Friday, November 26, 2004

 

I would hate to be the U.N.

I really would. It seems that they take one step forward and then, to use a really tired cliche, two back. They're now in Greenpeace's sights yet again, and have apparently decided to postpone action on the issue of bottom-trawling for two years. Still, if we didn't have the United Nations, can anyone imagine the shape this planet would be in today?

Greenpeace to UN: no more bare bottoms
Tue 16 November 2004
UNITED STATES/New York
Latest Update: what happened at the UN

Security was tight and fidgety. The cameras were ready to record the moment. Our Greenpeace activist was camouflaged to blend in to her surroundings. She had borne witness to an environmental crime: the bulldozing of fragile ocean seamounts. And she was in the presence of people who could do something about it. At the appointed moment, she leapt into the spotlight to demand action, not words.

Had she been aboard our ship Esperanza in the North Atlantic over the last few months, or the Rainbow Warrior in the Southern Pacific earlier this year, she might have stopped a trawling vessel from ploughing over rare corals or delayed, at least for a few hours, the wholesale destruction of an irreplaceable habitat.

Unfortunately, she was in the hallowed halls of the UN, where some countries with an interest in deep sea plunder strongly prefer words over action.

Our speech to the UN was on the occassion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: one of the most important efforts at protection of the global commons ever achieved.

In the run up to today's debate about how to better protect our ocean environment, we and the other members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition have been showing graphic evidence -- in photographs, video, and scientific reports, that high seas bottom trawling is the most destructive practice impacting deep sea life.

High seas bottom trawling literally ploughs up the ocean floor for relatively few fish. The fleets often target seamounts - the least explored mountains on the planet, that rise more than a 1,000 metres from the ocean floor. Seamounts are teeming with deep sea life, some of which is undiscovered by science and much is unique to individual seamounts. We know more about Mars than we know about some of these habitats.

Yet our pleas have been ignored. Instead an international call from the Convention on Biological Diversity to the UN for urgent action has been watered down to a call for a review in two years time.

"The interests of the few bottom trawling nations have won out over science and common sense," said our policy advisor Karen Sack at the UN. "There are deep sea species that are still unknown to science and yet the commercial interests of a few are considered more important. Who knows how many of those species could be wiped out while the politicians sit back reviewing."

More information
Read more about the Rainbow Warrior's work to expose bottom trawling in the Pacific, and the efforts of the intrepid Esperanza crew against one of the most destructive fishing practices in the world.
Read more about bottom trawling
Take Action!
Send an e-card - tell your friends that bottom trawling stinks or show them the mysteries of the deep
Help our campaign against ocean crimes:Join Greenpeace


 

Archbishop Tutu urges national dialogue

I am always somehow comforted whenever Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks. Twenty years ago, he never lost his head, never lost the message, regardless of what threats he faced. When I think of the end of Apartheid, I think first of Nelson Mandela, and then almost in the same thought, of Desmond Tutu.

Tutu urges South Africa to publicly debate its problems
Wed Nov 24, 9:40 AM ET

Top Stories - Chicago Tribune
By Laurie Goering Tribune foreign correspondent

A decade after the end of apartheid, South Africa is a remarkable success story of a nation overcoming its past. But to confront the country's lingering threats--AIDS, widespread poverty, crime, racism--South Africa's government must begin encouraging public debate rather than discouraging criticism as unpatriotic.

That was the message Tuesday from South Africa's retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle and who is considered, along with former President Nelson Mandela, a leading moral visionary in the country.

"Truth can't suffer from being challenged and examined," the diminutive 73-year-old cleric noted as part of a lecture in Johannesburg sponsored by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. South Africa, he said, should seek strong public discussion on divisive topics from affirmative action to policy on neighboring Zimbabwe rather than encourage "obsequious conformity."

Tutu's remarks come after a widely publicized flap last month between President Thabo Mbeki and political critics who questioned the role that widespread rape may be playing in spreading the country's HIV-AIDS epidemic.

South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of rape, according to police statistics, and the largest number of people infected with the AIDS virus of any nation in the world. But Mbeki responded to questions about the problem with a furious attack on white opposition members in parliament, insisting that only "people whose minds have been corrupted by the disease of racism accuse us, the black people of South Africa, Africa and the world, as being ... diseased, corrupt, violent, amoral, sexually depraved, animalistic, savage--and rapists."

Critics in turn have accused the president of trying to stifle debate by raising charges of racism whenever his government's performance is questioned. Mbeki's government has been broadly criticized, particularly for its handling of the AIDS epidemic and for refusing to criticize the administration of President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

Tutu has called Mugabe a typical African dictator, prompting the Zimbabwean leader to furiously dismiss the outspoken cleric as "an angry, evil and embittered little bishop."

Tutu also said Tuesday he was concerned that affirmative action programs in South Africa had left behind most people in "grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty" while benefiting primarily a small group of government-connected elite.

Under pressure from South Africa's government, private companies--including the nation's mining giants--are selling shares to black owners in an effort to spread the economic benefits and alleviate poverty. But so far a small group of rich South Africans, those with connections or the capital to finance deals, have been the main beneficiaries.

Tutu called that a violation of one of the anti-apartheid struggle themes, that "the people shall share."

He particularly criticized black South Africans who speak out against broader welfare programs for South Africa's legions of poor while benefiting from affirmative action programs themselves.

"It is cynical in the extreme to speak [against] handouts when people can become very rich at the stroke of a pen," he said. "If those are not massive handouts, what are?"

Still, he said, South Africa has overcome so many problems since the apartheid days that it should serve as an example to other troubled parts of the world as to how much can change.

"We South Africans tend to sell ourselves short" and downplay successes, Tutu said. But the nation successfully averted a feared race war, put together a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that now is a model for other nations, created one of the most liberal constitutions in the world and nearly overnight dumped its pariah status for international acclaim.

"Of course we have problems--serious, debilitating problems," Tutu said. But despite dire predictions about the end of apartheid, "as far as I can make out the sky is still firmly in place," he said jokingly. Compared with the recent bloody hostage crisis in Russia and upheaval in the Middle East, "what occurs in South Africa looks like a Sunday school picnic," he added.

He said he hoped that South Africa could be a "beacon of hope for the rest of the world" that seemingly intractable problems have solutions, he said. But he warned that other nations should know, following South Africa's example, that "there is no future without forgiveness in the world."

Yahoo! News - Tutu urges South Africa to publicly debate its problems

 

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia

Sometimes I feel like I'm posting pages of a soap opera script, but for the rather sobering fact that these warring neighbors really are warring neighbors...This is from the Beeb.

Ethiopia backs down over border

Tens of thousands died in the border warThe Ethiopian government says it has accepted "in principle" a long-disputed ruling on its border with Eritrea but still thinks it is illegal and unjust.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi presented the decision to MPs for approval, saying his country wanted dialogue to implement the pact.

The Eritrean government has dismissed the move as "public relations".

Ethiopia previously rejected the border drawn up by an international commission saying it could cause future conflict.

Disagreements have centred on the town of Badme, which was awarded to Eritrea.

More talks?

Mr Meles said Ethiopia wished to send an envoy to implement the agreement that settled the two-year war between the two countries, which ended in 2000.

In response, Eritrea's information ministry said the boundary commission's original decision was "final and binding".

It dismissed Ethiopia's proposals as "aimed at promoting public relations exercises and buying more time" which, it said, only prolonged the suffering of both countries' people.

Reports suggest Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo may have intervened recently, as current chair of the African Union, on the sidelines of a recent summit in Algeria.

'Sustainable peace'

Ethiopia initially accepted the pact, but later reversed its stance, saying it was protecting the rights of Badme's Ethiopian residents to remain in Ethiopia. Badme was the flashpoint that triggered the war.

Mr Meles told parliament that his government wants the decision implemented in "a manner consistent with the promotion of sustainable peace and brotherly ties between the two peoples".

He said dialogue should start swiftly and that Eritrea should also give and take, the BBC's Mohammed Adow in Addis Ababa says.

The conflict cost tens of thousands of lives and left many more people homeless.

Ethiopia's rejection of the boundary commission's decision left the peace process in limbo, as UN peacekeepers were unable to physically map out the border.

Long dispute

Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed a peace pact in December 2000 in Algiers. The treaty created the Eritrea-Ethiopia boundary commission under the auspices of an international court in The Hague.

Both sides had pledged to accept its decisions, but Ethiopia refused to do so, saying the commission had failed to stick it its brief.

Most of the border is set by rivers, but this is not the case around Badme, where Italian colonial powers drew a land border in 1902.

Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia in 1993 led to questions over the colonial border.

The war began when Eritrean troops invaded Badme, which was under Ethiopian administration.

 

Climatic roller coaster

I find articles like this both fascinating and horrible--fascinating in the science sense, since I'm an avowed science nerd, and horrible for obvious reasons. Makes you wonder what, exactly, we're leaving to our children...

Grim climate change scenario for Asia 26 November 2004

SINGAPORE: The weather predictions for Asia in 2050 read like a script from a doomsday movie and many climatologists and green groups fear they will come true unless there is a concerted global effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

In the decades to come Asia, home to more than half the world's 6.3 billion people, will lurch from one climate extreme to another, with impoverished farmers battling droughts, floods, disease, food shortages and rising sea levels.

"It's not a pretty picture," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy adviser with Greenpeace in Amsterdam. Global warming and changes to weather patterns are already occurring and there is enough excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to drive climate change for decades to come.

Already, changes are being felt in Asia but worse is likely to come, Sawyer and top climate bodies say, and could lead to mass migration and widespread humanitarian crises.

According to predictions, glaciers will melt faster, some Pacific and Indian Ocean islands will have to evacuate or build sea defences, storms will become more intense and insect and water-borne diseases will move into new areas as the world warms.

All this comes on top of rising populations and spiralling demand for food, water and other resources. Experts say environmental degradation such as deforestation and pollution will likely magnify the impacts of climate change.

In what could be a foretaste of the future, Japan was hit by a record 10 typhoons and tropical storms this year, while two-thirds of Bangladesh, parts of Nepal and large areas of north-eastern India were flooded, affecting 50 million people, destroying livelihoods and making tens of thousands ill.

The year before, a winter cold snap and a summer heat wave killed more than 2000 people in India.

INDIA AT RISK

Sawyer said India, with a population of just over one billion people, is one of the areas most threatened by climate change.

"The threat to the agricultural base for the Indian subcontinent from drought and increased heat waves, the consequences to the burgeoning Indian economy and the very large number of people to feed are potentially very, very substantial."

Rising sea levels will also bring misery to millions in Asia, he said, causing sea water to inundate fertile rice-growing areas and fresh-water aquifers, making some areas uninhabitable.

Sawyer said India and Bangladesh will have to draw up permanent relocation plans for millions of people. "I'm afraid that's almost inevitable."

By 2050, China will have built sea defences along part of its low-lying, storm-prone south-eastern coast, while the north of the country faced increasing desertification, he said.

According to the UN's World Food Programme, the Gobi Desert in China expanded by 52,400 square kilometres (20,230 sq miles) between 1994 and 1999, creeping closer to the capital Beijing.

Anwar Ali, a leading climatologist in Bangladesh, says about 15 per cent of the country would be under water if sea levels rose by a metre in the next century.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Asia in the future will be the shortage of clean water. The WFP says Asia accounts for 60 per cent of the world's population but has only 36 per cent of the globe's fresh water.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rapid melting of glaciers poses a major threat to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and parts of China.

Seven major rivers, including the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra and the Mekong, begin in the Himalayas and the glacial melt water during summer months is crucial to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people downstream.

RICH VERSUS POOR

But many of these glaciers are melting quickly and will be unable to act as reservoirs that moderate river flows. This means less water in the dry season and the chance for more extreme floods during the wet season.

Sawyer thinks rich countries, by far the biggest polluters, should look after the millions at risk from climate change or suffer the consequences that could include mass migration or trying to feed millions made homeless by droughts and floods in a world struggling to grow enough food.

Fears of mass migration have already prompted the Pentagon and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, among others, to study the risk from climate-induced mass migration.

The Pentagon in its 2003 report looked at what might happen if the climate changed abruptly.

The result was near anarchy.

"As global and local carrying capacities are reduced, tensions could mount around the world," it said. This could lead some wealthier nations becoming virtual fortresses to preserve their resources.

"Less fortunate nations, especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbours, may initiate struggles for access to food, clean water, or energy," the report said.

Few places are more exposed to climate change than the low-lying Maldives islands, to the west of Sri Lanka, where the highest natural point is under 2.5 metres.

"We still face the threat of sea level rise," Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said in a recent interview.

"There is encroachment of the sea on many islands, there is erosion of our beaches," he said. In response, the Maldives is building an island that is a metre higher than the capital Male.

Malcolm Duthie, WFP's country director in Laos, said even small changes in weather patterns, such as a delay in the monsoon of just a few weeks, is a threat to subsistence farmers. In Laos, he said rains seemed to have become shorter and sharper, meaning faster run-off and more erosion.

Such changes are also threatening millions of farmers in Indonesia, where rapid industrialisation, slash-and-burn land clearing and illegal logging have caused extreme weather and pollution across the archipelago, experts say.

"The wet season is shorter than usual which has led to higher rainfall during that brief period and sometimes caused landslides and floods," said Indonesian weather expert Agus Paulus.

Government officials have said in the past years water levels at a number of reservoirs in densely populated Java island are close to a critically low level.

As countries try to adapt, it will be the poor who suffer most from climate change, said IPCC chairman R.K. Pachauri in the report "Up in smoke?" released last month.

"The impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within all countries," he said, meaning the lot of millions of peasants could become far worse than it is now.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3109647a10,00.html

 

Rwanda sliding right back into violence

Here we go again...

U.N. Appeals for Calm in Rwanda
Thu Nov 25, 1:42 PM ET

World - AP Africa
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER and NAFI DIOUF, Associated Press Writers

DAKAR, Senegal - U.N. Security Council diplomats appealed to Rwanda for restraint Thursday after Rwandan President Paul Kagame threatened to renew central Africa's deadliest conflict, claiming his country was coming under attack from militias in neighboring Congo.

"At the appropriate moment, we certainly will take measures," Kagame said in an interview with The Associated Press, calling a 5-month-old U.N.-led campaign to disarm the Rwandan Hutu militias in Congo a failure.

Asked when Rwanda would act, the Rwandan leader said, "It should have been yesterday."

The U.N. mission in Congo said later Thursday that no cross-border attacks from Congo had been verified, and Congo flatly denied Kagame's charge, saying its smaller, stronger neighbor was only looking for a pretext to send troops into Congo's resource-rich east again.

"There have never been any incursions," Congo government spokesman Henri Mova Sakanyi said in Kinshasa, the Congo capital.

Rwanda has invaded Congo twice since 1996 with the stated aim of hunting down Rwanda Hutu militias responsible for the 1994 genocide of more than a half-million minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Rwanda's second invasion, in 1998, launched Africa into a war that drew in the armies of six nations, split Western Europe-sized Congo, and caused the deaths of an estimated 3.2 million people in Rwanda-controlled east Congo, primarily through famine and disease.

The United Nations accused all sides of prolonging the conflict as an excuse to continue plundering Congo's gold, diamonds and other resource wealth. International pressure finally forced out the foreign armies by 2002. Congo's government has joined in a power-sharing deal with rebels who had fought on the side of Rwanda and other enemy armies in the war.

While Kagame has always talked tough about the lingering presence in Congo of an estimated 8,000 Rwandan Hutu fighters still in east Congo, his warnings Thursday gained immediacy from a U.N. announcement the day before: A senior Rwandan official had advised U.N. Congo special adviser William Swing that Rwanda would attack bases of Rwandan Hutu rebels within Congo "very soon."

U.N. Security Council diplomats, winding down a central African mission launched to hold all concerned to peace deals, urged Rwanda to step back from the brink.

"The mission strongly urges the government of Rwanda to refrain from any action that would violate international law, undermine this region's fragile stability or jeopardize the transition process supported by the international community," it said in a statement from Burundi's capital, Bujumbura.

Kagame, speaking on a state visit to Senegal, said ineffectiveness of a now 5-month-old U.N.-led disarmament program in east Congo left his country with no choice but to act against Rwanda Hutu fighters itself.

He reacted harshly to the idea of giving the U.N.-led disarmament mission — less than halfway through its minimum-stated deadline — more time to act.

"You're telling me two months to have more deaths?" he asked. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Who is going to take care of this problem?" he demanded. "If the international community cannot, no one can except ourselves, because we simply cannot be punching bags for these criminals."

He rejected suggestions that he was asking the United Nations to do in a few weeks what Rwanda had been unable to in its five years in control of east Congo: disarm the last remaining Rwanda Hutu fighters.

Rwanda, while its forces were in Congo, was able to eliminate all but 25- to 30 percent of the Rwandan militias and bases, and block all cross-border attacks, Kagame said.

"Now, the force is being reconstituted by the absence of clear action against these forces," he said.

"The war is already on — otherwise what would the bases be doing in Congo?" the Rwandan leader asked.

Yahoo! News - U.N. Appeals for Calm in Rwanda[

 

What is it with killing kids?

First we have kids at school killing other kids--and I live 20 minutes from Columbine, so I know the impact something like this has on a community--then in Dunblane, in Scotland, a grown man killed wee ones at their school. Now, China, where apparently the fashionable thing to do is slice the kids to pieces...

Man Kills Eight at Chinese High School
Fri Nov 26, 2:11 AM ET

World - AP Asia
By JOE McDONALD, Associated Press Writer

BEIJING - A man with a knife broke into a high school dormitory and killed eight students in the deadliest of a series of knife attacks at Chinese schools in recent months, the government said Friday.

Police were searching for the man following the attack late Thursday at the No. 2 High School in the city of Ruzhou, which also injured four students, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It didn't give a possible motive but said police believe they know the man's appearance.

The attacker broke into the dormitory at 11:45 p.m. and "chopped eight people to death and four to injury," Xinhua said. It had said earlier that the attack in central China took place Friday morning.

No one was available for comment at the Ruzhou police headquarters.

It was the fourth knife attack reported since August at a Chinese school or day care center. The earlier assaults left one child dead and a total of 42 people injured.

The reason for the surge in knife assaults isn't clear.

But the spate of violence prompted the government of President Hu Jintao to issue a nationwide order in September for schools to hire guards and tighten security.

Newspapers in Beijing say schools in the Chinese capital have begun to post guards, but it wasn't clear whether any additional security was in place at the school in Ruzhou.

The city of 920,000 people is located about 450 miles southwest of Beijing in Henan province, southwest of the giant industrial city of Zhengzhou.

On Wednesday, a court executed a man who slashed 25 children with a kitchen knife in September at a grade school in eastern China. Though no one was killed, a court ruled that the penalty was justified because the violence was "especially cruel."

Police said that attacker had a grudge against the parent of a student at the school.

In August, a man with a history of schizophrenia killed a student and slashed 14 children and three teachers at a Beijing kindergarten near the compound where China's leaders live and work.

In September, a man armed with a knife, gasoline and homemade explosives broke into a day-care center in the eastern city of Suzhou and slashed 28 children before police stopped him.

Police haven't disclosed a possible motive.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

Ethiopian musicians record charity song

Ethiopian musicians and politicians record AIDS charity song

Ethiopia's musicians joined forces with hundreds of politicians Thursday to record a charity song, inspired by the success of trans-Atlantic musical projects that raised millions of dollars for the victims of the 1984-1985 famine. The Ethiopian artists and some 500 legislators gathered in parliament to launch "Find a Solution," a song they hope will help end the stigma of AIDS in the Horn of Africa nation. The initiative comes less than a week after Irish pop star Bob Geldof organized a remake of the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" hit song that raised more than $60 million for the victims of the 1984-1985 famine.

Ethiopia's top hip-hop singer, Abdu Kiar, said he hoped the new project would raise awareness of HIV, which has infected 2.2 million people and orphaned 1 million children in the country of 70 million. "If we have anything like their [Live Aid and Band Aid] success, we will be happy" Abdu said. "They are an inspiration, but we Ethiopians must also show what we can do."

The charity song was proposed by the National Coalition for Women Against HIV/AIDS, an organization led by prominent Ethiopian women. Ethiopia's first lady, Azeb Mesfin, a member of the group, said songs are traditionally used in Africa to communicate important information and that the new song would help spur discussions on HIV as it plays on the radio and television. "We hope that people will be able to sing the song in their communities as they go about their daily chores, to help people discuss HIV/AIDS openly," Azeb said. (AP)

http://www.advocate.com/new_news.asp?ID=14407&sd=11/23/04

 

Extreme Makeover Home Edition in my town!

Well, the week has come to a close, and the camera crew has left town. My hometown of Arvada, Colorado, was fortunate enough to host the "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" show this week, and my daughters and I spent loads of time out at the site. We have pics of us with Eduardo Xol, the new guy, and my gawd does he smell good! He's, like, 7 feet tall and delicious! We also met Paul DiMeo, and got to hug him; met Constance Ramos, who is a darling; and met Tracey Hutson, who is a sweetie. The girls met Ty, and were able to get his autograph, so we're all sharing it. We had enough signatures from Eduardo, Constance, Tracey and Paul to be able to have one each.

It was freezing cold for most of the project, though the projected 9 inches of snow for Sunday's big reveal failed utterly to materialize, and the sun was warm and bright. The project is a duplex, sort of a homeless shelter but not really. It's a house where two families can stay until they're on their feet. The crew also built a neat little park called Renaissance Park, and a small rec center across the street (that was Ty's special project). Oh, and a basketball court, complete with murals, was dedicated by the official Denver Nuggets mascot.

All in all, it was a very moving experience. I had been sceptical, knowing full well the "magic of television", and so didn't really expect to see the design team actually working (when in fact they worked their asses off) or actually caring (when in fact Paul cried). What you see on the telly is how they really are, and they are amazing people. Ty was working three jobs simultaneously (here, one in Seattle, and one I don't know where) and so had very little time to press palms, but when he was able to come over to the crowd of onlookers he was unfailingly cheerful, upbeat, and kind.

Monday, November 22, 2004

 

How many kinds of twisted would you have to be?

I have removed the link that would have shown some footage from this video "game".

British Company Releases JFK Assassination Game
Family Spokesman Calls Product 'Despicable'

GLASGOW, Scotland (Nov. 22) - A British company said Sunday it was releasing a video game recreating the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

A spokesman for the president's brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., called the game ''despicable.''

The Glasgow-based firm Traffic said ''JFK Reloaded'' was an educational ''docu-game'' that would help disprove conspiracy theories about Kennedy's death. The game is due to be released Monday, the 41st anniversary of the shooting in Dallas.

Traffic said the game challenged players to recreate the three shots fired at the president's car by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald from the Texas School Book Depository.

Traffic's managing director, Kirk Ewing, said the game - available as an Internet download for $9.99 - would ''stimulate a younger generation of players to take an interest in this fascinating episode of American history.''

''We've created the game with the belief that Oswald was the only person that fired the shots on that day, although this recreation proves how immensely difficult his task was,'' Ewing said.

In a statement, Traffic said it was ''determined to promote the title respectfully,'' given the sensitivity of the subject.

Sen. Kennedy's spokesman, David Smith, would not comment on whether the family was taking any action to stop the game's release.

''It's despicable. There's really no further comment,'' Smith said, adding that the Washington office started getting calls about the game Friday.

http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20041122082209990001

 

The victims

If you're interested, this link BBC News Online Bloody Sunday Gallery will take you to a gallery of the victims of Bloody Sunday.

 

Bloody Sunday inquiry update

I wonder how many people realize that they're listening to historical fact when they hear U2 belt out "Sunday Bloody Sunday"?

Key questions for inquiry judges

The Bloody Sunday tribunal has heard from more than 900 people

It is still unclear which soldiers shot 27 civilians on Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry has heard.

Counsel to the inquiry Christopher Clarke QC said the central question was why and how civilians were killed or wounded in Londonderry in 1972.

Lord Saville is investigating the deaths of 14 civilians shot by soldiers during a civil rights march in the city in January that year.

The inquiry is now in its final phase - six years after it began.

Mr Clarke is giving a brief summary of the evidence in a closing speech expected to last two days.

He told the tribunal on Monday: "It has to be said that, even after many days of evidence, the answer to even the first question - who shot them? - is not, on the soldiers' evidence, in any way clear."

Mr Clarke said the tribunal could take one of two views on this.

"One view that the tribunal might take is that this is something that is not surprising if, as they say to be the case, soldiers came under fire from unexpected quarters and had swiftly to retaliate."

'Uncomfortable facts'

The second was that the soldiers, while claiming they hit gunmen and nail bombers, seemed unable to explain why they killed or wounded 27 people who were not involved.

"These considerations may have a cumulative effect. The tribunal may attach some significance to the fact that so much is unexplained," he said.

"It might conclude, taking that fact with all the other evidence, that so much is unexplained because no justifiable explanation could be given.

"On the other hand, it might take the view that uncomfortable facts have been airbrushed out of history and that the situation the soldiers faced was radically different to that of which the civilian evidence speaks."

Soldiers shot 13 people dead in Derry on Bloody Sunday

Mr Clarke's speech is a brief summary of eight to 10 volumes of written material collated after more than four years of evidence-gathering.

It is intended to constitute an overview of the issues for the tribunal to decide and an indication of a range of conclusions the tribunal might reach.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry was established in 1998 by Prime Minister Tony Blair after a campaign by families of those killed and injured.

The inquiry has so far cost £130m and the final bill will be around £150m.

Hundreds of witnesses

BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson said the Bloody Sunday inquiry has been "the longest inquiry in UK legal history".

He said the final report and its conclusions will not be made public until the summer of next year.

More than 900 witnesses have given evidence to the tribunal since Lord Saville of Newdigate and the Commonwealth judges accompanying him on the inquiry began their work in March 2000.

Only when Mr Clarke has finished the closing speech stage of the tribunal will the three inquiry judges sit down to write their report.

The inquiry has heard evidence from leading politicians, including the prime minister at the time, Sir Edward Heath, civilians, policemen, soldiers and IRA members.

The leader of the Official IRA on Bloody Sunday had been due to give evidence on Friday but pulled out through illness.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4031241.stm

Sunday, November 21, 2004

 

Polio

As if Sudan and Ethiopia didn't have enough problems...

Polio Outbreak in Sudan Threatens Ethiopia
Fri Nov 19, 8:18 AM ET
Health - Reuters

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia has launched an emergency polio immunization campaign, fearing an outbreak of the highly infectious disease in neighboring Sudan could spread, the Health Ministry said on Friday.

Ethiopia has not recorded a polio case in four years and expects to be certified as polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) by the end of the year. It said it would immediately begin vaccinations in six states bordering Sudan.

The 19 people found to have polio in Sudan were about 70 km (44 miles) from the Ethiopian border, the ministry said.

"Unless the threat from Sudan is not reversed, the gains achieved so far will dissipate into thin air," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the campaign would target 300,000 children under the age of five.

The disease, which mainly affects children under the age of five, is carried by a virus and can cause irreversible total paralysis in a matter of hours.

Polio is now endemic to only six countries, but since 2003 12 African countries have reported infections imported from Nigeria, where the virus still exists, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, an organization backed by WHO and others that coordinates immunization campaigns.

Sudan was among the countries where the disease was found to have been imported. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative plans synchronized vaccinations throughout 23 African countries before the end of the year and in 2005.


 

"Hotel Rwanda"

In my opinion, Joaquin Phoenix is yet another under-rated talent. And you have to wonder what River could have become as well...

Hotel Rwanda Movie is Retelling of Human Tragedy and Triumph
By Brian Purchia U.S. Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.19 November 2004


TV report transcript

Ten years ago in the small African nation of Rwanda, Hutu extremists slaughtered almost a million of their Tutsi neighbors as well as any moderate Hutus. One man, Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, was able to save more than a thousand refugees from certain death. His story has become a movie, "Hotel Rwanda." It was recently screened at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and VOA's Brian Purchia was there.

Blood flowed in Rwanda for a hundred days in 1994. When it was over almost a million people were dead. As Rwandans butchered and shot each other the world closed its eyes. Joaquin Phoenix plays a photojournalist covering the massacre.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX – in movie
"I think if people see this footage they'll say, ‘Oh my God, that's horrible,’ and go on eating their dinners."


'Hotel Rwanda' tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina and how, through courage and cunning, he was able to save more than 1200 refugees from Hutu death squads.

DON CHEADLE - in movie
"There will be no intervention force, no rescue. We can only save ourselves."

Paul, a hotel manager in the nation's capital, Kigali, opened his luxury hotel to Rwandans trying to escape the genocide. Paul is played by Don Cheadle.

DON CHEADLE, ACTOR
"It was an amazing privilege, I think, to be able to tell Paul's story."


The real-life hero was on hand for the screening.

PAUL RUSESABAGINA
"People were not informed, were not aware of what was happening. The average American was not informed, some few politicians and few journalists were only aware, but the average American was not."


JOAQUIN PHOENIX - in movie
"Excuse me honey, can I ask you a personal question? Are you a Hutu or a Tutsi?"


ACTRESS
"I am Tutsi."


JOAQUIN PHOENIX
"And your friend, Tutsi?"


ACTRESS
"No, I am Hutu."


JOAQUIN PHOENIX
"They could be twins."


NARRATOR
Sofia Okonedo plays Paul's wife, Tatiana. She hopes the movie will raise awareness about other conflicts.


SOPHIE OKONEDO, ACTRESS
"If somehow it resonates with an audience and they felt slightly different or take a little bit more interest in reading about it or Ivory Coast or the Congo, then our job is done."


DON CHEADLE, ACTOR
"I also hope in just a very basic way that the film entertains and that people are sort of swept up in the telling of the story, because the story it really is a thriller with a real love story at its core and I hope people are moved."


The movie left quite an impression on the audience at the premier.

ED RACKLEY, MOVIEGOER
"It shows the power of individuals to respond to an overwhelming crisis."

'Hotel Rwanda' has already won two prestigious awards: the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and the American Film Institute's Audience Award. The movie opens nationwide in American theaters in mid-December.

http://www.voanews.com/english/2004-11-19-voa64.cfm

 

Historic peace accord signed

This is amazing, but like I said, I'm always sceptical. In my experience, things like this never actually have any staying power, but I'm still also always hopeful that it'll work.

Fifteen African presidents pledge peace in Great Lakes
Sat Nov 20, 7:01 AM ET

DAR ES SALAAM (AFP) - Fifteen African presidents and UN chief Kofi Annan signed a common declaration pledging to promote peace and security in the continent's volatile Great Lakes region.

The declaration calling for the region's transformation into a area of "sustainable peace and security, of political and social stability, of shared growth and development" was signed at a landmark conference in Dar es Salaam.

The signatories were 14 presidents from the Great Lakes region, as well as Annan and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo attending in his capacity as African Union chairman.

On Friday, the first day of the conference, Annan called on the presidents to widen the declaration into a global peace accord for the Great Lakes.

The region notably includes the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has hardly known peace and stability since its independence in 1960; Rwanda, whose 1994 genocide caused repercusions that are still felt to this day; Burundi, which is struggling to emerge from 11 years of civil conflict; and Uganda, the north of which has been ravaged by a rebel conflict since the mid 1980s.

Attending the conference were the presidents of these countries as well as of South Africa, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania.

Another conference of Great Lakes leaders is scheduled to be held in June next year to see how Saturday's declaration can be implemented and to lay the groundwork for a stronger pact between the region's states.

The Dar es Salaam summit was due to close Saturday.

Yahoo! News - Fifteen African presidents pledge peace in Great Lakes

 

Hope for coral reefs?

Scientists See Hope Amid Coral Doom and Gloom
Fri Nov 19, 6:08 AM ET

Science - Reuters
By Ed Cropley

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Even though nearly two thirds of coral reefs are now officially endangered, some are bouncing back despite warmer oceans and pollution, giving hope the marine marvels are not completely doomed, scientists said on Friday.

In particular, researchers are encouraged by the recovery of coral reefs in remote or well-protected areas from the devastating coral "bleaching" effect of the 1998 El Nino weather phenomenon, during which sea surface temperatures rose well above normal.

Described as a "one in a thousand year event," the bleaching, which killed off vast swathes of reefs across the globe, has not been repeated to anything like the same extent in the past six years.

"Recovery should continue provided there are no major climate shifts in the next few decades," scientists said in a summary of the 2004 edition of Status of Coral Reefs of the World, released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in the Thai capital.

"However, the recovery is not uniform and many reefs virtually destroyed in 1998 are showing minimal signs of recovery," they said.

The full report, which says 58 percent of the world's coral reefs are now endangered, is to be made public next month.

Humans continue to represent the single biggest threat to coral reefs, some of the most spectacular places on earth populated with some of nature's weirdest and most wonderful creatures.

About 100,000 species living in and around coral reefs have so far been logged, although some scientists believe the real total may top 2 million.

In particular, the report cited sedimentation, land-based pollution and over-fishing as the biggest threats to the ecosystems.

Conversely, threats from nature seem to be easing off.

"Pressures on coral reefs from coral predators such as the crown of thorns starfish and coral disease appear to have stabilized or even reduced," the report said.

Reefs in South and Southeast Asia, where pressures from booming populations are at their most severe, are those struggling hardest to recover.

"As long as poverty, population growth and lack of alternative livelihoods keep people dependent on already depleted reef resources, the coral reefs of South Asia will continue to degrade," says Jerker Tamelander of the IUCN's South Asia Regional Marine Program.

Yahoo! News - Scientists See Hope Amid Coral Doom and Gloom

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