They say wiretaps published in the media suggest he surrounded himself at parties at his home with starlets and other women hoping to use their looks to gain positions in politics or at Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV empire.
”The Ruby case has revealed a system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power,” said Iaia Caputo of the organising committee of the protests, entitled ”If Not Now, When?”, also the title of a famous Primo Levi novel.
”If we accept this as normal, we risk prejudicing the free choice of women.
”We want to send a message to the country and to the parties that do not see themselves a part of what has happened over the last few weeks – it’s possible to change route”.
Berlusconi’s cabinet features a former show girl, Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna.
One of the people under investigation in the Ruby probe, the premier’s former dental hygienist Nicole Minetti – another showgirl who allegedly procured prostitutes for parties at Berlusconi’s home – is a Lombardy regional councilor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party. …
One of the biggest ”If Not Now, When?” events will take place in Milan, where comedienne Paola Cortellesi, actress Franca Rame and publisher Inge Feltrinelli are set to join in.
Men will not be excluded from the protests.
There will also be other protests for and against Berlusconi in various parts of Italy all weekend. A preliminary hearings judge is not expected to announce before Monday or Tuesday whether she has granted the prosecutors’ request to send the Ruby case to trial. If approved, the trial would start around Easter, legal experts say.
BRUSSELS—Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables appear to show that the United States has been snooping on NATO’s top official using secret sources on his own staff.
Confidential cables from the U.S. mission to NATO released Friday by WikiLeaks, the site that has published many secret government memos, said American diplomats received information on the private conversations of Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from “a member of the NATO international staff.”
Instead of the staffer’s name, the phrase “strictly protect” was inserted in a cable dated Sept. 10, 2009. The cable dealt with Fogh Rasmussen’s proposal to improve ties with Russia by establishing contacts with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-dominated security alliance.
The cable was signed off by U.S. ambassador Ivo Daalder.
NATO’s 28 member nations, and a number of partner countries including Russia, maintain diplomatic offices inside the alliance’s sprawling compound on the outskirts of Brussels. While their envoys regularly monitor developments within the alliance, there has been no known case in the past of a nation spying on the secretary-general.
Afghans fear return of the warlords as anti-Taliban militias clash: here.
Australia: Abbott’s callous ‘shit happens’ retort over the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan and Labor defence minister Stephen Smith’s rush to defend him reveals a lot about the attitude of the pro-war parties. They treat infantry soldiers as expendable cannon fodder. Millions of soldiers who survived the bloodbaths of the last two world wars and the Vietnam War drew this conclusion: here.
Exactly one year ago, on February 13, 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan launched the first major military operations enabled by President Obama’s 30,000 troop increase. President Obama and the high priests of counterinsurgency warfare, Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, made two major assertions about the escalation, that it would a) enable coalition forces to reverse the insurgents’ momentum and b) increase security for the Afghan people. After a year of fighting, neither of those things happened. The escalation is a failure, and it’s time to bring our troops home: here.
Giant Rat discovered – Lost Land of the Volcano – BBC One
An international team of scientists, cavers and wildlife filmmakers venture deep into the heart of the remote tropical island of New Guinea to explore a giant extinct volcano – Mount Bosavi. The team live deep in the rainforest and search for the rare and endangered creatures that hide in these forests.
Giant rats lead scientists to ancient face carvings
11 February 2011 16:24 GMT
Ancient stone faces carved into the walls of a well-known limestone cave in East Timor have been discovered by a team searching for fossils of extinct giant rats.
The team of archaeologists and palaeontologists were working in Lene Hara Cave on the northeast tip of East Timor.
‘Looking up from the cave floor at a colleague sitting on a ledge, my head torch shone on what seemed to be a weathered carving,’ CSIRO‘s Dr Ken Aplin said.
‘I shone the torch around and saw a whole panel of engraved prehistoric human faces on the wall of the cave.
‘The local landowners with whom we were working were stunned by the findings. They said the faces had chosen that day to reveal themselves because they were pleased by the field work we were doing.’
The Lene Hara carvings, or petroglyphs, are frontal, stylised faces each with eyes, a nose and a mouth. One has a circular headdress with rays that frame the face.
Uranium isotope dating by colleagues at the University of Queensland revealed the ‘sun ray’ face to be around 10,000 to 12,000 years old, placing it in the late Pleistocene. The other faces could not be dated but are likely to be equally ancient.
Lene Hara cave has been visited by archaeologists and rock art specialists since the early 1960s to study its rock paintings, which include hand stencils, boats, animals, human figures and linear decorative motifs. The age of the pigment art in Lene Hara is currently unknown but a fragment of limestone with traces of embedded red ochre was dated previously by Professor Sue O’Connor of The Australian National University to over 30,000 years ago.
Although stylised engravings of faces occur throughout Melanesia, Australia and the Pacific, the Lene Hara petroglyphs are the only examples that have been dated to the Pleistocene. No other petroglyphs of faces are known to exist anywhere on the island of Timor.
‘Recording and dating the rock art of Timor should be a priority for future research, because of its cultural significance and value in understanding the development of art in our past,’ Professor O’Connor said.
Fossil footprints of early modern humans found in Tanzania: here.
Nicholas Shaxson, Palgrave Macmillan: “He allowed his country, through its oil industry, to become the African linchpin of the gigantic, secret Elf system – a vast, spooky web of global corruption secretly connecting the oil industries of former French African colonies with mainstream politics in metropolitan France, via Switzerland, Luxembourg, and other tax havens. Parts of Gabon’s oil industry, Joly discovered as she dug deeper and deeper in Paris, had been serving as a giant slush fund: a pot of secret money outside the reach of French judicial authorities in which hundreds of millions of dollars were made available for the use of French elites”: here.
Obama’s proposed budget to slash funding for historic preservation, National Park Service
11 February 2011
The Obama administration’s proposed 2011 budget, currently under review by the House Appropriations Committee, calls for sweeping austerity measures for social programs and infrastructure.
Among the bill’s proposals are massive cuts to historic preservation funding including the elimination of the Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America programs. These cuts total $25 million dollars, with the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) receiving a mere $54.5 million in 2011, down from the already inadequate $79.5 million it received in 2010.
Obama’s budget includes the total elimination of the Challenge Cost Share account, which provides matching funds for National Park Service projects and Bureau of Land Management academic fieldwork on archaeology, historical site assessments, and surveys. Even before taking these latter changes into account, however, the elimination of Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America represent the largest reduction in historic preservation funding since cuts made by the Reagan administration in the 1980s.
From Costa Rica to Vermont, habitat fragmentation creates hazards for wildlife: here.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 21, 2011) — A new study by Baylor University geology researchers shows that Native Americans’ land use nearly a century ago produced a widespread impact on the eastern North American landscape and floodplain development several hundred years prior to the arrival of major European settlements: here.
With his speech on Thursday night, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak threw down the gauntlet to the mass protests and growing strike wave that have rocked his regime for nearly three weeks: here.
Since demonstrations and strikes erupted against the Mubarak regime on January 25, the Egyptian military has arrested, tortured and “disappeared” thousands of people: here.
On Tuesday, French Prime Minister François Fillon admitted that he had spent his Christmas holiday with his family in Egypt, paid for by President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Egypt has been rocked for three weeks by a mass uprising: here.
The right-wing Israeli government of Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been staggered by the massive demonstrations and strike wave engulfing Egypt, its critical Arab ally in the region, and the simultaneous emergence of social opposition in Israel itself: here.
Protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks in the African nation of Gabon, demanding that President Ali Ben Bongo resign. The protests took place following a January 25 declaration by opposition leader Ander Obame that he was the rightful president: here.