Tuesday, 30 June 2015

My 25 years as a prostitute

  • 30 June 2015
  • From the sectionMagazine
Brenda Myers-Powell
Brenda Myers-Powell was just a child when she became a prostitute in the early 1970s. Here she describes how she was pulled into working on the streets and why, three decades later, she devoted her life to making sure other girls don't fall into the same trap. Some people will find Brenda's account upsetting.
Right from the start life was handing me lemons, but I've always tried to make the best lemonade I can.
I grew up in the 1960s on the West Side of Chicago. My mother died when I was six months old. She was only 16 and I never learned what it was that she died from - my grandmother, who drank more than most, couldn't tell me later on. The official explanation is that it was "natural causes".
I don't believe that. Who dies at 16 from natural causes? I like to think that God was just ready for her. I heard stories that she was beautiful and had a great sense of humour. I know that's true because I have one also.
It was my grandmother that took care of me. And she wasn't a bad person - in fact she had a side to her that was so wonderful. She read to me, baked me stuff and cooked the best sweet potatoes. She just had this drinking problem. She would bring drinking partners home from the bar and after she got intoxicated and passed out these men would do things to me. It started when I was four or five years old and it became a regular occurrence. I'm certain my grandmother didn't know anything about it.
She worked as a domestic in the suburbs. It took her two hours to get to work and two hours to get home. So I was a latch-key kid - I wore a key around my neck and I would take myself to kindergarten and let myself back in at the end of the day. And the molesters knew about that, and they took advantage of it.
I would watch women with big glamorous hair and sparkly dresses standing on the street outside our house. I had no idea what they were up to; I just thought they were shiny. As a little girl, all I ever wanted was to be shiny.


Tunisia attack: Sousse killer Rezgui 'trained in Libya'

  • 4 hours ago
  • From the sectionAfrica
Media captionThe BBC's Ben Brown and Rana Jawad in Sousse report on what is know about the gunman's final moments
Seifeddine Rezgui, the Tunisian man who killed 38 people at the beach resort of Sousse, is thought to have been trained in Libya, security sources say.
A senior official at the Tunisian interior ministry told the Associated Press that Rezgui had been in Libya in January, the same time as two men who attacked a Tunisian museum in March.
Most of the dead in Sousse were foreign tourists, including 30 Britons.
The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed the attack as its own.
"The attacker trained in Libya with weapons at the same period as the Bardo [museum] attackers," Rafik Chelli from the interior ministry told AP.
IS also said it was behind the Bardo museum attack in Tunis that left 22 people dead.
Mr Chelli said that Rezgui had travelled to the Libyan town of Sabratha at the same time as the Bardo attackers.
"He crossed the borders secretly," Mr Chielli told AP.
IS has a significant presence in Libya, Tunisia's eastern neighbour, and is thought to control the major towns of Derna and Sirte.
The Tunisian authorities have released photos of two suspects, Bin Abdallah and Rafkhe Talari - friends of Rezgui that the police have yet to locate.
Rezgui, 23, was radicalised while studying engineering.
Bin Abdallah and Rafkhe Talari are wanted by the Tunisia authorities
Media captionFergal Keane travelled to Gaafour to meet the family and friends of Seifeddine Rezgui


The Tunisian authorities have already arrested several suspected accomplices.
However, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has admitted that the security services were not prepared for an attack of this kind.
He said extra security had been put in place at other locations during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, but nobody had expected beaches to be a target.
The UK Foreign Office has updated its travel advice to warn that further terrorist attacks in Tunisia are possible, and has urged people to be vigilant.
Tour companies have laid on extra flights and about 10,000 British tourists have flown home from Tunisia since Friday, according to the Association of British Travel Agents.
Patients were cared for by medics experienced at bringing injured soldiers back to the UK


The repatriation of bodies of Britons killed in the attack will begin on Wednesday, Downing Street has said.
Twenty-one Britons have been identified as victims, with nine more believed to be among the dead, it added.
Three Irish tourists, two Germans, a Belgian and a Portuguese national died in the attack.
The repatriation process is expected to take several days and will be followed by a joint inquest into the deaths of all the British victims.
The RAF flew the last four of the seriously injured back to the UK on Tuesday and they are now in hospital undergoing treatment.
In other developments:
  • a major exercise to test how British security services would respond to a terrorist attack has taken place in London
  • a national minute's silence will take place in the UK on Friday at 12:00 BST, a week after the shooting
  • flags on government and royal buildings will fly at half-mast
  • every primary and secondary school in England is to receive guidance on how to spot grooming of pupils by extremists

Tunisia beach attack: The victims

The names of those killed in the attack are slowly emerging. Here's what we know so far about those who lost their lives, as well as those who are injured and missing.
Some survivors have also been speaking out about their ordeal.

Islamic State may threaten Russia's Caucasus

  • 30 June 2015
  • From the sectionEurope
Security forces parade in Chechnya, 2015
Moscow-backed security forces have been battling Islamist insurgents in Chechnya and other Russian republics of the Caucasus
The head of Russia's Security Council has identified Islamic State (IS) as the greatest threat to world peace and security, and it seems the danger could be getting closer to home.
The militant Islamist group has proclaimed the establishment of a wilayaat, or province, in Russia's mainly-Muslim North Caucasus, suggesting it may be gaining the upper hand in a battle for control over radical forces there.
The statement follows an anonymous audio message posted online pledging allegiance to IS on behalf of militants in four regions.
But it remains unclear how far - and high - that support may reach among militants previously loyal to the banned, al-Qaeda-affiliated group Caucasus Emirate, which has long sought to carve out an Islamist state in the region.
Caucasus Emirate's presumed head has made no comment. Meanwhile, analysts say most militants who have publicly switched support to IS are largely unknown figures.
Rooted in the Chechen separatist movement of the 1990s, Caucasus Emirate has committed numerous terror attacks against civilians, including the Moscow metro bombing of 2010 that killed dozens. But its insurgency has recently focused on Russia's security forces.
The Caucasus Emirate militant group was linked to the 2010 attack on Moscow's metro
Some fear an upsurge in deadly attacks if the network does indeed affiliate itself with IS.
"I don't think they are planning just to separate off a piece of the North Caucasus for themselves, to create a territory controlled by their jihadists," Grigory Shvedov of the internet news agency Caucasus Knot believes.
"I think the plan would be to use the region for terror attacks in Russia, which would show their reach and put them 'on the map'," he adds.
It is perhaps that heightened danger, coupled with renewed IS gains in Syria, which prompted a rare phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama on Thursday.
Islamist rebels have attacked Russian security forces in the North Caucasus
The White House says Islamic State was the top issue for discussion: the leaders' last call in February focused exclusively on the Ukraine crisis.
"Of course it is in our mutual interest to co-operate on this with the West, though we disagree on other issues," former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the BBC.
"Modern security threats are international, we can't fight them alone," he added - a theme that Russian officials have begun to stress.

'Frustrated rebels'

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has dismissed claims of an IS province in the region as "bluff", but also said the threat of the IS "virus" was not being ignored.
"We will destroy the devils and bandits without mercy," he pledged.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been accused of heavy-handed tactics and human rights abuses
Whilst highly controversial, his tough methods have been relatively successful in suppressing the threat from the Caucasus Emirate in Chechnya - but the usual tactics could backfire badly with IS.
"I think a lot of rebels, especially the young, are very frustrated and would support a more radical response," believes Grigory Shvedov, and says that IS would back that.
Official estimates of how many Russian citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join IS differ, though the most conservative count is more than 1,000.
Just this month, 13 potential recruits were returned to Moscow from the Syrian border, including a teenage female student.
On Thursday, Russia's Anti-Terrorism Committee said two people killed in Ingushetia were suspected of trying to recruit fighters for IS.

Indonesia transport plane crash: More than 100 feared dead

  • 4 hours ago
  • From the sectionAsia
Media captionFootage showed the burning wreckage in a residential street
More than 100 people are feared dead after a military transport plane crashed in a residential area of the Indonesian city of Medan.
The Hercules C-130 plane hit two houses and a hotel before bursting into flames, creating a huge fireball.
Air Force head Agus Supriatna visited the crash site and told reporters he believed there were no survivors among the 113 people on board.
At least 66 bodies have been recovered so far.
A major rescue operation is under way at the site which was covered in flames and thick black smoke.
The BBC's Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta says that only the tail of the aircraft is still recognisable; the rest has been reduced to debris.
Our correspondent says that there are reports that people are trapped inside wrecked buildings and the nearest hospital is continuing to receive bodies arriving from the crash site.
Many of the passengers are thought to have been relatives of servicemen and women.
It is too early to know exactly how many people were killed in the disaster, or what caused it, our correspondent says.
Military personnel removed an aircraft wheel from the crash site on Tuesday
Rescuers are having to deal with wreckage from the aircraft as well as debris from destroyed buildings
The crash is one of several involving military aircraft in recent years
A large crowd has gathered at the crash site
Large crowds watched the emergency services search the flaming wreckage.
The plane had just taken off when it ran into trouble.
"It passed overhead a few times, really low," a witness told the Reuters news agency.
"There was fire and black smoke. The third time it came by it crashed into the roof of the hotel and exploded straight away."
Mr Supriatna said that the pilot had asked to return to base because of technical difficulties.
"The plane crashed while it was turning right to return to the airport,'' he said.
The Hercules transport plane was manufactured in 1964, but a military spokesman said he was convinced that it was in good condition.
Correspondents say that it is the second time in 10 years that a plane has crashed in Medan.
In September 2005, a Boeing 737 came down in a crowded residential area shortly after take-off from Medan's Polonia airport, killing 143 people including 30 on the ground.
The latest crash in Medan is one of several involving military aircraft since 2009:
  • April 2015: An F-16 fighter jet catches fire as it takes off from an airbase in Jakarta
  • March 2015: Two air force planes from an Indonesian aerobatics team crash during a practise session
  • November 2013: An army helicopter crashes near the Indonesian-Malaysian border, killing 13 people
  • August 2013: A door from a training helicopter falls onto a residential area of Jakarta
  • 2012: Nine people killed after an Indonesian air force plane crashed into a housing complex in Jakarta
  • 2009: Military transport plane carrying troops and their families crashed in Java, killing 98 people

Coronavirus Is Battering Africa’s Growing Middle Class

From Kenya to Nigeria, South Africa to Rwanda, the pandemic is decimating the livelihoods of the once-stable workers who were helping ...