MONTPELIER, Vermont, USA - Bed-and-breakfast owner Jeff Connor was hoping for a boom in business once Vermont opened the door for same-sex couples to marry.
The law takes effect Tuesday, but he's still waiting. So far, he has only one wedding celebration planned at the 11-unit Grunberg Haus, in Duxbury. It's for Sept. 8.
Unlike the rush that followed Vermont's adoption of civil unions in 2000, the state's adoption of full marriage rights for same-sex couples hasn't turned it into a gay marriage mecca. And it may not.
City and town clerks around Vermont have issued only a handful of licenses. The adoption of gay marriage in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa has diluted what was once Vermont's monopoly - and a tourism draw.
In Manchester, a southern Vermont town whose picturesque old buildings, mountain vistas and upscale shopping make it a wedding destination (there were 101 last year), no gay couples have plunked down the $45 fee for the marriage licenses, which are good for 60 days from the date of issue.
In Burlington, the state's largest city, only three licenses have been issued for post-Sept. 1 weddings involving gay or lesbian couples. In Rutland, four licenses have been issued, said City Clerk Henry Heck. It's a sharp contrast to 2000.
After the civil unions law took effect July 1, 2000, there were 1,704 civil unions established in the next six months, including 405 in July alone.
Out-of-state residents accounted for 78 percent of them with most involving people from New York, Massachusetts and California, according to state vital records. Nearly 69 percent were between female partners.
The slow start to the same-sex marriage law may also be rooted in timing. When the Legislature adopted the law in April, it set Sept. 1 as the effective date, thereby missing out on the summer wedding season.
KUALA LUMPUR: MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has instructed party secretary-general Datuk Wong Foon Meng to convene an emergency general meeting (EGM) within 30 days.
Wong, when contacted, confirmed he received Ong's instructions Monday morning.
"Based on Article 30.1 of the party constitution, the president can call for an EGM," said Wong.
He said he would start making preparations on Tuesday to inform delegates of the date, time and venue of the EGM.
The issues to be debated at the EGM are the ongoing public disclosure of the Port Klang Free Zone project, the presidential council's decision to expel deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and other matters.
The EGM will seek a decision from delegates on these issues.
Ong's directive prempts moves by Dr Chua's supporters to gather enough signatures from delegates to convene an EGM seeking to nullify Dr Chua's expulsion and reinstate him as deputy president, and pass a no-confidence vote against Ong.
In the jungles of central Borneo, loggers and native tribes, environmentalists and plantation companies, rights lawyers and government developers are now locked in an increasingly desperate battle. The future of one of the world's last great rainforests is at stake.
The outcome of this fight could determine much beyond Borneo's borders too, as environmental scientists become increasingly alarmed at the effect deforestation taking place here is having on the world's weather.
The current front line in this confrontation lies about 160km inland from the town of Miri, in the Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
In recent days a string of barricades have gone up in this region, the Upper Baram river, as native tribespeople try to prevent logging and plantation companies entering what the tribesmen see as the last remnants of their land.
Spears and machetes One such barricade is outside Long Deloh where, across a narrow logging track in the heart of the Borneo rainforest, a thin line of Penan tribesmen defend a makeshift blockade with spears and local machetes, known as parangs.
"This has been our land for generations and now they are trying to cut down what little we have left," says Jackson Luhat Paren, the headman of the village of Long Deloh, whose inhabitants built the barricade.
"We are here because we want to preserve our land for the next generation. Without our land we are nothing and we will defend it with our lives if necessary."
The Penan claim that the land around their long houses is their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land.
This is land that native people can claim under Sarawak law as their own, if they can prove that they have cultivated it prior to 1958.
Yet the once-nomadic Penan have few documents to prove anything - some even lack identity cards or birth certificates.
"This is where the whole problem lies," says Baru Bian, a lawyer based in the Sarwak capital of Kuching, who has worked on the NCR issue for many years.
"It is quite a challenge to prove a claim to NCR [land] in court, while in the meantime, the government has gone ahead and issued licenses to logging and plantation companies to work this disputed land.
Oil palm plantations While logging has continued in Sarawak for decades, it is the recent growth of the oil palm industry which has become an overshadowing threat for the Penan.
The government plans to have allocate one million hectares to oil palm plantations by 2010. Oil palm trees provide a source of food and a potential source of bio-diesel.
Yet many environmental scientists are alarmed by the effect of replacing natural forest growth with a single species of tree.
"This is really the big story in climate change," says Lois Verchot, the principal scientist for Climate Change at the Jakarta-based Centre for International Forestry Research.
"One of the key problems in carbon emissions comes from cutting down the rainforest. Perhaps 40-50 tonnes of carbon per hectare is stored in an oil palm plantation, while 150-400 tonnes of carbon is stored in a hectare of natural rainforest.
"You cut down the rainforest to plant oil palm, you release a huge amount of carbon. Plus many animals can't live in oil palm plantations. Orangutans, for example, need a completely different forest habitat to survive."
Yet the state government of Sarawak argues that developing this land - by logging, clearing and then planting for oil palm - is the best chance the people of the state have for future prosperity.
Fighting poverty? "The economics of it are simple," says Abdullah Chek Sahmat, the general manager of Sarawak's Land Custody and Development Authority.
"The traditional way to use forest land maybe provides about 500kg of rice a year, using slash and burn farming techniques that are also environmentally damaging," he says.
"This 500kg of rice is worth about $142 per hectare per year. If you put the same land under oil palm, you'll make $3550 per hectare per year at current prices."
"If you want people to get out of poverty, which way makes the most sense?" he asks.
Meanwhile, the Penan, who are among some of Sarawak's poorest inhabitants, are facing their own bleak battle for survival.
The 100 or so inhabitants of Long Deloh were nomadic until a few generations ago, when they settled in two long houses at a remote bend in the River Patah.
"The hills around here were deeply forested and full of animals," recalls Along Hot, a Long Deloh inhabitant and hunter.
"You could find leopards, wild boar and orangutans. The water in the river was clear and you could drink it, you could use a net to catch fish there were so many."
All that changed, these Penan say, when the logging companies arrived.
Water 'polluted' "There were a lot of illnesses from drinking the water after the logging company came," says Jackson. "The animals started disappearing too, scared away by the chainsaws. We also lost a lot of our fruit trees and fish ponds that became filled with rubbish from the logging." Some of the Penan are now facing severe shortages of food and drinking water.
On August 23, the Catholic Church in Sarawak appealed for aid for a number of Penan communities in the region.
A bad drought has exacerbated existing shortages.
Modernisation as a solution
The government, meanwhile, says that such crises can only be averted if the Penan move out of the forest and into modern settlements.
"The Penans need education and medical care as part of the development process," says local state assemblyman Nelson Balang, a member of Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional group.
"Some Westerners want the Penan to stay as they are, in poverty," adds Chek Sahmat of the Land Custody and Development Authority.
"But we must do what is in the interests of our own people, or we will not be a free country."
The Penan, however, stand defiant.
"We have no choice but to defend this barricade," says Jackson.
"We are trying to defend our culture, our whole way of life. If we lose this, what will be left for our children and our children's children?" Source: Sarawak Headhunter, Jonathan Gorvett
The house at New Hope Mobile Home Park in Brunswick, Ga where seven people were found slain Saturday
BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Seven people were found slain and two critically injured Saturday at a mobile home park built on the grounds of a historic plantation in southeastern Georgia, police said.
Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering called it the worst mass slaying in his 25 years of police work in this coastal Georgia county. He wouldn't say how the victims died.
A family member called 911 at about 8 a.m. Saturday after discovering the bodies inside a dingy mobile home shaded by large, moss-draped oaks with an old boat in the front yard.
At an afternoon news conference, Doering declined to say whether police believe the killer was among the dead or remained at large. No arrests had been made.
Investigators were talking to neighbors about whether they saw or heard anything unusual, but hadn't found any witnesses to the crime. Police hadn't interviewed the survivors, who remained in critical condition Saturday night.
All seven bodies were tentatively identified by Saturday evening. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was scheduled to perform autopsies Sunday.
Doering said families of the victims had been notified, but he would not release any names or ages before receiving the autopsy results. Source: AP
An Iraqi journalist imprisoned for hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behavior, his lawyer said Saturday.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi's act of protest during Bush's last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world, as his case became a rallying point for critics who resented the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation.
"Al-Zeidi's shoes were a suitable farewell for Bush's deeds in Iraq," Sunni lawmaker Dhafir al-Ani said in welcoming the early release. "Al-Zeidi's act expressed the real will and feelings of the Iraqi people. His anger against Bush was the result of the suffering of his countrymen."
The journalist has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst, which occurred as Bush was holding a news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the time, was said to have been deeply offended by the act.
Al-Zeidi was initially sentenced to three years in prison after pleading not guilty to assaulting a foreign leader. The court reduced it to one year because the journalist had no prior criminal history.
Defense attorney Karim al-Shujairi said al-Zeidi will now be released on Sept. 14, three months early.
"We have been informed officially about the court decision," al-Shujairi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "His release will be a victory for the free and honorable Iraqi media."
Followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who were among the leaders of many of the demonstrations demanding al-Zeidi's release, welcomed the decision to free him early.
"We believe that al-Zeidi did not commit any crime but only expressed the will of the Iraqi people in rejecting the U.S. occupation," Sadrist lawmaker Falah Shanshal said. "Al-Zeidi's image will always be a heroic one."
The bizarre act of defiance transformed the obscure reporter from a minor TV station into a national hero to many Iraqis fed up with the U.S. presence.
Thousands demonstrated for al-Zeidi's release and hailed his gesture. A sofa-sized sculpture of a shoe was erected in his honor in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, but the Iraqi government later ordered it removed.
Neither leader was injured, but Bush was forced to duck for cover as the journalist shouted in Arabic: "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents who wrestled him to the ground and dragged him away.
Al-Zeidi's family has said he was also mistreated while in custody, although the government has denied the allegation.
"We thank God that he will be released, although we still fear for his safety since he is still in the prison," his brother Dargham said. "He will be released full of pride and strength from all the love he has received from the Iraqi people and international organizations and figures who advocate freedom."
Fresh fighting in northeast Myanmar has erupted after days of clashes that killed at least one person on Chinese territory and sent dozens of wounded people to hospitals along the Chinese border.
Thousands of people have fled to the border town of Nansan in China's Yunnan province this month after clashes in Kokang in Myanmar's Shan state, following the deployment of Myanmar government troops in the area.
Thousands more people are trapped in Kokang, where there are now food and water shortages, the Global Times reported.
A Chinese shopkeeper who fled the area said on Friday, some merchants who stayed beyond to protect their property had been killed. Security forces have been beefed up along the border region, a lush, forested area of low hills, to prevent the conflict from spilling into Yunnan.
Covering an area of over 10,000sq km, the Kokang region bordering China's Yunnan province has a population of about 150,000 people.It is home to a large number of ethnic Chinese, many of whom are Chinese citizens who own businesses in Myanmar.
A wave of "furious" fighting began in the border area at around 8.15am on Saturday morning and is continuing, a report on the website of the Chinese newspaper Global Times said.
China has called on Myanmar to maintain stability in the border region and urged more measures to protect the security and legal rights of Chinese citizens there.
Myanmar groups in exile said the fighting began after the Myanmar military took control of facilities run by the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in Laogai (MNDAA), the capital of Shan. The MNDAA had observed a ceasefire with the Myanmar government since 1989.
Tehran has warned Washington not to make the same mistakes that the former administration of George W. Bush did when it came to Middle East peace talks.
The top Iranian diplomat said neither the new US administration nor any other Arab state should think that they could ignore the right of Palestinians when addressing the issue of peace.
"We warn the US government and (President Barack) Obama not to fall into the trap laid by former US politicians on the issue of Palestine," Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said on the sidelines of Friday prayers in Isfahan.
He also noted that a new Israel-Palestinian peace plan should at least grant Palestinians the minimum rights they deserve, and not take the pro-Tel Aviv approach of the former administration.
Mottaki also pointed out that Iran's national interests were tied up with "the effort to obtain Palestinian rights."
The Iranian foreign minister's comments came after US President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East held a four-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London to discuss a settlement freeze.
The Wednesday meeting ended without satisfactory results as Netanyahu refused to heed international calls for a complete end to the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land.
Furthermore, Israeli officials and Western diplomats said after the talks, that Mitchell had recognized that Netanyahu could not announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem (al-Quds).
They said Washington no longer demands that Tel Aviv make a public announcement about freezing settlement building in the occupied holy city.
This is while, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday, identified Israel's settlement building in Palestinian territories as an urgent issue which must be addressed before peace could be established in the region.
The United Arab Emirates has seized a cargo of North Korean weapons being shipped to Iran, which would have violated a UN embargo on arms exports from the communist state, Western diplomats say.
The UAE reported the incident, which occurred two weeks ago, to the Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea, diplomats said on Friday.
The committee sent letters to Tehran and Pyongyang on August 25 informing them of the seizure and demanding a response within 15 days.
The weapons seized on August 14 included rocket launchers, detonators, munitions and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenades, it said.
The ship, called the ANL-Australia, was Australian-owned and flying a Bahamas flag.
The Australian firm whose ship was seized is controlled by a French conglomerate and the actual export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company.No name any of the firms involved.
Both North Korea and Iran appeared to be in breach of Security Council resolution 1874, which banned all arms exports from North Korea and authorised states to search suspicious ships and seize and destroy banned items.
The resolution was imposed after North Korea's second nuclear test in May. Balbina Hwang, a former state department adviser for Asia said that the seizure was significant because it was the first incident since the UN resolution within the Middle East region.
Inspite of growing tension with U.N-U.S and a threat from virus H1N1, business is booming at North Korea's first fast food restaurant, which specialises in burgers, chips and other fried delights, official media in the communist state reported on Friday.
The Samtaesong restaurant in the capital Pyongyang, which also serves waffles and crispy fried chicken, "is crowded with Korean and foreign customers", the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The venture opened in June in cooperation with a Singaporean firm, Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based newspaper for ethnic North Koreans, reported earlier.
"It instantly cooks and serves dishes to the customers as they demand," KCNA reported approvingly.
The hardline regime has long restricted or banned what it sees as Western or "US imperialist influences" on its people.
But in March, Choson Sinbo reported that the North had also opened its first "authentic" Italian restaurant on the orders of leader Kim Jong-Il, who is believed to have a taste for some Western cuisine.
The eatery, which opened in December in Pyongyang, has reportedly proved to be a major hit.
In 2004, the BBC ran an interview with an Italian chef who had taught pizza-making skills to three North Korean army officers so they could cook for the country's leader. Outside the showpiece capital, the country suffers severe food shortages.
A study by the United Nations' World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation last year estimated nearly nine million North Koreans – more than a third of the country's 24 million people – require food aid.
Saudi Deputy Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has escaped a suicide bomb attack in his office in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.
According to the official news agency SPA, the top Saudi security official who is responsible for the kingdom's anti-terror fight survived the attack on Thursday evening while meeting well-wishers for the Moslem fasting month of Ramadan.
The agency further added that the prince suffered only superficial injuries after the suicide bomber got close to him and detonated his explosives hidden inside his mobile phone.
Prince Nayef was later shown on Saudi television meeting with the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah after he was treated at a hospital for minor injuries. The suicide bomber was the only casualty of the incident.
The attack was the first known assassination attempt against a senior member of the royal family since 1975, when King Faisal was shot dead at point-blank range by a nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musaed. The prince was beheaded in a public square in Riyadh three months later.
In a move to prevent violence during the holy month of Ramadan, the Israel authorities plans to deploy thousands of police in Jerusalem and restrict access to Islam’s holiest site in the city on Friday.
Sheik Mohammed Hussein, a top Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, charged that the restrictions were part of an attempt by Israel to make Jerusalem Jewish and are “meant to limit the Palestinian and Islamic presence in Jerusalem.”
The stern security measures grew out of previous years, when Friday Ramadan prayers at Al Aqsa turned into riots against Israel. Friday is the Muslim day of worship and is marked by large communal prayers. This Friday is the first of Ramadan this year.
The restrictions will not apply to Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem, who hold Israeli residency rights, or Muslim citizens of Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The huge plaza in front of the silver-domed Al Aqsa Mosque, also home to the golden-topped Dome of the Rock shrine, has room for as many as 300,000 worshippers. In recent years, because of Israeli security restrictions, fewer have attended the Ramadan services on Friday.
The Muslim shrines were built atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish temples, making the walled hilltop one of the most sensitive flashpoints in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from the site. Both sides claim sovereignty there.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso (left) and main opposition Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama during their debate session in Tokyo
Japan’s opposition Democratic Party may win two-thirds of the seats in parliament’s lower house in Sunday’s election, a newspaper said today, a landslide win that would make it easier to push through laws.
An opposition victory would end more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and break a policy deadlock caused by a divided parliament, where the opposition controls the upper house and can delay bills.
Yukio Hatoyama’s Democrats have promised to focus spending on households, cut waste and wrest control of policy from the hands of bureaucrats. But their pledge to keep the sales tax at its current 5 per cent for the next four years has raised concerns about further inflating Japan’s already huge public debt.
Previous surveys have already shown the Democrats are on track for a runaway win over Prime Minister Taro Aso’s LDP, which has ruled the country for all but 10 months since its founding 1955, but the Asahi newspaper said that an even bigger victory was within sight.
A huge win would mean the Democrats would have to pay less attention to their small allies on the left and the right, making policy formation easier. A two-thirds majority in the lower house would also allow the Democrats to enact bills rejected by the upper house.
With their allies, they currently control the upper house but face an election for that chamber next year.
Analysts have cautioned that voter anger at the LDP is more due to scandals, policy flip-flops and a perceived inability to solve the deep problems of Japan’s fast-ageing society rather than enthusiasm for the decade-old Democrats.
KUALA LUMPUR: The ethnic Chinese party in Malaysia's ruling coalition has sacked a top leader embroiled in a sex scandal, setting the stage for infighting that could harm its public support.
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) decided overnight to expel Dr.Chua Soi Lek, who was forced to quit as health minister last year after being caught on tape having sex with an unidentified woman in a hotel room.
Chua, 62, was the deputy president of the MCA, a key member of Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government, representing the community that makes up 26 per cent of the Muslim-majority population.
"We did so with a heavy heart after giving much consideration to the damage inflicted upon the party image brought about by his sex scandal featured in the DVD," MCA president Ong Tee Keat told reporters, referring to the sacking.
The move came as the Barisan Nasional attempts to regain support from minority Chinese and Indians, many of whom deserted the coalition in elections last year.
In the wake of the sex scandal, Chua resigned as the party's number three but was voted back in by party members to the number-two post in elections last year.
That set off a running battle with Ong, whom Chua said felt threatened by his support, and in recent months the sex scandal was revived with new questions over the legality of the acts depicted in the tape.
Chua, married with three children, has previously accused his political "enemies" of orchestrating the release of the video, which was widely circulated.
Political analyst James Chin said the sacking of Chua was a "wrong move" that would throw Barisan into further disarray. It is already plagued by infighting within another component party that represents Indians.
"The Chinese community will see that a deeply divided MCA can't play the role of being their representatives in the government," Chin, a political analyst at the Monash University campus in Kuala Lumpur, told
Sharjah,United Arab Emirates : The Sharjah Islamic Affairs Department has launched an anti-smoking campaign for Ramadan that will reward those who quit the habit with Dh10,000 (US$272,000).
"We want to use Ramadan to see the end of it for most smokers, because if you can refrain from smoking. through out the day, then you can refrain]throughout your life," Twalib Ebrahim Al Merri, head of the Department of Islamic Affairs of the Government of Sharjah, said.
The department's campaign is aimed at helping smokers quit this Ramadan and more than 100 smokers have already registered.
The campaign was initially launched last year to facilitate the government's efforts to encourage people to quit smoking.
"In June 2008, the Sharjah Executive Council passed a decree banning people from smoking in public areas, such as in restaurants and shopping centres, and the decision was a thoughtful and researched effort to restrict the damaging health effects of smoking on the people of Sharjah," he said.
"Officials from the department will then keep a close watch over participants]to make sure they quit smoking," Hussain Al Amiri, head of the Awareness Section at the Department of Islamic Affairs, said.
"At the end of the month they would be subject to another medical test to prove that they did not smoke for the whole month, and those who pass the test will then be entered into the draw," he said.
Al Amiri said the first prize winner will receive Dh10,000(US$273,000.00), while the second and third winners will be rewarded with Dh5,000(US$136,000.00). Others up to the tenth winner would carry home prizes like mobile phones and other electronics.
He pointed out that after Ramadan the department would continue to monitor those who have tried to quit smoking, and should they fail, they will be given counseling and any other assistance to prevent them from taking up the habit again.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Australia are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) by February next year to jointly tackle human smuggling and trafficking.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the problem was of great concern to both countries. “The numbers are big enough to justify serious action and the sharing of information by both countries,” he said at a joint news conference with Duncan Lewis, the National Security Adviser to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
They had earlier attended the Malaysia-Australia Working Group Meeting on the Issue of Smuggling and Trafficking of Humans, here, yesterday. Present at the function were high ranking officers from various enforcement agencies, including the Police and Customs.
Lewis complimented Malaysia for the “considerable success achieved in recent weeks and months.”
“The most important outcome of the meeting is our committment to move forward to a formal agreement, perhaps an MoU that needs to be ratified by both countries,” Lewis added.
Hishammuddin said the political will and enthusiasm shown by both countries had enabled yesterday’s high-level meeting to be convened at short notice.
A group of Australian Aborigines asked the United Nations Wednesday for refugee status, claiming special emergency laws to curb alcohol and sexual abuse in the remote outback have turned them into outcasts at home.
Richard Downs, a spokesperson for the 4,000-strong Alyawarra people in central Australia, said the request was given to James Anaya, the United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous human rights, during a fact-finding tour to Australia.
Australia’s 460,000 Aborigines make up about 2 per cent of the population. They suffer higher rates of unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence, and have a life expectancy 17 years shorter than other Australians.
The intervention, launched by the former conservative government in June 2007 to stamp out widespread child sex abuse, fuelled by chronic alcoholism from “rivers of grog” in indigenous communities, had taken away indigenous rights, Downs said.
An independent review last year found the intervention affected 45,500 Aboriginal men, women and children in more than 500 Northern Territory communities, and progress on health care and security were undermined by a lack of full community support.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made indigenous affairs a priority of his government, winning praise for apologising in parliament for historic injustices against Aborigines.
World leaders lionized U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy on Wednesday as a towering figure in American politics, praising his dedication to causes ranging from health care reform to peace in Northern Ireland.
The senator from Massachusetts inspired praise from leaders of nations and campaigners for human rights, and many expressed sadness at learning of his death Tuesday from a brain tumor.
Tributes poured in, particularly from U.S President Barrack Obama, Britain and Ireland, in recognition of Kennedy's role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Lord Owen, who served as British foreign secretary in the 1970s, said Kennedy was "the most influential senator" in the United States.
He said Kennedy had put his weight behind peace in Northern Ireland even at the risk of alienating powerful Irish-American allies, whose sympathies lay with the province's Catholic Irish nationalists rather than the British Protestant majority.
Initially a strong supporter of the Irish nationalist cause, Kennedy was a key American promoter of the peace process, urging Britain to negotiate with the IRA-linked party Sinn Fein, and also reaching out to Protestant Unionists.
Irish President Mary McAleese said Kennedy would be remembered "as a hugely important friend to this country during the very difficult times.
In Britain, Kennedy was praised for his indefatigable work on causes such as health care and judicial reform. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "even facing illness and death, he never stopped fighting.Britain gave Kennedy an honorary knighthood earlier this year.
In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Kennedy "made an extraordinary contribution to American politics, an extraordinary contribution to America's role in the world."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced "deep sorrow" at Kennedy's death.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Kennedy "has left a deep mark and deserves the homage of all the free world."
A satellite launched by South Korea's first space rocket has fallen to Earth and burnt up after missing its designated orbit.The rocket launched successfully but failed to push the satellite into orbit, officials say.
"The satellite fell to earth and was burnt and lost," South Korea's science and technology ministry said on Wednesday, adding the government would form a team to analyse findings of a South Korea-Russian investigation and prepare for a re-launch.
The problem was caused by one of the two fairings which covered the satellite at the rocket's tip, the ministry said.
Because one of them did not fall away from the rocket after opening, the rocket could not achieve enough speed to overcome gravity and to place the satellite in its intended orbit.
After years of delays, South Korea successfully launched its two-stage Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle 1 (KSLV-1) from the Naro space centre in the south of the country on Tuesday, but Lee Myung-bak, the president, called the exercise only a "half success".
The failure to send the satellite into orbit was a blow to Seoul's quest to become only the 10th nation in the world capable of launching satellites independently from its own territory.
Greece's socialist opposition leader said the government had mishandled the fighting of fires that tore through Athens suburbs, destroyed thousands of hectares of forest and forced thousands to flee their homes.
"These fires must put an end to an inefficient state, which winks at lawlessness and illegality," socialist opposition leader George Papandreou said. "This fire was not inevitable, it could have been avoided had the lessons of 2007 been learned."
Likely to face voters early next year, the conservative government said very strong winds had made it difficult to fight fires in east Attica where swathes of forest and more than 150 homes were destroyed.
Media also criticised the government's handling of the fires, which have now been contained. "If what we experienced in Attica is the best this government can do, then it is obvious we must urgently replace it," the liberal daily Ethnos said in its main editorial.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is clinging to a one-seat majority and the socialist opposition, which is ahead in opinion polls, has made clear it will force a snap poll in March when parliament votes for a new president.
GENEVA - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Tuesday there should be no immunity from prosecution for torture of terror suspects in a U.S. probe of alleged CIA prisoner abuse cases.
The next step would involve criminal liability for anyone who broke the law, Navi Pillay said in a statement calling for greater transparency about "secret places of detention and what went on in them".
"I hope there is a swift examination of the various allegations of abuse made by former and current detainees in Guantanamo and other U.S.-run prisoners and if they are verified, that the next steps will involve accountability for anyone who has violated the law," she said.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder named a special prosecutor to probe CIA prisoner abuse cases.
The move came after the Justice Department's ethics watchdog recommended considering prosecution of Central Intelligence Agency employees or contractors for harsh interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan that went beyond approved limits.
Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, said that the use of secret places of detention must be curbed and she called for the release of the names of detainees currently being held there.
"Secrecy has been a major part of the problem with this type of detention regime," she said. "When guards and interrogators think they are safe from outside scrutiny, and legal safeguards are circumvented, laws become all too easy to ignore."
Former officials of the George W. Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have denied that torture was used and defended their interrogation practices as legal.
Pillay reiterated her support for U.S. President Barack Obama's commitment to close the U.S. detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by 2010.
She also urged his administration to urgently review the status of detainees at the Bagram facility in Afghanistan.
She welcomed the recent release from Guantanamo of an Afghan youth, Mohammed Jawad, saying that the U.S. justice system had "finally delivered justice".
Jawad, accused of war crimes for throwing a grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers in 2002, was one of the youngest detainees to be held in Guantanamo. In July, a U.S. judge threw out his confession because it had been obtained through abuse.
He said on Tuesday after his return home that he had been abused and humiliated during six years of custody.
His lawyers argue that he was about 12 when he was arrested in 2002 but the Pentagon disputes that and has said bone scans indicated he had turned 18 when he was sent to Guantanamo.
"In Jawad's case and those of other people held in detention for unacceptably long periods, without any charges being proven, or who were tortured or otherwise treated unlawfully, compensation and other remedies are essential," Pillay said.
A massive shortage in sugar stocks in India and Pakistan has led to soaring prices and consumer unrest. The Indian government has introduced strict limits on companies that stockpile sugar to check rising prices.
Shortages led Pakistan's government to nearly double sugar prices causing public outrage ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, which has now begun.
The price of raw sugar worldwide has increased to its highest level since 1981, as supply concerns grow.
India is the largest consumer of sugar in the world and the second largest producer, but poor monsoon rains have slashed output, forcing it to rely on imports.
One newspaper report says India's sugar stocks have decline to 4.5 million tonnes - just enough to meet two months of domestic demand.
The Indian government said bulk sugar buyers, such as biscuit manufacturers, would be allowed to store only 15 days supply.
In Pakistan, a production shortfall has sent sugar prices up by more than 15% over the last couple of months.
Consumers have expressed unease about the price rises particularly ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, when when food consumption usually goes up.
Miss Venezuela has been named winner of the 2009 Miss Universe pageant in Nassau, Bahamas. Stefania Fernandez was crowned Sunday night. Miss Dominican Republic, Ada Aimee de la Cruz, was the runner up. 2008 Miss Universe, Dayana Sabrina Mendoza Moncada, was also coming from Venezuela
The televised event included musical performances by Flo Rida, Heidi Montag, David Guetta and Kelly Rowland.
Hosts were Billy Bush, co-anchor of "Access Hollywood," and Claudia Jordan, former Miss Rhode Island USA who has appeared on several TV shows. Judges include actor Dean Cain and supermodel Valeria Mazza.
Miss China, Wang Jingyao, was named Miss Congeniality and Miss Thailand, Chutima Durongdej, won Miss Photogenic.
In this contest, three beauties are coming from Latin America.
The five finalists haild from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Kosovo, Australia and Venezuela.
Malaysian PM, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has advised part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno to appeal against her caning sentence by the Syariah Court for consuming beer instead of accepting the punishment willingly.
The prime minister’s remarks today appear to suggest he has been forced to wade in over the issue because his government is concerned that it has taken a life of its own with daily reports in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other foreign publications.
Yesterday, religious authorities gave a last-minute, temporary reprieve in a case that has stirred passions over the increasingly strict enforcement of Islamic law in recent years.
Kartika was detained by prison authorities yesterday but was then released.
Officials say the caning would be carried out after Ramadan. It will be the first caning for a woman under Islamic laws.
The case has been criticised by more liberal Muslims and also non-Muslims who fear Malaysia is drifting from its secular traditions.
Najib’s administration appears to be concerned with the kind of message the sentence sends out to the world as Malaysia has portrayed itself as a model for a moderate and progressive Muslim country.
“I think the affected party should appeal to the state authorities and not be so willing to accept the punishment,” Najib told reporters.
He also expressed confidence that the religious authorities would be considerate.
“There is room for appeal and the state authorities are always considerate on this matter.” Najib said the federal government could not and would not interfere in the administration of Islamic law.
But he seemed to strongly suggest that the government was working to avoid the sentence from being carried out. “I believe the authorities concern are sensitive on this matter and realise the implication of this case,” he said.
Kartika was fined RM5,000 and sentenced to six strokes of the cane for drinking beer at a hotel in Najib's home state of Pahang.
Legal experts have criticised the caning as it could open up the state government to legal action.
Scotland's justice minister has defended his decision to release the man convicted of the 1988 Pan Am airline bombing at an emergency debate in parliament.
Kenny MacAskill reiterated that the decision to free Abdel Basset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was made in accordance with Scottish law and was not influenced by politics, diplomacy or trade.
"In Scotland we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. The perpetration of an outrage, cannot and should not be the basis for losing sight of who we are," he said.
He also added that Libya, which celebrated al-Megrahi's return, had previously assured Scotland it would give the former Libyan agent a "low key" reception.
"Assurances had been given by the Libyan government that any return would be dealt with in a low-key and sensitive fashion. I regret very much that those assurances were not adhered to," MacAskill said on Monday.
The Scottish government's emergency session was held as it faced unrelenting criticism from the US government, the families of some bombing victims and politicians within the UK.
Al-Megrahi, 57, who is dying from prostate cancer, was released from prison in Scotland last Friday.
He had been sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for planting a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people when it exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.
MacAskill told Scottish ministers he would co-operate with any inquiry into al-Megrahi's release.
In order to encourage religious Israelis to participate in organ donation, Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and the Chief Rabbinate's Council will issue special organ donor cards which will allow harvesting only according to the strictest letter of Jewish law.
Organ donation has long been a controversy in the religious world because of Jewish laws pertaining to the burial of deceased persons with all of their body parts and fluids and the juxtaposed need to use healthy organs in order to save lives.
An in depth halachic (Jewish law) investigation is being concluded by the Chief Rabbinate, according to a report by Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot.
Though a law was passed in 2008 requiring brain death to harvest organs, as well as the usage of specific medical methods and instruments to confirm brain and respiratory death and to perform the extractions, many rabbis and their adherents feel the halachic questions have not been answered to enable them to be comfortable supporting organ donation or donating their own organs.
Now, organ donor cards distinct from the National Transplant and Organ Donations Center (ADI) card will be geared toward religious potential donors, ensuring them that their organs will only be donated according to careful Torah and rabbinic stipulations. Rabbi Metzger is seeking a halachic seal of approval from the Chief Rabbinate's Council for the card.
However, some rabbis may still withhold their approval, asserting that cardiac death, and not brain and respiratory death, should be the criteria for organ donation.
The rabbinate will hold a special seminar on organ donation for 40 top rabbis, meant to provide them with tools to council and guide families through the painful spiritual and medical process of submitting their deceased loved ones' organs for life saving procedures.
Malaysia abruptly granted a Ramadan reprieve to the first Muslim Malay woman to be sentenced to caning for drinking beer, but insisted Monday the thrashing would still take place after the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, had been en route to a women's prison for the caning when Islamic officials who took her into custody drove her back home and released her.
Mohamad Sahfri Abdul Aziz, a state legislator in charge of religious affairs, later said the Attorney General's office advised that the caning should be delayed for compassionate reasons until after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began Saturday.
Amnesty International condemned the sentence, and many critics had said the caning would harm Malaysia's reputation as a moderate Muslim-majority country.
Kartika was arrested in a raid for drinking beer at a hotel lounge in December 2007 and accused of breaching Malaysia's Shariah law, which forbids Muslims from consuming alcohol.
People who drink more than two quarts of cola per day may induce severe and possibly fatal potassium deficiency, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Ioannina, Greece, and published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
"We are consuming more soft drinks than ever before, and a number of health issues have already been identified including tooth problems, bone demineralization and the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes," researcher Moses Elisaf said.
Evidence is increasing to suggest that excessive cola consumption can also lead to hypokalemia, in which the blood potassium levels fall, causing an adverse effect on vital muscle functions.
Researchers reviewed the cases of several patients who had consumed between two and 10 quarts of cola per day, including two pregnant women. One of these, a 21-year-old who drank as much as three quarts per day, was admitted to the hospital for persistent vomiting, fatigue and appetite loss.
The other was admitted after drinking seven quarts per day for 10 months and suffering from progressive weakening of her muscles.
Both women recovered after they stopped drinking cola and were treated with intravenous or oral potassium.
Potassium plays a critical role in the functioning of the body's nerves, muscles and heart. Critical deficiency like that experienced by the patients in the University of Ioannina study can lead to cramping, paralysis, irregular heartbeat and even death.
In one of the cases studied, a man suffered lung paralysis after drinking 10 quarts per day. The researchers believe that both caffeine and sugar contributed to the observed potassium deficiency.
In an accompanying editorial, Clifford D. Packer at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Cleveland warned, "There is very little doubt that tens of millions of people in industrialized countries drink at least 2-3 [quarts] of cola per day.
The soft drink industry needs to promote safe and moderate use of its products for all age groups, reduce serving sizes, and pay heed to the rising call for healthier drinks.
Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi , the man convicted of the 1988 bombing of an aircraft Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie has been freed. He was cheered by hundreds of Libyans upon his arrival in Tripoli on Thursday Upon arrival in Libya, he said he would present new evidence to prove his innocence before he dies, UK's The Times newspaper has reported.
In an article out Saturday, Al-Megrahi, interviewed in his family home in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, said he had suffered a "miscarriage of justice".
"If there is justice in the UK I would be acquitted or the verdict would be quashed because it was unsafe. There was a miscarriage of justice," al-Megrahi was quoted as saying.
The Times said 57-year-old al-Megrahi, released on compassionate grounds, promised that before he died, he would present new evidence through his Scottish lawyers that would exonerate him.
"My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence and ask them to be the jury," he said, refusing to elaborate.
Asked who carried out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 people, he replied: "It is a very good question but I am not the right person to ask".
Britain described celebrations in Libya upon al-Megrahi's return as being "deeply distressing" and Barack Obama, the US president, called the warm welcome "highly objectionable".
Senior US officials said that al-Megrahi's early release could disrupt diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli.
Many families of the victims in the bombing have expressed anger that he was released after serving only eight years of a minimum 27-year sentence.
The Taliban sliced off the index fingers of at least two people in Kandahar province, according to a vote monitoring group.
The fingers of the two women in Kandahar, a stronghold of the Taliban, were cut off because they voted, said Nader Naderi of the Free and Fair Election Foundation.
The Taliban had vowed to disrupt Thursday's election and the risk was too great for some Afghans to venture out, especially in the southern provinces that form the heartland of the radical Islamist group.
Just days ahead of the election, U.S. Marines and other NATO forces carried out military operations to clear and hold sectors that have long been in the Taliban grip, and free up the population to vote.
Sporadic attacks on election day killed 26 people and injured scores more. Still, Afghan officials hailed the voting as a success.
One of the countries with a high likelihood of swine flu pandemic within next year is Britain. Hence, the UK Home Office has announced that it plans to construct mass graves to bury the victims in case the disease spreads quickly.
London is to set up mass graves for the victims of the swine flu pandemic after a 59-page official report predicted that Britain will be witnessing the pandemic disease in fall.
Britain's Department of Health has warned the UK officials and policy-makers to announce a state of emergency in the country.
The official report confirms the UK government plans to set up mass graves for the victims of the swine flu pandemic.
It is predicted that if no concrete measures are taken for preventing the spread of swine flu, the number of swine flu victims will reach to two billion worldwide in 2011 that will undoubtedly result in deaths of 10 to 20 percent of the patients.
In its latest report published on August 21, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced over 182,000 confirmed cases worldwide, 1,800 of which have been fatal.
Sweden has turned down a demand that it condemn the recent publication of an article that links Israeli soldiers to the death of Palestinian civilians with the motive of obtaining their organs.
In an article published earlier in the week, Sweden's best-selling daily Aftonbladet recounted grotesque incidents dating as far back as 1992 in which Israeli soldiers allegedly abducted Palestinian youths and returned their bodies mutilated a few days later.
The publication infuriated Israeli officials who labeled the news piece as 'blatantly racist' and full of 'vile anti-Semitic themes'.
In response to the publication, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, to officially rebut the 'shocking and appalling' piece.
Tel Aviv's envoy to Sweden, Benny Dagan, was to make a similar request during a Friday meeting with the kingdom's deputy foreign minister.
Bildt, however, responded that he would not condemn the article, asserting that such a measure would be in violation of freedom of expression and counter to the Swedish constitution.
Condemnation of anti-Semitism is "the only issue on which there has ever been complete unity in the Swedish parliament", the Swedish minister wrote in a blog post on Thursday, apparently rejecting the idea that disapproving criminal conduct amounts to anti-Semitism.
The Swedish refusal to denounce the allegations against the Israeli army by the high-circulation daily may shake diplomatic ties between Tel Aviv and Stockholm.
There is media speculation that Israel might respond by canceling the Swedish foreign minister's visit to the occupied West Bank scheduled for the next 10 days.
Abdihakim Mohamed, a 25-year-old Canadian who has autism, has been stuck in Kenya since a 2006 attempt to renew his passport was halted by Canadian officials who claimed his ears looked different in a new passport photo, said his Ottawa-based lawyer Jean Lash.
Mohamed's mother, Anab Issa, has attempted to prove her son's identity through a series of affidavits, but the process has been stalled because Mohamed, who was born in Somalia, doesn't have a birth certificate or other documents that the Canadian government requested he produce to prove his identity.
The case draws a parallel to that of Suaad Hagi Mohamud, a 31-year-old Canadian citizen who returned to Canada Saturday. The Somali-born Canadian was trapped in Kenya for three months and ended up in jail for a week after Canadian officials there said her lips did not match her four-year-old passport photo.
Critics said both cases were hampered by the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mohamed Dalmar, a manager at the Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa, believes officials there are wary of the large number of Somali refugees who have fled conflict in their own country and may be looking for a way into Canada.
"Along the years, you get a mentality to be extra careful of these people," Dalmar said. "The high commission (is) more watchful and assumes that these people want to come to Canada by fraudulent means."
Dalmar, a Somali-Canadian, has worked with Issa for the past three years as she has attempted to bring her son back to Canada.
According to Lash, in 2004 Mohamed went back to Somalia with his mother after a doctor recommended that spending time with family members in his home country might help the young man's autism.
Issa left her son with his grandmother and aunt in Somalia and went back to Canada, taking her son's passport with her for safekeeping.
At Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Issa was stopped and her son's passport confiscated.
It is unclear why the passport was taken. The passport then expired and when Issa applied for a new one in 2006, Kenyan officials denied that request. In 2008, Passport Canada told her she was under investigation for applying for a passport for an impostor. It was then that Issa, an Ottawa-resident with limited means, first contacted a lawyer.
Ottawa MP and NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said the two cases of Canadian citizens detained in Kenya are an indication that Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is not able to handle all of the files he is responsible for.
"We have secretaries of state bumping into each other in Harper's cabinet yet no one seems to be able to help Canadian citizens abroad when they need help," Dewar said. "This is obviously a systemic problem and a political problem at the same time. Clearly the Minister of Foreign Affairs can't do the job."
Dewar said the prime minister should appoint an ombudsman for consular affairs who could deal directly with consular affairs complaints to ensure Canadian citizens abroad receive fair treatment.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called on Cannon and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who oversees the Canada Border Services Agency, to provide a full accounting in Mohamud's case.
At this point, there are no further details about the scope of the accounting process, or when any results might be released.
Lash said just three weeks ago, she got some good news that Mohamed would be granted a passport after one final affidavit. She hopes he will be back in the country within weeks.
Dudu Topaz, the disgraced TV star killed himself in jail, while on trial for plotting attacks on media execs. His lawyer Zion Amir, has blamed the authorities for his client's death, and said that Topaz alerted him to his severe mental distress the day before his death.
Topaz was jailed at Nitzan Prison while facing charges of plotting attacks on senior media executives. He hanged himself in the shower next to his cell.
Amir faulted police, courts and the prison service for Topaz's suicide, insisting that he had warned them of the former TV star's frail mental state. Amir said that given his emotional condition, Topaz should have been held in a mental health facility, rather than prison.
The attorney also blamed his client's suicide on the intensive media coverage of the arrest and court hearings.
Topaz was arrested in late May in connection with attacks on TV producer Shira Margalit, the CEO of the Channel 2 television franchise Keshet, Avi Nir, in November 2008 and actors' agent Boaz Ben-Zion some six months ago.
The 62-year-old Topaz was a household name in Israel for his popular variety shows and a decades-long showbiz career. At the pinnacle of his career, he was nicknamed the "king of ratings." Source:Haaretz
Nine Chinese crew members of Liberian-registered tanker MT Formosa Product Brick, which caught fire after a collision with a bulk carrier in the Malacca Straits, of Malaysia on Tuesday night, are still missing.
Search and rescue teams in helicopters, speedboats and fixed-wing aircraft failed to locate the crew despite spending hours scouring the accident site some 20 nautical miles off Kuala Lukut near here.
Fifteen of the 25-member crew were plucked from their dinghy by a German container ship Nordspring which was in the area at the time of the accident, and handed over to Malaysian authorities.
Five of the saved crew members, including the captain Jiang Han Cheng, were brought to the Marine Department jetty in a Maritime Malaysia Enforcement Agency (MMEA) boat at about 2.30am yesterday.
Ten others arrived in a separate boat 15 minutes later followed by a sixteenth survivor who was found floating at sea by Fire and Rescue Department officers.
Thirteen of them received outpatient treatment at the district hospital while the captain and two others were warded with minor injuries.
Chinese embassy officials later made arrangements for the 13 to stay at a hotel here.
The vessel was sailing south towards Singapore from the United Arab Emirates when the bulk carrier MV Ostende Max ploughed into the left section of its rear at about 8.50pm.
It is understood that the MT Formosa is owned by a Taiwanese while the other vessel was Greek-owned and registered in the Isle of Man.
The MV Ostende, which was laden with coal, was also heading for Singapore when the mishap happened.