Sunday, April 3, 2011

Many modern armies have struggled with how to battle an enemy who uses human shields, perhaps none more so than Israel.

So Israeli leaders were especially pleased Sunday after an admission by Richard Goldstone - a Jewish U.N. investigator who became persona non grata in the Jewish state - that war crimes accusations contained in his report on Israel's offensive in Gaza two years ago should be reconsidered.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United Nations to nullify Goldstone's report. Defense officials urged the international community to rewrite the laws of war. Commentators alternated between attacking Goldstone for causing what they said was irreparable damage to Israel and praising him for admitting he made a mistake.

"There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone report," Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

THE oil town of Brega saw more heavy fighting as rebels advanced then fell back after being ambushed.

Former foreign minister and UN General Assembly president Ali Treiki became the latest official to abandon Kadhafi, after the flight to Britain of foreign minister and regime stalwart, Mussa Kussa earlier in the week.

A British delegation was also reported to be in the Libyan rebel bastion of Benghazi in the east, nearly a month after a botched bid by special forces to contact the insurgency caused red faces in London when the team was captured.

Rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani confirmed the presence of a British group in the country's second largest city for talks with the Transitional National Council (TNC).

A British Foreign Office spokesperson also confirmed the trip, saying the team was led by Christopher Prentice, who also visited Libya last week.

The disavowal, by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who led a panel of experts for the United Nations, appeared in an opinion article he published in The Washington Post. He said that he no longer believed that Israel had intentionally killed Palestinian civilians during its invasion of Gaza.

Many here considered the essay truly significant. Commentary, came in a flood, ranging from gracious praise to vindictive indignation. Some cited the message of Proverbs 28:13 that whoever confesses and renounces his sins “finds mercy.”

Still, the question remained whether the harm the Goldstone Report caused — the ammunition it gave to those who view Israel as a pariah state and question its right to exist, the campaigns that have stopped some Israeli officials from traveling abroad for fear of arrest for war crimes — could be undone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel would work “to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures, in order to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the State of Israel.”

Thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Greater Damascus as funerals for those killed in a reported massacre by government forces last Friday were held in a suburb of the capital city.

Human rights groups have claimed at least 15 people were shot dead on Friday during pro-reform demonstrations in the neighbourhood of Douma, which lies eight miles north-east of the Syrian capital. Some non-governmental organisations claim up to 22 protesters may have been killed, with more than 100 wounded, including 20 in a critical condition.

Angry mourners chanted "down with the regime" as eight of Friday's victims, believed to have been targeted by government snipers, were buried.

"This was the systematic killing of peaceful and unarmed citizens by security forces," said Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Damascus Centre for Human Rights, one of several organisations that has collated matching witness accounts of the incident.

A day after an election official announced that Nigeria's parliamentary election was postponed for two days, the nation's election commission announced that all elections would be pushed back a week.
The Independent National Election Commission said the parliamentary, presidential and gubernatorial elections would be put off because of the late arrival of voting materials. "We cannot proceed with these elections if we want them to be free, fair and credible if there are no result sheets," said Attahiru Jega, chairman of the election commission, on Saturday, when the parliamentary race was supposed to happen. "We cannot bury our heads and say there are no problems. It is regrettable. It is unfortunate. It should not have happened." Jega also had said he took full responsibility for the fiasco but he said a vendor that was supplying results sheets and ballots was unable to deliver them on time. The vendor, said Jega, cited the diversion of planes to carry relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Japan as the reason for the delay.

The primary task of a visiting U.S. nuclear emergency response team will be to help the Self-Defense Forces with operations related to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, such as decontaminating residents and providing information to assist the SDF's medical activities. According to sources, the U.S. team will also prepare for unexpected contingencies, such as a large-scale radiation leak from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. About 10 members of the U.S. Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force arrived at U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo on Saturday as an advance party. They arrived on a U.S. transport plane from Maryland. They will be joined by two similar units scheduled to arrive Sunday and Monday. In total, the response force will deploy 155 personnel to Japan.

An Israeli military commander testifying Sunday in a civil lawsuit over the death of American activist in the Gaza Strip eight years ago said the young woman and other activists ignored army warnings to move before she was crushed by an armored bulldozer.

Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Washington, was killed in March 2003 as she tried to block the Israeli military vehicle in a dangerous area along the Gaza-Egypt border. The activists believed the Israelis were about to demolish nearby Palestinian houses.

The border zone was the scene of some of the worst fighting in the Gaza Strip before Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out in 2005.

The infantry major, the officer commanding the force on the day of Corrie's death, spoke as a lawsuit filed last year against Israel by Corrie's parents progressed through an Israeli court. He was the first soldier involved in the incident to appear openly in the courtroom, where previous witnesses testified from behind a screen to conceal their identities. The major's name was not made public, however, and he was identified only by his initials, S.R., according to military regulations.

Somali politicians on Sunday announced the creation of a new state in the battle-scarred nation, a move condemned by Somalia's fragile government, which said it could further fracture the already chaotic Horn of Africa country.

The creation of Azania was celebrated Sunday in a colorful ceremony in Kenya's capital. Its creation brings the total number of new states to more than 10.

Kenya supports the new administration as it creates a buffer zone near its border with Somalia.

Azania President Mohamed Abdi Gandhi said his first duty is to retake his territory from al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

"Our aim of establishing this administration is to first liberate these regions," he said. "We are not breaking away from Somalia."

Boxer Rola El-Halabi was shot by her stepfather and former manager before a title fight, inflicting injuries that are not life-threatening but could imperil her career.

The undefeated 25-year-old German was preparing to fight Irma Balijagic Adler of Bosnia for the vacant IBF lightweight title Friday night when her 44-year-old stepfather entered her dressing room and shot her in the hand, knee and feet.

He also shot two security guards before being arrested, Berlin police said.

Sunday's edition of the Bild newspaper identified the gunman as Roy El-Halabi and reported that 800 spectators were evacuated from the arena.

Rola El-Halabi told the German daily: "Papa rushed into the room. He threatened us with a gun in his hand and shouted 'Everyone out!' And then he shot me in the hand from three meters. I cried and screamed."

Bild reported that El-Halabi split from her stepfather as a manager in January.

"When I had problems I could talk with him about anything, except when it was about boys. That was taboo," El-Halabi said.

The three victims were taken to the hospital for surgery.

El-Halabi won the WIBF and WIBA world titles in 2009 and has an 11-0 career record with six knockouts.
Two headless bodies are dumped on a street in suburban Mexico City along with a message sent by a mysterious group called "The Hand with Eyes." Days later, a severed head shows up in a car abandoned outside an elementary school in the same suburb.

For drug lords, this sprawling metropolis of 20 million has been a favorite hide-out and place to launder money, making Mexico City somewhat of an oasis from the brutal cartel violence along the border and in outlying states.

Now a spate of killings and decapitations never before seen have authorities batting down fears that a once-distant drug war is making its way into the capital. Instead, they say, the violence since late last year comes from street gangs fighting for an increasingly lucrative local drug market.

While drug use in Mexico City doesn't come close to that in the U.S., it has grown dramatically in the past decade. About 8 percent of middle and high school students here now experiment with drugs, said city drug addiction adviser Patricia Reyes, a number that has climbed from 2.5 percent in 1998 according to national surveys.

Two Russian cosmonauts making their first flights into space said Sunday they are counting on their U.S. crewmate when the three blast off together for the International Space Station.

American Ron Garan logged 13 days in space on a space shuttle mission in 2008, which makes him the most experienced member of the crew. At 49 he is also the oldest.

Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko, 46, and Alexander Samokutyayev, 40, will ride into space on a Russian Soyuz to be launched early Tuesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They are expected to reach the orbiting station two days later.

"We've got Ron who's got this experience and he promised to help us with some issues and the feelings that we might encounter and that cannot be modeled on earth," Samokutyayev told reporters.

The launch is just a week shy of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic journey into space as the first human in space. Tuesday's launch is from the same launch pad.

The federal health care overhaul's core requirement to make virtually all citizens buy health insurance or face tax penalties is constitutional because Congress has the authority to regulate interstate business, the Justice Department said in its appeal of a ruling that struck down the Obama administration's signature legislation.

The government's 62-page motion filed Friday to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals argued that Congress had the power to enact the overhaul's minimum coverage requirements because it is a "rational means of regulating the way participants in the health care market pay for their services."

The motion also warned other pieces of the overhaul, including a law that blocks insurers from denying coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions, would be "unworkable" without a minimum coverage provision.

Twenty-six states filed a lawsuit that said Congress had exceeded its authority by requiring that all citizens buy health insurance or face tax penalties. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida agreed in a Jan. 31 ruling that said President Barack Obama's entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional. It is considered the most sweeping ruling against the health care law.

Germany's foreign minister said Sunday he will not seek another term as leader of the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition amid calls for his replacement after embarrassing losses in recent state elections. Guido Westerwelle told reporters that he would not run again to lead the pro-business Free Democratic Party at the party's congress next month, after the party's poor results in last weekend's elections in two southwestern states. Westerwelle said he would concentrate his energy on his post as foreign minister. "It was a difficult decision, but also an easy one," Westerwelle told reporters, hours after he returned from a visit to China and Japan. Pressure had been mounting on the foreign minister, who also serves as Merkel's deputy, since the Free Democrats saw their share of the votes halved in two state ballots last week. They were forced from the government in Baden-Wuerttemberg state and failed to make the regional legislature in Rhineland-Palatinate.
A pair of Taliban suicide bombers struck one of Pakistan's most important Sufi Muslim shrines on Sunday, killing 42 people and wounding 100 who were celebrating the anniversary of its founder's death with music, meditation and other practices abhorred by Islamist militant groups.

Another bomber was wounded when his explosive vest partially detonated. He was arrested along with a fourth militant who was seized before attacking, police official Ahmad Mubarak said.

The attack on the Sakhi Sarwar shrine ended a months-long respite in a relentless militant campaign against the shrines founded by ancient adherents of Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam that sees dancing, chanting and visiting holy sites as expressions of devotion to God. Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan called The Associated Press to claim responsibility for the assault.

"It was a huge blast. People were running in panic," said Fida Bakhsh, 42, a vendor outside the shrine. "It was horrible. We were running over bodies and blood."