U.S. calls out top Kuwaiti official for helping finance Al Qaida

Special to WorldTribune.com

ABU DHABI — A Kuwaiti minister has been challenged to confirm allegations by the United States that he helped fund Al Qaida.

Kuwaiti Justice Minister Nayef Al Ajmi was accused by a senior U.S. official of promoting what was termed terrorism.

Kuwaiti Justice Minister Nayef Al Ajmi

Kuwaiti Justice Minister Nayef Al Ajmi

Al Ajmi, who also serves as Islamic Affairs minister, was also said to have facilitated funds to Al Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and Levant as well as Nusra Front for the Defense of the Levant.

“We expect the minister to either hand in his resignation immediately or reject the accusations and sue the U.S. official,” Kuwaiti parliamentarian Nabil Al Fadel said. “Lapsing into silence will only fuel speculation and doubt.”

On March 4, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen at a conference named Al Ajmi as a financier of Al Qaida. Cohen, said ISIL and Nusra were soliciting contributions from several Arab and Muslim states, particularly Kuwait and Qatar.

“The Ministry of Endowments announced it would allow non-profit organizations and charities to collect donations for the Syrian people at Kuwaiti mosques, a measure we believe can be easily exploited by Kuwait-based terrorist fundraisers,” Cohen, referring to Al Ajmi, said.

In his statement, Al Fadel quoted Cohen as saying that the Kuwaiti
minister “has a history of promoting terrorism.” The parliamentarian cited
Cohen’s criticism of Al Ajmi’s appointment to the two ministerial posts.

“Kuwait has become the epicenter of fundraising for terrorist groups in
Syria,” Cohen was quoted as saying.

In his address to the Washington-based Center for a New American
Security, Cohen became the first senior U.S. official to detail Kuwaii and
Qatari help to Al Qaida militias in Syria. Cohen, responsible for financial
intelligence, said the contributions were being directed to ISIL and Nusra,
which could result in attacks in the West.

“Apart from their highly destabilizing role in the ongoing conflict
there, these well-funded and well-equipped groups may soon turn their
attention to attacks outside of Syria, particularly as scores of newly
radicalized and freshly trained foreign recruits return from Syria to their
home countries,” Cohen said.

The U.S. official has urged Kuwait, which uses Qatar as a waystation for
contributions, to increase measures to stop funds to Al Qaida. Over
the last year, the Gulf Cooperation Council sheikdom has announced steps to
implement oversight over contributions to Muslim charities.

“Private fundraising networks in Qatar increasingly rely upon social
media to solicit donations for terrorists and to communicate with both
donors and recipient radicals on the battlefield,” Cohen said. “This method
has become so lucrative, and Qatar has become such a permissive terrorist
financing environment, that several major Qatar-based fundraisers act as
local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising networks that are
based in Kuwait.”

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/03/30/u-s-calls-out-top-kuwaiti-official-for-helping-finance-al-qaida/

State Dept. hits U.S. ambassador in Bahrain with close ties to Fifth Fleet

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — In an unusual move, the State Department has criticized the conduct of the U.S. ambassador to Bahrain.

The State Department’s inspector-general has concluded that ambassador Thomas Krajeski failed to improve U.S. relations with Bahrain.

Thomas Krajeski

Thomas Krajeski

In a 43-page report, the inspector-general criticized his conduct and leadership of the embassy in Manama.

“His belief that reactive ‘seat of the pants’ leadership works best in Bahrain’s challenging environment has left staff members who do not have access to him on a regular basis confused about mission goals,” the report, titled “Inspection of Embassy Manama, Bahrain,” said. “Disdain for planning has trickled down to section heads, leaving most sections without the tools to make the best use of their programs and resources.”

In one of the harshest reports of a serving ambassador, the inspector-general said Krajeski, who maintained close relations with the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has failed to provide direction or leadership in the embassy. The report said the ambassador, appointed in 2011, was disorganized and rarely met embassy staffers.

“There is a desire within the mission for greater engagement by the
ambassador,” the report, dated March 31, said. “However, his lack of access
to some key government officials, his poor media image, and the lack of an
effective strategy to address these issues have created friction with
principal officials in Washington.”

It was not clear whether the report, which also cited “culturally
insensitive behavior by American employees,” would cut short Krajeski’s term
in Bahrain. Bahrain’s parliament has several times sought to expel the
ambassador for intervening in the kingdom’s internal affairs.

“The embassy has not developed a comprehensive strategy to improve the
ambassador’s negative media image,” the report said. “The ambassador has
agreed to increase his participation in noncontroversial programs and events
with potential to generate positive publicity.”

The inspector-general, based on a visit in September 2013, said Krajeski
refused to meet investigators during their evaluation or discuss his
absences from the embassy. The report said
Krajeski allowed the embassy’s deputy chief of mission to live in an unsafe
area despite alerts of an attack on American diplomats.

“Despite that focus, he undermined the emergency action committee by
allowing the former DCM to remain in a leased residence in an unsafe red
zone when other staff members living there were required to move,” the
report said. “This decision required costly security measures to protect her
and her family.”

Krajeski said he would defend himself against the criticism. The
ambassador, in a statement on March 28, said he would issue his formal
response.

“I stand by my record of 35 years of service and leadership in some of
the most difficult and dangerous places in the world,” Krajeski said. “That
service has been recognized many times including multiple Superior Honor
Awards and the President’s Distinguished Service Award in 2008 for service
in Iraq and Yemen.”

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/03/30/state-dept-hits-u-s-ambassador-in-bahrain-with-close-ties-to-fifth-fleet/

Militias flush with cash as Libya becomes arms smuggling hub

Special to WorldTribune.com

CAIRO — Libya has become a venue for arms smuggling.

Libyan sources said weapons were being flown to airports controlled by in locations throughout the country. The weapons were being recorded as commercial equipment, including air conditioners.

"Libya is now governed by armed militias with weapons and money."

“Libya is now governed by armed militias with weapons and money.”

“Libya is now governed by armed militias with weapons and money,” Libyan political activist Mohammed Saleh said.

Over the last few weeks, the military confirmed arms smuggling attempts. The military reported the seizure of a shipment of light and medium weapons in a flight to the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk on Feb. 14.

Other weapons shipments were reported on March 1 and March 3. The March 1 shipment went to the air base in Tobruk, and two days later militias seized a weapons delivery at Tripoli International Airport.

The sources said the smuggling was conducted by Libya’s powerful militias, which control much of the eastern portion of the North African state. They cited the showdown by militias that hold oil export terminals with Libya’s new military.

Former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has accused the Tripoli government of secretly sending weapons to Syria. Zeidan, who was dismissed in early March, did not elaborate.

But a leading journalist, Reda Fheel, agreed. Fheel, citing United
Nations reports, said Libya became a hub for weapons smuggling throughout
the Middle East and Africa.

“These weapons are being smuggled into at least 14 countries and are
inflaming conflicts on several continents,” Fheel told the Maghrebia
website, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command.

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/03/30/militias-flush-with-cash-as-libya-becomes-arms-smuggling-hub/

As China eats West’s lunch in Africa, bad policy reaps chaos in S. Sudan, CAR

Special to WorldTribune.com

Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, Global Information System / Defense & Foreign Affairs

Major Western states, with historical dominance over key African regions and markets, have, in the first years of the 21st Century, been losing influence in many areas of Africa.

Often the Western states — the U.S., UK, and France in particular — have been ceding political and economic influence to either the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, or merely to an increasing unwillingness of African societies to comply with the wishes of external powers.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.  /AFP/Ashraf Shazly

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir. /AFP/Ashraf Shazly

Recent Western military or political interventions in such areas as Mali, Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan, and elsewhere have not produced the strategic outcomes desired by the West, implying that Western policies have lacked the ability to adapt to changing African circumstances, or to the attraction of Chinese or other options.

“Ground truth� intelligence and historical trends seem to be indicating that superficial, broad brush assessments by international media and policy think tanks of the causes of insurgency and perceived instability in a range of Sahel and sub-Saharan African states may be fueling, rather than helping to suppress, conflict in the region.

Non-African tendencies to attribute all instability and violence to Al Qaida-related jihadists have proven to be both factually incorrect and counterproductive. Consequently, growing numbers of grassroots forces, not all of them Muslim, seek the support, supplies and expertise from local jihadists to combat Western-sponsored crackdowns which they cannot endure or withstand.

Meanwhile, the vast energy and mineral resources in the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa have become the key to the ability of the industrialized West — particularly Europe — to modernize and restore the industrial base and thus slowly emerge from the protracted and debilitating economic crisis.

Simply put, Western senior officials and economists are now convinced that it would be impossible to resurrect Western, particularly European, economies without access to Africa’s untapped energy and mineral resources, as well as Africa’s growing markets.

This also comes at a time when most Western analysts recognize that the West’s once-undisputed dominance of African resources has now been eroded by the growing presence of developers and traders from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Presently, Western leaders are frustrated with their inability to communicate and deal with African leaders on virtually anything. African interlocutors frequently raise issues which are beyond the comprehension of their Western counterparts. With instability and violence escalating and spreading, any Western communication becomes complicated and hostage to populist media outcries about both real and imagined human rights issues.

As well, the Chinese spread into Africa and its increasing dominance over energy and mineral resources, as well as the scant strategic infrastructure deemed vital to the West, seem unstoppable.

Hence, Western leaders are increasingly inclined to intervene militarily — both directly and via international conduits such as the UN, the AU, and African regional entities — as a shortcut to retaining influence in Africa without coping with the challenges. The crux of the Western logic and policy is “Africa is too important to be left to the Africans to handle and manage�. However, the West lacks (or has lost) the depth of knowledge and patience to address the crucially important sub state grassroots dynamics without which nothing will move in Sub-Saharan Africa. Consequently, Western military interventions — both direct and sponsored — have proven counterproductive, if not outright disastrous, to the West’s own vital interests.

The latest developments in two of the most explosive crisis points illustrate.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), the French-led military intervention already led to the return of Iran and Sudan on the coattails of the wave of atrocities against Muslims. This is a dramatic reversal of then President Michel Djotodia’s decision in late Summer 2013 to abandon the Khartoum agreement he had signed earlier, and instead appeal for help and cooperation to the West (which ultimately betrayed him).

[See Bodansky, Yossef: “Iran and Sudan’s plan to gain control over Central and Western Africa and its natural resources“, July 1, 2013]

Meanwhile, French forces and their Francophone African protégés have been aggravating the grassroots crises by dividing the entire diverse population into two camps — “with us� and “against us� (essentially, anti-Séléka and pro-Séléka respectively) — even though the CAR is rife with close to ten distinct conflicts. Consequently, the most vicious and violent Christian vigilante groups — the Anti-Balaka — became the core of the ostensibly pro-French grassroots forces.

Hence, the myriad of fighting forces gravitated to the lowest common denominator of the warring factions.
The sectarian divide has become distinct, thus, transforming the fratricidal carnage into a sectarian war. The Bangui area, for example, was originally dominated by economics-driven clashes where Christian vigilantes attempted to take over markets and distinct economic activities dominated by predominantly Muslim clans from the northeastern zones for their cotribals from the western zones.

After the French-led intervention and sharp divisions of the fighting elements, these economics-driven attacks evolved into extremely violent ethnic cleansing of Muslims on the basis of religion by machete-wielding Christian vigilantes under the watchful eyes of the French forces. [Ironically, the Anti-Balaka name translates from the local Sanga dialect into “anti-machete�.]

The flight and plight of the Muslims were quickly seized-upon by the Islamist-jihadist leaders eager to restore the surge westward which Djotodia had stopped. The jihadists and their sponsoring states — Iran and Sudan — are only too happy to exploit the ascent of sectarian violence.

The Islamist-jihadist media, both Sunni and Shi’ite, all over the Muslim World and increasingly in Western Europe, is urging volunteers to come to the aid of the persecuted and slaughtered Muslims of the CAR.

On March 24, 2014, the Al Qaida-affiliated and authoritative al-Minbar Jihadi Media Network urged French jihadists to assassinate President François Hollande in retaliation for the persecution of the Muslims of the CAR. “To our lone wolves in France, assassinate the president of disbelief and criminality, terrify his cursed government, and bomb them and scare them as a support to the vulnerable in the Central African Republic,� the message read. “Neither Hollande, nor his soldiers, will know peace in France as long as the Muslims of Mali and the Central African Republic cannot live properly in their country.�

Officially Iran, Sudan, and other Muslim states already committed to intervening in support of displaced Muslims communities. In Khartoum, the jihadists are burning French flags in solidarity rallies and recruiting volunteers for the jihad in the CAR. A trickle of jihadists, both Africans and Arabs, are already making their way to the CAR, either clandestinely or as members of numerous Muslim charities and NGOs out to help their brethren in distress.

Meanwhile, the AU peacekeepers — MISCA: International Support Mission to the Central African Republic — keep disengaging from challenging missions because of their mounting losses to ambushes by the Anti-Balaka forces.

On March 25, MISCA formally announced that “MISCA considers Anti-Balakas as terrorists and enemy combatants, and they shall be treated accordingly�. The French forces still refuse to embrace the designation. Presently, overwhelmed by the sudden expansion and escalation of the fighting, Paris acknowledges that the intensity and spread of violence had been underestimated when France committed to military intervention.

The UN is seeking huge donations for meeting the most basic humanitarian needs of a crisis spinning out of control. France is looking for additional troops and resources from other EU states in order to confront the calamity and violence France had needlessly created out of sheer ignorance of the prevailing conditions in the CAR.

Meanwhile, the fragile and explosive situation in South Sudan is being aggravated through the negotiation sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The crux of the crisis is that African leaders are under immense pressure from foreign entities, mainly from the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth; the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNMISS, Hilde Johnson of Norway; and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative, UNMISS, Toby Lanzer of the United Kingdom.

Consequently, the IGAD conflict resolution process is well-meaning but out of touch with reality.

IGAD’s objective is to create a process of negotiations and possible compromise (or power sharing) between two competing leaders/camps — South Sudan’s democratically elected President Salva Kiir Mayardit and self-anointed rebel leader Riek Machar — which would lead to restructuring of governance in Juba after the elections of 2015.

However, the political dynamic does not reflect the real situation and tapestry of powers on the ground.

Back in mid-December 2013, Machar did attempt a coup under the banner of Nuer-against-Dinka tribal politics.

There have been very few takers. Instead, a myriad of locally-focused groups in northeastern South Sudan — only some of them Nuer — picked up arms in order to protest and further localized grievances against Juba.

Significantly, while all of these groups are anti-Juba/anti-Kiir, only a small minority are pro-Machar. Machar does not control these groups and cannot order them to fight or cease violence.

However, arranging for a ceasefire is a prerequisite for the beginning of negotiations in Addis Ababa. Indeed, in mid-March 2014, when IGAD announced the formation of the Protection Deterrent Force (PDF) for South Sudan, Machar announced that “his forces� would not cooperate with the PDF ostensibly because he had not been consulted in advance. The real reason is that Machar does not control “his forces� and cannot tell them to do anything, be it fight or ceasefire.

Therefore, for a genuine conflict resolution process to be effective in South Sudan, the complex reality on the ground must be recognized and addressed.

Conflict resolution should be in two distinct phases.

First, the diverse grievances of the myriad of grassroots groups (no matter how valid or invalid) should be addressed, studied, and, where warranted, resolved. This process should be conducted separately with each group. Ceasing violence should be a precondition to engaging these groups. Ultimately, each and every localized group should be convinced that Juba recognizes its plight and grievances, and is making a genuine effort to address and resolve them.

There is no other way to stop the bulk of the fratricidal violence currently plaguing northwestern South Sudan. The second phase can come only subsequent to this step.

Only when violence subsides or ceases would it be possible to engage in meaningful discussions and negotiations with ALL the key political camps in South Sudan — not just Kiir’s and Machar’s — about governance reforms and the future political process of the nation.

Significantly, President Kiir has outlined an eight-point “Road Map for Return to Peace and Moving The Country Forward� which comprehensively addresses his plans and conviction of what needs to be done (see annex below). These eight points must be taken into consideration by the international community, the UN, the AU, and IGAD when judging or criticizing President Kiir.

As well, it must be noted that there is no comparable document from the opposition camps (including Machar’s). All the self-anointed opposition and their Western backers want is for President Kiir to leave power and for them to be empowered by the West.

However, the U.S. and UN keep pressuring the AU and IGAD to focus on simplistic Kiir-versus-Machar negotiations on governance reforms and election.

Meanwhile the PDF is preparing to suppress by force, if necessary, the lingering fighting.

Western financial and logistical support is conditioned on adopting this mandate. However, as presently planned and structured, the PDF will be ill-equipped to confront any of the myriad of localized forces in northeastern South Sudan. At best, the PDF will push the localized forces into the bush where they’ll wait for another day to strike out anew.

As for the Addis Ababa negotiations, irrespective of their outcome, Machar cannot deliver the “rebel� side because he is not their leader. Therefore, nothing tangible can come out of the U.S.- and UN-demanded negotiations process other than diverting attention, efforts, and resources from pragmatically addressing the real crises in South Sudan.

The plights in South Sudan and the Central African Republic are not unique. The U.S. and West European advise — or, rather, their demands and instructions — to other African states immersed in insurgencies and fratricidal fighting, from Mali to Nigeria to Somalia, are equally unsuccessful, self-serving, and out of touch with the complex, nuanced, and convoluted realities on the ground.

While there is no denying of the growing importance of Africa’s resources, there should also be no denying the West’s endemic failure in interventions and crises management in the 21st Century. This is because of the profound lack of knowledge and comprehension of Africa’s complex circumstances. While Sub-Saharan Africa desperately needs Western technological expertise and investments, and is ready to share its riches with the West to expedite these, African leaders know Africa far better than their Western counterparts.

Former Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida clairvoyantly stressed that there was no substitute to finding and implementing “African solutions for African problems�.

Annex: President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s Road Map for Return to Peace and Moving The Country Forward:

1. An unconditional cessation of hostilities and ceasefire among the warring parties in the country as soon as possible.
2. Humanitarian assistance to the war affected citizens wherever they are in the country; while an immediate focus on efforts to return the Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) home will be given quick attention.
3. Grand National Peace and Political Dialogue in the country with participation of the Suspects of the Coup. The suspects of the Coup will be subjected to due process of law. This is in accordance with the laws of the Republic and the Communiqué of IGAD Head of States in Nairobi on December 27th, 2013.
4. Continuation of investigations into the crisis and hold people accountable for the atrocities committed. The results and legal process shall be opened fully to the public.
5. Presidential Pardons and General Amnesty shall be part of peace efforts in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Country.
6. Establishment of a National Peace and Reconciliation Council which shall reach all corners of South Sudan.
7. Review and strengthening of Government institutions in the country particularly the Army, Law Enforcement Agencies, Judiciary and Anti-Corruption.
8. Preparation for the Elections 2015 by conducting National Census, setting up of the Geographical constituencies and the Voter Registration List.

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/03/30/as-china-eats-wests-lunch-in-africa-bad-policy-reaps-chaos-in-s-sudan-car/

Hundreds protest chemical plant in southern China

BEIJING (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters in southern China marched against a chemical plant and environmental degradation on Sunday in a demonstration that the Maoming city government called a “grave violation” by criminals causing chaos.

Photos posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog service, showed hundreds of demonstrators marching along the streets, an overturned car in flames and protesters laying bloodied on the road. Others showed lines of paramilitary police marching in formation.

The images of violence – which could not be independently verified by Reuters – caused an outcry on Chinese social media, although many were later removed from the site by censors.

Residents of Maoming, in Guangdong province, were protesting the production of paraxylene, a chemical used to make fabrics and plastic bottles at a plant run by the local government and state-owned Sinopec Corp, China’s biggest refiner.

Some of the online photos show demonstrators carrying signs calling for the chemical plant to “get out of Maoming”.

In a statement published on Sunday, the Maoming city government called the demonstration a “grave violation” of the law that “seriously affects the social order”.

The city government said on Monday morning that some demonstrators had hurled bottles and rocks after 10:30 pm Sunday evening, prompting the police to react.

No one was killed, the government said, without noting whether anyone was hurt.

The eastern city of Ningbo suspended a petrochemical project after days of demonstrations in November 2012, and protests forced the suspension of a paraxylene plant in the northeastern city of Dalian the year before. A similar demonstration took place in the southern city of Kunming last year.

Choking smog blankets many Chinese cities, and environmental degradation, the cost of the country’s breakneck economic growth, has earned the ire of an increasingly educated and affluent urban class.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Source Article from http://news.yahoo.com/hundreds-protest-chemical-plant-southern-china-103719653–finance.html

Chinese parents, trapped in one-child web, give babies away on Internet

By Lavinia Mo, Sui-Lee Wee and Li Hui

GANZHOU, China (Reuters) – Lu Libing knew he had only one choice as the birth of his third child approached. He couldn’t afford hefty fines that would be meted out by Chinese authorities, so he put the unborn child up for adoption.

On the Internet he found “A Home Where Dreams Come True”, a website touted as China’s biggest online adoption forum, part of an industry that has been largely unregulated for years.

Expectant couples, unwilling or unable to keep their children, go to the website looking for adoptive parents rather than abort their babies or abandon them.

There are no clear statistics on how many people use these websites but “A Home Where Dreams Come True” said 37,841 babies had been adopted through its website from 2007 to August 2012.

More than 380 babies were rescued and 1,094 people arrested when the government cracked down on the industry last month. Adoption websites such as “A Home Where Dreams Come True”, whose founder was arrested, were shut because they were deemed illegal and responsible for the trafficking of babies.

An official with China’s state-run adoption agency, the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption, said parents could apply to the civil affairs ministry to give up children.

The official, who declined to be identified, said it was “definitely wrong” to use websites.

“These are children, not commodities,” the official said.

Baby trafficking has been a perennial problem in China and recent reports on online trafficking rings show how an underground industry has made use of the Internet to connect people quickly, making it easier to buy and sell babies. This has presented a new challenge for the government.

Demand for such websites has been fuelled by rural poverty, China’s one-child policy, limiting most couples of only one child, and desperate, childless couples.

Lu, 30, who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of official retribution, lives on the outskirts of Ganzhou in southern Jiangxi province, a barren place scarred by water contamination and heavy metal pollution.

He and his wife, Mu, live from hand to mouth in a two-bedroom home in an unfinished block. Their two children, aged two-and-a-half and 10 months, live with Lu’s parents in northern Shaanxi province.

“SEEKING HONEST FAMILIES”

He says he would have to pay family planning fines of about 50,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan ($8,000-$12,800) for the third child, more than 10 times his monthly income.

Mu is five months pregnant. Lu wrote on his first post on the website on February 24 that he could not raise the child and was “seeking honest families who are willing to adopt”.

The post drew 40 responses. During his interview with Reuters he received a call from a prospective adoptive mother who was worried he may have been arrested after state media reported on the crackdown earlier that day.

Lu said there was no hope of sending the new child to school or paying the necessary fines to secure a “hukou”, or household registration. Failure to pay would make his baby an undocumented “black child” with no access to schooling or healthcare.

Baby trafficking has been encouraged by the one-child policy and a traditional bias for sons, who support elderly parents and continue the family name, leading to the abandonment of girls. Even as China starts to relax the one-child policy, allowing millions of families to have a second child, it still penalizes people who flout the rules.

Traffickers have often resorted to kidnapping. In late February, state news agency Xinhua warned parents to guard against kidnappers who could pose as nurses in hospitals or lie in wait outside school gates.

The increasing use of websites is changing adoption from what was once a hush-hush process between friends to one where details can be shared anonymously with strangers over the Tencent QQ instant messaging service.

Many Chinese Internet users were outraged after media reports of the crackdown.

Much of the anger was directed at Zhou Daifu, the 27-year-old founder of “A Home Where Dreams Come True”. Zhou denied being involved in baby trafficking but acknowledged that traffickers surfed his website.

“Whenever we find suspicious cases of human trafficking, we always tell the police,” he told Reuters in December. “But it seems to me that they just don’t care.”

“GRATITUDE FEES”

Reuters spoke to three “agents” who used Zhou’s website to sell children. One, a man who declined to be named and was brokering the adoption of three girls, said he gave several thousand yuan to the birth parents and charged the adoptive parents more than 10,000 yuan.

About 70 percent of the parents giving their babies away asked for 30,000 to 50,000 yuan, Zhou said.

It is unclear whether such parents could face criminal charges. China’s Supreme People’s Court said selling children for profit constituted trafficking, although accepting “fees for nutrition” and a “gratitude fee” were not illegal.

Yi Yi, a Beijing-based adoption lawyer, believes such websites should be regulated but not banned, saying they meet the needs of a growing population.

Some 10,000 children were abandoned in China every year, said Wang Zhenyao, president of the China Welfare Research Institute at Beijing Normal University. Media reports say many of these are girls and disabled children.

Of 280 posts on “A Home Where Dreams Come True” from July to September 2012, Reuters found that people were giving away 98 baby girls and 61 boys. The others did not indicate a gender.

Some of the parents using the website told Reuters their pregnancies were the result of extra-marital relationships, while others were in a similar position to Lu Libing and his wife.

Lu had initially short-listed three people to adopt his unborn child but said he was leaning towards a housewife in her late 30s. The woman offered to let the child meet his or her birth parents and siblings when the child turns 18, but Lu wasn’t sure that was a good idea.

“The child will hate us,” he said. “Just think, if he’s in his teens and he suddenly finds out that his biological parents are not his current father and mother, how would he feel? I think it would be a huge blow.”

($1 = 6.1 yuan)

(Editing by Paul Tait)

Source Article from http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-parents-trapped-one-child-babies-away-internet-211655688.html

Obamacare site goes down on deadline day

Maggie Fox


Maggie Fox is senior health writer for NBCNews.com and TODAY.com, writing top news on health policy, medical treatments and disease.

She’s a former managing editor for healthcare and technology at National Journal and global health and science editor for Reuters based in Washington, D.C. and London.

She’s reported for news agencies, radio, newspapers, magazines and television from across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe covering news ranging from war to politics and, of course, health and science. Her reporting has taken Maggie to Lebanon, Syria and Libya; to China, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan; to Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia and to Ireland and Northern Ireland and across the rest of Europe.

Maggie has won awards from the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the National Immunization Program, the Overseas Press Club and other organizations. She’s done fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland.


… Expand Bio

Source Article from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/obamacare-website-down-deadline-arrives-n67666?ocid=msnhp&pos=1

Black box hunt: Ship departs

IN THE INDIAN OCEAN – They have searched for Flight MH370 with satellites from space, with planes from the air and with ships on the sea. On land, they’ve scoured radar data, working day and night. What they haven’t done, until now, is to look underwater.

As I write, I’m watching the first ship leave port to do just that; a ship that will provide the world with the first eyes and ears under the waters where the plane is thought to have gone down.

The Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield is leaving Fremantle on Monday with investigators and sophisticated technology on board.

It is carrying an underwater drone – a small, unmanned submarine fitted with cameras that can see objects deep down in the ocean.

It is also carrying a black box locator that will be towed behind the ship to detect the “pings” sent out by the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder on the missing Boeing 777.

Soon, the world will have eyes and ears underwater to hunt for the doomed plane.

But the mission has serious handicaps: the ship is leaving port late, and without any clear idea of the best place to go.

So far, not a single piece of debris has been found that would give the ship’s crew target to aim for. It will sail 1,150 miles from the Australian coast to the new search zone, lower the locator into the water and hope.

The locator device can hear sounds for miles around, but the search area is the size of New Mexico.

U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews, who is in charge of the equipment, has warned that it could take years to find the Boeing 777 because of the lack of positive information about where to go. The vast ocean could take “an untenable amount of time to search,” he said.

Debris from Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, was found within days and yet it took two years to find the wreckage, and its black box, on the sea bed.

The other problem for this ship is that it’s in a race against time. The transponder on the black box is powered by batteries that will begin to fade and die after 30 days. That’s next Monday. So the ship has exactly a week to sail more than 1,000 miles and begin combing the ocean before the “pinger locator” starts to lose any chance of hearing signals.

Every nation and every one of the 1,000-plus air and sea crew members searching for the plane is doing their best. But neither the most sophisticated technology available, nor the human eye, has detected anything positively linked to MH370.

It is clear that Ocean Shield is sailing more in hope than in expectation as it tries to solve what Australia’s prime minister called “this extraordinary mystery.”

Ziad Jaber contributed to this report.



Source Article from http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/missing-jet/mh370-ocean-shield-begins-search-missing-jets-black-box-n67591?ocid=msnhp&pos=2

Video: Mudslide mom speaks




>>>
emergency officials are revising the numbers of the dead and missing of the tragic mudslide as crews prepare to return to the
disaster area
once again. miguel almaguer has the latest. good morning.



>> reporter:
the number of missing has dropped dramatically, from 90 all the way down to 30. while this morning the death toll stands at 21.



>> reporter:
today in the slide zone, the search enters day ten. rescue teams are exhausted. some suffering from hypothermia. with more remains discovered every day, even the
search dogs
are tired. ordered to take a two-daybreak.



>>
all units please join us in a moment of silence.



>> reporter:
on the one week anniversary,
search teams
and the community paused to remember the victims and survivors.



>>
i’ve lost my mother. i’ve lost my baby.



>>
today, natasha is praying for her neighbor and her son baby duke.



>>
you wonder why they get the opportunity to be here. why isn’t my mom and my baby here? but it doesn’t help to think that way.



>>
for the victims, there is no making sense of this tragedy. and still today for so many families, there remains a glimmer of hope.



>>
we’re looking for that miracle out there right now. i saw 400 or 500 people out looking for that miracle.



>> reporter:
the governor told us there will be time down the road to address concerns that county officials may have known this hillside was unstable but did nothing to tell locals to move out of the area. when the sunrises, the search will push on. natalie?

Source Article from http://www.today.com/video/today/54825587?ocid=msnhp&pos=3

Koreas exchange 800 shells

North and South Korea exchanged more than 800 artillery shells on Monday.

South Korea’s defense ministry said Pyongyang fired more than 500 shells after Kim Jong Un’s regime sent a fax to announce it would be conducting military drills. Around 100 of these landed in water near the disputed sea border off the peninsula’s western coast, the defense ministry told Reuters.

In response, the South returned more than 300 shots, the ministry said. According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the South also dispatched F-15K fighter jets near the border.

South Korean residents on the island of Baengnyeong were evacuated to temporary shelters but none of the shells hit any land or military installations.

A defense ministry official in Seoul described the North’s action as “a test of the South’s determination to defend the naval border.”

Image: South Korean students gather at a shelter on Yeonpyeong island, near the border with North Korea, on Monday.YONHAP via Reuters

The announcement of a training exercise in that area was a rare move by the reclusive North, according to the report by Yonhap.

The North in recent weeks has increased threatening rhetoric and conducted a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches that are considered acts of protest against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington. The North calls the South Korea-U.S. drills a rehearsal for invasion; the allies say they’re routine and defensive.

Pyongyang has also threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test, though Seoul said it did not appear to be imminent.

Last week, Pyongyang fired two Nodong missiles over the sea. The United Nations later said it was considering an “appropriate response.”

North Korea has never recognized its western maritime border with the South, which was drawn by the U.N. after the end of the Korean War.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

– Alexander Smith



Source Article from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/north-south-korea-fire-800-shells-after-fax-kims-regime-n67541?ocid=msnhp&pos=4