NPA Rebels Yield In Southern RP

August 31, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Aug) – Dozens of communist insurgents have surrendered voluntarily to Philippine military officials in Saranggani province in Mindanao.

Officials said at least 89 New People’s Army fighters surrendered on Thursday in the town of Alabel. They yielded dozens of automatic rifles and pistols to the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion.

Col. Fidel Legiralde Jr., battalion commander, said the surrender of the insurgents were witnesses by Alabel town Mayor Corazon Grafilo and Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez.

The insurgents, Legiralded said, pledged their alliance to the government. (Mindanao Examiner)

Jolo Governor Orders Crackdown On Drugs, Weapons

August 31, 2007 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments



Jolo island Governor Sakur Tan gestures as he speaks to police chiefs during a meeting in southern Philippines. Governor Tan orders police to arrest all known drug pushers and suppliers in Jolo and for authorities to seize all illegal weapons on the island. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

JOLO ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Aug) – Jolo island Governor Sakur Tan ordered Friday a massive crackdown on illegal drugs and has imposed a total gun ban in this southern Philippine island.

Tan met with the island’s 18 police chiefs in Jolo town and told them to step up the government’s anti-drug campaign and at the same time arrest owners of illegal weapons in an effort to stop the proliferation of unlicensed firearms on the island, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

“We don’t want illegal drugs on the street and I have given orders to the police to arrest all those engaged in illegal drugs or those using these drugs. We also don’t want the proliferation of illegal weapons in this beautiful island,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Although drug use in taboo in this largely Muslims island, many young people are hooked in methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as “ice,” and marijuana cigarettes.

Tan ordered the police to arrest those selling drugs. Most of the drugs come from nearby Zamboanga City.

He also ordered the dismantling of military checkpoints in Jolo and instead put flowers and other ornamentals that would beautify the island. The huge presence of armed soldiers around and checkpoints and roadblocks has made Jolo a virtual garrison.

Policemen were also told to be courteous and smile every time they speak to civilians, especially travelers or tourists. (Mindanao Examiner)

SRI LANKA: “Deadly” Climate for Reporters and Aid Workers

August 31, 2007 at 9:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UNITED NATIONS – Sri Lanka, which is fighting a longstanding insurgency against Tamil separatists, is fast gaining notoriety as “one of the world’s worst places” both for journalists and humanitarian aid workers — due primarily to a rising death toll and veiled threats from government and paramilitary forces in the country.

At least four international non-governmental organisations monitoring the media — the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists — have singled out Sri Lanka as “deadly” for journalists.

“Journalists have been victims of murders, threats, kidnappings and censorship,” said RSF in a report released last week.

An RSF fact-finding team specifically zeroed in on “the isolated, Tamil-populated Jaffna peninsula” where there have been “grave press freedom violations”.

In 2006, described as “the most savage year for journalists and news media workers”, the most dangerous place was Iraq where 46 newsmen were killed, followed by the Philippines (10), Mexico (seven), Sri Lanka (five) and Pakistan (four).

Last week, the consulting editor at the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, Iqbal Athas, was threatened and harassed for a series of articles he wrote detailing a corruption-ridden multi-million-dollar government deal involving the purchase of fighter planes from Ukraine.

Recounting the latest incident, Athas told IPS that a person purporting to be a retired Air Force officer walked into the Wijeya Newspapers Ltd., the publishers of the Sunday Times and several other publications in the native language Sinhala, and threatened the staff.

The visitor met the English-to-Sinhala translator, W.D. Gunaratne, and warned him not to translate any of Athas’s articles into the local language newspaper (which has a larger readership than English language newspapers in Sri Lanka).

“He warned Gunaratne he would have to face the consequences if that happened,” said Athas, who is also a military correspondent for the London-based Jane’s Defence Weekly.

The visitor also warned that if Athas “does not give up his job and leave Sri Lanka within three months”, he would meet the same fate that befell Tamil journalists, most of whom were killed by “unknown gunmen”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Abi Wright told IPS that her organisation “is alarmed by the grave threats facing veteran journalist Iqbal Athas, who has come under extraordinary pressures following his investigations into irregularities surrounding a 2006 deal to purchase MiG-27 fighter jets from Ukraine”.

She said Athas has already told CPJ that over the past two weeks– when his security detail was abruptly withdrawn by the government after the publication of his articles about the deal– he has been harassed and followed by unknown persons. She said Athas fears for his life and for the safety of his family.

“CPJ calls on the Sri Lankan government to act immediately to provide adequate security and ensure the safety of Iqbal Athas,” Wright added.

She said that Athas is well-known as the defence columnist for the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka and a frequent contributor to international media outlets, including Cable News Network, Jane’s Defence Weekly and the Times of London. He also received CPJs International Press Freedom Award in 1994.

Wright said CPJ will be sending a letter of protest to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse later this week.

The Colombo-based Free Media Movement (FMM) has already expressed its “grave concern regarding the safety and security of senior English language journalist Mr. Iqbal Athas.”

“As senior Defence columnist for the Sunday Times, in the past months, Mr. Athas has been responsible for a series of articles on the irregularities in procurement of MIG aircraft for the security forces, from a company based in Ukraine,” FMM said in a statement released Monday.

Referring to the continued threats to Athas and his family, FMM said: “In a context in which there have been repeated attacks and harassment of journalists and media persons in Sri Lanka in the past months, the Free Media Movement is convinced that there is a very real basis for Mr. Athas fears regarding his security.”

“We call on the president, as minister of defence, to take all steps necessary to provide Mr. Athas with adequate security immediately. Failure to do so will only provide yet another indication of the lack of concern on the part of the government for the safety and security of media personnel in Sri Lanka.”

Meanwhile, after a recent visit to Sri Lanka, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs described the Indian Ocean island nation as “one of the most dangerous places” for aid workers, second only to Afghanistan.

Addressing a meeting of the Security Council in June, John Holmes said that in 2006, 24 aid workers were killed in Sri Lanka, including 17 from Action Contre Le Faim, “in a single horrifying act.”

The perpetrators of these and similar attacks — including the killing of two Red Cross workers in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and the murder of a Caritas International aid worker in Darfur, Sudan — “are yet to be brought to account,” Holmes said.

He said that civilians are too often deliberately targeted to create a climate of fear and to destabilise populations.

Holmes also pointed out that countries as far apart as Sri Lanka and Colombia were experiencing assassinations, disappearances and other violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

“In Sri Lanka, over 600,000 inhabitants of the Jaffna peninsula have faced shortages of basic necessities since August of last year when the government and the LTTE restricted access to the peninsula by road and by sea respectively,” Holmes continued.

Implying Sri Lanka was virtually culpable of war crimes, he added: “Killing humanitarian staff and arbitrarily denying access violates international humanitarian law.”

Ambassador John McNee of Canada placed Sri Lanka in the company of Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, northern Uganda, Lebanon and Somalia as countries that have failed to provide protection to civilians in war zones.

“Girls and boys are recruited as combatants; civilians become unwitting targets of suicide bombers; families are displaced from their homes; sexual violence is a deliberate weapon of war; and civilian infrastructure and economies are often shattered,” McNee said.

The consequences of these actions play themselves out daily, he pointed out, in countries ranging from Sudan and Afghanistan to Somalia and Sri Lanka. (IPS/Thalif Deen)

Due To Insistent Public Demand, Alamat Returns To Manila Stage

August 31, 2007 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Aug) – Due to a growing public clamor, Agham Theater Company (ATC), is set to re-stage a play entitled “Alamat” on October 8 and 9 at the Music Museum in the Philippine capital.

It is a dance-drama musicale play that has earned critical acclaim when it was first performed at the Music Museum, a play suited for intermediate, high school and college students although its appeal is ageless and universal.

“Alamat” is a story conceptualized by Patrick Almaden. It was originally staged at the Makati Parks and Garden Amphitheatre to critically acclaimed performances.

It is said that it deserves a legitimate venue since it has a very good production and literary values. Moreover, it aims at giving importance to nature as an integral part of man’s existence.

The 2nd run takes in Creative Directors Agnes Macabuhay- Medina and Osler Ladia who conspired with Almaden to give the concept a more refreshing and novel treatment. The word surreal came about.

The likes of Salvador Dali & Magritte has inspired the artists to create the sets and costumes as something that happens only in the underworld. Strange as it may be, the play will feature characters with elements from nature but with influences of contemporary art and design.

The music, composed by Paulo Almaden will exhibit acoustic sounds interspersed with ethnicity to create a fusion of music and art that make up the production. The dances, blocking, and movements are surreal as well, with movements taken from nature and animal entities.

Human elements will be supplied by Daniel and his friends, lost in the forest, where they will experience unexplained happenings around Orkidya.

The script, spiced with contemporary lingo, will also present contrast to the language of the lower gods in their domain, with rich, almost poetic candor.

The concept will enable the audience to lose themselves in enchantment as they realized the value of the environment, the importance of human life and respect for other forms of life, whether spiritual or material.

Alamat takes the centestage again this October 2007 at the Music Museum.

For details pls. call 0918-2542354 and look for “Tope”. You may also visit www.aghamtheatrecompany.multiply.com (Christopher Navarra)

Delights Of Open Source: Al Qaeda’s Recruiting On YouTube, Secret Agents Are Crowdsourcing: Global Politician

August 29, 2007 at 5:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An Al-Qaeda-linked group from the Philippines managed to publish excerpts of a recruitment film for over 24 hours on YouTube, raising questions about online safety.

YouTube took the video off the site after pressure from security officials. But is that a bad idea? Terrorists resorting to YouTube surely increase transparency?

One way to answer these questions is to review what we’re missing out on after YouTube owner Google removed the video due to pressure from the Philippine army and US security officials.

The Abu Sayyaf group is quite small but deadly dangerous. It has received international attention on a number of occasions before; in the late 1990s they kidnapped for ransom several foreign tourists, and in February 2004, they are likely to have been involved in one of the bloodiest bomb attacks in the Philippines ever, killing over 200 people on a ferry off Manila Bay.

The two rebels speaking in the video are both long dead. They were the group’s founder and his brother. Abdurajak Janjalani died in 1998. His brother who replaced him, Khadaffy Janjalani, was fatally wounded in a shootout with marines in Patikul town, Sulu province in September last year.

Observers downplay the significance of the video, saying the recruitment attempt, if not a fake, is evidence that the group is in trouble. The video is spoken in Arabic; that is clearly to appeal to Middle Eastern donors. They must be cash strapped. “What we should turn our attention to [..] is not the “facts” of Islamist videos, but the way those videos frame their messages, the contexts they use to legitimize them, and the various cultural codes they rely on to appeal to their intended audiences”, dr Lina Khatib at the Department of Media arts at the Royal Holloway, University of London told us.

The transparency issue is what is most interesting in this development. Abu Sayyaf’s publicity stunt might be considered an isolated example of a u-turn in terrorist use of the web, but on the part of the US secret agents hunting them down online, a profound change has been taking place during the last few months.

The intelligence community are starting to adopt open source technology. This development is evidence of a new kind of logic that is growing in the world; the success of open source has led people to believe that anything is possible, including crowdsourcing by spies.

New questions arise. Where is the logic in secret services’ singing the praises of open source? And what bearings does this have on our idea of what is healthy openness? Among the people that are pondering these issues are Eliot A. Jardines, the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open Source. He has been in the job since December 2005, responsible for developing a strategic direction, establishing policy and oversight of fiscal resources for open source exploitation.

In addition, he serves as the IC’s senior document and media exploitation (DOMEX) officer. The first conference on the issue was held last July. At the conference professionals from the intelligence community, academia, federal, state, local, tribal, private and corporate entities and international partners were networking and debated open source and information sharing issues.

How secret agents operate in their online open source tactics exactly isn’t immediately clear. A a podcast interview with Lewis Sheperd, the Senior Technical Officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency on Itconversations.com suggests that the US secret services are focused on crowdsourcing, but that this takes places mainly within the confines of the various intelligence agencies.

Extremists give intelligence officials a hard time because they generally resort to heavily encrypted sites or showing anonymous footage of their cruelties after they have happened on public sites. But where it gets tricky is how the authorities are dealing with sites like YouTube’s Arabic equivalent, Ikbis, which runs Muslim Brotherhood material non stop. This also throws up different questions about what classifies as offensive and which counteraction induces religious and race biases.

‘We might think the definition of terrorism is fairly straight forward but is it? For example, the UN representing just about all nations, quite rightly opposes terrorism, but finds it impossible to accurately define it – because different countries have different views,” Peter Power at Visor Consultants in London told us.

The public video sharing websites themselves are also faced with an immense dilemma, to which they do not appear to have immediate solutions.

Google, who owns YouTube, does not comment on individual videos but mailed comments of a YouTube spokesperson, who said “YouTube has clear policies that prohibit inappropriate content on the site. Our community understands the rules and polices the site for inappropriate material.When users feel content is inappropriate they can flag it and our staff then review it as quickly as possible to see if it violates our Terms of Use. If users repeatedly break these rules we disable their accounts. If the police ask us for information, we will cooperate, so long as they follow the correct legal process.”

Three cheers for transparency.

The cops themselves are faced with intransparency however because of the sheer numbers involved as well the creativity involved with home made videos. Agents on the hunt for terrorists have difficulties keeping up with only vetting the material. That is not surprising; every day some 65,000 videos are uploaded on YouTube alone. An additional dimension is that there are so many fakes involved.

”We should not forget that the internet also enables the manufacturing of information, and therefore cannot be regarded as a transparent source. What we should turn our attention to, therefore, is not the “facts” of Islamist videos, but the way those videos frame their messages, the contexts they use to legitimize them, and the various cultural codes they rely on to appeal to their intended audiences”, says dr Khatib.

It’s impossible to get a handle on this because it’s not public. But the material that the secret services possess is not in the public domain either. One side detail of the Abu Sayyaf story shows how secret agents keep hold of their juicy information awfully literally; both leaders speaking on the video werelong dead when they made their ‘claim to fame’, but the death of Khadaff Janjalani wasn’t confirmed until last January, after tissue samples from his remains had been sent to the United States for DNA testing.

The implications for the parties involved are largely to do with public perception. Strangely, this unites terrorists, secret agencies and the public in a bizarre way.

Al Qaeda for starters is likely to still be more dependent on how it’s perceived than on how it actually operates on the ground.

So their resorting to public platforms could be taken as a sign of weakness.

The website Search for International Terrorist Entities said the Al-Fajr Information Center distributed the video. “This is the first time that material from Abu Sayyaf Group has been distributed within the jihadist Internet community,” according to the site.

”It is highly unlikely that otherwise non-extremist individuals will join a radical group simply after viewing a video such as the one posted by the Abu Sayyaf group”, according to dr Khatib.

“However, what the internet enables is the publicizing of the presence of such groups. But this can be beneficial to intelligence officials, as the more mainstream the web publicity used, the higher the ability to monitor such activities.”

But just like your average Mohammed in Croydon is not immediately going to sign up for a combat career with Al Qaeda, as a result of the Abu Sayyaf Group’s recruitment drive, it’s highly unlikely that the Al Qaeda group itself is immediately transformed into a group with an accessible agenda as a result of one cell’s resorting to a mainstream hip and trendy medium. These extremes are worlds apart.

Peter Power points out that vice versa, the global mechanism involved in defeating the terrorists is equally far removed. “[…] we [..] seem to have the worst of all situations: Terrorists inspired by a divine mandate, keen to die for their cause and indiscriminate who they target, verses a global mechanism to defeat this, let alone understand it, that seems as elusive as ever.”(Angelique van Engelen is a freelance reporter based in Amsterdam. She is currently involved in the development of Reportwitter.com, a site for grassroots reporting that is going to be launched later this month.)

Philippine Marines Chief Takes Over Army Ops In Troubled South

August 29, 2007 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon gestures as he speaks to new Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga in Zamboanga City on Wednesday Aug. 29, 2007. And Filipino travelers look at posters of wanted Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya leaders and pictures of an IED at the Zamboanga International Airport in Mindanao. Gen. Esperon ordered security forces to intensify the offensive against the militants in the troubled region, where fighting already killed more than 100 people since last month. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Aug) – The chief of the Philippine Marines has been named as new commander of military forces in the troubled region of Mindanao.

Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga on Wednesday formally took over the Western Mindanao Command headquarters and replaced Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, who has retired after more than 33 years in the military service.

Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, the country’s military chief, presided over the ceremony held in Zamboanga City, just south of Basilan island where security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists.

“Nothing has change. We will continue with our operations against the terrorists,” Allaga, a decorated marine commander who battled communist and Muslim insurgencies in Mindanao, said.

Thousands of Marines have been moved out from Luzon since last year and deployed in the southern Philippines to fight the Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army.

“We are emphasizing the fleet marine concept of deployment in this area. You must have noticed that almost all the marines are now in Zamboanga (Peninsula), Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi (provinces) and in the southern tip of Palawan in tandem with out naval forces exactly for the strategic task of securing our southern part of the archipelago,” Esperon said.

President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the military to crush the Abu Sayyaf so the government can begin a massive development programs in the restive region.

“The national leadership has a specific vision for western Mindanao one that is marked with true peace and sustainable progress and to realize this vision, the AFP has been tasked to end armed rebellion to all levels and sources be it an insurgent, secessionist or terrorist or lawless elements.”

“I am confident that with the array of forces that you now have in this area, you will be more than equal to the task that is given to you. Indeed I expect no letup on the operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements,” Esperon said.

Esperon also announced the creation of the National Development Command, a new unit in the Armed Forces of the Philippines that would especially focus on the basic socio-economic development and infrastructure projects in conflict-affected areas.

“Through it, we hope to contribute in the convergence of efforts by the different line agencies of government in the repair and construction of schools, health centers, sources of potable water, roads and bridges and in the process rebuild lives that have been disrupted by terrorist activities and violence,” he said.

He said President Gloria Arroyo also ordered two battalions of army engineers to Basilan island to finish the circumferential road project which has been stalled since the 1990s because of the insurgency problem. The road project is aimed at connecting seven towns on the island and was previously under the military’s Basilan Task Force.

Esperon also gave out five orders to military commanders in southern Philippines and among them is to destroy the NPA and the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the region.

“Remember our marching order (from the President) is to defeat the communist-terrorist movement by 2010 and destroy the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements soonest,” he said.

He also told soldiers to uphold and protect human rights and assist police authorities and other government law enforcement agencies and bodies in investigating extra-judicial killings.

Esperon said the military should work closely with the Philippine National Police to carry out internal security operations and for the soldiers to support the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but warned that the AFP will punish those who would disrupt the government peace process in Mindanao.

“Very importantly, sustain the gains in the peace process, but we must punish the peace spoilers,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Marines Chief Takes Over Army Ops In Troubled South

August 29, 2007 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon gestures as he speaks to new Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga in Zamboanga City on Wednesday Aug. 29, 2007. And Filipino travelers look at posters of wanted Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya leaders and pictures of an IED at the Zamboanga International Airport in Mindanao. Gen. Esperon ordered security forces to intensify the offensive against the militants in the troubled region, where fighting already killed more than 100 people since last month. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Aug) – The chief of the Philippine Marines has been named as new commander of military forces in the troubled region of Mindanao.

Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga on Wednesday formally took over the Western Mindanao Command headquarters and replaced Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, who has retired after more than 33 years in the military service.

Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, the country’s military chief, presided over the ceremony held in Zamboanga City, just south of Basilan island where security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists.

“Nothing has change. We will continue with our operations against the terrorists,” Allaga, a decorated marine commander who battled communist and Muslim insurgencies in Mindanao, said.

Thousands of Marines have been moved out from Luzon since last year and deployed in the southern Philippines to fight the Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army.

“We are emphasizing the fleet marine concept of deployment in this area. You must have noticed that almost all the marines are now in Zamboanga (Peninsula), Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi (provinces) and in the southern tip of Palawan in tandem with out naval forces exactly for the strategic task of securing our southern part of the archipelago,” Esperon said.

President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the military to crush the Abu Sayyaf so the government can begin a massive development programs in the restive region.

“The national leadership has a specific vision for western Mindanao one that is marked with true peace and sustainable progress and to realize this vision, the AFP has been tasked to end armed rebellion to all levels and sources be it an insurgent, secessionist or terrorist or lawless elements.”

“I am confident that with the array of forces that you now have in this area, you will be more than equal to the task that is given to you. Indeed I expect no letup on the operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements,” Esperon said.

Esperon also announced the creation of the National Development Command, a new unit in the Armed Forces of the Philippines that would especially focus on the basic socio-economic development and infrastructure projects in conflict-affected areas.

“Through it, we hope to contribute in the convergence of efforts by the different line agencies of government in the repair and construction of schools, health centers, sources of potable water, roads and bridges and in the process rebuild lives that have been disrupted by terrorist activities and violence,” he said.

He said President Gloria Arroyo also ordered two battalions of army engineers to Basilan island to finish the circumferential road project which has been stalled since the 1990s because of the insurgency problem. The road project is aimed at connecting seven towns on the island and was previously under the military’s Basilan Task Force.

Esperon also gave out five orders to military commanders in southern Philippines and among them is to destroy the NPA and the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the region.

“Remember our marching order (from the President) is to defeat the communist-terrorist movement by 2010 and destroy the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements soonest,” he said.

He also told soldiers to uphold and protect human rights and assist police authorities and other government law enforcement agencies and bodies in investigating extra-judicial killings.

Esperon said the military should work closely with the Philippine National Police to carry out internal security operations and for the soldiers to support the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but warned that the AFP will punish those who would disrupt the government peace process in Mindanao.

“Very importantly, sustain the gains in the peace process, but we must punish the peace spoilers,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Roadside Washers Threatened With Jail: Reuters

August 28, 2007 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ROME – Illegal immigrants in Italy earning a few coins by washing windscreens at traffic lights could face up to three months in jail after Florence launched a crackdown and other cities said they might follow suit.

Many cities are already taking action against what is seen as “imported” behaviour such as tourists taking off their shirts or eating hamburgers in the piazza in Venice, or getting drunk in public in Rome — something image-conscious Italians avoid.

Foreigners are also blamed for much of the street crime in a relatively safe country. Most people wielding sponges on street corners are Romanian gypsies, often young women and children.

But word got round quickly in historic Florence that city hall had introduced new rules enabling police to bring charges against window-washers, confiscate their equipment and start prosecutions that could end in fines and a prison sentence.

Florence police chief Alessandro Bartolini personally led the first patrol which resulted in 15 people being charged.

“There are no more on the streets. Word has got around, apparently,” Bartolini said.

Rome’s Mayor Walter Veltroni, who has taken action against illegal gypsy camps and now vows to clean up rowdy nightlife and public drug-taking and drinking in popular neighbourhoods like Trastevere, said window-washers are so pushy “that people are virtually ravaged at every traffic light and street corner”.

“People must realise that behind the window-washers there is exploitation of minors, which is a crime. Like prostitution this is a racket that must be smashed,” Veltroni told reporters.

In Verona, Mayor Flavio Tosi, who has previously taken action against people eating sandwiches in public, said he would monitor the experiment in Florence: “If the new regulation manages to deter the window-washers, we will adopt it too”.

Some civic groups in Florence applauded the rules which city officials said acted on complaints of window-washers “becoming more aggressive, especially to women alone in their cars”.

The city’s public safety officer Graziano Cioni stressed that the aim was “not to punish beggars or poor people” but to combat “arrogant and violent” behaviour against motorists.

However, leftist groups in the city called the new measure excessive and regional Communist party chief Niccolo Pecorini termed it “unworthy of Florence’s hospitable traditions”. (Reuters)

Teen Trades Hacked iPhone For New Car: AP

August 28, 2007 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

George Hotz, of Glen Rock, N.J., shows off his hacked iPhone. (AP)

SAN FRANCISCO – The teenage hacker who managed to unlock the iPhone so that it can be used with cellular networks other than AT&T will be trading his reworked gadget for a new car.

George Hotz, of Glen Rock, N.J., said he had reached the deal with CertiCell, a Louisville, Ky.-based mobile phone repair company.

Hotz posted on his blog that he traded his modified iPhone for “a sweet Nissan 350Z and 3 8GB iPhones.”


“This has been a great end to a great summer,” Hotz wrote.


The 17-year-old Hotz said he will be sending the three new iPhones to the three online collaborators who helped him divorce Apple Inc’s popular product from AT&T’s network. The job took 500 hours, or about 8 hours a day since the iPhone’s June 29 launch.


Hotz made the deal with Terry Daidone, co-founder of CertiCell, who also promised the teen a paid consulting job.


“We do not have any plans on the table right now to commercialize Mr. Hotz’ discovery,” Daidone said in a statement.(AP)

Taliban Agree To Free S. Korean Hostages: AP

August 28, 2007 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GHAZNI, Afghanistan – The Taliban agreed Tuesday to free 19 South Korean church volunteers held hostage since July after the government in Seoul pledged to end all missionary work and keep a promise to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

In eastern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber attacked NATO troops helping build a bridge, killing three soldiers.

The Taliban originally seized 23 South Koreans, but have since killed two of the hostages and released two others. They had initially demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and the release of prisoners in exchange for freeing the hostages, but Afghan officials had ruled out any exchange, saying it would only encourage further kidnappings.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said South Korean and Taliban delegates at face-to-face talks Tuesday in the central town of Ghazni had “reached an agreement” to free the captives.

South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said the deal had been reached “on the condition that South Korea withdraws troops by the end of year and South Korea suspends missionary work in Afghanistan,” he said.

South Korea has already said it planned to withdraw its troops by the end of the year. Some 200 South Korean soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan for reconstruction efforts, not combat.

“We welcome the agreement to release 19 South Koreans,” said Cheon.

South Korean missionaries have been active in Afghanistan, although the hostage group’s church has said those kidnapped were not missionaries, but were doing aid work.

There was no word on when the captives would be released.

Tuesday’s agreement came after face-to-face talks between both sides in the central town of Ghazni. It was the fourth time the two sides had held direct negotiations. All the talks had been mediated by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Abductions have become a key insurgent tactic in recent months in trying to destabilize the country, targeting both Afghan officials and foreigners helping with reconstruction. A German engineer and four Afghan colleagues kidnapped a day before the South Koreans are still being held.

Violence in Afghanistan is running at its highest level since the Taliban ouster.

The suicide bomber approached the troops building a bridge in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing three soldiers and wounding six, NATO said.

The alliance did not disclose the nationalities of the victims or the exact location of the blast. Most foreign troops in the east of the country are American.

U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops, meanwhile, killed up to 21 suspected Taliban militants in three separate clashes in southern Afghanistan, and a roadside blast killed four Afghan soldiers in the east, officials said.(AP)

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