Only A Shrub Sees Appeasement
Chinese Open Wallets for Quake Aid
Individual Giving Blooms in a Society Long Under Sole Care of the State
BEIJING, May 15 At the headquarters of the Red Cross Society of China, volunteers turned a boardroom into a makeshift cashier’s office Thursday, sending tens of thousands of fluttering bank notes through counting machines and handing receipts to people like Cai Lili, 30, who stood in long lines with bricks of cash to donate to earthquake relief efforts.
Since a massive earthquake struck Sichuan province and surrounding regions three days ago, Chinese have donated $192 million to help their countrymen, according to China’s Civil Affairs Ministry. The fundraising has come as officials have issued a rare public appeal for cranes and rescue equipment, hammers and shovels, bandages and medicine.
California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban
The California Supreme Court, striking down two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman, ruled on Thursday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The 4-to-3 decision, drawing on a ruling 60 years ago that struck down a state ban on interracial marriage, would make California the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages.
The decision, which becomes effective in 30 days unless the court grants a stay, was greeted with celebrations at San Francisco City Hall, where thousands of same-sex marriages were thrown out by the courts four years ago.
Bush warns of talks with ‘radicals’
In Israel, evokes appeasement of Hitler Obama, others call remarks unwarranted political attack
WASHINGTON – President Bush yesterday used a high-profile speech in Israel to attack the idea of pursuing diplomatic talks with renegade countries such as Iran, a key element of Barack Obama’s agenda, likening it to the failed appeasement of Germany prior to World War II.
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“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Bush said in a speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem.
Bush did not mention the Democratic frontrunner by name and the White House officially denied that Bush was referring to Obama. But White House officials indicated that the criticism applied to Obama, who has said that as president he would rely on greater diplomacy to improve relations with unfriendly nations.
Clean-air rules for national parks may be eased
Scientists, managers oppose plan that may allow for new power plants
The Bush administration is on the verge of implementing new air quality rules that will make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas, according to rank-and-file agency scientists and park managers who oppose the plan.
The new regulations, which are likely to be finalized this summer, rewrite a provision of the Clean Air Act that applies to “Class 1 areas,” federal lands that currently have the highest level of protection under the law. Opponents predict the changes will worsen visibility at many of the nation’s most prized tourist destinations, including Virginia’s Shenandoah, Colorado’s Mesa Verde and North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt national parks.
Burma storm aid frustrations grow
Top aid envoys are ramping up pressure on Burma, as reports from the country suggest aid is still not reaching the region worst hit by Cyclone Nargis.
A BBC reporter visiting the Irrawaddy Delta said there was little sign of help from the government, which has banned foreign aid staff from the area.
But Burma’s prime minister said the emergency relief phase was finished, and rebuilding was beginning.
Agencies say the response is not enough and that up to 2.5m people need aid.
Official death figures from Burma – also known as Myanmar – have risen to more than 43,000, with nearly 28,000 missing, but the Red Cross and UN both say the toll could top 100,000.
Afghan death squads ‘acting on foreign orders’
Secret Afghan death squads are acting on the orders of foreign spies and killing civilians inside Afghanistan with impunity, a senior UN envoy has claimed. Professor Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on illegal killings, said “foreign intelligence agencies” had used illegal groups of heavily armed Afghans in raids against suspected insurgents.
He said the attacks were beyond the legitimate military chains of command, and they were “completely unacceptable” and “outside the law”.
At the end of a 12-day fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, Professor Alston said: “There have been a large number of raids for which no state or military appears to take responsibility. I have spoken with a large number of people in relation to the operation of foreign intelligence units. I don’t want to name them but they are at the most senior level of the relevant places. These forces operate with what appears to be impunity.”
Italian tolerance goes up in smoke as Gypsy camp is burnt to ground
In cruel and unusual concert, Italy’s new government, its police and paramilitary carabinieri, and even its gangsters, have turned their joint might against the nation’s enemy number one: the Gypsies.
Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI and a small number of left-wingers raised lonely voices in central Naples against the national hardening of hearts towards Europe’s perennial outsiders. To little avail: the Pope’s appeal for a spirit of welcome and acceptance was met with a hail of angry rejection in blogged comments on news websites.
But what will remain scorched in the nation’s memory – as a mark of shame, or a beacon pointing the way forward, depending on how you see it – are the flaming structures of the Gypsy camp burnt in the Ponticelli district of Naples on Wednesday.
Robert George puts parasites on the map with Atlas of the Fleas
Fleas are an irritation for many people, but for Robert George they are a passion. For the past 58 years he has compiled detailed records of the blood-sucking parasites to create an atlas of fleas.
“It’s kept me out of mischief,” Mr George, 86, said. “They intrigue me. I’ve always been able to find a lot of time for fleas.”
He has counted and identified fleas in samples sent to him by other researchers, on the bodies of animals, in their nests and, for bats, in their faeces to get an accurate idea of how they are spread across the British Isles.
People are bitten most frequently by the human flea, Pulex irritans, but our blood is also a favourite of the cat and hen fleas. Others that like to take a bite out of people include the hedgehog flea and the grey squirrel flea.
How one Liberian helps others speak out
Aloysius Toe has spent – and risked – his life fighting against human rights abuses.
Monrovia, Liberia – Aloysius Toe’s wife and children were crying, huddled together as a gang of armed men beat at the front door threatening to kill him. He could not call the police because the armed men were the police. Mr. Toe’s crime was speaking out against Charles Taylor’s violent regime in Liberia.
On that October night in 2002, Toe listened as 19 policemen kicked in the door and smashed up his house looking for him. When they did not find him, the officers dragged his wife into the street, threw her in the back of a truck and sped off.
Toe was not there, but he heard it all because she had called him and left the phone switched on so that he would know.
Zimbabwe’s rulers unleash police on Anglicans
JOHANNESBURG: The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday when the riot police stormed the stately St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on the pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors, witnesses said.
A policeman swung his stick in vicious arcs, striking matrons, a girl and a grandmother who had bent over to pick up a Bible dropped in the melee. A lone housewife began singing from a hymn in Shona, “We will keep worshiping no matter the trials!” Hundreds of women, many dressed in the Anglican Mothers’ Union uniform of black skirt, white shirt and blue headdress, lifted their voices to join hers.
Talks set on new government for Lebanon
The deal, brokered by Arab League diplomats, follows a burst of street battles. It appears to be a boost for Hezbollah.
BEIRUT — Lebanese factions took another major step toward calming a flare-up of sectarian and political violence by agreeing Thursday to immediately resume long-stalled talks on a new government.
The deal, brokered by a visiting delegation of Arab League diplomats, appeared to be a victory for the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah, which leads opposition to the U.S.-backed government and the so-called March 14 movement behind it. Hezbollah fighters occupied parts of Beirut last week, forcing concessions from the administration of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Middle East: Invisible peace talk
Even as we console ourselves with the fact that the Bush presidency is entering its twilight months, we can’t help but wish, as artist/political activist Henry Rollins said, that President Bush be allowed to speak only on closed-circuit television. That way, only the U.S. would be privy to his embarrassing speeches.
Sad to say, Bush travels and speaks before international audiences, as he did this week in Israel. On hand to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country, he gave a 20-minute speech before the Parliament on how much the U.S. loves Israel. While he pays much lip service to brokering a peace treaty between Palestinians and the Israeli state, Bush mentioned Palestinians once during the entire speech. How’s that for a two-state solution?
He didn’t say much about how Israel’s security can be attained while the party trying to broker peace doesn’t even acknowledge the ruling Palestinian party. And in one of his signature moves — favoring hyperbole over diplomacy — Bush also compared talks with Iran to the “appeasement” of the Nazis in 1939. Funny. He can reach back 69 years for appeasement, but can’t go back 55 to when the U.S. helped overthrow Iran’s democratic state.
Friction forecast at EU-Latin America summit
Lingering disputes and personality clashes were expected to add friction to a Latin America-European Union summit in Peru Friday that is aimed at addressing climate change and poverty.
Leaders from 50 Latin American and European nations have converged on Lima for the summit, which will address in particular the recent spike in world food prices that has generated violence in several countries.
Preparations for the talks were overshadowed by rows, most of them involving South America’s ‘enfant terrible,’ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has ruffled feathers both within Latin America and across the Atlantic.
Foremost is his longstanding hostility with the president of neighboring Colombia, Alvaro Uribe.
Their often belligerent rhetoric resumed recently over Chavez’s alleged support of the Colombian guerrilla group FARC, supposedly confirmed by data found in a rebel laptop seized by Colombian troops in a controversial cross-border raid into Ecuador in March.