Daily Archives: December 5, 2008

London braces for an unusually cold winter

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Snow in northern England

Londoners have become accustomed to mild winters but this year will prove to be particularly cold with the next 5 days expected to bring in Arctic weather.

Capital braced for Arctic weather

London Daily News | Dec 3, 2008

Much of northern England is already under a blanket of snow London is experiencing temperatures of -1 celcius and the potential of snow

London is preparing itself for some of the coldest weather of the year with the Met Office warning that temperatures will plummet to -1C. Londoners have become accustomed to mild winters but this year will prove to be particularly cold with the next 5 days expected to bring in Arctic weather.

Much of northern England is now in the grips of heavy snow with 2-3 cm predicted to fall today.

Retailers are hoping the cold weather will not affect the Xmas shopping season which is now in full flow, with many hoping that Xmas trade will help maintain a healthy balance sheet into the New Year.

Local councils in the capital are obliged to grit roads when temperatures fall to 1-2 degrees Celsius or below. The City of London Corporation has issued the following on its road and pavement policy in cold weather:

“Where there is any weather forecast predicting snow the plan’s alert system becomes operational and precautionary gritting is undertaken in the first instance. When a fall of snow occurs then the procedures laid out in the plan take effect until such time the snow has been cleared. During periods of severe snowfall other services such as waste collection become secondary priorities.”

At present no major disruption has been reported in the capital with all major transport working properly.

Britain deploys soldiers to battle early winter blizzard

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Drivers are urged to take care on the slippery roads

The Army was mobilised to help stricken drivers as heavy snow brought traffic chaos and cut power to thousands of homes in northern England.

Thousands Of Homes Lose Power

Sky News | Dec 4, 2008

Snowy weather

Hundreds of schools were closed across Northern England and Scotland.

As much as 20cm of snow fell in the Durham Dales, and 17cm was recorded at Redesdale, Northumberland, with driving winds causing drifts on transpennine routes in what was the heaviest snowfall of the winter so fall.

Around 4,450 homes were without power in north-east Yorkshire and north Linclonshire by early evening.

David Gill, head of customer services at utility firm CE Electric, said: “All available field staff are working to respond to power disruptions and they won’t down tools until the job is done.”

Snow sweeps the country

More snow is expected on Friday, although the showers are forecast to be lighter.

Between Blackburn and Helmshore, Lancashire, the snow trapped 70 people in their vehicles.

They were then helped by soldiers from the B Company 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in two 4×4 vehicles, as well as police and local authority staff.

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Children ride their sledge on the snow in Helmsley, northern England November 23, 2008. REUTERS

Police in County Durham said roads were treacherous right across the force area, while transpennine routes were made hazardous by the drifting snow.

Schools closed across the North, with several hundred across Yorkshire alone shutting, more than 100 in Greater Manchester, 70 in Lancashire, 34 in Cumbria, 70 in County Durham and 33 in Northumberland.

MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said rain pushed the snow clouds away as the day progressed, but they were expected to return tomorrow.

EU targets Chinese soy imports in new melamine scare

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Seized expired imported milk powder

AFP | Dec 4, 2008

BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Union (EU) decided on Wednesday to extend restrictions on Chinese food imports after high levels of the toxic chemical melamine were found in soya products.

After banning Chinese milk products in September, the 27-nation bloc has now decided to prohibit imports of Chinese food containing soya that is destined for infants or small children, the European Commission said.

Imports of all other feed and food products containing soya from China would have to be tested and only products containing less that 2.5 milligrams of melamine per kilogramme would be allowed into the EU.

Under the decisions, shipments of Chinese-made baking powder into the EU will also have to be tested after high levels of melamine were found.

The restrictions will be made formal in the coming days after EU food safety experts backed European Commission proposals for the measures on Wednesday, a commission spokeswoman said.

The European Union in late September banned all imports of Chinese milk-related products for children such as biscuits and chocolate after thousands of Chinese children fell ill due to milk tainted by melamine.

China said Monday that a total of 294,000 children had fallen ill from consuming dairy products containing melamine, with 154 of them still in serious condition.

Melamine is a chemical normally used to make plastics but it emerged in September that it had been routinely mixed into Chinese milk and dairy products to give them the impression of having higher protein content.

The scandal has quickly become a global problem, with Chinese dairy products around the world recalled or banned after they were found to be tainted with the chemical. However no melamine-related deaths have been reported overseas.

Last year, the 27-nation European Union imported about 68,000 tonnes of Chinese soya products or products containing soya with a total value of about 34 million euros (43 million dollars), according to the commission.

Of the total, 17,500 tonnes were soya sauce while the rest was mostly made up of soyabeans and feed, the commission spokeswoman said.

Melamine can cause kidney stones if taken in excessive levels and babies in China who were fed tainted milk powder suffered the worst because they consumed so much of the chemical.

While the melamine scare in China had centred on milk, the focus has begun broadening towards other food products after it emerged that some Chinese eggs also had traces of the substance.

The discovery raised concerns that it could be in many other Chinese foods, with the suspicion that it may have been mixed into other livestock feed.

Priest tried to warn of Cambodia’s insanity

“Tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them,” Kissinger told an official in the region, according to a declassified State Department account. The Khmer Rouge “are murderous thugs,” he said, “but we won’t let that stand in our way.”

CNN | Dec 4, 2008

By Erika Colin

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) — Francois Ponchaud was a newly ordained Catholic priest when he arrived in Cambodia in 1965 from a small village in France.

He was sent to do missionary work. But within a decade he would become a crusader against the worst genocide since the Holocaust.

“I was staying by the Cambodian people’s side,” Ponchaud said, “through the good and the sadness and the suffering.”

When he arrived at age 26, Cambodia was a peaceful place: a bucolic land of villages, peasants, rice paddies and Buddhist monks. Ponchaud studied Cambodian history and Buddhism, became fluent in Khmer, made friends and immersed himself in the culture — falling in love with the country and its people.

But the peacefulness was short-lived.

By 1970, Cambodia was descending into chaos as the Vietnam War spilled across its borders. In the countryside, the Americans were carpet-bombing Vietcong outposts. In the capital, Phnom Penh, Washington was propping up a corrupt government.

From the jungles, a sinister and brutal communist rebel group called the Khmer Rouge was fighting to overthrow Cambodia’s U.S.-backed regime.

On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge. They began to reinvent Cambodia according to an insane blueprint. They emptied the cities, including some 3 million in the capital, forcing all the residents into the countryside — and toward a dark future.

“As of noon, all the people started leaving,” Ponchaud said. “Then I saw all my friends who were leaving. … There were hundreds of thousands of people who were trudging along a few kilometers an hour. It was truly a staggering sight. Incredible.” Video Watch Ponchaud describe the exodus from Phnom Penh »

Ponchaud was told to stay at the French Embassy, where thousands fleeing Phnom Penh desperately sought asylum. One of the few foreigners able to communicate with the Khmer Rouge, he spent days at the embassy gate, trying to negotiate. Video Watch Ponchaud discuss the significance of the embassy gate »

In the weeks that followed, the Khmer Rouge let him leave the embassy twice. Both times he searched for clues about what was happening in the country. But Phnom Penh was empty.

Ponchaud was expelled from the city in the last evacuating convoy, as the Khmer Rouge forced all foreigners onto trucks and out of the country. At the border, Ponchaud broke down, weeping.

“It was as though we had gone mad,” he said. “We were getting out of a country of the living dead.”

With the country sealed, the Khmer Rouge went about creating their new Cambodia — and the killing began in earnest.

The Khmer Rouge envisioned a return to Cambodia’s medieval greatness — a “pure” nation full of noble peasant farmers.

For that, though, they had to purge everyone else: the rich, the religious, the educated, anyone from a different ethnic group.

“All those who were opposed to the government were killed,” Ponchaud said. “And all those who didn’t work quite hard enough were killed.”

Hundreds of thousands were worked — or starved — to death. “Perhaps a good chunk — a solid half — died from sickness and lack of health care,” he said.

By September 1975, Ponchaud was back in France and ready to resume his work. His missionary society in Paris asked him to keep track of events in Cambodia. He quickly became the “go-to” person for Cambodian refugees arriving from Thailand, and he began documenting their stories.

At first, Ponchaud had a hard time believing the accounts of execution, torture, deportation, forced labor and starvation. Read how a Khmer Rouge survivor is documenting the genocide

“They were burning villages … sending people into the forest without giving them anything to eat,” Ponchaud said. “It went beyond my wildest imagination.”

Horrified, Ponchaud devised a plan to gather more information: A friend living on the Cambodian border would record and send him broadcasts from Radio Phnom Penh — the official voice of the Khmer Rouge — in which the government described its transformation of the country. Read a former Khmer Rouge member’s account of the killings

Ponchaud found that the broadcasts substantiated the refugees’ claims. As unbelievable as those claims were, the broadcasts told of the same policies. What the refugees were saying was true.

“I decoded the radio — the official declarations. And then the refugees would give me the ‘experienced’ side. It matched up,” he said. “On one hand, the ideology, and on the other, the lived experience.” Video Watch Ponchaud describe how he was able to decode the Khmer Rouge ideology »

For months, Ponchaud gathered and documented information, repeatedly denouncing the Khmer Rouge. His testimonials appeared in the French press as early as October 1975.

He also wrote to the president of France and Amnesty International, and appeared before the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

In 1976, angered by inaccuracies in Le Monde’s reporting on the Khmer Rouge, Ponchaud fired off a letter to the newspaper’s editor — along with a dossier of refugee accounts and radio transmissions. He was contacted immediately and asked to write for the newspaper. His articles were published in February 1976.

Though few accounts of Cambodia’s nightmare were appearing in the press, the U.S. government was receiving frequent briefings about what was happening there. In a meeting in November 1975, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger acknowledged the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. But he also knew that they shared an enemy with the U.S. — Vietnam.

“Tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them,” Kissinger told an official in the region, according to a declassified State Department account. The Khmer Rouge “are murderous thugs,” he said, “but we won’t let that stand in our way.”

By 1977, the Khmer Rouge had been in power for two years, and much of the world remained unaware or uninterested. Many who did hear accounts of Khmer Rouge brutality found them hard to believe. Even prominent liberals and intellectuals doubted that a supposedly egalitarian peasant movement would perpetrate such horrors on their own people.

Ponchaud then published a startling book called “Year Zero.” It was one of the first to expose the brutal totalitarian regime of the Khmer Rouge to the world. Still, no help came for Cambodia.

“I was pretty frustrated,” he said. “The governments did not react. You know, countries don’t defend human rights. They are always subservient to politics.”

In January 1977, the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter promised a change. Carter vowed to put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy. But it would take 15 months for him to publicly condemn the Khmer Rouge as the world’s “worst violator of human rights.”

Even then he took no action to stop the slaughter. Invasion, he said, was not an option for a country still recovering from the Vietnam War.

Instead, in December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia after years of cross-border skirmishes. The Vietnamese quickly overthrew the Khmer Rouge, who fled back into the jungle.

The world would finally start to see that all Ponchaud had said was true. More than 2 million Cambodians were dead. The scope of the catastrophe quickly became clear. In the fall of 1979, Carter responded, raising $32 million to help the refugees.
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Today, Ponchaud is back in Cambodia, continuing his efforts for the Cambodian people, building schools, holding Mass and working on local projects. Often referred to as “the friend of the Cambodians,” he is considered an expert on the country. But this time he has no illusions.

“No one defends human rights,” he said. “Governments are cold beasts looking out for their own interests.”

Kissinger receives American Patriot Award

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Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State and this year’s co-chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), attends the opening news conference of the annual WEF meeting in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Davos January 23, 2008. Reuters

“Today Americans would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful. This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead with world leaders to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well being granted to them by their world government.”

“The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

– Henry Kissinger

Talk Radio News | Dec 4, 2008

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was presented with the National Defense University Foundation’s American Patriot Award in recognition for his distinguished, albeit often times controversial, career in public service.

Colleagues from the military, diplomatic, political and economic communities attended the award gala, and offered praise, matched with a goodhearted ribbing of Kissinger’s infamous ego.

“I want to warn you, especially you Henry, that I’m not going to praise you too much. I’ve known Henry very well for so many years, and I don’t want to overload the modesty that has been such a part of his character over these years,” Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, teased

Colin Powell, Secretary of State during President George W. Bush’s first term, recounted a party in which Kissinger escorted Princess Diana.

“Have you ever seen Henry escort a beautiful woman around? It’s something to behold,” said Powell. “He escorts her through the room, making sure all eyes are on him. It is absolutely marvelous.”

However, when it came to discussing Kissinger’s foreign policy contributions, the mood turned much more solemn.

Haig credited Kissinger for maintaining peace throughout the Cold War, “I am grateful for your lifelong friendship, for what you have done for this country. To bring it into this century, and to do so without a shot being fired. And let me tell you, that happened from strategic thinking and creative diplomacy, and thank god it did. And for that debt of peace and success we owe Henry Kissinger, who was the architect of those policies, a world of thanks and gratitude,” said Haig.

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan linked the Former Secretary of State’s policies with the spread of democracy abroad.

“In the 1960’s, there were fewer than 40 democratic nations in existence. Now thanks in significant part to Henry and the worldview he fostered in succeeding generations of American diplomats, American values are emulated virtually everywhere.”

At the evening’s close, Kissinger took the opportunity to reiterate his political philosophy.

“I came to this country as a refugee from Germany. So I have known in a way, that native born Americans cannot experience, what this country means to the downtrodden and those who need a ray of hope. And those of us who have gone through this have been committed to the proposition that American honor can’t be jeopardized for the sake of immediate comfort.”

Kissinger also touched upon the future, explaining that although he supported John McCain, the complex international situation requires cooperation.

“The new administration must be given every support and every encouragement to deal with this in the manner they have so far dealt with it. And I want to say that the hope of all Americans is with this new period that is now beginning.”

The National Defense University Foundation describes the recipients of the American Patriot Award as being those who have demonstrated ‘a profound and abiding love of country and whose inspirational leadership and selfless dedication symbolize our nation’s ideals, values and democratic principles’. Past recipients include John Glenn, Colin Powell, Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), and Senators Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Henry Kissinger has been credited with opening diplomatic relations with China, developing the political strategy realpolitik, and establishing détente with the Soviet Union. He has garnered criticism for helping to orchestrate a clandestine bombing campaign against Cambodia and allegedly supporting the 1973 coup that put Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet in power.

Newspaper ads question Obama citizenship

UPI | Dec 3, 2008

CHICAGO, Dec. 3 (UPI) — A non-profit group that questions whether President-elect Barack Obama is a natural born citizen is running ads in the Chicago Tribune this week.

We The People Foundation headed by anti-tax activist Robert L. Schulz of New York has placed ads in the Monday and Wednesday editions of the paper that raise questions about the authenticity of Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate, the Tribune reports.

Hawaiian officials say Obama’s birth certificate is locked in a state vault and have vouched for its authenticity. Schulz’s group contends Obama may have been born in Kenya.

Cases challenging the president elect’s citizenship have already been tossed out of courts in several states.

Schulz has told the Tribune his concern about Obama’s citizenship is not partisan.

“We never get involved in politics,” he said of his organization.

Schulz said he chose the Tribune for his ads after considering USA Today which charged a lot more.