Thursday, March 26, 2009

Drug War 'Testing US Mexico Ties'

Rising drug-related violence is testing relations between the US and Mexico, the US secretary of state has said, describing the situation along the border between the two countries as "intolerable".

Hillary Clinton who wrapped up a two-day visit to Mexico City on Thursday said both countries shared blame for the violence and reiterated the US commitment to stand by Mexico in its war on drugs and related violence.

She has promised an additional $80m to help Mexico's police buy advanced US-made Blackhawk helicopters for its fight against the drug cartels.

"We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you," Clinton said, accusing "criminals and kingpins spreading violence" of corroding the relationship between the two sides.

The drug war has left more than 1,000 people dead in Mexico so far this year, with violence spilling over the border into the US.

On Thursday Clinton toured the Mexican federal police's state-of-the-art headquarters, the key command centre in the country's bloody war on drugs.

Garcia Luna, Mexico's federal police chief, said Mexico was building, with US support, a modern police force capable of taking on organised crime.

Mexico has long complained its police force is often outgunned by drug dealers armed with firearms purchased in the US and smuggled into the country.

It is illegal to export guns to Mexico but US authorities rarely check vehicles or trains travelling across the joint border into Mexico.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Children Being Killed: SRI LANKA

The conflict in Sri Lanka has killed hundreds of children and left many more injured, United Nations' children's agency, Unicef, has said.

Moreover, thousands of children are at risk because of "a critical lack of food, water and medicines", the agency says.

Intense fighting is going on between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

The Tigers have been driven from most of the territory they held by the army.

They are now cornered in a small patch of jungle and coastal area in the Mullaitivu district.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Medical Volunteers Kidnapped In Sudan

Days after Sudan's president derided international humanitarian workers here as "spies" and "thieves," three volunteers with Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped from their Darfur compound.

The abductions late Wednesday appeared to be part of the ongoing backlash in Sudan over an arrest warrant issued against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir last week by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Seven gunmen scaled the walls of the medical relief group's facility in Saraf Umra, 125 miles west of El Fasher, and seized the aid workers along with two Sudanese guards who later were released.

Although foreign aid workers in western Sudan have been robbed, carjacked, beaten and raped, the attack is believed to mark the first time international staffers have been kidnapped.

"This is something new," said Noureddine Mezni, spokesman for the UN mission in Darfur. "We deplore this act."

Doctors Without Borders said Thursday that it is withdrawing most of its international staff as a result of the attack, forcing the closings of several clinics and medical facilities that the agency operates in Darfur.

The identity of the kidnappers was unclear, officials said, but negotiations are under way to secure the workers' release. The victims are a Canadian nurse, an Italian doctor and a French administrator.

Sudanese government officials said they were assisting the talks.

The kidnappings come just a week after Doctors Without Borders found itself on a list of 13 international aid groups ordered to halt work in Darfur and leave the country. The expulsions came shortly after the International Criminal Court charged Bashir with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the government's counterinsurgency campaign in Darfur.

Two of the five Doctors Without Borders international divisions, from France and the Netherlands, were ordered out of the country. The Belgian unit was operating the clinic that was attacked Wednesday night.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

King Of Pop Michael Jackson

Stepping through the red curtains at the O2 arena in London to the hysterical screams of his loyal fans, the King of Pop almost seemed like his old self once more.

There were broad smiles, sparkling silver and jewels adorning his black jacket, and waves and peace signs for his army of followers.

There was no mask over the face, no trace of the supposed "flesh-eating bug" and no sign of the Michael Jackson who looked frail while shuffling into court in his pyjamas during his child abuse trial and deluded as he danced on a car.

His appearance to announce 10 dates at the O2 in the summer was a day that some thought would never come.

Given his past behaviour, there was a suspicion that he might fly into London, feel a bit funny and get straight back on the next plane home.

Or that if he did arrive at the O2 announcement at all, that he would hover in the background for 20 seconds, mumble something incoherent and then disappear again.

In the end, his appearance lasted less than five minutes, and his speech was filled with hesitant pauses.

But that can be put down to the fact that he was too busy grinning as he surveyed his fans, listening to their screams of support and making various gestures in response.

"I love you. I really do," he told them. "You have to know that. I love you so much. Really. From the bottom of my heart."

It was a far cry from a two-hour stage show, but it was a start.

He did not break into song, but he looked fit enough to persuade most fans to want to part with their cash.

There may have been fewer fans queuing up here than there would have been 10 years ago, but the hardcore are still as fervent as ever.

For them, seeing the King of Pop is a quasi-religious experience, and they went into rapture when he appeared.