#BentBritain: #UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications!

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications ~ and , The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2015.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Sami al Saadi
The admission comes ahead of a legal challenge brought on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, over allegations that security services unlawfully intercepted their communications with lawyers.  Photograph: PA & AFP

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.

A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.

“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.

“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.

“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.

“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”

Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.

An updated draft interception code of practice spelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.

The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.

The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.

Exchanges between lawyers and their clients enjoy a special protected status under UK law. Following exposure of widespread monitoring by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Belhaj’s lawyers feared that their exchanges with their clients could have been compromised by GCHQ’s interception of phone conversations and emails.

To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.

The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”

The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.

Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.

“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.

“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”


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#Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the #West’s modern crimes!

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes ~ Ben White, The Nation, February 14, 2015.

Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.

Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.

Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.

Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.

Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.

“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.

In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.

One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.

The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.

In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.

He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”

Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.

Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.

Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”

Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.

When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.

When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.

In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.

It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.

In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.

The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.

Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.

Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.

As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.

The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.

The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.

Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes
Pep Montserrat for The National

| The Killing of Tony Blair ~ George Galloway MP

The Killing of Tony Blair ~ George Galloway MP, Kickstarter.

“Some people make a living, others make a killing” – an exclusive new documentary on Tony Blair which will break unexplored ground.

I’m making the definitive documentary about the Blair years. Years of war and plunder, death and destruction, corruption and disillusion. Tony Blair killed the Labour Party as we knew it. He and George W. Bush helped kill a million people in disastrous wars and Blair is currently making a financial killing out of both.

He's making 'a killing', out of killing.
He’s making ‘a killing’, out of killing.

In 2003, I was expelled from the Labour Party over my outspoken opposition to Bush and Blair’s war in Iraq. I promised that until the last day of my life I would go on fighting to put Tony Blair on trial, a real trial in The Hague, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This documentary, the mother of all documentaries, will expose Blair’s crimes.

This documentary will not be another sterile chronicle of the Blair years. I witnessed his mendacity firsthand and am able to offer you the inside story. I will pull no punches in going toe to toe with those in the upper echelons of New Labour; the likes of Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell are all in my sights and so are the big business bankers he consults for. There is no doubt that the debates will be heated. But from that heat will come light.

Outside one of Tony Blair's many houses. Photo by Louis Leeson
Outside one of Tony Blair’s many houses. Photo by Louis Leeson

I need your help to launch this film. We are trying to raise £50,000 here on this site. This target is the absolute bare minimum we need to complete the research and filming. In total, we will need more than twice that amount to purchase further archive materials, distribute and market the documentary. We are confident that a successful Kickstarter campaign will empower us to match funds from other sources.

This is an all-or-nothing platform. If we don’t raise the full £50,000 in just 40 days, no money changes hands. I hope you will want to be a part of this. You can be the difference to help make history, stop Blair in his tracks, halt his profiteering, and bring him to some kind of justice. It is an ambitious project, but it is not beyond us.

Thank you,

George Galloway MP

The film will look at how Blair rose without trace to hijack the Labour Party and to fly it to destruction. At how a million people lie dead as a result of the Blair era. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and even on the streets of western capitals, like London and Madrid. At how he feathered the beds of the rich and powerful and how finally, upon leaving office, he ruthlessly exploited his Downing Street contacts and climbed into those feathered beds himself. His Faustian pact with the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the bankers and the City slickers will be laid bare.

This film will break new and unexplored ground with never before seen footage, exclusive interviews and penetrating commentary. In addition, diplomats, investigative journalists, well-known artists and activists, as well as victims of the Blair era will all participate.

Photo by Louis Leeson
Photo by Louis Leeson

A top-notch technical team and a host of dedicated volunteers are working hard to make this project happen. The film is currently in the pre-production stage and our team is carrying out research, collecting footage and securing interviews. Funds will be exclusively used for the making of this documentary. The more you donate the better our film can be. Exceeding our target would enable us to purchase further archive footage, film overseas and settle post production costs.

This film will be kickstarted by you, the people, who want to see the truth told and justice done. By pledging to fund this film you will be securing a ringside seat for the heavyweight bout of the decade, helping to expose one of the scandals of the century. Donate now and you could be recognised as one of those who helped bring about the downfall of Tony Blair.

In addition to making your valued donations there are more ways you can help us. We are always on the lookout for new audio-visual material and would gratefully accept contributions of photographs and footage pertinent to the subject matter of the film (you must own the rights to the material). If you work in the creative industries and would like to lend your expertise, equipment or facilities we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact us at: theblairdoc@gmail.com

Tracking down Tony, day 1. Photo by Louis Leeson.
Tracking down Tony, day 1. Photo by Louis Leeson.

We have a large selection of rewards and gifts available for anyone who makes a pledge to help get this film made. Here are a few examples of some of the great rewards we have available.

You can have your name appear in a special ‘Thank You’ section in the credits, or have access to an exclusive and early online screening . You can be rewarded with a rare and limited edition ‘special backers’ DVD signed by George Galloway MP with behind the scenes footage or get a limited edition documentary poster signed by George Galloway MP. Also available are ‘Send Blair to the Hague’ t-shirts.

You can be invited to the advance private screening of the documentary in London with a Q&A session with George Galloway MP, or have a chance to speak to George Galloway MP through a thank you Skype call

You can secure limited behind the scene access at one of our production shoots, which will allow you to meet our film crew and speak to George Galloway Face to face. We are also giving away exclusive tickets to the film’s premiere and an exclusive VIP private dinner with George Galloway MP.

Associating your name with justice by donating £5000 will get you listed as an Executive Producer in the opening and closing credits of the film. Your name will also be displayed on the DVD Packaging and on our official website. Your name will be at the forefront of our campaign!

Please ‘Like’, ‘Share’ & ‘Tweet’ about this project, The more people who hear about our campaign the more chance we have of raising the necessary funds to make this documentary possible. FacebookTwitter

Photo by Christopher Cottrell - Artwork by Joe Cook
Photo by Christopher Cottrell – Artwork by Joe Cook

Risks and challengesLearn about accountability on Kickstarter

As with any documentary, there are risks and challenges that may arise over the course of the production of this film. Two of our biggest challenges will be finalising the documentary in the foreseen timeline as well as reaching our financial target.

This is a very ambitious project, hoping to reveal information not yet seen or told before. Without a doubt there are certain people who may want to obstruct our work given the contents of the film. In addition, given the investigative nature of the documentary, we are cognisant that during the making of the film we may come across new facts and information that will warrant additional research. For this reason, a challenge will be to try and complete the documentary in the scheduled timescale, while allowing flexibility to improve it through further research or new interviewees. Newly found information can also influence the financing of the film, as further costly archive footage may need to be purchased or new shooting locations may need to be visited. We firmly believe that these challenges will be overcome and we will not make any compromises with regard to the quality of this documentary.

The timescale we have set for the delivery of rewards is a rough estimate and we will do all we can to give them to you at the indicated time. Delivery of some of the rewards, however, could directly be affected by delays we may encounter while making the documentary. Please rest assured that we will of course make sure that the rewards are delivered and that our team will do its upmost to send them to you as soon as possible.

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn’t help, you can ask the project creator directly.

Ask a question

The Killing of Tony Blair- A Message From George Galloway:

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| False pretenses: These False Flags were used to start a War!

These False Flags Were Used To Start A War  ~ Zero Hedge.

Just in case one’s history textbook had a few extra pages ripped out, this may be a good time to recall just how far one’s government is willing to go to start a war under false pretenses.

Below is a partial list of some of the documented “false flag” events that were intended and/or served to start a war in recent and not so recent history.

 

Franco-Prussian War

Otto von Bismarck waved a “red flag” in front of the “gallic bull” by re-editing a telegram from the Prussian King so that it appeared as though the King had insulted a French ambassador during a time of extremely tense French-German international relations. The telegram is known as the Ems Dispatch. It helped encourage the states to go to war.

 

Russo-Swedish War

In 1788, a head tailor of the Royal Swedish Opera received an order to sew a number of Russian military uniforms that later were used in an exchange of gunfire at Puumala, a Swedish outpost on the Russo-Swedish border, on June 27, 1788. The staged attack, which caused an outrage in Stockholm, was to convince the Riksdag of the Estates and to provide the Swedish king Gustav III with an excuse to declare a “defensive” war on Russia. This was important since the king did not have constitutional right to start offensive war without agreement of the estates who had already made clear that their acceptance would not be forthcoming.

 

Spanish–American War, i.e, the Sinking of the USS Maine

The sinking of the USS Maine on 15 February 1898 in Havana harbor was initially thought to be caused by an external mine exploded under the ship. This belief roused anti-Spanish sentiment in the United States and helped catalyze the Spanish–American War later that same year. In 1911 an extensive study was made of the wreck, and again an external mine was believed to be the cause. In 1976 a team of naval explosive experts re?examined the earlier evidence and concluded that the likeliest cause of the sinking was an internal explosion caused by spontaneous combustion of fuel coal stored in a bunker next to a magazine holding more than 5 short tons (4.5 t) of powder charges for the guns. Despite this analysis, some observers believe that the explosion was caused by a U.S. agent for the purpose of angering the U.S. populace and initiating the war which followed. Cuban politician and former director of the national library Eliades Acosta claims that “powerful economic interests” in the United States were probably responsible not only for the sinking of the Maine but for the assassination of three 19th-century U.S. presidents, beginning with Abraham Lincoln.

The Mukden incident in September 1931 involved Japanese officers fabricating a pretext for annexing Manchuria by blowing up a section of railway. In fact the explosion was so weak that the line was unaffected. Six years later in 1937 they falsely claimed the kidnapping of one of their soldiers in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident as an excuse to invade China proper.

 

Reichstag fire

The Reichstag fire was an arson attack on the Reichstag building in Berlin on 27 February 1933. The fire started in the Session Chamber, and, by the time the police and firemen arrived, the main Chamber of Deputies was engulfed in flames. Police searched the building and found Marinus van der Lubbe, a young, Dutch council communist and unemployed bricklayer who had recently arrived in Germany, ostensibly to carry out political activities.

The fire was used as evidence by the Nazis that the Communists were beginning a plot against the German government. Van der Lubbe and four Communist leaders were subsequently arrested. Adolf Hitler, who was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany four weeks before, on 30 January, urged President Paul von Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree to counter the “ruthless confrontation of the Communist Party of Germany”. With civil liberties suspended, the government instituted mass arrests of Communists, including all of the Communist parliamentary delegates. With their bitter rival Communists gone and their seats empty, the National Socialist German Workers Party went from being a plurality party to the majority; subsequent elections confirmed this position and thus allowed Hitler to consolidate his power.

Historians disagree as to whether Van der Lubbe acted alone, as he said, to protest the condition of the German working class, or whether the arson was planned and ordered by the Nazis, then dominant in the government themselves, as a false flag operation. The responsibility for the Reichstag fire remains an ongoing topic of debate and research.

 

The Gleiwitz Incident

The Gleiwitz incident in 1939 involved Reinhard Heydrich fabricating evidence of a Polish attack against Germany to mobilize German public opinion for war, to establish casus belli, and to justify the war with Poland. Alfred Naujocks was a key organiser of the operation under orders from Heydrich. It led to the deaths of innocent Nazi concentration camp victims who were dressed as German soldiers and then shot by the Gestapo to make it seem that they had been shot by Polish soldiers. This, along with other false flag operations in Operation Himmler, would be used to mobilize support from the German population for the start of World War II in Europe.

 

Winter War

In 1939 the Red Army shelled Mainila, a Russian town near the Finnish border. Soviet authorities blamed Finland for the attack and used the incident as a pretext to start the Winter War four days later.

 

Kassa attack

The Kassa attack in 1941 involved the city of Kassa, today Košice (Slovakia), which was then part of Hungary, being bombed by three unidentified planes of apparently Soviet origin. This attack became the pretext for the government of Hungary to declare war on the Soviet Union.

 

Operation Ajax

The replacement of Iran’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company with five American oil companies and the 1953 Iranian coup d’état was the consequence of the U.S. and British-orchestrated false flag operation, Operation Ajax. Operation Ajax used political intrigue, propaganda, and agreements with Qashqai tribal leaders to depose the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddeq. Information regarding the CIA-sponsored coup d’etat has beenlargely declassified and is available in the CIA archives.

 

Operation Northwoods

The planned, but never executed, 1962 Operation Northwoods plot by the U.S. Department of Defense for a war with Cuba involved scenarios such as fabricating the hijacking or shooting down of passenger and military planes, sinking a U.S. ship in the vicinity of Cuba, burning crops, sinking a boat filled with Cuban refugees, attacks by alleged Cuban infiltrators inside the United States, and harassment of U.S. aircraft and shipping and the destruction of aerial drones by aircraft disguised as Cuban MiGs. These actions would be blamed on Cuba, and would be a pretext for an invasion of Cuba and the overthrow of Fidel Castro’s communist government. It was authored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but then rejected by President John F. Kennedy. The surprise discovery of the documents relating to Operation Northwoods was a result of the comprehensive search for records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by the Assassination Records Review Board in the mid-1990s. Information about Operation Northwoods was later publicized by James Bamford.

 

Gulf of Tonkin incident

The Gulf of Tonkin incident (or the USS Maddox incident) is the name given to two separate confrontations involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The first event occurred on August 2, 1964, between the destroyer USS Maddox and three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron. The second was originally claimed by the U.S. National Security Agency to have occurred on August 4, 1964, as another sea battle, but instead may have involved “Tonkin Ghosts” (false radar images) and not actual NVN torpedo boat attacks.

The outcome of these two incidents was the passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be jeopardized by “communist aggression.” The resolution served as Johnson’s legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.

In 2005, an internal National Security Agency historical study was declassified; it concluded that the Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese Navy on August 2, but that there were no North Vietnamese Naval vessels present during the incident of August 4. The Gulf of Tonkin incident has long been accused of being a false flag operation, but this judgment remains in dispute.

 

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false flagA

 

FalseEntitlementA

False accusationA

| Racism: Italy’s first black minister: I had bananas thrown at me but I’m here to stay!

Italy’s first black minister: I had bananas thrown at me but I’m here to stay ~  in RomeThe Observer.

Cécile Kyenge has faced racist insults and threats, but insists she will not be deterred from her plans for integrating immigrants.

Cecile Kyenge, Italy's minister for intergration

Cécile Kyenge pushed for greater rights for immigrants before winning a seat in the Italian parliament in February. Photograph: Nick Cornish/Rex Features

Three mannequins stained with fake blood were dumped last week outside a town hall where Cécile Kyenge was due to make a speech, the latest in a stream of racist protests and insults aimed by furious Italians at the country’s first black government minister.

After being likened to an orangutan by a former government minister and having bananas thrown at her while on a podium, it is getting tougher for Congo-born Kyenge, 49, to keep up her oft-repeated mantra that Italy is a tolerant country – but she is trying hard.

“I have never said Italy is racist, every country needs to start building awareness of immigration and Italy has simply arrived very late,” she said on the day the mannequins were discovered.

Judging by the venom directed at Kyenge since she was named minister for integration in April, Italy needs to do some fast catching up as the ranks of foreign residents in the country swell to around four million, about 7% of the population.

But from her office in Rome, Kyenge insisted that children growing up in Italy’s burgeoning melting pot are free from the prejudices of their parents. “It’s easier for the young who have grown up with a different mentality, who have come across people from other places,” she said. “If you ask a child in a class who is their friend, it is more likely he will say ‘the one with the green jumper’ rather than ‘the black one’.”

That is not quite how Forza Nuova, the far-right party that left the Ku Klux Klan-style mannequins at the town hall, sees things. Kyenge’s work on behalf of immigrants, said party member Pablo de Luca, was aimed at “the destruction of the national identity”.

Such views are keenly shared by members of the Northern League, Italy’s anti-immigrant party, which propped up Silvio Berlusconi‘s government until it collapsed in 2011.

MEP Mario Borghezio set the ball rolling in May by claiming that Kyenge would impose “tribal conditions” on Italy and help form a “bongo-bongo” administration. Africans, he added for good measure, had “not produced great genes”.

In June, a local councillor for the party called for Kyenge to be raped, while in July Roberto Calderoli, a party member and former Berlusconi minister, compared her to an orangutan before bananas were lobbed at her as she made a speech.

To top a vituperative summer, a rightwing deputy mayor in Liguria compared Kyenge on his Facebook page to the prostitutes – often African – who line a local road, while a well-known Italian winemaker, Fulvio Bressan, shocked wine lovers by reportedly calling Kyenge a “dirty black monkey”.

It has been a tough reception for a woman who moved to Italy to work as a home help while she trained to become an ophthalmologist, marrying an Italian man and plunging into local politics in Modena to push for greater rights for immigrants before winning a seat in parliament in February.

“When I arrived in 1983, I was one of the few; I was a curiosity. Then, in the 1990s, when mass immigration started, immigrants began to be seen as a threat,” she said, recalling patients who had refused to be visited by her. “The process needed to be accompanied by more information in the media, in schools, better laws.”

A shock survey in 2008 found that when people were asked who they found “barely likeable or not likeable at all”, 81% of Italians mentioned Gypsies, 61% said Arabs, 64% said Romanians and 74% opted for Albanians.

Then came the crippling economic downturn, which sliced 15% off Italy’s manufacturing sector, pushed the unemployment rate up to 12% and further hardened perceptions of “job-stealing” migrants.

What is really upsetting the Northern League is Kyenge’s work to overhaul Italy’s citizenship law, which currently forces the children of migrants born in Italy to wait until they are 18 before they can apply to become Italians, leaving a generation of children growing up feeling like Italians, talking local dialects like Italians, but unable to be Italian.

It has been dubbed the “Balotelli generation”, after black footballer Mario Balotelli – who was born to Ghanaian parents in Sicily and is now a mainstay in the Italian national team, but has faced stadium chants of “a negro cannot be Italian”.

Kyenge points out that she is not pushing for a US-style law that hands a passport to anyone born in the country, but for a toned-down version that would require the child’s parents to have spent some time in Italy or to have taken integration courses.

Meanwhile, she has backed new measures simplifying the bureaucratic nightmare faced by the children of immigrants, who have one year to complete a blizzard of paperwork needed to gain a passport when they turn 18. “You have from the age of 18 to 19 to apply and requests are often turned down due to a few missing documents,” she said.

It is just part of an ambitious programme to which the soft-spoken Kyenge has committed herself, stretching from working on housing issues for nomad families to inter-religious dialogue designed to make it easier for Italians to adopt overseas.

Her key task, she said, is convincing a country that has no shortage of culture – from its food to its art – that there is always room for more. “Diversity, sharing something you don’t have, offers a huge amount,” she said.

Turning to her own field, medicine, she said: “There are small examples of foreign customs which are being adopted by hospitals, like carrying your baby on your back, which can help children with ankle ailments as well as increasing physical contact with the parent while helping the posture of the parent.”

Critics have rounded on the fact that Kyenge’s father was polygamous, fathering 38 children by numerous wives, a custom she said she would not trying to encourage in Italy. “Let’s be clear,” she said, laughing, “this is a form of marriage I don’t agree with.”

Rather than threatening Italian traditions, Kyenge said the asylum-seekers now heading for Italy from sub-Saharan Africa and Syria could be taught to revive trades now being abandoned by Italians, especially if they were allowed to set up shop in the medieval hilltop villages that are rapidly being abandoned up and down the country.

Take, for example, the Calabrian town of Riace, which has reversed depopulation by welcoming the migrants landing on rickety boats after a perilous Mediterranean crossing and setting them up in trades such as dressmaking, joinery, pottery or glass-blowing.

“This is a good practice, using depopulated villages where there are many empty houses, where old farms, shops and workshops can be reopened,” said Kyenge, who visited Riace in August. “It offers a welcome to migrants, it’s good for the national economy and good for saving trades that risk disappearing.”

Back in Rome, as she works to get her message across, Kyenge is getting ready to dodge the next bunch of bananas as she continues to insist that Italy is not a racist country, just learning fast.

“Balotelli and I are both opening new paths in our fields,” she said, “and anyone who does that will face huge difficulties.”

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| Online trolling of women is linked to domestic violence, say campaigners!

Online trolling of women is linked to domestic violence, say campaigners ~ The Guardian.

Activists say abuse of women on sites such as Twitter should not be dismissed as harmless.

Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez

Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez, who will speak at a conference on tackling online abuse. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/PA

Online trolling against women is linked to domestic violence and abuse, experts have warned, and should not be dismissed as “obnoxious but harmless” behaviour.

Speaking before a conference on tackling online abuse, which will be attended by high-profile victims including the MP Stella Creasy and feminist writer and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the links between domestic violence and online abuse were too often ignored.

“It is critical that we make the link between this vicious online harassment and cyberbullying and real-life violence against women,” she said. “We need to understand that this is part of a domestic violence spectrum and we have to challenge this type of misogyny because it is the backdrop that allows that violence to take place.”

The “decimation” of domestic violence services was also leaving providers struggling to provide basic support to victims, and unable to tackle complex problems such as online abuse, she added.

Women’s Aid supports 350 services throughout the country. Its survey of 307 domestic violence survivors showed 48% had been harassed or abused online by their ex-partner once they had left the relationship and 38% reported online stalking. A further 45% were abused online during their relationship.

Three-quarters of women were concerned that police did not know how best to respond to online abuse or harassment, while 12% had reported abuse to the police and said they had not been helped.

The added pressure from online abuse on services to keep women safe comes during a difficult period for domestic violence charities, Neate warned. “We are seeing direct services decimated at a time when we need to invest in enabling them to respond to a new era. Greater access online is putting women at increasing risk of being tracked down by violent former partners – we live our lives online now and the structures in place to keep women safe in these spaces just haven’t caught up,” she said.

“Services are struggling to provide even basic care – how are they meant to cope with this new challenge? Services are being pared down to the bone and in danger of ceasing to exist at all.”

Criado-Perez, who will speak at the conference, said she felt a responsibility to push for change following the abuse she suffered after successfully campaigning to reinstate a woman on the back of an English banknote. “So many women got in touch to say they had been told not to ‘provoke’ attackers and thanked me for taking a stand,” she said. “You are told: ‘Don’t feed the trolls‘ – but that gives no consideration to the victim. It’s about policing the reaction of the victim … telling women to shut up and that there is nothing they can do about it.”

She added that online trolling was the “vocalisation of a culture where domestic violence is still hushed up and not spoken about, a culture where two women can die a week at the hands of an abusive partner or ex-partner and it’s not even shocking”. Criado-Perez added that there was a lack of political will to tackle the situation. “It’s not just about addressing social media, it’s about tackling a deep-seated cultural problem, which takes time and financial investment – and this government is just not interested in that,” she said.

Creasy, who is also speaking at the conference on Tuesday, said the protocol for dealing with online threats and abuse needed a total overhaul. “If I received a bomb threat through the post, there is a protocol for dealing with that, but if I receive it online there is nothing in place,” she said. “We have to challenge this attitude that women just have to learn how to deal with these online threats, that they should be ignored.”

The MP for Walthamstow, who received repeated rape threats on Twitterand has called for the site to implement an online “panic button”, said the trolling had to be recognised as abuse. “Of course it’s distressing to receive these threats. I was told my attacker would fuck my dead corpse – it’s grim. If people want to create worry and fear then that is worrying. I want the police and other services to be able to understand the impact of these messages. I don’t want them to tell me how to learn to cope – I want to hear they are doing something about it,” she said.

She called for more training for police and more action from tech companies on threats. “Just because tackling this is difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be pushing back. We have to say that this is not OK.”

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| Nelson Mandela still hospitalised despite reports!

Nelson Mandela Still Hospitalized Despite Reports ~

PRETORIA, South Africa, Aug. 31, 2013,

ROB NELSON via WORLD NEWS, abc,

South Africa awoke this morning to the unexpected and ultimately false news that iconic leader Nelson Mandela had been discharged from the hospital in Pretoria and returned to his home in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg.

The news stunned the country and threw the international media into a frenzy, with a small army of media outlets scrambling to his home to confirm the news and perhaps catch a glimpse of the ailing 95-year-old Mandela, who has been hospitalized since June 8 for a lung infection.

However, the early morning reports turned out to be a false alarm and prompted South Africa President Jacob Zuma to issue a statement Saturday, denying the media reports and assuring the public Mandela is still hospitalized and responding well to treatment.

Nelson Mandela Through the Years: See the Photos

A Mandela relative had apparently misunderstood her communication with one of Mandela’s doctors and erroneously believed he had been released.

The relative informed other family members, who, in turn, relayed the faulty information to the media.

In his Saturday statement, Zuma reiterated that Mandela’s condition sometimes becomes unstable but that he remains resilient and is being made comfortable.

Read: Nelson Mandela’s Illness Puts Spotlight on Palliative Care

There is still lingering confusion about when or if Mandela will be released, but his family has said in recent months he would prefer to die at home rather than in the hospital.

Because of the false news reports and increased speculation about a possible release, activity buzzed outside Mandela’s hospital in Pretoria, where international media have been camped out since he was admitted 85 days ago.

Several media outlets are now lined up outside of Mandela’s home in Johannesburg, where a few family members were spotted Saturday but nothing that suggested his arrival there is imminent.

Mandela: Father of Modern South Africa

Mandela, who turned 95 in July, remains an almost mythical figure in South Africa.

Read: South Africa Celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 95th Birthday

After his anti-apartheid efforts landed him in jail for 27 years, he was released in February 1990 and four years later was elected the country’s first black president and the first one elected by a full, non-racial democracy after the demise of apartheid.

He is widely considered the father of modern South Africa and one of the great towering political figures of the 20th century.

Nelson Mandela Turns 95: See the Photos

The admiration for Mandela is clear on the gates outside the hospital, which for several weeks have been adorned with posters, pictures and flowers in his honor.

The public fanfare that ensued shortly after Mandela went into the hospital earlier this summer has largely faded, with the country now in the midst of a long goodbye for its iconic leader.

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| The Real, Terrifying Reason Why British Authorities Detained David Miranda!

The Real, Terrifying Reason Why British Authorities Detained David Miranda ~ The Atlantic.

The scariest explanation of all? That the NSA and GCHQ are just showing they don’t want to be messed with.

Hobbes-Banner.jpg

Illustration from the original edition of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, by Abraham Bosse (1651)

Last Sunday, David Miranda was detained while changing planes at London Heathrow Airport by British authorities for nine hours under a controversial British law — the maximum time allowable without making an arrest. There has been much made of the fact that he’s the partner of Glenn Greenwald, theGuardian reporter whom Edward Snowden trusted with many of his NSA documents and the most prolific reporter of the surveillance abuses disclosed in those documents. There’s less discussion of what I feel was the real reason for Miranda’s detention. He was ferrying documents between Greenwald and Laura Poitras, a filmmaker and his co-reporter on Snowden and his information. These document were on several USB memory sticks he had with him. He had already carried documents from Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro to Poitras in Berlin, and was on his way back with different documents when he was detained.

The memory sticks were encrypted, of course, and Miranda did not know the key. This didn’t stop the British authorities from repeatedly asking for the key, and from confiscating the memory sticks along with his other electronics.

The incident prompted a major outcry in the U.K. The U.K.’s Terrorist Act has always been controversial, and this clear misuse — it was intended to give authorities the right to detain and question suspected terrorists — is promptingnew calls for its review. Certainly the U.K. police will be more reluctant to misuse the law again in this manner.

I have to admit this story has me puzzled. Why would the British do something like this? What did they hope to gain, and why did they think it worth the cost? And — of course — were the British acting on their own under the Official Secrets Act, or were they acting on behalf of the United States? (My initial assumption was that they were acting on behalf of the U.S., but after the bizarre story of the British GCHQ demanding the destruction of Guardian computers last month, I’m not sure anymore.)

We do know the British were waiting for Miranda. It’s reasonable to assume they knew his itinerary, and had good reason to suspect that he was ferrying documents back and forth between Greenwald and Poitras. These documents could be source documents provided by Snowden, new documents that the two were working on either separately or together, or both. That being said, it’s inconceivable that the memory sticks would contain the only copies of these documents. Poitras retained copies of everything she gave Miranda. So the British authorities couldn’t possibly destroy the documents; the best they could hope for is that they would be able to read them.

Is it truly possible that the NSA doesn’t already know what Snowden has? Theyclaim they don’t, but after Snowden’s name became public, the NSA would have conducted the mother of all audits. It would try to figure out what computer systems Snowden had access to, and therefore what documents he could have accessed. Hopefully, the audit information would give more detail, such as which documents he downloaded. I have a hard time believing that its internal auditing systems would be so bad that it wouldn’t be able to discover this.

So if the NSA knows what Snowden has, or what he could have, then the most it could learn from the USB sticks is what Greenwald and Poitras are currently working on, or thinking about working on. But presumably the things the two of them are working on are the things they’re going to publish next. Did the intelligence agencies really do all this simply for a few weeks’ heads-up on what was coming? Given how ham-handedly the NSA has handled PR as each document was exposed, it seems implausible that it wanted advance knowledge so it could work on a response. It’s been two months since the first Snowden revelation, and it still doesn’t have a decent PR story.

Furthermore, the U.K. authorities must have known that the data would be encrypted. Greenwald might have been a crypto newbie at the start of the Snowden affair, but Poitras is known to be good at security. The two have been communicating securely by e-mail when they do communicate. Maybe the U.K. authorities thought there was a good chance that one of them would make a security mistake, or that Miranda would be carrying paper documents.

Another possibility is that this was just intimidation. If so, it’s misguided. Anyone who regularly reads Greenwald could have told them that he would not have been intimidated — and, in fact, he expressed the exact opposite sentiment — and anyone who follows Poitras knows that she is even more strident in her views. Going after the loved ones of state enemies is a typically thuggish tactic, but it’s not a very good one in this case. The Snowden documents will get released. There’s no way to put this cat back in the bag, not even by killing the principal players.

It could possibly have been intended to intimidate others who are helping Greenwald and Poitras, or the Guardian and its advertisers. This will have some effect. LavabitSilent Circle, and now Groklaw have all been successfully intimidated. Certainly others have as well. But public opinion is shifting against the intelligence community. I don’t think it will intimidate future whistleblowers. If the treatment of Bradley Manning didn’t discourage them, nothing will.

This leaves one last possible explanation — those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger. They’re lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they’re not to be messed with — that the normal rules of polite conduct don’t apply to people who screw with them. That’s probably the scariest explanation of all. Both the U.S. and U.K. intelligence apparatuses have enormous money and power, and they have already demonstrated that they are willing to ignore their own laws. Once they start wielding that power unthinkingly, it could get really bad for everyone.

And it’s not going to be good for them, either. They seem to want Snowden so badly that that they’ll burn the world down to get him. But every time they act impulsively aggressive — convincing the governments of Portugal and France toblock the plane carrying the Bolivian president because they thought Snowden was on it is another example — they lose a small amount of moral authority around the world, and some ability to act in the same way again. The more pressure Snowden feels, the more likely he is to give up on releasing the documents slowly and responsibly, and publish all of them at once — the same way that WikiLeaks published the U.S. State Department cables.

Just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported on some new NSA secret programs that are spying on Americans. It got the information from “interviews with current and former intelligence and government officials and people from companies that help build or operate the systems, or provide data,” not from Snowden. This is only the beginning. The media will not be intimidated. I will not be intimidated. But it scares me that the NSA is so blind that it doesn’t see it.

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| How the Internet Makes Us Overshare!

How the Internet Makes Us Overshare , Pacific Standard.

Does the Web just make the loudest of us even louder—or is it changing the way we all see ourselves?

(PHOTO: GONZALO ARAGON/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Perhaps you’ve met a fellow dog walker at the park who, just six minutes into your first conversation, started talking about her teenage daughter’s menstrual cycle. Maybe you have a roommate who routinely shouts unsolicited updates from the bathroom every time he endures a marathon session on the toilet. These are oversharers. They comprise a certain percentage of the population that either doesn’t know what’s generally considered inappropriate to divulge—or simply doesn’t care.

When it comes to posting things on the Internet, however, it seems anyone and everyone is susceptible to oversharing. There’s apparently something alluring about filling those empty white boxes with embarrassing anecdotes—anecdotes that BuzzFeed then compiles and publishes in list form for everyone else to laugh at. Plus, judging by humor sites such as Lamebook, there doesn’t appear to be a scarcity of material to draw from, either. Even criminals can’t resist revealing incriminating evidence about themselves sometimes, and thus examples of TMI abound online.

Forging a personal identity, after all, is generally considered a collaborative effort.

But why? What compels us to tell the world with our fingers what we’d hesitate to utter in a room full of loved ones?

Social scientist and author Sherry Turkle thinks we’relosing a healthy sense of compartmentalization. Last year, researchers at Harvard found that the act of sharing our personal thoughts and feelings activates the brain’s neurochemical reward system in a bigger way than when we merely report the attitudes and opinions of others. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal asked around and concluded that our newfound urge to disclose is partially due to not only the erosion of private life through the proliferation of reality TV and social media, but also due to our subconscious attempts at controlling anxiety.

“This effort is known as ‘self regulation’ and here is how it works,” she writes. “When having a conversation, we can use up a lot of mental energy trying to manage the other person’s impression of us. We try to look smart, witty, and interesting, but the effort required to do this leaves less brain power to filter what we say and to whom.”

While all these viewpoints help us better understand the oversharing epidemic, they don’t exactly address how the Web itself entices us to expose information that we probably wouldn’t otherwise.

SOME OF THE LATEST research to directly tackle this issue comes from professor Russell W. Belk, chair in marketing at York University in Toronto. In his most recent paper, “Extended Self in a Digital World,” which will appear in the Journal of Consumer Research this October, Belk argues that our relationship with social media is gradually creating a more complex idea of who we think we are as individuals. Through Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube, whose former slogan was “Broadcast Yourself,” we construct our identities in a manner that has never before been possible.

“When we’re looking at the screen we’re not face-to-face with someone who can immediately respond to us, so it’s easier to let it all out—it’s almost like we’re invisible,” said Belk, of the so-called “disinhibition effect” that online sharing helps create. “The irony is that rather than just one person, there’s potentially thousands or hundreds of thousands of people receiving what we put out there.”

As for the consequences of these actions, Belk writes:

The resulting disinhibition leads many to conclude that they are able to express their “true self” better online than they ever could in face-to-face contexts. This does not mean that there is a fixed “true self” or that the self is anything other than a work in progress, but apparently self-revelation can be therapeutic, at least with the aid of self-reflexive applications.

Just as a psychoanalyst’s couch or Catholic confessional booth are settings in which we can sort out the details of who we are by divulging our innermost secrets to someone without staring directly at him, Belk believes these sorts of exchanges are migrating onto the Internet:

[It appears] that we now do a large amount of our identity work online. For the Internet constantly asks us “Who are You?” “What do you have to share?” Coupled with new self-revealing proclivities, this incites more open self-extension than in a pre-digital world.

The feedback of friends, family members, acquaintances, and strangers therefore provides continual criticism and validation. Forging a personal identity, after all, is generally considered a collaborative effort.

Of course, some might point out that the perceived increase in oversharing is nothing more than that: a perception. In other words, it’s not that there’s an eruption of people willing to bare everything online; it’s that those who do typically post more status updates and garner more exposure on news feeds.

While difficult to measure, the Washington Post published a survey last spring stating that only 15 percent of American social media users feel they share either “everything” or “most things” online. That’s not a lot—especially considering that over 60 percent of participants from Saudi Arabia admitted they belong in that same category. As the accompanying story implies, however, the survey doesn’t account for the vastly different cultures and social norms the various participants exist within. While tweeting about your aunt’s divorce might be considered taboo in one country, it might be received with a shrug in a nation inured to the antics of the Kardashians.

Still, something seems amiss when people feel it’s more important to express a desire on Facebook for the president to be assassinated than it is to, say, exercise tact or avoid losing your job. (Yes, she was fired.)

ANOTHER CRUCIAL INGREDIENT ENCOURAGING online exhibitionism is, as stated by Belk, the “tension between privacy and potential celebrity.” For some people, the longing to be popular far outweighs the longing to be respected, and their social media accounts can verify this.

According to a 2010 study, playfully titled, “Examining Students’ Intended Image on Facebook: ‘What Were They Thinking?!’” Facebook users who didn’t mind if strangers could view their profile, as opposed to those who did, were “significantly more likely to post inappropriate content and to portray an image that would be considered sexually appealing, wild, or offensive.” In other words, they want everyone to think they’re cool.

As Jen Doll notes at the Atlantic Wire, “[N]o one gets criticized specifically forundersharing. No one says that word. People just say ‘boring.’”

In sum, the traditional line separating what’s private from what’s public is disintegrating with each and every overshare, and while some offenders may not be thinking about their actions this deeply, Belk’s research suggests it’s our ongoing quest for identity—or as some prefer to call it, “personal brand”—that’s propelling this disintegration. We want to be interesting. We want to be memorable. We want people to follow us, but we need their attention first. And if there’s one thing reality TV and advertising has taught us, it’s that the lowest common denominator is both the easiest and most efficient way of getting people to notice.

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| Oscar Pistorius Indicted for Murder of Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp!

Oscar Pistorius Indicted for Murder of Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp ~ Devon Maylie, Speakeasy, WSJ.

Getty Images
South African athlete Oscar Pistorius appears in Pretoria Magistrates Court for an indictment hearing on August 19, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa.

PRETORIA – Oscar Pistorius stood in the middle of the courtroom holding back tears. Behind him to his right, family members sat with their arms wrapped around each other — every now and then breaking into impromptu prayer sessions. To his back left, the best friends of his slain girlfriend,Reeva Steenkamp, sat teary eyed.

Neither side spoke to one another. Although physically separated by only a foot-wide aisle, the distance between the two camps appeared much wider.

Mr. Pistorius, nicknamed the “Blade Runner” for his carbon fiber prosthesis, will return to court next March (2014) to face the charge of premeditated murder for the killing of Ms. Steenkamp. On Monday, the state submitted its indictment sheet—but he wasn’t formally charged.

Monday would have been Ms. Steenkamp’s 30th birthday.

The Myers family, close friends of the blonde fashion model and paralegal Ms. Steenkamp, made sure those in attendance didn’t forget the woman at the center of the case. As the Pistorius family filed out of court, the Myers family lawyer read out a statement.

“Not a day has gone by that anyone who ever came into contact with Reeva Steenkamp hasn’t thought about her,” the Myers family said. Instead of celebrating her birthday, they said, the day “will now mark a court appearance relating to her untimely passing six months ago.”

Little was said during the 10 minute court appearance. Judge Desmond Nair asked how the athlete was doing.

“I’m OK under the circumstances, your honor,” Mr. Pistorius replied in a hushed voice absent of all the confidence he once exuded on the track. The Olympic and Paralympic athlete Monday looked tired, less fit and – like many others in the courtroom — ready to cry. Mr. Pistorius sobbed through his first court appearance in February, after the Valentine’s Day shooting.

Ms. Steenkamp was killed by three of four bullets Mr. Pistorius fired through the bathroom door. Mr. Pistorius said at the time he believed a burglar was inside. The state said in its indictment sheet Monday that it has witnesses who heard a woman screaming, followed by the sound of gunshots.

The usual media crowds showed up for the latest chapter of the Pistorius saga, the unlikely story of how a 26-year old runner with no legs became famous and rich through sponsorship deals – and how it all came crashing down with the shooting of his girlfriend.  Cameramen clamored on top of one another to push their lenses within a few inches of “Blade Runner’s” face.

But the frenzy had died down.

Six months ago, reporters elbowed their way past burly security guards for a coveted seat in the tiny Pretoria Magistrate Court courtroom C. Some came away with black eyes. On Monday, the courtroom was full, but no one had to fight for a space. Fewer international media flew in for the court appearance.

The Pistorius family said it’s eager to move forward – even if it’s toward a trial that will bring more intense media scrutiny. “We are grateful that a trial date has been set and that we can now start preparing for the court case,” his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said later in the day.

Meanwhile, Ms. Steenkamp’s closest friends gathered to remember her at the Meyers’ home in Johannesburg, opening a bottle of champagne in a quiet gathering, the family’s lawyer Ian Levitt said. He said Ms. Steenkamp had wanted to be in Las Vegas for her 30th birthday.

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