Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BBC News - US Supreme Court rejects Pfizer Nigeria lawsuit appeal

BBC News - US Supreme Court rejects Pfizer Nigeria lawsuit appeal

The US Supreme Court has given Nigerian families the green light to sue the drug company Pfizer over the use of a new antibiotic on their children.
. . . click on the link in the title to read the full article
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BBC News - Q&A: Kyrgyzstan referendum

BBC News - Q&A: Kyrgyzstan referendum

Kyrgyz citizens have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new constitution, in a referendum that international observers said was largely transparent and peaceful. The changes mean the leader of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva, will now serve as president until the end of 2011 and the Constitutional Court will be abolished.
Supporters of Roza Otunbayeva in Bishkek on 16 May 2010The vote follows the uprising in April that ousted Kurmanbek Bakiyev

The new constitution paves the way for Kyrgyzstan to be declared a parliamentary republic, with a president's powers being largely devolved to parliament.
The referendum was held just two weeks after violent clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic groups in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad. Officials say some 200 people were killed in the conflict, although observers believe the death toll could be 10 times that. An estimated 400,000 people - many of them from the minority ethnic Uzbek community - were displaced.
. . . click on the link in the title to read the full article
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

BBC News - German court legalises euthanasia with patient consent

BBC News - German court legalises euthanasia with patient consent:

"A top German court has ruled that it is not a criminal offence to cut off the life support of a dying person if that person has given their consent.

The Federal Court of Justice acquitted a lawyer who had advised the daughter of a comatose woman to cut off her feeding tube.

Earlier the patient had expressed her wish not to be kept alive artificially.

The lawyer appealed to the federal court after a lower court had given him a nine-month suspended sentence.

The mother, in her seventies, fell into a coma in 2002 and had been in a vegetative state for five years when her daughter removed the feeding tube.

After the daughter's action hospital staff reinserted a feeding tube, against the children's wishes, but the patient died of heart failure two weeks later.

Germany's Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said the Karlsruhe federal court ruling brought clarity to cases involving terminally ill patients.

The ruling does not legalise active assisted suicide, which is punishable by up to five years in prison in Germany, the news website Spiegel Online reports.

The ruling applies to passively assisting death through the removal of artificial life support. It makes this legal if the patient has given clear consent."

BBC News - Rwanda 'assassins' kill reporter Jean Leonard Rugambage

BBC News - Rwanda 'assassins' kill reporter Jean Leonard Rugambage

A journalist working for a private newspaper has been shot dead in front of his house in the Rwandan capital.

Witnesses say Jean Leonard Rugambage, the acting editor of Umuvugizi newspaper, was fired on by two men who then fled in a car.

The authorities had recently suspended the paper, prompting it to start publishing online instead.

Police say they do not know who was behind the attack - the paper's exiled chief editor has blamed the government.

'South Africa shooting link'

Editor Jean Bosco Gasasira, who fled to Uganda in April after his paper was suspended, said Kigali had master-minded the assassination of Mr Rugambage who died in hospital after the shooting.

"I'm 100% sure it was the office of the national security services which shot him dead," he told US state-funded radio Voice of America.


  • January: Opposition politician Victoire Ingabire returns home and causes a stir for highlighting crimes against Hutus during the genocide
  • February: Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa flees with another army officer to South Africa
  • March: From exile, Lt Gen Nyamwasa denies being behind recent grenade attacks in Kigali
  • April: Umuvugizi paper, critical of the government, suspended
  • April: Two top military men put under house arrest after military leadership reshuffle
  • April: Ms Ingabire arrested and charged with genocide denial
  • June: Her US lawyer arrested
  • June: Lt Gen Nyamwasa survives assassination attempt
  • June: Umuvugizi reporter Jean Leonard Rugambage shot dead
  • August: Presidential elections due
Division in Rwanda's military ranks

Mr Gasasira said it was because of an article published on the Umuvugizi website relating to the attempted killing last weekend of former army chief Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.

Rwanda has denied accusations it was behind the shooting of Lt Gen Nyamwasa.

He went into exile in South Africa earlier this year after falling out with President Paul Kagame, who he accused of corruption.

Mr Kagame denies these charges and his government accuses Lt Gen Nyamwasa of being behind grenade attacks in Rwanda earlier this year.

In April, Mr Kagame reshuffled the military leadership and two high-ranking officers were also suspended and put under house arrest.

Earlier in the month, Umuvugizi was suspended for six months by the press council for inciting opposition to the government.

Its website, launched in May, is not currently accessible through Rwandan internet providers; the authorities deny involvement in blocking it.

Mr Rugambage, who is survived by his wife and a child, was acquitted of genocide crimes by a local "gacaca" court in 2006.

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in Kigali says his death has shocked many journalists in the country.

Presidential elections are due in Rwanda in August - the second such vote since the 1994 genocide.

Human rights groups have accused the Rwandan government of repressing independent media in the country, which Kigali denies.

Mr Kagame's government argues that it must take care to control the media and politicians to avoid a repeat of the genocide, in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

Earlier this week, UN chief Ban Ki-moon appointed Mr Kagame to co-chair a committee of "superheroes to defeat poverty" - to push for progress in achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

He has been praised for trying to modernise Rwanda's economy since coming to power at the end of the genocide.

Friday, June 25, 2010

BBC News - Trinidad's PM breaks the cultural mould

BBC News - Trinidad's PM breaks the cultural mould

Barely 24 hours after she was sworn in as the first woman prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Persad-Bissessar donned a life jacket and waded into the flood waters to tour areas affected by torrential rains sweeping across the Caribbean.

A devout Hindu, she swore on the Bhagavad Gita - the Hindu holy book - to do her duty to her people.

Even as congratulations poured in from around the world, she remained focused on "dealing with the people's business".

It was the most important task at hand, she told her 1.3m citizens during the live televised address of her historic swearing-in ceremony.

A descendant of Indian indentured labourers who came to Trinidad to work the sugar plantations from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 and 1917, Ms Persad-Bissessar grew up with traditional Indian values and strong religious ties.

'No novice'

The landslide victory of the coalition led by her United National Congress (UNC) party in last month's election has brought a sense of euphoria and feeling of hope to this incredibly wealthy republic.

Trinidad and Tobago has sailed smoothly through the global recession, cushioned by a sea of oil and natural gas.

A woman walks past graffiti promoting Ms Persad-Bissessar in Port of Spain on 23/05/2010 Ms Persad-Bissessar ran a high-profile election campaign

The squandering of billions of dollars by the former government and alleged corruption helped bring this 58-year-old grandmother-of-two into power.

She unseated former PM Patrick Manning whose People's National Movement (PNM) party had governed the country for 42 of the 48 years since its independence from England.

An attorney by profession, Ms Persad-Bissessar is no novice to politics having been the MP for her area Siparia, a rural town in the south of the island, since 1995.

In the last 15 years she has weathered many political storms, even as she broke gender barriers.

Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday (1995-2001) appointed her attorney general and education minister during the UNC's first stint in office, and she even acted as PM.

But in 2007, in the lead-up to a general election, when it was clear that she was the best person to lead the party, Mr Panday refused to resign.

Ms Persad-Bissessar, who is married to a doctor and has a son, swallowed the humiliation, even giving a famous speech to the theme of Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry, in which she declared her undying support for her political guru.

But all that changed last December.

As then Prime Minister Manning became increasingly unpopular, Ms Persad-Bissessar saw a golden opportunity for the opposition forces to unite to topple the ruling People's National Movement.

'Smear campaign'

But as she launched her bid to take over the UNC, Mr Panday unleashed an attack on her reputation, suggesting that she was an alcoholic.

Ms Persad-Bissessar called the accusation "total falsehood".

Ms Persad-Bissessar is of Indian originMs Persad-Bissessar is of Indian origin

"It is a smear campaign of lies, half-truths and innuendoes. Smear campaigns do not win elections. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot hurt me."

Indeed, they did not.

On 24 January, Ms Persad-Bissessar became leader of the UNC with a landslide victory.

When Mr Panday refused to step down as leader of the opposition, she dealt with that too - persuading his loyal MPs to cross over to her side.

After she was appointed leader of the opposition, she hired the strategist who worked on Barack Obama's presidential campaign to assist her.

After a blistering, hugely expensive campaign that used high-tech, slick advertisement in all the media, including the internet, Ms Persad-Bissessar and her coalition emerged victorious.

And on 24 May she became prime minister.

Ms Persad-Bissessar has shown admirable political savvy in the last few weeks, openly courting the media and reacting swiftly to public opinion.

In her 30 May Indian Arrival Day speech she touched on "soft" issues such as race, gender and class inequality.

"As a child in the rural district of Penal I remember sharing meals from the same pot with neighbours of different racial, ethnic, social and economic backgrounds," she said.

"We all managed. If one had, then all had. Because then we were intuitively and instinctively our brother's keepers.

On her terms

"Time and circumstances have allowed many factors, including the divisiveness of some politicians, to keep us apart. But to go forward, we must go back.

"We need to rekindle those values, those strengths as a nation and as a people… And we must do so as one people with one goal."

Trinidad and Tobago's former Prime Minister Patrick ManningMs Persad-Bissessar unseated former PM Patrick Manning

She is intensely aware of the chance she has to make and change history on these islands.

She has already shown that she will be a prime minister on her own terms.

She declined the opportunity to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because parliament had not yet been convened.

She graced the catwalk at Trinidad and Tobago's annual fashion week at the end of May.

And she also made an appearance with local chutney musicians at a show.

Ms Persad-Bissessar, who graduated top of her class from law school, also confronted the delicate issue of gender tensions.

"Looking towards the future, one of the most important issues the national community must face is the widening gap between the liberated, modern, independent women and our traditional men who are being left behind," she said.

"Women are outperforming men in almost every sphere of life in our society and the women of east Indian ancestry are no exception to this rule. They have broken the cultural mould," she said.

No-one as much as her.

BBC News - Deadlock over Zimbabwe 'blood diamond' trade

BBC News - Deadlock over Zimbabwe 'blood diamond' trade

The organisation that controls the international diamond trade has failed to agree whether Zimbabwe should be allowed to resume diamond sales.

Following talks in Israel, members of the Kimberley Process said discussions had been "clouded" by the arrest in Zimbabwe of a human rights activist.

Farai Maguwu had alleged that forced labour was being used to develop Zimbabwe's new Marange diamond field.

Zimbabwe has accused the West of trying to hold back its economic development.

The diamonds from the Marange field could see the country become one of the world's top six exporters and generate $1.7bn a year.

But human rights groups want Zimbabwe to remain banned from selling "blood diamonds" - those which are used to fuel a conflict.


Despite extending their deliberations in Tel Aviv by a day, Kimberley Process chairman Boaz Hirsch announced on Thursday evening that they "could not reach consensus" regarding the work at Marange.

Zimbabwe map

"As such, the meeting ended at an impasse," a statement said.

"This situation is unprecedented in the Kimberley Process meeting but all parties are committed to further engagement."

Further talks on whether to lift the worldwide ban on Zimbabwean diamonds would take place next month in the Russian city of St Petersburg, Mr Hirsch added.

The organisation angered human rights groups this month when a monitor it appointed to assess the mining operations at Marange said Zimbabwe had met the minimum conditions to resume exports.

On Tuesday, a Zimbabwean judge denied bail to Mr Maguwu after he was arrested for "peddling falsehoods" about the diamond trade.

The Kimberley Process suspended diamond exports from Zimbabwe last November in response to allegations of atrocities committed by security forces since 2008 against those who flocked to the Marange field when it was discovered.

Some 200 miners have allegedly been killed, while many have complained of harassment, torture and forced labour. Officials deny the allegations.

Zimbabwe's government said on Wednesday that it planned to sell diamond stockpiles from Marange regardless of the Kimberley Process decision.

The organisation was set up in 2002 after the diamond trade was accused of fuelling conflicts in Africa.

Monday, June 21, 2010

BBC News - Nebraska city holds controversial immigration vote

BBC News - Nebraska city holds controversial immigration vote

A city in the US state of Nebraska is to vote on whether to ban local businesses and landlords from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants.

The vote in Fremont is the result of a two-year fight by residents concerned by an influx of Hispanic workers.

It follows an immigration law passed recently in Arizona which critics have said could lead to racial profiling.

Other states and cities want similar laws, saying the federal government has failed to tackle the problem.

US President Barack Obama has made immigration reform a priority, but has warned the task is being made harder by the actions of Arizona, Fremont and others.

Lawsuit threat

The residents of Fremont will vote on whether businesses should be banned from hiring illegal immigrants and landlords should be barred from renting them property.

Opponents of the proposed ordinance campaign in Fremont, Nebraska, on 19/6/2010Critics say the vote is dividing the city of Fremont

The campaign for such a law began two years ago amid concerns that the Hispanic population in the 25,000-strong city had gone from 165 in the 1990s to an estimated 2,000 - drawn mainly to work at a nearby meat-packing plant.

A proposed law - similar to the one being put to the vote on Monday night - was narrowly defeated when put forward by a city council member in 2008.

Residents disappointed by that result collected more than 3,000 signatures for another ballot; they finally got approval in the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Supporters of the vote say it is necessary to protect jobs, healthcare and education for local people, while critics say it will divide the city and fuel discrimination.

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue the city if the law is passed.

The Arizona immigration law, which comes into effect next month, requires police to stop and question people about their immigration status if the officers have reasonable suspicion the person is in the US illegally.

BBC News - Aid agencies launch Niger appeal

BBC News - Aid agencies launch Niger appeal:

"Two major aid agencies have launched $10m (�6.7m) appeals for drought-stricken Niger in West Africa.

About seven million people - half of the country's population - face food shortages after crop failures last year.

Aid organisations Oxfam and Save The Children say the situation is growing more critical by the day.

Their concern is shared by the UN, which says the crisis is of a magnitude not seen before.

Save the Children says 400,000 children under five are at risk of starvation.

Oxfam says it will focus help towards a further two million adults who are facing severe food shortages.

The crisis, in the world's most under-developed nation, has been caused by a combination of a crop failure - following a drought last year - along with big increases in the price of many staple foods.

Continue reading the main story
The magnitude of this crisis has not been seen before

Khardiata Lo Ndiaye
UN Niger director
The UN's country director, Khardiata Lo Ndiaye, says the emergency is already worse than the drought in 2005, and says that help is needed quickly.

'The magnitude of this crisis has not been seen before. We need money now!' she said.

The UN currently only has just over half the funds it has appealed for to support the population until the next harvest, which is due in September."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

BBC News - Bangladesh: 77m poisoned by arsenic in drinking water

BBC News - Bangladesh: 77m poisoned by arsenic in drinking water:
"Up to 77 million people in Bangladesh have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from drinking water in recent decades, according to a Lancet study.

The research assessed nearly 12,000 people in a district of the capital Dhaka for over a period of 10 years.

More than 20% of deaths among those assessed were caused by the naturally occurring poisonous element, it found.

The World Health Organization said the exposure was 'the largest mass poisoning of a population in history'.

It began after hand-pumped wells were installed in the 1970s to tap groundwater.

Scientists say even small amounts of arsenic over a long period can cause cancer of the bladder, kidney, lung or skin.

Bangladesh was chosen for the study because nearly 90% of the population uses groundwater as its primary source of fresh water."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BBC News - Circumcisions kill 20 boys in South Africa

BBC News - Circumcisions kill 20 boys in South Africa

Twenty South African boys have died following botched circumcisions in the Eastern Cape Province.

"The deaths occurred over the past 12 days, with nine of them occurring over the past 24 hours," said a provincial health spokesperson.

Some 60 boys have been rescued from 11 initiation schools which have since been closed.

Circumcision is seen as a rite of passage into manhood in some South African communities.

The practice is common among the Xhosa and Ndebele communities.

However, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini wants it reintroduced among the Zulu people because of reports that medical circumcision can reduce the chances of getting HIV.

The rescued boys have been taken to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha.

"All 60 of them have septic wounds and are dehydrated," said Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo, reports Sapa news agency.

"Four of the boys even need their genitals removed completely, as it could result in death if it's not. We are just waiting for consent from their parents to perform the procedures."

Prosecution problems

Illegal initiation schools have become common in the Eastern Cape, especially in rural areas.

Unregistered surgeons often set them up as a way of making money, says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

Earlier this week, seven under-aged initiates were rescued from an illegal initiation school run by a 55-year-old unregistered traditional surgeon who had been arrested several times for the offence.

"He was recently given a three-year suspended sentence but he continued doing the same thing. In the past five years, close to 20 initiates died in his schools and 15 had their penises amputated," said the Eastern Cape health department.

Health department officials are meeting the police, members of the justice department and prosecutors to discuss the prosecution of those contravening the Traditional Circumcision Act, which regulates the custom in the province, according to Sapa.

"The major problem is that parents are reluctant to prosecute illegal traditional surgeons who sometimes force their children into circumcision at a very young age," Mr Kupelo said.

"We identify the perpetrators, but if parents are not willing to open cases against them, they are freed and continue illegally circumcising and killing these boys."

Most initiations are either done in June-July or November-December.

Last year, 91 initiates died and hundreds were hospitalised in the province.

BBC News - Obama's popularity: Mixed marks a year after Cairo

BBC News - Obama's popularity: Mixed marks a year after Cairo

Some of the international enthusiasm that greeted Barack Obama's arrival in the White House may have waned but he remains broadly popular across much of the world.

Cairo street sceneMajorities in six Muslim nations fear the US may pose a military threat one day

Barack Obama's election revived America's global image, and many Europeans, Latin Americans, Asians and others who strongly opposed his predecessor continue to embrace him and to express support for his handling of global problems such as climate change and the economic crisis.

However, a year after his Cairo speech, Mr Obama receives poor reviews in many largely Muslim nations.

And even in countries where he is popular, many disapprove of how the US president is handling world trouble-spots, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project finds that majorities or pluralities in 16 of the 22 nations surveyed express at least some confidence in Mr Obama's leadership in international affairs.

Defying gravity

This view is especially common in Western Europe, where "Obamamania" took hold even before he became president.

In Germany, for instance, the president's ratings seem to defy political gravity.

Barack Obama addresses crowds in Berlin, July 2008Mr Obama addressed huge crowds in Germany in 2008 before his election

In a spring 2009 poll, a few months after he took office, 93% of Germans expressed confidence in Mr Obama; a year later, 90% still feel this way.

Big majorities agree in Britain, France, and Spain.

And Mr Obama's popularity is not limited to Europe, with more than seven in 10 giving him positive ratings in Japan, South Korea, India and Nigeria. And a stunning 95% hold this view in Kenya, home to Mr Obama's late father.

Mr Obama is also well-regarded in another country with which he has a personal connection: Indonesia, where he lived for several years as a child.

Two-thirds of Indonesians express confidence in his international leadership.

Muslim concerns

Outside Indonesia, however, he receives far less enthusiastic reviews in the Muslim world.

In Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, a third or fewer have a positive opinion of his leadership.

In Pakistan, a country that is crucial to US security interests, only 8% feel this way, about the same level of support former President George W Bush received from Pakistanis during his last year in office.

Indeed, many of the concerns about American policies and power that were common in Muslim nations during the Bush years are still widespread today.


Percentage favourable

Muslim respondents only Source: Pew Research Center







































































In most of these countries, majorities believe the US acts unilaterally in world affairs, few support American anti-terrorism efforts and, perhaps most tellingly, majorities in all six predominantly Muslim nations surveyed think the US could pose a military threat to their country some day.

There are lingering concerns about America's role in the world elsewhere as well.

Even in generally pro-Obama Western Europe, most say the US does not take their interests into account when making foreign policy.

America's wars

Still, in general terms, Mr Obama's policies are well-received: majorities or pluralities in 16 of 22 nations say they approve of his overall international policies.

A US soldier in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 14 JuneMajorities in most countries polled want the US and Nato to leave Afghanistan

He also tends to get high marks for his handling of two major global issues: climate change and the economic crisis.

Mr Obama gets mixed reviews for the way he has dealt with Iran, and on balance populations around the world disapprove of the way he has managed America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year's Pew Global Attitudes Survey already showed considerable scepticism about Mr Obama's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan and, in the current poll, majorities in most countries want the US and Nato to withdraw their forces.

But Mr Obama gets his worst ratings for his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which bedevilled many of his predecessors.

The Arizona effect

In all three Arab nations surveyed - Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon - more than 80% disapprove of the way Mr Obama has handled the conflict.

He also gets poor marks for his response to an issue not of his own making: the new Arizona immigration law.

The new measure, which gives police increased powers to question people who are suspected of being in the US illegally if they have been stopped on other grounds, has damaged America's overall image in Mexico, and even though Mr Obama has criticised the law, it has hurt his ratings.

Mexicans who have heard about the law tend to disapprove of how Mr Obama is dealing with the issue (the question was asked only in Mexico).

And as the survey reveals, overall assessments of the American president plummeted after the measure was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Among Mexicans surveyed before the law's enactment, 47% had confidence in the president; afterwards, just 36% held this view.

Chart showing Obama's popularity

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