SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Cardinals will begin the process of choosing a new pope in earnest, holding their first full day of voting for a leader to face a major crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.
The 115 cardinal electors return to the frescoed Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, where they are scheduled to hold two votes in the morning and two in the afternoon, seeking to elect a pontiff capable of facing a string of scandals and internal strife.
When a pope is elected, white smoke will emerge from the chapel and the bells of St Peter's will peal.
The cardinals were shut inside on Tuesday for the first time, after a day of religious pomp and prayer to prepare for the task.
Only one vote was held on Tuesday night, ending inconclusively as expected, with black smoke billowing from a chimney above the chapel to signal no pope had been elected.
No modern conclave has reached a decision on the first day,so the lack of an outcome on Tuesday's single vote was no surprise.
Before the doors of the chapel were shut, all the cardinals below the age of 80, when the papal seat was declared vacant on February 28, made an oath of secrecy in Latin before the voting started.
The cardinals will now vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate. If after 33 or 34 ballots no pope is elected, the two candidates with the highest votes will go into a runoff in which only a simple majority is required.
Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Vatican City on Tuesday, said there was a perception, particularly in Europe, that the church needed to be more flexible with changes in the modern world.
She said there was no clear frontrunner but about a dozen names had emerged as likely candidates to be the next pope.
Al Jazeera's Barbara Serra, reporting from St Peter's Square in Rome on Tuesday, said Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan was the bookmakers' favourite.
"He is seen as a safe pair of hands," she said.
But she said the fact that he is Italian would count against him as there was a large push within the church to elect a non-European as pope.
Possible candidates from the developing world include Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Argentina-born Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, and Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil who is of German descent.
Jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel have blocked all communications and the Vatican has also been checked for any bugging devices.
The Vatican has said anyone caught contacting anyone outside the conclave will be excommunicated.
Cardinals including, South Africa's Wilfrid Napier, took to Twitter on Tuesday to say goodbye to their online flock before they were cut off from the outside world.
"Last tweet before conclave," Napier told his thousands of followers.
"May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for fruitful outcome. God bless!"
It was a modern sign-off before a centuries-old tradition was due to begin.
The tradition of holding conclaves goes back to the 13th century when cardinals were locked into the papal palace in Viterbo near Rome by the angry faithful because they were taking too long to make their decision.
Benedict stunned the world on February 11, announcing that he no longer had the strength of body and mind to keep up with a fast-changing modern world shaken by vital questions for the Roman Catholic Church.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - South Koreans have started heading to the polls in a hotly contested presidential election that may bring the country's first female leader to the Blue House.
The voting began in a potentially historic election on Wednesday.
Polling booths opened for over 40 million eligible voters at 6:00 a.m. local time (2100 GMT Tuesday), and were scheduled to close at 6:00 p.m. (0900 GMT).
A national holiday was declared earlier to boost the turnout.
Voters must choose between Park Geun-hye, the ruling conservative Saenuri Party candidate, and her liberal rival, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, the main opposition party.
Park is the 60-year-old daughter of former military ruler Park Chung-hee.
"I will become a president of the people's livelihoods, who thinks only about the people… I will restore the broken middle class and open an era in which the middle class make up 70 percent of the population," she said at press conferences on Tuesday.
Moon, who is a former human rights lawyer, was chief of staff of the late President Roh Moo-hyun and was once imprisoned for protesting against Park Chung-hee.
"I will become a president who wipes away the people's tears, stresses fairness and justice, makes sacrifices and dedicates himself, puts himself among the people, and maintains dignity," he stated at press conferences on Tuesday.
The winner of the election will face many challenges, including a slowing economy and soaring welfare costs in Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Opinion polls taken earlier this month showed that Park has maintained a slight lead over Moon.
During their election campaigns, both candidates have talked of economic democratization aimed at decreasing social disparities and have vowed to create new jobs for young people and boost social welfare spending.
The temperature in Seoul, which was minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) early on Wednesday, is expected to remain below zero.
The South Korean Constitution restricts the president to a single five-year term in office. - www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Millions of Americans are already waiting for hours outside of polling places to vote for the next president of the United States. All of that might not matter though, as some security pros say the entire election can be rigged all too easily.
In one example, it wouldn’t take much more than ten dollars’ worth of parts from any RadioShack store to steal and manipulate votes. It’s called a man-in-the-middle attack and the computer program that logs the results on electronic voting machines isn’t even compromised.
“It’s a classic attack on security devices,” Roger Johnston tells Popular Science. “You implant a microprocessor or some other electronic device into the voting machine, and that lets you control the voting and turn cheating on and off. We’re basically interfering with transmitting the voter’s intent.”
According to the magazine, anyone from a high-school student to an octogenarian could corrupt the voting process. Johnston is the head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory and has done it himself, even on camera. It wouldn’t be hard for others, he says, and some fear that that could easily be the case on Election Day. And with many prediction polls estimating a close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney this year, it wouldn’t take much to render the entire contest corrupted.
On the website for Argonne, Johnston says Americans believe too often that election officials assume — incorrectly — that it takes a computer genius capable of a nation-state cyberassault or a frazzled, Hollywood-designed hacker to turn an electronic voting machine on its head. And while that route is once that can be taken too, it isn’t the only way to ruin an election.
Insider threats from election officials or anyone with access to a voting machine could easily alter contests, and monitors aren’t necessarily on the look-out for that kind of unauthorized access.
“And a lot of our election judges are little old ladies who are retired, and God bless them, they’re what makes the elections work, but they’re not necessarily a fabulous workforce for detecting subtle security attacks,” Johnston tells Popular Science. In the example of hijacking the computer transmission with a few bucks’ worth of electronics, it wouldn’t require much more than walking into a polling place and entering a booth with the right knowhow and intent, and most machines can be access without even requiring a two-dollar lockpick and a tiny tension bar. “No one signs for the machines when they show up. No one’s responsible for watching them. Seals on them aren’t much different from the anti-tamper packaging found on food and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Think about tampering with a food or drug product: You think that’s challenging?” he asks.
Johnston has recorded himself demonstrating how a logic analyzer, an Allen wrench and a screwdriver is all it takes to change votes to register for one candidate instead of another by using a man-in-the-middle attack. Although it hasn’t been verified yet, a video posted to YouTube early on November 6 from an account registered to “Centralpavote” shows what is reported to be a similar machine showing signs typical of exactly that kind of abuse
This Election Day, the touchscreen Diebold Accuvote-TSX will be used by more than 26 million voters in 20 states, while the push-button Sequoia AVC machine will be deployed to four states for use by almost 9 million voters. Johnston says purchasing a $10 logic analyzer from RadioShack is easily enough to snoop and see who any voter intends on electing, and from there those digital transmissions can be hijacked and told to mean something else. For experts, though, there are even other ways to wreak havoc on the polls.
Johnston says the machines don’t transmit data with encryption, so anyone with a basic understanding of digital communications can figure out how a user votes if they’ve accessed the machine with one of those logic analyzers. Sequoia — the company responsible for making a good share of America’s electronic voting machines — do encrypt the results of each vote, though. Well, kind of.
Andrew W. Appel of Princeton, NY bought a few used AVC Advantage voting machine made by Sequoia off an online auction site for only $82 just a couple of years ago. Once they arrived, he accessed the machine’s innards and says it was easy to start to see how things worked.
“I was surprised at how simple it was for me to access the ROM memory chips containing the firmware that controls the vote-counting,” Appel writes on his personal website. Despite claims from Sequoia that the machine wasn’t easily hackable, Appel says, “The AVC Advantage can be easily manipulated to throw an election because the chips which control the vote-counting are not soldered on to the circuit board of the DRE. This means the vote-counting firmware can be removed and replace with fraudulent firmware.
In another study carried out at The University of Iowa in 2003, Douglas W Jones from the school’s Department of Computer Science found that any voting machine purchased second-hand — like even those Diebold machines deployed across a good chunk of America — can also be hacked with ease.
“It appeared that the security keys for the encryption used by the I-mark software were hard-coded into the voting application,” he found when examining a Diebold Accuvote TS. “As things stood, their system relied on security through obscurity, so they must take measures to assure that their code remains obscure and that no copy of their code ever leaks out into public. I told them that the moment one of their machines goes to the landfill or is otherwise disposed of, someone might extract their encryption key and all of their security claims would become meaningless.”
According to Jones, even claims made by voting machine companies that their devices are secure are just that — mere accusations hard for the layperson to verify without first learning a few things about electronics, encryption or just how to disassemble the front panel from an electronic voting machine. Viruses can also be sent to machines, malwares can corrupt code and nothing sure by pristine, 100 percent out-of-the-box sterility can assure voters that they aren’t casting ballots on a tampered machine.
“We've all used ATMs, and most everyone (except my quasi-Luddite self) has something such as an iPod. Now, have you ever, anytime, anywhere, had one of these electronic devices switch data input on you?” asks Selwyn Duke of American Thinking in a recent article. “So how is it that in our high-tech universe of flawlessly functioning electronic gadgets, voting machines are the only ones prone to human-like ‘error’? If there's an explanation other than human meddling, again, I'd truly like to hear it.”
Given the post-election discussion on fraud, intimidation, chads and corrupted computerized tally machines that have come with seemingly every political contest in recent years, explanations — valid or not — are expected to be rampant following this week’s vote. If history is any indication, though, don’t expect these things to work themselves out before 2016.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Parliamentary polls have opened in Ukraine, with world heavyweight champion boxer Vitali Klitschko emerging as an unlikely challenger to the ruling party in place of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
The strategic former Soviet nation of 46 million, nestled between the European Union and Russia, is holding the first election since Tymoshenko lost to President Viktor Yanukovych in a bitterly fought contest in 2010.
The 2004 Orange Revolution leader was jailed less than two years later on abuse of power charges brought by Yanukovych's Regions Party that both Tymoshenko and many Western nations saw as vendetta on the part of the president.
Sunday's election to the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada is now seen both as a warm up for the 2015 presidential ballot and a chance for voters to pass judgement on a jailing that has isolated Ukraine from EU states.
Opinion polls suggest that Yanukovych's alliance with the Communist Party and a top centrist politician will retain its narrow lead, while Tymoshenko's opposition bloc will grab second place by the slimmest of margins.
But trailing in hot pursuit in third is the UDAR (Punch) party of Klitschko - an opposition sympathiser who has served in the Kiev city council and now has the chance to expand nationally.
"I have a lot to lose," the towering boxer said in comments posted on his website this week.
"The biggest and most valuable thing that I have is my reputation - not only in Ukraine but across the world. I have staked the most valuable thing I have on these elections."
A long-mooted alliance between UDAR and the Tymoshenko bloc could give the opposition a parliamentary majority and still further limit the political options of Yanukovych, already under heavy pressure from the West.
Opinion polls suggest the opposition could collect just over 40 per cent of the vote, against the 38 or so per cent mustered by the Regions Party and its allies.
Half of the 450 seats will be filled with voters casting ballots for parties that have to clear a five-per cent minimum vote threshold. The remainder is comprised of votes for individual candidates who must win their districts to get in.
The vote was preceded by an extremely rare joint letter from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy boss Catherine Ashton calling on Yanukovych to prove his democratic credentials to the world.
"Important steps now have to be taken by the Ukrainian government to fulfil its full potential," the open letter said.
The question of whether Yanukovych will lose his ruling majority depends mostly on whether Klitschko follows through on his promise to work with Tymoshenko's team.
The ambitious political novice has thus far refused to dismiss the notion of himself one day running for president. He has also been remarkably coy about how far his alliance with Tymoshenko's party might actually go.
Analysts said this vote was being driven by personalities rather than any big subject such as the nation's closer ties with either Russia or the EU states - a dominant theme of the historic 2004 vote.
Tymoshenko herself has been jailed through 2018 and is facing still new charges related to fraud and tax evasion. There is also a separate murder investigation in which she has featured as a witness.
Several analysts noted that Klitschko was now heavily benefiting from voter fatigue with the corruption that has clouded the names of both the president and Tymoshenko in recent years.— www.shafaqna.com/English