Thursday, December 31, 2009
KABUL – A suicide bomber penetrated a foreign army base in Afghanistan and killed eight CIA employees on Wednesday, one of the U.S. agency's largest death tolls, while four Canadian troops and a journalist Michelle Lang(photo), died in a separate attack.
A "well-dressed" Afghan army official detonated a suicide vest at a meeting of CIA officials in southeastern Khost province, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
  • "This deadly attack was carried out by a valorous Afghan army member when the officials were busy gaining information about the mujahideen, in the (fitness) club," he wrote in an email.
  • The attack is one of the most ambitious of the war, highlighting the Taliban's reach and coordination at a time when violence has reached its highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban regime by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
  • It was also the second Afghan army killing in as many days on the foreign troops and officials who are meant to be mentoring them, casting a shadow over plans to bolster the Afghan army and police to allow their troops to eventually bring them home.
  • U.S. officials said the dead Americans were CIA employees. Some people were also wounded in the explosion, defense officials said, but no U.S. or NATO troops were among them.
  • The CIA has been expanding its presence in the country, stepping up strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda militants along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Forward Operating Base Chapman, the site of the suicide attack, is near the Pakistan border, in one of the areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest.
  • The agency's role hunting terrorism suspects in Afghanistan has been criticized by both Afghans and human rights groups.
  • The five Canadians; four soldiers and a journalist were killed when their armored vehicle was hit by a bomb in southern Kandahar province, the Canadian Defense Ministry said.
Source: Reuters
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Thursday, December 31, 2009
BAGHDAD – Twin bombings, one an assassination attempt against an Iraqi provincial governor, killed 23 people and wounded the governor in the worst violence in months to hit the western province that was once al-Qaida's top stronghold in Iraq.
While violence in Iraq has dropped considerably since the height of the conflict, a reinvigorated insurgency in Anbar which is also Iraq's largest province could pose a serious risk to the country's stability as it prepares for March elections.
  • Two bombs exploded in Anbar's capital of Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Imad al-Fahdawi. First, a car driven by a suicide bomber blew up near a checkpoint on the main road near the provincial administration buildings.
  • "When the first explosion occurred, the governor walked out of his office, heading to the site to see what happened," al-Fahdawi said.
  • "A second suicide bomber with an explosives belt and wearing a military uniform tried to make his way through the crowd of people and was stopped by guards of the governor," and then blew himself up just yards from the governor, al-Fahdawi said.
  • It was not known whether the first bomb was designed to lure the governor out of his office, but insurgents commonly use staggered explosions as a way to maximize damage as rescuers and security officials rush to the scene.
Source: AP
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

MIAMI - Tiger Woods, believed to be the world's wealthiest athlete who was estimated to earn about US$100 million a year in endorsement deals before his troubles, confessed on Dec 11 to "infidelity" to his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren. He announced he would take an indefinite break from golf to save his marriage.
  • The sex scandal that engulfed Tiger Woods may have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by the world's No. 1 golfer up to US$12 billion (RM41 billion) in losses, according to a study by two economics professors from the University of California, Davis.
  • The study, released on Monday by researchers Victor Stango and Christopher Knittel, gave an estimate for damage to the market value of Woods' main sponsors caused by revelations of alleged extramarital affairs that surfaced after he was involved in a minor car accident outside his Florida home on Nov 27.
  • "We estimate that shareholders of Tiger Woods' sponsors lost US$5-12 billion after his car accident, relative to shareholders of firms that Woods does not endorse," the researchers wrote, adding that millions of shareholders were affected.
  • "Our analysis makes clear that while having a celebrity of Tiger Woods' stature as an endorser has undeniable upside, the downside risk is substantial, too," Stango, a professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, said in a statement released along with the study.
Source: The Malaysian Insider, Reuters
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

LOS ANGELES - Once in a blue moon there actually is a blue moon on New Year's Eve.
There'll be a so-called blue moon around for the New Year's countdown on Thursday.
According to popular definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. But don't expect it to be blue , the name has nothing to do with its color.
This month's first full moon occurred on Dec. 2. On New Year's Eve, a full moon will be visible in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Africa.
For purists, however, a blue moon is an extra full moon in a typical three-moon season. So this New Year's Eve full moon doesn't count.
Source: AP
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
At least 30 people have been killed after a suicide bomber struck a procession of Shia Muslims in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, according to police sources.
The explosion struck on Monday as Shia worshippers marked Ashoura, the holiest event on the Shia Muslim calendar.
Police sources told Al Jazeera that at least 80 people were injured in the blast, with many of those in a critical condition.
  • The attack sparked riots in Karachi with angry mourners throwing stones at ambulances, torching cars and shops and firing bullets into the air.
  • "A deliberate attempt seems to be afoot by the extremists to turn the fight against militants into a sectarian clash and make the people fight against one another," Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, said in a statement.
  • The Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force, took control of several restive areas of Karachi after the blast, officials said.
  • "People have been saying that the government has been apathetic to the listening to the warnings of potential attacks and people's fears," Talat Hussain, the director of news at the local AAJ TV, told Al Jazeera.
  • "Any number of groups come to mind who may have carried out the attack. The game clearly is to disrupt Pakistan."
  • Rehman Malik, the interior minister, called for people to show restraint and asked that Shia processions over the next two days be cancelled following the attack.
Source: Al Jazeera
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Two Argentine men were joined Monday in Latin America's first same-sex marriage, traveling to the southernmost tip of the Americas to find a welcoming spot to wed.
Gay rights activists Jose Maria Di Bello and Alex Freyre were married in Ushuaia, the capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego state, exchanging rings at an informal ceremony witnessed by state and federal officials.
  • "My knees didn't stop shaking," said the 41-year-old Di Bello. "We are the first gay couple in Latin America to marry."
  • The slim, dark-haired couple previously tried to marry in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires but were thwarted by city officials citing conflicting judicial rulings. Argentina's Constitution is silent on whether marriage must be between a man and a woman, effectively leaving the matter to state and city officials.
  • This time around, they traveled to a remote seaside fishing village at the end of South America that is closer to Antarctica than Buenos Aires. The ceremony took place during the region's brief summer thaw.
  • Tierra del Fuego Gov. Fabiana Rios said in a statement that gay marriage "is an important advance in human rights and social inclusion and we are very happy that this has happened in our state."
  • An official representing the federal government's antidiscrimination agency, Claudio Morgado, attended the wedding in the city of Ushuaia and called the occasion "historic."
  • Many in Argentina and throughout Latin America remain opposed to gay marriage, particularly the Roman Catholic Church.
Source: AP
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Monday, December 28, 2009
Bangkok - Thailand Monday began deporting 4,000 ethnic Hmong refugees to Laos despite international appeals to the government to reconsider the involuntary repatriation to an uncertain future.
  • The first batch of 442 Hmong were taken from Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun province at 9.30 a. m. to buses that will carry them to Nong Khai province where they will cross the Mekong River on the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge into neighbouring Laos, said Thai Army Colonel Thana Jaruwat, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command.
  • The remaining 3,600 have thus far refused to leave the camp peacefully, he said.
  • "We will try to convince them to leave on their own will but if they refuse we will enforce the law," Thana said.
  • Thailand has never recognised the Hmong at Huay Nam Khao, 280 km north-east of Bangkok, as refugees but instead has classified them as illegal migrants, who, according to Thai law can be expelled without bringing charges against them, Thana said.
  • Officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other human rights workers and journalists were held several km away from the camp to prevent outsiders from observing the mass deportation operation.
Source: Top News
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Monday, December 28, 2009
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Some 125 pilot whales died in New Zealand after stranding on the beach over the weekend — but vacationers and conservation workers Sunday managed to coax 43 others back out to sea.
Rescuers monitored the survivors as they swam away from Colville Beach on North Island's Coromandel peninsula, and by Monday morning they were reported well out to sea.
Department of Conservation workers and hundreds of volunteers helped re-float the 43 whales at high tide. The volunteers covered the stranded mammals in sheets and kept them wet through the day.
  • "Some 63 pilot whales stranded ... but it looks pretty good, we've got 43 live ones," Department of Conservation ranger Steve Bolten said as the pod swam out to sea.
  • Bolten said one of the whales may have been sick, or their sonar may have led them into the shallow harbor and they couldn't find their way out again.
  • Meanwhile on South Island, 105 long-finned pilot whales that stranded died Saturday, conservation officials said Monday.
  • Golden Bay biodiversity program manager Hans Stoffregen said they were discovered by a tourist plane pilot and only 30 were alive when conservation workers arrived.
  • "They were in bad shape. By the time we got there two-thirds of them had already died. We had to euthanize the rest," he said. The whales had been out of the water for a long time.
  • "It has been quite hot and they were very distressed. You could see the pain and suffering in their eyes," he was quoted telling the Southland Times newspaper
  • Because the site is part of a nature reserve, the 105 whale carcasses were left to decompose where they stranded, Stoffregen said.
  • Large numbers of whales become stranded on New Zealand's beaches each summer as they pass by on their way to breeding grounds from Antarctic waters. Scientists so far have been unable to explain why whales become stranded.
Source: AP
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

LONDON – Air travellers from Britain to the United States faced tightened security on Sunday as authorities ramped up efforts to prevent attacks in the wake of a failed bid to blow up an airplane over the US.
A 23-year-old Nigerian with reported links to Al-Qaeda smuggled explosives on board a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday that he allegedly tried to detonate as the flight approached the US city.
  • British Airways said US-bound passengers from the UK would undergo additional screening and would only be allowed one item of hand luggage.
  • BA also said people taking Christmas or other gifts in their hand luggage would be asked to unwrap them before boarding.
  • Virgin Atlantic stressed the need for plane tickets to correspond exactly with passports; noting that this also applies to marriage or maiden names.
  • Transport minister Andrew Adonis said: "We have agreed enhanced search regimes for passengers on flights to and from the United States. These have taken place immediately. They will lead to delays in flights to the US."
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field bowed to weeks of intense criticism and pressure, announcing at services across Dublin that they planned to quit their posts as auxiliaries in the archdiocese.
They are the latest senior clerics to stand down after Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty and Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray resigned over the damning Murphy report.
  • It exposed the Catholic hierarchy's shocking inaction and cover-up of paedophile priests over decades.
  • Bishops Walsh and Field announced their resignations in a statement as Midnight Mass took place around the country.
  • "As we celebrate the Feast of Christmas, the Birth of our Saviour, the Prince of Peace, it is our hope that our action may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims/survivors of child sexual abuse," they said.
  • The bishops added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have so bravely spoken out and those who continue to suffer in silence."
  • Last night in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin - who stopped short of publicly calling for resignations but repeatedly pressured senior churchmen who have served in the capital to reflect - described 2009 as a painful year for the Church.
  • "The diocese failed its most vulnerable members. The archdiocese failed to recognise what was to be done," the Archbishop said.
  • Dublin Labour councillor Aodhan O Riordain attended Midnight Mass in Malahide, north of the city, where the bishops' resignations were announced.
Source: The Independent
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Friday, December 25, 2009

A shaken Pope Benedict has said Christmas Mass in St Peter's Basilica shortly after being knocked over by a woman spectator who jumped barriers.
The woman, said to be mentally unstable, jumped security barriers as Benedict XVI entered the basilica for the traditional Christmas Eve service.
  • Proceeding with the Mass, he looked shaken and stumbled over some words.
  • The service started two hours early because officials do not want the 82-year-old pontiff to get tired.
  • The security incident involving the woman at St Peter's Basilica lasted only a few seconds.
  • The woman who was reportedly wearing a red jumper tried to jump the barrier and the Pope was thrown off balance and fell, prompting shocked gasps among the crowd.
  • Security officials rushed down the main aisle to detain the woman.
  • The woman who pushed the Pope also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was taken to hospital for a check-up, Vatican spokesman Ciro Bedettini said.
  • The woman whose name was not immediately known was later arrested by police.
Source: BBC
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The envoy, Mohd Arshad Manzoor Hussain, who also held the rotating chair of the 35-member IAEA's Board of Governors, was dismissed according to a diplomat familiar with his case.
Weeks after the Malaysian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency autonomously voted against an anti-Iran IAEA resolution, a diplomat says Kuala Lumpur stripped him of his post.
  • The report comes as the Malaysian government has yet to confirm the move. When asked about the issue by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the Malaysian Ambassador to Vienna declined to comment.
  • Meanwhile, the diplomatic source added that the Malaysian government is likely to replace Arshad with a new ambassador who will also fill the position of the rotating chairman of the 35-member Board of Governor.
  • Earlier in December, Kuala Lumpur's ambassador to the agency was summoned to explain his "no" vote to an IAEA resolution against Iran's nuclear program as the vote "was not in line with Malaysian policies."
  • The resolution called on Iran to stop all construction work at its new enrichment facility named Fordo and confirm there are no more nuclear sites that the agency must be aware of.
  • The Tehran government, however, rejected the resolution as politically-motivated and without any legal basis, arguing that Iran's activities are not in breach of the nuclear pact.
  • Malaysia was one of the three countries along with Cuba and Venezuela that voted against the IAEA resolution.
Source: Press TV
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Thursday, December 24, 2009
BAGHDAD – Bombs targeted Iraqi Christians and Shiite Muslims Wednesday, killing at least eight people and wounding four dozen before coinciding religious observances that will take place under heavy guard.
Insurgents have routinely targeted Shiites and Christians in an attempt to undermine the country's security gains and its Shiite-dominated government. Security forces in recent days have been concerned that the Shiite holy observances known as Ashoura and Christmas gatherings would be targeted by large-scale attacks.
  • Ashoura marks the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein.
  • In the first of Wednesday's attacks, a bomb targeted a historic church in the northern city of Mosul a day before Christmas Eve services, killing two people and wounding five.
  • "Instead of performing Christmas Mass in this church, we will be busy removing rubble and debris," Hazim Ragheed, a priest at the church, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
  • The bomb was hidden under sacks of baking flour in a handcart left 15 yards (meters) from the Mar Toma Church, or the Church of St. Thomas, a police officer said.
  • The officer said the two men killed were Muslims and that five other people were injured. A hospital official confirmed the casualties.
  • Christians have frequently been targeted since turmoil swept the country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, although the attacks have ebbed with an overall drop in violence. Still, tens of thousands of Christians have fled; many who stayed were isolated in neighborhoods protected by barricades and checkpoints.
  • A coordinated bombing campaign in 2004 targeted churches in the Iraqi capital and anti-Christian violence also flared in September 2007 after Pope Benedict XVI made comments perceived to be against Islam.
  • Churches, priests and businesses have been attacked by militants who denounce Christians as pro-American "crusaders." Paulos Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, was shot dead in March 2008 after being abducted by gunmen.
  • Later Wednesday, a blast struck a group of Shiite pilgrims preparing for Ashoura in Baghdad. The bomb, hidden in a bag, killed four pilgrims and wounded 31 others in eastern Baghdad, a police officer said. Among the wounded were women and children, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to give information to reporters.
  • A second blast struck Shiite worshippers gathering in central Baghdad. The bomb, hidden behind a tent erected to provide food and water to pilgrims, killed one pilgrim and wounded four others, said another police official.
  • A third blast in western Baghdad killed one pilgrim and wounded eight others who had gathered to prepare for Ashoura rituals, police said.
  • Insurgents have routinely targeted pilgrims on their way to the southern holy city of Karbala during Ashoura. More than 25,000 Iraqi police and soldiers have been assigned to protect pilgrims, said Karbala police spokesman Capt. Alaa Abbas Jaafar.
  • At least 10 people died in other attacks in Iraq, including four Iraqi police officers killed by gunmen who stormed a checkpoint in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, police said.
Source: AP
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A New Zealand court convicted two farmers on an animal cruelty charge Tuesday for impaling a live cow with a tractor's fork.
The two North Island men had shot an ailing Hereford cross cow last year to slaughter it and told authorities they thought it already was dead when they speared it with the tractor. But a policeman later noticed that the animal was still alive, and it was able to stagger away when released from the tractor fork.
  • Farm owner Ronald Frew and farm manager Geoffrey Donald, both 43, were found guilty in Taihape District Court of ill-treating a cow, Radio New Zealand reported.
  • Judge Gerard Lynch said the two men had failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the animal was dead before it was impaled, and imposed fines of 750 New Zealand dollars ($528) for each man. The pair were cleared of the more serious charge of willfully ill-treating the cow.
  • Frew told the court that he asked Donald to slaughter the sick cow and that the farm manager had shot the animal in the side of the head, the radio report said.
  • Frew said he thought the animal was dead when he arrived later with the tractor and impaled it below its spine before driving about 100 yards (meters) toward a highway with the animal hanging on the fork.
  • Frew told the court he did not realize the cow was still alive until the police officer told him its head was upright.
  • He said he was horrified when he removed the cow from the fork and that the distressed animalstaggered away to join a herd of cattle nearby. The farmer eventually killed the badly injured animal.
Source: Yahoo News
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Lawmakers in Mexico City have passed legislation paving the way for the Mexican capital to become the first city in Latin America to legalise gay marriage.
In a vote on Monday the city's government passed a bill changing the definition of marriage from a union of a man and a woman to a union of two people.
The changes will give gay couples more rights, including allowing them to adopt children.
  • The city's leftist mayor, Marcelo Ebrard of the Democratic Revolution Party, was widely expected to sign the measure into law.
  • However, the conservative Nation Action Party of Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, has vowed to challenge the gay marriage law in the courts.
  • Many people in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America remain opposed to gay
  • marriage, and the dominant Roman Catholic Church has announced its opposition.
  • "They have given Mexicans the most bitter Christmas," said Armando Martinez, the president of the College of Catholic Attorneys.
  • "They are permitting adoption [by gay couples] and in one stroke of the pen have erased the term 'mother' and 'father.'"
  • But Victor Romo, a city lawmaker and a member of the mayor's party, called the vote an historic day.
  • "For centuries unjust laws banned marriage between blacks and whites or Indians and Europeans," he said.
Source: The Agencies
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
SYDNEY, Australia – Tropical Cyclone Laurence tore into Western Australia overnight, with winds of up to 215 kilometres (133 miles) an hour damaging some buildings but causing no injuries, officials said Tuesday.
The storm had been at the highest rating of Category 5 when it ripped inland onto Eighty Mile Beach late Monday but has since been downgraded to a Category 3 though alerts remain in place for parts of the Kimberley/Pilbara coastline.
  • Western Australia's Fire and Emergency Services Authority said it would conduct an aerial assessment of the remote area via helicopter early Tuesday.
  • "At the moment we're having trouble contacting people in Wallal and Mandora and we just want to make sure that the reports we are currently getting that there is no loss of life or damage to humans is correct," the authority's Les Hayter said.
  • "There is obviously some fairly substantial damage at Eighty Mile (Beach) caravan park which we will be able to see at first light with this crew coming through with the helicopter."
  • Cyclone Laurence is expected to gradually weaken as it moves inland but residents have been warned that destructive winds may continue.
  • "People just need to sit tight, wait for the cyclone to pass, and then watch out for rising rivers and creeks," State Emergency Services spokesman Allen Gale said.
Source: AFP
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Monday, December 21, 2009
LEGAZPI, Philippines – The Philippines' Mayon volcano turned up the heat with lava fountains and loud rumbling sounds Monday, and officials said it was getting closer to a major eruption that could come at any time.
Tens of thousands of villagers have been evacuated from the foothills as a precaution, but authorities are having trouble keeping them away from their homes and farms, said Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay province, about 210 miles (340 kilometers) southeast of Manila.
  • After a week of puffing out ash and sending bursts of lava trickling down its steep slopes, the 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) mountain overlooking the Gulf of Albay and Legazpi city in the central Philippines switched into high gear Monday with nearly 2,000 volcanic earthquakes and tremors since Sunday, state volcanologists said.
  • The emission of sulfur dioxide — an indication of magma rising inside the volcano — jumped to 6,000 tons per day from the normal 500, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. It also reported "audible booming and rumbling sounds" in the eastern flank of the volcano, accompanied by intensified crater glow at night.
  • Lava fountains bursting from the cone-shaped volcano overnight rose 650 feet (200 meters) in the air, the institute said.
  • Scientists raised the alert level Sunday to one step below a hazardous eruption, saying one was possible within days. The only higher level is when a major eruption is already in progress.
  • More than 40,000 residents were given sleeping mats and food inside school buildings, gyms and other emergency shelters, but some have still been spotted checking on their farms in the prohibited zone.
  • Salceda said about 5,000 more villagers were being transported out of Mayon's danger zone, where scientists said red hot lava flows had reached three miles (five kilometers) from the crater.
Source: AP
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Anwar Ibrahim was selected as the recipient of the Medal for his courageous and unrelenting efforts to restore democratic governance to Malaysia by The International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC) .
  • The International Association of Political Consultants, founded in 1968, is a professional global organization of senior political and public affairs advisers dedicated to fostering democracy throughout the world. It 100-plus members are from more than 20 nations in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
  • Every year the IAPC awards its Democracy Medal to the individual or organization who epitomizes the IAPCs commitment to democracy and words and actions. Previous recipients of the Medal include Morgan Tsvangerai of South Africa and Martin Lee of Hong Kong.
  • After spending a decade in the political wilderness the political tsunami that Anwar Ibrahim led in the March 2008 General Election has forever changed the political landscape of Malaysia. There is greater accountability in government and there has been a general awakening in the public as Malaysian citizens rediscover the power of their vote.
  • Anwar Ibrahim recaptured his parliamentary constituency in Penang in August 2008 and has since served as opposition leader in the Malaysian parliament. He continues to be a leading voice for reform and change in the country.
  • Foreign Policy Magazine recently named him among the top 100 global thinkers and the Royal Institute of Strategic Studies included him in its list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. Also in 2008 he was named in Time Magazines top 100 list.
  • Presenting the award to Anwar Ibrahim is IAPC Board Member Mr. Robert Murdoch.
Source: Suara Keadilan, photo; Pahlawan volunteers
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

People magazine cited a family friend as saying Tiger’s mother, Kultida Woods, is “hurt, angry and disappointed in Tiger. She wants to know how he could do this to his family. She loves him and will support him through anything, but she needs some time to work through this,” the source said. “It was devastating to her. She likes Elin, and adores her grandchildren. She’s worried about them. She doesn’t want to see them hurt.”
  • On the the other hand, Tiger Woods is “doing everything he can to save his marriage,” while his mother is “hurt, angry and disappointed” and worried about her grandchildren, celebrity gossip sites reported yesterday.
  • As the sordid tale of the golfer’s infidelity continues to drag on, celebrity Web site RadarOnline, citing a friend, dropped the explosive bomb that his purported cougar girlfriend Theresa Rogers wanted to have a baby with him and that the paternity of a baby girl she did have, though not thought to be his, remains uncertain.
  • Citing another friend, RadarOnline reported yesterday the disgraced duffer is looking at a “lonely holiday” on his 135-foot yacht, Privacy. The source said, “He needs to clear his head for a while. He needs to process everything.”
  • Despite numerous reports that his humiliated Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, wants a divorce - 14 reported mistresses is more than she can bear - another celebrity Web site, TMZ, cited a source who said Tiger is making “lots of phone calls,” desperately trying to convince her to stay.
Source: Herald Boston
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The late Pope John Paul II moved closer to sainthood in the Catholic Church on Saturday when Pope Benedict approved a decree recognising that his predecessor had lived the Christian faith heroically.
The next step will be the recognition of a miracle attributed to John Paul, who died in 2005. That is expected to happen early next year, meaning he can be beatified, the last step before sainthood.
  • In May 2005, a month after his death, Benedict put John Paul on the fast track by dispensing with Church rules that normally impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can start.
  • Crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8, 2005 chanted "santo subito" ("make him a saint now").
  • His 27-year papacy, which began in 1978, was one of the most historic and tumultuous of modern times. During his pontificate, communism collapsed across eastern Europe, including in his native Poland. John Paul was seriously wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt.
  • The initial phases of a sainthood cause can usually take decades or, in some cases, hundreds of years. In the case of the Polish pope, they were completed in less than three years.
  • Last year, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the official in charge of the beatification process, finished a document about 2,000 pages long summarising evidence that John Paul, who was the first non-Italian pope in 450 years, should be made a saint.
  • The evidence included testimony from hundreds of people and scrutiny of John Paul's life, spoken words and writings.
  • The Vatican said Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a pro-Solidarity Polish priest killed in 1984 by Polish security police, could be considered a martyr for the faith and would be beatified.
  • Church officials say they have found a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul with God.
  • Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a 47-year-old French nun diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, from which Pope John Paul himself suffered, said it inexplicably disappeared two months after his death after she and her fellow nuns prayed to him.
  • If Benedict approves the miracle, which is likely, then John Paul can be beatified. Another miracle would be required after the beatification to move on to canonisation.
  • Polls have shown many Catholics believe that John Paul was so special that Benedict should skip the beatification process in his case and move him directly to sainthood.
  • Simon-Pierre worked as a maternity ward supervisor in Aix-en-Provence.
  • "I was losing weight day by day. I could no longer write and if I did try to, it was difficult to decipher. I could no longer drive ... because my left leg became rigid," she wrote in 2007.
  • On June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the Pope's death and after she and her fellow nuns in her religious community prayed to the late pope for her healing, she said she felt the sudden urge to pick up a pen.
  • "My handwriting was completely legible ... my body was no longer pained, no longer rigid ... I felt a profound sense of peace," she wrote.
  • Her neurologist and other doctors and psychologists who later examined her could find no medical explanation.
Source: Reuters
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Saturday, December 19, 2009
LONDON – British media say four trains with more than 2,000 passengers aboard have broken down in the Channel Tunnel due to wintry weather.
Eurostar spokesman Bram Smets told Sky News and the BBC early Saturday that all the passengers are safe, though some of the trains were without heating or lighting in the tunnel connecting England and France.
Smets says two of the trains are being pushed by diesel trains toward London and passengers on the other trains were being transferred onto shuttles.
Eurostar told the BBC that the trains broke down because of the temperature difference between the cold air outside the tunnel and the warm air inside.
Source: AP
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Saturday, December 19, 2009
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 40% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, demonstrates the seriousness the Malaysian government attaches to climate change, said British High Commissioner to Malaysia Boyd McCleary.
He said the United Kingdom welcomed the statement on this by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the Copenhagen climate change summit Thursday.
  • "The Prime Minister's willingness to put a figure on the table can only help the talks taking place in Copenhagen," he said in a statement here Friday.
  • McCleary said the UK government agreed with Najib that moving towards to a low-carbon economy was the only sensible path and offered significant opportunities for emerging economies.
  • "I hope that Malaysia's pledge and the other offers made by developed and developing countries will help us achieve an ambitious global agreement in Copenhagen to prevent dangerous climate change," he said.
  • On Thursday, Malaysia agreed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, subject to assistance from developed countries.
  • In his speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 at Copenhagen, Najib said the cut was conditional upon receiving transfer of technology and adequate financing from the developed world.
  • United Nations data shows Malaysia's carbon emissions in 2006 stood at 187 million tonnes or 7.2 tonnes from each Malaysian.
Source: Bernama
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Friday, December 18, 2009

A mother whale and her calf are dragged on board a Japanese whaling ship after being harpooned in Antarctic waters in 2008
SYDNEY – Anti-whaling activists accused Japanese fishermen Friday of using a military-type sonic device and water cannon against their helicopter as risky skirmishes in Antarctic seas escalated.
  • The Sea Shepherd animal rights group said the whalers used a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) to repel the activists' helicopter, and then blasted the aircraft with water after it landed back on the anti-whalers' ship.
  • "This was an extremely irresponsible thing to do," helicopter pilot Chris Aultman said of the sonic equipment.
  • "That device can cause nausea and disorientation and the use of it against an aircraft is both extremely dangerous and grossly irresponsible."
  • LRAD is a device sometimes used for crowd control and also by US forces in Iraq. It has also been used by ships to repel pirates in waters off Somalia, according to reports.
  • A Sea Shepherd statement said the Japanese Shonan Maru No.2 also fired water cannon "in an attempt to destroy the helicopter on the landing pad".
  • Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, which runs the whaling operations, said the sonic device was meant to warn the activists, not to hurt them. "We are using a long range acoustic device only for the purpose of delivering our warning message to them," said an official at the institute. "It is not meant to harm people or hurt their hearing."
  • When the activists come too close, he told AFP, "we spray water to prevent them from approaching us".
  • The Japanese also accused the activists of pointing a laser-like device at them, saying there was "no word for this but regrettable".
Source: AFP
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Friday, December 18, 2009

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Mohammed el Gharani, who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, said in a telephone interview that he relies on handouts from friends to support himself. He complained the government has refused to give him a passport.
  • He was a former detainee who spent his teenage years at Guantanamo Bay said Thursday he is struggling to build a life in his parents' native Chad, a central African nation he had never seen before his release from the U.S. military prison earlier this year.
  • "I'm still not free," he said in English. "I have no job. I have a hard time to find somewhere to live."
  • Human rights groups say many former inmates have been isolated since their release because of a stigma associated with Guantanamo, a prison described as holding "the worst of the worst" even though most were never charged with crimes. Advocates say El Gharani in particular needs help because he was captured when he was only 14.
  • "Chad must accept that Mohammed is a victim of tremendous injustice and treat him as such," said Clive Stafford Smith, director of the London-based legal rights group Reprieve.
  • El Gharani, now 22, was released in June. The military suspected him of being part of al-Qaida, working for the Taliban and fighting American forces in Afghanistan. But a U.S. federal judge said those accusations were based on unreliable testimony from other Guantanamo inmates and ordered his release — despite objections from the U.S. government.
  • He did not have Saudi citizenship under the kingdom's laws because his parents were foreign workers, so the U.S. military sent him instead to Chad.
  • At first, El Gharani said he was elated to leave the prison in Cuba where he was the youngest and one of the longest-held detainees.
  • Upon arriving in the poor, largely desert nation, however, he was detained by police for a week, questioned about his nationality and released without a passport or government identity card. He tried to enroll in English classes to learn more of the language he picked up from prison guards, but could not do so without identification.
  • Soon afterward, armed men mugged him on the streets of the capital, N'Djamena, and threatened to kill him. He said they apparently heard false rumors that he received a multimillion dollar settlement as compensation for his imprisonment.
  • With little to occupy his time in Chad, he said his greatest desire is to be with his family.
  • "I'm innocent. I have done nothing to anyone. I should be able go to see my family," said El Gharani, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 at a mosque by local police, and turned over to United States forces in 2002.
Source: AP
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rains across swathes of East Africa have failed for the sixth year in a row, leaving millions of people facing hardship, Oxfam has warned.
The charity says Somalia's drought is the worst for 20 years, and November rainfall was less than 5% of normal in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia. Oxfam says the next rains in hardest-hit areas are not due until April.
  • The UN has already said it is aiming to feed 20 million people in East Africa over the next six months. It says the drought and rising food prices in East Africa are causing severe hardship.
  • Oxfam highlights large parts of the Turkana region of northern Kenya as having just 12mm of rain in the last three months - leaving almost one person in three malnourished.
  • The charity also says the Central Highlands and the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, and virtually the whole of Somaliland have also received less than 5% of normal rainfall in November.
  • The crisis is most severe in parts of Somalia, where worsening conflict and the drought have left 3.6 million people - nearly half the country's population - in need of aid.
Source: BBC
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

TIJUANA, Mexico – The severed heads of six state police investigators were found on a public plaza Wednesday in the northern Mexican state of Durango.
The heads were found in the township of Cuencame a day after the officers were reported kidnapped, state prosecutors' spokesman Ruben Lopez said.
  • There was no information on a possible motive for the slayings, but beheadings are a hallmark of Mexico's brutal drug gang violence. Durango, a mountainous, largely rural state, is a major battleground for drug trafficking territory.
  • In Tijuana, meanwhile, the bodies of three young men were found in one neighborhood. A fourth body was found outside a hospital and a fifth — whose hands and feet were bound — was found dumped near a gas station.
  • The deaths came a day after 12 bodies were found in Tijuana, including four that had been decapitated and four men who were killed in a shootout at a popular seafood restaurant.
  • Soldiers arrested six people, including an 18-year-old woman and two teenagers, who allegedly were planning an attack on a pool hall at the same time as the shootout at the restaurant, the military said Wednesday.
  • The suspects, except for the teenagers, were paraded in front of reporters. Military officials said they were tied to a gang reputedly led by Teodoro Garcia Simental, who authorities say is waging a bloody turf battle with the Arellano Felix cartel in Tijuana.
  • The city, which sits across the border from San Diego, has seen more than 590 deaths in violence apparently related to drug disputes this year.
  • In a separate case, police said the dismembered bodies of two men were found in plastic bags Wednesday near the state government's palace in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, a southwestern state also gripped by gang violence. A message found along with the remains read "Understand kidnappers this is going to keep happening."
  • Nationwide, more than 14,000 people have died in drug gang violence since President Felipe Calderon sent troops and federal police to fight cartels three years ago.
Source: AP
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – The man who took power in Madagascar by force defied efforts to negotiate a solution to the island nation's political crisis by appearing on national TV Wednesday to issue a unilateral call for elections.
Andry Rajoelina said the prime minister would be chosen by the party that wins legislative elections he is proposing be held March 20. That would presumably leave him president.
  • Rajoelina, supported by his Indian Ocean island nation's military, overthrew democratically elected President Marc Ravalomanana in early 2009 after weeks of protests left dozens of people dead.
  • Other African countries denounced Rajoelina's takeover as a coup, suspended the country's membership in the African Union and the Southern African Development Community and urged a unity government be formed to oversee new elections by November 2010.
  • On Wednesday, Rajoelina proposed that an independent commission oversee elections. Rajoelina has repeatedly taken steps seen as undermining attempts to form a coalition. Wednesday's announcement is likely to anger African leaders who have been pushing for a mediated solution, further isolating him.
  • Ravalomanana and his two predecessors, Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, met in Mozambique earlier this month for talks mediated by African leaders and named ministers for a unity government.
  • Rajoelina boycotted the negotiations, calling the outcome a coup. He is accused of barring some of his rivals from returning to Madagascar since the Mozambique meeting.
  • Infighting has been a hallmark of politics on this impoverished island. Rajoelina accused Ravalomanana, a wealthy businessman, of misuse of office and being blind to the poverty of his people.
  • Ravalomanana says his rival, a former mayor of the capital and before that a disc jockey, is a populist and rabble-rouser with little genuine interest in democracy.
Source: AP
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. (R), a Philippine congressman and son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos sits with his lawyer Joseph Taddy
MANILA, Philippines – The Oxford-educated son of the Philippines' former dictator Ferdinand Marcos wants to follow the footsteps of his namesake father by winning a seat in the upper house of Congress in May as a first step toward the presidency.
  • "If we succeed in what we are doing now, it wouldn't be bad to be president. The presidency would be a good cap to one's political career," Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr told foreign correspondents in Manila.
  • The 52-year-old congressman from the northern Ilocos Norte province, his father's bailiwick, recently launched his second attempt to run for senator. He lost in the 1995 polls, claiming he was cheated of a seat in the 24-member Senate.
  • His father started his career in the post-war Philippines as a congressman, then was a senator before becoming the country's longest serving president. Marcos ruled as a dictator in the last 14 of his 20-year rule and was ousted in 1986 by an army-backed popular revolt.
  • "Soldiers dream to become general, bank tellers to become CEOs and I am taking this as far as it can go," Bongbong said.
  • Some analysts say Bongbong has a good chance of winning a senate seat. Senators are chosen in a nationwide vote and he would benefit from name recall and the machinery of the political party he is allied with, the Nacionalista Party of billionaire senator Manuel Villar.
  • But he is unlikely to rank among the top winners given voters' memories of his wild parties in the presidential palace during his father's rule. He acknowledges that period in his life but now says he is a family man focused on his three sons.
Source: Reuters
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

President Obama is to transfer at least 100 inmates inside the Guantánamo Bay prison to a jail in his home state of Illinois, the White House announced yesterday in the latest phase of his troubled effort to shut the controversial detention facility.
  • The move will be resisted by many on Capitol Hill and the US public, a majority of whom believe that Guantánamo should remain open. However, many in Illinois welcomed the announcement as they believe that it will create jobs.
  • Obama has ordered the US Government to buy the Thomson correctional centre, a maximum-security prison in a rural area about 150 miles west of Chicago, from the state and turn it into a federal facility.
  • The jail, built in 2001 at a cost of $120 million (£74 million), has a maximum-security section that can house 1,600 inmates. Because of budget problems, that part of the facility remains empty.
  • The minimum- security wing currently houses 200 prisoners. There are still about 215 detainees in Guantánamo, just over a month before Mr Obama’s self- imposed deadline to shut the facility by January 22.
Source: Time Online
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In this July 23, 2008 file photo Egyptian boys watch passing girls at the Nile bank in Cairo: AP – FILE
CAIRO – The sexual harassment of women in the streets, schools and work places of the Arab World is driving them to cover up and confine themselves to their homes, said activists at the first-ever regional conference addressing the once taboo topic.
  • Activists from 17 countries across the region met in Cairo for a two-day conference ending Monday and concluded that harassment was unchecked across the region because laws don't punish it, women don't report it and the authorities ignore it.
  • The harassment, including groping and verbal abuse, appears to be designed to drive women out of public spaces and seems to happen regardless of what they are wearing, they said.
  • Amal Madbouli, who wears the conservative face veil or niqab, told The Associated Press that despite her dress, she is harassed and described how a man came after her in the streets of her neighborhood.
  • "He hissed at me and kept asking me if I wanted to go with him to a quieter area, and to give him my phone number," said Madbouli, a mother of two. "This is a national security issue. I am a mother, and I want to be reassured when my daughters go out on the streets."
  • Statistics on harassment in the region have until recently been nonexistent, but a series of studies presented at the conference hinted at the widespread nature of the problem.
  • As many as 90 percent of Yemeni women say they have been harassed, while in Egypt, out of a sample of 1,000, 83 percent reported being verbally or physically abused.
  • A study in Lebanon reported that more than 30 percent of women said they had been harassed there.
  • "We are facing a phenomena that is limiting women's right to move ... and is threatening women's participation in all walks of life," said Nehad Abul Komsan, an Egyptian activist who organized the event with funding from the U.N. and the Swedish development agency.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
KABUL – A suicide car bomber struck a heavily guarded neighborhood Tuesday near the home of a former Afghan vice president and a hotel favored by Westerners, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens, officials said.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said the target of the bombing was unclear, but security officials at the scene said the bomber was going after the home of former first vice president, Ahmad Zia Massoud.
  • He is the brother of legendary anti-Taliban hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by al-Qaida two days before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
  • "Of course we were the target," said Shah Asmat, an aide to the former vice president. "Before, the Taliban killed Massoud. Now, they tried to kill his brother."
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a speech he was delivering at a conference on corruption, said two of Massoud's guards were among those killed in the explosion.
  • In a statement released later, Karzai strongly condemned the terrorist attack. He instructed government officials to thoroughly investigate the incident and identify those responsible.
Source: AP
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SYDNEY – A massive iceberg edging slowly toward Australia's southwestern coast is breaking up into hundreds of smaller icebergs as it drifts into warmer waters, creating potentially hazardous conditions for ships trying to navigate the region, a scientist said Tuesday.
  • The iceberg, known as B17B, was spotted last week on satellite imaging about 1,100 miles (1,700 kilometers) off Western Australia state, prompting Australia's Bureau of Meteorology to issue a shipping alert.
  • Since then, it has shrunk from 54 square miles (140 square kilometers) to 44 square miles (115 square kilometers), or around 11 miles (18 kilometers) long and 5 miles (8 kilometers) wide, said glaciologist Neal Young of the Australian Antarctic Division.
  • The iceberg has broken up into hundreds of smaller icebergs, some up to several miles (kilometers) wide, and spread over more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) of ocean, he said. "I expect it to dissipate," Young said. But exactly when, he added, is anyone's guess.
  • The iceberg is one of several that split off in Antarctica in 2000 when parts of two major ice shelves — the Ross Sea Ice Shelf and Ronne Ice Shelf — fractured.
  • New Zealand issued a shipping alert last month after authorities spotted a flotilla of icebergs heading toward South Island. Those icebergs have since moved east, away from New Zealand.
  • Icebergs are routinely sloughed off as part of the natural development of ice shelves. B17B is expected to continue moving east.
Source: AP
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger attacks on humans are on the increase in the Sundarbans, the region between India and Bangladesh, and scientists are blaming this on climate change.
The mangrove forests at the mouth of the River Ganges are home to the only man-eating Tigers in the world, but this delicate eco-system is being threatened, pushing them into greater contact and conflict, with humans.
  • The number of tiger attacks on people is growing in India's Sundarban islands as habitat loss and dwindling prey caused by climate change drives them to prowl into villages for food, conservation experts say.
  • Wildlife experts say endangered tigers in the world's largest reserve are turning on humans because rising sea levels and coastal erosion are steadily shrinking the tigers' natural habitat.
  • The Sundarbans, a 26,000 sq km area of low-lying swamps on India's border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels. "In the past six months, seven fishermen were killed in an area called Netidhopani," says Pranabes Sanyal of the World Conservation Union.
  • Source: BBC
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Photos show Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) after he was attacked by Massimo Tartaglia
ROME – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was punched in the face at the end of a rally on Sunday by a man holding a small statue in his hand, leaving the 73-year-old media mogul with a bloodied mouth and looking stunned, police said.
The 42-year-old man, Massimo Tartaglia, accused of attacking Berlusconi in Milan as he signed autographs was immediately taken into custody.
  • TV showed the leader with blood under his nose, on his mouth and under one eye being lifted to his feet by aides after the attack. Berlusconi was hustled into the back of a car, but he immediately got out, apparently in an effort to show he was not badly injured.
  • After looking out into the crowd, the premier, without saying a word, was pulled back into the vehicle.
  • The attack occurred after Berlusconi had just finished delivering a long, vigorous speech at the rally to a crowd of applauding supporters from his Freedom People party.
  • Officials at Milan's police headquarters, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the premier was conscious and apparently not badly injured. They said the attacker was wielding a miniature statue of Milan's Duomo, the city's gargoyled cathedral and symbol, but couldn't say what the souvenir was made of.
  • Berlusconi's spokesman, speaking by telephone from the emergency room from San Raffaele hospital where the premier was taken, told Sky TG24 TV that doctors had decided to keep the premier in the hospital overnight for observation.
Source: AP
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Sunday, December 13, 2009
Believe it or not, a study indicates that ninety percent of the large fish in the world's oceans are gone.
"Analysis suggests that the global ocean has lost more than 90 per cent of large predatory fishes," say study authors Ransom Myers and Boris Worm of Dalhousie University.
"We have to understand how close to extinction some of these populations really are," Myers interview was reported from Ottawa by The Canadian Press.
  • The researchers spent 10 years collecting data on large fish in four continental shelf and nine oceanic systems from the beginning of record keeping to the present.
  • They found that industrial fishing, using sensors and satellites, takes 15 years to reduce a new fish community to a tenth of its original size.
  • "The amazing thing is, all these data sources show almost identically the same pattern," Myers stated. "Industrial fishing has cut populations of large fish in the oceans to a mere 10 per cent of 1950 levels."
  • "The world is in 'massive denial', spending its energy fighting over the few fish left instead of cutting harvests before it's too late."
  • Around the world ever bigger trawlers fish and freeze 24 hours a day.
  • Taking advantage of faraway fishing grounds, the ships dock, sell their catch at the nearest port for export to distant countries. Exotic species are introduced to satisfy a demand no longer met from fished-out local seas.
  • Bottom trawling now an extensive business and is scouring the continental shelf seabeds from the poles to the tropics profoundly altering the habitats of the world's benthic life.
  • Hydraulic dredging and beam trawling for fishmeal is taking place despite the knowledge there is a definitive change of the substrate.
  • Studies show that much of the Benthic fauna, the ocean bottom fauna, is destroyed when the boats dredge and trawl for fishmeal.
  • Fishmeal fishing kills uncountable life forms that our science has only begun to identify. Creatures that will not be here for future generations.
  • Scientists are saying that for a few decades of intense fishing we will obliterate the life of the oceans.
  • Marine scientists around the globe have called for decisive action to end the blind destruction that is taking place in the world's oceans.
  • They are asking governments to end subsidies encouraging unsustainable fishing, and for worldwide legislation to stop bottom trawling.
Source: Greenpeace, AFP
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The former head of Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, Asad Durrani said in an interview with Press TV that Blackwater, a notorious US security firm, is carrying out operations in the country.
His comments came after the US Central intelligence Agency (CIA) revealed that Blackwater, which currently works under the name Xe Services, has been involved in drone attacks in Pakistan.
  • The CIA said the private security company has been loading bombs on US drones that target suspected militants in Pakistan. The attacks, according to Pakistani media, kill civilians as well.
  • General Durrani, however, said the group may be involved in actions that destabilize the country.
  • "My assessment is that they [Blackwater agents] — either themselves or most probably through others, through the locals — do carry out some of the explosions," he said.
  • "The idea is to carry out such actions, like carrying attacks in the civilian areas to make the others look bad in the eyes of the public."
  • Pakistan, suffering from a wave of violence, has witnessed the loss of lives of more than two thousands civilians in the past two years because of bomb attacks across the country.
Source: Press TV
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

WASHINGTON -- More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
  • The legal order, executed 18 months ago by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is under seal and hasn't been made public. The court acted in part because of information provided by the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn't respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.
  • The frozen $2 billion stands at the center of an intensifying legal struggle between Luxembourg's Clearstream Banking S.A., the holder of the Citibank account, and the families of hundreds of U.S. Marines killed or injured in a 1983 terrorist attack on a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
  • Clearstream is primarily a clearing house for financial trades and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG. Luxembourg's bank secrecy laws have helped it grow into a major European financial center.
  • There is no indication that Citibank knew the funds may ultimately belong to Iran. U.S. firms that do business with Iran face stiff civil and criminal penalties.
Source:The Wall Street Journal
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – A senior Cabinet official says President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has approved the lifting of martial law in a southern province where 57 people were massacred last month in the country's worst political violence.
  • Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told a news conference that the martial law edict will be lifted at 9 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Saturday.
  • He said the Cabinet's security group made the recommendation during a meeting of the National Security Council.
  • The weeklong martial law in Maguindanao province led to a massive military and police operation against the ruling Ampatuan clan blamed for the mass killings of members of a rival family and 30 journalists.
  • Large amounts of weapons were seized, and at least 24 people charged with rebellion.
Source: AP
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The once free-flowing Manaquiri River, which runs through the state of Amazonas in northwest Brazil, is in the fight of its life against a spell of dry weather - and it appears to be losing the battle.
Thousands of dead fish are rotting on the river banks and hundreds more float on its surface, turning the area into a toxic cesspool.
  • Vultures circle overhead, picking away at the rotting carcasses. Even an alligator - one of the fiercest reptiles of the Amazon - floats belly up in the river.
  • Local fishermen say it has not rained in more than 25 days, leaving the large surrounding rivers in recession. This has in turn choked off the tributaries that provide fresh water to the Manaquiri.
  • With no fresh water coming in, oxygen levels in the river have dropped, leaving the fish to suffocate to death.
  • "One week the river water levels dropped, the next week all the fish died," Bruno dos Santos, a fisherman, said.
  • "In five days all the fish were dead. We have nothing left, only this ugly water."
  • Fearnside, who has lived in the Amazon for the past 33 years and is considered one of Brazil's top ecologists, says climate change theories are not built on speculation.
  • "This is something we have experience with and know from the data, it's not something that depends on the outcome of a computer simulation," he adds.
  • He says that while droughts can occur without climate change, such events are more likely to develop in a warming climate.
  • For the fishermen passing time on their now idle boats on the Manaquiri, the stench of fish carcasses baking under the sun is a constant reminder of their dwindling livelihood.
  • The ice chest on Antonio Farias' boat, which used to be filled with fish, is now empty. Although he admits that he has no scientific expertise, he does offer his own theories for the cause of his community's misery.
  • "I think this is related to some changes in the climate. Because for us, it's been over 20 days without rain here. This was a surprise, because we have never experienced this before. It's sad, all the dead fish" he said.
  • The fishermen say the damage has already been done. It will take a year at least, they say, for the river to recover.
Source: Al Jazeera
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Friday, December 11, 2009
OSLO, Norway – Newly enshrined among the world's great peacemakers, President Barack Obama offered a striking defense of war. Eleven months into his presidency, a fresh Obama doctrine.
Evil must be vigorously opposed, he declared as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday. At the same time, he made an impassioned case for building a "just and lasting peace."
  • "I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people," Obama told his audience in Oslo's soaring City Hall. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world."
  • Pronouncing himself humbled by such an honor so early in "my labors on the world stage," Obama nevertheless turned his Nobel moment into an unapologetic defense of armed intervention in times of self defense or moral necessity.
  • The hawkish message was an inevitable nod to the controversy defining his selection: an American president, lauded for peace just as he escalates the long, costly war in Afghanistan.
  • It was a jarring moment when Obama, in the midst of the ceremony, said of his troops in Afghanistan: "Some will kill. Some will be killed."
  • He lauded Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., preachers of nonviolent action. But he added, "A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms."
  • "To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history."
  • The president laid out circumstances in which war is justified in self-defense, to come to the aid of an invaded nation, on humanitarian grounds such as when civilians are slaughtered by their own government.
  • At the same time, he also stressed a need to fight war according to "rules of conduct" that reject torture, the murder of innocents and other atrocities.
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