Civil defence officials in New Zealand have issued a tsunami warning after an underwater earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.
By Paul Chapman in Wellington
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said the earthquake in the seabed, 100 miles west of New Zealand’s South Island city of Invercargill, “has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicentre within minutes or hours”.
Whether the earthquake, which struck at 0922 Wednesday GMT, had actually generated a tsunami was not known. But the Centre issued a warning based on evaluation of the seismic event.
Civil defence emergency procedures were activated in Southland, New Zealand’s most southerly region, and coastal residents were asked to stay tuned to their radios.
The earthquake’s power makes it one of the largest in the world this year, compounded by the fact that its focal depth was less than five miles below the earth’s surface.
An aftershock measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck about 20 minutes later.
The quake was felt strongly by residents in Dunedin, Invercargill and the ski resort of Queenstown. It was also felt as far away as Wellington in North Island.
People ran from restaurants in Queenstown as buildings shook, and lights and phone lines went down.
Simon Darby told the New Zealand Herald that a rumble in the ground led him to run outside his house in the lakeside town of Wanaka.
“It must have lasted about two and a half minutes. I lived in Tokyo for three years so I know what large quakes are like. This was easily the longest and biggest I have ever felt.
Paris Katherine Jackson, 11, said goodbye to her father at the close of the memorial service.
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris Katherine addressed mourners at the Staples Center on Tuesday, tearfully telling them her father was “the best father you could ever imagine.”
“Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine,” the 11-year-old said. “And I just wanted to say I love him so much.”
Jackson’s children, who often have been hidden by veils or blankets when seen with their father, were sitting in the front row at the Staples Center as their father’s life and music were remembered.
Paris’ eloquent words led some to wonder whether her tribute was planned.
“No, no not at all,” said Kenny Ortega, who directed and coordinated the service, speaking to CNN’s Campbell Brown.
“None of us were aware they were even coming,” he told CNN’s Campbell Brown. “It was a surprise they were there. All of us who know them were delighted they were strong enough to come and feel this love and great outpouring for their dad.”
“We didn’t know who was going to speak,” Ortega said. “There was an openness we offered” the family to thank the audience.
Jackson’s remains were nearby in a closed, rose-draped, bronze casket. His brothers, who served as pallbearers, wore single white sequined gloves, a tribute to their brother’s signature look of the 1980s.
“Michael, when you left us, a part of me went with you,” brother Marlon Jackson said. “And a part of you will live forever within me, but also a part of you will live forever within all of us.”
Marlon Jackson said the world could not understand what his brother endured “being judged and ridiculed.”
“How much pain can one man take,” Marlon Jackson asked. “Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone.”
Before the final words Jackson’s band members, family, children and celebrities filled the stage to sing Jackson’s “Heal the World.”
The song followed a performance of “We are the World,” the 1985 hit written by Jackson and Lionel Richie to raise money for African famine relief. Watch a star-studded performance of ‘We are the World’ »
“The more I think and talk about Michael Jackson, I feel the King of Pop is not big enough for him,” said Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. “I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived.”
Several of Jackson’s older brothers carried his casket — bronze with 14-karat gold-plate handles, according to the manufacturer — to the front of the stage, which resembled a church sanctuary with a stained-glass backdrop. The Andrae Crouch Choir sang the hymn “Soon and Very Soon.”
Mariah Carey was joined by Trey Lorenz singing The Jackson 5’s 1970 hit “I’ll Be there” as a montage of Jackson photographs appeared on arena screens.
Queen Latifah, saying she was on stage to represent “millions of fans inspired by Michael,” said “Michael was the biggest star on earth.” Lionel Richie then performed the song “Jesus is Love.”
Stevie Wonder took the stage next.
“This is a moment that I wished that I didn’t live to see come, but as much as I can say that and mean it, I do know that God is good,” Wonder said. “And I do know that as much as we may feel, and do, that we need Michael with us, God must have needed him more.”
Wonder then delivered an emotional version of his 1971 song “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer.”
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who spoke along with former Lakers legend Magic Johnson, said Michael Jackson set a world record for the “most charities supported by a pop star.”
Johnson said he met Jackson when the singer was a Lakers’ season ticket holder.
“I truly believe that Michael made me a better point guard and basketball player as I watched him be so great and be the greatest entertainer ever,” Johnson said.
Singer Jennifer Hudson sang Jackson’s song “Will You Be There.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton also addressed the crowd and spoke of Jackson’s contribution to the music world.
“When Michael started, it was a different world, but because Michael kept going, because he didn’t accept limitations, because he refused to let people decide his boundaries, he opened up the whole world in the music world,” Sharpton said. “He put on one glove, pulled his pants up and broke down the color curtain.”
Sharpton then addressed Jackson’s children.
“There wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy,” he said. “It was strange what your daddy had to deal with, but he dealt with it.”
John Mayer played lead guitar on the song “Human Nature,” from Jackson’s “Thriller” album.
An emotional Brooke Shields, who was 13 when she became close friends with Jackson, said they bonded “because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very, very young age.”
“What we did do was laugh,” she recounted. “It was always a competition to see who could make the other one laugh more or be sillier.”
The service turned to tears, though, as Jackson’s brother Jermaine sang “Smile,” a favorite song of Michael’s.
Two of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, also spoke about the King of Pop.
Usher later sang “Gone Too Soon,” as he walked toward Jackson’s casket.
Smokey Robinson joked about his reaction when 10-year-old Michael recorded a song Robinson had written.
“I quickly went over to him, because I wanted to see his birth certificate,” Robinson said. “I didn’t believe that someone that young could have a lot of know. You have to have a lot of know to sing that song.”
Earlier in the memorial Robinson read personal messages from several of Jackson’s celebrity friends who did not attend.
“Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my life, part of the fabric of my life, in a way that I can’t seem to find words to express” Diana Ross said in a message read by Robinson.
Robinson also read a message from former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, saying they had grown close after trips and performances in South Africa.
“We had great admiration for his talent and that he was able to triumph over tragedy on so many occasions in his life,” Robinson said, relaying the message.
The public memorial followed an earlier gathering by Jackson’s family and closest friends at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.
THE WASHINGTON POST
By Lisa De Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Michael Jackson’s casket will be front and center during his star-studded memorial service today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the entertainment Web site TMZ reported this morning.
The news sparked a frenzy of excitement among the anchors of the morning infotainment shows, all of which were broadcasting from outside the Staples Center in the pre-dawn darkness in order to capture the magnitude of the event.
The possible physical presence of the remains of the King of Pop — who died suddenly and suspiciously last week at age 50 — raises the specter that “crowd control could become an even bigger issue,” said “Today” host Meredith Vieira.
There was no way to independently confirm whether, in fact, The Casket will be onstage with the performers as the Land of La-La says ta-ta to Jackson, one of the best-known and most controversial entertainers ever. But TMZ, you’ll recall, has been leaving the traditional media mostly in the dust since it was the first to report Jackson had collapsed at his rented Holmby Hills mansion on June 25.
Family spokesperson Ken Sunshine, interviewed by Viera, refused to confirm or deny the casket reports — as did Al Sharpton, interviewed a short time later. But Sunshine did want Meredith to know that the Jackson family “has shown extraordinary dignity in a very emotional time” and that “Michael Jackson is the biggest figure emitting love ever.”
“Has anybody been to a wedding or family event when a Michael Jackson or Jackson Five song came on it wasn’t the highlight of the event?” Sunshine asked rhetorically.
Activity was spotted late Monday at the Forest Lawn Cemetery involving the Jackson family, the Associated Press reported. Jackson’s family was expected to hold a private funeral there. Los Angeles TV station KCAL-TV showed helicopter footage of a hearse backing up to the Hall of Liberty — a circular building at the cemetery that contains a 1,200 seat auditorium — to deliver a casket, the AP added. And, a few hours later, the casket was reloaded into the hearse and delivered to another nearby building, this time covered in a blue cloth.
Fox News Channel showed aerial shots of a hearse at Forest Lawn where, the channel reported, a private family ceremony was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. local time. After that, Fox said, the family would “make the 13-mile journey” to Staples Center.
To help viewers understand how rich the soil is at Forest Lawn, the channel broadcast images of the faux headstones in which the names of other celebrities buried there had been “engraved” — names like Bette Davis, Buster Keaton, Liberace and Andy Gibb.
“You would think that the family wants to end this with a bang,” “Today” show correspondent Michael Owku, stationed at Forest Lawn, told Meredith Vieira. “They want to have a great big surprise for all the fans and all the friends that will be gathering there at Staples Center, and what bigger surprise than to suddenly have the casket of Michael Jackson up on stage for the last time?”
There is also no way to really fathom how many of the devoutly adoring and the simply curious will watch the service, which will be broadcast around the globe. But that didn’t stop the industry of celebrity navel gazers from forecasting the audience at an estimated 1 billion — more than one out of every seven people on earth.
Mariah Carey, Usher, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Lionel Richie, and Jennifer Hudson are among those confirmed to participate in the service, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time (1 p.m. in Washington). Sean “P Puff Diddy Daddy” Combs and Brooke Shields also said they would attend.
But Jackson’s BFF Elizabeth Taylor announced to the world she’s staying away today, because her grief is not a public event.
At least 16 domestic TV networks plan to cover the Jackson memorial live. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Fox News Channel, CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, TV One, MTV, VH1, VH1 Classic, TV Guide Channel, E!, Univision and Telemundo blew out their schedules in hopes that live coverage of the biggest celebrity ever would bring boffo ratings. (When the verdict was read on the Jackson child-abuse trial back in June of 2005, about 31 million tuned in domestically — nearly matching the 33 million who watched Princess’s Di’s funeral in this country in September of ’97.)
Los Angeles police are steeled for a mob scene even after warning that fans would not be able to get within blocks of the arena, where oversize murals and enormous screens have been set up outside as part of the mega-tribute. Authorities were urging people to stay away from the venue and watch the memorial on TV.
CNN’s Kara Finnstrom, deployed to check out the John Does who’d spend the night on the streets in order to be near the memorial, reported that 300 police officers were on the scene by 5 a.m. Pacific time. LAPD told her that number would increase to around 3,000 by the time the memorial kicked off five hours later — the biggest police presence downtown since Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics.
Vendors arrived early to stake out the best spots to sell hot dogs, bottled water and all manner of Jackson memorabilia.
Nearly 2 million people had registered in hopes of snagging some of the precious 20,000 seats at the Staples Center, of whom under 9,000 were picked to get two tickets each. About 9,000 seats in the arena have been set aside for Jackson family and friends.
Television’s morning news shows — in addition to “Today,” there was ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “The Early Show” and CNN’s “American Morning” — anchored their entire broadcasts from outside the Staples Center, even though it was still the middle of the night — and quite dark — on the West coast.
And about 50 movie theaters nationwide, owned by Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp, planned to carry the memorial live and offer free admission.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s Facebook page was clocking up to around 20 new fans per second, and was hovering around the 7 million mark — making it the most popular page on the social media outlet.
MUSIC INDIA ONLINE
Chennai: Music maestro A.R. Rahman, who is now in Los Angeles, said he was shocked at the “untimely passing away” of Michael Jackson, who he described as “one of the greatest musicians of our time.”
In a tribute to the ‘King of Pop,’ Rahman said Jackson, for most of this generation, was an icon who made uncompromising music. He pushed the milestone of pop music to unbelievable levels through the Eighties and Nineties. “I am yet to find an artist with that energy, perfection and vision.”
Recalling his recent meeting with Jackson after the Oscars in Los Angeles, Rahman said the meeting was very pleasant and memorable. “He said he loved India and the people of the country. He told me that he heard good things about me and he was praising the chord progression of Jai Ho’s chorus.”
Expressing his awe for Jackson, Rahman said the star was bubbling with energy. “He told me that every dance move he did, came from his soul.” Reminiscing the five second-demonstration that the ace performer gave, he said: “It was a stunning example…like a lightning striking.”
Jackson was concerned about issues such as global warming and war. “He asked me to compose a unity anthem on the lines of ‘We are the World’ for him. I nodded in awe.”
Jackson also introduced Rahman to his children. They told their father that they loved him and he replied “I love you more!” When Rahman wished him well for his concerts, Jackson told him “God bless you.”
On hearing the news of Jackson’s death, Rahman said he wished it were another rumour. “It took me time to believe that he is no more.”
Describing how his team drew inspiration from Jackson, Rahman said: “I remember, my late sound engineer Sridhar brought me a video of the premiere of ‘Remember the Time,’ when I was recording ‘Kadal Rojave’ for my first film Roja. We were all so inspired that afternoon.”
“Now, there is no Sridhar and no Jackson anymore. I hope all of us value people’s existence more and respect them when they are alive. Life is short. Artists and their art live for ever. Jai Ho, MJ ! We love you for your music, regardless of all the controversies,” Rahman said.
Tributes from stars and fans have been pouring in for singer Michael Jackson, who has died aged 50 after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Los Angeles home.
Pop star Madonna said: “The world has lost one of its greats, but his music will live on forever.”
Post-mortem tests on Jackson’s body will take another four to six weeks, the coroner said, but foul play and trauma had been ruled out.
Police say a car owned by a doctor has been towed away from Jackson’s home.
Spokeswoman Karen Rayner said he was not under criminal investigation but the car “may contain medications or other evidence that may assist the coroner in determining the cause of death”.
The Los Angeles Fire Department released audio of an emergency call made from Jackson’s house.
The person who made the 911 call said a 50-year-old male was being treated by a doctor but was unconscious.
“[The doctor is] pumping his chest but he’s not responding to anything,” the caller said.
US authorities have said final results of the post-mortem examination could take up to eight weeks while toxicology tests are completed.
Family lawyer Brian Oxman told US TV that he had been concerned about the star’s use of pain relief medication.
Mr Oxman told ABC’s Good Morning America programme that Jackson took prescription pain relief for injuries sustained earlier in his career, including bones broken in a stage fall.
“It caused him great pain. He just didn’t like to feel such discomfort. He started taking pain medication. It became part of his life.”
Mr Oxman added that he had warned that he “would not hold his tongue” about Jackson’s use of medication in the event of the singer’s death.
Paying tribute to the star, musician Sir Paul McCartney said: “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul.”
The singer’s ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley said she was “sad and confused”. “This is such a massive loss on so many levels, words fail me.”
A spokesman for Barack Obama said the US president saw Jackson as a “spectacular performer” and “music icon”, and offered condolences to his family.
Pop star Justin Timberlake, who has been compared to Jackson, said: “We have lost a genius and a true ambassador of, not only pop music, but of all music.”
The musician added: “He has been an inspiration to multiple generations.”
Paramedics were called to the singer’s Beverly Hills home at about midday on Thursday after he stopped breathing.
He was pronounced dead two hours later at the UCLA medical centre in west Hollywood. Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, said he was believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest.
Speaking on behalf of the Jackson family, Jermaine said doctors had tried to resuscitate the star for more than an hour without success.
He added: “The family request that the media please respect our privacy during this tough time.”
“And Allah be with you Michael, always. I love you.”
Jackson, who had a history of health problems, had been due to stage 50 concerts at the O2 arena in London, beginning on 13 July.
Concerns were raised last month when four of Jackson’s planned comeback shows were postponed, but organisers insisted the dates had been moved due to the complexity of staging the show.
Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said: “I always doubted that he would have been able to go through that schedule, those concerts. It seemed to be too much of a demand on the unhealthy body of a 50 year old.
“I’m wondering, as we find out details of his death, if perhaps the stress of preparing for those dates was a factor in his collapse.
“It was wishful thinking that at this stage of his life he could be Michael Jackson again.”
Following the news of his death, the singer’s albums are currently occupying the top 15 slots of online music retailer Amazon.com’s best-seller chart, led by his 1982 smash hit Thriller.
Bands playing at the Glastonbury Festival this weekend are also expected to pay tribute to Jackson’s musical achievements.
Thriller Live, a tribute show to featuring the star’s music in London’s West End, announced it would go ahead.
A minute’s silence will be held before the performance and the lights outside the Lyric Theatre, in Shaftesbury Avenue, will be dimmed as a mark of respect.
Jackson began his career as a child in family group The Jackson 5.
He went on to achieve global fame as a solo artist with smash hits such as Billie Jean and Bad.
Thriller, released in 1982, is the biggest-selling album of all time, shifting 65m copies, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
He scored seven UK number ones as a solo artist and won a total of 13 Grammy awards.
“For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words,” said Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller, Bad and Off The Wall.
“He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”
The singer had been dogged by controversy and money trouble in recent years, becoming a virtual recluse.
He was arrested in 2003 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy, but was found not guilty following a five-month trial.
The star had three children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II.
Jackson’s former wife Debbie Rowe is the mother of two of the children, and there is already speculation about who will gain custody of them.
He is survived by his mother, Katherine, father, Joseph and eight siblings – including Janet, Randy, Jermaine and La Toya Jackson.
By Sim Kwang Yang
I know that people expect me to comment on politics all the time, because of my experience in active full-time politics.
But let me make a little confession. Sometimes, I feel wary of political commentaries, especially when the Internet is so over-saturated with crude hysterical and partisan polemic and rhetoric. How I wish Malaysian net portals and blogs would discuss some intelligent subjects more seriously.
Fortunately, I still have Hornbill Unleashed, a blog still struggling to find its plural identity, a piece of virgin intellectual territory, waiting for literary exploration.
In a few days time, I will be 61 years of age. I will not celebrate my birthday, as I seldom do. It is just another day.
I will wake up that day, discover that I am still alive, and go for my simple breakfast of hot coffee and soft boiled eggs, remembering to take a whole bunch of pills for various ailments.
In my youth, I would not have envisaged how it would be like to be over 60 years of age, but here I am.
More frequently in recent years, my reflection turns to ageing and dying.
Physically, I am getting brittle, and the athletic prowess of my youth has deserted me decades ago. I now live a very sedentary sedate existence. My faculties are all intact, more or less, thank God.
As Sophocles was quoted in Plato’s Republic, the greatest advantage of ageing is that a man is no longer distracted by his sex hormones and so can concentrate on the pursuit of wisdom. I can attest to that!
There is no fool like an old fool. If I should still be chasing skirts, I will be an old damned fool indeed.
There is another advantage in ageing to the point of dying. Your existential angst may go out the window as well.
In my youth, I too – like many young men out there to-day – wondered about the meaning of my existence. After I had finished Form Six, my dream of studying to be a doctor was smashed to smithereens because I was refused a scholarship.
Faced with the absurdity of the world, the human will did feel ridiculous. What was the point of having any dream at all, I asked myself.
In simple unsophisticated Sarawak in the early 70s then, I had nobody to talk to really. Then I went to a university in Canada, and a French-Canadian schoolmate by the name of Michelle introduced me to the French existentialists, especially Sartre and Camus. Michelle also warned me to be careful not to go into their world too deep.
Then, I discovered the dark universe of the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky. He is well known for the words spoken by one of his anti-hero, ”God is dead and all things are possible.” I would read his novels for days on end, finishing them in one go, not sleeping or eating much. When I finished one book, I felt like my soul had been scoured empty!
Naturally, when I studied for a degree in philosophy, I made sure that I took a course on existentialism.
If death is the only certainty, is there then meaning to life?
Sartre was a great novelist but I found his attempt at phenomenology too dry for comfort.
Camus began his thesis by proclaiming that there is one question in life, and that is whether to commit suicide. If life has no meaning, then what is the point of living?
His title is apt. Sisyphus is that tragic figure in Greek mythology who was condemned to eternal toil in Hell.
He was tasked with pushing a huge rock up the slope, and as he reached the peak, the rock would roll down back to its position. Then the same toil repeats itself, for eternity.
If you think about it, Sisyphus’ fate is a little like our daily life.
We were born, protesting and crying, without the right to be consulted. Then we will all die, crying again at leaving our loved ones. In between, there is just a huge blank for us to fill in.
Every day, we go though the motion of living a life, a routine of going to work to cari makan, buy food for the table, and procreate.
We are bound by layers and layers of social norms and obligations that thwart our puny will to be ourselves.
We mortgage our freedom to our business, our family, our nation, and our tribe. We live through an entire life, without knowing who we are as individuals.
You know how modernity is.
It celebrates life, hope for to-morrow, and the greatness of the human spirit, those elements that make Hollywood movies so popular. Rambo and Rocky immediately come to mind. Nobody wants to talk about death and dying.
Yet, death is the only ultimate certainty in life. You can never get out of this life alive. The more you celebrate the human spirit, the joy of life, and the hope for to-morrow, the greater disappointment it will be when you face certain death.
This is the ultimate absurdity of human existence. This is the most fundamental alienation of our being!
The sick feeling in the realisation of this contraction has been variously described as angst or ennui, festering beneath the surface of every person’s façade of a normal life, coming back in the dark depth of night, when he is confronted with himself alone, or when he has just suffered a personal catastrophe.
Sartre used to say that we are all amateurs in this business of feeling lonely, and every man lives in quiet desperation.
For Camus, he provides the answer to his question of suicide in his book The Rebel. Life may or may not have meaning, but it is up to us to create our own meaning.
That is how existentialism got its slogan: existence before essence. For him, the act of rebellion against the absurdity of existence itself, especially through art, is the path for the absurd man to live.
“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being,” he wrote.
I just wonder: how many Malaysians to-day are closet existentialists, especially among the younger generations. We are Asians, and we do not like to discuss such deeply sensitive subjects as the meaning of life with our friends. We do not want to be seen like freaks.
Camus’ question does not bother me any more. Do not ask me my formula, because I have lived a relatively long life to find my own answer, and my answer may not be suitable for you. You have to find your own answer.
So, what is the meaning of your life? Or is it not a relevant question for you?
[Sim Kwang Yang was the DAP assemblyman for Bandar Kuching from 1982 to 1999]
FROM THE MIGHT OF THE PEN WEBSITE
Like the South African leader Nelson Mandela before her, Aung San Suu Kyi, has come to be seen internationally as a symbol of heroic and peaceful resistance in the face of oppression. For the Burmese people, Aung San Suu Kyi represents their best and perhaps sole hope that one day there will be an end to the country’s military repression.
She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991. Her sons went to Oslo to accept the award on her behalf. At the presentation, the Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Francis Sejested, called her “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”. “Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be silenced because she speaks the truth,” he said.
Now aged 64, Suu Kyi is the daughter of the late Burmese nationalist leader, General Aung San, whose resistance to British colonial rule culminated in Burma’s independence in 1948.
After attending school in the Burmese capital Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi lived in India, and then went to Britain for her University education. This is where she met and married her husband, Michael Aris, an Oxford University academic. Already then, Michael Aris knew his wife’s destiny might ultimately lie with Burma. “Before we were married I promised my wife that I would never stand between her and her country,” he says.
Aung San Suu Kyi first came to prominence when she returned to Burma in August 1988, with her husband and their two sons remaining in Britain. She became the leader of a burgeoning pro-democracy movement in the aftermath of the brutal repression of a pro-democratic uprising earlier that summer.
The movement quickly grew into a political party that went on to win an overwhelming majority 82% percent in national elections in 1990, by which time she had already been under house arrest for a year. The military regime, however, refused to relinquish power and stepped up intensified repression of her party, the National League for Democracy.
Martin Smith, a writer on Burmese affairs, says there are several reasons why Aung San Suu Kyi proved such a natural leader. “Her father was the founder of the democratic movement. So Suu Kyi in a way had inherited that kind of tradition. “But the second thing is of course down to Aung San Suu Kyi herself, her role in the democracy movement and her speeches about the need for change in Burmese society. “And I think there is a further thing she very much had on her side – that is her comparative youth in Burmese politics.”
TO READ MORE PLEASE GO TO
Jonathan Rugman in Nairobi
The head of the UN’s $955 million (£580 million) aid operation in Somalia has launched an inquiry after being shown footage showing tonnes of food bearing the World Food Programme (WFP) logo widely on sale in Mogadishu, the capital.
Stacks of bags of maize and wheat and tins of cooking oil — marked “not for re-sale” and bearing the UN stamp — are on sale from ten warehouses and 15 shops in the city’s main market.
About 45,000 tonnes of WFP food are shipped to Somalia from Kenya every month. Mogadishu traders told Channel 4 News that they bought their supplies straight from UN staff. “We buy [food] aid from WFP staff directly or from people they employ,” one market trader said.
The food could hardly be more needed. More than a million people have been driven from their homes by fighting in the area, including 117,000 thought to have fled from Mogadishu in the past month.
UN officials say that civil war and the worst drought in a decade have created “near-famine conditions”, with Somalia ranking alongside Darfur as the worst humanitarian emergency in the world. The WFP is charged with feeding 3.5 million Somalis — almost half the population — and is struggling to overcome an operational shortfall of more than $84 million over the next six months.
Britain gave the WFP £9 million for Somalia last year through the Department for International Development and is now deciding whether to give more.
Another market trader described how he invented fictional refugee camps, which were then allocated food that he could sell. “You go to the WFP office and fill in an application form to create a camp,” he said. “When we receive the food, we give out some and then divide the rest between ourselves and the WFP guys who negotiated the deal.”
The scam is, according to Mark Bowden, the former British diplomat who is now the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, “disturbing”. He is urging the WFP to speed up its inquiry.
Many of the sacks for sale are marked: “A gift from the American people”, with the US government’s aid agency, USAID, providing $274 million last year in food and in humanitarian assistance for Somalia.
Peter Goossens, the WFP’s Somalia director, describes food for sale as a “minor phenomenon”.
Jonathan Rugman’s report on Somalia is on Channel 4 News at 7pm
A nation in need
3.25 million people in Somalia are in need of food aid
One in four children dies before the age of 5
One in six children under this age is acutely malnourished
57,000 tonnes of food aid is being delivered to Somalia — enough for two months
90 per cent of it is delivered by ships, guarded by naval vessels to deter pirates
Source: World Food Programme
Children are starving in Mogadishu but UN food aid is being sold
TIM MARTIN ENDING STRIKE IN RESPONSE TO OFFERS OF HELP
On Sunday 7th June at 6pm, over 500 people gathered in London outside Parliament, for a ceremony to mark the end of a hunger strike carried out by a British former aid worker. Tim Martin, Director of the human rights group Act Now, had responded to assurances of help if he ended his hunger strike outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England, after enduring 21 days without food.
Tim’s protest has been to raise awareness of the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, centred on an urgent appeal to President Obama, the UK Government and the UN to press for action to protect the devastated Tamil civilian population and uncover the true scale of the humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka. During these 21 days, news of further atrocities and abuses in Sri Lanka have come to light – some obtained from Tim’s own contact network.
News of increasing opposition, amongst US politicians and lawmakers, to the request by the Sri Lankan Government for an IMF loan is reassuring to those, like Tim Martin, who believed Obama would not repeat the mistakes of old (such as Clinton on Rwanda) and that Obama’s ultimate stance on Sri Lanka will be a benchmark of his presidency, in terms of human rights issues.
Tim’s four-point request to the US President:
1. International monitors on the ground and satellite imaging effective immediately to verify the true number of casualties and the mop up process.
2. Immediate free access to international media and international organisations throughout Sri Lanka.
3. Emergency medical treatment for tens of thousands of civilians and POWs that are currently not in hospitals and are being held at checkpoints, schools and IDP camps.
4. Public Investigation into Vijay Nambiar, the Special Envoy for the UN Secretary General, as his brother Satish Nambiar is a paid consultant for the Sri Lankan government which suggests a conflict of interest.
Over the course of Tim’s protest, these requests have begun to be addressed. Three days into the hunger strike, initially based outside the US Embassy in London, the US Government released satellite pictures highlighting the scale of the devastation in the so-called ‘Safety Zone’. The press also began to report on Tim’s fourth request: the need for an investigation into Indian diplomat and UN Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar, whose brother is a paid consultant of the Sri Lankan government. There are now calls for this matter to be taken up by the UN.
Assurances of help have been given to Tim on condition he ended his strike:
1. Tim has been invited to raise awareness and high profile support from a number of top celebrities at a special celebrity event this month, with guests including Bob Geldof and Brian May.
2. Tim has been invited to speak to UN representatives of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in particular, addressing those countries that voted for the Sri Lankan Government’s self-congratulatory resolution supporting its own version of events concerning the recent conflict.
3. A Parliamentary meeting has been organised for next Wednesday, 10th June – the latest reports from Sri Lanka will be presented to MPs by Tim Martin and news journalists recently returned from the camps.
4. Tim’s requests to Obama have been filmed and given to the President’s ‘Spiritual advisor’ with the promise of being viewed by the President.
5. He had received numerous requests to end his strike from the Tamil community and from the doctors who were extremely worried as his health has been deteriorating. He also received a special request from the Tamil community organisation the British Tamil Forum, pleading that, since Tim is the only non-Tamil NGO worker that has lived in Tamil Eelam in the good times of peace and the bad times of war that has come forward and fighting for the freedom of the Tamil people, fighting publicly on injustices and atrocities which continue to take place, he is irreplaceable to the Tamil community.
Tim has more than proved his ability to gain support after the large number of celebrities and MPs that he managed to get behind the Mercy Mission. Including ‘Trip-hop’ band Massive Attack, Joanna Lumley, Sian Evans (singer/songwriter of the band Kosheen), Brian May of the mega-rock group Queen, Jade Parfitt and Jasmine Guinness (British fashion models), Deborah Leng, Dr Chris Steele (of This Morning TV). Tim is now recuperating from his hunger strike, gathering his energies to report on the atrocities in Sri Lanka to British and UN officials and to raise awareness of his requests to protect Sri Lanka’s devastated Tamil population from further suffering. He urges everyone to sign the online appeal to Obama which can be found at http://www.act-now.info/Site/Online_Appeal.html
The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers Monday not to use skin products made by Clarcon because of high levels of disease-causing bacteria found during a recent inspection.
Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc. of Roy, Utah, issued a voluntary recall of some skin sanitizers and skin protectants marketed under several different brand names, the FDA said in a statement.
Consumers should not use any Clarcon products and should throw them away, the FDA said.
Analyses of several samples of over-the-counter topical antimicrobial skin sanitizer and skin protectant products revealed high levels of various bacteria, including some associated with unsanitary conditions, according to the agency. Some of these bacteria can cause opportunistic infections of the skin and underlying tissues and could result in medical or surgical attention as well as permanent damage.
Examples of products that should be discarded include Citrushield Lotion, Dermasentials DermaBarrier, Dermassentials by Clarcon, Antimicrobial Hand Sanitizer, Iron Fist Barrier Hand Treatment, Skin Shield Restaurant, Skin Shield Industrial, Skin Shield Beauty Salon Lotion, Total Skin Care Beauty and Total Skin Care Work.
The FDA said its findings, following a recent inspection of the Clarcon facility, are particularly concerning because the products are promoted as antimicrobial agents that claim to treat open wounds and damaged skin and protect against various infectious diseases. The inspection uncovered serious deviations from FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice requirements, the agency said.
Calls to Clarcon for comment Monday night were not answered.