollars on drug interdiction in the Americas, only to find that marijuana and cocaine continue to flow heavily and that violence has surged in Mexico and Central America as the drugs move north.

The report comes two weeks before an O.A.S. meeting in Guatemala, whose president has been open to legalizing marijuana and where the central topic is drug policy in the hemisphere. Uruguay’s president has put forward a plan for the government to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana.

“The region’s leaders expressed their frustration with the limits and exorbitant costs of current policies and their hunger for a fuller, more creative debate,” said John Walsh, a drug policy analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group.

But the United States has so far rejected legalization as a solution to drug violence.

A State Department spokesman, William Ostick, said the report would be carefully reviewed and discussed with fellow O.A.S. members in Guatemala.

“We look forward to sharing our latest research and experiences on drug prevention and treatment, and to strengthening operational law enforcement cooperation with our partners around the globe in support of our common and shared responsibility for the world drug problem,” he said. “We know other leaders will similarly bring their own data, and anticipate a productive and useful dialogue.”

Kevin Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, said advocates of drug liberalization were overplaying the significance of the report, which he said contained a lot the Obama administration would agree with.

He said a discussion of legalization was only natural, particularly since two American states, Washington and Colorado, have moved in that direction.

But the report, he said, also suggested that countries in the hemisphere needed to redouble their efforts to fight the impunity of drug gangs, something often overlooked or played down in the debate on the war on drugs. The report notes that drug organizations have atomized into a range of gangs carrying out kidnapping, extortion and other crimes.

“Institutions in the drug-producing nations are going to have to change the way they do business,” Mr. Sabet said. “You cannot only rely on reducing demand and ignore deep-seated institutional problems.”

Mr. Santos, in accepting the report in Bogota, said more study was needed. “Let it be clear that no one here is defending any position, neither legalization, nor regulation, nor war at any cost,” he said. “What we have to do is use serious and well-considered studies like the one the O.A.S. has presented us with today to seek better solutions.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 18, 2013

A headline on an earlier version of this article misstated the scope of the O.A.S. report’s recommendations. It suggested discussing the legalization of marijuana; it did not suggest that marijuana be legalized.

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Sea Turtle Comeback in a Corner of the Caribbean

In years past, poachers from Grande Riviere and nearby towns would ransack the turtles' buried eggs and hack the critically threatened reptiles to death with machetes to sell their meat in the market. Now, the turtles are the focus of a thriving tourist trade, with people so devoted to them that they shoo birds away when the turtles first start out as tiny hatchlings scurrying to sea.

The number of leatherbacks on this tropical beach has rebounded in spectacular fashion, with some 500 females nesting each night during the peak season in May and June, along the 800-meter-long (875-yard) beach. Researchers now consider the beach at Grand Riviere, alongside a river that flows into the Atlantic, the most densely nested site for leatherbacks in the world. 

"It's sometimes hard remembering that leatherbacks are actually endangered," said tour guide Nicholas Alexander as he watched more emerge from the surf.

With instincts honed over 100 million years, these mighty leatherbacks have migrated from cold North Atlantic waters in Canada and northern Europe to nest. The air-breathing reptiles can dive to ocean depths of more than 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) and remain underwater for an hour. They are bigger, stronger, and tolerate colder temperatures than any other marine turtle.

On a recent night, the protected beach was so busy that female leatherback turtles bumped into each other as they trudged up the sloping beach. Occasionally grunting from the effort, the big reptiles swept away powdery sand with their front flippers and then painstakingly dug holes with their rear flippers, laying dozens of white eggs before heading back to the ocean. These same females will be back in about 10 days to deposit more eggs.

The resurgence of leatherbacks in Trinidad is touted by many as a major achievement, with more than half of all adult leatherbacks on the planet having been lost since 1980, mostly in the Eastern Pacific and Asia.

When local conservation efforts started here in the early 1990s, locals say a maximum of 30 turtles emerged from the surf overnight during the peak of the six-month nesting season. Now, at Grande Riviere and in the eastern community of Matura, where another major leatherback colony has grown, locals say more than 700 of the turtles appear overnight at the very height of the season, in May and June.

Flourishing turtle tourism is providing good livelihoods for people in formerly dead-end farming towns, with the Trinidad-based group Turtle Village Trust saying it brings in some $8.2 million annually. The inflow of visitors, both domestic and foreign, to Trinidad's northeast coast jumped from 6,500 in 2000 to over 60,000 in 2012. Officials with the U.S.-based Sea Turtle Conservancy say Trinidad is now likely the world's leading tourist destination for people to see leatherbacks.

Hopes are high that tourism boom can help the creatures survive a slew of pressures. In a 2009 global study on the economics of marine turtle tourism, researchers from the environmental group World Wildlife Fund found turtle tourism earned nearly three times as much money as the sale of turtle meat, leather and eggs.

While Trinidad supports some 80 percent of total leatherback nesting in the Caribbean, with a population of some 15,000 females laying eggs every two years, the turtles are also flourishing in other spots around the region.

In northern Guyana, leatherbacks have become the most abundant marine turtle species instead of the rarest one as it was in recent decades. In neighboring Suriname, the creatures' numbers have jumped tenfold, according to a 2007 assessment by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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