You’re dangerous ’cause you’re honest
You’re dangerous, you don’t know what you want
Mountain residents bulldozed out of government’s world heritage vision
Locals complain of evictions and threats as officials aim to impress Unesco inspectors
Tania Branigan in Shanxi
Thursday March 13 2008
The sacred Buddhist mountain of Wutai is renowned for its serenity. But the residents of Taihuai, the town in the middle of the mountain’s five peaks, were angry and tearful as police and officials arrived to discuss their future again.
Huddled in a little courtyard off Taiping Street, they were anxious to share their complaints. The greeting pasted to the tiled wall behind them had a hollow ring: “May a multitude of things be as you hope.”
Optimism is in short supply, for their homes will soon be bulldozed. Many inhabitants have spent their whole lives here and fear they will end up homeless, jobless and even without compensation.
The government wants Wutai’s natural beauty and 2,000-year Buddhist history to be recognised with world heritage status. Inclusion on Unesco’s list would boost tourism and burnish China’s lustrous cultural reputation.
Pentagon Cites Tapes Showing Interrogations
WASHINGTON – The Defense Department is conducting an extensive review of the videotaping of interrogations at military facilities from Iraq to Guantánamo Bay, and so far it has identified nearly 50 tapes, including one that showed what a military spokesman described as the forcible gagging of a terrorism suspect.
The Pentagon review was begun in late January after the Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged that it had destroyed its own videotapes of harsh interrogations conducted by C.I.A. officers, an action that is now the subject of criminal and Congressional investigations.
The review was intended in part to establish clearer rules for any videotaping of interrogations, Defense officials said. But they acknowledged that it had been complicated by inconsistent taping practices in the past, as well as uncertain policies for when tapes could be destroyed or must be preserved.
EPA Tightens Pollution Standards
But Agency Ignored Advisers’ Guidance
The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday limited the allowable amount of pollution-forming ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion, a level significantly higher than what the agency’s scientific advisers had urged for this key component of unhealthy air pollution.
Administrator Stephen L. Johnson also said he would push Congress to rewrite the nearly 37-year-old Clean Air Act to allow regulators to take into consideration the cost and feasibility of controlling pollution when making decisions about air quality, something that is currently prohibited by the law. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the government needed to base the ozone standard strictly on protecting public health, with no regard to cost.
HK schools close amid flu fears
All kindergartens and junior schools in Hong Kong have closed early for their Easter holiday, after a flu-like illness killed three children.
The government described the move as a “precautionary measure” to ease parents’ fears.
Almost 200 people had been affected, officials said. At one school, some 30 students showed flu-like symptoms.
Experts are working to identify the virus and assess whether it poses a broader threat.
Women and children killed in Afghanistan by British air strike
By John Bingham
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Two women and two children were killed in an air strike called in by British forces in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said. It is understood that the incident in Helmand Province took place after British troops had called in air support to help extricate them from a Taliban ambush at an undisclosed location in the southern part of the war-ravaged province.
The four bodies were found alongside one injured civilian as soldiers went to inspect the area.
The MoD said in a statement yesterday: “We can confirm UK forces were involved in an operation in the south of Helmand Province. We deeply regret that this incident happened and do everything we can to mitigate this from happening. This incident is currently under investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to comment.”
Bereaved Iraqi mother vows revenge on US
Um Saad, a middle-aged woman living in the Sunni district of Khadra in west Baghdad, blames the Americans for the death of her husband and two of her sons and threatens revenge.
“They are monsters and devils wearing human clothes,” she exclaims vehemently. “One day I will put on an explosive belt under my clothes and then blow myself up among the Americans. I will get revenge against them for my husband and sons and I will go to paradise.”
Just as the White House and the Pentagon were trumpeting the success of “the surge” – the dispatch of extra American troops to Iraq last year – and the wire services’ claim that the country has enjoyed “months of relative calm”, Um Saad saw Saif, her second son, shot dead as he opened the door of her house.
Iran starts ‘treason’inquiry ahead of poll
Iran’s hardline leadership today began a fresh crackdown against political opponents before elections to be held at the end of this week, announcing an investigation against a leading reformist for “treason”.
As the last day of a muted campaign before Friday’s largely discredited parliamentary poll neared an end, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, denounced Noureddine Pir Mouazen, a reformist spokesman, as being guilty of an “appalling act” after he criticised the regime during an unauthorised interview with an American-backed television channel.
During the interview, broadcast by the Persian-language service of the Voice of America this week, Mr Mouazen became the second reformist leader in a matter of days to denounce the regime’s decision to disqualify 1,700 candidates – including himself – from standing in the elections.
Anschluss and Austria’s guilty conscience
Seventy years after the Nazis’ annexation of Austria, questions remain over whether its citizens were victims or accomplices
By Tony Paterson
Thursday, 13 March 2008
The black and white photo was taken in Vienna 70 years ago this week: it shows a crowd of ordinary Austrians and a handful of officials sporting swastika armbands. All of them are grinning or smirking. At their feet six raggedly clad Jews are on their knees, being forced to clean the pavement with brushes.
The picture is a snapshot of the instant “people’s justice” meted out by Aryan Austrians against the perceived enemies of the Third Reich. It was taken only hours after 105,000 Nazi storm troopers, many of them singing, marched into the country on 12 March 1938 and formally declared political union or “Anschluss” with Germany.
‘Magic is over’ for U.S., says French foreign minister
PARIS: Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France and a longtime humanitarian, diplomatic and political activist on the international scene, says that whoever succeeds President George W. Bush may restore something of the United States’ battered image and standing overseas, but that “the magic is over.”
In a wide-ranging conversation with Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune at the launch of a Forum for New Diplomacy in Paris, Kouchner on Tuesday also held out the hope of talking with Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the Gaza Strip but has been ostracized by the West and by its Palestinian rival, Fatah, because it opposes peace talks with Israel and denies that Israel has a right to exist.
Museveni refuses to hand over rebel leaders to war crimes court
· Plan for local ‘traditional’ trials as part of peace deal
· Move ‘fatally damaging’ to credibility of ICC
The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, is headed for a confrontation with the international criminal court after saying he will not hand over to The Hague the leaders of his country’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army indicted for war crimes.
Museveni said Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, and his commanders will instead be brought before “traditional” Ugandan courts – which emphasise apologies and compensation rather than punishment – as part of a deal to end a 21-year civil war marked by the abduction of children as combatants, mass rape of women and the mutilation and murder of civilians.
Museveni said local trials were the wish of the victims and leaders in the areas hit by the conflict.
“What we have agreed with our people is that they should face traditional justice, which is more compensatory than a retributive system,” he said on a visit to London. “That is what we have agreed at the request of the local community. They have been mainly tormenting people in one area and it is that community which asked us to use traditional justice.”
UN heading for Iraq-style disaster in Darfur, warn officials
UN peacekeeping troops are heading for “Iraq-style disaster” in Darfur as long as talks between the government and rebel groups remain stalled and the US maintains its hostile stance, Sudanese officials and regional experts warned yesterday.
A former foreign minister, Hussein Suliman Abu Salih, said Sudan suspected that the deployment of up to 26,000 soldiers in a joint UN-African Union force was part of US plans to subjugate the country and overthrow its Islamic government.
“The US says it is not against Islam but they lie,” he said. “If their policies do not change, they will destroy Sudan politically, diplomatically and economically and maybe through military intervention.”
Bush pushes Colombia trade pact
The president indicates that he will send the measure to the Capitol soon after the Easter recess.
WASHINGTON — President Bush delivered a lengthy, impassioned appeal Wednesday for congressional approval of a free-trade pact with Colombia, linking it to economic progress for the South American nation and to U.S. security from terrorism.
Clearly directing his remarks at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, with whom the Bush administration has repeatedly tangled, Bush said failure to enact the trade agreement would play into the hands of “antagonists in Latin America, who would say that . . . America cannot be trusted to stand by its friends.”
The president also used his speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to deliver a forceful defense of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama say has cost some U.S. workers their jobs.