Friday, June 30, 2006


Russian rouble faces world market
By Damian Grammaticas BBC News, Moscow

Many Russians want their salaries in roubles. It's not long since the Russian rouble was seen as a basket-case currency. Even in Russia itself, people have shunned it preferring US dollars. Now times are changing. This weekend Russia is lifting all currency controls. The rouble will become fully-convertible, free for you or I to buy and sell. The Kremlin wants to establish it as a strong international currency. Supported by high oil prices, the rouble looks like being an attractive proposition. But removing currency controls also brings significant new risks for Russia.

Flying off the printing presses in Moscow are sheets of perfect new rouble notes as Russia prepares to float its currency. The rouble will be freely tradeable, joining the world of fully-fledged international currencies. Liberalising capital and currency controls will encourage investment into Russia - Alexei Kudrin, Russia's Finance Minister."It won't be a quick process to gain trust. Step by step it will come," says Russia's Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. "Liberalising capital and currency controls will encourage investment into Russia. Allowing free movement of money is an important part of our new market economy."

Back in the 1990s, though, nobody wanted the rouble. It was a decade of inflation, debt default, devaluation, and poverty. Russians literally tore up their roubles. How things have changed. Today, Moscow is awash with money, expensive shops and neon lights, its consumers driving a booming economy. "Everybody wants their salary in roubles... and me also, I want to have my salary in roubles now... because the dollar became cheaper" - Anya Artamanova, Russian residentMany still prefer to use the dollar. Everywhere on Russia's streets are exchange kiosks displaying today's rates for the greenback and the euro. But as the rouble has prepared to float it has strengthened, and the dollar has weakened.

From dollars to roubles
A trip to the bank is a regular part of Anya Artamanova's routine. She gets her salary in dollars - then swaps them for roubles. Today Anya is enjoying an espresso in one of Moscow's smart cafes. She works for an internet company. Her clients are billed in dollars, her staff paid in dollars. But all believe it's time to switch. "Everybody wants their salary in roubles and they came to me and say, 'Oh, maybe we change it,'" she says. "Me also, I want to have my salary in roubles now, because the dollar became cheaper. I saw it."

Stronger competition
Russia's businesses - like Europe's biggest dairy products factory in Moscow, which churns out yoghurt, milk and drinks - will also feel the change. A floated rouble will bring risks and rewards.
The company, Wimm Bill Dann, has modernised an outdated production line. As the rouble strengthens, everything it imports will be cheaper - each gleaming new machine that costs millions of dollars, not to mention its raw materials like sugar, fruit, packaging.

But Russia will face stronger competition from abroad, and inefficient companies will struggle, says Wimm Bill Dann's Marina Kagan. "In Russia usually production sites are not very efficient," she says. "You have a lot of people working there. Now we are all moving, we have all our plants automated so you don't need so many people to service those lines. "Traditionally it was impossible to lay people off. Now more and more companies are doing it, gradually, offering very good termination packages. They are doing it because there is no other way."

'Strategic raw materials' It is oil and gas that's making Russia, the world's second biggest exporter, increasingly wealthy. The country has built up huge currency reserves. The rouble should become a more universal means for international transactions and expand its zone of influence - President Putin.And to make the rouble even more attractive internationally, President Putin now has plans to charge foreign buyers of oil and gas in roubles, not dollars. "The rouble should become a more universal means for international transactions and expand its zone of influence," Mr Putin said in his recent State of the Nation address. "We need a stock exchange where oil and gas can be traded in roubles. Our goods are being traded on world markets so why not here - in Russia?"

It all means that the rouble may prove a very attractive prospect. Traders, investors, even central banks may start to buy up the currency. Yaroslav Lissovolik, a Moscow-based economist, says it all comes down to Russia's increasing strategic importance in supplying vital strategic commodities such as oil. "I think it increasingly makes sense for the central banks of the world to start thinking about re-allocating part of their reserves from currencies such as the dollar into the rouble," he says.

So television advertisements are exhorting Russians to know their currency. But the danger is that the rouble looks cheap against other international currencies. If speculators buy it up in huge quantities, Russia may not be able to prevent the rouble strengthening too fast. The economy could overheat and Russia would face new economic problems - not from an economy in meltdown, but from a buoyant currency.


The railway snakes for 1,000km across 'the roof of the world'The highest - and most controversial - railway in the world begins operating on Saturday between China and Tibet. The Qinghai-Tibet line boasts high-tech engineering to stabilise tracks over permafrost and sealed cabins to protect passengers from the high altitude.

China hails the 1,140km (710-mile) line as a feat of engineering, bringing major opportunities to a poor region. But critics fear it will be used by China to assert its control over a contested border region. They also say the railway line threatens not only the delicate Himalayan environment, but also the ancient Tibetan culture. Three foreign activists were briefly detained at Beijing's central railway station on Friday after unfurling a banner that read: "China's Tibet Railway: Designed to Destroy."

Follow the route of the China-Tibet railway

The train line runs from the city of Golmud in China's Qinghai province to the Tibetan capital, Llasa. At its highest point, it will reach 5,072m (16,640ft) - beating by 225m a route through the Peruvian Andes that was previously the world's highest railway, the China Daily newspaper reports. In parts, the train line has been built on bridges elevated above the most unstable permafrost.


Connects Lhasa to existing China rail network
New 1,140km stretch cost $4.2bn
World's highest railway, reaching 5,072m
Oxygen to be pumped into each carriage
Restaurant car's rice cooked in pressure cookers, to mitigate effects of high altitude
Beijing to Lhasa to take 48 hours, cost $50-$160 one waY

In pictures: New railway
Railway raises fears

Elsewhere, cooling pipes have been sunk into the ground to ensure it remains frozen to stabilise the tracks. The train carriages have windows with ultra-violet filters to keep out the sun's glare, as well as carefully regulated oxygen levels with spare supplies to combat the thin air. Zhu Zhensheng of the Chinese railway ministry called the new line a "major achievement" that will "hugely boost local development and benefit the local people". But exiled Tibetan Lhadon Tethong said the railway was "engineered to destroy the very fabric of Tibetan identity".

"China plans to use the railway to transport Chinese migrants directly into the heart of Tibet in order to overwhelm the Tibetan population and tighten its stranglehold over our people," he said on a Free Tibet Campaign statement. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader in exile since 1959, was more circumspect. "The railway line itself is not a cause of concern for the Tibetan people," his spokesman, Thupten Samphel, said. "How it will be used is the main concern."



Ethiopian fears after land battle.
By Amber Henshaw BBC News, Arero

The fighting has been between pastoralist clans. As sporadic clan killings continue in southern Ethiopia, where 90,000 people have fled their homes, local elders fear a flare-up of violence. Last month, more than 100 people died in fierce clashes between the pastoralist Borena and the Guji clans. Villages and houses have been left deserted in the area, some 500km south of the capital, Addis Ababa. The bitter dispute began three years ago when the government marked out a border between the two clans' zones. But this is the first time there have been serious clashes between them for about 15 years. People were killed from both sides.
Hundreds of those who fled have gone to the remote town of Arero to collect basic provisions like blankets and plastic sheeting from aid agencies. "They fought us, they killed our people and they displaced us from our homes, they burnt our houses," says Ali Aden, an elder from the Gabre clan, which was caught up in the violence. "We had to leave without anything - without even being able to pick up a stick. We have no clothes, we have no food. This sheet I am wearing was given to me yesterday." Arero's chief administrator Jaatanni Taadhii has confirmed between 27,000 and 29,000 people have sought refuge in his area. "The greatest need is for food, shelter, clothes and medicine," he said.

The most recent violence erupted after a series of confrontations - but one key incident was when the Guji drove their cattle on to Borena land without asking permission, against clan tradition. The Borena claim the Guji are trying to expand their territory but the Guji insist there has been a misunderstanding. "People were killed from both sides. The conflict area was vast and there are still dead bodies which have not been collected," says Guji elder Shiferow Henbi. "We all feel very strongly about what has happened - two brothers killing each other. The Guji are Oromo, the Borena are Oromo - suddenly this conflict happened and we are all devastated about the conflict with our brothers."

Clan leaders say some villages have been burnt to the ground in the fighting and people I spoke to in the area say the killings are continuing despite the fact that elders have appealed for calm.
Traditionally, the elders resolve minor disputes over land and resources but say this one is unusual because of the level of violence. They say they need outside help from an independent third-party. The Ethiopian Red Cross says peace-building in the area is essential.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Row brings down Dutch government.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is known for her hardline stance. The Dutch government is resigning after losing the support of one of its coalition partners, says Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. D66, the coalition's smallest member, withdrew its support in a row over Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. Ms Verdonk had threatened to strip former politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali of her Dutch passport because of false information she gave in 1992. Mr Balkenende said he would tender the government's resignation on Friday.

"Following this, the remaining ministers and junior ministers decided to tender their positions to the head of state, the Queen. This also counts for me, the prime minister," Mr Balkenende said on television. Mr Balkenende's announcement came after two days of debate in the parliament, where Ms Verdonk had done a U-turn on her stance on Ms Hirsi Ali, claiming she had found a legal loophole that would allow the Somali-born woman to stay. The D66 party pulled three ministers from the government because Ms Verdonk, known as "Iron Rita" for her tough stance on immigration issues, refused to resign over her treatment of Ms Hirsi Ali.

"A rift was created with my party and I feel there is no other way but to withdraw support for this government," D66 party leader Lousewies van der Laan told parliament today. Ms Hirsi Ali, 36, became an international figure after writing a controversial film about the treatment of women in Islam, which was directed by Theo Van Gogh, later led to his murder by a Muslim extremist in 2004.

Since admitting to lying in her asylum application, Ms Hirsi Ali has stepped down as a member of parliament and planned a move to the US to work for a think tank. The resignation of the government could lead to new elections in October.


The tomb was discovered by chance.
Inside the tomb

Archaeologists in Egypt expecting to find a mummy during their excavation of a burial chamber in Luxor have instead discovered a garland of flowers. The 3,000-year-old garland is the first to be discovered. It was found in the last of seven coffins which archaeologists had hoped would contain the mummies of royal queens or even Tutankhamun's mother. Researchers and media had been invited into the chamber, near Tutankhamun's tomb, to watch the coffin's opening.The chief curator of Cairo's Egyptian Museum said the surprise find was "even better" than discovering a mummy.

Click for map of Valley of the Kings

"I prayed to find a mummy, but when I saw this, I said it's better - it's really beautiful," said Nadia Lokma. "It's very rare - there's nothing like it in any museum. We've seen things like it in drawings, but we've never seen this before in real life - it's magnificent," she said. Experts say ancient Egyptian royals often wore garlands entwined with gold strips around their shoulders in both life and death.

The burial chamber was the first to be discovered in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun's tomb more than 80 years ago and was found by chance. It is the 63rd tomb to be discovered since the valley was first mapped in the 18th century, and was unexpectedly found only five metres away from King Tutankhamun's. However, the chamber's discovery did disprove the widely accepted belief that there were no tombs left to find in the Valley of the Kings.

The Valley of the Kings, near the city of Luxor in southern Egypt, was used for burials for around 500 years from 1540BC onwards.


A South Africa teenager has died of malnutrition during initiation rituals in the Eastern Cape province. He is the ninth youth to die this year during the initiation process, which involves weeks spent living in the bush, followed by circumcision. Others died from circumcisions that led to infection or gangrene.

South Africa has taken steps to reduce the number of initiation-related deaths, but fatalities still occur every year - many in the Eastern Cape. In the latest case, a group of youths had been kept in the mountains for three weeks and denied food, Eastern Cape provincial health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.

Is initiation worth the risk?

"They look like skeletons," Mr Kupelo told the South African Press Association, adding that a man who had posed as a traditional healer was expected to be arrested in connection with the death of one boy. "We don't understand why a human being can do something like this. This is against the custom, it is contradicting custom," Mr Kupelo said.

On Monday, another Eastern Cape youth died as the result of a botched circumcision - the eighth since the start of the current winter initiation season - and two more were hospitalised. One of the two who are in hospital was reportedly circumcised by a traditional healer registered by the government in terms of a scheme to reduce the number of botched circumcisions. There has been particular concern over circumcisions being carried out by inexperienced practitioners, in unhygienic conditions and using unsterilised implements.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Five defendents were acquitted after the 18-month trial. A Kenyan man has been sentenced to 30 years in jail in the capital, Nairobi, for his part in one of Africa's biggest cocaine trafficking operations. A court in Nairobi found David Mugo Kiragu guilty. Five other suspects, including two Italians, were acquitted.

The 18-month trial has been marred by controversy with allegations of corruption and tampering of evidence. It followed the seizure by Kenyan authorities of 1.1 metric tons of cocaine worth more than $88m in 2004. Kenya is still seeking the extradition of a man, Mr Kiragu's brother, they believe to be the prime suspect who is serving a jail term in the Netherlands.

Traffickers' drug haven

The drug haul was destroyed in a very public display back in February to dispel fears that it had been sold. More than 950 sachets of cocaine were burnt in front of journalists, diplomats, members of the judiciary and the suspects arrested for trafficking the shipments. "This country is now described as a major centre for drug trafficking and this has created a bad image and name for residents of this country," Chief Magistrate Aggrey Muchelule said when pronouncing sentence, AFP news agency reports.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi says poverty, corruption and geography all conspire to make Kenya an attractive transit and storage point for drugs.



South African police have found an arms cache in a Johannesburg house where 12 people died in a shoot-out on Sunday. Four officers and eight crime suspects died after police followed suspects from an armed robbery at a suburban supermarket, to the city centre. Police say they were "ambushed" at a house in the Jeppestown district, where the suspects are thought to have lived.
Of the 14 suspects arrested on Sunday, three were freed later. The rest are expected in court on Tuesday.

"We found a large amount of weaponry, high calibre weaponry including AK-47s," police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao told the South African Press Association on Monday. Capt Adriao said gang members had ambushed the police when they arrived at the house. "They waited for the police to come into the house before opening fire ... It was a real massacre," he said. The three who were later released were living next door and were not linked to the shoot-out, Capt Adriao said.

The head of police for Gauteng province - which includes Johannesburg - said: "The robbers that were dealt with today were causing havoc in the whole province." Perumal Naidoo added that he was "proud of the four policemen who paid with their lives to ensure that Gauteng will always be safe". The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says South Africans are no strangers to violent crime but even by local standards, this latest incident has caused alarm.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Dear Family and Friends,

Zimbabwe has been slowly and painfully slipping downwards for the last sixyears but this week the pace moved into top speed. It has been a shocking weekhere and everyone is reeling as services and prices have suddenly taken on alife of their own.Petrol was 260 thousand dollars a litre three weeks ago. Last week it rose to360 thousand a litre and this week it galloped to 500 thousand dollars a litreand then disappeared altogether.

In the supermarkets the price increases are staggering and everywhere you see people bending down and counting digits on stickers before turning away empty handed. The smallest bag of shopping now needs great handfuls of money. Many people have resorted to handing a huge stack of notes to the tellers in shops and asking them to use the money counting machines to arrive at the required amount because it just takes too long to count by hand. Either way the queues at the tills are endlessly long as tellers count and recount and then struggle to close their tills which bulge at the seams with our almost worthless bank notes. This week I met a friend who is a retired civil servant on a government medical aid scheme. The pensioner showed me a letter just received saying that with immediate effect monthly contributions had increased by nine hundred percent. No apologies, no excuses, no humanity - not even for a woman as old as PresidentMugabe.

In complete contrast to the realities of four figure inflation, this week a dramatic crisis arose with bread. Bakers put the prices up, the government ordered them to put it back down. Bakers took out a full page advert in the press detailing the increases of everything from flour and yeast to wages, packaging and delivery. At the price stipulated by government, bakers said they were operating at a loss and putting twenty thousand jobs at risk. The government refused to allow the price increases and called in the police. In a week over 280 bakers and shop assistants have been fined for overcharging. As the bread war continued all week the obvious happened and fewer and fewer shops had bread on their shelves as less and less loaves were baked.

It has been an absurd but now familiar case of denial by the government. The inflation figure is calculated and published by the government. From April to May the government said that inflation rose by 151 percent and yet they insist that the price of bread must remain unchanged. Its not funny just frightening but one absolutely classic report in the state owned Herald raised a grimace of a smile. A quote was given by an Assistant Inspector Police woman who said: "I can confirm that we are arresting bakeries for overcharging." Not bakers, but bakeries : bricks and mortar !Some months ago the opposition promised a cold winter of discontent inZimbabwe. Well, it's cold and we are all very very discontented and winter ishalf way in and now...? Thanks for reading, until next week, love cathy

Copyright cathy buckle 24 June 2006. http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available ;


Dicing with death on SA trains
By Franz Kruger BBC News, Johannesburg.

Train surfing involves different and often very dangerous moves. Thabo Thedise knows his hobby is dangerous. "Yes, I can fall, but I can phone my mom, she can take me to the doctor," he says. The tall 19-year-old is one of Johannesburg's "train surfers": mostly young men who perform daring stunts on the city's commuter trains. The most dangerous is train surfing proper, standing on top and dodging bridges and high-power cables. Then there's a trick that involves swinging out of a door as the train travels through a tunnel and running along the sides.
The mildest, and most common, move involves jumping off the train as it begins moving, and jumping back on board again.

It's a miracle that boy is alive - Ruth Motsemme, grandmother. If he dies, so be it, Thabo says, to boisterous laughter from the crowd that surrounds him at central Johannesburg's Park Station. His mother is a member of a burial society who will pay for the funeral. "They will cry and they will bury me. I will be a born again. You know anytime you are going to be born again. I might be a white boy." The group disperses, laughing. "I have to go and attend to some chicks," Thabo says with a swagger.

Johannesburg's commuter trains have seen an upsurge in train surfing, partly because of the long-running security guard strike that has only just been settled. Lebohang Motsamai, a strapping young man with hair braided tightly, describes another move, known as "gravul" from the gravel on the tracks: "I get under the train, when it is in motion, and kick the stones, kin, kin, I play with my legs."

The easiest manouvre is jumping on and off a moving trainSurrounded by a clutch of admirers, he says he plays these games to impress girls. "Because when I do this, they are going to love me. They are going to say, eish, this boy is clever." Some miles away, Desmond Motsemme, 15, is lying in hospital. His arms are tied to the rails of his bed because he's become aggressive in his disorientation. It's visiting time, and his doting grandmother and mother are there every day, talking softly and feeding him yoghurt. After weeks in hospital, slowly mending, he can still hardly speak. He fell while swinging out of a train, trying to retrieve his cap that had flown off. The result: severe concussion, and most of his scalp ripped off.

His grandmother, Ruth Motsemme, says the injuries were terrible to see. "I couldn't look at him, really, like that. The skin of the head was just off, from here to here, he was terribly swelling, and bleeding badly. Most of the kids see dying as a way of resting from all these problems, from all these issues that life is throwing at them Nonhlanhla Gasa, social worker"It was upsetting me to look at him like that. I couldn't believe that boy would survive, it's a miracle that boy is alive." Mrs Motsemme says she spoke to him about the dangers of playing these games just days before the accident, but nothing seems to help: "I said to him, please my boy, that is the train, it is steel, it is going to kill you."

Metrorail, the company that runs the commuter trains, says it is deeply concerned about the phenomenon. The company keeps records of the accidents, injuries and suicides on its system, which transports over 500,000 people a day in the greater Johannesburg area. Although the company won't release the figures, press reports about accidents have become a regular phenomenon. Metrorail's manager of educational projects, Dolly Gaelesiwe, is charged with visiting schools to talk to the kids about how dangerous the trains are.

But she also finds it very difficult to get through to them: "You know, whenever I go to schools I say guys, I'm an aunt, granny, mother - to me every child is my child. I don't like what you are doing. Why are you doing it? It worries me a lot because you see these kids getting hurt every day. This is a national crisis, it is a real national crisis."

One person who thinks she has an idea of what fuels train surfing is Nonhlanhla Gasa, a social worker with the counselling and support group Childline. She says that risk-taking is normal adolescent behaviour, but that it has a particular edge for kids from depressed communities. "Nowadays there is a lot of things happening at home, domestic violence in communities, children's rights are violated left, right and centre. "So children want to prove themselves, they want to attract attention in so many dangerous ways, from the people. It can be peer pressure, they want to see who is stronger than who."

Life is cheap, she says, and when the teenagers shrug off the possibility of death, it's not just bravado. "For them life really doesn't matter. Most of the kids see dying as a way of resting from all these problems, from all these issues that life is throwing at them that they cannot take." Now that the security guard strike is over, the incidents may become less frequent.
But the teenagers' delight in risk-taking is unlikely to disappear, and nor are the too-often disastrous consequences.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Urban change for rural China.
By Carrie Gracie Wuxi County, west China.

Deep in Wuxi County in the west of China, a sleepy village is undergoing radical change - a symbol of China's economic revolution. Everything is about to change for White Horse Village.

Watch the report

No-one has ever heard of Wuxi County, let alone White Horse Village, and in a way, that's why we chose it. It's the China that doesn't figure in the economic miracle, the China of 700 million farmers still eking a living out of tiny plots of land. But it's now symptomatic of one of the most important stories in China, the story of whether Beijing can take an ancient brooding hinterland of subsistence farmers and drag it into the narrative of rising 21st century superpower.

Cultural revolution
Until now White Horse Village has been sheltered from the great convulsions of Chinese history.
True, the land was collectivised after the Communist revolution, people here died of hunger during Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward, and the party secretary spent his Cultural Revolution marching and flag waving like teenagers across China.

Work has already started on transforming the landscapeBut location has been both curse and blessing to White Horse Village. Tucked in behind the mountains that rise to the north of the Yangtse's famous Three Gorges, it's always been too remote to play a role in China's triumphs or its catastrophes. All that is about to change.

The Three Gorges project is nearing completion. It's reservoir will bring ocean going ships to the quays of Chongqing. By some counts already the world's biggest city, Chongqing and its population of 32 million are busy reinventing themselves. The hope is that this gritty fogbound megalopolis can do for China what Chicago did for the United States in the 19th century: open up the interior, shift the country's centre of gravity west and kick-start an economic superpower.

Within three years a motorway will run from Chongqing to Wuxi County. A new high rise county capital will be built, and White Horse Village marks the spot. The people of White Horse Village are some of the poorest citizens of this proud new city state. Until now, their only means of escape from subsistence farming was to move in search of factory of construction jobs on the coast, the muscle behind China's economic miracle.

Now the miracle is coming to them. Around 500m farmers need jobs in services and industry according to Beijing's count, and coastal cities can't absorb them. Beijing's answer is that new cities must rise in the fields instead. Within three years a motorway will run from Chongqing to Wuxi County. A new high rise county capital will be built, and White Horse Village marks the spot.

There are very detailed plans for the new county capitalChina's progress is unforgiving, the past not permitted to stand in the way of the future. Like many other nameless villages before it, White Horse Village must make the necessary sacrifice. All of its emerald rice fields are disappearing under concrete. The houses the farmers built themselves, houses they were married in, houses their children were born in, are being demolished. Even the ancestors have to go. Their very graves are being moved. I've worked on these fields for decades. It's the same land my ancestors farmed for hundreds of years. But we have to keep in step with the authorities - Xiang Ciaguo, Communist Party Secretary, White Horse Village.
Not surprisingly, feelings can run high. Last year alone, Beijing recorded 74 000 violent protests nationwide, many of them over the expropriation of land and property. Some have ended in pitched battles, arrests, even murders. The law says the land belongs to the Chinese nation not to individual farmers. There are rules governing compensation for their usage rights. But that still leaves farmers watching their livelihood and their identity disappear overnight as developers turn enormous profits. Houses are private property. According to the law, that makes them harder for the government to expropriate and the language is certainly all about persuasion, compensation and the good of the next generation. It helps that the houses of White Horse Village are to make way for White Horse High School. The plans show dormitories, concert hall and tennis courts; and where the party secretary's house stands now, the school swimming pool.

Hard work
A new revolution is taking place in this sleepy corner of western China"It's natural for us to feel sad," Xiang Ciaguo, the local Communist Party Secretary told me as dragon flies danced on the village fish pond and a ladybird crept noiselessly up a maize stalk behind him. "I've worked on these fields for decades. It's the same land my ancestors farmed for hundreds of years. But this school is an important project and we have to keep in step with the authorities. As long as we can make a good job of the compensation our living standards won't be worse than farming. Farming is really hard work." Will the farmers be persuaded to sign up for demolition? Will they get their compensation and what will they spend it on? How will they adjust to urban living and reinvent themselves as another workshop of the world?

Over the coming three years, as the demolitions gather speed and the city, school and motorway are built, Newsnight plans to follow life in White Horse Village: a portrait in miniature of China's transformation.


Coach Ratomir Dujkovic thinks his side's qualification for the World Cup knockout stages heralds the start of a new era for football in Ghana. The World Cup debutants clinched their place in the second round with a 2-1 victory over the United States. Dujkovic said: "This is a historic moment for us, we are very happy. "This is a starting point for all Ghanaians, for this group of players and myself. The first time in the World Cup and we come in the world's top 16."

Highlights: Ghana 2-1 USA

He added: "We didn't play as we usually do but USA are a hard-working team. We are not afraid of any team. We are Africa's Brazil - Stephen Appiah. "They pushed us hard all the time so we're very satisfied and very happy."

Ghana will now meet Brazil in the second round, but will be without their influential midfielder Michael Essien who is suspended after picking up his second yellow card. But the Chelsea star is hoping that his country can knock out the tournament favourites. He said: "We did our best today. We did it for Ghana and the whole of Africa so they should keep cheering us." And Stephen Appiah echoed his team-mates' confidence. He said: "We are representing the whole continent of Africa and that's great. We are not afraid of any team. We are Africa's Brazil."


Cameroon girls battle 'breast ironing'
By Randy Joe Sa'ah BBC News, Yaounde.

The campaign hopes to spare girls physical and emotional pain. A nationwide campaign is under way in Cameroon to discourage the widespread practice of "breast ironing". This involves pounding and massaging the developing breasts of young girls with hot objects to try to make them disappear.

Statistics show that 26% of Cameroonian girls at puberty undergo it, as many mothers believe it protects their daughters from the sexual advances of boys and men who think children are ripe for sex once their breasts begin to grow. The most widely used instrument to flatten the breasts is a wooden pestle, used for pounding tubers in the kitchen. Heated bananas and coconut shells are also used.

Student Geraldin Sirri recounted her painful experience. "My mother took a pestle, she warmed it well in the fire and then she used it to pound my breasts while I was lying down. She took the back of a coconut, warmed it in the fire and used it to iron the breasts. "I was crying and trembling to escape but there was no way." Another woman from Mamfe in south-west Cameroon told me she ironed her own breasts as a girl so that she would not be forced into early marriage as is the practice in her village. "I wanted to go to school like other girls who had no breasts," Emilia said. Many mothers have no regrets about ironing their daughter's breasts.

Most tools are warmed before pounding the girls' chests."Breast ironing is not a new thing. I am happy I protected my daughter. I could not stand the thought of boys spoiling her with sex before she completed school," one woman explained. "Unfortunately, television is encouraging all sorts of sexual immorality in our children." Anthropologist Dr Flavien Ndonko says that breast ironing is not an effective method of preventing early sex and pregnancies because many of the girls still become pregnant. He recommends plain talking between parents and their daughters. "What you have to really do is talk about the issue of sexual reproductive health with the child. So that she is aware about what it means growing up and having breasts or having periods," he says.

With the help of sponsors, a group of teenage girls called the Association of Aunties has produced a television campaign to expose the problems of breast ironing. "Massaging the breasts of young girls is very dangerous. This is harmful to health... Do not force them to disappear or appear - allow them to grow naturally," one of the adverts says. So far, no research has taken place on the medical effects of breast ironing. If you use very hot objects, if you pound on the breast at this tender age when the structures are developing of course you could cause damage - Prof Anderson Doh.

However, Prof Anderson Doh, a cancer surgeon and director of the state-owned Gynaecological Hospital in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, says the practice is dangerous. "There are structures in the breast made of connective tissue. Now if you over iron the breast, if you use very hot objects, if you pound on the breast at this tender age when the structures are developing of course you could also cause damage," he says. The victims do have protection under the law, as long as the matter is reported within a few months, lawyer Buba Ndefiembu says.

If a medical doctor determines that damage has been caused to the breasts, then the person responsible can go to jail for up to three years. This does not always deter mothers who see their daughters hitting puberty earlier and earlier thanks to better living standards. But the Association of Aunties hopes their campaign will start to change attitudes and spare other girls future physical and emotional pain.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


The new non-religious symbol can be used anywhere it is needed. The Red Cross humanitarian movement has voted by a large majority to admit Israel, ending decades of isolation. The Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) has sought membership since the 1930s, but it objected to using the traditional cross or crescent symbols.

The breakthrough came with approval of a third emblem, the Red Crystal, to identify relief and emergency workers. A vote was held after Muslim states opposed Israel's membership over the status of land it occupied in 1967. The same meeting of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in Geneva approved membership for the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC). It had been excluded because the statutes only allow relief societies from sovereign states to join, but the rule was specifically modified to include the PRC.

It is hoped that the move to upgrade both societies from observer status will help engender better co-operation, say Red Cross officials. It comes amid a worsening of the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, with three botched Israeli missile strikes in Gaza killing 13 Palestinian civilians in the last 10 days. The Red Cross and Red Crescent conference in Geneva had hoped for a universal consensus on Israel's admission, but the agreement almost collapsed when Syria raised objections over Israel's role in the occupied Golan Heights.

Used in conflict zones to protect medics and civil defence teams.Original symbol, reverse of Swiss flag, adopted in 1864 Red Crescent first used by Ottoman Empire in 1870s; formally recognised in 1929; used by 33 of 185 RC societiesRed Crystal can be used alone or in combination with recognised symbolsThe issue was then put to a vote, in which 237 states and societies voted for the changes, with 54 voting against and 18 abstaining.

This gave the necessary two-thirds majority to modify the movement's statute and allow the change of emergency relief symbols. An amendment demanding that the movement's rules apply to all the occupied territories - putting them under Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian responsibility - was also rejected. Correspondents say the Red Cross traditionally tries to work by consensus and to avoid potentially bruising ballot box confrontations among members. The chair of the American Red Cross, Bonni McElveen-Hunter, said it would now pay about $45m in dues it has withheld since 2000 because of Israel's exclusion.

The Red Cross symbol - the reversal of the colours on the Swiss national flag - was adopted in 1863 when the organisation was set up to care for wounded soldiers. The reversed Swiss flag was meant to signify neutralityMuslim countries objected to the use of the cross symbol, which is redolent of the Crusades in medieval times, and have used a crescent instead since the 19th Century. But until now, members have baulked at introducing a third symbol - a situation exacerbated by international opposition to Israel and its post-1967 occupation of Arab lands.
The new symbol, a red square at an angle on a white background, can be used by any relief teams in areas where there is sensitivity about Christian or Muslim symbols.

Israelis, including military medics, will be able to use the crystal by itself on a white flag. On their own territory - or with the agreement other states participating in UN operations abroad - they will be able to combine it with the star of David. Under the Geneva conventions relief workers and ambulances bearing Red Cross-authorised symbols are protected under international law and must be granted free access to people in need of help. In the past, RC officials have argued that having too many emblems could compromise their protection.


Profile: Africa's most-wanted terror suspect.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the man who the United States suspects is in Somalia, is one of the most wanted al-Qaeda suspects. He has been indicted by the US government for his alleged involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. He is also thought to have masterminded the simultaneous attacks on the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa and a missile strike on an Israeli charter flight in 2002.

The FBI has put a $5m bounty on his head. Mr Mohammed is on the US Government's list of 26 "most wanted terrorists" and has a $5m bounty on his head. The US believes he is one of many "foreign terrorists" being given shelter in Somalia and has asked the Somali group that now controls Somalia's capital to hand him over - despite repeated denials from Union of Islamic Courts that it is not harbouring foreign Islamic fighters.

He first came to the attention of US investigators after the East Africa embassy attacks. He is thought to be in his early 30s and is said by the FBI to be a master at using aliases, having evaded the agency for years. He is thought to have headed home to the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean immediately after the attacks, but as FBI agents tried to trace him there, he boarded a plane to the Gulf and disappeared without trace. According to Ahmed Rajab, editor of the magazine Africa Analysis which has published reports on Mr Mohammed, the FBI says that during a search of Mr Mohammed's home, investigators found computers that contained evidence linking him to the al-Qaeda network. They also claim to have found a number of passports of different nationalities.

Mr Mohammed was born in the Comoros Islands in the early 1970s. He is thought to have attended school in Saudi Arabia. Little more is known about him until he surfaced in East Africa in the late 1990s. Since then, like many suspected al-Qaeda operatives, he has been able to exploit the region's lax law enforcement and porous borders to move around and avoid detection. According to reports, US agents believed they had tracked him down to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. He was allegedly identified as one of a number of suspected al-Qaeda operatives to have set up base in Monrovia, as part of a plot to funnel diamonds and weapons through West Africa.

According to a report published in 2002 after a joint investigation by European intelligence agencies, the Pentagon planned to send a special forces team to Africa to snatch Mr Mohammed, but had to abandon the plot because his identity could not be confirmed. Before sightings by Kenya security operatives in Somalia, his last known whereabouts was on the island of Lamu off the north-eastern Kenyan coast where he was posing as a Muslim teacher, Ahmed Rajab says.
Mr Mohammed was said to have taken on a different name and got married there. The FBI's website says he speaks French, Swahili, Arabic, English and Comoran and describes him as a casual dresser.

"Mr Mohammed likes to wear baseball caps... He is very good with computers," his profile says.



Displaced women, such as these in Darfur, are at risk. Rape and sexual violence in conflict appear to be worsening and very little is being done to tackle the problem, a major UN conference has heard. The conference organiser, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), wants a UN declaration and extra funding. Delegates from 14 conflict-affected countries, half from Africa, are attending the conference in Brussels. The UNFPA says that, while sexual violence in wartime is not new, there is evidence it is becoming more common. The trend towards more civil and regional conflicts means civilians are targeted more than ever before, the organisation says.

Women and children are vulnerable, not just during armed attacks, but also in displacement camps, during aid distribution and even after conflict has officially ended. "Everybody in the world knows that sexual violence, especially in war situations, is wrong," Thoraya Obaid, the UNFPA's executive director, said. "But very little effort is being directed either to stop it or to provide support to women who are facing this kind of a crime in their own countries."

A UN report prepared for the meeting found that systematic rape was a prominent feature of the conflicts in Bosnia-Hergovina, DR Congo, East Timor and Haiti, and is ongoing in the Darfur region of Sudan. Sexual violence is a human rights violation, a global public health problem, and an impediment to recovery, development and peace - Kofi AnnanUN Secretary General.No-one knows exactly how many women have been attacked in the chaos of Darfur, the BBC's David Loyn says from the conference. But rape has been used there as a weapon of war to impose the will of one people on another - as it was in previous conflicts such as those in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Rwanda, he says. In Rwanda, officials estimate that 60,000 women were raped during the 1994 conflict, two-thirds of whom have been infected with HIV/Aids, the UNFPA believes. In Bosnia, the figure is put at around 40,000.

The conference has already heard testimony from the DR Congo, where sex with very young children has become commonplace in the mistaken belief it can cure Aids. Sexual violence has also been linked to development funding. Cases in Gaza and the West Bank have increased significantly since the EU and the US cut funding after January's election of Hamas, Luay Shabaneh of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says. The three-day conference, sponsored by the European Commission and Belgium, is the first such international event to address the problem, says the UN. In a statement, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the global body took the issue with "utmost seriousness" and urged donors to "provide the backing required" to deal with the problem.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


A worker at Australia's mint has been jailed for stealing thousands of dollars of newly-minted coins which he smuggled out in his boots. William Bosia Grzeskowiak was jailed for three years for stealing A$135,000 ($100,000) in new two-dollar coins over a 10 month period up to February 2006. He avoided detection by hiding the coins in his steel-tipped boots, sometimes putting 150 coins in each.

Grzeskowiak, 48, was arrested while trying to change the coins into notes. The judge criticised security at the Royal Australian Mint, in Canberra, saying it was "extraordinary" a worker could walk out with 300 coins in his boots. The mint has since upgraded its systems. Prosecutors said Grzeskowiak put newly-minted coins in his pocket, then transferred them to his boots while inside a lavatory cubicle.

Grzeskowiak said he started stealing because of an argument with his boss, and that he took the money because he enjoyed the challenge. Police found A$100,000 in coins hidden in plastic buckets and shopping bags in the garage of Grzeskowiak's mother.



HDTV may promise of crisp, clear images but it is still going through some growing pains, as the BBC's Martin Shankleman found out.

Q&A: High-definition TV

I think I might be starting to fall out of love with High Definition (HD). Don't get me wrong, I'm still very impressed, but that misty eyed infatuation has gone. And I can tell you the exact moment when it happened. It was 14.03 pm on Saturday 10 June, during England's opening match with Paraguay. Beckham was poised to take a vital free kick. As the rest of the team jostled in the penalty area, I suddenly heard a loud roar from the pub down the road. For a split second I was puzzled, but then realised these were England fans celebrating a goal, which according to my set had yet to be scored.

Sure enough, I looked back at my HD set and saw Beckham's kick soar into the back of the net.
The truth dawned, the HD picture was delayed by a second or so. That may not seem much, but it is enough to spoil your enjoyment of a match. A roar from the pub serves advance notice of what I was about to see on my set. In the case of a penalty shoot-out, the delay would ruin the drama completely. A BBC spokeswoman admitted this was a problem.


Commercial HDTV services began with Belgian channel Euro180 in 2004
Telewest launched the UK's first HDTV service in March 2006.
BBC and Sky began HDTV transmissions in May 2006
BBC to have 100% HD programmes by 2010
"It is something we're aware of, yes", she said, and helpfully suggested the most practical answer might be to shut the windows. She explained the problem was caused by the complexity of handling the extra information. "Any digital signal requires processing time at the capture stage, coding and again when it hits your set-top box. "This inevitably leads to a slight time lapse. Normally this doesn't matter very much, unless it's a live event as you've found," she said. If this delay was a big disappointment, so too was the lack of authentic HD programmes, even on the dedicated channels.

I first realised this while watching Test cricket from the West Indies. Even though this was shown on Sky Sports HD, the picture quality lacked the tell-tale clarity. A Sky spokeswoman confirmed my suspicion that I had been watching a conventional broadcast relayed on the HD channel. "Not all programming on all high-definition channels is actually HD," she said. A quick survey confirmed a real dearth of authentic HD programming on the dedicated channels. Not a single programme on Sky One HD in the schedules for the evening of 20 June had been shot in HD.

The same went for the evening schedules for Sky Sports HD for 19 June. Sky admitted that their only HD channels with guaranteed 100% HD content were the film channels. None of these criticisms detract from the amazing quality this new technology delivers to viewers. But customers should beware of the pitfalls before making what could be an expensive investment.


World Cup debutants: Final group games.

Ivory Coast fans at last have something to celebrateEight people - one from each of the debutant nations at the World Cup - are regularly giving us updates from their country as they watch the tournament.
Here, Alfred Jaovi celebrates a dramatic win for the Ivory Coast against fellow panellist Tom Zivanovic's Serbia and Montenegro side. Both are already out, but only one managed to salvage some pride.
Kahumba Pedro from Angola and Nylah Ali from Trinidad and Tobago also describe their mixed emotions of pride and disappointment following their teams' exits.

Explanation of the World Cup group scenarios



The US has faced mounting criticism over the camp.
Watch Bush's speech

US President George W Bush has said he would like to close the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and send many detainees back to their home countries. However, he said not all the inmates would be returned - some would need to be put on trial in the US because they were "cold-blooded killers". The comments came after talks with EU leaders at a one-day summit in Vienna. Mr Bush then flew on to Hungary, where he was due to commemorate the country's 1956 uprising. The US has faced mounting pressure over Guantanamo Bay, the camp that currently holds about 460 detainees, mostly without charge. I'd like to end Guantanamo. I'd like it to be over with - US President George W Bush.

Guantanamo pressure grows
Profile: Guantanamo Bay

Mr Bush has said before that he wants to close the camp. But the BBC News website's world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says his remarks on Wednesday were significant because he revealed more about how he might bring this about.

Leaders at the summit also focused on other issues:

Mr Bush urges Iran to respond within "weeks, not months" on an international package of incentives to get Tehran to halt its enrichment programme He warns North Korea against testing a long-range missile believed to be capable of reaching the US, saying it must abide by international agreements The two sides pledge to push for a world trade agreement that would benefit poorer nations They agree to strengthen co-operation over the search for long-term energy security. Mr Bush said he understood European concerns over the US detention camp in Cuba.

EU-US Vienna declaration (58K)

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Bush commits to trade deal

He said 200 detainees had been sent home, and most of those remaining were from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan. But he added that there were some detainees "who need to be tried in US courts". "They will murder somebody if they are let out on the street." Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who hosted the talks, welcomed Mr Bush's commentson an eventual closure - and offered to help negotiate with countries that are to take detainees back.

Calls to close Guantanamo have increased following the first apparent suicides by prisoners earlier this month. Lawyers say the three men who are said to have hanged themselves had been driven by despair. Dozens of prisoners have been released without charge, but others have been held for up to three years without being charged or facing trial. At present only 10 inmates face trial by military tribunal and the US Supreme Court is to rule by the end of June on the legality of the tribunals.

European leaders and human rights groups have said procedures at Guantanamo Bay violate the rule of law and undermine the fight against terrorism. "We can only have a victory in the fight against terror if we don't undermine our common values," Mr Schuessel said. The Bush administration has denied allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, and the military says it provides safe, humane care and custody of the detainees.


Iranians seeking politics-free sport.
By Laura Smith-Spark BBC News, Leipzig.

The World Cup has been a chance for Iran to present itself in a non-political light - at least that has been the hope held by Iranian football fans. Fans have turned out in force, many from Europe's Iranian diaspora.However, the country's three matches have attracted both demonstrations by pro-Israeli groups and the threat of neo-Nazi action. Questions have also been asked about the ban in Iran on women going to football matches. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was forced to go back on a promise to allow women into stadiums earlier this year following outrage from clergy. Women in Iran continue to protest against the ban, even as thousands of female fans have been flocking to the World Cup games in Germany. Iranians in Leipzig ahead of their team's final match, against Angola, were hoping this would not be what their participation would be remembered for. They came in numbers - mostly from Europe's Iranian diaspora - to cheer on their country.

Many said they were in Germany for the football and national pride - and wanted politics to be kept out of sport. Shayan Sadeghi, 35, who lives in Hamburg, said: "We hope the World Cup will change people's opinions. I think it has already. People will have an image of Iran which is more positive, more joyful. "There are always people who want to mix sport and politics but I think sport is peaceful and we shouldn't mix the two." Iranians who travelled from their home country said it had been difficult for many fans to make it to Germany.

Iranian fans discuss Iran's female football ban.

In pictures

"I'm very happy to be here. There are a lot of people who wanted to come with a group but they haven't been able to get a visa," said Mohammad, whose own paperwork took several months to clear. "It was very easy for some people who support the regime in Iran to come here. They have certain advantages because they support the political establishment." Iranian fans are aware their presence in the tournament has not been without controversy.

About 1,000 people, among them Israel supporters and exiled Iranians, rallied in Nuremberg when Iran played its opening World Cup match against Mexico, losing 3-1. A slightly smaller number joined a pro-Israel demonstration in Frankfurt on Saturday, where the Iranian team was defeated 2-0 by Portugal - sealing its failure to qualify for the next round. Leipzig city spokesman Christoph Hansel said between 300 and 400 people had joined a rally against anti-Semitism on Wednesday, at which Leipzig's Mayor Burkhard Jung spoke.

Sebastian Voigt said protests were not against the Iranian people.Mr Jung told the BBC News website he had decided to speak at the rally because the views of Mr Ahmadinejad on Israel went against his convictions. But at the same he was keen to welcome Iranian fans to the Zentralstadion and the city. Mr Jung said he had been confident the police were well prepared ahead of the game to ensure there would be no trouble from far-right groups. The demonstration was completely peaceful and no right-wing activities had been reported to the police, he said. Leipzig police spokesman Marko Laske said 1,800 police officers had been deployed - 200 more than usual on a match day - because of sensitivities surrounding the Iran-Angola match.

"We are very pleased with the situation. No right-wing groups disturbed the rally - it was very peaceful," he told the BBC News website. "In the stadium, of course, the fans of both teams were very peaceful and we hope that will continue through the next few hours." Mr Laske said police had been placed on alert after a suspicious package was found about 100m from the stadium. People in the surrounding area were briefly evacuated as a precaution but the package turned out only to be advertising material, he said.

Two men wearing skinhead badges are watched by police in Leipzig.Sebastian Voigt, a member of the coalition against anti-Semitism which organised the rallies, told the BBC News website: "We are not protesting against the Iranian people or the Iranian soccer team but against the Islamist regime in Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." Two men wearing skinhead T-shirts and badges were seen handing out leaflets - closely watched by police - as 50m away the coalition members prepared for their rally.One man, who would only give his name as Tim, acknowledged they were there because of the pro-Israel rally but denied they were racist.

Ahead of the tournament, concerns were raised that it might be unsafe for foreigners to go to parts of the former East Germany, including Leipzig, following a series of racially-motivated attacks. But the Iranian fans in town for the game appeared far more interested in football than race or politics. Kourosh Nazari, 18, from Dubai, said: "It's hard to change people's opinions. What can we do about it? We are football fans. "We are just here for our national team. Last night we partied in Leipzig - in a place where we are supposed to be scared of everyone. We've won all our games in terms of the support given by fans."

Mesam Heivary, 25, from London, said: "It's important for our country to be here. With all the problems and so on it's good for the nation to have something to celebrate. "It's great for Iranians to hang about with all the other people from different nations and walk arm-in-arm in the street. "I've not really been aware of the protests, which is a good thing. It gets on my nerves when I'm trying to watch football."


Many DR Congo children have lived with the fear of abduction. Children still face attacks, abduction and rape in Democratic Republic of Congo, often at the hands of government forces, according to a UN report. Despite some progress, such abuses "continue to a large extent with impunity" said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The report details 29 child abductions and 60 deaths in the last year. Although a five-year war ended in 2003, some children are still being abducted and forced to fight, it said. The problems appear to be the result of efforts to combine former militias with government forces, Mr Annan said. The country's five-year civil war was notorious for its use of child soldiers. Mr Annan raises particular concerns over the Congolese armed forces, reporting that their chief of staff was notified of more than 26 cases of recruitment of child soldiers and other violations in the last year.

UN peacekeepers are operating alongside government forcesThe 17,000 UN peacekeepers in the country regularly conduct operations jointly with the government forces. The report covers the period from July 2005 to May 2006 and says many of the abuses were concentrated in the lawless east of the country where rebel groups are strongest. Among the perpetrators it names are Mai-Mai militiamen and Rwandan elements either linked to the chiefly ethnic Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) or the Tutsi dissident General Laurent Nkunda. Although some progress has been made on combating such abuses, the report said there was little trust in the judicial system and many rights violations went unchallenged.

Mr Annan urged all parties to release children still present in armed forces and groups. According to a national commission on demobilising children, which was established in 2003, more than 18,000 children have been released from armed groups. "Thousands more have escaped from fighting forces on their own and are discreetly returning to civilian life," Mr Annan said.

An estimated 4 million people died in the war, most from hunger and disease.

The country is preparing for its first multi-party elections in 40 years on 30 July.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Viewpoints: The urban world in 2050.

The world is fast approaching the point where the majority of the human population will be found in urban areas.
The projection is that in 50 years' time, two-thirds of humanity will live in cities.
Six experts outline their vision of the urban world in 2050.

"I would like to see cities that restored a more intimate relationship with the environment" Hank Dittmar, Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment

"We're going to see a lot more of what I call 'post-modern urbanisation'" Michael Dear, author of The Post-modern Urban Condition

"By 2050 in the developed world, energy sustainability will have become a very big deal" Professor Nigel Thrift, author of Cities: Reimagining the Urban

"The more we rely on advanced technologies, the more cities seem to grow" Stephen Graham, human geographer and author of The Cybercities Reader

"An urban nightmare in less than 50 years' time is certainly what will engulf us on current trends" Walden Bello, director of Focus on the Global South

"What we are going to see is the reinvention of the notion of the political" Saskia Sassen, author of Territory, Authority and Rights: from Medieval to Global



Sponsor police guard World Cup brands.
By Laura Smith-Spark BBC News, Stuttgart

Dutch fans were forced to surrender trousers and other branded items.The streets around Stuttgart's Schlossplatz are filled with colour ahead of the clash between Spain and Tunisia - some fans dressed in the red and yellow of Spain, others in Tunisia's red and white.
But what stadium officials are looking at is not which team people are supporting - but what company made their shirt.
Up to 1,000 Dutch fans watched their side play Ivory Coast in their underpants on Friday after they were denied entry to Stuttgart's stadium for wearing orange trousers with the name of a Dutch brewery which was not an official sponsor.
Faced with missing the game or ditching their orange lederhosen - given away by the brewery - they made the obvious choice.
Fifa officials said the trousers were an attempt at so-called ambush marketing - where a company tries to gain free publicity - and that they had to act to protect the interests of sponsors.
Legal action
American firm Anheuser Busch, which makes Budweiser beer, is among 15 major companies to have paid up to $50m (£27m, 40m euros) each for the right to be official partners at this World Cup.

The tournament's official sponsors want their rights protected
"Anyone can wear whatever they want but, if a company tries to carry out ambush marketing, Fifa must prevent that happening," Fifa communications director Markus Siegler told reporters.
"In common with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and Uefa, we do not tell individual supporters what to wear, but I will remind you that Fifa has already won a court case against a beer manufacturer who tried this sort of thing."
Supporters in any of Germany's 12 host cities can hardly fail to notice who the official sponsors are.
Coca Cola banners cover the wire fence of the Fan Fest public viewing area in Stuttgart, while car-maker Hyundai shows off its latest models at a stand by the entrance and the Mastercard logo is prominently displayed.
The Fifa Fan Shop sells the official Adidas replica kit - and at 60 to 65 euros for a shirt it may prove too expensive for some.
'Not about football'
Some supporters argue that the efforts to protect the official partners' commercial interests means the fans lose out.

1984: Kodak sponsors TV broadcasts, despite Fuji being Olympics' official sponsor. Fuji returns favour at Seoul 1988 Games
1992: Nike sponsors news conferences with the US basketball team. Michael Jordan accepts the gold medal for basketball and covers up his Reebok logo
1994: American Express creates runs ads claiming Americans do not need "Visas" to travel to Norway (for Winter Olympics)
1996: Nike buys out billboards around Olympic sites
2000: Qantas Airlines' slogan "Spirit of Australia" coincidentally sounds like games slogan "Share the spirit" to chagrin of official sponsor Ansett Air

Cristina Morante, who has come from Asturias to cheer on Spain, says she has opted to buy an unofficial 10 euro replica top because of the cost of a real one.
"We would like to take our own drinks into the Fan Fest but we cannot because they only sell the drinks they want to sell. The beers are very expensive in there," she adds.
Ramze Maamer, a Tunisian living in Stuttgart, says: "It's too much. It's not about football, it's just a marketing thing, the World Cup.
"If we have paid for tickets that should be enough. We are really hoping that in South Africa (in 2010) it will be different. The sponsor companies already have all the tickets, and not the fans."
Mexico fan Rudy Magallon, who has travelled from Los Angeles for the tournament, says he understands why the official partners want to prevent other firms grabbing free publicity.
But, he says, making fans take off their trousers is going too far.
'Much at stake'
"It's an embarrassment. I think it would make me feel unwanted," he says.

One of the highest profile brand rivalries is between Adidas and Nike
Viken Oijizmedjian, a Fifa spokesman in Stuttgart, told the BBC News website that individual fans need not worry because the regulations on what brands can be worn apply chiefly to players and officials.
"Individual supporters can wear what they want. If they come in their normal tracksuit, that's okay," he said.
"But if companies are trying to do ambush marketing, that is not allowed because it can be seen on television."
With so much at stake financially for the organisers and sponsors of major sporting events, it seems unlikely the rules will be any less strict in the future.
In fact, the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic Games have already listed a string of Olympic-related words and images that are off limits to all but official sponsors.
And mindful of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics - when Nike "ambushed" sponsors Adidas by buying up vast numbers of billboards around the Olympic sites - the London committee has already taken the precaution of booking almost all the city's billboard space during the games.
Marketing 'very important'
For Tunisian Sahbani Anis, visiting Stuttgart from Paris, the economic advantages an event like the World cup brings to host countries outweigh the restrictions imposed under sponsorship deals.
"There's a lot of marketing but I think it's very important because it is the reason why countries seek to organise the World Cup," he says.
"Without the marketing people would not go to the shops, buy the goods and so allow the economy of that country to do well.
"For example, next time the host will be South Africa and it will have the chance to relaunch its economy.
"Football is perhaps a way to get money into an African country it would not see otherwise. I hope we will see that in South Africa."


Monday, June 19, 2006


Fans cheer World Cup video clips

The Brazilian football team has proved a draw on TV and on the net. Football fans are turning to the internet to watch clips of the action at the World Cup, figures show. The official Fifa World Cup site has supplied more than 31 million streams of video highlights in the first week of the tournament. This is the first time video clips have been available free on the web.

But the figures pale in comparison to the TV audiences. Some 60 million people were glued to their TV sets when Brazil beat Croatia. There has been a surge in the numbers of people following the World Cup online compared to 2002 tournament. Fifa says that the official site of the competition is attracting an average of five million unique users a day.

The football has attracted worldwide audiences. The most popular day was Monday 12 June, when 6.2 million fans visited the website. That was also the day that attracted the most clicks, with 226 million page views. In the first week of the tournament, Fifa reported more than 1.2 billion page impressions. This compares to a total of two billion page views for the entire 2002 World Cup. BBC figures

Sports and gambling sites have been riding high due to the intense interest in the football. The BBC Sport website is the most popular online source for World Cup news in the UK, according by a study released last week by internet research firm Nielsen/NetRatings. More than 1.3 million football fans visited the site in the first week of the tournament. The study showed more than half of the number of people visiting sports websites chose the corporation

The BBC is also streaming more than 50 hours of World Cup football to UK internet users. But it can only show live video from matches broadcast on its television channels. By comparison, Fifa is showing video clips from all the matches for free.



The defendants could face death by hanging if found guilty. The prosecution in the trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has called for his execution as it delivered its closing arguments.
The prosecution said Saddam Hussein and two of his seven co-defendants should be put to death for war crimes.
The trial has now adjourned and judges will consider their verdict after final defence arguments on 10 July.
The defendants are being tried in connection with the deaths of 148 Shia Muslim villagers in the 1980s.
The men are accused of launching a crackdown in the village of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein.
The defendants, who were all in court as the trial resumed, deny the charges against them.
The chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Mussawi, said on Monday: "We demand the maximum punishment for Saddam, [his half-brother] Barzan al-Tikriti and [former vice-president] Taha Yassin Ramadan."
"They were spreading corruption on Earth... and even the trees were not saved from their oppression," Mr Mussawi said.
The law calls for the death penalty and this is what we ask be implemented
Jaafar al-Mussawi,chief prosecutor

Trial timeline

Saddam Hussein, dressed in a black suit, muttered sarcastically from the dock: "Well done."
Mr Mussawi asked for charges against one defendant, Baath party official Mohammed Azawi Ali, to be dropped and for him to be freed.
The prosecutor also asked for three other defendants - Baath officials Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid, Ali Daeem Ali and Mizher Abdullah Ruaid - to be treated leniently.
Mr Mussawi made no specific calls on the fate of Awad Hamad al-Bandar, former chief judge of Saddam Hussein's revolutionary court.
Another prosecution lawyer, whose name has not been released for security purposes, had opened Monday's proceedings by saying defendants had "carried out a systematic, wide-scale attack" in Dujail.
"They carried out broad imprisonments of men, women and children, who were exposed to physical and mental torture, including the use of electrical shocks," he said.
The lawyer argued that the assassination attempt had been "fabricated" for "political aims".
The defence has argued the crackdown was necessary in the wake of an attempt to kill Saddam Hussein.
It has also claimed that some of the 148 people the prosecution says were killed are still alive.
The trial has so far lasted eight months and has been criticised by some international legal experts.
Some said the defence had been given a disproportionately short period to present its witnesses.
The trial has also been marred by the killing of two defence lawyers and the resignation of the first chief judge in January.



Soweto seeks its place in the sun.
By Peter Biles BBC Southern Africa correspondent.

Vilakazi Street in the Soweto suburb of Orlando West is the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived: former President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Mandela Museum draws crowds of tourists every dayThe tiny red brick home that once belonged to Mr Mandela is now of one of Soweto's big attractions, where the tour buses begin rolling up from 0930. The museum's administrator, Bernadette Komane, says the tourists are often very emotional. "They are touched by the history of Mandela's house and Soweto. They often cry a lot. "Previously, people were afraid to come and visit Soweto, but now a lot of people are coming here," Ms Komane adds. "It shows they're more confident. They can see Soweto is not as bad as it sometimes appears on TV."

However, there is a mixed response from the tourists when they are asked whether they would spend a night at Soweto's new hotel or at one of the many bed and breakfast guesthouses that are opening. "I hear it's very safe and yes, I would certainly stay here", says Janice Hoffman from Boston in the US. But Matt Russo from New York is hesitant. "I'd have to think about it. I'm not sure, because it's probably dangerous walking in the streets. That may not be such a good idea at this time".

Some reassurance comes from McMillan Topisi who is involved in a private tourism protection unit close to the Mandela Museum and the Hector Peterson Memorial. A four-star hotel and conference centre will make visitors stay longer. "We're working with the police in monitoring crime. We have guys stationed here in Orlando West to look after the tourists, and everything is cool", he insists. Hapiloe Sello, the Marketing Manager of Johannesburg Tourism Company, hopes that in future, many more tourists will come to Soweto, stay longer, and gain a better understanding of South Africa's most famous township. "On average, tourists spend about three hours in Soweto. The only problem is that it minimises the expenditure levels," she says. "So we're trying to stimulate a demand for people to sleep over, spend a couple of days in Soweto, and enjoy the entire area."

The headquarters of the Soweto Tourism Information Centre are on Walter Sisulu Square in the suburb of Kliptown: the place where anti-apartheid groups signed the famous Freedom Charter in 1955. Walter Sisulu, for whom the square is named, was a South African liberation leader who once wrote that the history of South Africa cannot be understood outside the history of Soweto.

Bernadette says tourists are more confident about coming to SowetoHapiloe Sello says Soweto's significance has as much to do with its present as with its past. "Soweto has played a pivotal role in the political developments in South Africa," she says. "But there's also another side to Soweto. There's a vision, there's growth, and there is the potential to create a booming twin city to Johannesburg." Behind the line of street traders and hawkers on Walter Sisulu Square, a new four-star hotel and shopping complex are now under construction.

New shops are part of plan to create jobs in SowetoThe hope is that the new shopping malls, the hotel and the growth of tourism will all bring desperately needed jobs to Soweto. The township, which has traditionally been a pool of labour for Johannesburg, wants to become more than just a dormitory town. Few white South Africans ever venture into black townships, and Ms Sello has the job of changing public perceptions of Soweto as a place of crime and violence. "Our biggest challenge is encouraging domestic tourism and getting other races to come here. They need to appreciate Soweto for what it is today: fun, vibe, and soul."


Zimbabwean charged with SA hijack. A Zimbabwean man has been charged in connection with Saturday's apparent hijacking attempt in South Africa. Tinashe Rioga, 21, a student, is accused of trying to enter the cockpit on a Cape Town to Johannesburg flight.

Passengers quoted by local media said a man armed with a syringe tried to take an air hostess hostage and demanded the plane fly to Maputo in Mozambique. The plane returned to Cape Town after passengers overpowered the man. Mr Rioga was arrested on arrival. The motive for the attack is unknown.

Mr Rioga, a student at the University of Cape Town, was not asked to plead during hisappearance in the Bellville Magistrate's Court in Cape Town. He was remanded in custody pending a bail hearing on 26 June. "It appears a passenger threatened a crew member with some sort of weapon demanding access to the cockpit," SAA spokeswoman Jacqui O'Sullivan said. "The passenger was subdued and no-one was injured."

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Sri Lanka on brink of war Government troops assault church with grenades after bus bombing and warnings of Tamil Tigers 'fear and panic' attacks Dan McDougall in Kebitigollawe.
Sunday June 18, 2006The Observer

Violence escalated in Sri Lanka yesterday when government forces stormed a Catholic church where 200 people had sought refuge, opening fire and hurling grenades at civilians cowering inside.
Witnesses say at least five died and scores were injured. The military denied responsibility for the attack, blaming Tamil Tiger rebels who hours earlier had attacked a navy base in the same northwestern fishing village, Pesalai, triggering a naval and helicopter battle.
The past few days have seen by far the worst bloodshed since the often-violated ceasefire was signed in 2002 by the government and the Tigers, who control much of Sri Lanka's north and east.
In a hospital in Mannar, near Pesalai, injured villagers gave near-identical accounts of security forces indiscriminately shooting into the Our Lady of Victory Church. 'We were all inside the church when the navy and army broke in and opened fire. A grenade was thrown,' said Mariyadas Loggu, 46, being treated for hand injuries. 'If this is what the people responsible for security do, where can we go?'
Sri Lanka is again on the brink of all-out civil war. Analysts conceded last night that the Tigers may be returning to 'fear and panic attacks' on tourist targets - similar in scale to the 2001 suicide attack on Colombo's airport, which destroyed half the Sri Lankan Airlines fleet, temporarily wrecking tourism and economic confidence. Jehan Perera, director of the country's National Peace Council, said the crisis was entering its deadliest phase in a decade. 'The message coming from the Tigers is they will stop at nothing. They are saying they will also target civilians if their demands are not met. Or they could be trying to push the government into a war. It's clear a concerted campaign of violence is under way.'
Some of the victims of that campaign were buried in a mass ceremony amid a maelstrom of unrelenting grief in the town of Kebitigollawe on Friday.
Sixty-eight people - 15 of them small children - died on Thursday after a landmine, allegedly planted by Tamil rebels, ripped through a bus on the outskirts of the town. Even as the traditional Sri Lankan mourning flags hung limply in the humid evening air, the sound of retaliatory government airstrikes could be heard. And again last night the north-east of Sri Lanka was a frontline shuddering to the boom of fighter jets pounding alleged Tiger positions. Colombo's military also claimed that 37 people had been killed in a sea and land battle with Tigers yesterday afternoon.
In Kebitigollawe yesterday a senior Sri Lankan military source told The Observer that government planes had hit targets near the Tigers' stronghold of Kilinochchi, in 'direct' retaliation for the bus landmine, despite the fact that the Tigers continued to deny responsibility for the attack.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have fought for 20 years to carve out a separate homeland in the north and east for Sri Lanka's 3.2 million Tamils, largely Hindu, oppressed for years by the majority Sinhalese Buddhists. The 2002 ceasefire ended large-scale fighting, but violence has persisted, intensifying after the assassination last August of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar - leaving 600 soldiers, rebels and civilians dead in the past six months. Both sides have repeatedly said they want peace, but neither has shown the flexibility needed to make concessions. This month the Tigers walked out of talks in Norway without even meeting the government delegation.
Among political analysts the consensus is that neither side wants to resume peace talks on their current basis and both share the blame for the bloodshed.
For the villagers of Kebitigollawe, the failure of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis was all too apparent this weekend. At the height of the troubles in the late Nineties this area was a no man's land. In the past few days it has once again found itself at the heart of South Asia's most debilitating conflicts. On the dusty roads around the town traffic is scarce with many expecting another assault soon. Many made the journey to pay their respects to the landmine victims on foot.
'Why are we caught up in this?' cried Priyantha Mahesh, 37, on Friday, over his daughter Devinda's coffin. 'What has she done to be in this coffin? Who chose for her to die?'
Alongside Devinda, aged four, in the school hall, which had become a makeshift morgue, the caskets of 14 other children lay in a row.
The choking stench of death was inescapable as mourners filed passed the open caskets. Schoolchildren, accompanied by a saffron-robed monk, walked through the hall, staring open mouthed at the dead. Some recognised classmates, but the youngest remained impassive as if they were participating in some huge game.

World news guideSri LankaTimeline14.11.2003: Conflict in Sri LankaUseful linksTamil NetEelamWebDaily NewsIslandSunday LeaderSunday TimesSri Lanka web serverOfficial site of the government of Sri LankaSri Lanka NetDepartment of information



Jeremy Paxman biography.

Jeremy Paxman began his television career as a reporter covering the troubles in Northern Ireland. Graduating in English from St Catharine's College, Cambridge, he moved to Belfast after working in local radio. During his three years there, he became the first full-time television current affairs reporter, specialising in investigative journalism.

In 1977, he moved to London to work as a reporter on Tonight, and after two years he became a reporter on Panorama. His assignments over the next five years took him around the world. It was during this period he wrote A Higher Form Of Killing with Robert Harris, an acclaimed history of chemical and biological warfare. His investigation into the mysterious death of Italian banker Roberto Calvi, Called To Account, won the Royal Television Society award for international current affairs.

It was while travelling in El Salvador researching for his book about Central America - Through The Volcanoes - that he received a call inviting him to present the BBC's new Six O'Clock News. In 1986, he moved to Breakfast News. He joined Newsnight in 1989, shortly before publication of his portrait of the British Establishment; Friends in High Places. He also hosted You decide with Paxman, in 1995. When University Challenge was revived by the BBC, he became chairman.

Jeremy was awarded a broadcasting award for outstanding contribution to television by the Voice of the Viewer and Listener in 1994 and 1997 and was given the Richard Dimbleby Award, BAFTA's most prestigious award for current affairs, in 1996 and 2000. In 1998 he won the Interview of the Year award for his famous questioning of Michael Howard.

Click here to watch Jeremy's interview with Ann Widdecombe and Michael Howard

In 2002 he was named presenter of the year at the Royal Television Society Journalism awards.



Hundreds of thousands have fled the Burundi conflict over the years. Burundi's government and the country's last active rebel group have agreed to end hostilities and draft a permanent ceasefire deal in the next two weeks. Representatives of the government and the Hutu National Liberation Front (FNL) rebels signed a framework accord in Tanzania's capital on Sunday.

This follows nearly three weeks of talks mediated by South Africa. Observers say a deal with the FNL is seen as one of the final hurdles for stability after the long civil war. It is the only group still outside a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending the conflict. Although the government and FNL rebels agreed a ceasefire in May last year, fighting between the sides resumed after only a week.

About 300,000 people have been killed in the civil war sparked in 1993 by the assassination of Burundi's first Hutu head of state and democratically-elected president, Melchior Ndadaye. "The parties commit to engage in serious discussions aimed at ending hostilities and to reach a comprehensive ceasefire within the period of two weeks," the agreement signed in Dar es Salam by NFL leader Agathon Rwasa said, AFP news agency reported. The presidents of South Africa and Tanzania were among those who witnessed the signing, along with representatives of the African Union and the United Nations.

President Nkurunziza led the rival FDD rebels during the conflict.The accord would pave the way for the FNL's return as a political party involved in post-conflict reconstruction and development, South African foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa was quoted as saying. There are no details of how remaining disagreements have been overcome. A government official had said that the earlier sticking point was a demand by the FNL for the national army to be disbanded.

The FNL was the only one of seven Hutu rebel groups not to sign a 2000 peace deal which saw a power-sharing government installed last year headed by Mr Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader. The talks which began on 29 May were the FNL's first direct negotiations with the Burundi government since it was elected. During the talks, the rebels shelled the Burundian capital twice, killing one person and wounding at least 15 others, Reuters news agency said.


US soldiers are not allowed to travel alone or without a convoy. Two US soldiers missing in Iraq since Friday were abducted at gunpoint by masked militants, witnesses say. A huge hunt has been launched in the volatile area south of Baghdad where the pair were last seen. Witnesses say they were captured after their Humvee vehicle came under fire at a checkpoint. A third soldier died. The US military has not commented on the witnesses' claims but says it will hunt for the men until it establishes what has happened to them.

In other developments:
US and Iraqi troops set up extra checkpoints in the insurgent stronghold town of Ramadi in an effort to restrict militants' movements, but say a full-scale assault is not planned In Baghdad, which was rocked by a string of explosions on Saturday, 10 bakery workers are kidnapped at gunpoint from a mainly Shia areaThe bodies of 10 men are found elsewhere in Baghdad, bearing signs of torture, police say An explosion near a university in the northern city of Mosul kills one woman and injures 19 people The US search for the missing soldiers has focused on the area near Yusufiya, south of Baghdad, where they were manning a checkpoint at a road junction.

Local farmer Ahmed Khalaf Falah said three Humvees were at the checkpoint when it came under fire. Two vehicles drove off in pursuit of the attackers, but the third was ambushed, he told the Associated Press news agency. He said seven masked men killed the driver of the third vehicle, before seizing the two other US soldiers.
A similar account appeared in the New York Times newspaper. "I heard the men shouting 'God is great!' and I saw that they had taken the Americans with them. The gunmen took them and drove away," Hassan Abdul Hadi told the paper. Coalition and Iraqi forces will continue to search everywhere possible, uncovering every stone, until our soldiers are found - US military statement. The US military quickly launched an effort to find its troops, searching from the air, on land and in the canals around the River Euphrates. It carried out house-to-house searches on Saturday in areas near the site where the men were last since. "Coalition and Iraqi forces will continue to search everywhere possible, uncovering every stone, until our soldiers are found, and we will continue to use every resource available in our search," a statement said on Sunday.

In the US, White House spokesman Tony Snow said he had no information on the fate of the soldiers. "I don't want to try to create the impression that they're dead or alive," he said. "We're just simply trying to find them and we're hoping that they're alive." It is believed to be the first time in more than two years that US soldiers have been at the centre of kidnap fears. Sergeant Keith Maupin was seized in April 2004 when a fuel convoy was ambushed. A video purporting to show his death has not been authenticated and the US says it continues to search for him.

US soldiers in Iraq are regularly attacked and are forbidden from travelling alone, or in individual vehicles. The area south of Baghdad where the search for the two missing US soldiers is being conducted is known as the Triangle of Death, because of regular fatal clashes between US forces and Sunni insurgents.