The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka » Sunday Times 2 Official website of the Sunday Times Newspaper in Sri Lanka Sat, 23 Jun 2012 22:01:47 +0000 en hourly 1 Turkey says downed jet may have violated Syrian airspace Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:21:46 +0000 Pubudu ANKARA, June 23 (AFP) Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said Saturday the jet fighter shot down by Syria might have violated Syrian airspace.
“It is routine for jet fighters to sometimes fly in and out over (national) borders … when you consider their speed over the sea,” Gul told Anatolia news agency. “These are not ill-intentioned things but happen beyond control due to the jets’ speed.”The president also said contacts were under way with Syria though Turkey withdrew its diplomats from its embassy in Damascus in March, and expelled the Syrian diplomats from the Ankara embassy after the escalating violence.

A Turkish Air Force F-4 war plane fires during a military exercise (REUTERS)

“We withdrew our envoy from Syria for security reasons. This does not mean that we have no contacts (with Damascus),” Gul also said.�The military plane vanished off radar screens around 0900 GMT Friday after it took off from an airbase in Malatya city in Turkey’s southeast.

Syria confirmed it had downed the plane and Turkey’s government said Ankara would take all necessary steps once it had established the facts.Syria’s official news agency confirmed that Damascus had downed the jet in a report earlier Saturday.”An unidentified aerial target violated Syrian airspace, coming from the west at a very low altitude and at high speed over territorial waters” in the eastern Mediterranean, a military spokesman told SANA.

Anti-aircraft batteries had opened fire, hitting the plane as it was one kilometre away from land and it had crashed about 10 kilometres (six miles) off the coast of Latakia province, in Syrian territorial waters, he added.They had subsequently established that it had been a Turkish fighter and the two countries’ navies were now cooperating in an operation to find the two missing pilots, SANA reported.
A little earlier, Erdogan confirmed in a written statement that Syria had shot down a Turkish fighter jet reported missing over the eastern Mediterranean Friday.

The statement was issued after he held an emergency meeting with military and intelligence chiefs and key ministers.
“Turkey will announce its final position and take necessary steps with determination after the incident is entirely clarified,” Erdogan added.
A spokesman for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was following the situation closely.

“He hopes this serious incident can be handled with restraint by both sides through diplomatic channels,” said Martin Nesirky.But this latest incident will further test relations between the two neighbours, already strained over Erdogan’s outspoken condemnation of Syria’s bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.

An earlier Turkish army statement said the jet had lost radio contact with its base over the eastern Mediterranean near Syria’s Latakia.

The military plane vanished off radar screens around 0900 GMT after it took off from an airbase in Malatya city in Turkey’s southeast.

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Kristen Stewart bumps Jolie as highest-paid actress Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:23:38 +0000 Pubudu

Kristen Stewart (pictured in Vanity Fair) earned an estimated $34.5 million from May 2011 to May 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters) Kristen Stewart, who shot to fame as Bella Swan in “The Twilight Saga” films and has a starring role in “Snow White and the Huntsman”, jumped to the top of’s annual list of highest-paid actresses on T ues day.The 22-year-old earned an estimated $34.5 million from May 2011 to May 2012 and pushed Angelina Jolie into fourth place.
Cameron Diaz, who had a surprise hit with “Bad Teacher”, came in second with $34 million.
“She (Stewart) is an up-and-coming star.

She is earning a lot of money from one of the most successful franchises of all time. This is who you would expect to see right now,” said Dorothy Pomerantz, Forbes Los Angeles bureau chief.

“This year you are seeing somebody young and at the brink of potentially great stardom sitting on the top of the list.” compiled the list and estimated salaries by talking to agents, managers and lawyers and based earnings on pay, profits, residuals, endorsements and advertising work.

Jolie, who topped last year’s list along with Sarah Jessica Parker, dropped to the fourth spot with earnings of $20 million while Charlize Theron, Stewart’s co-star in “Snow White and the Huntsman” who also appears in “Prometheus”, trailed at $18 million, and rounded out the top five places.

The top 10 actresses earned a total of $200 million, according to, a lot less than the $361 million total that the 10 highest-earning men made.”It is nowhere near what men are making,” Pomerantz said. “I think it will be a while until women see salary parity, if it ever happens. Women are paid less in every industry, not just in Hollywood.”

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Remote Indian state becomes rock music hub Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:20:39 +0000 Pubudu IMPHAL, India, June 23 (AFP) In the far north-east of India, cut off from the rest of the country except via a narrow land bridge, perhaps the only way to make yourself heard is loud, really loud, rock music.�For White Fire’s drummer Elangbam Kumar, that explains why their cover version of the Guns N’Roses song “Welcome To The Jungle” has become an anthem for the band and a big hit with their fans in the remote state of Manipur.

The state, which is 1,000 miles (1,700 kilometres) from the capital New Delhi, borders on Myanmar and has struggled for decades with separatist violence, a society divided among competing tribes and grinding poverty.It is also an unlikely hub for rock and heavy metal music, boasting a burgeoning festival scene and local stars who have defied social and cultural boundaries to pursue their music.

“All my pain and angst found an outlet in this genre of music. It is the attitude and the lyrics which are the biggest draw for us,” 32-year-old Kumar, his tattooed biceps bulging out of a tight T-shirt, told AFP.Kumar first started playing music at college in the city of Bangalore, where he watched MTV and hung out with students from across India who were into the “head-banging” style of the West.

“There is something raw, rebellious and pure about rock. You can express yourself freely,” he explains, adjusting drums in his makeshift practice room decorated with posters of US heavy metal bands Coal Chamber and Slipknot.”Life here is so frustrating with all the restrictions on us. The entire system makes me angry. The army can stop you on any pretext, unemployment is so high, and we lag behind other states in every way.”Kumar’s passion reflects the feelings of many young Manipuris, who often leave to go to bigger cities for higher education and jobs but then tend to drift back to their home state. For them, rock music is a statement against India’s mainstream culture which seems alien and imposed by national authorities. The backstreets of the state capital Imphal are packed with small recording studios and music shops.

Many Manipuris feel that the concept of being “of India” in any meaningful sense is one they find difficult to entertain with a sense of isolation that is not just geographical, but also ethnic, linguistic, economic and political.

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Israel launches fresh strikes on Gaza Strip Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:18:36 +0000 Pubudu June 23 (AFP) Israel launched fresh air strikes on the Gaza Strip overnight after killing two people in earlier raids, the Palestinian health ministry said Saturday.�The latest strikes targeted two camps of the armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in central and northern Gaza, and a former Hamas security post in Gaza City. They wounded about 20 people.
An Israeli army statement early Saturday confirming the latest operations said they were in response to rocket fire earlier in the week into southern Israel.

Israel held Hamas responsible for “all terrorist activity coming from the Gaza Strip,” the army statement added.
On Friday, medics in the Gaza Strip reported that two Palestinians had been killed and four wounded when Israeli warplanes struck twice.
A first Israeli air strike on Friday afternoon targeted east Al-Bureij in the central part of the Gaza Strip, killing Basel Ahmad, 29, who was of no known affiliation, local medical sources said.

A second Israel air strike killed another Palestinian in the north of Gaza.Hammam Abou Qadous, 20, died of his wounds after being hit as he travelled on his motorbike in the northern part of the Gaza Strip Friday evening, Palestinian medical sources said.

The violence came despite a tenuous Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. It was announced late Wednesday by the Islamists’ Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades military wing after a flurry of deadly exchanges in and around the territory.

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Hitler, bare breasts, adultery – election time in Mexico Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:17:59 +0000 Pubudu MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Hitler admirer, a former Playboy model, a self-confessed adulterer and the promise of hanky panky. Sounds like the ingredients of the latest Mexican soap opera.�In fact, it’s a snapshot of the surreal twists and turns of Mexican politics as Latin America’s No. 2 economy heads into a July 1 presidential election.

Just six weeks ago, few Mexicans aside from the keenest of Playboy readers knew who Julia Orayen was. That all changed after her scene-stealing performance during the first presidential debate.As the former model-turned-production assistant distributed question cards, her plunging neckline posed the candidates one of the toughest challenges they had faced on the campaign trail – where to avert their gazes.

After her appearance ignited a Twitter fire storm, the Mexican press declared the winner of the debate was … Orayen. Red-faced organizers apologized for the “production error associated with the dress of an assistant.”
Just days later, race front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto was photographed holed up in a bathroom after students heckled him.The move played into his opponents’ hands. In a June 10 Presidential debate, ruling National Action Party (PAN) candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota taunted her rival.

“We don’t want someone who’s going to hide in the university toilets to solve the country’s problems,” she said.
Yet things only got tougher for the former state governor, who has admitted fathering two children out of wedlock, when his image was used to promote an adultery website.

“Unfaithful to his family. Faithful and committed to his country,” read the billboard, which featured Pena Nieto performing a hushing gesture with his finger.In late May it was the PAN’s turn to face embarrassment when one of its Senate candidates said he admired the leadership shown by Adolf Hitler and Julius Caesar. The party then issued an apology.

As this election has shown, sex is often a last resort to resuscitate a flagging campaign.
In late May, Natalia Juarez, a candidate running for congress for leftist presidential challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) unveiled a billboard in Guadalajara of her and six female supporters topless, their arms strategically placed.
A few weeks later, Vazquez Mota took a similar tack when she urged her female Twitter followers to withhold “cuchi cuchi”, or hanky panky, for a month if their husbands didn’t go to the poll to vote for her.

The move appears not to have paid off. A poll on Tuesday in Mexican daily Reforma, placed her third with 24 percent.

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Does Kim Kardashian really sum up all that’s wrong with modern society? Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:16:04 +0000 Pubudu Kim Kardashian is the poster girl for ‘almost everything that is wrong with Western society’, according to a leading headmistress.
The reality TV star is part of a culture that glorifies women’s physical appearances over their character, claims Dr Helen Wright, head of a private girls’ boarding school.

Famous for being famous : 'The descent of Western civilisation can practically be read into every curve

In a speech tomorrow, Dr Wright will show Miss Kardashian posing in her underwear on the cover of men’s magazine Zoo.�The headline, from an edition last month, praises Miss Kardashian as ‘the hottest woman in the world’.
‘It is not too strong a statement, I venture to suggest, to say that almost everything that is wrong with Western society today can be summed up in that one symbolic photo of Miss Kim Kardashian on the front of Zoo magazine,’ Dr Wright will say.’The descent of Western civilisation can practically be read into every curve, of which, you will note, there are indeed many.

‘Officially the hottest woman in the world? Really? Is this what we want our young people to aim for? Is this what success should mean to them?’ Miss Kardashian – who was photographed in Paris yesterday wearing rather more than usual – first became famous when a sex tape of her appeared online in 2007.

Her late father, Robert Kardashian, was a defence lawyer for OJ Simpson in his 1995 murder trial.
Dr Wright, head of St Mary’s School, Calne, Wiltshire, will say that Miss Kardashian is famous for her reality TV series, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, ‘for hanging out with the rich and famous, for a sex tape, a 72-day marriage and a rather ample backside’.

‘What is she telling our young people about life? As a society, we have clearly attached a value to her,’ she will say.
‘There may be some messages about hard work buried in there somewhere – I expect she has to slave in the gym to keep that posterior in shape – but these are very hidden messages, buried under the other messages surrounded by glitz and sparkle.’Messages about physical appearance being more important than character or substance, for instance, or messages about financial rewards coming with meanness, scandal and boundary-less living.’

Dr Wright will present her warning to the Institute of Development Professionals in Education, whose members help raise funds for schools.’The pupils in our schools really are soaking up a diet of empty celebrity and superficiality,’ she will say. ‘They are under a huge amount of pressure, buffeted by these images and messages.’

Dr Wright, the former president of the Girls’ School Association, will also warn that premature sexualisation and the objectification of women is rife on TV, the internet and magazines.’I have spoken out a lot over the past two years about the increasing dangers of the premature sexualisation of young people, and the objectification of women which accompanies this. And this is what our young people see around them all the time: online, in magazines, on TV.’

Schools must lead the way in helping young people understand who they are and instill good values, she will add.
� Daily Mail, London

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Women’s rights law no match for Kurdistan tradition Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:01:07 +0000 Pubudu ARBIL, Iraq (AFP) In June 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan passed a landmark law that criminalised female circumcision and domestic violence, but one year on, activists remain frustrated with its patchwork implementation.�In what is a conservative society even by Middle East standards, the passage of the law last year was hailed by rights groups and NGOs as a major step forward after years of struggle.
The law punishes physical, sexual and psychological assault committed within the family, creates conditions for the protection of victims and mandates the establishment of specialised courts.

Iraqi students wearing traditional Kurdish clothing celebrate International Women's Day in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan.

It also carries penal and financial punishments for those who promote or practise female genital mutilation.
Kurdistan benefits from a markedly more stable security situation than the rest of the country, and an improving economy, two factors that mean life for women in Kurdistan is widely regarded as better than Iraq’s other provinces.
But terrible problems remain, one of which is female genital mutilation.

Though often perceived as a problem mostly prevalent in Africa, the practice is widespread in Kurdistan, according to German NGO Wadi, which published a report in 2010 on the subject, based on interviews with 1,700 women in the region.
According to that report, 72.7% of women in the region’s two biggest provinces of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah were victims of female genital mutilation, with the rate rising to almost 100% in some areas.

Wadi pointed to a “clear link” between the practice and illiteracy, pegged at 51.1% among women in Kurdistan.
The adoption of the law marked a “big victory”, said Suzan Aref, head of the Women’s Empowerment Organisation, a local NGO established in June 2004.”At least now we are talking about this,” she said.

Pakhshan Zangana, secretary general of the High Council for Women’s Affairs, a Kurdish government agency, agrees: “In our society, just to recognise domestic violence is very important.” Society recognised that, yes, we do have domestic violence, it is a crime. This is so important.
“In other societies, it is (considered) the right of the family, that they have the right to do anything,” she said.

But both women agree the battle will not be won until the law is fully applied, which appears a long way off.
“Yes, we have laws, but… we don’t have implementation,” Aref said. “This is a big problem. “You cannot find that the numbers (for female genital mutilation) have reduced because of this law, because no one knows about it,” she said, adding: “We need a campaign of awareness.”

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Cyber-wars: The U.S. and Israel develop destructive Flame virus to slow Iran’s nuclear programme Sat, 23 Jun 2012 15:54:07 +0000 Pubudu They are two of the most destructive computer viruses ever created, tailor-made for cyber-espionage and capable of wreaking havoc on government systems.Both Flame and Stuxnet are believed to have been used by the U.S. government to wage online warfare against hostile regimes.

Now The Washington Post has claimed, citing anonymous Western officials, that the United States and Israel jointly developed the Flame computer virus that collected intelligence to help slow Iran’s nuclear programme

The so-called Flame malware aimed to map Iran’s computer networks and monitor computers of Iranian officials, the newspaper said.
It was designed to provide intelligence to help in a cyber campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, the Post said.

The cyber campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme has included the use of another computer virus called Stuxnet that caused malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment, the newspaper said.

Current and former U.S. and Western national security officials confirmed to Reuters that the United States played a role in creating the Flame virus.

Since Flame was an intelligence ‘collection’ virus rather than a cyberwarfare programme to sabotage computer systems, it required less-stringent U.S. legal and policy review than any U.S. involvement in offensive cyberwarfare efforts, experts told Reuters.
Flame is the most complex computer spying programme ever discovered.

� Daily Mail, London

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Rio+20 shows UN ‘impotence’ in global eco-crisis Sat, 23 Jun 2012 15:53:10 +0000 Pubudu RIO DE JANEIRO, June 23 (AFP) The outcome of the Rio+20 summit provides further proof that the nation-state system is failing badly in tackling global environmental threats, say analysts.�The UN’s Conference on Sustainable Development had been billed as a once-in-a-generation chance to overhaul an economic model that had left a billion people in poverty and imperiled the biosphere.

But veteran observers who watched the 10-day event drag to a close on Friday shook their heads in dismay.
To them, it was a fresh failure by the United Nations system, after the near-disastrous 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, to respond to eco-perils that are now approaching at express speed.

Executive Director of Greenpeace International Kumi Naidoo (L) actress Lucy Lawless (C) and entrepreneur Richard Branson take part in a Greenpeace press conference at the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 21. Greenpeace announced several celebrities had joined a campaign for a "global sanctuary" around the North Pole (AFP)

“It’s a demonstration of political impotence, of system paralysis, and it makes me feel pessimistic about the system’s ability to deliver,” Laurence Tubiana, director of a French think-tank, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), said in an interview.
“The multilateral process today is not delivering the urgent action we need,” said WWF’s Jim Leape.

“International action is in fact important, to galvanize a global response to these challenges, but it’s clear that we need to look to leadership in other places… that means looking for changes everywhere — communities, cities, national governments and companies.”After a three-day summit of 189 nation-states, the conference issued a 53-page declaration with the horizon-sweeping title “The Future We Want.”It itemized a distressingly long list of problems — from global warming, deforestation and fisheries collapse to water stress, pollution and biodiversity loss that scientists fear could turn into a mass extinction.

But long months of textual trench warfare, as nations defended their own interests, meant radical proposals were either watered down or got the chop.They included a commitment to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and demands for up to $30 billion a year to help poor countries grow in a sustainable way.

Observers said the most tangible success was a plan for “Sustainable Development Goals” to succeed the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which touch on health, poverty and so on, after they expire in 2015.Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, said the MDGs had been an important catalyzer — but for ordinary citizens, not leaders.

“They have been a global call to action that has mobilized millions of people around the world, as well as informed, nudged or pushed governments to take seriously the challenges of poverty, hunger and disease.

“They thus teach us a lesson: we cannot rely on the politicians and the diplomats to get this job done.”After Copenhagen, some critics said the UN system was genetically incapable of coping with a global environment crisis.

Solutions demand sacrifice by all nations, which gives any dissenter the chance to sabotage or weaken a radical deal.
But Steve Sawyer, a former Greenpeace campaigner who is now secretary general of a Brussels clean-energy lobby, the Global Wind Energy Council, said the UN still offered hope.

“The UN system has lost its way,” crippled by the format determined by the victors of World War II, he argued.
“For all its warts, it’s what we have, and there is no alternative,” he said.

“To deal with global problems, we need a global framework, and to make that work we need the big powers to drive it and not fight against it. So we’re hoping that the Chinas, Indias, Brazils, Germanys and Japans will take up some of the slack.”

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The truth about Rwanda Sat, 23 Jun 2012 15:48:36 +0000 Pubudu KILGALI – Ongoing unrest between rival military factions in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has triggered a predictable barrage of innuendo, fabricated leaks, and outright lies regarding Rwanda’s role. It began ten days ago, with a single BBC story on a leaked United Nations report that was said to prove Rwanda’s involvement, but did nothing of the sort (as the source of the leak admitted within days).

As if on cue, this was followed by Human Rights Watch, which paraded an even less credible set of allegations – including the risible claim that a Congolese rebel was seen by an unspecified number of unnamed witnesses at a bar on the Rwandan side of the border. Like the UN report, there was not a shred of material evidence to back up the Rwandan conspiracy – it relied on anonymous witness testimony and nothing else – but it gained a good deal of coverage anyway.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo (R) and her Congolese counterpart Raymond Tshibandaf exchange documents on June 19 during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Kinshasa. Mushikiwabo is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo to discuss a mutiny in eastern DR Congo and allegations by Kinshasa that the mutineers have been trained in Rwanda. AFP

Finally, the DRC government added its voice, but once again failed to present any evidence beyond hearsay. Unfortunately, this is a well-worn path in this region whenever internal turmoil in the DRC threatens to spin out of control. The DRC must have known that its hyped-up claims would reach an audience that had been warmed up by the bogus UN and Human Rights Watch reports. The desire in some quarters to promulgate a war narrative easily outweighs the obligation to establish a credible basis for one.

Beyond fending off this latest round of exasperating claims, Rwanda is involved in the DRC crisis in one other concrete way. At last count, more than 12,850 Congolese citizens have made their way across the border into Rwanda following the recent outbreak of hostilities. The refugee situation, while tense and challenging, remains manageable, thanks to cooperation between the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the government of Rwanda, alongside the World Food Program, the World Health Organization, and other partners. Meanwhile, many more Congolese have been displaced to other neighboring countries and within the DRC’s borders, fleeing the too-familiar drumbeat of conflict.
Too many observers have entirely forgotten the central role of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in fomenting almost constant crisis in the region since fleeing into the DRC from Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, during which its members killed more than one million ethnic Tutsis.

It has been widely reported, including by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, that the FDLR is taking brutal advantage of the current unrest. The reports of mass rapes, looting, and slaughter in the DRC at the hands of these unrepentant g�nocidaires echo with a chilling familiarity throughout the region.

Unfortunately, these real-life horrors barely rate a mention in recent media coverage, which has focused instead on false allegations against Rwanda. And Human Rights Watch is not alone in ignoring the FDLR, whose escape to the DRC was all but facilitated by the international community in 1994, and which has never wavered from its intention to finish what it started. In its eagerness to deliver high-profile scalps to The Hague, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has lost sight of its original purpose, which is to quell the FDLR threat.
As the International Crisis Group recently noted, the credibility of the UN mission, whose mandate is currently under review by the Security Council, is on the line.

Far from enabling security, many in the region believe that MONUSCO has emerged as a destabilizing influence – a bureaucratic behemoth, fixated on its own survival and institutionally motivated to profit from instability. As long as this remains the case, it cannot possibly play a constructive part in building sustainable peace and prosperity.

Rwanda plays no role in internal disputes within the Congolese military. As this current situation plays out, the government of Rwanda will focus its efforts on treating those who seek refuge in our country with the dignity to which they are entitled, and will take the necessary steps to facilitate their safe passage home when the time comes.

Citizens of Rwanda and the DRC have suffered long enough through conflict. It is time to reap the dividends of a sustainable peace: expanding cross-border trade and commerce, shared infrastructure, and greater economic integration. This is the path that we have pursued since 2009 – and people on both sides of the border demand that we do not stray from it.

Louise Mushikiwabo is Rwanda’s minister of foreign affairs and cooperation.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2012. Exclusive to the Sunday Times

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