Thursday, November 22, 2007

Russian liaison officers to be posted at US missile sites

WASHINGTON, USA (November 22.2007) - The US sent Russia a formal proposal for cooperation on missile defense in Eastern Europe yesterday. A proposal aimed at discouraging Russia from withdrawing from a vital European arms control treaty was also sent.

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to discuss the documents on November 26.The missile defense proposal included offers Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made during talks in Moscow in October of this year.

The offers include allowing Russian experts to regularly inspect the U.S. missile defense site in Poland (contingent on Poland's approval); integrating the U.S., NATO and Russian missile defense systems to expand protection; and delaying the activation of the U.S. missile defense system.

Russian concerns about US plans to base missile defences in eastern Europe are being heard by Washington, President Vladimir Putin said today.

"I talked about this with President Bush on the phone the other day," Putin told journalists.

"It seems that our concerns are being listened to" in Washington, he said.

The Russian leader recalled that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates had made "certain offers" on the missile defence plan when they visited Moscow last month.

The U.S. officials have said those offers included delaying activation of the system until Washington and Moscow agreed on "definitive proof" of missile threats, as well as posting Russian liaison officers at the US missile sites.

Russian experts will make regular inspections of the U.S. missile site in Poland and in the Czech Republic. The U.S. officials have emphasized that the offer is contingent on approval from Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier today that Moscow had received Washington's missile defense proposals in writing and was studying them.

"The American side late yesterday evening finally handed to Russia written proposals on missile defence. We are studying them," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.

The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to discuss the proposals Monday ahead of the Annapolis conference.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Antarctica to see global warming's impact

ANTARCTICA (November 10,2007) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Antarctica yesterday to see firsthand the impact of climate change and the melting of glaciers.

He flew from Chile's southernmost city of Punta Arenas to that country's station on the Antarctica, Chilean Air Force base, accompanied by Chilean officials and scientists.

From there, he took a 45-minute flight over the region, seeing several glaciers.

The U.N. Secretary-General also visited the Antarctic bases of Uruguay and South Korea, his home country. At the Korean base he was greeted by a small reception and offered traditional Korean food and drink. He then returned to Punta Arenas.

On Thursday, Ban Ki-moon attended the opening of the Ibero-American summit, a gathering of leaders from Latin American countries, Spain and Portugal, that is being held in Santiago, Chile.

He told summit delegates that global warming will be a central concern of his term as head of the world body.

Today, Ban Ki-moon was scheduled to visit Torres del Paine national park, where experts say the effects of global warming on glaciers are evident.

"This trip, you may call it an eco-trip, but I'm not here as a tourist," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters.

"I'm here as a messenger of all the warnings on climate change.I'm here to observe the impact of the global warming phenomena, to see for myself and to learn all I can about what's happening in Antarctica and actually around the world," he said.

During the briefing, the scientists told the UN Secretary General of melting glaciers both in Antarctica and the southern end of the Andes that they attributed to climate change.

The examples included the fate of an ice cap known as the Larsen platform that melted away in just 20 days, despite its considerable size of 400 square kilometers.Hannah Point Glacier, for its part, receded 120 meters (yards) in several years.

After touring three scientific bases in the region Ban described what he had seen as beautiful but disturbing. Ban is preparing for a U.N. climate change conference in Indonesia, in December 2007, which is expected to kick off talks on a new accord to curb carbon emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Microsoft To Extend Sales Of Windows XP As Vista Concerns Mount

REDMOND, USA - Microsoft said it will extend availability of the operating system's predecessor, Windows XP,sesponding to some customers' lukewarm embrace of Windows Vista.

Microsoft said it will make the full version of Windows XP available to PC manufacturers and retailers through June 30, 2008. It will continue to offer a basic edition in emerging markets through June 2010.

The company introduced Windows XP in late 2001. The company ordinarily makes operating systems available only for four years after launch date. But delays in producing Windows Vista, which debuted in January, forced Microsoft to continue selling Windows XP longer than planned.

In recent months, Microsoft had pegged Windows XP's official expiration date at Jan. 30. That will fall by the wayside in favor of the new dates, Microsoft said.

"While we’ve been pleased with the positive response we’ve seen and heard from customers using Windows Vista, there are some customers who need a little more time to make the switch to Windows Vista," said Mike Nash, Microsoft's Windows product manager, in a statement posted on the company's Web site.

He was bullish about Vista sales despite the U-turn on XP. "With more than 60 million licenses sold as of this summer, Windows Vista is on track to be the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft’s history. And while many large businesses are moving incredibly fast to Windows Vista," Nash said.

Initially, leading PC makers were scheduled to discontinue selling XP after the last day of Jan. 2008. However,they asked Microsoft to allow them to continue selling PCs with all types of Windows XP preloaded till June 30. In addition, Microsoft will continue to offer Windows XP Starter Edition in emerging markets where it is currently available for the rapidly growing class of hardware-constrained ultra-low cost PCs until June 30, 2010.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dutch Bishop Martinus Muskens calls upon Christians to begin calling God Allah

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands - Bishop Martinus Muskens of Breda in The Netherlands has called upon Christians to begin calling God “Allah”. Bishop Muskens is confident this will promote better relations between Christians and Muslims.

Bishop Muskens suggested in an interview with Radio Netherlands that Christians should refer to God as Allah. The 71-year-old bishop believes people are needlessly divided over the different names used to refer to God.

The bishop, who had worked in Indonesia, noted that even Christians use the term Allah for God there. The Dutch should learn to get on spontaneously with different cultures, religions and behavior patterns:

"Someone like me has prayed to Allah yang maha kuasa (Almighty God) for eight years in Indonesia and other priests for 20 or 30 years. In the heart of the Eucharist, God is called Allah over there, so why can't we start doing that together?" he was quoted as saying.

Bishop Muskens admitted that he did not think his suggestion would be welcomed readily and that it would take about 100 years before Catholics would feel comfortable calling God “Allah”.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations backs the idea as a way to help interfaith understanding.

"It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God.I don't think the name is as important as the belief in God and following God's moral principles. I think that's true for all faiths," he said.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago supports the idea.

“I think it will open up doors.Language is a man-made limitation. I think what God cares about is how we fulfill our purpose in life,” said Janaan Hashim, a spokeswoman for the group representing more than 400,000 Muslim Americans in the Chicago area.,2933,293394,00.html

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ahmadinejad Invites Bush To Speak At Any University In Iran

NEW YORK, USA - After being welcomed in New York by the president of Columbia University, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extended an invitation to US President George W. Bush.

Ahmadinejad told Iranian state television if US president George Bush plans to travel to Islamic republic, he is welcome to make speech at any Iranian university.

"If their president plans to travel to Iran, we will allow him to make a speech" at a university, Ahmadinejad told state TV earlier this week before leaving New York to travel to South America.

The harshness of Monday's introduction at Columbia prompted complaints in Iran and elsewhere that Ahmadinejad had been blind-sided by his host. Ahmadinejad complained that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's speech had contained "many insults" and amounted to "unfriendly treatment."

Back home, Iranians also were dismayed by Bollinger's introduction and said his words only added to their image of the United States as a bully.

Iran and the U.S cut off diplomatic relations in 1979 after Iranian militant students seized the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Ahmadinejad left New York on Wednesday and traveled to friendlier ground in South America, first stopping in Bolivia, where he pledged $1 billion in investment and then visiting Venezuela to meet the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Taliban freed remaining seven South Korean hostages

KABUL,Afghanistan - The Taliban released the remaining seven South Koreans held hostage since July 19 in central Afghanistan.

The hostages were handed over today to the International Committee of the Red Cross in the eastern province of Ghazni, head of the ICRC's Afghan delegation said.

The South Korean government later confirmed that it had taken custody of the former captives, part of a group of Christian relief workers, at an undisclosed location.

"It has been a long wait, but again they're in good health,"head of the ICRC's Afghan delegation Reto Stocker said. Twelve hostages were freed yesterday.

South Korea crafted a deal with the Taliban that officials in Seoul said involved reiterating plans to withdraw the country's 200 soldiers from Afghanistan this year and ending missionary activities there. The Taliban had demanded a South Korean withdrawal and the release of imprisoned fighters.

An agreement was reached to release the remaining hostages at face-to face talks between South Korean and Taliban negotiators two days ago. Indonesian diplomat Heru Wicaksono mediated in the talks.

The hostages were seized July 19 when their bus was stopped by the Taliban fighters as it was traveling to Kandahar in the south.

"As far as we can ascertain, they are in relatively good health. The individuals freed today will join those released earlier and will return home together as soon as possible," Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Hee Yong told reporters in Seoul

The hostages are expected to arrive in Seoul this weekend.In the weeks that followed the capture of the South Koreans, by the Taliban fighters shot dead two male hostages,and reiterated their threat to kill more. Two women were freed on August 12.

The Taliban is still holding a German citizen who was taken along with another German July 18 in Wardag province, west of Kabul. The other hostage was shot dead, German authorities said.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Obesity rates climb in most US states

WASHINGTON,USA - Obesity rates continued their climb in 31 US states last year.No state showed a decline.Mississippi became the first US state to crack the 30 percent barrier for adult residents considered to be obese. West Virginia and Alabama are just slightly behind, according to the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.

Colorado continued its reign as the leanest state in the nation with an obesity rate projected at 17.6 percent.

This year's report, for the first time, looked at rates of overweight children ages 10 to 17. The District of Columbia had the highest percentage — 22.8 percent. Utah had the lowest percentage of overweight youth — 8.5 percent.

Ten of the 15 US states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005. In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent.

US Health officials say the latest state rankings provide evidence that the nation has a public health crisis on its hands.

"Unfortunately, we're treating it like a mere inconvenience instead of the emergency that it is," said Dr. James Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Officials at the Trust for America's Health advocate for the government to play a larger role in preventing obesity. People who are overweight are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart problems and other chronic diseases that contribute to greater health care costs.

"It's one of those issues where everyone believes this is an epidemic, but it's not getting the level of political and policymaker attention that it ought to.As every candidate for president talks about health care reform and controlling health care cost costs, if we don't hone in on this issue, none of their proposals are going to be affordable," said Jeffrey Levi, the organization's executive director.

Many believe weight is a personal choice and responsibility. Levi doesn't dispute that notion, but he said society can help people make good choices.

"If we want kids to eat healthier food, we have to invest the money for school nutrition programs so that school lunches are healthier.If we want people to be more physically active, then there have to be safe places to be active. That's not just a class issues. We've designed suburban communities where there are no sidewalks for anybody to go out and take a walk," Levi said.

Twenty-two percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any physical activity. Mississippi has the highest rate of inactivity at 31.6 percent and Minnesota had the lowest rate of inactivity at 15.4 percent.And,while every US state has school physical education requirements, many are limited in scope or are not enforced.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last year noting a national obesity rate of about 32 percent — a higher rate than was cited for any of the states in the Trust for America's Health report. The CDC's estimate came from weighing people rather than relying on telephone interviews, US officials explained.

Adult Obesity League Tables, by State (1 = Highest rates of adult obesity)

1: Mississippi

2: West Virginia

3: Alabama

4: Louisiana

5:(tie): South Carolina,Tennessee

7: Kentucky

8: Arkansas

9 (tie): Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma

12 (tie): Missouri, Texas

14: Georgia

15: Ohio

16: Alaska

17: North Carolina

18: Nebraska

19: North Dakota

20 (tie): Iowa, South Dakota

22: Wisconsin

23 (tie): Pennsylvania, Virginia

25 (tie): Illinois, Maryland

27: Kansas

28: Minnesota

29: Delaware

30: Oregon

31 (tie): Idaho, Washington

33: Maine

34: Florida

35: Wyoming

36: California

37: Nevada

38 (tie): New Hampshire, New York

40 (tie): D.C., New Jersey

42: New Mexico43: Arizona

44: Utah45: Montana

46: Rhode Island

47 (tie): Connecticut, Hawaii

49: Vermont

50: Massachusetts

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Slovenian Mass Grave Could Be The Largest In Europe

MARIBOR,Slovenia - Slovenian authorities have begun exhuming a mass grave in the Tezno forest, north-eastern Slovenia, where over 15 000 victims slain after World War 2 by the former communist regime are supposed to be buried.

Slovenian officials estimate that a mass grave found near Maribor will most likely prove to be the largest in Europe, surpassing even that of the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica where the genocidal Serbian army mass murdered up to 10,000 unarmed Bosnian men and boys in July 1995,during the Serbian aggression against Bosnia.

Exhumations in Tezno, a residential district of Slovenia's second-largest city Maribor, are likely to uncover the remains of thousands of victims of purges carried out immediately following World War II, according to Slovenian government officials.

"It just might be that the greatest crime of the period following World War 2 will be uncovered in the mass grave in Tezno, one that even surpasses that of Srebrenica," Joze Dezman, head of the Commission on Concealed Mass Graves, told Slovenian state radio.

Dezman referred to Tezno as "the murderous epicentre of Europe," according to the English-language newspaper The Slovenia Times.

Slovenian officials believe the grave might include the remains of roughly 15,000 Croat members of the forces of the Croatian pro-Nazi Ustashas regime, who were trying to escape from Yugoslavia at the end of the World War 2.

The mass grave was originally an anti-tank trench dug by Germans near the end of the World War 2. It is 1 kilometer long, 4 to 6 meters wide and the layer of human remains measures 1.5 to 2 meters deep, according to the Slovenian daily Delo.

The mass grave was first found by chance in 1999 during highway construction in a forest near Tezno. At the time, 1,179 remains were found in an incomplete excavation of the site. A new exhumation began two weeks ago.

After holding elections in 1990, Slovenia declared independence and was spared the violence that tore the region apart in the following decade.. It is the only one of the six former Yugoslav republics to have joined the European Union and Nato.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cuba's Foreign Minister Backs Barack Obama On Embargo

Cuba's Foreign Affairs Minister Felipe Perez Roque said he welcomed a call by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to ease the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

In an opinion piece on Tuesday in The Miami Herald newspaper, the Illinois senator Barack Obama proposed easing restrictions for Cuban exiles to travel to Cuba or send money home.

"These declarations appear to express the sentiment of the majority of the United States," Cuba's Foreign Affairs Minister Felipe Perez Roque said when asked to comment on Obama's proposal.

"Measures by the Bush administration to tighten the decades-old blockade were barbaric and an effort to try to force our people to surrender through hunger and illness," Roque told reporters in Brazil's capital.

Now most Cubans in the U.S. can only visit the island once every three years and can only send quarterly remittances of up to $300 per household to immediate family members. Previously, they could visit once a year and send up to $3,000. The U.S. also tightened restrictions on travel for educational and religious groups.

Obama's campaign confirmed that, if elected, the Illinois senator would lift restrictions imposed by the Bush administration and allow Cuban-Americans to visit their relatives more frequently, as well as ease limits on the amount of money they can send to their families.

Obama's rival Sen. Hillary Clinton said she would continue the Bush administration's hard-line stance, for the most part. Clinton's campaign said she agrees that exiles should be able to freely send money to their relatives but said she does not favor ''any wholesale, broad changes'' to the travel restrictions. Clinton did vote with Obama in 2005 - unsuccessfully - to ease restrictions on family travel in ``humanitarian cases.''

The vote of Cuban Americans has been considered key for U.S. presidential candidates to win Florida. The community is deeply divided over the trade embargo on Cuba enforced by the U.S. since 1962.

"The blockade has to be dismantled and the rights of Cuba respected," Roque said.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Venezuela's National Assembly Enables Hugo Chavez To Become A Lifelong President

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's National Assembly gave yesterday unanimous initial approval to constitutional reforms.President Chavez proposed changes to the constitution, including the lifting of presidential term limits.

The Venezuelan National Assembly President Cilia Flores said the proposed changes to the constitution, including the lifting of presidential term limits were approved by all 167 lawmakers.

The reforms will extend presidential terms from six to seven years and allow Chavez to run again in 2013.President Chavez presented reforms to end central bank autonomy, increase state expropriation powers and give the president direct control over monetary reserves.

The legislature will hold two more votes to ratify the changes, which must be approved through a popular referendum that legislators say they hope will take place in early December,2007.

The Venezuelan government opponents have attacked the reforms, saying they will weaken democracy by permitting Hugo Chavez to become a lifelong president of Venezuela.

President Chavez was re-elected by more than 60 percent of voters in the elections held on December 3, 2006, on promises to steer his oil-producing nation toward socialism.Chavez says the changes will give Venezuelans greater decision-making power and aid the transfer of billions of dollars from Venezuela's foreign reserves into social programs.

Chavez said that the Venezuelan government should be able to control assets of private companies before winning a court expropriation ruling.Chavez also said the maximum workday would be reduced to six hours from eight hours per day as part of the reforms.

"This reform is essential.We are starting a new heading straight toward socialism," Chavez said during a telephone interview with Venezuelan state television.

George Bush Concerned About Hurricane Victims

MONTEBELLO,Canada - American President George W. Bush,offered U.S. assistance and expressed his concern today for the citizens of Mexico and elsewhere whose lives were affected by Hurricane Dean,at a North American summit in Canada.
"We stand ready to help.The American people care a lot about the human condition in our neighborhood and when we see human suffering we want to do what we can," said Bush, standing alongside Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a North American summit in more

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Garry Kasparov detained at opposition march in Russia

MOSCOW,Russia - The former world chess champion Gary Kasparov was detained by the Russian police on Saturday as supporters of his organization tried to hold a forbidden protest march in Moscow.
Kasparov was seen inside a police van,after his arrest, waving and smiling to journalists clustered outside on the edge of Pushkin Square. The former world chess champion Gary Kasparov heads the United Civil Front opposition organization, which aimed to hold a massive anti-Putin protest march in alliance with other opposition groups in Russia.
Russian police said 170 people had been detained but,Marina Litvinovich,a Kasparov aide, said as many as 600 people were detained.Litvinovich said about half were released quickly. Gary Kasparov was seized as he tried to lead a small group of demonstrators through lines of police ringing Pushkin Square, was freed late Saturday after he was fined $38 for participating in the rally.

42 Million illegal CDs and DVDs destroyed in piracy crackdown in China

BEIJING,China - Chinese authorities destroyed 42 million pieces of pirated digital videodiscs, compact discs, computer software and illegal publications in the government's latest campaign to curtail rampant theft of intellectual property,Chinese state media reported.
The Saturday campaign follows a pair of complaints filed Tuesday by the U.S. against Beijing in the World Trade Organization over product piracy and market access.Workers across the country set fire to 30 million pieces of smuggled and pirated audio and video materials, software and 11 million copies of pirated and illegally published books and magazines, Xinhua News Agency said yesterday.