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World of the News: Hard Pill to Swallow

Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Hard Pill to Swallow, News, Socially Engineered, Standout, That Human Condition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on World of the News: Hard Pill to Swallow

“We live in strange times” a quote that has truly lived through the test of time, each generation seems to have blurted this almost useless phrase since pelt clad artists scribbled on the walls of caves in Lascaux.

What’s changed, clearly quite a lot, but not so much! “News travels fast” now there’s a quote we can stick with, that along with Hard Pill to Swallow and you’ve pretty much got a round-up on what news is . . .

Week 1, November 2011



Carlos the Jackal Boasts of Civilian Deaths

Venezuelan militant Carlos the Jackal, who goes on trial in France later today, has boasted in an interview with the daily El Nacional of committing more than 100 attacks that claimed up to 2,000 lives. Asked about civilian bystanders who lost their lives in his attacks, the Marxist-Leninist radical said: “There were very few. I calculated that they were fewer than 10 per cent. “So out of 1,500 – 2,000 killed, there were not more than 200 civilian victims.” The 62-year-old former member of the leftist Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two French policemen and an informant in 1975. Carlos, born in 1949, rose to prominence in 1975 when his commando group burst into the conference room where ministers from the powerful OPEC oil cartel were meeting in Vienna, taking 11 of them hostage. He is now on trial for 1982 and 1983 attacks billed as part of a private war Carlos waged against France to free two comrades, including his future wife, who were arrested in Paris while planning to attack the Kuwaiti embassy. Carlos told El Nacional that “more than 100” attacks were carried out under his “coordination”; he said he could boast of the results because they were “very well executed”. Asked if he believed that he had made mistakes, Carlos said his crimes were minor. He charged that former Cuban president Fidel Castro “killed more people” The latest trial relates to a series of bombings that left at least 11 people dead in France in the 1980s.

“Terrorism is going to exist as long as imperialists dominated the world; I am the enemy of terrorists like the United States and Israel,” Carlos said.


The has US accused China and Russia of economic espionage. The unusually blunt congressional report out of Washington has accused China and Russia of being the worst perpetrators of economic cyber espionage. The report includes information from US intelligence agencies and says China and Russia target computer networks at US government agencies, private corporations and universities, stealing US technology. It says the cyber attacks represent a growing threat to national security. Congress has been told China is the most persistent perpetrator of economic espionage and that rival intelligence agencies often use independent hackers. The study does not quantify how much the stolen research costs the US.

State of the Nation

The number of Americans in neighbourhoods affected by extreme poverty has grown by a third over the past decade. The disturbing finding comes in a study by The Brookings Institution. It says poverty is an increasingly acute problem in the industrial midwest, where the number of Americans living in communities of extreme poverty has nearly doubled. In Detroit nearly one in four are living in impoverished neighbourhoods, defined as areas where at least 40 per cent of residents live below the poverty line. Communities in Texas and Louisiana recorded the biggest jump in acute poverty numbers. Brookings estimates between 2000 and 2010, America’s extreme poverty neighborhoods have grown in size by more than 2 million people. More Americans are living in poverty than at any time in the past 50 years, according to the latest US Census Bureau report. The figures paint a grim picture, with 46.2 million Americans, or just over 15 per cent of the total population, now living below the poverty line. Another 2.5 million Americans slipped below the poverty line – measured as an income of $US22,000 for a family of four – last year. The typical US household now earns less than it did in 1997. America’s child poverty rate has also climbed to 22 per cent. More than a quarter of black and Hispanic Americans are now living in poverty, compared with 10 per cent of white Americans.

Related: Twelve months out from the 2012 presidential election, a new poll shows Barack Obama’s approval rating is in the doldrums and Americans are deeply pessimistic about their economy. The Washington Post survey shows Mr Obama’s approval rating running at 44 per cent, 10 points below any of the previous four presidents at the same point in their presidencies. The economy and jobs are far and away the top issues on the minds of US voters, with nearly three quarters of those surveyed believing their country is on the wrong track. The only good news for Mr Obama is that the approval rating for Republicans in Congress is even lower. Eight in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the way their federal government is working.

Out of Africa

Zimbabwe police bust gang of sperm harvesters Police in Zimbabwe believe they have broken up a gang of women rapists who threatened or drugged their male victims in a series of crimes stretching nationwide over the past year. Authorities say they arrested three women in possession of 31 used condoms. The women have been remanded in custody after their accusers picked them out in a police line-up. The first stories of women assaulting men emerged two years ago. Ever since, hardly a week has gone by without another report. The stories have all been similar – men offered a lift by women driving expensive vehicles, only to find themselves sexually assaulted at gunpoint and their sperm harvested before being set free. The arrests came after a vehicle being driven by the boyfriend of one of the women was involved in an accident. The women arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, telling police they had to retrieve something from the car. Police say they are not exactly sure why the women have been harvesting sperm at gunpoint but there has been a lot of speculation that it is for use in traditional medicine.

State of the Press

A journalist from the Sun Newspaper in London has been arrested on suspicion of having made illegal payments to police officers. Police investigating events at the News of the World tabloid after a phone hacking scandal said they had arrested a 48-year-old in connection with payments made to police. A spokesman for News Corp’s British newspaper arm News International confirmed an employee had been arrested. Two company sources identified the man as senior Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt, a journalist who covered the 2002 kidnap and murder of British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, a case which played a key part in the hacking scandal this year. Pyatt is responsible for one of the UK’s most sensational tabloid front pages – a story accompanied by a photograph of Prince Harry at a fancy dress party posing as a Nazi officer. The Sun is Britain’s biggest selling daily newspaper selling more than 2.7 million copies a day and is the sister paper to the 168-year-old weekly News of the World, which News Corp shut down at the height of the storm in July.

News Corp was forced to act after its long-held defence that hacking was carried out by one “rogue” reporter collapsed, in part over the revelation that it had hacked into the phone of the missing Dowler and deleted her messages, giving her family false hope that she was still alive. News of the arrest of a Sun journalist will come as a blow to the group, which has consistently argued that the illegal practices of snooping on people’s phone messages and paying off the police were restricted to the News of the World.

The scandal has infuriated News Corp minority shareholders, forced the resignations of top British police officers and embarrassed prime minister David Cameron who had hired the former editor of the News of the World as his media adviser. The revelations have also led to a string of police inquiries and civil court cases. The group has agreed to pay out 2 million pounds ($3 million) to the Dowler family and Rupert Murdoch will give 1 million pounds to charity.

Hacking Investigation: A spokesman for police investigating the hacking at the News of the World said they believed the number of people targeted for phone message eavesdropping was almost 5,800, some 2,000 more than originally thought. Investigations into whether journalists paid police for information stemmed from the original hacking investigation. The full scale of the problem means News Corp is likely to face a much larger bill for compensation of victims than it had originally anticipated. The group said this week the cost of the News of the World closure would run to $91 million, mainly from employee severance charges. It declined to clarify what amount had been reserved for future legal cases. News of the Sun journalist’s arrest put News Corp back in the spotlight at a time when it is trying to move on, making payments to charity and dismissing staff. News International said on Friday it had launched a compensation scheme with a website as a faster and more cost effective alternative to court litigation with High Court judge Charles Gray acting as an independent adjudicator. James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and head of News Corp’s Europe and Asia operations, is due to appear next week before the powerful parliamentary committee investigating the scandal.


Finding seclusion in a world of 7 billion: Escaping in a world of 7 billion people is becoming increasingly difficult, but in Australia – one of the least densely populated countries – seclusion still exists. The global population passed the 7 billion milestone this week and is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050. Hayman Island on the Great Barrier Reef is about eight kilometres in circumference, with a population of just a few hundred. Photographer Lisa Burns, 27, has lived there for the past two years. Here she paints a picture of what it’s like in one of the Earth’s few remaining pockets without people. READ MORE of Amy Simmons at ABC: www.abc.net.au

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