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Sunday, September 19, 2010


I deeply apologise to any of you who have been waiting for any site updates over the past couple of weeks. I have recently moved back to University and the first couple of weeks have been exceptionally hectic. I promise to try really hard to get back into a steady update routine. Talk to you guys soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Terrorism Continues in Northern Ireland

People North and South of the Border in Ireland were shocked today when an 8 year old boy found a pipe bomb lying in the playground when he arrived into school early this morning. The boy from Co- Antrim in the North East arrived first into the school to deliver milk to the classrooms before the other students arrived.

The boy then brought the bomb into the school for a time with him before then alerting a teacher of the alarming discovery. The 400 students in the school were then evacuated to a nearby Church Hall before later being sent home. The bomb was declared viable by experts and is undergoing further forensic examinations.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weekend Randomness: Montana Teen Tries to Buy Drugs off of a Police Officer

This story is an amusing little gem which came out of the Associated Press News Agency today dealing with the case of a teen from the Montanan capital of Helena in the central Northern United States.

The male teen thought he was sending the following message to his drug dealer to get some pot "Hey Dawg, do you have a $20 I could buy right now?" Unfortunately, the young man actually sent the message to the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rioting in Mozambique

At least one person has died following a second day of rioting in the Mozambican capital of Maputo. At least 37 more are injured after the police fired live rounds into the crowds in order to try to disperse demonstrators.

Mozambicans are protesting a recent rise in the price of bread, fuel and other staple goods.The reason for the price hike is due to the appreciation of of the South African Rand against the Mozambican currency.According to reports the Government is already subsidising food, gas and other goods. Jose Pacheo, Minister for the Interior has called for calm and urged parents to control their teenagers.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Earl Closes in on the East Coast

Every hurricane season the media latches on to the prospect of another storm reaking catastrophic damage to the people of the Carribean and the US. This year it is the turn of hurricane Earl to get it moment in the spotlight, and it couldnt have come at a worse time, on the Eve of the Labour Day weekend in the US that would usually draw scores of Americans to the beach one last time before the Summer bids farewell.

The strength of the hurricane had been moved to a category four storm before being downgraded. However, as of 3A.M this morning it had again been upgraded with winds as strong as 135 miles per hour. The Hurricane has also been generating waves as high as 50 feet and is certainy the strongest of the 2010 Hurricane season.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Breaking Hostage Situation in Maryland

Reports are surfacing tonight of a potential hostage situation in the American State of Maryland. An armed man said to be of Asian descent has stormed the headquarters of the Discovery channel in a commuter belt town, Silversprings, near to the capital Washington D.C.

The building also houses a number of other companies such as architectural practices. The man is said to not only be carrying firearms but also has explosives strapped to his person. He has demanded a meeting with top officials at the corporation. It is clear he has some grievance with the group.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UN Report Announces Acts of Genocide in Democratic Republic of Congo

If you missed my post earlier in the week detailing the absolutely horrendous humanitarian disaster in the Eastern half of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) catch up here, Hell in Congo. Today's post deals with the recent leak of a UN report which states that in the 1990's during the period known as the African World War Congolese and Rwandan rebels committed what could be classified genocide.

In 1994, after the quashing of the Rwandan Genocide of 800,000 Tutsi's remaining forces were then moved West into the Congo then known as Zaire, where they went to hunt down Hutu forces who had fled into the notion after the genocide .Rwandan Tutsi forces then kept the Congolese ADFL rebels in power led by Laurent Kabila. Bothe groups have been accused of shocking human rights abuses in the nations.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shootings in Slovakia

The Slovakian capital of Bratislava was rocked today when  a gunman killed at least 7 people and injured a further 15. He then as often happens in these situations turned the gun on himself. He has yet to be identified by the police however, police have said he was in his 50's.

The shooting took place in a run-down neighbourhood, the Devinska Nova Ves. He shot dead 6 members of the same family, 4 women and 2 men. The other victim was a women who had heard the commotion and stepped onto her balcony. A young toddler was among the injured and a police officer was shot in the head, but not killed.   One of the injured is critical, 3 more are in a serious condition.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Volcano that Slept for 400 years

A volcano of the Indonesian island of Sumatra erupted today for the first time in 400 years. The eruption of the volcano known as the Sinabung volcano caused the evacuation of more than  19,000 residents as the authorities sounded the siren for a red alert.

The volcano has been showing signs of activity since Friday and it was at just about midnight that people first reported seeing a red glow at the crater and smoke rising high into the sky. They then reported hearing a large noise that sounded like an aircraft overhead. It turned out that this was in fact coming from the volcano.

Weekend Randomness: The Japanese Sumo Association

The Japanese Sumo Association or JSA made the news this week for taking a step out of character and investing in the latest form of technology for its plus-size members, apple's IPad.

The decision was taken after members complained of the difficulty of sending texts and e-mails using the small keys on a standard mobile phone. Owing to the larger size of the IPad the touchscreen has larger keys which are more navigable by their larger digits. The JSA claimed having one of these in every stable would allow them to keep in contact with their members more easily. They had been using faxes and phones to contact their memories in the past.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hell in Congo

There are few places on earth that have more ravaged by war in recent years than the Democratic Republic of Congo. This massive African nation is the continents third largest and the 12 th largest in the world. There is also 71 million people in the nation and the average per capita GDP is the second lowest in the world.

The country was a Belgian colony for a time up until its independence on the 30th of June 1960. While the country suffered deeply at the hands of the oppressive Joesph- Désiré  Mubutu it was not until 1996 that one of the most viscous and horrifying Wars this world has ever seen broke out. Involving 7 foreign armies and with a death toll from the conflict standing at 4.5 million it has often been dubbed the African World War. Indeed no war has taken so many lives since World War 2.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dead Immigrants found in Mexico

Police in Mexico are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 72 presumed immigrants discovered at a ranch in the North East of the country. The nationalities of the deceased have yet to be released. However police are co-operating with diplomats from Hondouras, Brazil, Ecuador and El Salvador in the hope of identifying the nationalities of the deceased.

The Mexican President used the unfortunate event to proclaim his victories in the war on his nations drug cartels. He stated the drug gangs are increasingly resorting to extortion and kidnapping migrants as "a result of the activity of the state against them, which has significantly weakened the operational capacity of criminal groups."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First-Cousin Marriage and the Case of the British Pakistanis

A fascinating documentary on Britain's Channel 4 last night (available on 4OD for British and Irish residents) shed light on the common practice of first cousin marriage in the British Pakistani population. The reporter Tazeen Ahmed documents her family's story on the Channel 4 website also. Her grand-parents were first cousins. Four of her uncles were deaf and her mother was the only daughter of 6 to survive past being a toddler.

Despite making up just 1.5% of the population a third of all children born with rare genetic conditions are ethnic Pakistanis. A half of all Pakistani's in Britain marry their first cousins. A child born to first cousin parents is ten times more likely to be born with recessive genetic disorders including deafness, blindness and child mortality. Cultures in Bangladesh, West Africa and the Middle East also partake in the practice but generally to a much lesser extent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hostage Horror in the Philippines

Breaking news out of the Philippines as a hostage situation lasting 12 hours has just come to an end. Taking place in the city of Manila on a bus carrying tourists from Hong Kong on a tour of the Filipino capital it appears the hostage taker was angry after losing his job as a law enforcement officer after being accused of being corrupt. He was acquitted of all charges but not being re-instated.

The gunman was named Rolando Mendoza, 55 and boarded the bus in Intramuros a historic walled city. It had been two years since his dismissal from his post as a senior inspector. He placed a sign on the window stating "Big deal will start after 3pm today." Later as the bus pulled into Jose Rizal Park alongside Manila Park he pulled out an M16 automatic rifle and announced he was taking the passengers hostage.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: The Wrap Up

Over the past couple of months I've been delving into the works of my favourite international movie house. And now in the final installment of the series I've decided to take a look at the company as a whole, where it is now and where it is headed in the future. But first, as with every story, we start at the beginning, its history.

Studio Ghibli was set up by Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, a now prolific producer at the Studio. Miyazaki had worked on a few projects with Isao Takahata, including Panda! Go Panda ! and  Hols:Prince of the Sun. Its was Suzuki San however, who invited Takahata into the Ghibli stable. The name    Ghibli came from Miyazaki's fascination with aviation.  Ghibli  was the name of a particular type of plane used in WW2.  It means hot wind blowing through the Sahara desert. It was the Studio's intention to blow a wind of change into Japanese animation. according to Suzuki San.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Randomness: The Case of the Exploding Mobile

In what has been a decidedly light week for news besides the constant horrific flooding in Pakistan this story could almost have made it into my regular week day posts however, I think it fits perfectly into my weekend randomnes Saturday slot.

Gopal Gujja, a 23 year old Indian man was the victim of a rather tragic, and unfortunate accident, his Nokia mobile phone exploded fatally killing him. While there were no witnesses to the event it is presumed he was talking on the phone at the time of the incident. He sustained fatal damage to his neck, head and shoulders.

Friday, August 20, 2010

HIV and the People of Swaziland

Over the past couple of months I think I have brought you guys news from some fairly remote parts of the world. However, I think their are few places lesser covered in international news the Africa's sole remaining total monarchy of Swaziland. So before I delve into why Swaziland made the news today (keeping in mind we are painfully in the middle of the silly season) I will give you guys a crash course in all things Swazi.

This nation of just over 1.2 million is bordered on the South, North and West by South Africa and to the East, Mozambique.  It has two capitals Mbabane (administrative ) and Lobamba (legislative and royal). Most Swazis speak siSwazi although English is spoken as a second language by many people in the country. It was colonised by the British and granted independence in 1968. The head of state is currently Mswati III. He elects a number of representative in both chambers of Parliament and the Prime Minister. Over 90% of Swazis are of some Christian denomination.

Set back for anti-Islam Book Burners

You may have heard the pretty alarming story of Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Church in the American State of Florida. The Church is a fundamentalist Christian organisation with a staunch anti-gay and anti-Islamic philosophy. The Church was founded in 1986 and Jones has been a minister working with the group almost since its inception.

The Church has constantly kept itself in the news through its deeply conservative campaigns and headline grabbing speeches. Last year it began distributing t-shirts with the slogan "Islam is the devil" emblazoned on the back and Biblical scripture on the front. Children of members of the Church were sent to school wearing the t-shirts. One was forced to change his between classes. Another student was sent home along with a further elementary school student.  It also erected billboards with a similar slogans.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Australia and the Commonwealth of Nations

Current Australian PM Julia Gillard has stated that it is her belief that the time for Australia to leave the Commonwealth of Nations. While Ms Gillard has always had these beliefs it is the first time she has chosen to express them on the campaign trail. With a knife edge general election in the nation just days away it raises the contentious issue of Australian republicanism for the first time.

Gillards centre-left Labor Party has advocated a republic for a long time however the opposition National/Liberal Coalition chief Tony Abott is a staunch pro-monarchist who doesn't believe there will be any significant change in the country's political make-up in his life-time. Indeed the Australian people have refused the chance to establish a monarchy in 1999 in a national referendum. The issue remains a divisive one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Silly Season Around the World

Every Summer on this side of the Atlantic the main houses of Parliament take extended holidays and the press endures what is known as silly season. This period is particularly rough from mid-August to September in Britain where newspaper readership drops off and events like Prime Ministers Question of course cannot take place. To counteract this trend often newspapers print attention grabbing headlines and are forced to dramatize relatively insignificant events on the world stage in order to try to grab readers.

However, the British Isles are not the only nations to suffer from this period of  informative drought, although the times and dates may change the premise is the same.  In Germany he period is known as Sommerloch (Summer hole) and in French it is la morte-saison (the dead season). The Swedish have the nyhetstorka.

Monday, August 16, 2010

China Under Water

Running concurrent to the unprecedented disaster in Pakistan was the extraordinarily devastating mudslides in mainland China. The nation has took part in a day of mourning yesterday, the whole country observing 3 minutes of silence. At 10 AM the Chinese Premier Wen Jibao paid silent tribute to the fallen ahead of a party meeting.

All across the country concerts were cancelled. Also, cinemas and karaoke bars across the nation were ordered closed. Even more interesting is that some Government websites changed their backdrops to black. China doesn't have many national displays of mourning, however, it is clear that when it does it is not a half hearted effort.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 8

Welcome to the penultimate edition of my me and Studio Ghibli feature. To day we are going to look at the two latest Ghibli releases on this side of the world in a Miyazaki double bill. However, the first of the two sees Hayao taking a break from the director's chair and letting his son have a go.

2006-Tales From Earthsea
Tales From Earthsea is the directorial debut of Goro Miyazaki, who must surely be commended for following in the footsteps of his father in the face of the obvious scrutiny and inevitable criticism he was going to face

The film is set in the fictional land of Earthsea where two dragons in the sky have appeared and are seen to eat each other an omen of impending disaster. The story follows the journey of the young Prince Arren rescued by Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk as they venture to find the source of the imbalance. They track it down to Cob who's drive to find the secrets of immortality  threatens to destroy the land.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weekend Randomness: An Interesting Awakening

Anyone looking for an amusing anecdote for the weekend could do a lot worse than talking to Arctic explorer Sebastian Plur Nilssen. The 23 year old was traveling with his companion Ludvig Fjeld as they attempted to become the first duo to ever travel around the Arctic island archipeligo of Svalbard, a region home to 2,700 citizens belonging to the kingdom of Norway.

While this is no mean feet in and of itself it was undoubtedly made just a tad more difficult by the events of one morning just last week where Mr Nilssen woke up to find himself in jaws of the worlds largest land predator, an adult male polar bear. He was subsequently dragged screaming in the jaws of the bear from the tent having tried to grab his shotgun but noticing the bear had managed to bend it in half.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Story of Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not known for its leniency in the face of crime. It imposes a strict form of Shariah law making its legal system somewhat at odds with the generally  held morality across much of Europe and parts of America. But very few cases have caused as much controversy outside the country as the case of Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani.

Ms Ashtiani has been detained since 2006 in East Azerbaijan.In May of that year she was sentenced to 99 lashes for illicit relationships with two men following the death of her husband.. In September of 2006 the case was re-opened during the trial of the  of the man accused of murdering her husband. It was claimed she had committed the more sever crime of adultery with the accused and was sentenced to death by stoning. She denied the allegation.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Disaster Continues in Pakistan

Starting last week the news wires broke the story of the torrential floods in Pakisatan. The TV and internet showed reports of catastrophic waves of water literally submerging vast expanses of land and claiming the lives of hundreds of citizens.

At the same time the news networks over here were running the story of the Pakistani President's trips to Europe including a much publicised meeting with the British Prime Minister David Cameron after his recent visit to India where he claimed Pakistan was a supporting terrorists in its borders, something that drew significant dissent from the Government in Pakistan. One interviewee speaking on Sky News claimed that President Zadari's trip in terms of the scale of the disaster would have been something akin  to George W Bush talking his whole Senate on holiday during the Katrina disaster.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A UN Report is Bad News for Afghanistan

A long awaited report released today by the UN has detailed a sharp increase in the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of this year. The figure marked a 36% increase on the same period last year. About 76 of the casualities were caused by anti-Government forces.

The death toll for the  for the period stood at 1,271 with a further 1,997 injured, mainly in roadside bombings. The toll from NATO lead forces and pro-Government forces dropped 30% to 386 ,while the share for the Taliban rose from 53% to 76% according to the report. A spokesman for the Taliban has denied the claims.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Environmental Disaster Grips Russia

Russia is currently gripped by some of the worst forest fires in the millennium long history of the nation according to top meteorologist Andrei Seltsovsky. It has resulted in a mass exodus from the country's capital as acid smog from fires 100 km away descends on Moscow.

The response from the central Government until recently  has been one of totally ignoring the existence of any problem. The results for the citizens have been devastating. The mortality rates in the city have almost doubled, rocketing from 360-380 a day on average to something in the region of 1,00 people. 1,300 of the 1,500 spaces in city morgues are currently occupied.Also 104,000 passengers, a record for this year flew out of Moscow on Sunday. The figure for the same day last year was 70,000.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 7

In the 7th part of our Studio Ghibli film we approach the middle of the 21st century with the directorial debut of Hiroyuki Morita, the Cat Returns and Miyazaki's second to latest Howl's Moving Castle.

2001-The Cat Returns
The Cat Returns is the second theatrical feature by Studio Ghibli not to  be directed by either Takahata or Miyazaki. It has a rather fascinating history based on Whisper of the Heart (detailed in Part 5) which I'll explain later.

The plot deals with the story of Haru, an average high school student in Japan who has the bizarre ability to talk to cats. When she saves the cat prince's son from being run over by a car she is offered his hand in marriage and numerous gifts. When she doesn't refuse outright she is whisked away to the land of cats. As she slowly herself begins turning feline she must plan her escape and return home with the help of the Baron.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Weekend Randomness: Tokyo' Oldest Woman

Yes on first look this might appear to be a repost but this really remarkably is a different story. Indeed, if you missed my post this time last week on Tokyo's oldest man you might want to take a look at it because it is as a direct result of that eerie finding that this latest revelation has come about.

Sparked by said eerie events the relevant authorities in Tokyo have begun investigating the whereabouts of their cities centenarians. They have now bene forced to start the hunt for Fusa Furuya, said to be Tokyo's oldest living female resident at 103 years of age.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homosexuals Hopeful in the Americas

Homosexuals across the Americas are facing a historic period in the history of their civil rights drive. On Wednesday the news wires were awash with the story of a federal judge's overturning of California's ban on same-sex marriage brought in by the Proposition 8 vote at the same time as the last Presidential Election in November 2008.

A similar ruling was made in Mexico's Supreme court yesterday decreeing that a fledgling law allowing for same sex marriage in  the city was not unconstitutional as had been claimed by the federal prosecuters who stated it violated the parts of the constitution which enshrined protection for the family.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kenya Goes to the Polls

Preliminary results released today in Kenya show that the country seems set to make a historic decision. It is replacing its old British colonial era with a new draft. The constitution currently in use in the country was drawn up in 1963 paving the way for Kenyan independence from the British colonial powers.

Supporters of the new constitution claim that it will dramatically reduce the powers of the President and make him more accountable to the people. This is an important amendment given the violence that erupted following the disputed results of the 2007 election. Then, ethnically fueled violence resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 citizens. The stories of the atrocities make for some harrowing reading.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Great and Ridiculous "Ground Zero " Mosque Debate

A fervent debate has gripped the citizens of New York over a  proposed Islamic Cultural Centre on the site of an old factory a couple of blocks away from the site of Ground Zero. Recently, the opposition of the proposal was dealt a blow when officials in the East Coast city declared that the old coat factory was not worthy of historical landmark status and was free to be demolished.

Some major figures in America have weighed in on both sides. Sarah Palin sided with the opponents dubbing it "An Intolerable Mistake on Hallowed Ground" on social networking site facebook, while the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg stated that any opposition to the proposal was "un-American". A New York fireman has stated he will launch legal action against the proposal.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sarkozy's War

Recent times have been tough for French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Over the past number of weeks there has been mounting scandal in Paris over alleged illegal campaign funding cash given to Sarkozy in 2007. The cash was said to have come from the billionaire heiress to the L'Oreal fortune Liliane Bettencourt .

The claims came from Ms Bettencourt's former accountant who say that the Sarkozy campaign received €150,000 or $196,000 in 2007. The woman also claimed that she had been put under "severe pressure" to retract the claims and that Sarkozy's current Labour Minister and Treasurer of his Party Eric Woerth was the man who is said to have picked up the illegal donation. Liliane Bettencourt is also in trouble over claims she dodged millions in tax illegally. Woerth's wife was a former financial adviser to Ms Bettencourt.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Peace in Colombia?

The Southern American Andean nation of Colombia is known for a couple of reasons, drug cartels and Shakira. However, the nation has been embroiled in bitter violence between Government forces and Marxist rebels since the 1960s.

The rebels emerged after a thawing of relations between the two largest political parties in the State in the 1960 after decades of violence. They were founded with generally Marxist doctrines and  the largest of the groups is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekend randomness: Tokyo's Oldest Man

Update: A story regarding the whereabouts of Tokyo's oldest woman has come about it the past week. Catch up at the link.

The current world life expectancy average is 67.5 years with the Japanese being the most long lived population in the world with average life expectancy of 82.6 years. This contrasts with the average in Swaziland of just 39.6 years. This weekends random news comes from Tokyo, a thriving metropolis of nearly 14,000,000 people.

 So in such a long lived population there is a lot of interest in just who is the most aged resident in the city. Up until this week the record was held by one Sogen Kato a man of 111 years. The record for world's oldest man is held by another Japanese person Tamoji Tanabe in the Southern City of Miyakonojo. He is also 111 years.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 6

In this, part 6 of my Studio Ghibli Feature we will be crossing into the 21st century and there is no finer way to get there than weith the critically lauded Spirited Away. But first let us take a look at one of the Studio's and Takahata's most overlooked gems, My Neighbours the Yamadas.

1999-My Neighbours the Yamadas
My Neighbours the Yamadas is Isao Takahata's fourth film for the studio and the most instantly stylistically different from the other films in the Ghibli canon.  It has a look of a moving water-colour painting and has the accolade of being the first Ghibli feature ever to be entirely computer animated.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Arizona Immigration Debate

All over America people have argued the legality of the proposed Arizona immigration bill, parts of which have come into effect today. Just yesterday the Obama administration won a key victory when parts of the bill were deemed unconstitutional  by District Judge Sarah Bolton. The moved has angered many republicans in the border state which suffers greatly from the immigration crisis.

The Governor of the State Jan Brewer is planning to appeal the decision of the judge and it looks likely the bill will be taken to the supreme court. Many other states across America were considering enacting similar laws and now it seems there pans may have hit a roadblock.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

India Extends Warm Welcome to Burmese Ruler

India has face waves of criticism from human rights groups due to a high profile 5 day long visit from General Than Shwe of Myanmar (Burma). The general berated by human rights groups for the illegality of his rule and the appalling human rights record in his country, was given a ceremonial welcome and greeted by top Indian officials as a State guest before being driven to the shrine of Mahatma Gandhi to pay homage to the late spiritual leader.

The Indian Government once was a staunch supporter of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi but began having greater dealings with the illegal rulers in the mid 1990s. The two nations have actually been allies since 1951 when they signed what was known as a 'treaty of friendship'. Since then the nations are estimated to have traded $1 billion worth of goods.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Iraq Inquiry

Today all eyes in Britain were on Hans Blix as he made his appearance before the chairs of the Iraq Enquiry. For those of you who may have forgotten (or who haven't yet seen Team America) Blix worked for the UN as chief weapons  inspector at the time George W Bush threw charges at the administration of Saddam Hussein of harbouring nuclear weapons, or what have now become known as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Of course we now know that Blix found no such ammunitions but the US swears by its belief stating that they were concealed from the inspector. However, later reports confirmed that Iraq had abandoned its weapons programme many years ago. Blix has since become a staunch opponent of the Iraq war. he claimed that the U.S. was "high on military" at the inquiry saying it believed it could get away with anything.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide

The most prominent international story of today is that of the sentencing of Kaong Guek Eav chief torturer in th regime of the Khmer rouge. He received 35 years 11 of which were taken off for being already served and 5 more for co-operating with the court. He faces charges of overseeing the murder of 14,000 in the horrifying genocide and countless rapes amongst other charges of inhumane acts, torture and crimes against humanity.

Across Cambodia people crowded in cafes and houses to watch the broadcast live on television. There was widespread outrage at the verdict. many had demanded he be imprisoned for the rest of his life. As one man pointed out he would be spending just 11 hours in jail for each of the murders he oversaw as head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison. The Cambodians have earned their right to anger. Their suffering has been great and so far retribution pitiful.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend Randomness:The Taiwanese Newsreader

Another week has flown by meaning its is time for another piece of weekend randomness. If you have missed out on any of the other editions in this series you can check them out in the blog archive on the side bar. This nugget of brilliance comes courtesy of Huang Ching a Taiwanese newsreader.

Last Wednesday while live on air the newsreader was the victim of a mosquito. The small insect was seen across homes in the nation crawling into the newsreader's mouth. Subsequently, the woman could be seen struggling for breath while valiantly trying to read out the rest of the news. Eventually, while in the midst of a sever asthmatic attack the broadcaster cut to 4 minutes of ads while a replacement presenter was drafted in and Ching was sent to hospital.

North Korea on the Offensive Again

There are very few countries I can think of as verbally aggressive as North Korea. In the wake of military drills on the Southern Norther border they released this charming little quote from the central press agency. The said they would "legitimately counter with powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces."  I don't exactly understand if this is North Korea claiming they are willing to go to war with the super power or basically reminding us they have nuclear weapons.

The drills carried out by the US and South Korean forces were in response to the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. if you missed that you can catch up here. Indeed the threat of War from both sides I believe is minimal. The last thing Obama wants is another war while his efforts to wind down US  involvement in Afghanistan are faltering and North Korea, a country with a devastated economy and aging leader surely doesn't want such unrest during a leadership exchange.

Starvation in Africa: An all too common Tale

Today  I read a shocking report on the current situation of food shortages in the central African nation of Niger.  Here hunger is threatening up to eight million people in the nation, half of its roughly 16 million population. The nation is in dire need of rainfall after drought has destroyed the lifestock of the largely nomadic country. The great hunger also threatens 2 million people in areas of the neighbouring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and northern Nigeria.

The UN World Food Programme says it only has half of the $213 million people it claims it needs to up the distribution of emergency food aid. Response to the crisis has so far been quite slow. The reason given for this is both obvious and devastating.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 5

Today's edition of Me and Studio Ghibli sees us at the mid-nineties with the realease of Whisper of the Heart and one of the studio's most popular works Princess Mononoke. If you have missed any of the other parts of the series you can find the links at the bottom of this post past the page break.

1995-Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is interesting in that it is the studio's only work besides Tales from Earthsea and the direct to TV movie Ocean Waves to not be directed by Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki. Instead it was the work of Yoshifumi Kondo who had previously worked at the studio as an animation director. His work can be seen in Only Yesterday and Kiki's Delivery Service. He also worked on Princess Mononoke before his death from overwork by a ruptured aneurysm in 1998. He was tipped to become one of the directors who would take over from an ageing Miyazaki and Takahata.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Child Sex Tourism in Asia

Today Mikhail Pletnev, a prominent and Grammy award winning Russian pianist took to the stand for a brief court appearance In Thailand charged with the rape of a 14 year old boy in Pattaya. The conditions of his bail require him to return to the court every 12 days but between these appearances he is free to travel as he wishes internationally. The maximum sentences for the proposed crime is 20 years. Pletnev has stated he is not guilty of the charge.

This allegation, raises again the issue of child sex tourism in Asia. Recent high profile cases of paedophilia in South East Asia have been the conviction of former pop start Gary Glitter and in Ireland only roughly a year ago a lauded Irish language poet was accused of similar offenses in the same region. Its clear that this is a growing and worrying problem.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekend Randomness: I can be people too!

Update: According to magical internet statistics last week's post on the penguin theft from Dublin Zoo  was pretty popular with you guys so I've decided to make Weekend Randomness a weekly feature. Tell me what you guys think in the comments section.

One of the suprising things you find while searching the web on the trawl for the best in international news is the sheer volume of random and brilliantly unique events that happen every day on this crazy planet of ours. But the story that particularly caught my eye this week was that of a pack of gorillas which began making the rounds on Wednesday.

Dr. Davila Ross has a job that most of us would envy, and probably as rare as a social dialectologist. Dr. Ross is an expert in primates with specific focus on play and leisure. Over the past three years she has spearheaded a study into a simple game of chasing (or tag in American) between a group of gorillas in 5 different European zoos.

Friday, July 16, 2010

BP Crisis: End in Sight?

Undoubtedly the biggest international story of yesterday was that the oil leak had finally stopped for the first time since the 20th of April, almost 3 months ago. While they have plugged the leak celebrations are muted as the relief effort is still in its early stages and a permanent solution is still a long ways off.

The team first needs to measure the pressure in side the well of oil on which their cap was placed. If the inside pressure is high that is a good sign. However, low pressure means that there is a leak somewhere else on the ocean floor releasing oil and therefore lowering the pressure in the well. This operation will be completed, it is expected in the next 48 hours.If this is successful the team will then turn its attentions to the construction of two relief wells, the first of which will not be completed until mid-August.

The Loosening Grip of the Catholic Church

Today marked the publication of the Catholic Church's newest legislation in the fight against its ongoing fight with child sex abuse amongst the clergy. This story made headline news in Ireland, a country that has been rocked by the abuse scandal more than most

Let me explain something about the Church and the nation of Ireland. the Church has been the greatest political influence on this country from its creation in 1992 up until very recently. At the foundation of the State the church  was in charge of most of the country's hospitals and education facilities (it remains in a majority today). It also lead to the banning of pornography, contraception and up until the 1970's had a "special position" in the very Constitution of Ireland. Indeed, up until the child sex abuse scandal broke (originally about 5 years ago) the idea of being an ethnically Irish person who questioned Catholic teaching was bizarre and even admonished by elderly people. now dissent rings out from many corners against the Church and the pain of abuse victims is strewn across every newspaper.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Homosexuality in Africa

Last week saw the passing of Ireland's civil partnership bill in the two houses of the Irish Parliament which will enact some of the same freedoms enjoyed by heterosexual couples to gay people in Irish law qhen it is enacted later this year or early 2011. Considering "buggery" was only decriminalised in this country in 1993 it is fair to say that this is a milestone for the country, still impacted heavily by the Catholic Church. However, on an EU basis Ireland ranks poorly when stood next to its Western European brethren and its clear that there is a long way to go.

As a gay man I am genuinely interested in gay rights worldwide and so last night's channel 4 documentary in its populr Dispatches series was a must for me. If you live in the UK or Ireland you may watch it on 4OD here, Africa's Last Taboo. The show follows an African journalist as he travels around what he refers to as his continent visiting Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. The programme states that over two thirds of African nations have laws condemning acts of homosexuality. 17 of these countries maintain laws passed down by the British in colonial times. The programme all in all was fascinating and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in LGBT rights. It spurred me into taking a closer look into the issue on the world's most conservative continent.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Horror in Uganda

If you have read my post a couple of weeks ago about the recent presidential election in Somaliland, (if not catch it here) you will have heard about the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab. They are currently in control of a large portion of central and Southern Somalia including a large area of the Somali capital Mogadishu. Here it has imposed a form of Shariah law.

They are currently in the news due to last night's attacks on the Ugandan capital Kampala. There were three bomb blasts in the capital which coincided with the World Cup final. Two blasts were heard in the rugby centre where a group of fans were enjoying the match and a third was directed at an Ethiopian restaurant in a busy shopping district. The group is claiming responsibility for the attacks. 74 people including an Irish and American person, Ethiopian and Eritrean citizens along with a large group of Ugandans.

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 4

It has been a while since my last entry in this series and I apologise for past design quirks (which remain unfix-able despite my best efforts). So having looked at the studio's first 6 masterpieces we will now turn to look at Porco Rosso and Pom Poko, films with a pig and raccoon lead respectfully. If you've missed any of the other parts of this feature you can find links at the bottom of this post.

1992-Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso could be described as a labour of love for Hayao Miyazaki, its creator and director. The film is interesting in that it has a clearly defined historical and geographical setting. It is set between the two World Wars in a town probably near to Fiume (a former independent state before its annexation  back to Italy).