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The Woman Who Accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn

From Day One, the African-born New York hotel maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault has either been seen as the most innocent of victims, or the center of a plot to take advantage of an influential leader with a weakness for women.

The New York hotel where Strauss-Kahn's accuser said he attacked her (Rob Young)
The New York hotel where Strauss-Kahn's accuser said he attacked her (Rob Young)
Marion Van Renterghem

It's been one stunning revelation after another. Since that Sunday morning, on May 15th, when news hit that the head of the International Monetary Fund -- the man the French thought might be their next president -- had been charged with attempted rape, the Strauss-Kahn affair has brought a rapid-fire succession of astonishing twists.

The most recent of these were prosecutors uncovering "major holes in the credibility" of Strauss-Kahn's accuser, as first reported by the New York Times. The credibility issue forced investigators to take a new and careful look at the relatively sparse information they have about the presumed victim, a hotel chambermaid.

The district attorney's office said that while the woman maintains she was assaulted, and DNA tests ‘"found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter"" between her and Strauss-Kahn, her repeated lies during the investigation have destabilized the prosecution.

The accuser, who opted to use the Shakespearean name Ophelia at the Manhattan Sofitel where she worked, disappeared from public view immediately after the case broke. She left the apartment in the Bronx where she lived with her 16-year-old daughter and has been under heavy police protection since. The first photograph of her showed her covered with a white sheet as she exited a New York courthouse. Some French papers published a photo said to be her, but that was too blurred for her to be identifiable. What we do know about the presumed victim is that she is a 5'9"" tall, 32-year-old widow, a Guinean of the Peul tribe who won the right to asylum in the United States. Perhaps in attempt to exonerate their client, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have described her as "not very attractive."

Fragments of a life

Places and people that were a part of her life yielded more information about her. In New York, those places included the Sofitel where she had been working for three years, and the African take-away in the Bronx where she worked late shifts after she got back from her hotel job. There was the six-story red brick building with a broken elevator on Gerald Avenue in the Bronx, where the Harlem Community Aids United Center—a foundation dedicated to providing care for HIV/Aids victims—also rented out moderately-priced apartments such as the one she occupied. DSK's accuser also sometimes went to the Futa mosque, a big red-brick building on the corner of 3rd Avenue. The New York Times dispatched a reporter to Tchakulé, the tiny village on the high plains of Guinea where she was born, but the journalist was unable to find anything that would shed light on the young woman's personality.

She was a regular at Café 2115, an African restaurant on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in central Harlem. After the alleged incident, the manager, Blake Diallo, held several press conferences at which he presented himself as the ‘"brother"" of the presumed victim. Appearing tired and overwhelmed, he told reporters that his sister worked hard, was a good Muslim, and wasn't the type who would attack a man. He added that she felt unwell, was very tired and afraid, and that all she wanted to do was cry.

Blake Diallo also told reporters that his sister had called him in the middle of the afternoon from the hospital the police had taken her to after having heard her account of the alleged event. According to him, still in shock and sobbing, she had blurted out that a man had tried to do something very bad to her. He refuted the idea that his sister could have been part of a set-up, saying that she had no idea who Dominique Strauss-Kahn was and that he had had to explain it to her.

Le Monde learned soon afterward that Blake Diallo was Senegalese, not Guinean, and that he was her boyfriend, not her brother. Contacted about this, Diallo explained somewhat ingenuously that he had said sister "because in Africa people call each other brother and sister."

Further doubts

Blake Diallo's about-face was the first bit of incoherence to make its appearance in the case. The only other information that might have cast doubt about the presumed victim's story was a rumor reported by the New York Post, a tabloid with good police sources but not known for its reliability. The rumor was that the alleged victim had asked her superiors if she could replace an absent colleague on the VIP floor—the floor where Strauss-Kahn occupied suite 2806. The veteran chambermaid was not out of the loop insofar as information went: she was a union member, and photographs of celebrity guests were often put up in the maids' changing rooms in the hotel basement.

A final clue that could have raised questions: the unexplained retreat of lawyers Jeffrey Shapiro and Norman Siegel, originally chosen by the presumed victim, in favor of media-savvy Kenneth Thompson, whose angle on the case was that it pitted the rich and powerful against the poor without a voice. His client, he said, was "standing up for all women and children around the world who have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused."

For their part, the maid's employers and people who knew her all said the same thing: she was a nice respectable girl, and a good Muslim. Neighbors described her as discreet and self-effacing, always modestly dressed, wearing a headscarf and avoiding high heels. Jorge Tito, the Sofitel director, stated in a press release that she had been an entirely satisfactory employee both in terms of the quality of her work and in her behavior. It was Tito who, after listening to the account right after the alleged incident took place, alerted the New York Police Department.

Read the original article in French

photo - Rob Young

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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