SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has appeared before an anti-terrorism court over the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, officials said.
Musharraf was driven to the court on Tuesday in Rawalpindi from his plush villa on the outskirts of Islamabad where he is serving a two-week arrest order for other charges dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.
Musharraf faces charges of conspiracy to murder Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in 2007, one of three cases he is fighting in the courts since returning home last month after four years in self-imposed exile.
On Monday, Pakistan's caretaker government refused to put Musharraf on a separate trial for treason, telling the Supreme Court that it was beyond its mandate.
Security at the court was tight with journalists barred from entering. Armed police and paramilitary rangers stood alert and blocked all approaches, an AFP reporter said.
About 150 lawyers opposed to Musharraf shouted "dog, dog, Musharraf dog" while about two dozen of Musharraf's supporters chanted "Long live Musharraf".
He has been threatened with death by the Taliban and barred from running in next month's general election, a humiliating blow to the man who returned home promising to "save" Pakistan.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The political and security situation in the Central African Republic is highly volatile, the humanitarian situation is "extremely dire," looting and sexual violence are on the rise, and armed groups are recruiting children, the UN envoy to the impoverished country has said.
Margaret Vogt has painted a grim picture of the country following the overthrow of the government on March 24 by rebel fighters from the Seleka alliance, saying leaders who are supposed to run a transitional government can't return to their homes because they fear for their lives or because their homes were looted.
"We have reasons to believe there is a deliberate effort to recruit [child soldiers]," Vogt told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
Landlocked Central African Republic has suffered numerous rebellions since independence from France.
President Francoise Bozize, who came to power in 2003 through a rebellion, was forced into exile when Seleka rebels entered the capital, Bangui. Michel Djotodia, a rebel fighter who helped form Seleka, declared himself president.
The African Union suspended the Central African Republic and a regional summit last Wednesday in neighbouring Chad urged Djotodia to organise democratic elections within 18 months, and to establish a council that would lead the turbulent country during a transitional period until elections can be held.
Djotodia agreed, according to a spokesman.
Vogt told reporters on Tuesday by audio-link after briefing the UN Security Council that the establishment of a National Transitional Council that is inclusive, operates by consensus, and allows members to freely express themselves, is very important to help stabilise the country and "bring it (back) from the brink."
The council will act like a parliament and elect the head of the transitional government, she said.
Vogt said the lack of security must also be addressed.
With the departure of South African troops, who were in the Central African Republic under a bilateral agreement, she said other arrangements are needed and regional countries are looking for security assistance from other African countries.
"The political and security situation remains highly, highly volatile," Vogt stressed.
"The Seleka elements do not appear to be operating in a cohesive fashion," she said, and there are reports that child soldiers who were returned to their families are being re-recruited by some rebel factions along with others.
Vogt said "the humanitarian situation is extremely dire" because of insecurity and the looting of stocks of food and other humanitarian items.
Churches and offices of religious organisations have also been attacked and looted, she said.
"Leaders who are supposed to run this government are not in a position to return to their homes because they fear for their lives or because their homes are completely looted," she said.
Vogt said the human rights situation is also bad, citing an increase in sexual violence against women which previously was reported in the provinces but is now taking place in Bangui.
She urged the international community to seek ways to improve security and support the political transition.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Security remained tight around the main Coptic cathedral in Egypt's capital Cairo on Monday, days after sectarian violence left several people dead.
Two more deaths were reported on Monday as clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims continued.
A 21-year-old Muslim man, named only as Mohamed, died of a fractured skull in hospital, a security source said.
His death followed fighting between local Muslims and Copts who had been attending a funeral for four Christians shot dead in a town near Cairo.
The health ministry said at least 90 people, including 11 policemen, were wounded around St Mark's Cathedral, seat of the Coptic pope.
The violence is the worst sectarian unrest since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Separately, the state news agency MENA said one person was killed and 14 wounded in fresh clashes on Sunday night in the town of El Khusus, north of Cairo, where the latest wave of sectarian strife began on Friday.
Hisham Kandil, Egypt's prime minister, said the government was taking all measures to protect the safety of Egyptians of all faiths.
Kandil promised to bring to justice the perpetrators of sectarian attacks and to crack down on unlicenced weapons.
He also spoke to the heads of the Coptic church and of the Islamic al-Azhar institution to discuss ways to resolve the crisis, a cabinet statement said.
The violence erupted as Egypt is negotiating with a visiting International Monetary Fund delegation for a loan of at least $4.8bn to ease a deepening economic crisis aggravated by political and sectarian turmoil.
The crisis has hit investment and tourism in the Middle East's most populous nation.
Muslim and Christian religious leaders appeared together on late-night television to call for calm and national unity.
Witnesses accused the police of standing by as the Copts were attacked and of firing teargas at mourners in the compound as they emerged from the cathedral under a hail of rocks.
A statement posted on the interior ministry's website blamed Christians for starting the trouble by vandalising several cars.
President Mohamed Morsi telephoned Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II on Sunday evening to condemn the violence, telling him that "any attack on the cathedral is like an attack on me personally".
In a condolence message to the families of the victims, Tawadros said on Monday: "Heavenly justice will be spoken at the appropriate time."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – An international children charity organization has called on the United Nations Security Council to make efforts to protect the two million Syrian children who need help amid the Arab country’s 2-year unrest.
In a report presented to the council on Monday, Save the Children warned that the Syrian children have been under direct harm, being recruited by the foreign-backed militants in Syria.
"From the very beginning of the crisis in Syria, children have been its forgotten victims - facing death, trauma and suffering, and deprived of basic humanitarian aid," the group said in the report.
Children are increasingly being put directly in harm's way as they are being recruited by militants fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the report also said.
“There have even been reports that children as young as 8 have been used as human shields," it added.
The US-based charity organization stressed that the threat to the Syrian kids begins before their births, as hospitals and health workers are under attack by the militants and therefore women are reluctant to go to hospitals.
Last month, the organization said that the Syrian children were being shot at, tortured, and raped.
Recent videos show the militants in Syria recruiting children and teenagers. The videos show the commander of a US-backed group in the northern province of Aleppo saying that when the children arrive, they are children, but when they leave, they become killing machines.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The ‘biggest cyber-attack in history’ has caused a worldwide web slowdown as the battle between an anti-spam group and a Dutch web host continues to heat up.
The largest known distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in history was sparked when the non-profit group Spamhaus placed CyberBunker on a real-time blacklist of sites to be blocked for spreading spam earlier this month.
The (DDoS) attacks – which flood targeted web servers with fake traffic to make them inaccessible – have reportedly caused millions to experience delays with services such as the Netflix video-streaming service and made other sites temporarily unavailable. Experts fear the web congestion could lead to banking and email system slowdowns around the world.
Spamhaus servers were at one point being inundated with 300 billion bits per second (300Gbps) of data, three times larger than the previous record attack of 100 Gbps, Darren Anstee from Arbor Networks Solutions told IBTimes UK.
Spamhaus, which helps email providers filter out spam and other questionable content, first reported the attacks on March 20.
Steve Linford, chief executive for Spamhaus, told the BBC that this scale of attack could knock down government Internet infrastructure.
"If you aimed this at Downing Street they would be down instantly," he said. "They would be completely off the Internet."
Linford noted that “when there are attacks against major banks, we're talking about 50 gbs."
Five separate cyber-police-forces are investigating the incident, he added, though he could not disclose any further details.
Spamhaus further accused Cyberbunker of collaborating with criminal gangs from Eastern Europe and Russia to carry out the attacks.
‘Cyberbunker not behind current attacks’
Cyberbunker, which operates out of a "secretive nuclear bunker," prides itself on rebuking "authorities regarding the rights of individuals. " The firm, boasts they will provide bandwidth to anything but child pornography or terrorism related content.
Sven Olaf Kamphuis, an internet activist and self-described spokesman for Cyberbunker, reportedly told the New York Times the ongoing attack was retaliation for Spamhaus "abusing their influence."However, later on Wednesday Kamphuis told RT's news video agency RUPTLY via Skype that quotes attributed to him by the NYT were part of a campaign of “misinformation” against Cyberbunker, which he says is not currently carrying out DDos attacks against Spamhaus.
“There has been some misinformation from the New York Times that it’s me carrying out the attacks. Spamhaus have pissed off a lot of people over the past few years by blackmailing ISPs and carriers into disconnecting clients without court orders or legal process whatsoever,” he said.
“At this moment we are not even conducting any attacks because people from our group stopped any attack yesterday morning,” he said. “So if they are still under attack which I think they are because I get news feeds that they are still under attack then it’s now other people attacking them.” He argues that such publicized cyber-attacks do serve a function, as they put the “mafia tactics” of Spamhaus in the public spotlight, which he claims are currently “the largest threat” to Internet freedom.
“Well, I think the cyber-attacks do put things under public discussion and that in the case of Spamhaus was urgently needed, because they have been operating in the background, claiming to be spam fighters and a little non-profit and at the moment it is becoming all the more clear what they really are. People that work at internet providers have always known this,” Kamphuis said.
“People who work at abuse desks or as providers, know that if you don’t give Spamhaus their way, they will list your entire provider and at that point all of your customers will start to complain that 1/3 of the internet no longer accepts email to start with. If they put you on drop a whole bunch of American providers no longer accept your backups, so you can no longer communicate with half of the sites hosted in the United States. It is a massive problem when one little offshore from the Bahamas gains such an influence on the internet that they can have such an impact.”-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –British rights group Amnesty International and legal charity Reprieve have condemned the ratification of the governments’ secret courts plan in the House of Lords as a “terrible day for British justice”.
The Labour party had tabled amendments to the government’s Justice and Security Bill, otherwise known as “secret courts” proposals, that allows sensitive intelligence to be presented to a judge by officials while preventing victims and claimants from knowing the allegations against them in full.
The amendment sought to ensure that the extension of Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) under the secret courts plan to civil cases would only happen if a judge ruled that reaching a fair verdict was impossible “by any other means”.
However, the Lords rejected the amendment with a majority of only 16 (174 to 158) votes paving the way for the hugely-controversial plan to become law within a few weeks.
"This is a terrible day for British justice. After fierce lobbying by the government, peers have failed to restore even minimal amendments previously included to this deeply damaging bill,” said Tim Hancock, Amnesty International's UK campaigns director.
“The cherished and vitally important principle that justice must be done and seen to be done has been dealt a serious blow this evening,” he added.
His comments were echoed by Reprieve executive director Clare Algar who said the secret courts will “do irreparable damage” to Britain’s reputation.
"It is deeply shameful that the government has been allowed to push these plans through parliament, despite the total lack of evidence that they are needed. Secret courts will … do irreparable damage to our reputation as a country which respects fair play and the rule of law,” she said.
British officials claim the Justice and Security Bill is designed to protect national security by preventing confidential information from being exposed.
However, Amnesty said in an earlier report that the plan simply gives the government the power to "simply play the 'national security' card whenever it wants to keep things secret".
The British government now only needs the Queen’s assent to formally unveil the secret courts as a new law.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Wild pollinators are just as important, and often more efficient, at pollinating crops than domestic honey bee colonies, but bumble bee colonies are vanishing.
“This will be a surprise to the agricultural establishment,” says Rachael Winfree, professor of ecology, evolution, and natural resources in Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, who was involved in the two new studies.
“There’s a widespread assumption that domestic honeybees are doing the job. This work shows that’s not true.”
The first study, published in Science, involved researchers from every continent but Antarctica, who visited 600 fields in which 41 varieties of crop were growing.
About 75 percent of food crops require pollination, making pollinators an essential part of food security. The researchers found that almost half that pollination is the work of wild pollinators, primarily wild bees, flies, and other insects.
The good news is that farmers can keep wild pollinators abundant by leaving a bit of natural habitat around their fields—patches of wildflowers, some hedgerows, or anything that gives wild bees a place to live, Winfree says.
“Farms with a little bit of natural habitat are more sustainable in terms of their pollination,” she says. She adds that farms using pesticides and insecticides tend to have fewer pollinators than those that don’t.
Bumble bee losses
The second study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examines historical changes in the population of wild bees in the northeastern United States and southern Canada. Winfree and colleagues used web-based software to compile 30,000 museum specimen records representing 438 bee species.
The researchers looked at “species richness”—the number of species of bee in a specific region—and how it changed over time. They used museum records that go back to 1872.
They found that wild bees as a whole had suffered some species losses but that these declines were moderate—about 15 percent of the more than 400 species over the 140 years.
Bumble bee colonies, on the other hand, are disappearing. Since 1872, according to the PNAS study, the number of bumble bee species in the northeastern United States and southern Canada has declined about 30 percent.
Winners and losers
Since, as Winfree and her many co-authors find in the Science paper, wild pollinators are key to successful pollination of agricultural crops, a 30 percent loss in species richness is bad news. This is especially true of bumble bees. “They’re very important,” Winfree says. “They’re big and hairy and carry a lot of pollen.”
While the PNAS paper doesn’t offer reasons for the loss in species richness for bumble bees or other bees, the authors point out that non-native species of wild bees seem to be doing better than those native to North America. There is some indication that climate change may play a role, since bees long associated with the south seem to be moving north.
“Environmental change affects species differentially,” says Ignasi Bartomeus, a former member of Winfree’s lab and now a postdoctoral scholar at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Stockholm.
“It creates ‘losers’ that decline with increased human activity, but also ‘winners’ that thrive in human-altered environments.”
Additional researchers from University of Leeds, Michigan State University, University of Queensland, and Cornell University contributed to the paper in Science, among others. The paper in PNAS includes additional authors from Rutgers and Cornell University.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – In a face-to-face final cyberbattle, one unlikely Brit proved the ultimate weapon against an attack on a Formula One Team.
The Cyber Security Challenge UK -- essentially the Olympics of cybergames -- aims to locate the next generation of tech whiz kids. The year-long tournament identifies hidden cyber talent from all walks of life to defend the country from hackers, cyberattacks and computer viruses.
In its third year, the games kicked off with more than 10,000 registered contestants who were eventually weeded down to just 40 of the very best.
The final forty had to navigate several online and face-to-face competitions over the past year to claim the prize. Qualifying rounds included the Sophos “Malware Hunt,” QinetiQ’s “Command and Control" and GCHQ’s “Balancing the defense.”
The Formula One battle held this past weekend was something else.
In the “Masterclass” developed by HP and Cassidian Cyber Security, competitors were required to grapple with highly realistic threats that a wide spectrum of government and industry regularly face.
Set in the glamorous world of motor sports, the challenge scenario depicts F1 Widgets, a fictitious supplier to a Formula 1 racing team that was hacked in the lead up to a big race.
F1 Widgets provided essential diagnostic equipment and communication between the pit crew and the Formula 1 car engine management system. Any vulnerability or compromise could adversely impact the safety and security of the race.
In the lead up to the race, a customer also suspects that someone tampered with the equipment F1 Widget provided.
The competitors conducted an investigation into F1 Widgets’ IT infrastructure to determine whether there had been a security breach. Their task: to spot malicious attacks and come up with the best solutions to fix them.
HP developed the second half of the Masterclass, focused on the security policy in place at the company. Competitors had to review current cyberpolicies across the departments in the lead up to a race and identify any potential vulnerabilities.
An unlikely superhero emerged from the competition: Stephen Miller, a 28 year-old pharmaceutical company employee without any formal security training.
“To succeed in this competition and become the UK’s new cybersecurity champion, Stephen has had to demonstrate not only exceptional technical skills but also an ability to relate them to a common business scenario,” HP’s UK Public Sector Cyber Lead Jonathan Bathurst explained.
“This requires an ability to weigh up risk, take into account budgets and operational limitations and be able to present a coherent case to a non-technical audience with sensible measures that are in the best interest of the organization for the future.”
Miller won his choice of prizes worth more than $150,000 plus opportunities for paid internships and the offer of university scholarships.
“Stephen’s success in the Challenge, as a chemist with no formal training in this profession, is a powerful demonstration of the hidden talent that exists in people from across all types of professional backgrounds,” Cyber Security Challenge UK CEO Stephanie Daman said. “Identifying and nurturing this talent is vital.”
The organizers announced a number of new initiatives and competitions for the fourth iteration of the Challenge. These include student cybercamps as well as more competitions from mobile forensics and incident response through to malware identification and software vulnerabilities.
They also introduced a Cyber Security Challenge app with a brand new cipher available on the iTunes store for iOS and Android. It will provide regular competitions, Challenge news and guidance on cybersecurity careers. It launched with a brand new cipher from PwC immediately ready to play.
Cyber Security Challenge UK is an exemplary way to cultivate cyberwarriors -- and a similar program on U.S. soil is long overdue.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –North Korea has built a huge "security perimeter" around a camp for political prisoners, restricting movement in nearby villages as part of its "general repression" of its people, according to Amnesty International, the London-based rights watchdog.
The reclusive country's network of political prison camps is believed to hold at least 200,000 people and has been the scene of rapes, torture, executions and slave labour, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in January.
Analysis of new satellite images of the area near Camp No 14 in Kaechon shows that the government is "blurring the lines" between its camps and surrounding civilians, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The images show that between 2006 and 2013, North Korea has constructed 20km of posts around the Choma-Bong valley and its inhabitants, along with checkpoints and guard towers, the group said in a statement voicing fears about government intentions for the valley, 70km north of the capital Pyongyang.
"The security and control adjacent to Camp 14 shows the degree to which general repression and restrictions on the right to liberty of movement have become commonplace in North Korea," Rajiv Narayan, North Korea researcher for Amnesty International, said.
UN inquiry urged
The London-based group called on the UN Human Rights Council, holding its main annual session in Geneva, Switzerland, to launch an international commission of inquiry into grave and systematic violations "including crimes against humanity".
North Korea denies the existence of a network of camps.
A similar UN investigation similar to the one Amnesty International is demanding, made up of independent experts, has said it is documenting war crimes committed by both sides in Syria's conflict so as to build a case for future prosecution.
Pillay, who met two North Korean camp survivors in December, has called for an independent investigation into "one of the worst - but least understood and reported - human rights situations".
Concerns about abuses in the impoverished country have persisted for years, but have been largely overshadowed in international forums by fears over North Korea's attempts to become a nuclear weapons power.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote later on Thursday on a draft resolution in response to North Korea's third underground nuclear test last month.
Amnesty International commissioned DigitalGlobe to take the images and help with their analysis following reports of the possible construction of a new political prison camp adjacent to Camp No 14 in Kaechon, South Pyongyan province.
"We expected to find a new or expanded prison camp. What we found is in some ways even more worrisome," Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, said.
The security perimeter beyond what appears to be the formal boundaries of Camp 14 blurs the line between people in the prison system known as Kwan-li-so and civilians, he said.
'Forced hard labour'
New buildings that appear to house workers are probably linked to expanded mining activity in the region, Amnesty International said.
"Many of those held in political prison camps have not committed any crime, but are related to those deemed unfriendly to the regime and detained as a form of collective punishment," it said.
The prisoners face human rights violations including "forced hard labour, denying food as punishment, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment".
Japan and the US called last week for the Security Council to launch an inquiry into alleged violations including torture and execution of political prisoners in North Korea.
The UN body already has an independent investigator on North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, who has said a wider inquiry should examine personal and institutional accountability for crimes.
Activists hope the forum adopts a resolution on North Korea by consensus now that neither China nor Russia are members.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –In a fresh round of cyberwarfare accusations, the Chinese Defense Ministry said two of the country’s major military sites endured about 144,000 hacking attacks a month last year, two-thirds of which originated in the United States.
"The Defense Ministry and China Military Online websites have faced a serious threat from hacking attacks since they were established, and the number of hacks has risen steadily in recent years," ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng said Thursday.
"According to the IP addresses, the Defense Ministry and China Military Online websites were, in 2012, hacked on average from overseas 144,000 times a month, of which attacks from the US accounted for 62.9 percent," he added.
The Chinese official also said that the US has been unhelpful in efforts at international cooperation against hacking: "We hope that the US side can explain and clarify this."
Earlier this month, US security firm Mandiant said that the Chinese military were likely behind a large number of hacking attacks against US targets. Mandiant claimed that the Shanghai-based Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army was the driving force behind the hacking; China has denied the allegations.
The war of words comes as the US ramps up its cybersecurity and cyber-attack capabilities. Earlier, numerous US officials claimed that Chinese hackers were a major threat to both national security and US commercial interests.
Some experts believe the US is exploiting the rhetoric of China as a cyber-threat as part of its mounting rivalry with the ascendant Asian nation.
"I think what we’re looking at is part of this Obama pivot to focus on China and to paint China as a new military threat to the world,” geopolitical analyst William Engdahl told RT. “It’s a demonization of China.”
So far, the only public case of cyber-weapons being used for geopolitical ends is the alleged attack by American and Israeli hackers on an Iranian uranium enrichment facility. While neither nation has officially acknowledged using the Stuxnet virus to damage centrifuges at the Natanz plant, the so-called ‘Olympic Games’ operation was widely reported by international media, citing anonymous government sources.-www.shfaqna.com/English