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TORRINGTON, Wyo. (AP) — Sheriff’s officials in Goshen County are touting a grenade launcher as a useful tool for keeping the peace, even though they have never used it.

The Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1sSTJkQ ) reported Sunday that officials bought the weapon for use in the county jail, which houses 25 inmates and has not had a large fight in the past year. Lt. Jeremy Wardell says the grenade launcher, one of three the county has owned, is a less-lethal option for controlling riots. He compared it to pepper spray or a Taser.

“We would use it in situations when less-lethal force is justified to get the situation under control,” Wardell said. “That tool gives us an option not to use lethal force.”

Officials say deputies can use it to fire tear gas during a hostage situation, though Goshen County has not had one in 15 years. The sheriff’s office stocks non-lethal sponge grenades, which provide temporary incapacitation through blunt trauma, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Goshen County, which has about 14,000 residents, received its first grenade launcher, a 37mm, in the 1950s from Federal Signal, Murphy said. Federal Signal is a global corporation that makes and distributes equipment for police and fire departments.

The county received a M79 single-shot grenade launcher from the Department of Defense’s military surplus program. Wardell said the county does not have records on the second weapon after its return to the federal government.

Linda Burt, director of the ACLU in Wyoming, says the grenade launcher could make tense situations worse.

The initial police reaction in August to protests over a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, drew national attention to the militarization of local police departments, with critics arguing that the heavily armed police presence only fueled the tensions.

___

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com


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If there’s one thing that’s true about America, it’s that we love a good chase — so long as the really, really bad guy gets caught. Whether the chase ends in a long stay in jail or a storm of bullets, these cases prove that the law always gets their man. Or woman, as the case may be.

We partnered with The Blacklist on NBC to find the baddest of the bad, the ones that triggered the biggest, longest, most dogged manhunts in history. Tune in to The Blacklist on Monday, September 22nd at 10:00/9:00c to watch the capers of Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader), the Concierge of Crime — who might just feel at home on this list of outlaws.

Bonnie & Clyde Barrow
bonnie and clyde
Bonnie and Clyde display poor gun safety

The Crime:
It all began with a stolen car.

Yes, the crime that brought Bonnie and Clyde Barrow — storied lovebirds and hardened outlaws — to the attention of the then-Bureau of Investigation was not murder, robbery, or extortion.

It was the humble charge of transporting a stolen Ford across state lines.

By the time they were finished, of course, the couple was suspected in 13 counts of murder, as well as numerous burglaries, bank heists, car thefts, jail breaks, and kidnappings.

The Chase:
bc wanted poster
The Bureau of Investigation’s wanted poster

The FBI issued a warrant for the arrest of the pair in May of 1933, but the chase dragged on for an entire year, eventually spanning a wide swath of the southern Midwest. It ended, for the rabid young lovers, in a hail of bullets.

Bonnie, it appears, liked bad boys. She met Clyde Barrow at age 19 while married to another convicted murderer. The two bonded quickly over a shared passion for crime — she smuggled him the gun that he used to escape from prison. From there, the spree began in earnest. They gathered a gang of kindred souls — Barrow’s brother and his wife, as well as a revolving door of violent young men — and crisscrossed the countryside of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri, committing brazen crimes along the way. (At one point, they even mounted a full-on assault of a prison, breaking out an incarcerated comrade.)

All this despite the furious efforts of law enforcement, who blanketed the countryside with wanted posters for the pair. Police showed little hesitation in using deadly force. Bonnie and Clyde managed to survive several armed ambushes set by police; their gang was not always so lucky.

Finally, their luck ran out. In the spring of 1934, the Bureau received information that the couple would travel to a remote part of Louisiana. The Feds, along with Texas and Louisiana troopers, saw their chance. As Bonnie and Clyde tried to speed through their ambush, police opened fire.

The Aftermath:
bc bullethole car
A crowd examines bullet holes in the couples’ car

Both were killed instantly, but their memory lives on, perpetuated in media. Every year, a festival is held near the spot of their fatal ambush to commemorate their lives.

August Robles
august robles
The “squint-eyed” Robles usually wore glasses

The Crime:
It’s been called the biggest manhunt in New York City history (a city with a lot of crime), so we can probably forgive contemporary reporters for writing it up like an Elmore Leonard novel. The Associated Press article from February 21, 1955, the day after the massive gun battle between Robles and police, called the suspected hitman a “little,” “squint-eyed” “sworn enemy of the law.”

The police sought Robles, a known mob associate, for the murder of Joseph Aronowitz, a witness who had been scheduled to testify in a Baltimore robbery trial. When three detectives approached Robles, he rushed them, snatching one officer’s revolver. At gunpoint, he forced the other two officers to give up their weapons.

Advantage: Robles.

The Chase:
After an exchange of gunfire and three fruitless days of searches of subways and theaters, police received a tip that Robles was holed up in an East Harlem apartment. Twelve officers surrounded the exits. A group of detectives, veterans of earlier skirmishes with Robles, went to the door. Three received bullet wounds for their troubles.
25 precinct nyc
New York’s 25th Precinct emptied to deal with Robles

In response, police called up 200 officers and a squad of firemen to Robles’ 112th Street hideout. They were heavily armed with submachines and tear gas. Thousands of bystanders (“hundreds of thousands,” according to the AP) lined the roofs around the hideout, eager for a glimpse of the fight.

They weren’t disappointed.

For about an hour and a half that afternoon, Robles and police exchanged volleys of gunfire. At one point, tear gas bombs ignited a blaze in the building. Firefighters struggled to control it. The wily Robles twice attempted to stall — by calling in a priest — but his time had run out.

The Aftermath:
True to an earlier vow, Robles didn’t come out alive. Officers found him lying in his undershirt in the bedroom of the apartment, dead from several gunshot wounds.

Billie Austin Bryant
billie austin bryant
Not-quite genius criminal Billie Austin Bryant

The Crime:
Not everyone can be great at their jobs — including criminals. Witness Billie Austin Bryant, a bank robber and murderer who holds the dubious distinction of being the criminal with the shortest time ever on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List. Yes, mastermind Billie Austin Bryant lasted an entire two hours before the FBI nabbed him.

No one can say he lacked a flair for the dramatic, though.
lorton correctional facility
Lorton Correctional Facility, Bryant’s temporary home

In 1968, Bryant — then a few months into a minimum 18-year sentence for armed robbery — stole a car from his Virginia prison’s auto shop and drove it straight through a chain-linked fence to (fleeting) freedom. He resurfaced in early 1969, driving an eye-popping maroon Cadillac and robbing a Maryland bank — where he was previously a regular customer.
maroon cadillac
Bryant drove a Maroon Cadillac to his 1969 bank robbery, turning heads

The Chase:
The robbery drew the attention of the FBI, who sent three agents to Bryant’s wife’s apartment to question her. The agents unknowingly passed Mrs. Bryant on the apartment stairs, but ran into Billie at the door. He immediately opened fire, killing two of the agents. Reinforcements swarmed the apartment, but Billie escaped by climbing down a tree in back.
agent woodriffeagent anthony palminsano
FBI Agents Edwin R. Woodriffe and Anthony Palmisano were killed by Bryant

His freedom was short-lived. After the FBI added Billie to their Most Wanted List, a neighbor alerted authorities that he had heard strange noises coming from his attic. The FBI found Billie there, lamenting that the door was stuck.

The Aftermath:
Bryant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of the FBI agents, and sentenced to two life sentences — to be served after the completion of his earlier sentence for robbery.

He was punished again for smuggling in how-to texts on demolitions, allegedly to be used in prison breaks.

The Unabomber
unabomber
Infamous police sketch of the Unabomber

The Crime:
Perhaps no crimes have stumped authorities as much as those of Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. Complicated by his reclusiveness and the use of commonplace components in his bombs, the search for Kaczynski remains one of the largest and costliest in America’s history.

The numbers may not capture the fear that the former Berkeley mathematics professor inspired. In 17 years, he killed 3 and injured 23 with 16 bombs. But the vision of the hooded man loomed large in public consciousness, aided by the Unabomber’s targeting of a collection of inoffensive academics and airline employees through the (sort of) trusted United States Post Office.

And it could have been much, much worse. A bomb that Kaczynski planted on an American Airlines Boeing 747 failed to fully detonate — although a dozen passengers were treated for smoke inhalation.

The Chase:
unabomber bomb
A Unabomber pipe bomb shows use of everyday, fungible items

Despite 17 years on the case, a dedicated team of specialists and the creation of a database that held a million suspects, including Kaczynski himself, law enforcement in the 1990s was frustrated. Although they rightly suspected a white male with a grudge was behind the trail of violence, they had focused on someone in their 20s. (They couldn’t have known that Kaczynski had attended Harvard at age 16.)

The case finally broke in 1995, when the FBI, after internal debate, convinced the Washington Post to publish Kaczynski’s sprawling anti-technology manifesto. Stakeouts of the newsstands in San Francisco that sold the paper — the city was suspected to be the bomber’s home base — only turned up a disheveled writer who had already been vetted. But the manifesto’s style caught the eye of David Kaczynski, Ted’s brother, and his wife. They alerted the FBI, who found some 150 similarities in style — enough, at least, to order surveillance.
unabomber cabin
Inside the Unabomber’s Montana cabin, a window to Kaczynski’s survivalist life

A small team of FBI staked out Kaczynski’s Montana cabin. They rented unassuming trucks, talked to neighbors and checked records of the Unabomber’s movements to see if they matched times and places from which bombs were mailed. They did. On a snowy April morning, 100 SWAT officers, lead FBI agents on the case and a park ranger who knew Kaczynski approached cautiously. He surrendered without a fight — a good thing, since the cabin was full of explosives.

The Sentence:
Kaczynski pleaded guilty to three counts of murder. As part of a plea agreement, he currently serves eight life sentences, back to back, without the possibility of parole. Unrepentant, he has bragged about his sentence in Harvard alumni literature.

The DC Sniper
sniper map
The sniper shot at 13 across Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia

The Crime:
For an agonizing 23 days in October of 2002, a specter stalked the area around Washington, DC. Men and women were gunned down from long range while carrying out the everyday business of life: shopping for groceries, getting gas, mowing the lawn. The elusive killer taunted police, leaving messages in the form of tarot cards at the scene. The cards chillingly read: “Call Me God.”

The snipers killed 10 and wounded 3 in the murderous spree, but their crimes stretched back farther than anyone imagined.

The Chase:
tarot card of the sniper
Tarot card left at a crime scene reads “Call Me God”

At the start of the case, Maryland police — backed up by the FBI and other state agencies — had frustratingly little to work with. The victims were unconnected. The sniper removed shell casings and other evidence from the scene, and most early victims succumbed to the devastating .223-calibre ammunition, leaving few witnesses. The search focused (mistakenly, as it turned out) on a white van seen speeding away from a crime scene.

In addition to local and state forces, the FBI mobilized 400 agents to work on the case. A tip line they set up revealed a promising lead: a man claiming to be the sniper called and said that he had robbed a Mobile, Alabama liquor store the previous month. Evidence had been left at that scene. Fingerprints on a shell-casing matched to 17-year old Boyd Lee Malvo and a mysterious, military-trained, father figure in his life — John Allen Muhammad.

More importantly, it turned up a blue 1990 Chevy Caprice that the pair had recently bought in New Jersey.

That car, still sporting Jersey plates, was spotted at a rest stop in Maryland. Authorities swarmed the area and even blocked off the exit with commandeered tractor trailers. The suspects were arrested without conflict. Inside the Caprice, investigators found a Bushmaster .223-calibre rifle, a bipod and a hole bored in the trunk.
the sniper nest
The perfect nest for sniping

The Aftermath:
A Virginia jury convicted John Allen Muhammad on a count of first degree murder, and sentenced him to death. (He was also convicted on six counts of murder in Maryland.) At his appeal, Malvo, exempt from the death penalty due to his youth, testified against him. Muhammad was executed in 2009.

Malvo was convicted on several counts of killing and received life without parole.

The Boston Bombing
boston bombing
Mourners leave running shoes at the site of the Boston Bombing

The Crime:
On Monday, April 15th, 2013, two explosions ripped through crowds near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, shattering the peace of the normally festive day. The blasts were so powerful that they propelled bomb parts — a pressure cooker filled with BBs and nails — onto nearby rooftops. Three bystanders lost their lives. Another 267 were wounded, with many suffering grievous injuries requiring amputations.

One more would be killed and another seriously injured in gun battles before Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were brought to justice.

The Chase:
For 102 hours, the nation held its breath. Immediately after the bombing, hundreds of federal, state and local investigators combed through the crime scene, an enormous 15-block stretch of Boston, and gathered surveillance video from neighboring businesses. Two individuals stood out in grainy footage: a pair of men in hats and sunglasses who dropped backpacks at the scene. Despite the chaos of the day, the men barely reacted. The FBI appealed to the public for help in locating the men, who turned out to be brothers and naturalized citizens originally from the Chechen republic.
boston bombing
Stills from video surveillance show the Tsarnaevs mingling amongst the Marathon crowd

Seemingly unafraid of the massive manhunt, the Tsarnaevs stuck close to home. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, worked out, shopped at Whole Foods and took to Twitter. After the FBI announcement, though, they began to feel the heat. On April 18, the brothers drove to MIT and, possibly seeking more weaponry, shot a security guard five times, killing him. (They couldn’t get his gun out of its holster, though.) In what would turn out to be their undoing, they then carjacked a entrepreneur in Watertown, Mass., forcing him to drive at gunpoint. The hostage escaped at a gas station and notified authorities, who quickly gave chase.

For four long minutes, police and the brothers exchanged gunfire in the streets; the brothers tossed homemade bombs from the window of the car. The exchange ended with the elder brother dead, allegedly run over by Dzhokhar, a police officer seriously wounded and a wounded Dzhokhar on the loose. Thousands of law enforcement officials descended on Watertown and performed a street by street, house by house search of the eerily quiet suburb.
tsarnaev
Police and National Guard search quiet Watertown neighborhoods

Finally, on the night of April 20, a homeowner noticed a pool of blood inside the boat he kept in his backyard. Hundreds of police swarmed the scene. The injured Dzhokhar was brought in, bleeding and seriously wounded, without a fight.

The Aftermath:
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a Massachusetts hospital from injuries sustained in his gun-and-explosive battle with police.

Federal prosecutors charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with using weapons of mass destruction, which can carry the death penalty. The trial has been delayed due to challenges to the venue and difficulties with jury selection. He also faces charges for the assassination of MIT security guard Sean Collier.


Source

CANADENSIS, Pa. (AP) — Nine days after a gunman went on a deadly ambush at a state police barracks, authorities said Sunday they have recovered one of the weapons he was carrying and believe they are hot on his trail as he travels on foot through rugged forests in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Investigators said they believe the suspect they describe as a self-taught survivalist had been planning a confrontation with law enforcement for months, if not years.

State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens revealed a few more details about the manhunt for Eric Frein, saying trackers have discovered items he hid or abandoned in the woods – including an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition they believe he had been carrying while on the run.

“We are pushing him hard, he is no longer safe and I am confident that he will be apprehended,” Bivens said.

Authorities did not yet know if the weapon had been used in the ambush, he said. Still, police believe Frein remains dangerous and possibly armed with a .308 rifle with a scope that police say was missing from the family home along with the AK-47.

Since the Sept. 12 shooting, there have been no confirmed sightings of or contact with Frein, who was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after the ambush at the Blooming Grove police barracks that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, and critically wounded Trooper Alex Douglass.

The search is focusing on a several square-mile area on the border of Pike and Monroe counties around the nearby village where Frein grew up, Bivens said.

“We know that Frein has prepared and planned extensively for months, and maybe years,” Bivens said. “He planned his attack and his retreat.”

Bivens said Frein initially had the advantage of knowing the rugged terrain around the area.

“Our tactical operations people now also know his backyard, the area he once felt safe in,” Bivens said.

Heavily armed police and federal agents on Friday descended on the community of Canadensis where Frein, 31, had lived with his parents, ordering residents to stay inside and preventing anyone outside the neighborhood from returning to their homes. Law enforcement officers wearing bulletproof vests and armed with rifles scoured the woods as helicopters buzzed overhead.

Police ordered the lockdown, believing that Frein was close and there was the possibility of a confrontation, Bivens said. Now, they are telling residents to go about their normal lives but remain vigilant, keep their doors locked and stay out of the dense, boggy woods where the search is underway.

Bivens said police cannot “100 percent” guarantee the safety of area residents but said officers are doing their best to ensure that Frein is not in the immediate area of where most of them live.

Although Bivens declined to discuss what police believe was Frein’s motive or mindset, he said they believe Frein is focused solely on attacking law enforcement, not civilians. Police are in contact with area schools that closed Thursday and Friday because of the manhunt, and it is up to them when to reopen, Bivens said.

Asked whether it was foolish for Frein’s scheme to include returning to the area where he lived, Bivens replied, “I don’t say that it was well-planned, I say that it’s been planned.”

Bivens said Frein had covered perhaps 15 or 20 miles on foot since the shooting and authorities do not believe he has contacted his family. Police have no information that he’s being helped by anyone, he said.

Bivens asked residents to report any shelters or bunkers that Frein may have constructed and asked hunters to review footage from trail cameras set up to track wildlife.


Source

Courage. The word swirls round my head today, a year after the horrific terror attacks on Westgate mall in Nairobi that left 67 dead and scores injured. Courage because so many individuals ran into the mall during the shootouts to try and save innocents. Courage because Acumen’s board had planned a trip just a few days after the attacks; and while the Al Shabaab terrorists were still unaccounted for, our board showed up anyway. Courage because of the resilience we experienced throughout the city.

Nairobi would not bow to terrorism. And we all became a little bit braver.

A year after Westgate: the world feels less safe, more fragile. Al Shabaab is active. Kenya has experienced terrible violence – grenades and shootings, kidnappings and worse. Elsewhere, the Islamic State has beheaded two journalists and an aid worker. Russia has annexed Crimea. Ebola has taken the lives of more than 2,600 across West Africa and the number of infections and deaths expected is rising. Everywhere, we see inequality, the potential for unrest. The one thing in short supply is the thing we need most: courage.

We need courage to confront the immediate threat of terrorism and to address the long-term challenge of poverty. This will require the markets, government and civil society. It will demand that we understand the difference between means and ends. It will require steering clear of corruption, doing what is right, not what is easy and gaining a reputation for being trustworthy. It will require building cohorts of diverse young leaders and giving them the skills and tools to solve complex problems across lines of difference.

That isn’t easy. Easy is cow-towing to one’s own constituency. Easy is agreeing to a plan publicly and then rejecting it privately. Easy is omitting to step forward and be counted when it is deeply uncomfortable. Easy is the opposite of courage.

2014-09-21-RichardMayaka.jpg

The good news is that all around the world we see examples of individuals and organizations working on behalf of a more inclusive world, making markets work for us, not control us. In honor of the Westgate attacks, let me focus on a few Kenyan examples.

I think of Dr. Ernest Mureithi who runs Miliki Afya to build an affordable chain of health clinics across areas that have received too few quality resources. The company is a model for driving down healthcare costs and making every patient feel welcome. I think of Nat Robinson who runs Juhudi Kilimo, an agricultural financing company reaching low-income farmers. I think of the three founders of Sanergy, a sanitation company turning waste to revenues in the Nairobi slums, and providing jobs to more than 175 already. These entrepreneurs have dared to change broken systems. They walk with the courage to do what it takes to build trust, fight corruption, face betrayals and failures and still come back with the belief that things will get better.

It isn’t easy. Nothing of importance ever is. It requires quieting a trembling inside and doing what you have to do anyway. It requires a profound assumption of human goodness. It means sometimes feeling hammered, duped, exhausted and confused and still getting up to do what you have to do. It necessitates a resolve derived from understanding that all we really have is one another.

Courage builds from every day decisions that ultimately dictate who you are. It grows out of those ideas and people and values for which you stand. It requires speaking truth when it is not spoken. It requires staying open to those from different ethnicities, religions, tribes and races across lines of class and nation and sexual orientation. It entails mastering empathy based not on pity but on a moral imagination embedded in the belief that our separation is not inevitable.

As Kenya renews, let us remember those who were needlessly murdered as well as their loved ones. Let us give thanks to the individuals, official and unofficial, that did what they could do to help someone in need during the tragedy and in the months that followed. Let us, most of all, resolve to act with more courage, to speak truth, and ask ourselves whether our actions are bringing more opportunity, more freedom, more dignity to others. If we can answer Yes, then we will not have endured the devastation in vain.


Source

Courage. The word swirls round my head today, a year after the horrific terror attacks on Westgate mall in Nairobi that left 67 dead and scores injured. Courage because so many individuals ran into the mall during the shootouts to try and save innocents. Courage because Acumen’s board had planned a trip just a few days after the attacks; and while the Al Shabaab terrorists were still unaccounted for, our board showed up anyway. Courage because of the resilience we experienced throughout the city.

Nairobi would not bow to terrorism. And we all became a little bit braver.

A year after Westgate: the world feels less safe, more fragile. Al Shabaab is active. Kenya has experienced terrible violence – grenades and shootings, kidnappings and worse. Elsewhere, the Islamic State has beheaded two journalists and an aid worker. Russia has annexed Crimea. Ebola has taken the lives of more than 2,600 across West Africa and the number of infections and deaths expected is rising. Everywhere, we see inequality, the potential for unrest. The one thing in short supply is the thing we need most: courage.

We need courage to confront the immediate threat of terrorism and to address the long-term challenge of poverty. This will require the markets, government and civil society. It will demand that we understand the difference between means and ends. It will require steering clear of corruption, doing what is right, not what is easy and gaining a reputation for being trustworthy. It will require building cohorts of diverse young leaders and giving them the skills and tools to solve complex problems across lines of difference.

That isn’t easy. Easy is cow-towing to one’s own constituency. Easy is agreeing to a plan publicly and then rejecting it privately. Easy is omitting to step forward and be counted when it is deeply uncomfortable. Easy is the opposite of courage.

2014-09-21-RichardMayaka.jpg

The good news is that all around the world we see examples of individuals and organizations working on behalf of a more inclusive world, making markets work for us, not control us. In honor of the Westgate attacks, let me focus on a few Kenyan examples.

I think of Dr. Ernest Mureithi who runs Miliki Afya to build an affordable chain of health clinics across areas that have received too few quality resources. The company is a model for driving down healthcare costs and making every patient feel welcome. I think of Nat Robinson who runs Juhudi Kilimo, an agricultural financing company reaching low-income farmers. I think of the three founders of Sanergy, a sanitation company turning waste to revenues in the Nairobi slums, and providing jobs to more than 175 already. These entrepreneurs have dared to change broken systems. They walk with the courage to do what it takes to build trust, fight corruption, face betrayals and failures and still come back with the belief that things will get better.

It isn’t easy. Nothing of importance ever is. It requires quieting a trembling inside and doing what you have to do anyway. It requires a profound assumption of human goodness. It means sometimes feeling hammered, duped, exhausted and confused and still getting up to do what you have to do. It necessitates a resolve derived from understanding that all we really have is one another.

Courage builds from every day decisions that ultimately dictate who you are. It grows out of those ideas and people and values for which you stand. It requires speaking truth when it is not spoken. It requires staying open to those from different ethnicities, religions, tribes and races across lines of class and nation and sexual orientation. It entails mastering empathy based not on pity but on a moral imagination embedded in the belief that our separation is not inevitable.

As Kenya renews, let us remember those who were needlessly murdered as well as their loved ones. Let us give thanks to the individuals, official and unofficial, that did what they could do to help someone in need during the tragedy and in the months that followed. Let us, most of all, resolve to act with more courage, to speak truth, and ask ourselves whether our actions are bringing more opportunity, more freedom, more dignity to others. If we can answer Yes, then we will not have endured the devastation in vain.


Source

The two Koreas seem at an impasse. In March Park Geun-hye’s Dresden speech held out a hand of friendship. Brusquely dismissing this, North Korea showered insults on the South’s President.

Fortunately rhetoric is not the whole reality. For over a decade, one project has shown how both Koreas can cooperate to their mutual gain. The joint venture Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a short drive from Seoul just across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), has weathered many storms.

In May 2010 Seoul banned trade and investment with Pyongyang after the sinking of the warship Cheonan, but wisely exempted Kaesong. Last year when the North pulled out its 55,000 workers, President Park patiently negotiated the KIC’s reopening under a new joint management structure.

Since 2005, this potent combination of Southern capital and technology with Northern discipline and diligence has produced goods worth US$2.3 billion and generated US$9.45 billion in trade, according to Seoul’s unification ministry (MOU) last month. Yet it could achieve much more.

2014-09-19-Seok_HyunHONGBlogPostPhoto1.jpg
Workers in Kaesung Industrial Complex in North Korea busy at the production line. © Pooled photos by South Korean photojournalists

As originally conceived, Kaesong would have hosted 250 Southern companies (twice the current total) by 2007. Planned expansion envisaged as many as 700,000 Northern workers by 2012.

Both Koreas need to recover that early ambition. Those who think North Korea is unchanging forget the heroic risk the late Kim Jong-il took, facing down his own military to lease part of the front line to the enemy. Hoping for large-scale foreign investment, Kim invited Samsung and other major South Korean corporations to come in — only to be thwarted by his own bureaucracy.

‘Trustpolitik’ is President Park’s watchword, and trust is what the Koreas need most and first. To that end, each side must reconsider its past practices and offer the other a basis to move forward.

Until the North rashly withdrew its workers last year, Kaesong was mostly a sanctuary insulated from the peninsula’s knotty wider issues. That status must be re-established. Southern companies need a firm guarantee from the North that business is business and will never be sabotaged again.

On that basis Seoul should let another joint venture restart. The Mount Kumgang resort on North Korea’s southeast coast saw 1.9 million Southern visitors in the decade to 2008, when the South suspended tours after a straying tourist was shot. That was tragic, but the eight-year impasse has benefitted no one. Like Kaesong, Kumgang was a win-win project overall. It is time to try again.

Once it is clear Seoul means business, Pyongyang will reciprocate. Kim Jong-un recently created a dozen new special economic zones, but given North Korea’s reputation he will find few takers. Not wishing to become yet more dependant on China, South Korea is his only realistic option.

For South Korean companies the North’s advantages are obvious. Language, labor, logistics and location are all favorable. North Korea’ educated but underemployed workforce, vast amounts of underutilized land, and worn-out infrastructure and plant are all opportunities for Southern firms.

A precedent lies close at hand. Cross-straits politics are as fraught as Korea’s, yet for 25 years China and Taiwan have forged business ties. Deepening economic integration has helped reduce tensions. The two Koreas could learn much from such a pragmatic, long-term strategic approach.

It is ironic and tragic that Samsung et al. have large operations all over Asia, not least in China – yet none on their doorstep in North Korea. This can and must change, to all Koreans’ benefit.

2014-09-19-Seok_HyunHONGBlogPostPhoto2.jpg
Panorama view of Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea. © Pooled photos by South Korean photojournalists

Criticisms that this rewards Pyongyang’s misbehavior miss the point. Of course UN Security Council sanctions must be observed. But expanding Kaesong and resuming Kumgang are small beer: Those few extra dollars won’t buy Kim any new bombs or major missiles. It’s worth a try.

Two further arguments. Existing policy towards North Korea isn’t working: on the nuclear issue, human rights and much else. We need to try another tack, more long-term and imaginative.

Second, South Korea has a unique responsibility. As we Koreans say, Uri nara: It’s our country. While careful to treat the North as a partner — and to insist that they equally respect the existing Southern state — we both know that between us it’s different, because we are the same people.

Both North and South Korea see unification as their goal. That will take time, and a road-map – which must be a shared one. The obvious way forward is to build on what works. Kaesong works. By expanding it and creating other Kaesongs, we can show North Korea two things. First, we are sincere. And second, win-win is better than confrontation. Kim Jong-un has promised his people that they need no longer tighten their belts. Only with South Korean help can he deliver that.

Pyongyang will remain a tough and sometimes tiresome partner. Yet we must not let irritation over minor issues distract us from long-term goals. South Korea’s retreat in recent years has left China dominant over the North’s economy. With Russia and even Japan forging fresh links with North Korea, Seoul can ill afford to be a laggard. The challenge for President Park Geun-hye is not only to deal South Korea back into the Northern game, but to take – and keep – the lead role.

___________________

The author is chairman of JoongAng Media Network — one of South Korea’s leading media groups, including the prestigious JoongAng Ilbo daily and a former South Korean ambassador to the United States.


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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — As the Islamic State group battles across Syria and Iraq, pushing back larger armies and ruling over entire cities, it is also waging an increasingly sophisticated media campaign that has rallied disenfranchised youth and outpaced the sluggish efforts of Arab governments to stem its appeal.

Long gone are the days when militant leaders like Osama bin Laden smuggled grainy videos to Al-Jazeera. Nowadays Islamic State backers use Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms to entice recruits with professionally made videos showing fighters waging holy war and building an Islamic utopia.

The extremist group’s opponents say it is dragging the region back into the Middle Ages with its grisly beheadings and massacres, but its tech-savvy media strategy has exposed the ways in which Arab governments and mainstream religious authorities seem to be living in the past.

Most Arab governments see social media as a threat to their stability and have largely failed to harness its power, experts say. Instead, they have tried to monitor and censor the Internet while churning out stale public statements and state-approved sermons on stuffy government-run media.

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s top council of religious scholars issued a lengthy Arabic statement via the state-run news agency denouncing terrorism and calling on citizens to back efforts to fight extremist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. Leading Sunni Muslim authorities in Egypt have issued similar government-backed statements.

Compare that to the Islamic State group. Its Furqan media arm produces slick videos complete with interviews, graphics and jihadist hymns echoing in the background, with Arabic and English subtitles. It promotes the videos and its glossy monthly magazines on an array of social media, reaching out to people in the Arab world and beyond. Islamic State fighters even tweet live from the battlefield, giving real-time updates and waging theological debates with online detractors.

“They definitely have an electronic army behind them,” said Ray Kafity, vice president of FireEye for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. The company manufactures IT solutions for defending against cyber threats.

The Islamic State boasts thousands of foreign fighters, some of whom were first drawn to it in the privacy and security of cyberspace. It also uses social media for fundraising.

Fadi Salem, a Dubai-based researcher on Internet governance in the Arab World, said the immediate response of Middle Eastern governments to the power of social media has been to “control, block and censor as much as possible.”

“Very few governments viewed this as an opportunity rather than a risk,” Salem said.

Egypt shut down access to the Internet during the bloodiest day of the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, and Syria cut off access in rebellious provinces shortly after the start of the revolt against Bashar Assad later that spring.

Iraq’s government followed suit in June of this year, when the Islamic State group swept across much of the country’s north and west. The government cut off Internet access to several areas overrun by militants, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

A study by The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto showed that despite blocking mobile messaging apps and social media platforms, Iraq’s authorities failed to block seven websites affiliated with or supportive of the Islamic State group. New accounts appear almost as quickly as old accounts are reported and taken down.

“It’s hard to wage a war with ideas online,” said Abdulaziz Al-Mulhem, the spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Information and Culture. “When we talk about monitoring or controlling social media it is like trying to control air, and this of course is hard.”

Facebook says it has 71 million active monthly users in the Middle East, and youth between the ages of 15 and 29 make up around 70 percent of Facebook users in the Arab region, according to a report by the Dubai School of Government.

Facebook’s Elizabeth Linder says Middle Eastern governments are still in the early stages of realizing the full potential of social media. She advises governments on how they can better use Facebook for diplomacy.

“The most important thing is to be there,” she told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a social media conference in Dubai. “And that’s something that I really do encourage governments to do, not to leave the space but to enter the space.”

The United States, which has long struggled to craft an effective public diplomacy in the region, has taken note. The U.S. State Department launched a “Think Again Turn Away” campaign on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, with Arabic and English videos similar in style to those of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. One video is titled “Airing al-Qaida’s dirty laundry” and another shows images of children allegedly killed by these groups.

But none have gained the traction of the Islamic State’s videos, which pair brutal images of mass shootings and beheadings — aimed at striking fear in the hearts of its enemies — with heroic portrayals of its fighters as models of bravery and piety.

A slick 55-minute video entitled “Flames of War” came with its own trailer, and features images of exploding tanks and wounded U.S. soldiers. The video, which came out this month, was allegedly released by the Islamic State group’s Al-Hayat media center. It idealizes militants as “warriors” and “truthful men.”

The message to alienated young men in the region and abroad is that they too can wage holy war, exact revenge on those seen as oppressing Muslims and help build a just society based on divine law.

The videos that have gained the most attention in the West are those that show a masked man beheading two American journalists and a British aid worker in the desert. But others document life in militant-held Raqqa in eastern Syria, and cheerfully invite potential recruits to move there.

“We want to be your brothers and for you to be our brothers,” an Islamic State fighter tells Syrian men and children in a video entitled “The best ummah” — or Muslim society.

The Arabic video with English subtitles depicts a community where pious men police the streets, eliminating drugs and alcohol and making sure everyone prays together at the mosque. The militants distribute food to those in need and ensure fair prices in the local markets.

For many it’s a compelling vision of a better world, one that stands in stark contrast with most states in the region, in which aging autocrats preside over governments seen as irredeemably corrupt and stagnant. Combatting that vision will require more than simply silencing its advocates, experts say.

“Pure censorship and blocking is not really working. It will continue to be a cat-and-mouse game,” Salem said. “Another way is to use these tools to attract people away from these ideas. A combination of both is required.”


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RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) — The family of a Northern California man who was shot and killed by a police officer is scheduled to hold a rally and memorial, and the police chief has been invited to attend.

Family members of 24-year-old Richard “Pedie” Perez will be holding the event Saturday afternoon at a public park in Richmond. Richmond Police Capt. Mark Gagan (GAY’-gen) says Perez was fatally shot while trying to grab the gun of Officer Wallace Jensen outside a liquor store on Sept. 14.

John Burris, an attorney representing Perez’s family, says several witnesses dispute the police’s account regarding the shooting and he plans to sue the department and the officer.

Gagan says Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and other officers will attend Saturday’s event after receiving an invitation from Perez’s family.

The shooting is under investigation.