Wednesday 25 August 2010

Mexico condemns killing of 72 suspected migrants dumped in Mexican ranch

Alejandro Poire Romero, the technical secretary of the National Security Council, condemns killing of 72 suspected migrants dumped in a ranch near Gulf of Mexico.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (AUGUST 25, 2010) REUTERS - Mexican marines found 72 dead bodies at a remote ranch near the U.S. border on Tuesday (August 24), in what is the biggest single discovery of its kind in Mexico's increasingly bloody drug war.
Mexico's technical secretary of the National Security Council, Alejandro Poire Romero, condemned the killings on Wednesday (August 25).

"Yesterday, the marines repelled an aggression by alleged organised criminals during an operation in San Fernando Tamaulipas, where 72 people were found dead - 58 men and 14 women - and according preliminary information that needs to be confirmed, they could be illegal immigrants of several nationalities including El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil," Poire told a news conference.

The marines came across the bodies of 58 men and 14 women at the ranch outside a town near the Gulf of Mexico in Tamaulipas state, some 90 miles (150 km) from the Texas border, after a firefight with drug hitmen in which three gunmen and a marine died.

A suspected trafficker was arrested, the navy said, and several escaped in SUVs. Authorities were still investigating how long the bodies had been there.

"This is an extremely serious event which is absolutely outrageous which demands the unanimous condemnation from society and authorities which does not admit hesitation in our condemnation of crime and which should summon us to reject and categorically combat criminal activity in all its forms and manifestations," said Poire.

Marines guarding a nearby checkpoint reached the ranch after a wounded man approached them and asked for help. The soldiers came under fire as they neared the ranch, the navy said in a statement. After the firefight, marines seized assault rifles, bullets, uniforms and vehicles from the ranch -- including one with forged army license plates.

Mexican cartels have moved into human smuggling in recent years, sometimes kidnapping migrants, extorting them and forcing them to carry narcotics across the border.

The discovery in Tamaulipas is the largest single find in Mexico's 3-1/2 year assault on cartels, following the discovery of 55 bodies in western Guerrero state in May and 51 bodies on the outskirts of Monterrey near Texas in July.

President Felipe Calderon, who deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to fight cartels when he took office, has been seeking to shore up support from opposition politicians and civic leaders as the war on drugs grows more gruesome.

African Bishops condemn homosexuality at meeting in Uganda

Ugandan Archbishop heads campaign to condemn homosexuality at the second All African Bishops' conference in Uganda, where more than 400 African bishops are meeting to discuss issues concerning the African continent. Homosexuality has been a contentious issue that continues to divide the Anglican church.

ENTEBBE, UGANDA (AUGUST 24, 2010) REUTERS - African bishops meeting in Entebbe, Uganda on Tuesday (August 24) condemned homosexuality and said it is against the "word of God".
The ongoing second All African Bishops' conference brings together more than 400 African bishops to discuss issues on the continent.

The Anglican Church has been torn for years by disputes about authority over Church teaching, especially on gay rights. Orthodox Anglicans, especially in Africa, vehemently reject pro-homosexual reforms as sinful and unbiblical.

Recently, the spiritual head of the world's 80 million Anglicans, Archbishop of Cantebury, Rowan Williams tried to mediate in gay rights disputes splitting the Church, by suggesting that member churches approving gay bishops and same-sex unions and those actively opposing them be sidelined from official doctrinal committees.

The initiative by Williams -- who is also attending the Entebbe meeting, was sparked by the consecration of an openly lesbian bishop in California earlier this year.

But Archbishop Williams's move seems to have fallen on deaf ears, with members saying such action was against traditions of the Anglican Church.

Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, speaking at the conference said African churches were not going to compromise on their stand against homosexuality.

"The orthodox believers like we in Africa, the majority of us have stood clearly to say what my brother Bernard has said. Homosexuality is incompatible with the word of God. In this country we cherish the word of God and if you are proclaiming that word of God, you want to stick to it faithfully," said Orombi.

Orombi criticised the church in the West for "abandoning the word of God".

"A hundred or so years ago, Europe, America brought us the gospel, now that gospel was planted on the soil and hearts of Africans, we received it, it has grown, it has borne fruits. Now for us we have the responsibility to take it back to England. I am just coming from England two weeks ago. I was preaching to the English congregation of over 17,000 people. Now the hunger for the word of God is over there. The warmth -- like hot bread of the word is in Africa, so now am calling to the Africans to say it is time go back to the sending church, America and Europe to take back the gospel," said Orombi.

Orombi said the meeting was a good opportunity for African Bishops to voice their concerns about the issue of homosexuality to Williams, who attended the conference.

"We are happy Archbishop Rowan is here -- and you have intimated when you heard him speak -- it is good that Archbishop Rowan is here, because then we can talk, then we can open our hearts to him because then he can hear, sit with him, and the fact that he is here, we are going to engage him as prime mates. We are going to express to him where we stand, we are going to express to him what our pains are, where our disagreements are and it is very good for us to do that," Orombi said.

Archbishop Williams did not mention the gay rights topic in his speech to the conference. Instead he spoke about sacrifice and prayed for clergy who were working in areas where it was difficult to speak against injustices in society.

"In our own times, there have been many who have courageously continued in this tradition and here we may think specially today with celebration of thanksgiving, of our brothers in Sudan, in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) in Zimbabwe, whose authorities as pastors in the Church of God, rests so deeply on their willingness to take risks alongside their flock, and for them," said Archbishop Williams.

Gay rights in Africa came to the foreground this year with the arrest and conviction of a gay couple in Malawi, who married in a traditional ceremony and after an Ugandan lawmaker proposed an anti-gay bill including the death penalty for some 'offences' related to homosexuality.

Monday 23 August 2010

Generous British public "shame" governments over Pakistan aid

British public donate 30 million UK pounds to Pakistan's flood relief effort, "shaming" politicians around the world to give more, says Disasters Emergency Committee in UK.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (AUGUST 23, 2010) REUTERS - The British public have given around 30 million pounds of their own money to add to the government's 60 million in aid for Pakistan, "shaming" other governments into pledging funds to help flood victims, said the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) on Monday (August 23).
At a Royal Mail postal sorting office in central London, cheques sent in from across the UK for the DEC appeal were mounting up daily.

"For the first time in the DEC's history we've taken more money in the second week than in the first week," said Brendan Gormley, chief executive of DEC at a news conference in London.

"What we've had in the last couple of weeks, which has been hugely moving, is that as the story has unfolded the UK public has continued to dig deeper and deeper," he said.

In comparison, donations to the Haiti quake aid effort dropped 20 percent in the second week and donations to the Indonesia and Philippines typhoon effort dropped by half in the third week.

DEC predicts donations by the British public, which has a Pakistani population of around 1 million, will continue to rise.

He said the generosity of ordinary Britons should shame governments around the world which have been slow to respond to the massive disaster in Pakistan.

"It is the UK public who are leading the way and I don't think it's too strong a word, shaming politicians across the world to really do what they should do," he said.

The United Nations estimates that 20 million have been affected by the floods, with 10 million in urgent need of help.

Speaking at the London news conference, Humanitarian Director for Oxfam, Jane Cocking said it was crucial for people to realise the scale of the disaster.

"What we have is a single long event, which has the scale of the tsunami, the destruction of Haiti and the complexity of the Middle East. In 20 years in responding to humanitarian crises I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this," she said.

Aid agencies estimate that around 25 percent of flood victims have not received any help at all.

Head of Christian Aid's humanitarian division, Nick Guttmann said they desperately need more money.

"We are very pleased that donations in the past week, unusually for the DEC appeal, picked up in the second week. Within Christian Aid as well our donations have picked up, but we desperately need more. The scale is so huge that every penny that has been raised will be able to be used now," he said.

The DEC is an umbrella organisation for 13 different UK charities who are providing food shelter and medical care to those who have lost everything in the floods.

Sunday 22 August 2010

With government controls relaxed, Red Shirt protests return to northern Thailand

Thailand's red shirt movement resume their anti-government activity in their stronghold province of Chiang Mai after the government lifts tight military control in the northern provinces.

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND (AUGUST 22, 2010) REUTERS - About three hundred members of Thai United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), gathered in Chiang Mai on Sunday (August 22) in an anti-government rally.
The demonstrators lay down on the ground and staged a theatrical play to mock the military who clamped down on red shirted protesters in Bangkok earlier in 2010.

Most of the demonstrator were women and elderly residents from Chiang Mai and the surrounding provinces.

They accuse Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his administration of ordering the Thai military to launch what became for Red Shirt supporters a bloody crackdown on demonstrations in Bangkok between March and May.

On August 16, the Thai cabinet lifted an emergency law which prevented protests in three red shirt strongholds in northern Thailand

The emergency decree has been in place since April, giving security forces broad power to deal with anti-government protests that spiraled into the worst political violence in modern Thai history and left 91 people dead and nearly 2,000 wounded.

It is still in force in Bangkok and six other provinces.