Veteran Italian war correspondent missing in Syria

Aleppo, Syria, 22 April 2013 The Syrian conflict has made the country one of the most dangerous for journalists
An Italian journalist has been missing in Syria for 20 days, his newspaper La Stampa says.
Domenico Quirico, 62, an experienced war reporter, entered Syria from Lebanon on 6 April saying he would be out of touch for a week.

La Stampa says there was sporadic phone contact until 9 April since when nothing has been heard.
The conflict in Syria has made it one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria was the most deadly country for reporters in 2012.
Four Italian journalists were seized in Syria earlier this month but freed soon afterwards.
Crisis unit
La Stampa's editor-in-chief, Mario Calabresi, said the Turin-based paper decided to publicise Mr Quirico's disappearance after a search for the correspondent failed to turn up any leads.
"We had hoped that keeping quiet would help bring about a solution," said Mr Calabresi.
"Unfortunately this has not been the case, and for that reason we have decided to make his disappearance public."
The Italian foreign ministry has activated its crisis unit to try to trace Mr Quirico.
The journalist, who has reported on conflicts in Sudan, Uganda and Libya, would often disappear for a few days at a time, said Mr Calabresi, but not for this length of time.


Iranian Deputy FM: US Seeking to Impose No Fly Zone over Syria

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US and its allies have hatched different plots to undermine the Syrian government, including the imposition of a no fly zone over the country, in a bid to help the terrorist groups, an Iranian deputy foreign minister said.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian confirmed reports that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, but stressed that evidence shows that "irresponsible armed groups" fighting against the Syrian government have used the banned weapons in a bid to project the blame on the Syrian government to pave the way for foreign intervention in the Muslim country.

"Chemical weapons have been used by the al-Nusra Front and a number of irresponsible armed groups," Abdollahian told Arab Language Al-Alam TV network last evening, adding that the US and Qatar have extended most aid and support to these armed groups.

He said some regional and trans-regional states which have caused and helped terrorist attacks and al-Qaeda's presence in Syria now aim to push Syria into a new war in a bid to pave the ground for foreign intervention in Syria.

"We have precise information that some foreign parties have supplied terrorists with their needed possibilities in a bid to help them use chemical arms against the Syrian people and the army to spark hue and cry and pave the ground for foreign intervention in Syria," the Iranian deputy foreign minister cautioned.

He said in the second part of this plot the US would try to accuse the Damascus government of using chemical attacks to impose a no fly zone over Syria to limit the Syrian government and provide immunity for "irresponsible armed and terrorist groups".

The Iranian diplomat further warned that a no fly zone will further complicate situation in Syria.

Meantime, Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar Jaafari said that the UN Security Council is the only authority vested with the power to impose a no-fly zone over any given world state, and stressed that the UN body may not ratify a no-fly zone over Syria.

In an interview with the Lebanese NBN TV channel, Jaafari, said that western countries are raising the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria to exert pressure on Syria in order to get concessions from the Muslim state.

Responding to the recent statements made by US Secretary of State John Kerry that if Damascus use of chemical weapons is proved, a no-fly zone can be imposed on Syria or the opposition will be equipped with better and more arms, he said that a no-fly zone can only be implemented via the Security Council, which is impossible to happen on the case of Syria.

Leader Orders Navy to Focus on Malacca, Bab el-Mandeb, Hormuz Straits

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Navy has concentrated its missions on the strategic straits of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb and Malacca after a relevant order by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Monday.

"The golden triangle of Malacca, Bab el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz is an important triangle and is the Navy's point of concentration as recommended by the Leader," Sayyari said, addressing Navy cadets in Iran's Southern port city of Bandar Imam Khomeini.

Underlining the strategic and vital importance of the three waterways for Iran, the Admiral explained that 93% of Iran's exports and imports pass through these sea routes.

Earlier this month, the Iranian Navy dispatched its 25th flotilla of warships to the Gulf of Aden and the high seas to protect the country's cargo ships and oil tankers against pirates.

The 25th fleet of warships, comprised of Alborz missile warship and Larak logistic ship, left the Army's first naval zone for a mission in the high seas after the 24th flotilla returned home.

The Navy's 24th fleet of warships docked in Southern Iran after successfully conducting a 72-day mission in international waters to provide maritime security in the region.

The Iranian flotilla comprised of Khark chopper carrier and Sabalan destroyer and was on a mission to the Pacific Ocean since late January.

Presence in the Indian and Pacific oceans and the China Sea, patrolling Southeast Asia's strategic Strait of Malacca, crossing the Equator, docking at China's port city of Zhangjiagang port and identifying 370 surface and subsurface vessel units were among the important tasks carried out by the fleet.

Last month, the Iranian warships docked in Zhangjiagang after a 13,000-kilometer voyage in 40 days as part of their mission to convey Iran's message of peace and friendship to the East Asian states.

The Iranian commanders, however, underlined that the Iranian Navy's activities and its combat capabilities pose no threat to any country in the region as they just carry a message of peace and friendship for nations.

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008, when Somali raiders hijacked the Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.

According to UN Security Council resolutions, different countries can send their warships to the Gulf of Aden and coastal waters of Somalia against the pirates and even with prior notice to Somali government enter the territorial waters of that country in pursuit of Somali sea pirates.

Bahraini regime arrests 120 people in a week

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The Center said in a report on Saturday that “Saudi-backed Bahraini troops continued to arrest citizens and breach their homes during April 16-22. Within these days, they have arrested 120 people, 20 of whom children and 2 women.
“The regime’s troops have breached more than 61 homes during the period. At least 48 regions in Bahrain were exposed to public punishment by al-Khalifa troops.
More than 24 trial sessions were held for Bahraini citizens, some of which being extended, and also 35 of the detainees were released,” the report said.



#Photographer @NeverBkDown 4h
تَغطيتي - السنآبس : الثُوآر يستعِدون بِأدوآت الرَدع


Barack Obama warns Syria chemical arms a 'game changer'

A Syrian man surveys damage caused by the conflict in Aleppo Mr Obama said that however horrific conventional arms were, chemical weapons would "cross another line"

US President Barack Obama has vowed a "vigorous investigation" into reports Syria has used chemical weapons, warning they will be a "game changer" for US policy if proven true.

AFRICA: VICE and the “new journalism model”

The business of journalism as we know it is in trouble and there’s a scramble for a “new journalism model,” with VICE.com held up as the latest prototype (see here, here and here). I am not so sure VICE is the new journalism–its partnership with “old media” (CNN, HBO) is old fashioned, it mostly produces sponsored content (nothing new there), owns an advertising agency and makes nice with Rupert Murdoch*.

Of course, VICE’s style represents something fresh. With its diversity of topics and irreverence, it is a vast improvement on the talking heads of cable news. But, there is also much to dislike about VICE.
There’s its cheap headlines, sensationalism, vulgarity, misogyny, the way it ridicules mostly non-Western people, and its very white, male, Anglo-American look.
On balance, VICE’s Africa coverage is more bad than good, even when they try not to—whether they cover cyber-fraud in Ghana, embark on “Guides” to Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo that resemble “Heart of Darkness” or exaggerate alcohol abuse in Uganda.
Basically they’re just another ambitious media company (Shane Smith, one of the founders, refers to VICE as “the Time Warner of the Streets”) interested in market share, synergy and branding. So, yes, they may be introducing a whole lot of young people to international affairs, but in the process they also work very hard to undermine their own credibility.
* This is a slightly edited version of what I wrote down when Al Jazeera English contacted me about a 60-second comment for  a feature they ran on VICE on the channel’s media program, “The Listening Post.” Start watching the Listening Post feature at 13:52. My short comment was for “Global Village Voices,” a regular, short segment on “Listening Voices” that are usually included at the end of features like the VICE story. A very condensed cut of my comment–to fit into the program’s format; nothing malicious–made it onto the final version of the episode.
By Sean Jacobs – Africa is a country

AFRICA: The new Chimurenga


From its inception as a one-off experiment in Cape Town more than 10 years ago, Chimurenga Magazine, founded by Jean Noel Ntone Edjabe, has evolved into arguably the most creative, incisive political arts and literary publication produced on the African continent, or anywhere for that matter.

Over the years, with its highly original content and design, Chimurenga, which is also edited by Stacy Hardy, has adroitly demonstrated to its readers how to question (mis)representations of African people and politics.
This week their new issue, the Chronic, launches worldwide.  Some readers might be confused since they can remember Chimurenga publishing an edition of the Chronic last year. But this is the official inaugural edition. Published in the form of a newspaper, complete with book review magazine and sports writing, the Chronic is an intrepid re-imagining of the literary magazine as we know it.
Through its reincarnation as “a gazette,” the Chronic confronts the very manner in which we take in information. By shedding light on the people and perspectives that those in positions of power would prefer to sweep under the rug, Chimurenga effectively pulls the rug out from under those very same power structures.  Within the pages of the Chronic are stories ranging from investigations into the business of moving corpses to the rhetoric of land theft and loss; from latent tensions between Africa’s most powerful nations to the soft power of the biggest satellite television provider.
These stories push us as readers and thinkers to interrogate the information we receive and to reflect on how we as individuals and as communities respond (or fail to respond) to social injustices. Reading Chimurenga represents the essential beginning of the process to reconfigure the social archive of our collective memory.
This is a process of unlearning, of resistance, of disassembling constructed versions of history, while daring to reengage with our humanity, our diversity and our revolutionary spirit.  The Chronic features writing and artwork from filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo, writer Binyanvanga Wainaina, Rustum Kostain and Nic Mhlongo, academics Dominique Malaquais and Mahmood Mamdani, provocateur Andile Mngxitama, Gwen Ansell, Patrice Nganang, Achal Prabhala, Karen Press, Paula Akugizibwe, Tolu Ogunlesi, AIAC’s Sean Jacobs (who was also present for some of the early issues as a contributing editor), Harmony Holiday, Howard French, Billy Kahora and others.
To get a copy of the Chronic, go here.
To read articles from past issues of Chimurenga, go here.
Bonus: To put some faces to Chimurenga, here’s a video AIAC’er Dylan Valley made of Chimurenga around the time they won the Prince Claus Fund prize in 2011: http://www.afronline.org/?p=28856#more-28856


Netflix of Africa

Gideon Lichfield @glichfield 2h
Interview with , founder of the "Netflix of Africa" via

Nigeria’s streaming web mogul: “I’m a hustler at heart”

Trial of Kuwait opposition leader Musallam Al Barrak adjourned

Former member of parliament had been sentenced to five years for insulting emir
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Kuwait’s court of appeals on Monday adjourned the trial of opposition figure Musallam Al Barrak to May 13.
The former lawmaker who last week was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of undermining the status of the Emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, was allowed to go home after paying a 5,000 Kuwaiti dinar (Dh64,318) bail.
Supporters at the court erupted in euphoric scenes of jubilation after Judge Anwar Al Enezi announced the verdict two hours into the trial that gripped the online media, social networks and microblogs in Hitchcockian suspense.
Four lawyers relayed to defend Al Barrak after the judge said that the court could not accommodate all the attorneys who wanted to defend him.
Reports said that 35 lawyers were ready to help the former lawmaker as he challenged the five-year sentence.
In their pleadings, the lawyers insisted on the innocence of their client and called for not sending him to prison.
Mohammad Al Jasem, the lead lawyer, said that sending Al Barrak to jail amounted to putting his life at risk, although he did not explain his conclusion.
He and the other members of the defence team, Thamer Al Jadai, Dokhi Al Hasban and Waleed Al Jari, requested the court to give them more time to review the case and prepare their arguments.
Al Barrak denied the charges of undermining the status of the Emir in a speech in October last year in which he reportedly crossed red lines by addressing the ruler in a “derogatory way”.
However, the former MP said that if he went back in time, he would repeat his words and insisted on a fair trial.
“The ministry of interior stormed my diwaniya — private hall — even though they knew I was not there,” he told the judge, referring to a search operation conducted by the police on his private hall to arrest him.
The interior ministry said that the search was in application of the court decision to send him to prison after he chose not to surrender.
The trial was monitored closely by the local and international community thanks to comments and remarks posted by people present at the trial on social networks and microblogs. Prompt online reactions to the events as they unfolded allowed a lively discussion of the legal proceedings and the status of Al Barrak, a man admired and criticised in Kuwait in equal measure.
Words uttered by Al Barrak and his lawyers, his meeting with the representative of a human rights watchdog at the court and the movements of the police who secured the perimeters were reported live through the multitude of online accounts, an indication of the growing power of social media and microblogs in the region.
The appeals court trial on Monday turned into high drama after Al Barrak who under Kuwaiti laws should have been apprehended as soon as the arrest warrant was issued last week, managed to remain free despite attempts by the police to escort him to a security station.
His lawyer and siblings invariably refused to allow the police to take him, arguing that they wanted to see the original arrest warrant.
Several MPs put pressure on the interior ministry after the police was unable to apprehend Al Barrak.

Bahrain ‘thwarted attacks ahead of F1’

Security forces found several weapon caches with 1,000 petrol bombs and homemade guns
  • Reuters

Dubai: Bahrain security forces thwarted attacks and found caches of weapons including 1,000 petrol bombs in the run-up to last weekend’s Formula One race, state media said as protests and sectarian tensions continued to simmer in the island kingdom.
Bahrain did not see a repeat of the mass demonstrations that overshadowed last year’s race — though young men armed with rocks did clash with police in outlying villages, as they have done regularly since unrest erupted in early 2011.
Protests in the Gulf Arab country broke out two years ago, with the opposition drawing thousands of demonstrators demanding democratic reforms from the government.
Witnesses at the Sakhir desert race circuit, about 30km southwest of the capital Manama, said there was no sign of unrest in the immediate vicinity but protesters blocked several roads in villages near the capital.

The opposition said the race was being used as a public relations stunt, but the government insisted it was a pure sporting event that should not be “politicised”.
Security sweeps ahead of this year’s contest “thwarted a number of terrorist plots that aimed to affect normal life ... harm the reputation of the nation and commit terrorist acts against policemen”, Bahrain’s chief of public security Maj Gen Tareq Al Hassan said according to the BNA agency.
Security forces had found several weapon caches holding 1,000 petrol bombs, 19 mock bombs, bullets and homemade guns, he added.
Al Hassan said security forces had also handled several incidents of rioting, including “acts of chaos and destruction” inside an industrial secondary school by students who had also blocked nearby roads and attacked cars, pedestrians and policemen, according to BNA.
“Police at no point in time raided the school or attacked it,” Al Hassan said.
Sayed Yousuf Al Muhafdha of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights had said on Sunday police had fired teargas at a secondary school in the city where students had been demonstrating.
On Tuesday, Al Muhafdha added security forces had arrested up to 50 “pro-democracy activists” in the days preceding the race.
Amnesty International said human rights activists reported dozens of protesters were arrested ahead of the race and Human Rights Watch said on April 10 that 20 opposition activists had been arrested in towns near the circuit.
The government has denied those arrests have taken place. It has said several people accused of stealing and burning cars had been detailed.
Widespread unrest forced the cancellation of the 2011 Formula One race and although the event went ahead in 2012, it was overshadowed by violent protests in the country.

Bahrain: F1 Race Was Held Amid Severe Government Crackdown / Photos

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The F1 race was held in Bahrain amid a sweeping government crackdown, including dozens of arrests and a large number of injuries.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented numerous cases of shotgun pellet injuries, as well as injuries sustained from direct hits from teargas canisters; many areas throughout Bahrain that have been indiscriminately blanketed with teargas as a form of collective punishment.
On the day of the race, the BCHR documented 16 arrests related to protests in the small town just of Jidhafs alone and and 10 house raids throughout the towns of Jidhafs, Sanabis and Aldaih. This repression was typical across the country, and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reports that they documented a total of 96 arrests including 12 children, with 21 individuals later released for the period from April 18th - 21st. A link to the full BYSHR can be found here: http://byshr.org/wp-content/BYSHR-Report-F1.pdf
Two years ago, the F1 race was cancelled in Bahrain because of the violence surrounding the government's crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. Last year it went forward amid much criticism and a heavy security presence that led to one protester being shot and killed by the police. This year, the streets of Bahrain were filled with tens of thousands of peaceful protesters demanding the cancellation of the race.

A shotgun injury from the weekend in Bahrain
The BCHR has received a large number of injury reports from across the country as a result of direct hits from tear gas canisters, shotgun pellets and tear gas inhalation. These individuals are forced to seek treatment in private homes out of fear of police brutality at the hospitals. As can be seen in the images above and blow, individuals injured by the police often choose to seek treatment in private homes. Jajjar Jassim, from Sitra, was arrested yesterday when he went to the Etihad hospital for treatment.
The BCHR recently released a report on the militarization of the Bahraini medical system - see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5699 for more information.
The government crackdown also included the illegal and indiscriminate use of tear gas against ordinary citizens. In the video below, the security forces are seen firing tear gas canisters directly at three unarmed women walking down the street. The practice of firing canisters directly at individuals is illegal and has lead to several deaths in Bahrain since the pro-democracy movement started in 2011. The targeting of these women demonstrates the indiscriminate manner in which collective punishment is applied against ordinary citizens.

In an attempt to hide the above types of abuses, the government deported several foreign journalists who were covering protests in one of the villages. The British ITV team was on assignment with the proper visas in place, according to the network, when the were detained at a police station and then deported.
See http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/19/itv-news-forced-leave-bahrain for more information.
F1 racing CEO Bernie Ecclestone said over the weekend that Bahrain was 'stupid' to host the race. This letter from Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain and other NGOs, and this letter from another group of NGOs including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, explains in detail the reasons for opposition to the race, and calls for an end to the race in Bahrain as it represents a show of international support for a regime that continues to commit widespread human rights abuses.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands:
-An immediate end to the government's repression and the excessive use of force that is being used against demonstrators.
-An investigation into the injuries suffered by protesters, and the demilitarisation of the medical system so that citizens can seek medical care without fear.

Bahrain blocks visit of UN torture rapporteur

The Bahraini government has postponed indefinitely a visit by Juan Mendez the UN special rapporteur on torture.

According to the country's official news agency the trip has been called off "until further notice".
This comes just days after the release of a US State Department report on human rights in Bahrain which spoke of "significant" violations including torture in detention.
The Gulf kingdom has been wracked by civil unrest for two years.
The violence has left at least 50 people dead.
An independent enquiry established by King Hamad al-Khalifa in 2011 found that there had been numerous abuses. The king accepted the report and promised accountability and reform.
But human rights organisations in Bahrain and outside the country say that the promised reforms are happening either too slowly or not at all. And they allege that human rights abuses are continuing.
The US State Department Bahrain 2012 Human Rights Report spoke of "serious human rights problems," including "citizens' inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention; and lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists".
Mr Mendez had originally intended to visit Bahrain in 2012 but that too was called off. Pointing to this second postponement Brian Dooley of US based Human Rights First called the decision "a huge blow to the credibility of Bahrain's reform process".
"It seems like the Bahrain regime is frightened of what more international scrutiny might reveal. It's very telling that they've shut Mendez out again," said Mr Dooley.
A spokesperson in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) described the decision as "disappointing" and noted that Alistair Burt, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State had raised the issue with the Bahraini government "stressing the importance we and the international community place on the visit".
The FCO said: "We hope that a new date for this visit can be found soon."


AlwefaqEN ‏@AlWefaqEN 1h

AlwefaqEN @AlWefaqEN 1h
Media agencies invited to cover opposition mass rally demanding democracy - Friday 19th --starts at Shakhoora on Budaiya highway

Bahrain police clash with protesters ahead of Formula One race

Police arrested a man suspected of setting a car on fire on Sunday at the Financial Harbour
  • AFP

Dubai: Bahrain police clashed early Thursday with protesters staging demonstrations against the Formula One Grand Prix being held this weekend in the Gulf kingdom, witnesses said.
Protesters took to the streets in villages, denouncing the decision of Formula One to go ahead with the race.
Riot police fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades at protesters who hurled petrol bombs at them, witnesses said.
Police announced they had arrested six people for blocking roads and setting cars ablaze, as protests intensified ahead of Friday’s race.
The interior ministry said late Wednesday that police arrested “a number of terrorists accused of committing terrorist attacks in several areas of the kingdom.”
It said police arrested a man suspected of setting a car on fire on Sunday at the Financial Harbour neighbourhood of Manama.
Four others were arrested over stealing and burning a car in the middle of a roundabout in Hamad City suburb of Manama, in addition to a man who was among a group which blocked a main road in the capital, the ministry said in a statement.
Bahrain was rocked by month-long pro-democracy protests led by the opposition in early 2011 that were put down with the help of Gulf troops led by Saudi Arabia.
The Formula One race was cancelled that year but went ahead in 2012.
Home to the US Fifth Fleet and strategically situated across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain has continued to witness sporadic demonstrations, now mostly outside the capital.
Human rights groups say a total of 80 people have been killed in the unrest in Bahrain since February 2011.

Bahrain for closer ties with Nato

Army highlights role in peace-keeping missions
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau chief

Manama: Bahrain and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) have agreed to widen relations and boost cooperation to serve common interests and reinforce peace and stability in the region.
Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Commander-in-Chief Marshall Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (DSACT), Polish General Mieczyslaw Bieniek stressed in Bahrain the significance of their military coordination and reviewed issues of common interest, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported on Wednesday.
“The BDF Commander-in-Chief praised the outstanding relations between Bahrain and Nato,” the official news agency said. “The Nato delegation was briefed on the BDF’s participation and role in international missions to contribute to global security and peace.”
Bahrain, a major non-Nato ally since 2002, has often expressed interest in closer ties with the military alliance.


Obama Voices Doubts on North Korean Nuclear Warhead

WASHINGTON — President Obama said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that he did not believe that North Korea yet had the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon to fit atop a missile, and he said nothing would shake him from a strategy of refusing to “reward” the kind of provocative behavior exhibited by Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader.
Mr. Obama, speaking in an interview with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News that was recorded just before the bombings in Boston on Monday, implicitly dismissed a conclusion by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which said in a report last month that it had “moderate confidence" that the North already had mastered the technology of building a weapon that could fit into a missile warhead. After the conclusion became public at a Congressional hearing on Thursday, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., issued a statement saying that the agency's position did not reflect the consensus view of the 15 other intelligence agencies.
Mr. Obama agreed. “You know, based on our current intelligence assessments, we do not think that they have that capacity” to fit a warhead atop a missile, he said. “But, you know, we have to make sure that we are dealing with every contingency out there. And that’s why I’ve repositioned missile defense systems to guard against any miscalculation on their part.”
For the first time, Mr. Obama spoke about Mr. Kim, the North’s young leader, whose motivations have been scrutinized since the latest escalation of threats and tensions began.
“I’m not a psychiatrist," Mr. Obama said, suggesting that he had to judge Mr. Kim by his actions rather than his words. But he added: “This is the same kind of pattern that we saw his father engage in, and his grandfather before that. Since I came into office, the one thing I was clear about was, we’re not going to reward this kind of provocative behavior. You don’t get to bang your — your spoon on the table and somehow you get your way.”
He also hinted at the administration’s strategy, which seems to be one of letting Mr. Kim blow off steam before trying anew to engage with him. Mr. Obama said he would “anticipate" that “North Korea will probably make more provocative moves over the next several weeks, but our hope is we can contain it and we can move into a different phase, in which they try to work through diplomatically some of these issues so they can get back on a path where they’re actually feeding their people.”
Mr. Obama’s statement seemed to hint at a dialogue, though he did not say under what conditions it could take place, and he did not repeat a promise he made during his first presidential campaign, in 2008, to engage with the North unconditionally. It may make little difference: On Tuesday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry rejected recent American overtures.
“This is nothing but a crafty ploy,” a ministry spokesman said in the North’s first reaction to a visit to the region by Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend.
In a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, the spokesman said genuine dialogue would be possible only when North Korea “has acquired nuclear deterrent enough to defuse the U.S. threat of nuclear war unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy and nuclear threat and blackmail.”
If the statement can be taken at face value, it would suggest that the North is not willing to engage in talks on the basis Mr. Kerry discussed when he was in the region: with an underlying agreement that the goal was to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. That was the basis of talks in 1994, and again in 2005 and 2008. But Mr. Kim has rejected that approach in recent months, saying that the world must simply accept the North as an established nuclear power. The United States has refused to do so, insisting that it will never accept the North as a nuclear weapons state.

Choe Sang-Hun contributed reporting from Seoul, South Korea.

Bahrain: Police 'fire tear gas' at boys' school


Police in Bahrain have fired tear gas and clashed with students in a raid on a secondary school in the capital, Manama, reports say.

Officers stormed the Jabreya school for boys after students staged a protest demanding the release of a colleague arrested on Monday, activists say.
About 100 people have been arrested this month amid growing tension ahead of Sunday's F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain.
The kingdom has been rocked by anti-government protests since early 2011.
The latest incident comes a day after a car bomb blew up in Manama, though without causing injuries.
An opposition group calling itself the February 14 movement has said it was behind the blast.
Activists tweeted pictures purporting to show clouds of tear gas at Jabreya school, with people wincing and covering their faces.
Images also showed dozens of spent canisters of tear gas and stun grenades. Unconfirmed reports said there had been injuries.
One father, Mohamed Jaber, went to the school to collect his son but was told by police to leave, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The Ministry of Interior said on its twitter account "police dealt with a group of thugs outside Jabriya school according to legal regulations".
The clashes erupted when police went to break up a protest calling for the release of 17-year-old Hassan Humidan, who was arrested at the school on Monday.
Activists and protesters have called for the Grand Prix to be called off because of Bahrain's human rights record.
For the government and its supporters, holding the F1 race demonstrates to a global audience that after two years of unrest the kingdom is stable and back on track.
However an all-party parliamentary committee of British MPs at a news conference on Tuesday called for sponsors and drivers to withdraw from the race and for the F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone to cancel it.
Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain, Andy Slaughter, told the BBC: "There is a close relationship between the race and repression by a regime that is using F1 to try and establish normalcy."
Mr Slaughter called the race a "propaganda exercise", adding "the irony is that this week the level of repression, which goes on week in, week out, is stepped up in a bid to say that it's business as usual."
There have been almost daily clashes in the tiny Gulf island kingdom since security forces used birdshot and tear gas to quash a three-day-old peaceful protest at Manama's Pearl Roundabout on 17 February 2011.
As violence escalated 35 people, including five police officers, were killed, hundreds more were hurt and thousands jailed in February and March 2011.
Since then, opposition and human rights activists say more than 50 people have died, a figure which the government disputes.

HRW urges Kuwait to drop charges of offending emir

Kuwait has sent dozens of opposition activists to court on this charge
  • AFP
Kuwait City: Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Kuwait to drop charges against people accused of offending the emir, a day after a former MP was handed a jail term for insulting the Gulf state’s ruler.
“The Kuwaiti authorities should drop criminal charges against dozens of online activists, journalists, and politicians for legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression,” HRW said in a statement.
The New York-based group also said the authorities in the oil-rich country should withdraw charges and overturn the sentences for at least 10 people already convicted in such cases.
On Monday, the lower court sentenced key opposition leader and former MP Musallam Al Barrak to five years in prison for “insulting” Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah during a public rally on October 15.
Thousands of Kuwaitis demonstrated late Monday to protest the sentence which defence lawyers have described as illegal.
“No one should ever be prosecuted solely for expressing peaceful criticism,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.
“The Kuwaiti authorities should not be jailing opposition activists and journalists on charges of ‘offending the emir’ but instead scrapping the criminal code provision that makes this a crime, and upholding their international obligation to protect free speech,” she said.
Kuwait has clamped down on opposition activists, sending dozens to court for allegedly insulting the emir following a political crisis that began a year ago after dissolving an opposition-dominated parliament.

Tremors in Bahrain: People urged to be calm as buildings evacuated

Iran quake triggers aftershock in Bahrain and authorities say they are monitoring situation closely
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Thousands of people were evacuated from high-rise buildings in the Bahraini capital Manama on Tuesday after an earthquake in Iran triggered an aftershock in the country.
The mild tremors caused panic among many people, but no injuries or damages were reported.
“Several buildings were evacuated to ensure people’s safety,” Tariq Al Hassan, the head of public security, said. “Many people called the interior ministry, alarmed by the tremor, but we assured them about the situation. We are fully ready to deal with any emergency and the experts at the national centre for disasters are monitoring the situation very closely,” he said.
The ministry has also been in close contact with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to assess and monitor developments, Al Hassan said on Bahrain Television.
“All agencies concerned with the situation have raised their preparedness levels to make sure that Bahrain remains incident-free. We are also monitoring the waters to evaluate whether they have been contaminated or affected in any way. So far, everything is fine, thank God,” he said.
Waheeb Al Nasser insisted that people should not panic when they feel the tremors.
“People should also be careful not to believe some of the remarks they come across on social networks or microblogs about earthquakes,” he said. “These messages, especially the ones predicting the time of the next earthquakes are not scientific truth. Expectations are possible, but predictions are almost impossible.”
Al Nasser stressed that people should be well aware about they should do in case there are tremors.
“It is important that they follow instructions, and not for example try to leave the building quickly by taking the lift,” he said.
The aftershock was also felt in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
In Kuwait, people were also evacuated and the tremors were felt for a few seconds at around 1:45 pm, local daily Al Watan reported.

GCC force ‘plans headquarters in Bahrain’

Gulf officials will attend official inauguration of new headquarters
  • Gulf News Report
Dubai: An additional permanent headquarters for the Peninsula Shield, the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is set to be inaugurated in Bahrain soon, a report has said.
The headquarters will be named The Advanced Command of the Peninsula Shield Forces, the London-based Al Hayat daily said on Tuesday, quoting Gulf sources it did not identify. The report did not specify the size of the Gulf force to be stationed in Bahrain.
Gulf officials will attend the official inauguration of the new headquarters.
In December, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, said that the Peninsula Shield had several stations, explaining that the headquarters were in Hafr Al Baten in northern Saudi Arabia while its naval force was in Bahrain
Military alliances, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (Nato), tend to have stations in several member states, the minister said.
There has been no official comment from the Bahraini government on the matter.


Car blast in Bahrain heightens F1 security concerns


A car explosion in the heart of the Bahraini capital Manama has heightened security concerns ahead of Sunday's Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The blast occurred late on Sunday night in the Financial Harbour district of the city.
An opposition group calling itself the February 14 movement has claimed it was behind the blast.
The Ministry of Interior acknowledged the blast and said it had caused no casualties.
In a statement the ministry said: "A terrorist group used a gas cylinder to burn a car in Manama at night on Sunday causing an explosion, causing no damage."
The explosion occurred only a few hours after a press conference given by Samira Rajab, Bahrain's Information Affairs minister.
Ms Rajab had described the situation in Bahrain as "very reassuring". She blamed foreign media for "blowing the security situation out of proportion".
"There has been no major escalation of violence on the ground recently as the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix is drawing nearer," the minister said.
But there have been daily protests and one hundred have reportedly been arrested in connection with the race.
The claim by February 14 that it carried out the blast cannot be independently verified but if confirmed the attack would mark the first time the group has said it was behind such an attack.
An observer who asked not to be identified expressed surprise that the explosion had occurred in the Financial Harbour.
"Security there is tight. If they can get away with something like that I am worried something big will happen at F1."
On social media sites, the 14 February movement has said it will carry out more "actions" in a bid to force the cancellation of the race.
However when asked about the blast F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone dismissed concerns, telling reporters in Shanghai he saw "no reason" why the Bahrain race would not be a success.
For the government and its supporters, holding the F1 race demonstrates that after two years of unrest the kingdom is stable and back on track. But many in the opposition oppose the race arguing that the government has failed to deliver on promises of reform.
On 14 February 2011, peaceful protesters took over Pearl Roundabout, an iconic landmark in the capital, Manama. Three days later security forces cleared the site using tear gas, batons and birdshot.
As violence escalated 35 people, including five police officers, were killed, hundreds more were hurt and thousands jailed in February and March 2011.
Since then, opposition and human rights activists say more than 50 people have died, a figure which the government disputes.


Syria crisis: Abducted Italian journalists released


Four Italian journalists who had been held hostage in Syria for nearly two weeks have been released, say officials in Italy.

The three men and a woman were filming a documentary for Italy's Rai television in northern Syria when they were seized on around 4 April.
No official details have been given on who was holding them and where or why they were released.
Italy's state news agency Ansa said they were now safe in Turkey.
The journalists have not been officially named, but have been identified in the Italian media as Rai journalist Amedeo Ricucci, freelancers Elio Colavolpe and Andrea Vignali and Italian-Syrian reporter Susan Dabbous.
Ansa quoted Mr Ricucci as saying they had been held by an Islamist rebel group which thought they were spies.
He said they were treated well but that being held captive had been "psychological torture".
In a statement, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti thanked all those who had "enabled a positive outcome of this affair, which was made all the more complicated by the extreme danger of the situation".
Syria is ranked as the most dangerous country in the world for reporters by the campaign group Committee to Protect Journalists.
It says 28 journalists were killed in fighting there in 2012 and at least 21 abducted.
All sides in the conflict have been accused of attacks on journalists.

Protests held in Bahrain ahead of Formula One

Protests held in Bahrain ahead of Formula One

Thousands of Bahrainis rally under banner of "democracy is our right" ahead of Formula One Grand Prix race.

Al Jazeera

Thousands of Bahrainis rally under banner of "democracy is our right" ahead of Formula One Grand Prix race.

Thousands of Bahrainis have demonstrated near the capital, Manama, urging democratic reforms, part of a series of protests planned by the political opposition ahead of next week's Formula One Grand Prix.

Under the banner "Democracy is our right," the crowds marched in the Shia area of Aali south of the capital, waving Bahraini flags and chanting anti-monarchy slogans on Friday.

Police stayed away from Friday's demonstration as protesters denounced king Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, his uncle.
"You have no legitimacy," they chanted.
Bahrain's mainly-Shia opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, organised the protest as part of demonstrations due to take place from April 12-22 to coincide with the April 19-22 Grand Prix.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq who was at the protest, said the action was intended to support "demands for democratic transition".
"We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence," he said.
Salman called on his supporters to attend a demonstration planned for April 19, as the event kicks off on the Sakhir circuit south of the capital.
A second opposition group, the February 14 Movement, organised another protest on Thursday night in the village of Khamis that was broken up by police.

Thursday night's demonstration came as a report by Human Rights Watch said that police have been rounding up pro-democracy activists in bid to head off protests.
'Your race is a crime'

"Your race is a crime," the protesters chanted, referring to motor racing bosses who have insisted on keeping the Bahrain Grand Prix on the Formula One calendar, witnesses said.
"Down with Hamad," they shouted in reference to the king, who heads a Sunni minority regime in the Shia-majority island state.
"The people want the fall of the regime," the demonstrators chanted, echoing the rallying cry of the Arab Spring revolts in 2011.
Clashes erupted when anti-riot police intervened to disperse the crowd and demonstrators responded with Molotov cocktails, witnesses said.
Bahrain, where the US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based, was rocked by month-long pro-democracy protests led by the kingdom's Shia majority in early 2011 that were crushed with the help of Saudi-led GCC troops.
Human rights groups say a total of 80 people have been killed since February 2011.

Last year's Formula One event went ahead against an ugly backdrop as police responded to protesters who were throwing petrol bombs by using tear gas, sound bombs and birdshot.
Meanwhile, former world champion Damon Hill has called on International Motoring Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt to take an ethical stance on the controversial event.
"I think Jean's approach is say nothing because otherwise you are being political," said Hill, who won the world title in 1996.
"I think that is a mistake because actually he is being political because he's being used, or the sport is perceived as being used, by its engagement in the economy and the reputation of the country."


Peine de mort en Afrique : progrès et rechutes au Sud, attentisme au Nord

En 2012, cinq pays africains ont encore exécuté des condamnés à mort. Selon le rapport annuel d’Amnesty International, rendu public ce mercredi 10 avril, ils sont même 24 à continuer de prononcer la peine capitale, sans pour autant tous l’appliquer. Le symbole de faibles progrès et, surtout, d’un long chemin à parcourir vers l’abolition.

L’état des lieux dressé par l’organisation Amnesty International dans son rapport annuel, publié le 10 avril, n’est pas glorieux. Sans surprise, les exécutions n’ont pas cessé en Afrique. Elles ont même repris en Gambie où elles sont au nombre de neuf pour l’année 2012. Mauvais élève, sans contestation, du continent, le bilan du Soudan s’avère plus effrayant puisque, pour la seule année écoulée, au moins 199 personnes ont été condamnées à la peine capitale et que le pays a procédé à 19 exécutions.
Amnesty International note toutefois une « tendance favorable à l’abolition » qu’elle caractérise de « forte » en Afrique subsaharienne. Le 5 juillet 2012, le Bénin est ainsi devenu le 75è État partie au deuxième protocole facultatif visant à abolir la peine de mort. Le Ghana a quant à lui accepté une « recommandation de la Commission de révision constitutionnelle l’invitant à inscrire l’abolition de la peine de mort dans la nouvelle Constitution. » Quelque 40 exécutions ont cependant eu lieu au sud du Sahara pour au moins 449 condamnations à la peine capitale, ce dernier chiffre étant en hausse par rapport à 2011.
Problème d’opinion ?
En Afrique du Nord, si quelques améliorations sont notables, la situation reste globalement inquiétante. Ainsi, « en Tunisie, le gouvernement de transition a commué les condamnations à mort de 125 personnes », félicite Amnesty International, tout en rappelant : « toutefois le projet de constitution proposé ne renonce pas à la peine de mort », le parti islamiste Ennahda s’opposant de fait à son abolition.
L’attitude est sensiblement similaire au Maroc, qui continue de prononcer des condamnations à mort sans  appliquer cette sanction, tout comme son voisin algérien qui, pour plus de 153 peines capitales prononcées en 2012, n’a procédé à aucune exécution. Une situation paradoxale que nombre de politiques, notamment en Tunisie, continuent d’imputer à une opinion publique qui ne serait, selon eux, pas encore prête à accepter l’abolition.

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Quake Jolts Southern Iran

TEHRAN (FNA)- An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale jolted the town of Kaki in Bushehr province, Southern Iran, on Tuesday.

The Seismological center of Bushehr province affiliated to the Geophysics Institute of Tehran University registered the quake at 16:22 hours local time (1152 GMT).

The epicenter of the quake was located in an area 51.5 degrees in longitude and 28.4 degrees in latitude.

Iran sits astride several major faults in the earth's crust, and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of which have been devastating.

The worst in recent times hit Bam in southeastern Kerman province in December 2003, killing 31,000 people - about a quarter of its population - and destroying the city's ancient mud-built citadel.

The deadliest quake in the country was in June 1990 and measured 7.7 on the Richter scale. About 37,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured in the northwestern provinces of Gilan and Zanjan. It devastated 27 towns and about 1,870 villages.

In August 2012, two quakes in Northwestern Iran also claimed the lives of 306 people and injured more than 4500 others.

Tremors felt in GCC states as quake strikes Iran

Epicentre not far from major Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi cities
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Several high-rise buildings in the Bahraini capital Manama were evacuated on Tuesday afternoon.
The evacuations were carried out following tremors reportedly linked to the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that around 100km southeast of Bushehr in Iran.
The city is where Iran’s only nuclear power station is based.
“I have just got a phone call from my mother telling me that they had to evacuate their offices after they felt the tremor,” Ahmad, a salesman at a bookshop, said.
The interior ministry said that its “Operations Room received calls from residents in the northern area of Bahrain to report they felt tremors, but no financial losses or injuries were recorded.”
“Initial reports indicate those areas were affected by an earthquake that struck Bushehr in Iran measuring 6.1,” the ministry said on its Twitter account.
“The ministry assures the public that everything is fine now and that any development will be communicated through the media.”
In neighbouring Qatar, several felt a “small earthquake” at around 3pm and residents rushed to microblogs and social networks to share the moment.
Shabina 921 reported that “tremors rippled across much of Doha this afternoon, leaving some residents shaking for up to 30 seconds.”
“Numerous office and residential towers have been evacuated in Dafna and West Bay.
Reports of the tremor came in from across the city, primarily near the coast, including at the Crowne Plaza Hotel towards the south-east, Hamad Hospital in the centre of town, and Dafna and West Bay to the north, Shabina posted on the Qatarliving website. “Although not all in Doha felt the tremor, some as far away as Mesaieed and Ras Laffan said they felt it as well.”
Soniya, another blogger, thought that the situation was “crazy”.
“It was really scary...I was sitting on the couch and was teaching my kid. I thought I was feeling sleepy and thus got dizzy kind of feeling... But no, it was an earthquake...My goodness! I ran towards the door with my kid to move out but by that time it got calm,” she posted on the website.
Seasons, another blogger, reported the “desk was shaking” while Calebsmom thought that she was just dizzy.
Nawafshrf111 said he felt the tremors in Najma.
“I was lying down on the couch and felt something shaking my head,” the blogger said. “I also saw the water inside my water jug and the leaves of the plants shaking!”
In Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, people also reported tremors from the earthquake.
“The epicenter of the earthquake in Iran is around 240 kilometres from Jubail,” Hani Al Zahran, the director of the National Centre for Earthquakes, said, referring to the industrial city in Saudi Arabia. “It is 290km from Dammam and 280km from Khobar,” he told Sabq news site. The twin cities are the major residential areas in the Eastern Province.
Some residents in the Saudi capital Riyadh also felt the earthquake tremors, he said.


US, allies plan big Gulf Naval drill next month

It is likely to be seen as counter to any Iran threat
  • Reuters

Dubai: The United States and its allies will stage a naval exercise in the Gulf in May to practise minesweeping and escorting ships, the US Navy said on Monday, a manoeuvre likely to be seen in the region as guarding against a potential threat from Iran.
Representatives from more than 30 nations will gather in Bahrain for the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 13 from May 6-30, eight months after they staged a previous edition of the exercises at a time when Israel and Iran were trading threats of war.
In early 2012 Iran repeatedly threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow exit route through which most of the Gulf’s oil and gas is exported, amid heightened tension with the West over Tehran’s disputed nuclear development programme.
But such threats have faded over the last few months, as world powers have tried to resolve their differences with Tehran through negotiations.
Piracy remains a threat to shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, but successful attacks also have fallen thanks to an international naval protection force and armed security guards now commonly employed on at-risk voyages.
“This multidisciplinary defence exercise is focused on maritime security for commerce and trade from the port of origin to the port of arrival,” Commodore Simon Ancona, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, said in a statement.
In addition to minesweeping and flying drones, this year’s event will include escorting ships and protecting offshore terminals that oil and gas exporters in the Gulf rely on.
US Commander Jason Salata told Reuters the exercises in May would be limited to the Gulf and Gulf of Oman and focus on protecting critical infrastructure such as offshore oil assets.
There were no exercises planned in the Strait of Hormuz itself because it could be disruptive to normal shipping through the narrow shipping lanes. “It will be simulating convoy type situations but not in the Strait itself,” Salata said.
Last September’s exercises included Britain and France, some unnamed Middle Eastern states, and countries from as far apart as Estonia and New Zealand. The names of the countries taking part in the exercises this May have not been announced.
In a separate development, a US fighter jet crashed into the North Arabian Sea after an engine failure on Monday but both crew were recovered unharmed, the US Navy said.
The F/A-18F Super Hornet was flying near the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier when a mechanical failure forced the crew to eject. The exact location of the crash was not given but the Northern Arabian Sea bordered by Pakistan to the north and Oman to the west.


Ban on Free Condoms Jeopardizes Group’s Work With Catholic College

the new york times
Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times
Boston College Students for Sexual Health, whose members include Chelsea Lennox, left, and Lizzie Jekanowski, distributes condoms in dormitories.

NEWTON, Mass. — Chelsea Lennox, a junior at Boston College, the Gothic university overlooking this natty Boston suburb, picked up a bouquet of brightly colored condom packages and put them into the envelope that she views as a tiny beacon of sexual health resources at the deeply Catholic institution.
“We have S.T.I. facts, birth control choices, how to choose one, and then Planned Parenthood locations and resources,” Ms. Lennox said of the contents, ready for distribution.
“We check for the integrity of every package. Everything we make sure is within its expiration date. The package is completely intact. There’s no lube leakage out of anything,” she said with a sheepish laugh.
Ms. Lennox is part of Boston College Students for Sexual Health, an unofficial campus group formed in 2009 that has worked with campus offices like residential life and health services to plan forums and programming around sexual health. On some Fridays, the group gives away condoms on a sidewalk adjacent to the campus, and it keeps an online list of about 15 dorm rooms, which it calls “safe sites,” where students can get free male and female condoms, lubricant and sexual health pamphlets.
But last month, Ms. Lennox and the other students involved in the effort received a letter from the administration, pressing them to stop. “The distribution of condoms is not congruent with our values and traditions,” read the letter, which was signed by Paul J. Chebator, the dean of students, and George Arey, the director of residential life.
“While we understand that you may not be intentionally violating university policy, we do need to advise you that, should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the university,” the letter said.
The group and the administration scheduled a meeting to discuss the matter for April 29. Meanwhile, they have settled into an uneasy detente in their disagreement over how sexual health practices and Jesuit teaching should coexist in contemporary college life — with tensions heightened by a swirl of news coverage.
“As a Jesuit, Catholic university, there are certain Catholic commitments that we are called to uphold, including the commitment not to publicly distribute condoms on our campus,” Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the college, said in an e-mail.
Both the “Sexually Transmitted Infections” and the “H.I.V./AIDS” sections of the college’s Web site say abstinence is the best way to prevent disease and do not mention forms of birth control. The ban on the distribution of condoms on campus is similar to bans at other universities with Catholic founding missions, like the College of the Holy Cross and Stonehill College, both in Massachusetts, and the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana.
The members of the sexual health group say they have no intention of ceasing distributions.
“Students are going to be having sex regardless, and unless they have the education to know that you need to use a condom every time — for pregnancy prevention, S.T.I. prevention — and unless they have them available, they’re not going to use it,” said Lizzie Jekanowski, a senior and the chairwoman of the group. “It harkens to a much deeper Catholic morality of caring for your neighbor — and that’s literally what we’re doing, is caring for our neighbors.”
Ms. Jekanowski estimated that the group hands out up to 5,000 condoms a semester, some of them donated by the Great American Condom Campaign. The group receives money from outside sources like Washington-based Advocates for Youth, and is affiliated with the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
“We just wanted to help normalize the presence of condoms, whereas before, they were super taboo,” said Scott Jelinek, a founding member of the group, who graduated from Boston College in 2010 and teaches at a public school in Denver. “Students need the resources to make safe and healthy decisions.”
The group’s actions have for years stirred opposition from the college’s more conservative students, some of whom have written letters to campus publications and, in 2011, held a demonstration in which they handed out packages of dental floss while the group distributed condoms.
“To sort of be treated like either we’re not adults enough to provide for ourselves, or in some instance we’re animals that can’t control our passions, I think it’s degrading to the student body,” said Nathaniel Sanders, a Boston College senior.
“Having condoms distributed on campus is the university kind of validating hookup culture,” said Katelyn Conroy, a junior who leads the college’s Pro-Life Club. “The argument is that condoms prevent the spread of S.T.D.’s, but, really, if you hand out condoms on campus, it puts an idea in their head.”
Still, the group operated without incident for years, holding regular meetings with members of the administration.
“This letter out of nowhere that was threatening — and kind of bizarrely vaguely threatening — was really shocking,” Ms. Jekanowski said. “We’ve been doing this for years. Why is this happening now?”
The students say they were never directly asked to stop distributing condoms, while the university disagrees. “In every meeting, the students were told that distributing condoms in residence halls on campus was against university policy,” Dr. Chebator, the dean, said in a statement. He said the students had been told that they needed to stop the distributions if they wanted to continue working with the university.
“When the students did not respond to our requests, we issued them a letter of warning on March 15,” the dean said.
Dr. Chebator did not elaborate on the disciplinary actions the students could face if they ignored the warning, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has committed itself to defend the students.
“They don’t have a right to impose their religious beliefs on students or faculty, through threats and intimidation, when those students or faculty are engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected activity,” said Carol Rose, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts.
Ms. Jekanowski and Ms. Lennox are preparing for their next sidewalk condom distribution, on Friday — to which, they said, the controversy has brought more attention.
“That’s been the student response more than anything else,” Ms. Jekanowski said. “ ‘Wait, I can get free condoms? Where?’ ”

North Korea Pulls Workers From Factories It Runs With South

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Monday that it was withdrawing all its 53,000 workers from an industrial park jointly run with South Korea, casting doubt on the future of the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation.
The Kaesong industrial complex, in the North Korean border town of the same name, operated for eight years despite political and military tension, including the North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island three years ago. North Korea’s decision to withdraw its workers, although it called the move “temporary,” presented the most serious challenge to its viability.
North Korea “will temporarily suspend the operations in the zone and examine the issue of whether it will allow its existence or close it,” the country’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim Yang-gon, a secretary of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, as saying after his visit to Kaesong on Monday. The North’s final decision will depend on the Seoul government’s attitude, he said, making it clear that Pyongyang was using the future of the factory park to pressure Seoul for political concessions.
Hours earlier, South Korea said it had no intention of offering dialogue with North Korea. Doing so amid a torrent of North Korean threats to attack Seoul and Washington with nuclear weapons would be tantamount to capitulation and would only embolden the North’s brinkmanship, officials here said. “If the Kaesong project is stopped and we have to pull our workers completely, it will be a tremendous setback to South-North relations,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae of South Korea said during a parliamentary hearing. “If we can bring about concrete results through dialogue, perhaps we will swallow our pride and start dialogue, but this is not such a time.”
“We don’t need photo-ops or talks for talk’s sake,” he said.
North Korea has blocked South Korean managers and cargo trucks from crossing the heavily armed border to Kaesong for six days to protest United Nations sanctions and joint military drills that the United States and South Korea are conducting on the Korean Peninsula. The blockade quickly dried up the fuel, food and raw materials for 123 South Korean factories there, forcing 20 of them to stop operating as of Monday, even before the North’s decision to pull out its workers.
More than 470 South Koreans remained in Kaesong on Monday, hoping that the North would lift the blockade. Long lines of South Korean trucks loaded with supplies for the Kaesong factories were stalled at the border on Monday, waiting in vain for the North to let them cross.
For nearly a decade, the complex, where South Korean factories hire North Korean workers and the North’s Communist authorities experienced the first taste of South Korean capitalism, has been held up as a test case for how reunification of the two Koreas might look. The complex, near the western edge of the border of the two Koreas, produced $470 million worth of textiles and other labor-intensive products last year.
As relations deteriorated in recent years, however, the complex has also become controversial in South Korea. Some conservative South Koreans argued that the complex, which generates $90 million a year in wages for 53,000 North Koreans employed there, extended a lifeline to the North Korean regime, which the South blamed for the island attack and the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors. North Korea’s threat to close the complex earlier this month was met with some skepticism from some media analysts who indicated that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, would not want to risk an important source of hard currency.
North Korea has issued a daily barrage of bellicose rhetoric since early March, denouncing the United States and South Korea for the joint military drills and spearheading United Nations sanctions following a nuclear test in February, its third.
In the past week, North Korea appeared to move beyond rhetoric. It told foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider evacuating their personnel because of rising tension and it moved one of its medium-range missiles to its east coast for a possible test launch, which South Korea said could happen as early as this week.
On Monday, South Korean officials reported activities at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, but said it was too early to tell whether the country would conduct another underground nuclear test despite escalating tensions. North Korea detonated a nuclear device on Feb. 12 inside one of the two tunnels it was believed to have prepared in its main test site in the northeastern of the country.
South Korea has lately detected vehicle, cargo and personnel movements around the entrance of the other unused tunnel, officials here said. “For now, we don’t see them as an indication of a nuclear test,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman of the Defense Ministry. “But since they prepared both tunnels for the last test, we believe that once North Korea makes up its mind, it can conduct another nuclear test any time.”
The measured statement came as South Korean officials were still unsure whether North Korea intended to push ahead with another nuclear test, which would trigger more United Nations sanctions and aggravate tensions, or was posturing to draw Washington and Seoul back to the negotiating table. "How far can they take this?" asked Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, saying that the prolonged standoff between Pyongyang and its American and South Korean foes carried a considerable political and economic risk for both Koreas.
The closure of the Kaesong complex suggested the Pyongyang regime is subordinating possible economic changes to its political and military priorities.
It was also a blow to factory owners who have invested millions of dollars with government encouragement during the years when Seoul pushed for economic cooperation as a way of building political reconciliation. Faced with the prospect of closing their factories, they urged the government to start dialogue with Pyongyang to help defuse tensions.

New War, Old Enemies: Conflict Dynamics in South Kordofan

The Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan project released a new paper which describes the first year of renewed war in South Kordofan (June 2011–July 2012), focusing on the conduct and dynamics of the conflict and the primary armed actors.
In early 2011, smouldering tensions between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) flared up again in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two states bordering what was soon to become independent South Sudan. Since the 1980s, these states had been main theatres in the civil war between the central government in Khartoum and the SPLA. That conflict ended with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which cleared the way for a referendum on self-determination in the South, but not in the two border states. By June 2011, large-scale conflict engulfed South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains area, later spreading to Blue Nile in September.
Within just a few weeks, this ‘new war’ saw the mobilization of thousands of men and huge quantities of weapons and ammunition, air strikes, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. The new conflict pits Sudanese forces—the national army and paramilitaries—against the northern branch of the SPLM, including former members of the southern SPLA, and allied elements of the Darfur armed opposition.
While the war in South Kordofan is fundamentally a conflict between primarily (Northern) Sudanese actors for control of the state, it has clear cross-border implications—as SAF’s air strikes in Unity state and the Southern fighters’ temporary seizure of the Hejlij oil fields attest. This paper reviews these border aspects of the conflict and its impacts on relations between Khartoum and Juba.
Key findings include:
• The rebels appear to have made significant gains in the first year with some 30,000 Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) troops and allied forces capturing a large part of the Nuba Mountains area.
• The involvement of a relatively small contingent (700–1,000) of experienced Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) fighters was crucial to rebel victories.
• Prior to and just after Southern independence, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) sent thousands of ethnic Northern SPLA soldiers to South Kordofan fully armed with small arms, heavy weapons, and tanks, providing a significant source of fighters and weapons for the rebellion. In the post-independence period, however, the Small Arms Survey has found no evidence of weapons supplies from the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) to the SPLM-N, though some political and logistical support is evident.
• Rebel seizures of SAF weapons and vehicles between June 2011 and April 012 provided their most valuable military resources, allowing SPLM-N to preserve its strength and making it less reliant on military supplies from outside the country.
• Much of the rebel arms and ammunition obtained through capture from SAF were of older vintage, mainly Soviet-type small arms, light weapons, and their ammunition originating from Bulgaria, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Captured Sudanese and Chinese-made weapons and ammunition were more recently produced.
• SAF superiority in South Kordodan is limited to its control of the skies. As in its Darfur campaign, the use of adapted Antonov cargo planes and military aircraft for bombing has not led to military advances but has succeeded in terrorizing and displacing the local population.
• There is strong evidence that SAF has employed cluster bombs and incendiary weapons in South Kordofan. The presence of anti-personnel landmines in the stores captured from SAF, subsequently used by SPLM-N, was also documented, while reports on the the use of chemical weapons during SAF offensives remain unverified.
• SPLM-N and JEM fighters are present on both sides of, and regularly cross, the border between South Kordofan and South Sudan’s Unity state. They have been also operating in areas of South Kordofan claimed by the GoSS, notably around Jaw, Hejlij, and Kharasana. But the Northern rebels are not proxies of South Sudan, as Khartoum asserts. Despite the important links between them, the SPLM-N has a distinct political and military agenda from that of the SPLA.
• Solving the North-South conflict will not be sufficient to solve the South Kordofan problem. The conflict in South Kordofan is, in the first place, an internal Sudanese issue rather than a mere ramification of North-South tensions. Even if South Sudan further severs its links to the SPLM-N, the war, with an increasingly national agenda, will continue to threaten both national and regional stability—just as the conflict in Darfur has survived the Chad–Sudan rapprochement.
By Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana