Saturday, 27 November 2010

2010-07-27 Harlech

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US general McChrystal approved peace talks with fake Taliban leader | World news | The Guardian

Stanley McChrystal General McChrystal asked MI6 to develop contacts rather than the CIA, which was not empowered for direct talks with the Taliban. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Peace talks conducted with an impostor who posed as a Taliban leader, and which led to a meeting with Hamid Karzai in Kabul and thousands of dollars in "goodwill payments", were started by the Afghan government and approved by the former American commander, Stanley McChrystal, the Guardian has learned.

This account sharply contradicts claims made by the Afghan presidency, which has put the entire blame on Britain, apparently supported privately by US officials.

In fact, the overriding desire to find a negotiated end to the conflict, particularly on the part of David Cameron, appears to have generated credulity on all sides, and led to an embarrassing debacle that has lessened trust and set back hopes of meaningful negotiations in the near future.

Sources close to the contacts said the impostor, who claimed to be Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the Taliban's deputy leader, was originally introduced by an insurgent commander in Kandahar to the then Afghan interior minister, Hanif Atmar.

This Taliban commander, Muhammad Aminullah, is close to the movement's overall leader, Mullah Omar, and has led some of the fiercest Taliban fighting in the Zhari and Panjwai districts of Kandahar province. When he was picked up and held in a Nato raid in January this year, the Afghan government complained that he was a longstanding channel of Atmar's to the Taliban, and asked for him to be freed. In return, Aminullah offered contacts with Mansour, suggesting he might be open to political talks. The deal was approved by McChrystal, then the commander of Nato and US forces in Afghanistan, and a supporter of reconciliation efforts.

McChrystal asked MI6 to develop the contacts, rather than go to the CIA, which was not empowered by the necessary White House directive to enter into direct talks with Taliban officials. The absence of such a "presidential finding" is seen by many diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic as an obstacle to progress towards a political settlement.

At this point, MI6, delighted to have been given the mission, appears to have got carried away with enthusiasm for the "breakthrough", and brushed aside doubts raised by both US and British officials about "Mansour's" credibility. "Our friends got very excited," one official involved in the discussions recalled. "I remember everyone being very pompous and secretive about this." McChrystal's successor, Gen David Petraeus, is believed to have had doubts about Mansour's identity, but ultimately encouraged the contacts and discreetly publicised them.

Last night the head of the US military, Admiral Mike Mullen said the US had suspected the self-described Taliban leader was an imposter. "There were very early initial suspicions. And it took a little while to verify who he was or who he wasn't. And, in fact, it turns out he wasn't the guy he was claiming he should be."

After the coalition took office in May, both Cameron and William Hague were briefed about the talks with Mansour. The prime minister's eagerness to pursue a negotiated settlement contributed to an echo chamber in which more cautious voices were drowned out.

A series of meetings at a Nato military base in Kandahar culminated in the supposed Taliban leader being flown to Kabul in a British military plane to meet Karzai just over three months ago.

In that meeting, and at some of the preliminary meetings, the impostor (reported by the Washington Post, citing Afghan intelligence, to be a grocer from Quetta), was given tens of thousands of dollars as a reward for attending and as encouragement to develop the dialogue.

It is unclear how much of that money was paid by Britain and how much by Karzai, who keeps his own fund, partially financed by Iran, for such purposes. The US has insisted no American money was used.

It was at the meeting with Karzai that "Mansour's" identity was definitively challenged, leading to his unmasking earlier this week.

McChrystal, who has retired from the US army, could not be reached for comment and Atmar, who was in London this week, did not reply to emails seeking comment.

Interviewed in today's Washington Post, Karzai's chief of staff, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, squarely blamed the British for the fiasco. "This shows that this process should be Afghan-led and fully Afghanised," Daudzai said. "The last lesson we draw from this: international partners should not get excited so quickly with those kind of things … Afghans know this business, how to handle it."

Another Afghan official echoed that account, telling the Guardian: "Generally speaking, British intelligence has been the main director and architect of the peace plan; and in this particular case the mediators were British."

The official also blamed the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, which he said introduced the fraud to MI6. The Guardian, however, could find no confirmation of any role played by the ISI, which is frequently blamed for setbacks by the Kabul government.

British intelligence is conducting an inquiry into the episode, in part to uncover the motive. One theory is that it was an exercise in kite-flying by the Taliban, to discover what Kabul and the British were offering, without risking a senior figure in the movement. Taliban leaders have been wary about attending meetings with would-be mediators, fearing they are on a Nato hit-list, known as the Joint Priority Effects List. A Nato source said: "If you look at it from their point of view, as soon as they turn up for a meeting, they give us an eight-digit map reference of where they are. This, on the other hand, is no risk."

One in three South African men admit to rape, survey finds | World news | The Guardian

Aerial View of Johannesburg, South Africa at Twilight In South Africa's wealthy province of Gauteng, a survey has found one in three men admitting to rape. Photograph: Ocean/Corbis

More than one in three South African men questioned in a survey admitted to rape, the latest evidence in the country of a violent culture of patriarchy.

Researchers found that more than three in four men said they had perpetrated violence against women.

Nearly nine in 10 men believe that a woman should obey her husband – and almost six in 10 women also agreed with the statement.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Last year a survey by the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that 28% of men in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces said they had raped a woman or girl.

A new MRC study in Gauteng, the country's wealthiest province, found that 37.4% of men admitted having committed a rape, while 25.3% of women said they had been raped.

The survey questioned 511 women and 487 men, of whom 90% were black and 10% white.

Rachel Jewkes of the MRC said: "We see a situation where the use of violence is so widespread that not only is it seen as being legitimate but I think quite often women forget it. They just see it as a normal effect."

Jewkes cited her survey's findings on gender attitudes. Although both largely agreed that "people should be treated the same whether they are male or female", 86.7% of men and 57.9% of women also endorsed the statement that "a woman should obey her husband".

Some 53.9% of men and 29.8% of women agreed that "a man should have the final say in all family matters", while 37.3% of men and 23.2% of women supported the view that "a woman needs her husband's permission to do paid work".

Asked about sexual entitlement in marriage, only 55% of both men and women said they thought "it is possible for a woman to be raped by her husband". Some 38.7% of men and 29.3% of women thought that "a woman cannot refuse to have sex with her husband" and 22.3% of men and 8.8% of women felt that "if a wife does something wrong, her husband has the right to punish her".

The survey also found that 32% of men and women agreed that "in any rape case, one would have to question whether the victim is promiscuous", while 20.1% of men and 15.6% of women said that "in some rape cases, women want it to happen".

Jewkes said: "What we see here is a set of attitudes reflecting men's views that they are legitimate in the use of violence against women, and women in many respects acquiescing to this."

Bait Or Balls Up? | students | police | van | Frontline Blog | Sky News Blogs

Bait Or Balls Up?

Tom Rayner November 26, 2010 6:30 PM

Take a look at the video below. These shots were captured at the student demonstration in Whitehall on Wednesday.

It shows the police van, which would become the target of vandals, shortly after it had parked up. The shots were filmed by a Sky News cameraman at 12:48pm - 12 minutes before the decision to contain thousands of protesters.

Does it portray a tense, volatile situation, in which police officers are in a vulnerable position?

This is an important question. On the day of the protests, the Met released a statement saying the carrier had been left because "officers felt vulnerable and decided the best course of action was to leave the van", yet the first obvious acts of vandalism towards the van did not occur until just after 1:05pm.

The pictures seem to show that the scene at 12:48pm was not obviously threatening. Indeed a group of Territorial Support Group officers can be seen first looking at the carrier and then walking past it. They are attracting little attention from the crowds.

So why did they leave it there? From 12:58pm protesters are picked up on the microphones of Sky News cameras asking 'why has that van been left there?'.

As the day progressed, and the vehicle was vandalised, there were some in the crowd claiming it had been left intentionally as 'bait' to provoke criminal damage and justify the use of containment tactics.

That theory has now become the focus of internet debate - search for 'bait van' and you'll have no problem finding a number of differing explanations, some pointing to a basic operational balls-up, others arguing it was a fully developed conspiracy.

The Met dismiss this speculation out of hand.

It's fair to say, most of the so-called evidence wheeled out by the conspiracy theorists does not stand-up.

The vehicle's markings were not 'out-of-date', the license plates were on the vehicle until they were ripped off, and the rust on the back windows indicates nothing other than it was one of the older vehicles in the Met's fleet of carriers.

There is however a legitimate question of why the vehicle was not moved when, as our video seems to suggest, there was an opportunity to do so.

We've put that question to the Met and we're now awaiting a response.

The explanation is likely to be fairly straightforward. The officers in our shots may have been focused on another aspect of the operation, the scene may have been more volatile when the van was forced to stop, the officers seen in the shots may have been ordered to join their colleagues in the police lines, maybe they simply didn't have the keys?

Whatever the explanation, the idea that officers were forced to abandon the vehicle because they were in a vulnerable position doesn't quite fit with the footage.

Maybe you saw what happened? If you have any footage of the police van in question arriving, or the officers leaving it, send it in to us at

Tom Rayner is Home Affairs Producer for Sky News

Twitter: @Tom_Rayner

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Friday, 26 November 2010

We Have, We Need Exchange - CrisisCommons Wiki

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2010 Haiti Earthquake
Main page



We Have, We Need Exchange

[edit] Overview:

This project will create a online marketplace for the exchange of resources and services to suit the needs of the NGOs in Haiti, providing Earthquake relief operations. The Google group for the project can be found at [1]

IMPORTANT. Below are simultaneous efforts that should be coordinated with this one (an email-thread was started to do just that)

[edit] Status:

  • Operational, but lots more to do!

[edit] TODO List:

  • Document API so we can begin connectivity & interface with Sahana,, and APAN.
  • Connect WVWN to h Sahana,, and APAN
  • Document install/development setup instructions so its easy for developers to jump in and help.
  • Setup Bugzilla server
  • Setup separate test server
  • Build a custom admin interface so we don't have to rely on the Django admin
  • Build a Twitter and SMS interface
  • Examine how we can turn it into a realtime application

[edit] Project History:

10:00am EST (Boston) - Mobile team starting Android client application

11:49am EST (DC) - Team is creating a full website and coordinating with mobile team to create apps for Android and Iphone. Team is gathering requirements, creating data-model, working on use cases, and drafting the user interface.

12:59pm EST (DC) - The team has built a portion of the API and continue to work on the data model and the user registration components. A build of the home page is almost complete.

2:30 pm EST (DC) - The team has validated our data model, the website style and layout has been been defined, user authentication process is in progress, still working on building the forms, RSS Feeds, and post interface. Discussions with the mobile team about operateability are underway.

3:45 pm EST (DC) - The team has completed defining the categories and sub-categories, RSS is implemented and ready for test, built out most of the pages will finish then clean up css.

4:45 pm EST (DC) - The team is creating the templates and has prepped some data to upload. We are looking for contacts in California.

3:13 pm PST (LA) - Team is getting up to speed on the last round of commits. We are waiting on write access to the git repository.

4:18 pm PST (LA) - The team has cloned the project, and put together a list of tasks to work on. We are looking for donations of highly scalable hosting solutions.

5:40 pm PST (LA) - The team has made a new github, and is adding tasks into the "Issues" section. We are looking for SV contacts to join this project.

5:58 pm PST (LA) - The team is getting kicked out of their space in LA. We hope to log in remotely and continue work, but invite the other CCHaiti groups to log into our github and continue work.

7:31 pm PST (LA) - Team LA is back on-line, and working remotely. Just got word that we can use Google App Engine for hosting. We're waiting on an absolute yes from the Brand Manager, but it looks like they will lift the normal resource limits for us!

1:23 am PST (LA) - The team finally decided to break for the night. Taxonomy is undergoing changes based on discussions with Tweak the Tweet, but has not yet been uploaded to the repository. All other code has been merged to scourger's github. (See link below.)

11:17 am PST (LA) - The LA and DC teams have agreed to meet at 6:30pm PST at to coordinate.

5:21 pm PST (LA)- The team implemented search by categories. Adjustments have been made to the CSS to incorporate a search bar, and to include branding for Earthquake Haiti: 2010

8:27 pm PST (LA) (DC) - The team decided to use Amazon Ec2 hosting, as it would play nice with all the tools being used, and there was a high familiarity level with it among the team members. A server was arranged and set up, DNS was pointed to There will be a guest user account created soon, as the registration functionality still needs work. We are looking for long term sponsorship.

9:00 ps EST (LA DC MT) - Held a status telecon. Attendees: Noel, Alan, Lori, Stefan, Natala Summary: - we are going to participate in crisis camp this weekend! The project will be to pull in data from Sahana and other orgs (i.e. that are collecting haves/needs. Alan will provide support to the team working on the project at the Camp. Natala is a backup. - Alan is going to set-up bugzilla on AWS, Natala will configure once installed -- we'll use this for project tracking and bug tracking - Stefan has some ideas for how to improve the marketplace data structure -- will send out diagrams and we'll discuss next week - Goal for next call is to discuss priorities for next steps and to then convert these priorities into a project plan we can work against with individual "tasks" that anyone (who has the skills required for the project) can tackle. Tasks will be both engineering tasks and non-eng tasks. - Natala will organize a "roll call" to get a sense of who still has time and what they'd like to do for the project. (per lori's suggestion!) - Before the call Natala and Alan discussed options for enabling text-to-list type scenarios with click-a-tell or twilio. This is an open/unassigned project. - There's a need to get more documentation on the project onto the webpage on crisiscommons -- Alan is going to tackle some of this but will probably need additional support. Jeremy (?) i think had previously mentioned working on this as well.,_We_Need_Exchange

Next Call: Weds Feb 17th - 9:00 PM EST / 6:00 PM PST Natala will send out conference call information -- we will use the crisis commons conference call, will get a direct # for montreal!

5:15 pm EST Feb 27 (DC) - We documented installation and run instructions and sent them to Alan Viars for posting to the github site with the download. We're working on documenting the API but haven't gotten far yet. If we get further we'll post more notes.

[edit] Project Volunteer List:

  • Jeremy Carbaugh
  • Ali Felski
  • Eric Miller, Sr Systems Admin / Programmer
  • Shawn Fenn, Program Analyst
  • Alan Viars, CEO Videntity, aviars AT the VIDENTITY DOTTY COM mobile 304.685.3137, twitter: @aviars
  • Lynette Hammond, Web Communications Specialist
  • Dustin Graves, Computer Scientist
  • Katie Jacobs Stanton, State Department - katie.stanton AT THE gmail DOTTY com
  • Natala Menezes natala007 AT the gmail DOTTY com
  • S. Jolicoeur s DOT jolicoeur AT The gmail DOTTY com

Programming Lead (LA): Pete Vander Giessen

Coordinator/Liaison (LA): Lucia Starkey

  • Josh Saxe
  • Mustafa Khafateh
  • Israel Lopez
  • Lori Barfield - tdirector AT the gmail dotty com

Programming Lead (DC): Alan Viars
Coordinator/Liaison (FL): Yanira Gonzalez (yaniragonzale-/-bellsouth -*- net)

  • Damian Montero (damian montero at the sign of gmail dotty com)
  • Edilma Riano
  • Maggie Ying Zhang
  • Tracy A.Phaup
  • Onajide Shabaka-
  • Elizabeth Warriner

[edit] Project Collaboration Space

The team is using github to share code and to document requirements.

The DC Team mobile iPhone application (Appcelerator Titanium platform) (DC iPhone TEAM PLEASE UPDATE THE STATUS HERE)

The Boston Team mobile Android application


Also in github you can find several pages in the wiki that will aid with development.

Describing Have's and Need's

User Roles with actions


Resource Taxonomy

User Help Documentation

[edit] User Testing and Feedback


[edit] Ethical Implications of this Tool


Zahra Bahrami | Stop the Executions

Location: Evin prison
Date condemned: Pending as of 25 August 2010
Charge: Moharabeh
Notes: October 28: Zahra Bahrami was moved to Ward 350 of Evin Prison, which is commonly used to house political prisoners.

September 20: Zahra Bahrami is reportedly under pressure to confess to drug possession charges. She refused to speak in court on both September 8 and 11 because her lawyer, Nasrin Sotoodeh, is in jail. Zahra's next hearing will be held on September 23.

Despite drug possession being added to her charges, Zahra Bahrami still does not have access to a lawyer. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have urged Iran to grant her this access, per international law. They are also urging the regime to either grant her consular access or release her immediately.  Her family is under pressure not to speak to the media about Zahra's case, and the drug possession charges were apparently applied after European and foreign media reported her case.  By levying further charges against Zahra and other prisoners, the Islamic Republic is attempting to silence news of their human rights atrocities.

Zahra Bahrami is a Dutch Iranian woman who was arrested after participating in Ashura (December 27, 2009) protests against the Iranian regime. She has been held in Evin Prison in Tehran since her arrest, and showed signs of torture. Ms. Bahrami was in Iran visiting her children, but is a Dutch citizen. She was charged with setting up an anti-government organization, membership in an unnamed monarchist organization, and spreading anti-regime propaganda. She was denied legal representation and the Dutch foreign minister in Tehran is not permitted to offer her any assistance.  The Islamic Republic does not recognize Ms. Bahrami's Dutch citizenship and refuses to release any information about her case. When asked by a reporter about Ms. Rahrami being permitted consular visits, "President" Ahmadinejad responded: "That is not possible. Iran does not recognise dual nationality. You are Iranian or Dutch."

The Foreign Ministry at the Hague confirmed that Ms. Bahrami does hold a Dutch passport, and had changed her name to Sahra Baahrami, which caused initial confusion about her status. She has reportedly been a resident of the UK for several years. As of 24 August, Dutch representatives to the EU have called on EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton to address Zahra Bahrami's detention with Iranian authorities.

That the Islamic Republic is permitted to torture, detain, and execute Ms. Bahrami is an outrage. Although Iran is not recognizing dual citizenship, Zahra Bahrami is a Dutch citizen, and is protected under United Nations conventions to which Iran is a signatory. Not only is the Islamic Republic refusing to honor its own commitments to international law, to human rights, to its own citizens, but it is going to murder a Dutch citizen for alleged political affiliation. Ms. Bahrami is reported to have suffered infection and lung complications as a result of torture and the appalling conditions in Evin prison. She is permitted no visitors and is reported to be suffering from depression.  Her rare phone calls to family members are monitored and only last for a few minutes.  She has also been forced to confess, which is often done through torture and intimidation. These confessions have been aired on state-affiliated television programs. Her daughter says Ms. Bahrami has never been a member of a political party. Even if she were, this is absolutely no justification for execution, and certainly not of a foreign citizen.

Among others, Iran is violating Article 9 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Both of these UN conventions protect Ms. Bahrami against arbitrary detention. Iran is violating Article 6(2) of the ICCPR, which states that, in countries where it has not been abolished, the death penalty can be imposed only for the most serious crimes. There is no rational justification for considering political participation a serious crime. Article 14 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to legal representation and prohibits forced confession. Finally, both Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 7 of the ICCPR forbid torture.

There is a petition to Maxine Verhagen, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding that Zahra Bahrami's death sentence be immediately overturned and the charges against her dropped.

Free the Hikers Home »


“As secretary-general of the United Nations, I would sincerely hope that the Iranian government will again very favorably consider releasing the remaining two American hikers so that they could join their families as soon as possible.”
~Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

“We urgently appeal to the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal without further delay and show the same compassion to them that the Iranian authorities graciously extended to their companion Sarah Shourd.”
~Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Noam Chomsky

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Shane Bauer

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‘Free Shane And Josh’: New Documentary On Detained Hikers Offers More Evidence Of Their Innocence (VIDEO). Go to the Huffington Post to find out about this new film.



Iranian forces detained Shane Bauer, his fiancée Sarah Shourd and their close friend Josh Fattal on July 31, 2009 while they were enjoying a recreational hike in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. There are conflicting news reports about whether Iranian forces entered Iraq to arrest the three young Americans or they strayed across the poorly marked border by mistake.

Sarah, 32, was released on September 14, 2010, on humanitarian grounds after spending 410 days in solitary confinement and immediately vowed to work for the freedom of Shane and Josh, both 28. All three were charged shortly before Sarah’s release with illegal entry and espionage at a hearing in Evin Prison in Tehran where they were finally allowed to meet their lawyer for only the first time.

Shane, Sarah and Josh are innocent of any crime and, as Amnesty International reports, their extended pre-trial detention is a violation of Iranian and international law. Their detention is arbitrary and inhumane and we call on the Iranian authorities to show Shane and Josh the same compassion they have shown Sarah and release them without further delay.

Shane and Josh have been allowed to telephone their families only once, on March 9, and have not been allowed to send letters. The mothers of Shane, Sarah and Josh traveled to Iran in May 2010 to visit them but were allowed to stay for only two days.

Shane, Sarah, and Josh are all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley. They care greatly about our world and have a documented record as advocates for social and environmental justice. They admire and respect different cultures and religions and share a love of travel that has taken them to many countries. That is why they went to Iraqi Kurdistan, not because they wanted to enter Iran.


This is a Free the Hikers film about Josh Fattal, still unjustly detained in Iran along with Shane Bauer.

If you would like to show your support for Shane, Sarah and Josh, please join our Facebook Fan Page, follow us on Twitter and use the tag #ssj to spread the word.

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  • Time in Detainment:
    483 Days, 6 Hours & 36 Minutes
  • Free the Hikers, Free All Three Poster


    • Total Signature Count:
      • • NEW—FREE ALL THREE!: 1696
      • • ORIGINAL PETITION: 17197


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