Billions of aid dollars buy U.S. little goodwill in Pakistan
By Griff Witte
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
TARBELA, PAKISTAN — Everyone here remembers the Americans.
They came with their blueprints, their engineering know-how and their money. By the time they left in the early 1970s, they had helped build a world-class dam that kept parts of Pakistan dry this month while vast stretches of the country drowned.
“This dam gives great benefit to the nation, and if not for the Americans it would never have been constructed,” said Syed Naimat Shah, a local contractor.
Inside a celestial super-volcano
Alan Boyle writes:
A “super-volcano” is erupting out in the Virgo Cluster, in the form of a supermassive black hole churning away at the center of the galaxy M87. And although it looks nothing like an earthly volcano, there’s a similarity in the workings of the celestial and earthly eruptions.
That similarity is the focus of an image advisory issued last week by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center. NASA’s Chandra spacecraft looks at the universe in X-ray wavelengths, which are associated with the violent outbursts from black holes, smashing galaxies and supernovae. Its image of M87, which is about 50 million light-years away in the Virgo Cluster, shows a tower of hot gas glowing in X-ray light (depicted in blue in the image above).
Pesky shareholder activists gain influence
After years of battling futilely to rein in corporate boards, ‘gadflies’ are winning votes.
By Nathaniel Popper, Los Angeles Times
Edison International last spring allowed its shareholders for the first time to vote on the compensation of the utility giant’s executives. It was a sweet victory for investor activist John Chevedden.
Working out of his Redondo Beach condo, the retired engineer had put forward a resolution calling for such “say on pay” votes at Southern California Edison’s parent company. The nonbinding proposal won the support of a majority of shareholders, setting the stage for management’s change of heart this year. But Chevedden still showed up at the firm’s annual meeting in April in San Gabriel to make sure everything went as planned.
State Department details Blackwater violations of U.S. laws
By Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – The company formerly known as Blackwater violated U.S. export control laws nearly 300 times, ranging from attempts to do business in Sudan while that country was under U.S. sanctions to training an Afghan border patrol official who was a native of Iran, the State Department said Monday.
The alleged violations were spelled out in documents released Monday by the State Department as part of a $42 million settlement with Blackwater that will allow the company, now known as Xe Services LLC, to continue receiving U.S. government contracts.
Prosecutors may decide today on charges against WikiLeaks founder
Nick Davies and Marie Louise Sjolie
The Guardian, Tuesday 24 August 2010
Swedish prosecutors say they hope to announce today whether they will pursue two cases of alleged sexual assault involving Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors say they are considering a complaint of sexual molestation from one woman, Ms A, who has previously been an active supporter of Assange. They say they are also still considering whether any offence may have been committed against a woman known as Ms W, who met Assange at a seminar in Stockholm this month, and who originally alleged rape, a charge which was soon dropped. Assange has emphatically denied committing any offence against either woman.
British critic unlikely to find leniency in Singapore court
After writing a book critical of the Singapore court system, British journalist Alan Shadrake may face a fine and prison time. ‘The more they do to me, it proves what I say in the book,’ he tells the Monitor.
By Simon Montlake, Correspondent / August 23, 2010
Cup of tea in one hand, paperback in the other, Alan Shadrake sits down at a shady table in the hotel courtyard. To the foreign tourists walking by, he looks like one of them, another casual visitor flitting through this tropical city-state.]
But Mr. Sheldrake, a British journalist, isn’t free to leave town when he pleases. The book he carries, “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice in the Dock,” is his own, and its content has triggered a criminal investigation. He’s already been charged for contempt of court for his bilious criticism of how Singapore’s judiciary applies the death penalty. A criminal defamation case is also pending.
Egyptians prepare for life after Mubarak
Their President of 29 years is very ill. But with no nominated successor, an uncertain future awaits, writes Robert Fisk in Cairo
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
So here comes the latest Egyptian joke about 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak. The president, a keen squash player – how else could he keep his jet-black hair? – calls up the sheikh of Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni Muslim cleric in the land, to ask if there are squash courts in heaven. The sheikh asks for a couple of days to consult the Almighty. Two days later, he calls Mr Mubarak back. “There’s good news and bad news,” he says. Give me the good news, snaps Mr Mubarak. “Well,” says the sheikh, “there are lots of squash courts in heaven.” And the bad news, asks the president? “You have a match there in two weeks’ time!”
Iraqi Army trains Kurdish forces as part of U.S. integration plan
By Jane Arraf, Christian Science Monitor | Christian Science Monitor
KIRKUK, Iraq – In this disputed city, Kurdish forces are being trained by Iraqi Army instructors in what officials call a breakthrough aimed at easing tensions between the two sides and securing Iraq’s vulnerable border with Iran.
The program at the training center on the Kirkuk military base is part of a painstakingly arranged plan by U.S. commanders here to integrate elements of the Kurdish peshmerga – fighters who battled Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government forces – into the central government’s Iraqi Army.
Pakistan in political crisis amid allegations of flooding aid corruption
The embattled government of President Asif Ali Zardari slipped further into crisis after its largest coalition partner called for a military coup to tackle corruption and failures over flooding.
Rob Crilly in Islamabad and Damien McElroy
Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), said the political establishment’s lacklustre response to the severe flooding should provoke an uprising.
He called on “patriotic generals to initiate martial-law-like steps against federal politicians” and legal proceedings against those “who save their crops and divert floods towards the localities as well as villages of the poor”.
In a country where most leading politicans are also titled hereditary landlords, he called for a French Revolution-style redistribution of land between the classes in response to unprecedented destruction.
India rejects Vedanta mine plans for Orissa
India’s environment ministry has refused permission for the UK mining group Vedanta to extract bauxite in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.
Last week, a report commissioned by the ministry said allowing mining in the area would deprive two ancient tribes of their rights.
Vedanta’s plans to extract bauxite from a hill revered by a tribal community have caused controversy.
Vedanta has said it will abide by the government’s decision.
A four-member panel, which investigated alleged violations of environmental laws by Vedanta in Orissa’s Kalahandi district, gave its report to the ministry last week.
Zuma’s media censorship ‘is like going back to Apartheid era’ r
By Daniel Howden, Africa Corresponden Tuesday, 24 August 2010
The South African government has been accused of resorting to censorship policies reminiscent of the Apartheid era in a bid to silence its critics in the media.
The ruling African National Congress is pushing a series of measures which would, opponents say, undermine freedom of speech, criminalise investigative reporting and threaten whistleblowers in the civil service with lengthy prison sentences.
Reports of mass rape by DRC rebels
Almost 200 women have been raped by rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), during a four-day seizure of a town, aid groups have said.
A US aid worker and a Congolese doctor told the Associated Press on Monday that the attacks occurred within miles of a UN peacekeepers’ base
Will Cragin of the International Medical Corps (IMC) said that aid and UN workers knew fighters from Rwandan rebel FDLR group and Congolese Mai-Mai rebels had occupied Luvungi town and surrounding villages the day after the attack began on July 30.
Trapped Chile miners receive food and water
Rescue workers in Chile say they have sent the first supplies of water and food to 33 miners who have been trapped underground for 17 days.
Capsules containing the supplies were sent down a tube, which is the miners’ only lifeline.
Rescuers made contact with the miners on Sunday after lowering a probe some 700m (2,300ft) beneath the surface.
Continue reading the main story
Long wait ahead for Chile miners
In pictures: Chileans rejoice and pray
The miners have not been told it may take up to four months to get them out, the head of the rescue operation said.
Andres Sougarret said it could take that long to drill a new shaft wide enough to pull the men to safety.
A specialised drill is on its way to the San Jose copper and gold mine, near the city of Copiapo, for the task.
If more specialised equipment was sent from outside Chile, the operation would still take at least two months, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said.
Engineers have also opened lines of communication to talk to the men.