Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Tonight Al Jazeera showed footage of the four westerners kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents. The American, two Canadians and Briton were part of a group called Christian Peace Keepers Team. Kidnapped Saturday in Baghdad, this was the first confirmation that they were still alive. The footage shown initially on Al Jazeera was picked up quickly by Sky News, CNN and later the BBC. The ‘Sword of Righteousness’, as the group describe themselves, have released no demands but call the kidnapped individuals ‘spies’. The Foreign Office said tonight, “We utterly condemn this… and it can only cause further distress at this difficult time”.
Also today, footage of a German citizen and her driver was released to a television station by another unknown Islamic group. They were kidnapped Friday. Also in Iraq, another pilgrim died from wounds inflicted during a shooting on Sunday in Baghdad. The pilgrims had been making their way to a mosque as part of their pilgrimage to the country from Northolt in London, UK.
President Bush speaking today said, “Iraq is the central front on the War on Terror…We’re going to win, they [the terrorists] want us to leave because they want a safe haven, but we must not forget the lessons of September 11th…I want to defeat the terrorists” but with regards to a withdrawal he said, “People don’t want me to make decisions based on politics, people want me to make decisions based on our commanders [view] on the ground.” Asked about accusation of torture committed by the US he said, “The United States of America does not torture and it is important for the people of the world to understand that.”
France meanwhile is strengthening its anti-terror laws. Internet curbs, detention without charge increased to 6 days, routine surveillance photography and further CCTV usage are some of the proposed changes to the French way of life . But civil rights campaigners are critical of the new laws which may not specifically target terrorists.
[18:30 GMT 29/11/2005]
Monday, November 28, 2005
"The water tastes great" - Zhang Zuoji
As promised Zhang Zuoji, the provincial governor, took the first drink of water after supplies were restored to Harbin, Sunday. “It tastes great”, said Zhang, in an attempt to restore public confidence following the recent environmental catastrophe with more than 100 tonnes of benzene flowing into the Songhua river in north-east China. Careful plans to ensure water quality are said to be continuing. However, some residents were still without water today. Meanwhile Russia remains on alert as the flow of polluted water heads for its border.
Also in China, emergency procedures were in full swing after Saturday’s earthquake which killed 14, 13 according to CCTV9. Tents were being sent to provide emergency accommodation for the residents of Ruichang and Jujiang in Jiangxi province. The 5.7 quake was felt in neighbouring provinces Hubei, Fujian, Jingsu and Shandong, but there was said to be no impact on the ‘Three Gorges Dam’ currently under construction 900 km from the epicentre.
In another recent disaster to hit China, an explosion in a mine has killed 134 and injured many others in Heilongjing province [Xinhua News]. 15 were also said to be trapped in the second mining accident this week. 3000 miners have died this year in mining disasters. CNN, quoting state run media sources, said 1,000,000 are killed in China every year by natural and man-made disasters.
[21:00 GMT 28/11/2005]
Two British pilgrims were assassinated and an peace activist was kidnapped in Iraq this weekend as the country descended into further chaos. The shooting occurred near Dora near Baghdad as the pilgrims travelled to a Shi’te mosque. The pilgrims had travelled from Northolt in London against all advice from the Foreign Office [BBC]. Meanwhile, following the kidnapping of the 74 year old activist Norman Kember, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was a “worrying time” for the family. Two Canadians and an American were also reported kidnapped in the incident which occurred in Baghdad on Saturday. More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq throughout the last year. [BBC]
Saddam Hussein today returned to court and faced some testimony against him for the first time [BBC]. One incident concerns the killing of many civilians in Dujail in 1982 and in which exclusive Cnannel 4 News footage was shown to the court. But with assassinations and shootings of defence lawyers and further delays to the proceedings, many Iraqis are becoming impatient and have demanded a swift trial and execution of their former leader. The case has now been adjourned until December 5th.
As one former dictator is tried over running a brutal regime, there emerges further accusations that ‘torture by the state’ is worse in Iraq now than under Saddam Hussein. Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s former interim prime-minister, speaking to a British newspaper claimed there were widespread cases of brutality being committed by Iraqi authorities [BBC]. In the Observer, Allawi said, “'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse…It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.”
“We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated,' Allawi added. 'A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them.” Jalal Talbani, Iraq’s current prime-minister, dismissed the claims saying they were “nonsense” [BBC].
The fallout from the Iraq war and the War on Terror continues to affect Britain’s domestic affairs. Further criticism of the Metropolitan Police came today as Sir Ian Blair faced claims over lying to family and the public over the shooting of an unarmed man at Stockwell Station in July. Charles de Menezes was shot on July 22nd by armed police who suspected he was a suicide bomber. The Metropolitan Police Service is accused of being slow in providing the family with information and did not publicly correct incorrect information which was circulating in the media. The MET say they “welcomed” an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission [BBC].
[19:51 GMT 28/11/2005]
Sunday, November 27, 2005
A major earthquake has occurred in Iran killing at least 10 people according to state media. The tremors hit the island of Queshm [26.84N 55.83E] in the Hormozgan province. Earlier this year in February 22nd a 6.4 earthquake hit Kerman province killing 270. And on 2nd January 2004 a 6.6 quake killed 26,000 in Bam. Sunday’s quake hit at 10:22 GMT with a preliminary magnitude measured at 6.1. It was measured at a depth of 35km.
[13:58 GMT 27/11/2005]
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Parts of Europe have been hit by heavy snow in the last 24 hours bringing chaos to many regions transport systems. In Cornwall in the UK hundreds were stranded in their cars after a jack-knifed lorry block a main route in the region. Police were reported to have commandeered four-wheel drive vehicles in order to rescue trapped motorists. A train derailment in the Highlands of Scotland on Saturday caused disruption but no serious injuries were reported. Several centimetres of snow fell in Spain and 2 cm per hour was reported in parts of the Netherlands. Snow was also reported in Belgium, where10 cm of snow fell on the capital, and in the Czech republic.
[18:53 GMT 26/11/2005]
Wen Jiabao in Harbin Saturday
China’s celebrations of its recent historic achievements in space this month have today been overshadowed by a series of industrial and environmental disasters. On the 13th November [according to the Independent – 26/11/05] an explosion at the 101 Chemical Plant created one of China’s worst environmental disasters in recent history. Chinese authorities are being heavily criticized for failing to release information sooner as up to 100 tonnes of benzene poured into the Songhua River. More than 9 million people have had their water supply cut off since Wednesday 23rd November. And whilst authorities attempted to supply bottled water to the residents of Harbin one official defended the holding back on the release of a public announcement. He said that information was ‘timely’ in order to avoid panic and to ensure enough bottled water was available before informing residents. Shi Zhongxin, Harbin’s mayor said, “The water shortage was a challenge to the government’s ability of crisis management. We had no reason to unveil the pollution news at the beginning. The government needed time to handle it. For example we needed time to buy in water”. The impact on the environment is clear and Chinese officials were putting out strong warnings to the public. Zhang Lujin, of the State Environmental Administration, said that fish should not be eaten for at least 2 months. The economic impacts will also be severe and one resident is reported to be attempting to sue the company responsible.
Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier, visited the area on Saturday and praised workers attempting to supply fresh water supplies. CCTV9 reported that the Chinese Foreign minister expressed deep regret over the disasters possible impact on Russia and said that China would deal with the incident in a “careful and responsible manner”. He was today meeting with Russian officials. CCTV 9 reported that a “strong effort” was being made to respond to the disaster and CCTV reporter He Yuan said the government was attempting to restore supplies by late Sunday.
But as one disaster was being dealt with there were futher reports of another industrial accident in southern China. An explosion at a chemical plant in Dianjiang in Chongqing was reported to have killed at least one person and injured at least 3 others. More than 6,000 were evacuated. And in Hebei in northern China18 miners remain trapped in a flooded mine. It is the latest in a series on coal mine accidents in the country this year.
At 00:50 GMT Saturday a 5.7 earthquake hit the south-eastern region of China. Fourteen people have been reported killed in the quake which hit near the towns of Ruichang and Jujiang in Jiangxi province. At least a dozen after shocks were reported. It was the first earthquake in the area for over 96 years.
And although of little help to resident of Jiangxi, today saw the beginning of construction of a Disaster Readiness Training Centre, west of Beijing. The $25 Million centre will provide earthquake training and disaster relief training when completed in 2007. $60 million has been spent on the Shenzhou 6 space exploration programme, money that many residents of disaster hit regions may feel could have been used differently, besides benefits provided by space technology.
[18:49 GMT 26/11/2005]
Thursday, November 24, 2005
A major environmental clear-up was underway in China today after an explosion at an oil installation. Sinopec, China’s main oil company apologized for the pollution and Chinese officials have said a massive operation was in full swing to clear the nitro-benzine from the river and to restore water supplies to the affected region. CCTV9 said that 16 tonnes of bottled water were being transported to the town of Harbin, in Heilongjiang province, which was most affected. At least 80 km of the Songhua river was said to be polluted with the chemical which was measured at 5 times normal levels. CNN reported that 70% of China’s rivers suffered from pollution but CCTV9 claimed that “although the leak was a disaster”, it was a “chance for the people of the region to have confidence in the Chinese government’s clear up plan”. Russia was less than happy after Khabarovsk was affected by the spillage. Russian authorities told CNN that “no adequate information” was forthcoming from China. CCTV9 however reported that China was concerned for the effects on its neighbour and that Russia was being kept informed at every development, adding that Russia was pleased with the information supplied. Ten hotels were on standby to deal with any casualties resulting from the poisoned water supply and authorities were deploying soldiers to help deal with operations. One official said that the pollution should have flowed into the sea in the next 40 hours and the water would soon be safe to drink. “I will drink the first mouthful of water myself” said Zhang Zuogi, a government official.
[19:46 GMT 24/11/2005]
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The Mirror 'Exclusive'
The White House has dismissed claims that George Bush was talked out of bombing Arab television station al-Jazeera by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The allegations come from an un-named source in the Mirror newspaper. The source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."
"The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush...He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem. "There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do - and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." A Government official suggested that the Bush threat had been "humorous, not serious". [BBC]
It’s not the first time that the US has been criticized for ‘targeting journalists’. In the Balkan conflict the Chinese Embassy was hit by an allied attack. Twenty people were injured and 3 journalists were killed. “Why did you kill her?” read the protests on one banner. Another demanded “Justice” and to “Fight Against [American] Hegemony” [CNN ]. NATO said the hit was “an accident” despite several previous deliberate targeting of the Serbian TV station only nights before [08/04/99]. Serbian TV was reported to have been broadcasting out of the Embassy at the time of the bombing. Stating that their maps were ‘out of date’ NATO offered apologies to the Chinese government, but thousands gathered to show their dissatisfaction of America’s explanation. Shao Yunhuan of Xinhua and Xu Xinghu and his wife Zhu Ying from Beijing-based Guangming Daily were killed in the attack.
Journalists were also ‘targeted’ in bombardments during the Iraq war. As the US moved into Baghdad in April 2003, American tanks fired shells at the Palestine hotel, home to many journalists and westerners. Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad was also hit during the final assault on the city killing one employee from the TV channel. A total of three journalists were killed on 8th April, Tariq Ayoub an Al Jazeera correspondent, Taras Protsyuk, a Reuters cameraman, and Jose Couso, a Spanish TV cameraman [PBS]. On the 28th October this year a Spanish court upheld warrants for the arrest of three U.S. soldiers who accidentally killed the Spanish journalist, Jose Couso, in Iraq in April 2003. [UPI]
[23:28 GMT 22/11/2005]
Monday, November 21, 2005
Bush meets Hu after his arrival in Beijing on Saturday
President Bush returned from China with little to show according to many reports. There was much posturing with veiled criticism from both sides. Bush visited a Protestant Church and received a bible from the priest. Sky News commented that one man had been jailed only the week before for ‘printing bibles without permission’. After the service President Bush urged the Chinese authorities to relax the laws on religious practice. He had earlier spoken in Japan and criticized China’s human rights record. He added that China should not fear freedom [CNN]. "What I say to the Chinese is ... a free society is in your interests." But whilst China’s state run news agency, Xinhua News, described George Bush’s meeting with Hu Jintao as achieving “important results”, George Bush described the conversation as constrictive.
Bush called for currency reform. Taiwanese “so-called independence will not be tolerated” said President Hu, in response to Bush’s call for peaceful negotiations. On trade, few concessions were made. Piracy is one area in which some progress was said to have been made.
His Asian tour also encompassed South Korea and Japan. In Japan he was greeted by a number of protests with placards reading “Bush is a Murderer”. Much of the protest was directed at the US policy in Iraq. And at home further criticism was directed at the Iraq policy and demands for a withdrawal by some senators. Amnesty International has also criticised the United States ‘use of torture’ at ‘black sites’ around the world and operating outside the Geneva Convention. The US denies they are operating such camps or that they torture prisoners. Meanwhile in Iraq the violence continues unabated. On Sunday the 98th British troop was killed and four others were injured. The roadside bomb occurred in Basra. A US troop was killed in Haditha by another roadside bomb and 8 insurgents were killed as they opened fire on the US convoy. Another blast killed a child in Baghdad and injured 5. China too has it’s problems as further cases of bird flu are identified with at least 1 human case. China says the situation is under control. But with another death in Indonesia and warnings that vaccine capacity is unlikely to be reached for at least 3 to 5 years according to Mike Leavitt, a US Health Services Secretary, the future remains uncertain.
[20:37 GMT 21/11/2005]
Friday, November 18, 2005
Baghdad: One 25th of a second after detonation of the bomb
Insurgents have today targeted journalists and Shi’ite Muslims in an upsurge of violence this week. Attacks today hit Baghdad at 8 a.m local time with two suicide bombers hitting the Al Hamra hotel, home to many journalists and ex-pats according to CNN. At least 6 people were reported killed including 2 children and a woman. Up to 40 have been injured. In Khanaqin in north-west Iraq more than 50 were killed in a double suicide attack on two Shi’ite mosques in the town during Friday prayers [CNN]. The attacks come after recent anti-insurgent operations in western Iraq by US troops where losses have been reported on both sides. It is feared that the sectarian violence may precipitate a civil war in the country. Other accusations of abuse this week by both US forces and the Iraq government [CNN] have done little to appease those critical of the continued US presence. Criticism has also been aired in the US senate after statements by Dick Cheney over the US governments position on the torture and interrogation of prisoners. The US authority’s admission to the use of white phosphorus has also brought strong criticism. White phosphorus is a colorless-to-yellow translucent wax-like substance with a pungent, garlic-like smell. The form used by the military ignites once it is exposed to oxygen, producing such heat that it bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. It can cause painful burn injuries to exposed human flesh. The US deny it was used against civilians, an accusation made on Italian TV. Italy's state-run RAI24 news television aired a documentary last week that alleged the United States used white phosphorous shells in a "massive and indiscriminate way" against civilians during the Falluja offensive [CNN].
Some senators have increased their calls for a troop withdrawal as the war enters its 32nd month [CNN]. Colonol james Brown, speaking in Iraq to CNN, responded by saying : "Our jobs not done".
[14:57 GMT 18/11/2005]
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Farmers protest at Tilbury Docks over Brazilian beef imports
Fifty messia finches bird died at the quarantine centre in Essex a report has revealed. Originally it was reported that a parrot had died after contracting the H5N1 virus, but further investigations have shown that some 50 birds from Taiwan were infected and have subsequently died [BBC]. The centre, Pegasus Birds in Essex, east of London, UK, was the subject of much controversy when it was reported that 2 parrots had died at the facility. It was later reported that 2 workers at the quarantine centre were also working at Southend hospital in Essex. Health authorities said there was no risk to patients from the husband, Mr Savage who worked there as a maintenance worker, and his wife [BBC]. Meanwhile in Japan it has been reported that the anti-inflammatory drug Tamiflu and been linked to two deaths in the country. The Independent on Sunday said that the drug had been linked to unusual and suicidal behaviour in several individuals and that at least two had died [VOA]. One person had reportedly jumped in front of a lorry and another leapt to their death from a high-rise building.
In another food scare, protesters have been airing their grievances at the importation of Brazilian meat. The beef has been the subject of a ban in at least 40 countries after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the Midwestern state of Mato Grosso de Sul [USA Today]. British farmers today protested outside Tilbury Docks on the River Thames to highlight their concerns over the importation of the meat. Foot & Mouth disease broke out in Britain in 2000 and thousand of pigs and cattle were destroyed. Brazil has in the meantime, blamed Paraguay for the outbreak which has resulted in the slaughter of at least 5,000 cattle [Cattle Network].
[14:45 GMT 15/11/2005]
Guangzhou - another possible target?
The US Embassy in China has issued a new warning of a possible terror attack on US interests in southern China, the China Daily reported yesterday. The warning came a round five days after Chinese authorities released a similar warning now said to have been a hoax according to Chinese police. The ‘credidible threat’ was said to target US interests in Guangzhou in southern China. ''The United States government has received credible information that a terrorist threat may exist against official U.S. government facilities in Guangzhou…This threat also may exist for places where Americans are known to congregate or visit, including clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events,'' the warning said. It told Americans in southern China to ''be aware of their surroundings and remain alert to possible threats.'' [IHT]
CNN said the threat was of particular concern as U.S. President George W. Bush planned to travel to China at the end of the week to meet with President Hu Jintao. Bush departs Monday for a seven-day trip to visit China, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia. President Hu Jintao is continuing his tour and is currently in Madrid, Spain. [Xinhua News Agency ]
[00:46 GMT 15/11/2005]
Monday, November 14, 2005
There has been a tsunami warning issued in Japan after a large earthquake near Honshu occurred in the last hour. The quake was measured at 7.2 on the Richter scale by the USGS which initially reported it as being 24 km deep at 38.17N 144.85E. The hit occurred at 21:38 GMT. CNN has carried the item as Breaking News at 22:36. Hosnshu is in north-east Japan. All Japanese news networks are said to be carrying the story.
[22:45 GMT 14/11/2005]
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Beijing - 'under threat'
China has warned of a possible terror threat luxury hotels with the upcoming visit by George W Bush [VoA]. The U.S. Embassy says the Chinese police warning was specific: Islamic extremists are planning to attack five and four-star hotels in China "sometime over the course of next week". The embassy advised Americans staying at luxury hotels to remain vigilant and to exercise caution. The warning had come prior to the bombing today of three US hotels in Jordan. Sixty three people have so far died in those attacks.
There are few known Islamic militant groups operating in China. However, China's northwestern frontier region is home to minority Muslim groups such as the Uighurs. China considers one Uighur group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, to be engaged in terrorist activities. Several Uighurs fought with the Taleban in Afghanistan and are now in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The BBC broke the story at 10:26 GMT on Wednesday, though Reuters did put out details some 3 hours earlier. There was no sign of the story on the Chinese state press agency website [Xinhua News]. George W Bush is set to arrive on November 19th.
[00:04 GMT 10/11/2005]
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
There have been three blasts in west Amman, the Jordanian capital. Three hotels have been hit: the Radisson SAS hotel, The Hyatt hotel and the Days Inn hotel. At least 18 people have been killed and more than 169 injured, Sky News reported quoting AP sources. CNN have cited 7 dead and 120 injured. Witnesses have described scenes of chaos speaking Live on CNN. The blasts are said to be terror related with possible suicide bombers being involved according to PETRA, a Jordanian news agency. The incidents occurred at 20:50 local time.
[20:24 GMT 09/11/2005]
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
President Hu Jintao flew into the UK today on the start of his tour of the West. Many politicians have made comments on Chinese issues and the bilateral relationships between the two countries. Prospective Tory leader David Davies visiting Essex, east of London, said, "Civil rights in China", were "very important", but that "the trade relationship and environmental issues" were also "very important in many ways."
"I would like to see our government take a leaf out of the American government’s book in one respect, and that is for the West to help invest in technology to help countries like China grow but with out environmental impact. We want to see countries which are poorer, like China, develop through trade, I don’t have a problem with trade with China," he said.
He added that human rights should be discussed with President Hu Jintao, saying, "It should probably be the top of the agenda."
Mr Hu will no doubt avoid discussions on human rights during his state visit and concentrate on trade agreements with Britain. He flew into Heathrow on Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by Princess Anne. He was soon in central London where he met the Queen, Tony Blair and other government officials. There were also many demonstrators outside Buckingham Palace to greet him. Many were demanding the independence of Tibet and for human rights to be granted to China’s citizens.
However as issues of human rights in China sit on the table, the British government are attempting to push through anti-terror laws which are seen by many as eroding human rights in the UK. Plans to hold ‘terror suspects’ for 90 days without charge has been criticised by many politicians, from both sides of the house. David Davies said today that the current 14 day period was satisfactory and that he was vehemently opposed to the 90 day custody period. Minor concessions have been offered by Charles Clark, the Home Secretary, including a possible ‘Sunset Clause’. This would provide a review of the bill after a year.
The coverage of the state visit was aired extensively by Sky News and BBC 24 but less coverage was provided by other broadcasters. PCNE [Phoenix Chinese Network TV] provided some live coverage, but CCTV9 continued with normal programming. ITV News and CNN only dipped in occasionally and then for only a few minutes. [BBC]
[15:53 GMT 08/11/2005]
Monday, November 07, 2005
Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, arrives Tuesday in London and he is set to discuss climate change, security and political & economic developments. Human rights will also be discussed but little may be achieved, nor will there be any marks out of ten given. For many groups China has not moved far enough in improving rights of the individual. Many trade unions are banned and more than 250 individuals are still jailed for their roll in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. According to Humans Rights Watch there are not enough calls by the world’s democratic leaders for China to make political reforms.
[23:34 GMT 07/11/2005]
There have been several developments in the War on Terror this week. Waseem Mughal, of Chatham, Kent, Younis Tsouli, from west London, and Tariq Al-Daour, also from west London, appeared at Bow Street magistrates court on Friday charged with 18 terror related offences. Some of the offences related to possession of videos showing the use of a “Martyrdom Operations vest” and information on how to make car bombs. All three were remanded for 2 weeks and taken to Belmarsh high security prison. In the US, 5 soldiers have been charged with abuse of detainees in Iraq [CNN] . Meanwhile George W. Bush has said that the US do not torture their prisoners. Speaking in South America he said, "There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again…So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law." But, he added, "We do not torture."[CNN]
In the UK, the Blair government suffered further set-backs in their ‘anti-terror’ bill [BBC].
In Australia authorities have claimed to have foiled a major terrorist attack. Fifteen people were arrested in raids in Melbourne and Sydney. And Australia's parliament rushed through urgent amendments to anti-terrorism laws last Thursday to allow police to charge people in the early stages of planning an attack [Reuters]. Meanwhile Iraq continues to be hit by bombs and attacks on both civilians and military personnel. The US forces have also been involved in heavy battles with insurgents in the west of the country near the town of Husayba [BBC].
And what of America’s most wanted Usama bin Laden. He was last seen on a videotaped message to Americans on Oct. 29, 2004, saying the United States could avoid another Sept. 11 attack if it stopped threatening the security of Muslims. President Bush rarely mentions bin Laden, who has eluded U.S. capture despite being the most-sought terrorist in the world. Bush did mention him by name in a series of speeches which focused on the war in terror last month.
Half of Americans think it's likely that the United States will capture or kill bin Laden, a number that has moved little over the last three years, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll.
[23:00 GMT 07/11/2005]
Friday, November 04, 2005
Diego Maradona has charged George W Bush as being ‘human garbage’ during anti-American protests in Argentina in the wake of the President’s tour of the continent. “For me I repudiate this human garbage, who is Bush,” he said, at a massive demonstration in Buenos Aires, Argentina [CNN ]. And in the past hour demonstrators have fought pitched battles with police as the protests descend into violence. Live coverage on CNN showed scenes of chaos with fires having been started and water cannon being used against the protesters near the Americas Summit. George Bush’s popularity is not going well at home either, after a poll showed an approval rating of 35%. Many policies have affected his popularity including the rising death toll in Iraq [now 2,039 US military personnel] as well as failed plans for relief following devastating hurricanes that have hit southern states this year.
[21:39 GMT 04/11/2005]
Forget ‘Bra Wars’, the latest trade war to hit China is a recent dispute with South Korea concerning pickled vegetables. Dubbed the ‘Pickle War’, it has soured relations between the two countries over recent weeks. The issues surround supposed lead contamination and possible parasite infestation in the product which is very popular in Asia and the Far East. The products are mostly made in China but exported to South Korea. South Korea has reacted by sending officials to China to carry out further tests. There was initially no comment from Chinese authorities and exports have continued despite the controversy. Many of the companies making the pickled vegetables are Korean firms operating in China and authorities eventually released statements saying that South Korean inspectors were “too critical” of Chinese products in general, but initially did not deny there may be a problem. This is not the first time the two countries have been involved in trade disputes. In 2000 there was a bitter dispute over the so called ‘Garlic War’. South Korea imposed a 300% tariff on garlic imports from China which were flooding the market. China reacted by cutting mobile phone imports from South Korea but compromises were eventually realized. [Reports: Xinhua News Agency / PCNE / CNN /China.org ]
[12:57 GMT 04/11/2005]
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Bird flu is continuing to cause concern in the west as the spread of the virus increases. The H5N1 virus has been seen in more than a dozen countries. A recent case in Vietnam has raised issues of how virulent the virus may be after a 14 year old girl and a 26 year old man died after eating duck and an egg. Most of the bird flu death has occurred in Vietnam with over 40 deaths there. Today George Bush today put forward an initiative to tackle the possible threat putting aside $7.1 billion. “A pandemic is unlike any other natural disaster” he said. “To respond, we must have plans in place in all 50 states.” [CNN] But with few hospitals having more than three or four isolation units, it is clear that should such a pandemic occur the health system in many counties would be overwhelmed. The virus was first detected in Hong Kong in 1997 and has so far killed some 60 of 120 people identified with the virus. The problem for many scientists is that a vaccine cannot be developed until the virus jumps the species barrier. There is also concern that some countries may be secretive in identifying outbreaks. China has been particularly singled out following cover ups during the SARS outbreak in 2002. In another development, another hospital worker who has been in contact with an infected bird was today identified. Mrs Joy Savage, the wife of another employee at Pegasus birds was revealed in radio and newspaper reports on Tuesday [BBC]. But health service officials say there was no risk to patients and that she, along with her husband Howard Savage, had been inoculated with anti-viral drugs.
[16:16 GMT 01/11/2005]