29 January: Bill Clinton appeals for help in Haiti’s reconstruction

By Branko Brkic 29 January 2010

Also today: New Chinese dinosaur find sure to be a hit among hairdressers; Everybody wants to exit Afghanistan, but they just don’t know how; Brazilian president takes ill before heading off to Davos summit; Iran's gets rid of opposition, permanently; Tesco acts against sleep-walking Welsh shoppers; Tourists high and not so dry among ruins of Machu Picchu; MSNBC cringes over Obama gaffe.

Bill Clinton appeals for help in Haiti’s reconstruction


Bill Clinton told those assembled at Davos in Switzerland that Haiti needs much more help. The island nation has always been a pet project for the former US president, and he informed the titans of politics and business that it’s determined to escape its troubled past. He wants to encourage the world to help build a Haitian future that finally casts off the shackles of its brutal history of slavery. But for now, he says shortages of food, water and logistical capacity can only be overcome by pledges of hard cash and hundreds of pick-up trucks to remove the rubble of the devastating earthquake that may have killed as much as 200,000 people. Clinton’s real goal is to get the rich countries to invest for the long-term in Haiti, citing Rwanda’s positive steps towards rejuvenation after its 1994 genocide. But worries over corruption might cause donors pause for thought as to where their money is going in Haiti. The relief effort has already been hampered by various scams, despite the good intentions. Photo: Reuters.

Read more: Al Jazeera, CNN, AP


New Chinese dinosaur find sure to be a hit among hairdressers


Scientists have just found the dinosaur fossils of the wire-haired variety, another proof that the pre-historic beasts  were related to birds. China’s a treasure trove for everything from huge bones to dinosaur eggs, so British and Chinese researchers must have been ecstatic to meet Sinosauropteryx, a spiky little 125-million-year-old dinosaur whose bristles were in fact ginger feathers, which made it look like a Mohican, with plumage running down its head and back towards its stripey tail. Once the find is widely circulated on YouTube, expect a whole lot of fantastic new hairstyles to come about.

Read more: BBC, Christian Science Monitor


Everybody wants to exit Afghanistan, but they just don’t know how


World leaders met in London to agree an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan. They want to quit the theatre in late 2010 or early 2011, by persuading Taliban militants to renounce violence and cut ties to al-Qaeda by offering them cash. That’s an old tactic for dividing the enemy, and while it can work, it could also backfire by giving their opponents renewed firepower to pursue their brutal aims. Nato countries are feeling the heat of the global markets collapse, and are keen to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces in more peaceful provinces as soon as possible. The conference comes as the body bag count is up and public support is down for the eight year-old conflict. Some 70 nations were present in the mother of all democracies, listening to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s promises to battle corruption and boost his weak government. What was really being said was that modern wars don’t end decisively, but simmer on for decades. Karzai said he expected foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan for years to come. And that’s what everybody didn’t want to hear.

Read more: Reuters, Time, AP, The New York Times


Brazilian president takes ill before heading off to Davos summit


One Bric leader will be missing from this year’s Davos meeting of world political and business leaders in Switzerland, after Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum because of high blood pressure. He’s apparently exhausted after an intense week of politicking, and will be replaced by the country’s central bank president, Henrique Meirelles. Lula complained of a sore throat and chest pains just as he boarded the plane. His absence from the mountain retreat will be sorely felt, as he represents a bridge between the increasingly left-wing governments in South America, and the many free-marketeers who assemble annually to discuss how the world should work.

Read more: Bloomberg, BBC


Iran’s gets rid of opposition, permanently


Iran has executed two men accused of armed insurrection. That’s basically treason, and comes in many different flavours in a country that has seen deadly political and social unrest of late. The country’s public prosecutor says more death sentences will be carried out against those who opposed a disputed June presidential election that saw conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad crack down hard on protesters. Reports say the hanged men weren’t connected to post-election protests. In an attempt to frighten all parties into submission, Iran’s various “enemies of the state”, including gay teenagers, are lumped in with the political opposition, whatever their hue.

Read more: Agence France-Presse, AP, The Telegraph, Fox News


Tesco acts against sleep-walking Welsh shoppers


A Welsh store of the giant supermarket chain Tesco says customers can’t shop in their nighties, pyjamas or without shoes. The British may be even odder than their American cousins, whose sartorial adventures as they traipse the aisles at Wal-Mart now have a cult following on the Internet. Tesco stuck up notices at the Cardiff supermarket requesting that footwear be worn at all times, and that no nightwear is permitted. One spokesman said Tesco isn’t a nightclub with a strict dress code, but that those shuffling around bare-foot in curlers and night-cream were scaring away the other customers.

Read more: Guardian, BBC


Tourists high and not so dry among ruins of Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu, Peru’s famous Inca ruin, is closed after a series of landslides stopped the train that ferries tourists from the nearby Andean town of Cuzco. Authorities say the railway won’t open for at least another three days, forcing them to provide helicopters to transport some 2,000 trapped tourists. About 600 people have already been evacuated after supplies of food and water began to run out. Speculation has kicked in, and vendors are now said to be selling bottled water at five times the normal price. Reports say tourists continue to arrive at mountain-top villages near the ruins, returning from long treks into the surrounding wilds.

Read more: Daily Mail, Reuters, YouTube


MSNBC cringes over Obama gaffe

New York

MSNBC presenter Chris Matthews may have just discovered the true definition of the term foot-in-mouth after he said President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address reminded him just how much the US head honcho had done to heal racial divisions, so much so, in fact, that he forgot he was black. Twitter exploded with those words, forcing a recondite Matthews back 90 minutes later to explain what he meant. Matthew’s brain lit up when he realised a black president was addressing a gathering of mostly white folk and that this didn’t seem to be an issue. In his subsequent explanation, he said he saw his comments in the context of growing up at a time racial divisions were everywhere. An interesting element for South Africans here: Matthews spent considerable part of his early career in Swaziland.

Read more: AP, Fox Nation, Boston Globe


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