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Allies alarmed by Pakistan deal with Taliban

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Below is an article found on Associated Press that illustrates a truce made between Pakistan and the Taliban.

AP Diplomatic Writer

Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40 Percent in 2008 - NYTimes

Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40 Percent in 2008 - NYTimes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pakistan’s startling accord with Taliban fighters that would impose Islamic religious law on the strategic Swat valley looms as a setback for the Obama administration’s hopes to mount a united front against militants there and in Afghanistan.

The agreement between Pakistan’s government and the growing Taliban forces in the country’s northwest region cemented a truce between the two sides and gave the insurgents dominance in the Swat region by installing a strict regimen of Islamic law amenable to the militants’ authority. The pact was spearheaded by a hard-line cleric sent to the region to negotiate with the Taliban and persuade them to give up their arms.

“It is definitely a step backwards,” said James F. Dobbins, the Bush administration’s first envoy for Afghanistan. “The Pakistanis have to take a stronger line with extremists in the region.”

The war against Taliban rule in Afghanistan seemed won seven years ago. But the Taliban is gaining ground there, U.S. and NATO forces have been unable to reverse the gains, and the outlook appears increasingly bleak.

“We are very concerned about Pakistan and stability,” U.S. special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke said last weekend on a trip to the area.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama responded by announcing plans to boost the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by 50 percent, which would send an additional 17,000 troops to a 30,000 force contingent already there.

Dobbins, director of international security and defense policy at the RAND Corp., said in an interview Tuesday that progress will depend on the Pakistani government’s line against the insurgents. “The Pakistanis have to take a stronger line with extremists in the region,” he said.

He said there were also some positive developments in Afghanistan. Among them: “The United States has more international support than it had in the war in Iraq and all of Afghanistan’s neighbors consider President Hamid Karzai as legitimate and want his government to succeed.”

However, Dobbins said, “There is no guarantee of success.”

“We are going to have to get used to two steps forward and one step backward, at best,” he said.

U.S. officials were hesitant to comment publicly on the Pakistan-Taliban deal, which would impose Sharia religious law on the Swat valley, a scenic swath of the northwest tribal region frequented by travelers, but also close to border areas that have become militant strongholds.

A U.S. defense official characterized the deal as a “negative development,” but officials were more cautious in public statements.

“What is, of course, important is that we are all working together to fight terrorism and particularly to fight the cross-border activities that some Taliban engage in,” Gordon A. Duguid, the department’s deputy spokesman, said earlier this week. On Thursday, Duguid added that U.S. officials were in discussions with “the government of Pakistan, and, you know, we’ll see what the results of their policy will be.”

Also hesitant to offer a judgment, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Japan that the agreement between Pakistan and Taliban still needed to be “thoroughly understood.”

NATO, which has 55,000 troops in Afghanistan, took a tougher line. The truce between Pakistan and Taliban in Swat “is certainly reason for concern,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said in Brussels. “We should all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have a safe haven.”

“Without doubting the good faith of the Pakistani government, it is clear that the region is suffering very badly from extremists and we would not want it to get worse,” he said.

Rick Barton, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday that the “tame way we are responding is appropriate. There are many serious unknowns.”

Still, spokesman Duguid noted that Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, and Barton said an agreement to bring Shariah law to the one-time ski resort area in the 1990s did not pan out.

Apart from the conflict, the impact on civilians could be harsh under strict interpretation of Shariah law.

“The government is reneging on its duty to protect the human rights of people from Swat Valley by handing them over to Taliban insurgents,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.


Written by MiamiFoodie

February 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Middle East

Tagged with

Salma Hayek Breastfeeding An African Baby Boy

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SALMA Hayek was so taken aback by the plight of an African woman in Sierra Leone who was unable to breastfeed her child that the star breastfed the newborn herself.

The incident was captured on camera by a television crew from US TV show Nightline whom Hayek allowed accompany her on the goodwill trip in September.

See the Nightline footage here.

Nightline have aired the footage on their program and YouTube clips have been circulating the internet, prompting a divisive response from bloggers and parenting websites.

The 42-year-old actress, who was nursing her own daughter Valentina at the time, offered to help when the baby’s mother stopped producing milk.
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Your Say

good on her, what compassion. if i was a breast-feeding mother and found myself in that kind of situation, i wouldnt hesitate either. if only the hollywood was filled with more cel…

(Read More)
cw of west coast

“The baby was perfectly healthy, but the mother didn’t have milk. He was very hungry. I was weaning Valentina, but I still had a lot of milk that I was pumping, so I breast-fed the baby.

“You should have seen his eyes. When he felt the nourishment, he immediately stopped crying,” said Hayek.

The actress and UNICEF spokesperson visited the West African country in September as part of her involvement in the fight against tetanus, one of the reasons Sierra Leone has the highest infant and child death rate in the world.

Written by MiamiFoodie

February 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Livni: Israel chose Kadima, we will form the next government

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Tzipi Livni gains ground in Israeli election polls

Tzipi Livni gains ground in Israeli election polls

By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Tags: israel news

As results from Israel’s general elections began trickling in late Tuesday, the two front-runners – Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu – both proclaimed themselves to be the next choice for premiership.

Livni, whose party scored between 29 and 30 seats in television exit polls, praised the results, saying: “Israel has chosen Kadima and we will form the next government.”

Exit polls on three Israeli television channels showed Kadima retaining around its present 29 seats in the 120-seat, single-chamber Knesset, with Likud two seats behind. At Kadima’s campaign headquarters, Livni supporters cheered and danced.

Netanyahu, whose Likud party scored fewer than its opponent with 27 and 28 seats in exit polls, said: “I will be the next prime minister of Israel.”

Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister,” the right-wing Likud echoed its chairman’s words in a statement after the voting ended.

“The results of the election proved that the path of the Likud and the national camp won,” it said, referring to exit poll projections that a bloc of right-wing parties would secure enough votes for a parliamentary majority and Livni’s centrist Kadima would fall short.

However, some analysts noted that soldiers, whose votes could account for a couple of seats, had not been counted in exit polls and that could favor Netanyahu as tallying continues through into Wednesday.

One television station put the right-left split at 64 seats for the right to 56 for the left, which could deny Livni the premiership and persuade President Shimon Peres to ask Netanyahu to try to form a coalition government.

Likud members were quick to stress that Kadima’s apparent win did not mean it would necessarily be chosen to form the next coalition.

“I am certain that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister,” said Likud lawmaker Gilad Erdan. “Netanyahu has a clear advantage because the right wing parties have a larger bloc. The test is not which party gets the most votes, but which candidate has the best chance to form a coalition, and that person is Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, phoned Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman just after the exit polls were released, apparently to discuss the future of the next coalition.

Former minister Silvan Shalom, another member of Likud, said Kadima was “delusional” to declare such a quick win. A government led by Livni was unrealistic, said Shalom, adding that Likud was the obvious choice for leading the next government.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter (Kadima) responded to Shalom by saying: “Tzipi Livni is the leader of the State of Israel from today until the next Knesset elections.”

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On called on Yisrael Beiteinu Chair Avigdor Lieberman’s, whose party won approximately 15 seats in the exit polls, to jump onto the Kadima bloc as avoid “committing suicide in the opposition alongside Benjamin Netanyahu. Yvette [Avigdor] Lieberman is a Zionist and an appropriate candidate for every position in Tzipi Livni’s government.”

Written by MiamiFoodie

February 10, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Middle East

Australian Fires – Families Tell their stories – ITNNews

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Devastating. I am curious to see how the government will handle the arsons. This reminded me of the emotions evoked by 9/11 and the Tsunami in 2004.

Written by MiamiFoodie

February 10, 2009 at 2:37 am

Australia Wildfires – Deliberately Lit – 5,000 People Homeless

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Source: Al Jazeera

Death toll soars in Australia fires

Police suspect some of the fires which have swept across southern Australia were deliberately lit [AFP]
The death toll in the bushfires in southern Australia has risen to at least 171 people, as rescue workers moved into towns devastated by the fires.

Firefighters continued to battle more than 20 major blazes early on Tuesday as the state fire authority in Victoria warned of more possible flare-ups across the region.

Nina Cullen of the emergency co-ordination centre in Melbourne, told Al Jazeera: “Two areas are still under wind threat and the next couple of days will be quite critical in fighting those fires.”

Police suspect that some of the fires which razed rural towns near Melbourne, the country’s second biggest city, were deliberately lit.

Peter Mitchell from Seven News Australia told Al Jazeera the police are investigating the fire which left 5,000 people homeless in Kingslake and killed at least 33 people.
“That fire started in a pine plantation. It’s still not clear whether it was the work of an arsonist, but there’s a fire down the Gippsland the police think was deliberately lit and the hunt is on for that pyromaniac.”

Two people, including a teenage boy, have reportedly been arrested and charged with arson.

“Everybody’s gone. Everybody. Their houses are gone. They’re all dead in the houses there,” Christopher Harvey, a resident of Kingslake, said.

“There are animals dead all over the road,” he said.

Christine Nixon, Victoria police commissioner, told a news conference: “What we’ve seen, I think, is that people didn’t have enough time, in some cases.”

“We’re finding [bodies] on the side of roads, in cars that crashed.”

Anxious wait

Some of the fires eased on Monday but thousands of firefighters and soldiers continued to battle dozens of blazes across an area of about 3,000 sq km across the states of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Mitchell said firefighters in the affected areas were facing difficulties tackling the blaze as swirling winds continued to spread the fire in different directions.

Residents so far unaffected by the fires were anxiously waiting to see if they would be hit by the devastating infernos.

“People are nervous, we are at the mercy of the weather,” James Lacey, a businessman from the town of Yackandandah, said.
Kevin Rudd, the country’s prime minister, said authorities expected the death toll to rise as firefighters and rescuers searched charred buildings and pulled the remains of dozens of people.

“This is of a level of horror that few of us anticipated. There are no words to describe it other than mass murder,” he told Australian television.

More than 750 houses have been destroyed and around 80 people taken to hospital with serious burns and injuries.

Many patients had burns to more than 30 per cent of their bodies and some injuries were worse than the Bali bombings in 2002, said one doctor at a hospital emergency department.

Arson investigated

Kieran Walshe, the police deputy commissioner for Victoria state, said the speed at which some of the fires took off indicated they might have been deliberately lit.

“Some of these fires have started in localities that could only be by hand, it could not be natural causes,” he said.

Mike Rann, the premier of South Australia state, said on Sunday at least 20 per cent of the fires in his state were started by arsonists and another 20 per cent were the result of “stupidity or negligence”.

“These people are terrorists within our nation, they are the enemy within and we have to be increasingly vigilant about them,” he said.

Arsonists were also relighting fires that had been brought under control, Steve Warrington, a deputy chief of firefighting operations, told local radio.

“While we often think it is spotting [embers spreading flames], we also know that there are people lighting fires deliberately.”

Victoria’s bushfires are the worst natural disaster in Australia in 110 years.

Written by MiamiFoodie

February 10, 2009 at 2:30 am

Posted in Australia

Australia Fires – Death Tole Climbs

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Wild Fires in AustraliaBy Meraiah Foley (source – International Herald Tribune)

SYDNEY: The police confirmed that at least one of the deadly wildfires that killed 173 people and left hundreds homeless over the weekend in the worst firestorm ever to strike Australia was set by arsonists, and established a special task force on Tuesday to hunt down the offenders.

Officials have set up crime scenes around huge tracts of land across the southern state of Victoria, where the fires leveled towns and razed at least 750 houses on Saturday, as forensic investigators picked through the charred wreckage. The police have warned that the death toll will continue to rise as more victims are pulled from the rubble.

The state police chief, Christine Nixon, told reporters on Tuesday that one of the fires, which killed at least 21 people in the eastern region of Gippsland, was deliberately lit, and said the police “believe there may be more.”

Nixon said the police were still investigating whether arsonists were responsible for Saturday’s most deadly blaze, a 60-mile-long fire front that killed several victims and destroyed hundreds of homes in the hills northeast of Melbourne.

Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, said in an television interview on Monday that the arsonists were guilty of “mass murder.”

The wildfires tore through towns and homes northeast of Melbourne fanned by winds of more than 62 miles per hour and temperatures that reached 117 degrees. Wildfires have been burning across Victoria for weeks, but the record temperatures combined with the most severe drought in the country’s history have created what experts said were the worst fire conditions ever seen in Australia.

Thousands of firefighters continued to battle blazes in Victoria on Monday, and the premier of the state said he would review the emergency response to the fires, which destroyed several towns and at least 750 homes in the area of once tranquil mountain towns. Most of the damage in Victoria was wrought the 60-mile-long blaze that razed the village of Kinglake to the ground and destroyed several other small villages nearby.

Thomas Libreri, a home builder in Kinglake, said his first warning had been the roar of flames coming over a ridge toward his house.

“I heard the noise, and then I had about 20 seconds to react,” Libreri told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday. Most of the homes on his block were destroyed within minutes, he said. Libreri said he and a neighbor had grabbed a man who suffered severe burns and threw him into a swimming pool — then waited six hours for rescue teams to arrive.

Police tape encircled the wreckage of several houses in the tiny town of Strathewen, where 30 of the town’s 450 people were thought to have died in the blaze, according to a reporter from The Age newspaper who toured the site with a fire official.

Nixon said the process of removing and identifying the dead could take days because the police were treating each death as a potential homicide.

“This will take some time,” she told reporters on Monday. “It is a complex matter, and we must be accurate.”

Australians are no strangers to wildfires or bush fires. Every summer, thousands of fires burn across this hot, dry continent, and there are not enough firefighters to protect every home. Many in rural Australia know that it is only a matter of time before they, or someone they know, will face a stark choice: evacuate or stay and fight the fires.

Fire authorities across Australia advise residents who choose to defend their homes to stay indoors while the blaze passes through their area. Citing statistics from past fires, the agencies say that most people can survive a wildfire as long as they avoid direct contact with the searing temperatures and scalding gases that come with an advancing fire.

However, many of the residents caught up in the Victoria blazes had no time for an orderly escape, and some were killed when the houses they had taken shelter in collapsed.

Victoria’s premier, John Brumby, said the government would set up a commission to examine the emergency response and review the longstanding policy of advising residents to “stay and defend or leave early.”

“People will want to review that, examine that,” he told local radio on Monday. “There is no question that there were people who did everything right, put in place their fire plan and it wouldn’t matter, their house was just incinerated.”

The firestorms and heat in the south revived discussions in Australia of whether human-caused global warming was contributing to the continent’s climate woes of late — including recent prolonged drought in some places and severe flooding last week in Queensland, in the northeast.

Written by MiamiFoodie

February 10, 2009 at 2:01 am

Christmas at Log Cabin Nursury

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ChistmasWhen my boyfriend and I were looking for our first Christmas tree, we had two deciding factors in finding the perfect pile-o-pine… Price and Plumpness… But it wasn’t until we arrived at the Log Cabin Nursery in Miami Beach that we were reminded of the true season of the holidays.

There were several friendly men who were helpful, polite and smiling, eager to find us our perfect tree. I was a little hesitant to make a final decision, until we spoke to a spunky, soft spoken girl who seemed to be the manager of the nursery. This pierced, softspoken chicky left us know that all proceeds went to schools in the community, and that many of the employees hired at the Log Cabin Nursery were mentally challenged adults.

The christmas trees cost about $15 dollars more than the $45 trees at Target, but knowing that our money goes to a good cause, instead of shareholders, made our holiday decorated living room all the more warm and comforting to come home to.

Written by MiamiFoodie

February 5, 2009 at 3:50 am