Oh noes!

Apr. 20th, 2017 05:06 pm
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I now haz a Dreamwidth account.

As to why, here it is in a nutshell from The Mary Sue:

LiveJournal was bought by the Russian company SUP Media in 2007, but the servers themselves weren’t relocated to Russia until December of 2016. The new Terms of Service (TOS) agreement bans “political solicitation” and requires that any content which is considered “inappropriate for children according to Russian law” be marked as adult/18+ content. Given Russia’s attitudes toward LGBTQIA content, this likely means any queer content must be marked as 18+. Some users have argued that the new terms could even constitute an outright ban on LGBTQIA content.

In addition, any LiveJournal blog which receives more than 3,000 viewers in a 24-hour period must register as a media outlet; this places that blog’s content under even further content restrictions. Critics of the new policy further worry that LiveJournal’s compliance efforts will expose users to the Russian police force’s invasive web monitoring.


Uh, no. Afraid not. Thanks, but I'll pass.
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...to describe the barbarity of this:

Washiqur Rahman’s Facebook banner declares “#IamAvijit”, after the leading secular and humanist blogger, Avijit Roy, who was murdered a month ago in Bangladesh.

This morning Washiqur Rahman himself was killed in similar circumstances: a machete attack by assailants on the streets of Dhaka. The brutal attack took place close to Rahman’s home. Police have reportedly taken two men into custody who were detained at the scene.

This stands as proof that violent religious fundamentalists - regardless of their creed, race or upbringing - are good at three things: finding followers to manipulate, terrifying their opponents into silence and killing the ones who dare to continue to speak out. And it's seemingly getting worse all the time.

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In the wake of  the mass murders at Charlie Hebdo, never let it be said that you can't find an American wingnut who remains completely incapable of separating his grimy fantasies from reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Bill Donohue.

Now take him away and put him somewhere far from civilized people.

Please.

In Memoriam

Apr. 8th, 2014 04:41 pm
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The Rwanda genocide of 1994, as told by former Canadian Forces general Romeo Dallaire whose own experience running the UN's undermanned and outgunned Assistance Mission was just another reminder that even the highest-ranking soldiers can see far too much in terms of bloodbaths for their own good.  
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It might come as a rude shock to Weepy and his shrinking circle of acolytes at The Blaze, but Malala Yousafzai actually has accomplished at least one useful thing in her life - which is one more than he ever has.
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I don't think I can say anything to do him proper justice in a eulogy, so I'll just let the New York Times do it instead:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

The question most often asked about Mr. Mandela was how, after whites had systematically humiliated his people, tortured and murdered many of his friends, and cast him into prison for 27 years, he could be so evidently free of spite.

The government he formed when he finally won the chance was an improbable fusion of races and beliefs, including many of his former oppressors. When he became president, he invited one of his white wardens to the inauguration. Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk.

And as president, from 1994 to 1999, he devoted much energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites against their fears of vengeance.

The explanation for his absence of rancor, at least in part, is that Mr. Mandela was that rarity among revolutionaries and moral dissidents: a capable statesman, comfortable with compromise and impatient with the doctrinaire.

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Yet more screed that makes me wonder if Th**d*r* B**l* really hates women so much that he's willing to make common cause with religious fanatics capable of this sort of violence in order to keep women permanently barefoot and pregnant.

(NOTE: as usual, that isn't a direct link to the website of the steaming turd in question. I do have standards, you know...)

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I fail to see how these two shouldn't have got the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics, but I'm sure someone will argue that point. I won't.

Nearly 50 years ago, Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of the United Kingdom had the foresight to predict that the particle existed.

Now, the octogenarian pair share the Nobel Prize in physics in recognition of a theoretical brilliance that was vindicated by the particle's discovery last year.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize to them.

Higgs and Englert's theories behind the elusive Higgs boson explained what gives matter its mass.

The universe is filled with Higgs bosons. As atoms and parts of atoms zoom around, they interact with and attract Higgs bosons, which cluster around them in varying numbers.

Certain particles will attract larger clusters of Higgs bosons, and the more of them a particle attracts, the greater its mass will be.

The explanation helped complete scientists' understanding of the nature of all matter.

"The awarded theory is a central part of the Standard Model of particle physics that describes how the world is constructed," the Royal Swedish Academy said in a post on Twitter.

As is tradition, the academy phoned the scientists during the announcement to inform them of their win. They were unable to reach Higgs, for whom the particle is named.

The conversation with Englert was short and sweet. "I feel very well, of course," he said, when he heard the news. "Now, I'm very happy."

Deservedly so, I might add.

(Also on Lurker)

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So, about those markings on Syrian rockets that don't appear to be in Arabic?

A United Nations report finding "clear and convincing evidence" of a deadly chemical attack built new momentum Monday for demands by the United States and allies to impose tough penalties on Syria if it fails to honor promises to surrender its arsenal.

Although the 38-page report from a U.N. scientific team does not assign blame, Western diplomats and independent experts said it offers undeniable evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces fired sarin-filled rockets with Russian markings (emphasis mine) into Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The United States says more than 1,400 people were killed.

Western diplomats said the weapons and sarin described by U.N. experts displayed sophisticated manufacturing techniques beyond the capabilities of rebel forces, and that U.N. data about the trajectory of the rockets indicated that they were fired from government-held territory.

"The technical details of the U.N. report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack," said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "It defies logic to think that the opposition would have infiltrated the regime-controlled area to fire on opposition-controlled areas."

On the other hand, take a guess what Russia's reaction to all this was:

Russia sharply criticized the new United Nations report on Syria’s chemical arms use on Wednesday as biased and incomplete, hardening the Kremlin’s defense of the Syrian government even while pressing ahead with a plan to disarm its arsenal of the internationally banned weapons.

The Russians also escalated their critiques of Western governments’ interpretations of the United Nations report, which offered the first independent confirmation of a large chemical weapons assault on Aug. 21 on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, that asphyxiated hundreds of civilians.

Although the report did not assign blame for that assault to one side or the other in Syria’s civil war, analyses of some of the evidence it presented point directly at elite military forces loyal to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The United States, Britain, France and human rights and nonproliferation groups also say that the report’s detailed annexes on the types of weapons used, the large volume of poison gas they carried, and their trajectories, all lead to the conclusion that the forces of Mr. Assad were culpable.

I hate to be snarky, here (well, maybe I don't), but if anything this proves that the historians who thought that the Soviet urge to engage in unsavory international acts was a de facto continuation of the Russian push for imperial hegemony were right.

Communism is supposedly as dead as a doorknob in Russia, but their need to play these sort of games hasn't ended. My guess is that the one thing standing in the way of a functioning democracy in Russia (beside Putin's need to be in complete control until he either dies of old age, gets assassinated or ends up in the hands of extraterrestrials, whichever comes first) is that all a leader has to do is play to the chauvinistic Wronged Great Power sensibilities of a certain bloc of voters there and voila! That person gets to be President for life and can play the game all over again.

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There appears to be some sort of a deal concerning the Assad regime's chemical weapons stockpile in Syria, which is a nice bit of progress on the issue compared to where everyone was a week ago on the subject.

OTOH, just for levity's sake* Alex Jones authors a meme even a truly awful SF author might take issue with.

(*You mean he wasn't trying to be funny?)

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...which is unfortunate, since these are your supposed tax dollars at work:

Tea party-backed Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) on Saturday held a press conference in Egypt to thank the country’s military for overthrowing the elected government, and at one point even seemed to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood had been behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

In case you were wondering, this wasn't quite the case: Kommandant B. opines:

“We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed here for the people in Egypt. We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world. We stand against this great evil. We are not for them. We remember who caused 9/11 in America. We remember who it was that killed 3,000 brave Americans. We have not forgotten.”

In fact, the 9/11 Commission determined that Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorist network were responsible for orchestrating the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the attack, the Muslim Brotherhood “strongly condemned” the action.

Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who was a top Muslim Brotherhood leader at the time of the attacks, called them “a wrong act which we denounce regardless of its doer.”

Blaming the wrong guys may sound like a risky venture coming from three Congressthings with long-standing records for wackjobbery, but their targets (who, even if they ran Egypt into the ground during their one year in power still had nothing to do with 9/11. which was one of the points of this odd little press conference, right?), were convenient enough in the wake of the situation in Syra that they could hope no one took much notice or - more likely - that anyone paying attention was a fact-challenged Tea Party acolyte in the first place.

Unfortunately, everyone from Business Insider to the New York Times did notice. And when even Business Insider refers to a press conference as "surreal" and "bizarre", chances are that it was.

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Earlier in the week, there was some degree of confusion as to whether CERN had actually discovered the Higgs Boson (or the "God particle", if you so choose); apparently, they did:

We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage,” said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, “but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.”

"The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,” said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela. “The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks."

“It’s hard not to get excited by these results,” said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci. “ We stated last year that in 2012 we would either find a new Higgs-like particle or exclude the existence of the Standard Model Higgs. With all the necessary caution, it looks to me that we are at a branching point: the observation of this new particle indicates the path for the future towards a more detailed understanding of what we’re seeing in the data.”

(
Also on Lurker)

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You've got to hand it to Texas AG Greg Abbott: he sure knows how to make people forget what a waste of space Ranger Rick is.

First there was his deranged attempt to use Federal anti-terrorism law to go after Planned Parenthood in Texas because - well, because. Then there was his ridiculous attempt to come off as a theocon Tarzan in his defense of the Kountze Independent School District's use of biblical verse banners during high school football games (helpful hint: the original letter of complaint, although using a firm tone, doesn't seem to be full of the "menacing and misleading intimidation tactics"  Abbott whined about). Now he's decided that it's time to take on the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe Union and its menacing legion of - wait for it - election observers:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made it clear this week he does not want international elections observers anywhere near the polls in his state.

In a letter dated Tuesday to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Abbott threatened to prosecute any of its monitors who step within 100 feet of a Texas polling place on Election Day. The threat came even though U.S. State Department officials earlier this year had invited the monitors to observe the election.

“If OSCE members want to learn more about our elections processes so they can improve their own democratic systems, we welcome the opportunity to discuss the measures Texas has implemented to protect the integrity of the elections,” Abbott wrote. “However, groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas.”

We've seen this kind of nonsense before: Governor Goodhair took a pro-secessionist tone (even if he weaseled out of openly advocating it) himself a while ago when he was busy posing as a viable Presidential candidate (which he most certainly was not). If Abbott isn't following in Perry's footsteps in preparation for his own run for the Governor's mansion in Austin, I'd be surprised. He's certainly shoring up his credentials with the religious right and Solid South types. But considering that the ODIHR director seemed a little, well, perturbed by his threat, Abbott might want to rethink his tone before he causes one of the dumbest international incidents in history:

Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed his grave concern today over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers.

This threat, contained in an open letter from the Attorney General of Texas, is at odds with the established good co-operation between OSCE/ODIHR observers and state authorities across the United States, including in Texas, Lenarčič said, adding that it is also contrary to the country’s obligations as an OSCE participating State.

The ODIHR Director shared his concerns in a letter to United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

The ODIHR Director also stressed that any concerns or reports that the election observers intended to influence or interfere with the election process were groundless. He underlined that OSCE/ODIHR election observers adhere to all national laws and regulations, as well as a strict code of conduct.

“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”

So what, precisely, is Abbott going to do if ODIHR observers still want to go to Texas polling places despite his threat? Have them arrested for - what? Pollwatching without a license?

Maybe Texas does want to be considered part of the Third-World, after all.

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Everybody knows that faith healers are - pretty much without exception - dangerous con artists. James Randi has exposed them as such for years (witness how he ate Peter Popoff's lunch in particular), and there are many more examples of these idiots convincing people that they have a special connection to God that the faithful can also tap into for the low, low price of a $100 contribution to their Ministry (or whatever horseshit each one is selling these days). It's bad enough when they scam people out of their hard-earned money. It's something else entirely when they give them advice that's liable to get them killed. Witness the following:

Dangerous cases of faith leaders who tell people with HIV to stop taking their life-saving drugs have been identified by African-led community groups in a number of locations across England.

Seven groups said there were instances of people being told by faith leaders they had been "healed" through prayer - and then pressured to stop taking antiretroviral medication, according to the charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN).

Cases were reported to have taken place in Finsbury Park, Tottenham, and Woolwich, in London, as well as in Manchester, Leeds and at a number of churches across the North West.

Think that's bad? As usual, it gets worse:

Last year AHPN said it believed the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), which has UK headquarters in Southwark, south London, may be one of those involved in such practices.

The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, who the Forbes richlist named as Nigeria's third richest clergyman.

SCOAN's website, which was set up in Lagos, Nigeria, now shows videos of people the church claims have been "cured" of HIV through prayer.

One video shows a woman Agnes Agnote visiting the church in Nigeria saying: "I am HIV positive. I went to the hospital and they confirmed it was HIV/Aids."

The video then shows Pastor Joshua blessing her, saying "everyone is healed".

It goes on to show Ms Agnote apparently showing a more recent medical report, with a narrator saying, "it clearly states that Agnes tested negative to HIV Aids".

Videos on the website also depict people being cured of "cancers" and "disabilities".

The church's British website now gives accounts of people reporting to be healed from conditions including arthritis and a lung blood clot after being a sprayed with "anointing water" by SCOAN in the UK.

It promotes a monthly "anointing water prayer line" in London "for any health issues" and advertises an "anointing sticker" tour of the UK and Ireland, which begins on Monday.

As usual with this glorified "evangelical" hoodoo bullshit, the goalposts can always be moved to the liking of the "healer's" particular beliefs (or what other people might refer to as "excuses for possible failure") :

Last year, when asked by the BBC if it claimed its pastors could cure HIV, SCOAN responded: "We are not the healer. God is the healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure."

But it added: "We don't ask people to stop taking medication. Doctors treat - God heals."

Apparently not through you guys, though. From another article on the phenomenon from last year:

At least three people in London with HIV have died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

Responding to the BBC London investigation, Lord Fowler, the former health minister responsible for the famous Aids awareness campaign of the 1980s, condemned the practice.

"It's just wrong, bad advice that should be confronted," said the Tory peer, who chaired last month's House of Lords committee into HIV.

Jane Iwu, 48, from Newham, east London, described one case, saying: "I know of a friend who had been to a pastor. She told her to stop taking her medication - that God is a healer and has healed her."

"This lady believed it. She stopped taking her medication. She passed away," said Ms Iwu, who has HIV herself.

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I'm sure we can all agree that Muammar Qaddafi was an irredeemable monster incapable of producing anything resembling a single humanitarian thought in his read and was incapable of alliance with anyone from the West, right? Apparently Dubya thought otherwise according to a new Human Rights Watch report:

When rebel forces overtook Tripoli in August 2011, prison doors were opened and office
files exposed, revealing startling new information about Libya’s relations with other
countries. One such revelation, documented in this report, is the degree of involvement of
the United States government under the Bush administration in the arrest of opponents of
the former Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, living abroad, the subsequent torture and
other ill-treatment of many of them in US custody, and their forced transfer to back to Libya.

The United States played the most extensive role in the abuses, but other countries,
notably the United Kingdom, were also involved.

This is an important chapter in the larger story of the secret and abusive US detention
program established under the government of George W. Bush after the September 11,
2001 attacks, and the rendition of individuals to countries with known records of torture.


But Qaddafi became our new bestest buddy ever in northern Africa by then, which means it's okay. Not like those murderous scumbags in Syria, though. Or maybe not:

In 2002, the United States reportedly transferred Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, to Syria after having detained him in New York as he was en route from Tunisia to Montreal. On November 4 in Ottawa, Arar publicly asserted that, while held in Syrian prisons for 10 months, he was repeatedly tortured by being whipped with a thick electric cable and threatened with electric shocks. Human Rights Watch and other concerned groups are pressing the U.S. government to investigate Mr. Arar's case and the larger category of so-called "extraordinary renditions."

Let's face it; the first thing that disappears when a great power seeks allies among its former enemies is any sort of "human rights abuses" those former enemies committed in the past. It's just like members of the Politburo disappearing from Kremlin reviewing stand photos after a purge, except that these victims are far more liable to disappear off the map along with the old recriminations.

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Some sort of unpleasantly worded "congratulations" needs to go out to publicity-seeking freak "Reverend" Terry Jones; not only did he and fellow half-wit Sam Bacile suceed in riling up a hornet's nest of red meat-seeking religious fanatics (different religion, same lack of anything resembling thought or self-reflection on their actions), but he managed to get a US Ambassador and three of other American citizens killed in the process. 

And his response? Pretty much what you'd expect from such a thorough pantload:

"When we do our activities, when we raise our awareness of the radical element of Islam, we are posing those people absolutely no danger," We are, perhaps, insulting some people, but just because you are insulted, it gives you no right to break into someone's house, go into his yard, kill him and destroy his property. So we should by no means excuse their activities."

Okay. Let's see, now: you and Bacile intentionally publicized a "movie" that's little more than an attempt to piss off an entire religion and incite certain extremists found in that religion to violence in order to prove the bizarre point that you could actually do it in the first place.

Good going on that, fuckhead. Mission accomplished. Problem is, you actually got people killed, and the possibility remains that more are to follow if any other nuts get lucky like they did in Benghazi with the US Consulate.

I'm sure that a sorry waste of skin like Jones - who was headed for well-deserved obscurity after his previous threat to publically burn copies of the Koran (in order to - surprise, surprise! - incite people to violence in order to prove that they're violent) is getting all of this free publicity for his Florida "ministry". But considering that this is same creep who also had his followers hang an effigy of Barack Obama (for all the usual bullshit reasons, as you might guess) in front of their Gainesville, Florida headquarters in July without a trace of irony in a region where racially motivated lynchings were once commonplace, what'd you expect from him? Forethought, perhaps?

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Mittens just can't be sure of why those Palestinians aren't nearly as wealthy as those Israelis: first it was because of "culture" and the invisible hand of God. Then it wasn't. Then it was again.

Anybody got a abacus handy to keep track of these rapid changes of mind of his? A really big one, that is?
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(WARNING: graphic, unpleasant details to follow. Read at your own risk.)

"Syria" seems to be on the verge of becoming a new synonym for the word "abattoir":

The smell of burnt flesh hung in the air and body parts lay scattered around the deserted Syrian hamlet of Mazraat al-Qubeir on Friday, U.N. monitors said after visiting the site where 78 people were reported massacred two days ago.

The alleged killing spree on Wednesday underlined how little outside powers, divided and pursuing their own interests in the Middle East, have been able to do to stop increasing carnage in the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

A day after Syrian armed forces and villagers had turned them back, the unarmed U.N. monitors reached the farming settlement of Mazraat al-Qubeir, finding it deserted but bearing signs of deadly violence.

One house was damaged by rocket fire and bullets, U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said. Another was burnt, with bodies still inside. "You could smell dead bodies and you could also see body parts in and around the village," Ghosheh told reporters after returning to Damascus.

BBC reporter Paul Danahar, who accompanied the monitors, said it was clear "terrible crime" had taken place.

Granted, there is supposed to be a cease-fire plan in place, but the UN observers who were intended to monitor it are currently having some serious issues of their own to deal with:

UN monitors say they were fired on and forced to turn back as they attempted to reach the town of Haffa in northern Syria, where rebel positions are being bombarded by government forces.

The monitors said stone-throwing crowds stopped them from reaching Haffa and three cars were fired on as they left.

The head of UN peacekeeping says Syria is now in a state of civil war.

Herve Ladsous told reporters at the UN in New York that large parts of Syria were now outside government control.

The monitors turned back at the last checkpoint before Haffa, judging the situation "unsafe", a UN spokeswoman said.

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Read this and tell me whether or not the scumbags who undertook this attack somehow qualify as anything other than scumbags in your estimate. I very much doubt they will.

A mob of hundreds of men assaulted women holding a march seeking an end to sexual harassment Friday, with the attackers overwhelming the male guardians and groping and molesting several of the female marchers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

From the ferocity of the assault, some of the victims said it appeared to have been an organized attempt to drive women out of demonstrations and trample on the prodemocracy protest movement.

The attack follows smaller-scale assaults on women this week in Tahrir, the epicenter of an uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to resign last year. Thousands have been gathering in the square this week in protests on a variety of issues - mainly about fears that presidential elections this month will secure the continued rule by elements of Mubarak’s regime backed by the ruling military.

After the marchers entered a crowded corner of the square, a group of men waded into the women, heckling them and groping them. The male supporters tried to fend them off, and it turned into a melee involving a mob of hundreds.

The marchers tried to flee while the attackers chased them and male supporters tried to protect them. But the attackers persisted, cornering several women against a metal sidewalk railing, including an Associated Press reporter, shoving their hands down their clothes and trying to grab their bags. The male supporters fought back, swinging belts and fists and throwing water.

Eventually, the women were able to reach refuge in a nearby building with the mob still outside until they finally got out to safety.

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