Friday, October 31, 2014

Ana Maria Maldonado stands by a banner for her missing son during a protestlast November in Mexico City.
Ana Maria Maldonado stands by a banner for her missing son during a protestlast November in Mexico City.
Mexico's interior minister says 26,121 people disappeared from 2006-2012. It's unclear how many of the disappearances are connected with organized crime
Official: Locating people "is a priority for this government"

(CNN) -- More than 26,000 people have gone missing in Mexico over the past six years as violence surged and the country's government cracked down on drug cartels.

Mexico's Interior Ministry announced the staggering statistic on Tuesday but noted that authorities don't have data about how many of the disappearances are connected with organized crime.

The 26,121 disappearances occurred during former President Felipe Calderon's six-year administration, which ended on December 1 when Enrique Pena Nieto assumed the presidency.

Pena Nieto's government has formed a special working group to focus on finding the missing, said Lia Limon, deputy secretary of legal matters and human rights for Mexico's Interior Ministry.

Locating people "is a priority for this government," Limon told reporters.

The release of the government statistics Tuesday comes several days after a report from Human Rights Watch said Mexican security forces were connected with the disappearances of at least 149 people during Calderon's tenure.

Are armed forces behind disappearances?
Community police take on Mexican cartels

"President Pena Nieto has inherited one of worst crises of disappearances in the history of Latin America," Jose Miguel Vivanco, the organization's Americas director, said in a statement.

In the northern Mexican state of Coahuila alone, officials reported nearly 2,000 disappearances between 2006 and 2012, Human Rights Watch said.

Rights groups and activists have long said that forced disappearances are among the most troubling problems Mexico faces and have cautioned that reliable statistics are hard to come by because many such cases are unreported.

Limon said Tuesday that the data federal authorities have don't specify what caused the disappearances. She said the list could include people who have emigrated out of the country or fled because of family conflicts, in addition to people who were kidnapped.

Authorities will need several weeks to release data about the number of disappearances since Pena Nieto took office, she said, due to "inconsistencies" in the data.

Critics have accused Mexico's government of not doing enough to find the missing and punish those responsible.

In many instances, families frustrated with a sluggish response from authorities have searched themselves for missing loved ones.

In October 2011, Calderon said the "very high" number of missing people was a growing concern. He listed them among the victims of violence that he described as "open wounds" in Mexican society.

"We don't know the size of the problem," the president said during a speech inaugurating a new prosecutor's office aimed at helping victims.

Human Rights Watch said last week that it sees a ray of hope in the new administration.

"The Pena Nieto government has been very open so far about acknowledging the scale of the problem and the work that remains for them," said Nik Steinberg, a Mexico researcher for the organization. "The real question will be: are they ready to investigate and prosecute these cases?"

CNN Mexico's Mauricio Torres and CNN's Rey Rodriguez, Rene Hernandez, Rafael Romo and Mariano Castillo contributed to this

Thursday, October 30, 2014



Martin Luther King, Jr. holds up a photograph of missing civil rights workers.

Spies of Mississippi is a journey into the world of informants, infiltrators, and agent provocateurs in the heart of Dixie.

The film tells the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain "the Mississippi way of life," white supremacy, during the 1950s and '60s. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (MSSC) evolved from a predominantly public relations agency to a full-fledged spy operation, spying on over 87,000 Americans over the course of a decade.

The Commission employed a network of investigators and informants, including African Americans, to help infiltrate some of the largest Black organizations like National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The MSSC was granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, keep secret files, make arrests, and compel testimony for a state that, as civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot says in the film, "was committed to an apartheid system that would make South Africa blush."

The film reveals the full scope and impact of the Commission, including its links to private white supremacist organizations, its ties to investigative agencies in other states, and even its program to bankroll the opposition to civil rights legislation in Washington D.C.

Weaving in chilling footage of Ku Klux Klan rallies and government propaganda films alongside rare images and interviews from the period, Spies of Mississippi tracks the Commission's hidden role in many of the most important chapters of the civil rights movement, including the integration of the University of Mississippi, the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the KKK murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Pope Francis said scientific theories including the  Big Bang  do not conflict with Catholic teachings. 
Pope Francis said scientific theories including the 'Big Bang' do not conflict with Catholic teachings. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

The spiritual leader of the Catholic Church believes that God and science can coexist.

In a significant change from the rhetoric of his predecessor, Pope Francis told members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Monday that theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" are real - and God's work can be found in them.

God is not "a magician with a magic wand," the Pope said during an opening session to discuss concepts of nature.

Most scientific theories about the origins of life "require" a belief in God, he said.

"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve," he said.

The "Big Bang" theory that science takes as gospel can also be viewed as evidence of God's existence, the Pope explained.

"The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love," he noted.


Pope Francis meets with participants of the Global Meeting of Popular Movements at the Vatican on Tuesday.

Francis' progressive words were a marked contrast to the Catholic Church's attitude toward science centuries ago.

The institution famously condemned 17th-century astronomer Galileo for claiming the Earth revolved around the sun.

In recent decades the church has been more open to scientific discovery.

Pope Pius XII described evolution as a valid scientific approach to the development of humans in 1950 and Pope John Paul reiterated that in 1996.

But in 2011, Benedict XVI said scientific theories left many questions unanswered.

With News Wire Services



The Peaceful Streets Project has its roots in a story of police abuse and corruption. On New Year's Day 2012, Antonio Buehler was a designated driver who pulled into a 7-11 in downtown Austin to fuel up his truck. At the gas station he pulled into, there was a DUI stop in progress. As Buehler and his passenger were about to leave, they heard a violent scream. They turned and saw one of the cops (Robert Snider) ripping the female passenger out of the car and throwing her to the ground. The other cop (Patrick Oborski) then ran over and joined in. As they twisted the victim's arms behind her in what is a torture move, she cried out more. Buehler pulled out his blackberry and attempted to take pictures. When the victim saw Buehler, she begged him to please record the incident. Buehler then began yelling at the cops, telling them that she had done nothing wrong and demanded that they stop assaulting her.

After they picked her up, cuffed her and walked her toward the rear squad car, Oborski turned and approached Buehler. Oborski got in Buehler's face and demanded to know who Buehler thought he was. Buehler said it didn't matter who he was and that he had a right to take pictures. Oborski kept moving in on Buehler, Buehler took a couple steps back, and as Oborski raised his voice, Buehler raised his. Then Oborski shoved Buehler by hitting him in the chest area. Buehler shouted at him, telling Oborski to stop touching him. Oborski pushed Buehler back until he was trapped between Oborski and the bed of the truck. Oborski continued to push on Buehler, as Buehler leaned back over the bed of the truck, and then Oborski told Buehler that he was under arrest, put him in a choke hold, took him to the ground and cuffed him. Later, Oborski would told Buehler that 'you don't f*** with the police, you f***** with the wrong cop, and now you're going to learn your f****** lesson!"

That lesson was being charged with a felony crime of spitting in a cop's face which carries 2-10 years in prison. Buehler and his passenger began a campaign to get witnesses to step forward, and thankfully several did; each one willing to testify that the cops assaulted Buehler, and that Buehler did not spit in Oborski's face. One witness then told took cell phone video of the assault, and published it on YouTube. The media ran with the story.

In Austin several people stepped forward. Pam Farley set up a legal defense fund, Harold Gray and others organized a couple of protests, and people from around the country started calling into local radio shows to demand accountability. Despite overwhelming evidence that the cops were the ones that committed the crimes that night, they did not back down. After the passenger (who was falsely arrested on a public intoxication charge) told the media her story, Austin Police came back a week later and charged her with two additional bogus crimes – resisting arrest and failure to obey a lawful order. The legal defense fund was able to cover the victims' court fees, but each still has charges pending against them.

In the month that followed the New Year's Day incident, numerous people approached Buehler to tell him their own stories of police abuse (to include being framed, violently assaulted and even raped), and none for personal gain, but just to encourage him to continue his fight. Buehler said that because of his West Point and Stanford background, his military service, his non-profit work, no criminal history, the circumstances of his arrest, the witnesses and video, and because he was not Black or Hispanic, he was building a strong base of supporters that spanned socio-economic, political and racial boundaries. He teamed with some local activists, namely John Bush, Harold Gray and Kaja Tretjak, to use his new platform to launch the Peaceful Streets Project to fight back against police abuse. The original vision for the Peaceful Streets Project was to be a non-violent, non-partisan, direct action grassroots effort to change culture so that people know their rights, stand up for their rights and the rights of others in order to curb police violence.

They organized the 1st Annual Peaceful Streets Project Police Accountability Summit, which was a big success. At the event they handed out 100 cameras to people in need so they could record interactions with the police. The Peaceful Streets Project then built on that success; they were named the Grassroots Activist Movement of the year in Central Texas, and they have since launched 14 new chapters from Honolulu to Sandusky (OH) to Manchester (NH). They have put a spotlight on criminal cop behavior, and for that they have been targeted and wrongfully arrested a couple more times, and they have even received death threats from cops. Their tactics have been innovative. In Manchester (NH) they use lasers to warn drivers about police checkpoints and they send letters to people who have been arrested for victimless crimes. In New York City they have written cops tickets and have conducted guerilla know your rights trainings in the subways. While in Austin they hold monthly corrupt cop of the month protests. Through these diverse and sustained tactics, the Peaceful Streets Project has also seen marked positive changes in the behavior of cops towards the people they interact with.

The fight for police accountability is on the verge of becoming a national social movement and the Peaceful Streets Project is leading the way. That is why the Peaceful Streets Project is hosting the 2nd Annual Police Accountability Summit in Austin. It's free to the public, with free food and childcare, so that the people most likely to become victims of police abuse can attend. The keynotes are Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, and Radley Balko of the Huffington Post who just wrote a new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop. This event will be a celebration of the success we've had over the past year, and it will be used to propel the movement onto a national stage as we spread to cities in all corners of the country (and eventually, the world).

For more about Antonio's case and the rise of the Peaceful Streets Project, check out this video, courtesy of our friends at



In a new cover story for Mother Jones magazine, "The Making of the Warrior Cop," senior reporter Shane Bauer goes inside the corporations and government departments involved in enabling police departments to acquire anything from bayonets to semi-automatic rifles and drones.

Reporting from the exposition called "Urban Shield" - which organizers call the largest first-responder training in the world - Bauer says that the equipment police departments have received from the military pales in comparison to the amount of gear purchased from private companies.

The Department of Homeland Security has provided some $41 billion in funding to local police departments to buy the equipment from various corporations, on top of more than $5 billion from the Pentagon since 1997.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We continue our conversation about policing communities by looking at who is involved in the increasing militarization of police departments across the country. Shane Bauer's cover story for Mother Jones magazine, headlined "The Making of the Warrior Cop," gives us a tour through the corporations and government departments involved in enabling police departments to acquire anything from bayonets to semi-automatic rifles to drones. Reporting from the exposition called Urban Shield, which, according to organizers, is the largest first-responder training in the world, Bauer says that the equipment police departments have received from the military, quote, "pales in comparison to the amount of gear purchased from private companies."

AMY GOODMAN: The Department of Homeland Security provides funding to local police departments to buy equipment from various corporations. Shane Bauer writes, quote, "The Department of Defense has given $5.1 billion worth of equipment to state and local police departments since 1997, with even rural counties acquiring things like grenade launchers and armored personnel carriers. But Homeland Security has handed out grants worth eight times as much—$41 billion since 2002." Let's go to a clip from the Mother Jones piece. Shane Bauer, who will join us in a minute, starts by asking Urban Shield spokesperson, Sergeant JD Nelson, a question.

SHANE BAUER: Do you think there's any validity to the criticism that the United States is kind of increasingly becoming a police state?

SGT. JD NELSON: I think there is some validity to that.


megachurch pastor says "gays must be put to death."
On an early autumn afternoon, gay teen Zack Harrington killed himself with a gunshot to the head in his parent's ranch in Norman, Oklahoma.
One week earlier, Zack allegedly attended a local city council meeting in support of a proposal for LGBTQ History Month. When the floor opened up for public comment, some community members made highly controversial statements equating being gay with the spread of diseases such as HIV and AIDS.

Against the backdrop of a town bitterly divided on the issue of homosexuality, Zack's parents, both conservative Republicans and military veterans, are forced to reconcile their own social and political beliefs with their son's death. Determined to understand him, they discover a diary, which paints a portrait of a boy in crisis, and a chilling secret that Zack kept hidden for almost two years. It leads them to some painful conclusions about their son's life and death.

When an outspoken conservative citizen runs for City Council, the Harringtons decide to join the politically active group, "MOMS: Mothers of Many."
Over the course of the local election season, witness Zack's family, once private and politically conservative, come out of their own closet, moving from private denial to a climactic and very public acceptance of their son's legacy.


Old Slave Market/Anglican Cathedral, Stonetown: Anglicaanse kerk
Anglicaanse kerk (Stefan V, Aug 2014)
1874 - "Former Slave Market Site," Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, Stone Town, Zanzibar (Tanzania). The sign reads: "You are now standing at the former slave market site. The world's last open slave market and notorious place, where slaves from East and Central Africa regions were bought and sold. // The trade in man [sic], women and children was stopped by decree from the Sultan of Zanziber One June 1873, following the appeal made by Dr. David Livingston in 1857 to the men of the great English universities of Oxford and Cambridge to liberate Africa from slavery. // The Cathedral Church of Christ was built by Bishop Edward Steere in 1874. The cathedral stands exactly on the site of the former slave market and the high altar marks the location of the old whipping post !

South Africa's constitutional court is built at the site of a notorious jail where thousands of black men were imprisoned and brutalised during apartheid. About 150,000 bricks from the old prison buildings were used for the court and the adjacent Great African Steps: "A walkway between the past and the future."

In Zanzibar, Tanzania, there is another striking interplay between material structures and the realm of ideas.

The Stone Town was host to one of the world's last open slave markets, presided over by Arab traders until it was shut down by the British in 1873. The slaves were shipped here in dhows from the mainland, crammed so tightly that many fell ill and died or were thrown overboard.

Below St Monica's guesthouse, dozens of slaves, and women and children, were imprisoned for days in crowded cellars with little air and no food or toilets. Even after two minutes down there, under the low roof, the atmosphere seemed poisonously oppressive.

The guide said the slaves were led outside and lined up in order of size. They were tied to a tree and whipped with a stinging branch to test their mettle. Those who did not cry or faint fetched a higher price at market. Africa has its share of cruelty and suffering, but such stories bite our conscience as if for the first time.

What now stands on the site? The Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ. The former whipping tree is marked at the altar by a white marble circle surrounded by red to symbolise the blood of the slaves.

Legend has it that former slaves in need of work were employed in the cathedral's construction, and made one mistake. The supervisor, Bishop Edward Steere, was called away on business and returned to find 12 pillars had been erected upside down. He decided to leave them, and so they remain.

Steere, a popular figure who in 1885 wrote A Handbook of the Swahili Language: As Spoken at Zanzibar, eventually died of a heart attack in a nearby building. He is buried behind the altar.

There is also a tribute to Dr David Livingstone, who stayed in Zanzibar before his final expedition. Some wood from the tree in Zambia under which his heart was buried has been fashioned into a cross that hangs in the cathedral. Again, history has imbued a place – a tree – with quasi-religious significance.

Outside, sunken in the ground, is an artwork: life size statues of slaves that could have been made by Antony Gormley, bearing original chains...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The greatest danger:
During the Cold War,
Such people were called
Emergency inspections have been carried out at more private Islamic schools and a flagship Church of England state school in London amid fears of a new 'Trojan horse' plot.

At least six schools examined after concerns about Islamic influences in curriculums were raised by the Department for Education, according to government sources.
They include Al-Mizan primary and the London East Academy, private schools for Muslim boys run by the East London Mosque Trust.
Inspectors have visited Al-Mizan primary school in Tower Hamlets, London, amid fears of a 'Trojan-horse' plot.

The schools teach their pupils, who are predominantly from families of Bangladeshi origin, to memorise the Koran and charge fees of £3,000 a year.

Both were rated as providing a 'good' quality of education and teaching during their last inspections in 2011 and 'outstanding' for students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Inspectors have visited Al-Mizan primary school in Tower Hamlets, London, amid fears of a 'Trojan-horse' plot

A generation' of British schoolchildren are at risk ... ISIS plotting Trojan Horse campaign by smuggling militants...
Ofsted teams also paid snap inspections to Jamiatual Ummah secondary and Sir John Cass and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School, a voluntary aided state school overseen by Tower Hamlets education authority.

Two other schools inspected have not been named.
Tower Hamlets said the inspection has not found any 'Trojan Horse-type issues' relating to the conduct of staff or governors at Sir John Cass and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School.

Tower Hamlets said the inspection has not found any 'Trojan Horse-type issues relating to the conduct of staff or governors at Sir John Cass.

A council spokesman said it was 'one of the best performing schools in the country, however, all schools can improve, and we look forward to supporting the school in implementing the recommendations of the Ofsted report when it is published'.
He added: 'Local education authorities have no powers whatsoever over the educational conduct and performance of private schools. This remains the responsibility of Ofsted and other agencies.
Ofsted teams also paid a snap inspection to Jamiatual Ummah secondary in recent weeks

'Councils do have a safeguarding duty for all children within their boundaries, but this does not include the right to inspect and enter the premises of private educational establishments.'

A government source told The Sunday Times: 'There were specific concerns about the curriculum being taught in some of the schools. Since these schools were being investigated, it was decided to look at six schools in the area.'

Ofsted inspectors gave a clean bill of health to safeguarding arrangements for pupils at Marner Primary, a Tower Hamlets state school, after a visit in September.

At the time, Tower Hamlets council strongly denied claims by a Whitehall source that the borough was 'expected to be the next Birmingham' with a 'Trojan Horse' problem of Islamic influence in schools.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief, has made it clear that more inspections will be undertaken more frequently in the light of the scandal.

It involved claims that several schools in Birmingham had been infiltrated by governors and teachers with a hard-line Islamic agenda.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said the plot was 'planned and orchestrated' attempt to control school boards.

The Trojan Horse plot first came to light earlier this year, when a letter emerged outlining an alleged a plot by Muslim hardliners to drive moderate head teachers out of schools.

The letter prompted Department for Education inspectors to go into Park View School in Birmingham along with its sister schools, Golden Hillock and Nansen.

Whistleblowers at Park View claimed the school was in the hands of a group of extremists who had infiltrated its governing body.

It is alleged girls at the school were forced to sit at the back of the classroom and non-Muslim pupils forced to teach themselves at the state school.

The letter prompted separate ongoing investigations by both the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted in to the school and several others in the area.

Following inspections, Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs in July that there had been a 'planned and orchestrated' plot to radicalise pupils in schools in the city.

He told the Education Select Committee said: 'I spoke to eight or nine head teachers. They believed it was planned and orchestrated.

'They believed people got together and decided which schools to target. They believed there was a strategy to infiltrate governing bodies.

'They believed governing boards couldn't take place in the normal way. They believed all that was planned and orchestrated. This was all in Birmingham.'

When asked by MPs if pupils had been radicalised in the schools, Sir Michael replied: 'We didn't see that. The issue of extremism was outside of our remit.'

The Ofsted chief inspector told MPs: 'What we did see was the promotion of a culture, which if that promotion had continued would have exposed these children to extremism.'


Lutfur Rahman 
Lutfur Rahman and his party have been accused of election corruption
in relation to May's count
Details have emerged of the alleged corrupt practices the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and his party have been accused of.

The petition submitted to the High Court outlines accusations against Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets First.

The allegations made by four voters include bribery, corrupt practices and exerting undue influence over voters.

Deputy Mayor Oliur Rahman said the allegations were politically motivated.

He said the police had been in the borough ''hundreds of times and the Election Commission has been in and they have said there is no case to answer".

Details of the allegations were revealed after a judge ordered more information to be submitted before an election fraud trial can take place in November.

'Not a good Muslim'

The new allegations referenced in the papers include claims that:

Media organisations in Tower Hamlets were given bribes by the council at the direct or indirect instruction of the mayor in order to procure their support
Mayor Rahman ordered or directed council employees to canvass for him during working hours and by doing so committed the corrupt act of paying canvassers and defrauded the council of a portion of their pay
Mr Rahman corruptly attempted to influence some religious leaders in the borough
There are also dozens of allegations of postal ballot fraud and of people pretending to be registered voters
Some unnamed voters also claim they were told at polling stations by the mayor's supporters: ''You must vote for Lutfur otherwise you are not a good Muslim.''
A police officer stands outside a polling station in Tower Hamlets
The Met stationed an officer at each polling station on 22 May

Allegations have also made against returning officer John Williams which included him allowing people to canvass for votes inside polling stations, accompanying voters into booths as they cast their vote and leaving campaign material in and around voting booths.

In a statement, Mr Williams said: "I totally reject the allegations made against my running of the May election.

"The High Court was critical of the lack of substance provided by the petitioners in July, giving them a deadline of August 18 to provide further details."

The mayor and the council's returning officer will file their official reply at the High Court later this month.

The case has been brought by four Tower Hamlets voters, all of whom have political affiliations.

Debbie Simone and Azmal Hussein are members of the Labour party and Angela Moffatt is a UKIP member

Andrew Erlam who is a member of the Red Flag Anti-corruption Party said it was not a case of political sour grapes.

He said: ''Our motive is to re-establish democracy in Tower Hamlets.

"It may sound an exaggeration to say so, but nobody in Tower Hamlets can rely on the fact that their vote is going to be dealt with efficiently or honestly.''

The trial will be presided over by Richard Mawrey QC who has the power to order a recount or a scrutiny, which would involve scrutinising the signatures on the postal ballot papers.

He could also ban the mayor from public office for up to five years


Definition of the word
Doing the same thing again and again
And expecting a different outcome.
In 1942,
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of
Adolf Hitler:
We are dealing with an insane man -
Hitler, and the group that surrounds him
represent an example of
A national psychopathic case.
That same hatred has exploded all over the world.
Don't call it "opinion"
Don't call it "religion"
Call it what it is -
A report written by Adoph Held, the president of the American Jewish Labor Committee recounting President Roosevelt's 29-minute meeting on December 8, 1942 with a small delegation of American Jewish Leaders.


The committee consisted of Rabbi Stephen B. Wise, of the Jewish Congress; Mr. Monsky, of Bnai Brith; Rabbi Rosenberg, of the Agudath, and Adolph Held, of the Jewish Labor Committee.

The meeting with the President was arranged for Tuesday, December 8, 1942, at 12 o'clock. We were originally notified that the President would give us 15 minutes, but the conference lasted 29 minutes. The purpose of the conference was to present a prepared memorandum on the German atrocities in Poland consisting of an appeal to the President for immediate action against the German extermination of Jews, and also a 12 page memorandum citing the facts that have been gathered on this subject.

We were taken into the President's office in the White House by General Watson, the President's personal military aide, exactly at 12 o'clock. The President was seated at his desk; in front of the desk were lined up five chairs for the delegation.

The President sat behind the desk smoking a cigarette in a long cigarette-holder. The desk was full of all sorts of trinkets--ash trays, brass and porcelain figures, etc. There was not an empty spot on his desk. The figures were of all shapes and sizes.

As we filed in, the President greeted Rabbi Wise: "How have you been, Stephen? You are looking well. Glad to see you looking well." Rabbi Wise then introduced each of us separately. The President shook hands with each of us, repeated the name, and then asked: "How do you do, Mr. Monsky?," etc., following which he asked us to sit down.

When we were seated, the President opened the conversation by saying: "I am a sadist, a man of extreme sadistic tendencies. When I appointed Governor Lehman as head of the new Office of Relief and Rehabilitation, I had some very sadistic thoughts in my head. I know that Governor Lehman is a great administrator, and I wanted a great administrator for this post. I had another thought in my mind, however. I had hopes that, when God spares my life and the war is over, to be able to go to Germany, stand behind a curtain and have the sadistic satisfaction of seeing some "Junkers" on their knees, asking Lehman for bread. And, by God, I'll urge him to give it to them."

Rabbi Wise then said: "Mr. President, we have an orthodox Rabbi in our midst. It is customary for an orthodox rabbi to deliver a benediction upon the head of his country, when he comes in his presence. Will you, therefore, permit rabbi Rosenberg to say the prayer of benediction?"

"Certainly" the President answered.

Rabbi Rosenberg rose and put on his scull-cap. We all rose. The President remained seated, and, as Rabbi Rosenberg commenced to recite the prayer in Hebrew, the President bowed his head.

"O, God Lord of Kings, blessed be Thy name that Thou bestowest a share of Thy glory upon the son of men."

"Thank you very much"-- the President said.

The President seemed to be moved, and so were we all.

Rabbi Wise then read the declaration by the committee.

Rabbi Wise did not read the details but simply said: "Mr. President, we also beg to submit details and proofs of the horrible facts. We appeal to you, as head of our government, to do all in your power to bring this to the attention of the world and to do all in your power to make an effort to stop it."

The President replied: "The government of the United States is very well acquainted with most of the facts you are now bringing to our attention. Unfortunately we have received confirmation from many sources. Representatives of the United States government in Switzerland and other neutral countries have given up proof that confirm the horrors discussed by you. We cannot treat these matters in normal ways. We are dealing with an insane man-- Hitler, and the group that surrounds him represent an example of a national psychopathic case. We cannot act toward them by normal means. That is why the problem is very difficult. At the same time it is not in the best interest of the Allied cause to make it appear that the entire German people are murderers or are in agreement with what Hitler is doing. There must be in Germany elements, now thoroughly subdued, but who at the proper time will, I am sure, rise, and protest against the atrocities, against the whole Hitler system. It is too early to make pronouncements such as President Wilson made, may they even be very useful. As to your proposal, I shall certainly be glad to issue another statement, such as you request."

The President turned toward the delegation for suggestions. All, except Rabbi Rosenberg, put in suggestions. Mine was about the possibility of getting some of the neutral representatives in Germany to intercede in behalf of the Jews. The President took notice of that but made no direct replies to the suggestions. The entire conversation on the part of the delegation lasted only a minute or two. As a matter of fact, of the 29 minutes spent with the President, he addressed the delegation for 23 minutes.

The President then plunged into a discussion of other matters. "We had a Jewish problem in North Africa" -- he said. "As you know, we issued orders to free all the Jews from concentration camps, and we have also advised our representatives in North Africa to abolish all the special laws against the Jews and to restore the Jews to their rights. On this occasion I would like to mention that it has been called to our attention that prior to the war, Jews and Frenchmen enjoyed greater rights than Moslems in some of the North African states. There are 17 million Moslems in North Africa, and there is no reason why anyone should enjoy greater rights than they. It is not our purpose to fight for greater rights for anyone at the expense of another group. We are for the freedom for all and equal rights for all. We consider the attack on the Jews in Germany, in Poland, as an attack upon our ideas of freedom and justice, and that is why we oppose it so vehemently." "Now you are interested in the Darlan matter. I can only illustrate this by a proverb, I recently heard from a Yugoslav priest--"When a river you reach and the devil you meet, with the devil do not quarrel until the bridge you cross."

Apparently, at the end of this quotation the President must have pushed some secret button, and his adjutant appeared in the room. His eyes and broad shoulders showed determination. We rose from our seats, and, as we stood up, the President said: "Gentlemen, you can prepare the statement. I am sure that you will put the words into it that express my thoughts. I leave it entirely to you. You may quote from my statement to the Mass - Meeting in Madison Square Garden some months ago, but please quote it exactly. We shall do all in our power to be of service to your people in this tragic moment."

The President then shook hands with each of us, and we filed out of the room.


July 1, 1997, when Britain's 156-year rule of Hong Kong ended. Britain tried unsuccessfully to hold elections there in the mid-to-late 1950s. Credit Pool photo by Dylan Martinez

BEIJING — It is a common riposte among those who oppose the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, especially here in mainland China: Where were the champions of universal suffrage during the many decades that Britain denied Hong Kong residents the right to govern themselves?

"In 150 years, the country that now poses as an exemplar of democracy gave our Hong Kong compatriots not one single day of it," People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, said in a recent editorial. "Only in the 15 years before the 1997 handover did the British colonial government reveal their 'secret' longing to put Hong Kong on the road to democracy."

But documents recently released by the National Archives in Britain suggest that beginning in the 1950s, the colonial governors who ran Hong Kong repeatedly sought to introduce popular elections but abandoned those efforts in the face of pressure by Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

The documents, part of a batch of typewritten diplomatic dispatches requested by reporters from two Hong Kong newspapers, reveal that Chinese leaders were so opposed to the prospect of a democratic Hong Kong that they threatened to invade should London attempt to change the status quo.

The ex-Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten in 1997. Elections he oversaw were voided by China, then expanded. Credit Eric Draper/Associated Press

"We shall not hesitate to take positive action to have Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories liberated," Liao Chengzhi, a senior Chinese official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, was reported to have said in 1960, referring to the areas under British administration that would later be returned to China.

Another document recounts a meeting two years earlier, during which Premier Zhou Enlai told a British military officer that any effort to introduce even a modicum of self-governance to Hong Kong would be viewed as "a very unfriendly act" and a "conspiracy," one he suggested would be seen as a move to set the colony on a path to independence.

The threats had the desired effect. Britain made little effort to introduce electoral democracy in Hong Kong in the decades that followed.

In addition to confirming that China's opposition to a democratic Hong Kong began almost a half-century earlier than was commonly known, the documents, coupled with published accounts of former colonial officials, also highlight how China's vehemence intensified in the early 1980s as the two sides began discussing Hong Kong's future. Then in the early 1990s, when Chris Patten, the last colonial governor, began aggressively supporting limited elections for the territory, China's opposition became more openly strident.

In the end, Mr. Patten ignored China's claims that democracy would beget chaos and gave Hong Kong residents the right to elect 30 members of what was then a 60-member Legislative Council. The move so infuriated Lu Ping, the senior Chinese official then in charge of Hong Kong affairs, that he called Mr. Patten "a man to be condemned through the history of Hong Kong," according to newspaper accounts at the time.

Today's critics in Beijing are correct, however, in suggesting that Britain, which took over Hong Kong in 1842, came late to the democracy game. Britain's democratic impulses in the 1950s came after it had been ejected from India and the country was trying to head off revolts in several colonies. "It was at a time when Britain was introducing democracy in many of its colonies around the world, and the idea was Hong Kong should be treated the same," said Danny Gittings, an assistant professor of law at the University of Hong Kong.

After the rebuff from China, Britain did not make a concerted push for popular elections until the 1990s, when it was on its way out. Britain hoped democracy would calm a citizenry anxious about its impending return to Communist China, historians say, and ensure the stability of British investments.

In his public statements at the time, Mr. Patten said he thought Hong Kong residents deserved a role in local governance. "People in Hong Kong are perfectly capable of taking a greater share in managing their own affairs in a way that is responsible, mature, restrained, sensible," he told reporters in 1992.

It was Mr. Patten's recent defense of the protesters' goals that prompted the People's Daily attack. The newspaper's editorial acknowledged his role in promoting democracy in the 1990s but said his aim was to create "a not inconsiderable gulf between the mainland and Hong Kong."

The recent drumbeat of commentaries in the Chinese news media that have sought to shape the historical narrative may have inadvertently strengthened the resolve of many Hong Kong activists, who say such heavy-handed efforts remind them of the political and press freedoms they are fighting for, liberties absent in the rest of China.

"I was personally very stunned that Beijing could unabashedly tell lies in the face of so many Hong Kong people, because Hong Kong people can vividly remember the democracy struggle between the former British government and the Chinese government," said Ming Sing, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The Chinese never made good on their threat to invade, in part because they hoped the "one country, two systems" model they eventually adopted for Hong Kong would encourage peaceful reunification with Taiwan, the self-governed island that China claims as its own. China's leaders also had no interest in disrupting Hong Kong's wildly successful economy, a vital outlet for foreign trade and hard currency at a time when China was largely isolated from the industrialized world.

"We want to get Hong Kong back in a good state and not in a state of ruin," is how Mr. Liao put it in the early 1960s.

Despite its apparent qualms about democracy on its doorstep, in 1990, China committed to the aim of electing Hong Kong's leader by universal suffrage after it regained sovereignty. "How Hong Kong develops democracy in the future is a matter entirely within the sphere of Hong Kong's autonomy, and the central government cannot intervene," People's Daily quoted Lu Ping as saying in 1993.

But in 1997, not long after the handover, China scrapped Mr. Patten's newly introduced legislative elections. Faced with too much democracy, China simply "set up a new kitchen," as Mr. Lu had earlier suggested the Chinese might do.

Since then, however, direct elections have been restored for 35 representatives, besting Mr. Patten's system by five seats. (Another 35 members of the Legislative Council are chosen by professional or special interest groups).

Beijing argues that its promise to allow Hong Kong residents to elect their leader, the chief executive, by universal suffrage starting in 2017 is more democracy than Britain ever offered.

But in August, China issued new rules for the election that would allow a 1,200-member committee, most of them Beijing loyalists, to vet potential candidates.

The system may have more elements of democracy than those under British rule, but it falls short of the unfettered self-determination Hong Kong democrats aspire to.

"Looking back at history, it seems like the Communist Party made promises it never intended to keep, which is why people are so angry," said Ho-Fung Hung, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who grew up in Hong Kong during the 1980s and '90s.

In the end, the skirmishes over history matter little to those who have been occupying the streets of Hong Kong for more than a month.

Max Tang, 19, a wedding photographer who was camped in a tent outside government headquarters, was a toddler during the handover.

"What Hong Kong people did before the handover does not matter," he said. "This is the first chance I have to express my demand for democracy. What we want is very simple. We want to choose our own leader."

Monday, October 27, 2014



At the Grand Mosque, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, meets with Ebola survivors Fanta Oulen Camara, 24, (L) and Dr Oulare Bakary, 30 (C) in Conakry, Guinea October 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Michelle Nichols

CONAKRY/LIBERIA (Reuters) - High school teacher Fanta Oulen Camara spent two weeks in March fighting for her life against the deadly Ebola virus but her darkest days came after she was cured of the disease and returned to her home in Guinea.  

"Most of my friends stopped visiting. They didn't speak to me. They avoided me," the 24-year-old said. "I wasn't allowed to teach anymore."

The worst outbreak of Ebola on record has killed 5,000 people in West Africa, mostly in Guinea and neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. But thousands more have survived, ostracized by fearful communities ravaged by the disease.

In the face of such stigmatization, Ebola survivors like Camara are joining an association in Guinea that assists the growing number of people who recover and seeks ways for them to help combat the disease.

Survivors are believed to have immunity from Ebola thanks to antibodies in their blood, making them a powerful weapon in a fight against the virus. A shortage of healthcare workers means weak West African governments are losing the battle to contain Ebola, despite pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.

The virus is spread by the bodily fluids of victims, who bleed, vomit and suffer diarrhea in its final stages. Ordinary medical and sanitary staff must wear heavy Personal Protective Equipment to prevent infection, denying scared patients the chance for human contact -- but survivors do not have to.

Camara, who lost six members of her family to Ebola, works with medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres at a clinic in Guinea's dilapidated ocean-front capital Conakry. 

"We share our own experience with those people, explaining that we were sick but now we have been cured," Camara said. "We give them hope."

In Liberia and Sierra Leone too, survivors are signing up to work in Ebola Treatment Units, to care for children orphaned by the disease, and to provide counseling to victims in an attempt to break the taboo surrounding the outbreak.

There is hope that blood from survivors can also be used as a serum to treat the disease. In Liberia, plans are underway to store survivors' blood and the World Health Organization has said that treatment could start as early as December.

For Dr Oulare Bakary, who set up the survivors association three months after he beat Ebola, people who recover have an role to play in demystifying a virus that has caused a violent backlash, partly because it has never before struck West Africa.

Bakary was infected while treating patients in March, days before the mysterious virus in the forests of Guinea was confirmed as Ebola.

"Everyone has been facing stigma and rejection," he said. "We needed to send a message to the people about the epidemic and also the possibility to be cured."

He said that Camara's story was all too common: not only had she lost her job, but when her brother went to his office, he was told to never come back as well. "It's not only the survivors of Ebola, it's their friends and families who are the collateral damage."

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is touring the region to assess the global response, said dealing with the stigma and fear of Ebola was central to fighting it. 

This was equally true in the United States, she said, where several states have implemented mandatory 21-day quarantine periods for healthcare workers returning from West Africa after four cases were diagnosed on U.S. soil. 

"You're actually a real asset because you uniquely know the human stakes of what others are going through," Power said, at a meeting with survivors in Conakry's Grand Mosque.

"These people could be integrated into the solution and instead they feel sadly like part of the problem," she said.

In Liberia, where more than half the deaths have been registered, U.N. child agency UNICEF is enlisting survivors to help care for the rising number of children whose parents have either been killed or isolated in treatment units.

UNICEF estimates that 3,700 children have been orphaned by Ebola. Many of those who survive are deeply traumatized and terrified by anyone wearing protective equipment.

Only people who have survived the disease already can bring personal care to these terrified, yet possibly contagious, kids.

"Survivors can provide that kind of human touch that is so important," said Sheldon Yett, Liberia country director for UNICEF. "They are the key ingredient to providing support to children."

Kpetermeni Meinu and eight other survivors work with Ebola orphans at the Willing Heart Interim Care Center in Monrovia, supported by UNICEF. They bathe children, wash their clothes and monitor for signs of the virus.

Since he has been working there, five of the 17 children have developed symptoms of the virus and been taken to a treatment unit, he says. One young boy who remains, Anthony Sheriff, is terrified of strangers and medical staff.

"He saw someone spraying his mother before going into the Ebola treatment unit and his mother died. Someone sprayed his father before taken into the ETU and his father also died," said Meinu. "So he now thinks that whenever he sees spray with anyone, they want to kill him."

(Writing by Michelle Nichols and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Paul Eddington and Derek Fowlds    
Incredible as it might seem, it's 25 years since Yes, Minister was first broadcast on BBC TV. The first episode was broadcast on February 25th 1980, and the final episode went out in January 1988. Yet its three-point constellation of characters - Jim Hacker, Sir Humphrey Appleby and Bernard Woolley - still comes across as both familiar and contemporary.

The series caught not only the public's imagination, making the series a popular success, but also the hearts of politicians and journalists. Margaret Thatcher was a big fan and even attended a rehearsal. She said: "Its closely observed portrayal of what goes on in the corridors of power has given me hours of pure joy". It was required viewing in the corridors of Whitehall.

Its plots revolved around the machinations weaved by Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne), the permanent under-secretary at the Ministry for Administrative Affairs, in order to entrap his newly-appointed Minister, the Right Honourable James Hacker (Paul Eddington), into following Whithall's lead and not his own political ambitions.

Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds), provided a useful foil for one of Sir Humphrey's show-stopping expositions:

"The fact that the Prime Minister needed to know was not known at the time that the now known need to know was known, and therefore those of us who needed to advise and inform felt that the information that we needed as to whether or not to inform the highest authority of the known information was not yet known, and therefore there was no authority for the authority to be informed because the need to know was not yet known, or needed."

Paul Eddington commented: "People abroad tended to play safe and treat me as a minister just in case".
You may still enjoy Yes, Minister on MountainLake PBS.


Alan Turing with two colleagues and a Ferranti computer in January 1951. Turing had previously been involved with the construction of both the Colossus and, later, the Automatic Computing Engine.
Alan Turing with two colleagues and a Ferranti computer in January 1951.

Alan Turing was an English mathematician, wartime code-breaker and pioneer of computer science. Turing had previously been involved with the construction of both the Colossus, the electronic computer built at Bletchley Park during WW2, and, later, the Automatic Computing Engine. (SSPL/Getty Images)

Alan Turing was born on 23 June, 1912, in London. His father was in the Indian Civil Service and Turing's parents lived in India until his father's retirement in 1926. Turing and his brother stayed with friends and relatives in England. Turing studied mathematics at Cambridge University, and subsequently taught there, working in the burgeoning world of quantum mechanics. It was at Cambridge that he developed the proof which states that automatic computation cannot solve all mathematical problems. This concept, also known as the Turing machine, is considered the basis for the modern theory of computation.

In 1936, Turing went to Princeton University in America, returning to England in 1938. He began to work secretly part-time for the British cryptanalytic department, the Government Code and Cypher School. On the outbreak of war he took up full-time work at its headquarters, Bletchley Park.

Here he played a vital role in deciphering the messages encrypted by the German Enigma machine, which provided vital intelligence for the Allies. He took the lead in a team that designed a machine known as a bombe that successfully decoded German messages. He became a well-known and rather eccentric figure at Bletchley.


After the war, Turing turned his thoughts to the development of a machine that would logically process information. He worked first for the National Physical Laboratory (1945-1948). His plans were dismissed by his colleagues and the lab lost out on being the first to design a digital computer. It is thought that Turing's blueprint would have secured them the honour, as his machine was capable of computation speeds higher than the others. In 1949, he went to Manchester University where he directed the computing laboratory and developed a body of work that helped to form the basis for the field of artificial intelligence. In 1951 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1952, Turing was arrested and tried for homosexuality, then a criminal offence. To avoid prison, he accepted injections of oestrogen for a year, which were intended to neutralise his libido. In that era, homosexuals were considered a security risk as they were open to blackmail. Turing's security clearance was withdrawn, meaning he could no longer work for GCHQ, the post-war successor to Bletchley Park.

He committed suicide on 7 June, 1954.