SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A U.S. drone strike killed a Taliban commander and at least seven other people in northwest Pakistan, security officials told NBC News on Thursday.
Maulvi Nazir, who is also known as Mullah Nazir, was killed on Wednesday night when missiles struck a mud-built complex in Angoor Adda near the Afghan border, Pakistani officials said.
His deputy, Ratta Khan, was also killed, sources told Reuters. Four other people were injured.
Reports of Nazir's death came weeks after he was wounded in a bomb attack believed to have been launched by Taliban rivals.
According to The Associated Press, Nazir's death could prove to be a contentious issue between Washington and Islamabad, which is believed to have struck a nonaggression pact with Nazir ahead of the Pakistani military's 2009 operation against militants in South Waziristan.
Nazir, 46, favored attacking American forces in Afghanistan rather than Pakistani soldiers in Pakistan, a position that put him at odds with some other Pakistan Taliban commanders but earned him a reputation as a "good" Taliban among some in the Pakistan military.
Pakistan's military viewed Nazir and militant chiefs like him as key to keeping the peace internally because they do not attack Pakistani targets.
The military has a large base in Wana, where Nazir and his men were based. Residents said the main market in Wana shut down on Thursday to mark Nazir's death.
Nazir was wounded there in a bombing in November, widely believed to be a result of his rivalries with other Taliban commanders. Six others were killed in the same bombing.
Residents in both Angoor Adda and Wana, the biggest town in South Waziristan, said they heard announcements on mosque loudspeakers announcing Nazir's death. One resident, Ajaz Khan, told The Associated Press by telephone that 5,000 to 10,000 people attended the funeral of Nazir and six other people held in Angoor Adda.
“He was our hero”, local tribesman Janat Gul Wazir told NBC News. “He had expelled all the foreign militants from our villages.”
Nazir outraged many Pakistanis in June when he announced that he would not allow any polio vaccinations in territory under his control until the U.S. stops drone attacks in the region. Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is still endemic. Nine workers helping in anti-polio vaccination campaigns were killed last month by militant gunmen.
The former chief of intelligence in northwest Pakistan, retired brigadier Asad Munir, said Nazir's killing will complicate the fight against militants in the tribal region, and could prompt Nazir's group to carry out retaliatory attacks against the Pakistani army in South Waziristan.
It will also raise questions among military commanders here who would like the U.S. to use its firepower against the Pakistani Taliban, which attacks domestic targets, and not against militants like Nazir who aren't seen as posing as much of a threat to the Pakistani state, Munir told The Associated Press.
Pakistan's army, an uneasy ally of the United States, has clawed back territory from the Taliban since launching a military offensive in 2009.
But senior U.S. officials have frequently said that some elements within Pakistan's security services retain ties to some Taliban commanders.
Intensified U.S. drone strikes have killed many senior Taliban leaders, including Mehsud's predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, in 2009.
Drone strikes have dramatically increased since President Barack Obama took office. There were only five drone strikes in 2007. The number of strikes peaked at 117 in 2010 but fell to 46 last year.
The program has killed a number of top militant commanders over the past year, including al-Qaida's then-No. 2, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who died in a drone strike in June on the Pakistani village of Khassu Khel in North Waziristan.
Some Pakistanis say the drone strikes are an infringement of their national sovereignty and have called for them to stop.
Others, including some residents of the tribal areas, say they are killing Taliban commanders who have terrorized the local population.
The continuing insecurity is likely to be a key issue in elections scheduled for this spring. The nuclear-armed nation of 180 million has a history of military coups, but these polls should mark the first time one elected civilian government gets to hand power to another.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- There's a curious quirk on every official North Korean website. A piece of programming that must be included in each page's code.
Its function is straightforward but important. Whenever leader Kim Jong-un is mentioned, his name is automatically displayed ever so slightly bigger than the text around it. Not by much, but just enough to make it stand out.
It's just one facet of the "internet" in North Korea, a uniquely fascinating place.
In a country where citizens are intentionally starved of any information other than government propaganda, the internet too is dictated by the needs of the state - but there is an increasing belief that this control is beginning to wane.
"The government can no longer monitor all communications in the country, which it could do before," explains Scott Thomas Bruce, an expert on North Korea who has written extensively about the country.
"That is a very significant development."
There's just one cybercafe in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang.
Anyone logging on at the cafe would find themselves at a computer that isn't running Windows, but instead Red Star - North Korea's own custom-built operating system, reportedly commissioned by the late Kim Jong-il himself.
A pre-installed readme file explains how important it is that the operating system correlates with the country's values.
The computer's calendar does not read 2012, but 101 - the number of years since the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country's former leader whose political theories define policy decisions.
Normal citizens do not get access to the "internet". That privilege is left to a select number in the country, known as elites, as well as some academics and scientists.
What they see is an internet that is so narrow and lacking in depth it resembles more an extravagant company intranet than the expansive global network those outside the country know it to be.
According to Daily NK's Chris Green, one of the many innovative ways being used to get information into North Korea involves attaching USB memory sticks to balloons, and floating them across the border.
These sticks often contain South Korean programming - such as soap operas - and also the Korean language version of Wikipedia.
It means that while most North Koreans do not have access to the internet, they can still use these USB sticks to get information about the world beyond their border.
DailyNK is a website based in South Korea which publishes first-hand accounts of North Koreans both inside and outside the country.
"Time and time again we hear stories of which James Bond would be proud," said Mr Green in a recent presentation.
"Cellphones hidden in plastic bags and buried on hillsides far outside towns and cities, only being retrieved in order to make a single call, a call that must not last more than two minutes if the source is to avoid detection by the army of mobile electro-magnetic radiation detectors deployed by the Ministry of State Security."
"The system they've set up is one that they can control and tear down if necessary," explains Mr Bruce.
The system is called Kwangmyong, and is administered by the country's lone, state-run internet service provider.
According to Mr Bruce, it consists mainly of "message boards, chat functions, and state sponsored media". Unsurprisingly, there's no sign of Twitter.
"For a lot of authoritarian governments who are looking at what is happening in the Middle East," says Mr Bruce, "they're saying rather than let in Facebook, and rather than let in Twitter, what if the government created a Facebook that we could monitor and control?"
The Red Star operating system runs an adapted version of the Firefox browser, named Naenara, a title it shares with the country's online portal, which also has an English version.
Typical sites include news services - such as the Voice of Korea - and the official organ of the state, the Rodong Sinmun.
But anyone producing content for this "internet" must be careful.
Reporters Without Borders - an organisation which monitors global press freedom - said some North Korean "journalists" had found themselves sent to "revolutionisation" camps, simply for a typo in their articles.
Beyond the Kwangmyong intranet, some North Koreans do have full, unfiltered internet access.
However, it is believed this is restricted to just a few dozen families - most directly related to Kim Jong-un himself.
North Korea's reluctance to connect citizens to the web is counteracted by an acceptance that, as with trade, it needs to open itself up slightly if it is to continue to survive.
While China has its infamous "great firewall" - which blocks out the likes of Twitter and, from time to time the BBC website - North Korea's technology infrastructure is described as a "mosquito net", allowing only the bare essentials both in and out.
And it's with mobile that the mosquito net is most porous.
While there is an official mobile network, which does not offer data connections or international calls, North Koreans are increasingly getting hold of Chinese mobile phones, smuggled across the border.
The handsets generally work within about 10km (6 miles) of the border between the two countries - but not without considerable danger.
"The level of risk that people are taking now would be unthinkable 20 years ago," says Nat Kretchun, co-author of a groundbreaking report into the changing media environment in North Korea.
The paper, entitled A Quiet Opening, interviewed 420 adults who had defected from the country. Among their stories was a glimpse at the lengths people would go to use these illegal mobile phones.
"In order to make sure the mobile phone frequencies are not being tracked, I would fill up a washbasin with water and put the lid of a rice cooker over my head while I made a phone call," said one interviewee, a 28-year-old man who left the country in November 2010.
"I don't know if it worked or not, but I was never caught."
While the man's scientific methodology is questionable, his fear was certainly warranted.
"Possession of illegal cellphones is a very major crime," explains Mr Bruce.
This is North Korea's intranet, a closed system that those lucky enough to have access to can browse. Among the content are news websites, messageboards and other chat functions. Only the "elites" - members of high social standing - are permitted to use it, as well as some scientists and academics.
Koryolink is the official North Korean mobile network. Administered by Egyptian firm Orascom, it boasts over one million subscribers. However, it is not possible to make international calls on the service, nor can users access mobile internet.
Meaning My Country, Naenara is the name given to the main information portal on the North Korean intranet, as well as the specially designed version of the Mozilla Firefox browser.
Red Star OS
The Red Star operating system, used by computers in North Korea, is built on Linux, the popular open source software used by many in the wider world. Its introduction music is believed to be based on a classic Korean folk song, Arirang.
"The government has actually bought sensor equipment to try and track down people who are using them.
"If you use them, you want to use them in a highly populated area, and you want to be using them for a short amount of time."
During his leadership, Kim Jong-il would parade hundreds of tanks through the streets to show himself as a "military genius".
Many observers say that his son, Kim Jong-un, must in contrast show himself to have an astute technological mind, bringing hi-tech enhancements to the lives of his citizens.
But each step on this path brings the people of North Korea something they've not had before - honest information, which can have a devastating effect on secretive nations.
"I don't see an open door towards an Arab Spring coming that way any time soon," Mr Bruce says.
"But I do think that people are now expecting to have access to this technology - and that creates an environment of personal expectation that cannot be easily rolled back."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Catalans have had enough of belonging to a state where their language and culture are not respected and where their industry and economy are systematically stifled by centralist parties.
An independent Catalonia would be better providing its new leaders take the opportunity to make a well overdue restructuring and modernisation of all legislative and judicial departments which at the moment depend on the central government. The endless bureaucracy involved in many areas of public administration is still a vestige of Franco, with no signs of any central government improving this. It takes months to set up a new company, whereas elsewhere it takes a day. The judicial system is exasperatingly clogged and slow, making it impossible for people to believe in it - the Prestige case has taken ten years to come to court. The Catalan health service is recognised as the best in Spain but the cost of running it is pushed up by its being used by people from the rest of the country.
And with the extra 20 billion euros that Catalan tax payers currently pay to Madrid every year and are not returned, a lot could be done to improve social welfare, education and infrastructures.
If Catalonia becomes independent and that process is led by the current CiU government, then judging by the policies they have implemented over the last two years we can expect a skeleton welfare state, big tax breaks for foreign multinationals, public funds to pay off the private debts of banks and a close relationship with the unionist PP on most economic and social issues.
This is not the change that many Catalans who want to be part of an independent state are looking for, though and the advantages are clear if the left leaning social majority here can take political control: Catalonia would no longer become a support fund for the rest of Spain, resources could be used to improve the country's infrastructures and much cultural and economic energy would be released in the euphoria of independence. At a stroke we could rid ourselves of the dysfunctional monarchy, the bastions of reaction that are the army and the Spanish Church and the insidious influence of the right wing Madrid media.
What will happen to Spain? Will Catalan independence help the Basques to achieve freedom? If that happens, what will be left of Spain – a rump centralised state, increasingly reactionary and economically crippled ?
And Barça? Surely the Spanish clubs wouldn't want to kill the golden goose of TV payments that would be contingent on Barça staying in La Liga – perhaps renamed ·La Liga Iberica!
- Nick Bedson
'Independence is the only way forward if we are to heal old wounds'
Having spent most of my life between Barcelona and Madrid, I find myself in a position opposite to those Catalans who have never visited the Spanish capital, and yet feel a sort of invisible hatred coming from there towards them. Some in Madrid will tell you how much they dislike their North-East neighbours for no particular reason. If you ever come to Barcelona you will hear people bandying about the idea of how much better off they would be without Spain. But do not let them kid you, this has little to do with numbers and a lot with old, silly tribalism.
I am by no means in agreement with those Catalan separatists but I believe independence is the only way forward if we are to heal old wounds. Because when things start going downhill, when the new-born economy plummets and unemployment rises across the region, perhaps those fierce independentists will realise they were not so special, not so different to their neighbours after all. When there is no enemy to blame and no excuses left, perhaps they will start looking within themselves in search for the cause of their problems. Some of them might even start suspecting they were being lied to throughout their history, and travel to previously uncharted territories, such as Madrid, with an open mind and no fear of being "misunderstood", "hated" or being "looked down upon", realising that it all was, for the most part, only a myth. Just like two brothers in the midst of a family argument that goes back to generations, we both might find a way to reconcile and begin a renewed, healthier relationship.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — For at least eight years, a Philadelphia heart specialist and his colleagues have been smuggling used cardiac devices in suitcases to India to help poor people who might die without them.
Now, Dr. Behzad B. Pavri, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, reports that recycled implantable cardioverter-defibrillators or ICDs -- devices that jolt a failing heart back into rhythm -- can be collected safely from U.S. patients and funeral homes, transported, sterilized and re-implanted in people who otherwise would not be able to afford them.
“The patients who are getting these devices are the sickest of the sick, the poorest of the poor,” Pavri said.
In a review of 81 patients who received recycled ICDs between 2004 and 2011, Pavri and his colleagues found no evidence of infection or malfunction of the ICDs. Nine of the patients died during follow-up, but the deaths didn’t appear related to the ICDs, the authors said.
Though there’s been growing evidence that heart pacemakers may be safely reused, this is one of the first published reports to suggest that the more sophisticated ICD device may also be recycled, Pavri said.
“The outcomes were what we expected and hoped for,” Pavri said of the study published in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
But the study also renews ongoing questions about the legality -- and ethics -- of reusing cardiac devices, a practice that is prohibited by federal regulators and device manufacturers in the U.S.
In an accompanying editorial, Harvard Medical School experts Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Gene Bukhman caution that such well-meaning efforts should be careful not to offer inferior treatment to the poor.
“Flagship projects must remain free of the taint of the secondhand, in part by making it clear when devices can safely be reused,” wrote those authors. Farmer is a renowned expert in global health disparities and one of the co-founders of Partners in Health, the international health and social justice organization.
The patients in Pavri’s study, conducted in cooperation with Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai, included 66 men and 15 women. They ranged in age from 27 to 79 and were all at highest risk for life-threatening irregular heart rhythms that could be treated with ICDs.
All told, the patients received 106 reused devices, including 22 who got a second device and three who received a third ICD during the course of the trial.
More than 40 percent of the patients got life-saving shocks from the ICDs, including one 27-year-old patient, Mohd Asif, who received more than 300 pacing charges or larger jolts during so-called ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation “storms,” in which the heart runs wildly out of rhythm.
He is “still very much alive,” said Dr. Yash Lokhandwala, a cardiologist at the Mumbai hospital who treated Asif and others.
The patients who got the ICDs were those who otherwise could not pay for them. In India, a new ICD might cost 3 lakhs, the equivalent of $6,000 U.S., far beyond the reach of ordinary Mumbai residents who earn about 1.41 lakhs a year. Those who can pay foot the bill themselves, but those who can’t are treated with other, often inferior methods, including drug therapies.
Cost is the chief barrier preventing use of cardiac devices such as ICDs and pacemakers in developing nations, Pavri said. Rates of new ICD implantation are about 1 per million in many Asian and South American nations, compared with 434 per million new ICD implantations per year in the U.S., according to the World Society of Arrhythmia.
At the same time, ICDs are removed every day from patients in the U.S. who get new devices or who die each year, Pavri said. Modern ICDs have a projected battery life of six to 10 years, and many used ICDs have three years or more of remaining charge when they’re explanted.
Funeral directors frequently remove ICDs from bodies to prevent explosions during cremation. Perhaps one-fifth to one-third of devices discarded by funeral homes may have sufficient battery life to save someone else.
“We don’t know exactly how many but it’s clearly in the thousands,” said Pavri.
For his study, Pavri and his colleagues collected the devices one by one over several years from consenting patients or from funeral homes. Shipping them by traditional methods was difficult because of the explanation involved, so the doctors packed them into checked luggage and transported them themselves.
Reusing ICDs is prohibited in the U.S. by the federal Food and Drug Administration, which classifies them as single-use devices. However, the FDA has no jurisdiction over the devices if they’re treated and implanted elsewhere and Lokhandwala said the Cardiological Society of India has authorized the practice.
The ICDs were collected, cleaned and sterilized during a multi-step process and then re-implanted into the new patients.
Researchers were able to follow up on 75 of the 81 patients; those who survived appeared to be doing well, Pavri said.
This study offers important new information about the apparent safety of reusing ICDs, but it also highlights obstacles, said Dr. Thomas Crawford, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor who was not involved in the research.
Crawford is part of Project My Heart-Your Heart, a program that is collecting used pacemakers for future donation in developing countries. So far, they've amassed some 10,000 devices. However, researchers involved with that program have petitioned the FDA for permission to conduct a clinical trial to confirm the safety and efficacy of the reused devices in living people.
As it stands now, projects like Pavri’s aren’t officially sanctioned.
“It’s a very uncharted territory,” Crawford said. “It’s not exactly legal.”
Pavri acknowledged as much in the study, saying “any complications associated with such off-label use could be grounds for legal action.”
But, he added, such off-label research is necessary to bolster arguments that regulators and manufacturers should allow reuse of these devices on humanitarian grounds.
“It is worse practice, in my opinion, to not offer a patient anything,” Pavri said.
“A secondhand device is better than no device at all.”— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: NBC News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Today in faulty causality: A study has found that a country’s consumption of chocolate is directly correlated to the number of Nobel laureates it has produced. Leading the world in both chocoholism and Nobels: the Swiss, followed by the Swedes and the Danes. The U.S. would have to consume an additional 275 million pounds of chocolate per year to catch up (still no word on what benefits salt, a preponderance of processed foods, and trans-fats impart to a nation).
The correlation here is false, of course, and that’s precisely why the study was published. New York physician Franz Messerli noticed the correlation and published the study to show how p-values--a statistical tool that nearly all medical studies employ to prove the veracity of the causal relationships they describe--can be seriously flawed.
P-values essentially measure the probability that a given result will be as “extreme” as the observation if indeed there is no real correlation. It’s basically a test for randomness and a way for scientists to try to filter raw coincidence from their data. But in the case of the chocolate-to-Nobel correlation, Messerli calculated the p-value at 0.0001. That means the odds that this correlation is purely due to chance is just one in 10,000.
But Messerli himself calls the result “a complete nonsense correlation.” While there could be some kind of indirect correlation--chocolate is a luxury good after all, so one could assume that countries rich in chocolate are also rich in other things, like health care, education, and other factors that might influence a person’s chance of rising to Nobel status--there is no real established reason to believe that overall chocolate consumption (even dark chocolate, which has been shown in some studies to benefit the brain) generates Nobel laureates at an increased rate. Even the perceived link to wealth is incidental rather than causal. As a stand-alone finding, it is meaningless.
"Scientists look at hundreds and hundreds of different things, and every once in a while they will find two things that are surprisingly correlated with each other, and then they will say, 'Look at those very strong correlations and how important that is,'" American physicist and 2001 Nobel physics prize winner Eric Cornell told Reuters Health. "But what they don't do is tell you about all the different things that aren't correlated."
The lesson here: Brush up on your Nassim Nicholas Taleb and don’t believe everything you read in the media. Some correlations are tempting and even statistically verifiable. But that doesn’t necessarily make them, or the research they underpin, the undisputed truth.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — It is a momentous day for Georgian democracy -- but a painful one for the man who has led the former Soviet republic for nearly a decade.
For the first time in the strategically important former Soviet state, power is set to be transferred by free and fair elections instead of revolution.
As the results became clear, President Mikheil Saakashvili, a larger-than-life figure who was swept to power in 2003, appeared on national television to accept defeat.
After summing up the preliminary election results it is evident that the Georgian Dream coalition has achieved the advantage, he said, pledging not to hold up the process.
But it must be a painful political blow to a man swept to power nine years ago in the popular Rose Revolution.
Bogged down and damaged by accusations of authoritarianism and human rights abuse, including appalling images that emerged last month of prison inmates being physically and sexually abused in a Georgian jail, his once popular support appears to have slid away.
Georgia's ruling party concedes defeat in parliamentary elections
Ambitions of Georgian membership into the European Union and the NATO military alliance tormented Russia with whom Georgia fought a brief war in 2008. They may be less of a priority for the new government now.
The prime minister-elect, who will take the reigns of power from Saakashvili next year, is Bidzina Ivanishvili, a controversial 56-year-old billionaire who made his fortune in Russia during the 1990s.
With interests in iron ore, banks, pharmaceuticals and real estate, Ivanishvili grew up in Georgia's rural west.
He is now estimated by Forbes magazine to be the 153rd richest man in the world, with assets worth more than half of tiny Georgia¹s GDP.
His eccentric tastes include a number of pet penguins he keeps in a private zoo, along with a zebra and other exotic beasts.
A multi-million dollar art collection, including works by Picasso, Gilbert & George and Roy Lichtenstein, is mainly housed in secure vaults in London, while he displays exact reproductions in his towering, James Bond-style glass palace in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.
During a bitter election campaign, government officials accused him of wanting to turn his back on Europe, NATO and the United States, to return Georgia to Russia's sphere of influence.
More darkly, critics accused him of being part of a Kremlin conspiracy to topple Georgia's pro-Western leadership.
But that is an accusation he adamantly denies, telling CNN he merely wants to repair shattered links with Moscow and has no intention of turning his back on the West.
"Restoring relations with the Kremlin is one of our main tasks, and we will strive in every way to do this," he said.
"First, we have to convince the Kremlin that our strategy towards NATO and Europe is not harmful to and does not contradict Russian interests," he added.
For its part, the Kremlin -- whose tanks still occupy two breakaway regions of Georgia that Moscow recognizes as independent countries -- remained tight-lipped throughout the Georgian campaign.
Only now has there been comment from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
"If these results will become a reality, then [the] Georgian political landscape will be more diverse," he told Russian media.
"It should be welcome because it probably means that more responsible and constructive forces are coming to the parliament," he said.
If that means Russia and Georgia can rebuild ties without sacrificing the achievements of the past decade, this may be a momentous day in Georgian democracy indeed.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —WITH nuclear power on the ropes in Japan, it could be solar power's time to shine. Minamisoma City in Fukushima prefecture has signed an agreement with Toshiba to build the country's biggest solar park. The deal comes weeks after Japan introduced feed-in tariffs to subsidise renewable energy - a move that could see the nation become one of the world's largest markets for solar power.
Parts of Minamisoma are around 10 kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and land there has been contaminated by radiation fallout. "Moving away from a dependency on nuclear is of course involved [with the agreement to build the solar park]," a city official said.
Both Minamisoma and neighbouring Namie have called for the cancellation of plans to build a nearby nuclear power plant - although Minamisoma has received $6.4 million over the past 25 years for initially agreeing to host the facility.
A number of Japanese municipalities have started solar projects in recent months. Plans have been drawn up for large-scale solar parks in Hokkaido and Kyushu, while SB Energy began operating two megasolar facilities, in Kyoto and Gunma, on 1 July.
"New solar projects are being generated day by day," says Toshiba's Yuji Shimada.
Solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy still account for just 1 per cent of Japan's power capacity, however, so Japan has introduced a tariff to encourage investment. Utilities will pay solar energy firms around $0.5 per kilowatt-hour - triple the standard industrial electricity price. The extra money will come through a rise in electricity prices.
Some estimates suggest the move could help Japan leapfrog Italy and become the second-biggest market for solar power after Germany - although business groups fear that Japan's economic recovery will slow as a result of the electricity price rise.
Meanwhile, Japan's nuclear power industry will continue to provide competition. A reactor at the Oi nuclear facility in Fukui prefecture was brought back online as the tariffs were introduced.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: New Scientist
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Incense burns in the corner of the Nakai family living room -- part of an altar to their daughter Yumi, who committed suicide seven years ago. Yumi was just 12 years old when she took her own life, jumping from a condominium building.
"We never saw this coming," says her father, Shinji. "She was a daddy's girl, we went swimming and skiing together and loved to take trips. I was convinced there had been a mistake."
Her mother, Setsuko, lights another candle at her daughter's altar and says a prayer for her, as she does every day. She is convinced bullying at school was one of the main reasons Yumi killed herself. In the months preceding her suicide, Yumi told her mother she was being taunted by some of her classmates.
"I called the school and spoke to her teacher," she says. "The teacher said, 'I'll deal with this problem' and never got back to me, so we assumed it was solved."
Korean teens bullied to death Real-life 'mean girls' 'Mean girls' grow up Living with cyber bullying
Yumi hinted at bullying in the note she left behind, writing that her decision to take her life "may be because of some of my classmates, studies and exams."
But the parents are still fighting a legal battle with the school and the Kitamoto Board of Education. The family alleges the school was negligent in bully prevention and investigating her suicide. Shinji Nakai claims the school only showed him a fraction of the investigation they carried out -- a claim the board of education rejects.
In a statement to CNN, the Kitamoto Board of Education said it was "co-operatively investigating the cause of her suicide, hearing from her parents, collecting as much information as possible including the possibility of bullying." The school also spoke to students, but school officials found no information that connected to her suicide, they said. A recent court case ruled in the school's favor. Yumi's parents filed an appeal to a higher court on Monday.
South Korea teenagers bullied to death
This ongoing legal drama comes as a recent bullying case has horrified Japan. A boy in Otsu, west of Tokyo, committed suicide last year by jumping off a building after bullies allegedly forced him to practice killing himself.
Japanese media and the parents claim the boy had sought help from a teacher, but his pleas were ignored. The case has prompted the government to set up a special team to help schools and board of education curb bullying.
The new anti-bullying task force will be responsible for identifying cases of serious bullying at an early stage and giving advice to education boards and schools, said Hirofumi Hirano, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, at a press conference Tuesday.
The education ministry also announced plans to conduct an emergency survey of all elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan next month in an attempt to draw up appropriate prevention measures.
"People have pointed to how there's too much academic pressure on adolescents in Japan which creates stress and leads to bullying in schools; other people talk about how Japanese cases of bullying can be group orientated," says Sachiko Horiguchi, an anthropologist at Tokyo's Temple University.
Horiguchi, however, believes the problem is far more complex and bullying is certainly not an issue peculiar to Japan. But one issue recurring in Japan is "the problem of the school and the Board of Education failing to accept the fact there's some bullying," Horiguchi says. "That can be quite common in many schools, but it's increasingly become more difficult probably to deny that."
Yumi's parents agree. They believe there has been a cover up at her school and no one wants to accept there is a problem. "I think the problem is the evaluation-first system in Japanese education. If the school admits a bullying incident, it would affect the teacher's career," says her father, Shinji. "The members of the board of education and the school are like family members, they tend to protect each other. It's disadvantageous for them to make the investigation open, so the truth is hidden."
Yumi's parents want acknowledgment of their daughter's bullying to finally feel enough closure to be able to bury her ashes in the graveyard.
"I just want to know the truth, why did she have to die?" Shinji says. "Unless I know, I just can't accept her death."—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association)— Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Iranian government will not retreat from the principles and values of the nation, stressing that the enemy will receive a heavy blow from the Iranian nation.
“I assure the Iranian people that the government will not retreat even one iota from their rights, principles and values against the declining materialistic powers, even if they (the enemies) mobilize their past and future [capabilities] and get accompanied by certain parties inside the country,” said President Ahmadinejad on Thursday.
He added that the main enemies of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution have waged a major battle and mobilized their utmost power and capability but the Iranian government strongly resists against them.
“The enemy deals a blow to the Iranian nations step by step; but, in return, it receives a stronger, heavier blow,” President Ahmadinejad said.
Ahmadinejad emphasized that the Iranian nation’s path cannot be stopped.
He noted that the hegemonic system opposes the Iranian nation only because of the high speed of its progress in various sectors such as industries, science and technology.
The chief Iranian executive stated that the enemies thought that they can achieve their objectives in a long-term fight with the nation but they would be obliged to retreat as “we take more steps towards the future.”
The ongoing global situation shows the dissatisfaction of the people across the world; now there is a tendency to make a change in the globe, he noted.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association)— Saudi Arabia’s population is the third most slothful in the world, new research has found, with 68.8 percent of adults failing to do enough physical exercise to keep themselves healthy.
Only in Malta and Swaziland do adults exert themselves less than Saudi Arabia, and women in the Gulf state are the world’s least inactive females, according to data published in the Lancet medical journal.
Kuwait and the UAE also rank in the top ten with 64.5 percent and 62.5 percent of adults respectively not meeting the recommended level of activity. Malta is the laziest country in the world with 71.9 percent of the population deemed inactive, while in Swaziland the proportion is 68.3 percent.
Nine eastern Mediterranean countries featured in the list with those over 15-years old in Libya considered the most active of the region (45.8 percent inactive), ahead of Lebanon (46.8 percent), Iraq (58.4 percent) and the UAE (62.5 percent).—www.shafaqna.com/english