Sunday 13 December 2009

Environment ministers upbeat about chance of Copenhagen climate deal

Environment ministers arriving for climate talks in Copenhagen express hopes a global climate deal can be reached.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK (DECEMBER 13, 2009) REUTERS - Environment ministers representing about 40 countries met in Copenhagen on Sunday (December 13) for informal talks to break a deadlock in negotiations to reach a deal to curb climate change.
Until now the talks have been run mostly by senior officials. Negotiators from 192 nations are trying to agree a new U.N. climate pact.

Several of the ministers and delegates arriving for the informal talks at the Danish foreign ministry expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached.

"They (heads of delegations and ministers) all express their position that they are ready with the leadership of the Danish government to play a positive and constructive role," said a representative of the Chinese delegation.

"An agreement is certainly possible. If all of us trust each other and if we have the courage and conviction, we can still come to a fair equitable deal in Copenhagen," said India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh.

However, some were more cautious.

"It takes more when it comes to emissions reductions. We have to see some of the big countries put more emission reductions on the table. I still don't think we'll receive that today but we'll push for that," added Andreas Carlgrend, the environment minister for Sweden, which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency.

"We will have bilateral talks and such discussions to see where we can come together and where we have to underline our discussions," said German environment minister Norbert Roettgen.

Citizens in countries around the world are watching developments as they unfold for a sense of what their future climate may look like.

"I think there is a good spirit and there is a sense of now is the time where we have to act and work together and get the agreement that the world expects us to make," said UK climate change minister Ed Miliband.

Delegates claim progress is being made on some fronts, but the hardest decisions on sharing curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and funding to help the poor are likely to be left for the summit.

First train leaves Belgrade to Sarajevo in 18 years

The first train leaves Belgrade for Sarajevo 18 years after the service was halted by war.

BELGRADE, SERBIA (DECEMBER 13, 2009) REUTERS - Creaking and swaying through a landscape of bitter memories, the once beloved Belgrade-Sarajevo train service was restarted on Sunday (December 13) after almost 18 years after the war stopped the service in its tracks.
The train left Belgrade railway station at 07.15 GMT.

When the service was stopped people had to use buses or other means of transportation to get to their destination.

"I am pleased, especially because I work there (referring to Bosnia) and it goes there, earlier we had a difficult time, we used buses, and other means of transport, now I am satisfied," said Nada Gajic, one of the passengers on the train.

The train has three coaches, one from Serbia, one from the Bosnian Serb republic, and a coach from the Bosnain-Croat federation railway companies.

The journey will take more than eight hours instead of six due to the new borders between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia. The journey time is also impacted by the dilapidated track worn out by war, neglect and poverty.

A spokesman from Serbian railways said there is a great demand for the service,

"After the assessment of Serbian railways and Bosnian railways and Bosnian Serb railways, we now have an economic reason to establish such a railway service, and we all expect that there will be enough passengers to fulfil the economic interests of both railway systems," said Nenad Stanisavljevic, spokesperson of Serbian railways.

The express became one of the victims of the wars that erupted in Croatia in 1991 and Bosnia in 1992, fomented by nationalist leaders riding a wave of discontent with a failed economy, crippled by Tito's reckless foreign borrowing.

Parts of the track were blown up or became front lines as an ethnic Serb rebellion cut Croatia in half, and ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims fought each other in Bosnia.

The swanky trains of Yugoslavia's golden age -- the "Olympic Express" and the "Bosna Express" -- are gone, to be replaced by older, rickety carriages and slower locomotives.

On the train's route, the legacy of the war is inescapable.

Vinkovci in Croatia, once a main rail junction, was on the front lines and still carries the scars of Serb shelling.

The Bosnian towns of Doboj, Samac and Modrica became notorious for ethnic cleansing and concentration camps.

The present public transport link between the two cities -- a bus taking eight hours to wind its way through backwater towns to the sound of thumping Balkan pop -- is seldom full.

There will only be one train a day, compared with the schedule before the war, when there were three.

Houston's first gay mayor celebrates her election win

The first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city celebrates her election win.

HOUSTON, TEXAS, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 13, 2009) NBC - Houston's first openly gay mayor celebrated her election win on Sunday (December 13). Annise Parker won Saturday's run-off race with nearly 54-percent of the vote.
Parker won the run-off against fellow Democrat Gene Locke after a four-way primary in November came up inconclusive.

Other big U.S. cities like Portland, Oregon and Providence, Rhode Island have openly gay mayors, but none the size of Houston -- the fourth-biggest city in the nation with more than two million residents.

Mugabe gets five more years

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is endorsed to lead his ZANU-PF party for another five years and vows to resist demands for changes to the country's security forces.

ZIMBABWE - At 85 Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is one of the oldest leaders in the world and in the twilight of his political career.

But amongst the ranks of his party Zanu PF he remains popular and has been re endorsed to lead for another five years.

He has led the party since the mid 1970's during a political career which has lasted more than half a century and shows no sign of giving up.

ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE SAYING: "We go back much stronger, a better focused party, ready and raring to go to take on issues that confront us, even problematic ones."

But the veteran leader was forced to share power with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party after losing its parliamentary majority for the first time in March last year.

The coalition has been rocked by differences over how to share power and the MDC is pressing for reform of the security forces it accuses of being used by ZANU-PF to stifle dissent.

Many senior officers in the security forces fought in Zimbabwe's war of independence and remain loyal to Mugabe.

They have vowed never to recognise Tsvangirai as leader.

Now Mugabe has vowed to resist demands from the opposition to change the country's security forces.

ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE SAYING: "and that is the most dependable force we could ever have, it shall not be tampered with , the enemy would want to see it disintegrate and any tactics, manoeuvres, any tactics to tamper with the forces will never be entertained by us."

While Mugabe has managed to remain at the helm of ZANU-PF, a raging battle is underway over who will eventually succeed him, threatening the future of a party that had enjoyed uninterrupted rule from independence in 1980 till last year.

Penny Tweedie, Reuters.