Archive for June, 2006

“No More Tears Sister” :: Sri Lanka & Eezham vs LTTE

June 30, 2006 Leave a comment

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Explore the conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese Find out more about human rights violations Hear from Rajani’s family Discuss online with other viewers

Explore the conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese.

Timeline: History of the Conflict in Sri Lanka After 500 years of colonial rule, Sri Lanka became an independent state in 1948. Trace the history of the conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese since then.

Find out more about human rights violations.

University Teachers for Human Rights Since Rajani’s death in 1989, University Teachers for Human Rights has continued her work of documenting human rights abuses. Learn more about the current situation in Sri Lanka in this interview with members of the organization.

The Tamil Diaspora Jo Becker, the children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, talks about the Tamil Tigers’ recruitment of child soldiers, and about the role that expatriate Sri Lankans play in the ongoing conflict.

Hear from Rajani’s family

Film Update Rajani’s daughters and sisters talk about their reactions to “No More Tears Sister” and share their thoughts on Rajani’s legacy.

Discuss online with other viewers.

Talking Back Discussion Board Did Rajani’s story resonate with you? How should a minority group fight back when they are being oppressed? What is the role of women in warfare? Talk with other viewers of “No More Tears Sister.”

Tamil Tigers Opens in a new window

Council on Foreign Relations: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Backgrounder This short document from the American think tank provides concise background on the LTTE in a Q&A format, and addresses whether the LTTE has ties to other terrorist groups.

Tamil Eelam Homepage The official website of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) advocates self-governed sovereignty for the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Messages from Velupillai Pirapahara, the leader of the LTTE, as well as the Tiger perspective on the ongoing peace talks, are articulated in press releases from the past ten years.

Sri Lankan Government’s Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process: Peace in Sri Lanka Website Peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE occurred in Oslo on June 8 and 9 of 2006. The official website of the Sri Lankan government’s Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process offers an anti-LTTE perspective, and is dense with updated information from the Oslo talks, as well as press releases from previous peace talks. A timeline (link on the lower left-hand corner of the site’s homepage) provides month-by-month information on the negotiations from 2001 to 2006 from the government’s perspective. Extensive documentation of the LTTE’s ceasefire violations is also included on the site. How Sri Lanka’s Rebels Build a Suicide Bomber The Tamil Tigers have been called “the most successful terrorist organization in the world.” In 1987, the Tigers established a unit of volunteer members responsible for conducting suicide attacks called “Black Tiger.” Among the political figures they assassinated were a former prime minister of India and the president of Sri Lanka. In July 2002, Time magazine spent a few days with a female Tamil Tiger suicide squad to find out what motivates young Tamils to volunteer to be suicide bombers.

The Guardian Newspaper: Tigers at the Door The Tigers continue to have influence over the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, even those who have been abroad for more than a decade. This article by Jo Becker, the children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, (see our interview with Ms. Becker) investigates the Tigers’ use of intimidation to collect funds from Tamil immigrants in Britain. (March 16, 2006)

The New Yorker: Tides of War: After the tsunami, the fighting continues This extensive article by Philip Gourevitch explores the history of the conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, and takes a look at what is happening to the peace process in the aftermath of 2004’s devastating tsunami. (August 1, 2005)

Human Rights Watch: Sri Lanka In the ongoing civil war, both government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have committed atrocities and violated international human rights standards.� Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), has done extensive work documenting these human rights abuses on both sides, and their extensive reports, the full texts of which are available on their website, detail issues such as the LTTE’s use of child soldiers, the killing of civilians by both sides and the Tigers’ intimidation of the Tamil diaspora.�

Amnesty International Report: Sri Lanka This 2005 report summarizes the 2004 elections, strife and attempts at peace talks. Human rights violations such as politically motivated killings, the use of child soldiers and tortures by the police are highlighted. Links to the exhaustive Amnesty International reports, actions and news items on Sri Lanka (139 in all) are provided in a sidebar.��� �

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Blogger Love Fest; Best of YouTube

June 30, 2006 Leave a comment

Top stories for the week of June 26 – June 30, 2006

Call it the Summer of Love for bloggers. Plenty of big names gathered at BloggerCon IV for an (un)conference on the art and science of blogs. Nick Bradbury loved the whole thing but the highlight was Lisa Williams� talk on the Emotional Life of Weblogs. She talked about most bloggers being desert islands, while several bloggers responded that blogging got them off their desert islands. Chris Pirillo talked up users��the inmates running the asylum��even before leading a BloggerCon discussion, causing Platform Wars to pooh-pooh the idea that mere users have much useful to say. Blogher�s Elisa Camahort discussed under-representation of women in blogging  and everything else; and John Palfrey wondered about making money from blogging (all via Between the Lines). Next up on June 29: Chris Pirillo�s Gnomedex 6.0 complete with keynote by Senator John Edwards. See here for audio feeds for the sold out event.

Not all bloggers were feeling the love: BuzzMachine blogs that�s Rafat Ali has taken around $1 million in VC funding, joining Om Malik and But Ali�s not getting skewered like Jason Calacanis; Valleywag blogs about �Suit 2.0,� New York magazine�s unflattering profile of the newly minted AOL exec. On the other hand, Calacanis may be skewering himself with quotes like, �I don’t see why I can’t be the next Michael Eisner or Barry Diller … someone has to be.� Blink author Malcolm Gladwell also made friends by calling bloggers parasites who feed on newspapers to survive.

In product news, Digg 3.0 launched this week, with TechCrunch calling it beautiful but not yet stable, with cool features like an �upcoming� page, a tag cloud and an �agreed on� feature. Mix this with John C. Dvorak�s PC Magazine article on digg�s utopian idealism: digg�s a brain-dead Slashdot�and that�s (mostly) a good thing. Also out of beta is the eagerly-awaited Farecast, which predicts whether airline ticket prices are about to go up or down so you can nab the best prices. And Google now wants to track your credit card number and where you live. The company introduced Google Checkout, a service that acts like a wallet for shopping online.

NBC finally recognized that YouTube can be a friend, not a foe, and will run promos on it for new and returning series (via Micro Persuasion) plus a contest centered on The Office encouraging YouTube users to create short-form promos for the show. Not to be left out, SiliconBeat has Warner Brothers in bed with to distribute Warner�s vintage and new movies through the site.  But are people really watching shows like Lost or Desperate Housewives online? New Media Musings says it�s more like commercial parodies, how-tos and snowboarding gnarliness. TV Squad does link to Bill Simmons� list of best YouTube videos, which have a traditional-TV-and-media focus: the Vanilla Ice meltdown on MTV, David Letterman�s first post-9/11 monologue, and Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley �kissing.�

Climate scientists who saw Al Gore�s An Inconvenient Truth gave it five stars for accuracy, writes SF Gate; except for little errors like switching the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, even warming-theory opponents like the ex-veep�s attention to scientific detail. If you can�t make it to the theater, watch Al Gore�s famous speech at TED (featured in An Inconvenient Truth) courtesy of TED Blog. And just as global warming is bad for beach-front property, ScienceBlogs covers the Washington Post story about how Jon Stewart is bad for democracy; and so are the blabbermouths at the NY Times, says Michelle Malkin, and their traitorous, leaking sources are broadcasting classified information on troop levels. Let�s call those attacking the Times (but uh, not the Wall Street Journal, which reported it too) what they are, says HuffPo: liars.

In entertainment, Superman Returns opened Wednesday and critics were already wowed before the release, reports the BBC. Is Superman Christ? (via CNN) Is he gay? (via Huffington Post) Glitterati Gossip captures this week�s other shameless speculation: Scarlett Johansson and Woody Allen share the cover of New York magazine, and Allen refers to Johannson in an interview as �sexually overwhelming.� And finally, Dlisted quotes J.K. Rowling as saying that two Harry Potter characters will die in the series� final book�and they�re not extras.

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Politics this week: 24th – 30th June 2006

June 29, 2006 Leave a comment

Politics this week

Jun 29th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Israel launched its first big incursion with tanks and ground troops into the Gaza Strip since vacating it last summer, in the hope of forcing Palestinian militants to release an Israeli soldier they had abducted and to stop firing rockets into southern Israel. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, then raised the stakes by having a clutch of Palestinian ministers in the Hamas government arrested, along with some 60 Hamas MPs. See article

Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, spelt out a “national reconciliation initiative”, including a conditional amnesty for insurgents. At the same time, General George Casey, who commands the American forces in Iraq, is said to have mapped out, at George Bush’s request, a timetable for drawing combat units down to a third of their present size by the end of next year. See articleE+

The special Iraqi tribunal trying Saddam Hussein said that his second trial, for mass killings of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s, would start on August 21st. His current trial, for killing 148 Shias in a village north of Baghdad, is expected to end within weeks.

A radical Islamist, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, became head of the legislative council that now controls most of southern Somalia. His appointment was criticised by the country’s weak transitional government, as well as by America and Ethiopia: Sheikh Aweys led a Somali outfit that has been accused of links with al-Qaeda and terrorism in east Africa. See articleE+

In what he described as his first meeting with journalists for more than 20 years, Joseph Kony, the fugitive leader of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, said he was not guilty of the war crimes of which he is accused by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and called for peace talks with Uganda’s government.

Italy’s voters overwhelmingly rejected a set of constitutional changes, including more devolution to regions, that had been passed by the previous government of Silvio Berlusconi. The centre-left government led by Romano Prodi was cock-a-hoop; Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right opposition was in disarray. See articleE+


The French president, Jacques Chirac, made a rare television appearance in which he tried to shore up the authority of Dominique de Villepin, his prime minister. Few French voters were impressed: the popularity ratings of the two men are near record lows.

Joschka Fischer, erstwhile leader of Germany’s Green Party and foreign minister from 1998 to 2005, is to stand down from the German parliament. Mr Fischer plans to take up an appointment in international politics at America’s Princeton University.

The European Commission proposed some new measures in the field of crime and policing, including abolition of the national veto over some legislation, and giving the European Court of Justice a role in policing cases. Britain and Germany are likely to oppose the plans.

The European Court of Human Rights turned down an appeal against extradition by three British bankers wanted by the United States on Enron-related fraud charges. The so-called “NatWest Three” will now be deported under a controversial treaty with Britain to stand trial in Texas.

George Bush criticised as “disgraceful” the disclosure of a secret surveillance programme that tracks international banking transfers. Set up soon after the attacks of September 11th 2001, the programme was revealed by several newspapers last week. See articleE+

America’s surgeon-general called for a ban on smoking in public places after releasing a report on passive smoking. The study said there was “no risk-free level of exposure” to secondhand smoke, which can increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer to non-smokers by up to 30%.

Norman Mineta said he was stepping down as transportation secretary. Mr Mineta is the only Democrat in the cabinet and his appointment in 2001 was viewed as an attempt by Mr Bush to reach out across the political divide—a strategy that seems to have been long since abandoned.

Peru’s Congress ratified a free-trade agreement with the United States. But the vote drew protests from new opposition deputies, who will be sworn in with the recently elected president, Alan García, later this month. See articleE+

Final polling in Mexico’s presidential election predicted a tight contest on July 2nd, but nevertheless gave a slim lead to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-of-centre former mayor of Mexico City. See articleE+

Canada’s Conservative government announced a series of military procurements, including new navy vessels and army helicopters, as part of its new defence strategy. See articleE+


Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary of state, made a brief visit to Afghanistan and vowed that the gains made by democracy there would not be wiped out. It was viewed as a show of support for the embattled president, Hamid Karzai.

Vietnam appointed a new prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, and a new president, Nguyen Minh Triet. The most powerful position, that of Communist Party secretary-general, is still filled by Nong Duc Manh.

Prosecutors in Thailand called for the break-up of the country’s two main parties, the Thai Rak Thai party and the Democrats. The country’s Constitutional Court will have the final say. See articleE+

Taiwan’s president, Chen Shui-bian, survived an attempt to remove him by the country’s parliament. More than half, but less than the required two-thirds, of MPs voted to dismiss him

Opposition parties in Japan put more pressure on the governor of the central bank to resign for investing in a fund that has seen its manager arrested on charges of insider trading. Although he has not broken any of the Bank of Japan’s rules, Toshihiko Fukui nevertheless disclosed his personal assets to parliament in an effort to halt the furore.

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Business this week: 24th – 30th June 2006

June 29, 2006 Leave a comment

Business this week

Jun 29th 2006
From The Economist print edition

After months of vigorous resistance, Arcelor’s board finally succumbed to Mittal Steel’s €25.6 billion ($32.2 billion) takeover offer. Mittal’s bid for Arcelor, which operates steel plants in several European countries, had inflamed French economic nationalist sentiment, but Arcelor’s shareholders became increasingly drawn to the deal; Guy Dollé, the firm’s combative chief executive, is to step down. Severstal, a Russian steelmaker that acted as Arcelor’s white knight by offering a separate merger, said it was exploring its options. See articleE+

As metal prices continued to recover from their recent falls, the mining industry announced a huge deal. Phelps Dodge wants to buy Inco and Falconbridge, two Canadian-based nickel producers, for $40 billion (Inco must first complete its acquisition of Falconbridge). A copper miner in Arizona since the late 19th century, Phelps Dodge will become one of the world’s biggest mining groups. See articleE+

Not to be outdone by metals, the energy industry saw further big deals when Anadarko Petroleum made separate bids to buy Kerr-McGee (for $16.4 billion) and Western Gas Resources ($4.7 billion), two gas producers.

Warren Buffett made the world’s biggest-ever philanthropic donation by pledging to give away $37 billion, the bulk of which will go to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The investor said he hoped his generosity would spur other wealthy people to donate more to foundations. See articleE+

After an auction that saw more twists and turns than one of its soaps, Univision, the United States’ biggest Spanish-language broadcaster, accepted a $12.3 billion buy-out from a group of private-equity investors that includes Haim Saban, a media mogul. See articleE+

Johnson & Johnson agreed to buy Pfizer’s consumer-products division for $16.6 billion. The outfit, which includes brands such as Sudafed, is attractive because of the rising profits to be had from over-the-counter medicines.

General Motors and Delphi, which supplies the carmaker with parts, revealed that around one-third of both their blue-collar workers had chosen early retirement and severance packages. The take up in redundancies, higher than expected, will help each firm to restructure.

DaimlerChrysler said it would start selling its minuscule two-seater cars in the United States from 2008. Smart cars are already established in many European urban markets and Daimler is betting that America’s fading infatuation with gas-guzzling SUVs will be succeeded by fuel economy.

Investigators searched the Paris office of EADS, Airbus’s parent company, as regulators looked into the sale of shares in March, before a further delay in the A380 was divulged, by a co-chief executive, Noël Forgeard. Mr Forgeard used an appearance before a French parliamentary committee to defend his position, but investors in EADS continued to call for his removal.

In another blow to the image of big oil, American regulators said they were investigating whether a unit of BP manipulated the price of propane in 2004 by buying and hoarding vast quantities of the fuel. See articleE+

Consolidation in Europe’s insurance industry continued apace, as Italy’s Generali agreed to buy Toro, its smaller compatriot, for €3.9 billion ($4.8 billion).

Eurotunnel rejected an alternative plan, put forward by some of its bondholders, to the debt-restructuring agreement it signed in May. The group of creditors, led by Deutsche Bank, says the agreement fails to recognise the worth of their holdings.

Intel made two steps designed to claw back ground it has lost to Advanced Micro Devices, its arch-rival, unveiling a new chip for servers, which it said was more than twice as fast as previous models, and selling a unit that makes chips for mobile phones to Marvell for $600m.

The reliability of the computing systems used in Japan’s financial markets was further called into question when a technical glitch caused trading in Japanese bonds to be briefly suspended. Problems with computers earlier this year disrupted trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Business confidence in Germany rose in June to its highest level since just after the country’s reunification in 1991. With a separate survey showing that consumer confidence was at a five-year high, and the government reporting an increase in core inflation for June, markets speculated that the recovery in the euro area’s biggest economy would hasten a rise in interest rates by the European Central Bank.

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Utne Independent Press Awards Nominees — 2004

June 28, 2006 Leave a comment

Utne Independent Press Awards Nominees — 2004
November / December 2004 Issue


Utne Indpendent Press Awards 2004

To learn more about the nominees, see

General Excellence: Magazines

Ascent The Bark The Believer Clamor Columbia Journalism Review Governing Kyoto Journal Left Turn New Internationalist Orion Prospect Punk Planet This The Washington Monthly

General Excellence: Newsletters

Action for Better Schools Church and State The Commercial Alert Connection to the Americas CounterPunch Enough! The Frugal Environmentalist Great Lakes Bulletin The Hightower Lowdown The Human Ecologist
Lesbian Herstory Archives Newsletter
New Urban News Our Toxic Times Progressive Review Rachel’s Environment & Health News Religion Watch Toward Freedom The Wedge Co-op Newsletter

General Excellence: Zines

Bummers & Gummers The Constant Rider Cryptozoa
East Village Inky Ker-bloom! The Match
Moonlight Chronicles Stop and Smell the Butter Time is the Problem
True Story

November / December 2004 Issue

Best New Title

Daylight Magazine Greater Good Hyphen Lip n+1 The Neo-Independent Pistil Shameless Spacing World Pulse Young Pioneers The Walrus

Best Essays

American Scholar Autodafe
The Believer Brick Geist The Georgia Review Gettysburg Review Granta Harvard Review Notre Dame Magazine Orion

Arts/Creativity Coverage

Afterimage Artichoke Bookforum Cabinet Musicworks No Depression Rain Taxi Shots Signal to Noise SOMA Stop Smiling Take One Theater

Cultural/Social Coverage

Bitch BlackBook Clamor Columbia Journalism Review Kitchen Sink Kyoto Journal Maisonneuve The Nation Punk Planet This The Walrus The Washington Monthly

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Nominees for UTNE

June 28, 2006 Leave a comment
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UTNE Awards

June 28, 2006 Leave a comment
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MySpace Gorilla, Viral Videos

June 23, 2006 Leave a comment

MySpace is growing into a 27.4 billion page-view gorilla blogs TechCrunch. Watch helplessly as MySpace moves into 11 more countries, writes Yahoo! Entertainment News. Valleywag chronicles some MySpace embarrassments: a 14-year-old girl and her mom sued MySpace after a �boy� she met there turned out to be a 19-year-old guy who assaulted her when they met. But most of the so-called MySpace horror stories lately are nothing more than kids embarrassing themselves for life, blogs BuzzMachine. Still, MySpace this week announced moves to protect its youngest users � and some big new advertisers.

Web 2.0 shorts: Markaboo may lure many away from because of its easy-to-use, open-source social bookmarking service. TechCrunch is also watching Wetpaint, which lets you create a wiki on any subject in just a few minutes. Tell that to A-List blogger A VC who was deleted from Wikipedia for being �not notable.� Damn, says Scobleizer, everyone should have a Wikipedia page. Like wikis, RSS has endless uses, and Micro Persuasion features 35 of the less obvious ones: you can track drunk athletes, read the Bible verse by verse, or even read the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci one day at a time.

 Opera version 9.0 is out with a built-in BitTorrent downloader and assorted useful widgets. A Zulu in Silicon Valley likes it because it�s fast and has the best address bar; see a comparison to IE 7, Firefox and Flock here. If some of the sites you surf with these browsers demand ID, Lifehacker points to a False Identity Generator that creates a random first and last name, valid address with matching phone number, and a few other details for those times when you�d like a little anonymity.

Steve Jobs is leaning on Hollywood moviemakers to let him offer $9.99 movie downloads for iTunes (via business2blog), which is much more likely now that Jobs is Disney�s biggest shareholder.  But NetFlix isn�t exactly sitting still; Gizmodo reports that the movies-by-mail company is developing a set-top box to download the movies on subscribers� queues for one monthly fee. Until it gets here you can download a TV pilot that the WB network passed on: TV Squad says Nobody�s Watching, a comedy about two guys who get their own sitcom on the WB, is up on YouTube. The sitcom pilot is better than Connie Chung, who became a viral video phenom on YouTube by singing a parody of �Thanks for the Memories� for three hilarious (and horrifying) minutes (via Yahoo News).

But Chung still has a job; fellow ex-anchor Dan Rather got shoved out the door by CBS after 44 years (via Jossip). It was tacky, says fellow CBS News alum Meredith Vieira (via Huffington Post), but Rather may  get a soft landing with Mark Cuban. Everybody could win, says business2blog: Cuban gets instant mainstream acceptance for HDNet, and Rather gets a better gig than he had at CBS.

That is, if Cuban can keep from treating Rather like the NBA commissioner, who he at one point accused of rigging the NBA Finals against his Dallas Mavericks, blogs Deadspin. Cuban headed into Game 6 about $250,000 lighter after running onto the court, screaming at an official and similar nouveau mogul-type behavior in Game 5. It didn�t matter; the Miami Heat won the series in six (via New York Times).

Political bloggers had plenty to say when the bodies of two kidnapped U.S. soldiers were recovered in Iraq, mutilated and booby-trapped. Gay Patriot pushes through his outrage to explain how this atrocity fits the insurgents� media strategy. Daily Dish worries that accusations of U.S. torture of prisoners made this episode worse. It still took something like 30 attackers to take these two down, reports Reuters. Elsewhere, and despite the early date, Taegan Goddard blogs that there may be just three Democrats in the running for 2008: ex-Virginia governor Mark Warner (the mainstream guy) and senators Hillary Clinton (the elephant in the room) and Russ Feingold (the progressive�s progressive). These candidates may start spouting the same old Democratic lines, but retiring President Bush is singing a new song: �Sunday, Bloody Sunday� (via

 Finally in entertainment, Jossip excerpts Anderson Cooper�s blog on his interview with the most gorgeous woman on the planet, Angelina Jolie. Jolie says her next child will be adopted, and Defamer snarks about where the child will have to come from to achieve the proper national, race and gender balances in the Jolie-Pitt family. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban will marry this weekend in Sydney, blogs The Bosh, and they�re willing to bribe the paparazzi with a case of Victoria Bitter beer, says Style-Spotlight � but that creates the additional problem of drunk paparazzi.

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Politics this week: 17th – 23rd June 2006

June 22, 2006 Leave a comment

George Bush attended a summit with European Union leaders in Vienna, where he won strong backing for his reproach of Iran and North Korea over their respective nuclear programmes. Mr Bush also listened to EU calls to close Guantánamo Bay, and agreed he would “like it to be over with” but gave no timeframe for either releasing or trying the camp’s detainees. See articleE+

More than 74% of voters in Catalonia gave their approval to a plan that gives greater autonomy to the region. The Spanish government also supports the proposal, which gives the Catalans greater powers over law and taxation.

Three pro-Western parties in Ukraine, all supporters of the 2004 “orange revolution”, said they had formed a coalition after months of haggling.

Turkmenistan threatened to cut gas supplies to Russia unless Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, paid more for its gas. Any potential disruption also threatens Ukraine, as most of the gas supplied to it by Gazprom comes from the Central Asian country.

The president of Timor-Leste (former East Timor), Xanana Gusmão, said he would resign if the country’s prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, did not do so. The feud between the two men, which has led to clashes within the army, has plunged the infant nation into chaos.

America, Japan, South Korea and many other countries strongly urged North Korea not to test a long-range missile, which it is thought to have been fuelling ready for launch. Though not illegal, such a test would have big diplomatic consequences. See articleE+

Japan’s prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said that Japan’s contingent of 600 troops are to be withdrawn from southern Iraq, though no date has yet been given. The troops were performing non-combat humanitarian duties.

Nepal’s Maoists and the democratic political parties agreed to form a joint interim government, which will run the country until a new constitution can be approved that strips the king of his powers. See articleE+

Robert Zoellick is resigning from his post as America’s deputy secretary of state to join Goldman Sachs. A former trade representative, he is said to have been unhappy with his position as number two at the State Department and had been considering a move to Wall Street for several months.

Plans to overhaul immigration law this year receded when Republican leaders announced a series of “field hearings” in congressional districts later this year.

The Episcopal church chose Katharine Jefferts Schori as its presiding bishop; she becomes the first woman to hold the leadership post. The church also passed a compromise resolution calling for “restraint” in appointing gay bishops after an earlier proposal to institute a temporary ban was rejected, which risked a schism with conservatives in the worldwide Anglican church.

Louisiana’s governor ordered the National Guard back into New Orleans for the first time since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The guard will patrol areas of the city that are relatively deserted, freeing the police there to concentrate on a rise in violence in more populated areas.

David Safavian, the former head of procurement policy in the White House, was found guilty of trying to obstruct an investigation into his dealings with Jack Abramoff, a disgraced lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges. The trial is the first to stem from the Abramoff scandal; more are expected.


The embattled Brazilian airline Varig was forced to cancel a third of its 180 daily flights amidst mounting fears of a financial collapse. The move came the day after a bankruptcy judge agreed to sell the airline to a consortium of Varig workers and two foreign investors.

Juan Carlos Robinson, once a high-flying member of Cuba’s government, was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for corruption, the Cuban Communist Party announced. Mr Robinson, one of the few Afro-Cuban political figures on the island, had earlier been acclaimed by the ruling Politburo as an example of Cuba’s young black leadership.

The trial began in Argentina of a former police commissioner accused of murder, torture and illegal arrest during the “dirty war” under the country’s 1976-83 military dictatorship. The trial marks the end of 20 years of impunity for hundreds of officials under amnesty laws, which were annulled by the Supreme Court last year.

Charles Taylor, a former Liberian president accused of overseeing the killing of thousands of civilians, was flown from Sierra Leone to the Netherlands, where he is to be tried for war crimes at a UN-backed Special Court at The Hague. E+ See articleE+

Both Israel, which had been trying to join since the 1930s, and Palestine have been admitted as members of the Red Cross. The breakthrough was helped by a change of symbol from the traditional red cross to a more neutral red square.

International donors approved, in principle, emergency aid payments for three months to the Palestinians to keep vital services going. Whether they approve more, in particular for Palestinian Authority salaries, may depend on whether Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the government, agrees to a “prisoners’ document” that takes some steps towards recognising Israel.

The same day that one lot of Iraqi gunmen (probably Shia militiamen) murdered one of Saddam Hussein’s defence lawyers, others (probably Sunni insurgents) abducted about a hundred factory workers on their way home in buses just north of Baghdad, raising fears of yet another sectarian massacre.

After capturing Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, Islamist militias continued to advance to the north and west. Somalia’s interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, claimed that they were being helped by thousands of foreign extremists. See articleE+


China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, visited seven African countries, including South Africa and Angola, looking for deals to buy oil and commodities that would cement China’s position as Africa’s biggest trading partner.

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Business this week: 17th – 23rd June 2006

June 22, 2006 Leave a comment

The management of EADS, Airbus’s parent company, met to consider the aeronautics and defence company’s difficulties. An announcement of more delays to the A380 super-jumbo had sent its share price into a spin. Regulators in France started an investigation into the timing of a sale of shares in March by Noël Forgeard, EADS co-chief executive. As French politicians held an uproarious parliamentary debate on EADS‘s troubles, ILFC, the world’s biggest aircraft-leasing company, said it was considering cancelling its order for the A380. See articleE+

An investigation has been launched in America and Britain into an alleged cartel operated by several airlines. British Airways confirmed it was one of them and had placed its commercial director and head of communications on a leave of absence. See articleE+

More shareholders in Arcelor expressed unease about its planned merger with Russia’s Severstal. Alexey Mordashov, Severstal’s boss, dealt with some of the investors’ misgivings by agreeing to take a reduced stake of 25% in the new company. Meanwhile, regulators suspended trading in Arcelor’s shares until the Luxembourg-based steelmaker clarifies its position on Mittal Steel’s takeover bid.

Sinopec, a Chinese oil company, agreed to buy an oil-production unit from TNK-BP, BP‘s Russian venture, in a deal that marks China’s first step into Russia’s oil market. However, Sinopec immediately sold a 51% stake in the unit to Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, further consolidating the government’s hold on the country’s energy industry.

Roman Abramovich, Russia’s richest man (who lives in Britain), agreed to buy a 41% stake, estimated to be worth $3 billion, in Evraz, a big Russian steel group.

Nokia and Siemens agreed to merge their telecoms-equipment businesses. The deal comes less than three months after Alcatel and Lucent said they were merging. Like that combination, Nokia Siemens Networks will become a leading supplier of fixed-line and mobile apparatus as well as competing to provide internet, video and telephone services. See articleE+

A bidding war began for the core media and telecoms business of PCCW. The Hong Kong firm has received two offers, one from Macquarie Bank, a ubiquitous Australian institution, and one from Texas Pacific Group, a private-equity firm. However, China Netcom, a firm controlled by the Chinese government which owns a 20% stake in PCCW, gave warning that it did not want to see any change to PCCW‘s ownership.

The governor of Japan’s central bank, Toshihiko Fukui, offered to take a pay cut to atone for making a hefty profit from his investment in a fund managed by Yoshiaki Murakami, who was arrested recently on insider-trading charges. Mr Fukui has not broken any of the Bank of Japan’s rules, but has come under pressure to resign.

Deutsche Börse made another attempt to woo Euronext, a rival European financial-exchange company, away from its planned merger with NYSE Group. Euronext promptly rejected the offer. Meanwhile, it continued its takeover talks with Borsa Italiana, a smaller exchange. See articleE+

Allianz is to cut 7,500 jobs as it restructures its insurance and banking operations. About 5,000 jobs will go in the German firm’s insurance business. The rest will go at Dresdner Bank, which has already shed thousands of jobs since Allianz bought it in 2001.

Deutsche Bank outbid Citibank and others to buy Berliner Bank, a retail bank. This is the first foray by Deutsche, Germany’s biggest bank, into domestic consolidation. The seller, Bankgesellschaft Berlin, must itself be sold to a different buyer along with another subsidiary, Berliner Sparkasse, the local savings bank, by the end of 2007, under an agreement with the EU.

Morgan Stanley more than doubled its profit for the quarter ending May 31st compared with a year ago, to nearly $2 billion. This came after other big American investment banks had reported impressive earnings. Even so, Wall Street firms have seen their share prices dip as investors worry about the effects of a possible slowdown on bankers’ fees from big mergers.

There were 8.7m people with liquid financial assets of more than $1m in 2005 and whose total wealth reached $33.3 trillion, according to a report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. Two-thirds of these “high net-worth individuals” are in North America (2.9m) and Europe (2.8m); most of the rest (2.4m) live in the Asia-Pacific region. But the report warned against breaking out the Clos du Mesnil just yet: it expects the growth in the number of super-rich to continue slowing over the next few years.

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