Friday, 22 June 2012

Extradition Reform, our number one priority. Protect Talha, Babar, Richard and Gary.

Flyer for Downing Srreet demonstration on 23rd June

Syed Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad, Gary McKinnon and Richard O'Dwyre are due for Extradition to the USA come the 10th July unless we make something awesome happen.

There they face a strange justice system and  indefinite pre-trial detention in facilities which are internationally recognised as torturous, and are torn from their support networks.

The latest on the movement to reform UK-US extradition, from what I can see, is that social momentum is still being built in preparation for the Downing Street Demonstration this Saturday (23rd).

Extradition was originally intended for use against fugitives, however its become perverted, if not inverted due to extremely bad law rushed through in the immediate post 9/11 period by a Prime Minister shamefully subservient to the USA to the point of destroying the lives of his own people.

There is no more important issue for us in the UK than this, it affects all of society, nationally and globally. The issues contained in Extradition are legal, philosophical, political and downright human. We must push ourselves further to act and pressure the institutions to investigate and redress the injustice. First the techie stuff, then the actionable.

So far, 42 MPs from across the parties have signed Early Day Motion 128 moved by Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, has yours? Keith Vaz , Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee has spoken to Talha and Babar via video link and is on the case of the Director for Public Prosecutions. So many reports form the political establishment point the same way, that Extradition must be reformed. 

Lots of fighting talk from powerful people on this matter, but more action is essential.  Virtually all of the current government voted against Tony Blair's subservient treaty when they were in opposition, and the London Mayor is known to sympathise with the situation and the families.  Meanwhile the US Embassy in London is lobbying UK Parliamentarians against extradition reform, on British soil.

There is growing disquiet also as to how the UK police handed  'evidence' over to the US without proper scrutiny from the UK's own Crown Prosecution Service. This admission from the CPS emerged only late last year after the 149 421 signatory megapetition to put Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK pricked the conscience of the nation, and Parliament. Indeed, the police officer responsible for this breach of sovereignty was the same individual who had earlier been 'interviewed under caution'  following the beating of Babar Ahmad. We hope for and invite more flows of information so that we can understand how this cruel cascade of circumstances has unfolded.

On Wednesday,  in meeting room at the House of Commons,  [see #extraditioncommons] Zak Goldsmith MP  of how too many people's lives have been chewed up by extradition. David Bermingham, one of the 'Natwest Three' extradited several years ago told us in his trademark no nonsense manner that having been through 5 jails in the UK and 5 in the USA, that if Babar and Talha get put on the plane after July 10th, we will never see them again. It is 5 minutes to midnight for the detainees. 

It was profound to be breathing the same air as the four campaigns, Talha and Babar's that I know of, and Gary and Richard's, that I'm coming to appreciate the mothers and lawyers of.

Postcard of the FreeTalha Campaign

Extradition scenario is not an easy one to spell out, so thankfully there is a documentary doing the rounds. [see #extraditionfilm]The freetalha campaign is touring the country screening Turab Shah's Extradition film, Brighton last weekend, Birmingham and Manchester last night, London later today, Glasgow and Nottingham next week.

The We Are Babar Ahmad has grown in every single dimension I can think of, Muslim, Church, Trade Union, Human Rightist, Literati and more. They are supporting the family campaigns as well as organising the Downing Street demonstration tomorrow (Sat 23rd June)

We need to lose any fear that might be whispering into our ears and immobilising us. Now is not a great time for trust levels for all sorts of reasons. But now is the time to build a collaborative relationship with justice itself.

I know that there are some in the community who shun and stay away from the family's of the detained, and others who stay away from such issues out of what is essentially fear. However this isolation and subordination is counter-ummahtic and counter-tawhesive

We must not make it so easy for the UK government to surrender judicial sovereignty for crimes alleged to have been committed in this country, to lock us up and post us into the arms of the USA injustice system, where pleabargaining and terrorism stitch ups are the norm and male rape is rife.


How might we do better by these vulnerable men and for the future?
  • Imagine that its you or someone you love a great deal. 
  • Express of solidarity with families and detainees who are going through a really testing time. FreeTalha FreeBabarAhmad    Richard O'Dwyr's Mum's Blog   FreeGary
  • Carry this situation into conversations in households, chickenshops, masjids and workplaces.This is where most commonsense is made. Jumma is a day when we come together to one spot to worship and meet.
  • Attend the first London screening tonight  @ 7pm Zakat House. For details on other screenings click HERE
  • Write letters expressing depth of feeling and reasoning to elected officials. Demand actions, more than words.Writetothem.  Encourage them to sign EDM128.
  • Demonstrate this Saturday at Downing Street from 1pm - British Justice for British Citizens


With the sharp deterioration of protection of elementary civil rights in the US, no one should be extradited to the country on charges related to alleged terrorism.  The constitutional lawyer in the White House, after all, has just made it clear that the due process provisions of the US Constitution (and Magna Carta) can be satisfied by an internal discussion in the executive branch.  And that is hardly the only example.  Furthermore, the prisons and the incarceration system in general are an international scandal.  The shallow and evasive charges in this case strongly reinforce that conclusion.  I wish you the best success in your campaign to block extradition for Talha Ahsan.
                                        Noam Chomsky's Statement of Support 


Related posts 

16th May 2012 - On the Case of Talha Ahsan

10th April 2012 - On the misjudgement of the European Human Rights Commission, who even got Talha's name wrong in the judgement.

Posted 1 hour ago by 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Free Eric Oliver! Trayvon Martin all over again! Added by Darcy Delaproser on June 21, 2012 at 10:00am


Free Eric Oliver! Trayvon Martin all over again!

It's Trayvon Martin all over again except this time the victim is in jail for fighting back!
On June 12, a white mob led by Chris Milton came to the home of 18-year-old Eric Oliver and his family and demanded that they send out 16-year-old Mikey Vasquez so they could beat him up. After Eric's wheelchair-bound mother asked them to leave, they attacked young Mikey. Eric jumped up to protect Mikey, his mother and the other children at the home.
In the fight, the white men who came to take the 16-year-old got beat up. After this, one of the white women in the mob yelled "Nigger, you're going to jail!" and called the police.
Now Eric is in jail charged with aggravated battery and being held under $100,000 ransom for defending himself and his family while the white man who led the mob there and attacked the teens is free!
We have to stand against this injustice! Eric has the right to STAND HIS GROUND to protect his family and home!
Write to Eric:
#38591 Eric Anthony Oliver
Levy County Jail
9150 NE 80th Avenue
Bronson, FL 32621

Call/email/fax the State Attorney:
Attention: State Attorney William Cervone
Fax (352)338-3218

You can say this: I have become aware through the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement of the frame up, arrest, and continued incarceration of Eric Anthony Oliver, a young Black Man, in Bronson, Florida. The circumstances of this young man's arrest is outrageous. As you are probably aware Eric was arrested on June 12, 2012 while defending his family and friends from a white mob the encroached on he and his mother's home. This is Trayvon Martin all over again, except the victim survived this time. This mob attacked a 16-year-old young man but nobody from the mob has been arrested. If there was ever a stand your ground case this is it. I agree with the demands of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement as follows:
1. All charges against Eric Antony Oliver must be dropped and a public apology made to him for this frame up
2. Reparations must be paid to Eric Anthony Oliver for his unjust arrest and incarceration
3. All officers associated with this arrest must be fired for this frame up
4. An immediate investigation of the Levy county Sheriff's office concerning their treatment of the Black community in Levy County must be held

Join the Free Eric Oliver Committee!
Join the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement!

Coffee contains potent opiate receptor binding activity


Coffee contains potent opiate receptor binding activity.


Abstract Source:


Nature. 1983 Jan 20;301(5897):246-8. PMID: 6296693


Abstract Author(s):


J H Boublik, M J Quinn, J A Clements, A C Herington, K N Wynne, J W Funder




Opiate receptor-active peptide fragments (exorphins) have been identified recently in casein and gluten hydrolysates, and morphine has been found in bovine and human milk. To determine whether similar peptides or alkaloids occur in other foodstuffs, we have screened potential sources using a rat brain homogenate assay to detect opiate receptor activity. We report here that instant coffee powders from a variety of manufacturers compete with tritiated naloxone for binding to opiate receptors in the rat brain membrane preparations, with no significant difference between normal and decaffeinated coffee. The receptor binding activity resembles that seen with opiate antagonists, in that there was no change in the half-maximal effective dose (ED50) in the presence of 100 mM Na+; on bioassay, the activity was similarly shown to be antagonistic and specific for opiate-induced inhibition of twitch. Preliminary characterization of the activity reveals that it has a molecular weight (MW) in the range 1,000-3,500, is heat-stable, ether-extractable, not modified by enzymatic digestion with papain, and clearly separable from caffeine and morphine on TLC. As its concentration in an average cup of coffee is five times the ED50, these data suggest that drinking coffee may be followed by effects mediated via opiate receptors, as well as effects of caffeine.


Pubmed Data : Nature. 1983 Jan 20;301(5897):246-8. PMID: 6296693
Article Published Date : Jan 20, 1983
Study Type : In Vitro Study
Additional Links
Pharmacological Actions : Analgesics: Opioid : CK(7) : AC(4)

The coffee specific diterpene cafestol induces peripheral pain-killin properties mediated by endogenous opioid peptides

Abstract Title:

The coffee specific diterpene cafestol induces peripheral antinociception mediated by endogenous opioid peptides.

Abstract Source:


Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2012 Feb 14. Epub 2012 Feb 14. PMID: 22332877


Abstract Author(s):

Ls Guzzo, Ac Perez, Trl Romero, Ao Azevedo, Idg Duarte

Article Affiliation:

Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Biological Sciences, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.


The opioid peptides have been implicated in peripheral antinociception induced by non-opioidergic compounds, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories andα(2) -adrenergic drugs. The aims of the present study were to investigate the possible peripheral antinociceptive effect of cafestol, a diterpene present in the oil derived from coffee beans, and to evaluate the involvement of opioid peptides in this effect. The rat paw pressure test was used, andhyperalgesia was induced by intraplantar injection of prostaglandin E(2) (2 μg/paw). All drugs were locally administered into the hind-paws of male Wistar rats. Intraplantar injection of cafestol (20, 40 and 80 μg) induced peripheral antinociception. The antinociceptive effect of cafestol was due to a local action because the higher dose (80 μg/paw) did not produce any effect in the contralateral paw. The opioid receptor antagonist naloxone (25, 50 and 100 μg/paw) prevented action of cafestol (80 μg/paw) and the aminopeptidases inhibitor bestatin (400 μg/paw) potentiated the antinociceptive effect of cafestol (40 μg/paw). The results discussed here provide evidence that cafestol treatment has peripheral antinociceptive effect and suggest that this effect is mediated by the release of endogenous opioids. © 2012 The Authors Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.

Pubmed Data : Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2012 Feb 14. Epub 2012 Feb 14. PMID: 22332877
Article Published Date : Feb 14, 2012
Study Type : In Vitro Study
Additional Links
Pharmacological Actions : Antinoceceptive : CK(15) : AC(9)
Additional Keywords : Food Opioids : CK(20) : AC(14)

Coffee: Drug, Medicine or Sacrament?

Coffee: Drug, Medicine or Sacrament?

Do you like this story?

It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. ~ David Barry

Coffee is a drug, we know that. Some of us in fact revel in its addictive properties, as it comes with a certain — albeit a tad bit pathological — industriousness. After all, is there anyone more disciplined/obsessed than a coffee drinker — at least, that is, when it comes to acquiring and drinking coffee? You can set your clocks with exactitude to the performance of their daily coffee-associated machinations — they themselves often setting their coffee makers to clocks, so as not to delay or miss an opportunity to imbibe. The type of sober religiosity required to turn drinking a beverage into a ritual is known only by a few Zen tea drinkers and quite possibly billions of habitual coffee drinkers.

Let us also not forget that one of the first documented uses of coffee over 500 years ago was in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen where coffee was known as qahhwat al-bun, or, the ‘wine of the bean,’ the phrase which provided the etymological origin of the word coffee. Once lauded as a “miracle drug” and used as a sacrament in late-night rituals to invoke the sensation of God within revelers, still today, coffee drinkers are known to cast themselves into bouts of coffee-drinking induced reverie and enthusiasm (literally: en “in” + theos “god” or “god-filled”) by drinking this strangely intoxicating, and yet somehow still sobering concoction.

It is interesting that even addictions can be viewed as a form of ritual — albeit degenerated ones (i.e. less regenerative than truly sacred ones), performed with less consciousness than would be expected of a holy, whole-making act. But that cup of Joe gets us up in the morning to perform our secular duties, which says a lot considering what many of us are forced or coerced to do for a living.

While many attribute coffee’s vice-like hold on their physiology to its caffeine content, there is much more going on than a fixation on a stimulant. Its been known for ove a quarter of a century that coffee contains a compound with powerful opiate-like properties and which is found within both caffeinated and decaffeinated forms. The average cup of coffee contains five times the amount needed for what is known as the half maximal effective concentration (ED50), which is a measure of a drug’s potency indicating a response halfway between the baseline and maximum. The ‘narcotic’ properties of coffee are no doubt due to a complex interplay between a wide range of compounds, but at least one compound has been identified that is responsible for increasing the release of our own opioids within the body: namely, cafestrol, a diterprene found within the oil of coffee, known to have potent pain-killing properties.

Coffee is also a ‘brain-booster’ and contains a compound called trigonelline which both stimulates the release of dopamine (not unlike cocaine), and stimulates neurite outgrowth, which involves the extension of dendrites and axons in neurons and which may compensate and rescue damaged neuronal networks in the aging brain. One of the greatest nutrition philosophers of all time, Rudolf Hauschka, described coffee’s affect on our body-mind as follows:

Coffee makes us more aware of our bodily structure. And since this structure is so wise and logical, our thoughts become logical in their awareness of it. Coffee thus helps thinking to find a firm foundation. The connection between bodily being and thinking, keeps calling itself to our attention. Coffee has the same effect on digestion that thought has on our upper man, i.e., a properly ordered metabolism goes hand in hand with orderly thinking. Both are founded on a properly ordered physical structure.”

—Rudolf Hauschka, Nutrition: A Holistic Approach

Coffee is also one of the only sources of “bitters” remaining in the sweet-fixated Western diet, which sadly comes with a certificate of guarantee that the bearer will likely develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer at some point in their life. Could the extreme bitterness of coffee be the reason why it has been repeatedly shown to reduce type 2 diabetes risk, as it is one of the only ways we can balance out the highly inappropriate excesses of carbohydrate in our modern dietary configuration? We don’t normally think of grains as sweet, but they are on the glycemic index. Puffed rice, for instance, can make the blood sweeter than white sugar which is why carbs are known as “crouching diabetes, hidden sugar.” Coffee contains a wide range of blood-glucose and insulin sensitizing compounds, making it an ideal complement to a carbohydrate-deranged diet.

Coffee also awakens and stimulates the Qi, as it is known in the Chinese medical tradition. This was recently discussed in an article entitled “Similarity between coffee effects and qi-stimulating events” which can be read here. While raising Qi through exercise and energy work is the ideal situation, coffee provides a short-cut which is the modus operandi in the modern world: instant gratification in exchange for (energy) indebtedness.

When used responsibly,* however, coffee may be a great boon to health. There are in fact over 40 health conditions which may respond favorably to its use, as documented on our coffee research page.

*Responsibly could be defined as using it as a medicine, occasionally versus every day. Good luck with that!

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Source: wakeup-world


Burning brighter - my experience of PTSD

Posted: Thursday 21 June 2012

People ask me where my lyrics come from, and I’ve always been intentionally vague in the past. I’ve always believed that a song means whatever the listener wants it to mean. That the best ideas aren’t crafted from the ground up, but really do feel like they come out of nothing. So to then impose your own interpretation on the songs seems to be a bit egotistical.

But something happened to me when I was younger that up until now I’ve only ever shared with a handful of my closest friends and family. Something that has literally coloured everything I’ve done since. It was traumatic, terrifying, and it almost killed me. But it also enabled me to see things very differently. It enabled me to write songs for the first time, and has probably informed every single lyric and song I have ever written.

Between the ages of 19 and 22 I suffered from a horrendous condition called post traumatic stress disorder. I won’t go into too much gory detail here but all I will say is that for the best part of three years I was in a living hell. It felt like the rest of the world was at the other side of translucent bullet proof ice. I couldn’t even cope with basic functions. I was having up to fifteen panic attacks a day. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I went down to about ten stone, which isn’t very much when you are 6ft 2” tall. I almost died. I’d spend all day fighting my thoughts, and all night running from imaginary demons and voices.

One thing I’ve never been short of is hope. I’ve been really lucky to have a great family who’ve instilled in me from a very early age the belief that good usually wins. But all that hope did was make the fight for my sanity longer, and harder and more bloody horrible. It broke me down, smashed me to pieces, and then came after the pieces one by one. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m quite a driven and determined person, and I fought back, but it was impossible.

Like trying to beat yourself in a fight to the death, starting with your soul and working your way out with minute, internal, mathematic, mechanical horror. It was almost impossible to think a nice thought. I’d see a nice view and I think of all the killers killing and the rapists raping and all the abusers abusing as far as the eye can see. I’d see a park full of flowers and all I’d think was how sad and pathetic it was that I, as a twenty year old man, had to rely on family and friends to take me out to the park for a change of scenery.

Once I locked myself in the bathroom because all I could hear in my head were these awful voices telling me to hurt and kill. I didn’t want to hurt anyone but I’d been fighting my thoughts for months and I’d got to the point where I’d become terrified that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I even somehow had a knife in my hands. I remember shaking uncontrollably and sitting in the bath and turning on the hot water hoping the shock would bring me to my senses. It didn’t. As the pain from the scalding water went through my body the voices just got louder and more horrific and more confident and started laughing and saying I deserved it repeatedly over and over, and that I should use the knife on myself before I hurt my family on the other side. It wasn’t living and it wasn’t pretty, and so that’s as much as I want to say about it for now. I wrote a short fictional story at the time based on my experiences. I re-read it the other day, and while it’s a bit green, it has an honesty about it that I’m still really proud of.

The reason I’m speaking out now is because there has been a lot of coverage of depression and other mental illnesses recently. People have come forward and spoken out in really brave and touching ways about how they have learned to live with, overcome and even in some cases embrace the dark side.

And I found it inspiring.

Lots of people suffer for months and years in silence because of the stigma attached, or worse still (as was the case with me) because they fear they’re going to be locked up. According to a recent story in The New York Times, for every one US soldier who died in battle last year, 25 veterans committed suicide. Most were suffering from the effects of PTSD. The tragedy of it is that if those young (usually) men hadn’t felt isolated and weak or afraid to speak out, there might be a real chance their lives could have been saved. Men who’ve often fought selflessly for their country only to be isolated and even tragically turned into ratings winning TV casualties when they come home… “World’s Most Dangerous Drivers” really might as well be called “World’s Most Off His Face Ex Soldier” - it has to stop, and it has to stop now.

I’m really lucky I got help. My mum literally carried me to the doctors in the end, and I’m better now. Not just well, but better. Better than I ever was before. Back then we’d spent so long trying to write songs and failing, nothing had any depth, nothing felt real. Coming out of the worst of my PTSD, I was aged 22 and I couldn’t honestly stand behind anything we were writing anymore.

Embrace sounded like our influences, as it said in Melody Maker at the time:

A lowest common denominator blend of The Chameleons, The Bunnymen, and U2; basically that live aid performance minus the laughs”

Well let’s say it hit a nerve. Aged 22, I picked up a guitar for the first time and learned some chords. The illness took a while to lift, but as it did, the demons that kept me up all night just enabled me to spend more time writing. So I sat there with my acoustic guitar and I wrote and wrote and wrote.

And as I got better, I wrote even more. The illness that had smashed me to pieces, the horror that had me fighting for air, isolated and trapped behind an ice wall now enabled me to see the world with growing clarity as the ice melted. Colours burned brighter, orchestras played in my head. I felt so alive, I could taste it. Songs poured out of me. As my health came back, I was able to help my dad on the building site by day and then write songs all night. I wasn’t sleeping very much at that time but it felt like I’d wasted the last three years as a walking zombie and I didn’t know how long this new alive feeling was going to last. Well not only did it last, it continued and still continues to enhance every aspect of my life to this day. It’s not all been plain sailing though to say the least. But maybe that’s a story for another time.

So why talk about this now? Last week Richard came to the studio armed with one of the most aggressive pieces of music he has ever written and for the first time I felt compelled to open up and write about PTSD.

The song is called “Self Attack Mechanism” and it’s not quite finished yet but it’s turning out like nothing else we’ve ever done before. Which after five albums is really great to be able to say.

Danny McNamara

This is an extract of a blog first published on Danny's Tumblr. Danny is singer and writer in the band, Embrace. He has had lots of messages of support on Twitter, and his Tumblr, so probably won't be able to reply to comments here.

1 Comment

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  • Jan replied on 21 Jun 2012 at 09:52

    Thanks for writing about this. I've had post-traumatic stress since I was 3 years old, and over the past 22 years the thing I have struggled most to articulate is the rage. When something "bad", though "bad" doesn't really cover it, happens to you, people seem just about able to handle tears and fright, but anger... I grew up unable to even explain why I felt homicidal a lot of the time; suicidal is bad enough for people misunderstanding. It also goes against the message of a lot of anti-stigma campaigns, which isn't helpful. I just want to be understood. I want people to admit how much abuse and injustice there is in the world.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bahrain puts boy aged 11 on trial for alleged role in roadblock protest - Source: Guardian | Saeed Kamali Dehghan


Ali Hasan after his release on bail. Photo: Hasan Jamali/AP

Bahrain puts boy aged 11 on trial for alleged role in roadblock protest

Source: Guardian | Saeed Kamali Dehghan

At a time when most 11-year-old boys are looking forward to the school holidays, Ali Hasan is preparing for his trial.

On Wednesday morning the primary school pupil from suburban Manama will stand in a Bahrain court and listen as the case against him is spelt out.

The prosecution case: that Ali helped protesters block a street with rubbish containers and wood during demonstrations last month. Ali's defence: that he's a child who was just playing with friends in the street.

"On the day before I was arrested there was some fighting in the streets near my house between the demonstrators and the police," Ali told the Guardian by phone from his home in the Bilad al-Qadeem suburb. "The demonstrators had blocked the street by setting fire to tyres and using containers in which people dispose of their rubbish.

"The day after this I went to the street with two of my friends to play. It was around 3pm. While we were playing there, some police forces came towards us which made us panic. My friends managed to run away … but I was so scared by the guns they were carrying that I couldn't move … and I was arrested."

New precedent

Bahrain's rulers have proved ruthless in the cases they have pursued against those accused of involvement in 15 months of protests against the Khalifa dynasty, with prosecutions against doctors, nurses and rights activists. Ali Hasan's case marks a new precedent in the legal crackdown against civil society. He is believed to be the youngest Bahraini to stand trial in connection with the uprising.

Ali has already spent weeks in jail before he was bailed last week, and even sat his exams in prison. After his arrest he was taken to various police stations where he said he was forced to confess to taking part in anti-government demonstrations. "I was crying all the time. I told them I'd confess to anything to go back home," he said.

Ali's father, Jasem Hasan, a car parts dealer, said his son was taken back to the detention centre the day after his arrest.

"I was abroad at the time and when I called Ali's mother was only crying. She was crying for all the time Ali was in prison," he said.

Like putting a bear in a box

In jail Ali spent a month in a room with three other children and was made to clean the centre.

"We would wake up early in the morning for breakfast, usually around 6.30, and then I had to do some job," he said.

"The first day in jail was horrible.

I cried all the time but I became friends with the other boys there and we could play for four hours every day – but had to spend all our other time in a locked room."

Describing the centre, he said: "It's like putting a bear in a box, I felt just like that. I never want to go back to that place again."

Bahrain's chief prosecutor for those under 18, Noura Al-Khalifa, has said that Ali was detained while blocking the street and Bahraini information officials have alleged that Ali was participating in an "illegal gathering" along with other protesters.


Ali's father said the allegations were lies.

"They claimed that my son had accepted money in exchange for setting fire to tyres and blocking the road," he said. "I don't say I'm a rich person but I make enough money and my son doesn't need to go in streets looking for money. I always give enough money to him."

Ali's lawyer, Mohsen al-Alawi, said the boy was nothing to do with the demonstrations. "Ali was not a political activist or a demonstrator. He was only playing games like all other children of his age."

Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns about Ali's case. "He was not accompanied by a lawyer during his questioning," said HRW's Mariwan Hama-Saeed. "It seems the only evidence used against him is his own confession and the testimony of a police officer."

The UK and US governments have been criticised for maintaining close relations with the Bahraini leadership, and failing to address human rights abuses in an uprising that has left scores dead. The Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, who visited Bahrain last week, encouraged further reform in the country, saying that it was "clear there is much more to do".

Burt said: "While the Bahraini government has made some good progress on the recommendations of the Bahrain independent commission of inquiry (BICI), we are clear there is much more to do. Bringing about sustained, comprehensive reform will take time, but the government should build on the steps they have taken and ensure that BICI recommendations are implemented quickly and in full, including where they relate to human rights.

"We stand ready to assist Bahrain as it tackles the challenges ahead, including help with reform of the judicial system, promoting human rights training in the police and other government services, and reducing sectarian tension through reconciliation."

The UK Foreign Office did not respond to the Guardian's request for comments on Ali Hasan's case at the time of publication.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africaprogramme at Amnesty International, said: "Arresting an 11-year-old boy, interrogating him for hours without a lawyer before trying him on spurious charges shows a jaw-dropping lack of respect for his rights."

She added that such treatment was completely out of step with international standards, or even Bahrain's own penal code. "This case shows the excessive means the Bahraini authorities have resorted to in order to crush protest. I hope they will see sense and drop all the charges against Ali Hassan."

The Jakarta Post - Somaly Mam: Cambodian sex slave-turned activist

Somaly Mam: Cambodian sex slave-turned activist

Susan Long, Asia News Network (The Straits Times), Singapore | World | Fri, 06/15/2012 10:44 AM

Somaly Mam is so tired of being a victim.

The Cambodian sex slave-turned-anti trafficking activist is adamant that she does not want to recount her life story again and be haunted afresh by nightmares of her past.

The 42-year-old wears her hair long to her waist, refuses to get “fat and grey” and takes meticulous care of herself so that she can be a role model to girls everywhere.

“I need to love myself, I'm not a victim any more,” she declares, as she poses for pictures at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, where she was a guest speaker at last week's Nomura Asia Equity Forum.

The survivor is now squarely focused on the future lot of Cambodian women, which she feels she – once the lowest of the low as a “dark-skinned” sex slave from a “savage” minority tribe – now has the capacity to change at the highest levels.

Five years ago, she launched her eponymous foundation to raise funds and give sex trafficking victims a voice. Since then, she has been reforming their image from weak and powerless to courageous overcomers. She encourages them to teach classes and give talks to the police, military and magistrates on sex slavery.

Through radio shows and public talks, she lobbies for more sex education and gender equality, in a country where boys routinely have their first sexual encounter in brothels and girls are taught to feel ashamed of their bodies. She implores men to respect women, and see them not merely as toys or slaves, or chattel.

She also goes to the root of the problem by bringing small business to desperate mothers, to provide them with an alternative to selling their daughters into a life of vice for US$20 (S$25).

Today, it's no longer easy to “buy a virgin” in Cambodia, she says triumphantly. In 2008, the Cambodian government finally introduced an anti-trafficking law criminalizing sexual exploitation, especially of minors, which resulted in police raids of red-light areas. But enforcement remains patchy. In this area, she thinks Singapore, with its strides in curtailing trafficking and strengths in “strict law enforcement”, can provide a “good, clean model” for Cambodia.

Although sex trafficking numbers have gone down – it is estimated that one in 40 girls born in Cambodia gets sold into sex slavery – she warns that the incidence of rape, especially by stepfathers or relatives known to the girl's family, is on the rise.

Ever younger girls are being trafficked, as a growing number of Asian sex tourists to Cambodia – including Singaporean men – believe that sex with a virgin whitens the skin, bestows longer life and even cures Aids. “To be sure they are virgins, they are taking them as young as five,” she says.

Violence by pimps has escalated. Some women have an eye gouged out, are found chained to sewers, or given electric shocks to ensure compliance. She attributes this to the state of moral bankruptcy in Cambodia, after years of carpet bombing by the Americans, and the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

It is dark and disturbing but her message to Singapore, in whose backyard this is happening, is: Don't look away.

“Trafficking is not just in Cambodia; it's around the world, everywhere. People think the girls wish to do it. I want everyone to know that no woman wants to be raped. We all want to have sex with men we love. Start to ask questions, talk and understand,” she beseeches in patchy English, her fifth language, after Khmer, French, Laotian and Thai.

Today, her proudest achievement is not the 7,000 girls her organization Afesip (a French acronym for Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) has rescued across Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand since 1996.

It's a mother's pride in her girls who graduated, got married, made good. Last year, with tears in her eyes, she sent off one of her charges to law school in Cambodia, relishing the irony of how she – like other prostitutes – once had many brushes with the law.

But she gets riled up when they decide to give up their careers after marriage. “Why do you stop? You get your own salary, you speak English, you're travelling, and then just because one man asks you to stop, you stop. Keep working. Women have to live independently,” she upbraids them.

What also gets her goat, she says, are rogues pretending to be knights on white horses.

Some Caucasian men, after reading her autobiographical bestseller The Road Of Lost Innocence, first published in French in 2005, get inspired to “save” a girl. They “buy” a beautiful girl from the brothel, bed her, enjoy their holiday, then call Mam from the airport to collect her.

“I hate that,” she says heatedly. “What am I going to do with her? This woman, who has been with a foreigner with money, enjoyed great food, an iPhone, how can she stay in my center? In my center, the girls have no phone to use; we cannot feed them meat every day. These men, I want to kill.”

“If you want to save a girl, don't save her and have sex with her. Provide skills, training, education; empower her.”

It takes five minutes to save a girl from forced prostitution but five to 10 years – and the patience “of a mother” – to “recover” her.

For the past 16 years, she has given the police tip-offs on sold or kidnapped girls in brothels, observed the raid, held their hands as they gave their statements, then taken them back to the centre to train them in sewing or hairdressing and begin the long process of emotional healing.

Some call their mother, go home and end up back in the brothels. “You have to look after them as your own kid, not as a victim, and go back to the brothel to get them every single time,” she recounts, adding she has done this four times for one girl.

Some of these mothers who sold their own flesh go on to lodge complaints with human rights groups when their daughters are in her shelter, claiming they have been denied access. She is aware this adds to the controversy already swirling over her hardline stance that all sex workers are “victims”, regardless of consent, in poverty-stricken Cambodia.

In a rehearsed spiel, she maintains she is focused on “sex abuse and sex trafficking” and is “not against sex workers”. If a girl over 20 has decided to prostitute herself for a living, she says her role will be to “care for her, empower her, give her more opportunities”. “If she decides to leave, I'm there to help her,” she says.

Accusations have flown over how she ignored issues of consent and security by allowing New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof to live-tweet a brothel raid in November last year.

When asked about this, her defense is that Kristof is “like a brother” to her. She draws attention instead to how the subject of his tweets – a young Vietnamese girl who was trafficked to Cambodia – was rescued to safety on the day of her 14th birthday.

“The most important thing is to see her laughing again,” she says with finality.

Whenever challenged, she closes the subject with: “No one is perfect and I'm not perfect too.”

She seems to have no inkling of how big her staff strength is, or how much they operate on. She adds disarmingly that her management style is plain bad. “I don't know how to do it at all. I'm bad at management and finance... I tell my staff I'm the worst and they tell me the same too.”

Though abandoned as a toddler, growing up an orphan among the minority Phnong tribe in Cambodia's mountainous Mondulkiri province were her happiest days. “There was no beating,” she says.

She foraged for her own food in the forest and slept among the trees till age 10, when an elderly man from the city “adopted” her, promising to find her birth parents. “Grandfather”, as she called him, beat her into submission, then sold her off several times – first her virginity to a Chinese merchant at age 12, in marriage to a violent soldier at 14, and finally to a Phnom Penh brothel at 16.

She ran away, only to be gang-raped by the police, and had maggots poured down her throat upon her return. She worked off her debt till “Grandfather” died, then took up with a series of Caucasian clients because they did not beat her, “paid more” and took her to “nicer places”.

At 20, she met Pierre Legros, a French aid agency worker who spoke perfect Khmer and was “brilliant”, if a bit “rough” around the edges. She opened a bar with him, married him and followed him to France three years later. In Paris, she was confronted with a cold, distant land and a hostile mother-in-law (“Today, I understand her; no one wants her son to marry a prostitute,” she confides).

Barely 18 months later, in 1994, they returned to Cambodia when he landed a job with medical humanitarian agency Medecins Sans Frontieres. She pretended to be a nurse and infiltrated Cambodia's brothels handing out condoms. Then she started helping girls held against their will to flee.

Their home was crowded with 20 of them at one point. That was how Afesip started its first shelter in 1996, as she gave birth to their first child. They had a second child in 2002, but parted ways in 2004. Mam, who has “never known what love is”, says in her book: “It is difficult for me not to blame all men for the actions of a few.”

There were warnings – delivered at gun point – by brothel owners. In 2006, she told journalists that her then 14-year-old adopted daughter Ning was kidnapped and raped in retaliation for her activism.

But two months ago, her account was refuted by former husband Legros, a former Afesip director. He called it a “marketing” ploy for her foundation and told The Cambodian Daily that the girl had just run away with her boyfriend. Likewise, Cambodia's anti-trafficking police say they did not hear of any kidnapping.

Asked how Ning is doing now, Mam clams up, sighing heavily that there is “big trouble”.

These frequent attacks no longer faze her. The hardest part, she lets on, is steeling herself to enter the dank, dirty brothel alleys, talking to victims about wounds which mirror hers.

There, the engulfing stench of “sperm and sweat” makes her gag. She has drawers full of perfumes and potions, which she douses herself in, but she feels she can never ever exorcise the stench of her past.

The divorcee, who holds French and Cambodian citizenship, spends about a third of her time travelling to raise funds but can stay away from Phnom Penh no more than 10 days at a time – or else the nightmares return.

The Buddhist, who refuses to believe it is her “karma” to suffer for past misdeeds, says she has embraced forgiveness and now meditates twice a day.

If she could give her children three pointers about life, what would they be?

She thinks for a while, then says: “Be happy for what you are. Life is short, continue to help and share with everyone. Life is love and love has no conditions.”

Woman Who Couldn’t Be Intimidated By Citigroup Wins $31 Million


Woman Who Couldn’t Be Intimidated By Citigroup Wins $31 Million

By Bob Ivry - May 31, 2012 5:01 AM GMT
Bloomberg Markets Magazine
Citigroup Whistle-Blower Wins $31 Mln Settlement

Sherry Hunt never expected to be a senior manager at a Wall Street bank. She was a country girl, raised in rural Michigan by a dad who taught her to fish and a mom who showed her how to find wild mushrooms. She listened to Marty Robbins and Buck Owens on the radio and came to believe that God has a bigger plan, that everything happens for a reason.

Sherry Hunt, who worked at quality control at Citi's mortgage unit for eight years, routinely filed reports on flawed mortgages to her bosses before suing the bank. Photographer: Wesley Mann/Bloomberg Markets

May 31 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Bob Ivry discusses the case of Sherry Hunt, a Citigroup executive who blew the whistle on the bank, detailing how they continued to buy and sell flawed home loans, even into 2012. The story appears in the July issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Inside Track." (Source: Bloomberg)

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She got married at 16 and didn’t go to college. After she had her first child at 17, she needed a job. A friend helped her find one in 1975, processing home loans at a small bank in Alaska. Over the next 30 years, Hunt moved up the ladder to mortgage-banking positions in Indiana, Minnesota and Missouri, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its July issue.

On her days off, when she wasn’t fishing with her husband, Jonathan, she rode her horse, Cody, in Wild West shows. She sometimes dressed up as the legendary cowgirl Annie Oakley, firing blanks from a vintage rifle to entertain an audience. She liked the mortgage business, liked that she was helping people buy houses.

In November 2004, Hunt, now 55, joined Citigroup (C) Inc. as a vice president in the mortgage unit. It looked like a great career move. The housing market was booming, and the New York- based bank, the sixth-largest lender in the U.S. at the time, was responsible for 3.5 percent of all home loans. Hunt supervised 65 mortgage underwriters at CitiMortgage Inc.’s sprawling headquarters in O’Fallon, Missouri, 45 minutes west of St. Louis.

Avoiding Fraud

Hunt’s team was responsible for protecting Citigroup from fraud and bad investments. She and her colleagues inspected loans Citi wanted to buy from outside brokers and lenders to see whether they met the bank’s standards. The mortgages had to have properly signed paperwork, verifiable borrower income and realistic appraisals.

Citi would vouch for the quality of these loans when it sold them to investors or approved them for government mortgage insurance.

Investor demand was so strong for mortgages packaged into securities that Citigroup couldn’t process them fast enough. The Citi stamp of approval told investors that the bank would stand behind the mortgages if borrowers quit paying.

At the mortgage-processing factory in O’Fallon, Hunt was working on an assembly line that helped inflate a housing bubble whose implosion would shake the world. The O’Fallon mortgage machinery was moving too fast to check every loan, Hunt says.

Phony Appraisals

By 2006, the bank was buying mortgages from outside lenders with doctored tax forms, phony appraisals and missing signatures, she says. It was Hunt’s job to identify these defects, and she did, in regular reports to her bosses.

Executives buried her findings, Hunt says, before, during and after the financial crisis, and even into 2012.

In March 2011, more than two years after Citigroup took $45 billion in bailouts from the U.S. government and billions more from the Federal Reserve -- more in total than any other U.S. bank -- Jeffery Polkinghorne, an O’Fallon executive in charge of loan quality, asked Hunt and a colleague to stay in a conference room after a meeting.

The encounter with Polkinghorne was brief and tense, Hunt says. The number of loans classified as defective would have to fall, he told them, or it would be “your asses on the line.”

Hunt says it was clear what Polkinghorne was asking -- and she wanted no part of it.

‘I Wouldn’t Play Along’

“All a dishonest person had to do was change the reports to make things look better than they were,” Hunt says. “I wouldn’t play along.”

Instead, she took her employer to court -- and won. In August 2011, five months after the meeting with Polkinghorne, Hunt sued Citigroup in Manhattan federal court, accusing its home-loan division of systematically violating U.S. mortgage regulations.

The U.S. Justice Department decided to join her suit in January. Citigroup didn’t dispute any of Hunt’s facts; it didn’t mount a defense in public or in court. On Feb. 15, 2012, the bank agreed to pay $158.3 million to the U.S. government to settle the case.

Citigroup admitted approving loans for government insurance that didn’t qualify under Federal Housing Administration rules. Prosecutors kept open the possibility of bringing criminal charges, without specifying targets.

‘Pure Myth’

Citigroup behaving badly as late as 2012 shows how a big bank hasn’t yet absorbed the lessons of the credit crisis despite billions of dollars in bailouts, says Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“This case demonstrates that the notion that the bailed-out banks have somehow found God and have reformed their ways in the aftermath of the financial crisis is pure myth,” he says.

As a reward for blowing the whistle on her employer, Hunt, the country girl turned banker, got $31 million out of the settlement paid by Citigroup.

Hunt still remembers her first impressions of CitiMortgage’s O’Fallon headquarters, a complex of three concrete-and-glass buildings surrounded by manicured lawns and vast parking lots. Inside are endless rows of cubicles where 3,800 employees trade e-mails and conduct conference calls. Hunt says at first she felt like a mouse in a maze.

“You only see people’s faces when someone brings in doughnuts and the smell gets them peeking over the tops of their cubicles,” she says.

Jean Charities

Over time, she came to appreciate the camaraderie. Every month, workers conducted the so-called Jean Charities. Employees contributed $20 for the privilege of wearing jeans every day, with the money going to local nonprofit organizations. With so many workers, it added up to $25,000 a month.

“Citi is full of wonderful people, conscientious people,” Hunt says.

Those people worked on different teams to process mortgages, all of them focused on keeping home loans moving through the system. One team bought loans from brokers and other lenders. Another team, called underwriters, made sure loan paperwork was complete and the mortgages met the bank’s and the government’s guidelines.

Yet another group did spot-checks on loans already purchased. It was such a high-volume business that one group’s assignment was simply to keep loans moving on the assembly line.

Powerful Incentive

Still another unit sold loans to Fannie MaeFreddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, the government-controlled companies that bundled them into securities for sale to investors. Those were the types of securities that blew up in 2007, igniting a global financial crisis.

Workers had a powerful incentive to push mortgages through the process even if flaws were found: compensation. The pay of CitiMortgage employees all the way up to the division’s chief executive officer depended on a high percentage of approved loans, the government’s complaint says.

By 2006, Hunt’s team was processing $50 billion in loans that Citi-Mortgage bought from hundreds of mortgage companies. Because her unit couldn’t possibly review them all, they checked a sample.

When a mortgage wasn’t up to federal standards -- which could be any error ranging from an unsigned document to a false income statement or a hyped-up appraisal -- her team labeled the loan as defective.

Missing Documentation

In late 2007, Hunt’s group estimated that about 60 percent of the mortgages Citigroup was buying and selling were missing some form of documentation. Hunt says she took her concerns to her boss, Richard Bowen III.

Bowen, 64, is a religious man, a former Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet at Texas Tech University in Lubbock with an attention to detail that befits his background as a certified public accountant. When he saw the magnitude of the mortgage defects, Bowen says he prayed for guidance.

In a Nov. 3, 2007, e-mail, he alerted Citigroup executives, including Robert Rubin, then chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee and a former Treasury secretary; Chief Financial OfficerGary Crittenden; the bank’s senior risk officer; and its chief auditor.

Bowen put the words “URGENT -- READ IMMEDIATELY -- FINANCIAL ISSUES” in the subject line.

“The reason for this urgent e-mail concerns breakdowns of internal controls and resulting significant but possibly unrecognized financial losses existing within our organization,” Bowen wrote. “We continue to be significantly out of compliance.”

No Change

There were no noticeable changes in the mortgage machinery as a result of Bowen’s warning, Hunt says.

Just a week after Bowen sent his e-mail, Sherry and Jonathan were driving their Toyota Camry about 55 miles (89 kilometers) per hour on four-lane Providence Road in Columbia, Missouri, when a driver in a Honda Civic hit them head-on. Sherry broke a foot and her sternum. Jonathan broke an arm and his sternum.

Doctors used four bones harvested from a cadaver and titanium screws to stabilize his neck.

“You come out of an experience like that with a commitment to making the most of the time you have and making the world a better place,” Sherry says.

Three months after the accident, attorneys from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, a New York law firm representing Citigroup, interviewed Hunt. She had no idea at the time that it was related to Bowen’s complaint, she says.

Home Computer

The lawyers’ questions made her search her memory for details of loans and conversations with colleagues, she says. She decided to take notes from that time forward on a spreadsheet she kept on her home computer.

Bowen’s e-mail is now part of the archive of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a panel created by Congress in 2009. Citigroup’s response to the commission, FCIC records show, came from Brad Karp, chairman of Paul Weiss.

He said Citigroup had reviewed Bowen’s issues, fired a supervisor and changed its underwriting system, without providing specifics.

One change resulting from Bowen’s e-mail affected Bowen himself. He went from managing 220 people to overseeing two, according to the FCIC report. By January 2009, Bowen no longer worked for Citigroup, he told the FCIC.

“More people haven’t come forward because they saw what happened to me,” says Bowen, who’s now an accounting and finance professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. He says Hunt is the exception. “Sherry is an absolutely fantastic lady who knows what she’s doing. She has a conscience. I have the highest regard for her.”

One Person

Bowen declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure from Citigroup. The bank denies any retaliation against him.

After Bowen left, Hunt had only one person she could confide in: her husband. She and Jonathan, 51, met in 1998 at a Minnesota casino. He trained search-and-rescue dogs for a living. They share a love of animals, especially horses. She says she was attracted to his sense of humor. He would quote country songs to make her laugh. They were married in 1999.

When Sherry worked for U.S. Bancorp in Missouri, she and Jonathan bred and raised horses. As members of the Old West Society of Minnesota, the couple performed in re-enactments of 19th-century events, such as the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

Sometimes she dressed up as a society woman, wearing a bustle. When she played Annie Oakley, she wore a buckskin outfit with a bullwhip coiled around her shoulder. She galloped into the arena on her horse -- but never too fast, her husband says.

‘Don’t Get Along’

“Sherry and speed on a horse don’t get along,” he says with a grin.

Every workday for eight years before winning her lawsuit, Sherry Hunt left their house on its 10-acre (4-hectare) lot and drove along a dirt road where cows and horses grazed in pastures. She turned onto a two-lane county highway that passed over a river bridge barely wide enough for two cars. About 45 minutes later, she’d arrive at the office.

After Bowen went public with her findings, Hunt says she was transferred to the quality-control group on April 1, 2008. She went from supervising 65 people to managing none.

“What I saw there was 10 times worse,” she says. “Every time I turned over a rock, I found a snake.”

One place where she uncovered flaws was in the fraud prevention and investigation group. That’s where Hunt’s team shipped questionable loans, with issues such as obviously forged signatures, whited-out income lines on tax forms or misspelled bank names on borrower bank statements.

No Notification

The group was supposed to investigate the mortgages for fraud and notify the FHA within a month when it found it. In November 2009, Hunt says, she came across a list of about 1,000 loans that the quality-control team had identified for possible fraud.

The fraud prevention and investigation group had left some of the mortgages in the queue for more than two years without checking them, Hunt says. Not one notification went to the FHA before July 2011, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan issued a subpoena to the O’Fallon office, the government’s complaint says.

In 2009, different teams began feuding, internal e-mails made public in the Justice Department case show. That’s when CitiMortgage created yet another team whose mission was to challenge the findings of Hunt’s quality-control group and persuade her and her colleagues to change their decisions on the suitability of loans.

‘Brute Force’

In November 2010, Ross Leckie, a senior director of CitiMortgage’s retail bank mortgage unit, sent an e-mail ordering his staff to meet its goal of a maximum 5 percent defect rate on home loans. Quality-control employees had identified 10 loans with severe flaws from a pool of 138, Leckie said, for a rate of 7.25 percent.

“Drive this rate down by brute force,” he wrote. “We need three loans to be removed to get to 5.07 percent.”

CitiMortgage defect rates did plummet, according to notes Hunt kept. It wasn’t because there were fewer bad mortgages, she says.

“It’s because they were beating us up over the quality- control reports,” she says.

In late 2010, Hunt began studying the new federal whistle- blower rules that Congress had just enacted in July as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

‘You’ve Had Enough’

The stress had been mounting for Sherry and Jon. Conflicts at the office, the physical pain that lingered from the car wreck and growing anxiety over Citi’s bad mortgages were taking a toll. The Hunts say the laughter they often shared had faded.

Sherry says she drew inspiration from a country song by Rascal Flatts called “Stand.”

“Decide you’ve had enough,” it goes. “You get mad. You get strong. Wipe your hands, shake it off, then you stand.”

Hunt says she pinned the lyrics to her cubicle wall.

“It made me stronger,” she says.

Hunt needed the strength on March 22, 2011. That’s the day Polkinghorne, who was three levels above her in the chain of command, called her and a colleague aside and told them their asses were on the line if the defect rates didn’t fall.

Polkinghorne couldn’t be reached for comment, and Citigroup declined to make him available for an interview.

That night, she and Jon agreed the time had come for her to take a stand. So Hunt decided to follow the first step prescribed by Dodd-Frank: formally complaining to the company. The prospect kept her awake at night.

‘My Life Savings’

“I was ready to give up my career and my life savings to get this done,” she says.

On March 29, 2011, Hunt walked into CitiMortgage’s human resources department in O’Fallon and told them everything: how the bank had been routinely buying and selling bad mortgages for years, how the fraud unit wasn’t doing its job and how the quality-control people were being pressured to change their ratings.

Whistle-blower rules mandate that Hunt had to notify the Securities and Exchange Commission, the government regulator that oversees Citigroup’s mortgage business, within 90 days of reporting her concerns internally.

“I am afraid of what I know,” she wrote the SEC on May 24, 2011. “I do not want to know what I know. I have nothing to gain from coming forward and have no hidden agenda.”

Hunt hired a lawyer, Finley Gibbs of Rotts & Gibbs LLC in Columbia, Missouri. He had represented the Hunts after their car accident. Starting on June 27, 2011, Hunt and Gibbs shared details from her spreadsheet in four conference calls with Justice Department investigators.

Had to Do It

The officials made no promises about whether they would take action against Citigroup.

For two months, Sherry and Jon sweated over what could happen if she sued Citigroup without help from the government. They concluded she had to do it, Hunt says. On Aug. 5, 2011, Hunt filed a false-claims complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“I still had to go into work,” Hunt says. Because the complaint was sealed, no one in her office knew about it. She pinned a postcard of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa next to the Rascal Flatts lyrics. Like Mona Lisa, Sherry Hunt had a secret.

She knew her chances of winning were slim because she couldn’t match the resources of a big bank. Just 20 percent of whistle-blowers get help from government prosecutors, and without that, success is rare, according to the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington.

A Ghost

After filing the lawsuit, Hunt says, she felt like a ghost navigating the cubicles of CitiMortgage. Nobody knew, she says, yet she felt vulnerable, as if she could lose her job at any moment.

Sherry and Jon were elated on Jan. 3, 2012, when she got a call from her lawyer: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan had decided to join her on behalf of the Justice Department in the case.

There was no testimony and no trial. Citigroup admitted wrongdoing on Feb. 15 and paid the $158.3 million to settle. In a press release the same day, Citi said it was pleased to resolve the matter.

“We take our quality-assurance processes seriously and have proactively undertaken process improvements to ensure that they are as robust as possible,” the bank wrote. The statement didn’t mention Hunt.

Bank of America

Citigroup isn’t the only bank that’s been held accountable for processing bad mortgages. In February, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp. settled a false-claims case with the government for $1 billion, without admitting wrongdoing.

In May, Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG agreed to pay $202.3 million for endorsing unqualified mortgages for FHA insurance, and admitted wrongdoing.

What continues to set Citigroup apart is that the bank approved flawed loans well past the 2008 financial crisis. A battleground over loan quality persisted at CitiMortgage even as the settlement was signed in February, the complaint says.

Just months after Citigroup settled with the Justice Department, another big financial institution, JPMorgan Chase & Co., announced a multibillion-dollar trading loss -- helping to rekindle the debate over regulation of so-called too-big-to-fail banks.

Dodd-Frank Debate

President Barack Obama invoked the JPMorgan loss as more evidence of the need for tighter regulation of Wall StreetMitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has meanwhile continued to call for the repeal of Dodd-Frank, the law Sherry Hunt followed when she blew the whistle on her employer.

If Citigroup has learned anything from Sherry Hunt, it’s not clear from the comments of CitiMortgage CEO Sanjiv Das, who’s based in New York. He says his division does terrific work.

“We are focused on making sure we manufacture loans the right way,” he says. “This is a complex industry. It’s a complex process. It takes time. We’re heading down a trajectory that I’m incredibly proud of. Is there something that is systemically wrong? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”

Citigroup CEO Vikram S. Pandit declined to comment for this story. In a video recorded in 2010 and posted by Citi on the Internet, Pandit pledged that his bank was turning over a new leaf.

‘Making Sure We’re Honest’

“We’re going to stand for the financial services company that practices responsible finance -- making sure we’re transparent, making sure we’re honest, making sure we manage our shareholders’ money prudently,” he says.

Citigroup repaid with interest the $45 billion in government bailout loans it took in 2008, as well as all of the money it borrowed from the Fed. The bank reported profits during each of the nine quarters ended in March 2012. Yet shareholders remain restive. Citi’s stock fell 92 percent from Dec. 11, 2007, when Pandit became CEO, to May 30.

Three weeks after Citigroup settled the Hunt case, the bank’s board of directors awarded Pandit $14.9 million in compensation for 2011. The pay was tied to Pandit’s push for ethical conduct, the bank said in a March 8 regulatory filing.

The filing specifically cited Pandit’s success in improving Citigroup’s U.S. mortgage unit. On April 16, in an unprecedented move, Citi shareholders voted to reject Pandit’s compensation by about 55 to 45 percent. The vote was nonbinding, and the bank’s board of directors has final say on pay.

‘There’s a Basis’

“We gave this guy a pretty substantial incentive award, and there’s a basis for it,” says Richard Parsons, who was Citigroup’s chairman and a member of its compensation committee until he retired in April. “Our view was, under Vikram’s leadership, we did a pretty good job of moving Citigroup forward in the year 2011, but there was still progress to be made.”

The amount Citigroup paid in the settlement amounts to 1.4 percent of its 2011 net income of $11.2 billion.

“It’s about more than dollars; it’s about the reputational risk of the enterprise and how we do business,” Parsons says. “Getting our arms around the problem and getting it fixed has been a top priority.”

Hunt says she hopes her victory inspires others to take a stand.

“I want people to know they can come forward,” she says. “If I can do it, they can do it. We need to change what’s wrong in our own backyards, and that’s how we end up changing the big things.”

Donating Home

After they received their share of the settlement, the Hunts decided to donate their house in Missouri to the Troy First Baptist Church and move to a warmer climate. Sitting at the kitchen counter, Jon calls Sherry over to watch a video on his tablet.

It’s the Zac Brown Band doing a song called “Knee Deep,” which is about the dream of a permanent vacation.

“Listen,” Jon tells his wife, pointing to the video. Then he sings along: “Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair.”

Sherry Hunt tips her head back and hoots.

Editors: Jonathan Neumann, Gail Roche

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Ivry in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Neumann

All child porn viewers at risk of becoming sex attackers, experts warn


All child porn viewers at risk of becoming sex attackers, experts warn

Anyone who views child pornography is at risk of going on to carry out sex attacks, experts have warned.

By Martin Beckford, Home Affairs Editor

7:00AM BST 14 Jun 2012

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre said that possession of indecent images of young people is now “alarmingly commonplace” and the threat has “grown exponentially with the advent of mass internet access”.

Some studies found that as many as 84 per cent of offenders who looked at degrading pictures or videos of young children had also carried out abuse in person.

The caseload of Ceop, the agency set up to combat online paedophilia, has almost tripled in a year because of growing use of the internet and social networking services, while the images being seized are becoming more extreme.

But police are struggling to investigate fully because of the proliferation of other online crime – such as fraud, cyber-bullying and offensive comments made by “trolls” – and the number of potential victims found in paedophiles’ photo collections.

Ceop called on forces to prioritise cases where suspects live with their families, as it believes having access to children and the opportunity to assault them can lead viewers of online pornography to carry out physical abuse.

Its warning comes just days after the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, Sue Berelowitz told MPs that there “isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited”.

Peter Davies, chief executive of Ceop, said in the foreword to a new report: “We found some compelling evidence that anyone who possesses indecent images of children must be considered a risk to children.

“We also found that, in many cases, it was an online investigation that finally lifted the stone on years of offline sexual abuse and harm, which otherwise would have continued unabated.”

The study detailed how the circulation of online child pornography has grown “dramatically” as the number of web users has risen from 100million worldwide in 1996 to 1.5billion people in 2010.

Back in 1990, the Home Office estimated there were just 7,000 printed indecent images of children in the whole country, but now police find individuals storing up to 2.5m pictures on a single computer.

At the same time, analysis suggests the images are becoming “more extreme, sadistic and violent” while ever-younger victims are becoming targeted.

Research suggests that those who carry out both “online” and “offline” abuse were themselves abused when young, and they are likely to be “educated, intelligent” white males aged between 19 and 45.

Apart from the unemployed, most of the 97 offenders surveyed by police recently had jobs in “schools and care work” while there were no professionals such as doctors, lawyers or accountants. Most lived with a spouse or partner and half had children.

Although Ceop said no one has proved that looking at child pornography causes offenders to go on to abuse children, there was a “clear correlation” between the crimes and that the former may “fuel fantasy”.

Lie detector tests had found that 84.5 per cent of child pornography viewers admitted to “contact” abuse.

Referrals to Ceop rose by 181 per cent between April 2011 and March this year while 26 police forces received 2,625 reports of indecent images. But half of police said they lacked capacity for specialist teams to investigate all cases.

The study warned that the “landscape of austerity” together with the “increasing volumes of work” meant that quick investigations are now “increasingly unachievable”.

Officers also raised concern about the fact that so many people are given cautions for possessing child pornography, with just 18 per cent going to jail in one area.

Ceop concluded that all reports that someone has child pornography mean a child is at risk and that officers should try to identify victims as well as searching online accounts, chat logs and search terms to uncover further crimes.

Reprieve unmasks corporations profiting from extraordinary rendition

Reprieve unmasks corporations profiting from extraordinary rendition

Rendition Plane N379P

In the first of a series of releases, Reprieve today highlights the corporations behind the extraordinary rendition of "high value detainee" Abu Zubaydah from Thailand to a secret prison in Poland on 5 December 2002.

The release is the first instalment of new evidence unearthed by Reprieve’s investigation "Renditions Inc." which tracks corporate involvement in kidnapping and rendition.
Seized in Pakistan in March 2002, Abu Zubaydah was transported to Thailand, where he became the guinea pig for the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" programme. After several months of torture he and another prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were transported to a CIA "black site" near Stare Kiejkuty, northern Poland.
Reprieve today releases a cache of documents showing, in detail, how this mission was paid for and organized. The documents show how:
- Private military contractor DynCorp Systems and Solutions arranged the trip for the US Government at a cost of over $330,000
- A Gulfstream jet, identified as N63MU and operated by First Flight / Airborne Inc. carried out the mission
- The round trip from Washington DC passed through Anchorage and Osaka, picked up the prisoners in Bangkok, and transported them via Dubai to the remote Szymany airfield in Poland, before returning via London Luton
- Trip planners Universal Weather and Aviation arranged logistics for the trip
Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: "Renditions Inc. shows how the US Government relied on contractors for 'technically complex, mission-critical challenges' - such as transporting prisoners between secret locations, hidden from the spotlight of law. Ten years on, many of these prisoners have still not been charged with any crime, and many of these companies are still in business. But the extent of their involvement in torture and secret detention is becoming clearer, invoice by invoice. How much longer will ethical investors and business partners be able to maintain a relationship with these companies?"

Further mission documents will be released in the coming weeks.

Notes to Editors

1. For further information, please contact Katherine O'Shea in Reprieve’s press office:+44 (0) 207 427 1082 or see

2. Prime Contractor DynCorp organized renditions flights and associated missions on behalf of the CIA through their contractLT050602 with Capital Aviation. They paid brokers Capital Aviation and Air Marketing $339,808.83 for 52.3 flying hours, during which the prisoners were picked up in Bangkok and transported through Dubai to the remote Szymany airfield in northern Poland. The plane then returned to the USA via London Luton. Brokers Capital Aviation and Air Marketing shared brokering services for this trip. They located the plane, a Gulfstream IV with tailnumber N63MU, and paid its operating company, First Flight / Airborne Inc., for flying time and fees. Airborne Inc. charged them $4900 per hour for the use of the plane, and the brokers in turn charged DynCorp $5450.

Airborne Inc. / First Flight were the operating company for N63MU. They invoiced Air Marketing for their flying time and costs.

Universal Weather and Aviation took care of trip planning. As a series of invoices shows, they arranged refuelling, overflight permissions, landing permissions, ground handling services, communications and other fees. They passed these on to the operating company, First Flight / Airborne Inc., after adding an administrative fee.
A few months after this mission, DynCorp was purchased by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). CSC continued to organize renditions for the US government through a series of contracts between 2003 and 2006.
The abuse of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri at the sites in Thailand and Poland was described in detail in the CIA's own internal “Special Review of Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities" (September 2001 - October 2003) by the Office of the Inspector General.
Abu Zubaydah's treatment in Poland is currently the subject of an investigation by Polish prosecutors. In April of this year, Polish media reported that the former head of the intelligence services, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski , was to be charged for his role in the treatment of prisoners by US officials on this site.
After 10 years incarceration in the CIA's secret prison network and in Guantánamo Bay, Abu Zubaydah has yet to be charged or tried.
3.  Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánano Bay, assisting over 70 prisonersfacing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.

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