Docudharma Times Sunday May 25

My Aim Was True

Until It Curved

Sunday’s Headlines:  Safety Lapses Raised Risks In Trailers for Katrina Victims   Defending KSM, ‘the most hated man in the   world’   Burma seeks crucial aid donations   Tibetan exiles compete in alternative ‘Olympic Games’   Naples street battles erupt  Go-It-Alone France Shifts Military Stance   Is this the end of the Rainbow nation?   Tsvangirai returns and calls on Mugabe to ‘set the people free’   Al-Qa’ida in Iraq ‘has never been closer to defeat’  Lebanon MPs to vote in president   Mexico will spend £21m to clean up Acapulco    Argentina turns against new president as strike worsens

Chinese Are Left to Ask Why Schools Crumbled

Grief in the Rubble

This story was reported by Jim Yardley, Jake Hooker and Andrew C. Revkin, and was written by Mr. Yardley.

DUJIANGYAN, China – The earthquake’s destruction of Xinjian Primary School was swift and complete. Hundreds of children were crushed as the floors collapsed in a deluge of falling bricks and concrete. Days later, as curiosity seekers came with video cameras and as parents came to grieve, the four-story school was no more than rubble.

In contrast, none of the nearby buildings were badly damaged. A separate kindergarten less than 20 feet away survived with barely a crack. An adjacent 10-story hotel stood largely undisturbed. And another local primary school, Beijie, catering to children of the elite, was in such good condition that local officials were using it as a refugee center.


Joe Lieberman, Would-Be Censor

The Internet is simply a means of communication, like the telephone, but that has not prevented attempts to demonize it – the latest being the ludicrous claim that the Internet promotes terrorism.

Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is trying to pressure YouTube to pull down videos he does not like, and a recent Senate report and a bill pending in Congress also raise the specter of censorship. It is important for online speech to be protected against these assaults.


Safety Lapses Raised Risks In Trailers for Katrina Victims

Formaldehyde Found in High Levels; 17,000 Say Homes Caused Illnesses

Within days of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in August 2005, frantic officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered nearly $2.7 billion worth of trailers and mobile homes to house the storm’s victims, many of them using a single page of specifications.

Just 25 lines spelled out FEMA’s requirements, with little mention of the safety of those to be housed. Manufacturers produced trailers with unusual speed. Within months, some residents began complaining about unusual sickness; breathing problems; burning eyes, noses and throats; even deaths.

Defending KSM, ‘the most hated man in the world’

Navy lawyer Prescott Prince’s client is self-described 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

WASHINGTON — They make an unlikely pair, the world’s most notorious captured terrorist and the Navy captain assigned to defend him against war-crimes charges that could lead to his execution. But together, the two men are quietly embarking on a legal odyssey that could last years, and may ultimately help define the constitutional parameters of the United States’ role in the global war on terrorism.

On three occasions over the last few weeks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described orchestrator of the Sept. 11 attacks, has sat with his legs shackled to a chair in a cramped, windowless briefing room at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammed has probably spent most of the last five years in similar leg irons, fielding questions from American officials.


Burma seeks crucial aid donations

Dozens of international delegates are meeting in Rangoon to pledge money for Burma’s recovery after the devastating Cyclone Nargis, which killed 78,000.

Burma’s military government is expected to ask for a total of nearly $11bn (£5.5bn) to fund relief work.

Burma’s leaders promised on Friday to allow all aid workers into the country, but there has been little movement.

Correspondents say many attending the conference are reluctant to pledge more aid without clear-cut assurances.

Tibetan exiles compete in alternative ‘Olympic Games’

By Sarah Harris in Dharamsala

Sunday, 25 May 2008

An alternative “Olympic Games”, organised by Tibetan exiles in India, has begun here. The aim is to draw international attention to the situation in Tibet, which is under Chinese rule, just three months ahead of this summer’s official Games in Beijing.

The event was launched last week beneath grey skies in the peaceful Himalayan village of McLeod Ganj, or Upper Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s government-in-exile. Twenty-three Tibetan athletes have gathered to compete in four days of archery, running, swimming, track and field events. Dressed in bold red and white tracksuits emblazoned with the familiar interlocking rings of the Olympic logo and the slogan, “One world, many dreams”, the Tibetan competitors are none of them professional athletes – but all are passionate about the spirit behind the games.


Naples street battles erupt

Berlusconi’s vow to take tough line on rotting rubbish crisis sparks angry battles with police

Street battles raged in Naples yesterday between police and protesters opposed to a new rubbish dump only days after Silvio Berlusconi set down a new hard line on a garbage crisis that has left piles of rotting rubbish on many city street corners.

The new Prime Minister convened his first cabinet meeting in Naples last week and announced a decree opening new dumps, which will be designated military zones, and new incinerators in and around Naples. But by Friday hundreds of people living close to one site, in a quarry in the suburb of Chiaiano, were turning out to hurl stones at police and overturn a bus in protest.

Go-It-Alone France Shifts Military Stance

PARIS — In the past few months, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced the first French military base in the Middle East, christened his country’s costliest nuclear submarine and advocated returning troops to NATO command.

Sarkozy’s efforts to project the image of a militarily powerful France reasserting itself on the global security stage mask a behind-the-scenes struggle over withering defense budgets that threaten to reduce combat-ready forces by as much as 40 percent, sideline major new weapons programs and eliminate bases in Africa.


Is this the end of the Rainbow nation?

The world watched in horror last week as South Africa was riven by a wave of attacks on immigrants. Alex Duval Smith reports from Johannesburg on how lawlessness, economic deprivation and corruption has destroyed the bright dawn of Mandela’s post-apartheid dream

There is a free concert in Johannesburg today. It is Africa Day and leading artists from across the continent will perform live. The theme is ‘united in diversity’.

Within sight of the stage is Central Methodist Church. Here George Nyagato, a Zimbabwean with a bloody gash across his shoulder blade, will spend another day crouching behind a pile of grey bricks near a window. Nyagato and 2,000 other Zimbabweans have locked and barricaded the church doors against the South African gangs who have been terrorising refugees and immigrants for the past 10 days in an outbreak of some of the worst xenophobic violence in southern Africa in years.

Tsvangirai returns and calls on Mugabe to ‘set the people free’

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader tells the President that attacking his supporters will not stop them voting

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader and presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, returned home quietly yesterday after an absence of more than a month, stopping first to visit supporters in hospital who were targeted in an onslaught of state-sponsored violence. He then called on President Robert Mugabe to “set his people free”.

Mr Tsvangirai left six weeks ago to warn the world about impending violence. He first tried to return last weekend, but called that off after his party said he was the target of a military assassination plot. The former union leader has survived at least three assassination attempts.

Middle East

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq ‘has never been closer to defeat’

By Ross Colvin in Baghdad

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in more than four years, according to figures released yesterday by the US military, but officials said progress was still fragile and reversible.

Iraqi security officials added that an offensive against al-Qa’ida in the northern city of Mosul, which the US military says is the group’s last major urban stronghold, had wiped out most of the insurgent network.

In an emphatic statement sure to provoke scepticism in many quarters, Washington’s envoy to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, declared that the war against al-Qa’ida in the country was being won. “You are not going to hear me say that al-Qa’ida is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now,” Mr Crocker told reporters during a visit to the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in southern Iraq. The US military released information showing that incidents such as roadside bombs, shootings, and rocket attacks, had fallen to their lowest level since the week of 26 March 2004.

Lebanon MPs to vote in president

The parliament in Lebanon is expected to elect a new president and end a deadlock which has left the country without a head of state since November.

All sides have agreed to vote for army commander General Michel Suleiman as part of a deal announced on Wednesday.

In the weeks before the deal in Qatar, Lebanon saw some of the worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says the agreement has brought about a remarkable relaxation on the ground.

Latin America

Mexico will spend £21m to clean up Acapulco

Mariano Castillo in Mexico City

President Felipe Calderón this weekend pledged £21m to ‘rescue’ Acapulco, the Pacific resort whose sewage-stained beaches are barely recognisable from its 1950s heyday.

Calderón said he would spend 440m pesos over four years to improve sanitation services in Acapulco, which is struggling with an explosion in its local population and of the luxury hotels that draw hordes of US spring break tourists and weekend visitors from Mexico City.

Tourism is one of Mexico’s main economic motors and Calderón vowed during his 2006 election campaign to restore the Pacific coast resort to its former glory. Once a sparkling playground for the Hollywood set, including Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth, Acapulco has grown grubbier as the city has expanded and its tourism industry has ballooned.

Argentina turns against new president as strike worsens

Cristina de Kirchner’s popularity crashes to new low after farmers threaten food blockade

Argentina’s first female President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is fighting to restore her tattered reputation after a 70-day rural strike saw her public image plummet to its lowest level.

Only one in four Argentinians has a positive image of her, according to figures released last week by a leading polling group. Three months ago, her approval rating was more than 50 per cent. Elected last October with 45 per cent of the popular vote, Fernández’s popularity has sunk in recent months as a lock-out by farmers threatened food shortages and frozen farm exports.


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    • Edger on May 25, 2008 at 13:58

    Joe Loserman is running scared now, is he? Wants “YouTube to pull down videos he does not like”?

    Like this one?

    • Mu on May 25, 2008 at 14:27

    Left “Kanku” (Kansai Int’l Airport, Osaka) yesterday — which would’ve been Friday night, U.S. time — and arrived late afternoon (weird that 14 total flight hours and 3 hrs in the Detroit airport translated into only 3 and a 1/2 hours in “real time”).  I miss my beloved Kyoto already.

    Regarding Chinese construction.  I’ve seen a great deal of “modern” construction in “outlying” Chinese cities (i.e., not Beijing or Shanghai):  “shoddy” is a word which comes to mind whenever I recall the construction I’ve seen.  Not in every building, but in, say, 70-90 percent of them.  Just slapped-together shoddy.  Buildings meant to impress or serve foreigners are more-or-less up-to-standard and can even be state of the art (Pudong Int’l Airport in Shanghai and the 5 Star hotels in Beijing and Shanghai come to mind, and most new college campus buildings).  But the rest?  Slapped-together, deteriorating-before-it’s-even-done crap.

    Oh, and the Olympic venues are top-notch.  


    Mu . . .

  1. has a terrific op-ed today.  Here’s a snippet:

    “South Pacific” reminds us that those whose memory we honor tomorrow – including those who served in Vietnam – are always at the mercy of the leaders who send them into battle. It increases our admiration for the selflessness of Americans fighting in Iraq. They, unlike their counterparts in World War II, do their duty despite answering to a commander in chief who has been both reckless and narcissistic. You can’t watch “South Pacific” without meditating on their sacrifices for this blunderer, whose wife last year claimed that “no one suffers more” over Iraq than she and her husband do.

    The show’s racial conflicts are also startlingly alive. Nellie Forbush, far from her hometown of Little Rock, recoils from de Becque when she learns that he fathered two children by a Polynesian woman. In the original script, Nellie denigrates de Becque’s late wife as “colored.” (Michener gave Nellie a more incendiary word in his book.) “Colored” was cut in rehearsals then but has been restored now, and it lands like a brick in the theater. It’s not only upsetting in itself. It’s upsetting because Nellie isn’t some cracker stereotype – she’s lovable (especially as embodied by the actress Kelli O’Hara). But how can we love a racist? And how can she not love Emile’s young mixed-race children?

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