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Bike bomber targets Iraq police recruits, kills at least 24

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Written on 3:53 AM by yahoo

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 24 Iraqi police officers and police recruits were killed when a suicide bomber riding on a bicycle exploded at an Iraqi police base in central Baquba Monday morning, an Interior Ministry official said.

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Ermergency personnel respond Sunday after a suicide bomber attacked a commercial area in Kirkuk.

The blast also wounded 17 people, the official said.

Local health officials put the death toll at 27. They also said a woman and child were among the wounded.

Baquba is the capital of the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

Two deadly car bombs exploded in Iraq on Sunday.

Six civilians were killed and 25 others wounded when a car bomb exploded near a bus stop in Kirkuk, local police said.

The bomb detonated about 2:45 p.m. local time in al-Iskan, a commercial area of the northern Iraqi city.

The oil-rich city of Kirkuk is ethnically diverse, with large populations of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen jockeying for power.

About 150 miles (240 kilometers) south, in the capital, a car bomb went off in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Kadhimiya district, killing two civilians and wounding 10 others, an Interior Ministry official said.

Also Saturday, gunmen kidnapped 10 tribal sheiks in Baghdad as the men were heading home after meetings with Iraqi officials on the nation's contentious reconciliation process, an Interior Ministry official said.

The sheiks -- seven Sunnis and three Shiites -- were riding in two vehicles through the capital's Shaab district, a stronghold of the Mehdi Army, the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Karbala returns to Iraqi control

The U.S. Army handed over responsibility for the security of the Karbala province to the Iraqi military in a ceremony Monday morning.

Al-Maliki and other dignitaries gathered at a soccer stadium in the provincial capital for speeches and a parade that ended with a cheerleading-style performance and mock paramilitary drill by Iraq soldiers

"Step by step, Iraqis are assuming cpontrol for the security in their provinces, and Karbala today is leading the way," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the U.S. troops in the province.

The U.S. military will maintain a presence in the province to support the Iraqi military when requested.

"We are only a phone call away," Lynch said.

Karbala, a Shiite province south of Baghdad, will be the eighth of 18 Iraqi provinces to be handed over to the Iraqi government by coalition forces. The provinces previously returned to Iraqi control were Najaf, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

The Karbala handover was delayed by recent clashes between Shiite factions, but the area is considered now to be more peaceful than many other sections of the country.

by cnn



California fires kill one, shut down Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu

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Written on 7:19 PM by yahoo

(CNN) -- A series of wildfires Sunday in Southern California led to evacuations in some areas, and killed at least one person and injured eight others in San Diego County, according to officials.

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At least 1,200 acres were scorched Sunday by wildfires in Malibu, California.

Four firefighters and four civilians were hurt in the southeastern part of San Diego county, said Roxanne Provaznik, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The blaze, straddling Highway 94, scorched 2,500 acres and destroyed at least one structure, fire officials said.

Provaznik said the firefighters were hurt when flames engulfed their fire engine.

Fires shut down the Malibu section of the Pacific Coast Highway and damaged or destroyed at least 23 buildings, including a church, across 1,200 acres, officials reported.

Warning that the fire in Malibu is "zero percent" contained Sunday, Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Conley Ulich said, "We are at the mercy of the wind."

Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman's "best projection" is that the fire will last at least two days.

"Thousands of homes are going to be threatened at one time or another based on the movement of the fire," said Freeman.

About 200 homes were evacuated Sunday morning, said Inspector Rick Dominguez of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Winds were clocked at 50 mph and were expected to increase throughout the day, said Freeman.

Hot weather and Santa Ana winds marked the height of traditional wildfire season this weekend, after one of the driest years on record.

Noting that there have not been any reported injuries in Malibu, Freeman urged residents not to return to their homes to retrieve anything.

"We're all scared to death and we have nowhere to go," Susan Nuttall, 51, told The Associated Press as she sat in her black Mercedes in a cul-de-sac after fleeing her condominium near the Pepperdine campus. She was wearing a bathrobe and holding her Chihuahua.

Flames consumed Malibu's landmark Castle Kashan, a fortress-like hilltop home with turrets and arched windows.

Chunks of brick fell from the exterior of the burning building overlooking the coast. The house was not directly in the fire's path, but the powerful winds carried embers to the building, Dominguez said. Castle Kashan is the home of Lilly Lawrence, a Malibu philanthropist.

Daniel Collins, who has been staying at Castle Kashan for a few months, said he woke to thick smoke and "flames licking the windows."

"It was pretty intense," he told CNN. "And we were probably in this house for an hour or so watching this and finally they got us out of there. By the time we left, the castle was engulfed in flames."

Collins said he felt safe because there were many firefighters. Once he was helped from the castle, Collins rushed to see if his neighbors were safe and they were, he said.

Meanwhile, students at Pepperdine's Malibu campus were told to gather at Firestone Field House, while faculty and staff were gathering at Tyler Campus Center, campus police told CNN.

School spokesman Rick Gibson said school authorities went door-to-door clearing out the dorms. However, he said the school does not believe students and faculty are in any danger.

Los Angeles Fire Inspector Sam Padilla said the department was encouraging evacuations at the school because aerial views of the fires, fanned by winds, showed some buildings on the campus were threatened. Power was also knocked out on the campus, he said.

The fire department as of 2 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) listed the following areas as being under mandatory evacuation orders: Montenedo, Malibu Road, Malibu Colony, Pepperdine, Malibu Crest, Serra Retreat and Big Rock.

The residential area Malibu Crest and vacation area Sierra Retreat also were evacuated Sunday, Padilla said.

Evacuation centers were set up at Zuma Beach and authorities had aerial teams serving as lookouts, and helicopters and fire engines to areas as they became threatened, Dominguez said.

Residents of the threatened areas include Dick Van Dyke, Mel Gibson, and Olivia Newton John.

Meanwhile, another wind-driven wildfire has burned hundreds of acres of woodland in the Townsend Peak area of California's Angeles National Forest, in the northern section of Los Angeles County, according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stanton Florea.

The fire, which started just before 10 p.m. Saturday (1 a.m. Sunday ET) Saturday, threatens a condor habitat and destroyed an out-building, Florea said.

courtesy of cnn



Bloody Friday: Glorietta blast kills 8, injures 70

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Written on 4:31 AM by yahoo


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Bomb makati glorietta

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Written on 4:15 AM by yahoo

(UPDATE 15) ‘Bomb likely’ in Makati mall blast--Razon

8 dead, more than 80 hurt

By Thea Alberto
Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net
Last updated 06:40pm (Mla time) 10/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- An explosion that killed up to eight people at a shopping mall in Makati City early Friday afternoon was "probably caused by a bomb," Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon told Agence France-Presse.

Razon and Alfonso Reyes, spokesman of Ayala Corp., which operates the Glorieta 2 Mall where the explosion occurred at around 1:40 p.m., said eight people had been killed. Makati Councilor JunJun Binay said there were 86 people wounded.

Binay, quoting what he acknowledged was “raw information” from authorities, also said at least one of the dead was a Korean.

Dr. Anthony Golez, spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council and deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, told INQUIRER.net from the Makati Medical Center that there were four dead and 56 wounded at the hospital.

A partial list of the injured at the Makati Medical Center (see list at end of article) showed another Korean and a Chinese national were among the injured.

Police investigators at the scene of the explosion identified four of the dead as Liza Marquez, Jose Allan de Jesus, Lester Peregrina and nursing student Janine Marcos. All died of shrapnel injuries.

At an earlier press briefing carried live by radio and television, Dr. Ernesto Santos of the Makati Medical Center said the four fatalities were “dead on arrival” and at least two of the wounded were “critical.”

Santos said the other casualties all suffered “blast injuries.”

Asked to describe the fatalities at the Makati Medical Center, Golez said they died due to "burns and massive internal bleeding."

"It doesn't look good," he said.

Razon said: "From our assessment this is not what was initially reported as LPG [liquefied petroleum gas].”

"This was a bomb. But beyond that we can't say anything else yet because we are still investigating. What I can say is it was not LPG that caused this."

Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, said they have yet to determine whether the explosion was caused by a grenade or an improvised explosive device and " are not discounting anything," including the possibility that the explosion was a terrorist attack.

Barias also said there had been no intelligence reports prior to the blast, despite a terror alert issued earlier this month by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, which is composed of various security institutions like the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“We actually picked up several dead and wounded,” Binay said.

He said the explosion left an eight-meter (26-foot) wide crater on the ground floor and blew a hole through the roof on the second floor.

"From what I have seen it was a significant explosion and that most of the dead and injured were all employees," he said.

Witnesses said the blast occurred in a section of the mall with clusters of stores selling baby clothes and toys.

The explosion had panicked shoppers running out of the mall as smoke billowed out of the building.

Mall security and police immediately sealed off the area and shepherded people away as ambulances rushed in to evacuate casualties.

People leaving the mall told INQUIRER.net said they felt the whole shopping complex shake as from an earthquake as the “strong” explosion happened in the area between the Glorietta 1 and 2 buildings. They also said they saw windows shatter from the blast.

Witnesses said part of a ceiling collapsed while a concrete wall was blown out.

Two cars and two delivery vans were buried under wooden planks and concrete debris outside the mall.

"It was so powerful," clothing store clerk Jeric Balendes told AFP on the scene, as rescuers applied first aid on his cuts and bruises.

"The roof just collapsed on us. I could hear my three co-workers screaming. I got out through a small hole. I don't know if they got out."

Bomb debris carpeted a 200-square-meter (2,100-square-foot) area, he added.
"The ceilings are damaged and may collapse," Barias said.

As of this posting, police are conducing a post-blast investigation to determine what caused the explosion and although the whole area is yet to be inspected, Binay said all fatalities have been recovered.

Barias also inspected the nearby SM mall to ensure there will be no other explosions.

The United States and Australia both offered technical help in investigating the blast, and Australian experts were understood to be helping Filipino police on the scene.

Binay said roads to hospitals in the city have been secured as rescue teams continued to scour the area where the explosion occurred, which the councilor described as “severely damaged,” for more possible victims.

“We’ll keep the area evacuated until we know more,” Reyes said.

He also assured the victims and their relatives of assistance from Ayala Corp.

“We will certainly makes sure [that] anyone [who] needs attention will be able to get it,” Reyes said.

Police did not immediately name likely suspects for the attack, but Islamic extremists were blamed for a bomb attack on a bus near the site of Friday’s explosion. That attack killed four people in February 2005.

Militants also firebombed a ferry on Manila Bay the previous year, killing more than 100 people in the country's worst terrorist attack.

Arroyo's National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales has previously said the government was not ruling out future attacks on "soft" targets such as shopping malls.

Following are the names of 34 of the injured rushed to the Makati Medical Center. The list is current as of 3 p.m. Friday.

Donald Santos
Julia Hernandez
Anna Patria Villareal
Ellen Garcia
Abraham Jose
Ma. Ceronara Estilles
Fely Reyes
Agnes Ramilo
Shirley Boleno
Socorro Yrastroza
Ma. Lourdes Perez
Mutya Santos
Arlene Pansal
Robinson Orlanda
Hernanin Asis
Sally honopra
Carmen Enriquez
Alberto Gonzales
Regina Montenegro
Christopher Pineda
Hei Wun Kim (Korean)
Queene Ngo (Chinese)
John Henry Pascual
Evangeline de Leon
Jerry Canaban
Elizabeth Liboro
Jeffrey Burser
Maricel Marcelo
Lady Katrina Santos
May Flor Garcia
Angela Maria Soriano
Mary Flor Gopis
Josephine Santos
Mabini Garcia

With a report from Joel Guinto and Lawrence Casiraya, INQUIRER.net; Originally posted at 1:39pm


Copyright 2007 Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

bomb in glorietta

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Written on 4:04 AM by yahoo

(9th UPDATE) Eight killed, 89 hurt in Makati mall blast

Eight people were killed while at least 89 others were injured after an explosion ripped through an upscale mall in Makati City Friday afternoon.

Red Cross and police officials said 56 people injured in the blast were rushed to Makati Medical Center while 33 others were brought to Ospital ng Makati.

In a press conference, Philippine National Police chief Avelino Razon said the blast in the Glorietta 2 ground level at 1:30 p.m. was "probably caused by a bomb" and not a gas leak as earlier reported.

"This was a bomb. But beyond that we can't say anything else yet because we are still investigating. What I can say is it was not LPG that caused this," Razon told reporters.

He said there was still no conclusive evidence to determine if the blast was caused by a C-4 bomb, a military explosive, or any other improvised explosive device. He added that the police cannot definitely say if the explosion was a terrorist attack.

Director Geary Barias, National Capital Region Police Office chief, said bomb debris carpeted a 200 square-meter area in the mall. "The ceilings are damaged and may collapse," Barias said.

The explosion ripped through the roof of the mall and damaged nearby shops. Debris from the blast were scattered on the streets.

A general alert has been issued for the rest of the city and for the international airport, officials said. A meeting of the National Security Council was called for later in the day.

Barias placed all police units in Metro Manila on full alert status and ordered district offices to put up more checkpoints in the metropolis. He added that he will order more policemen deployed in nearby malls to maintain peace and order.

"We will send policemen to other malls to restore order especially here in Makati and to prevent any untoward incident," Barias told reporters.

The blast, which occurred during lunch-hour, spread panic in the city of 12 million people, which has in the past been the scene of attacks by Muslim separatist rebels.

Several shoppers said the blast was heard from a nearby baby store in the mall. Liana Navarro, sister of Black and White Movement’s Leah Navarro and who was in the mall with her mother, said several people including children were seen with “obvious injuries.”

Another witness, Arel Vertucio, said the explosion was so strong that it was felt up to the third level of the mall. Vertucio said he saw some people lying on the ground.

Eyewitness Icy Marinas was only 15 meters away from the Glorietta explosion when it occurred. She said the blast felt like an "intense earthquake."

She said she saw a pregnant woman crying after the blast while other women started rushing out of the mall with their families. She added that she saw "three bloodied men" near the blast site while the security guards just stood around with no reaction.

Charlie Nepomuceno, an employee at the Glorietta mall, said the powerful explosion appeared to have centered on an escalator.

"It left a deep crater at the foot of the escalator," he said. "It also ripped open the roof of the building. I saw a man thrown on to the roof who had lost a leg."

He said a badly mangled body of a woman was near the escalator.

Manila has largely been spared a spate of bomb attacks by Muslim rebels that have plagued the southern Mindanao region. But it has been hit in the past. A series of bomb blasts in 2000 killed at least 22 people.

President Arroyo ordered the police to “leave no stone unturned” in its investigation on the explosion.

“The President is deeply saddened by this incident and extends her sympathies to the families of the casualties…She has also ordered the PNP to get to the bottom of things and to leave no stone unturned,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

Bunye said the President also ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development to extend assistance to the victims. With a report from Reuters

Thailand to issue arrest warrant for pedophilia suspect

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Written on 11:20 PM by yahoo

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Three Thai youths told police suspected Canadian pedophile Christopher Paul Neil paid them for sex when they were aged 9 to 14, having come forward this week when he was identified in a global manhunt, police said Thursday.

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The suspect in a picture released by Interpol, taken by Thai immigration authorities on his arrival in Bangkok.

Thai police said an arrest warrant would be issued in Bangkok for Neil later Thursday, and that they also were searching for a fourth youth believed to have had sex with the man.

Neil, 32, has been accused of sexually abusing at least a dozen Cambodian and Vietnamese boys, some as young as 6 years old. He has taught in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.

Neil is believed to be in Thailand where police are attempting to track him down through his network of friends.

Two Thai teenagers came forward Wednesday to testify that Neil had allegedly paid them for sex in 2003 and also showed them computer porn, said Police Maj. Gen. Wimon Pao-in. He said the two were 13 and 14 years old at the time.

Border guards in Thailand and neighboring countries were on alert in case Neil tried to leave Thailand. Cameras at the immigration counter captured him arriving at Bangkok's international airport Thursday from South Korea.

"We are quite certain he is still in Thailand and we think we are moving closer," said Police Col. Apichart Suribunya, who is coordinating the Thai investigation. "Even if he uses a fake passport to try to get out of the country, his pictures are already published everywhere."

"We are also trying to find more information and investigate his connections in Thailand that he made during his previous stay so we can get closer to him and his network of friends," he added.

The hunt for Neil began three years ago when German police discovered about 200 online photographs of a man sexually abusing children. His face was digitally obscured, but a breakthrough in the case came when German police were able to reconstruct a recognizable image of the man who has eluded police for years.

He was identified with the help of hundreds of tips from people who responded to an unprecedented appeal by Interpol for public assistance.

Interpol officials said they believed a page on the social networking Web site MySpace was created by Neil.

"Been kicking around Asia for the past five years, teaching mainly and finding other forms of mischief," read his profile, which also described him as "5 feet, 11 inches tall, slim and slender."

"I love teaching, can't get enough of it really," the entry says, going on to describe his love of drama, musicals and karaoke.

Friends described Neil as fun to be around. Co-workers gave mixed reviews of his teaching skills, but all described a man they believed to be harmless.

Former colleagues in South Korea said he arrived in August to teach at a small international school in the city of Gwangju. He failed to show up for work Thursday -- the day he flew to Bangkok on a one-way, full-fare ticket, according to Interpol.

"He was a very good teacher. Well-organized, well prepared. His kids really liked him," said Ray Fowler, a Canadian teacher at the school who said he lived next door to Neil. He said Neil, who taught social studies and English to grades seven and eight, would join other teachers at his place to drink beer and listen to music on Friday nights.

It was a different story in Thailand. Officials at Ramkhamhaeng Advent International School said Neil taught there from August 2003 to January 2004.

"He didn't pass the probation," said Poramit Srikureja, an assistant chairman of the Christian school in Bangkok.

Poramit said the school gave Neil verbal and written warnings about his teaching performance, in particular sloppy lesson plans and leaving students unsupervised in the classroom.

Both schools said there were no complaints of abuse by parents or students while he was there.

by cnn

Two killed in blinding sandstorm on L.A.-area highway

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Written on 5:26 AM by yahoo

LANCASTER, California (AP) -- Markan Rios stood beside a crumpled van on a desert highway, bewildered and trembling as he clung to a white tennis shoe.

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More than a dozen vehicles were involved in a pileup during a sandstorm Tuesday north of Los Angeles.

It belonged to his girlfriend, who had just been whisked away by paramedics, but Rios -- a Brazilian tourist who speaks neither English nor Spanish -- had no idea where to find her. Another family member stood sobbing nearby and recalled seeing a deep gash across his wife's forehead before she, too, was taken away by ambulance.

"All my family was in this van, all 11," said Fernando Amaral Pontes, who had blood on his jacket sleeve and side.

Rios and Pontes were in one of more than a dozen vehicles that slammed into one another Tuesday during a blinding sandstorm in the high desert north of Los Angeles. The accident killed at least two and injured 16, including nine of the 11 people in Rios and Pontes' van.

Two of the injured were in critical condition after the crash that left vehicles scattered across Highway 14, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Ron Haralson said

About 15 vehicles were involved in three separate collisions, said California Highway Patrol Officer Henry Ross. He said the cause of the crashes were under investigation, but that poor visibility and high winds "didn't help matters at all."

The accident happened just west of Edwards Air Force Base and at the northern edge of Los Angeles County. It was about 40 miles northeast from the site of a fiery truck pileup Friday night in a tunnel on the Interstate 5 freeway that killed three people and injured 10.

Tuesday's crash left big rigs and passenger cars scattered and bent on the pavement and dirt center divider.

Rios, 24, and Pontes, 46, were traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas as part of a two-week vacation from their hometown of Fortaleza, Brazil. They were in the van with an American tour guide when the sand swirled up and blinded the driver, who barreled into a blue delivery van, Rios said.

"I couldn't see anything; it was too much and too quick," Rios said. "I was coming in and I saw the sand and we slowed down but the truck in front of us had stalled and we couldn't stop."

The pair eventually made it to Antelope Valley Hospital more than three hours after the accident, where a Portuguese translator helped them locate their family. Pontes also had a sore shoulder and a gash on his knee.

Police were investigating whether two other fatal collisions, which happened 20 miles north and two hours before the pileup, were also caused by strong winds.

The weather service issued a dust storm warning for the Antelope Valley Tuesday afternoon, cautioning that blowing dust in the region could reduce visibility to near zero.

"It's not unheard of for the area to experience a dust storm, but it's not an everyday type of thing," said meteorologist Jaime Meier in the weather service's Oxnard office.


by cnn

The price of vice increases in Venezuela

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Written on 7:58 PM by yahoo

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- The price of sin rose Monday in Venezuela where President Hugo Chavez is on a campaign to make Venezuelans cut back on drinking and smoking.

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A man buys beer at an outdoor bar at a Caracas auto show October 7.

"Everyone's shocked," said Leonora Marino, owner of Bodegon Marino in Valencia, Venezuela, west of Caracas.

On Monday evening, she was still changing the prices in her store as her customers looked on and complained, she told a reporter.

Alcohol is now 10 percent more expensive; cigarettes are 20 percent pricier.

"Really, it's difficult to buy at these prices," she said, then joked, "They say they're going to stop eating so that they can continue drinking."

The Venezuelan government is placing a higher tax on alcohol and cigarettes in an effort to cut consumption and prevent what it views as the social, economic and moral consequences of drinking and smoking, said Jose Vielma Mora, superintendent of Seniat, the government body that oversees the collection of taxes.

Taxes on whiskey, brandy, cognac and other drinks that don't come from cane sugar have been raised $1.79 (3,838 bolivares) per liter, the government-run Bolivarian News Agency said.

"It's unfair because, in the end, the consumer is the one who pays," said Fernando Fernandez, a liquor exporter.

Chavez has described whisky as a drink for rich people, not for revolutionaries.

"We cannot be spending the international reserves of this country on whiskey," he said.

The moves represent the first steps toward transforming each Venezuelan into what Chavez calls "the new man." Chavez has cited the life of revolutionary socialist icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara as an example of how to lead a more pure life.

In April, Chavez told a graduating class of medical students in Caracas, Venezuela, that the level of consumption of alcohol in the country represents a threat to public health and ought to make residents feel ashamed, according to an ABN report.

"The vice causes much harm, not only to individuals, but to the collective health of the nation," said Chavez, who said the dangers result in an increase in car wrecks and domestic violence.

For his part, he has said he drinks too much coffee.

Also effective Monday, stores near schools, churches or cultural centers will not be granted licenses to sell alcohol.

Taxes on cigarette imports have also increased, from 50 percent to 70 percent of the total price.

On the street, some people said they don't understand the motivations for the increase, but predicted their consumption would not change.

"The Venezuelan is not going to stop drinking or smoking," said one person.

Chavez also plans to increase taxes on luxury items such as Hummers, which are imported privately and at great expense. There is no Hummer dealership in the country.

Higher oil prices in recent years have translated into higher consumption in petroleum-rich Venezuela. Last year, car sales increased by about 70 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.

But Chavez, who was in Cuba Monday visiting communist leader Fidel Castro, said he wants to focus less on material goals for Venezuela's 27 million people, 38 percent of whom live in poverty

From Playboy Playmate to savior of orphans

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Written on 7:44 PM by yahoo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Glassy-eyed and so thin his bones protrude through his skin, a newborn infant named only Rony stares up at a dirty ceiling hour after hour, frozen in his crib because of a softball-sized tumor on the back of his neck.

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Susie Scott Krabacher holds an abandoned baby at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Then an hourglass-shaped, platinum-haired woman flashing a megawatt smile and wearing diamond earrings and designer blue jeans leans over his crib in the steamy hospital ward, locks her long arms around the child and gently pulls him toward her.

"They don't hold the children much here," says Susie Scott Krabacher, a former Playboy centerfold who over the last 15 years has become an unlikely patron savior for scores of abandoned Haitian babies.

Krabacher, 43, founded the Mercy and Sharing Foundation, an Aspen, Colorado-based charity that has provided shelter, schooling and health care to thousands of children from the poorest slums of this troubled Caribbean nation. The charity, funded mostly through private donors, runs six schools, three orphanages, an abandoned-baby ward and a cervical cancer screening center.

"If it wasn't for her, all of those kids would be dead today," said Bob Lataillade, who runs Mercy and Sharing's main orphanage in Port-au-Prince.

Krabacher chronicles her unusual journey -- from partying in Hugh Hefner's mansion to setting up Haiti's first hospital ward for abandoned babies -- in a memoir to be released in October called "Angels of a Lower Flight" (Simon & Schuster).

The book, which is expected to be made into a Hollywood film, details Krabacher's childhood growing up poor in Alabama and her wilder days at Playboy, where she had a 10-year career, including a May 1983 centerfold spread.

With her long blonde locks and statuesque figure, Krabacher cuts an odd figure in the streets of Haiti's gritty capital. She has been known to waltz into the most dangerous slums wearing platform boots and flowing skirts to ask tattooed gang leaders to allow her charity work to proceed without being robbed.

On her first visit to the country in 1994, Krabacher visited Port-au-Prince's bleak General Hospital and was shocked to find scores of unwanted babies left abandoned and without food in their cribs, including one who had died without anyone noticing.

"There were rats the size of Chihuahuas. They would run all over the place and bite the children. It was horrible," Krabacher, who lives in Aspen but visits Haiti several times a year, told The Associated Press during a recent trip here.

Krabacher eventually persuaded hospital officials to allow her and her husband, Joe, to pay to fix up the ward, which today cares for about 20 children.

Like little Rony, many were left outside the hospital entrance, often frail and barely clinging to life.

"He's going to suffer his entire life. But at least we can give him some humanity so he doesn't have to die in utter misery," Krabacher says, gently swaying Rony in her arms.

A couple of weeks later, Rony died. He was three months old.

Krabacher has had to overcome setbacks in her mission to help Haiti's neediest.

When the abandoned baby ward first opened, people stole the ceiling fans, the refrigerator and baby mattresses.

After rebels forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004, Krabacher flew into the chaotic capital and found that looters had broken into a food warehouse and stolen the orphanage's supply of rice, beans and milk.

For her work, Krabacher was made an honorary Haitian citizen and in 2004 was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive the Rose Award, presented by the foundation established to further Princess Diana's commitment to the poor.

Iraqis flooding Jordan get free schooling

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Written on 4:18 AM by yahoo

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- In the sunbathed schoolyard of the Shmisani Institute for Girls in Amman, Jordan, principal Sanaa Abu Harb makes an announcement over the speaker system.

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Iraqi students at the Shmisani school in Amman gather around a teacher. One in 5 students there is Iraqi.

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"All Iraqi girls come outside now. All Iraqi girls. Iraqi girls only!" she repeats several times, making sure the message is clear and waving away Jordanian pupils attracted by the commotion.

Dozens of girls in green apron-like uniforms pour out into the courtyard and cluster on the top level of a stone staircase overlooking a concrete playground.

Harb wants the CNN crew to see how many Iraqi refugee girls her school is accommodating. This school year, she says, 145 students are Iraqi -- roughly 20 percent of the students at this state-funded institution -- with another 40 Iraqi children on a waiting list. Video

The reason behind the jump in the number of Iraqis at the school is a new government policy: For the first time since the start of the Iraq war, Jordan is allowing all Iraqi children -- regardless of refugee status -- to enroll in state-funded schools.

Simply, this means that even illegal refugees with no paperwork can send their kids to school with no questions asked.

The move is cementing a massive population shift in the Middle East. More than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled the violence in their homeland, most of them seeking refuge in neighboring Jordan and Syria, according to humanitarian officials.

Jordanian Minister of Education Khalid Touqan says he expects Jordan to accommodate 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi students this year. That's more than double the number of Iraqi children enrolled in public school two years ago.

Harb, on the front line of the phenomenon, says the influx is putting a strain on her school. Even with some U.N. and U.S. aid to Jordan, there's still not enough money.

"We need more teachers here, more resources, more buildings, more chairs for all Iraqi students and our students," she says.

In a nearby neighborhood, in the study room of the Ahmed Toukan School for Boys, a handful of Iraqi kids talk of their experience living far from home. Seated at a rectangular table covered with a red and white tablecloth, the boys tell stories of horror and displacement.

Eighteen-year-old Qutaiba lost five immediate family members before moving to Jordan to try to live a normal life. Matter-of-factly and with a straight-ahead stare, he repeats the number: "Five members."

Most of the boys and young men from Iraq have missed several years of school -- up to a four-year educational gap that will delay not only their high school graduation, but also their entry into the workforce.

All say, though, that they feel lucky to have gotten out, even if the violence in their country means always having to be on the move, ready to live far from home and away from loved ones.

"It's not strange for me to be in the middle of people I don't know," says eleventh grader Ziad Tarek Al Shamsi. "I had friends in Iraq when I was small, I left them. In America, I left them. I came here, I left them."

He pauses: "But you have to miss your country."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates up to 250,000 school-age Iraqi children are in Jordan.

Many of them are enrolled in private institutions. But as families run out of money they had when they left Iraq, they turn to public schools.

Even so, more than a month into the new academic year, fewer Iraqi families than first anticipated enrolled their kids in schools this year. According to the charity Save the Children, 21,000 Iraqi children have so far enrolled in Jordanian classrooms.

As a result, the government extended the deadline for student applications and cut down on the required paperwork for Iraqi families.

The lower registration numbers were attributed in part to illegal refugees' fears of being identified through their children's school records.

Regardless of what the final number will be this year, the population shift in the Middle East is, according to UNHCR head Antonio Guterres, the largest urban refugee situation in the world.

Iraqi families are changing the social fabric of Jordanian society. About 10 percent of Jordan's population is now made up of Iraqi refugees -- the estimates range from 500,000 to 750,000 of them.


form cnn

Armenian Martyrs' Day

0

Written on 11:59 PM by yahoo

April 24th is the day we remember the victims of a forgotten genocide.



On April 24, 1915, turkish soldiers arrested 250 Armenians in the first of hundreds of raids designed to wipe out the Armenian population of turkey.


Armenian villages were rousted one by one, and the men ordered to leave at once and serve the turkish army. Boys as young as 9 or 10, and men as old as 70. Many never made that far, as turkish soldiers often took these "new recruits" not to the army camps but out to the woods, where they were summarily executed. The women and girls, thus undefended, were easy prey for the turkish soldiers.



Those who remained behind were forced from their lands, homes, and belongings, and force-marched to "settlement camps" in remote areas. Many died along the way from exhaustion, starvation, and exposure to the elements. According to French scholars Joel Kotek and Pierre Rigoulot, there were up to 25 such camps.



But the Armenian's plight was nowhere near as unknown, even in that day, as it is now. Despite the lack of internet, video cameras, and TV screens, in 1915 the plight of the Armenians was a worldwide topic of discussion. US Consular officials, as early as July of 1915, were concerned enough to beg the US government to step in.


(click to enlarge)

No less than Winston Churchill, then Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty noted, "the clearance of race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act could be...There is no reason to doubt that that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race opposed to all Turkish ambitions." And he was then in the midst of the "war to end all wars" against Germany!



During 1915, the New York Times paper published 145 articles about the mass murder of the Armenian people, describing the massacre as "systematic, "authorized" and "organized by the government." In 1918, Theodore Roosevelt called it "the greatest crime of the war."

But today, no one even knows it happened

Denialists of all stripes, from US and EU officials who find turkey's past "annoying", to the turks themselves who believe such raids were justified to "pick up deserters" (yeah, little old men, deserters. right.) have managed to decrease the general public's awareness of these atrocities. But they happened. There was no Photoshop in 1915. All of the horrible pictures you see here are real.



Despite missions from the US and UK, Austria, France, and others, the plight of the Armenians faded off the radar screen as war in Europe intensified.

Looks a lot like Germany around 1942, huh?

In fact, Adolf Hitler said of the Armenian Genocide: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"as his justification for the atrocities carried out on the Jews and others during the Nazi's reign over Germany.

We did not forget. We do not forget. We will always remember.

My previous remembrances here. This stays on top all day.
Posted by caltechgirl at April 24, 2007 09:50 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I remember - although I didn't know there was a special day of remembrance.

Posted by: Teresa at April 24, 2007 02:54 PM

Until recently, this awful event was only 'vaguely' in my realm of knowledge. Thank you for making it more than a footnote. Evil simply does not go away if we ignore it or pretend it didn't happen. We must never forget, or it will happen again (as history has shown).

Posted by: Mrs. Who at April 24, 2007 03:38 PM

Let me echo Mrs. Who's sentiments . . .thank you for the education.

Posted by: Anita at April 25, 2007 04:41 AM

I'd never heard of it until I was in college. In 1975 I spent the weekend with a good friend of mine, Armenian. His family showed me the photo albums of all his relatives, perished. Only his maternal grandparents escaped to America. They were quite passionate about the subject, naturally.


by velociman

US bill on Armenia moves forward

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Written on 8:29 PM by yahoo

A bill recognising the killing of Armenians in Ottoman times as genocide has cleared its first hurdle in the US Congress despite Turkish warnings.

It passed through the House Foreign Affairs Committee by 27 votes to 21 - the first step towards holding a vote in the House of Representatives.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul reacted swiftly to the result, saying the move was "unacceptable" and had no validity.

President George W Bush had urged the committee not to approve the bill.

"Its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in Nato and in the global war on terror," the US president said.

Turkey is a regional operational hub for the US military, and some suggest access to Incirlik airbase, or other supply lines crucial to US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, could be cut in response.

'Invalid'

After the vote, the US Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, told the BBC that the Bush administration was "deeply disappointed".

"The United States recognizes the immense suffering of the Armenian people due to mass killings and forced deportations at the end of the Ottoman Empire," he said.

Abdullah Gul (archive)
This unacceptable decision of the committee, like similar ones in the past, is not regarded by the Turkish people as valid or of any value
Turkish President Abdullah Gul

"We support a full and fair accounting of the atrocities that befell as many as 1.5m Armenians during World War I, which House Resolution 106 does not do."

The Turkish president also attacked the measure, saying some politicians had "closed their ears to calls to be reasonable and once again sought to sacrifice big problems for small domestic political games".

"This unacceptable decision of the committee, like similar ones in the past, is not regarded by the Turkish people as valid or of any value," Mr Gul said, according to the Anatolian news agency.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul says it is very unusual to hear such high-level political reaction so late at night from the Turkish government - a sign of how seriously it takes this.

This resolution is largely symbolic and is non-binding, but that will make little difference to most Turks, our correspondent says.

Turkish politicians will now focus on trying to keep the resolution from a final vote on the House floor, she adds.

'Sobering'

Correspondents say Wednesday's result means that only a change of heart by the opposition Democrats, who control Congress, can now stop a full vote on the bill.

Armenian refugee mother and child (picture taken 1915-16 by German photographer Armin Wegner; reproduced here by permission of the Armenian National Institute)
A German soldier took photos of Armenian deportees at the time

Divisions within the Foreign Affairs Committee crossed party lines with eight Democrats voting against the measure and eight Republicans voting for it.

Tom Lantos, the committee's chairman, had opened the debate by admitting the resolution posed a "sobering" choice.

"We have to weigh the desire to express our solidarity with the Armenian people... against the risk that it could cause young men and women in the uniform of the United States armed services to pay an even heavier price than they are currently paying," he said.

Mr Lantos, himself a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, said he would introduce a resolution praising US-Turkish friendship next week, according to AFP news agency.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to take up their version of the resolution in the future.

Rochdale lawyer describes moment when former Pakistan PM was deported

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Written on 9:01 PM by yahoo

Rochdale lawyer describes moment when former Pakistan PM was deported

Shelina Begum
3/10/2007

Former Pakistan Prime Minister's UK lawyer has described the shocking moment when Nawaz Sharif was forcefully deported to Saudi Arabia after he landed at Islamabad airport.

Immigration expert Amjad Malik from Rochdale accompanied the former deposed PM when he flew back to the Pakistan capital to restart an election campaign and over throw Musharraf and his administration.

Instead Mr Sharif was taken away by Pakistan's security officials and put on a plane to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Malik says the former PM's forced deportation out of Pakistan was illegal as they had permission from the Supreme Court of Pakistan for Mr Sharif to enter the country.

Mr Malik says he was also unable to represent his client after being hurled away from him by a group of security men and was not given any information about Mr Sharif's whereabouts and opnly found out later that evening after switching on the news in his hotel room.

Said Mr Malik: "The exiled premier of Pakistan returned after seven years of exile on a symbolic PIA flight from Heathrow to Islamabad. However he was shocked along with his fellow travellers that the so called mightiest and the most powerful man in Pakistan (Musharraf) refused his entryto the country and his forced deportation vanished all the hopes of reviving democracy and the possible exit of the military from current political system.

"I was one of the unfortunate lawyers who was asked to assist Mr Sharif on that plane as well as at the airport lounge to make sure he entered the country peacefully.

"To me this historic flight carried its passengers by luck like a lottery ticket as no one knew which plane Mr Sharif was catching.

"But all our efforts were unfruitful when this peaceful visit was halted by a quick army style operation."

Mr Malik said as soon as the plane landed at Islamabad, immigration officials made their way into the plane where they questioned Mr Sharif and asked him to hand over his passport.

Mr Malik told them that they would only show their passports at the immigration desk in the airport.

When they left the plane and proceeded into the airport lounge, security officials and the Pakistan media surrounded Mr Sharif and his team.

Said Mr Malik: "It was chaotic. The officials at the airport would not tell us what they wanted to do. Before we set off we thought the worst case scenario would be that Mr Sharif would be arrested. We were prepared for that and had our paperwork ready to represent Mr Sharif at the Supreme Court if it came to that.

"We waited in the lounge for three hours not knowing what was happening.

"In the end we were rushed by security officials who took Mr Sharif without telling us anything.

"When I tried to intervene I was grabbed and pushed away.

"Me and the rest of his team had no choice but to leave the airport and go to our hotels.

"I started arrangments for my flight back as soon as I could as I did not feel safe being in the country.

"I was also trying to get information about my client but was not able to do so as people were very not co-operative.

"Instead I learned on the news that evening that he had been deported back to Saudi Arabia.

"This trip has left me with no faith in Pakistan’s law and order. This man was twice PM and he was treated like a common thief. People forget that Mr Sharif made Pakistan the seventh state that possesses nuclear arsenal and is one of the most popular leaders in Pakistan.

"We had a court order that stated Mr Sharif should be allowed back into the country.

"But the court order was violated as General Musharraf's regime knows no concept of rule of law and totally disregarded this by deporting him and not even allowing him to enter the country."

Mr Malik who has now returned to Rochdale is still working to bring Mr Sharif back to Pakistan.

He said: "This is not over. I am still in contact with Mr Sharif and his brother and we will work something out."



from asian news

Burning chilli sparks terror fear

0

Written on 9:00 PM by yahoo

Burning chilli sparks terror fear
Chilli pepper
The dish uses extra-hot chillies which are deliberately burnt
A pot of burning chilli sparked fears of a biological terror attack in central London.

Firefighters wearing protective breathing apparatus were called to D'Arblay Street, Soho, after reports of noxious smoke filling the air.

Police closed off three roads and evacuated homes following the alert.

Specialist crews broke down the door to the Thai Cottage restaurant at 1900 BST on Monday where they discovered the source - a 9lb pot of chillies.

Nam Prik Pao recipe
Heat garlic and shallots in oil and remove to a bowl
Place red chillies in the pan with some oil and fry until they go dark in colour. Then set aside
Mix shrimp paste with the rest of the ingredients and pound in a mortar and pestle
Return the mixture to the heat until it becomes a thick dark coloured paste

The restaurant had been preparing Nam Prik Pao, a red-hot Thai dip which uses extra-hot chillies which are deliberately burnt.

But the smell prompted several members of the public to call the emergency services.

Alpaslan Duven, a Turkish journalist based in the restaurant's building, said: "I was sitting in the office when me and my chief start coughing and I said this was something really dodgy.

"I looked out of the window and saw people rushing and then we heard the sirens."

Supranee Yodmuang, the restaurant supervisor, was above the restaurant when she received a phone call from her boss.

"It was about 4pm when I saw the police who were closing off the roads but I didn't know why.

"My boss rang me and said I had to get out of the building because of a chemical attack."

She added: "Because we're Thai, we're used to the smell of chillies."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The street was closed off for three hours while we were trying to discover the source of the odour."

Police: Black student marked with 'KKK' at deaf school

0

Written on 8:56 PM by yahoo

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A weekend incident with racial overtones at a high school for deaf students could result in criminal charges with "enhanced penalties for a hate crime," Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Wednesday.

A black student was held against his will and then released with "KKK" and swastikas drawn on him in marker at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf on Sunday, she said.

No charges have been filed, and no names have been released, Lanier said.

The incident began when a group of black students and a group of white students were in a dorm. "My understanding is the two groups engaged in friendly horseplay," she said.

But, she said, the groups got "angry with each other."

The two groups separated, she said, but later, six white students and one black student -- all between the ages of 15 and 19 -- took one of the black students into a dorm room and "held him there against his will."

"They used markers to write 'KKK' and draw swastikas on the student," Lanier said.

The student was released after about 45 minutes. He notified dorm and school authorities, who called police.

Lanier said police have identified and interviewed the students involved and the "investigation is ongoing."

"The support we've received from the campus and from the school employees has been tremendous," Lanier said. "And I think they're supporting us in making a very strong statement that this investigation may lead to charges that could have enhanced penalties for a hate crime."

The school is a residential high school on the campus of Gallaudet University, a higher education facility for deaf and hard of hearing people. The high school is administered as a division of the university's Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.

Dean of Clerc Center Katherine A. Jankowski said the seven students who participated in the incident were sent home.

Gallaudet provost Stephen Weiner said the school does "not tolerate any action, behavior of this type."

"We are taking action," he said. "We are looking at programs to help students understand we are a school with a diverse population."

"This incident is intolerable," he said. "That's why the Metro police are involved. That's how serious we are about this incident."

Jankowski said the school has also hired a consultant to work with the school and its students on diversity issues.

On Monday, teachers and staff hosted a school-wide assembly with students related to the incident, said Jankowski. Individual and group counseling services were also available to students, teachers and staff.

"We are committed to ensuring MSSD is a safe and supportive learning environment," she said.

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