Saturday, December 1, 2012

Panel formed on Lebanon poll law

DOHA - Lebanon’s rival leaders tackled divisive issues at the heart of their political crisis on Saturday at Qatari-mediated talks aimed at pulling their country back from the brink of a new civil war.
Government and opposition leaders left the conference room at a Doha hotel separately, after 90 minutes of tense talks chaired by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani.
But rival delegates said they agreed to form a six-member committee that would lay the framework for a new election law and, once that is achieved, move onto one of the most divisive issues on the agenda – the framework of the government.
The committee was already meeting while Sheikh Hamad held side consultations to nudge rival leaders closer to a deal ending a crisis that has paralyzed the government for 18 months and left Lebanon with no president since November.
Qatari Prime Minister “offered to come up with a proposal on the Hezbollah weaponry issue and present it to the two parties,” a pro-government delegate told AFP. “The two sides have agreed to that,” he added following the first session of talks by 14 representatives of the Lebanon government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. Host Qatar made the offer after leaders of the ruling parliamentary majority initially insisted without success on including the arms question on the agenda, said the delegate, requesting anonymity. In addition to the electoral law, the leaders are expected to discuss a proposed unity government.
“The impression, thank God, from the session, shows the desire among all the factions to reach an understanding ... that will bring us to the beginning of a solution to this crisis,” Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Voice of Lebanon radio.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Al-Jafari: Syria's Sovereignty, Independence and Territorial Integrity Are Red Line

NEWYORK, (SANA) - Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al-Jafari on Tuesday stressed that Syria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity are red line.

Speaking during a Security Council session on the situation in Syria, al-Jafari said the Syrian patriotism rejects foreign interference and stresses on standing united in the face of sedition and division, renouncing violence and not resorting to arms while demanding reform.

"Homelands are built by their people, and we as Syrians have ahead of us the opportunity to have true national dialogue and speed up reforms with the aim of establishing a real national partnership that preserves the security of the homeland and citizens as the only way to come out of this crisis and fulfill the legitimate demands of the Syrian people without compromising our homeland," said al-Jafari, adding that the coming generations will hold accountable all those who missed this opportunity.

Al-Jafari went on saying "Today Syria is facing decisive challenges in its history and we want this particular stage to be under the will of our people not anyone else and to be a point of determination to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

"The homeland is for all of its people, but in Syria there is no majority or minority. There are only Syrians and the homeland is entrusted to them, even if some of them were misled while others went off the right path," al-Jafari continued.

He added the events taking place in Syria demand that all its sons, whatever their trends or affiliations are, to opt for the path of wisdom and use their national sense to guide them so that to achieve victory for the whole homeland and not just a part of it.

Al-Jafari said the Syrian people, who offered the world the first alphabet, have all over the years been able to solve their internal problems and crises by themselves and will never accept any form of foreign interference in their homeland Syria.

He stressed that the Syrian people will do it again through the participation of all the Syrians in overcoming the crisis and contributing together to the national construction process bearing in mind only the higher interest of the homeland and not anyone else's interest in an atmosphere of reconciliation among all.

Al-Jafari recalled how in the late 50s and the beginning of the 60s "when we were at the preliminary school we used to recite the Algerian anthem instead of the Syrian national anthem…We were happy to donate our pocket money to help the Arab liberation movements in the Gulf against the British colonialism."

"That was before the oil boom, when Arabism was different in its concept from the way some look at it today," he noted.

He said that the Arab people would have wished that the presence of the Arab League (AL) Secretary General and the Chairman of the current session of the AL Council to the Security Council would have been to demand the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities to end the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories and to halt the Israeli escalated acts of killing and settlement activities.

"It is so strange to see some of the AL members restoring to the Security Council against Syria that has always been ready to sacrifice the dearest for the sake of defending the Arab issues," al-Jafari added.

"They are very mistaken those who think that the countries I am talking about, which have always stood against the just Arab issues inside and outside the Security Council, show this enthusiasm for the Arab League out of their respect for it and its decisions or out of their keenness on the interest of Syria and the Syrian people," said the Syrian Representative. "The clear truth is that this enthusiasm came in the same antagonistic context towards all the legitimate Arab issues," he continued.

He considered that the Arab League's recent decision to head to the Security Council is a kind of circumventing the success of the Arab monitoring mission and an attempt to pass over its report because it came contrary to the plot of some Arab and non-Arab parties who falsely claim keenness on the Arab role in resolving the crisis in Syria.

"This hall today re-echoes almost more than 60 vetoes to prevent draft resolutions on settling the Arab-Israeli conflict in accordance with the resolutions of this highly-regarded Council…What is new today about the AL referring of its unjust decisions against Syria to the Security Council in Syria's absence and without consultation with its leadership, in a violation of the AL charter and in preparation for direct aggressive interference in Syria's internal affairs, is that the AL decision meets the plans and interests of the non-Arab countries that are aimed at destroying Syria and disrupting its security and stability because Syria rejects to be a subordinate country or a country of incomplete sovereignty and insists on the independence of its decision and on preserving its people's interests and security.

"Syria considers the decision made at the AL Council's recent meeting a violation of Syria's national sovereignty, a flagrant interference in its internal affairs and a gross transgression of the goals for which the AL was founded and of the eighth provision of its charter," said al-Jafari.

He stressed that Syria rejects any decision outside the framework of the Arab Work Plan it agreed upon and the protocol signed with the Arab League.

He found it strangely paradoxical how the AL had first requested the Syrian government to extend the Arab monitoring mission for another month, a request that Damascus immediately agreed, only for the AL to later contradict itself by ignoring the mission's report, working on taking the crisis in an Arab country to the Security Council and suspending its mission.

The representative of Syria blasted the strange contradiction when some Oligarchy States present draft resolutions for democracy, human rights, power rotation while they themselves don't have even a constitution, or electoral system and never practice democracy.

"The wild tendency of some Western countries to interfere in our internal and external affairs by all means is not new or accidental, but it is a systematic and continued approach since Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 and Balfour Declaration in 1917, and through the unlimited support to Israel in its aggressive polices and its occupation of the Arab territories," said al-Jafari.

Ambassador al-Jafari voiced astonishment over the Arab league deliberate disregard of the Arab Monitors' report about the ongoing in Syria, especially the points which highlight the destructive role of armed groups in attacking the Syrian citizens and security forces.

Ambassador al-Jafari wondered about the French Policy cool response to what the Arab Monitors report said that the French Journalist, Gilles Jacquier , was killed by mortars shells from the opposition in Syria.

The Syrian representative cited some examples of the already taken Syrian reform measures and time-framed near to take place measures including new constitution, political plurality and parliamentary elections, welcoming the Russian initiative for sponsoring Syrian dialogue in Moscow.

He called upon the Arab and non-Arab parties that are contributing to inflaming the Syrian crisis to reconsider their policies, stop the shedding of the Syrian blood and support the national dialogue and the political reform program.

Ambassador al-Jafari, in a potent silencing response to the Qatari representative accusations, cited some news reports by western media that Qatar and Saudi Arabia finance the smuggling of arms to Syria, calling on Qatar to stop its al-Jazeera's distortions and lies, and calling on other neighboring countries to stop hosting the armed opposition, which bomb oil refineries and gas pipelines and explode railways, on its territories.

'' Bin Jessem, the Qatari Premier, talks to you to inform you of what the League of Arab States, decided; such a League, however, does not exist without Syria; and we would never allow any body to take a decision about our future in our absence or on out behalf.'' underscored al-Jafari.

''In Damascus still we have a quarter called 'al-Hariqia' , -the destroyed by fire- because French forces in the late 40s of the last century bombed the quarter with artillery and warplanes killing thousands of civilians,'' al-Jafari added reminding the French of their colonial past not to mention the thousands of the Algerians massacred.

Al-Jafari expressed Syria's appreciation of South Africa over its wise leadership of the Security Council during this month, reiterating Syria's pride in the victory of the people of South Africa and the peoples of the African continent over the policies of discrimination and apartheid, wondering about the stance of some countries that are now speaking of democracy and human rights and about which side they took during the struggle of South Africa.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Haniyeh meets Qatari emir

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday met Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, a spokesman for the Hamas-led government said.

Taher al-Nunu said the leaders discussed the role of Qatar and the Arab League in addressing Israel's illegal siege of Gaza and protecting Jerusalem.

The Qatari prince and the Hamas leader also talked about Palestinian national reconciliation and the implications of the Arab Spring, al-Nunu said.

Al-Thani praised the resilience of the people of Gaza and said the Arab Spring could have a positive influence on the Palestinian struggle, the spokesman added.

Qatar ended formal relations with Israel after it launched a devastating attack on Gaza in December 2008.

The emirate has supported the Arab Spring, providing arms and troops to Libyan rebels as they battled Moammar Gadhafi.

The Qatari prime minster was the first Arab leader to suggest sending Arab troops to Syria to end President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

Hamas' headquarters are in Damascus, but tensions have grown over 10 months of bloodshed there.

Haniyeh's next stop is Iran, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Winehouse dad: Our shock at Amy coroner

TRAGIC Amy Winehouse's dad told last night of his shock after learning the coroner at her inquest was not fully qualified.

Mitch Winehouse said "irregularities" surrounding assistant deputy coroner Suzanne Greenaway were "distressing".
He and his former wife Janis — Amy's mum — are "taking advice" amid claims the inquest may be declared illegal and a new hearing arranged. Last night Mitch told The Sun: "We were very shocked when we were informed the coroner was not suitably qualified. It's hard to believe her credentials weren't fully checked. You'd assume this sort of thing can't happen.
"We've been informed the coroner was taking guidance from more experienced professionals and the verdict doesn't appear to be in any doubt, but it's upsetting to have to go through all this again. We just hope that matters can be resolved soon."
'Shocked' ... Mitch Winehouse
'Shocked' ... Mitch Winehouse
Ms Greenaway was appointed to her job by her husband Dr Andrew Reid, the Inner North London Coroner. The Office for Judicial Complaints is currently investigating both of them. She recorded a misadventure verdict last October on Rehab singer Amy, 27, who died from alcohol poisoning in Camden, North London. Ms Greenaway stood down a month later.
Coroners can be appointed only if they have been in the Law Society as a solicitor for at least five years, but she joined just two-and-a-half years ago. There are fears the 30 inquests she presided over could be declared illegal. Dr Reid has admitted his error and apologised.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sharon Watts back on Albert Square

Actress Letitia Dean

Original EastEnder Sharon Watts is to make a return to Albert Square after an absence of six years.
Actress Letitia Dean, 44, will head back to Walford later this year - her third major stint on the EastEnders.
The last time viewers saw her was in early 2006 after she had been left a widow following the death of husband Dennis Rickman.
She is the latest blast from the past to make an appearance on the show following recent guest roles for Nick Berry and Michael French as Wicksy and his brother David.
Former Queen Vic landlady Sharon has been one of the show's key characters and her affair with brother-in-law Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) led to one of the show's highest rating episodes. It also prompted her departure from the series in 1994.
Sharon returned in 2001, to take over at the Vic, which had formerly been run by her adoptive parents, Angie and Den Watts.
She stayed until 2004 and then returned again the following year, only to bow out once more in January 2006, following the stabbing of Dennis who died in her arms.
Dean went on to compete in BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing in 2007, as well as tour in the stage production of Calendar Girls.
Details of the circumstances of her return are being kept under wraps.
Dean said: "I am really looking forward to being part of the EastEnders team again, as it has always been very close to my heart. I cannot wait to work with my old colleagues and see what is in store for Sharon."
Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood said: "I'm thrilled that Letitia is coming back home to Albert Square where she belongs.
"Sharon is a real favourite amongst EastEnders' fans and I for one can't wait until she arrives back in the summer."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

SET rises 5.31 points

he Stock Exchange of Thailand main index went up 5.31 points or 0.49% to close at 1,091.67 points at the end of trading session on Thursday Afternoon. The trade value was 31.84 billion baht, with 4.41 billion shares traded.
The SET50 index ended at 763.40 points, up 4.24 points or 0.56 %, with a total trade value of 22.89 billion baht.
The SET100 index rose 9.04 points or 0.55% to stand at 1,660.39 points, with a total turnover of 27.04 billion baht.
The SETHD index went up 9.69 points or 0.92% to stand at 1,063.88 points, with total trade value of 7.98 billion baht.
The MAI index rose 0.36 point or 0.12% to close at 290.81 points, with total transaction value of 1.04 billion baht.
Top five most active values were as follows;
PTT              closed at   342.00 baht, up 3.00 baht (0.88%)
KTB              closed at     15.60 baht, up 0.30 baht (1.96%)
PTTGC         closed at     67.00 baht, up 0.50 baht (0.75%)
BANPU (XD)  closed at   600.00 baht, up 8.00 baht (1.35%)
CPF              closed at     35.75 baht, up 0.75 baht (2.14%)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Flu Warning Issued

The coldest February in about 30 years has increased the dangers of a flu wave, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The agency said since an influenza advisory was issued on Jan. 5, the number of patients has been soaring in southern regions like Gwangju, Ulsan, and South Gyeongsang Province, and infections continue in Seoul and the central region.

"Influenza used to prevail from late December to early January over the past five years and flu patients in early February are quite rare," said Park Sun-hee of the KCDC. "We expect the number of flu patients to increase sharply as biting cold weather is predicted for February and students are returning to school this month."

To prevent flu, the KCDC advised the elderly, patients with chronic diseases, children and pregnant women to get preventive shots and wash their hands frequently. It recommends wearing masks if they have a fever, cough and runny nose.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pak Supreme Court summons Gilani

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani

Pakistan's Supreme Court will charge Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani with contempt over a refusal to pursue corruption cases against the President Asif Ali Zardari, his lawyer said on Thursday
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday summoned Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to appear before it on February 13, when he will be formally charged with contempt of court for failing to act on the court’s orders to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

A seven—judge bench led by Justice Nasir—ul—Mulk issued the order this afternoon after hearing arguments from Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who argued that the premier had not committed contempt by acting on the apex court’s orders as the President had complete immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and abroad.

If Gilani is convicted in the contempt case, he will be disqualified from holding any public office for five years.

He will also have the right to appeal any order convicting him within a period of 30 days.

“The court has ordered the framing of charges against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt of court on February 13. He will be present in court,” Ahsan told reporters outside the Supreme Court.

“My advice to my client will be to appeal the decision but he will have to decide...We have the option to appeal,” Ahsan said in response to questions from journalists.

If an intra—court appeal is filed, an appellate bench could decide to suspend the order, he said.

Gilani had personally appeared before the bench when it first took up the contempt case on January 19 but he was exempted from further hearings.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland after it struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty passed by former President Pervez Musharraf, in December 2009.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Khamenei criticizes US 'interference' in Syria

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 

TEHRAN - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized "interference" by the United States in Syrian affairs on Tuesday, but said Tehran would welcome reforms in its closest Arab ally, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Iran's stance towards Syria is to support any reforms that benefit the people of this country and oppose the interference of America and its allies in Syrian domestic issues," Khamenei said, according to IRNA.

Khamenei's remarks came as the Arab League prepared to present a plan to the UN Security Council - backed by Washington, Paris and London - for Syria's President Bashar Assad to give up powers.

Tehran has tempered its rhetoric on Syria as the crisis there has dragged on for 10 months. At first, it wholeheartedly supported Assad's stance against public opposition, but lately it has been encouraging reforms to take account of popular grievances.

Assad says his government is committed to reform but is battling a foreign-backed insurgency by militants.

Khamenei criticized neighbors for allying themselves with Washington.

"When one looks at the developments in that country ... America's plans for Syria are evident and unfortunately some foreign and regional countries take part in America's plans," Khamenei said.

Assad's alliance with Shi'ite Muslim, non-Arab Iran has occasionally put him at odds with other Arab countries, mostly ruled by Sunni Muslims.

The Arab League has proposed a peace plan which would involve Assad giving up powers to a deputy. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby was taking that plan to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, backed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of France and Britain.

The United Nations said in December more than 5,000 people had been killed in Assad's crackdown on protests. Syria says more than 2,000 security force members have been killed by militants.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ferry with some 350 aboard sinks off Papua New Guinea

Several people are feared dead after a ferry carrying as many as 350 passengers on board sank off the north coast of Papua New Guinea, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Thursday.

“There has been a boat go down in Papua New Guinea with, as we understand it, 350 people on board,” Ms. Gillard said.

“This is obviously a major tragedy... There is likely to be a very high death toll,” she was quoted as saying by the Australian news agency AAP.

Rescue workers have rescued 28 people from the water so far, according to a maritime official, who said hundreds of passengers were still unaccounted for.

“They have rescued 28 people who are now on board one vessel,” Rescue co—ordinator Captain Nurur Rahman said.

Captain Rahman said four merchant ships were diverted to the scene by Australian authorities to help with the rescue.

“I cannot confirm or deny the 350 missing number, it is hearsay. I have not seen the manifest as yet, but it is likely around 300.”

A distress signal was sent from the MV Rabaul Queen this morning when travelling between Lae and the West New Britain town of Kimbe in the east of the Pacific nation today, PNG’s National Maritime Safety Authority said.

“We have been asked to provide assistance to PNG and we are providing assistance to PNG... Australian diplomatic staff are monitoring the situation but there have so far been no reports of Australians on board,” Ms. Gillard said.

“But given the likely very high loss of life here, I think when this news comes to the attention of Australians around the country, they will be thinking about the people of PNG as they respond to this tragedy,” she said.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

3 policemen killed in Taliban attack in northwest Pakistan

Three policemen were killed and another injured when Taliban militants attacked a police van in Pakistan's restive northwest today, officials said.   The militants lobbed grenades at the van and then fired at it with automatic weapons in Lakki Marwat area of

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
District police chief Gulzar Ali confirmed that three policemen were killed and another injured.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out in retaliation for arrests made by security forces during a recent search operation.

The attack was the latest assault in a recent spike in Taliban violence in northwest Pakistan.

Parts of the volatile tribal belt have witnessed fierce fighting in recent days.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

2G: 122 licences cancelled, but relief for Chidambaram

New Delhi In a big reprieve to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, the Supreme Court on Thursday referred the plea to probe him in the 2G scandal to the trial court but cancelled the 122 telecom licences that were granted by former Telecom Minister A Raja.
This would mean the court holds the view that the licences were handed out irregularly.

The apex court heard petitions seeking a direction for a probe into the alleged role of Chidambaram in 2G spectrum scam and for the cancellation of 122 radiowave licences.

The role of Chidambaram in the 2G scam was raised in the Supreme Court by the petitioners who had pointed out that there was evidence on record showing that the decision regarding pricing of spectrum was taken jointly by him and Raja.

A Finance Ministry note to the PMO signed by Pranab Mukherjee was also taken on record by the apex court in which it was stated that the scam could have been averted had Chidambram suggested the policy of auction instead of first-come-first-served policy on allocation of spectrum.

The Centre and CBI had vehemently opposed any probe against Chidambram who was the Finance Minister at the time of allotment of spectrum in 2008.

They had maintained that Chidambaram was not in direct communication with the then Telecom Minister A Raja in determining the price of the radio waves.

However, Swamy and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) had refuted the claims of CBI and the Centre that Chidambaram was not in the picture till January, 10, 2008, when the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) headed by Raja issued 122 Letters of Intent (LoIs) to telecom companies without following the policy of auction.

Swamy and CPIL's counsel Prashant Bhushan had contended Chidambaram was "consistently" informed of what was going on and "till November 30, 2007, Chidambaram was apprised of what Raja was up to".

Swamy and Bhushan said the Finance Ministry officials were for allocation of spectrum through auction but they were overruled by Chidambaram.

Swamy said there there were documents to show that Raja and Chidambaram met four times on the issue and had a meeting of minds in the commission of the offences.

It was also alleged by the petitioners that Chidambaram had advised Raja that it was legal to "dilute" the shares by telecom companies after getting licence though which Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless got huge profits by selling 45% and 60% respectively to two foreign firms Etisalat and Telenor.

Bhushan had said the facts stated a Finance Ministry note pointed to a "clear fact" that officials of the Finance Ministry repeatedly pointed out that spectrum allocation could not be determined by the entry fee of 2001.

"That it should be allocated through a market discovered price. It was impossible for Raja to move ahead without the concurrence of the then Finance Minister," he had said.

"Despite the fact that the Finance Secretary had taken such a strong view which had been recorded in the DoT's approach paper, Chidambaram chose to side with Raja on the issue of pricing," he had said.

In the case relating to cancellation of licenses, people from civil society also approached the apex court to reverse the decision taken by Raja for telecom licences during his tenure as Telecom Minister.

Former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh, T S Krishnamurthy and N Gopalaswami, along with former Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar, moved the SC along with CPIL and Swamy.

They alleged Raja's decision was marred by "multiple illegalities, corruption and favouritism".

The proceeding in the case had witnessed a virtual telecom war with the old service providers contending spectrum alloted to them are valid and they should not be compared with new players whose licenses are under the judicial scrutiny.

Friday, August 3, 2012

'Rape' victim enters poll fray

BHUBANESWAR: At a time when the alleged rape of a girl in Pipili area of Puri district has occupied media limelight, another alleged victim has created ripples in political circles by contesting the panchayat polls.

Sujata Jal, who was allegedly gang-raped by then Paikmal block chairman Mahesh Agarwal and his associates on May 10, 2008, is in the fray for a zilla parishad member seat from Rajboodasambar seat III from Padampur subdivision of Bargarh district, 400 km from the state capital. Bargarh district has 34 ZP member seats. Rajboodasambar is called Bargarh ZP Zone 31.

Agarwal and five of his aides allegedly raped Sujata after Agarwal promised her the job of an anganwadi worker. One of the accused includes Kunal Bariha, the nephew of former minister and Padampur MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha of the BJD. The incident had created a huge political storm and all the accused were remanded in judicial custody.

"I drew inspiration from BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. I am thankful to the party for giving me a ticket," Jal said, adding that if she wins she will fight for justice and dignity for the downtrodden.

Pitted against the might of Sumitra Singh Seth of BJD, Saraswati Kalu (BJP), Manorama Gingra (Congress) and independent Panchami Suna, Jal hopes she will clinch the seat. "I have been receiving overwhelming response from people. They are fed up with the trio of BJP, BJD and Congress," she said. The area has been traditionally a BJD stronghold.

The constituency, reserved for women, goes to poll on February 11, the first date of polling for the three-tier panchayat elections in the state.

BSP spokesperson Sunil Agarwal said Sujata's entering the poll fray in itself has been a befitting reply on the perpetrators of the crime on her. "She will definitely win if people's response is any indication," Agarwal said.

Politicians of other parties are nervous. "The alleged crime on her definitely draws people's sympathy on her. But it is too early to predict where the votes will swing," said a former MLA in Bargarh district.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Atsuko Tanaka. The Art of Connecting" MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TOKYO


Atsuko Tanaka (1932-2005) was a member of the avant-garde Gutai Art Association whose experimental work with nonphysical materials — such as light, sound and time — garnered her much attention during the mid-1950s.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo has joined forces with The Japan Foundation, Britain's IKON Gallery and Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castello of Spain to bring together more than 100 works representative of Tanaka's innovative, Abstract Expressionist style. Included are reproductions of her two most-famous works, "Work (Bell)" and "Electric Dress"; till May 6.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

U.S. bipartisan group urges upping military threat against Iran

The United States should deploy ships, step up covert activities and sharpen its rhetoric to make more credible the threat of a U.S. military strike to stop Iran's nuclear program, a bipartisan group said on Wednesday.

Former U.S. politicians, generals and officials said in a report that the best chance of stopping Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons was to make clear American willingness to use force, although it stopped short of advocating military action.

The report by a Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) task force of Democrats, Republicans and independents is to be formally issued on Wednesday and comes amid speculation about the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran.

There is little evidence to suggest that U.S. President Barack Obama has any significant interest in the possibility of a military strike against Iran, though his administration has repeatedly said that all options are on the table.

To a lesser degree there has also been debate about a U.S. attack, an idea advocated by former Pentagon defense planner Matthew Kroenig in his recent Foreign Affairs Magazine article, "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option."

The BPC report's central thesis is that to persuade Iran to address questions about its nuclear program via negotiations, economic sanctions must be accompanied by a credible threat of military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.

"The United States needs to make clear that Iran faces a choice: it can either abandon its nuclear program through a negotiated arrangement or have its program destroyed militarily by the United States or Israel," said the report, entitled "Meeting the Challenge: Stopping the Clock."

Tensions between Iran and the West have grown as the United States and its European allies have tightened economic sanctions by targeting the oil exports that drive the Iranian economy.

The United States, and many of its European allies, suspect that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop the atomic bomb. Iran denies this, saying that its program is solely for civilian uses such as power generation.

The BPC is a nonprofit policy group founded by prominent Republicans and Democrats that seeks to promote policy-making that can draw support from both major U.S. political parties. Among its specific recommendations, the report calls for strengthening the United States "declaratory policy" to make clear its willingness to use force rather than permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons; To intensify covert activities by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies to disrupt Iran's nuclear program; To bolster the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman by deploying an additional carrier battle group and minesweepers off Iran, conducting broad military exercises in the region with allies, and prepositioning supplies for the possibility of military action against Iran; To strengthen the ability of U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to ship oil out of the region without using the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to close in retaliation for Western sanctions, and to amplify U.S. efforts to strengthen the militaries of countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates through arms sales.

Should these steps fail to dissuade Iran from its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons, the report urges the United States to consider a "quarantine" to block refined petroleum imports by Iran, which is heavily dependent on gasoline refined abroad.

As a last resort, the group asserts that the U.S. military has the ability to launch "an effective surgical strike against Iran's nuclear program."

Obama's broader foreign policy has sought to disentangle the U.S. military from its commitments in the Muslim world. He decided to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq last year and aims to wind up the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

Obama opposed his predecessor George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq, a decision the Bush administration chiefly justified by citing intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were subsequently found.

Without explicitly calling for an attack on Iran, the report says such a strike would include an air campaign of several weeks to target key military and nuclear installations, accompanied by the U.S. special forces on the ground.

"A military strike would delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear capability but not eliminate it," the report said. "Still, policymakers need to consider whether delaying Iran's program in the short term would allow Washington to take advantage of that space to stop Iran's nuclear program altogether," it added without explaining how this might happen.

"It is also possible that the delays and increased costs that a devastating strike would impose on Iran's nuclear program might be followed by a different set of dynamics that would cause or compel the Iranian leadership to change course," it said.

The report acknowledged a strike would carry many risks, including higher oil prices, possible Iranian retaliation against U.S. military installations, support of "terrorist" operations against U.S. interests and potential attacks on Iraq.

Former U.S. Senator Chuck Robb, a Virginia Democrat, told Reuters the group chose not to explicitly advocate military action in part because it did not want to turn what he described as a "reasoned, thoughtful approach into, 'This is bombs away."

Having repeatedly said that a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable to the United States, Robb said that to be unwilling to take military action would undercut U.S. credibility.

"Our credibility is very much on the line," he said. "We believe that we have to be credible with respect to the kinetic option. We need to provide evidence that we are preparing to take that option if necessary."

Friday, July 6, 2012

More bloodshed sweeps across Syria

DAMASCUS: Fresh bloodshed swept Syria on Wednesday after Western powers and the Arab League demanded immediate UN action to stop the regime’s “killing machine” but holdout Russia vowed to veto any proposal it deemed unacceptable.

Wrangling at the United Nations came as fierce clashes raged across Syria’s powder keg regions killing 59 people, mostly civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based monitoring group said at least eight civilians were killed in shelling by regime forces in the restive central city of Homs while 24 were killed in fighting in the Damascus region.

Activists said the unrest had killed nearly 200 people nationwide over the previous three days while France said on Wednesday 6,000 people had been killed since the beginning of the uprising nearly 11 months ago.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, backed by her French and British counterparts and Qatar’s premier, led the charge on Tuesday for a tough UN resolution that would call on Assad to end the bloodshed and hand over power.

“We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end,” Clinton told the UN Security Council. “The question for us is: how many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward?” But on Wednesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov appeared to snuff out any hopes of a quick vote.

“Attempts are being made to find a text that is acceptable to all sides and would help find a political solution for the situation in Syria. Therefore there is going to be no vote in the next days,” he told Interfax news agency.

Analysts warn that the conflict, between a guerrilla movement backed by growing numbers of army deserters and a regime increasingly bent on repression, has largely eclipsed the peaceful protests seen at the start of the uprising.

“It is the beginning of an all-out armed conflict,” said Joshua Landis, head of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“We are heading toward real chaos,” he added. “The Syrian public in general is beginning to (realise) that there isn’t a magic ending to this, there isn’t a regime collapse.”

The new French death toll comes after UN human rights Chief Navi Pillay said on January 25 that her organisation had stopped counting the dead from Syria’s crackdown on the protests because it is too difficult to get information. Early in January, UN data showed more than 5,400 people killed in Syria since the pro-democracy uprising began in mid-March.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, speaking at the Security Council on behalf of the Arab League, said Assad’s regime had “failed to make any sincere effort” to end the crisis and believed the only solution was “to kill its own people.”

“Bloodshed continued and the killing machine is still at work,” he said. But Russia, a longstanding ally of Assad and one of the regime’s top suppliers of weapons, declared that the UN body did not have the authority to impose a resolution that called for regime change in Syria, a position supported by China.

“If the text is unacceptable then we will vote against,” Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia would not approve a text it viewed as “incorrect” and would “lead to a deepening of the conflict”, he said.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

U.S. military says budget constraints to help spur growth of innovation

Despite its adverse effects, the current budget constraints will also help drive the growth of innovation in the U.S. military to maintain the U.S. status as the world's leader, a senior Pentagon official said on Wednesday.

"We have objectives for the United States as a leader in the international environment that are aggressive," said Kathleen Hicks, deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces, in an interview with the Pentagon Channel TV.

To achieve such objectives, U.S. forces and other instruments of national power must think through innovative approaches for executing their mission, Hicks said.

"I think you'll see an era of real innovation -- a transformation," she said.

Innovations are under way in the cyber domain and in space, as well as in the Navy-Air Force air-sea battle concept, in which air and naval forces integrate capabilities across domains, Hicks said.

"They're also taking place in missile defense, and in leveraging advantages in undersea warfare and in prompt global strike -- an effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within an hour," she added.

Other new approaches acknowledge realities of the recent defense budget preview on spending cuts, delivered on Jan. 26 by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hicks said.

Under the new budget plan, the U.S. military will produce a smaller, more agile and technologically enabled force by 2020, while putting stress on developing advanced military technologies to ensure the U.S. supremacy in its military might.

The plan was aimed at implementing President Barack Obama's defense strategy guidance, which includes cutting force structure, drawing down ground forces, maintaining the current focus in the Middle East and increasing the commitment in Asia.

Partnerships and smaller footprints will take up the slack for the U.S. military in places such as Africa and Latin America, where the new budget control plan has curtailed growth in military capacity building, Hicks said.

In areas of increasing importance, such as Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, the U.S. military "is seeking new ways to partner," she said, noting that there will be a rotational deployment of U.S. troops in Australia and an agreement with Singapore will base four U.S. littoral combat ships there.

"That will really be the hallmark of our approach going forward," Hicks said. "These seemingly small investments are incredibly beneficial in terms of what we get and what the partners get in terms of engagement and stability."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

US, allies urge UN action to end violence in Syria

Vowing to avoid "another Libya," the U.S. and its allies challenged Russia on Tuesday to overcome its opposition to a U.N. draft resolution demanding that Syrian President Bashar Assad yield power and end the violence that has killed thousands.

"It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the U.N. Security Council in backing an Arab League plan for the country.

Russia, one of Assad's strongest allies, has signaled it would veto any U.N. action against Damascus, fearing it could open the door to eventual international military involvement, the way an Arab-backed U.N. resolution led to NATO airstrikes in Libya.

But Clinton said U.N. action in Syria would not involve military intervention, unlike the NATO-led efforts that resulted in the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi.

"I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council is headed toward another Libya," Clinton said. "That is a false analogy."

The top diplomats from Britain, France and Arab League pressed the same point: The objective of the draft resolution was not military involvement and a continued delay would come at the cost of the lives of innocent civilians.

"We all have a choice: Stand with the people of Syria and the region or become complicit in the continuing violence there," Clinton told council members.

"Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime's reign of terror will end and the people of Syria will have the chance to chart their own destiny," she said. "The question for us is: How many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward toward the kind of future it deserves?"

The diplomatic showdown came as Syrian government forces took back control of the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus, after rebel soldiers briefly captured the area in a startling advance last week. The two-day offensive left more than 100 people dead, making it among the bloodiest days since the uprising began in March, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group.

The U.N. estimated several weeks ago that more than 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government crackdown, but has not been able to update the figure.

Russia has stood by Assad as he tries to crush the uprising. In October, Moscow vetoed the first Security Council attempt to condemn Syria's crackdown and has shown little sign of budging in its opposition.

Moscow's stance is motivated in part by its strategic and defense ties, including weapons sales, with Syria. Russia also rejects what it sees as a world order dominated by the U.S.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Moscow "would never allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar to what happened in Libya."

Saying the U.N. should not choose sides, Lavrov told the ABC that all parties should cease violence and engage in dialogue. Russia "would not support anything that would be imposed on Syria," he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd emphasized that Assad must go and urged Russia to overcome its reservations regarding the Security Council resolution in lengthy discussions Tuesday with Lavrov.

"We cannot stand idly by while we see the death of Damascus unfold before us," Rudd told reporters in his hometown of Brisbane on Wednesday. "It's time that we had action from the U.N. Security Council to start to draw this appalling conflict — this appalling loss of life — to a close."

"Australia's position is clear as we put it to the Russian foreign minister yesterday and that is we need to take action in New York through the U.N. Security Council. President Assad must go, he must step down, a government of national unity must be formed which brings together elements of the Syrian opposition as well as all those other elements representatives of Syrian society," he added.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov also criticized the Western draft Security resolution on Syria. He wrote Tuesday on Twitter that it "does not lead to a search for compromise. Pushing this resolution is a path to civil war."

Still, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin indicated in his address to the council that agreement could still be reached with more negotiation. He said his country found "some of the elements of our text" in the current draft, "and that gives rise for hope."

An earlier proposal on Syria circulated by Russia had been rejected by some Western and Arab nations for not being strong enough. "We hope the council will come to consensus," Churkin said.

Clinton suggested that more negotiation on the text was necessary before a vote later in the week. "We will have a concerted effort over the next days to reach agreement in the Security Council to put forth a resolution that sends a message to President Assad and his regime," she told reporters.

Earlier in the session, the Arab League made a rare call to the council to condemn violence in a fellow Arab country, and adopt its peace plan.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told the council that the league wanted the Security Council to act "to support our initiative and not to take its place."

"We are attempting to avoid any foreign intervention, particularly military intervention" in Syria, he said. "We have always stressed full respect of the security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian people."

British Foreign Minister William Hague called for speedy action.

"How long do Syrian families have to live in fear that their children will be killed or tortured, before the Security Council will act?" Hague asked. "How many people need to die before the consciences of world capitals are stirred?"

In its current form, the resolution demands that Assad halt the crackdown and implement an Arab League peace plan calling for him to hand over power to his vice president. If Assad fails to comply within 15 days, the council would consider "further measures," a reference to a possible move to impose economic or other sanctions.

In his response, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari lashed out at the league, accusing it of acting without consulting the Syrian leadership."How strange it is for us to see some members of the League of Arab States seeking the support of the Security Council against Syria," Ja'afari said. He noted that the Security Council often has voted in support of Israel against Arab-backed measures.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, that he was "encouraged by the League of Arab States' initiative to seek a political solution" to the Syrian crisis.

"It is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms," Ban said.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Russians should skip protest due to cold: Chief doctor

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russians should avoid attending the protest against the rule of Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the weekend to protect their health amid a spell of cold weather, the country's chief doctor said on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to rally for a march in the Russian capital on Saturday in the third mass protest challenging Putin ahead of next month's presidential elections.

'The forecast for Saturday is extremely unfavourable with temperatures of minus 18 deg C predicted. This is a very low temperature for Moscow,' said Dr Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief sanitary doctor.

'If this forecast is true then I categorically advise people not to take part in these protests,' Dr Onishchenko, who is also the head of Russia's consumer protection watchdog, told the Interfax news agency.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Muhammad Ali's legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee, dead at 90

Mastermind of the "rope a dope' strategy ... legendary trainer Angelo Dundee.
Angelo Dundee, the renowned trainer who guided Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard to boxing glory, died Wednesday in Tampa, Florida. He was 90.
His death was announced by his son, Jimmy, The Associated Press said.

In more than 60 years in professional boxing, Dundee gained acclaim as a brilliant cornerman, whether healing cuts, inspiring his fighters to battle on when they seemed to be reeling or adjusting strategy between rounds to counter an opponent's style.

Muhammad Ali has his hands bandaged by his manager Angelo Dundee in 1963"In that one minute, Angelo is Godzilla and Superman rolled into one," Dr Ferdie Pacheco, who often worked with Dundee and then became a TV boxing analyst, once remarked.
"You come back to the corner and he'll say, 'The guy's open for a hook, or this or that,"' Ali told The New York Times in 1981. "If he tells you something during a fight, you can believe it. As a cornerman, Angelo is the best in the world."
Dundee's first champion was Carmen Basilio, the welterweight and middleweight titleholder of the 1950s from upstate New York. Although best remembered for Ali and Leonard, he also trained the light-heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano, the heavyweight titleholder Jimmy Ellis and the welterweight champion Luis Rodriguez. Dundee advised George Foreman when he regained the heavyweight title at age 45. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

Angelo Dundee (r) celebrates as Cassius Clay [Muhammed Ali] is lifted off the ring floor after beating Sonny Liston in 1964.Born Angelo Mirena, a Philadelphia native and the son of a railroad worker, he became Angelo Dundee after his brother, Joe, fought professionally under the name Johnny Dundee, in tribute to a former featherweight champion, and another brother, Chris, also adopted the Dundee name.After working as a cornerman at military boxing tournaments in England while in the Army Air Forces during World War II, Dundee served an apprenticeship at Stillman's Gym near the old Madison Square Garden in New York, learning his craft from veteran trainers like Ray Arcel, Charley Goldman and Chickie Ferrara. In the early 1950s, he teamed with his brother Chris to open the Fifth Street gym in Miami Beach, Florida. It became their longtime base, Angelo as a trainer and Chris as a promoter.In the late 1950s, Dundee gave some tips to a promising amateur heavyweight named Cassius Clay, and in December 1960, after Clay's first pro bout, Dundee became his trainer, working with him in Miami Beach. He guided him to the heavyweight title with a knockout of Sonny Liston in February 1964.

Angelo Dundee with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987.
In his memoir, Dundee said that he and Ali "had this special thing, a unique blend, a chemistry.""I never heard anything resembling a racist comment leave his mouth," he said. "There was never a black-white divide."Dundee knew all the tricks in the boxing trade, and then some.When Ali — or Clay, as was still known at the time — sought to regain his senses after being knocked down by Henry Cooper in the fourth round of their June 1963 bout, Dundee stuck his finger in a small slit that had opened in one of Ali's gloves, making the damage worse. Then he brought the badly damaged glove to the referee's attention. Dundee was told that a substitute glove wasn't available, and the few seconds of delay helped Clay recover. He knocked Cooper out in the fifth round.In the hours before Ali fought Foreman in Zaire in 1974 — the Rumble in the Jungle — Dundee noticed that the ring ropes were sagging in the high humidity. He used a razor blade to cut and refit them so they were tight, enabling Ali to bounce off them when Foreman unleashed his "anywhere" punches from all angles. Ali wore Foreman out, hanging back with the "rope-a-dope" strategy Ali undertook on his own, and he went on to win the bout.Dundee became Leonard's manager and cornerman when he turned pro in 1977. He taught Leonard to snap his left jab rather than paw with it and guided him to the welterweight championship with a knockout of Wilfred Benitez in 1979.Roberto Duran captured Leonard's title on a decision in June 1980, but Leonard won the rematch in November when Dundee persuaded him to avoid a slugfest and instead keep Duran turning while slipping his jabs. A thoroughly beaten Duran quit in the eighth round, uttering his inglorious "no mas."Dundee enjoyed chatting with reporters — he called himself a "mixologist" — and he tried to "blend" with his fighters, creating a rapport rather than imposing himself on them.In talking about his boxing savvy, he liked to say "when I see things through my eyes, I see things.""When Dundee speaks, traditional English usage is, to say the least, stretched and malapropisms abound," Ronald K. Fried wrote in "Cornermen: Great Boxing Trainers.""Yet the language is utterly original and Dundee's own — and it conveys exactly what Dundee knows in his heart."After retiring from full-time training, Dundee had stints in boxing broadcasting. He taught boxing technique to Russell Crowe for his role as the 1930s heavyweight champion Jimmy Braddock in the 2005 Hollywood movie "Cinderella Man."A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.Dundee once remarked: "I'm not star quality. The fighter is the star."But he took pride in his craft. As he put it: "You've got to combine certain qualities belonging to a doctor, an engineer, a psychologist and sometimes an actor, in addition to knowing your specific art well. There are more sides to being a trainer than those found on a Rubik's Cube."
George Foreman is tended to by Angelo Dundee in 1991.
Dundee avoided the temptation to tamper with the brilliance of his young and charismatic fighter, and he used a bit of psychology in honing his talents."I never touched that natural stuff with him," Dundee recalled in his memoir, My View From the Corner, written with Bert Randolph Sugar. "However, training Cassius was not quite the same as training another fighter. Some guys take direction and some don't, and this kid had to be handled with kid gloves. So every now and then I'd subtly suggest some move or other to him, couching it as if it were something he was already doing. I'd say something like: 'You're getting that jab down real good. You're bending your knees now and you're putting a lot of snap into it.' Now, he had never thrown a jab, but it was a way of letting him think it was his idea, his innovation."When Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali soon after winning the heavyweight title, his boxing management and financial affairs were handled by the Nation of Islam. Dundee was the only white man in his camp, and he grew disturbed over references to that fact.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dhoni gets vote of confidence from former skippers

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni 

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's offer to step aside as India captain if a "better" candidate can be found is a noble gesture given the team's woeful run of test form, but several former skippers believe the wicketkeeper remains the best man for the job.

Under Dhoni, India won the Twenty20 (2007) and 50-over (2011) World Cups and also became the top-ranked test team, prompting many observers to hail him the country's greatest ever leader.

In less than a year since India hit those heady heights, that assessment has been revised after India's eight consecutive overseas test defeats, seven under Dhoni, and some believe the side need a new captain in the longer format of the game.

Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, however, is not among them.

"Captain-bashing is a favourite pastime of cricket pundits in the Indian subcontinent and the media just loves it," Akram wrote in his column for

"I believe Dhoni is the best man to lead India and will remain so in the immediate future," wrote the former player, considered one of the greatest left-arm bowlers the game has seen.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar agreed.

"In my view, he is still the best bet," Gavaskar told NDTV channel, hailing Dhoni's announcement to pave way for a more suitable candidate after his team got blanked in Australia.

"Dhoni must have deeply felt it, the 4-0 loss. So what he wanted to say is that he is ready to play under a captain if the BCCI (India board) can get one, and that is exactly what you expect from a team man like him," Gavaskar added.

Former Australia captain Steve Waugh also saw no logic in the demand to replace Dhoni.

"...there is no point in changing captains for the sake of it," Waugh wrote in a column that appeared in Wednesday's Times of India newspaper.

Especially if it meant entrusting swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag with the duty, as has been suggested in the Indian media.

"I don't think Sehwag has shown the inspiration, responsibility and form to assume the mantle right now, and truth be told, I'm disappointed with the way he has not shouldered his responsibility in the series," Waugh said.

With Dhoni serving a one-match ban because of the team's slow over rate in the previous test at Perth, Sehwag led India in the fourth and final test at Adelaide, where Australia won by 298 runs to complete the rout.

Akram too laughed off the suggestion.

"What did Sehwag do to salvage India's pride at Adelaide? I sometimes see streaks of {Pakistan all-rounder) Shahid Afridi in Sehwag. That dreadful propensity to self-destruct," he said.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Japan’s worst snowstorms in 5 years killed 3

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura speaks during a press conference

Japan’s worst snowstorms in five years killed three people in an avalanche at a hot springs resort and caused power cuts and transport disruptions in the northwest.

“Snow has covered the northwestern side of the main island of Honshu in the past three days, including some areas that have already received twice the average annual snowfall, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. At 9 a.m. local time, there was 22 inches (55 centimeters) of snow in Iyama City in Nagano prefecture, and 13 inches in Akita City in Akita prefecture,” the agency said.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency’s website, warnings of strong winds and heavy snowfall for 12 of the nation’s 47 prefectures, all facing the Sea of Japan, are in effect as of 3:42 p.m.. “Three people were killed yesterday at a resort in Semboku City in Akita, Kazuto Sato, a police spokesman,” said by telephone. More than 100 cars were abandoned on a highway in Aomori prefecture after heavy snow made driving impossible, public broadcaster NHK reported.

“We have already issued a request to the Self-Defense Forces, and the government will work together and work hard to follow through on these steps,” said Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura at a press conference today in Tokyo.

“The government will meet later today to discuss further steps,” Fujimura said. “There have been 56 deaths reported due to snow-related incidents so far this winter,” the Cabinet Office said.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

'Finding Sayun' documents Atayal’s yearning for home

Laha Mebow, director of “Finding Sayun,” says she found her roots in an abandoned village where her ancestors used to live. (Staff photo/Chen Mei-ling)

“Finding Sayun” is the first Taiwan feature film on indigenous culture shot from the perspective of an aboriginal director—Laha Mebow of the Atayal tribe.

The film, which interweaves the past and the present, portrays Taiwan’s rich indigenous culture and speaks of the Atayal people’s desire to return to Ryohen Village, their ancestral home.

Representing the past is an Atayal girl named Sayun. In 1938, the 17-year-old Sayun was helping her Japanese teacher carry his luggage across the Nan-ao South River in Yilan County, when she slipped, fell into the river, and drowned. Her teacher continued on his course to fight in what the Japanese called the Great East Asia War.

“I’ve seen many aboriginal movies produced by other directors, and of course I thank them for drawing attention to our people,” Laha Mebow said in a Dec. 9 interview with Taiwan Today. “But those movies mostly portray aborigines as miserable and underprivileged, or as leading unsuccessful lives while they struggle to make a living in the city.

“In those films, our people never smile, when in fact we are quite happy, despite our lack of material goods. I wanted to make a different indigenous movie that allows the world to really understand our people and culture.”

According to Laha Mebow, Sayun’s story received very little coverage in the Taiwan Nichinichi Shimpo, a Japanese-language newspaper then circulating in Taiwan, with little more than a matter-of-fact headline stating “Aboriginal woman missing after falling into river.”

The story of Sayun became more widely known only one year after the incident, when a welcoming party was held in Taipei for Kioyoshi Hasegawa, the Japanese governor of Taiwan in 1940.

“During the reception, my grandmother, who had been Sayun’s classmate and who witnessed the accident, performed a song in memory of her childhood friend,” said Laha Mebow. Upon hearing the song, Hasegawa thought it was the perfect story to promote the Kominka Movement, which aimed to turn Taiwanese into loyal and devoted subjects of Japan.

In 1943, the story of Sayun was given a touch of romance and made into a patriotic movie called “Sayun’s Bell.” “It was shown around Taiwan and mainland China to instill loyalty and encourage the people to serve and fight for the Japanese emperor,” said Laha Mebow.

Ryohen Village, the tribe where Sayun lived, also became famous for a while following the successful screening of “Sayun’s Bell.”

During the last 70 years or so, however, the legend of Sayun has gradually been forgotten. Indeed, much of the original Atayal culture, in which Sayun was raised, has been lost as well, according to Laha Mebow.

The director said that when the Nationalist Government first arrived in Taiwan in 1949, it followed a policy of “concentrated management.” In order to control the Atayal more easily, it forced the tribespeople to leave Ryohen Village, their ancestral home located high up in the mountains, and to move to Jinyue Village by the foot of the mountain.

“We had to leave behind all our possessions, forsake the homes our ancestors had built, and move to a place we were completely unfamiliar with,” Nolay Piho, an Atayal hunter and priest, said at a movie symposium hosted by Taipei-based Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture Nov. 23.

Nolay Piho is also best known for his role as the elder Mona Rudao in the recent Taiwanese blockbuster film “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.”

“The wisdom of our forefathers was destroyed and replaced by a new government system, with laws and norms completely different from our own.”

To explain what he meant, Nolay Piho mentioned current laws that make it illegal to hunt certain protected species. “For the Atayal people, hunting is an essential survival skill; and though we hunt these animals, we also know how to protect them,” he said, noting that the Atayal hunting season runs from November to February, and that during the remaining eight months the animals are left alone to breed and multiply.

“The new systems and norms are cruel to us, as they do not take our culture and habits into consideration. Moreover, the government did not even bother to notify us in advance of the new laws,” he said.

Yukan Basan (left) and Wilang Bonoy, who played grandchild and grandfather respectively in “Find Sayun,” go on a root-seeking trip from Jinyue Village to Ryohen Village. (Courtesy of Sky Films Entertainment Co. Ltd.)

According to Nolay Piho, even today many unemployed indigenous people rely on hunting to make a living and support their families. Yet when they are caught shooting protected species such as the Formosan goat or the Formosan barking deer, they are fined and sometimes put in jail.

Noting that many aborigines struggle with alcoholism, Nolay Piho said this affliction can be attributed to the sense of frustration felt by his people. In addition, many of them feel lost, because the old norms and former ways of life have been destroyed, and there are no ancestors and fewer and fewer elderly tribesmen left to pass down their ancient wisdom, he said.

“We are facing a civilization and development that we cannot keep up with, since these things were not a part of our lives before. There is no way back and all we can do is to try to fit into the new system.”

According to Laha Mebow, her tribesmen began to organize annual trips back to Ryohen Village starting about 10 years ago, an event that is also a root-finding trip. “Every year, more than 10 hunters, young and old, as well as students who have left to study in the big cities, carry tools such as grass cutters to participate in the half-month activity.

“The routes back to our old village are either damaged or covered by overgrown plants and creeping weeds, as no one has maintained them during the past 70 years. So we have to clear our own path and build temporary bridges with logs and branches along the way.

“Before we start on our journey, we pray to God and our ancestral spirits for a safe trip, since difficult trail conditions can make the journey quite dangerous,” Laha Mebow said.

She explained the Atayal believe that whenever a tribal person passes away, his or her spirit remains in the mountains to look after the descendants.

“Usually, it takes about two days to get to our destination on foot, and no matter the weather is rainy or windy, we continue onward, stopping only for brief periods to check on trail conditions.”

Recalling her first experience with the root-seeking team, Laha Mebow said she silently asked herself why they had to visit the old village, and walked until she wanted to die. “I only knew I was going on a trip searching for my roots, but lacking the experience of living in the old village, I did not have any strong feelings toward it,” the director pointed out.

“During the journey, I often had to jump over landslide areas without hesitating, although I was scared. At that time, I thought, ‘Why does the way back home have to be so complicated? I do not mind it if the trip is long, but why does it have to be so difficult as well?’”

Nevertheless, all her efforts paid off after she reached her destination. “When we got to the village, many hunters including the elders and my father began to look for their homes covered in overgrown plants,” Laha Mebow said.

“Atayal males are very manly,” she added, “but once they located what used to be their homes, and began talking to the spirits of their parents or ancestors, they started to cry. It was only then that I gradually began to have feelings toward the old village, the sense of home.”

Nolay Piho added that there is an important scene in “Finding Sayun” concerning 77-year-old Wilang Bonay, an Atayal senior at Jinyue Village. Worried about his health, Wilang Bonay’s family forbids him from going on the long and arduous journey. So he goes in secret, accompanied by his grandson, played by 18-year-old Yukan Basan.

“Wilang Bonay always wanted to revisit his native land, as he thinks that is where his soul and real home are. Although he is in bad health and leads an inactive lifestyle in his concrete house at the foot of the mountain, he started to sing along the way, as if everything he saw was giving him a warm welcome,” Nolay Piho said.

Later in the movie, Wilang Bonay dies when he was almost half way down the mountain, an arrangement Nolay Piho explains as “the grandpa’s wish to die where his home and ancestral spirits are, as well as a demonstration of family love and the yearning for home.”

“Every existence is a culture, a memory,” Laha Mebow said. “Our old home is where our grandparents and ancestors lived. Without them, we would not be. This, I think, is the meaning of root-finding.” (HZW)