WTO talks progress, but new farm issues surface
GENEVA: Disputes over farm policies of emerging Asian countries and European rules on banana imports emerged Sunday as obstacles to a possible global trade deal after a full week of talks.
In Geneva, a decades-old dispute over European banana imports was edging toward resolution Sunday. But China and India were both fighting accusations that they were blocking a consensus.
China was trying to keep foreign rice, sugar and cotton out of its market by assigning them special status, said one diplomat familiar with the discussions. India was seeking protection for its subsistence farmers.
The United States was in talks about its system of tariffs on cotton, and Brazil made clear that it was dissatisfied with restrictions on its ability to export ethanol to Europe.
Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner, said that while the trade round was "not resolved," an agreement was in sight. "The big figures and core issues are largely sorted," he said, "but there are a number of stumbling blocks and potholes dotted around the core issues, any of which would detonate at any moment."
No end in sight for Colombia fighting
The United Nations reported in June that coca cultivation in Colombia surged 27 percent in 2007 to about 99,000 hectares, or around 245,000 acres, the first significant increase in four years. Nariño had the largest increase of any Colombian department, or administrative district, up 30 percent to 20,300 hectares.
The expansion has allowed Colombia to remain the world's largest coca producer and the supplier of 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States.
It has also made the drug-fueled conflict a resilient virus in large pockets of the country, with double-digit increases in coca cultivation in at least three other departments, Putumayo, Meta and Antioquia. In Nariño, almost every week, government officials, Roman Catholic leaders or aid workers report actions by the rebels or paramilitary groups.
In the last week of June, four schoolteachers in remote areas of the province were killed by a FARC column called Mariscal Sucre, one of three units of the FARC that are active in the area. The rebels claimed that the schoolteachers, all of them recently posted to remote schoolhouses by Roman Catholic officials, were army informants.
Just weeks before, in April, the FARC knocked out power for 300,000 residents along the Pacific coast with an attack on an electrical station. Colombian soldiers also found eight fuel-processing depots - holding 77,000 barrels of oil - used by the guerrillas for fuel and to process coca into cocaine in makeshift labs.
Nationwide, the FARC still collects $200 million to $300 million a year by taxing coca farmers and coordinating cocaine smuggling networks, according to Bruce Bagley, a specialist on the Andean drug war who teaches at the University of Miami.
That is down from $500 million earlier this decade, Bagley said, but it is still enough to finance the FARC after recent desertions and killings that have thinned its ranks to about 9,000 from 17,000.
13 dead, 2 missing after storms and floods in Ukraine
KIEV, Ukraine: Severe storms and floods in the Carpathian Mountains killed 13 people in Ukraine and another five people in neighboring Romania, officials said Sunday. Two other people were missing in Ukraine.Five days of heavy rain near the Prut and Dniestr rivers caused floods that damaged more than 21,000 houses, Ukraine's Emergency Ministry said in a statement.
"Ukraine has not seen anything like this in 100 years," First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchinov said in televised remarks.
TOUR DE FRANCE CYCLING
After long effort, Carlos Sastre claims the Tour de France
PARIS: Carlos Sastre has been a contender for the Tour de France victory for so long that few people thought he would ever actually win it.
Despite five top 10 finishes in the last six years and four victories in mountain stages during that time, Sastre was widely considered the always-a-bridesmaid rider who could not get far enough ahead in the mountains to fend off the superior time-trialing abilities of other, more well-rounded riders.
Two people did believe in Sastre, however, and they turned out to be the most important as the Spaniard rode into and through Paris in triumph on Sunday. The first was Bjarne Riis, the poker-faced manager of the CSC-Saxo Bank team and former Tour winner who said before the start of this year's Tour that Sastre was the team's leader - which most journalists took to mean that the team was really secretly betting on two younger riders, Frank and Andy Schleck.
The second was Sastre himself, who said before the Tour that he went into this season dedicated to not repeating last year's mistake, when he missed finishing on the Tour podium in part because of his poor performances in the time trials.
Sastre, 33, donned the final yellow jersey of the 95th Tour de France on Sunday on the Champs-Élysées, one day after a surprisingly strong ride in the final time trial preserved a 65-second lead over Cadel Evans, the Australian member of the Silence-Lotto team who was the pre-race favorite for the Tour crown.
Luxury brands discover social networks
PARIS: 'I love Cartier," writes Rockstar Mom. "Thanks for being so classic and timeless," adds Emily. Sting just gazes out broodingly from his publicity photo.On MySpace, Cartier has many friends like these - 3,761 of them, to be precise. Some of them are famous, others less so, but the jeweler is counting on them to spread the vibe through the social network and beyond.
Ben Hourahine, futures editor at the London branch of the ad agency Leo Burnett, said the use of social networks was appropriate at a time when consumer attitudes about luxury were changing. In a recent survey of U.S. consumers by the agency, only 7 percent said they thought "luxury" meant being part of an exclusive club.
First it was song downloads. Now it's Organic Chemistry.
After scanning his textbooks and making them available to anyone to download free, a contributor at the file-sharing site PirateBay.org composed a colorful message for "all publishers" of college textbooks, warning them that "myself and all other students are tired of getting" ripped off. (The contributor's message included many ripe expletives, but hey, this is a family newspaper.)
All forms of print publishing must contend with the digital transition, but college textbook publishing has a particularly nasty problem on its hands. College students may be the angriest group of captive customers to be found anywhere.
Consider the cost of a legitimate copy of one of the textbooks listed at the Pirate Bay, John McMurry's "Organic Chemistry." A new copy has a list price of $209.95; discounted, it's about $150; used copies run $110 and up. To many students, those prices are outrageous, set by profit-engorged corporations (and assisted by callous professors, who choose which texts are required). Helping themselves to gratis pirated copies may seem natural, especially when hard drives are loaded with lots of other products picked up free.
Experts on reading wonder: Is the Internet friend or foe?
BEREA, Ohio: Books are not Nadia Konyk's thing. Her mother, hoping to entice her, brings them home from the library, but Nadia rarely shows interest.
Instead, like so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer in this suburb southwest of Cleveland.
Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses myyearbook.com, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on quizilla.com or fanfiction.net, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.
Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A's and B's at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Konyk said, "I'm just pleased that she reads something anymore."
Children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age. The discussion is playing out among education policymakers and reading experts around the world, and within groups like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
Young people "aren't as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn't go in a line," said Rand Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. "That's a good thing, because the world doesn't go in a line, and the world isn't organized into separate compartments or chapters."
UBS suspends U.S. fixed income head amid probes
CHICAGO: Swiss bank UBS has suspended David Shulman, head of its U.S. fixed income unit, amid state and federal probes of sales of auction-rate securities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter.
In India, widespread terrorism is attack on 'our way of life'
Ahmedabad, the commercial center of the state of Gujarat, with a population of 3.5 million, is no stranger to violence. In 2002, a train fire that killed several dozen Hindus led to of the killing of 1,000 Muslims over several days - one of the worst outbreaks of religious violence in Indian history.
An obscure group calling itself "Indian Mujahedeen" claimed that the attacks Saturday were in "revenge of Gujarat," plainly referring to the 2002 killings. The statement was sent in an e-mail, written in English, to television stations just before the first blasts went off.
H. P. Singh, joint police commissioner of Ahmedabad, said Sunday that some of the explosives had been strapped to bicycles in crowded streets and markets. Later in the evening, a pair of car bombs went off in front of two city hospitals. At one of them, Civil Hospital, the dead included a husband and wife, both doctors, and two sanitation workers.
The police said that two additional bombs had been found and defused, in Ahmedabad and nearby Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat. On Sunday afternoon, the police found two abandoned cars in the industrial city of Surat, also in Gujarat, one stuffed with bomb-making chemicals and detonators, the other with live bombs. The police said they were still tracing the cars' ownership.
The Ahmedabad blasts came a day after a series of similar low-intensity blasts in southern Bangalore, which killed a woman standing at a bus stop. Two months ago in Jaipur, synchronized blasts on bicycles killed 56; the Indian Mujahedeen sent an e-mail message claiming responsibility for those attacks as well.
Obama, back in U.S., stresses Afghan role
Obama said that the European leaders he met - Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Brown - all had assured him that they hoped to do more to improve matters in Afghanistan, where more U.S. soldiers are now being killed than in Iraq.
His said his message to them was: "We need your help, we need your cooperation" and together the allies can make matters safer for all.
'We've been through two world wars together. We speak a common language. We share a belief in rule of law and due process," Obama said, explaining the relationship between the two countries [U.S.A & U.K.]. "We just like the people."
Rewriting the rules of American justice
We are, sadly, accustomed to hearing President George W. Bush's lawyers justify this administration's ceaseless efforts to undermine the Constitution and the rule of law: intrusions on privacy, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, torture.
It was bad enough when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales helped write and defend these policies; he always made clear his loyalties were to Bush, not the United States. But it was appalling to hear his successor, Michael Mukasey - who was supposed to be better - demanding that Congress further expand Bush's power to detain foreigners without charges or reliable evidence, and further evade judicial oversight.
In a speech last Monday, Mukasey renewed the administration's criticism of Supreme Court rulings on detainees. The court has ruled in several cases that Bush and then Congress, at his insistence, illegally denied the Guantánamo prisoners the basic human right to challenge their detention in court.
He demanded that Congress swiftly pass measures that would sharply reduce the possibility that any Guantánamo prisoner could have a fair hearing.
It would be catastrophically irresponsible for Congress to rewrite the rules of justice according to Mukasey's cynical template. There has been too much injustice already.
Militias in Baghdad weakened, but waiting
Gunmen ambush Shiite pilgrims near Baghdad
BAGHDAD: Gunmen hiding in reeds in a Sunni town south of Baghdad ambushed and killed seven Shiite pilgrims marching to a shrine here Sunday before a major holiday, officials said.
The pilgrims, all young men, were killed when the attackers opened fire in Madain, about 20 kilometers, or 15 miles, southeast of Baghdad, according a police officer who said he read an official report of the attack. An official at the Baghdad hospital where the bodies were taken confirmed the killings.
Shiites flee enclave in Pakistan after Taliban lay siege
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: It was once known as the Parrot's Beak, a strategic jut of Pakistan that the U.S.-backed mujahedeen used to carry out raids on the Russians just over the border into Afghanistan. That was during the Cold War.
Now the area, around the town of Parachinar, is near the center of the new kind of struggle. The Taliban have inflamed and exploited a long-running sectarian conflict that has left the town under siege.
The Taliban, which have solidified control across the Pakistani tribal zone and are seeking new staging grounds for attacking U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, have sided with fellow Sunni Muslims against an enclave of Shiites settled in Parachinar for centuries. The population of about 55,000 is short of food. The fruit crop is rotting, residents say, and the cost of a 30-kilogram, or 65-pound, bag of flour has skyrocketed to $100.
And, in a mini-conflict that yet again demonstrates the growing influence of the Taliban and the Pakistani government's lack of control over this sensitive border area, young and old, wounded and able-bodied, have become refugees in their own land.
Pakistan party defends civilian control on spy agency
ISLAMABAD: The decision to put Pakistan's main spy agency under civilian control was aimed at keeping the army out of the diplomatic line of fire, the head of the ruling party said in remarks published on Sunday.
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Saturday put the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) under control of the Interior Ministry on Saturday before flying off to Washington for talks with President George W. Bush.
Critics say the ISI played a major role in the creation of the Islamist Taliban movement. which took control of Afghanistan in the 1990s and harboured al Qaeda until it was forced from power by U.S.-led forces in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
Neighbouring India and Pakistan have often blamed the ISI for masterminding acts of terrorism in their countries.
Iran seen as main entry route for militants to Afghanistan
KABUL: Iran has become the main transit route for militants trying to join insurgents in Afghanistan, an Afghan government daily said on Sunday.
Some Western nations with troops in Afghanistan have said that Iranian weapons destined for the Taliban have been seized in Afghanistan, although they are unsure whether Tehran knew about the shipments.
The Shii'te Islamic Republic, which is facing growing international pressure over its nuclear programme, has denied funding or arming the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan.
Governor says NATO air raid kills dozens of Taliban
KHOST, Afghanistan: NATO killed dozens of Taliban insurgents in an air strike on Sunday in Afghanistan's southeastern province of Khost, the provincial governor said.
Explosions in Istanbul kill 13
ISTANBUL: Istanbul's governor says 13 people have been killed in a "terror attack" Sunday in a residential neighborhood in the city.
The governor, Muammer Guler, said about 70 people also were injured by two explosions in the working class Gungoren neighborhood.
A witness said the two explosions were about 10 minutes apart.
Many people were injured in the second blast after they rushed to the area to help people hurt from the first blast.
China discounts group's claim of role in bus bombings
BEIJING: The Chinese authorities discounted over the weekend claims by a purported Uighur Muslim separatist group in which the group's leader threatened the Olympic Games and took responsibility for fatal bus explosions in Kunming and Shanghai.
Iran and Israel
Benny Morris lives in Israel and he fears Iran and its eventual nuclear arsenal ("Using bombs to stave off war," Views, July 19). Alas, his fears reflect desperation rather than fact.
While Iran has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and publicly refused to develop nuclear weapons, Israel possesses such weapons and has not signed the treaty. Moreover, Iran has not attacked another country for centuries.
To justify an assault on Iran, one has to present the Iranian president as an anti-Semite. While overtly anti-Zionist, he is not anti-Jewish. Indeed, had he been anti-Semitic, he would harass Iran's Jews rather than challenge a nuclear-armed regional power.
But the emotionally charged allegations hurled at the Iranian president have become established truth and, moreover, ground for action in Israel and the United States. One should not mistake a wish to see a regime change for a physical threat to Israeli civilians. Like many non-Zionist Jews, he wants Israel to evolve from a state for the Jews - a major source of the Israel/Palestine conflict - to an inclusive state of all its citizens.
Even Bush administration officials finally understood this and began negotiations with Iran. This may have made Morris so desperate as to advocate the use of bombs "to stave off war." Prudence, not desperation, is in order, particularly when dealing with a leader regularly accused of irrational recklessness. Unfortunately, it is Morris who sounds irrational and reckless.
Yakov Rabkin, Montreal Professor of history at the University of Montreal
Russian proposal for European security would sideline NATO
BERLIN: Russia, which under Vladimir Putin showed increasing hostility toward NATO and other post-World War II security organizations in Europe, has put together a set of proposals that would essentially sideline these groups in favor of a broader alliance that could include countries outside of the Continent.
The proposals, to be presented to NATO ambassadors in Brussels on Monday, have no chance of being accepted by the United States and most of its allies in Europe. But they reflect the Kremlin's latest efforts to reassert itself on the world stage and challenge longstanding diplomatic practices.
"We do not expect immediate reaction on the part of our Western partners, or booing or, on the contrary, applause," Rogozin [Dmitri Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO] wrote in reply to questions about his proposals. "We are looking forward to teamwork and practical search of constructive approaches."
Russia plans new carriers to boost navy
MOSCOW: Russia announced plans on Sunday to revive its once-mighty navy by building several aircraft carriers and upgrading its fleet of nuclear submarines in the coming years.
Bosnia threatened with break-up
LONDON: Bosnia is closer to breaking up than at any time since its 1992-95 war and the European Union must do more to prevent its division, former international peace overseer Paddy Ashdown said.
Ashdown said the Serb Republic, which together with the Muslim-Croat federation makes up the Bosnian state, had set up parallel institutions and was working towards secession.
"Radovan Karadzic is at last on his way to The Hague. But the division of Bosnia that was his dream is now more likely than at any time since he became a fugitive," Ashdown said in an article published by The Observer newspaper on Sunday.
Serbia says more arrests could follow Karadzic
Genocide's epic hero
Aleksandar Hemon is the author, most recently, of "The Lazarus Project," a novel.
On Oct. 14, 1991, Radovan Karadzic spoke at a session of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian parliament, which had been debating a referendum on independence from the rump Yugoslavia. Karadzic was there to warn the parliament members against following the Slovenes and Croats, who had broken away earlier that year, down "the highway of hell and suffering."
He thundered, "Do not think you will not lead Bosnia and Herzegovina into hell and the Muslim people into possible annihilation, as the Muslim people cannot defend themselves in case of war here." Throughout his tirade, he clutched the lectern edges, as though about to hurl it at his audience, but then let go of it to stab the air with his forefinger at the word "annihilation." The Bosnian president, Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim, was visibly distressed.
It was a spectacular, if bloodcurdling, performance. Karadzic, who was arrested last week after 13 years in hiding, was then president of the hard-line nationalist Serbian Democratic Party, which already controlled the parts of Bosnia that had a Serbian majority, but he was not a member of the parliament, nor did he hold any elective office.
His very presence rendered the parliament weak and unimportant; backed by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav People's Army, he spoke from the position of unimpeachable power over the life and death of the people the parliament represented.
Watching the news broadcast covering the session, neither my parents nor I could comprehend what he meant by "annihilation." What he was saying was well outside the scope of our imagination, well beyond the habits of normalcy we desperately clung to as war loomed over our lives.
Then I understood that he was wagging the stick of genocide at the Bosnian Muslims, while the unappetizing carrot was their bare survival. "Don't make me do it," he was essentially saying. "I will be at home in the hell I create for you."
The parliament eventually decided a referendum was the way to go. It took place in February 1992; the Serbs boycotted it while the majority of Bosnians voted for independence. In March, there were barricades on the streets of Sarajevo and shooting in the mountains surrounding it. In April, Karadzic's snipers aimed at a peaceful anti-war demonstration in front of the parliament building, and two women were killed. On May 2, Sarajevo was cut off from the world, and the longest siege in modern history began. By the end of the summer, nearly every front page in the world had published a picture from a Serbian death camp.
There is little doubt, of course, that Karadzic would have happily sped down the hell-and-suffering highway regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary session. The annihilation machine was already revving; everything had already been put in place for genocide, whose purpose was not only the destruction and displacement of Bosnian Muslims but also the irreversible unification of the Serbs and their ethnically pure lands into a Greater Serbia. I wondered later why he staged that performance before the parliament, since peace and coexistence were never a possibility for him. Why did he bother?
The point of that performance, I eventually concluded, was the performance itself. Karadzic was already cast in the role he would perform throughout the war, up until his 1996 ouster from the Serbian political leadership and his subsequent life on the run. His performance was far less for the beleaguered Bosnian parliament than for the patriotic Serbs watching the broadcast, ready to embark upon an epic project that would require sacrifice, murder and ethnic cleansing.
Karadzic was showing to his people that he was a tough and determined leader, yet neither unwise nor unreasonable. He was indicating that war would not be a rash decision on his part, while he was capable of recognizing the inevitable necessity of genocide. If there was a job to be done, he was going to do it unflinchingly and ruthlessly. He was the leader who was going to lead them through the hell of murder to the land where honor and salvation awaited.
The model for Karadzic's role as leader was provided by Petar Petrovic Njegos' epic poem "The Mountain Wreath" ("Gorski vijenac"). Published in 1847, it is deeply embedded in the tradition of Serbian epic poetry and is a foundational text of Serbian cultural nationalism. Set at the end of the 17th century, its central character is Vladika Danilo, the bishop and the sovereign of Montenegro, the only Serbian territory unconquered at the time by the powerful and all-encroaching Ottoman Empire. Vladika Danilo has a problem: Some Montenegrin Serbs have converted to Islam. For him, they are the fifth column of the Turks, a people who could never be trusted, a permanent threat to the freedom of the Serbs.
He summons a council to help him determine the solution. He listens to the advice of his bloodthirsty warriors: "Without suffering no saber is forged," one of then says. He listens to a delegation of Muslims pleading for peace, who are instead offered the chance to save their heads by converting back to "the faith of their forefathers." He speaks of freedom and the difficult decisions it requires:
"The wolf is entitled to a sheep
Much like a tyrant to a feeble man.
But to stomp the neck of tyranny
To lead it to the righteous knowledge
That is man's most sacred duty."
In the lines familiar to nearly every Serbian child and adult, Vladika Danilo recognizes that the total, ruthless extermination of the Muslims is the only way: "Let there be endless struggle," he says. "Let there be what cannot be." He will lead his people through the hell of murder and onward to honor and salvation
Karadzic was intimately familiar with Serbian epic poetry. He clearly understood his role in the light cast by Vladika Danilo. He saw himself as the hero in an epic poem that would be sung by a distant future generation. The tragic, heartbreaking irony of it all is that Karadzic played out his historical role in less than 10 years. In the flash of his infernal pan hundreds of thousands died, millions were displaced, untold numbers paid in unspeakable pain for his induction into the pantheon of Serbian epic poetry.
Before he became the leader of Bosnian Serbs and after he was forced out by his supporter and fellow nationalist, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, in the wake of the Dayton peace accord, Karadzic was a prosaic nobody. A mediocre psychiatrist, a minor poet and a petty embezzler before the war, at the time of his arrest he was a grotesque mountebank. It was only during the war, on a blood-soaked stage, that he could fully develop his inhuman potential. His true and only home was the hell he created for others.
Which is why many Bosnians find Karadzic's arrest less satisfying than one would expect. Though he might spend the rest of his life in the comfortable dungeons of the Western European prison system, he will live eternally in the verses of decasyllabic meter written by those for whom the demolition of Bosnia was but material for the grand epic poetry of Serbhood.
Bosnians know he should have been booed off the stage at the peak of his performance. He should have been seen for what he really was: a thuggish puppet whose head was bloated with delusions of grandeur. He should have let us live outside his epic fantasies.
Justice is good, but a peaceful life would have been much better.
The risks of indicting a despot
WASHINGTON: Let's pretend, for a moment, that you are the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, sitting in Khartoum and likely to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity from the International Criminal Court for the last five years of bloodshed in Darfur.
You're watching CNN International, and what comes on the screen but Radovan Karadzic, the notorious Bosnian Serb leader, apprehended after 13 years in hiding and about to be hauled to the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague on war-crimes charges.
Now what, Mr. Bashir?
A) Do you get really nervous at this peek into your future and decide to straighten up, do what the international community has been telling you to do, sign a peace deal and let peacekeeping forces into Darfur?
B) Or do you get only mildly nervous at this peek into your future, figure that you have some options and decide that because there's a wanted poster with your face on it, you might as well forget the peace deal and give the Janjaweed even freer rein to attack civilians and maybe even a few relief workers?
Qantas asked to inspect oxygen bottles on its planes
Investigation of ETA cell reveals blueprint for violence
MADRID: The Basque separatist group ETA planned to murder politicians, attack businesses and start a summer bombing campaign in the tourist region of Andalusia, court documents show.
The details emerged during an investigation into one of the armed militants' most active cells, dismantled Tuesday by the police with the arrest of nine people. ETA has killed more than 800 people in its four-decade campaign for independence for the Basque region.
The cell was plotting to kidnap and murder Benjamin Atuxta, a Basque Socialist town councilor, in the same way Miguel Ángel Blanco, a conservative Popular Party politician, was killed in 1997, the documents said.
ETA shot the 29-year-old twice in the back of the head and dumped his body on a country road, provoking nationwide disgust, after the group's demand for all ETA prisoners to be moved to the Basque country went unheeded.
The guerrillas also planned to kill Senator Ramón Rabanera of the Popular Party and a judge, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and were about to carry out attacks in the holiday region of Andalusia.
Child deaths aboard migrant boat stir Italy
ROME: A Nigerian migrant's account of how his two children were thrown overboard after dying of thirst on their voyage to Italy has added fuel to a debate on whether illegal immigration is out of control.
The father and 74 other migrants were rescued on Saturday after setting sail from Libya a week ago. They were picked up by the Italian coastguard a day after the government declared a state of emergency over illegal immigration.
"The night we left Libya, the youngest one ... died in my arms and we were forced to throw him in the sea," the 30-year-old Nigerian said in comments carried in newspapers on Sunday, though an Ansa news agency report later said police had noted contradictions over some details of his story.
A day later, his three-year-old daughter also died, he said.
"She wanted water and something to eat. She suffered a lot, resisted a bit longer but didn't make it in the end," he said.
Wafa Amr, a Jordanian, has been working for Reuters in Jerusalem since 1994 with a focus on the Palestinian Territories. She lived in Gaza intermittently between 1994 and 2000 and the last time she was there was in mid-2005. The following story recounts her first visit since before Hamas took over the enclave.
By Wafa Amr
The air smelt of falafel cooking oil -- used by drivers to power their cars -- and a hint of sewage.
I was in Gaza for the first time since before the Israelis pulled out in 2005. The place where I lived intermittently for six years was -- utterly -- gone.
Beaches that once swarmed with people, gypsies dancing in Egyptian costumes barely covering their bodies to the cheers of young men and women, alcohol in some restaurants, the silver teeming of fish in the crowded market -- gone.
Demand for fish has slumped because as sewage is pumped into the sea, people are afraid to eat it.
At Erez border crossing, I stood for 15 minutes shut in a compartment like an airlock facing a concrete wall with another thick steel door carved in it, iron bars on the sides, and security cameras watching from above.
People said they had been trapped there for more than hour, watched by some soldier but unable to communicate with anyone.
"You have to stand in front of the door so they can see you and open the gate," shouted a worker through the iron bars, as he repaired damage done by a suicide bomber in May.
It was never paradise. The way in was always much easier than the way out, and the air used to ring out with the sound of bullets shot by gunmen for rival Palestinian factions.
But the atmosphere was alive, and people were hoping for freedom as the Israelis were due to leave the Gaza Strip.
Now, without a multiple entry visa to Israel, you could get stuck in Gaza, patrolled by bearded men with guns and veiled women, reading placards with Islamic sayings or verses from the Koran that are placed on roundabouts and some street walls.
When I finally got through the border, the bearded men ignored me and asked the taxi driver who I was and where I was going. Told we were following a car with my bureau chief and Gaza correspondent, they waved us in.
GREEN FLAGS AND GUNS
There was no question who was running Gaza. Hamas took over in mid-2007 after a power struggle with the rival Fatah faction following Yasser Arafat's death, and the Islamist group's green flags flew everywhere.
There were no more gunshots in the background: I only saw Hamas' bearded security forces and policemen with guns.
Instead, there was silence and destruction. Everywhere, destruction and emptiness. Ruined buildings ready to topple.
A shortage of petrol has made cars scarce. People travel in donkey carts, or motorcycles brought in from Egypt in January when people stormed the border to break the blockade.
Beit Hanoun, the once busy industrial zone, was flattened -- including the Oslo restaurant opened shortly after Arafat signed the 1993 interim peace deals with Israel negotiated secretly in Oslo, Norway.
Several shops and a few factories on the road to Gaza centre were shut. The few boutiques and restaurants that were open hardly had any customers. Garbage bags were on the streets and pavements. The economic situation has been aggravated by international sanctions imposed after Hamas took over.
I went to a supermarket in the luxurious al-Rimal neighbourhood and asked the shop owner about how conditions have changed.
My question sparked a heated debate among the customers. One woman passionately defended Hamas while others complained of worsening conditions under the Islamist group.
"I never felt safe under Fatah's secular regime of thieves and corrupt people. Now under Hamas, who believe in God, I feel safe," said the woman who only gave her name as Um Ahmad.
She was interrupted by another woman.
"Those who are not Hamas are treated badly. I was detained and interrogated for criticising Hamas and then sacked from my job," she said.
A man who had been employed by the Palestinian Authority in the coastal enclave said that during his seven-day detention, he was interrogated about why he had drunk beer eight years ago.
Many women have always gone about covered in Gaza, where religious traditions have been stronger than in some other Palestinian areas. Some continue to walk around without scarves. But headcoverings seemed more common.
A woman who, like many others, refused to give her name, said she never wore the headscarf before in Gaza.
"Hamas doesn't impose the scarf on us but we are forced to wear it to avoid the stinging comments we hear from their men and women on the streets," she said.
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Iran seen to hang 29 convicted criminals
TEHRAN: Iran executed 29 convicted drug smugglers and other criminals in Tehran's Evin prison at dawn on Sunday, state media reported, following an expanded crackdown on crime in the Islamic Republic.
Sunday's executions all took place at 0510 (1:40 a.m. British time), said state broadcaster IRIB. Executions of a handful of people at the same time are often reported but rarely a group this large.
Iran is often accused of rights abuses by rights groups and Western governments, although Tehran dismisses the criticism and accuses the West of double standards and hypocrisy.
"The 29 who were executed this morning were involved in the smuggling of narcotics on a wide scale, organised crime, murder and armed robbery," Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi was quoted as saying by state radio.
Police have in recent weeks arrested dozens of people in a new drive against "immoral behaviour" in Iran, which Amnesty International has listed as the world's second-most prolific executioner in 2007 after China.
Iran said on Saturday it planned to execute 30 people for murder, rape, drug smuggling and other crimes.
"We are hoping Tehran will become the most unsafe place for drug dealers, thugs and trouble-makers and also violators of people's honour," Mortazavi said.
"These convicts had long criminal records and after being released from prison they returned to the same criminal activities," he said.
IRIB said they "had smuggled thousands of kilos of narcotics in the country and outside the country" and that some of them were also convicted of rape, murder, armed robbery and "disrupting public security and peace."
At least 10 people were hanged in the country in July. In September last year, 21 people were executed in one day, but in two different places.
Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's sharia law, enforced since the country's 1979 Islamic revolution.
Amnesty International in April said Iran executed at least 317 people last year, trailing only China which carried out 470 death sentences.
1 person killed and 8 wounded in Tennessee church shot
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee: Police say one person has been killed and eight others wounded after a gunman entered a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, and opened fire with a shotgun.
Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen says that a longtime church member was killed during the Sunday morning shooting. He identified the man killed as 60-year-old Greg McKendry, an usher at the church.
Police say the gunman is in custody.
From: [Someone who was at the same school as me]
To: info AT ianwalthew.com
Subject: The book
you must receive alot of messages like this one nowadays
i liked the book
you probably don't remember me from sherborne , one year below you in westcott
i do remember a talk you gave to one of those literary societies in the annex of the dining room
lived on the dorset wiltshire border although i hardly go back now
liked your comments about the distancing yourself from those you had grown up with and that whole dinner party thing although i was never really sociable myself
and the passges about death feeling and refusal to feel
i have been living here in paris teaching since a year or so after university
i just missed your last appearances at shakespeare and the abbey bk shop
do keep me informed if you come back this way in the future
hope all well
[Someone who was at the same school as me]