No nuclear arms work in Iran, US intel says

3 12 2007

US Intelligence officials have said that Iran seems “less determined” to make nuclear weapons after an intelligence estimate concluded that Iran had halted the weapons program in 2003.

Read the National Intelligence Estimate’s report.

From the New York Times:

The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program. The report led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of the N.I.E.’s conclusions turned out to be wrong. The estimate does say that Iran’s ultimate goal is still to develop the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Sorry Bush and Cheney, no World War III anytime soon! If the NIE got it right this time.





Hugo Chavez defeated over reform vote

3 12 2007

From BBC News:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has narrowly lost a referendum on controversial constitutional changes.

chavez1.jpgVoters rejected the sweeping reforms by a margin of 51% to 49%, the chief of the National Electoral Council said. Mr Chavez described the defeat as a “photo finish”, and urged followers not to turn it into a point of conflict.

Correspondents say the opposition could barely hide their delight and that the victory will put the brakes on Mr Chavez’s “Socialist revolution”.

Read Chavez’s reform here.





Extraordinary “Kidnapping”

2 12 2007

The Sunday Times in the UK has reported that America has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

For those who believed that US law allowed kidnapping only in the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects, or whoever they don’t like, this comes off pretty surprising.

Also in the story, Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “This law may date back to bounty hunting days, but they should sort it out if they claim to be a civilised nation.”

I am sure there are more surprises to come. Surprise us, Justice Department!





Calling Teddy Bear a God

30 11 2007

Who would have thought that giving a teddy bear a prophet’s name would shake the diplomatic world within a matter of days?

But Gillian Gibbons now sits in a Sudanese prison while some Muslims ask that she be “shot by a fire squad” for disrespecting their religion. There were also some rumors about lashing Gibbons in the public as a punishment.

Where exactly is the line though? Putting a turban on the prophet’s head with a bomb on it was, I agree, taking it to another level. But should naming a teddy bear Muhammad should have never become this big of a deal.

The prophet’s name is one of the most common Arabic names. According to the BBC,

The Arabic name Muhammad is now the second popular name for baby boys in Britain, adding together its 14 different spellings in English.

And while one political editor of a Middle Eastern magazine says that the Muslim children give their pets the names of characters they like, whatever that may be, things were taken out of context because this was a westerner who Sudanese Muslims feel “offended Islam.”

And now the Sudanese blogosphere is responding to this issue. Many Sudanese bloggers are criticizing the government’s decision to imprison her.

Asking for Gibbons’ release, many have called the issue “pathetic” and termed Gibbons’ acts as “an honest and innocent mistake.”

Read BBC’s compilation of Sudanese blogs which wrote about this.

religion-toys.jpgOn a completely different note, I thought to myself how other religions handle gods, prophets and toys. I found toys of Jesus and Moses, and now of Hindu god Rama and Hanumana. These probably don’t compare to calling a bear [whose name is Teddy] Muhammad [who is a prophet].

But imagine the Christians and the Hindus imprisoning people because they made toys of their gods or called their teddy bears “the son of god” or “Shiva.”

Anyways, Sudan blew things out of proportion. How do they even justify adhering to their religion so strictly when they have killed over thousands and thousands of their own people in Darfur just because they are African Arabs?

I don’t think the prophet is too happy about that, either.





Playing your Enemy: FIFA World Cup 2010

26 11 2007

This is by far the most ironic preliminary draw in the FIFA World Cup history. BBC News did an amazing job at compiling the list of “enemy” countries which will be facing each other to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa.

You think England and Argentina were bad. Wait until you see these teams play.

Feel free to add any other rivalries or “enemies” in the comments section.

From BBC Sports:

TURKEY v ARMENIA

Turkey and Armenia are neighbours but diplomatic relations have been frozen for more than a decade. Their common border is closed.

The direct dispute is over a matter of history: The deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in eastern Turkey in 1915-17, during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

Armenia wants those deaths recognised as genocide. Turkey refuses to accept that term, saying the dead were victims of the general turmoil of World War I.

The two countries have never met on the pitch.

CHAD v SUDAN

Chad shares a long border with Sudan’s lawless Darfur region, where some 200,000 people have died and millions have been displaced during a four-year conflict.

Chad’s eastern areas have a similar ethnic make-up to Darfur, and the violence has spilled over the border.

Some 173,000 Chadians have fled their homes and joined the more than 240,000 Sudanese refugees in the camps.

The refugees are also threatened by the diplomatic fallout between Chad and Sudan as the neighbours accuse one another of supporting each other’s rebel groups.

NORTH v SOUTH KOREA

These political rivals fought the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace agreement, which means that the sides are still technically at war.

Relations warmed significantly after their first summit in 2000, although reconciliation efforts have been strained by the stand-off over the North’s nuclear weapons programme.

The two Koreas have faced one another several times on the pitch, with South Korea victorious on each occasion – including two World Cup qualifiers.

COLOMBIA v VENEZUELA

A day after the World Cup draw, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez froze bilateral ties with Colombia – its neighbour and second-largest trading partner.

The move followed the decision by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to end Mr Chavez’s role as a hostage negotiator with Colombia’s Farc rebels.

This is by no means the first time that repercussions of Colombia’s civil war, which began in the 1960s, have spread beyond its 2,200km (1,400-mile) border with Venezuela.

However, the nations’ football teams seem so far unaffected by the diplomatic spats.

FIJI v NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has imposed sanctions on Fiji’s military regime and their families following a military coup last year that deposed Fiji’s elected government.

Just last month Fifa postponed a World Cup qualifier between the two countries following a visa wrangle involving Fiji’s goalkeeper.

New Zealand denied entry to Simione Tamanisau because of his father-in-law’s links to the coup.





Cameroon striker Eto’o is the face of 2010 world cup

23 11 2007

FIFA World Cup in South Africa has reached a milestone long before the event has even started. It released its official poster for the World Cup where Samuel Eto’o was unveiled as the face of the 2010 World Cup.

etoo.jpg The poster (as shown in the picture) has Eto’o’s head and neck superimposed into the map of Africa. In FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s words, there will be no problem to recognize that it’s Africa and you have the face of one of the most popular and well-known faces of the continent.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said:

“Portraying a country in the shape of a man heading a ball is a new idea with potent symbolism. For me, football is all about emotion and passion, which is why I was particularly attracted to this poster. It invites the world to join in the celebration of the greatest football event on earth, while highlighting the pride and passion of the African continent and her people. It represents the African dream come true. The South Africans made a good selection for the poster, which will represent their country all the way up to 2010,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.

Eto’o was only 17 years old when he appeared in the 1998 World Cup in France. The Cameroon team, which currently ranks 24, did not qualify for the last World Cup.





Thanking the Thanksgiving!

22 11 2007

Eat The Press has a collection of thanksgiving messages from Media Mavens.
turkey.jpg

…we’re grateful for the stalwarts of the media community — specifically those who check their Blackberries on the day before Thanksgiving when we decide to ask them what they’re thankful for. It’s to those fearless men and women that we tip our pilgrim hat, because their off-the-cuff, from the hip, heartfelt responses have given us a Thanksgiving post that, may we say, is no turkey. Join them now in expressing thanks for all our gifts this season, and join them later in eating far more turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie than any human being is meant to consume in one sitting.

Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker writer, CNN Legal Correspondent and author of The Nine: Inside The Secret World of the Supreme Court:

“I know that Michael Vick is thankful for Larry Craig, who pushed Vick off the top of the news. Vick is thankful for Bernie Kerik for the same reason. And Kerik thanks Barry Bonds. And I, always, give thanks for Judith Regan.”

Read more to see who Brian Williams, Jon Meacham, Charlie Rose and others are thanking!