Sunday, August 31, 2014
ECUADOR – After surviving a harrowing rape attempt, Any Hurtado took up boxing — and found herself surrounded by other Ecuadoran women using their fists for protection in a country torn by sexual violence.
Statistics paint a disturbing picture of the threats women face in the South American country: six out of every 10 have been the victims of gender-based aggression, and one girl in 10 suffers sexual abuse before the age of 18.
  • Hurtado, a 17-year-old nursing student, lived through her own horror story last year.
  • She was walking home when a group of men surrounded her and tried to rape her.
  • “They started grabbing me and trying to assault me,” she told AFP.
  • “As I was struggling against them I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get away. But I found the strength somewhere. I hit the one closest to me and managed to run away.”
  • After the incident, Hurtado, who lives alone since her father emigrated to Spain four years ago, went to a gym in La Tola, a neighborhood in central Quito, and began learning to box.
There, she found a cohort of other women with stories similar to her own donning gloves and learning to use their fists to defend themselves.
One of them is Tania Lara, a 27-year-old domestic worker whose ex-husband used to beat her.
“Sometimes I wish I could go back in time. I think about what it would have been like then if I were the way I am now, a boxer. I’d have hit him hard,” she said.

Source:  Standard Media...More
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Sunday, August 31, 2014
A community of 230 Orthodox Jews from several countries Thursday began leaving the Guatemalan Indian village where they have lived for six years after claims and counterclaims of discrimination and threats. 
Most members of the small Jewish community are from the United States, Israel, Britain and Russia, and around 40 are Guatemalan. Approximately half are children.
The Lev Tahor members were asked to leave San Juan La Laguna after meetings with elders of the Mayan community.
The elders accused the Jews of shunning the villagers and imposing their religion and customs.
The Lev Tahor had settled in the village six years ago as the group searched for religious freedom.
'Self-defence' Over the last several days they were seen packing their belongings on lorries in preparations for the departure from the village, about 150km (90 miles) west of the capital Guatemala City.
"We are a people of peace and in order to avoid an incident we've already begun to leave," Lev Tahor member Misael Santos told the AFP news agency.
"We have a right to be there, but they threatened us with lynching if we don't leave," he added.
Lev Tahor members, who practise an austere form of Judaism, also complained that they received threats that water and electricity would be cut if they stayed on.
Meanwhile, the village elders said the Jewish members "wanted to impose their religion" and were undermining the Catholic faith that was predominant in San Juan La Laguna.
"We act in self-defence and to respect our rights as indigenous people. The (Guatemalan) constitution protects us because we need to conserve and preserve our culture," Miguel Vasquez, a spokesman for the elders council, said.
The Lev Tahor said it hoped to settle elsewhere in Guatemala. Many of the Jewish group members had been living in the village for six years but some had arrived earlier this year from Canada after a row with the authorities.

Source: BBC, Reuters
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Saturday, August 30, 2014
PHOENIX – A 22-year-old Arizona man calling himself “Dark Lord” has been arrested for allegedly burning a Bible and urinating on it outside a Christian-oriented homeless shelter in northern Arizona, police said on Friday. 
Eric Minerault was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center late on Thursday on suspicion of one count of unlawful symbol burning stemming from the incident at the Gospel Rescue Mission, Prescott police spokesman Lieutenant Ken Morley said in a written statement.
Police were called to the scene at about 9 p.m. by a mission representative reporting that someone was burning something on the mission’s front steps, Morley said.
Officers found Minerault standing on the steps, with a burned and wet Bible on the ground near him. He quickly admitted to the act.
He told officers the mission was selected because he believed it was a place of Christian worship and he was “cursing the Christians,” police said.
Asked why, officers reported that he said because he was the “Dark Lord.” Minerault was clad in black and was wearing a black-and-red robe and a pentagram necklace.
He remained at the detention center on Friday afternoon on the misdemeanor charge, sheriff’s officials said.
Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the arrest raises questions as to whether Minerault’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights were violated.
Charged with unlawful symbol burning, Minerault was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center on the misdemeanor charge.
But Pochoda, who was not familiar with the charge cited, said courts have upheld laws that bar symbols like crosses from being burned.

Source: Reuters.
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Saturday, August 30, 2014
LONDON  — Britain raised the country’s terror threat level from substantial to severe Friday, meaning that a terrorist attack is considered highly likely.
Home Secretary Theresa Mays(photo) said the decision to raise the threat level was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but that there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent. Some of the plots are likely to involve fighters who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Middle East.
“We face a real and serious threat in the U.K. from international terrorism,” she said. “I would urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”
May says the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government. “Severe” is the second-highest of five levels.
British police have appealed to the public to help identify aspiring terrorists after the killing of an American journalist focused attention on extremism in the U.K.
The involvement of a person of British nationality in James Foley’s beheading underscored the need to identify those who might travel abroad to fight or are at risk of being radicalized.
Authorities say around 70 arrests have been made in the first half of the year for a variety of offenses, including fundraising, preparing for terrorism acts and traveling abroad for terrorist training. 
The police say such arrests are being made at a rate five times greater than 2013.
The last time the rate was raised to severe was in September 2010 — in response to the attempt to detonate a bomb on a U.S. passenger plane over Detroit. 
It was last at the highest level, or critical, in June 2007, after a car on fire was driven into the Glasgow Airport terminal building and —separately — two devices were found 
in cars in central London.

Source: NYPost, Agency
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Saturday, August 30, 2014
WASHINGTON — President Obama admitted Thursday that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with Islamic State, the terrorists who have rampaged across Iraq and Syria and seized Iraq’s second-largest city nearly three months ago. 
Obama made the admission when asked at a news conference whether he would seek Congress’ authorization to go after the group in Syria, where he said it has a “safe haven.”
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said. “We don’t have a strategy yet. As our strategy develops, we will consult with Congress.”
The US has already begun “limited” airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq to protect minority groups, bolster Kurdish forces and safeguard US personnel in the north of the war-ravaged country.
But with militants controlling huge swaths of territory, executing prisoners and imposing a brutal brand of Islam, there are increasing calls to also hit the group in Syria.
  • Obama appeared to keep the door open to doing that even without authorization of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who he charged lacked “legitimacy” after using brutal tactics against his own citizens.
  • Assad’s government has warned that such strikes would be considered an act of “aggression.”
  • “We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans,” Obama said.
  • “Clearly, ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively,” he added, using another name for Islamic State.
  • The US is reaching out to coalition partners who could contribute to any stepped-up efforts.
  • “We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region,” Obama said. “And we’re going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy.”
Earlier Thursday, it was reported that members of the group had water-boarded American journalist James Foley, who was executed in a video.
“Yes, that is part of the information that bubbled up, and Jim was subject to it,” a person familiar with his captivity told The Washington Post. “I believe he suffered a lot of physical abuse.”
The US waterboarded detainees in CIA facilities after the 9/11 attacks. Obama has called the interrogation technique a form of torture.

Source: NyPost, CNN
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Friday, August 29, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia Airlines will cut 30 per cent of its workforce as part of a restructuring that will cost 6 billion ringgit, majority investor Khazanah Nasional said on Friday.
Khazanah said the carrier will trim its staff by 6,000 to 14,000 as it seeks to stem long-running losses worsened by two aircraft disasters this year. 
The state fund said the airline will be de-listed from the Kuala Lumpur exchange by the end of 2014, adding that Ahmad Jauhari Yahya will stay on as chief executive until July 2015. 
Khazanah said it aims to return the airline to profitability within three years of its de-listing, and plans to re-list the carrier in three to five years from now.  
On Thursday, MAS said its second-quarter net loss widened to 307 million ringgit from 176 million a year earlier, though the result was an improvement from the net loss of 443 million ringgit in the first quarter.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea -  Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted Friday after a volcanic eruption on Papua New Guinea. 
Authorities in the South Pacific nation had evacuated communities close to Mount Tavurvur which erupted early Friday in Rabaul district on New Britain Island, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement. 
Residents of Rabaul town, the provincial capital, had been advised to remain indoors to avoid falling ash, the statement said. 
Local resident David Flinn told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the volcano was emitting steam and occasionally boomed. Flinn said about one centimeter (half an inch) of ash covered surrounding areas. 
Qantas Airways said the ash cloud from the volcano had prompted minor alterations to flight paths between Sydney and Tokyo and between Sydney and the Chinese city of Shanghai.
The volcano, which is one of the most active in the region, destroyed the town of Rabaul in 1994 when it erupted simultaneously with nearby Mount Vulcan.

Source: Agencies
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Friday, August 29, 2014
Israeli opinion polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu popularity plummeting, such as a survey on Channel 10 television in which viewers gave him a grade of 55 percent, down from a 69 percent score at the beginning of the month. 
"After 50 days of warfare in which a terror organization killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, destroyed the daily routine (and) placed the country in a state of economic distress ... we could have expected much more than an announcement of a ceasefire," analyst Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's biggest-selling newspaper.
"We could have expected the prime minister to go to the president’s residence and inform him of his decision to resign his post."
Answering critics, Netanyahu told a news conference: "I don't set unrealistic goals. We're not dealing here with populism."
An open-ended ceasefire in the Gaza war held on Wednesday as Netanyahu faced strong criticism in Israel over a costly conflict with Palestinian militants in which no clear victor has emerged.
On the streets of the battered, Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, people headed to shops and banks, trying to resume the normal pace of life after seven weeks of fighting. Thousands of others, who had fled the battles and sheltered with relatives or in schools, returned home, where some found only rubble.
In Israel, sirens warning of incoming rocket fire from the Gaza Strip fell silent. 
Netanyahu told a news conference Israel had dealt Hamas its toughest blow ever and had rebuffed its demands for a truce. 
He said it was "too early to say" whether the calm would be prolonged, then threatened the Islamist group:
"If it resumes fire, we will not tolerate a sprinkle of shooting at any part of Israel, what we did in response now, we will respond even more vigorously."
But Israeli media commentators, echoing attacks by members of Netanyahu's governing coalition, voiced deep disappointment over his leadership during the most prolonged bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence in a decade.
In Gaza, several thousand Palestinians cheered and waved green Hamas banners as the movement’s deputy leader, Ismail Haniyeh, making his first public appearance 
since the war, proclaimed victory over Israel 
in the latest fighting.

Source: Reuters

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Malaysian women are believed to have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) forces to offer Jihad Al-Nikah or sexual jihad, senior intelligence officials told The Malaysian Insider. 
Authorities confirmed that three Malaysian women have journeyed to the Middle East to join up with Isis forces. 
Jihad Al-Nikah refers to a controversial concept where Sunni women allegedly offer themselves in sexual comfort roles to fighters for the establishment of Islamic rule. 
The concept originated from a Wahhabi edict around 2013, that called for Sunni women supporters to come forward for sex jihad and boost the morale of fighters battling against Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. 
"These women are believed to have offered themselves in sexual comfort roles to Isis fighters who are attempting to establish Islamic rule in the Middle East. 
"This concept may seem controversial but it has arisen as certain Muslim women here are showing sympathy for the Isis struggle," an intelligence official told The Malaysian Insider. 
  • Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said one of the Malaysian women had traveled to the Middle East in December last year. 
  • "The woman, in her 30s, went to Turkey before meeting up with middlemen who helped her to complete her journey to Syria via land routes. 
  • "Another Malaysian woman in her 40s is believed to have linked up with Isis forces sometime in April this year," the source said. 
The intelligence official said Malaysian women were not the only ones who were performing sexual jihad as there were also other Muslim women involved. 
"Intelligence exchanged with other countries revealed that Sunni Muslim women from Australia and the United Kingdom had also joined up with Isis." 
The intelligence official said Isis had issued a decree in June this year ordering for the conscription of Jihad Al-Nikah or sexual jihad. 
  • "Shortly after the town of Mosul in Iraq was captured by Isis forces, people were ordered to send unmarried women to jihad for sex," the intelligence official revealed. 
  • "In its proclamation, Isis threatened to impose shariah law on all those who failed to comply with the edict or decree," the official added. 
The intelligence official said British counterparts had revealed that more than 600 British Muslims are believed to be fighting for Isis.  
This figure also includes British Muslim women who are not fighting on the front line, but are still involved by performing sexual jihad. 
Australian intelligence officials have revealed that more than 100 Australian Muslims are in Syria fighting alongside Isis, the intelligence official said. 
Although Putrajaya had initially revealed that about 30 Malaysians might have traveled to the Middle East to fight for Isis, the actual figure is believed to be higher", the official told The Malaysian Insider.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement late Tuesday it is finalizing plans to bring the three-person mobile team from Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory home from Sierra Leone. 
The team is being recalled after three people staying at their hotel were diagnosed with the Ebola virus. None of the team members had direct contact with those diagnosed, and they are not displaying any signs of illness, officials said. 
The team members will remain in voluntary isolation and will be monitored as they travel back to Canada. Those plans have not yet been firmed up, PHAC said. 
The United Nations health agency had earlier announced it was pulling staff from a laboratory testing for the Ebola virus in Kailahun, in Sierra Leone, after a Senegalese epidemiologist was infected. 
"It's a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers," WHO spokesperson Christy Feig told Reuters, without specifying how long the measure would last. "After our assessment, they will return."
The three Canadians were among six workers at the lab.There will be an investigation to see whether it was a routine infection, or something to do with the lab's processes or equipment, WHO said. 
Meanwhile, there are five Canadian staff members with Doctors Without Borders who 
all remain in Sierra Leone.
The Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria is the largest ever with at least 1,427 deaths and 2,615 infected since March.

Source: CBC...More
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Nearly 200 cabin crew have resigned from Malaysia Airlines which was hit by two deadly tragedies this year, the carrier said Tuesday, and some reportedly cited fears for their safety. 
The flag carrier, which prior to this year had a good safety record, has been in the spotlight in the past six months following the disappearance of flight MH370 on March 8 and the shooting down of MH17 on July 17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine. 
The airline said 186 crew had left in the first seven months of this year, with many blaming family pressure prompted by the tragedies. 
"Following the MH17 incident, there was a spike in crew resignations but the number has now decreased to acceptable and routinely expected levels," it said in a statement. 
"Many cited 'family pressure' as the reason for their resignation due to the MH17 and MH370 tragedies." 
Abdul Malek Ariff, secretary-general of the employees union, said some "are now are afraid to fly". Abdul Malek, quoted by the Edge Financial daily Monday, also said crew shortages were forcing staff to work up to 12 hours a day. The union represents about 8,000 of Malaysia Airlines' 19,500-strong workforce. 
  • The carrier said it was providing emotional and psychological support to its staff. The two aviation tragedies killed 537 people including 27 crew members. 
  • Flight MH370 disappeared mysteriously in March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. No trace has been found despite an intensive search in the southern Indian Ocean. The airline was widely criticised for its handling of the crisis.
  • On July 17 MH17 was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine, with another 298 people killed.  
  • The ailing airline is in the midst of being taken private by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional as part of an expected major overhaul. 
Khazanah is expected this week to announce a series of restructuring measures including job cuts and axing of unprofitable international routes. 
The carrier has struggled amid intense competition, losing US$1.3 billion over the past three years even before the two disasters. For this year's first quarter the airline posted a net loss of 443 million ringgit (US$137 million) citing MH370's impact on bookings. It was the fifth straight quarterly loss.

Source: AsiaOne
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