C. AFRICAN REPUBLIC LEADER SWORN IN AMID LOOTING

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BANGUI, Central African Republic — Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza urged fighters to put down their arms as she took the oath of office Thursday, even as looters pillaged Muslim neighborhoods and sectarian tensions escalated in the anarchic Central African Republic.

Samba-Panza, the nation’s first female leader, was sworn in at a ceremony days after being chosen by a national transitional council. The rebel leader behind the March 2013 coup stepped aside nearly two weeks ago under mounting international criticism of his inability to control his fighters and stem the violence.

In her inaugural address, Samba-Panza urged both the Muslim fighters behind the coup and the Christian militiamen who rose up in opposition to support peace.

"I strongly call on the fighters to show patriotism in putting down their weapons," she said. "The ongoing disorder in the country will no longer be tolerated."

Central African Republic has been wracked by sectarian violence for months, with more than 1,000 people killed in Bangui over the course of several days in December alone. Nearly 1 million people have fled their homes, with 100,000 of them living in and around the Bangui airport being guarded by French soldiers.

U.N. officials have warned that the crisis is at high risk of escalating into a genocide, driven by fighting between Christian and Muslim communities in the country with a history of coups and dictatorship.

Christian Bernis Latakpi, 24, a university student, said he hoped that Samba-Panza, who has been mayor of Bangui since June, would bring much-needed reconciliation after months of bloodshed.

"Since independence, men have always run the country and they have failed at the job," he said. "We’re looking to her to quickly bring security and to reunite our Muslim and Christian brothers. Because the Muslim Central Africans - they were born here, grew up here and we can’t disown them. Now it’s up to the mother to reconcile these different communities."

Yet even in the hours leading up to her inauguration, tensions flared across Bangui. Hundreds of Christians went on a rampage Wednesday, looting and setting fire to Muslim-owned homes and businesses and threatening to go on a killing spree.

Rwandan peacekeepers and French forces intervened late Wednesday to rescue about 30 Muslims trapped inside their homes by marauding gangs in the PK13 district of Bangui, witnesses said. The help arrived after international human rights activists pleaded for help for the families.

"If these people are not evacuated within the next hour, they will be dead tomorrow. As soon as we leave they will be killed," urged Peter Bouckaert, emergency director at Human Rights Watch.

As night fell, French forces provided a truck to take the family and their few belongings to a nearby refugee camp of Muslims under international protection.

Muslim civilians have come under growing threat following the 10-month rule of coup leader Michel Djotodia and his mostly Muslim fighters who were blamed for scores of atrocities against the predominantly Christian population. A Christian militia launched a coup attempt last month that unleashed bloodshed. Djotodia finally surrendered power about two weeks ago.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has welcomed Samba-Panza’s selection, saying “she has a unique opportunity to advance the political transition process, bring all the parties together to end the violence, and move her country toward elections not later than February 2015.”

African countries have contributed some 4,600 peacekeepers to Central African Republic, and France has sent 1,600 troops. Among the countries helping is Rwanda, which suffered through genocide in 1994 that left more than 500,000 people dead.

On Wednesday, a Rwandan captain in Bangui told a mob surrounding a Muslim resident’s home how his own people had suffered. Even if the pain is still there, he said, they are learning to live together again.

No one seemed to listen. Moments later, a school teacher joined women and children in looting a predominantly Muslim neighborhood.

"I am just stealing from the thieves," the teacher said.

—-

Multinationals —China loses its allur

by Xian Wan and Biodun Iginla

Life is getting tougher for foreign companies. Those that want to stay will have to adjust

Jan 25th 2014 | From the print edition

ACCORDING to the late Roberto Goizueta, a former boss of The Coca-Cola Company, April 15th 1981 was “one of the most important days…in the history of the world.” That date marked the opening of the first Coke bottling plant to be built in China since the Communist revolution.

The claim was over the top, but not absurd. Mao Zedong’s disastrous policies had left the economy in tatters. The height of popular aspiration was the “four things that go round”: bicycles, sewing machines, fans and watches. The welcome that Deng Xiaoping, China’s then leader, gave to foreign firms was part of a series of changes that turned China into one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets in the world.

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For the past three decades, multinationals have poured in. After the financial crisis, many companies looked to China for salvation. Now it looks as though the gold rush may be over.

More pain, less gain

In some ways, China’s market is still the world’s most enticing. Although it accounts for only around 8% of private consumption in the world, it contributed more than any other country to the growth of consumption in 2011-13. Firms like GM and Apple have made fat profits there.

But for many foreign companies, things are getting harder. That is partly because growth is flagging (see article), while costs are rising. Talented young workers are getting harder to find, and pay is soaring.

China’s government has always made life difficult for firms in some sectors—it has restricted market access for foreign banks and brokerage houses and blocked internet firms, including Facebook and Twitter—but the tough treatment seems to be spreading. Hardware firms such as Cisco, IBM and Qualcomm are facing a post-Snowden backlash; GlaxoSmithKline, a drugmaker, is ensnared in a corruption probe; Apple was forced into a humiliating apology last year for offering inadequate warranties; and Starbucks has been accused by state media of price-gouging. A sweeping consumer-protection law will come into force in March, possibly providing a fresh line of attack on multinationals. And the government’s crackdown on extravagant spending by officials is hitting the foreign firms that peddle luxuries (see article).

Competition is heating up. China was already the world’s fiercest battleground for global brands but local firms, long laggards in quality, are joining the fray. Many now have overseas experience, and some are developing inventive products. Xiaomi and Huawei have come up with world-class smartphones, and Sany’s excellent diggers are taking on costlier ones made by Hitachi and Caterpillar. Consumers will no longer pay a hefty premium just because a brand is foreign. Their internet savvy and lack of brand loyalty makes them the world’s most demanding customers (see article).

Some companies are leaving. Revlon said in December that it was pulling out altogether. L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics firm, said soon afterwards that it would stop selling one of its main brands, Garnier. Best Buy, an American electronics retailer, and Media Markt, a German rival, have already left, as has Yahoo, an internet giant. Tesco, a British food retailer, last year gave up trying to go it alone, and entered a joint venture with a state-owned firm.

Some of those who are staying are struggling. IBM this week said that revenues in China fell by 23% during the last quarter of 2013. Rémy Cointreau, a French drinks group, reported that sales of its Rémy Martin cognac fell by more than 30% during the first three quarters of last year because of a plunge in China. Yum Brands, an American fast-food firm, said in September last year that same-store sales in China had fallen by 16% in the year to date. Its problems were partly the result of a government investigation into alleged illegal antibiotic use by its chicken suppliers.

Investors no longer celebrate firms with big investments in China. Our Sinodependency Index weights American multinationals by their China revenues. Sino-dependent firms used to outperform their peers, but in the past two years their share prices have done worse than others’.

As Jeffrey Immelt, the boss of GE, puts it, “China is big, but it is hard…[other] places are equally big, but they are not quite as hard.” Companies that want to stay in China will have to put in even more effort. Many will have to change strategy.

One China is over

First, rising costs mean that bosses must shift from going for growth to enhancing productivity. This sounds obvious, but in China the mentality has long been “just throw more men at the problem”. One way to get a grip on costs is to invest in labour-substituting technology, not only in manufacturing but also in services. Also, multinationals are falling behind local firms like Alibaba and Tencent in exploiting a surge of big data coming from e-commerce and smartphones.

Second, tighter control is another must. GSK’s bosses in London admitted that its problems in China were partly the result of executives acting “outside of our processes and control”. Managers in headquarters must ensure that executives’ behaviour and safety standards are as high as anywhere else in the world. Chinese consumers are even more active on social media than those in the West, so any scandal is instantly broadcast nationally.

Lastly, a One China policy no longer makes sense. Most firms set up their local offices when China’s economy was smaller than $2 trillion. Although it will soon be five times that size, many still try to run their operations from Shanghai. That makes little sense when tastes in food, fashion and much else vary between provinces and mega-cities that have populations as big as European countries. Some 400m Chinese do not speak Mandarin. So even as CEOs need to keep a closer eye on standards and behaviour, they should localise marketing and perhaps product development.

China is still a rich prize. Firms that can boost productivity, improve governance and respond to local tastes can still prosper. But the golden years are over.

'BLACK WIDOWS' TIED TO DECADE OF TERROR IN RUSSIA

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MOSCOW — The search for three women suspected of planning terrorist attacks at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics has raised one of Russia’s most feared specters - the female suicide bombers known as “black widows.” For more than a decade, women have committed many of Russia’s worst terror attacks, downing airliners, blowing up subway cars and killing people going to a rock concert.

WHO ARE THEY?

The term “black widow” refers to the belief that these women took the desperate step of becoming suicide bombers in order to avenge husbands or male relatives killed in Russia’s long fight against Islamic militants in the Caucasus region. Russian police leaflets circulating in the Olympic host city of Sochi say that one of the women suspected of planning an attack at the Winter Olympics is the widow of a militant. But there have been cases where the bombers’ husbands were alive at the time of their attacks, and one failed bomber said it was shame and a lack of money that drove her to terrorism.

LONG HISTORY OF TERROR ATTACKS BY WOMEN IN RUSSIA

One of the earliest attacks to draw attention to female terrorists was the 2002 mass hostage-taking at a Moscow theater by Chechen militants - 19 of the 41 attackers were women. The crisis ended with Russian forces pumping narcotic gas into the theater, killing all the attackers and at least 118 of the approximately 850 hostages. Police footage after the raid showed some of the women dead in theater seats with explosives attached to their bodies.

In 2003, two women blew themselves up at the entrance gate to a Moscow outdoor rock concert, killing 14 people.

In the first wave of a shocking series of attacks in 2004, two Russian airliners were brought down with bombs on the same night, killing a total of 79 people. Authorities said both of the bombers were women, and one had a brother who had disappeared in Chechnya.

A week later, a female suicide bomber blew herself up outside a Moscow subway station, killing 10 people. Early reports identified her as a sister of one of the plane bombers.

But authorities later said the sister instead was one of two females among a group that seized some 1,100 hostages the next day at a school in the town of Beslan. Russian forces besieged the school and at least 380 people were killed.

In 2010, twin blasts on the Moscow subway that killed at least 40 people in one day were blamed on women suicide bombers. Last October, a suicide bomber married to an Islamic militant killed six people on a bus in the southern city of Volgograd, just a few hundred miles (kilometers) from Sochi. Her husband died in a clash with Russian forces a month later.

BUT THEY DON’T ALWAYS SUCCEED

Just five days after the rock concert bombing, a Chechen woman planning to bomb a Moscow cafe lost her nerve and told cafe guards she was carrying explosives. A bomb disposal expert was killed when her bomb blew up while he was trying to defuse it. The woman, Zarema Muzhakhoyeva, later told a Russian newspaper she had turned to terrorism after her husband was killed in a business dispute and she had stolen jewelry from her grandparents and been frozen out by relatives.

Two women planning to wear suicide belts to Red Square on New Year’s Eve 2010 were foiled by a simple error. Their bombs were to be set off when their handler sent text messages to the cellphones connected to the bombs. But before then, one of the phones received a spam message, blowing the woman bomber up. The plot leader and the surviving woman were arrested and sentenced to prison.

Technology and jobs

by Judith Stein and Biodun Iginla, BBC News and The Economist

Coming to an office near you

The effect of today’s technology on tomorrow’s jobs will be immense—and no country is ready for it

Jan 18th 2014 | From the print edition

INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were.

For those, including this newspaper, who believe that technological progress has made the world a better place, such churn is a natural part of rising prosperity. Although innovation kills some jobs, it creates new and better ones, as a more productive society becomes richer and its wealthier inhabitants demand more goods and services. A hundred years ago one in three American workers was employed on a farm. Today less than 2% of them produce far more food. The millions freed from the land were not consigned to joblessness, but found better-paid work as the economy grew more sophisticated. Today the pool of secretaries has shrunk, but there are ever more computer programmers and web designers.

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Optimism remains the right starting-point, but for workers the dislocating effects of technology may make themselves evident faster than its benefits (see article). Even if new jobs and wonderful products emerge, in the short term income gaps will widen, causing huge social dislocation and perhaps even changing politics. Technology’s impact will feel like a tornado, hitting the rich world first, but eventually sweeping through poorer countries too. No government is prepared for it.

Why be worried? It is partly just a matter of history repeating itself. In the early part of the Industrial Revolution the rewards of increasing productivity went disproportionately to capital; later on, labour reaped most of the benefits. The pattern today is similar. The prosperity unleashed by the digital revolution has gone overwhelmingly to the owners of capital and the highest-skilled workers. Over the past three decades, labour’s share of output has shrunk globally from 64% to 59%. Meanwhile, the share of income going to the top 1% in America has risen from around 9% in the 1970s to 22% today. Unemployment is at alarming levels in much of the rich world, and not just for cyclical reasons. In 2000, 65% of working-age Americans were in work; since then the proportion has fallen, during good years as well as bad, to the current level of 59%.

Worse, it seems likely that this wave of technological disruption to the job market has only just started. From driverless cars to clever household gadgets (see article), innovations that already exist could destroy swathes of jobs that have hitherto been untouched. The public sector is one obvious target: it has proved singularly resistant to tech-driven reinvention. But the step change in what computers can do will have a powerful effect on middle-class jobs in the private sector too.

Until now the jobs most vulnerable to machines were those that involved routine, repetitive tasks. But thanks to the exponential rise in processing power and the ubiquity of digitised information (“big data”), computers are increasingly able to perform complicated tasks more cheaply and effectively than people. Clever industrial robots can quickly “learn” a set of human actions. Services may be even more vulnerable. Computers can already detect intruders in a closed-circuit camera picture more reliably than a human can. By comparing reams of financial or biometric data, they can often diagnose fraud or illness more accurately than any number of accountants or doctors. One recent study by academics at Oxford University suggests that 47% of today’s jobs could be automated in the next two decades.

At the same time, the digital revolution is transforming the process of innovation itself, as ourspecial report explains. Thanks to off-the-shelf code from the internet and platforms that host services (such as Amazon’s cloud computing), provide distribution (Apple’s app store) and offer marketing (Facebook), the number of digital startups has exploded. Just as computer-games designers invented a product that humanity never knew it needed but now cannot do without, so these firms will no doubt dream up new goods and services to employ millions. But for now they are singularly light on workers. When Instagram, a popular photo-sharing site, was sold to Facebook for about $1 billion in 2012, it had 30m customers and employed 13 people. Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy a few months earlier, employed 145,000 people in its heyday.

The problem is one of timing as much as anything. Google now employs 46,000 people. But it takes years for new industries to grow, whereas the disruption a startup causes to incumbents is felt sooner. Airbnb may turn homeowners with spare rooms into entrepreneurs, but it poses a direct threat to the lower end of the hotel business—a massive employer.

No time to be timid

If this analysis is halfway correct, the social effects will be huge. Many of the jobs most at risk are lower down the ladder (logistics, haulage), whereas the skills that are least vulnerable to automation (creativity, managerial expertise) tend to be higher up, so median wages are likely to remain stagnant for some time and income gaps are likely to widen.

Anger about rising inequality is bound to grow, but politicians will find it hard to address the problem. Shunning progress would be as futile now as the Luddites’ protests against mechanised looms were in the 1810s, because any country that tried to stop would be left behind by competitors eager to embrace new technology. The freedom to raise taxes on the rich to punitive levels will be similarly constrained by the mobility of capital and highly skilled labour.

The main way in which governments can help their people through this dislocation is through education systems. One of the reasons for the improvement in workers’ fortunes in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution was because schools were built to educate them—a dramatic change at the time. Now those schools themselves need to be changed, to foster the creativity that humans will need to set them apart from computers. There should be less rote-learning and more critical thinking. Technology itself will help, whether through MOOCs (massive open online courses) or even video games that simulate the skills needed for work.

The definition of “a state education” may also change. Far more money should be spent on pre-schooling, since the cognitive abilities and social skills that children learn in their first few years define much of their future potential. And adults will need continuous education. State education may well involve a year of study to be taken later in life, perhaps in stages.

Yet however well people are taught, their abilities will remain unequal, and in a world which is increasingly polarised economically, many will find their job prospects dimmed and wages squeezed. The best way of helping them is not, as many on the left seem to think, to push up minimum wages. Jacking up the floor too far would accelerate the shift from human workers to computers. Better to top up low wages with public money so that anyone who works has a reasonable income, through a bold expansion of the tax credits that countries such as America and Britain use.

Innovation has brought great benefits to humanity. Nobody in their right mind would want to return to the world of handloom weavers. But the benefits of technological progress are unevenly distributed, especially in the early stages of each new wave, and it is up to governments to spread them. In the 19th century it took the threat of revolution to bring about progressive reforms. Today’s governments would do well to start making the changes needed before their people get angry.

SYRIAN REFUGEES STRUGGLE AMID ISOLATION AND MISINFORMATION

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ZAHLEH, Lebanon — Fear, confusion and a lack of information are preventing many Syrian refugees in Lebanon from knowing where to turn for aid.

With a constant surge of refugees now fighting the bitter winter cold, humanitarian organizations are struggling to find ways to reach them with the information they need to survive - and are recruiting some refugees to help out.

In Lebanon, where displaced Syrians now equal one-third of the population, the problem is made worse by the government’s refusal to establish official refugee camps, leading to a chaotic, fractured operation with major gaps in coordination.

Many distrust a Lebanese government they deem sympathetic to President Bashar Assad and are suspicious of international aid organizations, making them hesitant to register with the U.N. refugee agency to become eligible for assistance.

"Everyone, who comes here is confused and afraid," said Elyse Maalouf, a UNHCR worker in Zahleh, one of two registration centers in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where hundreds of informal refugee settlements have sprung up. "Many refugees are reluctant to register because they fear their names would be shared with the Syrian government."

Of all of Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon has been the hardest hit by the exodus of Syrians fleeing their country’s violence. Close to 1.5 million Syrians are now in Lebanon, scattered across the volatile country often in makeshift substandard accommodation. Unlike in neighboring Turkey and Jordan, there are no official refugee camps.

From immunization and other health services, to education and even basic aid to survive outside their war-stricken homeland, most Syrians in Lebanon feel lost in a world of rumors and misinformation.

"Managing and disseminating information becomes much more of a challenge than it would have been if they were in a camp setting," said Ninette Kelley, UNHCR representative in Lebanon.

A donors’ conference for Syria is set to open in Kuwait on Wednesday. The U.N. last month appealed for a staggering $6.5 billion to cover this year’s funding needs - its largest-ever request for a single crisis.

Experts say more money needs to be allocated for information programs, crucial to any successful aid response.

"Information saves lives, and a significant part of what we have to do is advocate to funders and donors that this actually is a tremendous need," said Kirpatrick Day of the International Rescue Committee.

In an effort to deal with the massive aid effort, U.N. agencies and NGOs have concentrated their operations under the “Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal,” where the work of various groups can be followed.

But with each having its own organizational mandate and the geographic scatter of the refugees, the effort has remained largely uncoordinated.

Unregistered refugees, particularly in far-flung corners of the country, are often left out in the cold - literally - with no access to aid except from sympathetic locals. Surveys have found few listen to the radio and even fewer watch TV. Internet and social media does not come into play when it comes to needy Syrians.

A recent survey by the global media development agency Internews found 60 percent of refugees cited their main trusted source of information as being “another person, friend, family.” Text messages on mobile phones are often the most advanced tools to reach refugees with information such as polio vaccination dates and locations.

"When it comes to Syria, it’s really back to basics," Kelley said.

To deal with the problem, aid agencies have started to train and recruit refugees as volunteers, not only to distribute information to fellow Syrians but also to provide important feedback. UNHCR used 100 volunteers last year and is planning to increase that to 1,000 next year.

"Refugees often trust those with whom they live, and this is a great way to keep refugees informed appropriately through mediums that they have confidence in," Kelley said.

Others are struggling to come up with ways reach Syrians. Internews recently partnered with the International Rescue Committee for a project called Tawasul - Arabic for Connection. The project, still in the preliminary stages, aims to find innovative ways to get information out.

"One of the things that we feel is a pressing need that has largely gone unmet is access to information from sources that people in the midst of the conflict can trust," said Day, the project leader at ICR.

The U.N. has put the total number of people in need of humanitarian aid at 9.3 million. They include some 2.3 million Syrians who have fled the country, flooding neighbors such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which can barely keep up with the strain.

At the UNHCR center in the town of Zahleh in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Syrians stood in long lines in the biting cold, waiting to register as refugees.

"Nobody tells us what is happening," said Hajj Khater, an elderly man from Syria’s war-shattered northern province of Aleppo. "I registered a month and a half ago. We were supposed to start getting assistance after 20 days but we’re still waiting, God only knows why," he said, drawing his red-and-white checkered scarf closer to his face from the cold.

Many are afraid their names will leak back to the Syrian or Lebanese authorities.

"It was not an easy decision to register," said Atallah Farha, 52, who fled the fighting in the western town of Qusair a few months ago. For months, he struggled to find information about how to make a life for himself and his family, living in a makeshift tin shack in the border town of Arsal. His youngest daughter became sick and started losing weight.

"The (Syrian) regime is a human shredder, they won’t spare us, even here," he said, explaining his reluctance to register. "But we have seven children and they need food, milk and diapers."

Amid a funding shortfall, many have turned up at aid distribution points only to be told they are no longer eligible for assistance.

"There is much anxiety among the refugees and so much confusing information about aid, whether they are getting it, what they are not getting and how they can get it," said Marion McKeone, a spokeswoman with Save The Children in Lebanon.

—-

SCORES ARRESTED FOR BEING GAY IN NORTH NIGERIA

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LAGOS, Nigeria — First the police targeted the gay men, then tortured them into naming dozens of others who now are being hunted down, human rights activists said Tuesday, warning that such persecution will rise under a new Nigerian law.

The men’s alleged crime? Belonging to a gay organization. The punishment? Up to 10 years in jail under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which has elicited international condemnation for criminalizing gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them.

There were varying accounts of how many arrests were made in Nigeria’s Bauchi state, and a local law enforcement official denied that anyone was tortured. Nevertheless, the aggressive police action shows that Africa’s most populous country is attempting to enforce anti-gay measures that are becoming increasingly common throughout the continent.

In this instance, authorities responded to an unfounded rumor that the United States had paid gay activists $20 million to promote same-sex marriage in this highly religious and conservative nation, according to an AIDS counselor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that he would be arrested.

An officer pretending to be a gay man then joined a group being counseled on AIDS, according to Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights.

Aken’Ova said police detained four gay men over the Christmas holidays and tortured them until they named others allegedly belonging to a gay organization. She gave no details of what she called torture, but the AIDS counselor said the four men were brutally beaten until they gave up names.

The police have now arrested 38 men and are looking for 168 others, according to Aken’Ova, whose organization is helping provide legal services to the men. The AIDS counselor said he has helped secure bail for some of the 38 detainees. They both said dozens of homosexuals have fled Bauchi in recent days.

Chairman Mustapha Baba Ilela of Bauchi state Shariah Commission, which oversees regulation of Islamic law, said that 11 gay men have been arrested over the past two weeks. He said community members helped “fish out” the suspects and that “we are on the hunt for others.”

Bauchi state has both a Western-style penal code and Shariah, or Islamic law, which is implemented to different degrees in nine of Nigeria’s 36 states. About half of the country’s more than 175 million people are Muslims, the other half Christians.

Ilela said all 11 arrested - 10 Muslims and a non-Muslim - signed confessions that they belonged to a gay organization, but that some of them retracted the statements in court.

He denied any force was involved.

"They have never been tortured, they have never been beaten, they have never been intimidated," he said.

Nigerian law enforcers are notorious for torturing suspects to extract confessions. They also are known for extorting money from victims to allow them to get out of jail cells.

Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First, a Washington-based organization, said he was alarmed by the reports of torture and arrests.

"When discriminatory bills like this are passed, we are always concerned that they set the stage for violence and ill-treatment in society even when they are not enforced," Gaylord said in a statement. "But the fact that this law is being enforced so quickly and forcefully demonstrates the full extent of Nigeria’s human rights crisis."

Olumide Makanjuola said lawyers for his Initiative For Equality in Nigeria are backing lawsuits of several homosexuals arrested by police without cause. He said police regularly and illegally inspect the cell phones of gay suspects, then send text messages to lure others.

Then the men or women are told they will be charged and their sexual preferences exposed unless they pay bribes. “Some pay 5,000, some 10,000 naira ($30 to $60). Even though they have done nothing wrong, people are scared, people are afraid that even worse things will happen,” Makanjuola said in a recent BBC News interview.

The new law was passed by the Nigerian Parliament last year but not signed by the president, Goodluck Jonathan, until last week - when he did so quietly and without fanfare. Jonathan’s office confirmed Monday that the Nigerian leader had signed it.

The United States, Britain and Canada condemned the new law, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that it “dangerously restricts freedom” of expression and association of all Nigerians.

While harsh, Nigeria’s law is not as draconian as a bill passed last month by legislators in Uganda that is awaiting President Yoweri Museveni’s signature. It provides penalties including life imprisonment for “aggravated” homosexual sex. Initially, legislators had been demanding the death sentence for gays.

The Nigerian law provides penalties of up to 14 years in jail for a gay marriage and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for membership or encouragement of gay clubs, societies and organizations. That could include even groups formed to combat AIDS among gays, activists said.

The U.N. agency fighting AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria expressed “deep concern that access to HIV services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be severely affected” and that the law could harm Jonathan’s own presidential initiative to fight AIDS, started a year ago.

It said Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic globally with an estimated 3.4 million people living with the virus.

Jonathan has not publicly expressed his views on homosexuality.

But his spokesman, Reuben Abati, told the AP on Monday night, “This is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination. So it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people. … Nigerians are pleased with it.”

Many have asked why such a law is needed in a country where sodomy already was outlawed, and could get you killed under Shariah. Ilela said sodomy carries the death sentence in Bauchi state, with a judge deciding whether it should be done by a public stoning or by lethal injection.

No gay person has been subjected to such punishment.

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GUNMAN IN NM SCHOOL SHOOTING WAS STUDENT, ACCORDING TO WITNESS

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ROSWELL, N.M. — A student opened fire Tuesday morning at a middle school in the southeastern New Mexico city of Roswell, shooting two students before being taken into custody.

Officials at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, say a 14-year-old boy was flown there in critical condition and a 13-year-old girl was en route in serious condition. Information from nurses treating the boy indicates he was the shooter’s target, hospital spokesman Eric Finley said.

Police say the suspect opened fire at Berrendo Middle School as classes were starting for the day.

A student who witnessed the shooting said a male student shot the boy twice in the face and shot the girl in the arm.

Eighth grader Odiee Carranza said she was walking to the school gym when a boy bumped into her as he rushed past. She told him to be careful, and he apologized and continued on. He ran to the gym, where he pulled a gun out of a band instrument case and fired at the students.

"Then he shot up in the sky, then dropped the gun, and then some teacher grabbed the kid that had the gun," Carranza said.

Carranza described the shooter as a “smart kid and a nice kid.”

A statement from the state police said authorities responded at 8:11 a.m. Roswell police say the school was placed on lockdown, and the suspected shooter was arrested. Age and other details on the suspect were not immediately released.

Police said children were bused to a nearby mall, where parents could pick up them up.

"I’m still scared to go back to school," Carranza said.

Sixth-grade student Anyssa Vegara told the Albuquerque Journal she was talking to a security guard when she heard a shot.

"I turned around, and all I saw was someone on the floor with their arm bleeding," Vegara told the Journal.

She said the security guard ran to assist the injured student, and school officials ordered all the other students to their classrooms.

Eventually, she was able to text her mother, Monica Vegara.

"From the time hearing about it until the time she texted, it was a nightmare," Monica Vegara said.

Fawna Hendricks, whose son is a seventh-grader at Berrendo Middle School, told the newspaper she heard about the shooting on the radio. “Basically I jumped outta bed, threw on clothes, panicked,” Hendricks said.

Another student, Gabby Vasquez, said the boy who was shot “was really nice, got along with everybody.” Hospital officials said Tuesday afternoon that the 14-year-old had undergone surgery but was still in critical condition.

Employees who arrived early to work at United Drilling Inc., across the street from the school, heard no gunshots. They didn’t know about the commotion until around 8 a.m., when their parking lot filled with police and rescue vehicles.

At the Roswell mall, parents waited anxiously for their children. Some held hands, while others hugged each other.

Two prayer services were scheduled for Tuesday night at Roswell’s Calvary Baptist and First Baptist churches. Pastor Chris Mullennix said parents were worried and heartbroken, but there was a sense among many he spoke with that the community would be able to come together.

"This is something that strikes people to the core," he said in an interview. "We’re not talking about a flesh wound or just a mental wound, we’re talking about the very souls of people being shaken and rocked by something like this."

Mullennix said the prayer services will start the healing process.

"This is tragic but yet people in Roswell are tough, and people in Roswell will recover because we do have a sense of community, and I think that’s really important," he said.

In the hours after the shooting, social media sites were flooded with sentiments offering prayers for the community. Some Berrendo students posted on their Facebook sites that they were scared and didn’t want to return to school.

At a briefing later in the day, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president was aware of the shooting.

"Our understanding is this is not an active shooter situation," he said. "The president’s team is monitoring the situation and is in close touch with our federal partners."

Roswell has a population of about 50,000. It is a center for ranching and farming, and is home to the New Mexico Military Institute, the only state-supported military college in the West. The city is perhaps best-known as the site of an alleged UFO crash in 1947.

———

OFFICIALS TRIED DAMAGE-CONTROL AFTER NJ LANE CLOSINGS

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TRENTON, N.J. — Newly released documents show officials scrambled to control the publicity damage in the days after lane closings near the George Washington Bridge caused huge traffic jams that now appear to have been politically orchestrated by officials in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

In emails days after the closings, the Christie-appointed chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Sampson, suggested that the director of the Port Authority leaked an internal memo on the matter to a reporter.

Sampson called it “very unfortunate for NY/NJ relations” because the director is an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Thursday, Christie apologized for the closings, fired a top aide who was implicated in the scandal and cut ties with a top political adviser.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. Earlier story is below.

Emails released Friday show a police captain had a difficult time getting details about lane closings near the George Washington Bridge that appeared to have been politically orchestrated by officials in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

The email from Capt. Darcy Licorish of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was among hundreds of pages of documents subpoenaed by a New Jersey legislative committee investigating whether the September traffic jams at the bridge were created as political retribution against a Democratic mayor.

They come two days after a first batch of documents suggested that was the case, and one day after Christie fired a top aide and apologized for what’s become the biggest scandal in his four years as governor.

"The undersigned inquired if this is a permanent plan or temporary," Licorish wrote in an email recounting her meeting with the bridge manager about the planned closings. "The manager could not supply an answer to that or other questions. Inquiry was also made as to the notifications of the township. No answers could be supplied."

Some of the emails among top Port Authority officials seem to show that the closings triggered disputes between those appointed by Christie and those named to the authority by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Port Authority operates many of the New York metropolitan area’s bridges and tunnels.

Port Authority Chairman David Sampson, a Christie appointee, wrote to others that he was upset because he believed that executive director Patrick Foye, a Cuomo appointee, had leaked a story about the closings - something that others denied in emails.

On Thursday, Christie fired one aide, cut ties with one of his top campaign advisers and apologized during a nearly two-hour news conference for his staff’s “stupid” behavior.

But Christie shed little light on how the lanes came to be closed. “I don’t know whether this was a traffic study that then morphed into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study,” he said.

The newly released documents show that there was, in fact, a traffic study, or at least a preliminary one. It was six pages and dated Sept. 12, the day before the Port Authority’s executive director ordered lanes reopened.

The six-page document includes study findings that Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, who has since resigned, gave to lawmakers in a hearing last year: The main bridge traffic moved a bit faster, but local traffic had major delays. The conclusion was listed as “TBD,” or “to be determined.”

Christie said Thursday that he had asked his top staff members in December to tell him if any of them were involved in the lane closings. None came forward at the time, he said.

The case became a full-blown scandal on Wednesday, when a set of emails and text messages obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations suggested the lanes were closed by a top Christie aide for political reasons - apparently to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

In an August email, Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, replied, “Got it.”

Kelly was fired Thursday. Wildstein resigned in December. He appeared under subpoena before a legislative committee Thursday but refused to answer any questions on the advice of his lawyer. The committee found him in contempt.

The $9 trillion sale

Privatisation

by Judith Stein and Biodun Iginla, BBC News and The Economist

Governments should launch a new wave of privatisations, this time centred on property

Jan 11th 2014 | From the print edition

IMAGINE you were heavily in debt, owned a large portfolio of equities and under-used property and were having trouble cutting your spending—much like most Western governments. Wouldn’t you think of offloading some of your assets?

Politicians push privatisation at different times for different reasons. In Britain in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher used it to curb the power of the unions. Eastern European countries employed it later to dismantle command economies. Today, with public indebtedness at its highest peacetime level in advanced economies, the main rationale is to raise cash.

In this section

Taxpayers might think that the best family silver has already been sold, but plenty is still in the cupboard (see article). State-owned enterprises in OECD countries are worth around $2 trillion. Then there are minority stakes in companies, plus $2 trillion or so in utilities and other assets held by local governments. But the real treasures are “non-financial” assets—buildings, land, subsoil resources—which the IMF believes are worth three-quarters of GDP on average in rich economies: $35 trillion across the OECD.

Some of these assets could not or should not be sold. What price the Louvre, the Parthenon or Yellowstone National Park? Murky government accounting makes it impossible to know what portion of the total such treasures make up. But it is clear that the overall list includes thousands of marketable holdings with little or no heritage value.

America’s federal government owns nearly 1m buildings (of which 45,000 were found to be unneeded or under-used in a 2011 audit) and about a fifth of the country’s land area, beneath which lie vast reserves of oil, gas and other minerals; America’s “fracking” revolution has so far been almost entirely on private land. The Greek state’s largest stock of unrealised value lies in its more than 80,000 non-heritage buildings and plots of land. With only one holiday home for every 100 in Spain, Greece should be able to tempt developers and other investors at the right price. Analysts at PwC reckon Sweden has marketable state-owned property worth $100 billion-120 billion. If that is typical of the OECD, its governments are sitting on saleable land and buildings worth up to $9 trillion—equivalent to almost a fifth of their combined gross debt.

Get on with it

Governments seem strangely reluctant to exploit these revenue-raising opportunities. That is partly because privatisation always faces opposition. Particular sensitivities surround land, as Ronald Reagan discovered when his plan to sell swathes of America’s West were shot down by a coalition of greens and ranchers who enjoyed grazing rights, and as the British government found in 2010 when environmentalists scuppered its attempt to sell Forestry Commission land.

In recent years the big transactions, apart from reprivatisations of rescued banks, have mostly taken place in emerging markets. Activity is starting to pick up in Europe: the British government sold Royal Mail last year, and is setting a good example both in transparency over its land and property holdings and in its readiness to sell them. But, overall, caution rules. Italy, for example, carries a public-debt burden of 132% of GDP, yet its privatisation plans are timid—even though the state has proportionately more to sell than most other rich countries, with corporate stakes worth perhaps $225 billion and non-financial assets worth as much as $1.6 trillion. Now that markets have regained their composure, it is time to be bolder.

There are ways of encouraging sales. Data collection on public property is shockingly poor. It is patchy even in Scandinavia, where governments pride themselves on their openness. Governments need to get a better idea of what they hold. Effective land registries, giving certainty to title, are essential: Greece’s registry remains a mess. Too many governments use a flaky form of “cash basis” accounting that obscures the costs of holding property. Too few produce proper balance-sheets. Better beancounting would make it easier to ascertain what might be better off in private hands.

Governments also need to sweat whatever remains in state hands. There is no single model for managing public assets, but any successful strategy would include setting private-sector-style financial benchmarks, replacing cronies with experienced managers and shielding them from political interference. Not only is this good in itself, but it can also lead naturally to privatisation. That was the case in Sweden a decade ago, when creating a professionally managed holding company for state assets revealed many to be non-core, leading to a selling splurge by a left-leaning government.

Where are the successors to Thatcher and Reagan?

Privatisation is no panacea for profligate governments. Selling assets is a one-off that provides only brief respite for those addicted to overspending (though, once sold, assets—from ports to companies—tend to generate far more business). It also has to be weighed against lost revenue if the assets provide an income stream: oil-rich Norway gets a quarter of its government revenue from well-managed state companies. Selling when markets are depressed is generally a bad idea.

Governments also need to learn from mistakes made in past waves of privatisation. Without robust regulation, sell-offs enrich insiders and lead to backlashes. That happened in Britain (over rail and utilities) and emerging markets (telecoms, banking and more). The Royal Mail sale was a reminder of the political risks: price an asset too high and the deal might flop; price it too low and the taxpayer feels cheated. Nevertheless, for governments that are serious about bringing their spending in line with revenues, privatisation is a useful tool. It allows governments to cut their debts and improve their credit ratings, thus reducing their outgoings, and it improves the economy’s efficiency by boosting competition and by applying private-sector capital and skills to newly privatised assets.

Thatcher and Reagan used privatisation as a tool to transform utilities, telecoms and transport. Their 21st-century successors need to do the same for buildings, land and resources. Huge value is waiting to be unlocked.

FIGHTERS IN IRAQ URGED TO LEAVE AS SUPPLIES RUN SHORT

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MULTIMEDIALAST U.S. COMBAT TROOP LEAVES IRAQIRAQI ELECTION 2010: WHAT’S AT STAKE?RETURNING TROOPS FIND ALTERNATIVE MOTIVATIONSU.S. TROOP CASUALTIES IN IRAQRELATED STORIESBIDEN CALLS IRAQI LEADER FOR 2ND TIME THIS WEEK

IRAQ: FIGHTERS URGED TO GO AS SUPPLIES RUN SHORT

ARMY CHIEF OPPOSES SENDING US TROOPS BACK TO IRAQ

BIDEN CALLS IRAQI LEADERS AMID SECTARIAN VIOLENCE

IRAN OFFERS TO HELP IRAQ IN FIGHT AGAINST AL-QAIDA

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INTERACTIVEIRAQI COMMUNITIES IN THE U.S.

BAGHDAD — Tribal leaders in the besieged city of Fallujah warned al-Qaida-linked fighters to leave to avoid a military showdown, echoing a call by Iraq’s prime minister Wednesday that they give up their fight as the government pushes to regain control of mainly Sunni areas west of Baghdad.

The warning came as gunmen attacked an Iraqi army barracks in a Sunni area north of Baghdad, killing 12 soldiers. Seven soldiers were wounded in the assault in Diyala province, authorities said.

The United Nations and the Red Cross, meanwhile, said Fallujah and nearby areas are facing mounting humanitarian concerns as food and water supplies start to run out.

Sectarian tensions have been on the rise for months in Sunni-dominated Anbar province as minority Sunnis protested what they perceive as discrimination and random arrests by the Shiite-led government. Violence spiked after the Dec. 28 arrest of a Sunni lawmaker sought on terrorism charges and the government’s dismantling of a year-old anti-government Sunni protest camp in the provincial capital of Ramadi.

Last week, al-Qaida-linked gunmen seized control of Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, cities that were among the bloodiest battlefields for U.S. forces during the Iraq war. The militants overran police stations and military posts, freed prisoners and set up their own checkpoints.

The United States and Iran have offered material help for the Iraqi government but say they won’t send in troops.

Speaking in his weekly television address, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hinted of a possible pardon for supporters of al-Qaida’s local branch, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, if they abandon the fight.

"The war that is being fought by the Iraqi security forces, tribes and all segments of Iraqi society against al-Qaida and its affiliates is a sacred war," he said. "I call on those who were lured to be part of the terrorism machine led by al-Qaida to return to reason."

In exchange, he promised that his government will “open a new page to settle their cases so that they won’t be fuel for the war that is led by al-Qaida.”

Iraq’s government has rushed additional troops and military equipment to Anbar and has been carrying out airstrikes in an effort to dislodge the militants.

Skirmishes between Iraqi forces and militants broke out on the outskirts of Fallujah and Ramadi again Wednesday, according to witnesses, and militants blew up a small bridge on the edge of Ramadi, officials in Anbar said. There was no immediate report of casualties.

At least four crew members were killed when a military helicopter crashed in Anbar, according to army and government officials in the province and state TV. The officials said the cause was poor weather conditions in the area and there was no indication militants brought it down. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

Influential tribal leaders have been meeting to try to find a way out of the crisis and demanded that al-Qaida members holed up in Fallujah get out of town, said provincial spokesman Dhari al-Rishawi.

"They agreed on expelling ISIL from Fallujah. The told them to withdraw … or face an attack by the tribes and the army," he said.

That message was echoed over mosque loudspeakers late Tuesday, which also called on fleeing families to come back.

Al-Rishawi and residents reached by phone in Fallujah said at least some of the militants had left the city, which is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

It was not clear how many had gone, or whether they were taking up new positions in different parts of the city.

"We, the residents and the tribes, don’t want al-Qaida in the city. We don’t want to see the same violence we saw when the Americans were here," said Ayad al-Halbosi, a 22-year-old teacher in Fallujah.

Markets in the city began reopening Wednesday and some families returned to their homes, though residents complained of shortages of fuel and cooking gas. Civilian cars and trucks were seen on the road and traffic policemen were on the streets.

The militant gains in Anbar are posing the most serious challenge to the Shiite-led government since American forces withdrew in late 2011 after years of bitter warfare following the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime and propelled the formerly repressed Shiite majority to power.

The U.N. envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, warned that the humanitarian situation in Anbar is likely to worsen as military operations continue.

Food and water supplies in Fallujah are beginning to run out, and more than 5,000 families have fled to neighboring provinces to escape the fighting, he said.

"The U.N. agencies are working to identify the needs of the population and prepare medical supplies, food and non-food items for distribution if safe passage can be ensured," Mladenov said in a statement.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also voiced concerns about the growing risks to Anbar residents, particularly in Fallujah. Patrick Youssef, head of the Red Cross delegation in Iraq, warned that ongoing power outages and dwindling medical supplies could leave health care facilities unable to provide proper care.

"We are ready to deliver more life-saving supplies and other humanitarian aid immediately to the areas hardest hit," Youssef said. "But we need to be given easier access and the necessary security guarantees."

Tensions have been simmering in Iraq since December 2012, when the Sunni community staged protests to denounce what they say is second-class treatment by al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government.

Al-Qaida militants, emboldened by the civil war in neighboring Syria, have sought to position themselves as the Sunnis’ champions against the government, though major Sunni tribes in Anbar and elsewhere oppose the group’s extremist ideology and are fighting against it.

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