No News Merry-Go-Round Here
News Organizations Are Reporting Between 3,000 and 5,000 Dead in One County
‘Hundreds buried’ by China quake
Almost 900 students are buried after an earthquake measuring 7.8 caused a building to collapse in south-western China, state media reports.
President Hu Jintao urged “all-out” efforts to rescue victims of the quake, which hit 92km (57 miles) from Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital.
Premier Wen Jiabao is travelling to the area and troops are being sent to help with disaster relief efforts.
Officials have confirmed 107 deaths in the area but the figure could rise.
Cries for help
There are harrowing reports from the scene of the collapse in Dujiangyan city – about 100km (60 miles) from the epicentre in Wenchuan county.
U.S. spying is up, but not prosecutions
As more Americans are watched, fewer cases are made. The trend concerns civil liberties groups as well as some lawmakers and legal experts.
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court — one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing — has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously.
The trends, visible in new government data and a private analysis of Justice Department records, are worrisome to civil liberties groups and some legal scholars. They say it is further evidence that the government has compromised the privacy rights of ordinary citizens without much to show for it.
The emphasis on spy programs also is starting to give pause to some members of Congress who fear the government is investing too much in anti-terrorism programs at the expense of traditional crime-fighting. Other lawmakers are raising questions about how well the FBI is performing its counter-terrorism mission.
Support disaster relief in Myanmar (Burma) Through the UN
Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship
The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote.
The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.
Pollution levels have dropped in U.S. coastal waters
Some good news from the government scientists who study pollution in U.S. coastal waters:
A newly released 20-year study shows overall levels of pesticides and industrial chemicals generally are decreasing.
The Mussel Watch program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration examined levels of 140 chemicals from 1986 to 2005 in coastal areas and estruaries of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the East and West coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. Mussel Watch is the longest continuous contaminant monitoring program in U.S. coastal waters.
Gunnar Lauenstein, an oceanographer who’s the lead scientist of the program, said the levels are continuing to decrease, many years after environmental laws were enacted in the 1970s.
First US aid flight reaches Burma
The first US aid flight for Burma took off today as relief supplies begin to trickle into the country nine days after it was devastated by Cyclone Nargis.
After prolonged negotiations with the ruling military junta, the US finally got permission to send a cargo plane carrying water, mosquito nets and blankets to Rangoon. Two more planeloads are scheduled for tomorrow.
“Today’s flight is just the first step and we hope they will allow us to do more in the future,” said Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Powell, a spokesman for the US military. “It’s really just up to what the Burmese will allow us to do.”
The Burmese regime has been condemned for its callous response to the tragedy, barring access to most international disaster relief specialists and blocking aid.
Earthquake strikes Western China
Thousands flee buildings as earthquake strikes
Thousands of people were evacuated from buildings today as an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale struck western China.
The tremor was felt as far away as Thailand and Vietnam.
The earthquake struck 57 miles north-west of the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu at 2.28pm (0628 GMT), the US Geological Survey said on its website. It said the quake was centred 6.2 miles below the surface.
An eyewitness in Chengdu, reached by phone, said people flooded from buildings, but there was no immediate sign of damage or injuries.
The quake was centred on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, where mountains rise sharply and the population density is generally thin.
‘Ghost city’ Mosul braces for assault on last bastion of al-Qa’ida in Iraq
By Patrick Cockburn in Mosul
Monday, 12 May 2008
Mosul looks like a city of the dead. American and Iraqi troops have launched an attack aimed at crushing the last bastion of al- Qa’ida in Iraq and in doing so have turned the country’s northern capital into a ghost town.
Soldiers shoot at any civilian vehicle on the streets in defiance of a strict curfew. Two men, a woman and child in one car which failed to stop were shot dead yesterday by US troops, who issued a statement saying the men were armed and one made “threatening movements”.
Mosul, on the Tigris river, is inhabited by 1.4 million people, but has been sealed off from the outside world by hundreds of police and army checkpoints since the Iraqi government offensive against al-Qa’ida began at 4am on Saturday.
Lebanese Army caught in crossfire between Druze and Hezbollah gunmen
Nicholas Blanford in Shwayfat
Heavy clashes erupted south of Beirut yesterday between mainly Shia and Druze militants, breaking a tense calm that had taken hold after feuding factions reached a tentative agreement to end four days of fighting.
The crackle of machinegun fire and thump of exploding mortar rounds echoed through the town of Shwayfat on the lower slopes of the Chouf mountains overlooking southern Beirut as fighters from the Shia group Hezbollah and its allies fought Druze gunmen loyal to Walid Jumblatt, a key government ally.
Beatings and torture intensify as Zimbabwe prepares to vote again
Solomon was naked and lying on his back in the bath. He smiled in greeting. For a man in hospital he looked fine. Then he turned over to show his wounds.
In each buttock there was a dark hole into which you could put both fists. The edges of the holes were ragged frills of dead grey tissue.
At 4am a week ago, about 200 members of President Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) militia arrived at the peasant farmer’s village in Chiweshe, communal land north of Harare. Solomon, 33, and 60 others were rounded up as supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), handcuffed and forced to lie with their stomachs on the ground and with someone sitting on their backs.
South Africa’s unseemly alliance
Its president stands idly by as Mugabe and his thugs ruin Zimbabwe.
The tendency to compare contemporary political events to the Third Reich is called reducto ad Hitlerum, so facile are the alleged similarities and so often is this tactic employed. With that caveat, when I saw a photograph Friday of smiling, garland-laden South African President Thabo Mbeki holding the hand of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, I couldn’t resist drawing a mental parallel: British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938 waving his copy of the Munich treaty before a crowd of thousands, boasting that he had achieved “peace for our time.”
That Mbeki, who last month insisted there was “no crisis” in Zimbabwe, continues to glad-hand Mugabe represents a complete abandonment of moral responsibility. As he provides diplomatic cover, Mugabe’s armed thugs roam Zimbabwe’s countryside threatening, torturing and killing people believed to have voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC claims 25 of its supporters have been murdered and 40,000 people have been displaced since the March 29 parliamentary and presidential election. The regime has detained journalists and trade union leaders as well as members of the country’s electoral commission, the body that verifies election results.
Tadic claims victory for pro-Europeans in Serbian elections
Serbs have voted for close ties with Europe in parliamentary elections seen by many as crucial to the country’s future.
With 85 per cent of the votes counted nationwide, the prominent election monitoring agency CeSID said that President Boris Tadic’s pro-European block won 39 per cent of votes, leaving the ultranationalists in the Serbian Radical Party well behind with 29 per cent.
The conservative block of outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica stood at just 11 per cent of votes.
The results surprised most analysts, as opinion polls prior to the elections showed anti-European parties taking a strong lead
Polish Holocaust hero dies at 98
WARSAW, Poland – The family of a Polish social worker credited with rescuing 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis says she has died.
rena Sendler’s daughter, Janina Zgrzembska, says her 98-year-old mother died Monday morning in a Warsaw hospital.
Sendler organized the rescue of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi Germany’s brutal World War II occupation.
Venezuelan president criticizes German chancellor
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lashed out at Germany’s chancellor on Sunday, suggesting that her party shares the political ideals of Adolf Hitler
The Venezuelan leader criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel for belonging to the conservative Christian Democratic Union, calling the movement “the same right wing that supported Hitler and fascism.”
Chavez was on the verge of launching more insults at Merkel, but suddenly stopped short.
“Ms. Chancellor, you can go to …” he said during his weekly television and radio program, before pausing. Then he added: “Because you are a lady, I won’t say any more.”