Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Why a Zimbabwean abstains from sex.

A factory worker in Zimbabwe, who asked for his name to be withheld, tells the BBC News website how the HIV pandemic has affected his sexual behaviour. A UNAids report says the country is one of the few in Africa where the rate of HIV infection is on the decline, as people delay becoming sexually active and increase their condom use.

I am 22 years old and would never have sex without a condom. I just don't want to see myself dying like that. I became sexually active when I was about 16 and in that time I've had sex four or five times and each time I've used a condom. Most of my friends are careful too, although there is one who isn't; he just takes it as it is. He is aware of the dangers, but he says it doesn't matter whether you use a condom or not. I have a new girlfriend this year who is 17 - she's a virgin and does not want to have sex, so I am abstaining too now.

Last year I had two girlfriends at the same time: one who was abstaining and the other who was sexually active. I will not be unfaithful to my new girlfriend, as I am prepared to wait for her so we can get married. At weekends we hang out during the day in the parks, as her parents do not like her going out at night.

Click here to see map of worldwide HIV infection rates

I would say my behaviour is also influenced by my religion - I'm a Christian. I don't tend to go to bars too much because my dad does not like me to go out and drink beer. I live with him and he's so strict and full of the Holy Spirit - he'd know if I got up to any mischief, that's the problem.
Right now so many people are HIV in Zimbabwe.

A lot are dying and I just don't want to see myself dying like that. My aunt died of Aids last December. Once you've got Aids and people know about it, you die of stress, because most people begin to leave you alone and ignore you. It's not a completely taboo subject; I do talk about HIV and condoms with some of my brothers, for example. I'm not sure if sexual attitudes are changing altogether, but I tell you around the streets of Harare you will see lots of used condoms on the ground.


Saturday, May 27, 2006


Dear Family and Friends,

They say that there is no smoke without fire and if that is true then there isa big bonfire burning somewhere very close to home this week. It has been a veryconfusing few days in Zimbabwe with a number of different media reports aboutdiplomatic manoeuverings that are going on to help us. First we heard that UNSecretary General Kofi Annan was putting together a plan to rescue Zimbabwe fromits political and economic crisis. Then, insinuating that something was alreadywell underway by Kofi Annan, South African President Thabo Mbeki said "We areall awaiting the outcome of his intervention"
Then came reports on South African television that Kofi Annan was going tovisit Zimbabwe and that international aid would be given in exchange forPresident Mugabe's retirement. Those reports on SABC TV even went as far as tosay that President Mugabe would be given immunity from prosecution for humanrights abuses. As the days passed the reports seemed to become more speculativethan factual and the atmosphere got smokier. Things got confusing whenZimbabwe's state owned TV announced that both Zanu PF and the MDC would acceptKofi Annan as a mediator. Whew, I must have missed something, where did thequestion of mediation come from all of a sudden? A few days later the mediationtheme popped up again but this time it wasn't Kofi Annan's name being frontedbut that of former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa.
Just as things had started getting interesting someone must have poured abucket of water on the fire. The smoke got thicker than ever and from all sidescame denials, back tracking and classic claims of "I Am Not The One."Ibrahim Gambari, the UN under secretary-general for political affairs said : "Ithink it is premature to talk about any package, and certainly even morepremature to talk about that package including the possible departure ofPresident Mugabe." Zimbabwe then said that the invitation extended to Kofi Annanto visit the country was no longer valid or applicable. Full stop. End ofmanoeuverings? Who knows, as they say there's no smoke without fire.
In the midst of a confusing week, and to make everything seem even moredelusional, there was another earthquake. Most of us can't ever rememberearthquakes in Zimbabwe or at least not for the last thirty years but now all ofa sudden we've had two series of quakes and aftershocks in the past threemonths. At around midnight on Sunday two earthquakes measuring 3.9 and 4.0 onthe Richter scale shook eastern parts of Zimbabwe. This time the epicentre ofthe quakes was much closer to home and near the Nyamudzi River in Wedza. Somepeople are saying that all these earthquakes are a sign that God is coming.Others are saying that they are a sign from God. So from the country of smokesignals and shaking beds and mysterious signs,
until next week,
love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle.27 May 2006 http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available

Friday, May 26, 2006


Web inventor warns of 'dark' net.
By Jonathan Fildes.
BBC News science and technology reporter in Edinburgh

Tim Berners-Lee

The web should remain neutral and resist attempts to fragment it into different services, web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said.

Recent attempts in the US to try to charge for different levels of online access web were not "part of the internet model," he said in Edinburgh.

He warned that if the US decided to go ahead with a two-tier internet, the network would enter "a dark period". Sir Tim was speaking at the start of a conference on the future of the web. "What's very important from my point of view is that there is one web," he said. "Anyone that tries to chop it into two will find that their piece looks very boring."

The British scientist developed the web in 1989 as an academic tool to allow scientists to share data. Since then it has exploded into every area of life.

You get this tremendous serendipity where I can search the internet and come across a site that I did not set out to look for
Tim Berners-Lee

However, as it has grown, there have been increasingly diverse opinions on how it should evolve.

The World Wide Web Consortium, of which Sir Tim is the director, believes in an open model. This is based on the concept of network neutrality, where everyone has the same level of access to the web and that all data moving around the web is treated equally. This view is backed by companies like Microsoft and Google, who have called for legislation to be introduced to guarantee net neutrality.

The first steps towards this were taken last week when members of the US House of Representatives introduced a net neutrality bill. But telecoms companies in the US do not agree. They would like to implement a two-tier system, where data from companies or institutions that can pay are given priority over those that cannot.

This has particularly become an issue with the transmission of TV shows over the internet, with some broadband providers wanting to charge content providers to carry the data. The internet community believes this threatens the open model of the internet as broadband providers will become gatekeepers to the web's content.

Providers that can pay will be able to get a commercial advantage over those that cannot. There is a fear that institutions like universities and charities would also suffer. The web community is also worried that any charges would be passed on to the consumer.

Sir Tim said this was "not the internet model". The "right" model, as exists at the moment, was that any content provider could pay for a connection to the internet and could then put any content on to the web with no discrimination.

Speaking to reporters in Edinburgh at the WWW2006 conference, he argued this was where the great benefit of the internet lay. "You get this tremendous serendipity where I can search the internet and come across a site that I did not set out to look for," he said.

A two-tier system would mean that people would only have full access to those portions of the internet that they paid for and that some companies would be given priority over others.

But Sir Tim was optimistic that the internet would resist attempts to fragment. "I think it is one and will remain as one," he said. The WWW2006 conference will run until Friday at the International Conference Centre in Edinburgh.



Blair attack 'morally justified'.
George Galloway (left) greets Fidel Castro (right) during a Cuban television programme
George Galloway met Fidel Castro in Cuba this week

MP George Galloway has said it would be "morally justified" to assassinate Tony Blair, but stressed he was not calling for his death.

In an interview with GQ magazine he was asked whether a suicide bomb attack on Mr Blair would "be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq".

He said it would be morally equivalent to Mr Blair "ordering" Iraqi deaths. But Mr Galloway said he would not support an attack and would tell the authorities if he knew of any plot.

Alert the authorities?

In the interview, former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan asked: "Would the assassination of, say, Tony Blair by a suicide bomber, if there were no other casualties, be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?" The Respect MP replies: "Yes it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it, but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7.

"It would be entirely logical and explicable, and morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq as Blair did." He was also asked whether he would alert the authorities if he knew Mr Blair was to be assassinated by Iraqis.

Mr Galloway replied: "My goodness this is a moral maze. "Yes I would, because such an operation would be counterproductive because it would just generate a new wave of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiment whipped up by the press.

"It would lead to new draconian anti-terror laws, and would probably strengthen the resolve of the British and American services in Iraq rather than weaken it. So yes, I would inform the authorities."

Respect says Mr Galloway is "sticking by" his comments.

In a statement, the MP said: "Like the prime minister's wife commenting on suicide bombings in Israel I understand why such desperate acts take place and why those involved might believe such actions are morally justifiable. "From the point of view of someone who has seen their country invaded and their family blown apart it's possible, of course, for them to construct a moral justification.

"But I've made my position clear. I would not support anyone seeking to assassinate the prime minister. "That's why I said in the interview I would report to the authorities any such plot that I knew of.

"What I did make abundantly clear to Piers Morgan in the GQ interview is that I would like to see Tony Blair in front of a war crimes tribunal for sending this country to war illegally and for the appalling human consequences which resulted. That's what I will continue to press for."


Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell condemned the comments. "If Mr Galloway is being accurately reported, he could well be regarded as providing encouragement to someone who might be disposed to carry out a crime of that kind," said Sir Menzies. "No politician, ever, by act, word, or deed either expressly or by implication, should give any support to the notion that violence might be justified."

Labour MP Stephen Pound told The Sun newspaper the remarks were "disgraceful". He said: "These comments take my breath away. Galloway is disgraceful and truly twisted.

"Every time you think he can't sink any lower he goes and stuns you again. It's beyond reprehensible to say it would be justified for a suicide bomber to assassinate anyone." Mr Galloway has been in Cuba this week, where he made a surprise appearance on live television alongside Fidel Castro.



The origin of HIV has been found in wild chimpanzees living in southern Cameroon, researchers report. A virus called SIVcpz (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus from chimps) was thought to be the source, but had only been found in a few captive animals. Now, an international team of scientists has identified a natural reservoir of SIVcpz in animals living in the wild. The findings are to be published in Science magazine.

All discoveries which relate to the history and origins of HIV could be of value to the vital work being carried out by scientists in developing a HIV vaccine - Yusef Azad, National Aids Trust. It is thought that people hunting chimpanzees first contracted the virus - and that cases were first seen in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the nearest urban area - in 1930. Scientists believe the rareness of cases - and the fact that symptoms of Aids differ significantly between individuals - explains why it was another 50 years before the virus was named. This team of researchers, including experts from the universities of Nottingham, Montpellier and Alabama, have been working for a decade to identify the source of HIV. While SIVcpz was only identified in captive animals, the possibility remained that yet another species could be the natural reservoir of both HIV and SIVcpz.

It had only been possible to detect SIVcpz using blood test - which meant that only captive animals could be studied. This study, carried out alongside experts from the Project Prevention du Sida au Cameroun (PRESICA) in Cameroon, involved analysing chimpanzee faeces, collected from the forest floor in remote jungle areas. The researchers went into the jungles of Cameroon.
This was useful because University of Alabama researchers had been able to determine the genetic sequences of the chimpanzee viruses - which could then be searched for in the faecal samples. Lab tests detected SIVcpz specific antibodies and genetic information linked to the virus in up to 35% of chimpanzees in some groups.

All of the data was then sent to the University of Nottingham for analysis, which revealed the extremely close genetic relationship between some of the samples and strains of HIV. Chimpanzees in south-east Cameroon were found to have the viruses most similar to the form of HIV that has spread throughout the world. The researchers say that, as well as solving the mystery about the origin of the virus, the findings open up avenues for future research. But SIVcpz has not been found to cause any Aids-like illnesses in chimpanzees, so researchers are investigating why the animals do not suffer any symptoms, when humans - who are so genetically similar - do.
Paul Sharp, professor of genetics at the University of Nottingham said: "It is likely that the jump between chimps and humans occurred in south-east Cameroon - and that virus then spread across the world. "When you consider that HIV probably originated more than 75 years ago, it is most unlikely that there are any viruses out there that will prove to be more closely related to the human virus." He said the team were currently working to understand if the genetic differences between SIVcpz and HIV evolved as a response to the species jump. Keith Alcorn of Aidsmap said: "The researchers have pinned down a very specific location where they believe the precursor of HIV came from. "But there are vast areas of west Africa where other forms of SIVcpz lineages exist, and the possibility remains for human infection.

Yusef Azad, policy director of the National Aids Trust said: "This research is interesting as all discoveries which relate to the history and origins of HIV could be of value to the vital work being carried out by scientists in developing a HIV vaccine."


SA unions warn of 'dictatorship'

Zuma still retains some support to succeed Mbeki. South Africa's trade union umbrella group, Cosatu, has warned the country is drifting towards dictatorship. In another sign of discontent, a mine union leader backed ex-Deputy President Jacob Zuma as future president, saying adultery is not wrong. Mr Zuma was recently cleared of rape, but admitted extra-marital sex.

The question over who will succeed President Thabo Mbeki when he stands down in 2009 has divided South Africans and the governing ANC party. Briefing reporters on the outcome of a Cosatu executive committee meeting, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said dictatorship never announced its arrival. "The main concern of the committee centres on signs that we may be drifting towards dictatorship," he said. "This appears in the use of state institutions... in narrow factional fights," he said.

He said South Africa could be heading down the road Zimbabwe had taken. The unions have been traditional allies of the government, but splits in the alliance have been exacerbated by Mr Zuma's sacking. Some feel Mr Zuma would do more to alleviate poverty than Mr Mbeki, who is seen by some unionists as too close to business. Mr Vavi described the controversy around Mr Zuma - who enjoys strong support from the union movement - as "a symptom, not a cause" of the ANC's "worst crisis in years". He referred also to the "intimidation" of journalists by senior party officials and the "stifling of debate and closing of democratic space". Mr Vavi said the governing ANC was currently being run by cabinet ministers and business people. "We are fighting for the ANC to retain its pro-worker bias," he said. Cosatu has 1.8m paid-up members.
Earlier, National Union of Mineworkers President Senzeni Zokwana, who represents one of South Africa's most powerful unions, rejected President Mbeki's suggestion that the country's next leader should be a woman.

"We are not Christians," Mr Zokwana told the union's 12th national congress being held in Midrand, near Johannesburg. "We don't listen to the Ten Commandments and we don't have to listen when Christians tell us adultery is wrong. "We also don't need Christians to tell us who our leaders should be." "We can't have people telling us that our president must be a woman," Mr Zokwana said.

Mr Mbeki recently suggested South Africa's next leader should be a woman: the clearest indication he has given so far that he does not favour Mr Zuma as a successor. Mr Zuma was seen as a presidential heir apparent before corruption charges and later a rape charge were brought against him last year. The corruption charges, which he denies, are due to be heard in July. After being cleared of rape, Mr Zuma was permitted to resume his ANC leadership duties, from which he was suspended when the rape charge was laid.


Zimbabwe rejects UN intervention.

See Mbeki interview

Zimbabwe's government has denied suggestions that the United Nations might play a key role in ending the economic and political crises. Spokesman George Charamba was reacting to remarks by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

A senior UN official said it would be "premature" to talk of UN intervention. Mr Mbeki said a proposed visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Zimbabwe could help normalise relations between Harare and the West. But Mr Charamba said there were no longer plans for Mr Annan to visit. "I am unaware of any UN intervention on Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not a UN issue," he told the state-owned Herald newspaper.

"What I am aware of is a stale invitation, which was extended to the UN secretary-general by President Robert Mugabe at the time of the clean-up operation," he said, referring to last year's programme in which the government destroyed homes and removed informal traders.

Annual inflation is more than 1,000%. Mr Charamba said Zimbabwe is under illegal sanctions, from the European Union and United States as the result of its land reform programme. "Zimbabwe has had problems with Britain, again related to the land reform programme," he said. "This is a bilateral matter between Britain and Zimbabwe. It's not a UN matter." UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari also said there were no plans for the UN to intervene in Zimbabwe.

"It's premature to talk about any package and certainly even more premature to talk about that package including a possible departure of President Mugabe," Mr Gambari told reporters in New York. Mr Mbeki, in London for talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, on Wednesday criticised British policy on Zimbabwe and defended South Africa's efforts to foster dialogue. He said the world should wait for the outcome of Mr Annan's diplomatic drive. "I think it's best left to them - to the UN and the Zimbabwe government, and hopefully that will produce this outcome so that we remove this particular matter from the international agenda," he said.

Annual inflation is more than 1,000% and many people are struggling to support their families. Many in the west blame the crisis on President Robert Mugabe's policies. He in turn says western countries are sabotaging the economy to remove him from power because of his land reform programme.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


The A380 has earlier flown over Airbus' UK plants.

Watch the landing

The Airbus A380, the world's biggest passenger jet, has landed at London's Heathrow Airport for the first time. Making its UK debut after a flight from Berlin, the giant twin-deck plane had earlier flown over the two UK Airbus sites that designed and made its wings. Staff at the facilities in Broughton, Flintshire, and Filton, near Bristol, cheered as it passed low above them.
The 555-seat aircraft and its crew are visiting Heathrow to test the airport's facilities before flying out on Friday. "This is truly a monumental day in aviation history," said Heathrow's managing director Tony Douglas.

Heathrow operator BAA is spending £450m so that it is ready to handle the A380 when it starts making commercial flights later this year. It's an efficient and clean and environmentally friendly aircraft, and it has lower fuel consumption per seat, and produces less noise and emissions than older aircraft - David GamperAirports Council International.

Anticipation as A380 arrives
Compare A380 with 747
A380 flight simulator

The plane was met at the airport's new £105m pier 6 at Terminal 3 by dignitaries including Chancellor Gordon Brown. "I think it's a great success story for European co-operation. I think it's also a big triumph for British manufacturing, British technology, British science," said Mr Brown.

"British science has contributed a great deal to this and I think this is going to be a widely used aircraft. You can see the popular interest in it already here at Heathrow and I think it's going to be a huge commercial success and I do pay tribute to all who played a part in making this possible." The new pier 6 has been specially designed to handle the A380's twin decks. Money has also been spent at Heathrow resurfacing runways, upgrading lighting and building new taxiways in preparation for the plane.

Together with Mr Brown were the heads of some of the 16 airlines that have already ordered the 240ft-long aircraft, which will go into passenger service in December this year. During the visit, airport officials will test whether the plane does indeed fit the airport. 'Milestone' Developed by the European Airbus consortium for about £6bn, the A380 has been heralded as a major milestone in aviation history. The jet maker has taken 159 firm orders for the plane from 16 carriers, including Singapore Airlines, which will make the inaugural commercial flight on its route between Sydney, Singapore and London later this year.

A spokesman for the world's airport operators told BBC Radio Five Live that the A380 was more environmentally friendly than older aircraft. "It's an efficient and clean and environmentally friendly aircraft, and it has lower fuel consumption per seat, and produces less noise and emissions than older aircraft, and for airports it should increase their ability to handle passengers," said David Gamper of the Airports Council International. Airbus sees the giant A380 as the future of aviation, responding to airline calls for a bigger plane to meet increasing passenger numbers flying between major hubs
Its great rival, US giant Boeing, is taking a different track, predicting that the future growth sector will be for additional medium-sized planes that can service more of the smaller airports that cannot handle the A380. For that reason, Boeing has developed a new medium-sized plane called the 787 Dreamliner. Environmental campaigners argue against both planes, saying that the world needs to move towards less air travel as a means to help combat global warming.


Seating:Typical 416 (max 524)Cruising speed:0.855 MachFlight range:13,450km
Seating:Typical 555 (max 840)Cruising speed:0.85 MachFlight range:15,000km

Factfile: Airbus A380



Lordi meet the press

A Finnish "horror rock" group who dress in monster costumes have pulled off a surprise win at the 51st Eurovision Song Contest in Athens. European viewers voted for Lordi's song Hard Rock Hallelujah in a show that is normally associated with catchy pop and big ballads. Russia was second with Dima Bilan's Never Let You Go. But UK rapper Daz Sampson could only manage to come 19th out of 24 countries with his song Teenage Life.

Lordi's masks, armour and jets of flame attracted widespread attention before the contest - but many thought they were too outlandish to win.

1. Finland - 292 points
2. Russia - 248
3. Bosnia and Herzegovina - 229
4. Romania - 172
5. Sweden - 170
6. Lithuania - 162

"We are a rock band and we just won Eurovision - that's weird," their lead singer, also called Lordi said. "This was a victory for rock music and also a victory for open-mindedness," he said. The result would open the doors for a wider range of musical styles at Eurovision in the future, he predicted. "This is proof that from now on there will be more rock bands who will have the courage to join in," he said. "This is proof that there are rock fans who watch Eurovision." The band had been accused by some conservative Greek organisations of promoting Satanism but said they had no connection with the occult. "We have nothing to do with satan worshipping or anything like that - this is entertainment," Lordi said. Lordi amassed 292 points after a public vote - 44 ahead of Russia, whose performance by featured a ballerina emerging from a grand piano.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's entrant Hari Mata Hari was in third place, followed by Romania's Mihai Traistariu. Carola, from Sweden, who was the bookmakers' favourite before the contest and won in 1991, came fifth. Sixth place went to Lithuania's LT United, six men in suits singing: "We are the winners of Eurovision."

Swedish entrant Carola had been favourite before the contest. Hosts Greece came ninth with Anna Vissi, who had also been hotly tipped. She was followed by Ireland's Brian Kennedy, who rounded off the top 10 with Every Song Is A Cry For Love. Daz Sampson - one half of dance duo Uniting Nations - only gathered 25 points from the 35 countries that took part in the vote. No country failed to get off the mark - Malta's Fabrizio Faniello came last with one point. The other contenders included a German country and western singer, Israeli gospel and a Latvian a capella group.

Some 18,500 fans packed the arena in the Olympic stadium complex, with 2,000 journalists and 3,000 police officers on duty. The result means Finland will host the competition next year.



Mr Maliki set out a 34-point government programme. World leaders have welcomed the formation of the first full-term Iraqi government since the 2003 invasion. US President George W Bush said the future was a great challenge but there was an "opportunity for progress". The cabinet unites members of the major Shia, Kurd and Sunni parties and is to hold its first meeting on Sunday. Three crucial ministries - national security, interior and defence - have still to be agreed but new PM Nouri Maliki vowed to heal sectarian strife.

In a keynote speech Mr Maliki said Iraqis must "denounce terrorism" and find an "objective timetable" for international forces to leave. He told parliament that Iraqis needed to unite in a spirit of love and tolerance and "close up divisions that have emerged through sectarianism". Mr Maliki laid out a 34-point government programme that included tackling terrorism, integrating militias into the security structure and getting electricity and water back on line.

US President George W Bush said Iraq's transition to full government had been "difficult and inspiring". The United States and freedom-loving nations around the world will stand with Iraq
George W Bush"This broadly representative unity government offers a new opportunity for progress in Iraq," he said in a White House statement. He said the new leaders faced great challenges but "they also know that they - and their great country - will not face them alone". British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the move as a huge step forward and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called it a "step on the right path". Jordan's King Abdullah II said he hoped the move would "fulfil the aspirations of [Iraq's] people for a better life, democracy, pluralism and stronger national unity".


PM & acting interior minister - Nouri Maliki, Shia
Deputy PM & acting defence minister - Salam Zaubai, Sunni
Oil minister - Hussain al-Shahristani, Shia, ex-deputy parliamentary speaker
Foreign minister - Hoshiyar Zebari, Kurd. Held post since 2003
Finance minister - Bayan Jabor, Shia, former interior minister.

Who's who in new cabinet
In quotes: World reaction

However, the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the new unity government got off to a messy start. Before Mr Maliki could begin announcing his team, the leader of the Dialogue party - the smaller of the two main Sunni factions - seized the microphone to complain about how negotiations over the distribution of roles had been conducted. Once Mr Maliki was able to speak, members of the 275-seat parliament - the Council of Representatives - applauded as each new member of the Cabinet was named and took their seat. But then a member of the biggest Sunni faction, which is included in the government, angry about the defence and interior ministry roles being left open, led a walk-out.

Mr Maliki will for now run the interior ministry and Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zaubai, a Sunni, will run defence. With security the key issue, BBC defence correspondent, Rob Watson, says in the short term the new government is unlikely to affect what is a complex breakdown of law and order, involving Sunni insurgent groups, Shia militias and mafia-style criminality.

A blast in Sadr City, Baghdad, was a warning of continued violence.Just hours before the parliament began its session, at least 19 people were killed and 58 wounded in a bomb attack in the Shia district of Sadr City in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Sectarian violence has spiralled in recent months. The latest cycle of attacks began with the bombing in February of a Shia shrine in the town of Samarra. It was followed by the regular reports of the discovery of dumped bodies, bearing marks of torture and execution. Sunni politicians said Shia death squads operating within the security forces were behind the killings.

The new unity government is the result of five months of arduous negotiations, following December's general elections, in which the Shia alliance emerged as the largest single bloc. It is the first to include the main Sunni Muslim factions, which had boycotted the interim elections and cabinet.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Kenya's 'Koranic fish' recovered.
By Odhiambo Joseph BBC, Mombasa.

The tuna fish with what looks like Arabic writing on its side.

Enlarge Image

A fish with markings that resembled a Koranic text has been found by Kenyan officials after vanishing from the fisheries office where it was stored. The tuna fish, which had provoked intense interest from Muslims, had apparently been stolen by people posing as National Museum officials. The fish was found at the shop where it had first come to public attention. The fish was being studied to find out if the Arabic inscription "You are the best provider" was natural or a hoax.

Sceptics say the writing was the work of someone who caught the fish and then threw it back into the sea. But others say this would be impossible, and local imams are said to have been talking in the mosques about the fish. Heritage The owner of the Takaungu Fish Shop in Mombasa's old town is being questioned by police, who are also seeking another man in connection with the alleged theft.

The text is close to the Koranic verse: "Wa anta khair al-raziqin"The shop-keeper said a man had brought the fish to him for preservation. Over the weekend, people thronged to the shop after the owner noticed the tuna fish's remarkable markings. It had been caught by fisherman Said Ali at the end of last week at Vanga, a small fishing port on the Kenyan coast, 50km south of Mombasa. For safekeeping, the 2.5 kg (five pound) fish was moved to the fisheries department.

After being asked by Muslim leaders in Kenya, Kenya's National Museum had offered to take custody of the fish and preserve it for the country's heritage. The reported theft followed numerous attempts by locals and Muslim scholars to buy the mysterious fish. An official at the fisheries department in Mombasa said someone had even offered to pay as much as $150.
Under normal circumstances the fish would fetch not more than $6.


SA strike calls for job security.

Cosatu claims to have 1.8 million members. A strike by South Africa's biggest union alliance had a mixed response on Thursday, with some mines deserted but many businesses running normally. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is seeking the creation of decent, well-paid and secure jobs. Buses were set alight and stoned before dawn in Cape Town, but no violent incidents were reported elsewhere. Some rail services in Cape Town were suspended after arson on Wednesday, but other trains ran normally.

Unemployment officially 26%
Informal sector accounts for large number of jobs
Economic growth 5%
50% below poverty line

The ANC-union dispute

Some mines reported up to 100% stayaways, Chamber of Mines spokeswoman Elize Strydom told the South African Press Association. The Volkswagen vehicle assembly plant in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape also reported high absentee rates, and some stores of the large Pick 'n Pay supermarket chain were affected by the strike. Hospitals and the electricity utility Eskom were reported to be operating normally. Cosatu wants employers to stop using casual labour and outsourcing jobs, and is calling on retailers to develop local production rather than relying on imports.

Protest marches are planned for South Africa's main cities. However, Cape Town's city council banned a march planned there, after Tuesday's protest by striking security guards turned violent. Official figures suggest a quarter of all South Africans are unemployed, but some analysts put the figure at up to 40%. The African National Congress (ANC) is still in a formal alliance with the unions and the South African Communist Party (SACP), but rifts have been appearing for several years.



Zimbabwe faction leader arrested

Arthur Mutambara returned to Zimbabwe in February. The leader of one faction of Zimbabwe's main opposition party has been arrested while campaigning for a by-election in the capital, Harare, his party says. An MP and four officials of Arthur Mutambara's wing of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were also detained, party officials said. Both MDC factions are fielding candidates in Saturday's election in what was an opposition stronghold. Meanwhile, trade unions are considering calling a series of general strikes. Leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions are meeting to decide on what action to take after the failure of five-month talks with the government to protect wages in a country where annual inflation is more than 1,000%.

Under tough security laws, the police must give permission for all demonstrations, and protests by groups not allied to the governing Zanu-PF party are rarely authorised. But Mr Mutambara's spokesman Maxwell Zimuto said the police had given the go-ahead for the march, which the party had agreed to delay until after a rally by President Robert Mugabe.

Protests and strikes are banned in Zimbabwe"We were surprised when we were intercepted and driven into the police station," Mr Zimuto told the AFP news agency. The by-election in the Harare suburb of Budiriro follows the death of MDC MP Gilbert Mutimutema Shoko. Mr Mutambara was elected earlier this year to lead one faction of the MDC, after the party split last year. This is the first time he has been arrested since his return to Zimbabwe in February. On Thursday, police arrested about 100 people marking the anniversary of last year's slum clearance programme, in which the UN says some 700,000 people lost either their homes or their jobs.

The ZCTU's Collin Gwiyo told the BBC's Network Africa programme that police had also sent home trade unionists from Ghana and South Africa who had planned to join their two-day meeting. He said the union, which represents 30 worker organisations with 1m members, was struggling for workers to receive "a living wage which is linked to the galloping inflation". Independent estimates put the level of unemployment at 80%, whereas official figures say it is less than 10%. The country is suffering from chronic shortages of basic goods and fuel. The opposition says Mr Mugabe's economic mismanagement has destroyed what was once one of Africa's most vibrant economies. Mr Mugabe blames the economic problems on sabotage by western nations opposed to his policy of land redistribution.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Mexico is concerned about troop build-up along the borderPresident George W Bush has announced plans to introduce an additional 6,000 guards along America's border with Mexico, in a live televised address.

Mr Bush unveiled a five-point plan for reforms on immigration, an issue he said stirred "intense emotions". As well as fortifying borders, Mr Bush said he would introduce a temporary guest-worker scheme, and allow some illegal immigrants to become citizens. The plan met with a sceptical response from Mexico and some border states. Analysts say Mr Bush was trying to appeal to opposing sides of the debate. They say he was trying to appease both grass-roots conservative Republicans and the country's growing number of Hispanics.

Click here for a map showing US border security plans

There are an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the US, about half of them of Mexican origin. Mr Bush's live prime-time address began with a hiccup when part of a last-minute rehearsal was accidentally broadcast.

About 11.5m illegal immigrants in the US
Four out of 10 have been in US five years or less
75% were born in Latin America
Most enter via southern US border
California, Texas and Florida host most illegal immigrants.Many work in agriculture, transport and construction.

Guide: Facts and figures

Bush speech: Key quotes

Once the speech was under way, Mr Bush said the country had in recent weeks seen the emotions stirred by immigration put on display as millions of immigrants and supporters took to the street to protest against plans to criminalise illegal immigrants. He said the US had not been not "in full control of its borders", allowing illegal migrants to "sneak across, and millions have stayed". But he said the vast majority were "decent people who work hard, support their families, practise their faith, and lead responsible lives".

He said his reform objectives included:

Securing US borders: The number of border guards would rise by 6,000 to 18,000, and new hi-tech detection measures including hi-tech fences, new border patrol roads, and motion sensors would be installed along the 2,000-mile (3,200km) southern border. A temporary worker programme which would match "honest immigrants" with jobs that employers could not find Americans to do. The workers would have to return to their country of origin after a specified time. New ID cards for legal foreign workers, to include biometric technology, would allow employers to verify they were hiring legal workers.

Providing illegal immigrants with a chance of citizenship. Mr Bush said applicants would have to pay a penalty for breaking the law, pay back taxes, learn English, and would have to "wait in line" behind legal migrants. Encouraging immigrants to assimilate, to learn English "and embrace our common identity as Americans".

On border security, Mr Bush said 6,000 National Guards would be sent to the southern border for one year while extra border guards were trained, but that they would not undertake direct law enforcement. Detention facilities would be increased, and legal procedures speeded up, so that illegal immigrants could be quickly deported. On allowing long-term illegal immigrants a "path to citizenship", Mr Bush said this was "not an amnesty" but a "rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a programme of mass deportation".

In his address, Mr Bush referred to concerns raised by Mexico's President Vicente Fox, saying the US "is not going to militarise the southern border". But Mexico's foreign ministry expressed doubt in a statement, saying: "We have to express our concern that these actions are not accompanied by enough progress in the legislative process." One of America's most famous immigrants, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsed more border security. But the fellow Republican said he was "concerned asking National Guard troops to guard our nation's border is a Band-Aid solution and not the permanent solution we need". Mr Bush appealed to Congress to help him pass his plans into law. The whole two-year package will cost about $1.9 billion.

The immigration issue has sparked fierce debate in the US and is high on the agenda as Republicans seek to retain control of Congress in November's mid-term elections. Some lawmakers have questioned whether the deployment of the National Guard would overstretch the US military. The speech comes as Congress considers plans to reform immigration laws.


3,200km (2,000 miles) long
US plans 1,130km (700 mile) fence along part of it
Border guards made 1m arrests in 2005
500 people died trying to cross illegally in 2005, say rights groups
Thousands cross legally daily to shop and work - in 2003 88m cars, 48m pedestrians crossed.


Rebel leader Abdel Wahid Nur is unhappy with the peace deal. The African Union (AU) has extended by 14 days a deadline for two of Darfur's smaller rebel groups to sign a peace deal with the Sudanese government. A faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) will risk UN sanctions if they reject the deal, the AU said. Darfur's biggest rebel group agreed on 5 May to a peace deal aimed at ending three years of conflict with Khartoum. The conflict has killed about 200,000 and created two million refugees. Abdel Wahid Nur, who heads a faction of the SLA, and Khalil Ibrahim, of the Jem, have said they want more concessions from Sudan before they agree to the deal.

AU members said on Monday that they would urge the UN to take action against the smaller rebel groups if they did not meet the new, 31 May deadline. A spokesman for the AU, Nigerian Foreign Minister Olu Adeinji, told the AFP news agency the rebels' failure to sign the deal "will indicate their non-commitment to the peace process".

Darfur's biggest rebel group, the main faction of the SLA, agreed to the deal earlier this month.
The agreement, struck after lengthy negotiations in Nigeria, calls for the disbandment of rebel forces and the disarmament of the pro-government Janjaweed militia.

Monday, May 15, 2006


 Posted by Picasa


Letter is delivered 56 years late.

The Royal Mail said it was a "strange" delivery. A mystery letter posted to a Cambridge University college 56 years ago has finally been delivered. Trinity College porters were surprised when the faded letter, posted in London on 3 March 1950, turned up.

The faded handwritten letter, addressed to George Green, reads: "George, will meet at Monty's next weekend. Is 2pm acceptable? Love Gwen." Trinity College said staff were checking their records to find out whether Mr Green was a student. The college's head porter David Hales said: "It is a bit of a mystery. We are going through our archives to see if we can find out any more about it.

"It is possible that George was a student, but we haven't got a clue whether Monty's was a place, or perhaps a friend's house." Royal Mail spokesman James Taylor said: "As it has a postmark, it is extremely unlikely that it has been in our system all this time. "A postmark shows it has already been through so it must have been put back again only recently. "It is possible that it may have got caught up in a large envelope and sent to a wrong address. It is certainly a strange one."


President Fox is concerned about troop build-up along the borderMexican President Vicente Fox has voiced concern over US plans to use the National Guard to patrol the border. But, in a 30-minute phone conversation, President George W Bush is said to have assured him that the move did not mean a militarisation of the border. Mr Bush is due to announce the plans in a speech on Monday as part of an effort to help curb illegal immigration. There are an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the US, about half of them of Mexican origin.

The Bush administration has insisted that Mexico is still regarded as a friendly country.

Click here for a map showing US border security plans

According to a statement released by Mr Fox's office, Mr Bush had said officials were "analysing the administrative and logistical support of part of the National Guard, not the Army, to help police on the border". The immigration issue has sparked fierce debate in the US.

About 11.5m illegal immigrants in the US
Four out of 10 have been in US five years or less
75% were born in Latin America
Most enter via southern US border
California, Texas and Florida host most illegal immigrants
Many work in agriculture, transport and construction

Guide: Facts and figures

Mr Bush's speech on Monday evening will discuss how the US should deal with border security and what should happen to the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says Mr Bush hopes that being tough on future illegal immigration could help to get backing from Republicans to provide an amnesty to those already on US soil. Congress is currently considering plans to reform immigration laws. A bill passed last year by the House of Representatives includes provisions to make illegal immigration a felony and to bolster border security. However a Senate bill, currently stalled, would allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship and set up a guest worker programme, which is favoured by Mr Bush.

Click here to return


'I don't know if I will see my children again' . Somali widow and mother-of-10 Nuuro Salab Farah, 40, told the BBC News website via mobile phone from the Hamarbile area of Mogadishu how the fighting that is raging in Somalia's capital has left her homeless, destitute and missing five children.

Nuura, like this Somali woman, has been displaced by the fighting Muhammed Deeq is missing and Mohammud is missing. Fadumo, my daughter, is missing. And Nesteho too. Abdi Fatah is missing. Five of my beloved children are gone. Gone. I do not know where they are or what has happened to them. I have Abdi Jalil and Ayan and Ismihan and Yasmin is still with me too. And Abdirahman is here, lying on my legs. Lamed Abdirahman is 20 years old and is my oldest if I count his years.

Q&A: Mogadishu fighting
Global battle plays out
Running from fighting

But when I think of all I have to do for him, to look after him, it is as though he is my youngest. He was hit by a stray bullet three years ago. The bullet went into his spine and since that day when he was lamed he has not been able to walk. Until that day, when he was 17, I used to look forward to the happy life he was bringing our family. He was our breadwinner, working so hard to look after us.

When the fighting started on Sunday afternoon we fled our home for safety. There was no time to take any of our things and so we just left. We ran together and I pushed Abdirahman in a wheelbarrow. There cannot be peace in Somalia as long as clan allegiance is deep rooted in the Somali culture Ahmed Xayuuke, Oslo, Norway.
That night we all slept on the ground. The next morning, Monday, we woke all together. Then two of my children left to go to the market to find us some food. They were taking a long time and so the other three that were attending school said that they could not wait and would go to their school. We didn't think that the fighting was that bad. We thought that it would soon stop and that everything would return to normal. That is why my children went to school. They told me that by hook or by crook they didn't want to miss school as they liked it so much. I accepted that they should go and so they went. From that day up to now I have not seen them. I have called all my relatives and friends but they have not seen them either.

I am so worried and distressed. It hurts me to remember them. At the moment, in the name of God, I don't have even one Somali shilling We have found a new place to live. It is a refuge area near the Hayat hospital. We are depending on our new neighbours for food and support. There are no toilets and there is no electricity or running water but we use gerry cans to collect water to drink and for our washing. Many of us are sharing a small hut-like house. We all sleep on mats and Abdirahman has the one bed that is here to sleep on.

Map of Mogadishu

We are alright and God willing we will be. We cannot go back to our home because it has been destroyed. I called a friend who is staying on despite the fighting and he told me that a mortar had destroyed my home and three or four others. Even if it was still standing I wouldn't want to go back. I have given up what I had there and do not want to go back.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia.


At the moment, in the name of God, I don't have even one Somali shilling. All we have is what we are wearing. In my case, my "gares" (shawl) and my "bati" (dress). It doesn't matter though because I will have more, if God is willing, everything will be got. Except my soul. The soul is the body's most precious and vulnerable part and for it to heal will take more than I can imagine.

For now I only feel full of sorrow for my children and for my lame son. I have always worried about Abdirahman, since his accident anyway, but it is worse now because there is very little I can do to ease his pain. His skin is diseased from having to always lie down. His body is covered in sores. Now, here in our new home, I don't have the medicine to treat his wounds or the dressings to wrap them in. I am always thinking of ways to try and get doctors to cure him, to give him the best medical treatment that there is. And lately now I also am also thinking about my missing children. I do not know whether I will ever see them again. I keep believing that if God wills it, then we will be together again.

Click to return
This interview was translated by Ahmed Muhammed Fardolle for the BBC News website.


Kenyan Catholic rebel priest to wed. By Muliro Telewa BBC News, Kitale.

Father Shiundu is planning to slaughter bulls for the celebrations.A lavish wedding ceremony is being prepared for a priest who has rebelled against the Catholic Church in western Kenya. Father Godfrey Shiundu, who joined a more accommodating Catholic splinter church called the Reformed Catholic Church (RCC) four years ago, is marrying his long-time girlfriend in Kitale on Sunday.

The RCC is a US-based Catholic breakaway group that allows its clergy to marry and openly accepts polygamy, making it an accommodating alternative for some African cultures. Announcing his forthcoming nuptials, Father Shiundu said he is going to slaughter 10 bulls for some 1,000 guests he expects at the celebrations. RCC Archbishop Karly Raymond Rodig is flying in from Germany to marry the couple at a church set up by Father Shiundu only a kilometre from Kitale's main Catholic cathedral.

It has no connection with our church and I forbid Catholics from attending this church Bishop Maurice Crowley The bishop of the Immaculate Heart Cathedral is not impressed by what he calls this "new sect". Some estimates put the rival RCC congregation in western Kenya at several thousand in more than 10 parishes. Father Shiundu says its popularity is growing and he and his two colleagues have started recruiting members from their former churches. He says it is the RCC's stance on celibacy that will be its main attraction.

Four years ago, Father Shiundu was suspended from the mainstream church over allegations that he had got a nun pregnant. He denies this vehemently: "Soon after those allegations were made against me I told the bishop to let me, the nun and the baby undergo a DNA test to prove the truth." At a service at Kitale's St Lawrence Reform Catholic Church, there is little to differentiate it from an ordinary Catholic mass.

The RCC acknowledge the pope during their mass.The vestments of the serving priests are identical to those worn across the road at Bishop Crowley's cathedral; in fact, the readings are the same and so are the songs. During mass, they even acknowledge the authority of the pope. In Kitale there has been a mixed reaction to the rival church. "I was shocked by Father Shiundu, but I can assure him that his church won't rival ours since most of the people in his church belong to one tribe and are a bunch of polygamists," Victoria Bii a member of Bishop Crowley's congregation told me.

One of Father Shiundu's followers, who declined to give his name, says the good thing about the RCC is that it respects polygamists which a recent meeting of bishops in the mainstream church has failed to resolve. As observers debate whether this breakaway group will survive, its believers see Father Shiundu's wedding as a chance to display their new loyalty.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Food or freedom.
Saturday 13th May 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

Life has become so difficult in Zimbabwe that the daily struggle for survival is all consuming in these early weeks of winter. Every day now the electricity goes off, sometimes it's just for an hour, but mostly the cuts last for three to four hours in the evening and sometimes in the early morning too. On one grinding day this week the power went off for two long stretches leaving homes, institutions and businesses sitting on their hands for ten hours, barely able to function. People have taken to cooking their evening meal in the middle of the day, doing their ironing in the middle of the night and getting up long before sunrise to boil the kettle, have a bath and cook breakfast before the power goes off at 6am. Even worse though, is the fact that when the power comes back on, we all heave a sigh of grateful relief when we should be phoning, emailing and writing letters of complaint to the electricity authority. Zimbabwe has huge coal mines at Hwange, massive hydro electricity from Lake Kariba and the potential for more solar power than we could use and yet our homes, schools and businesses are in the dark this winter. Our silent acceptance of the situation is almost as bad as the power cuts themselves.

In a supermarket this week I watched half a dozen people standing staring sullenly at a closed door and wondered what was happening. A few more people joined them until maybe 20 men and women stood together in a group. No one talked or moved, they all just stood, staring intently at a closed door. After a while a woman wearing a white dust coat emerged pushing a shopping trolley which contained 10 bags of maize meal. There was a scramble, almost a scrum, and the first ten people to get to the trolley each grabbed a 10 kilogram bag and headed for the check out counters. That was a pretty shocking sight, seeing the scramble, the grabbing and the desperation for staple food, but it wasn't as shocking as the woman in the white coat who stood back and laughed at the people who were struggling to get to the food. I watched for a while longer. The woman in the white coat pushed her trolley back behind the door, more people gathered and waited and then the whole thing happened all over again. This time the woman in the white coat had been joined by two male employees.They were obviously not there to help either their colleague or the customers as they too just stood back and laughed. When I got to the check out counter the teller was also laughing at the food scrambling which had almost bought the whole supermarket to a standstill. I asked the teller why on earth they didn't just put out all the bags of maize meal on the shelf or at least get people to queue. For sure someone was going to get hurt but the teller just shrugged and his boredom with the situation and lack of empathy was palpable. It is almost impossible to understand why people don't complain when things like this are happening but it seems survival is the only thing that matters now. Food is more important than freedom, than fairness, than principles and even more important than dignity. And while people begin scrambling for food before winter has really even taken hold, and when food from summer cropping should be plentiful, (but isn't) the protests in Zimbabwe are increasing.
In the last fortnight 185 WOZA activists, including 73 children, were arrested for protesting about unaffordable education. 19 students from Bindura university were arrested for protesting over tuition fees and 48 NCA activists were arrested for protesting over the dire need for constitutional changes. The week ended with the news that inflation has reached 4 digits and now stands at 1042%. I cannot take that figure in and do not know how we will survive and so I stand outside in the winter sun, the sky is gorgeous and blue and the grass yellow and golden - this at least does not change.
Until next week, love cathy


China risks new row over bishop.

China has a state-run association and an underground Church. China is installing another Catholic bishop in a move that is likely to increase tension with the Vatican. Zhan Silu is being elevated to become bishop of Mindong Diocese in eastern Fujian province on Sunday without the approval of the Holy See. In the past fortnight Beijing has consecrated two other unapproved bishops, sparking Papal criticism. China has both a state-run Catholic association and an underground church loyal to the Vatican. The recent appointments have cast a shadow on moves to re-establish diplomatic relations that were severed more than 50 years ago.

Zhan Silu, 45, was consecrated as bishop in 2000 but has been a deputy to another who died last year and has not celebrated a full Mass as bishop.

Priests in both China churches say his elevation on Sunday could increase tension with the Vatican. A local priest in the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association told Reuters news agency there had been "heavy pressure to attend" Sunday's ceremony in the cathedral in Ningde. "There's been no discussion with us about whether this should go ahead - it's a bad signal to send right now," he said.

Ahead of Sunday's ceremony, a priest in the church loyal to the Vatican said none of its representatives would attend, although the cathedral was packed for the ceremony. The Vatican recently threatened to excommunicate two bishops consecrated by China's official church. Pope Benedict XVI expressed his "deep displeasure" over the appointments. Taiwan links The Chinese government does not recognise the Vatican's power to appoint bishops but over the past five years has allowed bishops to seek Vatican approval. However, the unilateral consecration of the two bishops in eastern Anhui province and south-western Yunnan has seen ties sour.

There are an estimated 13 million Catholics in China, of whom about five million follow the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the remainder the underground church. China has said it would like better relations with the Vatican, but wants the Holy See to cut its diplomatic links with Taiwan first. Diplomatic ties were severed in 1951 after the 1949 Communist takeover in China and subsequent crackdown on religion.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Mixed emotions for Tasmania mine town.
By Phil Mercer BBC News, Sydney

Fear, elation, hangovers and worries about the future - it has been an extraordinary few weeks for the people of Beaconsfield. The rescue of the miners gripped the nation. The epic rescue of trapped miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell was a magical moment for the small Tasmanian mining town. They had spent 14 uncertain days entombed almost a kilometre under ground.
Church bells in Beaconsfield rang out for the first time since the end of World War II. The joy of this close-knit community in northern Tasmania was tempered by the death of Larry Knight, a veteran miner who was killed in the earthquake that caused a devastating cave-in on 25 April.

But amid the highs and lows of great endurance and tragic loss is the cold reality that Beaconsfield's gold mine may never re-open. The gates will remain closed indefinitely while three separate inquiries try to make some sense of the disaster. More importantly they will determine the mine's future. The workers have been paid for a month but they want to get back on the job as soon as possible. At a meeting at Beaconsfield town hall they voted unanimously in support of reopening the mine. "The view of the workforce is that they do want the mine to proceed and be open but obviously not at any price," said Bill Shorten from the Australian Workers Union.

The future of the town is now in doubt."Our members are ready to work but not at the expense of false guarantees of safety, which can be broken by another catastrophe." The mine's owners have said it would reopen if it was safe and viable to do so. Seismic activity or mini-earthquakes in the area are pressing concerns. Last October there was a cave-in at the Beaconsfield facility not far from the rock-fall that killed Larry Knight and trapped Todd Russell and Brant Webb.
If safety cannot be guaranteed then their triumphant rescue will be the final chapter in a century of gold mining in the town.

There are still rich seams to be exploited, but trade unions will insist that commercial considerations must not cloud judgements on safety. The mine is the community's economic heart, employing about 10% of its population of 1,500 people. The local council, as well as the Tasmanian State government and its federal counterpart, are looking at ways of maintaining local employment if the worst happens.

Todd Russell: 34, married with three children
Wanted paramedics to stop off at fast-food joint after rescue
Asked for newspaper to scan for other jobs and overtime pay

Brant Webb: 37, married to childhood sweetheart
Also has three children, including teenage twins
Both men determined to walk out of the rescue tunnel
Rescue in pictures
Press hails rescue

"If the mine were to close we certainly need to put some strategies in place to overcome that," local mayor Barry Easther told Australian television. A proposed pulp mill on the nearby Tamar River would certainly help and locals are optimistic that tourism in the region will continue to flourish. Wineries and walking trails are already popular attractions. The mine itself could be another irresistible draw card. A special Beaconsfield taskforce is expected to meet later this week. "Because of the particular circumstances of this community and its dependence on this mine if it is closed for a prolonged period, there is obviously a case for additional help," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, may well have no such worries about the future. Their stories could be worth up to AU$2m (US$1.5m). They are household names whose cheeky good humour has endeared them to millions of Australians. So much has been written and said about these two burly miners from Tasmania, but we have heard almost nothing from them since their great escape. Australian TV heavyweights Channels Seven and Nine are thought to be leading the chase for an exclusive deal, while newspaper reports suggest that US chat show queen Oprah Winfrey is also in the running.


DRC aid is only 1/60th of that given after the Asian tsunami, Oxfam says. The aid agency Oxfam has criticised donor countries for failing to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Oxfam says donor countries have contributed only $94m (£50m) to a $682m special appeal launched in February. It says more than 100,000 people have died in the three-month period from diseases that might have been cured. Countries singled out for criticism by the agency include the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK.

Oxfam says DR Congo is a forgotten disaster zone in which 3.9m people have died over the past eight years.

The war in DR Congo

The Humanitarian Action Plan was launched by the United Nations, the Red Cross and aid agencies in February. It comes as the country approaches UN-backed elections in July, which will be the first democratic polls the DRC has ever held.
The BBC's World Affairs Correspondent Mark Doyle says it is unusual for aid agencies to name - and try to shame - specific countries. But Oxfam has called the contributions of the United States and Japan "minuscule" compared with the size of their economies and said that Germany and France had committed little and Italy nothing. The aid agency calculates what it calls "fair shares" by comparing the amount appealed for with the size of economies.

According to Oxfam, Britain gave only about half of the share it could have been expected to contribute. The donations would help people made homeless by the long-running conflict and would aid the fight against malnutrition. Oxfam's representative in Congo, Juliette Prodhan, said it was good that donors had agreed to help finance the forthcoming polls, but that the country's problems would not be cured by voting alone. "Rich country governments have a moral obligation to act when 1,200 people are dying every day from conflict-related causes," she said.
"The stark reality is that humanitarian needs in the DRC are receiving one sixtieth of what was contributed to alleviate suffering after the 2004 tsunami."

After years of war and misrule, there is little infrastructure in DR Congo, which is about the size of Western Europe, and there are no road or rail links from one side of the country to the other.
Fighting - particularly in the east - continues between rival militias and government forces. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. A United Nations peacekeeping force of nearly 17,000 troops - the world's largest - operates in the country and is being augmented by a 1,500-strong European Union rapid reaction force over the election period.


A comet is delighting astronomers with a marvellous night-time display as it makes a near pass of the Earth. The ball of ice, rock and dust has broken up into more than 60 pieces; two of the larger fragments are visible through binoculars or small telescopes. At its closest approach this weekend, the comet will be some 10 million km (six million miles) from the Earth. Continued disintegration means this may be the last swing around the Sun for Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.
Dr Robert Massey, of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, said the optimum time to see the comet in the UK was between 0000 and 0100 BST, away from the lights of the city. He said observers should look East with binoculars and use a sky chart to get the best chance of a sighting.

Click here to see the comet's path across the sky

"It's a rare opportunity for members of the public to see what is a pretty dramatic phenomenon," he said. "Watching a comet break up is not something the public gets to do that often."

Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 was discovered in 1930 by German astronomers. It orbits the Sun every 5.4 years. It has an elongated path that swings out towards Jupiter then back towards the Earth and the Sun. All periodic comets like this one are doomed to disintegrate and die. Astronomers first noticed in 1995 that Comet 73P had split into several chunks. When it moved back towards the Sun in March this year, seven fragments were observed, of which two - B and C - were particularly bright. The break-up has continued apace.
Fragments B and C are expected to be visible between 11 and 14 May with binoculars and perhaps even the unaided eye.
If they fall apart still further - ejecting light-reflective material from the heart of the comet - they will be a magnificent sight in the night sky.

To get the best view of the sky always move away from the city.
The fragments are now moving across the Cygnus constellation.
Look East and high with binoculars; fragment B has been brightest.
Click here to return


Deadly blasts in Ethiopia capital.

People survey the damage outside the offices of Ethiopian Airlines. At least four people have been killed and 40 injured in a series of explosions in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, police say.
Two of the deaths occurred in a blast at a cafe in the Mercato, the city's largest market. A BBC reporter says blood and broken glass litter the site. There were eight other explosions in busy public places around the city.
There have been several mysterious attacks in the capital since last year's disputed elections.
'Civilians targeted'
The BBC's Amber Henshaw says shoes and other personal belongings can be seen on the veranda outside the cafe.
"I saw the waitresses falling down on the ground, I saw blood," 15-year-old Berekat Betwidid told AFP through tears and sobs.
"These people want to give the impression that there is no peace and stability in the city anymore," said Police spokesman Demsach Hailu.
"All the explosions are targeting civilians."
The police have not said who they believe is behind the explosions and no group has claimed responsibility.
The first blast happened early in the morning local time outside the offices of the Ethiopian Airlines.
The second came a few hours later just metres away outside the headquarters of the state electricity company.
A bus station and a bus were also targeted.
In March one person was killed and 14 injured when five explosions went off in a single day.
Correspondents say the unexplained blasts have increased tension in Addis Ababa which suffered unrest following last year's polls, which the opposition says were rigged.
In February, the police said they had found a cache of explosives and linked it to the main opposition grouping, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).
CUD leaders are on trial at present charged with treason and planning to commit genocide stemming from those protests.



Tanzanian monkey goes up a notch.
By Rebecca Morelle BBC News science reporter.

The Kipunji was first thought a new species.
See the monkey

Scientists have described a new genus of monkey - the first for 83 years.
The Rungwecebus kipunji sports a distinctive Mohawk stripe of hair, and is found in Tanzania, Africa.
The monkey, first described from photographs last year, was originally thought to be a new species but tests reveal it is even more special.
The international team, writing in the journal Science Express, warns that the animal is already under threat from logging and hunting.
The monkey is found in two high-altitude remote locations in Tanzania: the Rungwe-Livingstone forest in the Southern Highlands and the Ndundulu Forest in the Udzungwa Mountains.
Known locally as Kipunji, it stands at about 90cm (3ft) tall, is grey-brown in colour with off-white fur on its stomach and on the tip of its long curly tail, and has a crest of long hair on the top of its head. Adults have a distinctive call, described as a "honk-bark".

Listen to the monkey's unusual call
Better tests
When scientists spotted the animals in 2005, they originally placed them in the Lophocebus genus, commonly known as managabeys, but they were only able to study them from photographs.
However, the discovery of a dead Kipunji in a farmer's trap meant more extensive genetic and morphological tests could take place.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Rungwecebus

Species: R. kipunjiTim Davenport, lead author of the paper, who is from the Wildlife Conservation Society and is based in Tanzania, said: "We first came across the monkey a couple of years ago - the realisation that it was a new species was really exciting.
"Since then we knew it would only be a matter of time before we got hold of a dead animal - because they are hunted - and once we had and we started looking at it more closely, we realised it was a new genus. That was just incredible - it is something that really doesn't happen that often."
Bill Stanley, an author on the paper, and mammal collections manager at the Field Museum, Chicago, US, said hearing the news that the monkey belonged to a new genus "sent shivers down my spine".
"Simply put, the genetics said that it was closely related to baboons, but the skull wasn't anything like a baboon. The conclusions we drew from the genetic and morphological data meant that it had to be named as a new genus."
An enigmatic monkey
Mr Stanley said one of the reasons why the monkey had until recently remained a mystery to science was because of its reclusive nature.
"They live in trees for the most part, they rarely come to the ground - and when they are in the trees they remain relatively hidden. This coupled with the fact that the places where the Kipunji are known are infrequently visited by outsiders is what probably led to them being unknown for so long."

They live in the tree tops of high-altitude forestsBut although the enigmatic Kipunji has just been described, it is already under threat, say the authors.
"At the moment we are doing a census, but the Kipunji will almost certainly number less than 1,000 in total," Tim Davenport told the BBC News website.
"There is a very small population in Ndundulu, but that is only two or three groups. In Mount Rungwe, where there are more, the forest is heavily disturbed. It is logged and it isn't managed. That couples with the fact that the monkey is hunted - they raid crops - and people set traps to protect their crops."
Bill Stanley agreed: "The bottom line is that they are living in a small area of forest that is increasing being utilised for human needs, and the ramifications of that human utilisation could have a serious effect on the remaining population."
The new genus is now being considered for the IUCN Red List of endangered species.
Evolutionary steps
Jonathan Kingdon, a biological anthropologist from Oxford University, commented: "The geneticists have shown that the closest relative of this rather slender, mainly tree-dwelling monkey is the hefty, mainly ground-dwelling baboon. Indeed of all the primates known it is the baboon's closest relative.
"The evolution of this unique monkey from a baboon and not a finely tuned lineage that was already 'monkey' offers us a unique opportunity to understand the evolution of monkeys in Africa.

They can be difficult to spot in the leafy forests"And the most likely reason for baboon and not monkey ancestry is that the Southern Highlands were separated from the great primate communities of central Africa by Lakes Tanganyika and Rukwa."
But Professor Colin Groves, a biological anthropologist from Australian National University, Canberra, was more cautious about the research.
"I'm not certain if this is a new genus. I'm unsure of the molecular analysis - when I look at the phylogenetic tree (a diagram of the evolutionary relationships of a group of organisms) there are aspects of it that are quite different to those that other people have generated. I would like to see them explore their DNA tree much much more."


Friday, May 12, 2006


Dalai Lama 'behind Lhasa unrest.'

The Dalai Lama says he wants autonomy for Tibet. China has blamed the Dalai Lama for an outbreak of violence at a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, accusing the exiled spiritual leader of stirring up unrest.
The official Xinhua news agency said 17 Tibetans on 14 March destroyed a pair of statues at Lhasa's Ganden Monastery depicting the deity Dorje Shugden. Lhasa's mayor blamed the destruction on followers of the Dalai Lama, who sees Dorje Shugden as a divisive force. Analysts accused China of exploiting any dispute for political ends. There is a fault line in Tibetan Buddhism and its traditions itself, but it is also exploited for political purposes -Theirry DodinTibet analyst.
The Dalai Lama has urged his followers not to worship Dorje Shugden, regarded as a powerful but dangerous protector, analysts say. Instead of praying to Shugden, the Dalai Lama has urged all Tibetans to pray together and avoid internal conflicts. But the mayor of Lhasa, Norbu Dunzhub, said the apparent violence at Ganden monastery was "by no means an accidental event". "On a fundamental level, [the violence] was provoked by the Dalai clique, whose purpose is to arouse conflict between different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, thus sabotaging the unity of Tibet," Xinhua reported the mayor as saying.

Tibet's senior Communist Party official, Zhang Qingli, directly blamed the Dalai Lama, accusing him of encouraging monks to attack the monastery. "What the Dalai Lama has done violates the religious freedom of believers," he told Xinhua. But some analysts have accused China of exploiting the apparent unrest for political gain in an effort to discredit the Dalai Lama. Tibet analyst Theirry Dodin said China had encouraged division among the Tibetans by promoting followers of the Dorje Shugden sect to key positions of authority.


1950 - China invades Tibet, claims it as province
1951 - Under duress, Tibet signs controversial treaty with China
1956- Rebellions break out in Amdo and Kham
1959 - Rebellion spreads to Lhasa, where it is crushed by Chinese army. Dalai Lama flees to India

"There is a fault line in Tibetan Buddhism and its traditions itself, but it is also exploited for political purposes," he told the BBC News website. A spokesman for the Free Tibet Campaign, Yael Weisz-Rind, said the Chinese criticism mirrored tactics used during negotiations between the two sides. "They always accuse him of separatism and campaigning for a free Tibet.
"Disagreements are normal in every healthy religion or society. This kind of discussion is what stops them stagnating." The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 following China's invasion nine years earlier. He lives in exile in Dharamsala, India.
China and the Dalai Lama have been engaged in secretive talks for years, and met for a fifth round of talks in February, but have made little progress. The Dalai Lama has called for Tibetan autonomy within China, but China repeatedly labels him a separatist and says he seeks full independence.


The price of ammunition in the city has rocketed. Fighting between Somali warlords and Islamist militias for control of the capital, Mogadishu, has resumed for a sixth day after a brief lull.

Thousands have fled their homes, leaving the northern suburbs deserted and at least 130 people dead. A hospital director in the city told the BBC that if the violence continued, medical supplies would run out. The Islamists say the alliance of warlords are backed by the US, a belief fuelling the worst clashes in a decade. The warlords accuse the Islamists of harbouring foreign militants. The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan says the break in fighting on Friday morning gave both sides an opportunity to rearm.

The fighting is still concentrated in the CC district, where the clashes began on Sunday. Both sides are vying for control of a strategic road leading out of Mogadishu.

Our reporter says there is a pattern: intensive shelling for long stretches followed by a few hours break in which only sporadic gunfire can be heard. The price of ammunition has rocketed in the last week; a single AK47 round which cost 60 US cents last week now costs $1.50 on Mogadishu's open weapons market. Dr Sheikh don Salad Elmi, the director of Medina hospital in South Mogadishu, where many have been brought in with severe injuries, said the fighting was affecting up to 200,000 inhabitants.

Transitional government
Gets arms from: Ethiopia, Italy (Source: UN report)
Islamic courts
Gets arms from: Eritrea (Source: UN report)
Anti-terror alliance of warlords
Believed to get support from US
"We're afraid if the fighting goes on and the influx of wounded people increases in the hospital, we might not be able to cope," he told the BBC's World Today programme. "The fighting has been intensive and is intensifying," he said Most of those killed in the fighting are civilians caught in cross-fire or hit by stray bullets or shells, our reporter says. "This is the first time we have witnessed people fighting in Somalia and targeting civilians in such a savage way," Mohamud Jama told the AP news agency at a hospital where he was tending his wife after a shell hit his home killing three of his children.

The US has not confirmed or denied backing the warlords but says it would "work with responsible individuals... in fighting terror". A report by a UN committee on Wednesday warned that an unnamed country is flouting the arms embargo on Somalia.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia.

The UN Security Council rejected the committee's recommendations for targeted sanctions and tighter controls on the illegal flow of weapons into Somalia. This is the second round of Mogadishu's most serious fighting in a decade. In March, clashes between the two sides killed at least 90 people. The militia linked to the Joint Islamic Courts have restored order to some parts of the city by providing justice under Sharia - Islamic law. The alliance of warlords earlier this year created the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. It accuses the Islamic Courts of sheltering foreign al-Qaeda leaders, which they deny.

Last week, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf accused the US of funding the coalition of warlords.The US has an anti-terror task force based in nearby Djibouti. Somalia has not had an effective national authority for 15 years since the ousting of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Click to return