Saturday, January 8, 2011

Religious attacks should serve as wake-up call: UN

All countries have a moral and legal duty to protect freedom of religion by quashing sectarian violence and rooting out discriminatory laws that can lead to full-fledged conflict, said Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Attacks on churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other religious sites around the world, as well as targeted attacks against individuals, should act as a wake-up call to all of us,” Pillay said in a statement.

Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Ahmadis have been targeted in the past year, according to Pillay, a former war crimes judge. She specifically condemned attacks in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Pakistan. She did not single out particular faiths for blame, but the examples she cited were mostly of Muslim countries where Christian minorities or rival Muslim sects have been targeted.

“I am concerned that divisive or weak state laws and policies in many countries foster the religious discrimination that feeds extremism. It is also vital that authorities discourage the exploitation of religions for political agendas.”

In the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, a New Year’s Day bombing killed up to 23 Christian worshippers leaving a Coptic church, raising fears of further attacks. Officials suspect an al Qaeda-inspired bomber. Militant websites have carried threats against Egyptian Christians before and since that attack, which followed a deadly siege of a church in Baghdad in October by al Qaeda-linked militants who said they would also target Christians in Egypt.

In Nigeria, police last week arrested 92 suspected members of the Boko Haram radical Islamic sect, which wants strict Islamic law imposed throughout the country. The group has claimed responsibility for Christmas Eve church bombings and other attacks in the central city of Jos and the northern city of Maiduguri that killed around 100 people and led to violence between Muslims and Christians.

Religious minorities in Pakistan have also been subjected to an increasing number of attacks, Pillay said. In Malaysia, attacks on churches led to retaliation attacks on a mosque and several Muslim prayer rooms in January 2010.

Saudi daily calls Taseer a martyr, justice crusader

Saudi newspaper has lamented the assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer whose bitter opposition to “extremism and violence cost him his life” and “turned him into a martyr”.

In an editorial published on January 5, Arab News said that Taseer was murdered by “one or perhaps more bigots who believed that he wanted to repeal the country’s blasphemy law”. It called Taseer a martyr and his killer “a heartless, grinning murderer and an ignorant instrument of evil”.

While calling Taseer a true Muslim, it said neither his murderer nor those “who celebrate this evil deed” should be counted among the faithful.

The newspaper mourned the loss of “a bold campaigner for truth and justice” but drew comfort from the fact that Pakistan had a host of other activists “whose faith is generous and embracing” and who “refuse to be intimidated by the twisted advocates of hatred”.

Rather than cowering under fear, Arab News called upon the country’s leaders to stand up and rally against the deviant forces that threatened to bring darkness to Pakistan and Islam.

It advised those who see the proof of fanaticism in Taseer’s murder to look to the Islam he stood for and “a faith that pursues justice, truth and respect — the real Islam.”

The newspaper said the killing of Taseer was more serious than the country’s current political crisis. For the moment, it said, the government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is relatively safe, even safer as a result of the killing.

Justice Department Investigates UPS and Fed

The U.S. government is investigating the country's two largest shipping companies, UPS (UPS) and FedEx (FDX), over their policies aimed at preventing customers from using third-party consultants to negotiate lower shipping rates.

UPS (UPS) is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, while FedEx (FDX) is the subject of a similar probe by the Justice Department's antitrust division, CNBC reported.

The probe follows a lawsuit that AFMS, a third-party vendor, filed against the companies. UPS and FedEx customers saved more than $100 million on shipping fees between 2007 and 2009 by using such consultants, according to the lawsuit.

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg says the company has filed a motion to dismiss the claim. She also confirmed the federal investigation, saying the Justice Department has requested "information about UPS' policies and our right to decline to deal with third-party negotiators." She added that she didn't know how long the DOJ planned to investigate UPS.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation, and FedEx also didn't respond to a request for comment from DailyFinance.

Both companies last year appeared to benefit from a rebound in consumer and business spending. FedEx's net income for the six months ended Nov. 30 surged 26% to $663 million as revenue rose 15% to $19.1 billion. UPS's profit for the nine months ended Sept. 30 jumped 70% to $2.37 billion as revenue rose 9.7% to $36.1 billion.

Justice Department seeks Twitter records on WikiLeaks volunteers

WikiLeaks said Saturday that the Justice Department had gone to Twitter to demand account information about co-founder and spokesman Julian Assange as well as other WikiLeaks supporters.

"If the Iranian govt asked for DMs of Iranian activists, State Dept would be all over this violation of 'Internet freedom'," WikiLeaks tweeted late Friday, followed by a tweet simply saying, "There are many WikiLeaks supporters listed in the US Twitter subpoena."

Those included in the quest for information include previous WikiLeaks volunteers Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch hacker, and U.S. programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Applebaum is currently in Iceland, according to CNET.

A member of Iceland's parliament who used to volunteer for WikiLeaks said Friday night on Twitter that the DoJ wants the social networking service to hand over her private messages.

"USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?" Birgitta Jonsdottir tweeted. "department of justice are requesting twitter to provide the info – I got 10 days to stop it via legal process before twitter hands it over."' obtained a copy of the federal court order, which also demands Twitter information about Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of leaking information to the document-dumping website.

The order, which seeks comprehensive information on billing and mailing information, connection times and associated IP addresses, says there is "reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation."

The Dec. 14 order gave Twitter three days to respond, but the company sought an unsealing order to notify the users and give them 10 days to object. That order was granted Wednesday.

A Twitter representative told CNET, "To help users protect their rights, it's our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so."

"Note that we can assume Google & Facebook also have secret US government subpeonas. They make no comment. Did they fold?" WikiLeaks tweeted early Saturday.