Posts Tagged ‘CNN’

‘Forced labor’ notes found in clothing


Karen Wisinska found this note in a pair of pants she bought at a Primark store in Belfast in 2011.

(CNN) — A shopper in Northern Ireland may have gotten more than she bargained for when she reportedly discovered a chilling note stuffed in a pair of pants she purchased from European retailer, Primark.

Scrawled on a yellow piece of paper and wrapped around what appears to be a prison identification card, was a message claiming to be from an inmate at a Chinese prison making clothes for export under conditions of slave labor.

“We work 15 hours every day and eat food that wouldn’t even be fed to pigs and dogs. We’re (forced to) work like oxen,” the handwritten note said in Chinese.

The message appealed to the international community to “condemn these human rights abuses by the Chinese government.”

Tip of the iceberg?

Karen Wisinska, who lives in Northern Ireland’s Fermanagh county, said she bought the pants for about £10 ($16) on a trip to Belfast in 2011, but left the garment in her closet — unworn — after she discovered the zipper was broken.

She only found the note when she retrieved the item while packing for a holiday last week, she said. After getting a rough translation of the note, Wisinka sought help from Amnesty International, an organization that has documented the use of forced labor in Chinese detention facilities in the past.

“I was shocked to find this note and card inside the trousers from Primark and even more shocked to discover that it appears to have been made under slave labor conditions in a Chinese prison,” she told Amnesty.

“I am only sorry that I did not discover the note when I first purchased the clothing — then I could have brought this scandal to light much earlier.”


Rights group skeptical of Chinese reforms


Broken by China’s labor camps


China under fire over labor camps

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland program director, Patrick Corrigan, described the story as “horrific.”

“It’s very difficult to know whether it’s genuine, but the fear has to be that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Corrigan said.

Investigation underway

Primark denied sourcing clothing made using forced labor in a statement Wednesday, noting the “considerable time delay” since the garment was purchased.

A spokesperson for the company said that particular line of pants was last sold in Northern Ireland in October 2009.

“We find it very strange that this … has come to light so recently, given that the trousers were on sale four years ago,” he said.

Since 2009, the company’s ethical standards team has carried out nine inspections of the supplier who made the garment, and found no prison or forced labor of any kind, the statement said.

Despite the company’s suspicions, the spokesperson said Primark “knows its responsibilities to the workers in its supply chain,” and has started a detailed investigation.

The company is also examining two other cases that have surfaced in Wales in recent days. On two separate occasions, women reportedly found desperate pleas sewn into labels on dresses purchased from the same Primark store in Swansea. One read “Forced to work exhausting hours,” while the other said, “Degrading sweatshop conditions.”

Primark said the circumstances surrounding the incidents were suspicious, since the labels looked very similar and the two garments were on sale around the same time, but they were made in two different countries, “many thousands of miles apart.”

The budget retailer was among a group of international brands that sourced from factories in Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza building, which collapsed in April 2013, killing more than 1,000 workers and injuring 2,500 others.

The company said it has paid over $12 million in aid and compensation to to support the victims of the disaster.

Forced labor in China

It’s not the first time western consumers have found distressing notes allegedly from abused workers in detention in China.

In 2011, a woman in the United States found a letter in a mix of broken English and Chinese inside a Halloween decoration purportedly from a inmate who made the object under abusive conditions. Last year, CNN tracked down a Chinese man who claimed he wrote the note, along with more than a dozen others, while at a labor camp in northeastern China.

Karen Wisinska says she found the note in this pair of pants.

Sears, the company that owned the store that sold the item, said it found “no evidence” that production was subcontracted to a labor camp during its investigation into the case, but added it no longer sourced from that supplier.

Until recently, China used hundreds of labor camps to detain petty offenders without a trial, under what was known as the laojiao — or “re-education through labor” — scheme. The system was criticized by human rights groups as a means to silence so-called trouble makers, including political dissidents, activists and Falun Gong members.

In November last year, Beijing said it would begin to close the camps. But Amnesty International has since warned that while the laojiao camps have been shut, research suggests that authorities have expanded the use of other forms of arbitrary detention such as “black jails,” enforced drug rehabilitation clinics and “brainwashing centers” to take their place.

CNN could not reach the Xiang Nan prison in China’s Hubei province, where the note found in Northern Ireland allegedly came from. The facility houses around 5,000 inmates, according to China’s justice ministry.

CNN’s Dayu Zhang and Steven Jiang contributed to this report.



The ‘bionic men’ of World War I


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The scale and type of physical injuries endured by soldiers injured in World War One challenged the ingenuity of prosthesis designers, whose work to replace lost body parts would let many return to productive civilian life, a process echoed today with soldiers injured in our recent wars. Here Austro-Hungarian soldiers practice walking with artificial legs at the First War Hospital, Budapest. See gallery showing the effects of the war.The scale and type of physical injuries endured by soldiers injured in World War One challenged the ingenuity of prosthesis designers, whose work to replace lost body parts would let many return to productive civilian life, a process echoed today with soldiers injured in our recent wars. Here Austro-Hungarian soldiers practice walking with artificial legs at the First War Hospital, Budapest. See gallery showing the effects of the war.

German soldier with simple artificial legs, 1917. German soldier with simple artificial legs, 1917.

Postcard of British soldiers using parallel bars to help them learn to walk with their artificial legs. Image was probably taken at Queen Mary's Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital, a specialized orthopedic hospital that opened in London in 1915. Postcard of British soldiers using parallel bars to help them learn to walk with their artificial legs. Image was probably taken at Queen Mary’s Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital, a specialized orthopedic hospital that opened in London in 1915.

A disabled German ex-serviceman works as a carpenter with the aid of a prosthetic arm, Germany, circa 1919.A disabled German ex-serviceman works as a carpenter with the aid of a prosthetic arm, Germany, circa 1919.

Prosthesis for eye and eyelid, to attach to glasses, France, 1916. Prosthesis for eye and eyelid, to attach to glasses, France, 1916.

Soldier wearing prothesis to replace one eye and the eyelids, France, 1916. Soldier wearing prothesis to replace one eye and the eyelids, France, 1916.

German soldier equipped with two, more sophisticated, artificial legs, 1917.German soldier equipped with two, more sophisticated, artificial legs, 1917.

German man riding a bicycle using prostheses on both arms and legs. Photo by Dr. P. A. Smithe, American Red Cross surgeon at the Vienna Red Cross Hospital, 1914-1915.German man riding a bicycle using prostheses on both arms and legs. Photo by Dr. P. A. Smithe, American Red Cross surgeon at the Vienna Red Cross Hospital, 1914-1915.

An artificial limb maker at work in Berlin in 1919. Prosthetics were perhaps Berlin's busiest industry after the carnage of the Great War. An artificial limb maker at work in Berlin in 1919. Prosthetics were perhaps Berlin’s busiest industry after the carnage of the Great War.

Wounded veterans with their prostheses, 1916. Wounded veterans with their prostheses, 1916.


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Editor’s note: This is the third in a series on the legacies of World War I. It will appear on CNN.com/Opinion in the weeks leading up to the 100-year anniversary of the war’s outbreak in August. Ruth Ben-Ghiat is guest editor for the series. Thomas Schlich is Professor in History of Medicine at the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) — World War I slaughtered and mutilated soldiers on a scale the world had never seen. It’s little wonder that its vast numbers of returning crippled veterans led to major gains in the technology of prosthetic limbs.

Virtually every device produced today to replace lost body function of soldiers returning from our modern wars — as well as accident victims, or victims of criminal acts, such as the Boston Marathon bombings — has its roots in the technological advances that emerged from World War I.

Thomas Schlich

The war, which began nearly 100 years ago, produced its own crop of bionic men. In previous wars, severely injured soldiers often succumbed to gangrene and infection. Thanks to better surgery, many now survived. On the German side alone, there were 2 million casualties, 64 percent of them with injured limbs. Some 67,000 were amputees. Over 4,000 amputations were performed on U.S. service personnel according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

How a century-old war affects you

In all nations involved in the war an emerging generation of so-called “war cripples,” as they were referred to in Germany, loomed ominously over the pension and welfare system, and many government bureaucrats, military leaders and civilians worried about their long-term fate.


Three unexpected things from WWI

One solution was returning mutilated soldiers to the workforce. Various prostheses were designed to make that possible, pushing prosthesis manufacturing in many countries from a cottage industry towards modern mass production.

In the United States the Artificial Limb Laboratory was established in 1917 at the Walter Reed General Hospital, in conjunction with the Army Medical School, with the goal to give every amputee soldier a “modern limb,” enabling them to pass as able-bodied citizens in the workplace. While the United States remained the largest producer of artificial limbs worldwide, Germany’s prosthetic developments incorporated a particular quest for efficiency.

German orthopedists, engineers and scientists invented more than 300 new kinds of arms and legs and other prosthetic devices to help. Artificial legs made of wood or metal, sometimes relatively rudimentary, and often recreating the knee-joint in some way, enabled leg-amputees to stand and move around unaided.

WAR’S LASTING LEGACY

The first World War began August 4, 1914, in the wake of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary on June 28 of that year. In the next two months, CNN.com/Opinion will feature articles on the weapons of war, its language, the role of women, battlefield injuries and the rise of aerial surveillance.

Glass eyes and a variety of facial prostheses allowed those with defacing injuries to appear in public. For example, a galvanized and painted copper plate could fill in the missing eye socket and neighboring maxillary bone.

A lost arm or hand was particularly difficult to replace. In the United States engineers had designed a mechanical arm for that purpose that came into wide use after the war. The so-called Carnes arm was not optimal for mechanical work, but it imitated the natural limb and was relatively easy to mass produce cheaply. It became a huge business success.

How World War I gave us ‘cooties’

In Berlin, the Test Center for Replacement Limbs evaluated prosthetic technologies, such as the Carnes arm. Positioned at the confluence of medicine, engineering and the new science of ergonomics, the test center offers a particularly striking example of the setting that made modern prosthetics possible.

The center’s head, the engineer and professor Georg Schlesinger, was an adherent of Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management” — an approach that applied scientific methods to optimize work flows and labor productivity. His idea of a proper prosthesis was something functional and efficient, an exchangeable and mass producible replacement device that would fit with the human body.

While earlier prostheses often tried to replicate body appearance, or to follow the inner structural plan of the original appendage — its shape, muscles, sinews– Schlesinger saw no need to do that. He reasoned that airplanes could fly without imitating birds’ wings, so why did prosthetics have to mimic arms and legs?

The Siemens-Schuckert-Works Universal Arm, invented in 1916, was a remarkable example of functional efficiency. It was basically a tool-holder with interchangeable parts. Its “hands” ranged from a simple hammer to cutlery with elongated handles to inserts whose ends could be attached to machines. It could serve the carpenter, farmer, draughtsman, locksmith, lathe-turner, cabinet-maker or tinsmith.

Many of these prostheses literally merged man and machine, leaving the disabled man firmly attached to his work station. An amputee veteran would arrive at his work place in the factory, hook up the remaining part of his limb to the prosthesis, which in turn would be linked to one of the industrial machines in the factory. He would work for hours like this as a link in a functional kinetic chain.

The image of men tied to their work resonates unsettlingly with Karl Marx’s prediction that the urban proletariat would one day become a mere “appendage of the machine.” It’s an example of how military and industrial conceptions of the body were extended to dehumanize the body itself.

Some visionaries, of course, embraced prosthetics as a means for human transformation, as if the body were a malleable object that could be dignified and enhanced by technology.

And some thinkers go even further and interpret technological enhancement as a next step in human evolution.

Reality might not be so far behind: In 2008 runner Oscar Pistorius, a double-leg amputee, sought to compete in the Bejing Olympics, but his running blades, made of carbon fiber and modeled after a cheetah’s leg, were seen by some as an unfair advantage. Four years later in London, he did compete in the Olympics, embodying a development that had its origins 100 years earlier, in World War I.

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Who’s your hero? Nominate them

Nominations for 2014 CNN Heroes are being accepted online through August 31, 2014.

(CNN) — They’re your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues, your parents.

They are CNN Heroes, each of whom shows how one person can truly make a difference.

Again this year, CNN encourages you to tell us about these everyday people changing the world — by nominating them at CNNHeroes.com. Taking a few minutes to share their story with us could propel them to worldwide recognition.

Maybe someone’s selflessness has directly impacted your life.

Destiny Bush nominated her mentor and “second mother,” Tawanda Jones, whose drill team provides discipline and inspiration to thousands of children in the violent city of Camden, New Jersey.

“It was important for the world to see this wonderful individual who commits herself effortlessly — her heart, her body, her soul — to our youth,” said Bush, now a graduate student.

Or maybe you know an individual in your community whose personal story and dedication inspires you.

Denada Jackson’s mom used to style Robin Emmons’ hair. When Jackson bumped into Emmons years later, she learned about Emmons’ efforts to help low-income neighborhoods access healthy, fresh food.

“It just seemed right that I would nominate her, because I’ve never seen anyone that happy about helping other people,” Jackson said. “She’s making it happen for others in her community. Just to watch her be honored for that, to get a thank you, that was awesome.”

But you don’t have to personally know the individual you nominate. Just be familiar with their work.

Johanna Robinette, for example, lives in the same small town as Dale Beatty, who helps build and modify homes for injured veterans. Robinette had heard about Beatty’s organization, and she saw nominating him as a way to help draw attention to his efforts.

“To be able to take that time to do that, I was thankful that I did and thankful that (he was) honored in that way,” Robinette said. “It felt great to be a part of that.”

It’s easy to nominate an everyday person changing the world, but a thoughtful, well-written nomination is essential to help yours stand out from the thousands we receive. Here are some suggestions we hope will help you in crafting your nomination for consideration.

• Think about what makes your hero special. Ask yourself: What makes my nominee unique? What specific accomplishment has he or she achieved that is truly remarkable? What impact has his or her work had on others? We encourage you to watch videos of previous CNN Heroes to familiarize yourself with the achievements of the inspiring individuals we honor as “everyday people changing the world.”

• Take a look at our nomination form. We suggest you review the information requested about yourself, your nominee and his or her work before filling out your submission.

• Tell us about your hero. Take your time and write from the heart. Remember: What you share — in your own words — is the most important factor in advancing a nomination for further consideration. You can enter your answers to the essay questions directly on the form, or write them first in a word-processing document and “cut and paste” them into each answer field. Please note the information you provide will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

• Click “Submit.” If your nomination has been successfully transmitted, you’ll see a “thank you” message on your screen. If you provided us with your e-mail address, we’ll also send a confirmation your nomination has been received. And yes, we read each and every one.

That’s it. Nominations for 2014 CNN Heroes remain open through August 31, 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is eligible to be considered as a CNN Hero
A: Nominations must be in the name of a single individual, at least 13 years of age, whose accomplishment occurred (or continued) after November 1, 2013. Groups and organizations are ineligible for consideration. Self-nominations will not be accepted. Citizens of voided countries are also ineligible. For complete details on eligibility requirements and other rules governing selection of CNN Heroes, please read our legal disclosures.

Q: How will I know if my hero is selected?
A: Because of the high volume of nominations received, we cannot respond individually to each submission. However, if your nomination advances, we will contact you and your nominee through the contact information you provide.

Q: What if I don’t know my nominee’s address, e-mail and telephone number?
A: Please make every effort to provide as much contact information as possible. We require either an e-mail address or telephone number so we may quickly contact your nominee to obtain permission for consideration as a CNN Hero.

Q: May I submit additional supportive information about my nominee?
A: There’s space at the end of the form to provide links to articles or websites with more information about your hero. Please do not send additional material unless requested.

Q: May I mail or fax my nomination?
A: No. All nominations must be submitted online through our website.

Q: What if my nomination form is rejected?
A: When filling out your form, please note that certain information is required. Those fields are marked with an asterisk (*). If you are not certain of your hero’s nationality, select “Other” from the country drop-down menu. Likewise, if you’re unsure which category his or her cause belongs in, just click “Other.”

CNN is not responsible for technical problems that may prevent your submission from being successfully transmitted. You may wish to first write and save the answers to essay questions in a word-processing document. That way, if you need to resubmit your nomination, you can “cut and paste” those answers into the form without rewriting them.

Q: Can I buy tickets to “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute”?
A: Unfortunately, seating is limited and by invitation only. Air dates and times for the global broadcast of “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” will be announced in October.

Have other questions or comments about CNN Heroes? Contact us.



Secret trial for Uyghur scholar?


Ilham Tohti, pictured here in June 12, 2010, was arrested and taken to Urumqi in January this year.

Beijing (CNN) — A prominent Uyghur scholar labeled a separatist by Chinese authorities may have been tried in secret and may have received a heavy prison sentence, according to his lawyer.

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Beijing’s Minzu University, was detained by police in January and taken to Urumqi, capital of the restive far-western Xinjiang region, where a spate of recent violent incidents have been blamed by the government on Uyghur separatists.

State media has reported that Tohti was charged with separatism. Li Fangping, his lawyer, cited unnamed sources for the news of his client’s secret trial and sentencing.

“I’m shocked but don’t think these are groundless rumors,” Li, who has not been allowed to see Tohti for months, told CNN on Wednesday. “Considering the tense situation in Xinjiang, I think this is very possible.”

Li said local police would neither confirm nor deny the news to him. CNN’s repeated phone calls Wednesday to the Xinjiang government and police went unanswered. The foreign ministry in Beijing declined to comment on the case Tuesday.


Xinjiang attacks shifting to civilians


Tensions in western China

Vocal critic

Tohti is known for his research on Uyghur-Han relations and has been a vocal critic of the government’s ethnic policies in Xinjiang, a resource-rich region long inhabited by the Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim Uyghurs. The arrival of waves of Han, China’s predominant ethnic group, over the past decades has fueled ethnic tensions.

READ: Xinjiang and tensions in China’s restive far west

Human rights groups call the possible development in Tohti’s case “disturbing.”

“Secret trials of prominent activists are very rare these days in China — one would expect at least a show trial with the presence of his lawyer,” said Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“Tohti has long considered himself speaking out for Uyghurs’ human rights in ways that are reasonable and acceptable to the authorities,” she added. “If harsh measures are being used against him, it really shows the authorities’ line of tolerance has shifted a lot in the past year.”

Widespread discrimination

Some Uyghurs have expressed resentment toward the Han majority in recent years over what they describe as harsh treatment from Chinese security forces and loss of economic opportunities to Han people in Xinjiang.

Amnesty International has said that Uyghurs face widespread discrimination in employment, housing and educational opportunities, as well as curtailed religious freedom and political marginalization. Other critics, including exiled Uyghur activists, have attributed the rise of violence in Xinjiang to Beijing’s increasingly repressive rule there — a claim the government strongly denies.

READ: China launches anti-terror crackdown

In the region’s deadliest violent incident in recent history, a suicide bombing last month killed 39 people at a street market in Urumqi. Another apparent suicide bombing left three dead in April at an Urumqi train station. In March, 29 people were stabbed to death by alleged Uyghur separatists at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.

The Chinese government has responded by launching a massive anti-terrorism campaign as well as pouring more economic resources into Xinjiang.

Executions

On Monday, China executed 13 people convicted of terrorism charges related to attacks on public places in Xinjiang in recent months, state media reported. The same day, a court in Urumqi sentenced three people to death for their roles in a deadly attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last October. Defendant names revealed by state media all sounded Uyghur.

“Repression plus economic incentives — that has continued to be the government response,” said Wang, of Human Rights Watch. “Economic development and job opportunities are important to the Uyghurs, but these things must be done in a way that respects their culture and freedom of expression.

“Unfortunately, the government is more interested in projecting what it wishes to do in Xinjiang rather than looking at what the real problems and ethnic grievances are in the region.”


3 killed in Buddhist mob attacks


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A Sri Lankan Muslim woman carries her daughter outside her burnt house after at least three Muslims were killed and 80 injured in clashes with Buddhists on Sunday night. The sectarian riots in and around the town of Aluthgama, in southern Sri Lanka, followed demonstrations by the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, police said. Homes and shops were looted and burned, and a curfew remains in place.A Sri Lankan Muslim woman carries her daughter outside her burnt house after at least three Muslims were killed and 80 injured in clashes with Buddhists on Sunday night. The sectarian riots in and around the town of Aluthgama, in southern Sri Lanka, followed demonstrations by the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, police said. Homes and shops were looted and burned, and a curfew remains in place.

Buddhist monk Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara, the leader of the hardline Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena, gave an inflammatory speech at a rally that preceded the violence on Sunday night. He is pictured here in 2013.Buddhist monk Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara, the leader of the hardline Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena, gave an inflammatory speech at a rally that preceded the violence on Sunday night. He is pictured here in 2013.

A Sri Lankan Muslim woman walks past soldiers following clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in the town of Aluthgama.A Sri Lankan Muslim woman walks past soldiers following clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in the town of Aluthgama.

A Sri Lankan resident surveys the damage to a charred Muslim-owned home.A Sri Lankan resident surveys the damage to a charred Muslim-owned home.

A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard on a road outside a smashed window.A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard on a road outside a smashed window.

Sri Lankan residents survey the damage to a damaged Muslim-owned home.Sri Lankan residents survey the damage to a damaged Muslim-owned home.

A Sri Lankan Muslim man walks past ransacked shops in Aluthgama.A Sri Lankan Muslim man walks past ransacked shops in Aluthgama.

A Sri Lankan Muslim man inspects the remains of a tailor's shop. Rauff Hakeem, Sri Lanka's Justice Minister and himself a Muslim, said his party would weigh its future in the government according to the official response to the attacks. I am ashamed I could not help my people, he said.A Sri Lankan Muslim man inspects the remains of a tailor’s shop. Rauff Hakeem, Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister and himself a Muslim, said his party would weigh its future in the government according to the official response to the attacks. “I am ashamed I could not help my people,” he said.

A Muslim woman in the aftermath of clashes in Aluthgama. The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka condemned the violence, which followed a rally by Buddhist hardliners days after an alleged altercation between a Muslim driver and a Buddhist monk and his driver.A Muslim woman in the aftermath of clashes in Aluthgama. The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka condemned the violence, which followed a rally by Buddhist hardliners days after an alleged altercation between a Muslim driver and a Buddhist monk and his driver.

Men point at blood on the floor of a home.Men point at blood on the floor of a home.

Shifna Abdul Kareem, a 16-year-old Muslim, surveys the damage to her burnt house in Adhikarigoda, a village in Aluthgama, following an outbreak of violence.Shifna Abdul Kareem, a 16-year-old Muslim, surveys the damage to her burnt house in Adhikarigoda, a village in Aluthgama, following an outbreak of violence.

Police officers on a street in Aluthgama as shops burn. A curfew has been put in place to prevent further violence.Police officers on a street in Aluthgama as shops burn. A curfew has been put in place to prevent further violence.

A girl looks at a burned house in Aluthgama.A girl looks at a burned house in Aluthgama.

A Muslim mother and child take in damage to their house.A Muslim mother and child take in damage to their house.

A Muslim man talks on his phone while standing in what's left of his house.A Muslim man talks on his phone while standing in what’s left of his house.

A Muslim woman observes her vandalized house in Aluthgama.A Muslim woman observes her vandalized house in Aluthgama.

Sri Lankan Muslims leave seeking sanctuary following mob attacks by a hardline Buddhist group.Sri Lankan Muslims leave seeking sanctuary following mob attacks by a hardline Buddhist group.


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Colombo, Sri Lanka (CNN) — At least three people have been killed and 52 injured after Buddhist mobs rampaged through Muslim areas in southwest Sri Lanka, police say.

The outbreak of religious violence followed a large rally Sunday by the Bodu Bala Sena, a hardline Buddhist nationalist group led by monks, in the town of Aluthgama, about 60 kilometers south of Colombo.

The rally was prompted by the alleged assault of a monk by Muslim youths days earlier, police said.

After the rally, violence erupted on both sides as the demonstrators marched through Muslim neighborhoods, allegedly chanting anti-Muslim slogans, according to a statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

Muslim homes and shops were gutted in the violence, which has prompted Muslims in the region to gather in mosques for safety.

Sri Lankan police spokesman Ajith Rohana told CNN that 12 people from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority had been arrested over the violence, some of them members of Bodu Bala Sena.

“They have been remanded at the moment and we’re framing charges in due course,” he said.

Soldiers had been brought in to enforce a curfew, banning people from the roads or from gathering in public places, in the hope of preventing further clashes in Aluthgama and the nearby town of Beruwala, coastal destinations popular with foreign tourists.

The curfew was relaxed from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday to allow people to leave their homes to gather supplies. Rohana said that “sporadic incidents” had been reported Monday night, but that authorities had the situation under control.

The violence has alarmed international observers, with the U.N.’s Pillay urging Sri Lanka’s government to “urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities.”

“I am very concerned this violence could spread to Muslim communities in other parts of the country,” she said.

Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, a Muslim, said his party would weigh its future in the government depending on the official response to the attacks. “I am ashamed I could not help my people,” he said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is in Bolivia for the G77 summit, commented on the clashes on Twitter.

“The Government will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. I urge all parties concerned to act in restraint,” he wrote.

“An investigation will be held for law to take its course of action to bring to book those responsible for incidents in Aluthgama.”

READ MORE: Are Sri Lanka’s ‘anti-terror’ arrests an attempt to intimidate activists?

About three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s population are Sinhalese, most of them Theravada Buddhists. According to the country’s 2011 census, 70.2% of the population is Buddhist, 12.6% Hindu, 9.7% Muslim and 7.4% Christian.

In recent years, the country has witnessed a surge of Buddhist nationalism, led by the Bodu Bala Sena, the country’s most powerful Buddhist organization, which has pledged to defend the religion.

Its rally on Sunday was held in response to an earlier incident on Thursday, which is a public holiday in Sri Lanka commemorating the day Buddhism reached the island nation.

Rohana said a Buddhist monk and his driver had been assaulted by a group of four Muslim youths, sparking anger among the Buddhist community. The four alleged assailants were subsequently arrested.

He said the mob violence did not begin until the rally on Sunday.

Fred Carver, of the UK-based Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, urged Sri Lanka’s authorities to rapidly take charge of the situation.

“We know from past experience that ethnic violence in Sri Lanka rapidly spirals and leads to phenomenal loss of life unless there is swift and effective intervention by the police,” he told CNN.

“In the longer term, I hope the Sri Lankan Government reflects on the consequences of patronizing and endorsing extremist nationalists, while at the same time engendering a culture of impunity for those involved in ethnic violence.”

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka condemned the violence and called on all sides to show restraint.

Groups warn of backlash as U.N. calls for probe into Sri Lanka civil war


Pakistan launches big offensive

(CNN) — Pakistan on Sunday launched a military operation in a restive province near the border with Afghanistan in an attempt to “finish off” militants in the area “once and for all,” Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told CNN.

Asif said the operation, which included airstrikes early Sunday, was the government’s second option, but negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban failed.

On Monday, the Pakistani Taliban issued a statement calling on all foreign-run businesses, international airline companies and multinational companies to “wrap up their affairs (and) leave Pakistan immediately.”

The statement was issued by spokesman Shahidullah Shahid in response to the military’s operation.

Shahid said the Pakistani Taliban will meet any military operation with an equally damaging response and that “the government will yearn for talks and peace but will realize that it is now too late.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif defended the operation to members of parliament on Monday, saying that the government had tried patiently to pursue peace talks.

“On one hand we were pursuing dialogue, and on the other we were being targeted. We were pursuing talks, but from Islamabad courts to Karachi airport we were attacked.”

Sharif vowed that the operation would continue until terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan.


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Six soldiers were killed and three were injured Monday in an IED explosion, according to Pakistan’s military.

Two soldiers died in an exchange of fire that killed seven terrorists who were trying to flee, the Defense Ministry said.

Earlier the military released a statement that said 50 suspected terrorists were killed in the airstrikes. The air raids were based on intelligence about the presence of foreign and local militants who were linked to last week’s deadly attack on the Karachi airport, the military said.

Asif said the Karachi airport attack was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Here’s a look at what you need to know about Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban sources said jets dropped five bombs on the Degan area of North Waziristan. The target was a meeting of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan members, the militant group said, but added that the number of casualties was unclear.

“In this operation we will not differentiate between foreign and local militants,” Asif said. “We are determined to finish them off, once and for all.”

Most of the fatalities in the strikes were Uzbek fighters, the military said. The raid took place in Degan and Datta Khel.

Asif said the military hopes to conclude the offensive — called Zarb-e-Azb in Urdu, which translates to “Strike of the Prophet’s Sword” — by the beginning of Ramadan on June 28. But it may take two or three months, he said, until “our land … is free of this menace.”

He said it is a Pakistani-only operation and the United States hasn’t been asked to assist with drone strikes.

Northwestern Pakistan is home to loosely governed tribal areas. It’s also a base for foreign fighters and a refuge for members of the Islamist militant Haqqani movement.

Last week, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan claimed it carried out the airport attack, which resulted in an hours-long siege and left dozens dead, including the assailants. The militants said the attack was carried out with the Pakistani Taliban.

There were reports that travelers were congregating in hotels and restaurants in towns like Bannu after being stranded due to a curfew that began Friday.

Asif said the government will help out residents.

“We are at war now. There will be inevitable fallouts,” he said. “If there is blowback, we are ready and prepared to assist people who have had to flee from their homes.”

READ: What the Karachi airport attack says about the Pakistani Taliban

READ: What’s behind Karachi airport attack?

CNN’s Zahir Shah Shirazi and Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.


China to deport ‘pork’ artist

Hong Kong (CNN) — A Chinese-Australian artist who covered a diorama of Tiananmen Square in ground pork is to be deported from China, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Guo Jian was taken into custody last weekend, a day after The Financial Times published an interview with the artist, and photos of his latest work.

The piece, called “The Square,” shows the Beijing landmark covered in 160 kilograms of ground meat.

In the accompanying FT article, Guo was highly critical of the actions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on June 4, 1989, when troops opened fire on civilians around Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds if not thousands of people.

Artist Guo Jian's 2014 installation, The Square, consists of a model of Beijing's Tiananmen Square covered in 160 kilograms of ground pork.Artist Guo Jian’s 2014 installation, “The Square”, consists of a model of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square covered in 160 kilograms of ground pork.

Guo showed images of the diorama to a reporter for a profile piece published in the Financial Times on May 30.Guo showed images of the diorama to a reporter for a profile piece published in the Financial Times on May 30.

Friends say the artist was detained soon after the story and the images were published.Friends say the artist was detained soon after the story and the images were published.

According to the FT article, Guo had earlier covered the diorama with miniature bulldozers, jackhammers and other wrecking equipment.According to the FT article, Guo had earlier covered the diorama with miniature bulldozers, jackhammers and other wrecking equipment.


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Guo Jian's Guo Jian’s “The Square” (2014)


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“The army is regarded as a loveable institution. But at Tiananmen I realized it’s not, they will kill you if ordered to,” he was quoted as saying.

‘Visa-related’ matter

According to a DFAT spokesman, consular officers visited Guo in Beijing on June 5. They said Chinese authorities said Guo was being held on a “visa-related matter” and would be deported after 15 days’ detention.

Amnesty International’s China researcher William Nee said the timing of Guo’s deportation was “incredibly odd,” given the artist has worked in the country for a number of years.

“It seems incredibly odd timing that right after he gives an interview that is very moving to the FT and he comes out with a very shocking and moving piece of artwork, that is the time that the government decides to detain him about a visa-related issue,” Nee said.

“As far as I know, he did not leave the country or get detained for some other unrelated event. It was almost certainly due to his freedom of expression which the government did not approve of,” he added.

Born in China, Guo joined the PLA in the late 1970s during a recruitment drive to support the Sino-Vietnamese war, according to his website. He was just 17 years old.

After leaving the army, Guo worked as a propaganda officer for a transport company and later studied art in Beijing. He told the FT he witnessed shooting near Tiananmen Square on the night of the massacre, and saw bodies stacked outside a local hospital.

“Walking into the hospital, walking into the emergency room packed with bodies, the smell was much stronger than in my studio. I just couldn’t do anything and wanted to throw up. I was shocked, angry, sad and hopeless,” he told the FT.

After the Tiananmen crackdown, Guo moved to Australia where he became a citizen and lived for 13 years.

‘Don’t call me’

On Monday, one of Guo’s friends told CNN he’d called Guo to discuss the FT article. No one answered, but the artist texted him soon after to say he was “with police,” followed by another SMS: “don’t call me”.

The friend said Guo was aware of the provocative nature of his work. “He’s not naïve about this stuff,” he said.

Prior to finishing the project, Guo asked the friend not to tell anyone about it, for fear that the authorities would stop him from working on it.

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, authorities across the country arrested a number of prominent dissidents and critics of the government.

READ: China’s Tiananmen activists: Where are they now?

READ: Tiananmen 25 years on: The day I drove famed hunger strikers to safety

READ: China, the world remembers Tiananmen massacre

CNN’s Euan McKirdy and David McKenzie contributed to this report.


Murder on Street View?

(CNN) — The images are shocking. A man apparently wielding an ax looms over a figure lying spreadeagled on the cobbled road, clad in red overalls.

The first man turns to face the camera as it passes and watches, ax in hand, as it drives into the distance.

Almost more disturbingly, swiveling around on Google Street View, a man stands watching the grisly scene, hand nonchalantly resting on his hip.

All three faces are blurred. But the identities of the two men at the center of the tableau are far from a secret in this corner of Edinburgh.

The man lying seemingly lifeless on the ground is Dan Thompson, who has owned and run the Tomson Motor Company on Giles Street — in the Edinburgh district of Leith — for 30 years. Above him, longtime employee Gary Kerr.

Zoom closer and, through the distortion, Kerr’s expression could make you shudder. The “axman” is laughing.


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His boss and apparent victim is chuckling too, when he describes the hoax to CNN.

Thompson and Kerr have been at the center of much media attention in Britain after a local newspaper picked up the story of their Google Street View “murder.”

But it took a while. The photos, Thompson reckons, were taken around August 2012.

“Giles Street is like a misshapen horseshoe. By chance, I saw the Street View car going in other leg. I knew it would reach us in half a minute,” he says.

“I had just enough time to whip in, grab Gary and a pick-ax handle and he came out to give me a so called ‘Leith massage,’ which is essentially being bashed.”

Kerr has worked at the Tomson Motor Company for more than a decade, and was “right up” for the prank, Thompson said.

He said Google had apparently uploaded the images and some months later the company was alerted when one of its suppliers rang it up “in fits of laughter.” Thompson said it was more than a year before someone apparently alerted the police, who he says “very properly” came around to check out the incident.

“A WPC [female police officer] has her car serviced here and she said ‘I know exactly what’s going on here — it’s a wind up.’

“They came in and said ‘you guys, do you happen to know anything about this?’ We explained what had happened,” Thompson said.

“They were smiling when they came in and were roaring with laughter when they left.”

Thompson said that he hadn’t heard from Google about the prank but speculated that the publicity it had generated would be very good for the company.

“It’s nothing obscene, but now a lot more people know about Street View — so I would think this must be a joy to them.”

When CNN contacted Google about the prank, the company declined to comment.

Thompson fears that his tableau may not be long for the cyberworld.

“Infuriatingly I think last Thursday the Street View car went past and we hadn’t set anything up,” he said.

“I expect there will ll be a lot of copycats of this now but the trick is spotting [the Street View car] in time.”

As for the police, they told CNN they would “always respond to any reports of concern for personal safety.”


Poland’s mini desert

Editor’s note: 25 years since Poland’s first partly free elections, CNN’s On the Road series visits the country looking at how it has been transformed since the fall of communism while taking a deeper look at its customs and culture. Watch reports on CNN TV from June 2

(CNN) — No, it’s not a mirage: there really is a desert in the middle of Poland.

The Bledow desert — or, as some prefer to call it, the Polish Sahara — has been flummoxing visitors for centuries. Its sprawling sands are entirely at odds with an otherwise verdant country that boasts four lush lake districts, and 30% of which is covered by thick forest.

More bizarre still is the conservation project funded by the EU to preserve this barren anomaly.

Multi-million dollar financing has been provided to help safeguard the Polish desert, through deforestation and the eradication of native plant life. The desert is shrinking, thanks to the return of native fauna, such as pine and fir trees. Money from Natura 2000, a European Union-wide initiative to preserve fragile ecosystems, is trying to stop it.


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“Some people would say why bother? Just let it grown green, let the vegetation grow, let the trees grow. Why not?” says Magdalena Moroń, of the Desert Rejuvenation Program.

It’s a good question. But far from being man made, the Bledow first came to be via a combination of natural and unnatural factors. In the 13th century, the forest here was felled to foster silver and lead mining.

It revealed a hitherto hidden deep layer of sand, deposited by waters flowing from melting glaciers perhaps a century before. Humankind’s destruction of native plant life, in league with the natural deposit of sand, created the desert.

In the beginning, this dusty expanse measured 150 square kilometers. Today, thanks to the encroaching trees planted in the 1950s by neighboring locals fed up of sweeping sand from their villages, it now commands a dinky 32 square kilometers.

But while it might not quite be the bona fide Sahara, Moroń insists: “This place is worth fighting for. It’s worth working on it to make sure it doesn’t disappear off the map.”

It’s true that Bledow has carved a unique place in its home country’s history. The desert’s eerie emptiness on the fringes of Chechlo village, southern Poland, has long fascinated passers-by (in 1924, a tourist even reported seeing a mirage here). During World War II, it was used to train occupying German troops before they went to the North African front.

For Moroń, the desert’s future rests on it remaining a unique part of Poland. “It’s the only natural desert in our area, (so it’s) a very big attraction for Poland and Europe,” she says. “We are planning to have a lot of tourism here.”

The conservation project’s objectives are to stabilize the desert, establish nature trails, produce a guidebook and attract 1,000 visitors to this sandy oddity a year. But, unlike the camels that this desert doesn’t have, it remains to be seen whether the idea of the Polish Sahara as a major tourist attraction will hold water.

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