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Kyrgyzstan appeals to retired officers to help quell unrest

(AFP) - Kyrgyzstan’s interim government on Saturday appealed to retired police and army officers to travel to the southern city of Osh, to prevent ethnic clashes there escalating into civil war.
“The provisional Kyrgyz government calls on retired police and military officers to contribute to the stabilisation of the situation in Osh,” said government spokesman Azimbek Beknazarov, the 24.kg news agency reported.

“The authorities will be grateful for any volunteers who are ready to help prevent civil war in the south of Kyrgyzstan,” he added.
Beknazarov was speaking from the region where clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks broke out late Thursday.
The appeal came as the health ministry issued an updated death toll from the violence, saying at least 49 people had been killed and 650 injured in the clashes. The previous death toll had stood at 45.

Beknazarov said the situation there remained “very difficult”, despite the state of emergency declared by the government and the 8:00 pm to 6:00 am (1400 GMT to 0000 GMT) curfew on Osh and neighbouring districts.
“Exchanges of fire are continuing and you can hear them everywhere, several buildings are in flames, people are frightened,” he said.
Police officers and soldiers deployed to the troubled zone were exhausted, falling asleep on the roads they were meant to be watching, he added.

“We won’t have enough people on the ground to ensure security over the next two days, if we don’t get more help,” he warned.
The violence, thought to have been set off by a brawl between youths from the different ethnic groups late Thursday, quickly escalated into street battles, in which people fought using improvised weapons, but also firearms.
It comes some two weeks before a referendum on the constitution, scheduled for June 27.
Since last April’s uprising, which ousted Bakiyev and left 87 people dead, foreign leaders have warned of the danger of civil war in this strategically important country.

 

Ahmadinejad: Israel is doomed

UN Sanctions against Iran, with Chinese and Russian backing

(Al-Jazeera)– Iran’s president has said Israel is “doomed”, during a speech, in which he accused Western powers of monopolising nuclear technology.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments on Friday came two days after the UN Security Council hit Tehran with fresh sanctions over its nuclear programme.
Speaking during a news conference in the Chinese city of Shanghai, where he was visiting the World Expo, he denounced the sanctions adopted on Wednesday, with Chinese and Russian backing, as “worthless paper”.
He accused global nuclear powers of “monopolising” atomic technology, and said the new sanctions would “have no effect”.
The Iranian leader also described the US as being disingenuous, saying: “It is clear the United States is not against nuclear bombs, because they have a Zionist regime with nuclear bombs in the region.”
But he added: “They are trying to save the Zionist regime, but the Zionist regime will not survive. It is doomed.”
Meanwhile, Russia has signalled that it is moving to halt its sale of air defence missiles to Iran, following fresh UN sanctions over Iran’s atomic programme.
“S-300 supplies to Iran fall under UN sanctions,” a Kremlin source said, referring to the defence system Russia has long planned to deliver to the Islamic republic.
“Thus this type of weapon cannot be delivered to Iran,” the source added.
However, a final decree on the issue would need to come directly from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the foreign minister has said.
The UN Security Council resolution passed Wednesday, bans Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, investing in nuclear-related activities and buying certain types of heavy weapons.
Ahmadinejad’s visit to China comes at a delicate time in Tehran’s relations with its ally, after Beijing backed the sanctions.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China could have exercised its veto power to block the sanctions.
Iran says its programme is purely for civilian energy purposes, but critics suspect it of developing atomic weapons.
Marking Iran Day at his country’s pavilion at the expo, Ahmadinejad did not directly criticise his host.
But he skipped Friday’s summit in Uzbekistan of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, which was attended by presidents Hu Jintao of China and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.

 

Oil disaster may spill over to transatlantic dispute

By Thanapathi
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has started to strain the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States. Oil has been leaking into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April and sank off the coast of the US state of Louisiana, killing 11 workers. Owners of the rig British Petroleum, or BP as it is better known is seen by many responsible for the disaster. Unlike many other oil producing countries the United States had not made certain equipment mandatory which would have reduced the chances of a similar disaster. A stop valve costing approximately half a million dollars is considered an essential item in nations drilling for offshore oil. However in the US, the big oil companies which hold much sway over public policy due to their massive contributions have been preventing legislature to ensure that these costly safety mechanisms were made mandatory in oil rigs.

The handling of the immediate aftermath of the oil spill by BP and the delays in plugging of the leak has infuriated the US public and compelled its government to take a tougher stand against the oil giant. This “tougher” stand against BP is now being perceived in across the Atlantic as unjustified Britain bashing. The company is now being targeted on the basis of its origins, with politicians and senior administration officials repeatedly referring to it as “British Petroleum” even though this has not been its name since 1998. The public has also been fuelling this anger in many forums repeatedly asking why a foreign company has been allowed to “come in and take our oil” and urge the government to stop non-American companies operating there.

Obama under pressure
Last week President Barack Obama, himself under public pressure over the spill, ratcheted up his rhetoric against BP, making his anger known by saying he was looking for “whose ass to kick”. The BP Chairman will be meeting President Obama next Wednesday, and the BP board will meet tomorrow to decide whether to suspend or reduce a planned £10 billion dividend payout to shareholders.

The most alarmist remarks emanated from London’s city hall, where Mayor Boris Johnson cited as a “matter of national concern” the “anti-British rhetoric that seems to be permeating from America.”
“When you consider the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP it starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten up,” said Mr. Johnson, a member of Cameron’s Conservative party.

Falling share price
In Washington, lawmakers stepped up attempts to punish BP, with 40 members of the House of Representatives saying BP should not pay a dividend until the full costs of the accident were known. Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded BP’s share price has fallen 39 percent, wiping £47bn ($68bn, €56bn) off its market capitalisation. The British business sector fears the BP crisis might cause trade relations with the United States to worsen.
The fall in the value of the BP stock has also alarming consequences. Financial experts estimate that BP dividends account for as much as 16 percent of all stock payouts that UK pensioners receive. Whether justifiably or not if the BP shares continue to slump it would be impossible for British politicians to ignore considering the vast number of pensioners who will be affected.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have already spoken to BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, about the crisis. Cameron is reported to have told BP’s chairman he was “frustrated and concerned” at the environmental impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and stressed the company must remain “financially strong and stable”. The Prime Minister’s phone conversation with Carl-Henric Svanberg came after scientists with the US Geological Survey doubled the estimate of the amount of oil gushing out of the ruptured well to 40,000 barrels a day.

Environmental catastrophe
With the British press and even some officials in London increasingly seeing some of the reaction in by the US President and his administration as attacks against Britain itself at least in the diplomatic realm the two countries have sought to calm the waters. During a visit to Afghanistan Thursday, Prime Minister Cameron said the oil spill would no doubt be part of what his office says is a “routine” phone conversation with President Obama, but he ducked pointed questions about an anti-British side to criticisms of BP. “I completely understand the US government’s frustration because it’s an environmental catastrophe,” he said. “The most important thing is to mitigate the effects of the leak and get to the root of the problem.”

The State Department also down played the damaged caused to the relations with Britain over the oil disaster. Though the US-UK relations may have been strained for the moment, the two countries have too many areas which needs cooperation for them to allow this disaster spilling over to the diplomatic realm. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Britain remains the US’s closest ally and on international issues such as sanctions against Iran, North Korea and trade disputes with China etc. Britain is the most reliable partner the US has to a point of it being a proxy.

Blaming a British company may be convenient for the angry US politicians and the public but in this globalise age it’s not that simple. BP in spite of its name is truly a global enterprise. Forty percent of the shares are owned in the U.K. but the second largest chunk of ownership, 39 percent, is in the United States, making it almost a US company as much as a British one and making the anger directed at Britain somewhat misguided.

Irrelevant power
However, what is perceived as Britain-bashing by its closest global ally may actually hit British public and its leaders at the core of their national consciousness. Having been the largest empire in the world’s history, since the middle of the last century Britain has been a mere ghost of its former glory only thanks to it being under the shadow of the United States. This notion of Britain being an irrelevant power in the current global environment was cemented at the commencement of the Iraq war when Britain slavishly followed the US into battle while the rest of Europe shunned what was considered an illegal occupation. The British reaction to the criticism of BP is just not about one of its companies being held responsible for one of the biggest man-made disasters of this decade; it is also an eye opener for Britain to see that its closest ally treats it with disdain and disregard at best.

 

Rescue teams to reach stranded teen

(CNN) - Rescue teams are expected to reach a remote area in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, to fetch a stranded California teen who lost contact as she tried to circumnavigate the globe in her yacht.

Abby Sunderland, who is trying to be the world’s youngest to sail around the world, lost satellite contact on Thursday and issued a distress call, after what appeared to be a rogue wave hit the boat, damaging its communications equipment.
The first boat expected to rendezvous with Sunderland’s yacht, Wild Eyes, is a French fishing vessel that is expected to reach her said her father, Laurence Sunderland, in an iReport interview with Julie Ellerton of Thousand Oaks, California.

“We don’t know where she is going to be taken,” Sunderland said, adding that it could be Australia or the Reunion Islands, a French territory. “Once the authorities have informed us, we will make our necessary plans to rendezvous with her.”
Abby’s pregnant mother is expected to go into labour soon, so her parents will not fly out to meet her, Sunderland said. It will either be her brother, Zack, or one of her team members.

“We are absolutely over the moon. We are very, very happy and excited that the Australian search and rescue jumped on this right away, got a plane after her,” Sunderland said in a separate interview.
Abby’s journey began in January from the Marina del Rey in California. According to her blog, Abby faced rough winds, as she crossed a turbulent area. It was then that she set off the emergency beacon. Laurence Sunderland addressed critics who said her daughter was too young to sail solo around the globe, and also questioned the cost involved in rescuing her.

“With regards to a 16-year-old going on this trip, if you take the age factor out of it, you’re either good enough to go on that trip or you’re not,” he said. “Abigail’s proved herself and her ability over and beyond most people that are out there on the ocean doing similar things.”
As for the cost, Sunderland said, “my daughter’s life is priceless.”

 

News in brief

Cameron, Obama to discuss BP oil spill
(BBC News) The prime minister has said he is “frustrated and concerned” about the environmental damage caused by the leaking well owned by BP.
But Downing Street says the telephone conversation with the US president will be “statesmanlike and workmanlike”.
BP is under pressure from the US government to fix the leak and suspend dividends to shareholders.
The oil giant’s directors will meet on Monday to discuss a possible suspension.
Oil has been leaking into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20 and sank off the coast of the US state of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.
As much as 40,000 barrels (1.7m gallons) of oil a day may have been gushing from a blown-out well, before it was capped on June 3. BP employs 10,105 people in the UK, and it is estimated that about 18 million people in the UK either own BP shares or pay into a pension fund that holds BP shares.

Mandela misses World Cup opening
(BBC News) The World Cup opened amid jubilant scenes in South Africa, but Nelson Mandela missed the event after a car crash killed his great-granddaughter.
Zenani Mandela, 13, died when the car taking her home from a pre-competition concert in Soweto, overturned.
The car’s driver was arrested and charged with drunk-driving.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said the tragedy made it inappropriate for the former president, who is 91, to attend the opening ceremony in Johannesburg.

Burma denies nuclear weapons programme
(BBC News) The Burmese government has denied recent reports that it is developing a nuclear weapons programme.
A statement from the foreign ministry said foreign media reports alleging such a programme were “politically motivated”.
The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) broadcaster had run a documentary based on a defector’s information about a nuclear plan.
US Senator Jim Webb cancelled a planned trip to Burma due to the reports.
The Burmese government labelled the allegations “baseless accusations” based on the information from army deserters, fugitives and dissidents.
It said Burma was a peace loving country with “no intention to possess nuclear weapons as military power.”
Analysts have raised concerns in recent months that Burma was cooperating with North Korea in developing nuclear technology.

Shooting hits Mexico drug clinic
(Al-Jazeera) At least 19 people have been killed and four others injured in the Mexican city of Chihuahua, after a group of armed men raided a clinic for treating drug addicts, according to police.
The chief of police intelligence of Chihuahua state said at least 20 assailants entered the Faith & Life Drug Rehabilitation Centre late on Thursday.
Chihuahua city, located near the border the US state of Texas, is a hotbed for drugs-related violence, where rehabilitation clinics have been attacked before.

Shootings at such clinics have become more common as Mexico’s drug cartels and street gangs find themselves at cross-purposes.
Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Mexico City, said: “It’s still unknown who is behind the killings, but it’s highly likely that some cartel members were trying to take revenge. But we still have to see what the investigations will find.

ICC pushes UN for arrests of Sudanese suspects
(BBC News) The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor has urged the UN Security Council to push for the arrest of two Sudanese men indicted for war crimes in Darfur.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Khartoum had failed to apprehend former minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb.

The two men were indicted by the ICC in 2007 for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Khartoum has rejected the indictments.
Sudan, whose President Omar al-Bashir is also wanted by the ICC, is refusing to cooperate with the court.
The government has always denied reports that it had backed the Janjaweed militias accused of widespread atrocities against civilians in Darfur.

 

Iran- What next?

Beyond Sanctions that probably won’t work, Plans B, C, D

No one in the Obama White House believes that, by themselves, the newest rounds of sanctions against Iran’s military-run businesses, its shipping lines and its financial institutions will force Tehran to halt its 20-year-long drive for a nuclear capability.
So what, exactly, does President Obama plan to do if, as everyone expects, these sanctions fail, just as the previous three did?
There is a Plan B — actually, a Plan B, C, and D — parts of which are already unfolding across the Persian Gulf. The administration does not talk about them much, at least publicly, but they include old-style military containment and an operation known informally at the CIA as the Brain-drain Project, to lure away Iran’s nuclear talent. By all accounts, Mr. Obama has ramped up a Bush-era covert programme to undermine Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, and he has made quiet diplomatic use of Israel’s lurking threat to take military action if diplomacy and pressure fail.
But ask the designers and executors of these programmes what they all add up to, and the answer inevitably boils down to “not enough.” Taken together, officials say, they may slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, which has already run into far greater technical slowdowns than anyone expected. If the pressure builds, Iran might be driven to the negotiating table, which it has avoided, since Mr. Obama came to office offering “engagement.”

But even Mr. Obama, in his more-in-sadness-than-anger description on Wednesday of why diplomacy has so far yielded nothing, conceded, “We know that the Iranian government will not change its behaviour overnight” and went on to describe how, instead, the sanctions would create “growing costs.”
That assessment sounds like the now-familiar combination of pragmatism and patience that Mr. Obama has tried to make the hallmark of his approach to foreign policy. But in the case of Iran, he is running up against ticking clocks. As Mr. Obama noted in April, once Iran passes a certain point, it may be impossible to know when it has taken the last steps to manufacture a weapon.
On Thursday, Iran responded to the new sanctions by threatening to further cloak its nuclear programme from international oversight, by revising its relationship with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. State-run Press TV quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of national security and foreign policy in the Iranian Parliament, as saying that, legislators would meet Sunday to “push for legislation to reduce” Iran’s relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Some top officials in the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies say, they wonder whether the White House has truly grappled with the question of how far Iran can be permitted to go, and what kind of risks Mr. Obama is willing to take beyond sanctions.

“It’s not the kind of question you win many points asking,” said one senior official who participated in many of the debates over Mr. Obama’s options, “because once you draw a line in the sand, you have to decide how you are going to act when the Iranians step over it.”
The need to confront those decisions appeared to be the underlying message of a secret memorandum Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates sent to the White House in January, in which he posed questions about tactics and strategy, presupposing that the fourth round of sanctions would be insufficient. Though Mr. Gates said later, that the memorandum was a routine effort to look ahead, some officials interpreted it as an effort to force a debate on the hardest questions.
Sanctions are a tempting tool for any president. They impose more pain than doing nothing or issuing ritual diplomatic condemnations, and they stop well short of military confrontation. Unfortunately, when it comes to stopping countries from getting the bomb, history suggests they are rarely effective.

Washington swore for years it would stop India and Pakistan from joining the nuclear club and briefly turned off aid to them. Today, it works secretly with Pakistan to secure its arsenal, and has signed a treaty with India, permitting it to buy nuclear material.

North Korea has been under sanctions for years and is broke to boot; that did not stop it from conducting two crude nuclear tests. While some countries have been persuaded to give up their weapons or weapons dreams — South Africa, Libya, South Korea among them — the conditions were radically different than they are in the case of Iran.
“The sanctions, as configured now, are not going to have any appreciable impact on Iran,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who tracked nuclear programmes around the world for the CIA and the Energy Department, before moving to Harvard two years ago. “It’s not going to do it. And the reality is that there isn’t a more viable military option.”
Mr. Obama’s aides say they know sanctions are a limited tool and that military options are the last and the riskiest choices, so they have reached for others.

American-controlled antimissile systems have been quietly placed in Arab states around the Persian Gulf. This is classic containment, but it is of little use against the nuclear programme. While Iran has a growing conventional missile arsenal, intelligence experts believe it will be years before it could make a nuclear weapon that could fit atop a missile. Their fear, instead, is a weapon that could be handed off to Hamas or Hezbollah, in a truck, a threat against which the antimissile systems are of no use.

The administration has continued to support Iran’s opposition groups, but treading carefully for fear of appearing to meddle in internal Iranian politics. On Thursday, Senator John McCain argued anew for regime change, but he was careful to say it had to be “peaceful change, chosen by and led by the people of Iran.” That is the kind of change, whose timing, no White House can control.

The Brain-drain programme has lured defectors out of the country, sometimes with laptops full of data about Iran’s progress. One of the most recent defectors showed up on YouTube in recent days, first claiming that he had been kidnapped, then that he was simply a student studying in the United States. There is little doubt, he was part of the programme, but many questions remain about how much he knew and how it could help the United States. “The big effect is psychological,” one former intelligence official said. “It tells the Iranians we are inside their programme.”

So, does the covert effort to make equipment fail, which is believed to have had some successes. But, like sanctions, this effort is unlikely to do more than delay the day of reckoning, unless Mr. Obama gets lucky. – (NYTimes)

Obama, Oil Spill and the Chaos Perception

President Obama is that rare politician who is also a gifted writer, and he understands the power of a good metaphor. So you had to believe, on some level at least, that the president could appreciate the poetic significance of that cloud of oil, ubiquitous on cable television all last week, spewing endlessly from a 5,000-foot-deep puncture in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Obama’s administration, too, had been breached, and the accumulating cloud threatened to obscure its considerable achievements — particularly the comprehensive reforms of healthcare and federal education spending — as the president heads towards the halfway point in his term.

The manmade catastrophe in the Gulf does not yet constitute an existential threat to Mr. Obama’s presidency. (There’s not much Mr. Obama can do about it at this point, anyway, short of slapping on a scuba suit and sticking his hand in the pipe, until the relief well is completed.) But then, it is never really one crisis that diminishes a president, as much as a succession of crises, avoidable or not. And this may be the real danger for Mr. Obama’s administration — not that the spill itself remains unmanageable, but that it comes to represent a pattern in the public mind, a sense that too many dangers at once (mines and foreign economies collapsing, possible war on the Korean peninsula) seem to be gushing beyond his reach.

As much as we talk about ideology and competence, our judgment of presidents doesn’t hinge on either of these things in isolation. What matters is the perception — or perhaps the illusion — that one is shaping events, rather than being shaped by them. The modern presidency, like the old “Get Smart” series, is about chaos versus control.
Take, for instance, the cautionary tale of Jimmy Carter, whose presidency, it is often said, was felled by inflation, or maybe Iranian hostage-takers or gas shortages, depending on who is doing the eulogizing. In fact, inflation was probably at the core of Carter’s troubles. Those other misfortunes contributed, too.

But, as the historian Kevin Mattson made clear in his recent book about the Carter presidency, “What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?” you also have to factor in the meltdown at Three Mile Island, Soviet tanks in Afghanistan and the vivid spectre of Skylab hurtling day after day toward a stationary and helpless Earth — in other words, an air of general chaos and a belief that a president lauded for his humility, had too little control over larger forces in the universe. This explains, too, the appeal of Ronald Reagan, whose cinematic persona suggested that he would have lassoed the Skylab satellite and hurled it back into space.

Similarly, George W. Bush was undone, during his second term, not only by a sluggish economy or the failure to find biological weapons in Iraq, but also by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the cascade of unsettling headlines about bird flu and failing banks, suicide bombers and Korean missiles. This stood in contrast to his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who could not have done more to sink his own presidency, had he tried, but who left office with strong approval ratings nonetheless — in part because of a surging economy, but also because he seemed at his most commanding when unpredictable crises (the Columbine High School shooting and the Oklahoma City bombing come to mind) threatened to undermine our collective sense of order.

Political chaos theory, if you want to call it that, has always been integral to the American presidency. It’s what Abraham Lincoln understood, when, days after taking office, he sought to take charge of events at Fort Sumter, rather than heed the advice of those who thought he should simply let them play out. Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated the same essential insight in confronting the Great Depression — that people needed to know you would impose order, even if not every attempt at doing so worked. (Roosevelt and his intrepid New Dealers would probably be thinking about ways to drain the Gulf of Mexico right about now.)

And yet, a president’s ability to confront chaos seems more central to the office now than it was, say, a half-century ago, when almost no one blamed Dwight Eisenhower for allowing quiz show scandals or Mississippi tornadoes to go unchecked. In part, this is probably a function of our having lost so much faith in the ability of government generally. There is, after all, a short distance between believing that government doesn’t solve our problems, to believing that government actually causes them, and a lot of Americans in the last few decades have made the leap. If tar balls are turning up along the Gulf Coast, then some bureaucrat somewhere must be to blame — and why not the bureaucrat-in-chief?

On a deeper level, though, we may be reacting to our own lack of control as workers, providers and parents. For about 40 years, since the onset of industrial decline, Americans have been trying to negotiate an increasingly unstable economic and cultural landscape, the effects of which are clear in any community where factories or farms (or often both) have withered away — substance abuse, failing schools, higher rates of crime and divorce. The chaos is all around us, and what we ask of a president, increasingly, is to somehow use the instruments of government to rein it in.

Mr. Obama seems to find it particularly hard to adjust to this role, perhaps because he has always defined himself as an outsider to Washington and its governing apparatus — someone who would reform government, but not necessarily master its inner workings. This, after all, was the subtext of his entire debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primaries in 2008; she was the insider who could competently work all the pulleys and levers of government, and he was the outsider looking to cast aside what he later called the “childish things” that dominated debate in Washington.

The problem here for Mr. Obama is that, almost 18 months after assuming office, he still seems to regard himself as something of an intellectual critic of government, when, in fact, what Americans expect from him now is markedly different. The transition is long behind us, which means the president embodies the government he once assailed and is held accountable, fairly or not, for its failures.

The disconnect was on vivid display during Mr. Obama’s news conference late last month, when, despite professing full responsibility for his administration’s response to the leak, he referred several times to what the “federal government” was doing, as if he himself were merely a disappointed spectator like the rest of us. He railed coolly against the “cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship” between oil companies and the government, despite the fact that his administration had been governing for more than a year. And he seemed unbothered admitting to reporters that he didn’t know whether his own director of the Minerals Management Service had been fired or resigned.

By the time the president spoke again at the White Hous, and then revisited the Gulf on Friday, he seemed genuinely enraged at BP. The writer in him, perhaps, sensed that the oil from a snapped-off pipe on the ocean floor may yet come to signify something deeper about his administration. But chaos-weary Americans no longer needed him to share their outrage at the leak. They needed him to finally shut it off. – (NYTimes)

Bangladesh ‘Eve Teasing’ takes a terrible toll

Today has been designated ‘Eve Teasing Protection Day’ by the Bangladesh education ministry
The announcement reflects increasing concern over the worrying number of girls and women who have committed suicide in the country, to escape sexual harassment known as Eve Teasing.
Eve Teasing is a catch-all term which usually involves young men irritating or upsetting girls or women by making sexual innuendos against them in public or in workplaces.

Figures released by the Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK) human rights organisation reveal that 14 girls and women have taken their own lives over the past four months across the country, as a direct result of the practice.
In addition, a father and a daughter also committed suicide jointly - in an incident blamed by the authorities on Eve Teasing - while police say three males, who publicly protested against the practice, have been killed by stalkers over the past 12 weeks.

‘Very frightening’
Critics argue that laws, which should prohibit Eve Teasing, are so poorly drafted, that victims get virtually no help from the law enforcement agencies. Families of the victims are left feeling hopeless and helpless.
“Some victims find suicide is the only avenue that enables them to escape this social pandemic,” said Executive Director- ASK, Sultana Kamal.
“The situation is very frightening. The suicides of 14 girls are an alarming sign of the times. If it is not controlled, we women can no longer live in society with any dignity.”
The tragic story of 13-year-old Nashfia Akhand Pinky - known as Pinky - shows just how damaging Eve Teasing can be.
Pinky was a ninth-grade student of a school only half a kilometre away from where she lived with her uncle in central Dhaka.
On her way to school, she was stalked by her 22-year-old male neighbour and some of his friends, who, according to her family, persisted with “ribald comments, smutty jokes, coarse laughter, sly whistles and even indecent exposure”.
The neighbour had been stalking her for several months.
On January 19, she went out of her house to buy some medicine for a niggling hand injury.
The neighbour and his friends blocked her way and made suggestive remarks. She became angry and protested.
After that, he became more aggressive and bombarded her with crude language, pulling off her scarf and slapping her face.
Pinky fell down on the street under a barrage of blows. She says that some neighbours saw the incident, yet did not try to stop it or protest against it.

‘Grave concern’
Ali Ashraf Akhand, Pinky’s uncle, said that she suffered “serious mental torment from this indecent assault”.
“She could not tolerate the insult of it,” he said, “so she hanged herself with a Sari scarf tied to a ceiling fan in her drawing room.
“Pinky informed me about 15 days before her suicide of the stalking by the neighbour. I tried to warn him off, but he became more predatory,” Akhand said.
His version of events seems to be borne out by a note Pinky wrote just before the suicide.
“When [my tormentor] pulled my scarf and harassed me physically in front of the house, onlookers at the scene laughed. Nobody protested. None of my family members are responsible for my suicide.”
Bangladesh police chief Nur Mohammad said that Pinky’s case - and others like them- were a cause for “grave concern”. He said that Eve Teasing was a problem that urgently needed to be sorted out.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said that female students and female teachers are at present not safe on streets or in schools.
“That is no exaggeration. In some places, schools have been shut and exams delayed because of problems caused by Eve Teasing stalkers.

“Those who are teased do not like to go to school, and sometimes, guardians do not allow them to go to school for their safety and honour. So the dropout rate of female students in many schools is increasing,” Nahid said.

“Another negative manifestation of the problem is the tendency of parents to push underage daughters into early marriages, so that they can escape Eve Teasing. Parents think that, if their daughter has a husband, they will be saved from the dangers.
“It has become a vicious cycle.” (BBC News)