This is an Open Thread:
Read up your history and then you’ll reach your destination
Teach up the youth and then you’ll find the solution
Pakistanis Deal Severe Defeat to Musharraf in Election
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistanis dealt a crushing defeat to President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections on Monday, in what government and opposition politicians said was a firm rejection of his policies since 2001 and those of his close ally, the United States.
Almost all the leading figures in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the party that has governed for the last five years under Mr. Musharraf, lost their seats, including the leader of the party, the former speaker of Parliament and six ministers.
Official results are expected Tuesday, but early returns indicated that the vote would usher in a prime minister from one of the opposition parties, and opened the prospect of a Parliament that would move to undo many of Mr. Musharraf’s policies and that may even try to remove him.
Castro Stepping Down as Cuba’s Leader
HAVANA (Reuters) – Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Tuesday that he will not return to lead the country as president, retiring as head of state 49 years after he seized power in an armed revolution.
Castro, 81, said in a statement to the country that he would not seek a new presidential term when the National Assembly meets on Feb. 24.
“To my dear compatriots, who gave me the immense honor in recent days of electing me a member of parliament … I communicate to you that I will not aspire to or accept — I repeat not aspire to or accept — the positions of President of Council of State and Commander in Chief,” Castro said in the statement published on the Web site of the Communist Party’s Granma newspaper.
FDA Says It Approved The Wrong Drug Plant
Heparin Probe Sends Inspectors to China
The Chinese facility that supplies the active ingredient of the widely used blood thinner heparin was never inspected by the Food and Drug Administration because the agency confused its name with another just like it, agency officials said yesterday.
The FDA said that a team of inspectors is headed now to China to inspect the plant as part of an effort to determine what may have caused a sudden spike in serious problems with the drug, which has been on the market since the 1930s.
More than 350 adverse reactions to the drug have been reported to the FDA since the end of 2007, including a dangerous lowering of blood pressure, breathing difficulties and vomiting.
Clinton’s struggle vexes feminists
To some, her skills losing out to style
WASHINGTON – As Hillary Clinton struggles to regain her momentum in the presidential race, frustrated feminists are looking at what they see as the ultimate glass ceiling: A female candidate with a hyper-substantive career is now threatened with losing the nomination to a man whose charismatic style and powerful rhetoric are trumping her decades of experience.
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The style-vs.-substance clash is common to presidential contests, and has hurt wonky male candidates as well, women’s leaders say. But they argue that Clinton has a peculiar burden in this year’s contest because she never would have been able to reach the final stages of the nomination process unless she had spent her life emphasizing her professional record over stylistic abilities.
“I do think at some level there is a Catch-22 for women” running for president, said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women and a Clinton supporter. “Showing your heart has never been a plus for high-achieving women.”
Revealed: the first draft of dossier that took Britain to war
By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Fresh evidence that the Iraq weapons dossier was “sexed up” emerged as the Government finally published the secret first draft of the document.
As expected, the earliest version of the document did not include the now notorious claim that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so.
The first draft made a series of lurid claims about the extent and danger of the Iraqi president’s weapons arsenal. But those were expressed in even stronger terms by September 2002, when the official dossier on which Tony Blair based the case for war was published.
The Big Question: Why are so many countries opposed to Kosovo gaining its independence?
By Paul Vallely
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Why are we asking this now?
Because Kosovo this week declared itself to be Europe’s newest country. Some 17 years after the dissolution of Yugoslavia – and after a ghastly cavalcade of ethnic cleansing, gruesome atrocities, forced expulsions and a civil war that killed 10,000 before Nato intervened – the people of Kosovo have declared themselves independent.
Since 1999 they have lived under a United Nations protectorate while conducting negotiations with the neighbouring Serbs to find a mutually acceptable constitutional status for the region.
Chinese Olympic critic to stand trial for subversion
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
A Chinese activist who dared to criticise the Olympics while lobbying for farmers’ rights goes on trial tomorrow for subversion, a sign of growing official intolerance of any dissent over the Games.
Yang Chunlin, an unemployed factory worker from Jiamusi city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, faces charges of subverting state power for his activism, which has involved petitions, denouncing government corruption and seeking democratic reform of the one-party state.
Last year he helped organise a petition, which was signed by 10,000 villagers, over a land dispute. It declared: “We don’t want the Olympics, we want human rights.”
Indian Kashmir lists custodial deaths for first time
SRINAGAR, India (AFP) – More than 300 people have been killed in police custody in the disputed Indian state of Kashmir since a Muslim insurgency began in 1989, according to a police report.
The state police report, obtained by AFP from a source, said 331 people had died in custody and 111 had disappeared after being arrested — the first time security officials have given numbers on custodial killings and disappearances.
Local human rights groups, however, say some 8,000 people are missing, most of them after they were arrested by the security forces. But officials say many of these people had crossed over to neighbouring Pakistan to join insurgents.
Gazans Feeling Recoil of Attacks on Israel
As Armed Groups Continue Rocket Strikes, Palestinians Grow Weary; Farmer Fells an Orchard After Mother Is Killed
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Mohammed Wahdan, a 20-year-old Palestinian farmer, waited until his mother’s four-day funeral had ended, until the last mourner had left his family’s crumbling farmhouse on the edge of the Gaza Strip.
Then he picked up an ax and walked out to the family’s orange grove. The trees, then full of bright fruit, overlooked fields that rolled down to a cluster of white houses in the distance, their outlines fuzzy in the winter mist.
Hefting the ax, Wahdan sliced into the dozen or so orange trees, part of his family’s livelihood, sending them to the ground, one by one.
Return to Abu Ghraib
Errol Morris, director of The Fog of War, is a fearless documentary- maker. But is his new film too soft on US army abuses? By Geoffrey Macnab
Tuesday February 19, 2008
Errol Morris’s mother calls him “a good nag”. It’s true that the 60-year-old American documentary-maker has a knack for badgering and cajoling even the most reluctant witnesses. The evidence he assembled for his 1988 film The Thin Blue Line helped save a man wrongly convicted of murder from death row. In his Oscar-winning 2003 documentary The Fog of War, he managed to persuade Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defence, to acknowledge on camera that “in order to do good, you may have to engage in evil”.
South Africa’s democracy and other fragile assumptions
THE philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein asked a friend: “Why did people think for thousands of years that the sun revolved round the earth?” The friend replied: “Why, because that is what it looks like. The sun seems to cross the sky from sunrise to sunset.”
“But what would it look like if the earth revolved round the sun?” asked Wittgenstein.
This marvellous insight into our boundless capacity to deceive ourselves, to accept the popular view or trust to authority, to misconstrue everyday experience, should warn us to think twice whenever we hear South Africa referred to as a “democracy”.
First of all, what does the word mean? If it means having the vote and a particular set of institutions, such as Parliament and president, you will find it hard to prove Zimbabwe is less of a “democracy” than South Africa.
Is it about equality? Some commentators insist that is vital while others play it down.
But commentators are good at keeping their options open – which makes two more questions essential: who at any time is making claims about “democracy”, and why?
Violence erupts at DR Congo camp
A clash between soldiers and ex-rebels waiting to be integrated into the army has erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the UN.
The confrontation is said to have taken place in a major military base in the southern town of Kamina, after ex-rebels raided a camp weapons depot.
Of the 27 injured, 16 were ex-rebels, 10 army commandoes, and one a civilian.
But the Congolese defence minister insisted the clash would not threaten the 23 January peace pact.
Colombian soldiers convicted in massacre
They’re found to have slaughtered 10 police officers on the orders of drug traffickers in May 2006.
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — A Colombian army colonel and 14 soldiers were convicted Monday of killing members of an elite, U.S.-trained counter- narcotics police squad on the orders of drug traffickers, one of the most sordid of several recent cases of alleged corruption in the armed forces.
A judge in Cali found Col. Bayron Carvajal and the soldiers guilty of aggravated homicide in the slaughter of 10 police officers and an informant in a May 2006 ambush outside a rural nursing home near Cali. Sentences will be imposed in two weeks.
The massacre was just one of several scandals over the last two years that have tarnished this country’s armed forces and raised questions about the U.S.-sponsored program called Plan Colombia that in 2000 began funneling millions of dollars in aid here.
Since 2006, high-ranking military officers are alleged to have sold secrets to drug traffickers to help them elude capture, and to have planted fake bombs to gain career advancement. A recent report by human rights groups found that extrajudicial killings by the army have increased since the early years of Plan Colombia.