Putin praises Russian car on 2,000-km drive in Far East

August 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russia’s car industry had a pleasant surprise for Vladimir Putin on Friday as the prime minister was moved to praise the Lada Kalina he is driving through four Far Eastern Russian regions.

Stopping to fill up the tank at a gas station almost 400 kilometers into his 2,000-kilometer trip along the newly-completed highway from Khabarovsk to Chita, Putin praised his Lada Kalina to a group of tourists.

“Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a very convenient, comfortable and reliable car,” Putin said when asked why he had chosen the latest offering from Russia’s car giant AvtoVAZ, which started selling the model in 2005.

“Try buying this car. I assure you, you won’t regret it,” he said.

He added that he would have been happy driving any AvtoVAZ car.

While western experts say the outlook for Russia’s indigenous car industry is grim, with some arguing the Russians only buy domestic cars because they cannot afford foreign marques, the Kremlin continues to put on a brave face.

Billions of rubles have been earmarked to help struggling automakers, and AvtoVAZ has been the main beneficiary of the country’s cash for clunkers scheme, which gives people trading in old cars 50,000 rubles towards the purchase of a Russian-made car.

These days, Russian-made vehicles include thousands assembled from imported knocked-down kits by Renault, Ford, Daewoo and many other international carmakers.

Despite the low price tags, many Russians remain wary of the Ladas and Volgas that have in various forms rolled off production lines for over 30 years now.

Even the country’s bureaucrats have resisted the allure of a domestic set of wheels – several feeble attempts to force them into Ladas and Volgas over the past decade have not gone beyond high-flown patriotic words in the parliament.

Instead, the elite have grown even more attached to their jet-black Mercedes and BMWs.

Samantha Cameron leaves Cornwall hospital with new baby daughter

A people carrier with blacked-out windows takes prime minister David Cameron, wife Samantha and their newborn baby away from the Royal Cornwall hospital in Truro. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

August 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK) — David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, left the Royal Cornwall hospital in Truro this morning with the couple’s new daughter, Florence Rose Endellion.

She was driven from the rear of the hospital’s maternity unit in a black people carrier without waiting photographers, TV cameras and reporters catching a glimpse of the new baby.

A hospital spokesman confirmed that Mrs Cameron had been discharged after a third night at the Royal Cornwall.

The baby was born at the hospital on Tuesday after making an unexpected early appearance during the prime minister’s family holiday in Cornwall.

Florence, whose third name is a tribute to the north Cornish village of St Endellion, near where the Camerons were staying, weighed 2.7kg (6lb 1oz) and was born by caesarean section. Her sister Nancy, six, and brother Arthur, four, visited the new arrival in hospital yesterday.

Congratulations have been received from the Queen, Gordon and Sarah Brown and French president Nicolas Sarkozy among many others.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Cameron had not yet decided when he would be returning to his desk in Downing Street.

The prime minister had been expected to be back at No 10 next week following his two-week holiday, but Clegg said he would now want to take some paternity leave.

“I spoke to him just after the birth of his baby daughter,” Clegg told the London radio station LBC 97.3. “We haven’t yet spoken about exactly what date he is returning.

“He obviously wants to take some time off, like any young dad does, for paternity leave and I will just carry on holding the fort.”

Sudan’s President Visits Kenya Despite Genocide Charges

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir waves as he arrives at the promulgation of Kenya’s New Constitution at the Uhuru Park grounds on August 27, 2010 in Nairobi. (Getty Images)

August 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / VOA)  Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir attended the dedication ceremony of Kenya’s new constitution on Friday in Nairobi – even though the International Criminal Court has ordered his arrest on genocide and war crimes charges.

Kenya is a member state of the ICC, requiring the nation to cooperate with the court.

A spokeswoman for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said Mr. Bashir’s presence at the ceremony will forever tarnish the historic celebration of Kenya’s new constitution.

The ICC issued warrants for Mr. Bashir last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.  Last month, the court added genocide charges.

ICC prosecutors say President Bashir has masterminded a campaign of murder, rape and other crimes against civilians in Darfur, where his government has been fighting rebels since 2003.  Sudan denies the charges and refuses to recognize the court.

The United Nations says fighting and related violence in Darfur has killed 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million.  Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.

Last month, President  Bashir went to Chad, his first visit to a country that recognizes the International Criminal Court seeking his arrest.

Chad refused to detain the Sudanese president who returned home.

Mr. Bashir has ruled Sudan since seizing power in a 1989 coup.

Kenya’s New Constitution Signed Into Law

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, right, takes a new oath of office after signing the new constitution into law, at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, 27 Aug 2010

August 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI/ VOA)  Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki signed into law a new constitution Friday in Nairobi before a large crowd, African leaders, and international dignitaries.

President Kibaki and other government leaders were also sworn into office under the new constitution that changes the country’s governing principles.

Kenyans overwhelmingly approved the new constitution in a referendum vote earlier this month.

The new constitution curbs the president’s authority, gives greater powers to local government, and limits the Cabinet to 22 members

Kenya’s executive branch held great power under the previous governmental system, leading to charges that presidents favored their own tribes for government jobs and money.

In addition to reduced presidential powers, the new constitution will abolish the post of prime minister, which was created in a power-sharing deal between President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, his opponent in the sharply contested 2007 general election.  Mr. Odinga became prime minister under the agreement, which ended weeks of violence that killed 1,300 people.

British PM David Cameron ‘was at risk in Afghanistan’

(File) Photo :  Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron visits Camp Bastion during his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office on June 10, 2010 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images AsiaPac

August 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / NINEMSN.COM.AU) — British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office has been asked to review his security after he narrowly avoided a Taliban attack on a recent visit to Afghanistan, The Times newspaper reported on Friday.

Cameron’s trip to a forward operating base in the volatile southern province of Helmand in June was called off at the last minute after intelligence suggested a threat, aides to the premier said at the time.

A government source told The Times that the threat to the prime minister on his first trip to Afghanistan since taking office in May was “much closer than anyone said at the time”.

(File) Photo : British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to British troops during his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office on June 11, 2010 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe

The newspaper said that NATO intelligence services had intercepted two Taliban telephone conversations about the proposed attack, one of them including precise information about the helicopter Cameron was travelling in.

Senior military figures have demanded Cameron’s Downing Street office urgently review his security arrangements, the paper said.

Changes to future trips to Afghanistan, where Britain has about 10,000 troops deployed as part of an international coalition fighting Taliban militants, could see a media blackout imposed until Cameron leaves the war zone.

In the June trip, Cameron gave a televised press conference in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai before setting off for Helmand, where he was due to visit troops at Shahzad forward operating base.

According to The Times, intelligence about the threat was received within five minutes of Cameron’s helicopter taking off and the pilot was ordered to divert to the main British base at Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand.

Pope Benedict Calls for Peace in Somalia

August 27, 2010

Castel Gandolfo, Italy (KATAKAMI / ALL AFRICA.COM)  — Pope Benedict XVI has urged respect for life and human rights in Somalia, where a clash between government forces and Islamist insurgents has resulted in as many as 80 deaths.

“My thoughts go to Mogadishu from where news continues to arrive of cruel violence. I am united with the families of the victims and of all those who, in Somalia, are suffering because of hatred and instability. I hope that, with the help of the international community, no efforts will be spared to re-establish respect for life and for human rights,” the pope said.

The pope was speaking on August 25, at the end of the general audience held in Castel Gandolfo where he made an appeal for Mogadishu.

Violence erupted in the Somali capital on Monday between the Al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabab rebels and government forces backed by the African Union (AU).

Somalia President Sharif Sheikh Ahmend also condemned the attacks, saying these will only redouble the Somalia people’s resistance against this transient menace.

US ambassador to Malta crashes car; passenger dies

US Ambassador Douglas Kmiec

August 27, 2010

CALABASAS, Calif. (KATAKAMI / OMAHA / AP) – Authorities say a car driven by the U.S. ambassador to Malta crashed into a drainage ditch in Southern California, killing a nun and injuring a 94-year-old pastor.

The nun and pastor were passengers in the car driver by Ambassador Douglas Kmiec (kah-MEK’), the California Highway Patrol said. Kmiec also suffered moderate injuries in Wednesday’s one-vehicle crash.

CHP Officer Leland Tang said Kmiec was driving a Hyundai Accent on Mulholland Highway near Calabasas when the car veered into a drainage ditch and crashed.

Sister Mary Campbell of Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church died at the scene, while Pastor Emeritus Monsignor John Sheridan received moderate injuries, Tang said.

The three had attended an anniversary celebration at a Woodland Hills high school and were returning to the church when the crash occurred, The Malibu Times reported.

Our Lady of Malibu Parish Manager Peggy Thomas told the newspaper that Sheridan underwent surgery and was in critical but stable condition. Kmiec also underwent surgery and was in stable condition, the Times reported.

Kmiec was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to the island nation of Malta in September 2009. He is a professor of law at Pepperdine University.

Photostream : Mystery surrounds NKorean leader’s trip to China

Photostream : Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter leaving N. Korea with American Aijalon Gomes

Ex-US President Carter frees American from North Korea

A Chinese traffic police officer gestures to a resident who tried to past by a checkpoint into an area where North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is reported to be staying in Jilin, northeastern China’s Jilin province on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. Kim is traveling to China, South Korea’s presidential office said Thursday, in what would be his second trip there this year. (Getty Images)

A limousine suspected of carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il leaves a hotel in the Chinese city of Jilin on August 27, 2010 where a delegation from North Korea, believed to include the reclusive state’s leader Kim Jong-Il, was reported to be staying. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on August 27 extended his tour of northeastern China on a trip seeking Beijing’s blessing for a succession of power to his son, media reports said. YTN TV said a convoy of some 30 cars carrying Kim and his entourage were seen leaving the Wusong Hotel in Jilin around 01:00 GMT and took a highway that leads to Changchun City. (Getty Images)

Residents are stopped from crossing into an area where North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is believed to be staying in Jilin, northeastern China’s Jilin province on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. Kim is traveling to China, South Korea’s presidential office said Thursday, in what would be his second trip there this year. (Getty Images)

Government vehicles leave Wusong hotel, where reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is rumoured to be staying with his son, in Jilin city August 27, 2010. China remained silent on Friday about a reported visit by North Korea’s secretive leader Kim, with no official word on a trip analysts believe may be to line up Beijing behind his dynastic succession plans. (Getty Images)

A Chinese police officer stands guard on a hill top overlooking an area where North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is believed to be staying in Jilin, northeastern China’s Jilin province on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. Kim is traveling to China, South Korea’s presidential office said Thursday, in what would be his second trip there this year. (Getty Images)

South Koreans watch a TV broadcasting file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. News reports say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may have traveled to China in what would be his second visit to the country this year. (Getty Images)

Government cars leave the Wusong hotel in Jilin city where reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is rumoured to be staying with his son, August 26, 2010. Kim is visiting powerful ally China possibly with his son and heir apparent, South Korean government sources said, ahead of a meeting next month that may settle Kim Jong-un’s succession. (Getty Images)

A vehicle that is believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the only vehicle in his convoy that is heavily tinted and armoured, travels towards Wusong hotel in Jilin city where Kim is rumoured to be staying with his son, August 26, 2010. Kim is visiting powerful ally China possibly with his son and heir apparent, South Korean government sources said on Thursday, ahead of a meeting that may settle Kim’s succession. (Getty Images)

A view of the Wusong Hotel where North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is reported to be staying in Jilin, northeastern China’s Jilin province on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. Kim is traveling to China, South Korea’s presidential office said Thursday, in what would be his second trip there this year. (Getty Images)

Sotomayor predicts WikiLeaks case in Supreme Court

(File) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivers the keynote address at the Hostos Community College 39th commencement ceremony June 4, 2010 in New York City. (Getty Images)

August 26, 2010

DENVER  (KATAKAMI / MSNBC) — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor predicted Thursday that the nation’s high court will be asked again to weigh issues of national security versus free speech because of the recently leaked classified war documents posted on the WikiLeaks website.

Sotomayor told high school and college students at the University of Denver that she couldn’t answer a student question about the security questions and free speech because “that question is very likely to come before me.”

The release of the WikiLeaks documents, which included names of Afghans working with American forces, has been blasted by the Pentagon. It said the publication of those documents put lives at risk, while WikiLeaks employees insisted the website provides a public service for whistleblowers.

Sotomayor said Thursday that the “incident, and others, are going to provoke legislation that’s already being discussed in Congress, and so some of it is going to come up before (the Supreme Court).”

She added that the balance between national security and free speech is “a constant struggle in this society, between our security needs and our First Amendment rights, and one that has existed throughout our history.”

Sotomayor compared the current question to the debate over allowing publication of the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon study about the Vietnam War. The New York Times published those in 1971 after the Supreme Court declined to block their publication over the objections of the Pentagon.

“That was not beginning of that question, but an issue that keeps arising from generation to generation, of how far we will permit government restriction on freedom of speech in favor of protection of the country,” Sotomayor said. “There’s no black-and-white line.”

Sotomayor also declined to take a position on Arizona’s illegal immigration law, but said the question of illegal immigration will be decided by legislation, not the courts.

“I haven’t really examined the Arizona law in detail … so I haven’t formed an opinion yet, and I wouldn’t until I heard the case,” Sotomayor told a Latino boy who asked the question.

Sotomayor didn’t predict whether it would end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Parts of Arizona’s law are pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after the Department of Justice sued.

Sotomayor told students that if they were interested in changing society, they need to look to the legislative branch, not the courts.

“Waiting for the courts to resolve these issues is not what all of you should be doing,” Sotomayor said, adding that they have to “work hard at either passing laws that you think do the right thing, or changing those laws which you think do the wrong thing.”

Sotomayor discussed her personal experiences as a top arbiter of the law, saying she has been “living a fantasy” since being appointed to the court last year but that the job requires sacrifice.

She said her greatest sacrifice was “taking this job when I know I’m on the tail end of my mother’s life.” She said her mother was hospitalized two days ago in Florida, “and I’m not there.”

Sotomayor spoke to the students before her appearance at a judicial conference in Colorado Springs this weekend. Some 800 judges are expected at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court conference; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg planned to speak there.

A student asked about Sotomayor’s experience living in her hometown, the Bronx borough of New York City, then attending Princeton University in New Jersey. The justice joked that students at the Ivy League school had read books she’d never even heard of and took a swipe at “Ulysses” by James Joyce.

“I started to read it, and I almost fell asleep,” Sotomayor said.

UN calls for urgent action over mass DR Congo rape

Mr Ban said the UN mission was working in an “exceptionally difficult environment”

August 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC)  — The UN has said everything possible must be done to prevent atrocities like the recent rape of more than 150 women and children in the DR Congo.

In an emergency session of the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Congolese authorities had to fully investigate what had happened.

The Council also said peacekeepers in the area should have done more to protect local people from rebels.

The peacekeepers say they were not told about the attacks until 10 days later.

The rapes happened after rebels occupied Luvungi town and surrounding villages, within miles of a UN peacekeeping base.

Some reports say nearly 200 women and some baby boys were attacked by the rebels over a four-day period, before they left. The UN has confirmed 154 cases.

The Security Council said it was “of utmost importance that the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to pursue its efforts to fight impunity”.

Mr Ban, who has despatched an envoy to DR Congo, urged the authorities to “investigate this incident and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

He called on officials to renew their efforts to bring peace and stability to the conflict-ridden eastern Congo and urged armed groups to give up their weapons.

But Mr Ban also said the UN had to do more to “protect civilians from such wanton violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

He said the UN mission in DR Congo (Monusco) “does what it can within its mandate, working with limited resources in an exceptionally difficult environment”.

“But, at such times, we should always ask if we could have done more,” he added.

Rebel denial

UN peacekeepers in the area say they were given no information about rebel attacks until 10 days after the incident. They say local people may have been afraid of rebel reprisal or ashamed by the rapes.

Roger Meese, the top UN envoy in the country, said he had not been at the base but knew that troops would have intervened had they known.

FDLR rebels on a UN truck in eastern DR Congo as they are repatriated (December 2005)
Attacks and rapes in DR Congo are blamed on rebel gangs roaming the region

“Our first priority is very clearly the protection of civilians so if you have an accurate or a credible report of mass rapes going on, certainly the commander in place and the Monusco forces would have tried to take action to stop whatever was going on, but we didn’t have that information,” he told reporters.

The president of the Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, said the UN would conduct its own investigation into what had gone wrong.

“There was general feeling that things did not work the way they should have worked, and it is the intention of the Council to look into it very thoroughly,” he said.

“Everything is to be done in order to prevent such occurrences in the future.”

The attacks have been blamed on rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

But in a statement from Paris, the group’s executive secretary Callixte Mbarushimana said it was “in no way involved in these odious actions and takes umbrage at the baseless accusations launched against them by the secretary general of the United Nations”, the AFP news agency reported.

Eastern DR Congo is still plagued by army and militia violence despite the end of the country’s five-year war in 2003.

UN peacekeeping troops have been backing efforts to defeat the FDLR, whose leaders are linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and who are operating in eastern DR Congo.


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