May 4, 2008

Cyclone Kills Hundreds in Myanmar

A cyclone killed more than 350 in Myanmar and some dissent grouos are afraid the mylitary junta running the country will be reluctant to ask for international help, reported an AP report ran by the New York Times Sunday.

"We believe hundreds of people are dead," said Khin Maung Win with the Democratic Voice of Burma -- a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates, to CNN. "The entire lower Burma is affected. In some areas, entire villages disappeared."

The cyclone, Nargis, cam at an unfortunate time for the country- A week before the junta referendum of the country's new constitution, AP and CNN reported.

The junta came under sharp criticism from many nations for using force to suppress pro-democracy protests last year, reported CNN.

Should the military dictatorship be seen as failing disaster victims, voters, many of whom already say the government has ruined the economy and suppressed democracy, could be more inclined to oppose the constitution, reported the AP.

To see a recent AP report from May 1, on President Bush freezing of assets of state-owned companies in Myanmar propping up the nation's military junta, click here.

April 20, 2008

UN Criticizes Treatment of Refugees Seeking Asylum in Greece

The United Nations refugee agancy has advised European Union countries to stop sending asylum seekers to Greece, until further notice. This request is a condemnation on behalf of the United Nations, who have been concerned for some time on the treatment of people fleeing conflict and persecution in Greece, reported the New York Times.

However, the New York Times reported refugee lawyers are concerned the request will result in Greece's neighbors to the union taking even tougher measures to push people away at borders since it puts a "disproportionate" burden on the countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain.

The New York Times reported, the refugee agency described Greece’s recognition rate for refugees as “disturbingly low.? The overall protection rate for refugees of all nationalities in 2006 was 1 percent in Greece, compared with 24 percent in Britain, 45 percent in Italy, 19 percent in Spain and 50 percent in Sweden.

The Greek interior minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, called the agency’s criticism “not only unfair but unfounded,? reported the New York Times.

April 13, 2008

Iraq Dismisses 1,300 Soldiers and Policemen

The Iraqi government has dismissed 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month's Shiite-on-Shiite battles in Barsa reported the New York Times Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said 500 soldiers and 421 policemen were fired in Basra, including 37 senior police officers up to the rank of brigadier general according to the paper. It was also reported police officials said the remainder were fired in Kut.

The Basra campaign was widely criticized, reported the paper, as poorly planned since it failed to disarm Shilite militias, but America and Iraqi officials are reported to have said the arrival of security forces in larger numbers has restored the streets vital to the Iraq's oil industry.

The Mahdi Army and the government security forces dominated by Mr. Sadr’s most powerful Shiite rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq are reported to be the two Shiite forces pitted against each other and their clash has spilled over into the Iraqi capital, particualarily in Sadr's stronghold, reported the Times, which is surrounded with both Iraqi and American soldiers.

To see the NY Times article click here.

April 6, 2008

If you're ruthless... blame it on genetics!

Nature News reported selfish dictators may be able to attrubute their behavior partly to genes, according to a study by researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem which claims to have found a genetic link to ruthlessness. "The study might help to explain the money-grabbing tendencies of those with a Machiavellian streak- from national dictators down to 'little Hitlers' found in workplaces the world over," the article said.

The University found a link between a gene called AVPR1a and ruthless behavior via an exercise called the 'Dictator Game,' where players are allowed to behave selfishly or selflessly.

It is unknown reported Nature news how the gene influences behavior, but it may mean that the old adage "it is better to give than to receive" isn't true according to Richard Ebstein, a team leader for the research. The reward centres in the brains of those who acted selfishly may derive less pleasure from seemingly altrustic acts, he suggested according to the report.

To see the entire article at the Nature News website click here.

March 30, 2008

More Muslims than Catholics

Rueter's reported today Islam is now the largest single religious denomination in the world, pushing Roman Catholiicism from the top spot the Vatican said on Sunday.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican's newly-released 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world's population and Catholics 17.4 percent, making it the first time in history catholicism is not at the top.

According to the Vatican there are about 1.13 billion Catholics in the world Muslim's genrally are estimated to be around 1.3 billion, Rueters reported.

The number of Catholics in proportion to the world population is said by Formenti to be stable. However, Rueters repored he said the percentage of Muslims is groeing because of higher birth rates.

March 16, 2008

Pope Benedict appeals the Iraq war

Pope Benedict XVI issued a strong appeal to end the violence in Iraq Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found near the northern city of Mosul reported
The pope issued an appeal for peace and denounced the 5-year-long Iraq war at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life, reported the site in article by the Associated Press.

"Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!" Benedict was reported to have said.

Benedict praised Raho's loyalty to Christ and called his death an "inhuman act of violence" they reported.

Benedict was reported to have also said Rahho's dedication to the Catholic Church and his death compelled him to "raise a strong and sorrowful cry" to denounce the violence in Iraq spawned by the war that began five years ago this week.

In his homily, Benedict urged the faithful to follow God with the innocence and purity of a child's heart the web sited reported.

"To recognize God, we must abandon the pride that dazzles us, that seeks to push us away from God," he said. To find God, Benedict was repoted to have said, "we must learn to see with a young heart, one which isn't blocked by prejudice and dazzled by interests."

March 9, 2008

Gunman in Jersulam attack identified but not agency behind it

The gunman responsible for the for the killing of eight students at a prominent Jewish seminary in Jerusalem Thursday night was identified as Ala Abu Dhaim, reported the New York Times.

Abu, who is believed to have acted alone, once worked as a driver at the seminary said his family in Arab East Jerusalem. However, Rueters reported, the director of the seminary said on israeli radio that he did not know Abu and the seminary did not employ Arab drivers.

The gunman enetered the seminary Thursday night while the students paryed, and immediately killed a 15-year-old and 26-year-old at the enterance of the Mercaz Harvav yeshiva. He then enterd the first-florr library and opened fire using a Kalahnikov rifle, the New York Times reported the Israeli police said. In addition, to the eight students killed, at least nine others were injured, at least 3 seriously, the paper reported.

The families of the slain students mourned their deaths Friday, first by bringing the bodies to the seminary in the morning and then at noon buring them at locations inside and outside of Jerusalem, as the Israeli government tightened security around the city, the New York Times reported.

The New York Times reported the attack came at a time of increased Israeli-Palenstine tension, and the radical Islamic movement Hamas in Gaza did not take credit for the attack but did praise it.

"We bless the operation. It will not be the last," said Hamas in a text message the paper reported.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Jerusalem's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, admitted the responsibility for the killings is still unclear.

The kiilngs have been condemned by the United Nations and President Bush extended his condolences and condemnation to the attack as well.

The killings will likely put increased pressure on Olmert to respond somehow with force reported the paper. However, before actions can be taken it must be certain who is behind the slaining of the students, said Regev.

"We will act to protect our people," he said.

March 2, 2008

Prince Harry Comes Home After His Presence in Afghanistan Revealed

An attempt to keep Prince Harry's presence in Afghanistan out of the British press for the protection of the prince and his fellow soldiers, was undone when Matt Drudge plastered the secret Thursday in an oversize font on his popular website, The Drudge Report, The New York Times reported.

Bob Satchwell, who had brokered the top secret agreement, was informed by a collegue and knew the press blackout would not hold any longer, meaning immediate action had to be taken, the paper reported.

On Friday the defense Ministry announced the third-in-line to the British throne would be returning home, despite the expectation for him to stay for a few more weeks with his Household Calvary Regiment Battlegroup unit because it was too risky for him to stay there, the NY Times reported.

Despite the media perception that newspapers and broadcasts as cutthroat, sensationalistic and anti-authoritarian, the NY Times brough to attention that hundreds of British journalist kep the deployment secret for close to three months.

However, in a stark contrast to the responsible attitude U.K journalist adopted, foreign websites did not the paper reported Gen. Sir Richard Dannat, chief of the General staff of the British Army said. Dannat said he was dissapointed in the foreign websites that printed prince Harry's wherebouts without permission.

Although Matt Drudge was not the first to report the news- Bild, a German newspaper ran a brief story on Jan. 7- he labeled the story a "world exclusive" and labeled the prince, "Harry the Hero," the NY Times said. Drudge teased his readers at Thursday morning with an all-capitialized alert: "Dramatic moment in war from UK," which he changed to "Prince Harry Fights On Frontlines In Afghanistan; 3 Month Tour," about 30 minutes later, they also reported.

British journalists have now unleashed into the public domain all the material they had been saving for later, including interviews and video scenes of Prince Harry discussing his deployment, wearing fatigues and firing his machine gun, said the NY Times.

February 24, 2008

Saudi Men Arrested For 'Flirting"

Saudi Arabia's prosecutors arrested 57 young men Thursday for flirting with girls in malls in the holy city of Mecca reported the BBC.

The young men were arrested upon the request of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for wearing indecent clothes, playing loud music and dancing inappropriately, reported the Saudi Gazette.

The AFP reported Members of the commission, known as the Muttawa, patrol public areas to ensure the kingdom's brand of conservative Islam, Wahhabism, is enforced. This includes strict segregation of the sexes.

Some of the arrestees’ guardians said the young men regularly got together at the weekend to have fun and did not violate laws governing the segregation of the sexes, the commission stated.

However, the commission received reports of 'bad' behavior, which led to the arrests.

The BBC reported symbols, such as red roses, were banned from sales by authorities earlier this week in an attempt to crack down on Valentine's Day. The day is considered a "pagan Christian holiday" and the celebrations of the event are believed to encourage premarital relationships, which are punishable by law in Saudi Arabia, the BBC reported.

February 17, 2008

Kosovo's Independence Day

The Kosovo Parliament declared the former Serbian province a nation Sunday, sending thousands of ethnic Albanians swarming the streets in celebration of the perceived end of the struggle for independence.

Kosovo intends to be recognized as Europe's newest country. Seventeen years after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia began the dissolution is complete reported The New York Times.

In Kosovo's capital, Pristina, jubilant people danced in the streets, fired guns in the air, and waved Albanian and American flags in celebration of the end of a period of struggle. A decade ago a civil war resulted in 10,000 deaths and was followed by years of limbo under UN rule.

"This is the happiest day of my life," the AP reported Mehi Shehu, 68 said. "Now we're free and we can celebrate without fear."

The leader's of the new nation signed a iron sculpture spelling "NEWBORN" during the celebrations.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sedjdui signed the deceleration and unveiled the new national crest and flag, a blue banner featuring a gold map of the nation and 6 stars standing for the main ethnic groups.

Thaci pledged Kosovo would be a "democratic, multiethnic state."

Kosovo appealed directly to the U.S. and other nations for recognition, sidestepping the U.N. The new nation was hoping for swift international recognition, that could come Monday, when EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Belgium.

However, Serbia denounced the declaration of independence as illegal and is outraged by the immenent loss of a territory.

Russia has rejected the declaration, warning it will set a dangerous precedent for separist groups internationally and insisted on a emergency U.N. Security Council meeting Sunday.

The U.S., which Serbia Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, believes unlawfully propped up Kosovo, will continue to work to prevent violence. The European Union appealed for calm. Both are mindful of the risk that Kosovo's declaration could cause instability.

Just hours after the declaration, a hand-grenade was set off in a U.N. courthouse north a Kosovo. No one was injured.

All 27 EU nations plan to endorse an aid plan for Kosovo at the foreign minister meeting scheduled for Monday. However, Greece, Romania, Spain, Cyprus and Slovakia, among others, plan to reject Kosovo's independence.

Kosovo is still protected by 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, which will work to discourage violence. However, NATO does not have immediate plans to increase its force.

All 26 NATO nations will meet Monday at the alliance headquarters.

February 9, 2008

Bhutto's Party Rejects UK Police Findings

Benzir Bhutto's party rejected the Scotland Yard finding Friday alleging Bhutto was killed by a bomb rather than a bullet, and they renewed their call for a full-scale investigation into her death.

The British investigators report found the former's prime ministers death on December 27, 2007 was caused by a fatal head injury when the force from a suicide bomber caused her to be thrown against a lever on the roof of her armored vehicle. It was ruled out her head injury may have been caused by a bullet.

The investigation confirmed shots were taken, as seen a television, however found they were not the cause of her death and that one assailant was responsible.

The Pakistan government announced similiar findings soon after Bhutto's killing at the end of a political rally in Rawalpindi.

According to the The Boston Globe (in a report released from The Associated Press), Bhutto supporter's rejected the 2 1/2 week long investigation. Her party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, insist Bhutto was killed by a bullet.

Bhutto had accused President Pervez Musharraf's allies of trying to kill her. The Scotland Yard report is being called into question by the party as a potential government coverup. Musharraf had rejected the PPP call for a UN inquiry and invited the Scotland Yard to investigate Bhutto's death.

"We disagree with the finding on the cause of the death," said Sherry Rehman, spokeswoman for the PPP, who escorted Bhutto to hospital after the attack. "She died from a bullet injury. This was and is our position."

"This gives us all the more reason for a United Nations probe to know the perpetrators, financiers, sponsors and organizers of the this crime," she said. "We are looking for more than the hand that pulled the trigger."

The United States views the Scotland Yard findings as credible according to Tom Casey, State Department spokesman.

The response of Bhutto's party suggested the British report alone would not calm the political storm surrounding her death as the nation prepares for the parliamentary elections, which were postponed for six weeks, on Feb. 18.

February 1, 2008

Second Oppositional Leader Killed in Kenya

''Kenya is a country that was a hope for the continent. Today, if you look at Kenya you see violence on the streets. We are even talking about ethnic cleansing, We are even talking about genocide. We cannot sit with our hands folded.'' - African Union Summit chairman Alpha Konare

An opposition leader, David Kimutai Too, was shot and killed in Kenya Thursday by an Elderet police officer, making him the second opposition lawmaker to be killed this week (according to The New York Times). The country has been on edge since the December 27 elections and the former school teacher of the Rift Valley's death added to the turmoil.

President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the Kenyan election. Oppositional canidate, Raila Odinga, claimed the vote was rigged and has rejected the election. Kibaki will not negotiate his presidency. Tensions have been high as well as violence in the country.

The head of the Africa Union warned leaders of the continent that they could not stand by while Kenya descended into ethnic cleansing, possibly genocide (as reported by the Associated Press).

After the killing thousands of the slain opposition leader ethnic group, Kalenjin, rioted. They set house on fire and blocked roads on the outskirts of the town of Kericho. The lawmaker's constituency was nearby. Similiar violence occured in other towns.

Too was killed in a "crime of passion," according to Hussein Ali, the National police chief.

Eldoret Deputy Police Chief Gabriel Kuya said the police officer arrested for the shooting realized his girlfriend was having an affair with Too. He chased them down on his motorcycle " drove toward the side of the woman and shot her in the stomach twice. Her partner (Too) pleaded with the officer not to kill her but he turned his pistol on him instead, hitting him four times in the head.''

The opposition say it was an assassination plot.

“How can police call this an ordinary murder before any investigations?? William Ruto, an opposition leader, said. “There is nothing ordinary about having two members of Parliament killed like this.?

Kenya's president listened from the front row at the African Union Summit as chairman Alpha Konare said, ''Kenya is a country that was a hope for the continent. Today, if you look at Kenya you see violence on the streets. We are even talking about ethnic cleansing, We are even talking about genocide. We cannot sit with our hands folded.''