Dutch police arrest 7 men suspected of plotting major attack
By MIKE CORDER
Friday, September 28
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Seven men were arrested Thursday in the Netherlands on suspicion of plotting a large-scale extremist attack that Dutch prosecutors said they think was foiled following a months-long investigation.
The national prosecutor’s office said in a statement that heavily armed police arrested the men in the towns of Arnhem, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Amsterdam, and Weert in the southern Netherlands close to the borders of Germany and Belgium.
The investigation was launched by intelligence suggesting the alleged ring leader, a 34-year-old man of Iraqi heritage, wanted to carry out an attack at the site of a large event and cause multiple casualties, according to the statement.
The suspects allegedly wanted to use bomb vests and assault rifles to do harm at the event, and planned to detonate a car bomb at another location, prosecutors said. An investigation of potential targets was continuing.
Prosecutors said the suspects ranged in age from 21 to 34. Three of them, including the 34-year-old Iraqi, were previously convicted of attempting to travel overseas to join extremist networks.
The men were attempting to obtain AK47 assault rifles, handguns, bomb vests, grenades and raw materials for bombs and were looking for opportunities to train with such weapons, according to the statement.
Prosecutors said that the investigation sped up this month because of the suspects’ “advanced preparations.”
Minister for Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus told Dutch national broadcaster NOS that police acted in time to prevent an attack.
“In a sense it is serious, but luckily it’s also good news – a terrorist cell that was plotting an attack has been taken down,” Grapperhaus said. “They weren’t so far that it was a danger to society, in the sense that it was nearly too late. But they were quite far in their preparations.”
The men were to be brought before an investigating judge on Friday at a behind-closed-doors hearing.
The arrests came weeks after a 19-year-old Afghan citizen living in Germany allegedly stabbed two American tourists at Amsterdam’s main railway station in what prosecutors described as an attack with an extremist motive.
The Dutch anti-terror coordinator’s office said in a tweet Thursday that the allegedly foiled plot fit the current threat profile for the Netherlands, which is at four on a scale that tops out at five. The office did not raise the level following the arrests.
“Jihad networks are also active in the Netherlands with the intention to plot attacks in Europe,” the office said. “Today’s arrests must be seen in that light.”
How the mafia uses violence to control politics
September 26, 2018
Post-Doctoral economics researcher, Bocconi University
Gianmarco Daniele does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Italy is not the only country with an organized crime problem. But movies and TV shows like “Scarface,” “The Godfather” and “Gomorrah” have made the Italian mobs – in both their southern Italian and American incarnations – world-famous.
Such pop culture portrayals tend to romanticize a dangerous phenomenon that’s all too real for those whose lives it affects.
What TV and movies have often gotten right, however, is the idea that Italy’s criminal networks are powerful enough to threaten the government.
According to the country’s first-ever comprehensive survey on political violence, Italy saw 1,191 violent attacks against politicians between 2013 and 2015. The count, undertaken by the Italian nonprofit organization Avviso Pubblico, was culled from local news stories and first-hand accounts.
How does this pervasive violence affect Italian politics?
A new paper in the Journal of Public Economics, which I co-authored alongside University of Pennsylvania political scientist Gemma Dipoppa, analyzes Italy’s new survey data to find out.
Why do criminals attack politicians?
The goals of criminal organizations differ from group to group.
Organized crime is defined as a highly centralized, often international criminal enterprise that seeks to infiltrate politics and extract public resources for private benefits.
In Italy, our study found, the mafia frequently threatens politicians to obtain government contracts that pay handsomely for waste management, construction and other public services.
Individual politicians who threaten those business interests may find themselves in danger. Physical assaults, arson and threats are the mafia’s favored tactics. These crimes make up 70 percent of the 1,191 political attacks documented by Avviso Pubblico.
After the director of a Sicilian national park in 2016 strengthened anti-mafia checks on local firms applying to work in the park, for example, he narrowly survived a nighttime assassination attempt.
Other politicians are corrupt, contributing to Italy’s organized crime problem by sharing illegal profits with the mob.
“We all have to get our fill,” said one Naples bureaucrat who was recorded taking bribes from the mafia.
Between 1991 and 2018, Italian police dissolved 266 city councils for having ties with criminal organizations.
Local officials are most at risk
Interestingly, none of the documented political violence we analyzed targeted national figures – likely because attacking well-known politicians would bring more media exposure.
Rather, the Italian mafia typically targets local officials. Mayors were the target of 310 of the documented 1,191 attacks on politicians from 2013 to 2015.
Italians know this, because these stories play out regularly in local newspapers.
The mayor of Marcianise, a town near Naples, left office in early 2018 after a wave of threats, for example.
And the mayor of Rizziconi, in the southern Italian province of Reggio Calabria, has been blacklisted by some community members – and even by some of his own relatives – after reporting the mob’s pressure tactics against him to the police.
Mafia attacks on politicians are usually linked to the electoral cycle.
In regions where criminal organizations are more powerful – such as Sicily, Calabria and Campania – our research found that political violence was much more likely immediately after a local election.
Political violence is 25 percent more likely in the four weeks after the election of a new mayor.
This sends a message to newly elected officials: They are the mafia’s new negotiating partners in government. They need to understand the risks associated with disobeying the will of organized crime.
Political violence diminishes a candidate pool
Strategic political violence has a destructive effect on political life in Italy.
My prior research shows that if politics seems like a dangerous job, some competent and educated individuals will be discouraged from entering the field.
I studied Italian candidates for local political office between 1985 and 2011. My data came from over 1,500 southern municipalities where strong anti-mafia law enforcement policies during that period had effectively reduced the presence of the mob.
In the first election after a drop in organized crime, I discovered that politicians in these cities were 18 percent more educated, meaning a substantially higher number held a university degree.
Typically less than 25 percent of elected officials in these areas have completed college.
Apparently, politics is perceived as a more appealing field when it is less influenced by criminal organizations, thus attracting more qualified candidates.
The reverse also holds true. Italian cities that experience an increase in mafia presence see competent officials quitting politics for less dangerous professions.
How organized crime hurts citizens
These findings shed light on how organized crime hurts millions of Italians who have nothing to do with the mafia’s illegal business.
Targeted political violence by the mafia distorts the electoral process, reducing the quality of the candidate pool and compromising officials.
These dangerous dynamics, of course, are not restricted to Italy.
During Mexico’s 2018 election season, 132 politicians and political operatives were killed. Drug cartels are believed to be behind many of the assassinations, though the crimes remain unsolved.
Colombia has also seen targeted violence decimate its politics.
In 2002, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC guerrillas, launched a campaign to intimidate public officials who were unsympathetic to its cause. Five politicians were murdered and 222 of 463 mayors in Colombia resigned due to death threats.
Similar processes are most likely playing out in other countries with organized crime groups sufficiently strong and organized to threaten politicians and other civil servants, among them Serbia and Slovakia.
And as organized crime enriches itself, our findings show, it impoverishes local politics.
Trashed by Trump, UN court is asked to investigate Venezuela
By MATTHEW PENNINGTON and ANGELA CHARLTON
Wednesday, September 26
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. president may deride it, but other countries are pinning hopes on the International Criminal Court to tackle one of today’s deepest crises: Six nations took the unprecedented move Wednesday of asking the U.N. court to investigate Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity.
The move came as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was en route to the U.N. General Assembly, where his leadership has elicited sharp criticism and widespread concern.
Canada was among nations referring Venezuela to the ICC, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seized the moment to defend the idea of global justice the court represents — the day after President Donald Trump attacked it in a stinging speech that challenged multilateral organizations.
Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Canada formally asked the ICC to investigate Venezuela on a range of possible charges, from murder to torture and crimes against humanity.
Venezuelan officials did not immediately respond to the action but have widely rejected international criticism, saying they’re driven by imperialist forces led by the U.S. to justify launching an invasion.
The six countries hope the move puts new pressure on Maduro to end the violence and conflict that have sent more than 2 million people fleeing and made Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates among the highest in the world.
“To remain indifferent or speculative in front of this reality could be perceived as being complicit with the regime. We are not going to be complicit,” said Paraguayan Foreign Minister Andres Rodriguez Pedotti.
It’s the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based U.N. court.
Its chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda already has opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that Venezuelan government forces since April 2017 “frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations,” and abused some opposition members in detention.
It is now up to the prosecutor — who didn’t immediately comment on the request — to decide what to do next. The six-country referral could broaden the scope of the ongoing preliminary probe to the more serious charges leveled at Venezuela on Wednesday and extend the time frame back to 2014.
Human Rights Watch was among those hailing the request, which was based on two reports: one by the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights that uncovered widespread extrajudicial executions and other violations, and another by an expert group designated by the Organization of American States that found reason to suspect 11 people, including Maduro, of crimes against humanity.
The request — announced on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly — also bolsters the idea that international bodies can hold corrupt or abusive leaders or governments responsible before their citizens.
Trudeau said Canada continues to believe that the court is a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.”
In an address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump criticized what he called the “ideology of globalism” and said that as far as America is concerned, “the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.”
The ICC was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in areas where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. The court has 123 state parties that recognize its jurisdiction.
At a news conference, Trudeau steered clear of direct criticism of Trump and said Canada and the U.S. share concern about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. But he also made clear Canada’s support for international cooperation to help developing nations “to build a more peaceful, equal and stable world.”
“Because that’s what Canadians expect: That we stand up not just for ourselves but for everyone,” Trudeau said.
While more world leaders spoke at the General Assembly on Wednesday, most attention was still focused on Trump, whose brash behavior provoked laughter and headshakes from other leaders. He chaired a Security Council meeting on nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
With Trump listening, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales accused his administration of meddling in Iran and Venezuela, showing “contempt” for multi-lateralism and having no interest in upholding democracy.
If the U.S. upheld democracy, “it would not have financed coup d’etats and supported dictators” or threatened democratically elected governments as it has in Venezuela with military intervention, Morales said.
He also charged that the U.S. “could not care less about human rights or justice,” citing its alleged promotion of the “use of torture” and separation of migrant parents and children who were put “in cages.”
Trump had tough words for Iran, saying that a government with Iran’s track record “must never be allowed to obtain” a nuclear weapon. Iran’s foreign minister said Trump was acting with “unprecedented vengeance” by reimposing U.S. sanctions against Iran and pulling out of the international accord curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
Trump also made waves by accusing China of meddling in November elections in the United States. China denies any interference.
At the same time, he thanked Iran, Russia and Syria for slowing their attack on Idlib province in Syria. Last week, Russia and Turkey reached a deal to set up a buffer zone in the province, the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria.
Leaders of Britain, Afghanistan, South Korea, Yemen, Colombia, Cuba, Lebanon and Italy were among those speaking on pressing world issues. The assembly session ends Oct. 1.
America’s go-it-alone attitude and growing divisions among key world powers risk eroding the U.N.’s ability to bring positive change in global affairs and end conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere.
Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer and Claudia Torrens at the United Nations, Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela, and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed.
Can pink really pacify?
September 27, 2018
Assistant Professor of Interior Design, Iowa State University
Julie Irish does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
As an interior designer, I’ve long been interested in how different colors can affect our mood and behavior.
For example, if you’ve recently been to a fast food restaurant, you might notice that there’s a lot of red – red chairs and red signs, red trays and red cups.
When, on the other hand, was the last time you ate in a blue restaurant?
There’s a reason for this: Red, it turns out, has been shown to stimulate the appetite. Blue, on the other hand, has been shown to be an appetite suppressant.
But when it comes to interior design, the color pink has been particularly controversial.
After some psychologists were able to show that certain shades of pink reduced aggression, it was famously used in prison cells to limit aggression in inmates. Yet pink toes a shaky line. Is it a benign means of subtle manipulation? A tool to humiliate? An outgrowth of gender stereotyping? Or some combination of the three?
Pink is for girls?
When most people read that some are using pink to reduce aggression, they probably think, “of course.”
After all, from birth pink is appropriated to pretty little baby girls and blue is assigned to bouncing baby boys. In human psychology, we have come to connect the color to femininity and its corresponding gender stereotypes: weakness, shyness and tranquility.
But according to architectural historian Annmarie Adams, pink didn’t always automatically signal femininity. Pink became the default color for all things girly only after World War II. Before then, it was common for girls to wear blue, while mothers would often dress their boys in pink.
Adams traces the switch back to Nazi Germany. Just as the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a yellow badge to identify themselves, they forced gay men to wear a pink badge. Ever since then, pink has been thought of as a non-masculine color reserved for girls.
Prisons go pink
Once pink started to embody femininity, some wondered if it could be used to “tame” aggressive male behavior.
Beginning in the 1980s, a handful of prison wardens painted holding cells in prisons and jails pink. The hope was that the color would have a calming effect on the male prisoners.
The wardens were inspired by the results from a series of studies conducted by research scientist Alexander Schauss. Schauss had concocted a pink paint color that he claimed could reduce the physical strength and aggressive tendencies of male inmates.
In his study, Schauss had subjects stare at a large square of pink paper with their arms outstretched. Then he tried to force their arms back down. He demonstrated he could easily do this as the color had weakened them. When he repeated the same experiment with a square of blue paper, their normal strength had returned.
Schauss named the color “Baker-Miller Pink” after two of his co-experimenters, naval officers Gene Baker and Ron Miller. Baker and Miller were so impressed with Schauss’ findings that they went ahead and painted the holding cells at their naval base this shade of pink. They raved about the results and how it had pacified inmates.
As word got around about the benefits of pink décor, psychiatric units and other holding areas were painted Baker-Miller Pink. Custodians reported quieter inmates and less physical and verbal abuse.
The Swiss go for a ‘cooler’ pink
All this seems like a simple, cost-effective solution to calm inmates.
However, a few years later, Schauss decided to repeat the experiments – only to find that Baker-Miller Pink didn’t have a calming effect on inmates after all.
In fact, after conducting a test in an actual pink cell, he noticed no difference in inmates’ behavior. He was even concerned that the color could make them more violent. It should be noted Baker-Miller Pink is not a pale, gentle, pastel pink. Instead, it’s a bright, hot pink.
Some 30 years later, psychologist Oliver Genschow and his colleagues repeated Schauss’ experiments. They carried out a rigorous experiment to see if Baker-Miller Pink reduced aggressive behavior in prison inmates in a detention center cell. Like Schauss’ later work, they found no evidence that the color reduced aggressiveness.
That might have been the end of the discussion on the benefit of pink cells. But in 2011, a Swiss psychologist named Daniela Späth wrote about her own experiments with a different shade of pink paint.
She called her shade “Cool Down Pink,” and she applied it to cell walls in 10 prisons across Switzerland.
Over the course of her four-year study, prison guards reported less aggressive behavior in prisoners who were placed in the pink cells. Späth also found that the inmates seemed to be able to relax more quickly in the pink cells. Späth suggests that Cool Down Pink could have a variety of applications beyond prisons – in airport security areas, schools and psychiatric units.
One British newspaper reported that prison guards were happy with the effects of Cool Down Pink, but prisoners were less so. The newspaper interviewed a Swiss prison reformer who said it was degrading to be held in a room that looked like “a little girl’s bedroom.”
Benign manipulation or outright humiliation?
Herein lies the crux of the controversy. Opponents of the practice say that the implication that the color – with its feminine associations – will somehow reduce aggression is, in and of itself, sexist and discriminatory. Gender studies scholar Dominique Grisard has argued that the pink prison walls – regardless of whether they pacify – are ultimately designed to humiliate male prisoners.
Famously, in the 1980s, the University of Iowa football team painted the visitors’ locker room at Kinnick Stadium pink. A 2005 refurbishment added pink lockers and even pink urinals.
The reasoning behind using the pink shade, officially named “Dusty Rose,” was much the same as that of the prison wardens: The coach, Hayden Fry, believed it would curtail the aggression of the opposing players and allow the home team to gain a competitive edge.
Yet like the prisons, this could be having the unintended, opposite effect. Some opposing players have reported being more fired up by the perceived insult of the pink locker rooms.
And so the debate about the power of pink rages on.
That hasn’t stopped some from trying to deploy pink to achieve tranquility in their homes. In 2017, model Kendall Jenner painted her living room Baker-Miller Pink – and raved about how it made her feel much calmer.
Who knows how many of her army of fans have followed her advice. For my part – although I love pink – I shudder at the thought of a hot pink living room, no matter how powerful its calming effects.