Topless protesters detained at Davos forum

Written By Ivan Kolev on Saturday, January 28, 2012 | 11:59 PM

Saturday, January 28, 2012


DAVOS, Switzerland -- Three topless Ukrainian protesters were detained Saturday while trying to break into an invitation-only gathering of international CEOs and political leaders to call attention to the needs of the world's poor. Separately, demonstrators from the Occupy movement marched to the edge of the gathering.

After a complicated journey to reach the heavily guarded Swiss resort town of Davos, the

Ukrainians arrived at the entrance to the complex where the World Economic Forum takes place every year.

With temperatures around freezing in the snow-filled town, they took off their tops and tried to climb a fence before being detained. "Crisis! Made in Davos," read one message painted across a protester's torso, while others held banners that said "Poor, because of you" and "Gangsters party in Davos."

Davos police spokesman Thomas Hobi said the three women were taken to the police station and told that they weren't allowed to demonstrate. He said they would be released later Saturday.

The activists are from the group Femen, which has become popular in Ukraine for staging small, half-naked protests to highlight a range of issues including oppression of political opposition. They have also conducted protests in some other countries.

"We came here to Switzerland to Davos to explain the position of all poor people of the world, to explain that we are poor because of these rich people who now sit in the building," said Inna Schewcenko.

Protesters from the Occupy movement that started with opposition to practices on Wall Street held a separate demonstration in Davos on Saturday. A small group of protesters are camped in igloos in Davos to call for more help for the needy.

About 40 Occupy protesters gathered in front of the town hall. Some held placards with slogans such as "If voting would change anything, it would be illegal" and "Don't let them decide for you, Occupy WEF."

They then marched toward the forum, prompting about a dozen police officers to hastily erect a mobile barrier as Saturday shoppers looked on with bemusement.
The demonstrators chanted anti-capitalist slogans, remaining about 100 feet (30 meters) from police lines.

One member of the Occupy camp was invited to speak at a special event outside the forum on Friday night to discuss the future of capitalism; British opposition leader Ed Miliband was also speaking.

Soon after the panel discussion began, some activists in the audience jumped up and started chanting slogans, and the protester panelist walked off the stage.

Other members of the audience told the activists to "shut up" and arguments disrupted the panel for about 20 minutes. The discussion then resumed, without the Occupy panelist.

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Yemeni president heads to US for medical treatment


SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh headed to the United States on Saturday for medical treatment, his spokesman said, the latest stage in an effort to distance him from his country's policies to help ease a transition from his rule.

Ahmed al-Soufi, the press officer for the presidency, told The Associated Press that Saleh had arrived in London and would leave later Saturday for New York for medical treatment in the United States for wounds suffered in a June assassination attempt in the Yemeni capital.

Saleh left Yemen for to neighboring Oman a week ago, planning to head to the United States, after weeks of talks with the U.S. over where he could go. Washington has been trying to get Saleh to leave his homeland, but it does not want him to settle permanently in the United States, fearing it would be seen as harboring a leader considered by his people to have blood on his hands.

In London, a Foreign Office spokeswoman confirmed that Saleh's plane was scheduled to land Saturday at a British commercial airport "to refuel en route to the United States." Speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy, she said Saleh and those accompanying him were not going to enter the United Kingdom.

Saleh was traveled on a chartered Emirates plane with a private doctor, translator, eight armed guards and several family members, an official in the Yemeni president's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the details.

In November, Saleh handed over his powers to his vice president and promised to step down completely after months of protests by millions across the country demanding an end to his nearly 33-year rule. A national unity government was formed between his ruling party and the opposition.

But opponents say he has continued to interfere in the work of a unity government through his allies and relatives in key posts -- particularly his son and nephew, who command the country's most elite and powerful military units. As a result, the past two months have seen persistent violence, power struggles and delays in reforms.

The U.S. and its allies have been pressured Saleh to leave in hopes of removing him from the scene will smoothen the transition.

Saleh agreed to step down in return for a sweeping immunity from prosecution on any crimes committed during his rule, a measure that has angered many in Yemen who want him tried for the deaths of protesters in his crackdown on the uprising against him. Protests have continued demanding his prosecution and the removal of his relatives and allies from authority.

It is also unclear how permanent Saleh's exile is. In a farewell speech before leaving to Oman, Saleh promised to return to Yemen before Feb. 21 presidential elections as the head of his party.

Some in Yemen suspect Saleh is still trying to slip out of the deal and find ways to stay in power, even if it's behind the scenes.

Even since the protests against his rule began a year ago, Saleh has proved a master in eluding pressure to keep his grip, though over the months his options steadily closed around him. He slipped out of signing the accord for the power handover three times over the months before finally agreeing to it.

He was badly burned in a June explosion in his compound in Sanaa. He received medical treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia for three months. American officials had hoped he would remain there, but the Yemeni leader returned home and violence worsened anew.

His maneuvering and the turmoil on the ground left the United States struggling to find a stable transition in the country to ensure a continued fight against Al Qaeda militants based in the country, who make up the most active branch of the terror network in the world. Saleh was a close ally of Washington in the fight, taking millions in counterterrorism aid.

During the past year of turmoil, Al Qaeda-linked militants outright took control of several cities and towns in the south, including Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

On Friday, government forces battled with the militants near the town of Jaar, which they also control. At least five people were killed in the fighting, Yemeni security officials said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

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Brazilian bikinis burgeon to fit the fat


RIO DE JANEIRO – Tall and tan and young and ... chunky?

The Girl From Ipanema has put on a few pounds, and for many sunbathers on Brazil's beaches the country's iconic itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bikini just doesn't suffice anymore.

A growing number of bikini manufacturers have woken up to Brazil's thickening waistline and are reaching out to the ever-expanding ranks of heavy women with new plus-size lines.

That's nothing short of a revolution in this most body-conscious of nations, where overweight ladies long had little choice but to hit the beach in comely ensembles of oversized T-shirts and biker shorts.

"It used to be bikinis were only in tiny sizes that only skinny girls could fit into. But not everyone is built like a model," said Elisangela Inez Soares as she sunbathed on Copacabana beach, her oiled-up curves packed into a black size 12 bikini.

"Finally, it seems like people are beginning to realize that we're not all Gisele," said the 38-year-old mother of four, referring to willowy Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

Clothing designer Clarice Rebelatto said her own swimwear-hunting travails prompted her to found Lehona, an exclusively plus-size beachwear line.

"Honestly, the problem went way beyond just bikinis. In Brazil, it used to be that if you were even a little chunky, finding any kind of clothes in the right size was a real problem," said Rebelatto, herself a size 10. "And I thought, 'I'm actually not even that big compared to a lot of women out there, so if I have problems, what are they doing?"'

Since its launch in 2010, the line has become a hit.

In brash leopard spots and flower prints not meant for wallflowers, the label's 14 bikini styles aren't what you'd normally associate with plus-size swimsuits. The necklines plunge dramatically. Straps are mere strings. And while the bottoms provide too much coverage to qualify for the famed "fio dental" or "dental floss" category of Brazilian string bikinis, they're significantly more audacious than the standard U.S. cut.

"We're working from the principle that bigger women are just like everyone else: They don't want to look like old ladies, wearing these very modest, very covering swimsuits in just black," said Luiz Rebelatto, Clarice's son and director of Lehona.

He said that recent publicity of the brand and several other new swimwear lines catering to plus sizes has triggered an overwhelming number of calls and e-mails from would-be customers.

"They're all excited and they say, 'I've been looking everywhere for a bikini like that. Where can I get one?"' said Rebelatto.

Lehona is currently sold exclusively at big and tall specialty stores throughout Brazil. Its bikinis retail for about 130 reais or $75 -- a relatively high price-point here, but Rebelatto said sales have grown at a galloping pace, though he did not provide any figures.

t's the same story at Acqua Rosa, a conventional swimwear label that added a plus-size line in 2008. Now, plus-size purchases account for more than 70 percent of the brand's total sales, said director Joao Macedo.

It makes sense.

For centuries, large swaths of Brazil were beset by malnutrition, and in 1970, nearly 10 percent of the population in the country's poor, rural northeast region was considered underweight, according to Brazil's national statistics institute.

But the phenomenal economic boom that has lifted tens of millions out of poverty and into the burgeoning middle class over the past decade has also changed the nation's once-svelte physique: A 2010 study by the statistics institute showed that 48 percent of adult women and 50 percent of men are now overweight. In 1985 those figures were 29 percent for women and 18 percent for men.

(Still, there's been no rash of plus-size male swimwear lines, as men here wear Speedo-style suits that don't impinge on big guts.)

Analysts attribute Brazil's rapidly widening girth to changes in nutrition, with chips, processed meats and sugary soft drinks replacing staples like rice, beans and vegetables.

And while the country's elite are widely known to be fitness freaks -- and also among the world's top consumers of cosmetic surgery -- those recently lifted out of poverty and manual labor are becoming increasingly sedentary. A 2008 study showed that barely 10 percent of Brazilian teens and adults exercise regularly.

Still, despite their growing numbers, not everyone is eager to embrace "gordinhas" -- or "little fatties," as chunky women are affectionately known here.

Many high-end bikini-makers have turned a seemingly deliberately blind eye to the burgeoning plus-size market. Rio-based upmarket brand Salinas, for example, offers five sizes, from extra-small through extra-large. But their sizing runs notoriously small and it's hard to imagine anyone over a size 6 actually managing to fit into any of the brand's minuscule two-pieces.

Luis Rebelatto of Lehona chalked it partially up to snobbery.

"Some brands, they don't want their image to be associated with chunky women," he said. "Only the thin, the rich and the chic."

While Brazilians' increasing heft is a public policy preoccupation for the government, growth in the ranks of the overweight population has given them increased visibility in Brazilian society. Extra-wide bucket seats for the obese have been installed in Sao Paulo's metro system, and on Sunday the city will host Brazil's first ever Miss Plus Size beauty contest.

"It used to be that people would stare at me," said Soares, the voluptuous sun-worshiper on Copacabana beach. "Now when I come to the beach I see women who are much bigger than me -- and lots of them are wearing bikinis -- so I'm not self conscious any more.

"God makes some people thin but he made me like this," she said, rubbing down the well-oiled bulge of her stomach and thighs. "So who am I to think that he was wrong?"

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Embolden Taliban try to sell softer image


KABUL, Afghanistan – When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, Maulvi Qalamuddin headed the Committee to Protect Virtue and Prevent Vice, the religious police that shut down girls' schools, beat up men with insufficiently long beards and arrested those in possession of music or video tapes.

Nowadays, the 60-year-old Taliban cleric is on a different mission: He is overseeing a network of schools that teach reading, writing and math to thousands of girls in his home province of Logar, an insurgent hotbed just south of Kabul.

"Education for women is just as necessary as education for men," Qalamuddin thunders. "In Islam, men and women have the same duty to pray, to fast -- and to seek learning."

The Taliban's restrictions on women and schooling, combined with support for Al Qaeda founder Usama bin Laden, turned the group into an international pariah even before the September 2001 attacks on America. Now, as the U.S. pulls out its troops and tries to negotiate a peace settlement with the insurgents, the international community grapples with a crucial question: If returned to power, will the Taliban behave any more responsibly this time around?

In recent public statements, the Taliban have made an effort to appear a more moderate force, promising peaceful relations with neighboring countries and respect for human rights. The big unknown is whether this new rhetoric represents a meaningful transformation -- or is merely designed to sugarcoat the Taliban's real aims.

"One might believe that they would change over time," says U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the day-to-day commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. "You see some messages that they might open their thinking a bit about women, a woman's place in society. But I don't know that I would bet on it."

U.S. and Taliban representatives have met over the past several months, trying to establish a dialogue that could end America's longest foreign war. In a tangible sign of progress in early January, the Taliban dropped their insistence that all foreign troops must leave Afghanistan before any peace talks begin and agreed to set up a representative office in Qatar to facilitate future negotiations. To create trust in these talks, the U.S. is considering transferring to Qatari custody five senior Taliban officials incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Despite a new willingness to negotiate with the U.S., however, the Taliban's leadership still believes it can reach its war aim of seizing Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan after most foreign forces withdraw in 2014, American military commanders agree.

Such a future Taliban government would be gentler and wiser than its 1990s incarnation, insurgent officials insist. "As a movement gets older, it becomes more mature, and makes positive changes," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says. "During the past Taliban regime the government would make some hasty decisions, but now we are careful and deliberate."

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French tourist killed in shooting in Egypt

EL-ARISH, Egypt -- A French tourist was killed in a shooting in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday after a group of Bedouins opened fire while trying to rob a currency exchange, police said Saturday.

Two police officials said the 42-year-old man died immediately from gunshot wounds to the stomach and thigh.

They said the gunmen began shooting after police arrived on the scene and tried to stop them from robbing the money exchange. A German tourist and two Egyptians were also wounded, the officials said.

The gunmen escaped with an unknown amount of money.

Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles southeast of Cairo, is a popular tourist destination.

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Fire at rehabilitation center in Peru kills 26


LIMA, Peru – A fire swept through a two-story private rehabilitation center for addicts in a poor part of Peru's capital on Saturday, killing at least 26 people as firefighters punched holes through walls to rescue residents locked inside.

The "Christ is Love" center for drug and alcohol addicts was unlicensed and overcrowded and residents were apparently kept inside "like prisoners," Health Minister Alberto Tejada told The Associated Press. He said six people were hospitalized with injuries.

Peru's fire chief, Antonio Zavala, said most of the victims died of asphyxiation.

The local police chief, Clever Zegarra, said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

One resident of the center in Lima's teeming San Juan de Lurigancho district said he was eating breakfast at 9 a.m. local time on the second floor of the center when he saw flames coming from the first floor, where the blaze apparently originated.

Gianfranco Huerta told local RPP newsradio station that he leapt from a window to safety.

"The doors were locked, there was no way to get out," he told the station.

An AP journalist at scene said all the windows of the building he was able to see were barred. Journalists were not allowed inside as police cordoned off the block. By early afternoon, all bodies had been removed from the center.

Tejada said the number of deaths had risen to 26 with six people injured.

"This rehabilitation center wasn't authorized. It was a house that they had taken over... for patients with addictions and they had the habit of leaving people locked up with no medical supervision," Tejada said.

Authorities said they did not know how many people were inside the center at the time of the fire.

They said they were looking for the center's owners and staff, some of whom apparently fled the scene.

Zavala said the fire was of "Dantesque proportions." Firefighters had to punch a hole through a wall with an adjoining building to help the people trapped inside the rehabilitation center.

"We've had to use electric saws to cut through the metal bars of the doors to be able to work," Zavala said.

Relatives of residents of the center gathered in front of the building weeping and seeking word of their loved ones.

One of them was Maria Benitez, the aunt of 18-year-old Carlos Benitez, who she said was being treated at the center.

"I want to know if he is well or not... his mother sent him here to rehabilitate him because he used drugs," she told ATV television.

Local media reported that the "Christ is Love" rehabilitation center sought to use Biblical teachings to help treat addicts.

Peru's fire fighters are notoriously underfunded. All the South American country's firefighters are volunteer and the annual firefighting budget for the entire country is $19 million.

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Iran moves step closer to banning oil sales to Europe

TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian lawmakers have finalized a draft bill requiring the government to immediately halt crude oil sales to Europe in response to the bloc's decision to ban the purchase of Iranian oil, a member of parliament said Saturday.

Nasser Soudani said the legislature's energy committee completed its work on the bill Saturday and that parliament will debate and vote on it during an open session on Sunday.

"As long as the EU doesn't lift the oil embargo, we won't give them a drop of oil," state TV quoted Soudani as saying. Soudani is deputy chairman of the energy committee.

The European Union imposed an oil embargo against Iran and froze the assets of its central bank on Monday. It was the latest attempt to try to pressure Tehran over a nuclear program the United States and its allies argue is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for purely peaceful purposes.

The EU sanctions came just weeks after the U.S. approved, but has yet to enact, new sanctions targeting Iran's Central Bank and, by extension, its ability to sell its oil.

Many Iranian lawmakers and officials have called for an immediate ban on oil exports to the European bloc before the EU's ban fully goes into effect in July, arguing that the 27 EU nations account for only about 18 percent of Iran's overall oil sales and would be hurt more by the decision than Iran. China, a key buyer of Iranian crude, has criticized the embargo.

Ahmad Qalebani, director of the National Iranian Oil Company, said the EU must either sign long-term oil contracts with Iran now or lose Iranian oil.

"Some European companies still want to receive Iranian oil," Qalebani was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency. "We want those companies to enter transparent talks with us for a long-term contracts or stop purchasing oil from Iran now."

Qalebani said the decision to immediately cut oil exports to Europe has to be approved by the country's top leadership.

If parliament passes the bill to halt oil sales to Europe, the legislation must still be approved by the Guardian Council to become law.

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