Concept paper presented by Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri

Concept paper presented by Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri

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Ramaiya bears the brunt of climate change

By Uddav Sigdyal

Ramaiya is distressed. Despite of using every agro product his farm production has been decreasing every year. Being a small farmer, he must make good production for his family's living. He was blaming the god that she is betraying them because of poverty. It was a very unpleasant moment for me to hear his excruciating feelings.


We have been witnessing sudden changes in climate throughout the world. Everything has been changing. Global warming and ozone layer depletion are the burning issues of this 21st century. We can hear everyone talking about this issue. I can easily see the difference between the climates when I was 10-year old and now. This modern artificially equipped world is leading nowhere. Since the Second World War there is excess competition over the power, energy resources and money because everyone wants to become leader of the world. To gain all those power, energy and money, most of the county has been industrialized. To grasp the saturated market share there has been price and non-price competition among the various counties. Because of excessive competition industrialists forgot to think about the wastes they were leaving behind. For an example, we cannot imagine how much CFC gas has been produced while making all those kitchen equipments and while using those equipments. I am afraid to think and dream about the future because I know we all are going to face dreadful and worst situation. Ozone layer has been decreasing every year. Sea level is increasing and the Himalayan ranges are going to be rocky mountains because of global warming. Tragic disasters such as starvation, tsunami, floods, soil erosion, air pollution and scarcity of drinking water are ever increasing. Whatever we touch will become poison.


Everyone agrees that most developed countries are responsible for the climate change. Their industries, atomic power station, satellite lunch and other energy and power related industries have been contributing to erode our beautiful world. In all media we hear leaders talking about big issues and big promises. But nothing is going to happen if we fail to implement what we have promised. We cannot entirely stop CFC gas production but it is still possible to reduce its production to some extent. It needs huge investment in public awareness and alternative power production. It will be possible to decrease usage and production of machines that use CFC gas. It's not the matter of one person, one family or one country, we all are responsible and should join hands for the better environment, better future. Let's join hands for a better future, stop carbon gas and save the earth. 

Spain's Judges Cross Borders in Rights Cases

By Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post

MADRID, Spain — Spanish judges are boldly declaring their authority to prosecute high-ranking government officials in the United States, China and Israel, among other places, delighting human rights activists but enraging officials in the countries they target and triggering a political backlash in a nation uncomfortable acting as the world's conscience.

Judges at Spain's National Court, acting on complaints filed by human rights groups, are pursuing 16 international investigations into suspected cases of torture, genocide and crimes against humanity, according to prosecutors. Among them are two probes of Bush administration officials for allegedly approving the use of torture on terrorism suspects, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The judges have opened the cases by invoking a legal principle known as universal jurisdiction, which under Spanish law gives them the right to investigate serious human rights crimes anywhere in the world, even if there is no Spanish connection.

International-law advocates have cheered the developments and called the judges heroes for daring to hold the world's superpowers accountable. But the proliferation of investigations has also prompted a backlash in Spain, where legislators and even some law enforcement officials have criticized the powerful judges for overreaching, as well as souring diplomatic relations with allies.

"How can a Spanish judge with limited resources determine what really happened in Tiananmen or Tibet, or in massacres in Guatemala or God knows where else?" said Gustavo de Aristegui, a legislator and foreign-policy spokesman for the opposition Popular Party. "We have our own problems and our own bad guys to take care of."

On Tuesday, the lower house of the Spanish parliament easily passed a resolution calling for a new law that would limit judges to pursuing cases with ties to Spanish citizens or a link to Spanish territory. Cases could be brought only if the targeted country failed to take action on its own.

The vote was prompted, in part, by two National Court judges who decided separately last month to investigate Bush administration officials on allegations that they encouraged a policy of torture. The judges have moved forward despite the opposition of Spanish Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido, who said the cases risked turning the National Court into "a plaything" for politically motivated prosecutions.

Another judge announced Thursday that he would charge three U.S. soldiers with crimes against humanity, holding them accountable for the April 2003 deaths of a Spanish television cameraman and a Ukrainian journalist. The men were killed when a U.S. tank crew shelled their Baghdad hotel. Judge Santiago Pedraz said he would pursue the case even though a National Court panel, as well as a U.S. Army investigation, recommended that no action be taken against the soldiers.

The controversy over universal jurisdiction has left the government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in a bind. Many members of his Socialist Party have supported the judges in the past. But the probes are causing diplomatic headaches for Zapatero, who has sought to improve his standing in Washington after years of frosty relations with the Bush White House.

Israel and China have complained strenuously about the investigations of their countries, making clear that Spain will pay a political price if they continue. Spanish judges have opened two probes into Israeli military airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, dating to 2002. They are also conducting two investigations into alleged abuses committed by Chinese officials in Tibet, and a third regarding repression of the Falun Gong movement.

Julio Villarubia, a Socialist member of parliament, said it was unclear exactly how or when the Spanish government would amend its universal-jurisdiction law. But he said limits are necessary.

"We have not adopted the resolution because of pressures by the U.S., China, and Israel, though that pressure is known; the disagreements are there," he said.

It is unclear whether changes to the law would apply retroactively to pending cases. In interviews, a Justice Ministry official said they would not, but a senior prosecutor in the National Court suggested otherwise.

Regardless, most of the probes under way do have at least a tangential Spanish connection. The Guantanamo cases, for example, are partly based on testimony by a Spanish citizen who spent three years at the U.S. naval prison in Cuba.

Spain's embrace of universal jurisdiction dates back more than a decade. In 1996, a crusading judge on the National Court, Baltasar Garzon, opened a criminal investigation into human rights abuses in Chile and Argentina.

When Chile's aging dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, traveled to London for medical treatment in 1998, Garzon issued a warrant for his arrest. British officials complied and held him under house arrest. But they later allowed Pinochet to return to Chile, citing his ill health as a reason for not extraditing him to Spain.

Garzon had asserted jurisdiction because some of the victims of the Chilean dictatorship were Spanish citizens. But that legal condition was pronounced unnecessary in 2005, when Spain's Constitutional Court ruled that judges can pursue grave human rights crimes anywhere, even if there is no Spanish connection.

Since then, rights groups have made a beeline for Madrid, where they have enlisted local lawyers to file complaints with the National Court. Spanish judges are obligated to examine each case and investigate whether it meets certain thresholds.

Under Spain's legal system, judges such as Garzon serve as investigating magistrates and hold enormous power. They oversee police work, collect evidence and can compel witnesses to testify. If they conclude that charges are warranted, they hand the case to another judge for trial.

The National Court judges originally concentrated on countries with colonial ties to Spain, such as Guatemala, Argentina and El Salvador. But the judges have recently branched out to other places, such as Rwanda, Morocco, China and Israel.

Alan Cantos, president of the Tibet Support Committee, a Spanish advocacy group that requested the probes, said he is worried the Spanish government will succumb to outside political pressure.

"When powerful countries start getting touched, there is a backlash," he said. "You mix U.S., Israeli and Chinese propaganda and complaints, and all of a sudden, the Spanish government starts shaking at the knees. Quite frankly, I find it pathetic."

The Spanish universal-jurisdiction investigations have resulted in a single conviction. Adolfo Scilingo, a former Argentine naval captain, was found guilty of crimes against humanity in 2005 for pushing 30 drugged and bound prisoners out of government airplanes in the 1970s. He was sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison by a Spanish court.

Carlos Slepoy, a Spanish-Argentine lawyer who helped pursue Scilingo, said the universal-jurisdiction cases have valuable secondary effects. Officials targeted by Spanish judges need to be careful about where they travel; Spanish arrest warrants are generally enforced throughout Europe but also sometimes in Mexico and other countries.

"Any country should be able to bring these cases, as long as they are democracies that belong to the United Nations," Slepoy said.

Critics say the cases are influenced by politics. They note that the National Court has been quick to accept complaints about human rights abuses in Israel and the United States but has ignored problems in Syria, North Korea and Cuba.

"These guys are not proper judges from a professional point of view," said Florentino Portero, a contemporary history professor at Madrid's National Open University. "They are following a trend from the left wing of the Spanish political arena."

Spanish prosecutors have also expressed concern. They recommended that the National Court not pursue many of the 16 pending cases but were overruled by judges, who have the final say.

Javier Zaragoza, chief prosecutor at the National Court, said universal-jurisdiction cases are legitimate in principle. But he said Spain should not try to intervene in the affairs of democratic countries that are equipped to police themselves.

Even some human rights advocates said the explosion of cases has made them uneasy.

Gregorio Dionis, president of Equipo Nizkor, a Brussels-based group that has urged the National Court to prosecute accused former Nazi death camp guards living in the United States, said it has become too easy to have a complaint acted upon.

"There's been an inflation of cases filed under universal jurisdiction," he said. "Not all of them have been well grounded from a legal point of view."

Other advocates, however, point out that Israel and the United States have embraced the principle of universal jurisdiction when it suits them.

In 1960, Israeli agents kidnapped Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and tried him in Israel; he was convicted and executed.

More recently, the U.S. Department of Justice has supported efforts to have Spain pursue investigations against two alleged Nazi concentration camp guards living in the United States. The Justice Department lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute the men for crimes committed decades ago in Europe but would like to deport them to Spain to stand trial there.

Post special correspondent Cristina Mateo-Yanguas contributed to this report.

Accuser With a Checkered Past

By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post

A lawyer whose complaint prompted a Spanish criminal probe into whether the Bush administration approved the torture of terrorism suspects was once convicted of terrorist activity.

Gonzalo Boye served eight years in prison for his involvement in the 1988 kidnapping of Emiliano Revilla, a Spanish industrialist, who was held for ransom for eight months by ETA, a Basque separatist group classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Spanish governments.

Boye was one of four Chilean members of a Marxist group, the Revolutionary Leftist Movement, or MIR, who were convicted of aiding ETA in the kidnapping. He received his law degree while behind bars and has since emerged as an advocate for European and Palestinian human rights causes.

Representing a group called the Association for the Rights of Prisoners, Boye and other lawyers filed a complaint with the Spanish National Court against six senior officials from the Bush administration, including former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. The complaint alleges that the officials sanctioned the torture of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The other officials named in the complaint are Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo, former Justice Department officials; former Defense Department officials Douglas J. Feith and William J. Haynes II; and David S. Addington, who was legal counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney.

In an interview, Boye acknowledged his conviction but minimized his involvement in the crime, saying he had only lent an ID card to the kidnappers. He said he voluntarily traveled from London to Madrid in 1992 to answer investigators' questions about the case and was taken aback when he was arrested.

"I'm still convinced it was a very unfair trial," he said. "That was a very dark period in Spanish democratic history."

When asked if he thought the six Bush administration officials could expect to receive a fair trial in Spain, Boye said he had no doubts they would — despite his experience.

The Spanish judge overseeing the investigation, Eloy Velasco, has said in court papers that he may not proceed if U.S. prosecutors decide to open their own criminal case against the "Bush Six," as Boye calls them.

Statements of U.S. Presidents

The Washington Post

"Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think they are legal, and they are obviously an impediment to peace."

— President Carter, April 12, 1980

Total settlement population: 61,500

"The immediate adoption of a settlements freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel."

— President Reagan, Sept. 1, 1982

Total settlement population (1983): 106,595

"My position is that the foreign policy of the United States says we do not believe there should be new settlements in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. And I will conduct that policy as if it's firm, which it is."

— President George H.W. Bush, March 3, 1990

Total settlement population: 227,500

"The Israeli people also must understand that ... the settlement enterprise and building bypass roads in the heart of what they already know will one day be part of a Palestinian state is inconsistent with the Oslo commitment that both sides negotiate a compromise."

— President Clinton, Jan. 7, 2001

Total settlement population: 387,859

"Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop, and the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries, consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338."

— President George W. Bush, April 4, 2002

Total settlement population: 414,119

"Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward."

— President Obama, May 18

Total settlement population (2008): 479,500

Sources: Foundation for Middle East Peace, B'tselem and Washington Post research. Population figures are for West Bank, East Jerusalem and (until 2005) Gaza Strip.

Iran Blocks Access to Facebook Web Site

By Thomas Erdbrink
The Washington Post

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran blocked access to Facebook on Saturday in what opposition candidates said was an effort to sabotage their challenges to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Facebook has become hugely popular in Iran, where young urbanites have become avid users to connect with friends, play online games and share photographs. Recently, lively discussions had taken place on the social-networking Web site among Iranians who wondered whether voting in the June 12 presidential election meant supporting Iran's system of clerical rule, or, as some argued, could be used to remove Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad's three opponents also used the site to spread campaign messages that, until recently, had been ignored by Iran's government-controlled national broadcaster.

On Sunday afternoon, when Iranian Shiite cleric Mohammad Ali Abtahi wanted to check the latest election discussions on Facebook, he found that it had been blocked by authorities.

"The government wants to prevent all free discussions on the elections," said Abtahi, a former vice president and adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, one of the challengers, who advocates more civil rights.

"I had more than 3,000 friends," Abtahi said in a telephone interview. "Those people used the site to discuss freely, something which unfortunately is not possible in our national media."

"We used Facebook to be in direct contact with the voters," said Saleh Behesti, 22, an industrial design student who helped organize the Internet campaign of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has mounted the most serious challenge to Ahmadinejad.

"We had 6,000 people on Facebook sending information on Mousavi's speeches and meetings out to all their friends," Behesti said. On Saturday, 20,000 people turned out for a Mousavi campaign rally in a Tehran stadium. "Without Facebook we would have never been able to gather so many people," Behesti said.

Iran, like many other countries in the Middle East, frequently blocks Web sites, mainly those with sexual content. Decisions on blocking are made by a group known as the Council for Determining Instances of Filtering, consisting of members of the government, judiciary and intelligence. Many Web pages voicing criticism of Iran's political leaders are blocked. But major Western media sites, as well as YouTube and the photo-sharing site Flickr, are accessible.

The filtering is carried out by the Ministry of Telecommunications, which distributes Web connections to Iran's Internet providers. "We have no control over the filtering at all," said an employee of an Internet provider. "Their technology to block sites is improving all the time."

Internet use in Iran has mushroomed. According to Internet World Stats, a marketing company that tracks usage worldwide, about 23 million of Iran's 68 million people have Internet access, making the country one of the most connected in the region.

Facebook was blocked soon after the site started in 2004, but three months ago, authorities made it available. Iranians, many of whom have relatives in the United States and Europe, quickly joined and started adding friends. Iranian fan groups span such varied subjects as traditional poetry and fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana.

"Every person became a medium on Facebook. It was completely new for Iran," said Maysam Allahdad, 28, a popular blogger from Tehran. He noticed people who he thought could not even turn on a computer registered for Facebook profiles.

"On Facebook, everybody discussed everything," Allahdad said. "Unfortunately, our government can't accept any other voices apart from those that they can control. Facebook made a difference."

"I wanted to keep in touch with my friends," said Nazanin Daneshvar, 25, who added 160 friends in three months. Many of them had left Iran, she explained. "Through Facebook I saw where they where, doing what. Now I will write e-mails again."

Many Iranians use special software to reach government-blocked sites, but it seriously slows the already-sluggish connection speed, making it nearly impossible to watch video clips or flip between pages.

The government is attempting to revise the laws governing Internet use. Recently, Iran's parliament ratified an amendment to the media law requiring all owners of "e-publications" to register at the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture. It is unclear whether foreign Web sites used by Iranians also fall under that law.

"Facebook is not in the interest of the government," Behesti said. "Youths were being energized to vote, but not for them. So they closed it."

There was no official reaction from Iranian authorities.

"I don't have a Facebook page," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the president's press adviser. "I've never even heard of Facebook. Please ask someone else."

Construction to Continue in Israeli Settlements

By Howard Schneider
The Washington Post

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that construction will continue in existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, despite a call by President Obama for it to be stopped, according to an Israeli official.

Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the settlement issue since returning from meetings with Obama and other U.S. officials last week.

In briefing his cabinet on those meetings, however, Netanyahu said he would not halt building or population growth in dozens of established settlements that house about 250,000 Israelis throughout the West Bank, said the official, who paraphrased Netanyahu's remarks but did not quote him directly.

Israeli officials say they do intend to remove about two dozen unauthorized settlement outposts and will not establish new settlements. Palestinian officials consider both of those steps to be of marginal significance.

Netanyahu's comments to his cabinet mark the second time since returning from Washington that he has highlighted significant differences with Obama in regard to Israel's treatment of land whose ultimate status is under discussion.

Last week, at a ceremony marking the Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Netanyahu said the city "has always been — and always will be — ours. It will never again be divided or cut in half. Jerusalem will remain only under Israel's sovereignty."

Palestinians want to form the capital of a future state in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and the United States regards the city's fate as a matter for negotiations.

France's Oft-Derided Largess Insulates Many From Slump

By Edward Cody
The Washington Post

MENTON, France — In recent years, Jean Beaufranqui and his wife have spent most of their time in Menton, enjoying the sunshine and gentle Mediterranean breezes that have made this little town into a retirement haven, France's version of Miami Beach.

And now, even as the world reels from its most painful economic crisis since the 1930s, Beaufranqui's thoughts have turned not to budget cuts but to buying an apartment here and settling in full time. As a retiree — he stopped working almost 19 years ago, at the standard age of 60 — the former metallurgist has sailed smoothly through the economic storm as the French government regularly deposited his monthly pension payments.

"Not really," he responded when asked whether the financial crisis had affected his standard of living, a question that seemed to interest him less than the petanque bowling tournament he was watching from a park bench beside the beach.

For Beaufranqui and millions of other French people dependent on tax-financed largess, this country's cozy social protections, vast numbers of bureaucrats and unhesitating government intervention have proved to be a shelter from want in these hard economic times.

Denounced for decades as a millstone preventing growth and competitiveness, particularly by free-market advocates in the United States, the French government's dominant role in economic activity has suddenly found new favor at home and grudging respect abroad.

The crisis has landed hard in France, just as it has elsewhere. European Union specialists estimated last week that the number of unemployed is likely to rise to more than 3 million by next year as factories close. But the French economy is expected to shrink by just 3 percent, markedly less than in Britain or Italy, largely because of the country's traditionally high level of government spending, they added.

More significant in human terms, broad sectors of the population — bureaucrats, retirees, teachers and the millions of others whose livelihood depends directly or indirectly on public outlays — find themselves surrounded by a government cushion. The effects are easy to see: As the crisis grew and began to obsess French officialdom in Paris, for instance, Alpine ski resorts reported full bookings for the winter and spring seasons.

Perhaps nowhere has the buffer effect been more evident than in Menton, a Riviera town where a third of the population is retired and the largest employers — City Hall, the hospital and a municipal casino just off the beach — are government-run. Mayor Jean-Claude Guibal, who also represents Menton in the National Assembly, said the city has suffered no large layoffs in the economic crisis for the simple reason that it has no factories to lose; service jobs catering to retired people have endured.

"The retired people constitute an element of stability," Guibal said in an interview in City Hall, at the top of a square sloping toward the sea, shaded by palm trees and ringed by cafe terraces under stucco arcades.

The crisis has been felt here, of course. Fabrice Massiere, a cheese merchant at the Menton Market, said his business was off sharply because the number of visitors has declined. Guibal said income from the casino and tax revenue on real estate transactions have sunk, forcing him to raise property taxes for the first time in 13 years. But the heavy dependence on government subsidies or official salaries, he added, has put an economic fence around a large part of the Menton region's 66,000 inhabitants.

"This makes us less sensitive to the fluctuations of the world economy," said Guibal, who described himself as a free-market advocate and a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's pro-business coalition.

Sarkozy, a free-market champion who was elected in 2007 on a pledge to help France "work more and earn more," has insisted the crisis will not deter him from trying to reduce the government's involvement in the economy. A senior aide, Henri Guaino, said in a television interview this month, for instance, that Sarkozy will continue to replace only half of the bureaucrats who retire from ministries and other government agencies.

"The French model has its advantages," Guaino said, "but we must not go too far in the opposite direction either."

Beaufranqui no longer has to worry about it, but Prime Minister Francois Fillon has begun ruminating publicly about the possibility of raising the standard retirement age, perhaps by a year, to 61, to soften the system's impact on the government deficit. The deficit in France's version of Social Security alone is likely to reach $12 billion by the end of the year, pushed up by a drop in salary deductions due to the crisis, officials at the Finance Ministry estimated.

Nicolas Veron, a French economic analyst at the Brussels-based Bruegel research foundation, said a crucial point will come when the crisis begins to ease and growth resumes, which European officials predict could happen next year. What seems now to be an advantage protecting many French people from harm, he cautioned, could turn out then to be what free-market promoters argue that it is — a shackle on economic activity.

"It could hurt us then more than it is helping us now," he said.

Pakistani Refugee Camps Seen as Recruiting Grounds for Extremists

By Griff Witte
The Washington Post

MARDAN, Pakistan — Bacha Zab, a 32-year-old fruit salesman, dodged army shelling and Taliban sniper fire to escape his native Swat Valley. But when he reached the safety of a government-run refugee camp in this northwestern Pakistani city, he was told there was no more room.

Instead, for the past 16 days, Zab, his wife and their four children have been in the care of a private Islamic charity with close ties to a banned militant organization. "We are asking for help from the government, but they won't give it," Zab said. "In the government camps, there are only problems."

The government has been overwhelmed by the human tide that has washed over the northwest as about 2 million people have fled fierce clashes in Swat. With Pakistan experiencing its largest exodus since the nation's partition from India in 1947, only a fraction of the displaced civilians are receiving assistance in government-run camps. The rest are fending for themselves or getting help from private charities, including some that are allied with the very forces the Pakistani army is fighting in Swat.

Refugee camps in Pakistan have been prime recruiting grounds for militant groups ever since the Soviet invasion forced millions of Afghans to cross into Pakistan in the 1980s. Now, concern is growing that this latest wave of displacement will create a fresh crop of Pakistanis with grievances against the government and loyalty to groups that seek to undermine the state through violent insurgency.

The government says it is aware of the peril, but it appears incapable of mustering the resources it needs to provide shelter, food, water and medicine to so many people.

"If people are not looked after well, they tend to become extremists. It hasn't happened yet, but we're very conscious of it," said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari. "It's a big task."

Critics say the government has badly mismanaged the crisis, having failed to prepare for a scenario that officials must have known would result from the military offensive. "They should have foreseen this, but they didn't plan for it," said Aftab Khan Sherpao, an opposition lawmaker and former interior minister who comes from the northwest. "The people are not happy with the militants, but they're not happy with the army and the government, either. Now that anger will build up."

The true dimensions of the refugee problem are apparent in Mardan, one of the primary destinations for civilians fleeing the battles in Swat and in neighboring Buner and Dir. The city is studded with refugee camps consisting of endless rows of tan canvas tents that bake under 110-degree skies. Schools are packed to capacity with families sleeping on concrete classroom floors, with each classroom housing 40 or more people. Local residents say that virtually every spare bedroom in the city is being used to host displaced civilians, who may have to wait months or longer to return home.

Save the Children, an international aid organization that is providing assistance to the displaced families, estimated late last week that more than 80 percent of the people who had fled were living outside the camps, which number about 25. More than half the refugees are children, the group says.

The Pakistani government, already battling economic troubles before it launched its offensive in Swat, is heavily dependent on international aid for its support programs. The United Nations said Friday that it was seeking $543 million in additional donations to help those displaced by the fighting. The United States has announced $110 million in aid, which includes tents, radios and generators.

In the camps, there is seething resentment toward a government that residents say has let them down many times before.

"When we were being forced out of our homes, our president was enjoying himself in the U.S.," said camp resident Syed Karim Shah, referring to a visit by Zardari to Washington just as the battle in Swat got underway. "He's cashing in on this situation, bringing in money from the West."

Shah said the money has yet to filter down to the camps, where residents complain of a lack of bathroom facilities, electricity and fans. The temperatures in Mardan far exceed those in Swat, which is cooled by its relatively high elevation and a glacier-fed river that runs through the middle of the valley.

Swat, which was once a major tourist hub and is considered among the most beautiful regions of Pakistan, has long been known for its moderate-minded population. But the Taliban in recent years has capitalized on weak and corrupt governance in the valley, offering locals an alternative form of justice that is swift and severe. The militants have controlled Swat off and on since late 2007. The government's offensive, which was launched nearly a month ago after the collapse of a peace deal and amid intense pressure from the United States, is aimed at retaking the valley once and for all.

But there were fresh signs this weekend that that may not happen soon and that the problem of displacement will worsen. The army launched an operation Saturday aimed at reclaiming the largest city in Swat, Mingora, and warned that the fight will be long and bloody. Despite the army's gains, much of Mingora remains in Taliban hands, and up to 20,000 civilians are trapped in the city, caught between the military and the militants.

The army has warned that some Taliban fighters joined the fleeing residents and may have infiltrated the refugee camps. Residents of the government camps say that there is little security and that they do not feel safe there.

Outside the camps, groups with radical Islamist agendas are rushing to fill the void left by the paucity of government services. The Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, the successor to a group known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, has established a major presence in areas near Swat, feeding tens of thousands of displaced people and providing them with quality medical care.

Just off the main road leading into Mardan, the Initiative for Development and Empowerment Axis, a secular Pakistani aid group, set up a camp late last week. Almost overnight, it was filled with 40 families. Mohammad Amad, the group's executive director, said his workers were serving an additional 1,400 people who had found shelter in homes or schools.

The group has received help from private donors and organizations, which have offered meals, clothes and money. Amad said he had asked the government for help but had received nothing.

Amad said that Pakistan, the United States and other Western countries could use the refugee crisis as an opportunity to change attitudes for the better, but that they will need to move quickly.

"We can win these people over if we give them the proper support," Amad said. "Loyalties are already eroded. They're already unhappy with the government, and they are unhappy with the West. If we're going to change that, this is the time to do it."

North Korea Says It Conducts Underground Nuclear Test

By John M. Glionna
(c) 2009, Los Angeles Times

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea announced Monday that it had completed an underground nuclear test, as the Asian regime continues attempts to bolter its nuclear capabilities after a recent rocket test launch.

The nation's official Korean Central News Agency reported that the test was completed Monday, raising alarm on the Korea Peninsula and across the region.

Analysts in recent days had predicted that North Korea would attempt a second rocket or nuclear test. The reclusive nation had threatened to do so unless the United Nations apologized for imposing sanctions after North Korea's missile test in April.

North Korea also test-fired a short-range missile, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. South Korea's military said it was checking the report.

About 10 a.m., seismologists from the U.S., South Korea and Japan reported earthquakes in a northeastern area, just a few miles from where North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2006, according to wire reports.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a 4.7 tremor in the northeast, about 40 miles northwest of Kimchaek.

A State Department official said that the United States was aware of the North Korean report.

"We are consulting with our allies," the official said. "Once we have established the facts, we will have more to say."

Japanese officials, meanwhile, said they would respond to North Korea's nuclear test "in a responsible fashion" at the United Nations, said a foreign ministry spokesman attending a regional meeting in Vietnam.

In Seoul, where markets tumbled at news of the nuclear test, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for an emergency session of the country's security ministers. The ministers were meeting in the underground bunker of the Blue House, the South Korean White House.

According to the North Korean news agency's release, "The test will contribute to defending the sovereignty of the country and the nation and socialism and ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and the region around it."

The release added that the test was successful and was more powerful than its previous test.

"The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology," the news agency report said. "The results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology."

In April, North Korea announced that it had begun harvesting plutonium from spent fuel rods at its main nuclear plant. The move, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, came as another blow to international efforts to dismantle the communist nation's nuclear program.

North Korea is thought to have enough weaponized plutonium to make more than half a dozen bombs, analysts say.

Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. have been negotiating with North Korea on ending its nuclear weaponry program for years, but the rogue nation recently walked away from the so-called six-party talks.

North Korea had been angered by international reaction to what it called a peaceful satellite launch April 5, which many observers believed was actually a long-range missile test.

Security experts on Monday said they were awaiting the results of the strength of the North's latest nuclear test.

Daniel Pinkston, Northeast Asia Deputy Project Director for the International Crisis Group, a global security think tank, said that the previous North Korean nuclear test registered at about 1-kiloton, a measure of the amount of the explosives involved.

Most tests by other nations have ranged from 20 to 40 kilotons, Pinkston said.

"We're waiting to see what the yield (or strength) of the latest test was," he said. "Apparently, the North Koreans had suggested to the Chinese that its test would be in the 4-kiloton range."

The 2006 test was considered a failure by many analysts and North Korea might be trying to work out design flaws in its current test, he added.

"This test was pretty predictable. North Korea has been ready for this event and told the whole world about it," Koh Yu-hwan, a Dongguk University professor of North Korea studies, said Monday.

He said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has been frustrated by a lack of progress with desired one-on-one talks with the Obama administration.

"For the moment, it seems that North Korea internally agreed to strengthen its nuclear deterrence," he said.

Analysts said the nuclear test was the latest move in Kim's strategy to boost his position at home. Kim, who many believe suffered a debilitating stroke last year, is said to be trying to secure support for one of his three sons to succeed him.

A successful nuclear program would defy the global community and win support for his chosen successor from the nation's hard-line military forces, said to number more than 1 million men.

Staff writer Paul Richter in Washington and researcher Ju-min Park in Seoul contributed to this report.

Mediation centres may cut court load -- Nepal's mediation centers successful by Kamal Raj Sigdel

Mediation centres may cut court load


KATHMANDU, May 24 - A legal battle between a government school and an NGO (name withheld) over land went on for 45 odd years at the Supreme Court. But there still was no end in sight. The two parties then opted to take help of the Mediation Centre, a Supreme Court (SC) initiative. The case ended swiftly with no one losing.

There are many such success stories. The SC began practicing mediation in 2006, as a new method of "non-binding dispute resolution". The process involves a neutral third party that tries to help the disputing parties to reach a mutually agreeable win-win solution.

Of the 354 cases referred to the Mediation Centre at the SC in the past three years, 20 percent have been resolved successfully despite Centre's limited resources and amateur mediators. At present six mediation centres are operational across the country and, according to SC sources, 20 others will be soon established.

Both the Muluki Act 2020 of BS and Local Self Governance Act 2055 of BS have provisions for mediation but was not used for long because stakeholders underrated its potential.

The SC in 2006 realised that mediation centres would be the best way to unburden the case loads in the courts and the centres came into existence. Nepal's courts grapple with roughly 100,000 cases annually, half of them as backlogs.

Given the current 20 percent success rate, mediators project the figure could reach beyond 50 percent provided the challenges facing mediation centres are addressed.

Key challenges include lack of a separate act on mediation, policy, lack of competent human resources and lack of awareness on mediation process among lawyers and general public.

"There is no specific mechanism to nominate mediators and they are appointed arbitrarily," says former justice Shyam B Pradhan, a mediator who resolved the above-mentioned 45-year long lawsuit.

As a result few of the available mediators look at the bulk of the cases. For example, only 9 of the available 25 mediators dealt with 80 percent of the mediations executed under the Patan Appellate Court. One of them has single-handedly mediated more than 25 percent of the registered cases.

Besides, lawyers feel that mediation is a threat to their profession. A justice referring a case to mediation means people will no longer approach lawyers. "Lawyers feel that a successful mediation mechanism means taking away their livelihood," says Sujan Lopchan, a mediator. "There are several instances when lawyers advise the plaintiffs not take help of mediation centres."

Budget crunch is another hurdle. There is no specific policy to remunerate mediators. Hence they are basically volunteers. "To think of running such a big institution voluntarily is just unrealistic," says Pradhan.

At present the SC gives Rs. 300 per mediator per sitting as taxi fare, which mediators say is too little.

Related is the issue of skill development among the roughly 200 mediators practicing at present. Whatever skills they have learned are through a one-time 40-hour training provided by the National Judicial Academy.

Besides that, they do not get any refresher or advanced training, according to Ram P Neupane, Chief of the Mediation Centre at SC.

"If we could produce competent mediators, and clear the misunderstanding among lawyers and general public, the results would be significant," says Sri Kant Regmi, the member secretary of the policy-making authority called Mediation Committee at the SC.


What ails the Criminal Justice System in Nepal? by Kamal Raj Sigdel and Baburam Kharel

Criminal justice system full of holes
The Kathmandu Post, May 15
KATHMANDU, May 14 - Innumerable loopholes that riddle the criminal justice system have allowed criminals to walk scot-free. Reason: Under-performance of key criminal justice system institutions -- police, government attorneys and the judiciary -- with their serious limitations and drawbacks.

Lack of coordination between government attorneys and police, loopholes in existing criminal laws, lack of specialised investigation police teams, weak prosecution and an ambiguous judiciary have im-paired criminal justice delivery, say legal experts.

If statistics are anything to go by, the dismal success rate of criminal cases speaks for itself. The go-vernment on an average has been losing one-third of the total number of cases it has filed.

In fiscal year 2006/07, of a total of 28,093 cases including criminal ones, the government lost one third of them. The moot point is: When public prosecutors lose criminal cases the main offenders walk free.
A case in point is that of murder-accused gangster Raju Gor-khali, who had been on the run for the last six years until recently. On Jan. 30, Kathmandu District Court released Gorkhali on bail without verifying the documents provided by the accused to prove his innocence.

The release shocked the police administration as the court did not inform that the most wanted on the police list had been freed. After widespread criticism, the case has again come under the scrutiny of the Chief Justice.
A recent report of the Office of Attorney General concedes that a number of loopholes -- such as obsolete laws, lack of proper trai-ning for government attorneys and others -- have hindered the judi-ciary from performing effectively.

For instance, the entire criminal justice system today runs on the foundation of the Muluki Ain, formulated more than four decades ago. “The old laws have largely hindered criminal justice,” concedes Joint Government Attor-ney Thok Prasad Shivakoti. “A separate and effective criminal law is a must.”
However, authorities are enga-ged in the blame-game. Some senior police officers blame government attorneys for failure to prosecute, either because of graft or unprofessionalism.

On the other hand, government prosecutors grumble at arrests made without following legal procedure, leading to weak prosecution. And both concur when it comes to pointing the finger at the judiciary.
In some cases, the accused have been freed despite concrete evidence against them, says Super-intendent of Police Nawa Raj Silwal, chief of Metropolitan Police Range, Kathmandu.

Silwal also admits there are li-mitations. Police lack specialised human resources and infrastructure to make a strong, foolproof case.

Mostly, police investigations are based on individual interrogation. “The problem with this method is that the testimony of the accused at the court often contradicts their confession to police during interrogation when in custody.”

The judiciary, on the other hand, suffers from lack of effective and scientific human resources and case management systems. Lack of specialised benches to deal with criminal cases, says an attorney, is the main reason behind dubious and questionable verdicts. Posted on: 2009-05-14 20:48:35 (Server Time)

Is Nepal facing constitutional crisis? By Kamal Raj Sigdel

The Kathmandu Post, May 13
KATHMANDU, May 12 - If the prevailing political polarization continues, it could lead the country to a constitutional crisis, according to experts. And early signs are ominous.
It all began with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal failing to seek consensus from coalition partners on the removal of Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal last Sunday and President Ram Baran Yadav overriding the prime ministerial directive that very day.
“The Interim Constitution has nowhere envisaged a situation where prime minister and president operate in two different directions,” says Laxman Aryal, who led the team that drafted the Interim Constitution.
If the row over Katawal began the slide towards constitutional stalemate, subsequent events de-monstrated that constitutional breaches have become commonplace.
The parties have failed to form a new government since Prime Minister Dahal resigned last Monday, a day after the presidential overruling. According to the Interim Constitution, the parties have to form a government based on political consensus, and failing to do so, allows the president to call on the parties to form a government through majority vote in the Constituent Assembly (CA).
If the parties fail to form a government as per Article 38 (2) of the constitution, a constitutional crisis is inevitable given the fact that the constitution has given no other option -- for example, formation of a minority government. President Yadav has already directed the parties to go for majority government, which, say experts, is not a normal development “at this point of time” for two reasons.
First, opting for the 'politics of mathematics' is itself a constitutio-nal aberration as the constitution stresses on consensus, according to Daman Nath Dhungana, who was a member of the committee that drafted the 1990 constitution. Sec-ond, to approach government formation with the assumption that a majority vote can be garnered in a hung parliament is in itself a wrong premise, argues Govinda Bandi, a constitutional lawyer.
“Morning shows the day,” says Bandi. “That the parties have to look to form an elusive majority government in a hung parliament clearly shows the country is heading towards constitutional crisis.”
Try unraveling the Gordian knot and it gets even tougher. The Maoists have declared they will not let the House function until the President corrects his “unconstitutional” move.
This precludes exploration of any constitutional possibilities, according to Bhimarjun Acharya, a constitutional expert.
“Even if the Maoists let the House function, it is most unlikely that Nepali Congress and CPN-UML -- which are trying to lead a new coalition -- will be able to operate a government without Maoists,” adds Bandi.
And the breakdown of politics of consensus will have long-term repercussions.
In normal situation, the case would land in the Supreme Court, which would then resolve the crisis. “But this is a political issue, not a legal one,” says Acharya. “This therefore can only be resolved politically, not legally.”
Posted on: 2009-05-12 19:32:19

High Court Upholds Regulation of `Indecent' Words on TV

By David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court said Tuesday that TV viewers should not be hit with the "F-word" or the "S-word" during prime-time broadcasts, upholding the government's power to fine broadcasters for airing a single expletive.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices said federal law has long prohibited the broadcast of "indecent" language, and they said the Federal Communications Commission had ample authority to crack down on what Justice Antonin Scalia called the "foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood."

He was referring to several incidents that triggered the FCC's crackdown.

When entertainer Cher was given a lifetime achievement award at the Billboard Music Awards in 2002, she said it proved her critics wrong. "So, f... 'em," she said. The broadcast aired live on the Fox network and was viewed by about 2.5 million minors, Scalia said.

The FCC cited similar comments by Bono and Nicole Richie during entertainment industry award shows.

In its new policy, the FCC said a single "fleeting expletive" could trigger fines for the network and all the local broadcasters who aired the show.

Fox and the other networks went to court, arguing that this change in policy was unjustified and unwarranted.

But the Supreme Court upheld the new policy Tuesday in FCC v. Fox Television and confirmed that the government retains broad power to police the airwaves.

"The commission could reasonably conclude that the pervasiveness of foul language, and the coarsening of public entertainment in other media such as cable, justify more stringent regulation of broadcast programs so as to give conscientious parents a relatively safe haven for their children," Scalia said.

Although the ruling is a defeat for broadcasters, they can urge the FCC to revise its policy, now that President Barack Obama is appointing new commissioners. They also could urge Congress to revise the applicable law. The court also said the broadcasters can go back to the federal appeals court in New York and argue that the policy violates the First Amendment.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and chief executive of the Media Access Project, said groups such as his that support a freer policy would pursue the matter in the courts.

"Today's decision is extremely disappointing," he said. "We remain hopeful that the FCC's restrictive policies will ultimately be declared unconstitutional, but there will be several more years of uncertainty, and impaired artistic expression, while the lower courts address the First Amendment issues which the court chose not to confront today."

It was the court's first ruling on "indecency" on the airwaves in three decades. In 1978, the justices said George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" monologue could be banned from the airwaves during midday broadcasts. It had remained unclear whether a single expletive could trigger an FCC fine.

Tuesday's decision, however, did not deal with cable TV, satellite broadcasts or the Internet, all of which can escape federal regulation because they do not rely on the public airwaves.

The broadcasters had argued that they should not be subject to rigid government rules on indecency, considering that most Americans watch TV on cable and satellite systems that can escape regulation.

Although Tuesday's decision dealt with foul words, it probably will revive a $550,000 FCC fine over the "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl broadcast in 2004 that showed a fleeting image of Janet Jackson's breast.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel A. Alito joined Scalia's opinion.

The four dissenters said the FCC had not explained how a "single fleeting use" of an expletive could justify large fines, particularly if a network had no intention to air the language. Often, the words were uttered by guests on live broadcasts.

Since the FCC crackdown, most broadcasters have been vigilant in making sure expletives are deleted.

Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Death-Row Inmate

By David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Paul House, a Tennessee death-row inmate, was just one vote away from possible execution when a divided Supreme Court said three years ago that new DNA evidence called for reopening his case.

The Tennessee Supreme Court already had rejected his appeals, as had the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

On Tuesday, a local prosecutor who had vowed to retry him after the landmark Supreme Court ruling dropped all charges, saying a new round of DNA tests on four pieces of evidence from the crime scene -- including hair and material from under the victim's fingernails -- all pointed to an unknown suspect.

Lawyers for the Innocence Project in New York said the outcome in the House case should give judges great pause. "The Supreme Court was right to make sure all the evidence was fully considered in this case," said Peter Neufeld, a co-director of the organization.

House, a paroled rapist from Utah, had moved to a rural area of east Tennessee shortly before Carolyn Muncey was found murdered in the summer of 1985. He had been seen walking along a road near where her body was found. And he had no good explanation for where he was on the evening of her murder.

Long after his conviction, however, DNA evidence proved that a semen stain on the victim's clothes had come from her husband, not House.

But the Tennessee courts and the federal appeals court said that new evidence did not prove he was not guilty. The judges said there was still "strong circumstantial" evidence against House. One dissenter on the federal court, however, called the case "an authentic `who-done-it' where the wrong man may be executed."

For two decades, the Supreme Court had put up procedural barriers against reconsidering old cases. But the justices took up House's appeal to consider, for the first time, whether new DNA evidence could require reopening an old case.

In a 5-3 decision in House vs. Bell, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that "reliable new evidence" calls for taking a new look at an old case if it casts real doubt on the defendant's guilt. If the court had split 4-4, the conviction would have been upheld.

The three dissenters, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., said House did not "present such compelling evidence of innocence" to require reopening his case.

Until this week, veteran prosecutor Paul Phillips said he would retry House if necessary and win a conviction. But on Tuesday, he announced he was dropping the charges.

The new evidence "raises a doubt about his culpability. We couldn't go forward," Phillips said in an interview. He said he remained convinced House knew something about the murder, even if he was not the murderer.

"Technology exists today that we didn't have 24 years ago. And it clearly shows other people were involved in this crime," he said.

Stephen Kissinger, a federal public defender who has represented House since 1997, said he was frustrated that the prosecutor refused to admit an error had been made.

"He is conclusively innocent," he said of House. "The DNA evidence has totally excluded him. If the state of Tennessee had had its way in this case, he would have died 10 years ago."

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision soon in an Alaska case on whether prison inmates have a constitutional right to submit old evidence for DNA testing

Pope's Remarks on Holocaust Fail to Impress Israeli Leaders

By Howard Schneider
The Washington Post

JERUSALEM — Pope Benedict XVI faced criticism on Tuesday from Israeli religious and political leaders over his remarks about the Holocaust, a controversy that threatened to overshadow his calls for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

The pope's eight-day trip to Jordan and Israel had been carefully planned to reflect the sensitivities of Jews, Muslims and Christians. On Tuesday, for example, he visited both the Western Wall, where he followed Jewish tradition and placed a written prayer in the stones of Judaism's holiest place, and the Dome of the Rock, sacred to Muslims as the place from which the prophet Mohammed embarked on a miraculous journey to heaven.

But Benedict has run into a thicket of emotional expectations that he has left unsatisfied, particularly with his comments Monday at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Israeli critics said the German-born pope missed an opportunity to express regret for his country's central role in the extermination of 6 million Jews.

"You were not asked to do something unprecedented or heroic. All that was required from you was a brief, authoritative and touching sentence. All you had to do was to express regret. That's all we wanted to hear," wrote Hanoch Daum, a columnist for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

The tepid reaction to Benedict's trip prompted the Holy See's press office to mount a defense on Tuesday. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters it was unrealistic to expect the pope to recite a full litany of hoped-for phrases and ideas at every stop.

Lombardi noted that the 82-year-old pontiff has previously addressed many of the critics' concerns. During a 2006 stop at Auschwitz, for instance, Benedict said it was "particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a pope from Germany," to see the Nazi death camp.

"They think every time he should repeat everything, but this is not possible," Lombardi said.

But the Vatican's defense also drew attention to an issue it did not seek to highlight: the pope's compulsory membership in the Hitler Youth as a teenager in Bavaria during the war. Lombardi at first denied Benedict's involvement in the youth group — which the pope mentions in his autobiography — then later in the day clarified that the pontiff was "involuntarily enrolled."

The criticism was not limited to officials. As the pope made a multi-faith tour of Jerusalem's Old City on Tuesday, honoring Christian, Jewish and Muslim sites with words of peace and fellowship, members of all three faiths said they had heard little from the pontiff to indicate he understood what is important to them.

"If you come to the Jewish land as a German — we had different expectations. More taking on of responsibility," said Yuval Wultz, 29, who was shopping in the Old City's Jewish Quarter in preparation for his wedding.

Yacoub Moussa, a Christian Palestinian, noted that Jewish settlers had moved into Old City buildings where Arabs traditionally lived, and wondered how the Pope might address that.

Mohammed Salameh, a Muslim, noted that Benedict had yet to utter the words "Israeli occupation" during his trip and suggested that if the pope does not do so, it will be a sign he has sided with Israel.

Benedict's reception, perhaps, shows the impossibility of being all things to all people, of bringing a language of universal values into a region that dwells on detailed grievances. In 17 sets of prepared remarks issued since he began his trip in Jordan on Friday, Benedict has talked in broad strokes about faith and the need for unity and love among all people, and has said he is praying daily for peace.

Many of his listeners, however, have been looking for specifics: for him to set aside one day a year for Catholic priests to preach against anti-Semitism; for help freeing a captured Israeli soldier; for a denunciation of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in specific neighborhoods.

In the case of Yad Vashem, the expectation was not just for specific words, but for specific words in a specific place.

Within minutes of his arrival in Israel on Monday, Benedict issued a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism and mentioned the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. When he did not repeat those phrases at Yad Vashem — and also omitted any reference to the Nazis, Germany or the Catholic Church's neutrality in World War II — a central, symbolic moment of his visit fell flat for many Israelis.

"With all due respect to the Holy See, we cannot ignore the burden he bears," Israeli Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Israel Radio. He added that Benedict spoke "as if he were a historian, someone looking in from the sidelines."

Benedict has received a warmer welcome while ministering to Christians, meeting with priests and nuns and celebrating a Mass on Tuesday before a crowd of thousands near the Mount of Olives. He drew applause in his homily when he urged the local Christian community to persevere, declaring: "In the Holy Land there is room for everyone!"

Alfred Ra'ad, whose Old City shop is near one of the stops Benedict made on Tuesday, said that as a Catholic he was proud to have Benedict in the country. Yet, he said, compared to Pope John Paul II's visit nearly 10 years ago, the current pope seems distant.

"John Paul was loved and more popular," Ra'ad said. "This one — he has provoked people. He has apologized, but something stays in the heart."

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