Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

Dear Family and Friends,

The winner and loser of Zimbabwe's March Presidential election have begun campaigning for confirmation of their positions in a second round of the ballot.

Mr Mugabe, who lost in the first round, says that people voted with their stomachs and not their minds on March 29th. Mr Mugabe's new campaign is so far focussing on apparent plots by the British, Americans and people he calls their allies and puppets whom he says are trying to re-colonise Zimbabwe. These new colonisers, who are, by the way, not entitled to votein the coming election, are also to blame for the dire situation in the country. Mr Mugabe said: "There might be grievances about prices, food shortages and non-availability of basic commodities. These are being caused by sanctions and food shortages are a result of drought."

Mrs Mugabe, speaking in Shamva alongside her husband this week, was even more forthright in her comments. Mrs Mugabe said: "Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House. He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from Zanu PF."

Ordinary Zimbabweans, meanwhile, are facing the coming poll in a state of shock and disbelief. Everywhere you go people have accounts of terror and horror to relate about events that have taken place in the last two months.Tales of burning, running, hiding, broken limbs, abductions and murder. The MDC say that in the past six weeks 50 Zimbabweans have been killed in political violence and more than 25 000 have been displaced.

MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and the winner of the March 29th Presidential election, said on his return to the country : "They [the Government] have beaten themselves into serious rejection by the people of Zimbabwe." Mr Tsvangirai described the situation in Zimbabwe as 'tragic' and said the nation is : "in a state of despair."

For the past three weeks while the world's cameras have been upon attacks on foreigners in South Africa, mayhem has been going on almost un-noticed behind the curtain in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans want a change to this dreadful, crushing way of life. What they need now is to believe in themselves and to believe that they can effect that change.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle 31st May 2008. books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available in South Africafrom: and in the UK from:



UN chief Ban Ki-moon has praised progress in Iraq at a UN forum in Sweden on the situation in the country.
Mr Ban said Iraq was "stepping back from the abyss that we feared most" but warned the situation "remains fragile".
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki called for debt cancellation, mainly from Arab nations.
Nearly 100 countries are taking part in the forum, which is aimed at supporting Iraq's efforts to restore stability and
rebuild a functioning economy.
Correspondents say progress in these areas remains fragile.
The UN called the conference to review a five-year package it brokered last year, called the International Compact with Iraq.
Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki called on neighbouring countries to Iraq's forgive debts and waive compensation payments for wars fought under Saddam Hussein.

Ban Ki-moon has praised international efforts in supporting the rebuilding of Iraq.
"Iraq is not a poor country. It possesses tremendous human and material resources, but the debts of Iraq... which we inherited from the dictator, hamper the reconstruction process," he said.
Iraq owes more than $60bn (£30.4bn) debt in total, with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia among the biggest creditors. It also owes about $28bn in compensation claims dating from the 1991 Gulf War.
Swedish officials had earlier played down the possibility of new initiatives at the meeting, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said debt was not its subject.
Meanwhile US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged countries to stand by Iraq during reconstruction.
She said Iraq was "making good progress" but "challenges" remained.
But Iran's foreign minister blamed the US-led coalition's "mistaken policies" for the "grave" situation in Iraq, the Associated Press reported.
Mr Ban opened the conference, in Upplands Vasby, about 25km (15 miles) north of Sweden's capital, Stockholm, with an upbeat assessment.
"If we had to use one word to describe the situation in Iraq today I would choose... hope," he said.

Paris Club Group of 19 developed countries owed $37bn in 2004, now reduced to about $13bn
Arab nations: Status and amount of debts unclear, total estimated at $50-70bn:
Saudi Arabia: $25-30bn
Kuwait: $17-27bn
Qatar: $4bn
UAE: $3.8bn
Jordan $1.3bn
1991 Gulf War reparations: Iraq owes $28bn to Kuwait and other countries
Source: Jubilee Iraq

"There is new hope that the people and government of Iraq are overcoming daunting challenges and working together to rebuild their country."
On the eve of the forum the largest Sunni Muslim bloc suspended talks on rejoining Iraq's Shia-led government.
A number of demonstrations were planned in the Stockholm area and close to the conference centre against the continued US presence in Iraq.
The gathering follows up on a conference in May 2007 at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Iraq Compact was launched.
On security, optimism has been growing in Iraq that progress is at last being made, with ceasefires in Sadr City and Basra still holding, and the Iraqi government claiming some success in clearing al-Qaeda from the northern city of Mosul.
The US military says violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels for four years.
The conference was expected to put pressure on Mr Maliki's government to push ahead with political reconciliation between Sunni Arabs, Shia and Kurds, while continuing the clampdown on both Sunni and Shia extremism.

Anti-terrorist police were brought in as part of the security preparations.
But on the eve of the conference the leader of the largest Sunni bloc suspended talks on rejoining the government, saying there was a dispute over which posts his followers would be given.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the Sunni Accordance Front in the Iraqi parliament, said Mr Maliki had refused to allow his bloc to resume leadership of the planning ministry.
Between them, the three parties that make up the bloc hold 44 of the 275 seats in parliament.
Ali al-Adeeb, a Shia MP close to Mr Maliki, played down the bloc's decision, saying it was "not a big step backward".






Turkey, the EU and US consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.
President George W Bush has used a US drug trafficking law to impose financial sanctions on separatist Kurdish rebels in Turkey.
The sanctions deny the PKK access to the US financial system and block any transactions involving American companies and individuals.
Sanctions were also announced against the 'Ndrangheta mafia from Italy and a Mexican drug-lord and his cartel.
Three individuals from Afghanistan, Venezuela and Turkey were also listed.
"This action underscores the president's determination to... end the suffering that trade in illicit drugs inflicts on Americans and other people around the world, as well as prevent drug traffickers from supporting terrorists," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
The PKK is branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and EU. There is a widespread belief in Turkey that the PKK uses drug trafficking to finance terror.
More than 30,000 people have been killed since the PKK began its campaign in 1984.
The 'Ndrangheta, from the Calabria region of Italy, has overtaken Sicily's Cosa Nostra as the richest and most violent of the Italian mafia.
In Mexico, nearly 1,400 people have died this year across the country, as drug cartels fight among themselves and government forces.
Previously there were 68 individuals and entities subject to sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which became law in December 1999.



Zimbabwe's army chief has told soldiers they must leave the military if they do not vote for incumbent President Robert Mugabe in next month's run-off poll.
Chief-of-staff Maj Gen Martin Chedondo said soldiers had signed up to protect Mr Mugabe's principles of defending the revolution, state media reported.
"If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform," he said.
Gen Chedondo was speaking at a target-shooting competition outside Harare, the Herald newspaper reported.
Zimbabwe's generals have in the past vowed never to support the main opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, if he is elected in the 27 June run-off election.
"Soldiers are not apolitical; only mercenaries are apolitical," said the general. "We should therefore stand behind our commander-in-chief."
He said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was being supported by Britain and its Western allies in a bid to regain "imperialist" influence in Zimbabwe.
Earlier, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa accused the intelligence services of the UK and the US of acting as a sinister third force to undermine the ruling party's revolution.
He said an opposition victory in the run-off vote would reverse the gains of the revolution and destabilise the country.

Gen Chedondo said troops were being deployed across the nation to help police control political violence before the presidential election second round.
The army denies reports by human rights groups that soldiers have been involved in instigating attacks on government opponents since the first round of voting on 29 March, which saw no overall winner emerge.
The MDC says more than 50 of its members have been killed and thousands more forced to flee their homes since the first round.
Most of Zimbabwe's generals are veterans of the conflict that led to independence from Britain in 1980.


Friday, May 30, 2008


Apartheid 'not root of SA riots'

FW De Klerk, South Africa's former president
Mr De Klerk started to dismantle the apartheid regime after 1989

South Africa's former President FW De Klerk has told the BBC that the heritage of apartheid cannot be blamed for this month's xenophobic attacks.

"It would be a great over simplification to blame everything which is wrong... on the heritage of the past," he said.

The last apartheid-era leader said unemployment and the high crime rate were the main reasons for the violence.

More than 70,000 people have fled the attacks and more than 50 died.

Mr De Klerk became president in 1989 and started to dismantle the apartheid regime, which ended five years later.

Ad workers in South Africa have been pushing for disaster zones to be declared in the areas worst hit by recent xenophobic attacks.

Correspondents say there is growing concern about the conditions in which tens of thousands of displaced people are living. Most are still sheltering in community halls, churches and police stations and some are sleeping out in the open. The government says it is working urgently to provide more suitable accommodation for them.

In an interview on the BBC's Today programme, Mr De Klerk said that the attacks against foreigners were "unacceptable" and high unemployment amongst black South Africans and crime were to blame.

Mozambicans on a train leaving South Africa
South Africa: about 38,000
Gauteng: 17,548
Western Cape: 19,654
KwaZulu Natal: 1,650-1,750
Figures from Ocha
Mozambique: 32,082
Malawi: 500
Zimbabwe: 123
Figures from the Red Cross

He said that immigrants were "prepared to work at lower wages".

"Therefore many black South Africans feel that these people are robbing them of their jobs and of their food and of their livelihoods so I think that's the main root cause," he said.

He said that crime could not be solely blamed on foreigners.

"But there's no doubt that a substantial percentage of the illegal immigrants are involved in the high crime rates which we have."

He rejected that claim that the legacy of apartheid was to blame for many of the country's current social problems.

Under apartheid, people were deprived of their full political rights, but not on a "socio-economic basis", he said.

"It was quite developmental if you look at what has happened in the educational field, in the field of housing - I'm now talking from the 1960s to the 1990s, the establishment of new universities, the creation of opportunities, small business development," he said.

Critics of apartheid have argued that black South Africans at the time received an inferior education - many young people boycotted school to fight apartheid - and black ownership of commercial business was prohibited or highly regulated.

Apartheid is often blamed as a means of "political expediency", Mr De Klerk said.

I think Zimbabwe's lot is now in the hand of Zimbabweans
FW De Klerk

"But there's no doubt that we've now had a new full open democracy since 1994 - it's almost 15 years - and month by month the claim that everything which is wrong is to be blamed on the past loses its appeal and its credibility."

In a statement on Thursday, the government acknowledged "the urgent need to accelerate its programmes for alleviating poverty, unemployment and other forms of socio-economic deprivation".

It also appealed to communities "to reject any agitation from those who wish to reduce this country into a lawless country".

With regard to the political crisis in Zimbabwe, Mr De Klerk said that South Africa's reputation had been "damaged".

Efforts by Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's current leader, to get a unity government between President Robert Mugabe's party and that of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai were "outdated", he said.

"At certain stages President Mugabe made promises to President Mbeki which he didn't keep - and in that sense I'm a bit sorry for President Mbeki because I think at times Mugabe led him up the garden path."

He also had praise for Mr Tsvangirai and his "statesmanlike qualities" in agreeing to an election re-run.

"I think Zimbabwe's lot is now in the hand of Zimbabweans," he said.




The toilet is in the astronauts' Russian-built living quarters.
International Space Station astronauts are eagerly awaiting the arrival of shuttle Discovery - it is bringing a new pump to mend their broken toilet.
The station's urine collection unit, as opposed to its solid waste unit, has been malfunctioning for several days.
Nasa said it thought a separator pump was at fault, and the three male crew members were operating it manually.
To make room for the new part, Nasa has had to remove other equipment from the shuttle, which launches on Saturday.
"Clearly, having a working toilet is a priority for us," shuttle payload manager Scott Higginbotham said.
The Discovery mission is the second of three to take up key components of the Japanese-built Kibo laboratory.
Space urinals generally use jets of air to guide waste down a tube into a container, where it is then separated into liquid and gas.

Nasa's Allard Beutel: 'You have to go to the bathroom in space'.
On its website, Nasa said the crew first realised something was wrong when they "heard a loud noise and the fan stopped working".
The crew replaced many of the toilet's working parts, but had to adopt "temporary manual operation of the pump", and a backup system for the separator unit.
Nasa said one of its employees was rushing from Russia to Florida with the spare parts for the Russian-built toilet ahead of the shuttle launch.
A 50cm-long (20in) pump and additional hardware, weighing about 16kg (35lbs), would be carried as hand luggage on a commercial plane, Nasa said.
The employee is expected to drive the parts to the Kennedy Space Center, and they should be packed on the shuttle on Thursday.
For a while, the crew was told to use toilet facilities in the Soyuz capsule docked at the ISS, and several other backup solutions are available.
The space station's solid waste unit is said to be functioning well.



Conditions are notoriously harsh for new recruits in the Russian army.
Almost an entire battalion of Russian soldiers committed suicide last year, the country's chief military prosecutor has said.
A total of 341 military personnel killed themselves in 2007, a reduction of 15% on the previous year.
But Sergei Fridinsky said the numbers were worrying and called for a national strategy to prepare men for service.
Bullying, often extremely violent, is rife in the army and is the most common reason for suicide.
"Almost a battalion of military servicemen - 341 people - were irrevocably lost in the past year as a result of suicide," Mr Fridinsky said.
The BBC's Russia analyst, Steven Eke, says dedovshchina - literally, rule of the elders, a culturally specific, often very violent, form of bullying, is cited as the most frequent trigger for young soldiers taking their own lives.
Conditions of military service - compulsory for one year for Russian men - are so harsh that many parents and young men offer bribes to avoid getting conscripted.
Yet Mr Fridinsky said that about half of the suicides were among professional, contract-based soldiers, who would not face this kind of bullying.
He suggested that Russia use the experience of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan to help their troops deal with the psychological trauma of combat.



More than 2 million people in Burma still need aid, the UN estimates
Burma has approved all pending visas for UN staff, in a sign the regime intends to keep its promise to allow in all foreign aid workers.
More foreign relief workers from other groups are also being permitted to enter the Irrawaddy Delta, which took the brunt of last month's cyclone.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week urged Burma to allow humanitarian relief into the stricken country.
The UN estimates that more than two million people still need aid.
The move comes as Burma said it had officially adopted a new constitution, which it claims was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Burmese people in a national referendum earlier this month.
But there were widespread reports of irregularities during the poll, and critics alleged that holding the vote so soon after the cyclone showed a lack of sensitivity towards the victims.
Promise kept
The junta's new stance on international aid is being interpreted as a sign that the authoritarian regime intends to keep its promise to grant access to aid workers from all countries.
Last week's offer by senior General Than Shwe to the UN secretary general to allow in "all foreign aid workers, regardless of nationality", appeared to be a breakthrough, according to the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Chris Kaye of WFP on the situation in the Irrawaddy Delta.The ruling junta had previously insisted that it could adequately provide for the victims of Cyclone Nargis on its own.
Our correspondent adds that this could be because of pride, or because of intense suspicion of any large-scale foreign presence on the part of junta.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, told the BBC in an interview on Wednesday that the cyclone crisis had helped achieve more active dialogue with the junta.
He said that the international relief operation could have positive ramifications for Burma's future democratic development.
Burmese state media, believed to closely reflect the views of top generals, has launched a torrent of criticism directed at international aid efforts.

Map of the cyclone zone
Will Burma keep its word on aid?
Burmese anger at junta
State media has long insisted that the junta was capable of handling the crisis on its own.
Reports on Thursday say that people in the delta could survive on "fresh vegetables that grow wild in the fields and on protein-rich fish from the rivers".
The editorials say that although aid is welcome, the Burmese people do not need donated foreign chocolate bars to survive. One paper suggests the cyclone victims could eat frogs.
Even the victims themselves are not spared, and stand accused in these reports of tarnishing the image of the Burmese people by lining the roads scrambling for donations.
The papers blame the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, of using the cyclone to stir up unrest.
The cyclone devastated large swathes of land in key coastal areas of the Irrawaddy Delta. Farmers in that part of Burma provide two-thirds of the country's rice harvest.
The UN has said that efforts need to be made to help the region's farmers to work again and supply them with rice seed by the end of June, or Burma's rice harvest this year and next will fail.
At least 78,000 people have died as a result of the cyclone, and 56,000 people are still missing.


Thursday, May 29, 2008


By Jude Sheerin - BBC News.

China's scramble to drain the rapidly-rising quake lake at Tangjiashan before it can burst is a nerve-jangling race against time.
Some 1.3 million people are threatened by flooding if the banks are breached, warns geology professor Zhaoyin Wang, of Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University.
It would unleash a wall of rock, soil and water about 20 metres (66ft) high tumbling down the valley, he told the BBC News website.
The deluge would destroy everything in its path, potentially dwarfing the death toll from the 12 May quake in disaster-hit Sichuan province.
The flash flood would reach Mianyang city, 100km (62 miles) away, in just four hours, wiping out a number of towns and villages en route, said Prof Wang.
This month's 7.9 magnitude tremor spawned 34 so-called quake lakes, according to the International Association of Hydraulic Engineering and Research expert.
The vast pools of water were created when the earthquake triggered landslides down plunging valleys, clogging rivers and turning them into fast-rising lakes.

One more aftershock could suddenly transform this incoherent mass into a devastating wall of liquid slurry - Dr Stephen Edwards, Hazard Research Centre.

Twenty-eight quake lakes are at risk of bursting, according to Chinese state media agency Xinhua.
But the one at Tangjiashan - on the Jianjiang river above the town of Beichuan - is the most precarious.
Aftershocks and heavy rainfall make the mammoth round-the-clock task faced by engineers and troops on the steep valley slopes even more hazardous.
The delicate, tortuous work involves heavy machinery gingerly shifting debris from the dam, and engineers blasting dynamite to carefully punch holes in the mountain of rubble and soil - although experts warn this risks further destabilising the structure.
Nearly 160,000 people in the disaster zone have already been evacuated in case the Tangjiashan quake lake bursts.
"This is the most challenging terrain possible to effect an aid and rescue operation," said another geologist, Dr Stephen Edwards, from Benfield University College London's Hazard Research Centre.
"It is topographically hellish, a logistical nightmare. These dams are essentially weak, loose piles of debris under huge pressure from the river water building up behind.
"It's a very vulnerable situation. One more aftershock could suddenly transform this incoherent mass into a devastating wall of liquid slurry.

Troops risk being buried by more landslides or the quake lake.
"It would rush off downstream, bulldozing and burying everything in its path."
It is estimated the water will reach the top of the 82 metre (270 ft) high dam at Tangjiashan within two weeks.
Troops and engineers are racing to carve a 500 metre (1,640 ft) channel out of the landscape and divert the water towards the Fujiang river.
They aim to complete the giant sluice and begin draining the 300 million cubic metre capacity lake within 10 days.
"Once the water begins to flow over the top of the dam there's nothing you can do to stop it," said seismologist Dr Alex Densmore, of Durham University's Institute of Hazard and Risk Research.
He said it could then be just a matter of time until the dam of landslide debris suffers a "catastrophic failure".
That part of central China is seamed with sedimentary rock - limestone, sandstone and mudstone - which is much weaker than the crystalline rocks, such as granite, found in the European Alps, according to Dr Densmore.

Tens of thousands are fleeing the disaster zone.
Much of it has already been undermined by many large earthquakes in the "tectonically very active" area over the past 10,000 years, he said.
He predicted further huge aftershocks, possibly up to magnitude 7, rattling the quake lake valleys.
And in a sobering reminder to those in Sichuan province, he added: "There are a large number of active faults in the area, and we know very little about most of them.
"So the likelihood of another large earthquake in the region is no less than it was before 12 May."
Little wonder then that Premier Wen Jiabao says he regards draining the swelling quake lakes at China's ground zero as the nation's most urgent task.



Mr Makoni once served in Robert Mugabe's cabinet.
Simba Makoni, who came third in Zimbabwe's presidential election on 29 March, says he will back neither candidate in the run-off vote in June.
Mr Makoni, once President Robert Mugabe's finance minister, told the BBC he felt there should be no second round, but a unity government instead.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvanigrai beat Mr Mugabe in the first round, but not by enough to avoid a run-off.
There have been warnings that post-poll unrest makes a fair run-off impossible.
Correspondents say hospitals have been struggling to cope with admissions as a result of what is widely perceived to be a government campaign of intimidation against opposition supporters.
Earlier this week, Mr Tsvangirai said more than 50 members of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party had been killed in the political violence since 29 March.
Large numbers of people had also been displaced, he said.
President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party denies supporting violence and says the West is trying to demonise Zimbabwe.
Mr Makoni, who stood as an independent in March and took 8.3% of the vote, said he felt the way forward was for everyone to work together towards a government of national unity.



The Cape Town mayor wants local government to co-ordinate relief.
South Africa's Western Cape is to ask for parts of the province to be declared a disaster zone in the wake of recent anti-foreigner violence.
The provincial government also asked for UN help in dealing with the crisis.
Attacks against foreigners in South Africa began earlier this month, leaving tens of thousands displaced and seeking refuge across the country.
The government said it was working to provide shelters of a limited size, to lessen health and security risks.
"We should try and avoid setting up large camps that consist of shelters (for) thousands of people," said government spokesman Themba Maseko.
Aid agencies are also pushing for a disaster zone to be declared around Johannesburg in Gauteng province, where the anti-foreigner attacks began.
Most of the immigrants are still sheltering in community halls, churches and police stations and some are sleeping out in the open.
In Gauteng, police clashed with mainly Somali migrants as they fought with other foreigners in a relief camp near the capital, Pretoria.
The migrants blocked and attacked other foreigners trying to make their way from a makeshift camp to a new, tented camp, the Pretoria News reported.
The police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd in the camp after stones were thrown at a police vehicle.
A police spokesman told the BBC one officer was injured.

In the Western Cape, where the some 20,000 are estimated to have fled their homes, Premier Ebrahim Rasool said the provincial government was negotiating with the UN to get resources for displaced people.
He said the province wanted "decentralised, community-based" accommodation for migrants to replace beach camps.

South Africa: about 51,000
Gauteng: 28,000 Western Cape: 20,000 KwaZulu Natal: 2,500
Mozambique: 32,082
Malawi: 480
Zimbabwe: 123

Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille said that declaring parts of the province a disaster zone would free up resources and allow the local government to co-ordinate relief.
The mayor's spokesman, Robert Macdonald, told the BBC about 20,000 people had been displaced in the city.
The UN has said it is already helping South Africa plan relief efforts, conducting surveys of the conditions in the police stations and municipal halls in which the displaced people are living.
Meanwhile, foreigners are continuing to flee the country.
Kenya was to repatriate 64 of its citizens on Thursday, while the Zimbabwe embassy is helping 700 of its citizens who have asked to go home.
Others have fled South Africa to countries including Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.
The unrest, targeting migrants from Zimbabwe and other African countries, began in a township north of Johannesburg earlier this month.

More than 50 people have been killed and more than 650 injured in the attacks, according to officials.
Aid agencies say the number of displaced people is at least 80,000.
Resentment against foreigners who are seen to be harder working and better educated than locals have been cited as factors fuelling the violence, as has social inequality.
In a statement on Thursday the government acknowledged "the urgent need to accelerate its programmes for alleviating poverty, unemployment and other forms of socio-economic deprivation".
It also appealed to communities "to reject any agitation from those who wish to reduce this country into a lawless country".
The government has come under considerable pressure to organise better accommodation than the initial, makeshift camps.
Aid agencies have warned of deteriorating conditions in the camps, where foreigners have been exposed to cold and disease.
Correspondents say the government has made it clear that any option which isolates rather than integrates foreigners into the community would be contrary to its policy.
It has said that temporary shelters would ensure displaced people had access to health services, food and sanitation.
The government has denied reports that it wanted to set up massive migrant or refugee camps for victims of the recent attacks.
Aid agencies had said the government would reveal plans to set up seven camps for up to 70,000 people.






By Chris Hogg -BBC News, Tokyo

Japan says China has asked for tents and other supplies to be sent.
Japan plans to despatch a military plane with relief supplies for the victims of the earthquake in China.
Sending members of what Japan calls its "self-defence forces", or SDF, is controversial.
Reports suggest some in China fear it may trigger a backlash among people who remember Japan's war-time militarism.
More than 68,000 people died in the earthquake that struck Sichuan province on 12 May. Another 20,000 are missing and five million people are homeless.

Television stations in Japan have shown grainy footage of Japanese planes during the war bombarding the area close to where the quake struck earlier this month.
They say the planned despatch of an air self-defence force C-130 cargo plane will be the first flight into Chinese airspace by the Japanese military since hostilities ended more than 60 years ago.
An SDF advance team is expected to head to China soon to sort out the details of the plan.
Japanese ministers are stressing that China asked for tents, blankets and other supplies and accepted they would be brought in by the military.
It appears, though, that the Japanese will not be asked to transport the aid around the country.
The flight will be hugely symbolic.
For some it is evidence of the improving ties between the two countries.
Others, though, could be offended, especially those who suffered under the Japanese occupation of China during World War II.



By Adam Mynott - BBC News.

Twelve-year-old Elizabeth - not her real name - was walking in fields with her brother, following an aunt who had gone ahead to work on the family's plot of land near the town of Man in north-western Ivory Coast, when they were approached by "les casques bleues", as UN peacekeepers are known.

"Elizabeth" was raped by 10 UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast.
Her brother took a biscuit from one of the men; she refused.
As Elizabeth tried to run away, one of the soldiers seized hold of her. There were 10 of them.
I spoke to Elizabeth near her home. She said: "They grabbed me and threw me to the ground and they forced themselves on me... I tried to escape but there were 10 of them and I could do nothing... I was terrified.
"Then they just left me there bleeding..."
Elizabeth was raped by 10 peacekeepers and abandoned.
Her village elders say they tried to take the case to UN officials at the camp nearby. But Domade Jean-Baptiste, one of the village chiefs, said they were made to wait for ages and then sent away.
Elizabeth's brutal rape is one of an unknown number of sexual assaults carried out by peacekeepers and aid workers, the very people who are brought in to post-conflict areas around the world to protect the vulnerable.

They are suffering in silence - Heather KerrSave the Children UK.

A report by Save the Children UK says such assaults are continuing and, despite an undertaking by the UN and other international bodies to operate a policy of zero tolerance, little appears to be done on the ground to stop the attacks taking place.
The 10 peacekeepers accused of the attack on Elizabeth have returned home.
Save the Children, a leading UK charity, has spent 12 months compiling its report from Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti.
It details cases where children as young as six years old have been preyed on by aid workers and peacekeepers who, in some cases, trade small quantities of food for sex, or rape and sodomise small children with near total impunity.
Save the Children says one of its most harrowing findings is that the abuse is taking place "in acute silence", because of an unwillingness of the authorities to investigate the reported assaults and because in many cases the victims are too frightened or too powerless to take action and report what has happened to them.
Elizabeth, now 13, has been unable to tell her parents about the attack for fear they would throw her out of the house.
She suffers daily pain, nearly a year after the attack, and has abandoned school.

The UN has peacekeepers stationed throughout the world.
Heather Kerr, country director for Save the Children UK in Ivory Coast, said: "It's a minority of people who are carrying out the abuse but they are using their power to sexually exploit children, and children that don't have the voice to report about this.
The United Nations in Ivory Coast has said it welcomes the report and will take note of its findings.
Jean Paul Proulx, the UN Chief Conduct and Discipline Officer, said: "When we have information we take action."
He said investigations often took six months or more to conclude, but they could only be pursued when information was brought forward.
The UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) in New York says that when there is a huge peacekeeping operation around the world, it is not possible to guarantee that abuse does not take place.
Save the Children has urged that stronger measures be taken to prevent the abuse happening.
The charity says better systems need to be in place to allow children to report abuse when it happens, and it is calling for the creation of an international watchdog to translate international concern about child sexual abuse into action that pursues and prosecutes the perpetrators.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


World leaders are failing to tackle human rights abuses around the globe, Amnesty International says.
In an annual report, the group says people are still being tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries.
In at least 54 states they face unfair trial and cannot speak freely in at least 77 nations, the group adds.
It says world leaders should apologise for 60 years of human rights failures since the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
The group also challenges them "to re-commit themselves to deliver concrete improvements".
The report - which covers 150 countries - was published ahead of the 60th anniversary of the human rights declaration, which was adopted on 10 December 1948.
Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance -Irene Khan, Amnesty International

Italy condemned for 'racism wave'
The State of the World's Human Rights [6.0MB]
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Mary Robinson, who was from 1997 to 2002 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said recognising the declaration was a very different matter from implementing it.
"I think we have an opportunity during the 60th anniversary year to redress some of the problems since the terrible attacks on the United States, what we now call 911," she said.
But Amnesty's document accuses the US of failing to provide a moral compass for its international peers.
"As the world's most powerful state, the USA sets the standard for government behaviour globally," the report says.
It notes that Washington "had distinguished itself in recent years through its defiance of international law".

The report says the US must close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for terror suspects and either prosecute the inmates under fair trials or free them.
It also urges Washington to ban all forms of torture and stop propping authoritarian regimes.
It singles out the support of President George W Bush's administration for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed a state of emergency, clamped down on media and sacked judges.
The report also says other leading nations must act to improve their human rights records:
China is urged to adhere to its human rights promises and allow free speech and end "re-education through labour"
Russia is encouraged to show greater tolerance for political dissent, and none for impunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya
The EU is being asked to investigate the complicity of its member states in "renditions" of terror suspects.
Leaders are failing to protect human rights and all for the reason of money and power-
Brandon, Berlin
Send us your comments
Launching the document, Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan said: "Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today.
"The human rights flashpoints in [Sudan's] Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar [Burma] demand immediate action.
"2007 was characterised by the impotence of Western governments and the ambivalence or reluctance of emerging powers to tackle some of the world's worst human rights crises."
Ms Khan stressed that "governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance".
She said: "2008 presents an unprecedented opportunity for new leaders coming to power and countries emerging on the world stage to set a new direction and reject the myopic policies and practices that in recent years have made the world a more dangerous and divided place."




The soaring cost of oil is causing growing strain to economies around the world, rich and poor.
With prices more than doubling in the past year to $135 a barrel, the impact is being felt acutely by consumers and businesses alike.
The risk of strikes and social unrest has become a reality in many countries as fuel becomes unaffordable for more people.
BBC reporters around the world examine the effects of the oil prices on their regions.




Actress Sharon Stone has sparked criticism in China after claiming the recent earthquake could have been the result of bad "karma".
The US star, speaking at the Cannes Film Festival, linked the recent disaster to Beijing's policy on Tibet.
She said: "I thought, 'Is that karma?' When you are not nice, bad things happen to you."
But Stone added she "cried" after the Tibetan Foundation asked her to help quake victims.
Stone, 50, said: "They wanted to go and be helpful, and that made me cry.
"It was a big lesson to me that sometimes you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who aren't nice to you."
Stone made her comments last week in a brief interview with a Hong Kong film crew.
"I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else," Stone said in footage widely available on the internet.
"And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma?"
Ng See-Yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain and the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, called Stone's comments "inappropriate".
According to a story in trade magazine Hollywood Reporter, he vowed not to show Stone's films in his theatres.

UME has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou, China's biggest urban movie markets.
Stone's comments also created a swell of anger on the internet, including at least one Chinese website devoted solely to disparaging her comments.
The Beijing Times also reported that some major Beijing department stores had removed advertisements for cosmetic and couture giant Christian Dior, which feature Stone's image.
The earthquake struck south-west China on 12 May, leaving 68,109 people dead, with another 19,851 still missing.



Aid agencies warn the government lacks the expertise needed.
South Africa is to set up seven camps around the country for foreign migrant workers who have fled a recent wave of anti-immigrant violence.
The seven new camps will take up to 70,000 people from the increasingly unsanitary conditions at temporary shelters put up around state buildings.
The decision comes despite aid agency advice that South Africa lacks the expertise necessary to run the camps.
Meanwhile, the UN said it is helping South Africa plan relief efforts.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has warned that those sheltering in makeshift camps or outdoors have been left without protection - either physical or legal.
"It's very cold at night, it's almost like one or two degrees. It's been raining in the last few days," said MSF South Africa programme director Muriel Cornelis.
"And then legal protection - most of them do not have any status, no legal status, no temporary status."
With the cabinet expected to announce its plans later on Wednesday, aid agencies fear the government has little experience of running what are likely to become semi-permanent refugee camps, says the BBC's Africa editor, Martin Plaut.
Establishing such camps could come back to haunt the country for many years to come, our Africa editor adds.


South Africa: about 51,000
Gauteng: 28,000 Western Cape: 20,000 KwaZulu Natal: 2,500
Mozambique: 27,234
Malawi: 480
Zimbabwe: 123
In pictures: Displaced life in SA

MSF said it was finding cases of diarrhoea and chest infections in overcrowded shelters near Johannesburg.
The International Red Cross's Francoise Le Goff told the BBC it was vital the workers left these temporary shelters.
"We have problems with sanitation; it's cold; people are getting sick, so their security is barely there," she said.
"People need to leave this place and have an area where they can settle a little better and where they can reorganise a better life."
The UN has been conducting a survey of conditions in existing, temporary camps in the Johannesburg, spokesman George Nsiah told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
He said there was no danger of temporary camps becoming permanent, adding that the South African government was "doing everything possible that will enable those affected to return to their normal lives".
South African President Thabo Mbeki has denounced the anti-immigrant violence as the worst act of inhumanity South Africa has seen since the end of apartheid.
But the president has been criticised for his handling of the crisis, including a response which some have seen as slow.
Obed Bapela, an MP for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) who is leading an investigation into the violence, told the BBC that South African leaders were tackling the crisis
The officials "are the ground talking to people, to arrest the violence so it doesn't spread any further and ensure the relief is given to those who are affected," he said.

Total population: 49m
Foreign population: 3-5m
Majority from Zimbabwe, also Mozambique, Nigeria
Unemployment rate: 30%

Meanwhile, Nigeria says it will press for compensation from the South African government for its citizens who were victims of the violence.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe told AFP news agency that no Nigerian was killed in the attacks, but many have lost their properties and others have had their shops looted.
The unrest, targeting migrants from Zimbabwe and other African countries, began near Johannesburg earlier this month.
Fifty-six people have been killed and more than 650 injured in the attacks, according to officials.
Aid agencies say the true number of displaced people is at least 80,000.
The troubles flared with a wave of attacks on foreigners in the township of Alexandra, within sight of some of Johannesburg's most expensive suburbs.
They have since spread to seven of South Africa's nine provinces.
Many people have fled South Africa to countries including Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.
Resentment against foreigners who are seen to be harder working and better educated than locals have been cited a factors fuelling the violence.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


By Magid Abdelhadi - BBC News, Cairo.

The group had wanted to visit old neighbourhoods, trip organisers said.
A trip to Egypt by a Jewish group has been called off after rumours they were going to reclaim nationalised property prompted hotels to cancel bookings.
Allegations were broadcast on Egyptian television last week that the group was coming to claim confiscated property.
The trip organisers denied that, saying it was purely a personal journey.
But anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt is so strong that no business is willing to take any risk, particularly when it involves such a highly sensitive issue.
The woman behind the trip, Levana Zamir, is an Egyptian-born Israeli who runs an organisation in Tel Aviv that seeks to promote better understanding between the two cultures.
Ms Zamir, who speaks Arabic fluently, said she was one of a group of elderly Jewish people of Egyptian origin from all over the world who wanted to visit their ancestral homeland with their children, to see old neighbourhoods.
But a few days before the group was due to arrive in Cairo, she was told by the Egyptian travel agent that their hotel reservation was cancelled and that no other hotel in Egypt wanted to receive them.
Many believe it is all down to the populist television presenter, Amr Adeeb, whose programme is widely watched here.
Mr Adeeb urged the authorities last week to prevent the trip from going ahead.
He said all the department stores that were established by Egyptian Jews at the turn of the past century were now the property of the people of Egypt.
A local organisation that represents the few remaining Jewish people in Egypt has distanced itself from the trip.
Despite a peace treaty that ended decades of war between Egypt and Israel, relations between the two countries remain tense.
The majority of Egyptians identify with the Palestinians under Israeli occupation and the country is often rife with rumours of Israeli plots to undermine Egyptian interests.



Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 18 years in detention.
Burma's ruling junta has renewed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest.
Police earlier detained about 20 activists as they marched to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's home in Rangoon, where she has been held since May 2003.
The decision came at a tricky time for the generals, who have been criticised for their response to Cyclone Nargis.
Ms Suu Kyi's party won a resounding election victory in 1990, but she was denied power by the military.
The 62-year-old National League for Democracy (NLD) leader has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years in detention.
Police bundled a number of opposition activists into a truck as they marched on Tuesday from the NLD party headquarters to her lakeside villa in Rangoon.
Correspondents had expected her house arrest - which has been renewed annually - to be rolled over for another year.
Her supporters have argued that she must now legally be either released or put on trial.
Extending her detention will likely provoke further criticism of the junta by an international community already frustrated by the military's handling of the relief effort after Cyclone Nargis.

Map of the cyclone zone
Will Burma keep its word on aid?
Burmese anger at junta

The cyclone, which struck on 2 May, has left 134,000 people dead or missing and another 2.4m clinging to survival, and donors pledged nearly $50m (£25m) in aid at a landmark summit in Rangoon on Sunday.
The regime has been under fire for stalling foreign aid destined for cyclone victims.
Ms Suu Kyi's detention has long been the cause of friction between the junta and the international community.
Her party used the anniversary to denounce the regime's claim that 93% of voters had endorsed a new military-backed constitution at a recent referendum.
It said the vote was a "sham" that was not free or fair, and claimed the authorities "used coercion, intimidated, deceived, misrepresented and used undue influence" to boost the number of "yes" votes.
The party also denounced the regime for holding the referendum so soon after Cyclone Nargis, saying the ruling generals only considered "power politics and self-interest", not public welfare.






By Rajesh Mirchandani - BBC News, California.

In America, record prices are fuelling a new Gold Rush - 160 years after thousands descended on California, seeking riches.
With uncertainty in oil and stock markets, gold is seen as a stable investment - it hit a new high of more than $1,000 (£500) an ounce earlier this year and some think there is money to be made once more.
"You can pay your bills, if you live meagrely," says John Gurney, who gave up his job six months ago to become a full-time gold prospector.
John is standing in a shallow river in Jamestown, California, in the heart of Gold Country: in 1849, the same dream brought hundreds of thousands of people to towns like this.
He is panning for gold: he shovels rocks and dirt from the river bed into a bucket, sifts out the bigger pieces, transfers what's left into a ridged plastic panning bowl, and then, using a light movement back and forth, shakes the bowl, separating the lighter material from the heavier, including gold.
Each 20-minute session usually turns up a few tiny flecks.
"It's not a lot of money," John says, "but it adds up quite a bit... But you never know - you may hit the jackpot sometime."
This is the simplest way of gold prospecting.
The original 49ers - as they've become known - used this technique, as well as mining.
And in the first five years of the Gold Rush those early pioneers extracted as much as £6bn worth of gold, at today's prices.
Fortunes were made - and lost - in the wild towns that sprang up almost overnight along 200 miles of central California, an area they called the Motherlode.
Places like Jamestown and Columbia - which, in its heyday, nearly became California's state capital - have been mining tourists ever since.
But now these ghost towns are stirring again, as more and more amateur prospectors try their luck.
Brent Shock wears a huge gold nugget as a ring; with his long leather coat and wild eyes, he has clearly seen a thing or two in his 25 years of gold mining.
He runs gold-panning tours in Jamestown and says it is busier now than he has known it for years.
"You've got a tremendous amount of interest from people now," he tells me, "because gold's at $1,000 an ounce."

Earlier this year the price of gold broke through the magical figure and it has been hovering between $800 and $900 an ounce since.
And there is plenty of gold left in California: it is estimated that the original prospectors found at most 15% of what is thought to be there.
After a few minutes' instruction, I panned for gold, sifting through a five-gallon (20l) bucket of gravel.
In half an hour I found what Brent estimated to be worth around $30.
It seemed strangely uncomplicated, and certainly gratifying.
Most of the gold that is left is not so easy to find, but buried deep in the bedrock - modern mining techniques are needed to extract it.
However, the high prices it can fetch make it financially viable, and commercial mining claims in California have rocketed 17-fold in three years (from 132 in the first quarter of 2005, to 2,274 in the first quarter of 2008).
Many are hoping to cash in, but why are gold prices so high?
Near San Francisco, a city that boomed thanks to the first Gold Rush, Mike Dunn recently opened a shop selling prospecting equipment.
You can buy anything from plastic goldpans all the way up to floating dredges at $3,400, with long plastic hoses for sucking up large amounts of material from the river bed.
An experienced prospector himself, Mike opened the shop partly in response to growing demand from keen amateurs.
He says gold offers stability in troubled times.
"As our... economic slump, to put it mildly, increases, [gold] becomes [an] ultimate liquidity for people who are comfortable with it," he told me.
"It's been a universal form of liquidity since the time of man's first discovery of gold. It's always been useful as money and typically at the higher end of the scale... What's going to happen in two weeks, three weeks in oil, I don't know, but I know gold will be stable.
"With gold you can always get a suit and a steak and I think that's important."

In the studied atmosphere of the What Cheer Saloon in Columbia, Ben the barman wears period costume but serves modern drinks.
A sign outside offers sarsparilla (an old type of root beer).
All along the main street in fact are shops and signs from a bygone age - Columbia is a living museum to its glittering past.
And a couple of regulars are pondering this Second Gold Rush.
"It's good for this place because it brings tourism," Pat Narry says. "Tourism has always been gold!"
Bob Beck tells me: "Areas have been milked dry but with the rain and the seasons the gold comes to the surface... so they're praying. At $1,000 an ounce, they're praying!"
Back at the creek in Jamestown a group from the east coast are trying their hand at gold-panning.
Just like in 1849.
History is repeating in places like this: many will dig deep, few will make fortunes in California's new Gold Rush.


Monday, May 26, 2008


The IAEA says Iran is operating 3,500 centrifuges at its plant at Natanz.
The UN nuclear watchdog has said it believes Iran is still withholding information on its nuclear programme.
In a report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Tehran's alleged weapons development studies remain a matter of serious concern.
It adds that Iran is operating 3,500 centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium, at its plant at Natanz.
Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
Last month, the IAEA said it had reached an agreement with Iranian officials to clarify the main outstanding question about Iran's past nuclear work by the end of May.
But in its latest report, the IAEA says Tehran needs to provide much more explanation and information on its nuclear activities.
Responding to the report, Iran's envoy to the IAEA told the AFP news agency his country had "left no question unanswered" and would continue to enrich uranium.
Additional information
"Iran has not provided the agency with all the information, access to documents and access to individuals necessary to support Iran's statements [that its activities are purely peaceful in intent]," the IAEA report said.
A vindication and reiteration of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities
Iran's description of the new IAEA report
"The agency is of the view that Iran may have additional information, in particular on high explosives testing and missile-related activities which... Iran should share with the agency.
An unnamed "senior UN official" in Vienna told Reuters news agency:
"We have not got substantive answers and we could have gotten those earlier. It's up to Iran [now]."
Gregory Schulte, the chief US delegate to the IAEA, said the report had detailed a "long list of questions that Iran has failed to answer".
"At the same time that Iran is stonewalling its inspectors, it's moving forward in developing its enrichment capability in violation of Security Council resolutions," he told The Associated Press.
The envoy described parts of the report as a "direct rebuttal" of Iranian arguments that all nuclear questions had been answered.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy, told AFP by telephone that "200 pages of explanations" had been furnished by Tehran.
The IAEA report was, he said, "a vindication and reiteration of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities".
"We will continue enrichment, while not suspending our cooperation with the IAEA," he added.
Iran has told the IAEA it plans to have 6,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges operating by the end of the summer.
Speaking anonymously, officials close to the IAEA said on Monday they had no reason to doubt this was the case.
The suspension of uranium enrichment is a key demand of the UN Security Council, which has imposed sanctions on Iran.
Uranium can be used either as nuclear fuel or as the fissile core of missile warheads, depending on the degree of enrichment.
Iran insists it has a right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and says it want only to generate power.
Iran's nuclear programme has been under IAEA investigation since 2002, when Iranian dissidents revealed the existence of secret uranium enrichment.



Colombia's main leftist rebel group, the Farc, has confirmed the death of top commander Manuel Marulanda, saying he died of a heart attack.
The long-time commander and founder of the group died in his companions' arms on 26 March, according to a Farc statement broadcast by Colombian media.
His death was reported on Saturday by the military and media.
Thought to be 78, the rebel leader had been rumoured to suffer ill-health, including suspected prostate cancer.
The Farc announced that Marulanda, whose real name was Pedro Antonio Marin, would be replaced as overall commander by Alfonso Cano (real name: Guillermo Leon Saenz), already regarded by some as the group's ideological leader.

25 May: Death (on 26 March) of Manuel Marulanda confirmed by the Farc
19 May: Surrender of Farc female commander Karina
7 March: Government reports that Farc commander Ivan Rios has been killed by his own men
1 March: Government reports killing Farc No. 2 Raul Reyes

Reporting from Colombia, the BBC's Jeremy McDermott notes that the Farc is suffering its worst period yet as it celebrates its 44th anniversary.
Morale is at an all-time low and the loss of an inspirational figure like Marulanda could provoke more desertions and lead to a break-up of the group, our correspondent says.
However, Alfonso Cano could bring much-needed change to the Farc and seek to end the series of defeats that the rebels have suffered for the last five years, he adds.

Confirmation of the leader's death was made in a televised address by senior Farc official Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, alias "Timochenko".
"The great leader is gone," he said in the message, broadcast on Colombian TV.
Marulanda, nicknamed "Tirofijo", or "Sureshot" in English, had led the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia since its foundation in 1964.
Speaking on Saturday, the head of Colombia's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David Rene Moreno, said government planes had bombed the area where Marulanda was believed to have been staying three times.
However, there had been no air strike on the actual date of his death, the admiral said.
He described Marulanda's death as "the hardest blow that this terrorist group has taken since 'Sureshot' was the one who kept the criminal organisation united".
Formidable force
Pablo Casas, an analyst at Bogota think-tank Security and Democracy, compared the Farc to a "dying giant, dying slowly".
"I don't see any factor they can use to keep a strong structure," he told Reuters news agency.
The Farc still have anything up to 10,000 fighters and are flush with drug money, so few believe the rebels are finished, our correspondent says.
But the US-backed offensives by President Alvaro Uribe have pushed the Farc on to the defensive.
Before news of Marulanda's death, two other commanders were killed and an iconic female leader surrendered.
It remains to be seen if a change a leadership will lead the guerrillas more towards a negotiated settlement or harden their resolve to keep fighting to the bitter end, our correspondent adds.



Uganda has set up a special war crimes court to deal with cases of human rights violations committed during the 20-year insurgency in the north.
Principal Judge James Ogoola said the court will have the mandate to try Lord's Resistance Army rebel leaders.
Reporters say the move is seen as an attempt to convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) to drop indictments against top LRA commanders.
The LRA leader has refused to sign a peace deal until they are lifted.
Some two million people have been displaced during the conflict, notorious for atrocities against children.
It was agreed that the court, a special division of the Uganda High Court, would be set up at peace talks between the rebels and government.
But LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a final peace agreement last month, wanting further assurances about the ICC warrants.
He wants the Ugandan government to write to the UN Security Council and the ICC to have indictments lifted.
Media reports in Uganda say Justice Akiiki Kiiza has been named to head the war crimes court.
He will be assisted by Eldad Mwangusya and Lady Justice Ibanda Nahamya, who served at Sierra Leone's UN-backed war crimes court.



Grown men have been leaping over rows of babies in the north Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia in an annual rite meant to ward off the Devil.
Jumpers dressed as the Colacho, a character representing the Devil, bounded over clusters of bemused infants laid out on mattresses.
Nobody appeared to get hurt in this year's festive event.
Castrillo, near Burgos, has been holding the event since 1620 to mark the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi.
The feast is widely celebrated in Spain, often with processions and mystery plays.
Pageants can feature dancers depicting demons and angels or other characters.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !


Dear Family and Friends,

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words and if that is true then a deafening roar filled the African sky this week. We have seen images so dreadful that they are haunting our thoughts and are etched into our memories. From The Zimbabwean newspaper comes the picture of a victim of political violence. A 22year old woman beaten so badly that her buttocks have been reduced to cavernous holes." A mess of raw flesh" is the description used by Peter Oborne, the shocked writer who met Memory, the young mother of two who was beaten in the playground of her childhood school along with others accused of being MDC supporters.

Pictures and reports such as these are not new in Zimbabwe. They have become apart of our lives - a tragic record of a country that has lost its way and is crying out for help. Then came the other images that shocked us even more.

The picture of a man burning alive on a road in a South African town is a sight too cruel for words. He was the victim of an attack against foreigners. Then came pictures of mobs of men armed with sticks, throwing rocks, beating people and chasing away their own neighbours. Now the pictures are of many thousands of frightened, homeless people taking shelter in police stations and churches and reports that the violence against foreigners has spread to other South African cities.

For the last eight years South Africa has been a place of safety for Zimbabweans - an oasis of sanity and an orderly, law abiding, normal way of life. Even though the South African government chose not to speak out about events in Zimbabwe, ordinary people opened their homes and hearts to us; they could not have been more caring, supportive and compassionate to us and our plight.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans are living in exile in South Africa. They have left home not because they wanted to but because they had to. Many left here with wounds, injuries and physical scars, others with memories of extreme trauma but always it has been the great kindness and support of our neighbours that has helped heal the wounds, restore dignity and begin the process of healing.

The eruption of violence against foreigners, many of whom are Zimbabweans, has left us in deep shock here. How can it be, that without warning and when Zimbabweans need support and refuge more than ever before, this can be happening across the border. Our temporary sanctuary, the place where we felt safe and could find food, friendship and compassion has suddenly gone. Which way now for our poor people? Too frightened to stay, too frightened to go.

Until next week,thanks for reading, love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle 24 May My books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are availablein South Africa from: and in the UK from: .






Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has threatened to expel the US ambassador, accusing him of meddling in the country's political process.
"I am just waiting to see if he makes one more step wrong. He will get out," Mr Mugabe told a rally in Harare.
Earlier this month ambassador James McGee warned post-election violence in Zimbabwe was "spinning out of control".
Mr Mugabe was speaking as he launched his campaign for the presidential election run-off on 27 June.
He also said Zimbabweans who had fled recent anti-immigrant violence in South Africa would be given land if they returned to Zimbabwe.
"Our land is still there, even for youngsters, those who are in South Africa who wish to return to the country," Mr Mugabe told his Zanu-PF party supporters.
Earlier this month, Mr McGee told the BBC he had found evidence of "politically-inspired" violence against hundreds of people in Zimbabwe.
The diplomat warned the situation made it impossible for the second vote to be fair.
Mr Mugabe also noted that Mr McGee had publicly urged opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai to return to Zimbabwe to lead his embattled supporters in the run-off.
"As long as he carries on doing that, I will kick him out of the country," Mugabe said of Mr McGee, a Vietnam War veteran.
"I don't care if he fought in Vietnam. This is Zimbabwe, not an extension of America," he said.
According to Zimbabwe's election authorities, Mr Tsvangirai won the first round, but not by enough votes to avoid a second round.
He returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday after more than six weeks abroad.


Saturday, May 24, 2008


Web users are getting more ruthless and selfish when they go online, reveals research.
The annual report into web habits by usability guru Jakob Nielsen shows people are becoming much less patient when they go online.
Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.
Most ignore efforts to make them linger and are suspicious of promotions designed to hold their attention.

Instead, many are "hot potato" driven and just want to get a specific task completed.
Success rates measuring whether people achieve what they set out to do online are now about 75%, said Dr Nielsen. In 1999 this figure stood at 60%.
There were two reasons for this, he said.
"The designs have become better but also users have become accustomed to that interactive environment," Dr Nielsen told BBC News.
Now, when people go online they know what they want and how to do it, he said.

Beating Google requires someone to do search betterThis makes them very resistant to highlighted promotions or other editorial choices that try to distract them.
"Web users have always been ruthless and now are even more so," said Dr Nielsen.
"People want sites to get to the point, they have very little patience," he said.
"I do not think sites appreciate that yet," he added. "They still feel that their site is interesting and special and people will be happy about what they are throwing at them."
Web users were also getting very frustrated with all the extras, such as widgets and applications, being added to sites to make them more friendly.
Such extras are only serving to make pages take longer to load, said Dr Nielsen.
There has also been a big change in the way that people get to the places where they can complete pressing tasks, he said.
In 2004, about 40% of people visited a homepage and then drilled down to where they wanted to go and 60% use a deep link that took them directly to a page or destination inside a site. In 2008, said Dr Nielsen, only 25% of people travel via a homepage. The rest search and get straight there.
"Basically search engines rule the web," he said.
But, he added, this did not mean that the search engines were doing a perfect job.
"When you watch people search we often find that people fail and do not get the results they were looking for," he said.
"In the long run anyone who wants to beat Google just has to make a better search," said Dr Nielsen.



More than five million buildings collapsed as a result of the earthquake.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has praised China's "extraordinary leadership" in dealing with the recent earthquake in Sichuan.
He was speaking in the badly-hit town of Yingxiu, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the death toll had passed 60,000 and could rise to 80,000.
Mr Ban said the UN was ready to provide further support for the relief effort.
Earlier a Chinese official said 50 sources of radiation were now known to have been buried by the earthquake.
Thirty-five of the sources had been secured but the remaining 15 were buried under debris or in dangerous buildings, Environment Vice-Minister Wu Xiaoqing said.

Mr Wu said there had been no leaks of radioactive substances.
He did not specify the sources but experts say they probably came from hospitals, factories or research facilities, and not weapons.
World support
Mr Ban is in China in between trips to Burma, where is seeking to provide further relief for victims of Cyclone Nargis. He is flying to Thailand later on Saturday to open a centre for cyclone relief supplies.
In Yingxiu, close to the Sichuan earthquake's epicentre, he paid tribute to Beijing's efforts.
"The Chinese government, at the early stage of this natural disaster, has invested strenuous effort and demonstrated extraordinary leadership," he said.

The secretary general said people all over the world would stand beside the Chinese people and work together to deal with the disaster.
"If we work hard we can overcome this," he said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.
"The whole world stands behind you and supports you."
More than five million people have been left homeless by the disaster.
On Friday, the vice-governor of Sichuan, the worst-hit province, Li Chengyun, appealed for more tents and set a three-year goal to rebuild towns and infrastructure in the region.
China's leaders have promised a 70bn yuan ($10bn; £5bn) reconstruction fund.
The government has also told Chinese banks to forgive debts owed by uninsured survivors to revive Sichuan's economy.
New threat
Meanwhile, concern is growing over a number of new lakes formed by the force of the earthquake.

Thirty-four lakes were created in the province when landslides blocked rivers, Xinhua news agency said.
Eight held more than three million cubic metres of water and one lake, less than 3km (two miles) from Beichuan town, had doubled in size in four days.
Officials are monitoring the lakes and have sent experts to assess them, the agency said.
Forecasters predict heavy rain in the region next week, which could further raise the water levels in the lakes.



The army has been deployed to try to put a stop to the attacks.
The secretary general of South Africa's governing ANC has called on party members to form local committees to combat violence against foreigners.
Gwede Mantashe says that they should work to "take the streets back from criminals", whilst giving support to the police and help to the victims.
The unrest has now spread to Cape Town, with people assaulted and shops looted.
More than 40 people have died and some 15,000 people have sought shelter since the violence began two weeks ago.
On Thursday, troops were deployed to quell attacks - the first time soldiers have been used to stamp out unrest in South Africa since the 1994 end of apartheid.
In a statement on the African National Congress (ANC) website, Mr Mantashe described the violence as "a shameful pogrom".
"Ill informed and angry with people whom they perceive to be robbing them of their right to services," he said. "Is this the truth? The same mob that accused people of being criminals acted in the most obscene of criminal ways."
The screams of the burning Mozambican still haunt me... I have never seen such barbarism -
Zimbabwean woman

"There is no room for this behaviour in our country ever. There is no reason that compels us to behave in the atrocious manner."
Mr Mantashe reminded South Africans of their link to the rest of the continent ahead of Africa Day celebrations on Sunday.
"On Sunday we will wake up in this country and celebrate the victories our forebears have had over colonialism and apartheid," Mr Mantashe wrote in the party's weekly newsletter.
"Many of us... will think of the kindness we received in the poorest communities of Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria and many other African states."
Anti-apartheid fighters in the ANC were given shelter in other African countries, some of which suffered collective punishment as a result, he recalled.

Meanwhile ANC Youth League President Julius Malema condemned the fact that youngsters appeared to be some of the ringleaders of the attacks, often using the name of the party and singing revolutionary songs whilst carrying out attacks.


Foreign population: 3-5m
Majority from Zimbabwe, also Mozambique, Nigeria
Total population: 49m
Unemployment rate: 30%

"They (the youth) must rise against this thuggery and hooliganism and claim back their communities," he said.
Mr Malema said the government had not done enough to stop what it called "anarchy" and said swift and decisive action was needed from the country's law enforcement agencies.
The leader of South Africa's official opposition, Helen Zille, says the events of the past two weeks have shocked and shamed the nation.
Ms Zille, head of the Democratic Alliance, says in her weekly newsletter that President Thabo Mbeki has been conspicuous by his absence, not even visiting the affected areas to see for himself what is driving the violence.
She said the president should be actively campaigning in the country's trouble spots and preaching a message of tolerance.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Malawi says they have begun evacuating hundreds of Malawians from South Africa.
Officials said a task force had been set up to return up to 850 Malawians, who had been affected by the violence in South Africa.
The attacks in Cape Town, the hub of South Africa's tourism industry, broke out during a meeting called to prevent anti-foreigner violence in the Dunoon township, 25km from the city centre.
John, a Malawian at the Dunoon meeting, said it disintegrated and foreigners started fleeing as groups began to loot Somali-owned shops.
Plain clothes police open fire on looters in Cape town.
"We feared for our safety. They're just killing everyone - they start beating you when they find out you're a foreigner," he told the BBC, adding that he was returning home as soon as possible.
Thursday night's unrest prompted some 500 people, including Somalis, Mozambicans and Nigerians, as well as Zimbabweans to flee their homes, some seeking refuge in police stations.

The BBC's Mohammed Allie in Cape Town says Somali shops were looted overnight and one Somali killed and six others injured.
He says there have been shack-to-shack searches for foreigners and some local residents have begun flying the South African flag outside their homes.
Moeketski Mosola, head of South Africa TourismThere have also been new attacks in Strand, east of Cape Town, Durban and North-West province, where three people, reportedly from Pakistan, were stabbed and dozens of Mozambican and Somali nationals displaced.
There are fears that the unrest could have longer-term consequences for the country.
Moeketski Mosola, head of South Africa Tourism, told the BBC the government was alarmed by the situation, especially as the country was preparing to host the football World Cup in 2010.
"We are extremely concerned about the situation on the ground - you must remember that 67% of the tourists coming into South Africa are mainly African," he told the BBC's World Tonight programme.

Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the 2010 World Cup Local Organising Committee, has condemned anti-immigrant violence.
"We ask that every action must be taken to stop inflicting on displaced people further displacement," Mr Jordaan said.
However, he insisted that the unrest would have been quelled by the time the tournament took place.
Our correspondent says the police have beefed up their presence in other Cape Town trouble spots as looting spread on Friday.
Cape Town first witnessed xenophobic attacks two years ago when the Somali community - especially those who owned shops - were targeted and some murdered.
Durban also witnessed unrest earlier this week but most of the violence has been in the Gauteng region around Johannesburg, which is now reported to be relatively quiet.



Mr Tsvangirai's return comes despite alleged assassination threats.
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is returning home to begin his presidential run-off campaign, after spending weeks abroad.
The Movement for Democratic Change leader told reporters at Johannesburg airport in neighbouring South Africa he was "excited" to be heading home.
Mr Tsvangirai's scheduled return last weekend was delayed amid allegations the army planned to assassinate him.
The ruling party rejected the MDC claims as a fantasy.
The presidential election run-off is scheduled to take place on 27 June, despite warnings that election violence makes a fair second round impossible.
Opposition and human rights groups have said hundreds of opposition supporters have been beaten up and at least 40 killed since the first round on 29 March.
President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party denies supporting violence and says the West is trying to demonise Zimbabwe.

Last year, Mr Tsvangirai was treated in hospital after being assaulted by police.
Mr Mugabe has accused the MDC of fomenting violence since the disputed first round election.
Mr Tsvangirai has spent more than a month outside Zimbabwe, mainly in South Africa, since the first round trying to drum up international support.
According to official results, the MDC leader won the presidential poll, but not by enough to avoid a run-off with President Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Mr Tsvangirai won 47.9% of the vote, with Mr Mugabe taking 43.2%.


Friday, May 23, 2008


The death toll from the massive earthquake in south-west China rose again, as an official said more than five million buildings had collapsed.
The vice-governor of Sichuan province said 55,239 people were now known to have died in the 12 May quake.
Li Chengyun appealed for more tents and set a three-year goal to rebuild towns and infrastructure in the region.
Meanwhile, concern is growing over a number of new lakes formed by the force of the earthquake.
Thirty-four lakes were created in the province when landslides blocked rivers, Xinhua news agency said.

Images taken by Taiwan's Formosat satellite show a lake forming in Beichuan County.
Enlarge Image

Eight held more than 3 million cubic metres of water and one lake, less than 3km (two miles) from Beichuan town, had doubled in size in four days.
Officials are monitoring the lakes and have sent experts to assess them, the agency said.
Forecasters predict heavy rain in the region next week, which could further raise the water levels in the lakes.
At a news conference, Mr Li said that 24,949 people remained missing and 281,006 were injured.
More than 5.47 million people were homeless and 5.46 million buildings had collapsed, he said.
China's leaders have promised a 70bn yuan ($10 bn; £5bn) reconstruction fund.
The government has also told Chinese banks to forgive debts owed by uninsured survivors to revive Sichuan's economy.
The China Banking Regulatory Commission gave no indication of how much that might cost or whether banks might receive government aid to make up for any losses.
Financial analysts estimate as little as 5% of the multi-billion dollar losses could have insurance cover.

On Friday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid his second visit to the region, visiting the temporary site of Beichuan Middle School.
Beichuan was devastated by the earthquake and officials say the town may be rebuilt on a new site.
More than 1,000 of the Middle School's students and teachers died in the earthquake.
"Today when we see the children, we see the hope of the quake areas and the hope of the whole nation," he told the students.
China has ordered the immediate construction of one million temporary small homes to house people without shelter.
At the same time bulldozers have been flattening ground to make way for more tent camps in worst-hit areas.
The foreign ministry says 3.3 million tents are needed and on Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited a tent factory to call for increased production.
Beijing declared three days of official mourning for victims of the earthquake, during which time the Olympic torch relay was suspended.
It has now restarted and its passage through Shanghai this morning began with a short silence for those killed in the quake.



Portugal are returning to the Eurovision Song Contest final for the first time since 2003 after qualifying from the second semi-final in Belgrade.
Sweden - who topped the BBC's Eurovision vote - also went through, along with fellow Scandinavian entrants Denmark and Iceland.
Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, Croatia, Latvia and Albania also qualified.
The 25 finalists for Saturday's main event are now in place, with the UK performing second in the running order.
Euroband, who qualified for Iceland with dance tune This Is My Life, are their country's first representatives in the final since 2004.
Albania, who are represented by 16-year-old Olta Boka, have also made the final cut after a break of three years.

The buzz from Belgrade

But neighbour FYR Macedonia did not make the final after successfully qualifying in the previous four contests.
Switzerland's Paolo Meneguzzi, who was highly favoured by fans and came third in the BBC's poll, failed to make the grade.
UK viewers were able to vote in Thursday night's semi-final, but their choices will not be revealed until after Saturday night's winner has been declared.
After the semi-final results in Serbia, the draw for the final was completed.
Sweden's Charlotte Perrelli, who won the contest in 1999, will be 15th in the running order - the same spot from where she was victorious nine years ago.



Motorists will be feeling the pinch this bank holiday weekend, the AA says.
Bank holiday drivers face a 29% rise in diesel prices and a 17% rise in petrol prices compared with this time last year, motoring group the AA said.
The estimated 18 million drivers taking to Britain's roads this weekend will pay on average £14 more to fill up their tanks, it calculated.
The AA has joined calls for the Chancellor to delay the 2 pence a litre rise in fuel prices in the Autumn.
A litre of petrol costs an average 114p. Diesel costs 126.4p on average.

Click to see how UK petrol and diesel prices have risen
A year ago, motorists were paying less than a pound for a litre of fuel on average.
The substantial increases have been driven by the rising price of oil.

Cheapest unleaded: 107.9p (Gateshead)
Most expensive unleaded: 125p (Northampton)
Cheapest diesel: 117.9p (Mansfield)
Most expensive diesel: 138p (Hexham)

This week, the price of a barrel of oil reached over $135, more than twice what it was a year ago.
"It will strike a lot of people driving this weekend just how different things are," said the AA's Andrew Howard.
This bank holiday weekend is the start of the half-term holiday for much of the UK, which will mean many families drive long distances.
The average length of journey put into the AA's route planner website is 304 miles.
But a survey carried out by the motoring organisation in March and April found higher fuel prices were forcing 37% of respondents to use their cars less.
There is expected to be one-third more traffic on Britain's roads on Friday than normal.
In an attempt to reduce congestion on England's major roads and motorways, the Highways Agency has suspended 18 sets of roadworks until midnight on Monday.
A further 17 sets of roadworks have been completed in time for the weekend, the agency said.

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