Thursday, July 31, 2008


A man on a Greyhound bus travelling across the Canadian Prairies has killed and decapitated a fellow passenger.
An eyewitness said the victim was stabbed 50 or 60 times by the man sitting next to him, who then severed his head with a large knife.
The bus made an emergency stop to allow passengers to escape and the driver barred the door from the outside while waiting for the police to arrive.
The bus was travelling from Edmonton, Alberta, to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Greyhound Canada said there were 37 passengers and a driver aboard the bus.
"All of a sudden, we all heard this scream, this bloodcurdling scream," passenger Garnet Caton told CBC television.
"The attacker was standing up right over the top of the guy with a large hunting knife - a survival, Rambo knife - holding the guy and continually stabbing him... in the chest area," Mr Caton added.

The attack continued as passengers fled the bus and waited for police on a desolated stretch of the TransCanada Highway near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
"He calmly walks up to the front [of the bus] with the head in his hand and the knife and just calmly stares at us and drops the head right in front of us," Mr Caton said.
"There was no rage in him ... It was just like he was a robot or something," he added.
A man was taken into custody by police at around 0100 (0700 GMT) on Wednesday night, according to reports.
Mr Caton said he and a truck driver helped the bus driver bar the bus door to prevent the attacker from leaving.
When the attacker tried to drive the bus away, the driver disabled the vehicle.
"Some people were puking, some people were crying, other people were in shock ... everybody was running, screaming off the bus," Mr Caton said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said only that a "major incident" took place on the bus as it drove along the Trans-Canada Highway en route to Winnipeg from Edmonton.
Other passengers said that the attacker and his victim were sitting at the back of the bus and the victim, described as around 20 years old, was listening to music through headphones.
The attack appeared to be unprovoked and it is thought the killer did not know his victim.


As Beijing prepares for a large influx of Olympic spectators, Beijing-based blogger David Feng sets out some ground rules for foreigners new to the city.

Chi fan le ma? [Translation: Have you eaten?] My top tip is to make sure that you learn some Chinese. Just a bit. Locals absolutely love it the moment you speak Chinese. The question chi fan le ma? is quintessentially Beijing. The Beijingers are more into eating than any other people I know. They go nuts over food. For them, few things are better than lunch. Say this phrase to your average Beijinger and you almost become a native yourself. It's the best kind of greeting and said in true Beijing style.

Be prepared: you will be used for English practice Beijing locals love outsiders. Not just foreigners - but people from other parts of China too. They say "Friends are coming over from all over the world - aren't you pleased?" In the remoter districts of the city, some people might get excited when they see a foreigner. Be prepared for people to approach you and practise their English.

Small-talk can be blunt.
Prepare for the bluntest of Chinese small-talk - even if you are a lady. In the West it is sometimes seen as a capital offence to ask a lady how old she is. In China be prepared to be asked how old you are, if you are married and if you have kids. If the small-talk gets interesting, they might disclose how much they earn and ask you to disclose the same! The Chinese are extremely open people and in China, this kind of privacy is a new thing.

Stop! Look both ways! In China a zebra crossing does not necessarily mean cars will stop for you. Some will but the great majority won't. So when in Beijing, don't assume that cars will stop for you at a zebra crossing.

Smile, smile...
That's what the police are being told. Smiling police officers make your day, they say. I would say to the police, don't smile for the heck of it, smile if you're relaxed. A smile in China doesn't necessarily mean the smile is happy. If someone is confused, or nervous, they may well smile.

No to Xiaojie
One word you should not use in a Beijing restaurant to get the attention of a waitress is xiaojie - which means Miss. In today's usage it has slightly pornographic connotations. Fuwuyuan - which is more like garcon - is the best way of addressing a young lady or a man serving you.

Seek what unites
In the West I see books saying it is not a good idea to talk about politics or religion. I think the same goes for China. If you must go into politics, approach with caution. Many Chinese people are sensitive when talking about regions, countries and territories. There is a saying that many Chinese adhere to: "We seek what unites us and we let live what separates us..."

When in Beijing prepare to get renao [Translation - hot and noisy]
Go to a karaoke bar in Beijing and you will find people singing, clapping, a lot of noise and people enjoying themselves. Beijing is renao in the best possible way. Even when old ladies go to the park, you can see them dancing and twisting around and beating drums and cymbals - that is also very renao. People know how to have a good time and this can also extend to clapping and cheering at the Olympics. So just have fun and enjoy Beijing!



Seven Russian athletes have been provisionally suspended for doping offences, the International Association of Athletics Federations has announced.
Five of the seven, including Yelena Soboleva and Tatyana Tomashova, were bound for Beijing.
Distance runner Yulia Fomenko, Darya Pishchalnikova (discus) and Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (hammer) were the other Russia Olympic squad members.
The other two athletes are Svetlana Cherkasova and Olga Yegorova.
Soboleva - the reigning 1500m world indoor champion - is the world leader over 800m and 1500m this year, while Tomashova was world champion in 2003 and 2005 and claimed silver at the Athens Olympics four years ago.
Fomenko finished second behind Soboleva over 1500m at the world indoor championships in Valencia earlier this year.
The two field-eventers are also of pedigree, with Pishchalnikova the reigning European discus champion and hammer thrower Khanafeyeva a former world record holder.
The seven have been charged under IAAF rules for a "fraudulent substitution of urine which is both a prohibited method and also a form of tampering with the doping control process", according to a statement from the world governing body.
The statement continued: "These rule violations were established following the deliberate storage of samples by the IAAF and re-analysis using comparative DNA techniques, and were the result of a specific investigation which was instigated and carried out by the IAAF for more than a year.
"The IAAF will make no further comment until a final decision has been taken by the ARAF (All Russia Athletics Federation), which now takes over the responsibility to adjudicate these cases."
The athletes have up to 14 days to request a hearing with the national member federation.
If a hearing is requested, it must be held within a period of two months.
The Beijing Olympics athletics schedule is set to get under way on Friday 15 August.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


An earthquake measuring 5.4 has caused buildings to shake across a wide area of southern California in the US.
The epicentre was 29 miles (46km) south-east of central Los Angeles, near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County, officials said.
The quake was felt as far south as San Diego but there were no reports of any serious casualties or damage.
Offices and restaurants were evacuated, and residents reported cracks in the walls of their homes.
The US Geological Survey initially said the tremor measured up to 5.8, but later downgraded its size.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the region had been lucky to avoid a major disaster.
"This reminds us once again that in California we have to be prepared for anything and everything," he said.
The BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles said the quake initially felt like a rolling motion - followed by a sudden shaking sensation that lasted about 10 seconds.

"It was dramatic. The whole building moved," said Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore, who was in the sheriff's Monterey Park offices east of Los Angeles.
Many other buildings swayed across central Los Angeles and office workers quickly poured out onto the streets.
"We had forgotten what a big earthquake felt like, at least I did," said seismologist Kate Hutton.
"It's a drill for the big one that's going to happen someday."
There have been no reports of power cuts in the area, although telephone services were disrupted because of a surge in demand on the network.
More than 20 aftershocks were reported following the quake, the strongest measured at 3.8.
In 1994, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in Northridge, California, killed 72 people, injured another 9,000 and caused $25bn (£12.5bn) worth of damage in the area.



Bank governor Gideon Gono announces plans to overhaul Zimbabwe's currency.
Zimbabwe's central bank has said it will introduce a new currency on 1 August as part of efforts to fight the effects of hyperinflation.
The bank's governor, Gideon Gono, has announced zeros will be lopped off the Zimbabwe dollar, making 10bn dollars one dollar.
Only last week, the government introduced the Z$100bn note.
South Africa's Thabo Mbeki is visiting Harare after crisis talks between government and opposition were halted.
He will meet President Robert Mugabe, whom the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have accused of stealing the election earlier this year.
Mr Mugabe said he wanted the talks to succeed but warned that "sometimes compromise is difficult".
The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says it has emerged that President Mbeki held a meeting in the South African capital, Pretoria, on Tuesday with the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr Mbeki, the lead mediator on the Zimbabwe crisis, has said the two sides are determined to reach an agreement within a two-week time-frame at the talks in a secret location near Pretoria.
But opposition sources said the talks have reached deadlock.
After the currency announcement, Mr Mugabe warned the country's businessmen in a televised address to stop profiteering or face emergency measures.
"If you drive us more than you have done we will impose emergency measures, and we don't want to place our country in a situation of emergency rules, they can be tough rules you know," Reuters news agency reports him as saying.
Mr Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's economic problems on white businessmen and Western sanctions, rather than his own policies.
The latest currency announcement is another desperate attempt by Mr Gono to stabilise Zimbabwe's collapsing economy, our correspondent says.
"The Zimbabwe dollar will be redenominated by a factor of one to 10, which means we are removing 10 zeros from our monetary value. Ten billion dollars today will be reduced to Z$1... effective from 1 August," Mr Gono said in a television broadcast.

The BBC's Andrew Harding goes food shopping in Harare.
The high rate constrained the operations of the country's computer systems, with computers, calculators and banks' cash machines not able to handle basic transactions in billions and trillions of dollars, he added.
The new Z$100bn (under $2, £1) note introduced last week is not enough to buy a loaf of bread.
Inflation is officially running at more than 2,000,000%, but many analysts believe the true inflation figure is at least 9,000,000%.
A BBC reporter in Harare said that on the day he recently went shopping, a tray of 24 eggs went up from Z$375bn to Z$600bn.

What MDC wants:
Mugabe to step down
"Transitional authority" to organise new elections

What Zanu-PF wants:
Mugabe to be accepted as president
MDC to take a few minor ministries
International community to drop sanctions and help kick-start economy

Full text of the Memorandum of Understanding[39KB]
Bitter hope in Harare

So far this year, Zimbabwe has been forced to print Z$100m, Z$250m and Z$500m notes in rapid succession, now mostly worthless.
Mr Mugabe said he would like a speedy conclusion to talks with the MDC so "we can focus in the future our attention around our economy", AFP news agency reports.
The negotiations began last week after Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai met for the first time in a decade.
Mr Tsvangirai pushed Mr Mugabe into second place in the first round of voting on 29 March but he pulled out of a 27 June run-off election after a wave of deadly attacks against his supporters.
The MDC says that more than 120 of its supporters have been killed, some 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced to flee their homes after being attacked by ruling Zanu-PF militias and security agents.






The press will be accommodated in a high-tech facility in Beijing.
Journalists covering the Beijing Olympic Games will not have completely uncensored access to the internet, Chinese and Olympic officials say.
Sites related to spiritual group Falun Gong would be blocked, officials said. Journalists also found they could not see some news or human rights websites.
China enforces tough internet controls, but said when it bid for the Games that journalists would be free to report.
A senior international Olympic official called the move disappointing.
But International Olympic Committee press commission chairman Kevan Gosper confirmed that officials had been aware of it.
"There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics," he told the South China Morning Post.
"But I have also been advised that some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked."
"I am disappointed the access is not wider," he said.

Which websites has China blocked?
Reynolds' China: Searching sites
More than 20,000 foreign media personnel are due in the Chinese capital to cover the Olympic Games, which begin on 8 August.
Many are already moving into the press and broadcast centres in Beijing.
On Tuesday, they were unable to access the website of Amnesty International as it released a report criticising China's human rights record.
Some international news pages and sites that dealt with issues such as Tibet were also inaccessible, journalists said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao confirmed that websites relating to the Falun Gong spiritual movement were blocked.
"As to sites related to Falun Gong, I think you know that Falun Gong is a cult that has been banned according to law, and we will adhere to our position," he told a news conference on Tuesday.
He suggested that part of the problem with other sites could lie with the sites themselves.
"There are some problems with a lot of websites themselves that makes it not easy to view them in China," he said. "Our attitude is to ensure that foreign journalists have regular access to information in China during the Olympic Games."

But on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Olympic organising committee told the French news agency AFP that other - unspecified - sites were blocked.
Sun Weide declined to provide more details when asked by the BBC.
But he said reporters would be able to do their jobs.
"During the Olympic Games we will provide reporters with sufficient and convenient internet access so the Olympic Games will not be affected," he said.



Parents are angry at the ease with which some schools collapsed.
A Chinese teacher has been detained for posting images on the internet of schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake, a rights group has said.
Human Rights in China said Liu Shaokun had been ordered to serve a year of "re-education through labour".
Mr Liu was detained for "disseminating rumours and destroying social order", the group said.
The 12 May quake killed nearly 70,000 people. Many of those who died were children whose schools collapsed.
The poor condition of the school buildings has become a sensitive political issue for the government, and grieving parents have staged numerous protests demanding an inquiry.
Many have accused local officials of colluding with builders to allow them to get away with cheap and unsafe practices.
"Instead of investigating and pursuing accountability for shoddy and dangerous school buildings, the authorities are resorting to re-education through labour to silence and lock up concerned citizens like teacher Liu Shaokun and others," said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom.

According to Human Rights in China, Mr Liu's wife was informed by police last week that the teacher, from Guanghan Middle School in Deyang city, had been sent to a labour camp.
The "re-education through labour" system allows police to incarcerate a crime suspect for up to four years without the need for a criminal trial or a formal charge.
The system, in place since 1957, has been widely criticised by the UN and other organisations.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Mr Shah said the Muslim community was not immune from the HIV threat.
Aids activists in South Africa have dismissed as unconstitutional a call for all Muslim couples to have a compulsory HIV test before marriage.
"It undermines public health and it will further stigmatise and discriminate against people," Aids activist Fatima Ahmed told the BBC.
The proposal was made by opposition MP Maulana Rafeek Shah.
He told the BBC the objective was not to discriminate but to educate the Muslim community about the Aids threat.
Aids Threast Community
"The objective is to remove the stigma and the mystery that is associated with HIV and Aids," the Democratic Alliance MP told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
-"South Africa has the world's highest HIV/Aids prevalence rate infection, in fact I would not be exaggerating if I said HIV poses a far more serious threat to security of South Africa and South African society as a whole than any other conventional threat."
"The Muslim community is... not immune."
Mr Shah said the United Ulama Council of South Africa, which oversees Muslim clerics, was going to consider his proposal later in August.
But Ms Ahmed of South Africa's Aids Law Project said the move may be "well intentioned" but was widely unpopular.
"It falls foul of a number of constitutional protections and will, if implemented, actually contravene our laws on informed consent and on voluntary disclosure," she said.
"Making pre-marital testing compulsory and then disclosure to the cleric performing your wedding ceremony under Islamic law is not going to empower you," she added.
Promoting HIV tests during marriage, especially polygamous marriages, would be a better initiative as married women were under more serious threat, she said.


Monday, July 28, 2008


By Michael Bristow - BBC News, Beijing.

China has admitted it could introduce further emergency measures to cut air pollution during the Olympic Games.
One expert said that could mean taking 90% of Beijing's private cars off the streets at particularly bad times.
Figures show pollution levels have been relatively high over recent days - on some days thick smog is severely reducing visibility.
The BBC found one pollutant at the Olympic Village was three times higher than the recommended level on Monday.

See the results of the BBC's pollution tests

China has already introduced a series of measures to curb air pollution, including taking half the city's cars off the roads.

If this new series of measures don't work, it's hard to think of what else this city can do - apart from pray for wind or rain -The BBC's James Reynolds.

Polluting factories surrounding Beijing have also been told to close.
But an article in the state-run China Daily gave details of the further, stricter measures that could be introduced.
"More vehicles could go off the roads, and all construction sites and some more factories in Beijing and its neighbouring areas could be closed temporarily," a front-page article said.
This was confirmed by Professor Zhu Tong, of Peking University, who advises the Beijing government about air pollution.
He confirmed that 90% of the city's private cars could be taken off the roads under these stricter controls.
Any emergency measures would be introduced 48 hours in advance of very bad pollution, he said.
"There is a chance... that we cannot meet the air quality standards so stricter measures are needed," said Prof Zhu.

Pollution facts and figures
In pictures: Pollution-watch

He maintained that the current measures had reduced pollution, but not by enough to guarantee good air quality every day.
China promised to clean up its air pollution for this summer's games, but figures show it still does not meet the toughest World Health Organization standards.
Small particles in the air - PM10 - are a particular worry. WHO guidelines say 50 micrograms per cubic metre is the standard to aim for, but Beijing rarely hits that target.
At the Olympic Village on Monday, the BBC found the PM10 level was at least 145, while at the BBC office it was 134.

Separately on Monday, Greenpeace published its assessment of China's efforts to clean up Beijing for the Olympic Games.
It says, that overall the attempt to get rid of pollution has created a "positive legacy" for the city and should be commended.
"Greenpeace found that Beijing achieved, and in some cases surpassed, original environmental goals," the report says.
But it said in other areas, including air quality, Beijing had not met targets, and has had to bring in short-term measures.
"Beijing could have adopted clean production measures more widely across the municipality to speed up the improvement of air quality," the report says.



South Africa has criticised new sanctions against Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, suggesting they could obstruct power-sharing talks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said it was "difficult to understand" the aim of new sanctions.
Last week, both the US and the EU extended sanctions against individuals and organisations linked to Mr Mugabe.
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party began talks with opposition officials in South Africa last Thursday.
The talks are aimed at resolving a bitter dispute over Zimbabwe's presidential elections.
"For us, it is difficult to understand the objectives of new sanctions," Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said.
"The Zimbabweans are meeting, let them sort out what they want for their future. We should not allow outside interference," he said.
A spokesman for South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has said that the power-sharing talks, which are subject to a media blackout, are proceeding well.
Currency reform
Meanwhile, there has been speculation that Zimbabwe will take measures to tackle the country's rampant inflation.
State media reported at the weekend that the central bank plans to knock several zeros off the Zimbabwean dollar in an effort to overcome cash shortages that are crippling the economy.
But Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says some economists expect the government to introduce a new currency.
Zimbabwe knocked three zeros off its currency in 2006.

Last week, Zimbabwe introduced a Z$100bn note, as official figures put inflation at 2.2m%. Real inflation is believed to be much higher.
Mr Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, agreed to talks after meeting last week for the first time in a decade.
Mr Mugabe won a second round presidential vote a month ago after Mr Tsvangirai pulled out, complaining of a campaign of violence against his supporters.
Mr Tsvangirai had won the first round in March, but official results gave him less than the 50% needed for outright victory.
Since the first round, the MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes by pro-Mugabe militias and the army.
Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges.



The church's congregation had been watching a performance by 25 children.
A man has opened fire in a church in the US state of Tennessee, killing two people and wounding seven others.
Children were putting on a play in a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville when the man fired a shotgun.
There were about 200 people in the church at the time of the shooting. All the victims were adults.
Police say they have detained the gunman, who is believed to be in his 40s. He reportedly concealed his weapon in a guitar case.
No information has so far been released about his identity or his possible motive.
But some have suggested the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was targeted because it is very liberal - allowing gay ministers and marriages.

Church member, Steve Drevik: 'We are praying for everyone at the hospital'
One witness said the attacker had shouted "hateful words".
He took a 12-gauge shotgun and opened fire into the congregation, who were watching a performance by 25 children based on the musical, Annie.
People dived for cover under pews, but nine were hit before a group managed to tackle the gunman when he reloaded.
"It had barely begun when there was an incredibly loud bang," church member Mark Harmon told the Associated Press news agency.
Mr Harmon said people sitting just behind him in the second and third rows of the congregation were shot.

Police have named one of the two people killed as Greg McKendry, a 60-year-old usher at the church. The other, Linda Kreager, died of her injuries at a nearby hospital a few hours later.
Church member Barbara Kemper said that Mr McKendry had "stood in front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us".
The deputy chief of Knoxville Police Department, Bill Roehl, called the attack "horrendous".
"It's terrible that you come to church to do worship and something like this occurs," he said.


Sunday, July 27, 2008


A leading member of one of the most notorious clans of the Naples mafia has been arrested while shopping in Rome.
Local media name the man as Adriano Graziano, known as "The Teacher", who was detained without a fight as he left a designer clothes store.
Mr Graziano, of the clan of the same name, escaped capture in May when police arrested 23 alleged members.
The Grazianos are known for a bloody war against the Cava clan of the Naples mafia, also known as the Camorra.
Investigators say Mr Graziano gave the orders for an ambush which killed the mother and sister in law of the rival clan chief in 2002.


Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !


Dear Family and Friends,

Watching MDC and Zanu PF leaders signing an agreement to talk, and then actually shaking hands on Monday the 21st of July, was something of a miracle. It would be naive to say that this signals the end of the crisis but it is a single step forward and it cannot have come soon enough.

That's the good news, the bad news is that everything else seems to have been put on hold while talks begin. It's a paralysis having a devastating effect and most people simply don't know how to cope from one day to the next.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank continues to limit daily withdrawals from banks to 100 billion dollars - this is currently worth less than 20UK pence or 40 US cents or 2 South African Rand. It is a criminally cruel policy which is causing extreme suffering. The daily maximum withdrawal is not enough to buy even a single scone which this week cost 140 billion dollars. A single scone, made with imported flour is the height of luxury for the vast majority of people and entails standing in a bank queue for two days to buy just one and by the time you have the money in your hand the price has gone up.

When I got sick a few days ago I stood open mouthed in the pharmacy when I was told the common penicillin based antibiotic would cost 2 trillion dollars. They would not accept a cheque and were not interested in discussing the matter -it was just tough luck! The 2 trillion dollar price tag represented 20 working days in a bank queue. I phoned another pharmacy and was told that their price was 1.6 trillion dollars. When I arrived there an hour later they said the price had gone up and was now 3 trillion dollars.

My own experience is being encountered by people from all walks of life across the country - and I cannot believe that people are not dying because they simply cannot access even basic medicines. Everywhere there are stories of such suffering from people who can't get enough of their own money out of the bank to buy food, medicines, life preserving drugs and the means of everyday survival.

The inevitable result is that people that can are pouring out of the country in their thousands in order to survive. A South African Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said the number of people arriving at a Refugee reception area in Johannesburg had gone from 800 a day to more than 5 000 a day in the past month alone.

Those left at home have this week suddenly found themselves in a strange place where everything is being charged in US dollars or South African Rand. A woman outside a medical office in Harare selling bread at 10 Rand a loaf. Rooms in high density suburbs being rented out for 100 rand a month. Adverts for cottages to lease at 200 US a month. Meat in a local butchery where only US dollars are accepted. The agreement between Zanu PF and the MDC to talk is all very well butwhile they do we have no food, no medicines and aren't allowed to draw our own money out. It feels like slow genocide without bullets and bombs.I am taking a short break so until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

Copyright cathy buckle 26 July 2008



After the capture of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the BBC's Paul Martin recalls meeting another Balkan war crimes suspect - Mr Karadzic's military commander Ratko Mladic, who is still on the run.

Gen Mladic led Bosnian Serb troops throughout the 1992-1995 war.
Thick-set guards with walkie talkies and body armour blocked the way to the front gate.
I was walking towards a two-storey villa in a leafy suburb of Belgrade, the house that I was pretty sure was sheltering one of Eastern Europe's most notorious indicted war criminals, General Ratko Mladic.
"This is diplomatic property," said one of the guards in good English, as he thrust me hard up against a jeep.
After a few messages his walkie-talkie crackled again and they released me, with a warning that next time I would not be so lucky.
That was 2002, just after the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial in The Hague for orchestrating the Bosnian war.
A lady told me she would often see Gen Mladic strolling in a park, close to a big military base, with his sweet little dog.
But soon after my visit he disappeared again and he is still at large, presumably protected by elements of the Serb military - he is still seen by some of them as a patriotic hero.
Expressionless eyes
I had met the general several times before. The last encounter was in the mid-1990s on top of a mountain that, despite a supposed ceasefire, he and his armed band of Serb militiamen had just captured from Bosnian Muslim fighters.
He was standing with an air of triumph on his large round face. He was handing over the mountain, near the city of Sarajevo, to the United Nations' forces in a bizarre Serb-imposed ceremony on a ski slope beside two cable cars.

More than 7,000 Bosniak men and youths were killed in Srebrenica.
The city, you will recall, had been the venue for the 1984 Winter Olympics. On the mountain peak Gen Mladic gave us our long-promised interview, pledging he would conquer all of Sarajevo soon, and walked to a helicopter camouflaged nearby.
"Oh," I said. "I thought all sides agreed to the United Nations ban on using any form of aircraft in this war?"
The general stared at me with his expressionless blue eyes and his thick-set jaw got even thicker.
"The commander of the Bosnian Serb armed forces does not ride on a donkey," he said. And seconds later he was airborne.
Personal vendetta
Gen Mladic could hardly hide his contempt for the international figures who were trying to keep this war from getting even worse.
He would deliberately mispronounce the name of the European Union's chief envoy David Owen, for example. He called him David O-van, which means David the Sheep in Serbo-Croat.
He would take any visitor on a trip around his home village in Bosnia and show them every location where he said 101 people from his own extended family had lived before they were, he said, slaughtered by a pro-Nazi band of Muslim fighters during World War II.
Yes, this war was personal.
Gen Mladic had served in the Yugoslav army so long he knew many of the commanders on the opposing Bosnian Muslim and Croat sides.
He would even radio them - their ex-Yugoslav army walkie talkies all had the same frequency - and ask about their health, their wives, their children, then inform them: "In 10 minutes we're gonna knock you guys to hell and back," or some such wording.
Bad taste
His relationship with the now detained political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, was somewhat uneasy.
I once asked him, as the two men stood together, who took orders from whom. "I report to him," said Gen Mladic. "But I am in command of fighting this war."
Mr Karadzic gave the impression he found the fighting somewhat distasteful.

The UN has charged Mr Karadzic and Gen Mladic with genocide.
I once heard him screaming for silence from a group of drunken Serb fighters as they sang war songs and let off volleys of gunfire from the back of their armoured vehicle as it pulled up near his headquarters in Pale, another former ski resort overlooking besieged Sarajevo.
The Bosnian Serb leader was obsessed by the rule of the Turkish Ottoman empire, which he thought was being re-imposed, and cursed the Americans for supporting the side of the Muslims.
One day he insisted we fly with him by helicopter to see what he called a massacre of Serb villagers by marauding Muslim fighters.
The helicopter ducked and dived to avoid potential ground fire. Mr Karadzic seemed unwell, he cowered in his seat, blocking both ears with his hands. His loyal wife Liljana put her hands in front of our camera and ordered us not to film him in that position.
"The world does not need to blame him for getting air sick as well," she said.
When we landed we found 28 Serb bodies, all men of fighting age, laid out in Vlasenica's town square.
Mr Karadzic turned to our camera and said: "If this goes on, I think there will not be many Muslims left in Bosnia."
A foretaste of the ethnic cleansing that was to become the grim hallmark of the war.




The first athletes have checked into Beijing's newly-built Olympic village, with 12 days to go until the Games.
China's basketball star Yao Ming and hurdler Liu Xiang were present for a flag-raising ceremony at the heavily guarded site.
The opening came on a muggy morning and correspondents reported a haze of pollution over the village's complex of luxurious, high-rise apartments.
In all 16,000 competitors will stay there during the games.
The BBC's Quentin Sommerville, in Beijing, says the flats - housing either four or eight people each - have been built to an unusually high environmental standard for China.
Solar energy will power some of the buildings, and unlike most of China, residents will be able to drink the water straight from the tap.
Specially extended beds have been installed for taller athletes.
Food safety is a concern in China, so everything served to the athletes will have undergone spot checks at mobile laboratories, our correspondent says.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, a vice-president of Beijing's organising committee, Chen Zhili, said: "We now welcome athletes from around the world to come to the Games."
Chen, the so-called mayor of the village, added: "We will try to satisfy the needs of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds."
He received a symbolic gold key to the village from organizing committee president Liu Qi, also the head of Beijing's Communist Party.
Chinese athletes were the first to check into the village.
The flats will be refitted and sold after the Olympics.
Reports say they will cost up to $1m (£500,000) - considered a high price even in Beijing's soaring property market.


Saturday, July 26, 2008


Kenny Richey was freed from prison in January.
Kenny Richey, the Scot freed from death row in America earlier this year, has been detained by the police after an incident in Edinburgh.
Lothian and Borders police said a 43-year-old man was in custody after an incident in Orwell Terrace.
Police would not comment on the nature of the incident but one report said streets were cordoned off and a man was on the roof of a building.
Police said no-one was hurt. Richey is expected to appear in court on Monday.
Kenny Richey spent more than two decades in a US jail awaiting execution.
He was released at the start of the year after agreeing a deal with the US authorities.
Richey was originally convicted of starting a fire that killed a two-year-old girl in Ohio and always maintained his innocence.
After his release, he returned to Scotland, where he had lived as a child.
Earlier this year it emerged that Richey had mouth cancer and was due to have a malignant growth removed from inside his cheek.



Barrowman: On a quest to find out about his sexuality.
Torchwood star John Barrowman has known he was gay since he was nine. But was he born that way or did his upbringing have something to do with it? Here, he explains why he set out to try to solve this mystery, for the BBC One show The Making of Me.

I was in the closet for three hours once in 1972. It was dark, uncomfortable, and really cramped. Plus, I was convinced I wasn't alone (a crumpled jacket lurking in the corner looked pretty dangerous). I was five and my brother, Andrew, then 10, and my sister, Carole, 13, had shoved me into the coat closet because, well, really for absolutely no good reason. I mean what baby brother has ever annoyed his siblings to the point of needing to be locked up or tied down?

This story still gets a laugh from my nieces and nephews. Depending on who's doing the telling, Uncle John was either locked up for 30 fleeting minutes or for three long, tortuous, oxygen-starved hours. As simple as the story is I think it's an apt metaphor for the way I've chosen to live my life - openly, honestly, with no regrets. And, whenever I can, I try to confront the monsters in the dark. As my favourite Jerry Herman song proclaims: "There's no return and no deposit. One life. So open up your closet."

John Barrowman: The Making of Me is one BBC One at 2100 BST on 24 July
Or watch it later on the BBC iPlayer

My sexuality has never been deliberately hidden. I'm in a committed relationship with the love of my life, Scott Gill, and he is as much a part of the family as my sister's husband, Kevin, and my brother's wife, Dot. However, just because I'm comfortable with my sexuality doesn't mean that I'm not curious about it and that's one of the reasons I agreed to take this journey to discover the making of me.

I remember vividly when I first realised I was gay. I was nine and a few of my friends were looking at some mild porn in the playground during recess. While they were ogling the well-endowed female models, I couldn't take my eyes off the male members in the shot.

Growing up in the Barrowman household, conversations about sexuality were never taboo. Over the years, we've talked about many of the theories that may explain what makes a person gay. In fact, it's always been a bit of a joke in our family that my dad was responsible - he frequently dressed me up as a girl. In fact, he has some cross-dressing in his own past. He once dressed up as a tarty neighbour, pretended to crash his own party, and proceeded to flirt with the men in the room- all with my mum playing along for the laughs.

Nature or nurture?
The show actually gave me an opportunity to discover whether or not I had ancestors who were gay because years ago if you were in the closet you were so far in the closet you were in the house next door.

John Barrowman: The Making of Me
During the filming of the programme, I not only revisited my childhood, I was also subjected to a battery of psychological and physical tests, everything from comparing my DNA to that of my straight brother, Andrew's, to watching my brain light up like a fireworks display in response to certain erotic stimuli.
I've always been convinced I was born gay (and am happy that way). But over the years there are plenty of people who have argued the opposite - and some still do today. I really wanted to meet people like this, and the film gave me a chance to do so. In the unresolved argument about whether it is nature of nurture that makes us gay or straight, I was hoping for affirmation that nature decides. The risk I took in filming was that it would be disproved.

But in the end neither happened as the tests didn't provide that clarity. I learned that science has yet to find a fool-proof and definitive genetic test for gayness - at least in my case.

Hormonal explanation?
Yet I did find something unexpected and different. The latest science is concentrating on a whole new area of potential causality that I hadn't thought about at all. It's not genes, but it is biological, looking at hormonal effects in the womb.

Attracted to women? Barrowman's Captain Jack character flirts with Billie PiperOther psychological and physical tests told me more about my sexuality. Like whether I had any latent attraction to women at all. That one really caught me by surprise - at least for a moment. And in word association tests, men tend to be more factual and literal. But women and gay men tend to be much more descriptive and eloquent. I'm glad to say that was true for me as well.

Another test involved looking at moving images of different combinations of men and women. I had to press buttons to signal my reaction while lying in an MRI scanner which also measured my reaction so I couldn't lie. I'm proud to say that in some of the tests I was totally off the scale.

So participating in this programme was exciting and provocative, but in the end, taking the personal risk to discover what makes me gay was worth it because on a daily basis I get letters from young men and women who are feeling the brunt of our culture's homophobia. If exploring this issue can bring comfort to some of these young people then I think the programme will have done a really wonderful thing.
Written by John Barrowman and Carole E Barrowman






Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip have arrested dozens of Fatah supporters and set up checkpoints after an explosion killed six people.
A powerful explosion inside a car travelling past a beach in the Gaza Strip on Friday killed five Hamas activists and a six-year old girl.
At least 15 other people were said to have been injured by the explosion.
It was the third bomb attack in a day - one of the bloodiest since Hamas and Israel agreed a ceasefire last month.
Earlier on Friday, a bombing outside a cafe in Gaza City killed one person - reportedly the perpetrator - and injured at least three others, Hamas officials said.
It was unclear why the area was bombed, but there have been attacks on internet cafes, music shops and Christian institutions in Gaza in recent months.
Officials also reported a bombing near the home of Marwan Abu Ras, a Hamas politician and academic. No-one was injured.

The explosion on Friday night at a major junction besides Gaza City's beach killed three Hamas members and the girl immediately, according to a statement by the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Two more Hamas members died of injuries on Saturday, the statement added.
The girl killed in the blast had been on her way to the beach with her family, medics said.
Afterwards, Hamas did not explicitly accuse its bitter rival, Fatah, of carrying out the attack, but it did imply it, the BBC's Aleem Maqbool says.
Khalil al-Hayya, a Hamas leader whose son was wounded in the blast, blamed Palestinian groups "who collaborate with the enemy [Israel]".
"We have information that some elements are planning to carry out bombings against the interests and leaders of Hamas in order to sow anarchy," he told the Reuters news agency.

The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, however, were more explicit and blamed "members of the fugitive party" - a derogatory term for Fatah.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 from the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Most have been afraid to challenge the Islamist movement and so while there has been dissent, factional killings have decreased considerably, our correspondent says.
bbc news report.



California has become the first US state to ban restaurants and food retailers from using trans-fats, which are linked to coronary heart disease.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the new legislation, which will take effect in 2010, represented a "strong step toward creating a healthier future".
Violations will incur fines of between $25 (£13) and $1,000 (£502).
Trans-fats are chemically altered vegetable oils, used to give processed foods a longer shelf-life.
Some cities, like New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, have already banned the fats. Many food makers and restaurant chains have also been experimenting with replacements for oils and foods that contain them.
Trans-fats are produced artificially in a process called hydrogenation which turns liquid oil into solid fat.
They can be used for frying or baking, or put into processed foods and ready-made mixes for cakes and drinks like hot chocolate.
Trans-fats are used because they are cheap, add bulk to products, have a neutral flavour and give products a long shelf-life. They have no nutritional value.

They are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, turning oily foods into semi-solid foods
Used to extend shelf life of products
Put into pastries, cakes, margarine and some fast foods
Can raise levels of "bad" cholesterol
Even a small reduction in consumption can cut heart disease
They have no nutritional benefit.
The US Food and Drug Administration estimates that on average, Americans eat 4.7lb (2.14kg) of trans-fats each year.
A review by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 concluded that there was a strong connection between the consumption of trans-fats and coronary heart disease. It found they boosted "bad" cholesterol levels in the body.
The review said that eliminating artificial trans-fats from the food supply could prevent between six and 19% of heart attacks and related deaths each year.
The legislation signed by Mr Schwarzenegger will ban from 1 January 2010 the use of trans-fats in oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying.
The president of the California Academy of Family Physicians, Jeffrey Luther, said that the law, "when it finally takes effect, will be a tremendous benefit", adding that there was no safe level of consumption, as with cigarettes.
The California Restaurant Association opposed the ban, but a spokesman said that it had no plans to challenge it in the courts, in part because some restaurants have already begun to phase out trans-fats to satisfy customers.


Friday, July 25, 2008


The US has imposed new sanctions on Zimbabwe, accusing President Robert Mugabe of heading an "illegitimate" government that sponsors violence.
US President George W Bush signed an executive order expanding restrictions against individuals and organisations linked to Mr Mugabe's government.
Mr Bush said the sanctions were a "direct result" of government actions.
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has begun power-sharing talks with the opposition in an effort to end a political crisis.
The president was re-elected with a landslide majority in June's presidential vote, a poll boycotted by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which said its supporters have been subjected to a state-sponsored campaign of violence.

In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Bush said he approved action against Mr Mugabe's government after the Zimbabwean leader continually ignored international pressure to stop election-related violence.
The new sanctions will affect 17 Zimbabwean companies with links to the government - including the Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe, and will ban US citizens from doing business with them.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai shook hands at their first meeting in a decade"No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences," Mr Bush said.
The move expands the list of Zimbabwan companies and individuals banned from dealing with the US to more than 250, after sanctions were first imposed in 2003.
On Tuesday, the European Union also expanded its list of allies of Mr Mugabe subject to travel and business restrictions.
Mr Bush added that he hoped the talks between Mr Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, currently underway in South Africa, would "result in a new government that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people".
If so, the US would be ready to provide "a substantial assistance package, development aid, and normalisation with international financial institutions," Mr Bush said.
Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai shook hands on Monday as they signed a memorandum paving the way for talks.
It was the two men's first meeting in a decade.
The MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes since the first round of the elections, in a campaign of violence by pro-Mugabe militias and the army.
Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges.



By Michael Bristow - BBC News, Beijing.

Thousands of people have descended on ticket booths across the Chinese capital, Beijing, to get their hands on the last batch of Olympic tickets.
Police had to call in reinforcements at one sales centre near the main Olympic venues to hold back surging crowds.
Tickets for high-profile events were snapped up in a matter of hours.
A total of 820,000 tickets went on sale from 0900 local time, but some people had been queuing for days. Buyers have been restricted to two tickets each.
The biggest scrum appeared to take place at the booth near the main Olympic venues, where crowds had to be held back by police.
Many waiting were drenched in sweat by the time they finally made it to the front of the queue.
One man said he had managed to jump the queue at a particularly chaotic moment.
This sales centre was selling tickets for a number of high-profile events, including the much-sought-after 110m hurdles final.
Chinese athlete Liu Xiang is the reigning Olympic champion in this event and tickets sold out in just half an hour.
Tickets for diving events, another sport in which China excels, were gone in just a few hours.
There were more orderly line-ups at other Olympic venues.
Overnight queues
At the Workers' Stadium, where tickets for Olympic football matches were on sale, people had been queuing since Thursday.

Many braved the heat to buy the last batch of tickets.
Many had brought stools to sit on, and something to eat and drink, as they waited in a queue that was several hundred metres long.
Others shared cigarettes or stood in line fanning themselves as the morning temperature began to rise.
"We've been here all night. It wasn't too bad," said Song Lihua, as she stood holding an umbrella to shade herself from a sun that was struggling to break through the morning smog.
Ms Song was near the front of the queue, but still expected she would have to wait another four or five hours.
"They are too slow," she shouted, a call repeated by others. "There are only three tickets windows open."
Others who had just arrived were amazed - and slightly depressed - to find so many people already waiting.
"The queue's too scary," said student Xie Gu, who had come up to Beijing from southern Zhejiang Province to get an Olympic ticket.
The 20-year-old said he was going to walk to the end of the queue to see how long it was before deciding whether or not to stay.



Representatives of Zimbabwe's ruling and opposition parties have begun power-sharing talks in South Africa, officials there have said.
The talks began after the arrival of the four main negotiators from Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.
President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a deal agreeing to the negotiations on Monday.
The talks, intended to end a crisis following disputed presidential polls, are slated to last two weeks.
Progress will have to be swift for the talks to be concluded within that timeframe, the BBC's Jonah Fisher reports from Johannesburg.
The structure and composition of a new government is yet to be decided, as is the future of Mr Mugabe, our correspondent adds.
President Mugabe signed a memorandum of understanding with Mr Tsvangirai on Monday, paving the way for the talks.
It was their first meeting in a decade.
Both men claim to have won this year's elections.

What MDC wants:
Mugabe to step down
"Transitional authority" to organise new elections
What Zanu-PF wants:
Mugabe to be accepted as president
MDC to take a few minor ministries
International community to drop sanctions and help kick-start economy

Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won the first round in March, but official results gave him less than the 50% required for outright victory.
Mr Mugabe then claimed victory in the second round after Mr Tsvangirai pulled out, complaining of a campaign of violence against his supporters.
The start of the talks on Thursday was confirmed by the office of South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been leading mediation over Zimbabwe.
The deal bans parties from talking to the media and there had been conflicting reports about when negotiations would start.
Zimbabwe's state-owned Herald newspaper reported that the negotiators from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the MDC travelled to South Africa on the same flight on Wednesday.
Zanu-PF is represented by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Public Services Minister Nicholas Goche, while the MDC has sent Secretary General Tendai Biti and Deputy Treasurer Elton Mangoma.
A Zanu-PF official told the Herald that the party's politburo had been briefed on the negotiations at a meeting on Wednesday.
"We gave Comrade Chinamasa and Comrade Goche the green light for them to go ahead with the negotiations within the parameters signed by the principals," said Zanu-PF deputy secretary for information and publicity Ephraim Masawi.
The MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes since the first round of the elections, in a campaign of violence by pro-Mugabe militias and the army.
Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges.



Life expectancy for people with HIV has increased by an average of 13 years since the late 1990s thanks to better HIV treatment, a study says.
Researchers said it meant HIV was now effectively a chronic condition like diabetes, rather than a fatal disease, the Lancet reported.
The team, involving Bristol University staff, looked at over 43,000 patients.
The study found a person now diagnosed at 20 years old could expect to live for another 49 years.
But the Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration, which includes scientists from across Europe and Northern America, warned this was still short of the life expectancy for the wider population which stands at about 80.
These advances have transformed HIV from being a fatal disease, which was the reality for patients before the advent of combination treatment, into a long-term chronic condition
Professor Jonathan Sterne, lead researcher
Antiretroviral treatment for HIV consists of drugs which work against the infection itself by slowing down the replication of the virus in the body.
This method of therapy was introduced in the 1990s, but has since become more effective and better tolerated.
The researchers looked at life expectancy during three time periods after the introduction of the drugs - 1996-9, 2000-2 and 2003-5 - in high income countries.
Just over 2,000 patients died during the study periods.
They found that while patients aged 20 diagnosed in the 1990s could expect to live another 36 years, that had increased by 13 years by 2003-5.
During the middle time period, life expectancy stood at an extra 41 years.
Lead researcher Professor Jonathan Sterne said: "These advances have transformed HIV from being a fatal disease, which was the reality for patients before the advent of combination treatment, into a long-term chronic condition."
He added the development was a "testament" to the success of the anti-HIV drugs.
But the researchers warned those diagnosed later in the course of the infection had a much shorter life expectancy.
Marc Thompson, deputy head of health promotion at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "HIV medication has become much more effective since the early days.
"There has been great progress, but research needs to continue, especially for those who have developed resistance to some drugs and are running out of options."
But he added the study also highlighted the need for early diagnosis, pointing out an estimated a third of people with HIV do not know they have it.



Gordon Williams says he will appeal against the £30 fine
A painter and decorator from Ceredigion says he is "dumbfounded" after being slapped with a £30 fine for smoking a cigarette in his own van.
Gordon Williams says he had popped to the shops earlier this month, when he was pulled over by council officials.
"I was told that because my van is my place of work I had broken the smoking laws," he said.
A council spokesperson said anyone handed a fine is eligible to appeal against the decision.
"I am dumbfounded - the van is only insured for private use and to get me to and from work," added Mr Williams, from Llanafan, near Aberystwyth.
"It not my place of work - I decorate houses not vans."
The grandfather decried the on-the-spot penalty as the "Big Brother state going too far".
He added: "I respect anyone who chooses not to smoke, but I would also ask for the same respect to have the freedom to smoke in my own private vehicle."

Mr Williams was driving on the A487 near Aberystwyth in his unmarked blue Suzuki Carrier van when he was pulled over by council officials carrying out spot checks on the safety of vehicles.
He believes it is the first ticket of its kind handed out by the council since the smoking regulations came in last year - the fixed penalty notice was number 0001.
Mr Williams' wife Sue has already paid the fine, fearing it would increase if not settled promptly.
But her husband remains defiant, and said he would be challenging the punishment.
"I have appealed against this even though I initially paid the fine otherwise it would have increased to £50.
"I've sent up my insurance certificate and am awaiting the outcome.
Simon Clark, the director of smoking freedom group Forest, condemned the fine as "absolutely ridiculous".
He said: "It smacks of some jobsworth council official interpreting the law to the most extreme level.
"This surely is not what the change in the law was intended for - it was not meant to harass and persecute people going about their ordinary lives.
"It is ridiculous that someone should be fined for smoking in their own private vehicle away from any workplace."
Ceredigion Council said they could not comment on individual cases.
A spokesperson added: "The legislation allows for a right of appeal and the procedures in relation to this are set out in the notices."


Thursday, July 24, 2008


By Tulip Mazumdar - Newsbeat health reporter.

Watermelons are loaded with anti-oxidants which are good for the skin.
Eating watermelon has a similar effect on the body to Viagra, according to researchers in the US.
It's down to a chemical called citrulline which is found in the juicy fruit.
Citrulline is an organic compound which affects the body's blood vessels in the same way as the sex enhancement pills.
It helps relax the blood vessels which means blood gets around the body more easily.
The research comes from the US' Texas Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Centre.
Dr Bhimu Patil led the research. He said: "We've always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study.
"Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra... but it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects."
It's also claimed watermelons are good for your heart and immune system.
The vast majority of watermelon (92%) is made up of water. But the remaining 8% is loaded with the anti-oxidant lycopene which is also good for your skin.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008





By Martin Hutchinson

Good - but in moderation.
A woman was left disabled after following a "detox" diet which involved drinking large quantities of water.
Although doctors stress the need to avoid dehydration by drinking enough fluids, drinking more than enough is a different matter.
The human body may be mostly water, but you can have too much of a good thing.
In the most serious cases, "water intoxication" can kill, and there is, say experts, scant evidence that drinking even slightly more water than usual can improve your health.
The current popularity of detox diets which recommend drinking many litres of water a day, and drinking even when not thirsty, could cause problems if taken to extremes, they say.
The claim is that drinking more than usual can do everything from improving your skin tone to "flushing out" toxins from your body.
You shouldn't be drinking massively over and above what you feel with comfortable with
Ursula ArensBritish Dietetic Association
However, the amount of water actually needed in a day varies from person to person, and depends on other factors such as climate, and exercise, says the British Dietetic Association.
Flawed industry
Ursula Arens, a dietician, said that there was a difference between normal consumption of one or two litres a day, not just in the form of water, but also from coffee, tea, and juice, and constant, ritualistic consumption of water throughout the day.
"You shouldn't be drinking massively over and above what you feel with comfortable with, when you're not thirsty, in a mechanical way."
She said that the evidence supporting the whole "hydration industry" was flawed.
"If you're a top sportsman, earning £10,000 for a single game, I can understand the need to focus intensely on your hydration, but not if you're someone just doing a couple of lengths at the swimming pool.
"It's just a great marketing opportunity, nothing more."
She said that the science of detoxing was unsupported by evidence, partly because its precise effects on the body had never been defined.
She added: "The body already has perfectly good ways of getting rid of toxins - mainly in the liver, and it's hard to see how consuming more water would affect these."

Others are more scathing about the fashion for both detoxing and taking frequent sips from an ever-present bottle of mineral water.
Kidney specialist Professor Graham MacGregor said there was no evidence that either had any benefit.
People should drink when their body tells them to - when they get thirsty
Prof Graham MacGregorSt George's University of London
He described how too much water could "overwhelm" the body's natural mechanisms for keeping levels in balance.
"The body already has a brilliant system for doing this, but if water levels in the blood rise too high, it just can't cope."
If vast quantities of water are taken, salt in the blood gets too dilute, he explained. When the salt solution in the blood is weaker than the solution in the cells and organs it supplies, water passes into those cells and organs.
In extreme cases, this causes organs such as the brain to swell up, and can stop it working properly, putting the drinker in serious danger.
Professor MacGregor said: "This isn't just a problem with water - we used to see patients who had been diagnosed with 'water intoxication' after drinking 20 pints of beer."
"In normal circumstances, then people should drink when their body tells them to - when they get thirsty.
"Anything else is completely unnecessary, and will just leave you standing in the queue for the toilet.
"Detox diets are a complete con in that respect."



It is thought opposition activists are taking revenge for earlier beatings.
Zimbabwean opposition activists returning from South Africa have driven supporters of President Robert Mugabe from their homes.
The incidents, close to Zimbabwe's border with South Africa, followed accusations of torture and arson attacks by war veterans.
Youths loyal to the opposition have now have now launched retaliatory attacks against the veterans.
Police were allegedly informed of the beatings but took no action.
The war veterans have been the most loyal supporters of President Robert Mugabe and played a key part in his victory in the final round of the presidential elections.
Three weeks ago, the Zimbabweans in South Africa - known as Injiva in the local Ndebele language - issued warnings to war veterans and the ruling Zanu-PF to stop harassing and killing their relatives in rural areas.
A BBC contributor says that in Matabeleland province more than 60% of young people work in South Africa and whenever they come home, there is chaos in the villages as the crime rate increases.
This time, he says, their targets were the war veterans.
Last week the Injiva returned from South Africa and were told of the destruction caused by the war veterans and the youth militia, our contributor adds.
Some of the Injiva were armed with pistols which were brought into the country illegally.
According to villagers in Plumtree, about 100km south of Bulawayo, dozens of war veterans were injured during the raids on their bases by Injiva.



By Soutik Biswas - BBC News.

Mayawati has been described as an unorthodox politician. Will an "untouchable" become India's next prime minister?
The way a number of Indian opposition parties are rallying around Mayawati, a Dalit or "untouchable" icon, and touting her as a future prime minister must be gladdening the hearts of 160 million members of the community she represents.
The 52-year-old daughter of a government clerk who grew up in a shanty town in the capital, Delhi, has emerged as the pivot of a fledgling "third front" in Indian politics.
It is trying to throw down the gauntlet to the coalitions led by the governing Congress and opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Ms Mayawati's "third front" brings together a slew of regional parties and communists, who are still smarting after they stopped supporting the government over its nuclear deal with the US.
"The impact of Mayawati has sobered a lot of political parties. She has a larger-than-life image. Now it's a third front with Mayawati as the nucleus," says Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper.
This despite the fact that her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a regional party based in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, has only 17 seats in the parliament.
Since the 2004 general election, Mayawati's fortunes have soared. In the last state assembly elections a little over a year ago, her party swept to power winning 206 of the 403 seats and more importantly, had leads in 55 of the state's 80 parliamentary constituencies.
Her party also polled well in at least 60 parliamentary seats outside Uttar Pradesh, making her a pan-Indian Dalit icon of sorts.

The canny political strategist has also broadened her appeal, wooing upper-caste Hindus and Muslims - she has 29 Muslim and 52 upper-caste Brahmin members in the present state assembly.
In India's fractious and caste-driven polity, this is a masterstroke in social engineering - an unprecedented coalition of the poorest of the poor and the rich, and of Hindus and Muslims. And this has taken place in a state which accounts for one in seven MPs in the Indian parliament.

Mayawati is now the nucleus of the emerging new 'third front'.
The upshot, say analysts, is that her party has become a factor in about 10 states, and could play the spoiler there for the bigger parties in next year's general elections.
The unorthodox Mahatma Gandhi-baiting politician with a penchant for gaudy birthday celebrations, expensive jewellery and personal statues has been an enigma for India's upper classes and journalists.
On the one hand, her homegrown charisma and mass-based leadership qualities have never been in doubt; on the other, she has been assailed with charges of amassing wealth and property beyond her means.
"Her political peers and journalists have persistently underestimated her and her party. She has been regarded as an unguided missile that has explosive intent, but no sense of direction," says Ajoy Bose, who has written a book on Ms Mayawati.
But he says her triumphant Dalit-Brahmin alliance in Uttar Pradesh has become a "blueprint for electoral success" in India.

Analysts say Ms Mayawati thrives best during periods of political instability, even when she appears to lack the numbers to form governments.
With only 66 legislators in the 403-member assembly, she took power in Uttar Pradesh twice. She secured a third term with 99 legislators.
"Each time she was short of majority. She was able to grab power because other parties prevented each other from forming the government," says Ajoy Bose.
This is exactly what could happen if the Mayawati-led "third front" mops up about 100 seats or more in next year's general elections which are expected to leave no party with a clear majority.

Uttar Pradesh is one of the most backward states in India.
Analysts say that Ms Mayawati is also trying to move beyond a purely caste-based agenda to enhance her appeal among upper-castes and classes - her government recently brought in English in primary schools and announced new urban housing and health plans.
But she could also blow her chances because of what her critics describe as her "despotic" side, and a lack of any second rung of leadership.
"There is a kind of ruthlessness in her that can be self-defeating. Her party is too individual-centred, and does not have a policy management team.
"Then there is the looming threat of corruption cases against her," says political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
However, the prospect of Ms Mayawati becoming the prime minister has immense symbolic value.
"This would be a Dalit woman from the most populous Indian state and one who has earned her way to the top through education and political work, not inherited it via marriage or lineage," says analyst Mahesh Rangarajan.
The next general elections will tell whether Ms Mayawati manages to exploit this opportunity.



South African police have forcefully removed hundreds of immigrants from temporary shelters where they had taken refuge from xenophobic attacks.
Authorities say the immigrants, who were taken to a repatriation centre in Johannesburg, had not registered with the home affairs department.
They now face deportation to their home countries, officials said.
More than 60 immigrants were killed and tens of thousands more fled during the attacks against foreigners in May.
A BBC reporter witnessed angry and emotional scenes at the Glenanda temporary centre as they were removed.
Some immigrants chanted "human rights for refugees" as they were driven away by dozens of riot police.
The BBC's Mpho Lakaje said the immigrants taken from the camp, where about 2,000 people were sheltering, included women and children.
"It is not the South African government's intention to deport a huge group of people, but we want to identify the ring leaders [behind unrest at the camp] and deport them," Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told South Africa's Independent newspaper.

Home Affairs spokeswoman Cleo Mosana said the immigrants had been offered exemption from deportation but had not taken it up.
She said they had been given enough time to apply for proper documentation, but had refused to do so.
Many foreigners said the registration process was not clearly explained, or that they did not register because they feared losing their refugee status.
The government denied this would happen.
One woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo said her sister was among those taken away.
"They are going back to their country, but I know in our country there is still fighting," she said.
Marylyn Mill, a volunteer who had been helping at the shelter, said she was "very, very disappointed".
"I'm ashamed to be a South African, that this is how people in my country can be treated by our government."
The violence began in a township north of Johannesburg before spreading to other parts of the country.
It was the worst bloodshed in the county since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Those attacked in May were blamed for fuelling high unemployment and crime.
Twenty-one South Africans, mistaken by gangs for foreigners, were among those killed.



The wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin has been jailed for six years and six months for fraudulently claiming £250,000.
Anne Darwin, 56, convinced insurance companies, a coroner and her sons her husband had died in a canoe accident.
She was convicted of six fraud charges and nine of money laundering at Teesside Crown Court.
Mr Darwin, who had earlier admitted deception, was jailed for six years and three months.
The 57-year-old reappeared in December five years after faking his own death by vanishing in the sea near Hartlepool.
Anne Darwin had put forward the defence of "marital coercion", meaning her husband made her act against her will.
As the jurors returned to the court, she smiled at them - but looked straight ahead as the verdicts were given on each of the 15 counts.
Her sons, who gave evidence against her, also showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were given.
The couple came up with the plot as they faced bankruptcy.
In March 2002, prison officer John Darwin paddled out to sea near his home in Seaton Carew, then abandoned his boat and went into hiding.

His wife raised the alarm after driving him in secret to Durham railway station and a huge air sea rescue operation was mounted, without success.
He apparently spent several weeks in the Lake District, then returned home, where Anne Darwin kept him hidden inside the house for about four years.
When visitors called, he used a secret door to sneak into an adjoining bedsit, also owned by the Darwins.
Growing a full beard to act as a disguise, former school teacher John Darwin used the name of a dead child John Jones to apply for a new passport - and even a library card.
Once his death was made "official", Anne Darwin claimed her husband's £25,000 life insurance policy, his £25,000 teacher's pension, his £58,000 prison service pension, £4,000 in payouts from the Department of Work and Pensions, and a £137,000 Norwich Union mortgage insurance policy.
The couple planned to start a new life together in Panama, but the plot unravelled when John Darwin walked into a London police station last December.
At first, his sons were pleased at his return and his wife, who was in Panama, professed her profound shock at his re-emergence.
But the couple's deceit became apparent to their family as a photo of them together in Panama in 2006 was published in the media.

Police believe John Darwin's sudden return may have been sparked by a row.
Speaking outside Teesside Crown Court, Det Insp Andy Greenwood, of Cleveland Police, said: "We're pleased with the verdict received. Anne Darwin has been a compulsive liar.
"Every time evidence was put to her she came up with an account - she reacted to the evidence and another account was brought out.
"This is just 'half time'. Asset recovery teams will make sure that all the couple's financial benefits realised from this plot will be brought back to this country."
Gale Gilchrist, from Cleveland Crown Prosecution Service, who acted as junior counsel during the trial, said: "When John Darwin turned up 'from the dead' before Christmas last year it was seen at first as an amusing story for the festive season.
"But this was a callous and calculated fraud.
"The Darwins were willing to deceive family and friends and to waste considerable resources of the emergency services, all to maintain a lie that John Darwin had died and then exploit any compassion extended to them."


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The BBC's Against the Odds series profiles athletes heading to the Olympics despite huge obstacles.
Nick Thorpe meets a Hungarian judoka who has returned to competition after a string of serious injuries - and a family tragedy.
Wherever you look in Bernadett Baczko's flat, there are signs of her profession.
Blue and white judo tunics hang drying on the balcony - her own, and those of her boyfriend, Laci.
There are photographs on the sofa, medals on the mantlepiece, and training shoes in the hall.
Laci cooks lunch while we talk in the living room.
It's a tiny flat, just 54 square metres, in Ujpest, a working-class suburb of Budapest, a stone's throw from the river Danube.

Bernadett Baczko
Competes in women's under 57kg category
Beat reigning Olympic champion in 2007 'Worlds'
In action on Monday 11 August from 0500 GMT

Tall poplar trees cushion the roar of the traffic from the main road which runs close to the building, funnelling commuters into the city.
Bernadett is relaxed on camera, full of pride in her achievements in her chosen sport, but there's no trace of arrogance.
"I began judo when I was nine, which turned out to be the ideal age for a girl, though I didn't know that at the time.
"I have three older brothers, and was brought up as a bit of a tomboy, but it was actually a friend, a classmate who first took me to a training session. I fell in love with it straight away."

Bernadett is taking no chances as she warms up for BeijingBernadett advanced in the sport with great strides, encouraged by all her family, but especially her mother.
She would come to all the competitions, and encouraged not only her daughter, but even Bernadett's rivals.
In 2002 Bernadett began winning international competitions. She narrowly failed to qualify for the Athens Olympics in 2004.
That was the year her "calvary", as she calls her suffering, began.
In August 2004, she and her team arrived late for a competition, and didn't have time to warm up.
In the very first match, I attempted a certain technique, and my leg got stuck. There was an awful pain in my right knee -Bernadett Baczko.
"In the very first match, I attempted a certain technique, and my leg got stuck. There was an awful pain in my right knee. But I took part in three more matches. I just didn't want to give up."
When she got home, her doctor could not understand how she managed to compete. The ligament in her right knee was torn.
In October that year, she was operated on.
"At about the same time, we found out that my mother had an incurable illness. She died in June 2005."
She relates how so many people mourned with her, in the Hungarian judo world as well.
Her mother's presence at matches had inspired many a young Hungarian judo hopeful.
Her funeral took place just as Bernadett was coming out of her 8 months forced retirement from judo, and was starting university in Budapest.

"In 2006 I started winning prizes again. But then I injured my other knee. Fortunately, it didn't need an operation."
Then in the spring of 2007, just as she was preparing for the World Championships in Rio, she contracted a serious stomach illness.
"This time, my coach assembled a whole team behind me - a doctor, a dietician, a psychologist..."
It paid off, and she won the bronze medal in Rio. And that is how she qualified for Beijing.
She shows the medal proudly. I study it carefully, but there's no text.
"If you hold it up to the light, you can tell its bronze...not gold or silver' she laughs.
Rio marked for her the end of the tunnel.
"It took me three years to come to terms with the loss of my mother, and with all the injuries...only now can I talk about these things without crying." And her voice barely quavers.
We race across town to the next training session - and arrive late, because of the interview.
But ahead of Beijing, she's taking no chances, and starts warming up straight away.
"It is an individual sport, but I'm lucky to be part of a really good, young team.
"We support one another hugely, which is very important, and will be decisive in the Olympics too. You could say we're even more excited for one another than we are for our own matches.
"And I think that's quite unusual."


Monday, July 21, 2008


Mr Menkerios and other African envoys have persuaded the MDC to sign.
Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition are due to sign a deal outlining a framework for talks on the country's political crisis, both sides say.
Haile Menkerios, the UN's envoy to Zimbabwe, said the deal would be signed by President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki is to fly to Harare to witness the deal.
The two sides are locked in a dispute over presidential elections - which they both claim to have won.
The agreement was due to be signed last week but Mr Tsvangirai pulled out.
Mr Tsvangirai garnered more votes in the initial presidential poll - but election officials said there was no outright winner and called for a run-off.
Mr Mugabe won the run-off - but he was the only candidate after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew, accusing the government of mounting a campaign of violence against his supporters.
Opposition conditions
"The signing will take place this afternoon," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the AFP news agency.
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials also say they expect the agreement to be signed on Monday.


End to political violence
Release of supporters
Resumption of aid
Swearing in of MPs
Mugabe as President
But the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Johannesburg says the opposition insist that the signing ceremony is not held at State House - it is due to be held in a Harare hotel.
Our correspondent also notes that the five-page agreement to be signed does not go into details of a possible power-sharing arrangement - it is merely the starting point for substantive talks.
He says that the fact that the African Union (AU) and the United Nations joined the South African mediation efforts was crucial in persuading the MDC to agree to talk.
The MDC accuses the South African president of being biased in favour of Mr Mugabe, and Mr Tsvangirai had asked for another envoy to replace him.
On Friday, it was announced that a group of senior diplomats, drawn from the UN, AU and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), would help Mr Mbeki.
One of those was Mr Menkerios, who said he believed the two men had agreed a draft memorandum of understanding setting out the terms under which they could enter direct negotiations.
But he said both men would have to sign the document to "clear the way" for talks.
The MDC still has several conditions to be met before starting substantive talks with Mr Mugabe.
Party spokesman George Sibotshiwe told the BBC that future talks would remain conditional on a complete cessation of violence and the release of all political prisoners.
"We want a government that creates a platform for us to democratise our society, in order for us to have a genuinely free and fair election," he said.
The MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000 abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes since the first round of the elections, in a campaign of violence by pro-Mugabe militias and the army.
Cabinet ministers have denied the charges.


Sunday, July 20, 2008





Arab League ministers said the ICC move could destabilise Sudan.
Arab foreign ministers say they have agreed a plan of action to defuse the crisis between Sudan and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
They met in Cairo after the ICC's chief prosecutor said he would seek to indict Sudan's president on charges of war crimes and genocide in Darfur.
Ministers said the ICC move had set a dangerous precedent.
Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, said he would travel to Sudan on Sunday to discuss their plan.
However, he declined to reveal its details at the end of Saturday's emergency meeting.
Fragile peaceMr Moussa said that Arabs had to work closely with the African Union and the UN to protect the fragile peace process in Sudan.
In a joint resolution issued at the end of the meeting, foreign ministers of the 22-nation Arab League said the ICC move was not acceptable and undermined Sudan's sovereignty.
"The council decides solidarity with the Republic of Sudan in confronting schemes that undermine its sovereignty, unity and stability and their non-acceptance of the unbalanced, not objective position of the prosecutor general of the Internal Criminal Court," the resolution said.

Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, will visit Suda. Earlier, Algeria had called on other Arab nations to press the UN Security Council to stop the ICC from issuing the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
"What the prosecutor of the court has done is a dangerous precedent," Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told the meeting.
"We have [to take] ... a strong stance in solidarity with our brothers in Sudan and move effectively with regional and international organisations and the... states in the Security Council to immediately reconsider this demand by the prosecutor."
Sudan has asked China and Russia, as well as the Arab League and the African Union, to help it pursue a UN Security Council resolution suspending a warrant for Mr Bashir for 12 months.
Speaking after Saturday's meeting, Sudan's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Al Sammani al-Wasila, told the AP news agency: "We reject all the charges old and new."
But he added that "the position expressed by our brothers is fair and balanced".
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked the court for a warrant for Mr Bashir on suspicion of masterminding crimes against humanity in the troubled Darfur region.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo accused Mr Bashir of running a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through a "slow death" and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes in Darfur.



By Michael Bristow - BBC News, Beijing

Despite great determination, the Yu family finally lost their struggle.
Workmen have torn down the home of a Beijing family that was refusing to move to make way for redevelopment.
A demolition crew pulled down the house early on Friday, according to people gathered outside the site.
Bedecked with posters, slogans and flags, the city-centre shack had been attracting attention from neighbours and passers-by.
The Yu family were refusing to move because they said the compensation being offered was far too low.
It was not immediately clear where the family is now living. Family members were not answering their phones.
Later, the local government admitted it had taken matters into its own hands after negotiations with the Yu's broke down.
"Because they had unreasonable requests and refused to relocate... they were forcibly moved," The Yus' home was one of more than 160 houses and shops that the local government decided to tear down in 2005 to spruce up the roadside area.

The slogan-covered house drew curious Beijingers.
Everyone but the Yus agreed to move. Just a few days ago, they were still promising to defend their property, bought 60 years ago, with their lives.
But virtually all traces of the house were quickly removed.
The Yus' tumble-down home, near many Beijing tourist attractions, was one of hundreds of "nail houses" that have sprung up across China.
These are houses whose owners refuse to budge to make way for redevelopment projects.
Families often complain that they are forced out of their homes and are not given enough compensation.
Earlier this week, a Swiss-based organisation estimated that up to 1.5 million people have been moved from their Beijing homes because of the Olympics.
The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said this had taken place over an eight-year period leading up to this summer's games.
"[The] authorities have used tactics of harassment, repression, imprisonment and even violence against residents and activists," it said.
China disagrees with these figures. It says just 6,000 families have been moved to make way for Olympic building projects.


Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !


Dear Family and Friends,

It's hard to believe that almost four months have passed since Zimbabweans voted for an MDC parliamentary majority and gave MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai the most presidential ballots. It's like that day never happened as 16 weeks down the line, the old order remains in place and we are stuck in a state of leadership denial.

It's been a brutal four months that Zimbabwe will never forget. A time when the country's leaders have bombarded us with hate speech, threatened us with war and tried to make us believe that they are immortal and their rule eternal. For the last four months we have been a population in a state of mourning as a litany of horror has become our daily lives: murder, torture, abduction, rape and arson.

And now, after all these weeks of abuse and before the soil has settled overfresh graves, gifts are being given by the same people who threatened war. Scotch carts, tractors, ploughs and cultivators are being handed out at gatherings where everyone is waving little flags, wearing Zanu PF clothes anddancing for the leaders.

It's hard to fathom that this can possibly be real: that people can be cheering and ululating for farming implements before the tears for the dead are even dry on our faces, before the results of our votes in the March elections have been implemented, let alone accepted.

It seems to be of no consequence that the constitutional deadline for the swearing in of MP's and Senators, the election of the Speaker of the House and Senate and the ceremonial opening of Parliament have all been missed.

As I write this letter the leaves from the Msasa trees are falling thick and fast. They are early this year and the sound of them raining down on the roof gives notice of a new season about to start. The falling of the leaves, like the wishes of the people, cannot be stopped - no matter how many gifts are given.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle 20 July2008.