Friday, December 24, 2010
Nigerian sex slave rescue from Mali 'fails'
23 December 10 10:58 ET
By Caroline Duffield
BBC News, Nigeria
BBC News, Nigeria
A senior Nigerian official says plans to rescue thousands of victims of sex trafficking have failed.
Investigators went to Mali earlier this year and estimated that at least 20,000 Nigerian teenagers and women had been smuggled there and forced into prostitution.
A joint operation was then launched with Malian authorities to rescue the women.
But Nigerian officials say they have not had enough co-operation from Mali.
The authorities in Mali have refused to comment on the criticism.
"I feel like committing suicide when I remember," says Yemisi Ogoda about her journey which ended in Mali.
She was handed to a gang who demanded she repay debts for her travel.
After being beaten and locked up without food for two days, the young Nigerian agreed to work as a prostitute to try to pay the debt.
"They said they would kill me if I did not do it. Nobody will know about it, they will just kill me there, no-one will know," she adds.
She fell pregnant, and was coerced into an abortion. The attempt failed, and, visibly pregnant, she was sold on to another gang, only managing to flee when she was left unsupervised to bathe.
Ms Ogoda survived by begging in the streets until she managed to contact her family.
The network of migration routes that criss-cross West Africa are known to police as a "hot graveyard for migrants", because the number who die on the way is so great.
So-called "trolley-boys" - the trafficking middle-men - run "the relay race", passing their human cargo onwards, with promises of jobs in hairdressing and supermarkets.
The true nature of the "job" is revealed later.
After receiving reports of sexual slavery from aid workers and clergy, Nigerian officials went to Mali to investigate earlier this year.
They said were "nauseated" by what they had seen: Brothels with cubicles in which young Nigerian women, many in their mid-teens, serviced as many as 20 or 30 clients a night, in order to pay off debts incurred to the "trolley-men".
"It is clear it is not consensual," says Arinze Orakwue of Nigeria's National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (Naptip). "They have no freedom of movement. They are not allowed to go outside with you, or even to make a phone call."
Naptip's hard-hitting findings, published on 29 September, also warned of what officials described as "slave camps" in Mali's north - brothels in the gold-mining towns of Kayes and Mopti.
Photographs seen by the BBC reveal precise locations and buildings examined by the team.
The findings were given to Malian police and Operation Timbuktu was launched.
"Operation Timbuktu will be executed with the Malian authorities, to free the girls and ensure their safe return to Nigeria," Simon Chuzi Egede, executive secretary of Naptip, said at the time.
Months later, nothing has happened, and the trafficked teenagers and women remain in the hands of criminal gangs in Mali.
"All of us have failed," says Mr Orakwue, an assistant director of intelligence and communications at Naptip.
"The first thing that is preventing their return is support from the Malian authorities," he says.
"What we want Mali to do is say: 'Nigeria, come! We will support you to strike, to engage in law enforcement action, to get the girls back.'"
Naptip officials say that despite assurances of cooperation from Mali, attempts at communication with the Mali police are being ignored.
It is clear that Operation Timbuktu is beset by difficulties: A lack of French-speakers in Nigeria's police able to communicate with Malian officials, slow bureaucracies, and little political interest in the fate of the victims.
Officials say to make headway, they need wholehearted support from Mali.
"There is a perception that it is a Nigerian problem," says one officer. "These are Nigerian women, controlled by Nigerian gangs. So they see it as a foreign racket. But the customers are in Mali."
Mali is a signatory to the UN Palermo Protocol on people trafficking, as well as the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime of 2000.
"Definitely, I want to see diplomatic pressure on Mali," insists Mr Orakwue. "It is an emergency."
Naptip estimate the number of women trapped in Mali to be anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000. Other estimates - from local charities - suggest a lower figure, in the thousands.
Whatever the number, the idea of raiding brothels and mounting a large-scale repatriation of thousands of people across five West African countries poses serious logistical and financial difficulties for Naptip.
To get started, the agency will need wider support. Officers are impatient to begin work.
"We've got visuals, where these girls are located," says Mr Orakwue.
"And we're here, not doing anything about it," he says. "We're just sitting here, talking."
Posted by Richelieu at 10:54 AM
By SCOTT JAMES
Published: December 24, 2010
Scott James writes a column for The Bay Citizen.
Carl E. Clark, 94, served in World War II to defend America, not to win glory.
"We just figured it was a war that had to be won," said Mr. Clark, who lives in Menlo Park.
Now the veteran, a remarkably modest man with a commanding presence, unexpectedly finds himself under consideration to receive the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.
It is an effort, 65 years after the fact, to repair history. Mr. Clark is one of an estimated one million black World War II veterans whose accomplishments were routinely ignored by the military.
Mr. Clark's valor might never have been recognized, if not for an encounter with a community college teacher.
On May 3, 1945, the destroyer U.S.S. Aaron Ward was on "picket duty" to warn the fleet in Okinawa of impending Japanese attacks. At sunset, a kamikaze plane hit the deck in an explosion of fire. Five more planes followed in the next 51 minutes, killing dozens.
Yet the ship did not sink. As the planes struck, Mr. Clark, despite a broken collarbone, raced into the mayhem and manned a fire hose, one so powerful it usually took four men to control it, to douse flames headed for an ammunition locker, which would have exploded and split the ship.
Mr. Clark was a steward in a racially segregated Navy. His job was to serve, clean and shine shoes - and endure daily slurs from white enlisted men and officers. That he saved those same lives was omitted from the battle report, while white shipmates received the Bronze Star.
"If you put in your battle report that a black man saved the ship, that would be pretty embarrassing," Mr. Clark said.
To provide for his family, he stayed in the Navy as it integrated, serving for 22 years and rising to the rank of chief petty officer. Racism still ran deep - on his final day, in 1958, a white clerk called him "boy." Mr. Clark's deeds on the Aaron Ward would remain unrecorded.
Then in 1999, Sheila Dunec, an instructor at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, invited local retirees to share their wartime memories for an oral history project and videos. In search of more diversity, Ms. Dunec reached out to the local black community, which led her to Mr. Clark.
"When you hear his story, you say this is not our country living up to our ideal," Ms. Dunec said.
Mr. Clark's story was featured in this column last year after a public screening of Ms. Dunec's video. When the ship's only known surviving officer, Lefteris (Lefty) Lavrakas, a lieutenant who managed the deck guns, now 91, was located for the article, he said, "You go get justice for Carl."
The remark set in motion efforts to give Mr. Clark his due.
Representative Anna G. Eshoo, a Democrat who is Mr. Clark's congresswoman, obtained a Congressional decree honoring him, and then began lobbying the Navy for a medal.
Last month Ms. Eshoo's efforts took a significant step forward when Mr. Lavrakas asked that Mr. Clark "be bestowed the highest military honors," specifically, "the Medal of Honor and the Silver Star."
The statement Mr. Lavrakas filed with the Navy said, "Alone, Carl aimed the hose at the smoldering ammunition locker." The ship stayed afloat. "Carl Clark is the reason why."
Citing policy, the Navy declined to comment, but documents obtained by The Bay Citizen confirm that an investigation is under way.
The process for awarding the medal is secretive with a statute of limitations of two to five years after battle so that forensics and witnesses can corroborate events, said Dwight Jon Zimmerman, co-author of "Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned It in Afghanistan and Iraq."
But in cases involving racism, exceptions have been made, Mr. Zimmerman said. In 2000, for example, Medals of Honor were awarded to Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, and 19 fellow Japanese-American soldiers whose World War II heroics were ignored due to discrimination.
Mr. Zimmerman said that Mr. Clark could receive a decoration other than the Medal of Honor, which is rarely awarded, and that the process could take years.
Considering the advanced ages of those involved, Ms. Eshoo recently petitioned the Navy to speed its inquiry. "We could very well run out of time," she wrote.
Mr. Clark said he did not believe in bravery. Surrounded by so much killing that night in 1945, "you lose respect for death," he said to explain why he ran toward the carnage. "I was just out there putting out the damn fire."
As for receiving a medal, "if something could happen where I could represent all these guys," he said, referring to his fellow black sailors, "that would make me feel good."
Scott James is an Emmy-winning television journalist and novelist who lives in San Francisco. firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Richelieu at 10:40 AM
Thursday, December 23, 2010
By Dennis Thompson HealthDay
As a general rule, men take lousy care of their health.
They shrug off injuries. They hate going to the doctor for anything. They pay little heed to warning signs for major health issues.
And the results of all that manliness are evident in the statistics. According to the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
One in five American men has heart disease.
One in three adult men in the United States has high blood pressure.
Three in four American men are overweight.
Men overall are less healthy and have a shorter life span than women, according to the Men's Health Network, a national nonprofit group that promotes healthy living for men. And more than half of all premature deaths among men are preventable.
"Men are leading in nine out of the top 10 causes of death," said Scott Williams, vice president of the network. "I feel like we're starting behind where health is concerned, compared to women."
The main way men can improve the length and quality of their lives, Williams said, is to start taking a personal interest in their health.
"If you look at the data, women are 100% more likely than men to seek preventative care," he said. "It's really scary."
The first step is to schedule an appointment with a doctor for a full physical examination. "A tremendous percentage of men do not see the doctor," said Armin Brott, a talk-show host and author who co-wrote the Blueprint for Men's Health for the Men's Health Network.
And when meeting with the doctor, be sure to ask questions. Ask what tests and screenings are appropriate for a man your age, and what are your potential risk factors for major diseases.
Men should also bring up any long-term problems they have, no matter how embarrassing or private the problem might be. And experts agree that men need to be brutally honest about such things as erectile dysfunction, drinking and smoking because doctors can't do their jobs unless they have a complete picture of their male patients' health.
"You've just got to suck it up and talk about it because it can be a symptom of something more important," Brott said.
Other tips from Men's Health Network for preparing for a physical include:
Bring a list of all medications and supplements you're taking.
Write down a full medical history of your family. The health of relatives can provide clues to illnesses you might be prone to develop.
Make a list of any allergies or reactions to medications that you've had.
Don't think it's all done after the physical. You need to take your doctor's findings and advice to heart, and make whatever changes to your lifestyle that need to happen to keep you healthy and fit.
Men should also do a little research on their own to learn the warning signs of health problems so they can be on the lookout for them.
"I think a lot of guys don't pay any attention to anything," Brott said. "It's important to understand the risk factors for stress, depression, prostate problems, bladder problems, back problems. It's important to do a little bit of reading."
Beyond that, try to create and then follow a healthy lifestyle that includes:
Eating right. By cutting back on saturated fats, trans fats and simple carbohydrates, you can reduce your chances of developing chronic health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. Healthy foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products — give the body the tools it needs to repair and replenish. "Look at the food pyramid and try to pay attention to it," Brott said.
Exercising. Exercise has been proven to help improve heart health and better control blood sugar levels. It also acts as a natural antidepressant. "If you're not a person who can work out every day, park your car farther away or take the stairs," Brott said. "Do something to get some exercise whenever you can. It's a very important thing for your cardiovascular health, as well as your mental health."
Getting more in touch with your family. Fathers can start by spending more time with their kids. The children will benefit from dad's attention, and so will dad. "From a purely self-centered point of view, men tend to take better care of themselves because they have an idea that they need to set a good example and be there for their kids," Brott said.
Think of it this way: Men ought to start taking care of their bodies as well as they take care of their cars. "If we're going to bend this curve, that's where we need to start," Williams said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted by Richelieu at 5:59 PM
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 23, 2010
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. David Paterson commuted the sentence Thursday of a black man imprisoned for the racially charged shooting death of a white teenager on Long Island, a decision in the final days of his administration that infuriated the lawyer who prosecuted the case.
Paterson said the five months John Harris White has served was enough time for the emotion-fueled 2006 shooting death of Daniel Cicciaro, 17. Paterson said everybody connected with the case had suffered enough, and White was released Thursday.
White teenagers were feuding with John White's 19-year-old son when they went by the carload to their home in August 2006. White was convicted of manslaughter for shooting one of the teenagers at the foot of White's driveway, in what he referred to as a lynch mob.
A judge sentenced White to two to four years in prison, a fraction of the maximum, exactly four years ago Thursday. He finally went to prison in July this year after his appeals were rejected.
Cicciaro's father, Daniel Sr., screamed at the verdict after the four-week trial: "Let's see what happens when Aaron White gets shot."
White arrived at his home early Thursday afternoon.
"Merry Christmas," said a smiling White, according to the New York Daily News. "I'm definitely glad to be home with my family for Christmas, and I hope everyone has a pleasant and happy holiday."
"He is happy to be spending this very special Christmas with his family," said White's lawyer, Paul Gianelli. He wouldn't say whether White had sought a pardon.
"The only thing that matters right now is his personal liberty and his ability to rejoin his family," Gianelli said. "The case is finished. It's over and done with."
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota blasted Paterson for the way he handled his decision.
"I strongly believe the governor should have had the decency and the compassion to at least contact the victim's family to allow them to be heard before commuting the defendant's sentence," Spota said.
Spota said a court, upheld by an appellate court, agreed that a reasonable person wouldn't have believed deadly force was needed that hot summer night.
In a courtroom secured by 18 police officers because of the racial tensions, White testified that he was trying to protect his family when the white teenagers turned up at his house. He claimed his pistol fired accidentally when Cicciaro lunged for it.
The victim had a blood-alcohol reading above the legal limit for driving and was just 3 inches from the pistol when he was shot.
White had said his son, Aaron, woke him around 11 p.m. to say teens he had argued with at a party were headed to the Whites' house in Miller Place, a predominantly white community on eastern Long Island.
The younger White had complied earlier with a request to leave the beer bash after he was suspected of posting online threats against a teenage girl at the party. The story of the threats turned out to be bogus, but when Cicciaro and others heard about what happened, they headed for Miller Place, making cell phone calls to Aaron White.
John White testified that he grew up in Brooklyn hearing stories about how the Ku Klux Klan had torched his grandfather's business in Alabama in the 1920s. He said he feared a similar attack was about to happen.
White was sentenced to more time in prison for owning an illegal weapon than for the killing. He got two years for possession of the gun, and 1 1/3 to four years for manslaughter, to be served at the same time.
In prison since July 9, records show one misbehavior report, for smoking inside, which didn't affect White's sentence.
"Our society strives to be just, but the pursuit of justice is a difficult and arduous endeavor," Paterson, who is black, said in the commutation, one of his last acts in office.
"While the incident and Mr. White's trial engendered much controversy and comment, and varying assessments of justice were perceived, its most common feature was heartbreak," Paterson said. "My decision today may be an affront to some and a joy to others, but my objective is only to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event."
State workers contacted the victim's mother Thursday morning, corrections spokesman Linda Foglia said. Two phone numbers for a Daniel Cicciaro, the name of the victim's father, on Long Island were out of service when The Associated Press called them Thursday.
"Our hearts go out to the Cicciaro family for the loss of their loved one," said NAACPPresident Benjamin Todd Jealous. "This act of commutation shows the value of local people getting involved, raising their voice for justice and keeping the faith." The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sought a full pardon.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said that he hopes the families moves toward healing and that the governor "showed great courage and fairness."
Sharpton had led a rally in Riverhead, the county seat, complaining that none of the teenagers who arrived at White's house was prosecuted. The district attorney's office said the White family refused to cooperate with a police investigation.
The spokesman said a canvass of the neighborhood found no evidence or witnesses to corroborate allegations made by White's attorneys.
Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela in New York City contributed to this report.
Posted by Richelieu at 5:57 PM
Angry Haitian mobs have lynched at least 40 people in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading a cholera outbreak that has killed over 2,500 people across the country, officials said Wednesday.
The number included at least 14 suspected sorcerers previously known to have been lynched in the far southwestern region of Grand Anse as local people feared they were spreading cholera with a magical substance.
Posted by Richelieu at 8:29 AM
By Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta police arrested three young men and charged them with murder in a high-profile shooting in the Virginia-Highland area and a rape and home invasion a few hours later in Grant Park, but suspect they could be linked to more than 20 other crimes.
Tamario Wise, 18, and two others are charged with murder and armed robbery in the killing of Charles Boyer. The 39-year-old man was shot several times in a struggle with a gunman just moments after he and his girlfriend got out of the car at her apartment Nov. 22. While the other two are in custody and also charged, police declined to name them because of a related ongoing investigation. Police also have in custody a fourth and fifth man who are suspected of committing crimes with either Wise or his two partners charged with murdering Boyer.
“Make no mistake,” Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said at a news conference with Mayor Kasim Reed and top investigators crowded around him. “We have removed some very dangerous criminals from the streets of Atlanta.”
Major Keith Meadows, who is APD's head of major crimes, said the three were not linked to a particular gang but they were part of a loose group of individuals who knew each other from the Amal Heights neighborhood, which is between I-75 and the Lakewood region in south Atlanta. They are suspected in other crimes that "had the same MO," Meadows said.
Most of those crimes involved home invasions, pedestrian robberies or carjackings. Police declined to provide details because of the continuing investigation. But the first crime most likely was Aug. 18 and the series continued until Wise was arrested Nov. 27.
"Wise was possibly the ringleader," Meadows said.
"He would go to the labor pool of criminals," looking for partners to help him with the crime of the day, Turner said.
Witnesses reported seeing a dark-colored SUV speed away from the Boyer shooting and other neighborhood shootings.
A surveillance camera at a convenience store captured images of three men putting gas in a Toyota Highlander that met witnesses' accounts. Police said Wise was the man with a "Mohawk haircut." There was a second man wearing a bright pink shirt who also was clearly seen on the video.
On Nov. 26 the Highlander was found in the parking lot at MARTA's Lakewood station; it had been reported stolen from Greenview Avenue.
On Nov. 22, Boyer and his girlfriend were getting out of a car at her apartment around 10 p.m. when three masked men came up.
The woman, Lisa McGraw, told police that after she got out of the car she felt a gun pressed to her head as two or three masked men asked her to give up the apartment keys and walk to her apartment. They walked a bit before McGraw ran to seek help. She later told police that she heard gunshots as she ran.
Police found Boyer dead in front of one of the apartment buildings. His mother, Ann Boyer, declined comment when contacted by the AJC Wednesday.
Later that night, and five miles away, a man reported that three men accosted him moments after he, his wife and their daughter returned from grocery shopping. The woman and girl were already inside the house on Underwood Avenue in Grant Park when three men pulled up in a dark SUV.
The three demanded to be let inside but the man refused. The would-be intruders shot at the man but missed.
There was another incident that night. A man reported he was walking in the 600 block of Home Avenue when three men in a dark SUV pulled up and robbed him.
Several hours later, early Nov. 23, the home invasion and rape on Boulevard were reported.
Wise and the other two are charged with the Nov. 23 home invasion but not the two shootings that came in the hours after the Boyer shooting.
Story posted 2010.12.22 at 07:39 PM EST
Posted by Richelieu at 8:27 AM
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Obama hails bipartisanship after arms pact passes
By BEN FELLER
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan "season of progress" on Wednesday at a year-end news conference marking an up-and-down second year in office that blended a thrashing at the polls, slow progress on the economy and late victories in Congress.
President Barack Obama gestures during a news conference on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama gestures during a news conference on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama laughs during a news conference on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama gestures at the Interior Department in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, prior to signing the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation that would allow gays to serve openly in the military. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
He forecast struggles over spending in 2011 with Republicans who take control the House, and vowed to try again and pass sweeping immigration legislation that was blocked by GOP critics. "If I believe in something strongly I stay on it," he said.
Obama opened the news conference with a reference to the nuclear arms control treaty with Russia that the Senate ratified earlier in the day on a bipartisan vote. In addition to cutting nuclear weapons and launchers, he said the pact will allow U.S. inspectors to "be back on the ground" in Russia.
"So we'll be able to trust but verify," he added, quoting the late President Ronald Reagan in another in a string of bipartisan gestures of recent weeks.
The president, who signed legislation earlier in the day permitting gay members of the armed forces to serve openly, said he does not currently favor legalizing gay marriage.
"I struggle with this. I have friends, people who work for me who are in powerful, long standing gay or lesbian unions," he said. "I have said that at this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them protection and legal rights."
The economy was not nearly as dominant a subject as it has been at other news conference in Obama's tenure. He said the nation is past the "crisis point," and he intends to focus in 2011 on reducing unemployment and making the country more competitive in the international marketplace. Unemployment was measured at 9.8 percent in November, down only slightly from its double-digit high in 2009. Economic growth has been stronger in recent months than earlier in his term, but not yet powerful enough to guarantee a quick recovery.
Obama said deficit reduction would be a major issue in 2011.
"I guarantee you, as soon as the new Congress is sworn in, we're going to have to have a conversation about, how do we start balancing our budget or at least getting to a point that's sustainable when it comes to our deficit and our debt?" he said.
"And that's going to require us cutting programs that don't work, but it also requires us to be honest about paying for the things that we think are important."
The president said that after midterm elections on Nov. 2, many "predicted Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. Instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people."
He added that the accomplishments of a postelection session of Congress demonstrate "we are not doomed to endless gridlock."
Obama spoke a few hours after the Senate ratified the treaty he negotiated with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to reduce both nation's nuclear arsenals, the final major action of a productive postelection Congress.
In the six weeks since midterm elections he bluntly called a shellacking for his party, Obama has signed bipartisan legislation to prevent a spike in income taxes, cut Social Security taxes for one year and extend long-term jobless benefits through the end of 2011.
Obama will soon sign a measure strengthening the safety of the nation's food supply. He also wrapped up a trade deal with South Korea.
The Senate's ratification of the arms control treaty was Obama's top foreign policy priority of the postelection session of Congress, and a victory the administration ground out over the past few weeks by securing the votes of Republicans. The top two GOP senators voted against the pact, although it was not clear how hard they worked to prevent its ratification.
Obama was flying to Hawaii later in the day, joining his wife and the couple's two children for a year-end holiday.
When he returns, it will be a few days before a new Congress convenes, with a House controlled by Republicans and a Senate with a shrunken Democratic majority.
Despite Obama's upbeat reviews, he conceded disappointment with Congress' failure to enact some of his other priorities.
He said his biggest disappointment was failure of Congress to pass legislation giving young illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship if they go to college or serve in the military. The bill was blocked by Senate Republicans. "I am determined to get immigration reform done," he added.
He also said he was disappointed Congress wasn't able to approve a budget, saying he expects "robust debate" on federal spending when Congress returns.
House Republicans have vowed to roll back spending on hundreds of federal programs to 2008 levels, a proposal certain to spark opposition among Democrats in Congress.
The president said political leaders of both parties must re-examine long-held beliefs to help the economy recover.
But he made it clear that he intends to contest Republicans when the tax bill he just signed comes up for renewal in two years. It extends tax cuts at upper incomes, and the president said he continues to believe "we can't afford a series of tax breaks for people who are doing very well and don't need it."
December 22, 2010 05:22 PM EST
Copyright 2010, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted by Richelieu at 5:33 PM