Sunday, November 30, 2008


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Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil has submitted his resignation taking "moral responsibility" for the Mumbai attacks that killed nearly 200 people.
The move comes amid growing pressure on the Indian government to explain why it was unable to prevent the strikes.
There is no word on whether Mr Patil's resignation has been accepted.
The three-day long siege has increased tensions with Pakistan after allegations the gunmen had Pakistani links. Islamabad denies involvement.
Mr Patil wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "owning moral responsibility" for the attacks, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder, in Delhi, says.
More resignations may follow, our correspondent adds.

See a detailed map of the area

The move comes ahead of an all party meeting set for Sunday evening, which is poised to discuss new anti-terror measures in India - including new anti-terror laws, and the possible creation of new anti-terror agency.
Earlier, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari offered full co-operation with India and his government denied any involvement in the deadly attacks.
Indian troops killed the last of the gunmen at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel on Saturday.

In pictures: Calm returns
Mumbai police mourn their dead
'Mumbai is in full mourning'

As few as 10 militants may have been involved in the assault which saw attacks in multiple locations including two hotels, a major railway station, a hospital and a Jewish centre.
While the vast majority of victims were Indians, at least 22 foreigners are known to have died, including victims from Israel, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Thailand and France. One Briton, Andreas Liveras, was also killed.
Some of the gunmen came ashore by rubber dinghy on the night the killing began, others are reported to have been in the city for months gathering information on their targets.
India's home ministry said the official toll in Mumbai was 183 killed, but earlier disaster authorities said at least 195 people had been killed and 295 wounded.
'9/11 for India'
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the strain in relations with India was serious but he hoped the crisis could be defused.
Speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting in the capital Islamabad, he told reporters.
"Let us not fool ourselves, it is a serious situation when the people in India feel this is 9/11 for India. I think as a responsible elected government, we cannot be oblivious of the seriousness of the situation."
He pledged that intelligence officials would fully co-operate with the Indian investigation but added that the country's intelligence chief would not travel to India as earlier reported, something he called a "miscommunication".
A senior security official said Pakistan had now received preliminary evidence from India, the BBC's Barbara Plett reports from Islamabad.
But he warned that if India started to mobilise troops, Pakistan would respond in kind, even if that meant pulling soldiers away from fighting Islamist militants on the Afghan border.
He said the next 48 hours would be crucial in determining to what level tensions would escalate.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said earlier he believed that a group based outside India was behind the killings and senior Indian politicians have said the only surviving gunman to be captured is from Pakistan.
A claim of responsibility for this week's attacks was made by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen - a reference to a mainly Muslim region of India.
According to a statement leaked to Indian newspapers, the one alleged militant captured alive, named as Azam Amir Qasab, said the Mumbai militants had received training from an Islamist group once backed by Pakistani intelligence, Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Pakistan banned the group in 2002 at US insistence.



The newspaper said Mr Burrell was a 'self-confessed and notorious liar.'
The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has upheld a complaint against the News of the World over an article that Paul Burrell had sex with Princess Diana.
It ruled that a story "Burrell: I had sex with Diana" breached Clause 1 (accuracy) of its code.
The former royal butler denied boasting to his brother-in-law, Ron Cosgrove, in 1993, and said the article had "besmirched" his name.
Mr Burrell's denial of the claim should have been published, the PCC ruled.
In a statement, Mr Burrell said the "deeply offensive" article had tainted the memory of the princess.
"It suggested I crossed the line of decency, duty, professionalism and integrity whilst serving the princess," he said.
"I pride myself on 21 years of impeccable service in the Royal Household, and these allegations sought to stain that record with a falsehood."

The paper said Mr Burrell was not contacted beforehand in case he tried to block the story with an injunction.
Mr Cosgrove told a News of the World reporter that Mr Burrell confided the secret to him in a pub.
The newspaper subsequently published the front-page splash with the headline "Burrell: I had sex with Diana" on 15 June this year.
The PCC said it was not its role to find out if the conversation took place but if the newspaper "had taken care not to publish misleading information".
The commission said: "The claims about him were significant and substantial, and published with great prominence.
"The information came from the recollection of a 15-year-old conversation, and was not corroborated on the record by anyone outside Mr Cosgrove's immediate family.
"It was clear to the commission in these circumstances that there was a strong likelihood that the omission of any denial from Mr Burrell may have misled readers into believing that he accepted Mr Cosgrove's allegations."

The newspaper told the PCC that it had three sources for the story, a former associate of Burrell, Mr Cosgrove, and his son Stephen.
It also said that all three had signed affidavits supporting their comments.
The News of the World said as well as not making any attempts to contact Mr Burrell before publication, it chose not to publish his denial after the story appeared because, the newspaper said, he was a "self-confessed and notorious liar".
The paper said Mr Burrell had been labelled as such by the judge at the inquest of the princess earlier this year.
It also said Mr Burrell's denials were reported in other media.
But the PCC's ruling, which has also been published in the pages of the tabloid, stated that it "has never said that people have no right ever to comment on a story, or to be offered a right of reply, if they have misled people in another context".
It added that while there has "never been an absolute requirement for newspapers to contact those who are about to feature in articles", a failure to so "may constitute a lack of care" and in this case the paper had made the wrong decision.



10 things we didn't know last week

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

1. The 999 emergency number was chosen over 111 because telegraph wires rubbing together in the wind transmitted the equivalent of a 111 call.
More details

2. In space, an item as small as a toolbag can be seen from Earth.
More details

3. There are only eight mycologists in the UK.
More details

4. US intelligence kept a file on Tony Blair's personal life.
More details

5. Premium chocolate tasters don't swallow the goods.
More details

6. Police use curry to combat alleged drugs possession.
More details

7. A dog's mucus enhances its sense of smell.
More details (Daily Mail)

8. The speechwriting "tricolon technique" has been used by Julius Caesar and Barack Obama.
More details (Times)

9. A French cologne has a scent inspired by the smell of human sperm.

More details (Guardian)
10. Gordon Brown writes to X Factor contestants.
More details (Times)


Duncan Bartlett discovers how, when it comes to lavatories, Japan is a step ahead of the rest of the world.
No country takes toilets quite so seriously as Japan.
Machines with heated seats, built-in bidets and a dynamic range of flushing options are almost ubiquitous in homes and public buildings.
A poem recently published by a stressed-out salary man captured their comforting appeal with haiku-like brevity. "The only warmth in my life is the toilet seat," he mourned.
But lavatories here can do much more than keep you warm. One even sends a tiny electrical charge through the user's buttocks to check their body-fat ratio.
The master of the modern convenience is the Panasonic Corporation.
At its Tokyo showroom, located in a skyscraper near the BBC's office, a group of smart young women, dressed in uniforms resembling flight attendants, showed me the company's latest wares.
The lids lifted up when I approached. If I stood in front of one, it took a guess at my gender and lifted up the seat as well.
There was a loo that glowed in the dark and another that had built-in loudspeakers.
With manicured fingernails, the demonstrator pushed the control panel beside the seat and gentle light classical music began to play.
Pleasant enough, I thought, although I preferred a pastoral sound effect that provided the impression one was seated upon a white plastic throne surrounded by songbirds in a springtime meadow.

Japanese people do not see cleaning as a demeaning or shameful job. Kyoko Ishii, who heads up the public relations department for Panasonic, explained to me that most of the people who choose luxury loos are older women, so this is a booming market in rapidly ageing Japan.
Kyoko says that for this core customer group, the emphasis now is less on the gadgetry and more on convenience and cleanliness.
A new flush has been invented which does away with the need for a tank and saves dramatically on water.
The device costs about £1,950 ($3,000) including installation. But it is not easy to sell outside Japan as bathrooms in other countries are rarely fitted with the right mixture of sophisticated plumbing and electronics.
A visitor to Tokyo recently told me that he was surprised to find Japanese women rather than foreigners cleaning the toilets in his hotel.

Advertisements for toilets are screened on public transport. It is of course often immigrants who take on such jobs in rich countries. But foreign-born workers are rare here as only about 1.5% of the population are made up of non-native Japanese.
However, the low immigration level is only part of the explanation. Japanese people do not see cleaning as a demeaning or shameful job.
School children are trained from a young age to sweep their classrooms and scour the playground for litter.
Lorry drivers wash their trucks at the end of every day. No restaurant ever serves a meal without first offering the customer a cleansing towel.
Recently, I visited a small technology company in Osaka. The president, Mr Sugimoto, is trying to inspire his staff to work harder as recession takes hold.
The Japanese - like the British - do not seem to mind too much when comedians sink into vulgarity and joke about scatological matters He is noted for his drive and enthusiasm and that came across in a punchy presentation which he showed me on his laptop.
It included photographs of his staff on their knees scrubbing the urinals.
His point was that in preparation for a new project, the whole team had mucked in to clean up the workplace and this was clearly a source of pride to be included in the company's publicity.

But toilets can raise a smile, too. Television comedies sometimes include scenes of pranksters luring people into loos whose walls then collapse, and the embarrassment this causes the victim is a source of great hilarity.
The toilet then appeared to give a welcoming robotic smile and its seat began to glow an inviting orange colour as it heated up, ready for action The Japanese - like the British - do not seem to mind too much when comedians sink into vulgarity and joke about scatological matters.
But there is also a dark underground trade in DVDs filmed in ladies' toilets by hidden cameras, and only last week a man was arrested for placing "spycams" in the lavatories of a girls' school.
Most of the time, though, the Japanese are happy to think of a toilet as their comfort and their friend.
The other day, while catching a commuter train to work, I found myself transfixed by an advertisement which was being screened on a TV inside the carriage.
A young girl slowly walked towards a loo, which automatically raised its lid to greet her.
The toilet then appeared to give a welcoming robotic smile and its seat began to glow an inviting orange colour as it heated up, ready for action.
Fortunately, the advertisement ended there. But not before a broad and appreciative smile broke out across the face of the girl.


Saturday, November 29, 2008





By Megan Lane - BBC News Magazine

Mycologists are a rare breed, and scientists worry the UK will miss out lucrative fungus-based discoveries. Like what?
Mushroom risotto. And umbrellas for fairies. Obviously fry-ups, which go without saying. But apart from these, what have fungi ever given us?
All manner of discoveries, says Dr Peter Roberts, of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and one of eight mycologists left in the UK, such as:

1. Marmite. Ditto Vegemite and Cenovis, the Australian and Swiss versions. Love it or hate it, the dark salty spread so tasty on toast is a yeast extract, and yeast is a type of fungus.

2. Beer and bread too are made with yeast, and both are staples of the British diet. Beer is fermented with the fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast), or Saccharomyces carlsbergensis for lager-making, developed by Danish mycologist Emil Hansen. Wine, cider and perry traditionally use naturally-occurring yeasts for fermentation.

3. Quorn - the meat substitute - has perhaps less mainstream appeal but is popular with vegetarians who miss the mouth-feel of flesh. Sausages, mince and mock-chicken fillets are made from this vat-grown filamentous fungus. "A British success story," says Dr Roberts. Fearing a future shortage of protein-rich foods, scientists in the 1950s and 60s set about finding an alternative. After more than a decade of testing, Quorn products went on sale in 1985.

4. Orchids, like vegetarians, feed on fungi. The lush tropical blooms which bedeck boutique hotels and corporate suites are parasites of fungi, relying entirely on their fungal hosts for seed germination and subsequent growth.

5. And gourmands, too. Truffles. Mould-ripened cheeses such as camembert, brie and stilton. Mmmm. And soy sauce and miso paste are among the many fermented foodstuffs in Asian cooking.

6. Soil and compost are broken down and enriched thanks to fungi, which account for 90% of nutrient recycling in ecosystems. "They basically turn dead leaves and wood into soil," says Dr Roberts. Fungi breaks down cellulose, and are the only organisms that can rot lignin, the hard constituent of wood.

7. Statins, the money-spinning anti-cholesterol drugs, were originally derived from fungi, notably Monascus ruber and Penicillium citrinum.

8. Penicillin, the pharmaceutical that has saved countless lives, was originally derived from a fungus, Penicillium chrysogenum. Several other antibiotics are also fungal in origin.

9. LSD, a drug, but not for medicinal purposes, was originally isolated from Claviceps purpurea in the 1940s by Albert Hofmann, a chemist with a particular interest in hallucinogenic fungi. He was also the first to isolate psilocybin from magic mushrooms.

10. And finally, fungi have given us athlete's foot, thrush and ringworm - and our houses dry rot. Perhaps less to be thankful for in these cases.



One of the biggest frustrations facing journalists is being unable to get through to people on the phone. But as Mary Harper discovered, contacting the Somali pirates on the Sirius Star turned out to be child's play.

It was a cold, dark, wet and miserable Sunday afternoon. I was in my car, driving my 12-year-old daughter and her friend back from a birthday party. I was tired and fed up from being in the car.
"Mummy, mummy," trilled a voice from the back. "I want to phone the pirates."
My daughter had heard me repeatedly trying to get through to the Somali pirates on board the Sirius Star.
They usually picked up the phone but put it down again when I said I was from the BBC. My obsession with getting through to them had reached the point that I had even saved their number on my mobile phone.
"Mummy, mummy, please can I phone the pirates for you?"
By this time, with rain battering my windscreen and cars jamming the road, I was at the end of my tether.
"OK", I said, tossing the phone into the back of the car.
"They are under P for pirates."
"Hello. Please can I talk to the pirates," said my daughter in her obviously childish voice.
I could hear someone replying and a bizarre conversation ensued which eventually ended when my daughter collapsed in giggles.
This was a breakthrough. Dialogue had been established.
The next day, I went to the crowded office in Bush House in London where the BBC Somali Service is based. I told them the story.
"Let's try now," said producer Said Musa, who, dare I say it, looks a bit like a pirate himself. He has a wild look about him with flashing eyes and a swashbuckling saunter.
He dialled the number. A pirate answered. "I'm sorry," he barked in Somali, "the boss pirate is sleeping. He was very busy last night keeping watch for possible attackers, night time, you know, is the busiest time for us. Call back in two hours."
A pirate, who called himself Daybad, spoke in Somali, calmly and confidently. He said Somalis were left with no choice but to take to the high seas.
"We've had no government for 18 years. We have no life. Our last resource is the sea, and foreign trawlers are plundering our fish."
The pirate said the crew was being treated well.
"They can move from place to place. They can sleep in their own beds, they even have their own keys. The only thing they're missing is their freedom to leave the ship."

Suddenly I heard a voice speaking English.
"Hello. This is the captain of the Sirius Star speaking."
The captain, a Polish man called Marek Nishky, sounded surprisingly composed for a hostage.
He said he had no reason to complain, everybody was OK, and the pirates had allowed the crew to speak to their families.
As my questions became more challenging, he became more nervous. I could almost see the pirates standing around him. He said we would have to finish our conversation, and politely thanked me for my concern.
The phone line went dead. But we had it, recordings of the pirate and the captain, and the interviews were broadcast all over the BBC.
The Somali Service at Bush House is behind most of the stories you hear about Somalia on the BBC.
It consists of a tiny group of people, far away from home, from a country torn to shreds after nearly two decades without a functioning central government.
That means no proper hospitals, no schools and no safety. The gun means everything in Somalia.

The Somali Service enjoyed a real scoop with our interviews but who knows if it would have happened if my daughter had not persisted and pressed P for Pirates
One member of the team showed me photos of the concrete bench outside his house where his mother used to sit to make tea. It was splattered with blood.
The house had been hit by a shell the day after his family left for the relative safety of the north. Neighbours had been killed.
Who knows whether the property was targeted because of its BBC connection.
Despite their concerns about what may be happening back at home, the people in the Somali Service are the most hilarious, irreverent bunch of people in the building.
They smoke like chimneys, and laugh uproariously at the most unsuitable jokes.
They tease me mercilessly. I was worth dozens of camels when I first arrived at the BBC as a fresh-faced young woman, they say, while now I may only be worth one or two camels, or maybe just a half.
The Somali Service enjoyed a real scoop with our interviews.
But who knows if it would have happened if my daughter had not persisted and pressed P for Pirates?

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 29 November, 2008 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.



29th November 2008.

Dear Friends,

Not a week goes by in Zimbabwe without some so-called minister demonstrating to the country and the world how ridiculous and incompetent they are as they delve more and more into the world of make-believe. Anyone with half a brain can see that the stories they continue to tell the world to explain Zimbabwe's collapse are nothing more than downright fairy stories. And always there is the wicked ogre - the west and western sanctions in particular - to justify their every ludicrous claim that things are just fine in Zimbabwe. There is no crisis, it's all a western plot designed to undermine Robert Mugabe and give credence to the opposition. Never, will these tellers of tales admit that they themselves might be just a little responsible for the absolute breakdown of every aspect of life in Zimbabwe. Last week we had Gideon Gono, surely one of the chief story tellers, blaming the country's astronomical inflation rate on Zimbabweans themselves! It's all because they haven't worked hard enough on the farms they were given, they have not made sufficient use of all the benefits that were bestowed on them by a munificent Reserve Bank which had bankrolled the country's noble and patriotic land reform programme - at the behest of one Robert Mugabe, of course.

This week we had more fairy stories. It was those wicked sanctions that were the cause of the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, the Deputy Minister of Health Muguti claimed, "It is very regrettable that people are dying of cholera. Maybe the ones who created this situation have decided to kill us softly." Declaring that "The situation is under control", Muguti added with the usual absence of logic that we have come to expect from the regime that there was no need to declare the cholera outbreak as a national emergency - because it is under control. The very next day after this extraordinary statement Muguti contradicted himself by saying, " The outbreak will worsen with the rains." The fact that it has been raining for over a month seemed to have escaped his attention! Not once have the authorities admitted that it is ZINWA's failure to provide clean and safe water for the country that is the direct cause of the epidemic. Without forex they cannot buy the chemicals to purify the water and the only source of legal foreign exchange is the Reserve Bank headed by none other than Gideon Gono. Mugabe extended his term of office for another five years this week despite the Agreement signed by all three political parties that had clearly stipulated that no such appointments would be made without the agreement of all the signatories.It is Gideon Gono's refusal to increase the withdrawal rate that has made life such hell for people who spend their lives standing in line waiting to withdraw amounts so small that they will not even buy a quarter of a loaf of bread, let alone medicines. The ZCTU is right to point out that Gideon Gono's failure to increase the amount people can withdraw may well account for the huge number of deaths from an entirely preventable disease. 'Killing them softly' as Muguti described the actions of the imagined enemy is perhaps a more apt way to describe what Mugabe and his cronies are doing to their own people. As Eddy Cross pointed out this week, Didymus Mutasa's words some years ago about having a population of only six million are fast becoming a reality. Mutasa had said it would be preferable to have a reduced population if they all supported the liberation struggle, ie Zanu PF.

The combination of lies and downright stupidity reached a crescendo with the refusal to let the Elders into the country to see for themselves the humanitarian situation. By refusing them entry the Zanu PF regime demonstrated to the whole world their arrogant contempt for any opinion other than their own. That action more than any other showed the world that Mugabe will bow to no one; he really believes that he can take on the whole world and win. A certain Adolf Hitler had the same belief. Did not Mugabe say that if his enemies compared him to Hitler that did not bother him one bit? Surrounded as he is by clownish, incompetent and unelected ministers who faithfully echo his every wish it is not surprising that he now believes himself to be invincible. SADC's cowardly failure to bring him to book have merely supported him in this view. We have only to look at how the government-controlled media covered the disgraceful refusal to admit the Elders to understand the extremes they will go to defend Mugabe's stance. Personal abuse and downright lies about the Elders may have satisfied Mugabe's ego but they did nothing to ease the suffering of the people or bring a solution to Zimbabwe's problems any nearer.

If the reports coming in that the MDC have officially pulled out of the talks are true then I for one applaud their decision. Today the UK Daily Telegraph reveals that buried deep in Zanu PF's version of the Constitutional Amendment, Mugabe as President reserves the right to abandon the Inter-party Agreement if 'for any reason' he sees fit. Such a presidential decree would immediately nullify the Agreement and leave Prime Minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai out of office. Despite all the suffering the people have endured, I do not believe that is what they wanted when they voted for the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai on March 29th.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH


Friday, November 28, 2008


A court in Iran has ruled that a man who blinded a woman with acid after she spurned his marriage proposals will also be blinded with acid.
The ruling was reported in Iranian newspapers on Thursday.
The punishment is legal under the Islamic Sharia code of qias or equivalence, which allows retribution for violent crimes.
The court also ordered the attacker, 27-year-old Majid Movahedi, to pay compensation to the victim.
The acid attack took place in 2004. The victim, Ameneh Bahrami, went to Spain for surgery to reconstruct her face but efforts to restore her sight failed.
The ruling was a response to her plea to the court in the Iranian capital Tehran for retribution.
"Ever since I was subject to acid being thrown on my face, I have a constant feeling of being in danger," she told the court.
Ms Bahrami also said that Movahedi had also threatened to kill her.



Taxi drivers have gone on strike in the southern city of Chaozhou, the latest in a wave of protests across China.
Drivers say they are angry that nothing has been done about unlicensed cabs operating in their city.
The industrial action follows strikes in other cities that turned violent before officials bowed to irate drivers' demands.
Earlier this week, about 100 drivers threw bricks at unlicensed taxis in the province capital Guangzhou.
Drivers elsewhere in China have taken similar action this month, damaging at least 20 vehicles, including three police cars, in Chongqing and attacking 15 cars in Sanya.
In each case, the complaints were the same - unlicensed competition, high fuel prices and rising rental fees at a time when the economy is slowing.

The mayor of Chongqing, China's fourth largest city, has taken the unusual step of allowing live television coverage of his negotiations with the strikers.
The BBC's Chris Hogg in Shanghai says the protests have so far been low level instances of social unrest, but it appears that concessions won by the drivers in Chongqing earlier this month have emboldened those in other cities.
The proliferation of mobile phones and the internet has meant that information about protests can spread much faster than in the past and protests are easier to organise, says our correspondent.
China's leaders have said the prospect of increased social unrest is their "top concern" as the economy slows.



An American woman who was recognised as the world's oldest person for a year has died at the age of 115.
Edna Parker died at a nursing home in Indiana, her family said.
Mrs Parker had been a widow since 1939 and had lived alone in her farmhouse until she was 100. She outlived her two sons, and had 31 other descendants.
With Mrs Parker's death, Maria de Jesus of Portugal, born in 1893, is the world's oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Stephen Coles, who maintains the centre's list of centenarians, said Mrs Parker's great-nephew told him she died on Wednesday.
She did not drink alcohol or smoke, and led an active life.
Mrs Parker, a teacher before she became a farmer's wife in 1913, advised people to get "more education," the Associated Press news agency reported.



By Iain Mackenzie - Newsbeat US reporter.

An American woman, accused of driving a teenage girl to suicide by bullying her on MySpace, has been cleared of one of the most serious charges against her.
Lori Drew, 49, was found not guilty of accessing a computer without authorisation to inflict emotional distress.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on another conspiracy charge.
She was convicted on three minor counts of violating the website's terms and conditions.
Drew, from Missouri, was accused of posing as a boy on MySpace to befriend 13-year-old Megan Meier, who hanged herself after their virtual relationship ended.
The court in Los Angeles heard that Lori Drew was aware Megan suffered from depression and was emotionally fragile.
Drew was charged with violating MySpace's terms of use, which ban users from assuming false identities and harassing other members.
The case is the first in the US relating to cyber-bullying.
Lori Drew could receive up to three years in prison when she is sentenced.
She would have faced a maximum 20 years if convicted of the more serious felony charges.



UK officials have confirmed they are investigating reports of Britons being among those who carried out the attacks in Mumbai.
It follows a report on Indian news channel NDTV that there were British citizens among the militants.
British security sources have told the BBC they are asking their Indian counterparts for information.
But Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was "too early to say" whether any of those involved were British.

According to UK officials, no hard evidence of British nationals being among the attackers had yet been provided by Indian authorities, BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said.
Mr Miliband said: "I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about the names or origins or sources of this attack at this stage.
"Obviously the Indian authorities are focusing on ending the incident before they are focusing on where it came from.
"I think it's right to say that at least one of the perpetrators is still alive and is being questioned by the Indian authorities, and obviously we'd want to follow that up as well.
"But it's too early to say where the people came from," he added.
One British national, Andreas Liveras, died and at least seven Britons were hurt in the attacks on the Indian city, which left at least 130 people dead.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it was too soon to say whether Britons were involved, and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said British authorities had "no knowledge" of any home-grown links.
The Foreign Office has issued an emergency number for people with relatives in Mumbai:
0207 008 0000.



Zimbabwe's political parties have agreed on constitutional changes central to a power-sharing deal, an opposition spokesman has said.
But Nelson Chamisa said that other issues remained outstanding before a unity government could be formed.
The changes agreed in South Africa pave the way for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to become prime minister - as outlined in a September deal.
The rivals have still not agreed on the allocation of cabinet posts.
President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to share power after disputed election to try to rescue the economy.

Mr Chamisa stressed that the agreement on the draft constitutional bill was one of just five outstanding issues.
Asked how he thought the talks were going, he told the BBC:
"If you're optimistic, the glass is half-full, if you're pessimistic, it is half-empty."
He said the talks had now ended in South Africa and the delegates would return to Zimbabwe for consultations with their respective party leaders.
Mr Tsvangirai has accused Mr Mugabe of going back on the spirit of the power-sharing agreement by trying to keep control of all the major cabinet posts.
Mr Mugabe has threatened to name a government on his own if the MDC refuses to join a unity administration.
Southern African leaders have urged the MDC to accept an offer to share the ministry of home affairs which controls the police.
But Mr Tsvangirai refuses, pointing out that Mr Mugabe wants defence and state security.
Zimbabwe's economy is in meltdown, while the country is being ravaged by cholera, which has killed at least 360 people.
The health and education sectors are reported to be on the verge of collapse.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


A 28-year-old Zimbabwean medical student speaks to the BBC about the cholera outbreak that has killed more than 360 people in the country since August
He describes his visit to two areas in and around the capital, Harare, that have been worst affected by the crisis.
I just came back from Budiriro suburb and the city of Chitungwiza near Harare, and the situation there is really desperate and critical.
At a clinic in Budiriro they were trying to treat hundreds of people.
There were so many that they had to lie them down outside.
While I was there perhaps 150 more people arrived looking for treatment.
The people arriving look extremely weak and dehydrated.
They could barely stand, and many came being wheeled in wheelbarrows.
They had to string up washing lines outside the clinic to hang the packets of intravenous fluid.
They lay on the floor while the tubes were inserted into their arms.
But these people were lucky.
Health workers at the clinic told me that until the day before they had no intravenous fluid.
The clinic had a delivery from an aid agency that day.
I don't know how long their supplies will last.
In Chitungwiza we saw that sewer pipes had burst, releasing sewage into the street.
Sanitation systems have broken down, so wells are being dug to find water
It was like a river flowing through the town, it just went on and on.
The stink was like a disgusting toilet.
I worry especially for the children, they're most at risk because they play in the street with all the sewage, and don't know how bad it is for them.
The cause of these bursting pipes is the lack of maintenance and repairs.
As time has gone on the people who were meant to be doing this have not been paid, or have deserted their jobs to do other work that can get them foreign currency.
And so the sanitation system has broken down.
In Harare itself people have avoided the disease, so far.
In other part of Harare the sanitation systems are still working, for the time being, but it's a very communicable disease and it is spreading quickly.
Doctors and nurses I speak to say they feel like they are being held to ransom by the government.
They're not being paid, they must work voluntarily to deal with this disease.
They are really very disgruntled.
They say they are just a few people holding back a tide of disease.
If we don't get some help soon it's going to be very tough.



Dwight D Eisenhower



Police have confirmed that one of China's richest men, Huang Guangyu, is being held in custody while they investigate him for "economic crimes".
Mr Huang went missing last week and shares in his company Gome have been suspended from trading.
Officials gave no further details, but Chinese media point to alleged irregularities in the share price of a company controlled by his brother.
The billionaire electrical appliance tycoon is worth some $6bn (£4bn).
"We can confirm for you the news that Wong is being held for investigation by Beijing police in connection with economic crimes," a police spokesman said, referring to Mr Huang by his other name Wong Kwong-yu.
It was the first official confirmation of widespread reports that the founder and chairman of Gome Electrical Appliances Holdings - which sells one in six of the electronic products bought in China - is being questioned for alleged share trading violations or other crimes.
Correspondents say the 39-year-old entrepreneur is something of a legendary figure, a living example of a rise from rags to riches.

Mystery of China's missing tycoon

The delay in official confirmation of Mr Huang's detention prompted a rare rebuke in a commentary carried on Xinhua, the official news agency.
The agency complained that in the face of many rumours, media questions had gone answered, prompting people to feel "lost".
The BBC's Chris Hogg says some in China see the investigation as an indication the authorities need to remind the country's tycoons who is really in charge, despite the former leader Deng Xiaoping's claim that to get rich is glorious.
The company says its operations are not affected by Mr Huang's situation, but has refused further comment.


Hello, I'm a management consultant !

By Laurie Taylor

Is a gig talking to blue-chip companies about the "challenge of change", strategic objectives and empowering workers a licence to print money?
Whenever I parked my beaten-up mini van in the staff car park at the University of York I used to glance enviously across at the very much grander gleaming car which occupied the opposite space. How could anyone on academic pay possibly afford such a luxurious monster?
A colleague explained that it belonged to a member of the economics department who earned a great deal of extra money from consultancy work for major blue-chip companies. And why had no-one ever asked me to provide similar services?
"Frankly," said my colleague, "No respectable businessman would be seen dead asking for advice from a sociologist.
"But," he added helpfully, "You could always write to a few companies and mention your availability."
I did just that. And then sat back and waited. No-one replied.
I tried again. And this time there was a bite. A major computer company asked me to go and talk to them about what I could offer. Would £500 a day for such an initial meeting be satisfactory?
When I turned up for my first day's work I was introduced to the CEO, who explained over coffee in the boardroom that he was anxious for his senior team "to be up to speed" with the latest developments in management theory.
"Does that fall into your area of expertise?""Oh yes," I said, praying he didn't ask me any questions at all about an area of knowledge which was about as familiar to me as quantum mechanics or medieval history.

There was more. My new power-suited friend told me that once I'd briefed his top team I could then go on to address several hundred other employees at the High Achievers conference to be held in two months time in the Prince Rainier auditorium in Monte Carlo.
As I left his office I could almost see a cartoon bubble stuffed with five pound notes sprouting from my forehead. All that could be mine if only I could master management theory in the following few weeks.
At least £200 of my first day's consultancy fee went on management textbooks. One or two made some sense but most were full of flatulent jargon about targets, goals and strategic objectives.
Management theorists seemed particularly fond of interlocking boxes connected by two and three way arrows. Nearly all subscribed to the idea that companies could be made more profitable, provided they had rational well-organised management which could motivate and empower the workforce.
Somehow or other I wove these dubious insights together and drew up an outline for my Monte Carlo speech. It was an uneasy mixture of jargon, platitude and downright nonsense, but I was encouraged by the way in which the senior executives I'd tried it on in advance seemed to feel it hit the spot. They had, at least, nodded encouragingly.
When the great day came, I was rather flattered by the reception I received from the packed auditorium. My two jokes went down well and my rousing final paragraph about the challenge of change had one man in the second row rising to his feet with what I presumed to be enthusiasm.
Bonding moment
Afterwards in the conference bar I allowed myself to bask in the after-glow. But only one delegate came over to talk; a rather slovenly man who'd clearly overlooked the conference instruction to dress smart/casual.
"Very good," he said with an evident lack of enthusiasm. "You enjoyed it?""It served its function." "How do you mean - its function?" "Well," said my untidy new friend, "We always like to have a really dud speaker like you early on in the conference. It raises our solidarity. After the talk we can all roll out to the bar, put our arms around people we don't really like from departments we can't stand, and all jump up and down together shouting 'Wasn't he bloody awful'. There's nothing like a disaster for bringing people together."
I slunk away from Monte Carlo and abandoned my consultancy work for ever. My fraudulent attempts to promote a rational account of how organisations might improve and prosper had been effectively blown apart by one solid blast of realism. What brought people together in this organisation was clearly not a recognition of its strategic goals, but a mass subversion of the person who'd been employed to articulate them.
Michael Thompson, the author of Organising and Disorganising, demonstrates the absurdity of organisations entertaining single management goals, and positively celebrates the value of subversion. If only I had read him much earlier.



Indian security forces have been exchanging fire with gunmen holding dozens of hostages in two luxury hotels in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay).
Troops surrounded the premises shortly after armed men carried out a series of co-ordinated attacks across the city, killing 101 people and injuring 287.
The hotels were among several locations in the main tourist and business district targeted late on Wednesday.
Police say four suspected terrorists have been killed and nine arrested.
The situation is still volatile in two of the most high-profile targets of Wednesday's attacks - the Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi Trident hotels, where armed men are believed to be holding about 40 hostages.
There are reports of intermittent exchange of fire between security forces and the armed attackers barricaded inside both hotels.
Correspondents say security personnel have so far not stormed the premises perhaps for fear of endangering the lives of hostages, some of whom could be Westerners.

Attacks leave India reeling
Witnesses tell of violence
In pictures: Mumbai attacks
Are you in the area?

Police say the dead include six foreigners, 14 police officers and 81 Indian nationals.
Eyewitness reports suggest the attackers singled out British and American passport holders.
If the reports are true, our security correspondent Frank Gardner says it implies an Islamist motive - attacks inspired or co-ordinated by al-Qaeda.
A claim of responsibility has been made by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen.
Our correspondent says it could be a hoax or assumed name for another group.

In other developments:
• Fire crews evacuated people from the upper floors of the Taj Mahal Palace, where a grenade attack caused a blaze
• Israel says it is concerned for the safety of its citizens in Mumbai, as a rabbi and his family are feared captured by gunmen
• The head of Mumbai's anti-terrorism unit and two other senior officers are among those killed, officials say
• The White House held a meeting of top intelligence and counter-terrorism officials, and pledges to help the Indian government
• India's Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange markets are closed, as the authorities urge local people to stay at home
• There are unconfirmed reports that five gunmen have taken hostages in an office block in the financial district of Mumbai.

See detailed map of the area
Gunmen opened fire at about 2300 local time (1730 GMT) on Wednesday at the sites in southern Mumbai.
"The terrorists have used automatic weapons and in some places grenades have been lobbed," said AN Roy, police commissioner of Maharashtra state.
The city's main commuter train station, a hospital, and a restaurant popular with tourists were among at least seven locations caught up in the violence.
Local TV images showed blood-splattered streets, and bodies being taken into ambulances.
One eyewitness told the BBC he had seen a gunman opening fire in the Taj Mahal's lobby.

30 October: Explosions kill at least 64 in north-eastern Assam
30 September: Blasts in western India kill at least seven
27 September: Bomb blasts kills one in Delhi
13 September: Five bomb blasts kill 18 in Delhi
26 July: At least 22 small bombs kill 49 in Ahmedabad
25 July: Seven bombs go off in Bangalore killing two people
13 May: Seven bomb hit markets and crowded streets in Jaipur killing 63

International reaction
"We all moved through the lobby in the opposite direction and another gunman then appeared towards where we were moving and he started firing immediately in our direction."
One British tourist said she spent six hours barricaded in the Oberoi hotel.
"There were about 20 or 30 people in each room. The doors were locked very quickly, the lights turned off, and everybody just lay very still on the floor," she said.
There has been a wave of bombings in Indian cities in recent months which has left scores of people dead.
Most of the attacks have been blamed on Muslim militants, although police have also arrested suspected Hindu extremists.
The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava says the timing and symbolism of the latest attacks could not have been worse.
By choosing to target the richest district of India's financial capital in such a brazen and effective manner, he says those behind the attacks have perhaps dealt the severest blow to date to the morale and self esteem of the Indian authorities.
The attacks have come amidst elections in several Indian states and exposes the governing coalition to the charge that it has failed to combat terror, our correspondent says.

Return to top


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


South Korean prosecutors have demanded an 18-month jail term for a popular actress who admitted breaking the country's strict laws on adultery.
Ok So-ri had sought to overturn the 50-year old legislation, which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years.
She said it was an infringement of human rights and amounted to revenge.
But in October the constitutional court ruled for the fourth time that adultery must remain a crime, saying it was damaging to social order.
Ms Ok has admitted having an affair with a well-known pop singer and her husband, Park Chul, is said to be seeking "a severe sentence".

She blamed her infidelity on a loveless marriage to Mr Park, also an actor, and launched a legal challenge against the adultery law itself.
But the court ruled that the adultery law did not violate the right to "sexual self-determination and privacy" and that the available punishment was appropriate.
"Society still recognises that adultery damages social order," said the court.
"The punishment of a two-year jail term is not excessive when comparing it to responsibility."
Ms Ok's lawyers have said the legislation "has degenerated into a means of revenge by the spouse, rather than a means of saving a marriage".
The Korean Times says that in the past three years about 1,200 people have been indicted annually for adultery, but very few have been jailed.
The case has created a sensation in South Korea, say correspondents, where many have denounced what they see as an archaic law.



A gun disguised as a mobile phone has been discovered by police in Italy.
The .22 calibre weapon was found during an early morning raid on a property near Naples.
Officers also seized bullet proof vests, drugs, ammunition and thousands of pounds in cash.
It was all part of an operation against the Camorra, the Naples-based mafia.
Fully loaded, the gun's capable of firing four shots in quick succession through the antenna using buttons on the keypad as the trigger.
One man was arrested by detectives but others are thought to have escaped.



Zimbabwe has rejected calls for it to declare a state of emergency over a cholera outbreak which has killed more than 360 people since August.
The deputy health minister said the outbreak was under control and blamed the situation on Western sanctions against President Robert Mugabe.
South Africa's health minister said it was "dire" and promised not to block ill Zimbabweans entering the country.
Aid agencies have warned that the death toll could rise with the rainy season.
South African health minister Barbara Hogan said Zimbabweans were neighbours and South Africa would assist them in every way.
She said the Zimbabwean assertion that the outbreak was under control did not reflect the whole country's opinion, particularly as there was no recognised government there.

Her comments came as South African health officials work to stop the outbreak spreading across the border after three deaths in the border town of Musina.
The BBC's southern Africa correspondent, Peter Biles, says reports from across the border in Beitbridge suggest that the Zimbabwean authorities do not have the resources to deal with the situation.
With Zimbabwe's rival parties meeting in South Africa for talks aimed at ending deadlock over a power-sharing deal, Botswana's foreign minister told the BBC that borders with Zimbabwe should be closed to push Mr Mugabe from power.
Earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Zimbabwe could not afford to fail in negotiating a power-sharing deal if the country was to improve its humanitarian situation.
Mr Ban said President Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change needed a workable agreement soon, so they could tackle "formidable challenges" ahead.
The number of people being infected with cholera is rising and nearly 9,000 cases have now been confirmed, the United Nations says.

Aid agency Oxfam earlier called on Zimbabwe's government to declare a national health emergency.
It said ordinary Zimbabweans were desperately short of food, health care, clean water and safe sanitation, and the crisis is set to worsen significantly in December.
The economy is in free fall, with inflation last listed in July at 231,000,000%.
"The situation is under control, there is no need to declare it [an emergency]," Zimbabwean Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti told AFP news agency on Wednesday.
"These are results of punitive illegal sanctions imposed on us by the West... I am sure they like what they are seeing from this outbreak."
Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights believes many people are dying at home where they are not being treated.
The organisation's Dr Douglas Gwadziro said the disease might also start to spread more rapidly now that the rainy season had begun.
There was, he added, a need to deal with the sanitation problems in the urban areas such as the capital, Harare.
Botswana's Foreign Minister, Phando Skelemani, told the BBC's HardTalk programme that the region needed to accept that the mediation in Zimbabwe's political crisis had failed.
"The rest of us should own up and say 'Yes, we have failed'. Call upon the international community and tell Mugabe to his face, 'Look, now you are on your own, we are switching off, we are closing your borders', and I don't think he would last," he said.
"If no petrol went in for a week, he can't last."
In another development, Zimbabwean Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono was reappointed for another five years, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, the US government has blacklisted and frozen the assets of four people it says are allies of Mr Mugabe:

John Bredenkamp, a Zimbabwean businessman
Muller Conrad "Billy" Rautenbach, a Zimbabwean businessman
Mahmood Awang Kechik, a Malaysian urologist
Nalinee Joy Taveesin, a Thai businesswoman.

"The financial and logistical support they have provided to the regime has enabled Robert Mugabe to pursue policies that seriously undermine democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe," the government statement said.



By Kevin Connolly - BBC News, Houston.

In a quiet side street not far from where the Texas freeway system knits the sprawling suburbs of Houston into something like a city centre, business is booming at the Top Gun shooting range.
Recession is not biting here in the oil-rich Energy Capital of the World as it is in the rest of the United States - but that is not the only reason why it is difficult to find a parking space outside Top Gun towards the end of the working day.
America's gun owners are worried that the incoming Obama administration, which is coming to power offering hope and change, is going to mean something rather different for them - restriction and regulation.
So they are rushing to buy certain types of weapons in the dying weeks of the Bush years.
Sales of military-style assault weapons (like the Russian-designed AK-47) which are considered the likeliest targets for future curbs have increased by 50% in some areas.

Inside Top Gun I met Jessica who was completing the 10-hour, $148 course which would allow her to carry a concealed firearm in Texas.
Jessica is a single mum who had been putting off doing the course and had now finally decided to complete it before any further restrictions were placed in her way.
She was clear about why she was doing it.
"Being a single mum, I can't imagine not having a gun for home protection because that makes me a more confident parent, knowing that if someone intrudes into my home I know exactly what to do and my son knows what I'm going to do. I'm going to shoot to kill."
It is not quite what Mr Obama meant by change, or indeed economic stimulus from the extra sales of weapons and courses, but it is one of the more revealing responses to his victory which the last few weeks have brought. It is a reminder that Barack Obama's win was not just a victory of optimism and energy over age and staleness, it was also a victory across a cultural divide, of one sort of America over another.
A gun-lovin', largely rural and conservative vision of the US was clearly defeated by a brand of big city liberalism which fears or despises firearms and wants to do something about America's love affair with them.
The American right to bear arms is firmly enshrined in the second amendment of the constitution so there is a limit to what even a Democratic president supported by majorities in both the House and the Senate could do it about, even if he were minded to.
Any legislation would really tinker around the edges of the right, restricting the purchase of certain types of assault weapon, and certain sizes of ammunition cartridge.
And Mr Obama, although he did not talk much about gun control, did try to re-assure the gun community in a speech in October that he was not going to take their shotguns, rifles or handguns.
He's done everything in his power to restrict those privileges that we have
Jeff Trometer on Mr ObamaThe gun lobby, though, prefers to remember the "Bittergate" episode when Mr Obama was secretly recorded at an off-the-record fundraiser talking about how in certain areas Americans clung to their guns and their religion out of bitterness at how the country was changing around them.
The gun lobby sees that as representing Mr Obama's true thoughts and intentions and is on its guard.
Jeff Trometer, one of the staff at Top Gun, is deeply suspicious of the new president, claiming: "He does not like guns, he does not like gun owners and he's done everything in his power to restrict those privileges that we have."
Top Gun is the kind of business that simply could not exist in Europe - the staff wear holstered handguns both in the shop and on the shooting range.

A souvenir T-shirt carries a kind of spoof of a multiple-choice government form with two boxes marked Gun Owner and Gun Victim - underneath, it says, "Choose One".
No area of American daily life makes this country feel more foreign to Europeans - business is brisk at the range and plenty of doctors, lawyers and office workers stop off on the way home from work to sharpen their skills and to relieve a little stress.
European tourists often come too, lured by the chance to fire a machine-gun or a pistol under strict supervision.
But, while many Americans would strongly disagree, gun enthusiasts see this as a struggle not about the right to target-shooting or even hunting in the wild but a dispute in which something much more profound is at stake.
They believe the constitutional guarantee of the people's right to bear arms means that the balance of power between the government and the governed is different in America from anywhere else in the developed world.
Mr Trometer put it like this: "If you start tearing at our fundamental freedoms and you take this right away and then maybe someone else comes along and says, 'You really don't have the right to speak your mind'.
"All of a sudden this framework of rights as a citizen of this country ... there's nothing left."
The Obama administration, its hands full with recession and global financial crisis, has given no indication that it intends to take on the gun lobby. If it does eventually decide to confront the issue then there is no doubt it will find the gun owners of America ready, as always, for a fight.



Analysis: By John Pienaar Political correspondent, BBC News

Close your eyes and superimpose a huge, scraggly beard on the face of Mervyn King. Ruffle his hair a bit.
The governor of the Bank of England still doesn't look much like Karl Marx, does he?
Now remove the exquisitely tailored suit, and imagine him in a donkey jacket. Michael Foot he isn't. Or, for that matter, anyone but the cautious, conservative, pillar of the British financial establishment that he is.
Yet there he was, calmly contemplating the nationalisation of British high street banks. Not just public ownership or partial ownership of banks, but control.
No-one has seriously dreamt of such a thing since Labour's 1983 manifesto. Remember? They called it the "longest suicide note in political history".
At any normal time, it would have been a mind-boggling suggestion. But these times are far from being normal.
As it was, it was merely surprising.
Having listened to the latest session of the cross-party Treasury Select Committee, it is a little hard, surely, to accept that the pre-Budget report amounts to the "death of New Labour".
Is this really the return of old-style, redistributionist thinking to the party of Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson (now, apparently, as close as ever they were in the salad days of the New Labour project)?
Cabinet ministers seem to laugh off the idea that Labour has returned to its rather withered, socialist roots.
Governor warns banks on lending
The present economic emergency has turned all conventional political thinking on its head.
Unconstrained borrowing is prudent. A spending spree is responsible, even selfless.
And public ownership of a high street bank may be no more than reminding the board to do its duty in our free market, capitalist system.
These are, as the chancellor said on Monday, "extraordinary times".
In any case, as one cabinet minister put it to me: "We've always been redistributionist. Look at tax credits."
A Downing Street adviser added: " New Labour has always been about adapting to changing circumstances. That's what we are doing now."
True. The "R" word was always banned and come to think of it, still is.
Euphemisms such as "social justice" are preferred. That and the need to pour cash into the pockets of those thought most likely to spend it.
Labour has, nonetheless, returned to a place traditionalist Labour MPs find wonderfully comfortable.

The proposal for a new top rate of tax on those earning over £150,000 a year is thought likely, by those MPs, to appeal to the British sense of fair-play.
In the meantime, they love the idea to bits. Cabinet ministers seem to laugh off the idea that Labour has returned to its rather withered, socialist roots.
Perhaps they are simply laughing with joy at the sudden influx of cash into their departmental coffers.
As for the Tories, they seem ideologically comfortable with their return to the principles of fiscal Conservatism.
But they are privately admitting to the discomfort of watching Gordon Brown's hyperactivity from the enforced idleness of opposition, while waiting for an instinctive dislike of deep debt, and a yearning for tax cuts in the distant future, to buoy up their position in the opinion polls.
As one senior member of the shadow cabinet put it: "Remember. Bill Clinton won an election on the issue of the national debt."
Maybe so. But Barack Obama won one on the issue of taxing the rich, and borrowing billions to spend refloating the economy.
This argument has a long, hard distance to run. It won't be easy for any of them. On both sides, they understand that perfectly well.






In pictures: Bangkok clashes
Q&A: Bangkok protests
Flights from Thailand's international airport have been suspended after hundreds of anti-government protesters stormed the building in Bangkok.
The demonstrators are in full control of Suvarnabhumi airport, leaving at least 3,000 passengers stranded.
A BBC correspondent says it is the most dramatic action so far by the protesters to oust the government.
The government is to hold an emergency cabinet meeting, and the head of the army is due to make a statement.
There is speculation that the army chief may impose emergency rule.
Yellow-shirted protestors from the the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have taken over strategic areas of the airport, such as the control tower.

They had hoped to intercept Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat as he returned from an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru, but his flight has been diverted elsewhere.
Now the PAD says it will keep the airport closed until Mr Somchai resigns.
A series of small explosions among the PAD protestors on Wednesday morning injured several people, underlining the risk of more violent clashes with pro-government groups, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Hundreds of masked demonstrators, carrying huge Thai flags and makeshift weapons, stormed through police lines around the building on Tuesday.
Airport director Serirat Prasutanon said operations had been "totally shut down" since early on Wednesday, and that 78 outbound and incoming flights had been affected.
"We are trying to negotiate with them to allow outgoing passengers stranded by the protest to fly," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
"The incident has damaged Thailand's reputation and its economy beyond repair."
One stranded tourist told the BBC: "I don't know what happened to my flight. They won't talk to us. I'm angry and sad, because I have two small children - they're sick, so we want to go home."
Some British holidaymakers are among those stranded in "no-man's land" at the airport, said a spokesman for the UK Foreign Office.
Having passed through immigration control, they are now stuck without planes to board.
Earlier, demonstrations in central Bangkok turned violent, leaving at least 11 people injured.
Thai TPBS television broadcast pictures of the violence on the main road to the capital's old airport. The footage showed shots being fired from a truck into crowds after rocks were thrown.
At least two handguns could be seen and people standing with the gunmen raised up a picture of the revered Thai king, whom the PAD claim to be supporting.
A man was also seized by anti-government supporters and what appeared to be a large knife was held to his throat.
TPBS said its cameraman had been threatened at the scene and that PAD personnel attempted to seize his tape.
On Monday, PAD protesters converged on Bangkok's old Don Muang international airport, from where the cabinet has been operating since its offices were occupied three months ago.
Organisers say the protest is a "final battle" to bring down the government.
Our correspondent says that the government appears to have followed a strategy of allowing the PAD to attack government buildings while avoiding clashes, in the hope that it will wear the protesters down.
The government has so far resisted calling in the army. Analysts says it is a thinly disguised aim of the PAD to provoke such a move.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said Zimbabwe cannot afford to fail in negotiating a power-sharing deal if the country is to improve its humanitarian situation.
Mr Ban said President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC needed a workable agreement soon, so they could tackle "formidable challenges" ahead.
Representatives of the parties are said to have resumed talks in South Africa.
Mr Ban also said he was concerned by a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, which the UN says caused 53 deaths on Monday.
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said the fatalities brought the total since August to 366. The number of recorded cases increased by 1,604 in the past day to 8,887.
Ocha said most of the deaths were reported in the town of Beitbridge, which is located close to the border with South Africa.
It said the news, along with reports of several suspected cases in Botswana, meant the outbreak was taking on a "regional dimension".
Earlier, the mayor of the nearby South African town of Musina expressed fears about a possible cholera epidemic as infected refugees arrived from Zimbabwe.

In a statement issued ahead of the resumption of power-sharing talks on Tuesday, the UN secretary general said he was "alarmed that the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is now desperate and will worsen in the coming months".
The secretary-general urges all parties to support and provide humanitarian assistance leaving political considerations aside
UN statementMr Ban said he was deeply concerned that nearly half of the country's population of 12 million people could require food assistance and that many people were reportedly cutting back on their daily meals.
He added that he was distressed by the "collapse of health, sanitation and education services, and the consequent rapidly escalating cholera outbreak".
"The secretary general calls on the Zimbabwean parties meeting in South Africa today to rapidly reach an agreement on the formation of a new government," the statement said.
"The people of Zimbabwe cannot afford another failure by their political leadership to reach a fair and workable agreement that would allow Zimbabwe to tackle the formidable challenges ahead."

Three members of the Elders group were refused entry to ZimbabweMr Ban also said he regretted the Zimbabwean government's decision to refuse visas to the group of world leaders known as the Elders, and not to co-operate with their "timely, well-intended effort to assist the people of Zimbabwe".
He said he hoped another mission could take place in the near future, given the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country.
One of the Elders, former US President Jimmy Carter, said on Monday that the situation was "much greater, much worse than anything we had ever imagined".
Mr Carter described the government in Harare as unwilling to communicate and said President Mugabe did not want to admit that there was a crisis, preferring instead to blame problems on what he called "non-existent sanctions".

On Tuesday, representatives of the Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) resumed negotiations on a national unity government at an undisclosed location in South Africa, the Sapa news agency reported.
Former South African leader Thabo Mbeki is hosting the talks, during which the two rivals will attempt to agree on the distribution of key ministries.
In recent days, South Africa - the dominant power in the region - has increased pressure on the two sides to reach an agreement. Last week, it said it would withhold $28 million (£18m) of aid until a representative government was formed.
On Monday, ANC leader Jacob Zuma called on the two sides to implement the power-sharing deal "for the sake of Zimbabweans".
But the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says there is no great optimism that a new coalition government is about to be named.
President Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to form a power-sharing government in September in the wake of disputed presidential elections.
Officials say Tuesday's meeting will focus on finalising a draft constitutional amendment which would enable Mr Tsvangirai to be sworn in as prime minister.
However, the two sides have still not agreed on who will control the ministry of home affairs, which has responsibility for the police.
The MDC has said it wants to discuss a "basket of issues".
"We have quite a mammoth task, particularly considering the insincerity, the inflexibility and the arrogance on the part of Zanu-PF," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told the BBC.



By Kieran Fox - BBC News.

Deep in the West Bengal region of India, Red Cross volunteer Bharati Dass thought she had met the "jolly man" of her dreams.
She was so convinced that Mike Dennis - a fellow Red Cross volunteer - was the man for her that she agreed to run away with him.
And just three months after they met, the couple married in secret.
"I wanted to marry him because he had a very jolly personality and by seeing that kind of personality I liked him," she said.
"He was just as good with young children as he was with adults. He was happy with everyone on the [vaccination] camps."
But little did Ms Dass realise that Mike Dennis was hiding a dark secret.
Her new husband was actually Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, a fugitive murderer and rapist who had fled to India after killing 17-year-old student Hannah Foster in Southampton, England.

He had left Britain, where he already had a wife and two young children, two days after Hannah's body was discovered on a roadside just outside of the city.
Using his alias in India he managed to keep one step ahead of police and he became confident.
Brigadier Nripad Kumar Gurung, vice-chairman of the Indian Red Cross, said Kohli came to them seeking to be a volunteer with their hepatitis B inoculation programme.
He said he was introduced to Kohli by a man called Oath Bahadur Dass - Ms Dass's father, and described him as a helpful and enthusiastic volunteer.
"He had come to us from Darjeeling with one other person who supplies us with medicines," he said.
"So we were not quite aware of his background, he was just like any other person.
"He was quite a popular man because whenever the children were there he used to go down to the shops and buy toffees and give it to the children."
Ms Dass said that when she met Kohli he was a "nice man" who everyone respected.
"It was good to live with him, he used to look after me, he used to cook for me, he used to call me Suni (meaning beautiful)," she told the BBC through a translator.
But their marriage was not well received by her father.
Speaking through a translator, Mr Dass said: "I was told that Bharati had run away…. she had taken the decision to get married and so be it.
"He was a total stranger to us. Our daughter getting married to him was a bit of a surprise and I don't think it was very welcome news. I was totally hurt.
"When I heard the news that Hannah Foster had been murdered by an Indian I somehow felt in my inner mind that could be this man. But of course at that point I could not confirm it."
The marriage was to last only 28 days.

All the while Hannah's parents had been visiting India to appeal for help in tracing Kohli.
Kohli became worried by media reports and he led his new wife on an "outing", towards the border with Nepal and away from capture.
Meanwhile, a suspicious Mr Dass was frantically trying to find his daughter's whereabouts.
"I telephoned all over," he said.
"Around midnight I could speak to Kohli on his cell phone and when I asked him where they were, Kohli told me they were on their way to Gangtok."
Mr Dass was feeding the information he gleaned to the local police.
Kohli and Ms Dass were tracked down to Panighata near the Nepalese border and he was arrested by undercover police as the couple waited at a bus stop.
"I was so shocked," said Ms Dass.

"Then there were his pictures in the newspaper and I saw those, that's when I found out for the first time he was somebody else and people were also telling me things about him.
"There was not anything about him that led me to believe there was anything wrong."
Kohli continued to protest his innocence.
Officer Pradham of the West Bengal Police said had Kohli crossed the border into Nepal, he may never have been captured.
The revelation about Kohli came as a shock to his new family.
Mr Dass said: "We never thought he was a murderer, it was quite a big surprise to us.
"Obviously he was running away from the law and he was trying to find a place, a corner of India as it were where he could just get lost.
"It was a big blow to me because my family has a very good reputation, including my daughters."
Ms Dass was traumatised by the experience and for a while became a recluse.
"In the future I won't run away and get married. The next time it will be with the knowledge of my parents," she said.
"I'm OK now, but I have to move on, I have to find the strength to come to terms with it."



A man who fathered nine children by raping his two daughters over many years has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 19-and-a half years.
The 56-year-old from Sheffield was sentenced to a life term for each of the 25 rapes he had admitted.
The attacks led to 19 pregnancies, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
The daughters said in a statement: "His detention in prison brings us only the knowledge that he cannot physically touch us again."
The defendant refused to leave his prison cell to attend the sentencing.
Nine of the children were born, two of whom died on the day of their birth. The other 10 pregnancies were miscarried or aborted.
The daughters' statement through South Yorkshire Police added: "The suffering he caused will continue for many years and we must now concentrate our thoughts on finding the strength to rebuild our lives."
The father moved the family from village to village in rural locations to keep them isolated and to avoid detection.
Sheffield Crown Court was told that he "took pleasure" in knowing the harm he was doing to his daughters.
Judge Alan Goldsack QC said: "Questions will inevitably be asked about what professionals, social and medical workers, have been doing for the last 20 years."
Jayne Ludlam, director of children's and young people's services at Sheffield City Council, said the abuse was revealed to social workers in June.
Ms Ludlam said: "This is one of the most harrowing cases we have had to deal with and to say we are shocked to find this level of abuse being perpetrated by this person is an understatement.
"Due to the seriousness of this case an independent review has already been launched which will look into the circumstances surrounding the case and the contact the agencies had with the victims."
James Baird, representing the defendant, said: "It must be inconceivable to those who have listened to this case that these offences have been carried out, in this day and age in a so-called civilised society, over such a long time and with such consequences, without them being reported or investigated."
The court heard that the sexual abuse started when the two sisters reached the age of eight but that they only realised the other was being abused when they became pregnant some years later.
The court heard that on a number of occasions doctors advised the women to stop having children by the same father.
Nicholas Campbell QC said: "The defendant played Russian roulette as to whether there would be complications in the pregnancies and with the health of his daughters."
The defendant threatened his daughters with a "real hiding" if they refused to have sex with him.
Mr Campbell said: "All the defendant's children spoke of his domination over their family life. He was tall and strongly built."
"All the family were frightened of him. When they heard his car pulling up outside the house, the children and their mother ran to their respective rooms.
"His younger daughter told of the frightening habit her father had of putting her head next to the flames of their gas fire and that when she struggled to get away on certain occasions she burnt her eyes."

On one occasion, the women called Childline and asked for a guarantee that they could keep their children, but when one was not offered they ended the call.
Mr Campbell said: "When either one of his victims tried to end the sexual abuse, he threatened to kill them and their children, and when they threatened to tell police, he said they would not be believed.
"All the time, when the sisters were challenged about the paternity of their children, they would cover it up.
"They started taking the pill. He said they should not be taking it and, just as they felt unable to avoid his sexual abuse, they obeyed.
"They spoke of his pleasure at fathering their children whilst at the same time they had fears for the welfare of these children and how they would cope."
Lib Dem leader and Sheffield Hallam MP, Nick Clegg, said: "All our thoughts are now with the victims of this most abhorrent crime, who must be given the time and privacy to rebuild their lives."
His fellow Sheffield Brightside MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett said it was difficult to determine who, outside of the family, could have been expected to take steps to intervene.
He said: "Those who at least made an effort to do something should not be the ones who are pinpointed - it is those who did not who should examine their conscience."



By Oana Lungescu - BBC News, Brussels.

The European Commission has stripped Bulgaria of 220m euros (£188m) in EU funding over its failure to tackle corruption and organised crime.
In July, the commission froze more than 500m euros in aid to Bulgaria, one of its newest and poorest members, following a scathing EU report.
The commission has now confirmed that the country will definitely lose nearly half that amount.
Bulgaria is rated as the most corrupt of the EU's 27 member states.
As the economic crisis starts to bite, this unprecedented move is meant to show that the European Commission is not squandering taxpayers' money, and to warn new and potential EU members that they have to crack down on entrenched corruption.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said cutting the funds due to Bulgaria was an uncomfortable decision.
"I regret this decision because Bulgaria is an economic success story, it's a very committed and constructive member state," he said.
"But we have to play by the book and we have to respect the rules of financial management and therefore there is for the moment no other option."

Bulgaria has taken some steps since the EU froze its funding in July.
But Mr Rehn said most of the measures were only the promise of future actions and had not delivered concrete results.
Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating some 80 cases of embezzlement, but no senior official has been convicted for corruption and more than 100 mafia-style killings remain unpunished. Mr Rehn warned that recent reviews had revealed new irregularities, and Bulgaria had to acknowledge the risk of political interference.
The commission will continue to review progress, and hundreds of millions more are at stake.
But that is only a drop in the ocean.
Until 2013, Bulgaria - described by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in the EU - stands to receive 11bn euros in EU funds.



Two Britons found guilty of having sex on a Dubai beach are to be deported without serving any jail sentence.
Michelle Palmer, 36, of Oakham, Rutland, and Vince Acors, 34, of Bromley, south-east London, had appealed against their convictions.
They were caught on Jumeirah Beach on 5 July and fined £170 and sentenced to three months in prison in October.
But, following the appeal, Acors's solicitor has said they will be returning to the homes in the UK.
Hassan Matter, who represented the couple in court, said: "They are free. It's wonderful.
"The judge gave us a good hearing because he has a good heart and a good brain. He understood everything."

Palmer and Acors were found guilty of unmarried sex and public indecency at Dubai's Court of First Instance.
The pair were arrested on the beach hours after meeting at a champagne brunch.
Palmer was sacked from her job in Dubai as a publishing executive after her arrest. Acors was visiting the emirate on holiday.
Prosecutors told Dubai's Court of Appeal the pair's punishment was too "small".



A Muslim charity and five of its former leaders have been convicted of funding the Palestinian .
Jurors reached the guilty verdict after eight days of deliberations in the retrial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.
The group - once the largest US Muslim charity - was accused of giving more than $12m (£8m) to support Hamas.
It was the largest terrorism financing trial since the 9/11 attacks.
The former head of the charity, Ghassan Elashi, and the former chief executive, Shukri Abu-Baker, were convicted of 69 counts including money laundering and tax fraud.
Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted on three counts of conspiracy, and Mohammed El-Mezain was convicted on one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.
The Holy Land group was convicted on 32 counts. A sentencing date has yet to be announced.

Hamas was designated by the US as a terrorist group in 1995, making contributions to the group illegal.
The prosecution argued that Hamas controlled the charities to which $12.4m was sent between 1995 and 2001.
The indictment against the group said it sponsored orphans and families in the West Bank and Gaza whose relatives had died or been imprisoned as a result of Hamas attacks on Israel.
The Texas-based charity was shut down and had its assets frozen in 2001, as part of the clampdown that followed the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.
The charity said it ran a legitimate operation helping Muslim families. Holy Land's supporters accused the US government of politicising the case as part of its so-called "war on terror".
A previous trial against Holy Land ended last year in some confusion with the jury deadlocked, prompting a mistrial verdict and a subsequent retrial.



A Dorset dairy farmer has ended his 28-year losing streak as an amateur jockey by finally winning a race.
Even Anthony Knott's children poked fun at his efforts but the 44-year-old proved them wrong by romping to victory in the 2.30 at Wincanton in Somerset.
After achieving his lifelong ambition riding Wise Men Say, he is planning to retire to concentrate on milking his cows in Sturminster Newton.
"I just literally cannot believe it," the father-of-three told BBC News.
"Everybody has been saying, 'It is a waste of time you doing that'," he added. "Even my children have been taking the Mickey out of me for months."
Mr Knott, who reportedly started out on the point-to-point circuit as a teenager, ran his final race last Thursday on his six-year-old mount, which had odds of 7-1.


Monday, November 24, 2008


David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan have joined the BBC as part of next year's presentation team in Formula One.
Coulthard, who retired as a race driver at the end of the 2008 season, will join former team boss Jordan as a pundit alongside anchor Jake Humphrey.
Jonathan Legard moves from 5 Live to commentate with ex-F1 driver and award-winning broadcaster Martin Brundle.
And veteran commentator Murray Walker will return to the BBC as a regular presence on the Sport website.
The 84-year-old, who became a household name during five decades of F1 commentary for the BBC, will be offering his expert insight and perspective on the action and interacting with F1 fans through an online Q&A forum.
The pit-lane reporters will be Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie.
For Coulthard, who will continue as a test driver and consultant for Red Bull, it will be a first foray into broadcasting after a long and successful Grand Prix career behind the wheel that included 13 victories and runner-up spot in the world championship to Michael Schumacher in 2001.
The 37-year-old Scot said: "After 15 seasons competing in F1, my passion for the sport is still very much alive, and therefore I was delighted to be given the opportunity to share my views and experiences through the BBC coverage of F1.
"Many of the BBC team are known to me already and, for those members new to F1, I look forward to building on the established audience of F1 fans in the UK."
Legard is returning to F1 after four years as 5 Live's football correspondent - he was the radio station's F1 correspondent from 1997 until 2004.
Humphrey switches to F1 having previously worked on the Beijing Olympics and Euro 2008, among other things.
Kravitz, like Brundle, is a former member of ITV's F1 team. McKenzie, the daughter of Daily Express F1 correspondent Bob McKenzie, has been a broadcaster on motor racing and other sports for ITV and Sky Sports.
The BBC has a five-year deal to broadcast F1. It runs from 2009-2013 and includes exclusive rights for TV, radio, online and mobile.
Niall Sloane, BBC head of F1, said: "We have put a fantastic team together and are delighted to be able to offer a comprehensive and engaging Formula One experience.
"This is an exciting sport and we are very much looking forward to next year."
Further details about the BBC's plans for the coming season will be revealed in the new year.



Singer Boy George handcuffed a male escort to his bedroom wall after accusing him of hacking into his computer, a court heard.
The former Culture Club star chained Audun Carlsen up at his home in Shoreditch, east London, in April last year, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
The singer, real name George O'Dowd, had made contact with Mr Carlsen, 29, on social networking website Gaydar.
Mr O'Dowd, 46, who is now a DJ, denies unlawfully detaining Mr Carlsen.
The court heard Mr Carlsen managed to free himself from the restraints with which Mr O'Dowd had chained him up.
He fled the singer's home in just his boxer shorts, trainers and a pair of handcuffs, jurors heard.
Mr Carlsen ran to a local newsagents shop at about 0730 GMT in a state of fear, and the shopkeeper called the police, the court was told.
The police later photographed welts on Mr Carlsen's arm where the handcuffs had been. The fire brigade had to be called to cut the cuffs off.
The court heard that the pair had arranged to meet for a pornographic photo shoot during which they took cocaine and Mr O'Dowd performed a sex act on the escort.
Jurors were told that Mr O'Dowd believed his computers at home had been tampered with and he accused Mr Carlsen of being involved.
But they parted on good terms and the singer paid the younger man £300 of the £400 they had agreed.
In the months after the meeting Mr O'Dowd and Mr Carlsen e-mailed each other through the Gaydar site - Mr Carlsen describing many of the emails as "bizarre".
Mr Carlsen eventually agreed to a second meeting because Mr O'Dowd had apologised for the tone of his earlier e-mails and his behaviour.
The trial continues.



The leader of South Africa's ruling party Jacob Zuma says a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe is urgently needed.
The situation was beyond "wait and see", Mr Zuma said. "We have got to act and act now."
Mr Zuma was speaking in Johannesburg after meeting a group of prominent world leaders, known as Elders, who have been refused visas for Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's rival political leaders are due to meet on Tuesday to salvage a power-sharing deal.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai would hold talks in South Africa.

"The situation has gone [beyond] where we could say 'wait and see,'" said Mr Zuma, the president of the African National Congress.
"We are pleading for the leadership [of the ruling party and opposition] for the sake of the people to find a solution that would help them move forward."
Mr Zuma said the ANC would be sending a delegation to Zimbabwe to push for a political solution to the crisis.
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) are in a power-sharing stand-off following disputed presidential elections earlier this year.
They have agreed to form a government of national unity but been unable to agree on who should fill key ministries.
"Let us find a way to implement the agreement for the sake of Zimbabweans," Mr Zuma said. "We cannot stay with the agreement without implementing it. It is now an urgent matter, people are dying."
These are some of his strongest words so far on the situation in Zimbabwe, the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says.
Last week, it said it would withhold some $28m of aid until a representative government is formed.
South Africa is the region's power-house and has led the way in efforts to find a resolution in Zimbabwe.

Mr Zuma described as an "unfortunate act" Zimbabwe's decision to refuse visas to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, ex-US President Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel, a human rights activist.
The three said the sole aim of their trip - on behalf of the Elders, a group set up to tackle world conflicts - had been to help people in Zimbabwe, and that they had no intention of becoming involved in any political negotiations.

Mr Annan said Zimbabwe's government "made it very clear that it will not co-operate".
A Zimbabwean official denied refusing them entry, but said there had been no "prior consultations" over the timing and programme of the proposed visit. He advised them to reschedule.
Reacting to the news, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday called for African Union peacekeepers to be deployed to Zimbabwe, saying "there is no legitimate government in Zimbabwe".
"The fact that Mugabe was a freedom fighter does not give him rights to own Zimbabwe and hang on to power," said Mr Odinga.
Mr Annan helped broker a power-sharing agreement in Kenya, which saw Mr Odinga named prime minister.
Aid groups say Zimbabwe is facing a major humanitarian crisis, with nearly half the population needing food aid by early next year.
The crisis has been made more pressing by the cholera epidemic that has swept Zimbabwe, killing at least 300 people and affecting some 6,000.