This is an Open Thread:
I was wrong to think that you were right
But now I´m strong and now I´m ready to fight
N.Y. Philharmonic arrives in North Korea
American cultural institution makes historic visit to secretive country
PYONGYANG, North Korea – The New York Philharmonic arrived in North Korea on Monday on a historic trip as the most prominent American cultural institution to visit the nuclear-armed country, run by a regime that keeps its impoverished people among the world’s most isolated.
North Korea made unprecedented accommodations for the orchestra, allowing a delegation of nearly 300 people, including musicians, staff and journalists to fly into Pyongyang on a chartered plane for 48 hours.
The Philharmonic’s concert Tuesday will be broadcast live on North Korea’s state-run TV and radio, unheard of in a country where all events are carefully choreographed to bolster the personality cult of leader Kim Jong Il.
Park Police Face Senior Staffing Shortages
The number of U.S. Park Police officers has dropped to a 20-year low, with widespread vacancies in senior ranks, leaving the agency strapped despite heightened concern about protecting the nation’s landmarks from terrorism, according to officers and a watchdog group.
New details of the staff shortages emerged as the agency is facing stiff criticism for its performance in guarding such icons as the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The Interior Department’s inspector general reported this month that the force is insufficiently trained and spread too thin in Washington and other places.
“Never in my 19 years have I seen this many headquarter positions vacant,” said Jim Austin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police labor committee that represents Park Police officers
Clinton searches for the best message against Obama
Trying to reclaim the edge, she has accused him of plagiarism, dodging debates and falsehoods in mailings.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With her White House prospects in jeopardy, Hillary Rodham Clinton has shifted from one tactic to another in trying to overtake rival Barack Obama.
She tried TV ads saying he ducked debates. She accused him of plagiarism. She disparaged his huge crowds. She called his attacks on her shameful and dishonest. On Sunday, Clinton turned to ridicule.
“Now I can stand up here and say: Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect,” Clinton told supporters here at Rhode Island College
Israel steps up border security
Israel’s military has strengthened positions along its frontier with Gaza ahead of a demonstration against the months-long blockade of the territory.
Three Hamas fighters were killed by Israeli air strikes near Gaza’s border on Sunday, the group said.
Tens of thousands of Gazan women and children are expected to form a human chain stretching the length of the coastal enclave in Monday’s protest.
Protest organisers say they have no intention of breaching the border.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported there are fears of casualties if the troops try to halt the demonstration.
Turks send more tanks into Iraq against PKK
· Conflicting death toll in fierce clashes along border
· Anger in Kurdistan at US green light for incursion
Turkey sent military reinforcements into northern Iraq yesterday as clashes with militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) continued for a fourth day. According to the Turkish army, another 25 tanks crossed the border to help the hunt for PKK fighters, whom Turkey accuses of launching attacks on its forces from bases in the sparsely populated mountains along the Turkish-Iraqi border.
“The bombings are continuing by land and by air; the clashes are becoming heavier,” a Turkish military source told the Reuters news agency.
Roj TV, the voice of the PKK, reported that 5,000 Turkish troops with 60 tanks had launched an offensive against the militants early yesterday in the Matin mountains. Ahmed Deniz, a PKK spokesman, told the Guardian that fierce fighting was continuing in several places along the border.
How he was sentenced to die
‘What they call my trial lasted just four minutes in a closed court. I was told that I was guilty and the decision was that I was going to die’
By Kim Sengupta in Mazar-I-Sharif, Afghanistan
Monday, 25 February 2008
Clutching the bars at his prison, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh recalls how his life unravelled. “There was no question of me getting a lawyer to represent me in the case; in fact I was not even able to speak on my own defence.”
The 23-year-old student, whose death sentence for downloading a report on women’s rights from the internet has become an international cause célèbre, was speaking to The Independent at his jail in Mazar-i-Sharif – the first time the outside world has heard his own account of his shattering experience.
British director defends Beijing Games film as ‘art’
By Clifford Coonanin Beijing
Monday, 25 February 2008
Daryl Goodrich, the British director whose video about young athletes helped clinch the 2012 Olympics for London, has defended his short film about the Beijing Games, insisting it was art, not propaganda.
Connections between film and the Beijing Olympics have assumed political dimensions since Steven Spielberg quit two weeks ago as adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies, saying his conscience would not allow him take part because of China’s policy over the Darfur region of Sudan.
Unity tops agenda as an easy-going communist takes the helm in Cyprus
Demetris Christofias, a builder’s son with the common touch, became the European Union’s first communist head of state yesterday, defeating a right-wing rival in Greek Cypriot elections that have renewed hopes of a peace deal to reunify Cyprus.
Car horns blared in celebration across Nicosia, the divided capital, as final results gave the Moscow-educated politician 53.36 per cent of the vote to 46.64 per cent for Ioannis Kasoulides. Jubilant crowds outside Mr Christofias’s Akel party headquarters waved Cyprus flags emblazoned with the logo “Just Society” while some held aloft red banners bearing Che Guevara’s image.
Norway’s ‘Doomsday Vault’ holds seeds of survival
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Monday, 25 February 2008
The name alone makes it sound like a relict from the Cold War or something out of a Bond film: it is referred to as the “Doomsday Vault” and housed in an icy steel and concrete bunker, more than one hundred metres deep inside the mountain permafrost of an Arctic archipelago. Yet the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is man’s latest attempt to create a latter-day Noah’s Ark, or insurance policy, for the planet in the event of a catastrophe such as devastating climate change induced by global warming.
After decades of planning and construction work, the vault will officially start operating tomorrow. As the world’s first global seed bank, it has the capacity to hold up to 4.5 million batches of seeds from all the known varieties of the planet’s main food crops.
The vault cost €6m to construct and has been built to withstand nuclear missile attacks and even dramatic rises in sea levels that would result from both the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves melting simultaneously.
Raul Castro succeeds brother as Fidel’s legacy remains untainted
By David Usborne in New York
Monday, 25 February 2008
Members of Cuba’s National Assembly elected Raul Castro to succeed his brother, Fidel, last night. But there was little suspense in Havana yesterday anyway, as most people doubted the newly elected body would dare do anything but salute the legacy of Fidel by selecting his 76-year-old brother to take over.
The only real alternative for the 614-member Assembly was to embrace a generational shift, choosing one of two younger loyal lieutenants of the regime, either the Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, who is 42, or the 56-year-old Vice-President, Carlos Lage.
Colombia rebels get foothold in Venezuela
Border residents accuse the foreigners of extortion and killings. Hugo Chavez denies giving the leftist guerrillas free rein.
EL NULA, VENEZUELA — Father Acacio Belandria says openly what others in this run-down town in southwestern Venezuela are afraid to: Colombian rebels are all over the place.
The 78-year-old Jesuit priest says his parishioners are increasingly complaining of extortion, kidnapping threats and killings by the leftist guerrillas, and that Venezuelan armed forces and President Hugo Chavez are either unable or unwilling to stop them.
The rebels’ “presence is active and interventionist,” the priest said as he sat in the spartan rectory of San Camilo Roman Catholic Church, about 20 miles from the Colombian border. “The question I ask myself, and what people in the countryside are asking, is, why can’t or won’t the government defend its sovereignty?
“The rebels used to come here just to rest and recuperate,” he said. “Now they have made this their territory.”
Africa can’t afford cost of conflicts
Armed violence is always expensive, especially in Africa where terrorism contributes to the overall cost. The economies of many African countries have been devastated by violence, leading to the squandering of mineral as well as agricultural and human resources that should benefit people desperately in need.
A new report, Africa Losing Billions to Conflict, says that in addition to the misery suffered by millions of people caught in armed conflicts, the wars cost billions of shillings every year. From 1990 to 2005, the cost of armed conflict in Africa was a whopping $284 billion, roughly the total amount of international aid to the continent during the period.
Some 23 of the 53 countries were in conflict during the period through war, terrorism or insurgency. Indeed, armed violence is the single largest impediment to economic, political and social development, and Africa cannot afford to lose such huge amounts of capital.
About $18 billion was poured out of Africa annually during the period – an amount that could have helped to build stronger economies in the world’s poorest regions.
For Kenya’s Human Rights Chairman, an Environment of Fear
Threats Shadow Critic of Election And Its Aftermath
It was a telephone call that drove home Maina Kiai’s worst nightmare.
Kiai, the head of Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights, had appeared on television during a dinner party in January in one of Nairobi’s wealthy neighborhoods. Since the disputed presidential elections the previous month, he had been denouncing rights violations by all factions in Kenya, highlighting in particular the government’s alleged meddling in the vote and police brutality.
“This man has a few more days to live,” a former government minister attending the party told the guests, according to a person who was there.