Huge wildfire shows little sign of slowing down
The Station blaze has destroyed more than 50 buildings and burned more than 105,000 acres of mountainous brush. Little hope of containment is seen as long as hot, dry conditions continue.
By Corina Knoll, Louis Sahagun and Rich Connell
September 1, 2009
A voracious 6-day-old wildfire that has destroyed more than 50 buildings and churned through more than 105,000 acres of mountainous brush showed only small signs of slowing Monday, and fire officials offered little hope of containment as long as hot, dry conditions continued.
The Station fire, the largest of several burning in the state, was plowing through dense hillside vegetation along the San Gabriel Mountains, cutting a remarkable swath that extended from Altadena into the high desert. On Monday, the fire advanced to the west, bringing new evacuations to Sunland-Tujunga and coming within a few miles of Santa Clarita.
Despite the fire’s sprawling dimensions, stretching up to 25 miles from east to west and 18 miles from north to south, aggressive ground and aerial assaults managed to contain the blaze to largely undeveloped areas.
Communism: Chocolates were a smuggler’s best friend
Robert Booth guardian.co.uk, Monday 31 August 2009 22.11 BST
Political funding doesn’t get more glamorous than this: the newly-released MI5 files reveal that diamonds and pearls looted by the Bolsheviks from Tsar Nicholas II were hidden in hollowed-out chocolate creams and smuggled into Britain to fund a revolutionary communist newspaper.
A top secret file on Francis Meynell, a director of the Daily Herald, reveals how in 1920 he was given £40,000 worth of gems by Lenin’s Soviet regime and smuggled them into the country to help keep the radical publication afloat.
Meynell’s file describes him as “an ardent Sinn Féiner and an extreme socialist who, in his youth, had tried, but failed, to derail a troop train. But his greatest coup came just as the Soviet Union began funding communist parties around the world”.
White House to shift efforts on civil rights
Justice Department plans to revive focus on policies that impact minorities
By Charlie Savage Sept. 1, 2009
WASHINGTON – Seven months after taking office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is reshaping the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by pushing it back into some of the most important areas of American political life, including voting rights, housing, employment, bank lending practices and redistricting after the 2010 census.
As part of this shift, the Obama administration is planning a major revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement against policies, in areas ranging from housing to hiring, where statistics show that minorities fare disproportionately poorly. President George W. Bush’s appointees had discouraged such tactics, preferring to focus on individual cases in which there is evidence of intentional discrimination.
Marine killed in Afghanistan served country in many ways
By Barbara Barrett | McClatchy Newspapers
ARLINGTON, Va. – Marine Sgt. Bill Cahir was a public servant his whole life.
He served as a congressional staffer, as a journalist, as a political candidate and, finally, as a Marine reservist in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cahir was 34 when he volunteered for the military in 2003. He was five years beyond the usual recruiting limit, carrying nearly 20 extra pounds and struggling at a dozen pull-ups below the fitness requirement.
Cahir (pronounced “care”) kept asking to join and, as he recalled in an article he wrote five years ago about his training, the Marines let him in.
“There it was,” Cahir wrote. “My last, best chance to serve.”
Poland marks second world war anniversary
World must not forget, says Polish PM at dawn ceremony at site of Nazi Germany’s opening assault on Poland 70 years ago
Lee Glendinning, and Luke Harding in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 September 2009 09.32 BST
The 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war was marked this morning with a dawn service on the Baltic peninsula, close to the site where the conflict began on 1 September 1939.
In the ceremony at the Westerplatte peninsula, the site of Nazi Germany’s opening assault on Poland, political and religious leaders spoke of the struggle against Hitler’s forces.
It began at 4.45am, the time at which the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein shelled a tiny Polish military outpost to spark the beginning of the war, which lasted for nearly six years and caused the deaths of more than 50 million people.
“Westerplatte is a symbol, a symbol of the heroic fight of the weaker against the stronger,” said the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski.
History becomes a battlefield as Putin flies into Poland
Deep divisions over who was to blame for Second World War cast shadow over 70th anniversary meeting
By Shaun Walker in Moscow
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
European leaders gather in the Polish city of Gdansk today to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, amid an acrimonious row between Moscow and much of Europe over who started the conflict.
The heavily politicised spat has been escalating throughout the summer as central European countries have sought to portray the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact as a key precursor to the war. Russia has responded furiously, insisting that Joseph Stalin had nothing to do with the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, and has even blamed Poland for starting the war.
Steroids, drink and paranoia: the murky world of the private security contractor
Terri Judd on the guns for hire fighting for business in Iraq and Afghanistan
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Paranoid, competitive and fuelled by guns, alcohol and steroids. That is how one senior contractor in Baghdad describes the private security industry operating in the city’s Green Zone.
It was the world to which Danny Fitzsimons, a 29-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia, and with an extensive criminal past, returned three weeks ago.
Despite rules against alcohol, his ArmorGroup colleagues welcomed him with a drinking session.
Turkey, Armenia set to establish diplomatic ties
From Times Online
September 1, 2009
Turkey and Armenia, bitter enemies for decades, have moved closer to establishing diplomatic ties after nearly a century of mutual antagonism.
The two countries are to hold six weeks of talks aimed at developing ties after which MPs on both sides will vote on agreed protocols, their foreign ministries announced in a joint statement.
The statement said the two countries would start consultations to sign two protocols – one to establish diplomatic ties, the other to develop bilateral relations.
However they won’t discuss the source of their enmity – the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks which Turkey refuses to admit was the first genocide of the twentieth century.
West faces losing battle over Afghan poll fraud
From The Times
September 1, 2009
James Hider in Kabul and Tim Reid in Washington
Widespread and systematic fraud during the Afghan presidential elections has tarnished the legitimacy of any future government and undermined the Nato campaign there, Western and Afghan officials have admitted.
Two more British soldiers were killed yesterday and the commander of the Nato forces in Afghanistan warned President Obama that the eight-year war was in a “serious” state and that big changes were needed if victory was to be achieved.
General Stanley McChrystal is understood to have recommended in a strategic review that counter-insurgency efforts be focused on protecting civilians rather than fighting militants.
Japanese scientists develop teddy bear-shaped nurse robot
Japanese scientists have developed a robot that looks like a huge, happy teddy bear and is designed to lift hospital patients in and out of their wheelchairs and beds.
By Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Published: 7:00AM BST 01 Sep 2009
Named RIBA – short for Robot for Interactive Body Assistance – the android was developed by the government-run Riken research institute and could be deployed in hospitals and retirement homes within three years.
“We have developed RIBA because we want to help caregivers when they are required to transfer patients between hospital beds and wheelchairs,” said Dr. Toshiharu Mukai, who heads the research team.
Development took two years and the robot is able to lift a weight of 61 kg on its foam padded arms. Covered in a soft skin designed to protect patients, the robot is also able to recognise faces and voices, as well as responding to up to 30 spoken commands.
The battery-powered robot can operate for up to an hour on a single charge and is more agile and stronger than its predecessor, the Ri-man.
Kadhafi marks 40 years in power stronger than ever
by Imed Lamloum – Tue Sep 1
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi fetes the 40th anniversary of the bloodless coup that brought him to power on Tuesday, with his influence growing in Africa and ties improved with the West.
But delayed promises to forge ahead with political and economic reforms in the oil-rich African nation are still lagging despite ambitious plans which have the backing of his second son and heir apparent Seif al-Islam.
Kadhafi, who once described himself as “leader of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of the Muslims,” is throwing a party to be attended by some world leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
But a string of European leaders are shunning the gala events that will include a military parade, air show, fireworks and a son-et-lumiere performance with dancers depicting Libya’s past and modern history.
A year after Mexico’s massive anticrime protests, few changes
Activists marked the anniversary of citizen demonstrations on Sunday, but last year’s momentum to stand up to criminals has faded.
By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
MEXICO CITY – One year ago, a rash of kidnappings throughout Mexico prompted tens of thousands to fill the streets to demand from the government safer streets and more honest cops, and from each other a more proactive citizenry.
Yet, as activists marked the anniversary of those protests on Sunday, the collective momentum of a year past has yielded few concrete changes. While grisly drug-trafficking violence monopolizes headlines here, it is the muggings, kidnappings, and burglaries that concern the average Mexican. Kidnappings are up, more Mexicans report feeling unsafe, and slightly more say they have been victims of crime. And Mexicans still don’t trust the cops.
The percentage of those who do not even bother to report crimes – about 80 percent – has not budged, despite government and civilian efforts to support victims.
“We do not have a culture of reporting crime here,” says Elias Kuri, the national coordinator of “Light Up Mexico,” a nonprofit that organized the nationwide protests last year. “Mexicans feel that authorities are ineffective and dishonest; they fear that reporting crime to the authorities will make their problems worse.”