April 29, 2008

UN Security Council to Discuss Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's opposition has called for help from the UN as the Security Council meets for its first discussion of the country's post-election crisis, reports the BBC.

Police freed more than 180 opposition activists without charge four days after their arrest after a Zimbabwean human rights group accused the government of using violence in rural areas to rig a possible presidential run-off.

Allies of President Robert Mugabe say the violence is being exaggerated, reports the BBC.

According to a BBC contributor in the southern town of Masvingo, "the bodies of two opposition activists have been found after they were abducted."

Tendai Biti, Secretary-General of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said he hoped the UN Security Council meeting would lead to a resolution of the country's crisis.

"We're also hoping that as soon as possible the Secretary General can dispatch an envoy to Zimbabwe," he told Reuters news agency.

Kucaca Phulu, chairman of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, said hundreds of people had been forced from their homes.

The MDC says this has often been in rural areas which Zanu-PF lost in the parliamentary elections.

"If there is a run-off, what is of grave concern to us is that all these displaced people will not be able to go back to their home areas to vote," Phulu said.

President Bush says Robert Mugabe has "failed his people.The violence and intimidation is simply unacceptable" and called on Zimbabwe's neighbours to increase pressure on Mugabe.

April 15, 2008

Zimbabwe Court Holds on to Vote Results

The High Court of Zimbabwe dismissed an opposition on Monday that demanded for the immediate release of the results of the presidential election held 16 days before. Independent monitors say that the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, did poorly in the vote and that he may have lost, reported the New York Times.

The opposition, Movement for Democratic Change, contended that Mugabe and the military are illegally clinging to power and has called for people across the country to protest by staying home from work on Tuesday.

“We are working with a regime that has perfected the art of interfering with the judiciary,? said an opposition spokesman, Nelson Chamisa. “The court has chosen to be a pillar in a collapsing regime.?

Zimbabwean election officials plan to start a recount of the presidential and parliamentary votes in 23 districts. A ruling on an opposition challenge of a recount is expected Tuesday.

But election monitors say the late recount is illegal and are worried that they are vulnerable to fraud because the integrity of the ballot boxes has not been safeguarded.

Western diplomats said they were increasingly pessimistic that Mugabe would give up power willingly. "They said it appeared that he and his party were manipulating the electoral system to drag out the process, restore public fear and deprive the opposition of its political momentum," reports the New York Times.

They predict that if Mugabe stays in office, as many as a million more Zimbabweans would flee the country.

Political rallies have been banned and foreign journalists have been arrested and detained.

Opposition supporters in rural areas have been beaten by youth militias and veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, according to citizen groups and the opposition.

More than 40 Zimbabwean civic and trade union groups had signed a letter on Monday demanding action from Zimbabwe’s neighbors to compel the government to announce the results and to prevent tampering with the vote.

But Elinor Sisulu, a South African with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in Johannesburg, said the situation is evidence that "quiet diplomacy has failed".

. “It’s careless and insensitive of President Mbeki to make that statement,? she said. “It enables impunity from the regime.?

April 7, 2008

Paparazzi and Chauffer Blamed for Princess Diana's Death

A London jury at a British inquest found Monday that Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, were unlawfully killed by the negligent driving of their chauffeur and photographers who pursued the couple’s Mercedes into a Paris underpass over 10 years ago, reports the New York Times.

The case has seized attention in Britain and around the world since the collision in August 1997.Coming soon after Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles, "her death inspired a wave of soul-searching among Britons that threatened to dissolve their attachment to the monarchy," reports the New York Times.

An earlier police inquiry had found that Diana and Fayed had died in a tragic accident as they sought to escape the attentions of the paparazzi photographers. They were being driven to Dodi al-Fayed’s apartment.

But Fayed insisted that the two had been killed in a conspiracy by the British security services acting under instruction from Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

These aquistions were discounted at the trial.

During the hearings that took place Monday, the jurors were told that a verdict of unlawful killing was tantamount to manslaughter.

But the jury resolved that the ‘’crash was caused, or contributed to, by the speed and manner of the driver of the Mercedes and the speed and manner of the pursuing vehicles.?

The jury reached its decision by a majority vote of 9-2. The panel found that Paul’s judgment had been impaired by alcohol.

Fayed senior said he was disappointed at the result of the inquest, insisting that members of the royal family should have been called as witnesses.

The inquest also lookied into details of Diana's private life that had been previously been kept secret.

Members of the Britain’s MI6 secret services were called to testify that they had not mounted a conspiracy to assassinate Diana.

"The inquest cost around $6 million but the overall cost of investigations into the road-crash was around $20 million," reports the New York Times.

April 1, 2008

Negotions for the Resignation of Zimbabwe's Leader

The outline of a deal has almost been reached for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to step down, opposition sources have told the BBC.

Representatives of Mugabe have held meetings chaired by South Africa's president. The sources say Mugabe would give an address to the nation but urge caution until the announcement has been made.

"The opposition says it won Saturday's general elections," reports the BBC.

Under the deal, Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai would be declared the winner of the presidential race after Mr Mugabe had stepped down. But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has yet to release the results of the presidential race, raising conern by MDC that the outcome of the race was being fixed.

"The negotiations about a possible transfer of power away from Mugabe began after he apparently concluded that a runoff election would be demeaning," said the New York Times.

Mr. Mugabe, 84, has led Zimbabwe since 1980. The New York Times says he is "crafty and ruthless," and is not a man likely to easily give up his hold on power, analysts, diplomats and Zimbabweans.

March 25, 2008

TB Patients Locked Down in South Africa

Struggling to contain a dangerous epidemic of a highly contagious strain of tuberculosis, the South African government is containing carriers in hospitals until they are no longer infectious. However, after several break-outs, the hospitals have increased their security says the New York Times.

“We’re being held here like prisoners, but we didn’t commit a crime,? said Siyasanga Lukas, 20, who has been here since 2006. “I’ve seen people die and die and die. The only discharge you get from this place is to the mortuary.?

The hospitals in two of the three provinces with the most cases - inEastern and Western Cape — have sought court orders to compel the return of runaways and have quadrupled the number of guards at the hospital.

The disease spreads through the air when carriers cough and sneeze, making the disease extremely contagious and a grave threat to public healt. It is resistant to the most effective drugs and will kill many, if not most, of those who contract it.

"South Africa is grappling with a sticky ethical problem: how to balance the liberty of individual patients against the need to protect society," reports the New York Times.

“We know we’re putting out patients who are a risk to the public, but we don’t have an alternative,? said Dr. Iqbal Master, chief medical officer of the King George V Hospital in Durban.

March 11, 2008

Challenges Made to Findins of Seperate Human Species discovery of more bones of unusually small-bodied people who lived long ago on another Pacific island calls into question claims that the first such specimens, from Indonesia, represent a separate human species, reports the New York Times.

Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, released a report Monday that described the finding of skulls and bones of at least 25 individuals in two caves in Palau, in the Western Caroline Islands of Micronesia from between 1,400 and 3,000 years ago.

Palau is an island 1,000 miles north of the Indonesian island of Flores, where in 2003 scientists discovered the first bones of these small-bodied people. Several individuals specimens were only a little more than three feet tall and one surviving skull indicating a brain the size of a chimpanzee’s.The Australian and Indonesian scientists who made the discovery said these "little people" were distinct enough from modern humans to be considered a separate species, Homo floresiensis. This brought about a heated debate about whether or not the people were only malformed or dwarfed Homo sapiens.

“Based on the evidence from Palau,? said Dr. Berger and collegues from Duke at Rutgers Universities, “we hypothesize that reduction in the size of the face and chin, large dental size and other features noted here may in some cases be correlates of extreme body size reduction in H. sapiens.?

This new evidence will further the debate, but hopefully also shed new light on the issue and provide answers.

March 4, 2008

Young Iraqis Disillusioned by Religion

Many young people in Iraq, after five years of constant exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have "grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach," reports the New York Times.

“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,? said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers,? according to the Times.

After two months of interviewing young people in five Iraqi cities a pattern of discontent emerged, in which young Iraqis of all classes blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions in their lives.

"The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religious practice among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology," said the Times.

Religious extremists are still admired by some young people in other parts of the Arab world, however Iraq may provide an example of what could happen when extremist theories are actually applied. "Fingers caught in the act of smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its wearer," reported the Times.

It is not known whether the change in opinion means an overal drastic turn away from religion, but is still a trend worth noting. While many young Iraqis still privately practice and remain faithful to their religion, the increased skepticism wields tremendous power.

February 26, 2008

Bosnian Serb Riots Continue

Police officers used tear gas during a protest by Bosnian Serb youths Tuesday against Kosovo's declaration of independence in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, reported MSNBC.

Spliting themselves from the 10,000 peacful protestors, Serb rioters in Banja Luka and headed toward the U.S. consulate building, breaking shop windows and throwing stones at police who blocked the streets. A group split away from the almost 10,000 peaceful protesters the building with armored vehicles."A rain of stones poured down on police before officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Several officers were seen limping. Police were also seen detaining several demonstrators as they withdrew to a nearby park," reported MSNBC.

A similar situation took place Thursday as hundreds of rioters attacked the U.S. embassy in downtown Belgrade, setting part of it on fire and smashing windows. One person died during the protest, and hundreds were injured and arrested. Many Serbs are angry at the United States because Washington was among the first world capitals to recognize Kosovo's independence after its declaration on Feb. 17.

NATO has stepped up security in north Kosovo, "particularly the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, where Serbs and Albanians are divided by the River Ibar," according to MSNBC. However the European Union, which is deploying a 2,000-strong police and justice mission to Kosovo, withdrew its small team from Mitrovica due to security concerns.

February 19, 2008

Pakistan Election Shows Defeat for Musharraf

Parliamentary elections in Pakistan on Monday dealt a crushing blow to President Pervez Musharraf in what the New York Times said "was a firm rejection of his policies since 2001 and those of his close ally, the United States."

With official results dueTuesday, early returns indicated that the vote would bring in a prime minister from one of the opposition parties, and opened the prospect of removing Musharraf. The results also showed gains for the Pakistan Peoples Party, whose former leader, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated, and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the faction led by Nawaz Sharif. "Each party may be in a position to form the next government," said the New York Times.

Sharif supporters were allready celebrating Monday night by parading through the streets of Rawalpindi on motorbikes playing music and waving the flag of Sharif. "The Election Commission of Pakistan declared the elections free and fair and said the polling passed relatively peacefully, despite some irregularities and scattered violence," said the New York Times. Although fear of violence kept many Pakistanis away from the voting booths.

Musharraf seems to be aware of the voting trend against him as one of his party members said, "He does not have the fire in the belly for another fight,? reported the New York Times.

February 12, 2008

Theft of 4 Masterworks at Zurich Museum

Three men wearing ski masks walked in and out of a private museum Sudnay with four 19th century masterpieces, the second multimillion-dollar art heist in Switzerland in less than a week, reported the New York Times.

The three men took four paintings — a Cézanne, a Degas, a van Gogh and a Monet together worth an estimated $163 million. A simliar robbery occured the Wednesday before, in a nighttime theft where thieves stole two Picassos worth an estimated $4.4 million. The people of Switzerland are shocked, not only at the loss of the works of art, but by the ease of which the works were stolen. The three theives walked into the museum in daylight, threatened the visitors with weapons, and drove off in a van with the first four paintings they could grab.

"The mix of value and quality added to the impression that the robbery was as haphazard as it was brazen," the New York Times reported.

However there still remains hope that the pieces will be retrieved. "The fact that there are no buyers lined up helps account for the recovery of famous works,said Karl-Heinz Kind, team leader of the works of art unit at Interpol, “The thieves have difficulty finding someone to take them,? he said. “They are obliged to multiply their contacts and proposals. That increases the chances for police," he said.

February 5, 2008

Chad Rebellion Flounders

A rebellion aimed at toppling Chad president Idriss Déby in Ndwjamena seems to have floundered Tuesday as France declared it would protect the Chadian government the New York Times reported.

Al Jazeera, the Arabic television network, reported that bodies littered the streets of the city, rotting in the hot sun. The streets are quiet now and the rebels are far from the capital said French military officials. Thousands had fled the city, traveling into neighboring Cameroon for safety.

"French support, along with assistance from rebel fighters from a Sudanese rebel group with ties to Mr. Deby’s family, strengthened the government’s position markedly," said the New York Times. The French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, when asked about supporting the Chadian governent said, “if France must do its duty, it will do so,? he said. “Let no one doubt it.?

A Darfur rebel group that has been fighting Sudan’s government for the past five years, said that some of the rebellion’s troops had left their base in eastern Chad to reinforce government troops. However, the addition of Darfur rebels furthers the confusion in the war torn country. "The two countries have accused one another of fostering rebellions against each other, and events in recent days point to evidence that both sides are probably right," the New York Times reported.

Although things seem quiet in Ndwjamena now, the Government still remains tense about the situation.

January 30, 2008

Mexico Issues an Arrest Warrant for Marine

The Star Tribune reported that an arrest warrant for a U.S. Marine was set out by Mexican officials.

Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, suspected of killing a pregnant colleague who accused him of rape, was last seen visiting his family in Guadalajara, Mexico this month. Laurean left without telling his family where he was going. The burnt body of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach was found earlier this month in a firepit in the backyard Laurean's home in Jacksonville, N.C.

An autopsy indicated that Lauterbach died from blut force trama to the back of her head, and was afterward burnt along with her fetus. Prosecutors believe Lauterbach was murdered on December 14. Laurean is being charged with first-degree murder and if caught will face the death penalty in Mexico.

Lauterbach's alleged harrassment occured at Camp Lejeune, a Marine base on the Atlantic coast where she and Laurean served as personel clerks. After Lauterbach reported the rape, she was encouraged to keep her distance from Laurean. Laurean denied the rape accusation.

The search for Lauren continues on Mexican soil, but it is unknown whether or not the U.S. will permit an arrest warrant.