World Events

  Celebrations Follow Hussein's HangingDecember 29, 2006 19:11 witness to Saddam Hussein's execution in Baghdad said that celebrations broke out after the former dictator died, and that there was "dancing around the body."

"Saddam's body is in front me," said an official in the prime minister's office when CNN telephoned. "It's over."

In the background, Shiite chanting could be heard. When asked about the chanting, the official said "These are employees of the prime minister's office and government chanting in celebration."

Video showed Iraqis celebrating in the streets of Najaf, a Shiite holy city. (What jubilant Iraqis chant, bang drums )

The execution took place shortly after 6 a.m. (10 p.m. Friday ET), Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told Iraqi television.

A power outage delayed the spread of the news to Iraqi citizens. But as word got out, gunfire broke out in the capital's streets. It was unclear whether the shooting was celebratory in nature.

 
  Iran's Parliament Votes To Revise Ties With The U.N. Nuclear AgencyDecember 28, 2006 10:11 Iran's parliament voted to urge the government to re-examine its ties with the U.N. nuclear agency following a Security Council decision to impose sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

The move Wednesday signaled that Iran was likely to reduce its cooperation with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. Iranian state radio predicted that once the bill came into effect, "the agency will become an ineffective and weak body."

The vote came four days after the Security Council voted to impose limited sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cease enrichment of uranium — a process that produces the material for either nuclear reactors or bombs.

The United States and its European allies suspect Iran's civilian nuclear program is a cover for developing a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is strictly for generating electricity.

The White House criticized the parliament decision, with U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel saying it would "worsen the situation in the eyes of the world."
  Space Telescope To Seek Out Earth-Like PlanetsDecember 27, 2006 08:57 A French-led satellite project took off Wednesday on a mission to seek new Earth-like planets outside the solar system.

The multinational mission will also study stars on a quest to uncover more about their interior, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced.

The Corot project sends into orbit a telescope that is able to detect smaller planets than are currently known.

With the spacecraft, astronomers expect they will discover between 10 and 40 rocky objects slightly larger than Earth, as well as tens of new gas giants similar to Jupiter.

Should the mission uncover such planets, they will constitute a new class of planets altogether.

"Corot will be able to find extra-solar planets of all sizes and natures, contrary to what we can do from the ground at the moment," Claude Catala, one of the researchers associated with the project, told France Info radio.

 
  Former President Gerald Ford Dies At 93December 27, 2006 08:52 Former President Gerald R. Ford, who declared "Our long national nightmare is over" as he replaced Richard Nixon but may have doomed his own chances of election by pardoning his disgraced predecessor, has died. He was 93.

The nation's 38th president, and the only one neither elected to the office nor the vice presidency, died at his desert home at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.

"His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country," his wife, Betty, said in a statement.
  Ethiopian Forces Near Somali CapitalDecember 26, 2006 11:15 Ethiopia today pressed on with its offensive against Somali Islamists and threatened to seize the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

At least two Ethiopian jets fired missiles on retreating Islamist forces, prompting the interim Somali government to claim a partial victory.

Hundreds of troops have been killed during a week of heavy artillery and mortar fighting amid fears that it could spark a wider regional conflict in the Horn of Africa.

"Ethiopian forces are on their way to Mogadishu. They are about 40 miles away and it is possible they could capture it in the next 24 to 48 hours," Somalia's ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdikarin Farah, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
  New UN Secretary GeneralDecember 14, 2006 14:46 UN Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon was sworn in as the next Secretary-General to succeed Kofi Annan at an oath of office ceremony here Thursday.

Witnessed by senior diplomats of member states and senior UN officials, Ban repeated the oath after current General Assembly president Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.

"I, Ban Ki-moon, solemnly swear to exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience the functions entrusted to me as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to discharge these functions and regulate my conduct with the interests of the United Nation only in view, and not to seek or accept instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any Government or other authority external to the Organization."

Addressing the ceremony, Ban pledged to act as a harmonizer and bridge-builder in the UN's endeavor to build a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.
  China's Rivers Become Rivers Of GoldDecember 14, 2006 14:11 SHARES in water and waste companies including Veolia Environnement are rising as China, home to 16 of the world's 20 most-polluted cities, starts to clean up.

China will spend an estimated 1.9 trillion yuan ($A308 billion) on its environment up to 2010 to cut emissions, purify its polluted water and halt erosion, all byproducts of two decades of record economic growth. Environmental damage and associated health problems cost the nation $69 billion a year, according to the World Bank.

The world's fastest-growing major economy is an opportunity for companies already getting a boost from spending on cleaner air and water.
  Germany Protests Against Iranian Holocaust ConferenceDecember 13, 2006 22:49 Germany has condemned an Iranian conference on the Holocaust.

Spokesman for the German foreign ministry Jens Ploetner said Wednesday that nothing of scientific value would come out of the Tehran conference ending Tuesday.

"The German government condemns all attempts to deny the Holocaust and question Israel's right to independent statehood," he said.

"For us, living in the country where the mass murder of Jews was planned and carried out, we feel a special responsibility to commemorate the victims of Nazi terror," said the spokesman.

"It's in this context that we condemn any attempt to provide a forum for revisionists who are out to rewrite history in an unacceptable manner," he added.

Iran's leadership has defended the conference as a scientific forum seeking answers to unresolved issues around the Holocaust.

Participants have doubted whether the mass murder of six million Jews really happened.

German lawmakers have also protested against the conference with Bundestag President Norbert Lammert among the strongest critics of it.

 
  Nuclear 'Slip Of The Lip' Puts Olmert On Hot SeatDecember 12, 2006 23:18 For half a century, military censors have struggled to defend Israel's worst-kept secret -- that the country possesses atomic weapons.

Even as its nuclear history has leaked into declassified documents, articles and books, an official policy of "ambiguity" has endured: By refusing to confirm or deny that it has the bomb, and refraining from testing one, Israel has lived up to a quiet understanding with the United States to avoid fueling a Middle East arms race.

So why does it appear that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally spilled the beans?

In an interview on German television late Monday, the Israeli leader seemed to list Israel among the world's nuclear club, raising an outcry across the political spectrum here and questions about whether the long-standing policy had been abandoned.

Asked by the interviewer about Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel, Olmert replied that Israel had never threatened to annihilate anyone.
  Augusto Pinochet, 91, Chilean DictatorDecember 11, 2006 09:37 Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile who died yesterday aged 91, saved his country from communism and created the most successful economy in Latin America; he was also responsible, however, for the widespread torture and murder of his political enemies.

Any judgment of Pinochet must take account of the rule of his predecessor, President Salvador Allende, who in 1970 had become the first Communist in the world to win power in a democratic election. Allende's program of nationalizing the means of production, and expropriating foreign-owned industries, banks, corporations and estates, brought economic chaos.

Inevitably, such a government did not appeal to the Americans, who sought through economic and other means to undermine the Chilean government. According to Pinochet's supporters, the only way to prevent Chile from becoming another Cuba was to engineer a coup. Shortly after Allende appointed him commander in chief of the armed forces in August of 1973, Pinochet struck. While the navy seized the port of Valparaiso, the presidential palace at La Moneda was ringed with tanks and bombed by the air force. Allende was later found dead, clutching a submachine gun that had been given him by Fidel Castro. It was not clear whether he had died fighting or had committed suicide. By the end of the day Pinochet was in command of Chile.
  Disabled Deprived Of Access To Many Top Web SitesDecember 07, 2006 11:19 Many Web sites around the world are beyond the reach of disabled persons but could easily be improved to meet international accessibility standards, a survey commissioned by the United Nations found on Tuesday.

The study, conducted for the world body by British technology firm Nomensa, looked at 100 popular sites in 20 countries and found the vast majority failed to meet international standards of accessibility.

"We've clearly got some obstacles to overcome," Nomensa's Leonie Watson, who is blind, told a news conference at U.N. headquarters.

While many sites have taken steps toward wider accessibility, they need to do more to become fully available to people who cannot use a computer mouse, have low-vision disabilities or are blind, she said.

Among the most common problems encountered in the survey were the use of a common scripting language called JavaScript and of graphics unaccompanied by explanatory text, she said.

A heavy reliance on JavaScript makes it impossible for about 10 percent of Internet users to access key information because they lack the needed software to do so, she said.

Textual descriptions of graphics enable individuals who are blind to "see" them by using screen reader software that converts the text into electronic speech, she said.

Another problem turned up by the survey was the use of poorly contrasting color combinations, making Web pages difficult to read for people with mild visual impairment like color blindness.

The survey looked at popular travel, finance, media, government and retail sites in countries with relatively well-developed Internet infrastructure.

The study found that three of the 100 sites evaluated met the basic accessibility criteria -- those of the German chancellor (http://www.bundeskanzlerin.de), the Spanish government (http://www.la-moncloa.es/default.htm) and the British prime minister (http://www.primeminister.gov.uk).
  New Evidence Exonerates Foreign Medics In Libyan AIDS TrialDecember 06, 2006 17:15 New biological evidence casts more doubt on Libyan government charges against six imprisoned Bulgarian and Palestinian medical workers accused of deliberately infecting several-hundred Libyan children with the AIDS virus. The medics face the death penalty if convicted, but as VOA's David McAlary reports from Washington, laboratory tests support their claims of innocence.

Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Rome provide an alibi for the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian physician.

Libya says the six purposely injected 426 children with HIV in 1998 at Al-Fateh hospital in Benghazi, shortly after they arrived in the country. Their trial ended in Tripoli on November 4 and a verdict is expected December 19.

But the British and Italian scientists say their laboratory analysis of virus samples from several of the children indicate that the Libyan accusation is untrue.

University of Oxford co-researcher Oliver Pybus puts it this way.

"We tried to do the analysis in lots of different ways and use lots of different approaches, but pretty much every way that we tackled the problem, we were getting a probability of pretty close to zero that these outbreaks had actually started since the arrival of the Bulgarian medical staff," he explained.
  Richest Tenth Own 85% Of World'S AssetsDecember 05, 2006 22:40 The richest 2 per cent of adults own more than half the world’s wealth, according to the most comprehensive study of personal assets.



Among the largest economies, Britain boasted the third-highest average wealth of $126,832 (£64,172) per adult, after the United States and Japan, a United Nations development research institute found.

Those with assets of $500,000 could consider themselves to be among the richest 1 per cent in the world. Those with net assets of $2,200 per adult were in the top half of the wealth distribution.

Although global income was distributed unequally, the spread of wealth was more skewed, according to the study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the UN University.

“Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and high-income AsiaPacific countries. People in these countries collectively hold almost 90 per cent of total world wealth,” the report said.

 
  Blair To Renew Britain's Nuclear ArsenalDecember 04, 2006 11:30 British Prime Minister Tony Blair committed to keeping a British nuclear arsenal well into the 21st century on Monday, saying the government planned to order new nuclear-armed submarines to replace its existing fleet.

Blair also said the government would extend the life of its U.S.-made Trident D5 missile.

But in a concession to dozens of legislators in his Labour Party who oppose spending billions of pounds (dollars) on a new nuclear weapons system, Blair said Britain would cut its nuclear warheads by 20 percent to less than 160 and may decide to reduce its fleet of submarines to three from four.
  Annan Describes Iraq As Being In A Civil WarDecember 04, 2006 09:23 Kofi Annan, the departing secretary general of the United Nations, said that Iraq had descended into a civil war that was even deadlier and more anarchic than the 15-year sectarian bloodshed that tore apart Lebanon.

"When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war; this is much worse," Annan said in an interview with BBC. In making his remarks, Annan joined a growing number of foreign and Iraqi leaders, policy makers and news organizations who say that Iraq is in the grip of civil war.

Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state, said last Wednesday in the United Arab Emirates that Iraq was in a civil war. A former Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, said the same in March.

Last week, Annan suggested conducting an international conference on Iraq that would include all the major Iraqi political groups and representatives from around the region.

 
  Ba Planes, Passengers Deemed Safe From RadiationDecember 02, 2006 23:27 This has to be one of the most tragic real-world spy stories I can remember...

Three British Airways planes, grounded while authorities examined them for traces of radiation, have been cleared to return to service, officials with Britain's Health Protection Agency said Saturday.

Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB spy who was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210, had flown aboard the planes. Health officials said none of the estimated 33,000 passengers and 3,000 crew members aboard the 221 trips flown by those jets since October 25 were believed to be a risk.

As the inquiry into Litvinenko's death continued, pathologists took extreme precautions Friday performing his autopsy, the coroner's office reported.

Because of the dangers posed by the isotope, radioactivity levels were being monitored and those involved in the autopsy at Royal London Hospital were wearing protective clothing.
  Chaos Reigns For Mexican InaugurationDecember 02, 2006 00:12 Felipe Calderon, a diminutive but determined 44-year-old conservative, was inaugurated Friday as president of a deeply divided Mexico amid fisticuffs between rival lawmakers and raucous protests in the country's "legislative palace."

Leaders of the largest opposition party in Congress, the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, say Calderon's election was illegitimate, and they battled conservative congressional deputies and senators on the floor most of the week. But the leftists failed in their attempt to keep legislators out of the chambers to prevent a quorum for the joint session of Congress.

Friday morning, after leftist lawmakers barricaded most of the doors with chairs in a last-ditch attempt to keep the president-elect out, Calderon emerged through a back entrance. He squeezed into a phalanx of bodyguards and loyalist legislators, and took the oath of office.

With European princes, Latin American leaders, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other dignitaries looking on from two balconies, Calderon raised his hand and sometimes shouted as he recited the 62-word oath amid a chorus of derisive whistles.