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May 5, 2008

Football Star Caught With Transvestites

Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima, soccer star and striker for Italy's A.C. Milan team, was questioned by police and humiliated by the press after involving himself with three male transvestite prositutes.
Ronaldo claimed he didn't know they were men, and when he found out tried to send them away, reported the New York Times. The transvestites then tried to extort money from the star in return for silence.
One of the prostitutes, Andreia Albertine aka Andre Luiz Ribeiro Albertino apparently is said to have claimed that Ronaldo had threatened to hit him when he discovered that he was not a woman, reported Girls Talk Sports News. Andreia also claimed that Ronaldo had taken drugs, and had threatened to hurt all of three.
Ronaldo denied threatening the prostitutes or using drugs.
Andreia demanded a payment of $30,000 to keep the story from the press, reported the New York Times.
“He has committed no crime, he has broken no law," Ronaldo’s agent, Fabiano Farah, said in an e-mailed statement sent Friday. " On the contrary, he is the victim in this case.?
The events of that night are still in question. Ronaldo said that the events are of a personal nature and is not longer being questioned by police.
Prostitution is legal here, and Ronaldo faces no criminal charges.
His behavior was “at most, immoral,? Carlos Augusto Nogueira, the investigating officer, said in televised statements.
The only thing Ronaldo will face is humiliation.

April 21, 2008

Chinese Protest French Anti-Chinese Feelings

Thousands of Chinese began protesting against the French and the sympathy they has shown to not only Tibet, but pro-Tibetan agitators.
Protesters have also been attacking Western news outlets, especially CNN, for their baised news coverage over the TIbet issue.
These protesters rallied on Sunday in front of French Carrefour markets in six cities, reported the New York Times. Demonstrators carried banners saying, “Oppose Tibet Independence? and “Condemn CNN,? according to the official Xinhua News Agency. While their many student protesters sang the national anthem and waved Chinese flags.
This outpour of protests is the largest since 2005, that included tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to denounce Japanese textbooks that omitted information about wartime atrocities in China.
In recent days, the government has called on citizens to temper their fury at the West, but it has not acted to halt public demonstrations, which have been stoked by newspaper editorials, Internet postings and text messages sent to millions of cellphones.
“As citizens, we have the responsibility to express our patriotic enthusiasm calmly and rationally and express patriotic aspiration in an orderly and legal manner,? the state-run People's Daily newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
The newspaper called for a "cooling of passions" although it did not comment or condemn the demostrations or the french boycott.
Much of the fury toward the French was amplified by the story of Jin Jing. Jing is the disabled fencer who stubbornly clinged to the Olympic torch while a Tibet supporter tried to wrestle it away during the Paris relay, reported MSNBC News.
Anti-French sentiment in China also has grown since French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last month he is considering not attending the Olympic Games opening ceremony because of China's crackdown on Tibet.
In Paris, thousands of pro-China demonstrators staged a protest Saturday in support of Beijing. Many of the protesters, who demonstrated at the Place de la Republique, wore T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase "Let's make the Olympics a bridge, not a wall" in French.

April 14, 2008

Iraq Dimisses 1,300 Soldiers After Basra Campaign

The Iraqi government has dismissed 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month’s Shiite against Shite battles in Basra, the government said Sunday.
More than 1,000 members of the security forces had laid down their weapons during the fight which was a campaign to restore law and order to Basra, which is a strategic and oil-rich city, reported the New York Times. Many of the men refused to fight for political, national, sectarian or religious reasons, General Khalaf told The Associated Press in Basra.
The majority of Iraqi soldiers and police are Shiites. Many of the government troops were said to have been reluctant to confront fellow Shiites in battle, reported the Star Tribune.
The Basra campaign was widely criticized as poorly planned after it failed to disarm Shiite militias, in particular the Mahdi Army loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, reported the New York Times.
Al-Sadr's followers are eager to take part in the local elections because they believe they can take power away from rival Shiite parties in the vast, oil-rich Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, reported the Star Tribune.
Sadrists say Prime Minister Maliki and his American and Iraqi allies are using the pursuit of criminals as a pretext to weaken the Sadrist movement before coming elections, reported the New York Times. Yet the Iraqi government is being careful to portray the crackdown as an operation against criminals and illegally armed militias and not against Mr. Sadr’s forces, although the Mahdi Army is the most powerful armed force in Sadr City.
Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, said he would not say “how many days or how many months? the government troops would continue their operations in Sadr City, but said “they will not come out until they are finished.?
Although clashes in Basra largely petered out after al-Sadr's order on March 30 for his militiamen to stand down under a deal brokered in Iran, fighting in Baghdad has continued, reported the Star Tribune. There have been daily gunbattles in Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City between militants and Iraqi and U.S. forces, which have used helicopters and unmanned drones to pound the insurgents from the air.
Washington maintains that as the Iraqi forces increase their capabilities, they will replace U.S. troops providing security in much of the country. But last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that future U.S. troop withdrawals will go more slowly than had originally been hoped for.

April 6, 2008

Bomb Explosion Kills Sri Lankan Minister

A Sri Lankan government minister and 11 other people were killed by a suicide bomber Sunday, during the opening ceremony of a marathon near Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, authorities said.
Minister of Highways and Road Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who was opening the race 12 miles outside the capital, Colombo, was among those killed by the suicide bomber, government spokesman Anusha Paltipa said, reported the New York Times.
The defence ministry blamed Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, reported the BBC News. Mr Fernandopulle is the second minister to have been assassinated this year.
The explosion happened as Mr Fernandopulle was attending a New Year celebration at the Kanthi playground in the town of Weliveriya, 30km (18 miles) outside Colombo. He was about to wave a flag to start a marathon race when the bomb went off.
At least 50 people were seriously injured and were rushed to a local hospital.
Fighting in Sri Lanka has increased in recent months amid government promises to capture the rebels' de facto state in the north and crush the group by the end of the year, reported the New York Times. So far, at least 70,000 people have died since the war began in 1983, reported the BBC News.
Mr Fernandopulle, who had been in charge of roads and highways in the country and was a senior figure in the government, was a vocal critic of the Tamil Tigers.

March 31, 2008

China Says Dalai Lama is Behind Protests

The Chinese government said they have strong evidence that the Dalai Lama and his supporters are responsible for the recent protests against Chinese rule in Tibet.
Xinhua, the state-run news agency, said the Chinese police had a confession written by an unidentified monk who they said received orders from supporters of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, reported the New York Times.
The Chinese government has not held a news conference to identify the monk or explain the circumstances of the confession, so the existence of the monk or of such a statement is still in question.
The Tibetan government, based in Dharamsala, India, quickly dismissed such claims, saying that China was trying to pin blame on Tibetan exiles.
“These are baseless allegations,? Tenzin Taklha, the Dalai Lama’s secretary in Dharamsala, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Their spinmasters are trying to put the blame on us.?
The protests have also spread from Tibet to Tibetan communities in neighbouring Chinese provinces, an issue the Chinese premier avoided comment on, reported Al Jazeera.
Tibet is largely cut off from the outside world, with foreign reporters barred from the territory. Even activist groups with long-standing connections to contacts in Tibet have indicated they are having difficulty finding out what is happening in the region.
"It is a very, very tense and terrifying situation," Kate Saunders, from the International Campaign for Tibet, told the AFP news agency. "It has become much more difficult to get information out."
Pressure continues to mount for China to negotiate with the Dalai Lama and find a solution to a problem that has already begun to affect preparations for the Olympics, reported the New York Times. China has tried to convince other countries that the Dalai Lama’s supporters are behind the unrest and that they finance and equip separatists inside China.
There has been portests now at various Chinese embassays across the world. This issue is being heard everywhere in the world and talks have begun of trying to get the Chinese government to resolve the issue with talks to the Dalai Lama.

March 29, 2008

Monks Protest China's Treatment of Tibet During Foreign Press Tour

A group of 30 monks protested the treatment of Tibet Thursday in Tibet's capital of Lhasa, during a foreign press tour of China.
The protest took place at the Jokhang Monastery, one of Tibet’s holiest shrines, and lasted about 15 minutes, reported the New York Times. Shouting, "Tibet is not free," the monks spoke of the lack of religious freedom in Tibet and how the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile, had been wrongly accused by China of orchestrating the protests to disrupt the Olympic Games, to be held in Beijing in August.
"We are like prisoners here. There are soldiers all over the place," the monks shouted as officials tugged at the foreign reporters to leave the Jokhang Temple, reported the Star Tribune. The monks called for the return of the Dalai Lama from exile and an end to religious restrictions: "We want freedom."
It was unclear whether the protesting monks were arrested for the protest.
The press tour was intended to promote the Chinese government’s version of the unrest in Tibet, which China calls an autonomous region, reported the New York Times. On Friday, U.S., British and other diplomats who flew into Lhasa for their own government-invited tour planned to ask their hosts about the monks, reported the Star Tribune. European Union foreign ministers gathering in Slovenia appealed to China to resolve the crisis peacefully.
President Bush and Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, said Friday they want Chinese leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama to defuse tensions.
Yet the government also seemed intent on laying blame for the rioting on the Dalai Lama and his supporters without addressing grievances by Tibetans over the influx of Chinese migrants and, as with the Jokhang monks, religious restrictions, reported the Star Tribune. On Friday, the Dalai Lama reiterated that he supported Beijing's holding of the Olympics but decried state media's depiction of the protests, which has dwelled on violence against Chinese.
China’s state-run media said that President of China, Hu Jintao, responded that China had always been open to discussions with the Dalai Lama, as long as he renounced independence for Tibet and abandoned efforts to “fan and mastermind violent crimes," reported the New York Times.
Media coverage in China has become more censored in the days following the protest. Chinese and foreigners living in China say Internet controls have ramped up, with Tibet reports on Google and Yahoo and other foreign news sites blocked and Tibet-related discussions on domestic chat sites censored, reported the Star Tribune.
"The state media's portrayal of the recent events in Tibet, using deceit and distorted images, could sow the seeds of racial tension with unpredictable long-term consequences. This is of grave concern to me," the Dalai Lama said in a statement from his base in exile, Dharmsala, India.
The Chinese state-controlled media is publishing only articles favorable to the government's role in Tibet. Foreign journalists are complaining how the government is trying to impede their reporting, despite their pledge of greater openess in the months leading up to the Olympics, reported the New York Times.
"China is more open. You can see that in the Jokhang. The monks told you things that are not identical with the government," said Zhang Lizhong, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official posted to Lhasa to deal with visiting foreigners, reported the Star Tribune.
Despite the censorship in China, the word is still getting out and causing talk around the world. Some officials began discussion of whether toboycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics games, reported the New York Times.
"For people, in this case the monks, to disrupt a press conference, it's extremely bold and very unusual," said Rebecca MacKinnon, a journalism professor at Hong Kong University. "It shows how angry people are."

March 6, 2008

Conflicts Arise at Colombian Border After Guerrilla Raid

Ecuador and Venezuela sent troops to their borders after the Colombian army entered and killed on Ecuadorian soil Sunday, reported the New York Times. Ecuador and Venezuela then expelled the Colombian ambassadors from the countries, and Ecuador broke all diplomatic relations with Colombia.
Colombia conducted a military raid on a rebel encampment a mile inside Ecuador. Colombian forces killed 21 guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group.
The Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said the Colombian rebels were killed in their sleep “in their pajamas,? and not in the heat of pursuit as Colombia’s security forces said. Among the 21 killed was senior rebel leader Raúl Reyes.
Colombia recovered Reyes's laptop that contained payments of $300 million from Venezuela to FARC, reported the Star Tribune. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said that Venezuelan President Chavez should be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court for allegedly financing the FARC.
“This implies more than cozying up," Colombian police chief, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, said, "But an armed alliance between the FARC and the Venezuelan government," reported the New York Times.
The Venezuelan government denied aiding the rebels. “We are used to the Colombian government’s lies,? said Vice President Ramón Carrizales.
Venezuela sent about 9,000 soldiers to the border region as a "preventive" measure, retired Gen. Alberto Muller Rojas told the Associated Press. Ecuador said it sent 3,200 troops to the border on Monday, reported the Star Tribune.
Venezuela also closed their border to all Colombian trade. Leonardo Mendez, a spokesman for a Colombian cargo transport association, said some 300 vehicles, including trucks carrying food, shoes, ceramics and other products, were stuck at one major border crossing.
Colombia did send an apology for the cross-border strike, however, Ecuador rejected it calling it insufficient and rallying opposition during an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa began a six-nation tour in Peru and Brazil, calling Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a liar who "wanted war." Correa warned that if the attack goes unpunished, "the region will be in danger, because the next victim could be Peru, it could be Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, any one of our countries."

February 26, 2008

Drug-Resistant TB Spreading Fast

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is spreading faster than medical experts feared, reaching the highest rates ever recorded, the World Health Organization said in a report Tuesday, reported the Star Tribune.
The rate of TB patients infected with the drug-resistant strain is exceeded 20 percent in some countries, the U.N. agency said.
The highest rate was in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where 22.3 percent of new tuberculosis cases were drug-resistant, followed by about 20 percent in Moldova and 16 percent in Donetsk, Ukraine, W.H.O. said.
"Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable to see rates like this," said Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of WHO's "Stop TB" department. "This demonstrates what happens when you keep making mistakes in TB treatment."
These levels surpassed the highest levels that nearly all experts thought were possible, Dr. Raviglione said in an interview, reported the New York Times.
Many countries have failed to invest enough to run laboratories needed to detect the disease, said health officials. The countries also failed to assure patients sufficient amounts of standard drugs and to monitor patients to ensure that they complete a full course of therapy. Inadequate therapy often leads to development of multiple-drug-resistant strains of the tuberculosis bacterium.
Globally, about one in 20 new cases of tuberculosis is resistant to first line drugs, which translates into nearly 500,000 of the 9 million new tuberculosis cases that are detected each year, according to the W.H.O. survey, which involved 90,000 patients in 81 countries.
High rates of drug-resistant TB were also found in China and India, the world's two most populous nations that together are home to half the world's cases, reported the Star Tribune.
Drug-resistant TB arises when primary TB treatment is poor. Countries with strong treatment programs, like the U.S. and other Western nations, should theoretically have very little drug-resistant TB. However, the Chinese government says 94 percent of TB patients complete their first TB treatment.
A decade ago, when W.H.O. first received reports of 9 to 10 percent rates of multiple-drug-resistant TB in some areas, many scientists thought the figure was inaccurate due to a misclassification that mixed new, previously treated and chronic cases together, reported the New York Times. Experts also said higher rates were not possible, Dr. Raviglione said, but “we see now it is possible, it tells you they are really doing something wrong in places where this form of TB is spreading.?
Drug-resistant tuberculosis, can be transmitted from an infected individual to a noninfected person in droplets through coughing, sneezing, singing and other activities. The drug-resistant form can take two years to treat with drugs that are 100 times more expensive than the first-line regimen, the health agency, a unit of the United Nations, said.
"Multi-drug resistant TB is a threat to every person on the planet," said Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group, a public health think tank. "It's not like HIV, where you are only infected through specific actions. TB is a threat to every person who takes a train or a plane."

February 25, 2008

Raul Castro Named Cuba's President

Raul Castro, younger brother to Fidel Castro, was selected Sunday to be the new president of Cuba, reported BBC News. Fidel stepped down last week after nearly half a century in charge of Cuba.
Since Fidel's major surgery in July 2006, Raul has been acting as president in Fidel's place. Raul made it clear that he would not make radical changes and promised to consult his brother on every important decision, reported the New York Times.
Raul was the only nominee in a formality vote by the National Assembly, reported BBC News. However, a shock came when Raul appointed 78-year-old Machado Ventura as vice-president, said the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana. Instead of appointing someone from the younger generation to help run Cuba, Raul, 76, opted for one of Cuba's original communist leaders.
Raul said his brother was still alive and alert, and the time had yet to come when the leaders of the revolution in the 1950s had to pass the baton to a new generation, reported the http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/world/americas/25cuba.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp.
Raul has a reputation as a consensus builder, a man who listens closely to his advisers, delegates authority and holds his underlings accountable for their decisions. He spoke calmly for half an hour, a sharp contrast with his brother’s fiery lectures that frequently rambled on for hours.
Raul also said the government needed to change to survive in the new era. He proposed putting more power in the hands of provincial governments and streamlining the bureaucracy in Havana.
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the new government “to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change by releasing all political prisoners, respecting human rights, and creating a clear pathway towards free and fair elections,? reported the New York Times. In a statement, she said Cubans had a right “to choose their leaders in democratic elections.?
As President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela congratulated Raul and invited him to Venezuela, he said “Nothing is going to change, because we will only advance by being united.? Venezuela is Cuba's main benefactor receiving millions of barrels of cheap oil, reported BBC News.
Raul worked to ensure a smooth political transition, keeping the army loyal to the regime and strengthening the Communist Party's hold by introducing reforms and weeding out corrupt officials. He also plans to make it easier for Cubann to earn a decent salary within the state-run system.
Raul Castro paid tribute to his older brother as he accepted the presidency and said that he was accepting the job on the understanding that Fidel Castro would remain as the "commander in chief of the revolution", a title he was given during the 1959 uprising.
In a sense, who holds the office of president hardly matters, experts on Cuban politics say, reported the New York Times. Fidel Castro remains the head of the Communist party, by law the ultimate authority in the land.
“Fidel was here, now the brother comes,? said Jose Clemente Calvo, 58, a retired janitor, who was sitting on a park bench in Havana. “There is no difference.?

February 14, 2008

Senior Hezbollah militant killed in Car Bombing

A highly wanted Hezbollah terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh, was killed Tuesday in a car bombing in Syria nearly 15 years of being off the radar, reported Yahoo News. The one-time Hezbollah security chief was the suspected mastermind of attacks that killed hundreds of Americans in Lebanon and of the brutal kidnappings of Westerners.
Mughniyeh was on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists, and the U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in planning the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed. He has also been accused of kidnapping, hijacking, killing, and planning suicide bombings towards the United States.
"From Beirut to Dhahran, he orchestrated bombings, kidnappings and hijackings in which hundreds of American service members were killed," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement. "Hopefully, his demise will bring some measure of comfort to the families of all those military men he murdered."
Mughniyeh appeared during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, rising to become Hezbollah's security chief. He is accused of engineering the suicide bombings in Beirut that were some of the deadliest against Americans until al-Qaida's Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
He vanished in the early 1990s, reportedly undergoing plastic surgery to change his identity and moving between Lebanon, Syria and Iran on fake passports.
A television station run by Hezbollah, Al Manar, hailed Mr. Mugniyah as a hero. “With pride and honor we announce that a great jihadi leader has joined the procession of martyrs in the Islamic resistance,? said a statement read on the station. “The martyr was killed at the hands of the Israeli Zionists," quoted the New York Times.
The Hezbollah blamed Israel for the assassination. In a statement, the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said, “Israel rejects the attempt by terrorist elements to ascribe to it any involvement whatsoever in this incident.? Israeli officials made no effort to conceal their approval of his death.
Shortly after Hezbollah announced Mr. Mugniyah’s death, mourners began arriving at the Moujamaa al-Shouhada, a building in the Hezbollah stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Hezbollah announced that a mass funeral would be held Thursday, which it said would be a day of mourning in some parts of southern Lebanon.
"The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "One way or the other, he was brought to justice," quoted Yahoo News.

February 10, 2008

A Final Farewell to Heath Ledger

Family, friends and costars all gathered in Perth, Australia to say farewell to Heath Ledger, reported the BBC News. There was a private memorial service held at Penrhos College, in Ledger's hometown of Perth.
Among the guest list was Ledger's parents and his sister, Kate. Also present was his former financee Michelle Willams with their two-year-old daughter, Matilda.
Some of the more elite members were Cate Blanchett, who was the speaker at the service, and Neil Armfield, who was Ledger's director in his last Australian film "Candy".
The 75-minute service began with the performance of a didgeridoo, a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument, by Levi Islam, reported Yahoo News. Rock songs were also played, including Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin," the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd and Neil Young's "Old Man," according to a program of the service.
The service was followed by a private funeral in Perth. Ledger's father Kim appealed for privacy and did not disclose the time or location.
"We're finding it difficult to cope by ourselves, let alone cope with everybody around the world," said Kim Ledger. "Having said that, we do really appreciate the outpouring and the emotional support from all over the globe."

February 2, 2008

Spice Girls End Worldwide Tour

The Spice Girls announced January 25, the end of their world tour, reports Yahoo News. The tour will conclude in Toronto on February 26.
The girls decided to cut the tour short due to "family and personal commitments" by the group members. "Really sorry if we didn't get to see you this time round. We all have other commitments in our lives now, but who knows what will happen next," quoted the BBC News.
Among the places to be cancelled are Sydney, Bejing, Cape Town and Buenos Aires. The shows were originally scheduled for January but became postponed after the London leg of the tour was extended.
The Spice Girls kicked off their tour in Vancouver, Canada, on Dec. 2, and included stops in Britain, the United States, Spain and Germany, reports The New York Times.
The Spice Girls were one of the biggest pop acts of the 1990s, selling 35 million albums worldwide, says Yahoo News. Yet, "Due to the phenomenal demand for tickets in the U.K and the U.S. along with the touring logistics for such a massive production it was not possible to fit everything in."