May 2008

IT was high tide on a scorching Tuesday, and the choppy beaches around Lima, Peru, were crawling with surfers. There were teenagers in ratty flip-flops carrying short boards patched with duct tape, and bronzed women in wet suits paddling out into the shimmering blue waves. There was even a businessman in his 30s, who climbed out of a black-tinted S.U.V. in nothing but shorts, as a muscular chauffeur handed him a freshly waxed board, a bottle of water and a dab of sunscreen.

The only thing missing, it seemed, were tourists. Despite having monster swells on par with those that hit Hawaii’s legendary northern shores, Peru isn’t known as a surfing destination, except perhaps by a small band of jet-setting surfers for whom no wave is beyond reach.

That is, unless you happen to be one of the approximately 28 million inhabitants of Peru, South America’s third-largest country in area. Then you know very well that surfing has swept the nation recently in a pop cultural frenzy. On the wide boulevards of Lima, billboards are covered with the fresh-faced ranks of Peruvian surfers endorsing cellphones, beer and soft drinks. Surfing contests are all the rage. And to the south, where the waves are even bigger, physical attributes like pumped-up lungs, buff shoulders and sun-bleached hair seem to be bred into the local DNA.

And now, as Peru rides a tourism wave propelled by a strong economy and favorable exchange rates for bargain-minded Americans, it is poised to become the new “it” spot on the international surfing circuit. After all, Peru has 1,500 miles of rugged coastline dotted with countless breakers, from pristine beaches tucked around Lima to unexplored pockets up north where some waves are said to last more than a mile. And unlike Malibu, Hawaii’s northern shores and other well-known places, many of Peru’s best surfing spots are often nearly empty.

With so much to explore, surfing has muscled in on soccer and the culinary arts to become an unlikely symbol of national hope. Much of the current craze can be traced back to 24-year-old Sofía Mulanovich, a Peruvian who won the World Surfing Championship title in Hawaii in 2004 — a contest dominated by Australians and Americans. And if the ranks of teenagers who frolic their spare hours away in the swell have any say, surfing in Peru will only get bigger.

That’s true up and down Peru’s coast, whether it’s a small town like Chicama in the country’s north, famous for its super-long waves, or around the busy capital of Lima, where the sometimes polluted breaks are teeming with surfers from dusk till dawn. But the epicenter of the neo-surf scene is undoubtedly in Punta Hermosa, a summer beach community about 30 miles south of Lima, where surfing is virtually a religion.

The hourlong drive to Punta Hermosa provides a sobering look at the arid and impoverished landscape in this part of the country: brown hills devoid of vegetation and pocked with sad clusters of wooden shanties. The town itself doesn’t look like much — dusty concrete houses painted in bright greens, blues and reds in the hills below the four-lane Pan-American Highway. But the fuss is clear when you finally arrive at the beach: curling waves fan out in all directions like Neptune’s block party.

Each break point presents a different challenge. There’s Kon Tiki, which offers untamed waves so massive that it takes a strong arm even to paddle out to it; La Isla, where homegrown pros like Ms. Mulanovich and Gabriel Villarán can often be found; and Pico Alto, a brawny break with swells that can range up to 25 feet high.

ON a recent Saturday afternoon, the Copa Barena Professional Circuit surf competition was taking place in Punta Rocas, one of the most popular beaches in the area. The scene at the amateur competition resembled a South American version of Malibu, but wilder. Barena, a Honduran beer being introduced in Peru, had erected giant inflatable bottles that were flapping like Michelin men in the wind.

A stoner reggae band drowned out the announcers. And waiters in baseball hats weaved through an obstacle course of sun chairs with plates of calamari and cans of Inca Kola, a yellow soda spiked with caffeine-laden guaraná fruit.
The surf champ Ms. Mulanovich, who is known as “la gringa” because of her fair skin and blond streaked hair, sat with an entourage near the judge’s perch as she watched her younger brother, Matias, whiz over the lip and down the face of a meaty charging barrel.

“Peru is the best preparation for a pro surfer because there are so many different varieties of breaks and conditions,” said Ms. Mulanovich, who grew up in Punta Hermosa and recently bought a rock-star grade condo nearby with panoramic views of five surf breaks. “It’s much less crowded than in Hawaii and California, and even on the smallest day of the year it’s never flat.”

When her brother paddled in, the group piled into a caravan of S.U.V.’s and drove five minutes down the highway to San Bartolo for a teenage girl competition. It was sponsored by the cellphone company Movistar. “It’s like this all summer,” Ms. Mulanovich said. “Everybody wants to be a surf star now.”

But despite the surf fever, Punta Hermosa remains off the radar for most tourists, probably because there’s little reason to come unless you’re really into surfing. There are no surf shops — boards and gear must be rented or bought in Lima — and only a handful of hotels like Luisfer’s, a no-frills hostel where surfers bunk up, five to a room. Between sessions, guests can be seen doing yoga atop their board bags in the courtyard.

Dining options are limited, too. The sidewalks are lined with cheerful stands that serve ceviche and seafood carpaccios that look amazing, but are far from stomach friendly. Ms. Mulanovich’s boyfriend, a surfer named Scott from Los Angeles, had been holed up in her condo for weeks after getting salmonella poisoning from bad mayonnaise.

The enterprising and friendly locals, however, make up for the lack of infrastructure. The town’s surf museum, for example, is actually the private home of an old-school surfer, José A. Schiaffino. I stumbled upon the 1950s surf shack one afternoon while walking back from the beach. Mr. Schiaffino wasn’t home, which was too bad because I had heard he mixes a mean pisco sour, but his caretaker let me look around.

The living room wall was plastered with archival photos of the Waikiki Surf Club and the ceiling was covered with colorful boards donated by big name riders like Nat Young, Mark Foo and Ms. Mulanovich — a makeshift hall of fame.

Peru’s love affair with surfing actually dates back to the 1940s, when the playboy socialite Carlos Dogny returned from Hawaii with a shiny wooden board given to him by Duke Kahanamoku, considered the godfather of modern surfing. In 1942, Mr. Dogny founded the elite Waikiki Surf Club in Miraflores, a ritzy suburb on the southern outskirts of Lima, where Peru’s ruling families rode the swells and got tipsy in the clubhouse on pisco sours. (The club still employs “board boys” who rush to the water’s edge to carry and wax members’ boards when they’re done with a session.)

The club placed Peru firmly on the international surf map and played host to the World Surfing Championships, which was won by a local big-wave rider, Felipe Pomar, in the 1960s. But by the 1970s, the sport’s reputation sagged as it became associated with dropouts and druggies, and surfing largely lost it cachet.

About the same time, the country became marred by economic woes, political repression and terrorism. Between 1980 and the early ’90s, the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path waged war against Peruvian society, killing tens of thousands of peasants and small-town leaders, and turning Lima into a fiery battleground.

“Back then there was a curfew at 1 a.m.,” said José de Col, a pro surfer who quit the sport in the ’80s to become an architect because there was little sponsorship money in Peru. “We couldn’t have parties. Blackouts and bombs were part of daily life.”

Things began turning around and, in the last few years, Peru seems to have planted a 180-degree aerial. The country has stabilized politically under the new president, Alan García, though soaring food prices have driven his popularity down. Despite high rates of poverty (almost half the nation lives below the poverty line), Peru’s economy has grown steadily, providing a much-needed morale booster and, for surfers, an excuse to get back into the water.

After spending a day playing sand bunny in Punta Hermosa, and watching the competitions from the safety of my towel, I was itching for my own adrenaline rush. So the next morning, I hired a taxi and set out on an hourlong journey to Cerro Azul, a mellow break immortalized in a line from the Beach Boys’ 1962 anthem, “Surfin’ Safari.”

After maneuvering through four police checkpoints (shakedowns are common along the Pan-American Highway), we pulled up on a dirt road to the port town. Cerro Azul felt abandoned, like a Western ghost town, except for a few shiny condos and the lazy sounds of salsa lulling through the hot dusty air. The shoreline, however, buzzed with anticipation. True to its reputation, the break had a mellow but perky wave that rippled around a jagged point as though made in a water-park wave pool. I paddled out, staked my spot among the teens, moms and old timers, and caught a few rides before moving on to the next break down the coast.

As much as I liked paddling along southern Peru, the word on the shore was that any surf safari must also include a visit to Máncora, a small fishing village in northern Peru near Ecuador. It enjoys an almost mythic reputation among surfers for its balmy water, endless sunshine and crowd-free breaks. “Una paradiso!” my new friends would say between sets.
But it didn’t seem that way at first. I flew on Aerocondor, onboard a clunky plane that still had ashtrays in the arm rests, and landed in Talara, an industrial port city whose airport is now temporarily closed. The region, with a brown dirt terrain as monotonous as a broken record, is the center of Peru’s oil industry. Giant rigs scar the landscape like mechanical mosquitoes and perfume the air with the fetid scent of raw petroleum.

After an hourlong taxi ride, I arrived in Máncora, which looked like a blink-of-an-eye frontier town until I wandered out to the beach. Nubile surfers in string bikinis lounged under palm trees sipping coconuts, taking turns paddling out into the crystal blue ocean. It felt like that secret spot in “The Beach,” the 2000 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, except it was not quite a secret.

Máncora has been transformed in recent years from a sleepy fishing village into a busy, international backpacker hub. After dark, the town’s sole street turns into a total party, with flotillas of surfers, weekenders from Ecuador and girls in slinky tank tops getting tipsy at bars like Iguanas and Chill Out. There are also several amazing restaurants in town, serving the nouvelle Asian-Peruvian fusion known as novoandia. La Sirena, run by Juan Seminario Garay, a 28-year-old local surfer who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Lima, serves dishes like causa maki, dollops of mashed potatoes filled with scallops mixed in a red and yellow pepper sauce.

In the morning, the action moved to the beach, especially at the main surf break in front of the Hotel del Wawa, a small hotel and restaurant owned by the hunky surf pro Fernando Paraud, who is known simply as Wawa. “Every day is like a weekend,” said Wawa, who was holding court at his usual table. “Except weekends are more crowded.”
STILL, the restaurant was packed wall-to-wall on a recent Thursday afternoon with surfers waiting out the high-noon sun and low tides. Over delicate plates of smoked carpaccio and seared tuna steaks, they traded gossip on the day’s best swells and near collisions in the lineup. Then, when the tide finally broke around 4 p.m., everyone put down their forks, grabbed their surfboards and headed back to the water in choreographed unison.

It felt like a scene from a Broadway musical, especially when cheers of “Oy!” “Va!” “Ey!” would wash over the crowd like the chorus of a reggaetón song.
I followed them in. The waves were as gentle and as well-formed as the famously friendly breaks at San Onofre or Waikiki. And almost as jammed. Luckily there was a chain of hidden beaches just a hop away.
After bumming around Wawa for a couple of days, I hired a local surf guide nicknamed Pulpo to show me around. He drove me 10 miles in his teal-blue van to Los Organos, an abandoned oil town with a couple of new beachside hostels.

There were no more than a dozen other riders on the surf. I took my board into the water and waited for my wave. It didn’t take long before I caught one that was head high with a defined peak that tapered off to the right into a long shoulder — perfect for cutting and carving long arcs.
Pulpo seemed impressed because he took me 45 minutes farther south to Lobitos, a hard-to-find break tucked at the end of a ragged dirt road. There were oil pumps, rusty pipelines and crumbling military barracks, some of which had been taken over by squatters and turned into surfing hostels decorated with bumper stickers. I poked my head inside one: several blond French girls were having lunch with their dreadlocked Chilean boyfriends.

Eating would have to wait. We pulled up over the dirt and parked alongside the deserted beach. I pulled out my chunky 7-foot-6-inch rental board with trepidation. The beach looked like a small swatch of an industrial wasteland: a couple of oil barrels with flames flickering on top, and a few giant rigs on the horizon. But the waves, it turned out, had a perky, fun shape. Really fun, in fact. And the water was a seductive clear blue. Pulpo smiled. He had promised me a crowd-free break that was off the grid, and here it was.

* By JULIA CHAPLIN (May 4, 2008)

8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day are:

1) Spinach

Sexual enhancement, Muscle growth, Heart healthy, Bone builder, Enhances eyesight

It may be green and leafy, but spinach is also the ultimate man food. This noted biceps builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Bonus: Folate also increases blood flow to the penis. And spinach is packed with lutein, a compound that fights age-related macular degeneration. Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day.

SUBSTITUTES: Kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce

FIT IT IN: Make your salads with spinach; add spinach to scrambled eggs; drape it over pizza; mix it with marinara sauce and then microwave for an instant dip.

PINCH HITTER: Sesame Stir-Braised Kale Heat 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger, and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a skillet. Add 2 Tbsp. water and 1 bunch kale (stemmed and chopped). Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Drain. Add 1 tsp. soy sauce and 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds.

2) Yogurt

Cancer fighter, Bone builder, Boosts immunity

Various cultures claim yogurt as their own creation, but the 2,000-year-old food’s health benefits are not disputed: Fermentation spawns hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that serve as reinforcements to the battalions of beneficial bacteria in your body, which boost the immune system and provide protection against cancer. Not all yogurts are probiotic though, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.” Aim for 1 cup of the calcium and protein-rich goop a day.

SUBSTITUTES: Kefir, soy yogurt

FIT IT IN: Yogurt topped with blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed, and honey is the ultimate breakfast — or dessert. Plain low-fat yogurt is also a perfect base for creamy salad dressings and dips.

HOME RUN: Power Smoothie Blend 1 cup low-fat yogurt, 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, 1 cup carrot juice, and 1 cup fresh baby spinach for a nutrient-rich blast.

3) Tomatoes

Cancer fighter, Heart healthy, Boosts immunity

There are two things you need to know about tomatoes: Red are the best, because they’re packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene, and processed tomatoes are just as potent as fresh ones, because it’s easier for the body to absorb the lycopene. Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Aim for 22 mg of lycopene a day, which is about eight red cherry tomatoes or a glass of tomato juice.

SUBSTITUTES: Red watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmon, papaya, guava

FIT IT IN: Pile on the ketchup and Ragu; guzzle low-sodium V8 and gazpacho; double the amount of tomato paste called for in a recipe.

PINCH HITTER: Red and Pink Fruit Bowl Chop 1 small watermelon, 2 grapefruits, 3 persimmons, 1 papaya, and 4 guavas. Garnish with mint.

4) Carrots

Cancer fighter, Boosts immunity, Enhances eyesight

Most red, yellow, or orange vegetables and fruits are spiked with carotenoids — fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis — but none are as easy to prepare, or have as low a caloric density, as carrots. Aim for 1/2 cup a day.

SUBSTITUTES: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, mango

FIT IT IN: Raw baby carrots, sliced raw yellow pepper, butternut squash soup, baked sweet potato, pumpkin pie, mango sorbet, carrot cake

PINCH HITTER: Baked Sweet Potato Fries Scrub and dry 2 sweet potatoes. Cut each into 8 slices, and then toss with olive oil and paprika. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350°F. Turn and bake for 10 minutes more.

5) Blueberries

Brain stimulant, Cancer fighter, Heart healthy, Boosts immunity

Host to more antioxidants than any other popular fruit, blueberries help prevent cancer, diabetes, and age-related memory changes (hence the nickname “brain berry”). Studies show that blueberries, which are rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, boost cardiovascular health. Aim for 1 cup fresh blueberries a day, or 1/2 cup frozen or dried.

SUBSTITUTES: Açai berries, purple grapes, prunes, raisins, strawberries

FIT IT IN: Blueberries maintain most of their power in dried, frozen, or jam form.

PINCH HITTER: Açai, an Amazonian berry, has even more antioxidants than the blueberry. Mix 2 Tbsp. of açai powder into OJ or add 2 Tbsp. of açai pulp to cereal, yogurt, or a smoothie.

6) Black Beans

Muscle growth, Brain stimulant, Heart healthy

All beans are good for your heart, but none can boost your brain power like black beans. That’s because they’re full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily ½cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber, and is low in calories and free of saturated fat.

SUBSTITUTES: Peas, lentils, and pinto, kidney, fava, and lima beans

FIT IT IN: Wrap black beans in a breakfast burrito; use both black beans and kidney beans in your chili; puree 1 cup black beans with ¼cup olive oil and roasted garlic for a healthy dip; add favas, limas, or peas to pasta dishes.

HOME RUN: Black Bean and Tomato Salsa Dice 4 tomatoes, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 2 jalapeños, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 mango. Mix in a can of black beans and garnish with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and the juice of 2 limes.

7) Walnuts

Muscle growth, Brain stimulant, Cancer fighter, Heart healthy, Boosts immunity

Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine, and packing half as much muscle-building protein as chicken, the walnut sounds like a Frankenfood, but it grows on trees. Other nuts combine only one or two of these features, not all three. A serving of walnuts — about 1 ounce, or seven nuts — is good anytime, but especially as a postworkout recovery snack.

SUBSTITUTES: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts

FIT IT IN: Sprinkle on top of salads; dice and add to pancake batter; spoon peanut butter into curries; grind and mix with olive oil to make a marinade for grilled fish or chicken.

HOME RUN: Mix 1 cup walnuts with ½ cup dried blueberries and ¼ cup dark chocolate chunks.

8) Oats

Muscle growth, Brain stimulant, Heart healthy

The éminence grise of health food, oats garnered the FDA’s first seal of approval. They are packed with soluble fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Yes, oats are loaded with carbs, but the release of those sugars is slowed by the fiber, and because oats also have 10 grams of protein per ½-cup serving, they deliver steady muscle-building energy.

SUBSTITUTES: Quinoa, flaxseed, wild rice

FIT IT IN: Eat granolas and cereals that have a fiber content of at least 5 grams per serving. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed on cereals, salads, and yogurt.

PINCH HITTER: Quinoa Salad Quinoa has twice the protein of most cereals, and fewer carbs. Boil 1 cup quinoa in a mixture of 1 cup pear juice and 1 cup water. Let cool. In a large bowl, toss 2 diced apples, 1 cup fresh blueberries, ½ cup chopped walnuts, and 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt.

* Information provided by All-Star Panel: Joy Bauer, author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures and nutrition advisor on NBC’s Today show; Laurie Erickson, award-winning wellness chef at Georgia’s Sea Island resort; David Heber, MD, PhD, author of What Color Is Your Diet?; and Steven Pratt, MD, author of the best-selling SuperFoods Rx

Nuclear missile launchers and columns of tanks rolled through Red Square on Friday in a display of martial hardware not seen since the Soviet Union’s waning days.

The parade, much smaller than similar commemorations in the Soviet period but laden with significance and mixed messages, marked the 63rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, which is observed in Russia as Victory Day, a solemn state holiday.

It was intended both as a tribute to the dwindling ranks of surviving veterans and as a display of Russia’s efforts to revive armed forces made moribund by the Soviet Union’s collapse.

It was also widely described as a sign that the Kremlin wanted to show the world that it had recovered from the embarrassments of the 1990s and that its foreign policy had not softened in a transfer of presidential power this week.

But the goose-stepping footfalls, echoing in front of shop windows bearing products from Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, captured as well the contrasts institutionalized during eight years of rule by Vladimir V. Putin, the former spymaster and president who left office on Wednesday and returned to power as prime minister the following day.

Confident and flush with wealth, Mr. Putin’s Russia is led by men who embrace Soviet symbols and rituals while promising tax breaks and legislation to encourage a growing Russian investor class.

The passing columns were reviewed by the new president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, a lawyer who has spoken of nurturing civil liberties and a climate more conducive to small business, but who ascended to office in an election stage-managed by the Kremlin.

Many of the soldiers were in period dress, wearing uniforms reminiscent of those worn in celebrations that Mr. Putin led in the same place three years ago on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

This time there was a new president. Mr. Putin, his mentor, stood behind Mr. Medvedev as he addressed the crowd. When the troops began to march by while saluting the dignitaries, the former president stepped forward to receive the salutes at his protégé’s side.

In a sign that suggested that the Kremlin had not yet settled how to interpret the seven decades of Soviet history, Lenin’s mausoleum was temporarily blocked from view by a huge mural of Russia’s tri-colored national flag.

The mausoleum, where Lenin’s embalmed body lies in state, is normally a centerpiece of the square and perhaps the most potent Soviet symbol in the capital. The president and prime minister stood on a reviewing stand erected for the event, their backs to Lenin’s remains as they presided over a ritual created by Stalin.

Mr. Medvedev thanked the aging veterans in the reviewing stands — white-haired men and women in their 80s and 90s, many wearing blazers heavy with medals. Then he spoke of readiness and restraint.

“The history of world wars warns that armed conflicts do not erupt on their own,” he said. “They are fueled by those whose irresponsible ambitions overpower the interests of countries and whole continents, the interests of millions of people.”

He added, “We need to remember the lessons of that war and work every day so that such tragedies never happen again.”

The parade was the first display of armor and nuclear missile launchers on Red Square since 1990, and was followed by a flyover of 32 military planes, including strategic bombers.

The Kremlin’s decision to parade its military hardware has been a subject of competing interpretations, viewed variously as symbolic confirmation of Russia’s pride, or aggressiveness, as a marketing show of Russian arms, and as a nationalistic festival ordered by Mr. Putin, for Mr. Putin.

Mr. Putin insisted earlier in the week that the parade should not be viewed as “saber rattling.” “It is not a warlike gesture,” he said. “Russia is not threatening anyone.”

But it followed a year during which the Kremlin asserted its case against what it regarded as reckless American foreign policies. Mr. Putin has strongly protested an American-led plan to install a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. As tensions rose, Russia’s aging strategic bombers conducted international patrols, entered British airspace and approached American carrier groups on the high seas.

Russian state-controlled television stations have featured extensive coverage of small-scale exercises of Russia’s navy, and of supposedly new weapons systems. Mr. Putin, who firmly opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq five years ago, also endorsed a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against threats to Russian soil.

As a tribute to veterans and to the irrefutable role and sacrifices of the Soviet Union’s people in defeating Hitler, the events on the square were high spectacle. But the parade, broadcast on television here as a national triumph, also offered sights of the mixed condition of the once vaunted armed forces under Kremlin command.

Several of the infantry units, including marine and airborne units, were staffed with lean and fit young men who marched with bearing and precision. Others included troops who appeared to be in only fair condition, and several of the officers leading formations past the two Russian leaders were visibly overweight.

The United States expressed no alarm over the parade. Russia has become a leading global arms exporter again, but its wares are almost all items designed decades ago. A Pentagon spokesman, echoing a view common among military analysts, had characterized the planned military review as a hollow show of dated gear bearing fresh coats of paint.

“If they wish to take out their old equipment and take it for a spin and check it out,” said the spokesman, Geoff Morrell, “they’re more than welcome to do so.”

By C. J. CHIVERS; MOSCOW — NYT; May 10, 2008

Counterfeit products are a routine threat for the electronics industry. However, the more sinister specter of an electronic Trojan horse, lurking in the circuitry of a computer or a network router and allowing attackers clandestine access or control, was raised again recently by the F.B.I. and the Pentagon.

The new law enforcement and national security concerns were prompted by Operation Cisco Raider, which has led to 15 criminal cases involving counterfeit products bought in part by military agencies, military contractors and electric power companies in the United States. Over the two-year operation, 36 search warrants have been executed, resulting in the discovery of 3,500 counterfeit Cisco network components with an estimated retail value of more than $3.5 million, the F.B.I. said in a statement.
The F.B.I. is still not certain whether the ring’s actions were for profit or part of a state-sponsored intelligence effort.

The potential threat, according to the F.B.I. agents who gave a briefing at the Office of Management and Budget on Jan. 11, includes the remote jamming of supposedly secure computer networks and gaining access to supposedly highly secure systems. Contents of the briefing were contained in a PowerPoint presentation leaked to a Web site, Above Top Secret.
A Cisco spokesman said that the company had investigated the counterfeit gear seized by law enforcement agencies and had not found any secret back door.
“We did not find any evidence of re-engineering in the manner that was described in the F.B.I. presentation,” said John Noh, a Cisco spokesman. He added that the company believed the counterfeiters were interested in copying high volume products to make a quick profit. “We know what these counterfeiters are about.”
An F.B.I. spokeswoman, Catherine L. Milhoan, said the agency was not suggesting that the Chinese government was involved in the counterfeiting ring. “We worked very closely with the Chinese government,” she said. Arrests have been made in China as part of the investigation, she said. “The existence of this document shows that the cyber division of the F.B.I. has growing concerns about the production and distribution of counterfeit network hardware.”
Despite Cisco’s reassurance, a number of industry executives and technologists said that the threat of secretly added circuitry intended to subvert computer and network gear is real.
“There are enormous vulnerabilities in our defense and national security infrastructure,” said Peter Levin, a former Clinton administration official who is chief executive of DAFCA, a Framingham, Mass., company that designs systems to prevent malicious tampering with computer chips. “We outsource the manufacturing of computer integrated circuits to places that can manufacture these devices cheaply.”
Last month, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency began distributing chips with hidden Trojan horse circuitry to military contractors who are participating in the agency’s Trusted Integrated Circuits program. The goal is to test forensic techniques for finding hidden electronic trap doors, which can be maddeningly elusive. The agency is not yet ready to announce the results of the test, according to Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The threat was demonstrated in April when a team of computer scientists from the University of Illinois presented a paper at a technical conference in San Francisco detailing how they had modified a Sun Microsystems SPARC microprocessor by altering the data file on a chip with nearly 1.8 million circuits used in automated manufacturing equipment.

The researchers were able to create a stealth system that would allow them to automatically log in to a computer and steal passwords. The danger of such hidden circuitry is that it could potentially undermine the strongest computer security protections by essentially giving an attacker a secret key to gain access to a network or a computer.

“It’s very difficult to detect and discover these issues,” said Ted Vucurevich, the chief technology officer of Cadence Design Systems, a company that provides design tools for chip makers. “That was one of the reasons” for the testing program.
Modern integrated circuits have billions of components, he said: “Adding a small number that do particular functions in particular cases is incredibly hard to detect.”

The potential threat of secret hardware-based backdoors or kill switches has been discussed for several decades. For example, the issue came up during the 1980s with a Swiss cryptography company, Crypto, which has been under suspicion of having installed back doors in its systems to give the National Security Agency access to encoded messages.

The issue was raised again during the first Iraq war and more recently in the Israeli bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear plant. In both cases there has been speculation that booby-trapped antiaircraft equipment had been remotely turned off.



Congress is finally moving to shut one of the more egregious forms of Iraq war profiteering: defense contractors using offshore shell companies to avoid paying their fair share of payroll taxes. The practice is widespread and Congressional investigators have been dispatched to one of the prime tax refuges, the Cayman Islands, to seek a firsthand estimate of how much the Treasury is being shorted.

No one will be surprised to hear that one of the suspected prime offenders is KBR, the Texas-based defense contractor, formerly a part of the Halliburton conglomerate allied with Vice President Dick Cheney. According to a report in The Boston Globe, KBR, which has landed billions in Iraq contracts, has used two Cayman shell companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions in payroll, Medicare and unemployment taxes.
Unfortunately right now there is nothing illegal about this. The House has approved legislation to plug the dodge by treating foreign subsidiaries of defense contractors as what they are — American employers required to pay taxes. The Senate must quickly follow suit and not buy the contractors’ line that listing American workers at offshore companies is a cost saving passed on patriotically to the war effort. No less insulting, the Cayman dodge has been blocking Americans from the protection of labor and anti-discrimination laws.

The House has taken on another shamefully common abuse: voting to deny future government contracts to any company that fails to pay its corporate taxes, including an estimated 25,000 defense contractors keeping billions due the Treasury. The Senate should approve that legislation as well.

Companies enriched by taxpayers in the war boom should not be able to compound their profits by not paying their fair share of taxes. Congress must do far more to bring them to a full accounting.


* EDITORIAL NYT (May 9, 2008)

For most non-medical people, the term “apnea” is most familiar when coupled with the word “sleep,” and refers to a dangerous condition in which people inadvertently stop breathing while asleep. But the word literally means a temporary cessation of breathing and it is practiced (on purpose) around the world by an international community of extreme athletes — a brotherhood that now includes magician and stuntman David Blaine. On the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 30, Blaine broke the world record by holding his breath for 17 minutes and 4 seconds — proving that just how temporary apnea can be is a question of training, endurance and will.

An average person in good health can hold his breath for about two minutes, but with even small amounts of practice it is possible to increase that time dramatically. “The body can be trained,” explains Dr. Ralph Potkin, a pulmonary specialist who worked with Blaine in the weeks leading up to his recent feat.

When you deprive your body of oxygen, it is only a matter of time before your carbon dioxide levels build, triggering a reflex that will cause your breathing muscles — including the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs — to spasm. The pain of these spasms is what causes most people to gulp for breath after just a couple of minutes. When holding your breath underwater, however, you have a bit of mammalian evolution on your side. When humans are submerged in cold water, our bodies instinctively prepare to conserve oxygen, much in the way that dolphins’ and whales’ bodies do when they dive. “Heart rate drops, blood pressure goes up and circulation gets redistributed,” Potkin says. The body’s focus becomes getting the oxygenated blood primarily to the vital organs — the brain and the heart — and not the extremities or abdomen.

This reflex can help us conserve the oxygen we do have, but it doesn’t do much for the painful muscle spasms. Overcoming those is a matter of concentration and meditation. “This is one of those Zen sports,” Potkin explains.

Suppressing the powerful pain impulse too successfully can prove deadly: subjects can continue holding their breath up to the point that their brains shut down from lack of oxygen. If you’re 100 feet under water — or even three feet underwater in a pool — it’s not a good time to pass out. In order to break the world record, Blaine had to hold his breath without fainting. (Had he continued until he’d depleted his brain’s oxygen, however, Potkin is convinced he could have gone for another full minute.)

That of course, is down to months of rigorous training, including practicing a technique called glossopharyngeal insufflation, or lung packing. In order to maximize the amount of air taken into the lungs before apnea, Blaine, among other divers, inhaled until his lungs were filled to their physiological capacity, and then forced additional air into the lungs by swallowing, hard. Using this technique, Blaine was able to cram another quart’s worth of air into his already full lungs, Potkin estimates. (He also fasted before before the actual record breaking act, in order to have more room for his lungs to expand without bumping up against a full stomach.) In a study of five elite free divers, who descend to scuba-diving depths without the aid of equipment, Potkin found that the lung packing was “associated with deeper dives and longer holding times.”

Of course, another factor associated with longer holding times is the consumption of pure oxygen beforehand. The world record for holding your breath after inhaling pure oxygen is now Blaine’s — 17 minutes and 4 seconds. The record without the pure oxygen, which Blaine failed to break during an attempt last year in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, is 8 minutes and 58 seconds.

With or without pure oxygen, holding your breath is a difficult and dangerous pastime even for elite athletes. When not done carefully, it can lead to drowning, or to potential tissue damage in the heart, brains or lungs. Preliminary results from Potkin’s research into apnea’s long-term effects show some abnormal brain scans among young, extreme free divers. There’s still much to learn about the phenomenon; as a medical student, Potkin recalls, he was told that no one could hold his breath for more than five minutes without suffering brain damage. Now, he wants to see if the technique can be used for medical purposes — and he’s hoping Blaine’s latest stunt provides the impetus for a greater scientific understanding of how to hold one’s breath.

* By Tiffany Sharples (TIME)


Nursing a migraine today? New research shows you’re not alone. More than a quarter of Americans suffer daily pain, a condition that costs the U.S. about $60 billion a year in lost productivity. And how often you’re in pain depends largely on the size of your paycheck.

Americans in households making less than $30,000 a year spend nearly 20% of their lives in moderate to severe pain, compared with less than 8% of people in households earning above $100,000, according to a landmark study on how Americans experience in pain. The findings, published Thursday in the British journal the Lancet, also found that participants who hadn’t finished high school reported feeling twice the amount of pain as college graduates. “To a significant extent, pain does separate the classes,” says Princeton economist Alan Krueger, who authored the study along with Dr. Arthur Stone, a psychiatry professor at Stony Brook University.

Krueger notes that the type of pain people reported typically fell on either side of the rich-poor divide. “Those with higher incomes welcome pain almost by choice, usually through exercise,” he says. “At lower incomes, pain comes as the result of work.” Indeed, Krueger and Stone found that blue-collar workers felt more pain, from physical labor or repetitive motion, while on the job than off, which at least offers hope that the problem can be mitigated. This finding “emphasizes the need for pain preventing measures [in the workplace] such as better ergonomics,” wrote Juha H.O. Turunen, a professor of social pharmacy at Finland’s University of Kuopio, in an accompanying commentary to the report.

People with chronic pain also worked less, the new study found, costing U.S. businesses as much as $60 billion annually. These conclusions are in line with previous studies on productivity lost to common pain conditions, including a 2003 report finding that nearly 15% of the U.S. workforce’s output was diminished by ailments such as headaches and arthritis. What’s new in Kruger and Stone’s study, however, is the level of detail with which the researchers were able to chronicle the lives of Americans in pain. With the help of the polling firm Gallup, they asked nearly 4,000 survey participants to diarize their daily activities over a 24-hour period. From these personal accounts, the researchers saw the impact pain had on people’s emotional states. Though participants said interacting with a spouse or friend lowered their pain, those suffering chronic pain tended to socialize much less. They also spent a lot more time watching television�about 25% of their day compared with 16% for the average person.

Pain also appeared to be a major driver of health-care costs. Krueger and Stone found that Americans spent about $2.6 billion in over-the-counter pain medications and another nearly $14 billion on outpatient analgesics in 2004, the most recent data available. But in these numbers, too, there may be a distinction between the haves and the have-nots. A 2005 study in Michigan showed that minorities and the poor have less access to such drugs than wealthier Americans because local pharmacies don’t stock enough pain medications such as oxycodone or morphine. “Those [pharmacies] in white ZIP codes were more than 13 times more likely to have sufficient supplies,” says lead researcher Dr. Carmen Green, an anesthesiology professor at the University of Michigan. “I have patients who have to drive 30 miles or more just to get their pain medications.”

One characteristic that pain doesn’t seem to distinguish is gender: according to Krueger and Stone’s study, men and women were nearly equally likely to find themselves in pain. Another is age. People reported more aches and pains as they got older, though surprisingly that pain tended to plateau from ages 45 to 75. “Maybe people reach a point in their career where they move up the ladder into a desk job,” Krueger says. “Or maybe they’ve just learned how to cope with the pain.”

* By Kathleen Kingsbury (TIME)

Shiba the newest chimpanzee mum holds her week-old baby girl while she feeds at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia.

The chimpanzee conservation status has bee upgraded to critically endangered so the new baby is a very important event for world zoos efforts for their wild counterparts.

(Associated Press / March 4, 2008)

Call me insensitive, but I didn’t think that the supposedly “racy” photo of ‘tween star Miley Cyrus holding a bedsheet around her bare torso was as outré as all the fuss made it out to be. Sure, Cyrus’ hair is tousled in a sexual way, and she is, technically, topless. But from a less alarmist perspective, the photograph is—as Annie Leibovitz described it—highly classical. It focuses on the contrast between Cyrus’ alabaster skin and dark hair, and it captures, in her vulnerable yet adult gaze, the strangeness of the transitional period known as adolescence. To be 15 is to be no longer a child, even if you are not yet an adult.

The most revealing picture in the article, though, was a photo of Cyrus sprawled atop her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus (of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame). Billy Ray looked quite at home—hell, even happy—with the fact that his young daughter was the subject of a Vanity Fair shoot and that he was along for the ride. Take one glance at the picture, and something clarifies itself. The issue here isn’t the relative appropriateness of a 15-year-old being photographed draped in bedsheets but the degree to which Cyrus’ parents and Disney have consigned Cyrus to the excruciating demands of being a thoroughly “packaged” ‘tween star. Because if you turn on the Disney Channel and clock a little time with Hannah Montana, what you’ll find is that the layers of self-presentation in the photos are nowhere near as weird as those in the show itself.

Hannah Montana is a sitcom, after all, built on the idea that the dilemmas of multimillion-dollar stardom are as relevant as the problems of Marcia Brady. Cyrus plays a girl (“Miley Stewart”) plucked from obscurity in Tennessee to become a ‘tweenybopper sensation (“Hannah Montana”) in Malibu, Calif. Miley’s father, Robby Ray (played by Cyrus’ actual father), is determined to keep her head on straight, and the show’s plots revolve coyly around the predicaments of being a real person and a celebrity at the same time. The fact that this appeals to kids is odd enough: Who knew that 9-year-olds (among the show’s core audience) were enthralled by efforts to find a balance between life and career? As Disney’s Web site describes it (ungrammatically), “While the glamour and the fame does have its perks[,] limousines cool clothes and hanging out with celebrities, Miley most wants to be treated like any other teenager.” What’s striking, though, is that we don’t see all that much of Miley being a real person, going to school, riding the school bus. Instead, the show is really all about being a pop star. In one episode, Miley feels neglected because her father is writing a song for the Jonas Brothers (another huge teen sensation on and off the screen); in another, he’s sick and she wants to go to Florida without him to perform at a big concert with her pop rival Michaela. (The moral of that episode? Dad needs to let his little pop princess grow up and travel with only a family friend as a chaperone.) The parental celebration of Hannah Montana’s “clean” values misses the point. The show may not show much skin or make explicit sexual jokes, but it is lousy with a wised-up materialism.

Take an episode in which Hannah Montana realizes she hates the perfume she’s about to become the spokeswoman for. She has to choose between keeping her integrity and keeping a convertible the perfume company sent her way. She makes the wrong choice, and finds herself having to lie on a TV talk show about loving the perfume. (The host replies, “I’m glad you’re not one of those celebrities who goes out and pushes something you don’t believe in.”) One thing leads to another, and by the end of the show, she’s backed out of her contract; we watch her wince goofily as the prized convertible (which she’s too young to drive) is towed away. This is the way the show works: It teaches kids to understand their own experiences—about growing pains, about being honest with their parents, and so on—through the narrow lens of teen celebrity, rather than through broader storytelling. Once, sitcoms taught kids to be true to themselves by showing what happened when, say, Greg Brady thought about cheating on a test, or how Sandy and Bud’s adventures with Flipper shaped their character. Hannah Montana instructs them in the proper etiquette of endorsement deals.

Disney’s gamble that kids would identify with the problems of fame paid off largely because even 9-year-olds today are obsessed with celebrity. But it also paid off because of the cleverest—and most insidious—thing about Hannah Montana: the way the show presents Miley Cyrus as just a normal girl who became a star by dint of talent and hard work. Each episode carefully maintains a kind of aw-shucks folksiness: Establishing shots of a Malibu beach house are contrasted with crude references to Uncle Earl in Tennessee stinking up his home after making three-bean chili. Billy Ray and Miley drop their g’s and ape country dialect when it suits them, playing up the disparity between their hick sensibilities and their upscale surroundings. At the same time, though, Hannah Montana downplays the tolls our entertainment-obsessed culture takes on young stars, trading on the idea of having the best of both worlds: Miley Stewart is just an average kid living a normal life—and then the limo comes to pick her up, her brown hair turns blond, and she becomes glammed-up Hannah Montana. The show’s theme song advises, “Chill it out/ Take it slow/ Then you rock out the show/ You get the best of both worlds”—implying that as long as you strive to be a “normal” girl like Miley Stewart some of the time, it’s easy to be “pop sensation” Hannah Montana the rest of the time.

But Miley Cyrus has never had a “normal life” like Miley Stewart’s. In fact, her entire life has been as managed and staged as a Disney production. Since she was a toddler, she has been surrounded by video cameras and immersed in the world of performance. (Her parents originally named her “Destiny Hope,” for God’s sake.) In other words, she has always been Hannah Montana, not Miley Stewart. The message of Hannah Montana, the show, is: You can be an ordinary kid and become famous—and still be an ordinary kid. The message of Miley Cyrus, the life, is: You can become famous if you are born into the right family and are willing to sacrifice any semblance of normalcy for your career. (Now, that would be a show worth watching.)

In this sense, the entire show is a canny celebration of pop culture masquerading as a story about hope and family life. What’s most interesting about the scandal that erupted last week is that it’s an example of the real dilemmas a 15-year-old celebrity has to navigate—one that will never make it into the plot lines of Hannah Montana. The squeaky-clean teen image that everyone keeps talking about was precisely that: an image created, managed, and assiduously maintained by Miley and her parents, at great cost to the product herself.

Last December, another group of “racy” photos (of Cyrus and a friend at a sleepover) leaked to the press, and Cyrus spoke about how upset she was that her friend—a “normal” girl—had to deal with the harsh glare of the media. Asked how she felt about the scandal, she told one reporter, “I was really upset. It really sucks, to be honest. It was a friend of mine that’s a normal girl and … the worst part is she has to go to school and deal with that crap. I have to deal with that anyways. I deal with it all the time.” She does have to “deal” with it—and her word choice gets straight to the market-based heart of the issue.

By Meghan O’Rourke
Posted Monday, May 5, 2008,
Meghan O’Rourke is Slate’s literary editor and the author of Halflife, a collection of poetry.

A 70-day-old Sugar Glider, an Australian marsupial that is part of their collection, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 in Baton Rouge, La. .

Some people may joke that their house is like a zoo, but for Brett and Lori Matte, it’s more than just a figure of speech, it’s a daily reality.

The Mattes, who call what they do “Zoo-Zoom ‘The Little Zoo on Wheels’,” house rescued exotic and not-so-exotic pets.

(AP, BRYAN TUCK / February 27, 2008)

Six rapists in the lush forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo: One in a green hood, another in a red baseball cap, another in military fatigues and a camouflage hat, another in black sunglasses. Their guns are pointed down. Smoking cigarettes, they swagger. They hold up their fingers, counting the number of women they have raped, violated, damned. Sexual terror as a weapon of war, perpetrated sometimes with sticks, knives, tree limbs.

The men seem unafraid to confess. They are bragging to an American filmmaker who holds a camera, recording their words.

“Ask him to tell me what he did,” says Lisa F. Jackson, whose chilling documentary, “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo,” debuts tonight on HBO. In a 10-year-old conflict that has left some 5 million people dead, the tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically raped and mutilated by an array of combatants are the silent victims among the living, Jackson tells us. What makes her documentary more stunning: She goes into the forest and confronts the rapists.
“I slept with some women,” says the rapist, a gray sweater wrapping his head, the sleeves tied around his neck.

“Did they want you to sleep with them?” Jackson inquires, her voice incisive, a bit on edge. A translator repeats her words in Swahili. Is it about control? Sex? Why violate a woman, leave her to bleed in her village, while her husband watches, tied to a tree? Why would 20 men line up and take turns, one after the other, raping a girl until she passes out and separates herself from a pain too evil to imagine?
Why insert a machete into a woman, leaving her organs so torn and dysfunctional that she flees her village and hides her shame and her stench in the bush, another victim of war?
“After we’ve been raped, our men don’t want us anymore. We are considered half-human beings,” a lonely woman confides to Jackson and her camera.

In another scene, the gray-sweatered rapist doesn’t flinch at Jackson’s question: “If she says no, I must take her by force. If she is strong, I’ll call some of my friends to help me. All this is happening because of the war. We would live a normal life and treat women naturally if there was no war.”

The war started in 1998 when Congolese rebels and Rwandan troops tried to oust the country’s president, Laurent Kabila. But the fighting metastasized into a conflict over land, ethnicity and natural resources and lasted long after Kabila’s 2001 assassination and well beyond a 2003 peace accord. Eastern Congo, the flashpoint of the conflict, degenerated into a state of near constant violence, with regular troops, rebels and regional militias routinely looting villages and routinely raping women and girls.

Rain pours outside. Jackson’s camera takes us inside the shadow of an abandoned building, pointing at another rapist. His gun is slung across his back. He wears a green beret and talks of the “magic” that makes him rape.

“Well, we were just abiding by the conditions of our magic potion. We had to rape women in order to make it work, and beat the enemy.”
Another rapist, wearing a black skullcap, is sitting in a corner. “Well, those women were not taken by force. The thing is they were in a combat zone where most of the fighters relied on magic power. This magic potion worked in such a way that you’ve got to rape women in order to overcome the enemies who’ve invaded our country, the Congo. That is why all those things have happened.”

Here is where the film shows the twisted layers of damage from war, twisted until the soldiers believe they must rape to win. Twisted until the viewer becomes engulfed in the twisted message of magic and enemy control and devastation. And you shout at the screen. Because the film shows you the pain of women raped in front of their husbands and children. Rammed with sticks until the uterus ruptures. And they bleed. And urine seeps forever. And they are cast away. And children are born of the rapes. And their mothers must carry them because they are obliged. One mother, raped at age 15, says in the film that she named her daughter Lumiere, which means light. She will tell her daughter she did not know the girl’s father.

How many such children will be born of rape? One cannot say. But the number of rapes, as told by the film’s collection of rapists, is staggering.
“Well, those that I remember, I could number them to 18.” It’s green beret again, touting his rape tally.

Camouflage hat says he has raped seven women. Green hood says five. Red T-shirt admits to two. Black sunglasses: about 20.
Black skullcap says, like an accountant: “It’s hard to keep record of the number of women that I’ve raped. The thing to keep in mind is the fact that we have stayed too long in the bush, and that induced us to rape. You know how things are in combat zones. We raped as we advance from village to village.”

The rapists melt back into the bush. But their chilling words now are caught forever in this film that takes us deep into the horrors of a silent war waged by Congolese government forces, by rebels, and sometimes even by United Nations peacekeepers.
“He who rapes a woman rapes an entire nation,” a policewoman says in the film.

Says Jackson, “They are forgotten women in a forgotten war.”
She is both witness and survivor. The viewer learns that Jackson herself was gang-raped — assaulted here in the District in 1976 as she was leaving her office late one night. “The three men who attacked me that night in Georgetown were never found,” she says in the film.
She shared her story with the women in Congo. “They all asked about the war that was happening in my country. I explained to them that even in peacetime, women are not safe. . . . The idea to them that women, and white women, could be raped in peacetime,” she said in an interview, “they could not imagine such things could happen.”

It was not her aim to put herself, her story into the film. But once she told her story, women opened up. “It became clear the connection I had with the women resulted in incredibly honest interviews,” Jackson said. “It also made the film less voyeuristic. It helped the audience understand.”

To gather the women’s stories, Jackson, 57, visited hospitals, sat in mud-floored huts and churches, putting names and faces and grief on camera until the viewer is moved to feel, turn away, do something. People are always asking Jackson, “But what can I do?”
“People have to find their own thing to do,” she says. “There is so much you can do. I made a film.”

Jackson, who calls herself a “Foreign Service brat,” went to Holton-Arms, a private girls’ school in Bethesda. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, then studied film at MIT with the documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock.

After college, she returned to the District to work at WETA television. For about two years, she worked as a film editor with legendary documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim. She eventually started her own production company and, over the next 30 years, made documentaries in Siberia and Guatemala. She won three Emmy Awards.
For her next film, she wanted to document the fate of women and girls in conflicts around the world. In 2006, she went to South Kivu, a province in the eastern Congo.

“I ended up going to the worst place first,” Jackson said in the interview. “I had good friends working for the U.N. peacekeepers there. I cashed in frequent flier miles and went where the conflict was raging. After two days, I realized this was not a segment in a larger film. This was the story nobody was telling.”

She “found many dozens of raped women, women of all ages, too many women, who at times would line up for hours, waiting until after the light disappeared and my camera could no longer record an image, waiting to talk to me, waiting to tell their stories to someone who would listen to them without judgment, hoping that I would relay their stories to a world that seemed indifferent to their horrific plight.”

One woman told of being kidnapped and held with other women in the forest as sex slaves. “We were raped by 20 men at the same time. Our bodies are suffering. They have taken their guns and put them inside us. They kill our children and then they tell us to eat those children. If a woman is pregnant, they make your children stand on your belly so that you will abort. Then they take the blood from your womb and put it in a bowl and tell you to drink it.”

To find the rapists, she asked her guide to find men willing to be interviewed. “In work with the U.N., he knew a lot of Congolese army officers. He went to a commanding officer and said there is an American journalist who wants to interview your men about raping women. He said okay and put the word out among the soldiers.”

She ended up deep in the forest, led by a dozen men.
“For a moment, going into the bush, I was completely panic-stricken,” Jackson said in the interview. “Then I realized they wanted their moment on videotape. If anything happened to me and my camera, they wouldn’t have that. My camera was as good as a gun. They wanted to be memorialized, bragging about what they did to women.”

“This type of sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner by armed groups.”
That is Denis Mukwege, director of the Panzi General Referral Hospital in the Congolese town of Bukavu, testifying last week before the Senate subcommittee on human rights and the law. “The rapists are not seeking to satisfy some kind of sexual desire but to destroy the woman, destroy her family and destroy her community.”

Jackson, who appeared with him as well as several other human rights activists, asked the senators: “Why is it that rape in conflict is so infrequently prosecuted in the world’s courts? Where is the outrage?”
Rape has been used systemically in several war-torn countries to humiliate, demoralize and destroy, Physicians for Human Rights said in a report it released at the hearing.

Millions of women and girls have been tortured, mutilated, impregnated as a form of ethnic cleansing. It happened during the Rwandan genocide, the civil wars in Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Chad, the former Yugoslavia and Liberia, as well as during the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

“Mass rape in war is frequently not the random act of individual soldiers but a determined strategy to destroy populations,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “The perpetrators are not held accountable and turn to mass rape because it is cheaper than using bullets.”
Jackson explained that armies and factions in Congo were killing civilians in order to loot the country of its riches: most recently, tin, cobalt and coltan, used in electronics.

“Perhaps another hearing might more thoroughly explore the causes and ruinous consequences of this illegal plundering,” she said. But everyone in this room should consider the fact that there is the blood of Congolese women on their laptop computers and on their cellphones.”

After 90 minutes, the gavel sounded. The hearing adjourned. Senators filed out. Reporters tapped out stories. People pulled out cellphones. The paneled room emptied into the marbled halls of power.
But the question remained: What would be done to help the women?
In the film, a 70-year-old rape survivor says: “Women are suffering. We have forgotten what happiness is.”

* By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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