Sunday, April 23, 2006



Saturday, April 22, 2006


Brazil meets oil needs with rig.
By Steve Kingstone BBC News, Sao Paulo.

Brazil now expects to become a net oil exporter. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has opened a vast new oil rig which will enable the country to be self-sufficient in oil production.
Costing more than $600 million (£337m), the platform will generate 180,000 barrels a day. The total amount of oil produced by Brazil now exceeds the amount consumed by its people. In the past, South America's largest country had been painfully dependent on imported oil. Friday's opening of the rig was greeted with some patriotic fanfare. For decades Brazil relied on other countries to supply it with oil - a dependency that proved disastrous during the two oil shocks of the 1970s. Then, as prices soared, the Brazilian government had to borrow heavily to meet its energy needs, triggering a destructive cycle of debt and inflation.

Against that backdrop, Friday's opening of the rig off the coast of Rio de Janeiro is being seen as a major step forward in the nation's development. Dressed in orange overalls, Lula personally flipped the switch to start production. As the flow began, the president gleefully drenched his hands in Brazilian oil. The state-controlled energy company, Petrobras, says the new rig will increase national production to 1.9m barrels of oil a day - slightly more than the quantity Brazil consumes. Self-sufficiency is quite an achievement for a country that only discovered off-shore oil 30 years ago.

And with global prices on Friday hitting $75 a barrel, it has come at an opportune moment. "It's an extraordinary achievement, a privilege only a few countries have," Lula said. Looking ahead, Brazil now hopes to become a net exporter of oil, taking advantage of deep-sea drilling technology that is considered some of the best in the world.


Bengali hero's remains given back.
By Zaffar Abbas BBC News, Islamabad.

Rehman was given the highest Bangladeshi gallantry award. Pakistan has agreed to hand over to Bangladesh the remains of a Bengali air force officer after 35 years. Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rehman, now a decorated war hero in Bangladesh, died in August 1971. He was killed while trying to fly away with a Pakistan air force jet, just before Bangladesh's independence. The move follows a formal request from Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia during a recent visit to Islamabad, the foreign office told the BBC. Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson Tasneem Aslam called it a goodwill gesture, but declined to comment on the tricky issue which was linked to the Bengali air officer's role in the struggle for the creation of Bangladesh. An official of Bangladesh's High Commission in Islamabad said arrangements were being finalised to take Rehman's remains to Dhaka, but did not give any date.

Rehman was a flight lieutenant in the Pakistani air force when he attempted to hijack a jet aircraft during a training flight. Pakistan has always maintained that the trainee pilot, Rashid Minhas, prevented the attempted hijacking, which resulted in the aircraft crashing shortly before leaving Pakistani airspace on 20 August, 1971. Both Rehman and Minhas were killed. Minhas was immediately decorated with Pakistan's highest gallantry award, the Nishan-e-Haider, and Rehman declared a traitor. But as East Pakistan became Bangladesh in December 1971 after the country's war with India, the newly independent state declared Rehman as one of its war heroes.

He was decorated with Bangladesh's highest military honour - the Bir Sreshtho. Once the remains are taken back to Dhaka, they will be buried with full military honours, the Bangladesh high commission official said.



Iran's military plans are a matter of concern to Washington. Washington has asked Moscow to reconsider selling Iran anti-aircraft missiles as the crisis over its nuclear programme continues.
Russia plans to sell Tehran 29 TOR M1 mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems in a deal said to be worth about US $700 million (£392m).
"This is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government," a top US state department official said. The US also urged other states like China to review defence sales to Iran.
"There are a lot of countries that allow the export of dual-use technologies, and the position of the United States is that should be prohibited," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. This is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government
Nicholas BurnsUS undersecretary of state
"All countries should refrain from military sales and arm sales."
Speaking about the Russian missiles, he said:
"We hope and we trust that that deal will not go forward because this is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government."
Russia and China are both strongly resisting attempts to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran, which the US and other Western states believes is pursuing nuclear weapons.
The US arms appeal is a sign of increasing concern in Washington at the speed with which Iran is pursuing its programme, the BBC's Jonathan Beale reports from Washington.
New report
Russia says it has to see concrete proof that Iran's nuclear programme - which it is supplying with technology - is not peaceful.

IAEA POSITION - In resolutions on Iran the IAEA has said:
There is an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes"
Iran had failed to meet obligations on reporting of nuclear activities, and had a "policy of concealment"
The agency was "still not in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran"
IAEA resolution
The UN's position is that so far no proof has emerged that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons but nor has Iran proved that it is not.
The UN Security Council is awaiting a report from Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), next week.
Tehran has defied UN calls to stop nuclear activity, saying last week it had successfully enriched uranium.
However it denies any nuclear weapons plans, saying it wants nuclear power only for energy purposes.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said on Friday Tehran would "continue its full co-operation" with the body.
But the IAEA says Iran has not co-operated fully, and one of its senior inspectors has called off a visit to the country that was supposed to have taken place on Friday.


Cardinal backs limited condom use

Cardinal Martini is one of the Church's most prominent leaders. One of the Roman Catholic Church's most distinguished cardinals has publicly backed the use of condoms among married couples to prevent Aids transmission. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said that in couples where one had HIV/Aids, which could pass to the partner, the use of condoms was "a lesser evil". The Vatican says condoms should never be used, even to stop Aids spreading from one married partner to another. The Church teaches that abstinence is the best way to tackle disease.

Cardinal Martini, who used to be Archbishop of Milan, made the comments in an interview with the Italian weekly magazine l'Espresso. In it he says that the fight against Aids, which has caused more than three million deaths, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, must be pursued by all available means. The Vatican has made no official comment on the article, in which the cardinal also raises the possibility of single mothers adopting abandoned children.

But the BBC's David Willey in Rome says that such matters are an increasingly important subject of discussion in Church circles. According to insistent reports, Cardinal Martini was a close runner-up in last year's papal election.


Alberto Gonzales says child pornography is widespread online. The Bush administration is pushing for tougher measures to combat child pornography online. The proposals were announced by US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, who said that the net had created an "epidemic" of child pornography. He said the internet encouraged paedophiles to create "new and increasingly vulgar material". The comments were made in a speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia. Mr Gonzales highlighted the problem of adults preying on children in chat rooms and networking sites with the purpose of making sexual contact. He quoted a study that said one in every five children is solicited online. "It is simply astonishing how many predators there are, and how aggressive they act," he said.

In his speech, Mr Gonzales also detailed examples of graphic sexual and physical abuse investigated by the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It included what he described as "molestation on demand", where a child is abused as others watch live through streaming video. Some of the offences were committed abroad but viewed by people in the US. New technology such as file-sharing meant that law enforcement agencies are no longer able to control child pornography. "Sadly, the internet age has created a vicious cycle in which child pornography continually becomes more widespread, more graphic, more sadistic, using younger and younger children," he said.

In response, he announced proposed changes in the law under the Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006. The proposals have been sent to Congress and include new laws that will require ISPs to report child pornography and bolster penalties for those companies that fail to do so. Mr Gonzales also said that he is also investigating ways to ensure that ISPs retain records of a user's web activities to track down offenders. "The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of internet service providers," he said. "Unfortunately, the failure of some internet service providers to keep records has hampered our ability to conduct investigations in this area."

In the UK some ISP's have already taken the initiative on this issue. Companies like BT already block access to sites it believes contain child pornography. The telecoms giant says that its servers block 35,000 attempts to view child porn each day.


Friday, April 21, 2006


Charles's tribute

Prince Charles has paid tribute to his "darling Mama" on her 80th birthday. The "proud and loving son" thanked The Queen for the "many wonderful qualities she has brought to almost an entire lifetime of service and dedication". The message was broadcast ahead of a private black-tie dinner for The Queen and close family at Kew Palace. The event, which began with fireworks, marked the climax of the celebrations. Earlier The Queen met thousands of well-wishers at a walkabout in Windsor. The Queen and Prince Philip arrived at Kew Palace in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, west London, for the birthday dinner at about 2000 BST.

The Queen, Prince Philip
The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Prince Harry
The Duke of York, Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice
The Earl and Countess of Wessex
The Princess Royal, Rear Admiral Tim Laurence, Peter and Zara Phillips
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (Queen's cousin and spouse)
The Duke and Duchess of Kent (cousin and spouse)
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent (cousin and spouse)
Princess Alexandra (cousin)
Viscount and Viscountess Linley (nephew and spouse)
Lady Sarah Chatto and Mr Daniel Chatto (niece and spouse)

The Queen and her guests enjoyed a three-course dinner which included delicacies from the Royal estates. Hebridean smoked salmon, Juniper-roast loin of Sandringham Estate venison and birthday chocolate sponge cake filled with a Highgrove fruit filling, were among the delights. Along with immediate family members, others in attendance at the dinner include The Queen's cousins, niece and nephew. Prince of Wales, Camilla and Prince Harry were the first to arrive, followed by the late Princess Margaret's children, Lady Sarah Chatto and Viscount Linley Chatto and their spouses. Prince William, accompanied by his cousin Zara Phillips, turned up next as scores of schoolchildren waving Union flags cheered.

In his message, which was broadcast on TV and radio, Charles reminisced about life in the royal household as he was growing up and wished his mother the "happiest of birthdays". Ahead of the Coronation, he said, he had vivid memories "of my mother coming to say goodnight to my sister and me while wearing the crown so that she could get used to its weight". She has shown the most remarkable steadfastness and fortitude, always remaining a figure of reassuring calm and dependability.

The heir to the throne also spoke about his separation from his parents as a child while they were away on overseas tours in the 1950s and his joy at being reunited with them. "I remember too the excitement of being reunited with our parents when my sister and I sailed out in the then-brand new yacht Britannia, to meet them off Tobruk at the Commonwealth Coronation Tour in 1954 - a tour that had lasted over six months and taken in 13 countries," he said. He concluded: "There is no doubt that the world in which my mother grew up and, indeed, the world in which she first became Queen, has changed beyond all recognition. "But during all those years she has shown the most remarkable steadfastness and fortitude, always remaining a figure of reassuring calm and dependability - an example to so many of service, duty and devotion in a world of sometimes bewildering change and disorientation."

BBC News royal correspondent June Kelly said it was interesting he focused on his mother's absences abroad, because relations between the pair had been strained and Charles had reportedly said she had been remote. The prince was "given to introspection and he would have put an awful lot of thought into this", she added. "But at the end of the day it is just a very warm tribute to a mother on this landmark birthday."

Earlier, Charles thanked well-wishers at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, which he was officially reopening after a £1.2m refurbishment. During the informal walkabout in Windsor, the band of the Irish Guards played Happy Birthday and crowds of about 20,000 cheered. The Queen - dressed in a vibrant pink coat and hat - accepted gifts, cards and flowers as she and Prince Philip walked around the town for 45 minutes. The crowd unfurled Union Jacks and birthday banners over police security barriers.

Earlier in the day, some 300 well-wishers in New Zealand, the first Commonwealth country to celebrate the Queen's 80th, spelt out: "EIIR 80" on Government House's lawn, in Wellington. Also among the birthday messages was a special visual tribute from 500 crew members of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, who lined up in formation to spell out 'Happy 80th'.
And the Queen thanked the 40,000 or so people who had sent her cards and e-mails, saying they had helped make the day a "special one". The Queen's birthday present from the Cabinet was a china tea set made by Spode pottery in Staffordshire. The prime minister's official spokesman said Buckingham Palace had indicated it was "something the Queen specifically would like".


US protocol crumbles on Hu visit
By Jonathan Beale
BBC News, Washington

It seemed to be going so well. Chinese President Hu Jintao had arrived in the other Washington - State, not DC - happily adapting to his role as the leader of a new global power.

Secret Service officer covers the mouth of protester Wenyi Wang
Secret Service staff quickly moved to hush the protester

Even his reserve and awkwardness appeared to fade as he rubbed shoulders with the chairman and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates. The world's new "big spender" with the world's richest man.

President Hu was warmly embraced by the staff of Boeing - buoyed by his promises to buy more of their planes. He even donned a baseball cap!

Was this a sign that these two great countries' mutual suspicions were melting away?

Even the White House had appeared to throw caution to the wind.

Okay, this was not the official state visit that the Chinese government had wanted, but when President Hu arrived in Washington DC he still received a 21-gun salute, a guard of honour and marching bands - all witnessed by every senior figure of the Bush administration.

Blacked out

But it then all unravelled. The Chinese may have been willing to overlook the foul-up as their National Anthem was introduced as that of "the Republic of China" - the other name for Taiwan - the part of China that has rebelled and broken away from the mainland and sought security from the United States.

But to have their president's speech interrupted by not just a protester, but one from the banned quasi-religious group Falun Gong, would have been difficult to swallow.

In Beijing, television screens showing the BBC and CNN went to black as the cameras focused on Wang Wenyi shouting out "President Hu, your days are numbered".

President Bush apologised to his Chinese guest for this unfortunate incident - but it showed the gulf that remains between these two countries.

The Falun Gong protester was only reflecting a wider disgust in Washington over China's human rights record.

And American concerns are not just confined to that one issue.

Republicans and Democrats are worried about the growing trade imbalance.

The Bush administration wants China to play a more active role in confronting the threat from Iran and North Korea's nuclear programme.

President Hu may in the end feel he got what he came for - a show of respect from the world's only superpower for the new kid on the block.

But discussions between the two leaders failed to produce anything concrete and the United States is still uncertain as to whether China will live up to its challenge of becoming a "responsible stakeholder" in the international community.

Relations may have improved - but there is still a lack of trust.

That one protester may have done everyone a favour by reminding us that China and America - whatever their common interests - are still poles apart.



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Queen celebrates 80th at Windsor.

Some of the crowd sang to the Queen as she stopped to chatThe Queen has met thousands of wellwishers at an informal walkabout in Windsor, on her 80th birthday. The band of the Irish Guards played Happy Birthday and the crowd cheered as she emerged from Windsor Castle. The Queen - dressed in a vibrant pink coat and hat - accepted gifts, cards and flowers as she and Prince Philip walked around the town for 45 minutes.

Later she will join her family for a private dinner to be hosted by Prince Charles at Kew Palace. The Queen earlier thanked the thousands of people who sent her cards and messages. They had helped make the day a "special one", she said. I have been very touched by what you have written and would like to express my gratitude.

Buckingham Palace said the Queen had received 20,000 cards and 17,000 e-mails - sent via her 80th-birthday website. She said: "I would like to thank the many thousands of people from this country and overseas who have sent me cards and messages on my 80th birthday. "I have been very touched by what you have written and would like to express my gratitude to you all."



Thursday, April 20, 2006


In pictures: Swiss advert

The Swiss Tourist Board hopes scenes of bare-chested hunks tossing hay in mountain valleys will entice women dreading a summer of World Cup boredom. While husbands are glued to television sets, Switzerland has a whole lot more to offer, suggests the TV advert. A swarthy mountaineer gives a steamy look, while Mr Switzerland 2005 gently milks a cow's udders and a voice asks: "Ladies, why don't you spend this summer in Switzerland, where men focus less on football and more on you?"

Switzerland Tourism spokesman Oliver Kerstholt says the advertisement for the Alternative Ladies' Programme is not, of course, encouraging ladies to play away from home during the action in Germany. "As our neighbouring country is hosting the World Cup, we thought what can we do to benefit?" he told the BBC News website. "Mostly men will be interested in the games going on, so we thought: let's focus on the women who, in general, tend to be less interested in soccer." So Switzerland Tourism has a variety of offers tailored for "football widows" - from golf sessions and glacier adventures to relaxing weekend breaks and shopping.

Mr Kerstholt says the advertisement was intended for television but it has already attracted interest from around the world, despite only having been broadcast on the internet. For those planning a family holiday over the World Cup period, one firm advertising on the tourist board's website aims to cater for all: "While dad watches the football World Cup, mum enjoys the delights of a massage and the kids set off in search of Zwerg Bartli the dwarf." An added bonus is that "every time the German or Swiss team scores a goal each hotel guest is treated to a glass of champagne and for every win the reward is a whole bottle of champagne".

And there is the one potential hiccup - the Swiss team has actually qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1994, so Swiss beefcakes may have other things on their mind after all.
But there is always Swiss chocolate.



Attacks by the militants has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25. %Nigerian militants have claimed responsibility for exploding a car bomb at an army barracks in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt. Two people died in the attack a day after the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta renewed its threat to target oil installations. On Wednesday, Mend rejected plans announced by President Olusegun Obasanjo to develop the Niger Delta. The militants are demanding more local control of the region's oil wealth. In recent months there has been an upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests which have cut the country's oil production by 20%. This has cost Nigeria millions of dollars of lost revenue and helped to drive up world oil prices.

In a statement, Mend said the attack which killed two people and critically injured six more on Wednesday night "was symbolic rather than strategic". The group said the attack was a warning to the Nigerian military and the oil companies in the area and proved that the Nigerian military was incapable of protecting itself, let alone protecting the oil industry. "We suddenly heard one heavy bang and saw fire shoot up and everybody fled," nearby witness Tekena Lawson told AP news agency.

The shadowy oil militants

Military spokesman Maj Sagir Musa said explosives were placed in a Mercedes car parked inside the barracks and were detonated by remote control. He said a number of civilians on the base were caught in the blast but he said no military personnel were hurt. The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the use of a car bomb by militants is new. Most previous militant attacks have been carried out among the creeks of the Niger Delta, not inside a major city like Port Harcourt.
It is also the first time Mend has claimed responsibility for an operation in the eastern Niger Delta. So far, their attacks have been confined to the west, our correspondent says. Recently the militants announced it would stop taking hostages and use different tactics in its campaign to gain greater local control of the area's oil wealth.

Mend says the government's development plan announced this week was trying to remedy 50 years of injustice with the promise of menial jobs. The oil militants rejected President Obasanjo's development planAt the first meeting of a council set up to speed up development in the Niger Delta, President Obasanjo promised thousands more jobs and a $1.8bn (£1bn) motorway project for the oil-rich region. Despite being home to Nigeria's oil industry for more than 50 years, there is acute poverty in the Delta. Our reporter says the militants' grievances were not addressed at the meeting. Although there have been promises of development in the past, few have become reality, he says. In recent months, Mend have kidnapped foreign oil workers and warned them to leave the Delta. Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil exporter.


Kizza Besigye is accused of working with the LRA rebels. The star prosecution witness in the treason trial of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has appeared in court, scotching reports she had fled. Jennifer Aryemo said she needed an operation on her left ear and may need a hearing aid. Correspondents say this raised laughter in court, following accusations she was being coached via an earpiece hidden under a wig and a headscarf. Dr Besigye denies meeting rebels and says the charges are political.

Judge Vincent Kagaba, who on Wednesday gave prosecutors a day to produce their witness in court, warned Ms Aryemo, 34, that she would have to return to finish her testimony. "If you stop at this stage, your evidence will be treated as useless," he said. Deputy Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Simon Byabakama Mugenyi asked for an apology from the defence lawyers who had said Ms Aryemo had fled the country. She has told the court that Dr Besigye had sent her to meet the Lord's Resistance Army rebels in 2001.

After defence accusations she was being coached last week, the judge ordered her not to wear her "mountainous headgear" the next time she appeared in the witness stand. Earlier this month, Dr Besigye lost an appeal against his election defeat to President Yoweri Museveni in February. Last month, a judge dismissed rape charges against him, saying the prosecution case had been "crude and amateurish".



The Queen has met a host of BBC stars at Broadcasting House in central London on the day before her birthday. The monarch chatted to broadcasters including Sir Terry Wogan, John Humphrys and Chris Moyles. Earlier, she heard a debate about world politics during a visit to the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House. Both organisations were granted their royal charters in 1926, the same year the Queen was born. The visits come on the day an official photograph of the Queen by Lord Snowdon was released to mark her 80th birthday. The Queen has been celebrating her birthday with a variety of events spread over the week.

The Queen wore a dark blue suit and hat for her visits on Thursday.Sir Terry said afterwards he had been asked by the Queen how long he had worked for the BBC. "I said the old joke, I have never worked here, Ma'am, I haven't worked for 40 years," he said. He joked: "There was a long line of presenters and as she came in she first went over to Radio One, and I must say full marks to her for pretending to know who they were." He added that the Queen was also shown a copy of the royal charter during her tour of Broadcasting House, the home of BBC radio. Mr Humphrys, presenter of Radio Four's Today programme, said afterwards he had quizzed the Queen as to why Cuba's leader, who is also soon to be 80, was not among birthday guests at Buckingham Palace.
"I suggested it was a bit mean not to invite Fidel Castro to the Palace because he's 80 as well and she didn't seem to think it was a very good idea," he said. Radio One breakfast presenter Chris Moyles said he had wished the Queen a happy birthday. "She asked me what time I got up," he said. "And I said I was tired but it wasn't that early. I told her I listened to Wogan and John on the radio in bed and then get up. She said 'oh lovely'. "She seemed sweet enough."

Historical links.
The Queen also officially re-opened part of the refurbished Broadcasting House. During her BBC tour the monarch was shown other items symbolising the corporation's past and its future. These included an ipod loaded with podcasts, digital radio technology, and a microphone her grandfather, King George V, used for his Christmas broadcasts.

Earlier on Thursday, the Queen visited the Royal Institute of International Affairs, one of the world's leading bodies for the analysis of international issues. The Queen, who is patron of the organisation, heard a debate on the future of the world. The event was held behind closed doors.
After her visit, Baroness Williams, one of Chatham House's presidents, said: "The Queen has become much more relaxed in her 80th year - she has a lovely smile. Before she was quite shy".
"She's much more at ease, she smiles at people and relaxes with them. She's like a great oak tree - she's blossoming again." The Queen will spend her birthday on Friday at Windsor Castle, where Prince Charles will host a family dinner.


Protests have spread across NepalAn 18-hour curfew is force in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, ahead of a major demonstration planned by opposition parties. Ten people have been killed at rallies in two weeks of protests calling for an end to King Gyanendra's direct rule.
Authorities have said anyone violating the curfew would be "shot on sight". The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in the capital Kathmandu says protests have already started in some parts of the city, despite the curfew. Thursday's pro-democracy rally, planned in defiance of a ban on public meetings, would mark the start of the third week of countrywide marches and strikes. The government has accused Maoist rebels have infiltrated rallies to sow violence.

We have been very concerned about the closing of the space for peaceful demonstrations in Nepal - Kieran Dwyer, UN human rights spokesman

Soldiers are pushing back the few people who have ventured out, our correspondent says. "We are just ordinary people, not members of any political party. This is a peaceful protest. Yet the king has declared a curfew," said 27-year-old resident Sudarshan Rimal. A few groups of tourists escorted by the police have left for the airport to catch flights. A group of people have gathered in the Samakhusi area defying the curfew. Nepali Congress party leader Shobhakar Parajuli told the AFP news agency that demonstrations would go ahead despite the curfew. "The state has taken every step to repress our movement," he said. "We will not remain silent, we will defy the curfew order and stage demonstrations as scheduled," he said. The curfew does not extend outside Kathmandu and protesters are expected to gather on the outskirts of the capital.

Locals and tourists in Nepal give their views on the crisis -
In pictures

In addition to the curfew, the government has doubled the period of detention orders on a number of imprisoned human rights campaigners and opposition politicians. In previous curfews over the past two weeks, passes were issued to tourist, press, diplomatic and emergency vehicles. Wednesday was the 14th day of a nationwide shutdown called by the opposition, angered by the king's decision to sack his government and assume direct powers in February 2005. In what was the worst day of violence since the protests began, security forces opened fire on protesters in the eastern town of Chandragardi, killing four people and wounding dozens.
Reports from inside the town, 600km (370 miles) east of the capital, suggest that at one point the crowd of anti-royal demonstrators started to run. The security forces are said to have channelled protesters towards a stadium and then opened fire.

International condemnation of the crackdown has been growing. In a BBC interview a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Kieran Dwyer, expressed concern over the "escalation of excessive use of force" by the authorities. An envoy from India - which borders Nepal and is a major ally - is visiting to try to help defuse the crisis. In talks on Thursday, Karan Singh is expected to try and bring pressure on the monarch to take concrete steps towards reconciliation with the political parties. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is also expected to attend the talks amid increasing concern in India about the political crisis. In advance of the envoy's arrival, the Nepalese authorities released two senior opposition figures - the Communist Party (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and Ram Chandra Poudel of Nepali Congress - after three months in detention.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Error strikes BBC climate model .
Hands at a laptop keyboard.  Image: BBC uses the power of thousands of ordinary PCs

A "major error" has been discovered in the world's biggest online climate prediction project, backed by the BBC.

The fault in a model launched in February causes temperatures in past climates to rise quicker than seen in observations.

The program, which runs on users' computers when they are idle, aims to generate forecasts of climate change.

The project scientists have now restarted the model but say the data collected so far is still useful.

"At some point in the future we may have down an experiment like this anyway," Myles Allan, principle investigator of the project told the BBC News website. "People have not been wasting their time."

Global dimming was established more than two years ago but a new computer model, was launched in February this year in collaboration with BBC Four.

The simulation is more sophisticated than previous versions and provides the scientists with a more accurate representation of the real world, including an ocean that interacts with the atmosphere.

The experiment uses "distributed computing" where the combined power of numerous PCs is tapped rather than using a single super computer.

What we've seen in the runs is the unadulterated impact of global warming
Myles Allan, principle investigator,

Each participant downloads a program which runs unique climatic simulations from 1920 to 2080 to build a picture of the possible range of outcomes.

The error in the climate models has been traced to a file that is responsible for introducing man-made sulphate emissions into the atmosphere.

Sulphate particles reflect sunlight back into space causing a cooling of the atmosphere, in a phenomenon known as 'global dimming'.

"What we've seen in the runs is the unadulterated impact of global warming which means that all of the models have warmed up too fast," Dr Allan said.

Big disappointment

The problem was picked up by scientists when a handful of the 200,000 people that have downloaded the program reached the end of the simulation.

Globe showing different temperature bands.  Image: BBC

An announcement by Nick Faull, project coordinator of was posted on the website's message board as soon as the scientists realised that the experiment would have to be started again.

"I regret to announce that we've recently discovered a major error in one of the files used by the climate model," it read.

"It's a big disappointment to have to give you this news."

However, the scientists say that all is not lost for the data collected over the last two months.

"Running a model without global dimming is exactly the kind of thing we do in modelling centres," Dr Allan said.

These attribution studies, as they are known, allow scientists to determine what factors have contributed to climate change.

"We have done the most comprehensive attribution study by mistake."

The data will be used at a later date to determine the contribution of global dimming to temperature changes in the twentieth century.

Problem solved

However, some of the participants in the project have questioned why the model was not tested thoroughly before its release.

"I can't believe that this program wasn't completely tested before being released to thousands of people around the world," reads a post on the message board

The team behind the model say the error was introduced by a minor last-minute change to the programme, which made it easier to download.

It would have taken between three and four months to run the model for faults.

The error has now been fixed and all computers running the model will be automatically restarted at 1920.

The results of the BBC experiment were due to be announced as part of the Climate Chaos season of programmes on BBC Four this summer.

The results and the programme will now be delayed until enough people have had time to rerun the model.



Orphan Ali settles into London life.
By Gareth Furby BBC News, London.

Three years after losing his arms and his parents when his home in Baghdad was destroyed by an off target Allied missile, Ali Abbas is a changed boy. Ali's plight moved people across the world.At Hall School in Wimbledon, south-west London, where 15-year-old Ali has been given free tuition for more than two years (it normally costs around £8,000 a year) the teenager has been fitting into school life, and is making remarkable progress. His favourite lessons are maths and geography but he is also a keen artist. An exhibition of his work was on display at a local gallery just last month. The school provides him with his own tutor, Caroline Morris, so he can keep up in class. But Ali has learned to write with his feet and he can also type on a computer with his toes.

Ali Abbas now lives in Wimbledon. The school hopes that Ali will go on to take at least five GCSEs and even go on to university, should he wish. Perhaps bizarrely Ali also enjoys playing violent computer games in school break time, again using his toes on a lap top computer's touch pad or using a Playstation. But Ali says: "Everyone enjoys violence. Every Iraqi boy is used to it." Ali's says one of his favourite pastimes at school is eating and is savouring an ambition to open a restaurant called 'Ali's' perhaps in London or even Iraq. In his kitchen at his Wimbledon home, he is helped by his uncle to prepare a lamb dish based cooked in a traditional Iraqi style.
He now lives in a rented house paid for by a charity, which he shares with his uncle and a friend called Ahmed, who also lost his hand and part of a leg during the war in Iraq. Both boys came to London to be fitted with artificial limbs. But at home, it seems Ali chooses to leave his arms on his bed. He said: "I don't like wearing them at home. They are too heavy."

Ali has leant to play computer games with his feet.He chooses not to wear his artificial arms when he goes to the gym, when he goes cycling on a special bike, and when he plays football, which he does every weekend. At the moment Ali wears them at school because he says it makes him feel normal. But he may yet change this habit as well. "I can play football much better without the arms," he said. "My balance is much better. I am thinking about stopping wearing them altogether." He added he does want to return to Iraq but he cannot for two reasons.

Ali likes to take his arms off when he is at home. First of all, it is too dangerous at present in Baghdad where the surviving members of his family live. Secondly, Ali is worried that his current high profile status may single him out as a target for kidnapping. "Some people think because I have been on television I am rich," he said. "So I may be taken and held for ransom. I can only go back when the Iraq returns to normal." When asked when he thought that might be, he replied "God knows." But for now, his life is improving both at home and at school in Wimbledon.



Kenyan MPs back graft crackdown

Moody Awori denies any wrong-doing. Kenyan MPs have approved a report which implicates top ministers and civil servants in a corruption scandal. The move could lead to the prosecution of current Vice-President Moody Awori. Two months ago, Mr Awori told the Parliamentary Accounts Committee he had no knowledge of the Anglo Leasing affair and refused to step down. The scandal involved contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded to fictitious firms for items such as hi-tech passports. The scandal has already led to the resignations of former ministers Kiraitu Murungi and David Mwiraria and the sacking of Chris Murungaru.

The report calls for further investigations and prosecutions of ministers and top government officials named by former anti-graft tsar John Githongo. Mr Githongo fled to the UK and was interviewed there by members of the PAC, which includes opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta. "The director of the anti-corruption commission should liaise with the attorney general, the police commissioner and other relevant bodies with a view to prosecuting persons who are involved in negotiations and approval of the procurement of passport-issuing equipment project," the report said.



A demonstration near Johannesburg called for Mr Mugabe's removal. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe used his Independence Day speech to promise tough action against his opponents. He also reiterated plans for greater state control over the mining industry. Zimbabwe on Tuesday marked 26 years since independence from Britain, amid a deepening economic crisis with inflation at 900% per annum. Mr Mugabe called on Zimbabweans to stand together and blamed the current problems on a persistent droughts and "evil" sanctions by Western nations.

In an apparent warning to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has called for mass action against the government, Mr Mugabe said those who plotted against him were playing with fire.
"Anyone... who dares lead any group of persons to embark on a campaign of violence or terrorist activities will be inviting the full wrath of the law to descend mercilessly on him or on those who follow him," he said. Mr Mugabe said the government would press ahead with plans to extend greater state control over the mining industry. "Non-renewable resources are ours in the first place, Mugabe said. "You, the investor, will get a reward, yes, but that reward will be balanced by what we keep for ourselves."

In South Africa, a few dozen of the many thousand Zimbabwean exiles who live in the country demonstrated near the African parliament, in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, calling on Mr Mugabe to resign so they could return home.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


'Golden ball' for World Cup final.

The official name for the ball made by Adidas is Teamgeist Berlin. The two teams playing in the World Cup final in Germany on 9 July will use a specially produced "golden ball". A giant model of the football, with six of the 14 panels coloured gold, was unveiled in Berlin by the head of the World Cup organising committee.
German football legend Franz Beckenbauer said it was a great idea to create a special ball for the match. The ball for the other 63 games will be black and white for the first time since the 1994 tournament.
For the French World Cup of 1998, Adidas produced a tricolour ball in the national colours and the Korea-Japan tournament of 2002 featured gold and red in its design.
The ball for the final is called Teamgeist Berlin while the black and white ball - the traditional colours of hosts Germany - has been branded Teamgeist (team spirit). For each match, there will be sets of 15 balls, each bearing the date, the venue, the kick-off time and the names of the teams.
All the balls will be made in Thailand except the 15 for the final, which will be from Germany.



Ashanti mourns cousin after crash.
Ashanti cancelled a performance in Johannesburg after the accident

A cousin of American R&B star Ashanti has been killed in a car crash in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Quinshae Snead, 20, worked as Ashanti's personal assistant and the pair were reportedly close and lived together.

Ashanti had been due to perform in the city on Saturday but her appearance was cancelled after the accident.

Ms Snead was on her way to a hotel to collect items for her cousin before the concert when a speeding car hit the back of her vehicle, police said.


Ms Snead was thrown out of the car, which rolled over into the path of another car in the opposite lane.

A 17-year-old was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Ms Snead was credited as Ashanti's personal assistant on the singer's most recent album Concrete Rose.

Ashanti has sold six million albums, won a Grammy Award for her self-titled debut in 2002, and has appeared in films including Coach Carter and John Tucker Must Die.



Tensions have risen between Israelis and Palestinians recently. Israel will hold Hamas responsible for a deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv but will not hit back against the Palestinian Authority, officials say. A special cabinet meeting ended with agreement to increase security efforts but not launch a military strike. Instead it backed plans to revoke the Jerusalem residency of several Hamas MPs, adding to the group's isolation. Hamas described Monday's bombing by Islamic Jihad, which killed nine people, as an act of "self-defence".

The BBC's Caroline Hawley, in Jerusalem, says Israel seems to have decided for now not to embark on a collision course with the Hamas-led government. Three Hamas MPs living in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel, appear set to have their residency permits revoked. Our people have the will and the right to defend themselves and to confront as much as they can the arrogances of the occupation - Siad SiyamPalestinian interior minister.
Palestinians feel the pinch
Witnesses tell of shock
Borders between Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will also see increased security, reports said, but officials revealed few details. Overnight the US labelled Hamas and Islamic Jihad as "terrorist" groups, and said the bombing risked further international isolation for the Palestinians. Israeli forces also arrested more than 20 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank. The father of the bomber who carried out Monday's attack was reported to be among those detained.

Despite fierce criticism from around the world, Hamas has refused to retract its support for the suicide bombing. On Tuesday Interior Minister Siad Siyam became the first cabinet member to voice support for the strike. "We are not a great power who can confront the planes and the missiles of the occupation, but our people have the will and the right to defend themselves and to confront as much as they can the arrogances of the occupation," he said.

Attack claimed by Islamic Jihad. Nine people killed and more than 50 injuredMonday's attack at a falafel restaurant in Tel Aviv occurred during the Jewish festival of Passover. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but a spokesman for Hamas said it was "a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes" against Palestinians. Israel has intensified artillery bombardments into the northern Gaza Strip in recent weeks, firing some 2,000 shells since the start of April. It insists its actions are in response to an increase in rocket attacks against Israeli towns by Palestinian militants from within Gaza. Although Hamas militants have observed a year-long truce as the group entered the political arena, Islamic Jihad says it has continued to recruit suicide bombers.

Japan has confirmed that it will halt new aid payments to the PA, adding to a financial crisis. Japan, which has given $840m (£474m) to the PA since 1993, said it wanted to see Hamas adopt a more peaceful policy, but did not expressly link its decision to the Tel Aviv attack. However, emergency aid - such as a payment last month of $6 million (£3.4m) to the UN's World Food Programme - would continue, officials said. Projects such as repairing roads and building residential homes are also likely to receive continued funding. Both the US and the EU have already suspended aid payments to the PA, leaving the newly-formed Hamas government unable to pay its workers and facing a financial crisis. Qatar and Iran have each pledged $50m (£28m) in new funds.


Traders are worried about instability in Iran and Nigeria. Oil prices have hit a record high of $70.88 a barrel, fuelled by growing fears over Iran's nuclear standoff with the international community. US light, sweet crude rose 48 cents in Asian trading, passing last year's previous high of $70.85 reached after Hurricane Katrina. Prices have risen 16% in the past month as Iran's nuclear row has worsened and Nigerian supplies have been disrupted. Brent crude hit also hit a new record of $72.20 a barrel in London. By early afternoon, US light sweet crude was trading at $70.75 while Brent crude had eased slightly to $71.91.

Analysts said that prices would continue to head upwards as long as Iran's dispute with the international community over its nuclear intentions remained unresolved. "We have broken new ground today," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Singapore-based Purvin & Getz. "The market sentiment is bullish, with yesterday's record closing, momentum has been built up to cause a wave of buying." Militia violence in Nigeria, which has led to the suspension of 25% of its output, has also forced prices upwards in recent weeks.

Over the past month, prices have gained more than $10, or 16%. Global demand for oil remains intense, particularly in the run-up to the US driving season, while available supplies remain tight. "The basic thing underlying the industry is that global demand remains very strong," said Tobin Gorey, commodities strategist with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Countries in the Opec oil producers' cartel have admitted there is little they can do to quell the rise in prices.

Monday, April 17, 2006


San Francisco faces big shaker
By Molly Bentley in San Francisco.

Removing un-reinforced masonry would reduce casualtiesAnother magnitude 7.9 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area would probably produce much stronger shaking than the catastrophic 1906 event of the same size. The wider region should also expect thousands of fatalities and economic losses in the billions. These conclusions are contained in two reports released to coincide with the 18 April centennial of the great quake that destroyed the city and killed 3,000 people. The studies will be discussed at a special conference this week.
Scientists say the next big quake - a magnitude 6.7 or larger - will likely come within 30 years.
The first study, When the Big One Strikes Again, was commissioned by conference organisers and provides an estimate range of the death and damage toll for Northern California if an earthquake similar to 1906 hit the region today.

The city was shattered, and what remained then went up in flames

In picturesThe other study, produced by the US Geological Survey (USGS), shows how shaking intensity would change if the San Andreas Fault were to rupture in a different place to 1906.
USGS scientists believe they have been able to reproduce the ground motion that occurred 100 years ago fairly accurately, making it a useful model to estimate the damage caused by the next big quake. "These studies allow us to model the shaking and fill in the big gap in the data," said Dr Greg Beroza, a geophysicist at Stanford University who helped create the USGS simulation."We can apply the results to other large earthquakes." The conference-commissioned report was prepared by Charles Kircher, a private engineering consultant.

The chances of another big Bay Area quake have been assessed
More detailsOne of its shaking scenarios suggests that out of the 10 million residents in 19 counties, a 7.9 earthquake could kill 1,800 and seriously injure 8,000 if it hit at night; and kill 3,400 and seriously injure 13,000 if it hit during the day. Total economic losses could reach more than $120bn. "Daytime casualties are typically higher than night-time, when people are in homes that are less susceptible to collapse than commercial buildings," said Dr Kircher.However, the proportion of night-time deaths is raised slightly in San Francisco itself, where older homes are more vulnerable to collapse. Roughly one quarter - 800 - daytime deaths and almost a third of night-time deaths- 574 - would be in SF city districts.
The estimates are based on death by building collapse by shaking alone; not by fire, which could raise the death toll. Of the city's 400,000 residents in 1906, it is estimated that 3,000 died from both building collapse and the conflagration that swept the city immediately afterwards. While it was unlikely a fire that size would rage again, smaller fires were very possible, said Dr Kircher

"Soft storey" architecture often features an un-reinforced garage"We expect fires to contribute significantly to the total loss," he added. Adding in the cost of damage due to fire and lifeline infrastructure - such as highways - could raise the economic bill to $150bn. And this does not include long-term economic impact, the sort experienced in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The total is 10 times the loss from the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, a 6.7 tremor on the San Andreas Fault centred in a mountainous region 100km (60 miles) to the south of San Francisco.
Dr Kircher's study estimated loss to the area by using two 7.9 shaking scenarios that produced two sets of figures.
Click here to see a summary of the loss estimates
One set, expressed by the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale, is based on a re-evaluation of the actual ground shaking in the 1906 earthquake. (However, scientists do not expect the ground to shake exactly like it did in 1906.)
The second set, referred to as M7.9, is based on a standard model of energy propagation from an earthquake occurring on the segments of the fault that ruptured in 1906; a sort of generic 7.9 quake. Death and damage estimates are lower in the MMI model than in the M7.9; 800 night-time and 1,600 daytime deaths for the region, and $90bn dollars in economic loss.
While the population has increased 10 fold since 1906, when less than a million people called the greater San Francisco Bay area home, the number of fatalities does not increase proportionally in the recent estimates. "Our knowledge of earthquakes and how they affect buildings have advanced quite a bit and our seismic codes have been advancing," said Dr Beroza, "but we're still talking about thousands of deaths. Will the public say that's acceptable?"
Dr Kircher said that an important finding of the study was that vulnerable buildings - un-reinforced masonry, older reinforced concrete and "soft-story" - made up less than 5% of all buildings in the region but would kill more than half the people. "Fixing those buildings would cut our casualties in half," said Dr Kircher.

The second USGS study to be presented to the conference offers scientists a re-creation of the 1906 shaking, and a how it might change if the fault ruptured other than where it did, 2km off the coast of San Francisco. The computer model draws on a new and highly detailed 3D geologic model of the Bay Area.
USGS SHAKING SIMULATION For a rupture on the San Andreas Fault in the same place as the 1906 earthquake (100k)
In pictures
While scientists do not know when the next big quake will come or where it will originate, they do say that a 7.9 quake is unlikely to mirror 1906. "There is no guarantee that the next big one will begin exactly where the last big one began," said Dr Beroza. "It will be different and may not start in the same place." In the USGS simulations, a rupture at the northern end of the San Andreas Fault, with the same amount of slip, creates the same or greater shaking for San Francisco as it did in 1906; while an epicentre at the southern end of the northern portion of the fault, near San Juan Batista, creates considerably stronger shaking for the city.
USGS SHAKING SIMULATION A rupture at the northern end of the San Andreas Fault at the location of Bodega Bay (100k)
In pictures
This is due to variations in local geology and the fact that the energy from the rupture and seismic waves increase as they propagate toward the city. "Things could be worse for San Francisco itself with a rupture that begins south of the city, than it was in 1906 when the rupture began very close to it," said Brad Aagaard, a USGS research geophysicist who ran the simulations. This, ironically, makes the original 1906 quake, with its epicentre near the city, a best-case scenario for San Francisco if a 7.9 earthquake were to hit again.
USGS SHAKING SIMULATION A rupture to the south of San Francisco near the location of San Juan Bautista (100k)
In pictures
But increased shaking in one area means less shaking somewhere else. Moving the epicentre to San Juan Batista produces more intense shaking for San Francisco, but milder shaking in the Silicon Valley region. "The bottom line is that the next large event on the San Andreas Fault will differ in some ways from the 1906 earthquake," said Dr Aagaard. "We need to consider many scenarios in order to be prepared for such an event."

The 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference continues through to 21 April in San Francisco.
1906 MMI
Residential buildings
Commercial buildings
Displaced households
Serious injuries - night-time
Serious injuries - daytime
Immediate deaths - night-time
Immediate deaths - daytime
Structural damage
Non-structural damage
Contents and inventory damage
Business interruption
Source: When the Big One Strikes Again
Click here to return


Weah's diplomatic papers 'seized'

Mr Weah appeared to accept the new government last week. The party of Liberian football star George Weah has complained of a "witch-hunt" after his diplomatic passport was seized at the airport. Mr Weah was "bundled off" a plane by security agents, said the party's Secretary General Eugene Nagbe. Mr Weah came second in last year's polls but says he was cheated out of victory. Observers rejected his claims. The government says it is investigating the incident and denies issuing an order to seize Mr Weah's passport. Mr Weah, 1995 world footballer of the year, was appointed Liberia's "sports ambassador" in the 1990s and given a diplomatic passport.

The government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took office in January, says it has launched an investigation into who is using diplomatic travel documents but said the reported seizure of Mr Weah's passport was against "the spirit of political unity and reconciliation".

Guide to Liberia and its recent turbulent history.

Mr Weah and Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf met last week in order to ease tensions after last year;s bitter election campaign, which followed 14 years of civil war. "I told the president that I wish for her a good government that will satisfy the many needs of the people," Mr Weah told the AFP news agency. But the good feeling seems to have disappeared. "We will not accept a witch-hunt, and we have the capability to stop such, and this is what we will do, because we represent the people," said Mr Nagbe of the Congress for Democratic Change. "I also want to bring to your attention that our Standard Bearer was being hustled and bundled off the plane." He said Mr Weah and two colleagues were detained for 30 minutes before being allowed to return to Monrovia but without their documents.



Thousands of people have been evacuated in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia as melting snow continues to swell the River Danube to its highest level for more than a century.

In the Serbian capital, Belgrade, some streets have been under water for several days.

Civil defence teams in Serbia have built sandbag dams along the banks of the swollen River Danube, while a state of emergency has been declared in 10 regions.

In Nikopol, Bulgaria, residents erected planks to enable them to cross their flooded streets.

In parts of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, people are using boats to get around the city.

Here, a water-skier surfs the flood waters in Belgrade. Some low-lying streets in the city, where the Sava River meets the Danube, have been under water for days.

East of the capital, Serbian farmers rescue a cow from the floodwaters.

The floods have left whole tracts of woodland under water - a scenic picture amid wider devastation.



Mao is still revered by many as the founder of modern China. The Chinese authorities say they are putting up a huge statue of Chairman Mao Zedong in Tibet. The 35-ton memorial is being built to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the former leader's death. It is being erected in Gonggar County, near the Tibetan capital Lhasa, China's state-run news agency Xinhua said.The statue will rise 7m from a 5m pedestal strengthened to withstand earthquakes. Mao Zedong ordered the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1950. The statue will be the central landmark of Gonggar County's Shangcha square, which covers about 40,000 sq metres, and is scheduled for completion in July.

According to the Beijing authorities, the statue of Mao Zedong will be the largest of its kind in China and the first in Tibet. Changsha, capital of Hunan province and Mao's hometown, has donated 6.5m yuan ($811,000; £461,000) towards the cost of the plaza and statue, Xinhua reported. "Many Tibetan people suggested we should have a statue of Chairman Mao to show our gratitude," a local Communist Party official told Xinhua:

The BBC's Daniel Griffiths in China says the statue is likely to get a mixed reaction from many Tibetans. From Beijing's perspective, the area has been part of China for centuries. But for many, the Chinese government is an occupying power which has shown scant regard for human rights or for Tibet's unique culture, our correspondent says. Communist troops marched into Tibet in 1950. Nine years later, the region's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile along with tens of thousands of his followers after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Since then, China has exerted tight control over the region and this new statue of Mao Zedong is another reminder of Beijing's influence there, our correspondent adds.


Traders say they have no other way to earn their living. Liberia's police have set fire to stalls in order to enforce a new ban on street trading, market traders say. The traders said they saw police officers burn their stalls in the early hours of the morning in the eastern Paynesville district of the capital. The fire came shortly after new police chief Beatrice Munnah Sieh toured the area as the ban came into effect. The ban is supposed to ease congestion in Monrovia, where thousands of people fled during 14 years of civil war. There are no reports of any injuries in the fires, as the fires were started during the night.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says traders are angry at the new ban but there have been no reports of resistance to it. The campaign aims to end traffic chaos in especially the busy Paynesville district, where traders come from other parts of Liberia to do business with those in the capital. There, every day is market day, our correspondent says. The taking over of streets by peddlers and vendors has made driving difficult and denied motorists access to many commercial districts in post-war Monrovia. After blocking access routes to the city's largest waterside market, street sellers have lately advanced to the city centre, in a desperate attempt to take control of a key avenue on which leading banks are located.

Ms Sieh, Liberia's first female police chief, says it is time to put things right. After touring marketplaces on Sunday, she told the BBC her force was making the street-clearing exercise a matter of priority because "every human being in this country should have their rights; those who are walking on the sidewalks - poor people who do not have cars - have their rights; those who own cars, too, are supposed to ride the cars, it is their right." Before Monday's fire, Paynesville market's superintendent Roland Tuazama said he backed the police intervention. "Most of the people on the streets are people who participated in the war, they are ex-combatants; it is hard to talk to them," Mr Tuazama said. The authorities have urged the vendors to move to enclosed market buildings, which have empty space.

However, the traders fear this would hit their sales because their wares would no longer be on display to passers-by. Those traders who do not have fixed stalls, such as the cassette retailers who transport their goods around town in wheelbarrows, will not be affected by the crack-down.


Sunday, April 16, 2006


The MP has been campaigning to counter BNP efforts. White working class voters are being "tempted" by the British National Party as they feel Labour is not listening to their concerns, a minister has said. Employment minister Margaret Hodge said the BNP could win seats in her Barking constituency in May's council polls. She said the area's "difficult" change from a white area to a multi-racial community had caused some people to seek out "scapegoats". The BNP said Labour were ignoring fears over "mass immigration" to the UK In last year's general election the BNP polled third in Barking, east London, receiving 17% of the vote.

Mrs Hodge told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "The political class as a whole is often frightened of engaging in the very difficult issues of race and...the BNP then exploits that and try and create out of a perception a reality which is not the reality of people's lives." She added that Labour had to promote its achievements to the electorate. Part of the reason they switch to the BNP is they feel no-one else is listening to them -Margaret Hodge.

Barking poll candidates

"We also have to go out and say very, very strongly the benefits of the new, rich multi-racial society which is part of this part of London for me." She said the change from a white working class community to a multi-racial community was "difficult". "In that context, if people find there are things they can't access, you very quickly look for a scapegoat. That is what is happening," Mrs Hodge said. "If we are to counter that perception - which the BNP seek to exploit and Migrationwatch fans - if we are to counter that we need to go out and we need to engage in a very direct way with all our voters."

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Mrs Hodge said many constituents were angry at the lack of housing and asylum seekers being housed in the area by inner London councils. Mrs Hodge told the paper she has been out campaigning two days a week in an attempt to counter the BNP efforts. She has found that as many as eight out of 10 white families admit they are tempted to vote BNP. "That's something we have never seen before, in all my years. Even when people voted BNP they used to be ashamed to vote BNP," she said.

The BNP said the party had been demonised by the "far left" for talking about immigration. BNP spokesman Dr Phil Edwards said: "People are being tempted by the BNP because Labour and the Tories don't have any inclination to debate the effect of mass immigration on communities in Britain. He went on: "In a democracy we should have all opinions. We should debate whether mass immigration is a good thing." The BNP said Labour was "culpable, it's mainly their fault that people in places like Dagenham and Barking have become so alienated."
He said that it was up to the BNP to "sort out the mess that Labour has created".





US business ban on Hamas-led PA.

Ismail Haniya's administration was sworn in last month. The United States has banned its nationals from doing business with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, a Treasury spokesperson says. The Treasury ruled this week that the militant Islamist group has a vested interest in the transactions of the Palestinian Authority. That decision made the PA automatically subject to existing US bans on doing business with "terrorist entities". The US and EU cut off aid to the PA after Hamas took power on 30 March.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said on Friday the cut in aid would not weaken the Palestinian people's resolve. "We will eat salt, but we will not bow our heads for anybody other than God, because we are faithful to the rights of our people and our nation. We will not betray it," he said. Mr Haniya was addressing worshippers in Gaza before the start of a series of rallies aimed at demonstrating support for the Hamas-led administration. Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza rallied in support of their new government.

The US and EU consider Hamas a terrorist group. "Hamas is a designated terrorist group" under three different sets of regulations, Molly Millerwise of the US Treasury Department said. "As a result, US persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with the PA unless authorised by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control." The US is making exceptions for government entities under the direct control of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate whose Fatah movement is a rival of Hamas. The ban also does not forbid Americans from doing business with non-governmental organisations or private sector banks, among other exceptions.

Also on Friday, another Hamas leader warned that if the party's government was broken by its enemies, Hamas would go back on the offensive. Younes al-Aftal, a Hamas MP, said there would be Hamas suicide bombings again in the heart of Israel. This is the first time a prominent Hamas leader has talked in these terms since the Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet was sworn in two weeks ago. Hamas has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since the start of the second intifada in 2000. It is currently maintaining a ceasefire, but remains committed to the destruction of Israel.



Spielberg and Yimou join Olympics.

Film-makers Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou are to join the team designing the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Zhang will lead the team, largely comprised of other Chinese impresarios, while Spielberg will be a consultant. Zhang's best-known films include Raise The Red Lantern and costume epic Hero. Zhang, 54, said: "I'm very honoured. I make a solemn promise to the Chinese people I will complete the task beautifully and successfully."

Costume epic Hero is one of Zhang's best-known filmsSpielberg, whose last film, Munich, concentrated on the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, said: "Our one goal is to give the world a taste of peace, friendship and understanding. "Through the visual arts, the art of celebration of life, we are dedicated to making this the most emotional opening ceremony ever." The opening ceremony is scheduled to take place in the Chinese capital on 8 August 2008.


Saturday, April 15, 2006


Eight lives left for freed NY cat.

See rescue attempts

A cat trapped within the walls of a New York delicatessen for nearly two weeks has finally been freed, animal rescue workers say. The owner of the deli said 11-month-old Molly was "in great shape" and had tucked into roast pork and sardines. The rescue effort had involved hammering out bricks of the deli, using kittens to appeal to Molly's maternal instinct and a pet therapist. Molly is employed as a mouser at the Greenwich Village deli.

The 19th century building is part of a historic district where alterations are banned without permission - but officials told rescuers they should "do whatever is necessary to recover the cat". Jean Tannenbaum, a spokeswoman for Animal Care and Control, which has a contract to handle lost or unwanted animals, reported the release.

Rescuers reached Molly by drilling through three layers of bricks.Molly was found on Friday night wedged in between bricks and sheet metal. She appeared calm in front of the media, which have followed her plight intensely. Molly's cries had been heard clearly from the pavement so it was thought she was not far inside the wall. Cat therapist Carole Wilbourn had used the sounds of whales on tape and soothing words to try to "give inspiration" to Molly. "Oh come on Molly you can do it. We love you Molly," she said.

Despite the traps, kittens and therapists it appeared it was the drilling through three layers of bricks that finally freed her. She was rescued by volunteer Kevin Clifford, a tunnel worker who had been working on a nearby project. "I think you'll all agree that she is in great shape," said deli owner Peter Myers.





Chad threatens to halt oil output.
By Stephanie Hancock BBC News, N'Djamena.

Chadian President Idriss Deby and the World Bank are at loggerheads. Chad has threatened to stop oil production next week if it does not immediately receive several months' worth of oil revenues. It wants the US-led consortium that runs Chad's pipeline to hand over $100m (£57m) it says it is owed by Tuesday.

The row over the country's oil wealth has been brewing for months. Last December the Chadian government fell out with the World Bank, after it changed a law which carefully controlled how oil revenues were spent. The World Bank, which financially backs the oil project, repeatedly asked Chad not to change the law but it went ahead anyway. In response, the Bank froze all payments of oil revenues to the government. Since then, it is the consortium which runs the pipeline led by US oil giant Exxon Mobil, which has been storing Chad's share of the oil profits.
Five months of talks between Chad and the World Bank have failed to break the stalemate and the government has now issued its ultimatum.

The consortium must hand over $100 million Chad is owed by noon on Tuesday, otherwise the pipeline will be shut. And if the flow of oil is stopped, the huge profits enjoyed by oil companies here will dry up along with the pipeline. The row over unpaid oil revenues comes at the end of a tumultuous week for the country, when a rebel attack in the capital killed scores of people.



The funeral procession turned into a protest. Clashes broke out between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Alexandria in Egypt, after the funeral of a Coptic worshipper killed in church on Friday. Police fired tear gas and tried to separate the groups, who threw stones and attacked each other with sticks. This followed the funeral of Nushi Atta Girgis, 78, who died after being stabbed in one of three knife attacks at Alexandria churches.

Christians have accused the government of failing to protect them. Mourners shouted anti-government slogans as the funeral procession - attended by an estimated 3,000 people - turned into a protest outside the church where the funeral was held. At least 15 people were injured and four vehicles were burned out, an interior ministry source said.

The government has announced the arrest of a "deranged" man it says was responsible for all the attacks, but some Copts believe they were carried out simultaneously as part of an anti-Christian plot by extremist Muslims. A judge remanded Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq, 25, into custody. "Certain papers speak of a madman. I don't believe a word. It is propaganda to silence us and to make us believe it is an individual incident," said Karim, a 78-year-old Copt at the funeral. "We have always been peaceful, but we are always crushed by the Muslims," said 30-year-old Girgis Mina. "If the state does not protect us, we will do it ourselves." Christians make up 10% of the Egyptian population and have complained of harassment and discrimination. Some Copts argue that previous attacks on them have gone unpunished or have drawn light sentences.

Most Christians in Egypt are Copts - Christians descended from the ancient Egyptians. Their church split from the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in 451AD because of a theological dispute over the nature of Christ, but is now, on most issues, doctrinally similar to the Eastern Orthodox church.


Friday, April 14, 2006


A man who was disfigured after being attacked by a bear has become the first in China to have a face transplant, a hospital in the country has announced. Xijing military hospital in the central city of Xian said it had given the man a new cheek, upper lip and nose from a single donor, in a 14-hour operation. This would be only the second time the procedure has been performed anywhere. A woman in France made history last year when she become the first in the world to receive a face transplant. Isabelle Dinoire, 38, was given new lips, chin and nose last November after her face was mauled by her dog while she slept.

Xijing hospital said in a statement its surgery had been "even more complex and meticulous than the one performed by the French". The patient was identified as Li Guoxing, 30, a hunter from the Lisu ethnic minority in the south-western province of Yunnan, who was attacked by a bear two years ago. "Up to now, the patient is in good condition," the hospital said. "The operation was successful. It is predicted that the wounds can be healed within one week."


Pia Bertelsen and Jan Egesborg carry out hotspot art. Two Danish artists who have ridiculed Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and the Iraq war have turned their attention to Serbia's fugitive Ratko Mladic.There is still support for Mr Mladic in Serbia, and nationalist groups recently plastered Belgrade with posters of him. But most are now covered with little blue stickers that read: "We know where you are"; "We know when you have sex".

Artists Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen, say their additions are a fun way of saying that Mr Mladic's time is up. Ms Bertelsen says the stickers are a way of telling Mr Mladic that people like Nato and the Serb government know where he is. Mr Mladic is wanted in connection with the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo in 1995.

But the actions of the artists, which they call "art in hotspots", has provoked different reactions on the streets of Belgrade. "Reaction has been divided," says Ms Bertelsen, 32. "Half of the people say they think it is funny and brave and laugh about it - some asked us for stickers to give to their bosses. I"But we met a 19-year-old who says Mladic will never surrender and he is a Serbian hero. "Another, who was in the Bosnian Serb army, said: 'Put up the stickers, but we will never let him surrender'." The aim of their group "Surrend" is to invite tyrants and war crimes suspects to give themselves up, and to inject a little humour. Mr Egesborg, 42, says they do not belong to any party or activist organisation.

Last year, he and another artists put up 1,000 ironic anti-war posters in Iraq - to get their message heard by ordinary Iraqi people. The posters showed elephants, mice and cats together with messages like "Trust in Propaganda" and "Kill your Enemy". He said they were in Belgrade for the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic and were struck by the lack of people demonstrating against him - or against Mr Mladic, who the Serbian government has promised to hand over to the UN war crimes court. "I think we can make a difference in a positive way because it seems people in Serbia are quite depressed about the situation," he said. "We are hoping we can inspire people to get on the streets and protest like they did a few years ago."



People queued since early morning to pay homage. Five people, one a policeman, have been killed in violence in the southern Indian city of Bangalore following the death of legendary film actor Rajkumar. Police opened fire on rioting mourners, killing four people. The policeman died after being beaten by a mob. Tens of thousands of mourners bid an emotional farewell as the body of Rajkumar was buried in a grave at a studio that he owned in the city. The Kannada film icon died on Wednesday following a heart attack aged 77. I appeal with folded hands to all of you to maintain peace - Rajkumar's son, Raghvendra.

In pictures: Death mourned

Rajkumar's son, Raghvendra, pleaded with fans to be calm - but with no apparent effect. "I appeal with folded hands to all of you to maintain peace," he told crowds using a microphone.
From early on Thursday morning, thousands of fans, including women and children, carried garlands and incense sticks to a site near the actor's body which lay in state in a public stadium.
Many fans wept and beat their chests shouting "Long live Rajkumar". Police used batons to control the crowd of fans."Our hero is dead. Annavaru [elder brother] was our inspiration," a mourner, Hanumanthaiah, told Reuters news agency.

Several politicians and actors including Tamil superstar Rajinikanth paid homage to Rajkumar at the stadium. "One thing that stood out in him was his simplicity... He has inspired many actors and producers," Rockline Venkatesh, a producer and Rajkumar's close friend, told AFP. The country's technology hub in Rajkumar's home state of Karnataka remained shut for the second day and all transport was off the roads, as the authorities made arrangements to hold a state funeral for the actor.

The office of US technology giant Microsoft, which is located near Rajkumar's house, was stoned by angry mourners All commercial establishments were closed and even cable television operators across the city blocked national entertainment channels to mourn the actor's death. LK Advani, senior leader of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), cancelled the Karnataka leg of his national campaign tour as a mark of respect for Rajkumar. Irate fans damaged over 50 buses, torched two police vans and 10 private vehicles on Wednesday following the news of the actor's death, police said.

Rajkumar - whose name was sometimes written Raj Kumar - starred in such films as Bangaradha Manushya (The Golden Man) and Shabdavedi. Thousands of fans have gathered to see the actor. Although he had given up acting in recent years, he remained one of India's best-loved figures with many of his fans calling him 'Annavaru' (elder brother). In July 2000, he was kidnapped along with three members of his family from his home in Gajanur, Tamil Nadu, by notorious Indian bandit Veerappan. His kidnapping sparked violent protests in Karnataka with people demanding his immediate release. Rajkumar was freed by Veerappan after spending weeks living in the forests of southern India.

Local reports said a large ransom had been paid for his release, although Rajkumar denied that.
Veerappan, a self-styled champion of the Tamil people, was killed by police in 2004.


Thursday, April 13, 2006