Wednesday, June 29, 2005

War of the Worlds

Press views: War of the Worlds.

Steven Spielberg's new film is the latest in a line of big screen adaptations of HG Wells' alien invasion epic War of the Wars. The new release, which stars Tom Cruise, has been scrutinised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic.


War of the Worlds is a massive return to form for Spielberg, the best blockbuster of the summer (superior to even Batman Begins). And, I would be happy to argue, the greatest action epic of all time. Cruise's performance has received a mixed reception.For all his drive and good looks, Cruise has a cocky, egocentric side, and his boyishness is starting to look spooky in a man over 40. As for epic special effects and searing imagery, Spielberg does not disappoint. The crowd scenes are especially brilliantly directed. Just as important as the awe-inspiring spectacle, however, are the pace of the story-telling and masterful use of suspense. With Jaws 30 years ago, the young Spielberg single-handedly invented the summer blockbuster. It's good to see that when the chips are down and many critics were eagerly preparing to write him off, the old Maestro can still show us all how to do it.


It's almost as if there are two Steven Spielbergs behind the camera.
One delivers a thrilling action adventure, the other produces a rather aimless family drama with faint and not terribly interesting political overtones. There are hints of a topical subtext - co-writer and Spielberg regular David Koepp has said he sees the project as an "anti-Iraq War film. But nothing commercial enough to interfere with the movie's commercial potential. Cruise is just too clean-cut to make Ray's arc from unpleasant slob to caring dad believable or truly affecting.


This takes us on a wild journey through two sides of its supremely popular director - the dark and the light. A first class pop entertainment packed to the brim with astounding effects and near non-stop action and suspense - and laced with painful undercurrents. With all of his apple-cheeked, reckless charm, Tom Cruise looks like a guy who could outrace an extraterrestrial. It's unfair to blame Spielberg for not making a different movie from this one - just as it's unfair to critically dismiss this as some will. As a horror-adventure science fiction spectacular, it delivers the goods. But it's not the world-beater it could have been - Spielberg's War of the Worlds definitely wins the battle, but not the war.


Spielberg's extraterrestrials are wicked scary.
It is tempting, and not altogether out-of-place to take War of the Worlds and last summer's The Terminal as the director's response to the September 11 attacks.
This film is nerve-rackingly apocalyptic, offering an occasional reprieve but not much solace.

Spielberg directed Cruise in the latest version of HG Wells' story.
Tom Cruise has lately proven himself to be much more interesting as a talk show guest than as an actor. But he remains adept at playing a jerk brought low by circumstances beyond his control. War of the Worlds also succeeds in reminding us that while Spielberg doesn't always make great movies, he seems constitutionally incapable of bad movie-making. It's not much to think about, but it's certainly something to see.


Spielberg does more than justice to the grandaddy of all alien invasion tales. The film perhaps takes a little too much glee in its abilities to manufacture mayhem. That being said, the ride is extraordinary. Spielberg keeps tightening the screws as he is clearly in full command of his war zone. He waits 87 minutes to reveal the alien creatures themselves, and only at this point do we realise what little bloodsuckers they are. With Cruise and Fanning, it's not always clear who is the child and who the adult as the actors continually switch those roles.





UK, US 'caused Zimbabwe droughts'

A state-run newspaper in Zimbabwe has suggested the UK and US are to blame for droughts in southern Africa. The Herald said climate change has been artificially induced "in a bid to arm-twist the region to capitulate to the whims of the world's superpowers". It said weather was being manipulated for political gain using unspecified "unconventional" chemical weapons.

It is widely seen as a mouthpiece for President Robert Mugabe's government, correspondents say. It said recent droughts, which defied predictions by the Zimbabwean government and the Southern African Development Community's Drought Monitoring Centre, pointed to the possibility of the weather being manipulated for political purposes.

"The overt and covert machinations by Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler Britain, which has declared its intentions to effect illegal regime change in Harare, have given credence to the conspiracy theory," the paper said. It said that the US Famine Early Warning System had predicted famine in Zimbabwe six months before it occurred.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Nuclear fusion reactor.

A decision has finally been made to site the 10bn-euro (£6.6bn) Iter nuclear fusion reactor at Cadarache in France. The announcement brings to an end months of argument between the project partners - the EU, the US, Japan, Russia, China and South Korea.

Iter will produce relatively clean energyWhat is Iter (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)? Iter is an experimental reactor that will attempt to reproduce on Earth the nuclear reactions that power the Sun and other stars. It will consolidate all that has been learnt over many decades of study. If it works, and the technologies are proven to be practical, the international community will then build a prototype commercial reactor, dubbed Demo. The final step would be to roll out fusion technology across the globe.

What exactly is fusion?

Fusion works on the principle that energy can be released by forcing together atomic nuclei rather than by splitting them, as in the case of the fission reactions that drive existing nuclear power stations. In the core of the Sun, huge gravitational pressure allows this to happen at temperatures of around 10 million degrees Celsius. At the much lower pressure that is possible on Earth, temperatures to produce fusion need to be much higher - above 100 million degrees Celsius. No materials on Earth could withstand direct contact with such heat. To achieve fusion, therefore, scientists have devised a solution in which a super-heated gas, or plasma, is held and squeezed inside an intense doughnut-shaped magnetic field.

What are the advantages of fusion?

The best fuel for fusion comprises two types, or isotopes, of hydrogen: deuterium and tritium. The former can be derived from water which is abundant and available everywhere. The latter can be produced from lithium, which is plentiful in the Earth's crust. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, fusion reactions produce no carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed by scientists for warming the planet. Fusion scientists also say the system would be inherently safe because any malfunction would result in a rapid shutdown.




Indian agency to protect tigers.

Official estimates of tiger numbers are said to be an exaggeration. The Indian government is planning to set up a task force to protect tigers in wildlife sanctuaries in the country.The decision follows reports that tigers are disappearing at an alarming rate from the Sariska reserve in western Rajasthan state.
Poaching is the biggest problem - up to 10 tigers have been poached from the reserve in two years, officials say. Conservationists believe the official figure of 3,500 tigers in India's reserves is an exaggeration. The gravity of the situation was underlined by a recent appeal by the United Nations asking the Indian government to take steps to save tigers.
The chief of India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), US Mishra, said investigations into the disappearances at Sariska had revealed that forest guards were mostly unarmed and had limited communication facilities.
The CBI has recommended better training, arms for the guards and hiring of new staff to patrol forests.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Bid to save rare British beetle
By Helen Briggs - BBC News science reporter.

The noble chafer likes to live in old orchards. People are being asked to report sightings of a rare British beetle that emerges from old fruit trees in summer.
So little is known about the noble chafer, a green beetle with a metallic sheen, that conservationists are unsure exactly how many are left. The People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling on the public to join its latest survey. With orchards being destroyed to make way for more productive crops, numbers are thought to be dwindling rapidly.
Consultant ecologist for the PTES, Matt Smith, has been surveying woodland for the beetles every summer for the past few years. He spoke to the BBC News website from an orchard in Oxfordshire where he was conducting a search. "I've been digging around in some old dead cherry trees in the wood and I've found the remains of a beetle and some eggs," he said. "They're very shy and retiring. It is very unusual to spot an adult beetle or the remains of a beetle."

On Hunger Strike

UK to continue Zimbabwe returns.

Protesters in London are voicing their opposition to Mr Mugabe. Charles Clarke has rejected calls to stop sending back to Zimbabwe people whose UK asylum claims have failed.
The home secretary said successful applicants could stay - but argued that a blanket suspension of all removals would lead to asylum abuses. Dozens of Zimbabweans in detention centres across the UK have gone on hunger strike, while the Lib Dems urged a review of 116 people's cases. Tory spokesman David Davis called UK Zimbabwe policy a "miserable failure". He said Robert Mugabe's regime was guilty of "crimes against humanity on a massive scale". "We wouldn't be facing the issue we are today if [the UK government] had shown a clearer lead in the past, put greater pressure on governments such as that of [South Africa's] Thabo Mbeki and forced the issue on to the agenda of the UN Security Council," said the shadow home secretary.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


AU stand on Zimbabwe criticised.

The opposition says its supporters are being punished. European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso has said he is "disappointed" by the African Union's response to Zimbabwe's demolitions campaign. Speaking in South Africa, Mr Barroso said he was "gravely concerned" about events in Zimbabwe. The AU said on Friday that it had many more serious problems to consider. The UN says 275,000 people have been made homeless as a result of an operation which Zimbabwe says is aimed at removing illegal structures.
"I am disappointed with the reaction of the African Union to the latest crisis," Mr Barroso said after a two-hour meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has also refused to condemn the evictions.
Jose Manuel Barroso said the evictions were a 'human rights crisis' "This is a human rights crisis and human rights are not an internal matter. They should be the concern of all people, African, Asian and European. "I hope that Africans themselves can decide the way to go in terms of freedom and can see that freedom is not a foreign value," he added. Mr Barroso is in South Africa at the start of a three nation tour ahead of next month's G8 meeting of leading industrial nations, where increasing aid for Africa will figure prominently.
The US and the UK have urged African leaders to speak out against what she described as "tragic" events. But AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako told the BBC that if the Zimbabwe government said it was restoring order, then it would not be "proper for us to go interfering in their internal legislation".
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said on Friday that the removal of illegal homes and market stalls was part of a bid to fight crime and clean up cities. But the opposition says the demolitions - codenamed Operation Restore Order - are meant to punish urban residents, who rejected him in recent elections. At least three children have been crushed to death during the operation.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Cathy Buckle's Letter From Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,
There has been a nation wide shortage of petrol and diesel in the country ever since the March elections which has now got so bad that it has bought almost everything to a complete standstill. Petrol stations are either completely dry and deserted or they are places where rumours of deliveries are rife and unmoving queues of driverless vehicles snake away into the distance. There may not be fuel for the everyday things like commuter buses and delivery trucks but there is still diesel for destruction.Countrywide the bulldozers continue to growl and roar as they push downwalls, flatten homes and reduce lives to rubble in the fourth week of the government's Operation Restore Order. One day this week I met a man who is in his early eighties and was desperate for just 10 litres of petrol so that he could get his wife to a specialist for medical treatment. The man has worked all his life in Zimbabwe and had prepared well for his old age. He hadn't banked on hyperinflation and economic collapse though and now his entire monthly pension isn't enough to buy even one litre of petrol. The man sat, counting filthy hundred dollar notes into piles, trying to work out just how much money hehad and how many notes he would need. It was almost irrelevant that therewas no petrol to buy because the fact was that 10 litres of petrol represented a years worth of pension cheques .Later that same day I met another elderly man who stood waiting for me near my car and greeted me politely as I arrived. "Can you help me,please. I have nothing to sell and am just an old man." Once a farm worker until the government seized all the farms, the man had then got a job working in a garden in the town. Four months ago the government increased the minimum wage for garden workers by one thousand percent and this elderly man lost his job. He has become just another helpless, hopeless victim in Zimbabwe. I did not ask the man where he was living or if his home had been reduced to a pile of rubble as everywhere there are police,many police, watching and waiting to "restore order". I pressed a note into his hand and felt ashamed that an old man who has lost everything,has been reduced to this.While the western world watches, condemns, appeals and urges intervention,the African Union say they will not criticise events in Zimbabwe. An AUr epresentative speaking on BBC radio said the organisation had other far more important things to worry about than Zimbabwe. What shame on these leaders of Africa who will not even appeal for mercy for women and children, old men and the sick and dying. Will the AU also refuse the west's cancellation of debt? Will the AU refuse to accept western money raised by Bob Geldof and the worlds pop stars? What shame on Africa. With love, cathy. Copyright cathy buckle25 June 2005 http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available ; ; ;in Australia and New Zealand: ;


Soaked Glastonbury gets under way.

The Glastonbury Festival is under way after suffering serious disruption when storms tore across its site at Pilton, Somerset, on Friday morning. Heavy rain flooded parts of the site, with dozens of tents lost under water, while lightning strikes affected the stages and knocked out power lines. Bands such as The White Stripes, Doves and The Killers are due to play at the event, with 112,500 people expected.
No serious injuries were reported, but conditions are expected to stay muddy. Ambulance staff reported nine emergency cases, but none of the people involved turned out to be seriously injured.
Organisers said under 100 tents had been washed away, and facilities had been set up to hand out clothing and new tents for those affected. Streams running through the site burst their banks at the height of the storm, with some gates to the site closed because of waterlogging. Portable toilets sank in the mud, as did one of the bars.
One festival-goer was even seen swimming to his tent to retrieve his belongings - something medical staff are advising against. Festival-goers have also been advised to wash their hands after using the toilets, and not to eat food which has been in the water, because of the risk of bacteria from the sunken toilets.

Broadcasters were also affected - the set constructed for BBC Three's coverage from Glastonbury was flooded while Radio 1's Jo Whiley had to abandon her live broadcast after a river close to the corporation's compound burst its banks. Local fire crews assisted in pumping the water off the site.

Festival founder Michael Eavis told the BBC News website: "People survived, and coped. We need to cheer up a bit and enjoy ourselves. If you get a challenge like this it wakes everyone up and it improves the spirit." He urged people not to be put off coming to the festival. "Come on down, you will have the time of your life, but bring your wellies," he told Radio 1Don't be put off by a bit of rain. We've seen it all before and we will cope." Heavy rain continued until 1100 with intermittent showers and thunderstorms, mixed with sunshine, after.
Police said over 100,000 of the expected 112,500 crowd were on site by Friday evening, and they had dealt with 88 drug offences and 21 other reported crimes. Four police horses had to be moved out of the festival after their stables flooded. Most of the crowd have already been on the site for one or two nights and had been enjoying a party atmosphere before the rain fell.

Elvis Costello, Royksopp and Bloc Party are among the other stars appearing, while Coldplay headline on Saturday. Basement Jaxx will close the festival on Sunday. Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof will address crowds at from the Pyramid Stage on Saturday. One of the dance tents turns into a silent disco at 0100 on Saturday in an attempt to reduce noise for neighbours.

Other attractions on the 100 acres of farmland include a cinema field, early morning bingo and children's areas complete with fairground rides and puppet shows. The Green Fields offer information, workshops and therapies from outside the mainstream while scores of stalls sell everything from global cuisine to clothes, toys and jewellery.
Friday alone should see more than 100 musical acts performing across nine main stages.


For the past few nights the moon has appeared larger than many people have seen it for almost 20 years. It is the world's largest optical illusion, and one of its most enduring mysteries.

It can put a man in space, land a probe on Mars, but Nasa can't explain why the moon appears bigger when it's on the horizon than when it's high in the night sky.

The mystery of the Moon Illusion, witnessed by millions of people this week, has puzzled great thinkers for centuries. There have even been books devoted to the matter. Not since June 1987 has the moon been this low in the sky, accentuating the illusion even further. But opinion differs on why there is such an apparent discrepancy in size between a moon on the horizon and one in the distant sky.

Can the Moon Illusion be explained? Here are two theories -

Two main theories dominate. The first, known as the Ponzo Illusion - named after Mario Ponzo who demonstrated it in 1913 - suggests that the mind judges the size of an object based on its background. Ponzo drew two identical bars across a picture of railway tracks which converge as they recede into the distance . The upper bar looks wider because it appears to span the rails, as opposed to the lower bar, which sits between the rails.
In the same way, with a low-lying moon the trees and houses, which are familiar foreground reference points, appear smaller against the moon, which appears bigger than it really is.


Thursday, June 23, 2005


I heard on the T.V. today that, here in the U.K. there are Zimbabweans being sent back to Zimbabwe against their wishes. They fear they will be killed if they are sent back to Zimbabwe.
How sick is that to be sending them back?.............

I came across this Press Release from Amnesty Interniotonal -
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASEA I Index: AFR 46/017/2005 (Public)News Service No: 170 23 June 2005Embargo Date: 23 June 2005 09:00 GMT.

Unprecendented call for UN and AU action over evictions by 200 rights groups. As the human rights situation in Zimbabwe steadily deteriorates, with more than 300,000 now evicted from their homes by the government and a UN Special Envoy appointed to investigate the destruction and evictions, a coalition of more than 200 African and international NGOs today issued an unprecedented Joint Appeal to the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) to help the people of Zimbabwe.Strongly condemning the mass forced evictions, the coalition of organizations urged Nigerian President Obasanjo, as Chair of the AU, to put the crisis in Zimbabwe on the agenda of the upcoming AU Assembly -- scheduled to take place in Libya on 4 - 5 July.The coalition also called on relevant bodies at the UN, including the Secretary-General, to publicly condemn the ongoing mass violations and take effective action to stop them. "The appointment of a UN Special Envoy to investigate the mass violations taking place in Zimbabwe is welcome," said a representative of the coalition. "But effective action must also be taken immediately to help those already sleeping on the streets, beside the rubble of their homes -- and to ensure that the evictions and demolitions stop immediately.""The AU and UN simply cannot ignore such an unprecedented, wide-ranging appeal on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, particularly from African civil society," said a coalition representative. "African solidarity should be with the people of Africa -- not their repressive leaders." Amongst the human rights and civic groups signing the Joint Appeal are Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights, the Inter Africa Network for Human Rights (AFRONET), Amnesty International, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, and the International Crisis Group. For interview requests, please ring the following local coalition contact numbers:UN: Tel: +1 212 867 8878 ext 4 or +44 (0)7778472 109Lagos: Tel: +234 (01) 5550277 / 493560Johannesburg: Tel: +27 (082) 4112946, +27 (011) 4037746; +27(082) 5487441 Windhoek: Tel: +264 (0)61 223 356Cairo: Tel: +20 (0)2 347 4360 or +20 (0) 12 347 5203 or +41 (0)79 503 1485Harare: Tel: +263 (0)11 209 468 or +263 4 708 118
Public Document


William graduates from St Andrews. William's 2:1 class degree beats his father's 2:2 from Cambridge. Prince William was "delighted" the Queen was among leading Royals attending his graduation ceremony at St Andrews University, he said. T he prince, who attained a class 2:1 degree in geography, collected the honour at a ceremony on Thursday. His father, Prince Charles, also attended, along with the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of Edinburgh.
William, 23, will spend the summer doing work experience in the City, as well as joining a mountain rescue team. Hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets of the Scottish town to greet the Royal party. I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has made my time here so enjoyable
After the ceremony, and still wearing his black silk graduation robe, Prince William shook hands with members of the public as he made his way to Fife constabulary to thank them for "their constant support" during his time at the Scottish institution. "Today there is a great degree of interest in seeing him," said St Andrews resident Sybil Gray, 72. "I also got a good look at the Queen who I thought looked very well and happy to be at her grandson's graduation."
The prince paid tribute to the people of St Andrews, saying he had "thoroughly enjoyed" his four years at the university and was "sad to leave". "I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has made my time here so enjoyable," he said.
The work experience in the City was something I was particularly keen to do as ... it may well help me with charitable fund-raising in the future "I have been able to lead as 'normal' a student life as I could have hoped for and I'm very grateful to everyone, particularly the locals, who have helped make this happen."
He also paid tribute to the Queen: "Today is a very special day for me and I am delighted that I can share it with my family, and in particular with my grandmother, who has made such an effort to come, having been under the weather." Prince William, who has shown an interest in an Army career, will also learn land management on a country estate during the summer. But first he will fly to New Zealand to meet the touring British and Irish Lions team.
While there he will also carry out his first solo engagements, on behalf of the Queen, by attending ceremonies in Wellington and Auckland in July to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. Prince William said he was looking forward to his work experience. "I very much hope that these work placements will give me hands-on experience in three very different but important areas," he said.
"The work experience in the City was something I was particularly keen to do as I feel that this is an area in which I could learn a lot and it may well help me with charitable fund-raising in the future. "The land management experience will hopefully allow me to develop skills and an understanding of how to best look after the countryside. "Joining a mountain rescue team really appealed to me as I can learn at first hand how these amazing people help save lives on a regular basis."
William's 2:1 class degree beats his father's 2:2 from Cambridge, making him one of the most academically successful royals.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005



Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Key vote lost by pro-whaling bloc.
By Richard Black BBC environment correspondent in Ulsan, South Korea

The meeting is marked by sharp division. Pro-whaling nations lost a fourth vote at the International Whaling Commission meeting - one which could have led to a resumption of commercial whaling. The proposal, drawn up by Japan, had been condemned by conservation groups as "totally unacceptable". Its adoption would have needed a majority of three-quarters at the meeting in Ulsan, South Korea.

But a simple majority in favour would have implied some moral backing for Japan's case. Earlier in the day, developing countries halted discussions for more than an hour as they protested against "bias and discrimination".

The Revised Management Scheme (RMS) is the most important issue before the IWC. It is designed to replace the current moratorium on commercial whaling, introduced in 1986 as the evidence became undeniable that many whale stocks were at critically low levels.




Kidnapped girl 'rescued' by lions.
A pride of lions has rescued a girl from her kidnappers in rural south-west Ethiopia, according to police. A 12-year-old girl was snatched by four men on her way home from school early in June.
A week later, kidnappers were moving her with police in pursuit when three lions encountered the group and chased the men off, local police said.
The lions stayed with the girl without harming her, before departing as police searching for her came near. Sergeant Wondmu Wedaj told the media from Bita Genet, some 560 kilometres (348 miles) south-west of the capital, Addis Ababa, that they found the girl alive but shocked and terrified.
"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," the policeman said. The police did not know the sex of the lionsThe girl told the police she had been beaten by her kidnappers, but no harm was done to her by the lions. An Ethiopian wildlife expert said the lions may have spared the girl because her crying may have sounded like the mewing sound from a lion cub.
"Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people," Sergeant Wondimu added. Four men have been caught by police. The United Nations estimates abductions, which lead to marriage, are rife in rural areas where the majority of Ethiopians live.


Refugees 'victims not terrorists'

Millions of Sudanese have fled fighting near their homes. New United Nations refugee agency head Antonio Guterres has said refugees are victims of terror not terrorists. Marking World Refugee Day with a visit to camps in northern Uganda, Mr Guterres appealed for a new approach to refugees and asylum-seekers. He said rich nations were confusing the issue with the problems of illegal immigration and terrorism.
He said Uganda, which hosts some 250,000 people was an example to rich nations of extraordinary generosity. "In refugees we are speaking of people fleeing persecution," he told BBC News.
Refugees from Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have been given land and integrated into communities, something which Mr Guterres said was difficult to find anywhere else in the world. "I think we should learn from that and I think we should be generous towards them and I hope we will cherish the institution of asylum," he said.
The UNHCR provides assistance to more than 19m people who are displaced worldwide.

Monday, June 20, 2005



Sunday, June 19, 2005


Michael Schumacher claimed a hollow win in a farcical US Grand Prix, with just six cars taking part.
Because of the Michelin tyre safety row the only cars on the starting grid were those of Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi.
Rubens Barrichello took second, despite being shunted onto the grass by Schumacher after his 51st lap pit-stop, to give Ferrari 18 championship points.
Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan, Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher took up the other places.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


'Threat' closes Nigeria missions.
An apparent terror threat has led the US to close its consulate in Nigeria's biggest city of Lagos, prompting other foreign missions nearby to follow suit. A state department spokesman said a "specific and credible" threat had forced the closure of the US mission. British and German consulates located in the area had also been shut down.
The BBC's Anna Borzello in Lagos says there is a high security presence in the area, with police stopping passers-by and checking their bags. A spokeswoman for the US European Command - currently conducting a training exercise for West African forces in Senegal - said "some kind of terrorist threat" had been "called in". "They knew about it yesterday [Thursday] and decided to close the embassy," Major Holly Silkman said.
A British spokesman in London said the consulate had been closed as a precaution "because it is on the same road as the U.S. Embassy". The British and US consulates are expected to re-open on Monday, officials say.
US officials say they are investigating the incident with Nigerian police. The AP news agency reports that a Nigerian police bomb disposal squad van was parked outside the US mission.
Other consulates on the same road on Victoria Island, Lagos, had also closed, a Foreign Office spokesman said. The British High Commission will reopen on Monday, officials say.


What lies behind the Zimbabwe demolitions?
By Joseph Winter BBC News website.

The homes of some 200,000 Zimbabwean city dwellers have been demolished in the past three weeks, according to the United Nations. Police have been moving from area to area, in some cases forcing people to knock down their own homes. In others, they have turned up with bulldozers to demolish structures which they say have been built illegally.
"We were busking, enjoying the winter sun when we heard trucks and bulldozers roll in. There was pandemonium as we rushed to salvage the little we could," one resident of the capital, Harare told the BBC News website. "In no time the cottage I had called home for three years was gone. Then it dawned on me that I was now homeless, you try and pinch yourself and wake up but this was no dream. My life had been shattered before my very own eyes."
Worshippers at a Harare mosque have even been made to destroy it, says opposition MP Trudy Stevenson. Thousands of desperate Zimbabweans are living on the streets, others have gone back to their rural homes, while some have managed to squeeze into parts of the cities not yet touched by what some are calling the "tsunami".

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


A Vicers Vimy Bomber, on this day, made the first non stop Transatlantic Flight, in 1919.



Free Speech ?

Algerian journalists sent to jail.

Mr Bouteflika does not take kindly to criticism. The editor and a reporter on Algerian newspaper Le Soir d'Algerie, have been sentenced to up to six-months in jail on charges of defaming the president. A cartoonist on the Liberte newspaper, was also sentenced to six-months in prison for mocking army officers.
All have indicated they will appeal. The rulings are the latest in a series of cases which have been criticised by international media watchdogs. They say the government is using defamation law to control the press.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

We Continue to Turn a Blind Eye.

Zimbabwe police demolish township.

About 200,000 people have been made homeless, the UN says. Police in Zimbabwe have fought running battles with residents of one of the oldest townships of the second city, as they demolished illegal structures. The BBC's Themba Nkosi says that Makhokhoba in Bulawayo was the centre of resistance to colonial rule. One woman stripped naked in protest after police destroyed her shack.
A police spokesman said that more than 20,000 structures had been destroyed and 30,000 arrested in the three-week nationwide operation. The opposition say "Operation Murambatsvina [Drive out rubbish]" is punishment for urban dwellers who mostly voted against the ruling Zanu-PF party in March elections.
I witnessed police in Mzilikazi removing belongings of those who had fled their dwellings as they were being demolished Themba Nkosi Bulawayo.President Robert Mugabe said it is needed to "restore sanity" to Zimbabwe's towns and cities. The crackdown, which the United Nations says has left some 200,000 people homeless, has been condemned by Zimbabwe's churches, teachers and doctors. Zimbabwe's teachers' association said it had been a "catastrophe". Even those whose homes escaped "seem so traumatized they cannot concentrate on their learning", it said.
In London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Zimbabwe's charge d'affaires had been summoned in protest. He said the many HIV-positive Zimbabweans had been especially badly hit by the evictions. He also said that an extra 25 names had been added to the 95 people subject to a European Union travel ban and assets freeze.

But Zimbabwe's police superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said that the operation would continue "until we have weeded out all criminal elements countrywide," reports the state-owned Herald newspaper. Our correspondent in Bulawayo says that even the well-respected traditional doctors in Makhokhoba township were not spared as riot police ordered the healers and their patients out of their shacks before setting them on fire. Most of the traditional doctors lost their herbs and supposedly magic charms. Makhokhoba has been a vibrant and colourful township for many decades, our correspondent says.
From the shacks of this township have come some of Bulawayo's top football players and theatre actors, such as Peter Ndlovu, the former Coventry City player now playing in South Africa.
The police then moved on to flatten houses in Mzilikazi township next door to Makhokhoba,
"It is a totally chaotic situation with people running in different directions," says Themba Nkosi.
"I witnessed police in Mzilikazi removing belongings of those who had fled their dwellings as they were being demolished. Many told me they are now homeless."
Bulawayo police spokesman Smile Dube said so far in Makhokhoba, police have discovered electrical goods worth thousands of dollars which they claim have been smuggled across the Botswana and South Africa borders.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Opposing Mugabe 'no easy task'.

By John Simpson BBC world affairs editor.

It seemed almost inevitable that last week's strike in protest against the bulldozing of illegal housing in Harare and elsewhere would be a flop. Opposing President Robert Mugabe is not easy. Protesting against the government requires a lot of courage. The media in Zimbabwe, now entirely under the strictest of controls, carried no mention of the strikes.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, joined in only the day before they were due to take place. The police warned that they would attack any street protests ruthlessly. That meant they would shoot people down in the streets if necessary. So coming out in protest required serious courage. And in any society - let alone a quiet, essentially gentle one like Zimbabwe - not many people are prepared to become martyrs. Even those who are, know that their efforts will often be vitiated.
President Mugabe's men have infiltrated every opposition group inside Zimbabwe. The police know what they are planning as soon as they have reached agreement. This infiltration has now spread to Britain, where government supporters appear at opposition meetings and sometimes openly threaten the people there. Mr Mugabe, sensing his opponents' weakness, attacked them last week in the only places where they matter: the capital, Harare, and two or three other centres of population.
By bulldozing the ramshackle huts which illegal street-traders have built for themselves, he was striking a blow at the people who hate him most. The police forced some people at gunpoint to pull down their own houses.
Market traders - Thirty thousand people are thought to have been arrested. The traders have often drifted to the cities because of the collapse of the rural economy. They deal in black market goods, especially sugar, and act as illegal money-changers, where people can turn the rands and pounds and dollars which their friends abroad send them into Zimbabwean currency.
And they usually provide the foot-soldiers for any anti-government demonstrations which may be going. Now, they have to live rough in the cold of the southern hemisphere winter. Eventually, many will start drifting back home.
It is another victory for Mr Mugabe. As ever, he has an impressive explanation: "The current chaotic state of affairs where small- to medium-scale enterprises operated outside the regulatory framework and in undesignated and crime-ridden areas could not be countenanced much longer," he declared.
I have met and interviewed Robert Mugabe on various occasions over the years. He likes giving his opinions, but you sense as he listens to your questions that he has little but contempt for you. The outside world shows little serious interest in Zimbabwe, beyond indulging in occasional ritual condemnation of him He is used to feeling cleverer and more articulate than anyone he comes into contact with - and he despises those he thinks are less intelligent than he is. Which happens to be most people. As a result he has done as he likes with Zimbabwe, wrecking the lives of most of its inhabitants. So far he has got away with it.
His ministers and his security chiefs are not necessarily evil people, though many of them have become corrupt through serving him. If it were not for him, most would probably be reasonable enough public servants. He dominates them utterly. They find themselves, one of his former ministers told me, tongue-tied and stupid in his presence. It is impossible to argue with him, even if anyone dared to do so.
So what can the outside world do about a man who ruins his own country and murders his own people, yet cannot apparently be dislodged from within? No-one is going to invade Zimbabwe, that is for sure. After all, it does not possess oil. South Africa, which could bring down Mr Mugabe through economic pressure if it chose, has clearly decided to do nothing of the sort.
In any decent, free society, the Mugabe government's actions would be regarded as a serious crime against human rights.
The entire resources of a once wealthy state have been used to enslave it and make it destitute.
Robert Mugabe has not done all this on his own. Without his ministers, his civil servants, his policemen and soldiers, his regime would collapse. Many 'illegal' street traders have come from rural areasThe outside world shows little serious interest in Zimbabwe, beyond indulging in occasional ritual condemnation of him.
France has moderately friendly relations with him still. And although the Catholic hierarchy in Zimbabwe has been among his bravest opponents, the Vatican still managed to give him international recognition by inviting him to the funeral of Pope John Paul II. If the international community cared about Zimbabwe, it would try the president and his senior officials in absentia for their crimes. This would be a salutary reminder that serving an octogenarian with no clear successor is a short-term and dangerous thing to do. The day of reckoning is coming closer.
There would be no shortage of evidence, from President Mugabe's appalling massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s right down to the present day. Short of a national uprising, there is probably no stopping Robert Mugabe, who has slaughtered so many of his people and ruined the lives of the rest.
But if his closest supporters understood that they would have to pay the price for his crimes, they might be less willing to

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Bishop condemns Harare evictions.

About 200,000 people have been made homeless, the UN says. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Harare has condemned the Zimbabwean government's policy of demolishing thousands of homes and businesses. Speaking to the BBC, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu described the move as "inhuman".
President Robert Mugabe's government says the houses and markets being demolished in the capital are illegal. But the opposition has accused the authorities of punishing the urban poor who voted against the ruling Zanu-PF party in elections earlier this year. The UN says some 200,000 Zimbabweans have been made homeless in the two-week clearance operation carried out by police.
Police say the demolitions are part of an operation to deal with illegal activities across the country. Some 30,000 people have been arrested.

Archbishop Ndlovu told BBC radio that both opposition and government supporters were suffering from the demolitions. Now people are sleeping in the open - there are small children there Archbishop Robert Ndlovu"The way the exercise was carried out was inhuman," he added.
"Bearing in mind this is the winter season in Zimbabwe, we felt that it was really inconsiderate.
"Now people are sleeping in the open - there are small children there." When the operation began last month police said those evicted would be taken to alternative accommodation.
But an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in Harare said people had nowhere to go.
The UN has demanded that Mr Mugabe stop the eviction operation, which it describes as a new form of "apartheid".
Zanu-PF won two thirds of the votes in a general election in March which the opposition says was rigged.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
On a clear and bright winter day this week, President Mugabe and his wife Grace emerged from a spotless and sparkling open topped black Rolls Royce outside Parliament buildings in Harare. Crowded at the fencing nearby were scores of women who ululated fanatically whenever they caught a glimpse of the President. They were all wearing skirts, dresses or head scarves which have President Mugabe's face printed on the fabric and so wherever we looked the President's face looked back. In his speech to mark the opening of Parliament, the President defended the countrywide destruction of squatter camps, informal housing and street vending stalls and markets.The President said this was a "vigorous clean up campaign to restore order" in urban areas. Half an hour later the President and his wife left in their convertible Rolls preceded and proceeded by shiny limousines containing men wearing dark glasses, ear pieces and black suits, and trucks filled with soldiers in yellow berets. The large chested women in their portrait decorated clothes left and that was the end of that view of Zimbabwe.Meanwhile, in the same week, same country and same town, a very different picture was being seen. I quote from the report by opposition MP Trudy Stevenson: "This afternoon police set fire to furniture and other belongings of those Hatcliffe Extension residents who had not yet managed to leave - despite the fact that there were not enough police lorries to ferry all the people away to Caledonia Farm by the time they started burning. My suspicion is that they simply got tired, and decided to finish quickly by burning out everyone remaining - babies, sick, elderly,crippled, etc. included. As I write, I have no idea how many people have lost everything they possessed, nor do I know what has happened to those people. It was reported that they were told by the police that they had taken too long to leave, and now they would have to go in the lorries simply in the clothes they were wearing, nothing else - no food, no clothes, no furniture."In another report, the chairman of the Harare Residents Association writes: "If you take a drive to the north tonight you will see on the side of the roads out towards Domboshawa, as many as 10 000 people just camping in the open." For three weeks now we have been surrounded by horror in Zimbabwe. Ordinary people have become helpless pawns, at the mercy of state officials who bundle them into lorries and take them away. It is happening in towns all over the country. Since the closure of Short Wave RadioAfrica 11 days ago, there has been no way for ordinary people to tell the world of the hell that is overtaking them. Night after night we despairingly search along the short wave frequencies hoping to hear what was our only voice but it is gone. We can find only religious channels or Chinese ones but our Zimbabwean voices are lost and we despair. If you are an exiled Zimbabwean or simply someone who cares please help give us back our voice. Until next week, the website is
Withlove, cathy
Copyright cathy buckle 11th June 2005http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books on the Zimbabwean crisis, "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" areavailable from: ; ; ; in Australia and New Zealand:; Africa:

Friday, June 10, 2005




Chad refugees face water shortage.
By Martin Plaut BBC News, Abeche, Chad

Last year's poor rainfall has contributed to the problem. Camps housing 200,000 Sudanese refugees who fled to eastern Chad to escape the fighting in Darfur are running critically short of water. In some camps, water supplies to the refugees are already being reduced. With the rains only expected in about six weeks' time, aid agencies are now increasingly worried about how they will keep the refugees supplied. The camps strung out along the Chad Sudan border are swelteringly hot at this time of the year.

Temperatures regularly reach over 50C in the shade and there is precious little of that in this desolate semi-arid region. Oxfam is responsible for providing water to the refugees and now has made the difficult decision to cut supplies at Am Nabak, a camp housing 16,500 refugees. A spokesman for Oxfam, Frederick Fedida, says they can now only provide a third of the internationally recognised standard of water supplies. That is just five litres a day for cooking, drinking and washing. Oxfam is conducting an urgent search for alternative supplies until the rains can replenish the wells that this region relies on.


Eyewitness: Zimbabwe demolitions.

Thousands of homes have been demolished in Zimbabwe's cities.The Zimbabwean government has demolished the homes and businesses of at least 200,000 people as part of a plan to evict street traders and demolish illegal townships in the country's cities, according to the UN.
The government says the move is needed to clean up the cities but some feel it is punishment for areas which voted for the opposition. BBC Radio 4's Today programme broadcast this interview with a former resident of one of the townships, identified only as Memory.

I woke up in the morning around 6 o'clock and soon realised that the police were there and armed with AK-47's.
They had come armed to evict a defenceless people.
I asked them only one question - "Why are you doing this?"
They replied "Only the President can answer that question - go to him."
They came and destroyed my house and right now I am on the street with my children.
My daughters are only eight and four years old and now they are sleeping on the roadside.
There is no sanitation and no water and they ask me: "Dad - what is going on? When are we going home?"
It was too painful for me to answer that question.
I had lived in the township for five years and we were paying rates to the local authorities.
My neighbours are all crying - everyone is crying. Some of them have even decided to take their own lives.
I've got nowhere to go and no money. My kids are crying for food and are looking at me.
When I look at my children, the tears flow from my eyes.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Arrests follow Ethiopian deaths.

Many of the dead and injured had gunshot wounds.Ethiopia has put an opposition leader and his deputy under house arrest hours after clashes in the capital city left 22 dead, an EU observer has reported. Hailu Shawul heads the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), which denies organising student protests in Addis Ababa at alleged election fraud.

State radio blamed Wednesday's violence on "gangsters" while a government minister blamed the CUD directly. The EU's observer urged the government not to harass the opposition. Addis Ababa has seen three days of street protests at the ruling party's alleged massive use of fraud at the polls.

Final results have not been announced three weeks after the parliamentary election as reports of the fraud are investigated. EU observers have voiced concern over irregular vote counting and biased reports by the state-owned media.




Parts of the body fell as the flight lowered its wheels for landing. Parts of a man's body have fallen onto a New York home from a South African Airways aeroplane as it approached John F Kennedy airport. A leg, with a shoe, and part of the torso fell into a woman's garden, making "a very loud bang". Police believe the man stowed onto the flight when it landed in Senegal.
More human remains were found in the aircraft's wheel-well, which is not heated or pressurised, so chances of surviving a long flight are negligible. "The remains of a human body was discovered upon landing in New York. We presume this person got on board in Dakar," said SAA's Onkgopotse Tabane. The body parts fell onto Pam Hearne's garage and then landed on the grass. "It was very blackened, as if it had been charred," she said, New York's Daily News newspaper reports.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters told AP news agency that the plane would have started lowering its landing gear over Ms Hearne's home in Long Island, some eight kilometres from the airport. It appears the body was crushed by the wheel mechanism as it opened its gears. "I am very glad I live where I do, so I don't have to run for my life like this man probably was doing," Ms Hearne said, AP reports. SAA say the return flight to Dakar and Johannesburg has been delayed in order to repair the minor damage to the aircraft.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005



Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Ure unveils tartan Live 8 line-up.

Travis are among the acts confirmed to play the event.
Travis, Texas and Ronan Keating are among the acts who will perform at the Live 8 concert in Edinburgh.
The free Murrayfield show has been timed to coincide with the Long Walk to Justice rally in the city on 6 July. Organiser Midge Ure dismissed fears the event could attract trouble and predicted it would be a party rather than "a dreadful situation". The line-up includes Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield, The Thrills, Dido, McFly, Damon Albarn, Embrace and Snow Patrol.
Wet Wet Wet, The Proclaimers, Jamie Cullum, The Zutons, Youssou N'Dour and Annie Lennox will also play.
Midge Ure is organising a rally and concert in Edinburgh. People will be able to apply for tickets by text message. Ure and fellow organiser Geldof, the men behind the 1980s Live Aid campaign, plan a series of international concerts on 2 July as part of their call to world leaders for renewed action on global poverty. They chose Edinburgh as the final destination for the Long Walk to Justice on 6 July, the first day of the Gleneagles G8 summit. Geldof has called for a million people to descend on the city for the rally, but Ure told Tuesday's media conference that he did not think the number would be that high.
"We've no idea who's going to come, what's going to come, but we know the type of people who will come," he said.


Bush and Blair in Africa pledge.

Mr Blair's trip was to prepare the way for the G8 summit. US President George W Bush has said he is working with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to eliminate debt in African countries that are committed to reform. At a joint news conference, Mr Bush also pledged $674m (£350m) to fight hunger in Africa, although aid groups say that is a "drop in the ocean".
The US commitment stops short of the debt relief plan Mr Blair is seeking ahead of July's G8 summit in Scotland. He hopes Mr Bush will ultimately offer a lot more, says the BBC's Andrew Marr. Mr Blair has expressed optimism about securing extra support for his plan to convince rich countries to add to their existing contributions - and help raise an extra $25bn (£13.5bn) in African aid. To lower the ambition at this critical stage, would be seen by many as a betrayal of Africa "I think we are well on the way" to agreement on that, said Mr Blair, on his first trip to Washington since winning a third term in office last month.
The prime minister said thousands of children were dying every day in Africa from preventable diseases. "It's our duty to act, and we will," he said. But he said Africa's leaders had to show a commitment to democracy and fighting corruption. "It's not a something for nothing deal," Mr Blair said. Mr Bush said the US had already tripled aid to Africa since he came to office.




Zimbabwe police in strike warning.

Some 200,000 have been left homeless. Police in Zimbabwe have warned they will take tough action against a general strike due to be held on Thursday and Friday. A police spokesman said they would deal "ruthlessly" with those who take part. Extra forces have been deployed to suppress protests. The strike call has come from a previously unknown group, the Broad Alliance. It says it has been organising street protests against the current slum clearance programme. Some 30,000 people have been arrested, and homes and businesses destroyed, in a two-week government campaign. The United Nations says 200,000 have been made homeless.
The authorities said the operation was designed to clean-up Zimbabwe's urban areas, but it has been heavily criticised by church groups and opposition parties. On Friday, the UN demanded that President Robert Mugabe stop the evictions, which it describes as a new form of "apartheid". Miloon Kothari, a UN expert on the right to adequate housing, said the clearances sought to banish the poor from the capital, Harare, turning it into a preserve of the wealthy classes.
He warned that two to three million people - roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe's population - could be affected if the eviction drive continued. "Where do they go back to?" he said. "There is no resettlement being offered, no compensation being offered for the properties that have been destroyed."
Lobby group Amnesty International has called for an end to the demolitions, which some are calling a "tsunami".

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Malawi accused of tear gas trade. By Matthew Chapman BBC News

Tear gas has proved deadly in Zimbabwe. Britain faces embarrassment over claims that Malawi, a major recipient of UK aid, is involved in flouting Western sanctions in supplying the Zimbabwean police force with tear gas. The tear gas has been linked to at least 11 deaths, including those of five babies during a single incident in Zimbabwe. The BBC has learnt from diplomatic sources that the Department for International Development (Dfid) has launched investigations into the allegations. But Dfid has denied the claim and the Malawian government said the allegations were "malicious".
Reports from human rights organisations say tear gas has been in use in the last two weeks in Zimbabwe as police arrested 22,000 people as part of what they say is a crackdown on illegal traders. The worst recorded incident occurred last September.
Eleven people were killed when Zimbabwe riot police moved in to evict what was claimed to be an illegal settlement numbering up to 15,000 people in Porta Farm on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. It is thought to be the largest-ever number of deaths attributed to tear gas.
In several sworn affidavits given to human rights investigators, residents describe how police began firing tear gas canisters into their homes. One man was eating porridge in his courtyard with a friend when a canister landed.
"Three tear gas canisters were fired and exploded within the yard causing everyone to shed tears and coughing," he said. I ran for my life and left him inside the house. Upon my return I found him dead. "His body was at the door - maybe he was trying to come out for free air."
Among the deaths reported to local police were those of five babies under the age of one, including a baby only one day old. The UK led the way in getting the European Union and the US to impose a ban on sales of tear gas to Zimbabwe in 2002 after the police were implicated in a pattern of human rights abuses. Zimbabwe police still obtain tear gas despite a ban on sales.
However, the Zimbabwe police have continued to obtain stocks of tear gas. A British diplomatic source has told the BBC there is increasing evidence pointing to the involvement of near-neighbour Malawi in a trade in tear gas which has close links to Zimbabwe.
Fears were first raised last year when the Foreign Office learned that the Malawian government was in the process of buying £500,000 ($907,000) of tear gas. Such a large order from a country which ranks as the 10th poorest in the world rang alarm bells, said the source, who would not be named because of his close association with Dfid. "The Malawian police would only ever need a tiny amount to use in riots and demonstrations, so the idea of them buying such huge quantities of it threw the Dfid people into a bit of a panic," he said. It is understood the British High Commissioner to Malawi wrote a letter to the government complaining about the purchase. The Foreign Office has refused to comment. British officers have helped to train Malawian police in the use of tear gas and the UK department has spent more than £30m ($54m) on the Malawian police and courts system. Although it is not thought that any British aid money was directly involved in the purchase, local Dfid staff apparently fear the Malawian government may be using "backfilling".
The practice involves the diversion of the government's own money earmarked for development projects followed by the use of British aid money to fill the financial void.
Amnesty backs claims Human rights group Amnesty International has backed up the claims by issuing a statement saying that it has also gathered evidence of an operation which in effect breached Western sanctions. The group says it has received "recent reports" that tear gas has been stocked in Malawi ready for supply to Zimbabwe. Amnesty is calling on several governments including the UK and US to launch an inquiry into the claims.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Atomic ticker clocks up 50 years.

Dr Louis Essen developed the first atomic clock 50 years ago. The time-keeping device that governs all aspects of our lives, the atomic clock, is celebrating its 50th year. The first atomic clock, which uses the resonance frequencies of atoms to keep extremely precise time, was born at the UK's National Physical Laboratory.

Atomic clocks form the standard for Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which governs legal time-keeping globally. The clocks are vital for rafts of technologies, such as global satellite navigation, and TV signal timings. Precise and accurate time-keeping is also essential for other synchronised events, such as the distribution and management of electricity, and financial transactions across the globe.
Even London's Big Ben relies on atomic clocks to keep it right. The first accurate caesium atomic clock was developed at the NPL in 1955 by Dr Louis Essen.

Cathy's letter from Zimbabwe


Saturday 4th June 2005.
Dear Family and Friends,
For the last five years the Zimbabwe government have insisted that there has not been a breakdown of law and order in the country. As the critics talked of anarchy, a partisan police force and widespread lawlessness, the government repeatedly disputed the claims saying they were all lies, damned racist, colonialist lies. It is ironic that now, as Zimbabwe's horizons are obscured by the smoke from a thousand fires, the police and government say they are simply" restoring order" to Zimbabwe. Hello, did I miss something here?
All everyone can think about and talk about is the massive destruction, the smoke that fills our skies and the multitudes of people who have been affected. There continue to be TV pictures of bulldozers knocking down brick houses. There are heart breaking, eye witness reports of families sitting in the filth, dust and rubble of what used to be their homes. All week there have been people desperately trying to save what they can of their lives. People carrying planks, boards, sheets of tin, bundles of plastic - the things that were their homes.Everywhere people are desperately looking for somewhere to sleep, somewhere out of the cold to shelter, somewhere to store their belongings. The police tell them to go back where they came from, to go back to the rural areas. It is ironic that these are the same rural areas that the government said were so overcrowded five years ago that the congestion was used to explain the seizure of 95% of the country's commercial farms.
I remember writing a letter like this about two years ago when I described newly evicted commercial farmers driving around in lorries filled with their furniture, desperately looking for somewhere to stay. Then it was self employed white commercial farmers whose lives, homes and jobs were being destroyed, now it is self employed black family traders.
First they came for the farmers.Then they came for the judges.Then they came for the opposition.Then they came for the media.Then they came for the traders.Next ???.........................
So few are left. Until next week, with love, cathy.



Friday, June 03, 2005


Dark dining for Cape Town's blind. The meal helped the sighted understand life for blind people. South Africa's Cape Town Society for the Blind has held a fund-raising dinner with a difference - there were no lights, so guests ate in the dark.

The idea was to highlight what life was like for blind people. "It was a humbling experience," she said. "I ate the entire meal with my hands because I could not use my knife and fork in the dark." Some 50 guests took part in the haute cuisine meal, served by blind waiters.


HIV 'set to infect 90m Africans'

The UN says the worst is yet to come with the Aids epidemicNearly 90 million Africans could be infected by HIV in the next 20 years if more is not done to combat the epidemic, the UN has warned.

Some 25 million Africans have HIV, which causes Aids, at present. The world body estimates the next two decades could see 89 million new cases of the disease in Africa - or up to 10% of the continent's population.




Guilty verdict in SA graft case. Shaik is due to be sentenced on Friday. A financial adviser to South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been found guilty of fraud and corruption.
Schabir Shaik was found guilty by the Durban High Court of two counts of corruption and one of fraud. Analysts say the verdict raises the possibility of criminal charges against Mr Zuma, who is seen as a favourite to succeed President Thabo Mbeki.
The judgement, read out over three days, paid close attention to Shaik's business relationship with Mr Zuma. The BBC's Barnaby Phillips in Johannesburg says many South Africans believe this is the country's most important trial since the end of apartheid. The 165-page judgement was broadcast live as it was read out over three days. An excited crowd surrounded TV monitors placed outside the court to hear the verdict, which was greeted with gasps of surprise.
Zuma has condemned the 'trial by media'Our correspondent says although Mr Zuma was not on trial, the verdict could be devastating for his political ambitions. "All of [Shaik's] companies had been used at one time or another to pay Jacob Zuma in contravention of... the Corruption Act," Judge Squires said. "The evidence... clearly shows a readiness in both Shaik to turn to Zuma for help and Zuma's readiness to give it," he added. The opposition Democratic Alliance says it will now table a motion of no-confidence in Mr Zuma.
But our correspondent says he has powerful friends within the ANC enjoys the support of the trade union movement and his fellow Zulu people. The cohesion of the ANC and the strength of South Africa's democratic institutions will now be severely tested, he says.
Shaik is on bail pending sentencing, which is expected on Friday.
Makhosini Nkosi, spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, declined to say whether the deputy president would be prosecuted. But he said the verdict vindicated the NPA's decision to prosecute an often controversial case. "The national director of public prosecutions will need time to consider the judgement and whether anything is to be said about it - that will be done," Mr Nkosi said in an impromptu press briefing on the courthouse steps.
The Shaik trial stems from an investigation headed by the then chief prosecutor, Bulelani Ngcuka, who said in 2003 that while there was prima facie evidence against Mr Zuma, he would not press charges against him since he was not sure that there was "a winnable case".
Mr Zuma has angrily condemned his "trial by media" and said he had been denied the chance to clear his name in court.
The South African government has issued a statement in reaction to the verdict, acknowledging that "there may be a number of implications, for government, arising out of the judgement [but] this is a matter that will require considered reflection by relevant legal and political authorities". "With regard to the deputy president in particular, he has himself indicated that he was studying the judgement before making any detailed comment," the statement said.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Thousands held in Zimbabwe blitz.

Thousands have been left homeless. More than 22,000 people have been arrested in the recent crackdown on Zimbabwe's shantytowns, a police spokesman has told state media. He said some of those made homeless when their shacks were demolished in the capital, Harare, were being sent back to their rural homes. Residents and riot police clashed overnight in the second city, Bulawayo. Meanwhile, the head of the World Food Programme has discussed Zimbabwe's food needs with President Robert Mugabe. Millions of people are suffering from food shortages and Mr Mugabe told James Morris he would "welcome" food aid, Mr Morris said.
Fuel shortages make it difficult for people to leave the cities Last year, Mr Mugabe asked the WFP to scale down its operations, saying Zimbabweans had so much food, "they were choking".
Mr Mugabe's critics say the shortages have been caused by his seizure of white-owned land.
He denies this, blaming the weather and a Western plot to remove him from power. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said that the crackdown had created overnight, "a massive internal refugee population in its urban areas."
"Property worth millions of dollars has gone up in flames. Families are out in the open - without jobs, without income, without shelter without support," said the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, which gets most of its support from urban areas. The government says it is trying to reduce crime and clean up the Zimbabwe's cities. Market vendors and local residents fought with police for more than two hours in Bulawayo's Makholkhoba suburb on Tuesday night, after their stalls had been demolished. Scores of people were injured. The crackdown on illegal settlements in Harare and other cities has led to a huge increase in rents of up to 300%, reports the state-run Herald newspaper.
Market stalls have been set on fire and shacks knocked down with sledgehammers. "We have so far arrested a total of 22,735 people and recovered 33.5kg of gold from 47 illegal gold panners and 26,000 litres of fuel," said Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena. Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be homeless following a police operation in several cities that began last week. But fuel shortages are making it difficult for people to travel to rural areas and escape the crackdown.
The National Pastors' Conference called on the government to "engage in a war against poverty and not against the poor".