Karzai poll body power grab sparks Western concern
Western diplomats have expressed deep concern at a decree from Afghan President Hamid Karzai giving him total control over a key election body.
The BBC Tuesday, 23 February 2010
The move gives him the power to appoint all five members of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission.
The body helped expose massive fraud in last year’s presidential poll, forcing Mr Karzai into a second vote.
The decree comes as Nato-led forces fight a major operation against the Taliban in central Helmand province.
The commission will play a vital role in this year’s parliamentary poll.
The BBC has been told the outgoing UN representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, had struck a private deal that two of the five commission members would be foreigners.
Under that agreement, one of the appointees was expected to have veto power.
But the deal does not feature in the new decree.
Under the world’s greatest cities, deadly plates
By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Megacities are something new on the planet. Earthquakes are something very old. The two are a lethal combination, as seen in the recent tragedy in Port-au-Prince, where more than 200,000 people perished — a catastrophe that scientists say is certain to be repeated somewhere, and probably soon, with death tolls that once again stagger the mind.
In 1800, there was just one city with more than a million people — Beijing. Now there are 381 urban areas with at least 1 million inhabitants. Urbanization crossed a threshold last year when, for the first time, more people lived in city settings than rural ones. About 403 million people live in cities that face significant seismic hazard, according to a recent study by seismologist Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado.
Obama stays on offense with health-care proposal
By Anne E. Kornblut and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
There had been rampant speculation that the White House would narrow its ambitions for health-care legislation after the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof Senate majority last month. Instead, the president’s proposal is striking for the extent to which it hews to the basic scale and framework of the bills on which Congress has toiled for months.That decision — to go big one last time, rather than small — emerged quickly inside the White House after senior advisers to President Obama concluded privately that his goals for comprehensive changes to the health-care system could not be done piecemeal.
Google Buzz may put children at risk, parents fear
Kids might not know they’re sharing private details with the public.
By Jessica Guynn
February 23, 2010
Parents and privacy watchdogs are sounding the alarm that Google Inc.’s new social networking tool, called Buzz, may put children at risk.
The concern came home in a personal way for technology analyst Charlene Li. On Sunday night she discovered that her 9-year-old daughter had publicly shared a private conversation on Buzz without intending to. Li grew even more troubled when she spotted her daughter’s fourth-grade classmates chatting with strangers.
She turned off Buzz and alerted other parents and her child’s school, which in turn alerted other parents. Then Li, an analyst who tracks Google as well as other Internet companies, took to the Web to spread the word.
Saudi and Emirati diplomats accused of trafficking staff into UK
Cases of six domestic staff employed in London homes refered to Home Office’s UK Human Trafficking Centre
guardian.co.uk, Monday 22 February 2010 21.54 GMT
Saudi and Emirati diplomats in London have been responsible for trafficking domestic staff into Britain, according to reports filed with the government’s anti-trafficking agency.
The cases of six domestic staff who worked in the London homes of diplomats and senior figures from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have been referred to the Home Office’s UK Human Trafficking Centre. According to Kalayaan, a charity which campaigns for justice for migrant domestic workers, the six were moved across borders for exploitation by means of deception or coercion – the international definition of human trafficking.
Did TV star murder the man who sacked her?
With its hit-men, sibling loyalty and business rivalry, the court case that opens in Cyprus tomorrow is worthy of any soap opera
By John Lichfield Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Sigma TV, the second-most-watched channel in Cyprus, is known for its lurid soap operas and equally lurid approach to the news. In a plot-line to fulfil the channel’s wildest fictional, and non-fictional, dreams, a glamorous blonde television presenter is due to go on trial in Cyprus tomorrow accused of plotting the murder of the boss who sacked her. Unfortunately for Sigma, the victim was the channel’s own boss, the media tycoon Andis Hadjicostis, 43.
The couple accused of ordering his shooting includes one of the most celebrated people in Cyprus, Sigma’s former lifestyle and news presenter Elena Skordelli, 42. The second alleged mastermind is her brother, Tassos Krasopoulos, 37.
Turkish police arrest 50 in move against anti-Islamist coup
From The Times
February 23, 2010
Turkish police arrested the former heads of the Navy and Air Force along with several other senior military officers yesterday in a sweep against top brass linked to a coup plan against the Islamist-leaning Government.
The existence of Sledgehammer, a detailed plot hatched in 2002-03, came to light last month. The arrests could be a spectacular milestone in the democratic history of Turkey, where four previous governments have been ousted by the military but no one has come to trial.
“This morning our security forces began a detention process,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister, said during an official visit to Spain.
Iraqi families slaughtered in pre-election sectarian atatck
Two Iraqi families, mostly children, were murdered in cold blood and some of the victims beheaded.
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
Published: 3:16PM GMT 22 Feb 2010
Fears of a downward spiral of violence in advance of the Iraqi elections worsened after the attacks.
In the first attack, a woman and her three daughters were shot dead overnight at their home in Al-Hurriyah, a Shia suburb of north Baghdad.Then, at around 7am a family of eight including six children under the age of 12 were killed in the town of Al-Wehdah, 12 miles south-east of the capital.
Several of the victims were then beheaded, according to police.
The only groups to practise beheading widely in Iraq have been those claiming allegiance to al-Qaeda, which has targeted the majority Shia population.
India’s slum-dwellers fear eye in the sky heralds demolition of their homes
Shantytown residents fear that housing minister’s plan for satellite mapping of could lead to expulsions
Jason Burke in Delhi
guardian.co.uk, Monday 22 February 2010 22.37 GMT
The people of the Hanuman Masdoor slum have enough to worry about already. If the women work at all they are poorly paid cleaners. Most of the men are scavengers, gleaning a pitiful living from recycling the waste of Delhi’s 14 million inhabitants. Raw sewage flows past the homes – built over an open drain in the west of the city – and children play amid the rubbish and flies.
Now the 1,000 families who live in the shantytown have fresh problems. The national government has announced an unprecedented initiative: mapping India’s slums.
Though ministers claim the scheme will make life better for slum-dwellers, the inhabitants of Hanuman Masdoor are worried.
Ban on commercial whaling ‘to end’
From Times Online
February 23, 2010
The 24-year-ban on commercial whaling could be over-turned by the end of the year, allowing Japan and other whaling nations to resume limited commercial hunting under proposals released today by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The draft plan will bring scientific whaling under the commission’s control, closing the loophole that allows Japan to continue killing whales in the Southern Ocean.
However, in a compromise aimed at ending the deadlock between anti-whaling nations and whaling countries Japan, Norway and Iceland, and saving the 88-member IWC from collapse it will allow limited commercial hunting.
ANC firebrand denies funding lavish lifestyle from public purse
Youth League leader denounces claims that he pocketed millions as ‘lies’
By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent Tuesday, 23 February 2010
South Africa’s most outspoken politician Julius Malema was at the centre of a furious row yesterday following allegations that he bankrolls his lavish lifestyle through lucrative state contracts awarded to his companies.
The fiery leader of the ruling ANC’s Youth League accused his critics of conducting a “smear campaign” after he was accused of pocketing millions of rands from government infrastructure projects. After initially refusing to answer questions and telling reporters they had “no right to know”, the self-styled voice of the people held a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday to “clarify” the situation.
Colombia becomes new hub for human smuggling into US
Long a starting point for cocaine smuggling, Colombia has now become a major hub for human smuggling from Africa and Asia to the US via Mexico.
By Sibylla Brodzinsky Correspondent / February 22, 2010
The boat was cramped and uncomfortable, with nowhere for its 71 passengers to sit during the three-day ride. But Abdullahi was excited. He was halfway to America from his native Somalia, which he had left more than a month before.
Pressed together with six other Somalis and 63 Eritreans, they had set off in the dark of night from the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena, headed for somewhere in Central America. But shortly after they set sail, the vessel’s steering mechanism snapped, the engine failed, and the boat began to take on water.
For an entire day and night, they were adrift at sea. Many of the passengers fell ill from the rocking of the waves. All feared for their lives.