Britain halts some arms exports to Israel in response to Gaza conflict
From The Times
July 14, 2009
Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem
In a move that threatens to strain diplomatic ties, Britain has blocked the sale of spare parts for Israel’s fleet of missile gunships because they were used in the recent campaign in Gaza.
The first country to revoke an arms licence in response to the war in Gaza six months ago, Britain told the Israeli Embassy in London that five of the export requests for parts for the Sa’ar 4.5 gunships had been rejected because the vessels had fired on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s controversial 23-day campaign against the militant group Hamas. The spare parts were intended for the ships’ guns.
An Israeli defence official said that Britain’s decision to revoke five of the 182 licences reviewed by the Government would not impair the navy’s operational abilities – but admitted that there was concern within the military that other countries might follow suit.
Afghan victims of abuse find refuge
The nation’s six shelters provide a place to stay and legal help to women and girls fleeing abuse, forced marriage or slavery. Some obtain divorces, others reconcile with their families.
By David Zucchino
July 14, 2009
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Her father is dead and her brother is just a boy. For Shabana, a radiant young woman of 17 with dark eyes and flowing hair, the absence of a strong male protector has cost her dearly.
One day last fall as she was walking home from school, Shabana was kidnapped by a young man from her neighborhood. He forced her into marriage, then beat and imprisoned her in his home over the next seven months. Her mother did not intervene.
“He knew I had no one to protect me, and he took advantage,” Shabana said of her kidnapper.
But in late May, Shabana managed to escape to a women’s shelter on a quiet side street in another part of Kabul, the Afghan capital. And into her life came Esther Hyneman, 70, an American who speaks virtually no Dari but has brought a New Yorker’s sharp tongue and aggressive attitude to the cause of Afghan women’s rights.
Sotomayor Vows ‘Fidelity to the Law’ as Hearings Start
By PETER BAKER and NEIL A. LEWIS
Published: July 13, 2009
WASHINGTON – Judge Sonia Sotomayor opened her case for confirmation to the Supreme Court on Monday by assuring senators that she believes a judge’s job “is not to make law” but “to apply the law,” as the two parties used her nomination to debate the role of the judiciary.Responding for the first time to weeks of Republican criticism, Judge Sotomayor rejected the notion that personal biases determine her rulings and said her 17 years on the bench showed that she “applied the law to the facts at hand.” Her empathy helps her grasp a case, not twist it to suit an agenda, she said.
“My personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “with the law always commanding the result in every case.”
Holder Faces Avalanche Of Work, and Scrutiny
Attorney General Blasted From Left, Right
By Carrie Johnson and Krissah Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
July cannot be counted as the warmest of months for Eric H. Holder Jr. The attorney general clashed with Congress over national security policy, fielded complaints from federal judges upset with bungled evidence and, in the most painful indignity, cracked his tooth.
Then came a bombshell three days ago that has sent Washington political circles reeling: Holder’s inclination to appoint a prosecutor to examine whether interrogators tortured terrorism suspects during the Bush years. The disclosure has exposed him to new scrutiny even among colleagues in the Obama administration, where views about unearthing divisive episodes from the past are hardly uniform.
‘We are afraid the Taliban will find us’
As the millions displaced by the fighting in north-west Pakistan begin their return, others face the prospect of never going home
Declan Walsh in Hasan Abdal
guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 July 2009 16.09 BST
Flight from the Taliban has been a bittersweet experience for Darsha Singh, a turbaned Sikh farmer sitting on the steps of an ancient, glittering shrine just outside Pakistan’s North-West Frontier province.
For two months he has been living at the Panja Sahib gurdwara, an ornate temple that is one of the most revered sites in Sikhism and which has become a temporary home to 3,000 Sikhs from across the war-stricken province.
It is a luxurious refuge compared with the conditions endured by most of the region’s 2 million displaced, some of whom started to trickle home in military-protected convoys today.
Japanese take their revenge for PM’s insults
The overweight, the homeless, the old: Taro Aso has offended them all. Now the party that has dominated Japanese politics for 40 years is paying the price
By David McNeill
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Residents of Tokyo famously live in the planet’s most seismically unpredictable capital, yet they could always boast that they enjoyed one of its most stable political systems – until now. Voters in the city’s municipal elections have just triggered the first rumblings of what could be a national political earthquake, by handing a historic drubbing to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP).
The opposition Democrats ended 40 years of Liberal Democrat dominance in the metropolis, winning 16 more seats in local elections at the weekend. They also effectively torpedoed the career of the nation’s Prime Minister, Taro Aso, who is now, politically, a dead man walking. The defeat prompted Mr Aso to call a general election in August, which on current form will see his party lose its almost unbroken, half-century grip on power over the world’s second-largest economy. No one knows what impact that will have on Japan’s relations with the rest of the world, but the guessing has begun.
Mandela is that rare thing: a man turned into statues in his own lifetime
South Africa’s first black president got the big questions so right that even cool heads forgive his elevation from man to superman
David Smith Africa correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 July 2009 07.00 BST
The BBC triggered an avalanche with its 100 Greatest Britons poll, won by Winston Churchill, in 2002. Other countries copied the format. The 10 greatest South Africans as voted by the public were, in alphabetical order, Dr Christiaan Barnard, F W De Klerk, Mahatma Gandhi (who was politically active there), Nkosi Johnson, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Gary Player, Jan Smuts and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
As in the BBC edition, there was then a series of programmes to rank the top 10. Each week presenters would put the case for their favourite candidate. But the broadcaster, SABC, decided to make only nine programmes, because the winner was a foregone conclusion. Nelson Mandela had received tens of thousands of votes more than anyone else in the initial poll. To make the final competitive, it was changed so “the public could vote for who they thought should stand next to Nelson Mandela”.
Charles Taylor on trial for murder, rape, slavery, pillage and conscripting children
From The Times
July 14, 2009
Roger Boyes in The Hague
A terrifying image has come to symbolise the dark heart of Africa: glazed-eyed, ten-year-old boys in football shirts with grenade launchers on their shoulders, ready to kill their elders on command.
The child soldier, confused cannon fodder in the scramble for diamonds, power and territory, has become a central figure in the prosecution of Charles Taylor, the former Liberian President, as he faces a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Courtenay Griffiths, a British QC, laid out the defence of the former head of state, setting him up as the peace-maker and peace-broker of West Africa with not a drop of blood on his hands. “Child soldiers were not a Charles Taylor invention,” said Mr Griffiths, opening what will be several weeks of testimony aimed at rescuing his client’s place in history.
The watery grave of Europe’s monsters
Fossils dredged up from the North Sea are revealing the exotic creatures that roamed the continent thousands of years ago
By John Lichfield
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
A dozen white, plastic fish boxes stand jumbled on the floor of a former fish-gutting plant in the pretty town of Urk in the northern Netherlands. Each box overflows with what appear to be large, serrated pebbles or small serrated boulders. In fact, they are the fossilised teeth of mammoths. Some are as big as melons. Others are the size of cricket balls – the molars of baby mammoths, which died prematurely from hunger, or the claws and fangs of a predator, 40,000 years ago.
All around is a prehistoric boneyard. Propped against the walls are immense, curved mammoth tusks or mammoth thigh bones, five feet high. On the shelves are fragments of the jaw bone of a woolly rhinoceros and the skull and horns of a 10,000-year-old, extinct species of giant bison.
Euro parliament begins new term
The European Parliament has begun its new five-year term in Strasbourg following elections last month.
The BBC Tuesday, 14 July 2009
One of the first tasks of the 736 MEPs will be to elect a new parliament president. Former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek is expected to be chosen.
But they will postpone for at least two months a vote on reappointing European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
The new parliament includes far-right groups that made gains in June, including the British National Party.
Correspondents say it is not clear how British MEPs from the political mainstream will interact with their two colleagues from the BNP.
It is also not yet clear whether the BNP will form a new bloc with other far-right MEPs – including those from Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Bulgaria’s Ataka, the Danish People’s Party, and the Dutch Freedom Party – or be independent.
With one bat and no uniforms, Iraq’s baseball team hits field
By Laith Hammoudi | McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD – They’ve only got a five year-old softball bat, a threadbare cap, three scuffed balls and nine second-hand gloves from a flea market. They train on a college soccer field. And there’s not a uniform among them. However, they love America’s pastime as much as Crash Davis of “Bull Durham” ever did.
Meet Iraq’s national baseball team.
The venture was the brainchild of three young Iraqi men from the U.S. They played ball at their American high school schools, came to Baghdad on a visit five years ago and left behind a curiosity and interest about a sport that, unlike soccer, didn’t involve yellow cards, flops or nets.
Sohrab Erabi: a new martyr for Iran’s protesters?
The teenager disappeared June 15, when hundreds of thousands rallied in Tehran. Officials notified his mother of his death only on Saturday, despite her repeated inquiries at courts and prisons.
By Iason Athanasiadis | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 13, 2009 edition
ATHENS – In Iran, the burial Monday of 19-year-old student Sohrab Erabi has caused a fresh flood of sympathy similar to that occasioned by the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose death at a protest last month was caught on video and watched by millions around the world.
In a country steeped in the martyrdom culture of Shiite Islam, some are trying to link Mr. Erabi’s death to a greater legacy. But many Iranians shy away from characterizations reminiscent of the rhetoric imposed over the past 30 years by the Islamic Republic.
“He isn’t a martyr,” writes Maryam Namazie, a human rights activist based in Britain, in an e-mail. “Many of the people killed during the recent protests are opposed to an Islamic regime and religion’s brutal role in every aspect of their lives. Neda and Sohrab represent another face of Iran, one that refuses to kneel even after 30 years of medievalism and brutality.” [Editor’s note: The original version misidentified Ms. Namazie’s home base.