Except for heavily-armed police and troops, the streets of Nepal's capital city were nearly empty Friday but opposition leaders were still vowing to hold planned protests after a dawn-to-dusk curfew ended.
The government of King Gyanendra ordered the curfew late Thursday, hours after jailing more than 100 politicians and activists, putting senior party leaders under house arrest and cutting mobile phones.
An evening curfew has been in place in the capital, home to two million of Nepal's 25 million people, since Maoist rebels killed 12 police officers in a series of shocking attacks in and around the Kathmandu Valley on Jan. 14.
The government said Thursday it would keep the streets empty Friday to prevent rebels from slipping into a rally organised by an alliance of seven major parties opposed to the king, who unseated his appointed prime minister in a bloodless coup on Feb. 1, 2005.
Local media reported late Friday afternoon that more than 200 protesters were arrested as they gathered at a hotel and there were no signs of the planned mass demonstration. But rallies took place in other areas of the Kathmandu Valley outside the curfew zone and in towns and cities across Nepal. Some arrests were made, said reports.
The above is from Marty Logan's "Day Curfew Follows Political Arrests" (IPS) and Molly noted it as "the antidote to Somini Sengupta." Sunday and we're noting coverage from outside the US mainstream. That includes, for this entry, one domestic, but non-mainstream, highlight.
We'll get started with Gareth's highlight, Gaby Hinsliff's "Leading Lib Dem quits over sex scandal" (The Observer):
Mark Oaten, the former Liberal Democrat leadership challenger, dramatically quit frontline politics last night over revelations of an affair with a rent boy.
The married father of two daughters, who dropped out of the leadership contest only a few days ago after admitting that he did not have enough support from MPs, said the affair had been an 'error of judgment' and apologised for the embarrassment to his family.
The startling disclosure of a six-month relationship with a 23-year-old male prostitute whom he met online is the second shockwave to hit the Lib Dems in as many weeks, following Charles Kennedy's dramatic resignation over his alcohol problem. Oaten had been at Kennedy's side when he quit, and the outgoing leader helped persuade him to enter the leadership race.
Already rocked by weeks of public infighting over the leadership, the Liberal Democrats sunk last week to their lowest rating in the polls since 1997 and are now being targeted by Tories seeking defectors at all levels of the party -- including in parliament.
Gareth and James in Brighton both weighed in on this topic noting how 'interesting' it was that scandals just somehow emerge on the Liberal Democrats.
And before we go futher, Polly noted, some time ago, the British version of Good Housekeeping, October 2005 edition. She noted an article on Kitty O'Leary who found herself alone after 27 years of marriage (her husband left her for a younger woman) ended up in the midst of a mental crisis and homeless. (She currently resides in a woman's hostel.) Comedian Jo Brand finished the sentence "If I was prime minister for the day" with "I'd arrange for a redistribution of wealth. I'd start by taking land off the Royal Family, particularly in London. First up for grabs would be the Queen's garden. She could have an allotment and grow up aubergines instead." The breast cancer article ran six pages with photos "showing realities" (scars and realities) and featured six woman who are breast cancer survivors. Celia Webber is one Polly noted because she was diagnosed in 1996 (the others in 1998 and after 2000). Here's a quote from Celia Webber:
When my mother and sister died from ovarian cancer, my GP advised me to see a geneticist, as it's possible to bested for the gene that predisposes you to it. The geneticist explained that the gene for ovarian cancer is linked to that for breast cancer, so they recommended that I have a mammogram as well.
The mammogram found a lump in one of my breasts, which was very small but cancerous nonetheless. My specialist advised me to have a mastectomy. While I waited for the operation I felt very vulnerable, as if I could feel the cancer growing inside me.
I was in complete shock after my operation and hid myself away in bed, thinking it was the end. Then someone gave me a leaflet about fundraising for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and I suddenly realized I could use my experience to help others. I'm really involved in fundraising now.
From the cover story, Polly noted this excerpt from Jane Fonda:
In a way, there was no roadmap for me in terms of getting older -- my mother died when I was young. But I have learned that when an adult -- whether it's a parent, a guardian or a friend -- is there for a child, it can really affect that child's life. I didn't do that for my daughter and I'm making up for it now. By being there for her children, I can be there for her, too. It also shows her that change is possible -- that I wanted to change and I did.
Mothers are dress rehearsals for daughters. Our daughters watch us without even being conscious of doing it; they see how we behave, the way we relate to our husbands or partners. My daughter never liked what she saw; she saw me giving away my power to men and was always angry with me. And I was too afraid to admit that was what I was doing.
Democrats lost their will with regard to Alito and Polly's highlights had to wait. My apologies to Polly.
Our US highlight comes via Markus who notes David Lindorff's "Rumsfeld: Venezuela 'Overspending'" (CounterPunch):
What are you supposed to do when the world's most over-armed, belligerent and dangerous nation, which outspends all the rest of the world combined on arms, and which is the major arms supplier to the rest of the world, tells a little country like Venezuela that it is guilty of spending "too much" on its military?
The initial response is laughter. What a joke, right? Venezuela, awash in oil revenue and feeling a little threatened by threats from the United States to assassinate its leader and by U.S. funding for groups that are trying to foment a coup, wants to spend a few hundred million bucks on planes from Spain and Brazil to modernize its airforce, and the U.S. State Department gets all worked up. The transactions are something "we would consider an outsized military buildup," says State Department flak Sean McCormack.
"Outsized military buildup?"
What does McCormack call the $441 billion US military budget for 2006 (up four percent from last year)? Note that Venezuela has a population of 25 million, about 1/12 of the size of the U.S., yet its military budget, which actually declined in recent years while U.S. military under Bush soared to Cold War levels in real dollar terms, is just over $1 billion--less than 0.25% of the American military budget.
Vic notes Julia Necheff's "140 soldiers leave for Afghanistan" (Canada's Star Phoenix):
It is the life of a soldier to bid farewell to loved ones and face the dangers ahead.
And it is the lot of military families to let them go.
The tightly knit Edmonton Garrison played out this age-old ritual during an emotional farewell Saturday morning as about 80 soldiers departed for conflict-ridden Afghanistan -- the first wave of a major new deployment of Canadian troops to the danger zone.
The planes carrying the soldiers eastward landed at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba later Saturday to pick up another 60 soldiers, en route to Germany at first. It wasn't immediately known when they would arrive in Afghanistan.
More groups of soldiers will be leaving every few days over the next several weeks. About 1,250 soldiers altogether -- 1,000 from Edmonton and 250 from Manitoba -- will join a multinational brigade for a six-month tour of duty. Some will stay for nine months.
Vic noted the comments on Afghanistan in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Osama plays Alanis, Bully Boy pretends to be a man" and wondered if many people realized that Afghnaistan is not a success? I checked with Ty who has looked at the e-mails to The Third Estate Sunday Review and he reports that twelve right-wingers have written in swearing that we "finished the job" in Afghanistan and everything is peaceful there now.
And when people gather to discuss human rights? Skip notes "Rights delegates released in Sudan" (The Australian Herald):
SUDANESE authorities released around 50 delegates from local and international human rights groups after storming their meeting on the sidelines of an African Union summit today, delegates at the meeting said.Activists said the security forces' action called into question Sudan's right to host the summit.
"They have now all been released," said Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a Sudanese human rights activist who has previously been arrested by the government.
Osman Hummaida, from the Sudanese Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), was inside the meeting. He said a group of security men entered and demanded to see the agenda and list of delegates.
"Everyone is being detained and we have been asked not to talk on the phone. We have not been told why we are being held," he had told said. The meeting was to discuss closer cooperation with the AU on human rights issues.
Representatives of Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International and the International Bar Association were among those being held, Mr Hummaida said.
Olive notes "Iran warns Israel against military strikes" (Australia's ABC):
Iran has warned Israel that it would be making a "fatal mistake" if it used military strikes to try to destroy Tehran's nuclear facilities.
Over the weekend, Israel's Defence Minister said that his country is preparing to defend itself against Iran's nuclear program.
Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz says Tehran is secretly trying to develop an atomic bomb, warning that if diplomacy fails Israel is prepared to defend itself against Iran's nuclear ambitions.
A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Hamid Reza Asefi, has dismissed Mr Mofaz's comments as part of a childish game of psychological warfare.
James in Brighton notes Nick Paton Walsh's "Moscow names British 'spies' in NGO row" (The Guardian of London):
The Russian security service, the FSB, last night named as spies four employees of the British embassy in Moscow, showing them on state television allegedly collecting intelligence using hi-tech gadgets and funding non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
It marks the Putin administration's most bold attempt to expose western intelligence work in Russia. The FSB caught the unit late last year, a documentary on state-run Rossiya TV reported. An FSB spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that his agency had accused the four men of being spies. "They have not been arrested. How could we? They are all diplomats." He declined to say what information they had tried to acquire. "They used hi-tech, new gadgets to communicate with [Russian] agents, with citizens of another country who gather intelligence."
And we'll close with this from Great Britain's The Socialist Worker, Pru notes "Now US kills children in Pakistan:"
An act of cold-blooded murder. Not one Western leader would dispute that if it were 18 innocent people in London or New York who were blown apart in the early hours of last Friday.
But the victims last week were killed by US missiles fired at the village of Damadola Burkanday in north west Pakistan.
As television stations boasted that the US might have killed Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (who was not there) few bothered to describe the suffering of those who had in fact been killed.
George Bush and Tony Blair want us to accept that a whole region, home to hundreds of millions of people, should become a free-fire zone for their forces.
The atrocity in Damadola Burkanday underlines the urgency of ensuring a huge turnout for the anti-war demonstration called for 18 March in London.
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