Sunday, September 30, 2007


Kalahari bushmen have eaten Hoodia plants for centuries. A rare cactus which researchers believe could help combat obesity has flowered at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
It is thought to be the first time that the Hoodia plant, which was grown by horticulturalists at Eden's nursery, has flowered in the UK.
The Hoodia has been eaten for centuries by San bushmen of the Kalahari to suppress their appetite while hunting.
Research is being undertaken into the possibility of the plant being used in the production of anti-obesity drugs.

Hoodia facts

Grows in the Kalahari desert
Eaten by the San Bushmen to stave off hunger
Has a pungent odour
Protected by conservation laws

Sampling the Kalahari Hoodia diet

Because it is from an arid region, the plant will not appear in Eden's Rainforest or Mediterranean Biomes but will be used in an educational exhibit.
It will also form part of the project's horticulture team's preparations for Eden's next phase, the Edge.
Eden horticulturalist Jann Coles said: "We are delighted that the Hoodia has flowered for what may be the first time in the UK here at Eden.
"It's a privilege to be looking after such a rare and beautiful plant, especially one with such interesting scientific potential."
The plant, which has a pungent smell, is protected by conservation laws and can only be collected or grown with a permit.



By Will Ross - BBC News, Accra.

In some places in northern Ghana boats are the only means of travel. The past few weeks have seen some of the worst floods in living memory across a large area of Africa.
From Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, hundreds of thousands have been displaced and many communities have been cut off.
I visited the worst-hit areas in the north of Ghana and neighbouring Togo, which are more used to battling drought than floods.
Finding out what I could by telephone, my first report on the floods was from hundreds of miles away in Accra but I soon saw the benefit of getting a little closer to the action.
My report had mentioned that the Ghanaian navy had dispatched two boats to the north of the country to help out.
Once in northern Ghana I was a little surprised to find that they were not much bigger than the rowing boats I used to spin around in, avoiding the ducks in a pond in London's Regent's Park.
But with a small outboard engine they were just what were needed to bring help to the cut-off communities near the village of Daboya.

We were a long way from the Ghanaian navy's normal location - battling the waves on the Atlantic Ocean - and there were endless shouts of port and starboard as we slalomed our way between the submerged trees, passing clusters of thatched huts which had just become small islands and were now lying abandoned.

After about an hour we arrived at Dissa Village where found a young man, Bawa, who had just paddled his family to safety in the middle of the night in a wooden dug-out canoe.
But all was not well in Dissa village where Bawa had taken his family.
An old friend, Sababu, had offered food and shelter but having just lost his crops to the floods, he too was in a precarious situation.
We walked to, and then waded into, what was left of his field of maize.
Sodden stalks lay flat on the ground.
"We were just about to harvest next month," he told me.
"I'm having sleepless nights worrying about the food."
For those of us used to buying our food in shops and supermarkets, it is hard to imagine the scale of the problem Sababu faces.
Like most people in the area, he is a subsistence farmer and with just one cereal crop a year these floods are going to produce a long-term food problem.
A few helicopter drops from the UN will not fix it.
The worst hit areas will need food assistance for the best part of a year.

Ghana's eastern neighbour, Togo, was to be our next destination. On a map it was just a tantalizing couple of inches from the flooded areas in the north.
Unfortunately we needed visas in Accra and so had to travel the entire length of both countries.
We hired a driver, Louis - a huge man from a family of Ghanaian champion boxers.
Despite a few military roadblocks on the way, I felt we were in safe hands - and by the look of him we could have thrown away the car-jack too.
Now, if Togo were the same shape as Louis, reaching the north would have been a modest trip.
Sadly, Togo is more like me - tall and thin - and so we were in for a long haul.
We were occasionally cheered up when Louis, gripping the steering wheel firmly, burst into song: "I see trees of green, red roses too..."
Yes, there were a few duets with his namesake Louis Armstrong on the car stereo.
Reaching the flooded villages we were rapidly exhausting all possible modes of transport; helicopter, motorboat, car, motorbike and bicycle.
When we approached Nagbeni village with a team of Red Cross workers, we came to an abrupt stop as the floods had washed away the bridge.

My colleague made a brief attempt to add "donkey" to the growing transport list, but the four-legged friend was not keen and bolted.
After more wading, we found Noumpo Natchaba queuing up for help, with the youngest of her six children strapped to her back.
We headed to her home with water purification kits from the Red Cross.
Half of the mud huts in Noumpo's compound had collapsed, and with her fields flooded she says she only has enough maize for a week.
The water in the north of Togo is receding but in the noisy paediatric wards of the region's main hospital we saw nurses struggling with an alarming crisis which is likely now to get worse.
Every day babies and young children are brought in with malnutrition.
Even before the floods the UN estimated that one third of children in the north of Togo were malnourished.
We saw 18-month-old Mamadou who had reached the hospital just in time, weighing half what he should have.
Mamadou's mother died a few months ago following relentless diarrhoea and his aunt was struggling to look after him.
He was gradually putting on weight but the fear is that with many families having lost their crops, the amount of malnutrition in the region is set to rise even more.
Perhaps the full impact of these floods will not be known for months.
But by then the water will have gone and the humanitarian agencies may well have moved on just when these areas need their help the most.



President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia has for the first time spoken about allegations levelled at him by his former defence minister.
Irakli Okruashvili accused Mr Saakashvili of leading a corrupt government and ordering the murder of political opponents.
Mr Saakashvili branded the allegations as "unpardonable lies".
He came to power in 2004 with promises to fight corruption and develop genuine democracy in Georgia.
Mr Saakashvili returned from New York, where he had delivered at speech at the United Nations, to confront the allegations levelled at him by Mr Okruashvili.
"Okruashvili and everybody else knows that all the things he said about me and about the country's leadership are unpardonable lies," Mr Saakashvili said.
He insisted that one of the main principles of his life was the fight against corruption.
Opposition protests
After the former defence minister made his accusations he was arrested on charges of corruption.

Toughest challenge for Georgian leader

Mr Saakashvili defended the move, saying anyone who broke the law would get what they deserved.
But the former minister's allies insist his arrest was intended to silence a powerful opponent.
On Friday, several thousand people protested against the arrest, and against President Saakashvili's government.
On Saturday a number of leading opposition parties have united on Saturday to form a movement called the Salvation Front.
It is aimed at creating what they describe as an electoral revolution in Georgia to oust Mr Saakashvili, who they accuse of being authoritarian.
But the Georgian authorities insist this is not a threat because peaceful protests are normal in any democratic country.
Mr Saakashvili was swept to power after the "Rose revolution" - the massive street demonstrations which led to the collapse of President's Eduard Shevardnadze's regime in 2003.



Pop singer George Michael has admitted his marijuana use can be "a problem" and said he is "constantly trying" to smoke less of the drug.
"Absolutely I would like to take less, no question," he said. "To that degree, it's a problem."
But he added he did not think his habit was "getting in the way of my life in any way".
"I'm a happy man and I can afford my marijuana so that's not a problem," he told BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.
Michael has previously said the world would be an "easier place to live with" if cannabis was legal.
In the Radio 4 interview, he also urged listeners to support troubled singer Amy Winehouse, who he called "the best female vocalist" he had ever heard.
He chose a track by Winehouse - who has reportedly had her own drug problems - as one of his castaway discs, saying she was also "one of the best writers" he had come across.
"All I can say is, please, please understand how brilliant you are."
Empathising through his own relationship with the press, the ex-Wham! star added: "I wish her every success in the future.
"I know she can get past the media. I don't know if she can get past other things, but she's a fantastic talent and we should support her."

Michael touched on a wide variety of subjects during his interview with presenter Kirsty Young.
Talking about his 25th anniversary tour, he said it had been "a very bizarre year".
"You can't imagine what it's like playing to people who have been loyal to you for 25 years and haven't seen you for 15.
"That's been the most life-affirming thing I could have done. I'm so glad I did it."
He described his childhood, revealing he believes he only became a pop star because he suffered a bang on the head.

"At the age of about eight I had a head injury and I know it sounds bizarre and unlikely, but it was quite a bad bang," he said.
"I had it stitched up and stuff, but all my interests changed, everything changed in six months.
"I had been obsessed with insects and creepy crawlies, I used to get up at five o'clock in the morning and go out into this field behind our garden and collect insects before everyone else got up.
"Suddenly, all I wanted to know about was music, it just seemed a very, very strange thing.
"And I have a theory that maybe it was something to do with this accident, this whole left-brain right-brain thing.
"Nobody in my family seemed to notice but I became absolutely obsessed with music and everything changed after that."
The interview will be broadcast on Desert Island Discs, Radio 4, at 1115 BST and repeated on Friday at 0902.



More than 100,000 people in Japan have taken part in a rally against changes to school textbook accounts of a controversial wartime episode.
The Okinawa protest was over education ministry moves to change passages in new history books about mass suicides on the island during World War II.
The books suggested Japanese soldiers forced civilians to kill themselves, a claim supported by many Okinawans.
Demonstrators accused the government of trying to rewrite history.
The Okinawa assembly has urged ministers to think again about its order to publishers to make revisions and submit them for approval.
Saturday's rally was the biggest staged on the southern island since it was returned to Japan by the United States in 1972, according to the Kyodo News agency.
When US soldiers invaded Okinawa at the end of World War II, more than 200,000 people died.
Hundreds of them were Japanese civilians who killed themselves.
The textbooks, intended for use in high schools next year, said that as the Americans prepared to invade, the Japanese army handed out grenades to Okinawa residents and ordered them to kill themselves.
Many survivors insist the military told people to commit suicide, partly due to fears over what they might tell the invaders and because being taken prisoner was considered shameful.


Saturday, September 29, 2007




Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

What a way to live.
Saturday 29th September 2007.

Dear Family and Friends,

Standing outside over yet another smoky fire late one afternoon this week, a Go-Away bird chastised me from a nearby tree. I'm sure this Grey Lourie is as fed up of me intruding into its territory as I am of being there - trying to get a hot meal for supper. For five of the last six days the electricity has gone off before 5 in the morning and only come back 16 or 17 hours later a little before midnight. "Go Away! Go Away!" the Grey Lourie called out repeatedly as my eyes streamed from the smoke and I stirred my little pot. My hair and clothes stink of smoke, fingers are yellow and sooty but this is what we've all been reduced to in Zimbabwe. Our government don't talk about the power cuts anymore and don't even try and feed us with lame excuses about how the power is being used to irrigate non-existent crops. We all know it's not true and the proof is there in the empty fields for all to see.
Something else our government aren't talking about anymore is the nationwide non availability of bread and the empty shops in all our towns and cities. Everywhere you go people are struggling almost beyond description to try and survive and yet the country's MP's, both from the ruling party and the opposition, do nothing to put an end to this time of horror. I have lost count of how many weeks this has been going on for but it must be around three months. None of the basics needed for daily survival are available to buy. There is no flour to bake with, no pasta, rice, lentils, dried beans or canned goods. People everywhere are hungry, not for luxuries like biscuits or snack food but for the staples that fill your stomach. When you ask people nowadays how they are coping, mostly they say that they are not, they say they are hungry, tired and have little energy. This is a national crisis almost beyond description and people say they are alive only because of " the hand of God."
This week as Monks and then ordinary people in Burma took to the streets in their thousands calling out 'Democracy, Democracy' in the face of the police and soldiers, we can't help but wonder why something similar does not happen here. The chant could be shorter and even simpler than in Burma and it could just be: 'Food, food,' but without leadership it seems as elusive as ever.
I end with a story about a man who is epileptic and visited the local government hospital for his regular check-up this week. It took four hours before he was seen by a nurse who scribbled in his book that this was a known case and that the hospital pharmacy should dispense his prescription of 90 phenobarb tablets at no charge - as they usually do. This major provincial government hospital had no phenobarb however so the man went to the biggest and busiest pharmacy in the town. They said the phenobarb would cost 1.2 million dollars - this is ten times more than the man's government stipulated minimum monthly wage. I offered to help and took the prescription to another pharmacy. The exact same tablets cost 250 thousand dollars - nearly five times cheaper. When I gave them to the man, his eyes shone with tears and he thanked me - 'I thought I would have to die' he said. What a way to live, and to die.
Until next week, thanks for reading,
love cathy.



Several hundred people have gathered in Burma's main city of Rangoon, despite three days of a government crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
The demonstrators have been surrounded by security forces and pro-military vigilante groups, eyewitnesses said.
The protesters are chanting slogans and taunting police, but no shots have so far been fired.
The protest came as a United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in Rangoon.
He was due to fly immediately to the new Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, to hold key talks with the country's ruling generals.

Heading for the unknown
Junta tightens media screw
Where world players stand

Eyewitnesses said that after a quiet morning in Rangoon, protesters again gathered in the centre of the city.
Some eyewitnesses told the BBC that more than 1,000 people were demonstrating against the government.
There were isolated reports of new violence.
According to the French news agency AFP, security forces charged a group of around 100 protesters on the Pansoedan bridge in central Rangoon.
"They beat people so badly," one eyewitness told the agency. "I wonder how these people can bear it. I saw the security forces arrest about five people on the streets."
Correspondents say the new protests will be a setback for the military government, which earlier declared via state media that peace and stability had been restored.
Burma has now seen almost two weeks of sustained anti-government protests, and three days of tough crackdowns on the protesters by the military.
They don't want the UN envoy to see the truth of the demonstrations in Burma - Rangoon resident.

Accounts from Burma
Send us your comments
Global protests in pictures

Internet links, which the government cut to stem the flow of information about the protests, are reported to be working intermittently.
It is not clear whether the security forces have been directly targeting protesters or just shooting warning shots to disperse the crowds, but Burmese officials said nine people were killed on Thursday.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he believed the loss of life had been "far greater".
Monks, who were initially at the vanguard of the protests, have been arrested or confined to their monasteries.
"I don't think that we have any more hope to win," one young woman told the Associated Press, commenting on their arrest. "The monks are the ones who give us courage."
It is not clear which members of the government Mr Gambari will be allowed to meet, though the White House said he should be allowed to meet "anyone he wants", including opposition figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi.

Religious sites sealed off by troops in Rangoon
Enlarge Image

Singapore's Foreign Minister warned that Mr Gambari's visit could have inflammatory consequences.
"Because Gambari is going there, I believe that the Yangon [Rangoon] government will be restrained in what it does but then the demonstrators may come up in full force.
"Then there could be heightened tension as a result. So what is important here is the political process signalled by what Gambari does in Yangon... If he fails then the situation can become quite dreadful."
Many Burmese people are not just being affected by the violence, but by restricted access to food aid as a result of the military roadblocks, humanitarian groups said.
The World Food Programme said its deliveries of food aid to 500,000 needy people have been severely impeded.



An armed female member of Colombia's Farc rebel group hijacked a small plane to escape her "tortuous life" with the guerrillas, police have said.
The woman, who was identified only by her alias "Angelica," took over the plane at an airstrip in Puerto Principe, in eastern Colombia.
Carrying a rifle, machete, knife and 150 bullets, she forced the pilot to fly her to the city of Villavicencio.
Upon arrival she surrendered her gun and said she wished to desert Farc.
Colonel Pablo Gomez, head of police in the state of Meta, where the plane landed, told reporters her plan was clear.
"Her intention was to escape, to desert the subversives because she was tired of this tortuous life that she had in the mountains."
I didn't threaten the pilot. I simply asked him the favour of taking me and well, he was scared.
Angelica - Rebel deserter.
Colombia TV news broadcast images of medical professionals treating the woman, who was wearing camouflaged cargo trousers.
She said: "I didn't threaten the pilot. I simply asked him the favour of taking me and well, he was scared.
"I had my weapon but no, at no moment did I point it at him. Nor did I take out my machete nor my knife nor anything."
Police said the hijacker would not be charged with a crime and would be admitted to the government's rebel rehabilitation programme.
Amnesty laws apply to combatants who willingly disarm in Colombia's half-century civil conflict.



Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Deep-voiced men have more children.
More details

2. Rangoon is now called Yangon - a renaming that dates from 1989, when Burma's rulers renamed the country Myanmar.
More details

3. Relocating crocodiles doesn't work - they come back.
More details

4. There is a monastery in every village in Burma.
More details

5. The going rate to emit a tonne of carbon is £11.36 according to the first auction to be held on a regulated exchange.
More details

6. Jack Straw has intervened in alleged crimes four times, apprehending a person on three occasions.
More details

7. On average a UK commuter travels the equivalent of two-and-a-half times around the globe over a full working career.
More details

8. Ants don’t die in a microwave - they find the cooler areas.

9. Tony Blair's first text message said "are" and his second said "This is amazing, you can do words and everything", according to Alastair Campbell.

10. A 23.8lb baby was born in the US in 1879, but it only survived 11 hours.
More details



By Abraham Odeke - BBC News, Tororo.

"Toilet defaulters" must promise to dig a latrine within seven days. Police in eastern Uganda have arrested more than 70 men because their homes do not have a pit latrine.
They were targeted as part of home-to-home sanitary inspections in Tororo district, intended to ensure that proper toilets are installed.
Tororo district authorities want to discourage people from the common practice of defecating in bushes.
They said "toilet defaulters" would be freed if they agreed to dig a pit latrine within seven days.
"It's lamentable that while the Americans and the Europeans are visiting the moon and are about to reach the sun, in this part of Africa I am busy hunting for people who claim they don't have the time and the technology for making simple pit latrines," Tororo District Chairman Emmanuel Osuna said.
The campaign has not been without its difficulties.
On Wednesday, 50 homes were found to have no toilets during a swoop on Osukuru.
The densely populated area is bordered on one side by River Malaba, which is a natural boundary with Kenya.
Forty of the Osukuru culprits evaded capture by either swimming across the river to Kenya or by climbing nearby high rocks.
The inspections are expected to continue for another month.


Friday, September 28, 2007





Police chief Jackie Selebi is the current head of Interpol. South African opposition parties are demanding clarification over reports that an prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for the commissioner of police. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has not commented on the reports in which media quoted unnamed sources.
Commissioner Jackie Selebi is also the current head of the international police body, Interpol.
Opposition parties say if reports of the warrant are true, he should be suspended from his post.
Previous press reports have linked Mr Selebi to Glenn Agliotti, who was arrested last year in connection with the murder of leading businessman Brett Kebble.
Has a warrant of arrest, or any warrant, at any stage, been applied for against Mr Selebi?
Velaphi Ndlovu, IFP spokesman
On Friday, reports suggested that President Thabo Mbeki's decision last week to suspend Chief Prosecutor Vusi Pikoli was linked to the investigation into Mr Selebi.
Helen Zille, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, said the latest reports needed to be either confirmed or denied as a matter of urgency, and called on President Mbeki to provide clarification.
'Serious questions'
"We are entering a phase in our democracy where the most serious questions, with profound constitutional implications, are being asked about the conduct of the president and the national police commissioner," Ms Zille said.

Pikoli was suspended last week, reportedly while investigating Selebi.
"The president needs to take the nation into his confidence."
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) spokesman Velaphi Ndlovu issued a statement putting a question to Mr Mbeki: "Has a warrant of arrest, or any warrant, at any stage, been applied for against Mr Selebi?"
The African Christian Democratic Party called for Mr Selebi's suspension from his duties, while the Freedom Front Plus called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations around the commissioner of police.
The warrant for Mr Selebi's arrest was reportedly issued by the NPA, which operates independently from the South African Police Services, the regular police force headed by Mr Selebi.
Intense controversy
Reports say the NPA issued the warrant last week, before Mr Pikoli was suspended from his duties by President Mbeki.
The role of the NPA's Special Investigations Unit, known as the Scorpions, and its relationship with the police has been the subject of intense political controversy in South Africa over the past four years.
Mr Pikoli's suspension followed reports of disagreement with Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla over the role of the NPA and the Scorpions in the prosecution of former Deputy President Jacob Zuma on charges of corruption.
But Friday's Mail & Guardian newspaper suggested that Mr Pikoli's suspension resulted from his failure to inform his political superiors of moves to investigate Mr Selebi.
Political commentator Adam Habib said Mr Mbeki would have to deal decisively with the latest claims.
"If there's a link [between Mr Pikoli's suspension and investigations into Mr Selebi] this will have serious implications, because the constitution says the NPA must be free and independent of political interference," he said.



A Zimbabwean CEO for a foreign-owned company in Harare tells the BBC News website what he thinks about the new law that parliament passed on Wednesday, giving the state controlling stakes in foreign-owned businesses, including banks and mines. He did not want his name published.
This morning when I got into the office, we - mostly middle management and above - were all talking about this new law and its implications.
To a certain extent I am worried about my job; you can never be so sure.
It is on all of our minds. Everyone is worried.
Regardless of this law though, some companies - including the foreign-owned one I work for - have been discussing whether they stay or go for some time now.
The economic situation here makes the notion of staying in business a great challenge. But we don't know when these changes have to be made by - the intricacies have not been spelt out yet. Or how it will be put into practice.
Maybe it is just an election gimmick? No-one knows yet.
Zimbabwe's government says the bill will empower the poor.
Another factor to consider is who the government sees as indigenous and who they don't... Business owners may think that if they hold a Zimbabwean passport then they are OK.
But the government has said before that those who make up Zimbabwe's coloured [mixed-race], Indian and white communities were at an advantage during colonial times.
So maybe the so-called colonialism benefiters will be forced to relinquish their shareholds.
But a person's ability to run a business successfully doesn't depend on their skin colour. What you need is the best person for the job.
It remains to be seen what will happen. You know, we have heard a lot of stories about their intentions but we are yet to see whether or not they have a strategic plan.
Major concern
I have serious fears for the foreign banks like Barclays and South Africa's Stanbic.

Basic foodstuffs like sugar, bread and cooking oil are scarce.
Zimbabwe's foreign credit lines must be kept open.
Most of the country's corporate companies have their accounts with Barclays and the like. Not with the indigenous banks.
And to keep going Zimbabwe needs to keep the little foreign investment it still has.
And now, who will be prepared to only accept a 49% ownership?
We saw exactly this happen in Zambia during the 1970s and early 1980s and it ruined the economy. All the companies went down and most of them that went down have never got back.
That's the major concern.
Another thing in the press are reports that the foreign companies doing business here support the opposition and their agenda is for regime change.
Maybe by passing this law the government thinks that stopping these foreign-owned companies from operating, will mean financial support for the opposition dries up.



"Condom Commando" - educating troops in HIV prevention.

Angolans serving in the national army have been taking part in an unusual training drill, caught on film.
In between oiling their AK-47s, they have been using bananas as a model for what to do with a condom.
The doctor in charge, Major Andre Chimuco says "many had never seen a condom before, far less used one".
The major's work features in a new documentary called Condom Commando which has just been shown in London for World Condom Day.
According to Unicef, barely 3.9% of Angola's nine million population is HIV positive - but it has all the high risk factors associated with HIV prevalence.
Using a banana to practice putting on a condom is not what they are used to
Major Andre Chimuco, Angolan Army
There is just one hospital in the entire country where anti-retroviral treatment is available to people living with the virus.
Dr Chimuco told the BBC's Network Africa programme that he was nervous at first about how the troops were going to react to the lessons: "sitting with other men and using a banana to practice putting on a condom is not what they are used to".
Up to now Angola has not seen the rate of HIV prevalence common elsewhere in southern Africa.

70% are aged under 24 years
50% have no schooling
70% are mothers by the age of 20

Largely, it is thought, because the 27-year civil war kept it relatively shut off from the outside world.
However in the five years since the war ended, infection rates have been creeping up.
As soldiers fraternise more and more with the civilian population, it is hoped that enlisting the army in the fight against HIV/Aids will keep both young men and their partners safe.



By Ian Pannell - BBC News, Cairo.

Egypt has reacted angrily to criticism of its human rights record by the United States. The White House raised concerns about a number of court cases against the independent press and the closure of a human rights organisation.
Egypt's foreign minister rejected the comments as "unacceptable interference" in the country's internal affairs.
The pressure on independent and opposition forces in Egypt has been growing for many months now.
But in the past two weeks, there seems to have been a particular move against the independent press.

In the most prominent case, one journalist has been ordered to stand trial in a secretive emergency court for publishing rumours about the health of the president.
Elsewhere, a human rights group has been forced to shut down.
On Tuesday, the White House said these actions contradicted Egypt's stated commitment to democratic rights.
Even so, this is a relationship that is unlikely to turn sour anytime soon.
As Washington relies on Cairo to support its policies in the region, so Cairo relies on Washington for billions of dollars in aid.
But there was a time when the Bush administration hoped its plan for greater democracy in the region would be championed by its friends in Egypt.
These latest developments are further proof that this idea can be laid to rest.



The jury in the murder trial of legendary music producer Phil Spector has found it impossible to reach a unanimous verdict.
But why was it so difficult to reach a decision?
Actress Lana Clarkson was found dead from a gunshot wound to the mouth in Phil Spector's home in California in February 2003.
With no witnesses to the shooting except Mr Spector himself, who chose not to take to the stand, it was always going to be a difficult case. Prosecutors claimed he pulled the trigger, while defence lawyers said she shot herself.
In the end, some jurors decided the evidence was not sufficiently convincing.

What happened in the two hours after Mr Spector and Ms Clarkson returned from a nightclub was the subject of heated claim and conjecture in court.
Jurors saw a photo of Ms Clarkson's legs, showing where the gun fellCandles were lit on the fireplace and an empty bottle of tequila and two glasses with the pair's fingerprints were found on the coffee table in the living room.
The jury was told Mr Spector's DNA was found on one of Ms Clarkson's breasts, but there was no sign of intercourse or assault.
In the foyer was a leather briefcase containing some over-the-counter medication and a packet holding one Viagra pill with empty spaces for two more.
There was also a bureau with a draw that was partially opened. In it was a holster that matched the snub-nosed Colt Cobra revolver that killed Ms Clarkson.
She was found sitting in a chair with her legs outstretched and a leopard-print handbag over her shoulder.
She had an "intra-oral" gunshot wound, according to the criminal terminology.

Mr Spector's Brazilian chauffeur Adriano De Souza, who called the emergency services on the night of the death, was a key witness.
Chauffeur Adriano De Souza claimed Mr Spector confessed. Mr De Souza was outside the producer's property when he said he heard a "pow" at about 5am.
His boss emerged from the house several minutes later and told him: "I think I killed somebody," the driver testified.
De Souza then asked: "What happened, sir?" The producer shrugged.
The driver told the 911 operator: "I think my boss killed somebody."
When the operator asked why, De Souza stammered: "Because, he, he have a lady on the, the floor and he have a gun, in, in his hand."
But the defence team questioned De Souza's version of events.
The jury was told that less than 24 hours after the shooting, De Souza was asked by police if he could recall Mr Spector's exact words. "I think so. I think, I'm not sure. It's my English," he said.
At the trial, one of the crucial questions was whether the forensic evidence proved Mr Spector was close enough to the victim to have been able to shoot her in the mouth.
Phil Spector's gun was shown in courtMr Spector's lawyer Linda Kenney-Baden told jurors the absence of gunshot residue and blood from his sleeves showed he could not have shot Ms Clarkson.
"Those sleeves by themselves prove Phillip is innocent," she said.
Moreover, more forensic experts said Mr Spector's DNA and fingerprints were not found on the gun.
Others told the court the evidence suggested no-one else was involved. "Ninety-nine percent, it's suicide," Dr Vincent DiMaio said.
Ms Kenney-Baden told jurors in her closing argument that "the scientific evidence clearly exonerates him".
But another forensic expert, Lynne Herold, told the court that the pattern of "mist-like" bloodstains on Mr Spector's white jacket suggested he was within two to three feet of the impact.
And Donna Brandelli, another expert, told the jury that fingerprints rarely adhered to the shiny metal surface of a gun.
"We only get fingerprints off guns eight to 10% of the time," she said.
Forensic specialist Steve Renteria said there could have been traces of cells from someone else on the gun but they would have been overwhelmed by the large amount of Ms Clarkson's blood.

During the trial, a string of women gave evidence to say Mr Spector also pointed guns at them over the years.
Melissa Grosvenor claimed Mr Spector threatened her in 1992Former employee and girlfriend Devra Robitaille told jurors he threatened her when she wanted to leave two parties in the 1970s and '80s.
In the second incident in 1986, she said he was "screaming, ranting and raving: 'You're not going. You're not leaving. I'm not opening the door... I'll blow you away. I'll shoot you.'"
Melissa Grosvenor described Mr Spector as a "very fun" companion - until he tried to stop her leaving his home in 1992.
"He walked right up to me and put the gun right up to my face and said: 'If you try to leave, I'm going to kill you,'" she said.
Stephanie Jennings said the producer held her hostage with a gun in a hotel room in 1995.
Another ex-girlfriend, Dorothy Melvin, said she was threatened with a pistol and shotgun after a night's drinking in 1993.
A fifth woman, Kathy Sullivan, recalled that Mr Spector once escorted her from his mansion carrying a gun for "protection". But she said she never felt threatened.

Lana Clarkson died of a gunshot fired inside her mouth. Much of the trial was spent arguing over whether Lana Clarkson had given up on life after failing to make it as a movie star, and whether she could have been capable of suicide.
She sent letters to friends and a doctor in the months leading up to her death including the phrases "I'm at the end of my rope here" and "I was at the end of my tether".
She also wrote at one point: "This has been definitely the most difficult year of my life. My finances are a shambles and I am on the verge of losing everything."
But her mother told the court her daughter had bought seven pairs of shoes for a new job just hours before she was shot.
She also identified a series of photos the actress had taken to use to seek work about a month before her death.
And in an e-mail sent the day before she died, Ms Clarkson agreed to attend a birthday party for a friend's husband later that month. "Can't wait! Hugs & kisses, Lana," she wrote.



China's Three Gorges Dam could trigger an environmental catastrophe unless emerging problems are treated urgently, senior officials have warned.
The dam's head of construction, Wang Xiaofeng, said ecological problems like soil erosion, landslides and water pollution could not be ignored.
In some areas ill-judged development was making things worse, he said.
Critics have long warned the dam, the world's largest hydro-electric project, could cause huge environmental damage.

See a graphic and more details about the Three Gorges Dam

The $25bn (£12.5bn) project, across the country's biggest river, the Yangtze, is due to be completed by the end of 2008.
More than one million people were relocated to make way for the dam, which China says is needed to control flooding and provide much-needed electricity.
Mr Wang told a conference that China had to address the environmental issues.

More than one million people were relocated because of the dam.
"We absolutely cannot relax our guard against ecological and environmental security problems sparked by the Three Gorges Project," he said.
"We cannot win passing economic prosperity at the cost of the environment," Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
The problems included landslides caused by erosion on the steep hills around the dam, conflicts over land shortages and "ecological deterioration caused by irrational development", he said.
Senior engineer Huang Xuebin told the forum that landslides were a "severe threat to the lives of residents around the dam".
Some landslides had caused waves several metres high that further damaged surrounding shores, he said.
Other officials warned that the quality of drinking water for residents was being affected.
The BBC's Quentin Somerville, in Shanghai, says that the admission comes with China's government increasingly worried that environmental damage is leading to growing political unrest.
Earlier this summer, the head of the State Environmental Protection Agency warned that pollution worries had led to an increase in protests and riots across China.
However, there is hardly a river in the country that has not been dammed and many more projects are still progressing, our correspondent says.
Beijing recently increased its targets for renewable energy production, most of which will still come from hydro-electric projects.


Type: Concrete Gravity Dam Cost: Official cost $25bn - actual cost believed to be much higherWork began: 1993Due for completion: 2009 Power generation: 26 turbines on left and right sides of dam. Six underground turbines planned for 2010Power capacity: 18,000 megawatts Reservoir: 660km long, submerging 632 sq km of land. When fully flooded, water will be 175m above sea levelNavigation: Two-way lock system became operational in 2004. One-step ship elevator due to open in 2009.



Protests in Burma

Nine people have been killed during Thursday's crackdown on anti-government protesters in Burma's main city of Rangoon, state media say.
The dead included eight protesters and a Japanese man, identified as a video journalist working for APF News - with 11 demonstrators and 31 soldiers hurt.
The deaths came on the 10th day of protests, led by Buddhist monks.
World leaders have renewed calls for sanctions - and the US says it is beginning with 14 top officials.
President George W Bush has "made it clear that we will not stand by as the regime tries to silence the voices of the Burmese people through repression and intimidation," said Adam Szubin, director of the US treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The world should act, under the UN, forcefully and show the door to the dictatorship. China has to be told firmly to stop propping up the Burmese military - Ganapathy, Ottawa, Canada.

Accounts from Burma
Protests in pictures
Send us your comments

In other developments on Thursday:
Burma says it will issue a visa to UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is being urgently sent to the country
the Association of South-East Asian Nations voices "revulsion" at the killings and urges Burma - one of its members - to exercise restraint
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour warns Burmese leaders that they could be prosecuted for their actions

Apart from sporadic gunfire, the streets of Rangoon are now said to be quiet after six hours of clashes. A curfew is back in force.
Thursday's violence followed reports of overnight raids on six monasteries.
Witnesses say soldiers smashed windows and doors and beat sleeping monks. Some escaped but hundreds were taken away in military trucks.

What next for the regime?
Burma rulers cut media flow

At about midday (0530 GMT), tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets in an apparently spontaneous show of defiance, singing nationalist songs and hurling abuse at soldiers driving by in trucks.
Troops began firing warning shots when protesters tried to take their weapons from them, state television reported.
Witnesses said it was unclear whether the bullets were fired into the crowd or above heads.
Japan's foreign ministry confirmed that a man found dead in Rangoon carrying a Japanese passport was Kenji Nagai, a video journalist who had been in Burma for Tokyo-based news agency APF News since Tuesday.
Japan would officially launch a protest with the Burmese government over Mr Nagai's death and demand an investigation into the incident, Japanese news agency Kyodo quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura as saying.
The official toll was nine dead, though this could not be confirmed.
In unrest on Wednesday state media said one person had died, though there were unconfirmed reports of several other deaths.
The scale and growing momentum of the protests appears to have taken Burma's military rulers by surprise, says the BBC's regional correspondent Charles Scanlon.

Key flashpoints in Rangoon
Enlarge Image

By ordering combat battalions into the streets, they are aiming to intimidate the population while rounding up the leaders of the protest movement, he adds.
With fewer monks on the streets on Thursday, the military may have had fewer qualms about firing on the civilians, correspondents say, as monks are held in high esteem in Buddhist Burma.
Analysts fear a repeat of the violence in 1988, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing thousands.
The current protests were triggered by the government's decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.



Britain has returned to Nigeria some of the money seized by London police from the former governor of Plateau State and says more seized money will follow.
Joshua Dariye was arrested in London in 2004 but skipped bail to return home.
The Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, James Tansley, handed over two cheques totalling more than $250,000 (£126,000, 29.3m naira).
Successive Nigerian leaders have made tackling graft a top priority, but few senior officials have been convicted.
The Metropolitan Police say it is only a fraction of the fortune that Mr Dariye and other Nigerian officials had diverted to London.
A Metropolitan police spokeswoman, Helen Kennedy, told the BBC News website "the two cheques now returned to Nigeria are just the cash seized from Dariye on his arrest".
A further $2.8m of his assets have been frozen by court order and are awaiting repatriation to Nigeria.
In all, Mr Dariye faces charges of stealing some $128m from Plateau State during his tenure as governor from 1997-2007.
His official earnings were only $80,000 a year, yet police in London say he accumulated property and assets worth millions, much of it from state funds which were intended to provide drinking water to villages.
London's Metropolitan Police, working with Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), have also been investigating other former Nigerian state governors, including James Ibori (Delta) and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa).

The police say they have secured court orders to freeze assets in excess of $70m proven to be the proceeds of crime.
Lawyers acting for Nigeria can recover the stolen monies through civil actions.
One cheque for $2m belonging to Mr Alamieyeseigha has already been returned to Nigeria.
The former Bayelsa governor pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Nigeria and was sentenced to two years in prison, but was released within hours because of time served.
An alleged credit card fraud in January 2004 sparked the UK investigation.
The trail led to Mr Dariye and police discovered that vast sums of government money had been diverted into several British bank accounts to purchase expensive property in London under false names.
His accomplice, Joyce Oyebanjo, who Mr Dariye made a guardian of his children, was convicted in April 2007 of using numerous accounts in her own name to launder large sums of money.
Ms Oyebanjo is currently serving a three-year prison sentence in the UK and has until June 2008 to refund to Nigeria a further $400,000 or her sentence will be extended by a further 2.5 years.
Hers was the first successful conviction achieved by a specialist unit known as the International Corruption Group, specifically created to investigate the laundering of criminal funds in London by corrupt overseas officials and part-funded by the Department of International Development.
At the time of Ms Oyebanjo's conviction, the UK's International Development Secretary Hilary Benn pledged, "This money has been seized and now should be returned to the Nigerian people."
All three former governors meanwhile remain wanted men in London where the criminal investigations are continuing.


Thursday, September 27, 2007





The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has accused the United States and Britain of a relentless campaign to destabilise and vilify his country.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mr Mugabe criticised George Bush's human rights record and policies on Iraq.
He called for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted.
Earlier Zimbabwean MPs approved a bill which would end foreign ownership of companies operating in the country.
Mr Mugabe described the conflict in Iraq as the "misadventures" of President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
He said Mr Bush had no right to lecture the world on human rights.
"His hands drip with the blood of many nationalities and today with the blood of Iraqis," he said.
"Mr Bush and Mr Brown have no role to play in our national affairs," Mr Mugabe told the General Assembly.
"They are outsiders and should therefore keep out."
Earlier Mr Bush told the assembly that Zimbabwe was suffering under a "tyrannical regime" and the UN should exert pressure on Mr Mugabe to allow greater freedoms.
Mr Mugabe reiterated that regime change in Zimbabwe would not be brought about by outside influence.
He was also critical of the United Nations Security Council, complaining that Africa did not hold a permanent seat or have the power of veto.
Empowerment bill
Meanwhile critics are saying that Zimbabwe's new Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill could hurt investor confidence in the country.
It aims to ensure at least a 51% shareholding by indigenous black people in the majority of businesses.
The governing Zanu-PF party says the move will empower the poor majority, but opposition politicians say it will only enrich a few powerful individuals.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing the world's highest inflation and shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.
Presidential and parliamentary elections are due to be held next year, following South-African-mediated talks between the government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.



Grisly murders carried out by the Mungiki have shocked Kenyans. Police in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have shot and killed what they describe as 12 criminals.
Police say that three of the men killed were members of a sect which has been responsible for a series of brutal killings in the past few months.
Police say they opened fire on criminal gangs in three incidents in Nairobi.
"Gangsters should surrender because their days are numbered. We will not relent on the war against crime," Nairobi's police chief told reporters.
At one point, police say they chased a car containing several armed men and shot and killed the occupants in the industrial area of the city.
Police also opened fire on a group of men robbing pedestrians on the outskirts of Nairobi and more shooting took place when officers confronted what they say were members of the Mungiki sect who were extorting money from garbage collectors.
The Mungiki, a quasi-religious criminal gang, has terrorised parts of Nairobi and central Kenya in the past few months.
Mungiki followers have been linked to the gruesome murders of more than 40 people - some of whom were beheaded.



Witnesses say security forces in Burma have launched raids on six monasteries and arrested hundreds of monks, as they try to stem a rising tide of protests.
About 200 Buddhist monks were reported to have been held when two monasteries in the east of the main city, Rangoon, were stormed overnight, witnesses said.
It comes a day after five people were reported killed when police broke up protests by monks and civilians.
The UN Security Council has called on Burma's military junta for restraint.

Key locations of Rangoon democracy protests
Enlarge Map
During the raids on the monasteries, witnesses said soldiers smashed windows and doors and beat the sleeping monks.
Some escaped, but hundreds of monks were taken away in military trucks.
Two members of the National League for Democracy, the party led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, were also arrested.
There were also reports of raids in the north-east of the country.
In Rangoon, security forces have been setting up barbed wire barricades around Shwedagon Pagoda and Rangoon city hall, two of the focal points for the demonstrations.

The junta are using dirty tactics - they don't fire guns but beat people with rifle butts
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Accounts from Burma
Text: Burma confirms death
In quotes: Global reaction

The British ambassador in Rangoon, Mark Canning, said soldiers and police had stepped up their presence.
"There are truckloads of troops in a number of locations - more than there seemed to be yesterday," he told the BBC.
"There are fire trucks, water canons positioned in a number of places - there are about three of them outside city hall. There are a number of prison vans also to be seen in certain places."
More demonstrations are expected - leaflets have been circulated throughout Rangoon urging people to come out and show solidarity with the monks.
UN debate
There are no indications yet that the military government is ready to listen to the many calls for restraint being made around the world, says the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting in New York.
The US and European Union wanted the council to consider imposing sanctions - but that was rejected by China as not "helpful".

China's crucial role in crisis
How will the junta respond?
Burma's saffron army

Instead, council members "expressed their concern vis-a-vis the situation, and have urged restraint, especially from the government of Myanmar," said France's UN ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert.
They welcomed a plan to send UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to the region, and called on the Burmese authorities to receive him "as soon as possible".
China and Russia have argued the situation in Burma is a purely internal matter. Both vetoed a UN resolution critical of Burma's rulers in January.
Analysts fear a repeat of the violence in 1988, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing thousands.
The protests were triggered by the government's decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.



Mikhail Saakashvili accuses Russia of meddling in GeorgiaGeorgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili has accused Russia of leading "terror" missions on his country's territory.
In a speech to the United Nations, he said a man killed by Georgian forces in the breakaway Abkhazia region last week had turned out to be a Russian colonel.
Russia's UN ambassador retorted that the man and another killed at the same time were "anti-terrorist" instructors.
Georgia has accused Russia of trying to destabilise it and of backing Abkhazia's bid for independence.
Mr Saakashvili said on Wednesday: "One has to wonder - what was a lieutenant colonel of the Russian military doing in the Georgian forests, organising and leading a group of armed insurgents on a mission of terror?
"I want to ask our Russian friends - is there not enough territory in Russia? Are there not enough forests in Russia for Russian officers not to die in Georgian territory in Georgian forests?"
Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters immediately after the speech to the UN General Assembly that the men were instructors at an "anti-terrorist training centre", and were killed at close quarters with knives and gunshots to the head.
"This to us is another manifestation of the course of action which regrettably the Georgian authorities have taken lately... They have been doing everything to aggravate tensions," he said.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


President Yar'Adua has vowed to crack down on corrupt politicians. MPs in Nigeria investigating a $5m spending spree by the new House of Representatives Speaker, Patricia Etteh, have said she broke the rules.
Her last appearance in the assembly prompted a fist fight and she was ushered away amid cries from MPs of "thief, thief" in her native language.
She was accused of buying 12 cars and carrying out lavish house renovations.
The report by nine MPs gave 10 reasons why "due process was not completely followed in awarding contracts".
Parliament is likely to vote on whether to impeach her in mid-October when it reconvenes, says the BBC's Chris Ewokor in the capital, Abuja.
Correspondents say the furore over the contracts has been an embarrassing start for the National Assembly, following elections in April.
President Umaru Yar'Adua took office in May pledging to crack down on corruption and is under scrutiny over whether he will deliver.
Mrs Etteh says she is being made a scapegoat by senior politicians angry that she overlooked them for key appointments.



The Zimbabwean parliament has passed a bill to move majority control of foreign-owned companies operating in the country to black Zimbabweans.
The goal is to ensure at least a 51% shareholding by indigenous black people in the majority of businesses.
The bill completes a process that began with the controversial seizure of white-owned farms starting in 1999.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing the world's highest inflation and shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.
The bill still has to go to the upper house - the Senate - for final approval. It already has the support of President Robert Mugabe's government.
If passed in the Senate, the practical effect of the bill may, however, be severely limited, says the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg.
Many foreign companies in Zimbabwe are already operating at a low level, with reduced turnover resulting from the seven-year economic crisis.
51% share
Critics have said the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill could hurt investor confidence in Zimbabwe.
It stipulates that no company restructuring, merger or acquisition can be approved unless 51% of the firm goes to indigenous Zimbabweans.

The empowerment bill defines "indigenous Zimbabwean" as anyone disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on race grounds before independence in 1980.
It also provides for the establishment of an empowerment fund which will offer assistance to the "financing of share acquisitions" from the public-owned firms or assist in "management buy-ins and buy-outs."
MPs from the governing Zanu-PF party supported the bill in parliament on Wednesday.
"If we do not dismantle the structure of colonialism that we inherited then we have not given back all the country's resources to its rightful owners, who are our people," Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Paul Mangwana said, quoted by Reuters news agency.
Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) walked out of parliament in protest at the bill before voting began.
"We see it as a strategy to amass wealth by the ruling elite, and nothing to do with the empowerment of people," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told the BBC News website.
All government departments and statutory bodies will be asked to obtain 51% of their goods and services from businesses in which controlling interest is held by indigenous Zimbabweans.
Some firms dually listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and London Securities Exchange firms include Old Mutual, NMB bank and Hwange.
Multi-national firms that may be affected by the new policy include Barclays Bank, Bindura Nickel Corporation and miner Rio Zim.
Senior British officials say the Zimbabwean government will be disappointed if it thinks it will gain much of value from the move.



Burma and Somalia have been jointly ranked by Transparency International as the world's most corrupt countries. The index is based on perceptions of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories. There is strong correlation between poverty and corruption, said Huguette Labelle, chair of the watchdog. At the bottom of the table, ahead of Somalia and Burma, were Iraq, Haiti, Uzbekistan and Tonga.

Denmark joined Finland and New Zealand at the head of the table, which was compiled by the Berlin-based watchdog. Forty per cent of the countries where corruption is perceived as rampant were classified by the World Bank as low income countries, Transparency International said. "Despite some gains, corruption remains an enormous drain on resources sorely needed for education, health and infrastructure," Ms Labelle said.


Last year, Haiti headed the rankings. Among those countries whose corruption score had worsened over the past year were Thailand, Austria and Jordan, Transparency International said. Scores were significantly higher in several African countries in the 2007 index, with Namibia, South African and Swaziland making progress in the fight against corruption. Gainers were also concentrated in Eastern Europe, with improvements in Croatia, Czech Republic and Romania testament to the impact of the European Union accession process on corruption.
Consistently corrupt
Burma, also known as Myanmar, has consistently ranked among the world's most corrupt countries. The southeast Asian country is ruled by a military junta which has suppressed almost all dissent. Tens of thousands of monks and civilians have staged anti-government protests in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Burmese police used batons and tear gas to beat back monks and other demonstrators in Rangoon as a new march began at the city's holiest shrine.

New Zealand

Somalia has been without an effective central government since a military regime collapsed in 1991. Years of fighting between rival warlords combined with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people. Transparency International said that top scores enjoyed by wealthy countries in Europe, East Asia and North America, did not mean that these places could rest on their laurels.
Corruption often has an international dimension that implicates top scorers, the watchdog said. Global financial centres play a central role in allowing corrupt officials to hide their ill-gotten gains and bribe money often originates from multinationals based in rich countries. The UK ranked in joint 12th place with Luxembourg.



A blonde girl photographed in Morocco is not missing Madeleine McCann, according to journalists who met her.
British and Spanish reporters claim to have traced the girl, pictured being carried on a Moroccan woman's back.
The London paper, the Evening Standard, says the girl is a five-year-old from the village of Zinat.
The McCanns' spokesman said the news, if true, was disappointing. Madeleine disappeared on 3 May from a holiday apartment in Portugal.
Experts were said to be examining the image, taken three weeks ago by a Spanish tourist, in the hope that the girl was the missing four-year-old from Rothley, Leicestershire.
But Spain's Telecinco channel and the Standard both claimed to have traced the family in the picture.
Rashid Razaq, the Standard reporter who flew to Morocco from London, said he saw the youngster.
"She has got a resemblance to Madeleine but when you see her properly, it is obvious it isn't her."
He said the girl in the picture was five-year-old Bushra Binhisa, daughter of an olive farmer.
Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell promised that the search for Madeleine would continue.



Men with deep voices tend to have more children than those who speak at a higher pitch, scientists say. Their finding is based on a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania known as the Hadza, who can be studied without bias because they use no birth control. Males who hit lower notes as they talked had about two more children on average than squeaky speakers. It fits with observations that women find masculine voices more attractive, the team reports in Biology Letters.
"There are a lot of reasons why lower pitch and reproductive success could be linked," said Coren Apicella, from the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, US.
Deep tones are suggestive of increased testosterone levels, which could lead females to perceive such men as better hunters and therefore better providers, she told the BBC.
"Or it could be that men with deeper voices simply start reproducing earlier. We really don't know what is behind this yet."

Apicella's group studied the Hadza because "they provide a window into our past" - they live their lives much as our ancestors did, and their behaviours could illustrate key facets of evolution that might otherwise be swamped by modern culture.
Hadza females gather berries and dig for tubers, while the males hunt animals and collect honey. Marriages are not arranged, so that men and women choose their own spouses.
The Hadza are monogamous, but extra-marital affairs are common, and the divorce rate is high.
For the study, voice recordings were collected from 49 men and 52 women between the ages of 18 and 55.
"The experiment was really simple," said Ms Apicella. "I went to nine different camps and I'd just get them to come into my Land Rover and record them saying the word 'Hujambo', which means 'hello', into a microphone.
"I then analysed the voice and pitch, and compared it with the person's reproductive history - how many children they had had and how many were still surviving."
The results indicated the deeper the man's voice, the more likely he was to have fathered more children, she said. She added that voice pitch was not linked to child mortality.
"We found that for women, the voice pitch was not connected to reproduction."

Because of the similarity which their hunter-gatherer lifestyle bears to that of our ancestors, the reproductive success of the Hadza could be indicative of the way that human beings evolved.
If females are drawn to deeper voices, this would drive selection in the population towards that trait. In other words, lower-pitched male speakers would become dominant over time.
"It's possible that vocal dimorphism has evolved over thousands of years, partly due to mate selection," explained Ms Apicella. "Perhaps at one time, men and women's voices were closer in pitch than they are today."
Her group has plans to extend its study. It is analysing data gathered from an experiment designed to test whether lower voice pitch in Hadza men really is any kind of indicator of performance. "I set up the 'Hadza Olympics'," she said. "The tribesmen participated in lots of activities, like archery competitions, racing, hunting, etc. "I'm going to look now at these to see if there is a link between hunting success, reproductive performance and voice pitch."
The research was undertaken with David Feinberg of McMaster University and Frank Marlowe of Florida State University.



By Orla Guerin BBC News, Teso.

They brave the water in small groups, moving forward slowly and carefully, sometimes holding hands.
This is what it takes to get in or out of Katakwi district in eastern Uganda, where more than 140,000 have been cut off by the floods.
The main highway into the area - usually packed with cars and trucks - is now hidden beneath a fast-moving torrent.
Crossing the road means battling the waves.
In the time we spent at the waters edge, three men were almost carried away by the current.
Others followed, undeterred, taking their lives in their hands - struggling to carry boxes of essential supplies, bicycles, laptops, and in some cases, their children.

Aid workers are struggling to reach Uganda's flood-affected.
Enlarge Image
One father waded through with his young daughter perched precariously on his shoulders. The water had risen to his chest before he reached the other side.
Hirali Isabirye, a businessman headed for Kampala, carried his black attachee case shoulder-high.
"I crossed by God's mercy," he said.
"But there is no way to take my goods. I doubt whether I will come back safely."
Hirali explained the pact made by those about to enter the water.
Uganda's eastern region of Teso is the worst affected.
"We just combine efforts, moving three or four people, holding ourselves together," he said.
"We tell everybody that if I fall down please don't let me go and if you go down I will not let you go. We just swear by each other that I will not let your life go. The water is so strong it can easily carry you away."
He begged the government to help, suggesting they bring speedboats.
"This situation is quite alarming," he said, "so we are requesting the government please to so something - to rescue the situation, at least to rescue the lives of the people. We just feel we have been ignored."
Uganda's Minister for Disaster Relief, Francis Musa Ecweru, says that initially the government here did not anticipate the magnitude of the damage, but neither did the international community.
The water kept rising. We lost everything - plates, clothing, bedding, my bicycle, even our sorghum and cassava crops
Innocent Okia, 18Mbale, Uganda
'Washed away': Your stories
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Satellite images of floods

He is pleading for foreign help - before it is too late.
Standing in the flood waters, he urged the international community to intervene now rather than wait for a humanitarian catastrophe.
"We should not wait for dead bodies to start appearing," he said.
"We must act now to avert the problem. If we don't then we are going to see a problem. People will start dying and they might die in such numbers that will embarrass the whole international community."
"About 400,000 people are in very dire need of international help," he said.
"They are trapped and can only be reached by air. They need to be reached with food, medicine and clothing."
Not a penny
The United Nations World Food Programme has made an urgent appeal for funds for Uganda, but says so far, it has not seen a penny.

WFP country director Tesama Negash calls the lack of response puzzling and very worrying.
He says that some donors are even claiming the scale of the problem is being exaggerated, but he responds with a a stark warning.
"If we don't get cash now," he says," we will be running out of time. At the moment we don't have any food for the flood-affected people."
In the village of Ajeleik, crowds gathered when a WFP helicopter landed with a few sacks of aid - just enough for a week.
Giver and taker
Like many of Uganda's flood victims, these people have been made homeless three times - by cattle thieves, by the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army, and now by nature.

Your pics: Floods in Uganda

But life has never been this bad before, according to Pampas, a 76-year-old man, who remembers all the tough times of the past, including the devastating floods back in the 1960s.
"This one has destroyed the houses and crops so we don't know what to do," he says.
Minutes later, the heavens opened again, battering the sodden landscape.
It is feared the floods could bring dysentery and cholera.
Water - the giver of life - is now threatening to take it away.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Monks have called for political prisoners to be freed.
Enlarge Image

Tens of thousands of monks and civilians in Burma's main city Rangoon have defied military warnings and staged new anti-government protests.
Some chanted "we want dialogue". Others simply shouted "democracy, democracy".
Earlier, lorries with loudspeakers warned residents that the protests could be "dispersed by military force".
After the march finished, eyewitnesses told two news agencies they had seen several military trucks moving on Rangoon's streets.

1. Shwedagon Pagoda. Tens of thousands of protesters, led by monks, gathered here at start of march2.Sule Pagoda. Students joined the protest, passing nearby city hall
Reuters reported that eight trucks of armed riot police and 11 trucks of troops had moved into the city's centre.
The security forces stayed in the vehicles while a few hundred people looked on, AFP said.
Tens of thousands of monks and supporters earlier marched from Shwedagon pagoda into the commercial centre of Rangoon, where they gathered around Sule pagoda and nearby city hall, witnesses told AFP.
Protesters addressed the crowd outside city hall.
"National reconciliation is very important for us... The monks are standing up for the people," proclaimed poet Aung Way.
One monk told the Associated Press: "People do not tolerate the military government any longer."
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says monks - who have been spearheading the protest campaign - have been handing out pictures of Burmese independence hero Aung San, the deceased father of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
They are also carrying flags, including some bearing the image of a fighting peacock used by students during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, witnesses told Reuters.
Students were also openly marching, says the BBC Burmese Service. In earlier marches they had simply formed a chain and clapped.

15 Aug: Junta doubles fuel prices, sparking protests
5 Sept: Troops injure several monks at a protest in Pakokku
17 Sept: The junta's failure to apologise for the injuries draws fresh protests by monks
18-21 Sept: Daily marches by monks in Burmese cities gradually gather in size
22 Sept: 1,000 monks march to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon
23 Sept: Up to 20,000 march in Rangoon
24 Sept: New Rangoon march draws at least 50,000 and 24 other towns join in

In pictures: Protests
Q&A: Protests in Burma
China's dilemma over Burma
Government's view

"Some students are in the middle of exams at this time," one of the students told the BBC. "But they have left their exam rooms and came out onto the streets, joining hands with the public, fighting for the country under the guidance of the monks."
The junta, which violently repressed the 1988 protests killing some 3,000 people, finally broke its silence over the mounting protests late on Monday, saying it was ready to "take action" against the monks.
It has repeated the warning in state media, ordering monks not to get involved in politics and accusing them of allowing themselves to be manipulated by the foreign media.
International reaction
At the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Burma's rulers to exercise restraint in the face of the growing protests.
US President George W Bush is to use his speech - due shortly - to announce further sanctions against Burma's ruling military junta, the White House has said.

The US is hoping it will encourage other nations to act and embolden the protesters on Burma's streets, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington.
Close neighbour China called for "stability", and the European Union has also urged the junta to show the "utmost restraint" and to take the opportunity to "launch a process of real political reform".
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has given his backing to the monks' call for freedom and democracy.
The protests were triggered by the government's decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.






Ex-US President Bill Clinton is in his home state of Arkansas to mark the 50th anniversary of the integration crisis at Little Rock Central High School.
The crisis saw a three week stand-off between a group of nine black students and an angry mob who wanted to stop them attending the all-white school.
The crisis was only ended when President Dwight D Eisenhower sent in troops to control the crowds.
The event became a seminal moment in the civil rights struggle in the US.
'Celebrate courage'
A series of events is being held in Little Rock to celebrate the integration of Central High School.
At a gala on Monday evening, Mr Clinton said Americans needed to continue to improve race relations.
"It is easy to celebrate the courage of others for what they did 50 years ago," he said.
It is another thing altogether to build the world our children would like to live in 50 years from now."
The US Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregated classrooms were unconstitutional.
But three years later, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus attempted to block the Little Rock Nine, as the group of students became known, from enrolling at Central High.
President Eisenhower eventually had to send in troops from the 101st Airborne division to escort the group to class, dealing opponents of the black civil rights movement a crushing blow.
The BBC's James Coomarasamy, in Little Rock, says the ceremony to mark one of the key events of the civil rights era takes place at a moment when America is examining the state of its race relations following last week's protest in the Louisiana town of Jena.
The case there of jailed black high school children, with its allegations of unequal racially-based justice, has for some brought back memories of those earlier, less enlightened times being remembered in Little Rock, our correspondent adds.



By Artyom Liss - BBC News, Moscow.

Over half of Russians asked about global warming say they haven't heard much about it, according to a BBC World Service poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.
It's not easy to grow tomatoes in northern Russia. The Russian media focus on what seem to be more pressing problems.
There are burning social issues, there's uncertainty about the security, there's a falling-out with the West, and, crucially, it is a very cold country.
A meteorologist in Arkhangelsk, in the north of Russia, once told me: "I know global warming is a problem, but I would welcome a bit of warmth up here. Then I could grow my own tomatoes."
We spoke as we stood on ice in the middle of the frozen Dvina river. The temperature was approaching -25C.
This meteorologist is by no means the only person in Russia to think this way. His view virtually mirrors the state's official position.

Poll: Man fuels climate change

"We are not panicking. Global warming is not as catastrophic for us as it might be for some other countries," Rinat Gizatullin, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Ministry, says.
"If anything, we'll be even better off: as the climate warms, more of Russia's territory will be freed up for agriculture and industry."

See which countries hear most about climate change

Alexey Kokorin of WWF in Russia says Russians who are aware of global warming tend to live in some of the worst affected areas, such as Siberia, with its melting permafrost, or the Caucasus, with its regular heatwaves.
The real problem, Mr Kokorin says, is not that people don't know what's going on, it is that they have some of the "weirdest ideas about what causes global warming, and they don't feel the need to change things".
The government says it is trying to educate people.
But, so far, most of the steps that have been taken have been aimed at businesses, not at ordinary Russians.
Russia has signed up to the Kyoto treaty, and the country is now expecting millions of dollars' worth of investment.
Moscow's hope is that Western polluters will be queuing up to buy its carbon emission quotas. The money will then go into improving infrastructure and energy efficiency.
This approach alone - focusing more on the economy than ecology - may not convince Russians that the whole world is heating up.
But at least it will give the issue more prominence.

The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan co-ordinated fieldwork between 29 May and 26 July 2007.



Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has clashed with the head of New York's Columbia University while making his controversial appearance at the campus.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger described Mr Ahmadinejad as a "cruel dictator" who denied the Holocaust.
In response, Mr Ahmadinejad called the remarks "an insult", adding that more research was needed on the Holocaust.
He again defended Tehran's nuclear ambitions and said it had every right to pursue a peaceful programme.
Washington accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb and arming insurgents in Iraq - Tehran rejects the charges.
Many Americans said the Iranian leader should not have been invited to speak at Columbia University.
But his appearance was popular - crowds flocked to a large screen set up on university grounds, and tickets to the actual event were quickly snapped up.
In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country
Mahmoud AhmadinejadMr Ahmadinejad's appearance sparked protests in New York, with demonstrators saying it provided a platform for hate.
Mr Ahmadinejad has been denied a visit to the site of the 11 September attacks in New York in 2001, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying that "it would have been a travesty".
"This is somebody who is the president of a country that is probably the greatest sponsor - state sponsor - of terrorism," Ms Rice told CNBC television.
Mr Ahmadinejad was invited to Columbia University to address its students at the university's World Leaders Forum.
He received a hostile welcome from Mr Bollinger, who described the Iranian leader as "a petty and cruel dictator".
"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," Mr Bollinger told Mr Ahmadinejad, referring to his denial of the Holocaust.
In response, Mr Ahmadinejad said that Mr Bollinger's remarks were "an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience".
The BBC's Jon Leyne, in New York, said Mr Ahmadinejad was visibly annoyed. At one point he demanded to know why raising issues about the Holocaust or the existence of Israel was not compatible with freedom of speech, our correspondent says.
Mr Ahmadinejad has called in the past for an end to the Israeli state and described the Holocaust as a "myth".
Addressing the Holocaust issue, Mr Ahmadinejad said he simply wanted more research to be done.
He also said the issue was abused by Israel to justify what he said was its mistreatment of the Palestinians.
Asked about executions of homosexuals in Iran, Mr Ahmadinejad replied: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
Reacting to laughter and jeers from the audience he added: "In Iran we don't have this phenomenon, I don't know who you told this."
The New York Daily News's front page headline on Monday read "The Evil Has Landed", while the New York Post described Mr Ahmadinejad as "Madman Iran Prez".
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the university on Sunday, but Mr Bollinger defended the university's invitation, saying it was a question of free speech and academic freedom.
The Iranian leader is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, where he is due to speak on Tuesday.
Our correspondent says Mr Ahmadinejad firmly believes he can convince global opinion and the American people of the rightness of his cause.


Monday, September 24, 2007


Fire crews clear up damage in Farnborough, Hants.
Tornado aftermath
In pictures: Tornadoes hit UK

A series of tornadoes has struck communities across England, damaging homes and vehicles and uprooting trees.
The Met Office confirmed that a squall hit Northampton, where falling branches damaged an empty school bus.
It also said that a violent storm damaged gardens and homes in Luton. Part of a factory roof was blown off in Breaston, Derbyshire.
Also affected were Farnborough, Hants, and Nuneaton, Warks. There have been no immediate reports of injuries.

Nina Ridge from the BBC Weather Centre said that the winds reached 60mph.
In a statement, the Met Office said that the gusts were "conducive to tornadoes" and measured T2 or T3 on the TORRO scale (which ranges from 0 to 10), meaning they were "moderate to strong".
It added that in Luton a violent storm hit at 0700 BST, damaging gardens and ripping tiles off house roofs.
Ruth Spaull of Luton said that she saw "a funnel of wind" lift her daughter's trampoline 15ft (4.52m) into the air.

According to the fire service, 20 houses were hit in Farnborough, Hampshire, at 0800 BST, tearing away a garage roof and uprooting trees.
Terry Parrott, who lives in Farnborough, said he looked out of his window to see a "complete whirling mass".
He added: "Caravans have been upside down, trees uprooted, bus shelters destroyed. It's just complete devastation."

Tim Vile, incident commander for Hampshire Fire and Rescue, said the area looked "like a battle-zone".
Terrence Meaden, deputy head of tornado research group TORRO, said five reports were "looking certain" to be confirmed as tornadoes.
And he said further research could show another five cases of similar conditions, in places such as Northampton, Scunthorpe and Ollerton in Nottinghamshire, were tornadoes.
Dr Meaden said such a series was "infrequent enough" but not unprecedented.
Northampton resident Andy Summerville told BBC News 24 that the sky went "completely black" at around 0710 before tiles were blown onto parked cars.
Winds damaged around 20 homes in Trafford Drive, Nuneaton, with tiles pulled from roofs, cars smashed and debris scattered across the streets, Warwickshire Police said.
The local borough council said 35 homes were damaged in the Mallard Avenue and Kingfisher Way area.

Animated guide: Tornadoes

Lollipop lady Beryl Warburton, 79, who lives on Trafford Drive, said the "frightening" storm struck at about 0615.
She said: "Some of the houses have had their roofs taken off completely, some have lost parts of their roofs."
Cambridgeshire Police said a motorist reported seeing a car blown across a road by a "tornado" in the village of Eye.
TORRO claims an average of 33 tornadoes are reported annually in the UK.
Dr Meaden added that the cold front which caused the tornadoes was over Exeter, Devon, at 0400 BST and travelled eastwards before passing out into the North Sea by around 0900 BST.