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    27 March 2009

    ALERT:CORSICAN NATIONALIST COLONNA SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT

    A Paris appeal court found Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna guilty in the 1998 murder of prefect Claude Erignac. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 22 years.
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    Deadly blast hits Pakistan mosque

    A bomb has exploded at a mosque near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber agency in north-west Pakistan, killing at least 50 people, officials say.

    The top administrator in the Khyber region, Tariq Hayat, said he feared the death toll could rise to 70.

    Officials say the attack was a suicide bombing and the mosque has collapsed.

    North-west Pakistan has witnessed a number of suicide attacks linked to the Taleban insurgency and also to the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide.Copyright © 2009 Asnycnow15 News/English
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    17 March 2009

    Optimism about the future returns to Iraq


    Poll shows dramatic increase in confidence in security

     30 Percent of Iraqis who report feeling satisfied with the mission of the U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, still a bleak view of the United States.

     

    Iraq, embroiled for the past six years in clashing factions and sectarian violence, may finally be making a turnaround, according to an opinion poll published yesterday.

    The latest ABC News/BBC/NHK poll of Iraqi citizens reveals a startling optimism as death tolls dip and the country returns to a more solid economic footing. 

    The survey, ABC’s sixth since 2004, is based on random, in-person interviews with Iraqi adults.

    The gains represent a sharp contrast from the dark days of a few years prior, as 84 percent of polled Iraqis report a positive review of their own security, nearly double that of 2007 levels. Three times as many Iraqis feel safe moving about from place to place.

    A report on ABC.com yesterday said: “While deep difficulties remain, the advances are remarkable. Eighty-four percent of Iraqis now rate security in their own area positively, nearly double its August 2007 level. Seventy-eight percent say their protection from crime is good, more than double its low. Three-quarters say they can go where they want safely — triple what it’s been.”

    The poll counters the view in many U.S. political circles that little progress has been made in democratizing Iraq, and may provide comfort to those who claim that the military surges worked.
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    11 March 2009

    France 24 journalists detained in China

    By Henry Morton
    France 24 English
    With foreign journalists barred from Tibet, France 24 reporters travelled to the neighbouring province of Sichuan to speak to Tibetans about the 50th anniversary of their failed revolution. They found the Chinese authorities less than welcoming.
    Reporting on Tibetan issues in China has always been difficult. Despite the vast size of the territory, and the number of places that ethnic Tibetans now inhabit both within Tibet and around other parts of China, the areas are often remote and difficult to reach. Beijing also keeps a close eye on Tibetan communities as well as the movements of foreign journalists.
     
    Therefore, as the plane touched down in Sichuan, a province bordering Tibet, I was under no illusions about how difficult it would be to film here. I had come to Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, last year, after violent protests by Tibetans led to a crackdown by the Chinese government. 

    Beijing’s ability to effectively lock down much of the west of China was remarkable, but by no means complete. I managed to get through several roadblocks on the way to Tibet, before being stopped and sent back to Chengdu. I was also able to interview monks in the Tibetan quarter of the city without much trouble. This year though, the Chinese are taking no chances.This year marks the 50th anniversary of the brutal suppression of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, which led to the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile in northern India, and Beijing has done all it can to ensure that there will be no repeat of last year’s trouble. Thousands of additional troops have reportedly been sent to Tibet and neighboring provinces, and roadblocks have been set up along every road leading to areas with a large Tibetan population.
     

    I had my first taste of the increased security measures as I was leaving the plane on my arrival in Chengdu. I had overheard one of the flight attendants telling the Chinese passenger next to me that there would be a delay because of checks to make sure foreigners weren’t trying to fly to Tibet’s capital Lhasa, and when I got to the front of the plane, a young, slightly nervous-looking government official flicked through my passport, checked my name against a list, and then handed it back to me with a smile and a xiexie, Mandarin for thank you.

     

    My colleagues and I then headed to a monastery, some 60 kilometres outside of Chengdu, with the hope of gaining our first interview. However, an hour’s drive and a 25-minute walk uphill later, the abbot said he could not allow us to film any of the monks or give an interview without permission from the local government, something that would not be given quickly.

     

    Driving back through Chengdu, nothing seemed out of the ordinary – shops were open, traffic proceeded as usual, people were going about their daily business. However, when we reached the Tibetan quarter, we found armed police at every entry point and uniformed as well as plain-clothed officers swarming the streets.

     

    We were stopped as soon as we got out of the car, asked for our passports and accreditation and told we could go no further because it was too dangerous, but it was OK to enter during the day.

     

    We returned this morning and, sure enough, were allowed to wander freely through the area. Our producer found a Tibetan businessman, who reluctantly agreed to be interviewed, and we went into his restaurant.

     

    We chatted for about 10 minutes as I set up the camera, but just as we were about to begin, there was a knock at the door and a man in broken English asked what we were doing. Turning around, we found around 15 to 20 policeman and officials standing in the adjoining room, motioning for us to come out. They asked for our passports and journalist cards, and started making notes of our details.

     

    Handing them back, we asked if we were under arrest, and they said no. We asked if we could leave, and they asked if we could please wait for a bit, while making it perfectly clear that we could not leave.

     

    For the next 45 minutes there was a flurry of phone calls and people running in and out, as we sat there waiting. Eventually we were asked to go down to the police station, not under arrest, but to give more information. Despite our protests that we had done nothing wrong, we were escorted to the street, where we waited through another 20 minutes of frantic phone calls, after which it was decided that we should head back into the restaurant to wait again.

     

    We had met one of the policemen the previous night, and after asking us again what we were doing there, we exchanged pleasantries for another half an hour or so, before his less than pleasant superior finally arrived. Having told us all rather gruffly to stop using our mobile phones he again took our passports and journalist cards, and after telling us for about the fourth time that we were not allowed to film or conduct interviews in any Tibetan areas, we were finally allowed to leave.

     

    The hope was then to drive to a Tibetan area outside Chengdu, and make a report there. However our driver was told that if he was caught trying to take us through a checkpoint, into a Tibetan area, he would have his car impounded and have to pay a fine of up to 2,000 Euros, a considerable amount of money for people here.

     

    We are therefore forced to cover the story from afar, with few sources. A victory of sorts for the Chinese government, which wants to make sure news of any trouble stays firmly out of the public domain.

     

     


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    05 March 2009

    WNBC goes digital in big news update with new channel New York Nonstop

    NBC'S long-promised new digital channel, New York Nonstop, will launch Monday at 5 a.m. as the company's latest step to drive content to as many people as possible. New York Nonstop will be available to 5.7 million viewers on cable and over the air on digital channel 4.2. It's billed as a "local information and lifestyle channel," not just a news channel and not designed to compete directly with cable news operation NY1. "First and foremost," said Vickie Burns, vice president of news and content for WNBC and New York Nonstop, in an interview Tuesday, "it's all things New York, things that are newsworthy and interesting and engaging, and we mean New York in that universal and inclusive sense." The channel will have news updates every 15 minutes, but the only fixed show with a slight hint of a traditional newscast will be a 7 p.m. hour anchored by Chuck Scarborough (who will continue to do the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on Ch. 4). The new channel will be built on a "pod format," using set features of various lengths, said Meredith McGinn, senior manager of special projects for NBC 4 New York. "You'll get your meat - your news, weather and headlines - every 15 minutes," McGinn said. "In between those 15 minutes, you may have a two-minute segment, a two-minute pod, a five-minute pod. So the shows we're looking at are in little bits, not your traditional half-hour newscasts." New York Nonstop will be more like NBC's local Web sites than a traditional TV station. Those sites are geared toward younger viewers who seek a mix of information. The sites often use information and clips from bloggers and third-party providers, as will New York Nonstop. McGinn said the pod structure keeps the energy level high. "It's like having your iPod on shuffle," she said. "You can't wait until the next song because you know something good is going to come, you just don't know what it is." Some of the shorter examples include "Sidewalk Stories," where a correspondent asks people about current events or about bad dates. There also will be daily and prime-time reruns of shows produced by LX.TV (the NBC-owned producer of Ch. 4's "1st Look New York" and "Open House"). Plans for the channel were revealed in May 2008, as part of a program of change at NBC's owned stations. The umbrella company is now called NBC Local Media New York. Ch. 4, New York Nonstop, the Web site and other platforms that come along are to be supplied by a new $15 million digital "content center." Advertising is being sold across the platforms, too, said Tom O'Brien, president of NBC Local Media New York. "We'll make money within the first year," he said. But the transition hasn't been easy. All off-camera staff had to apply for new multimedia positions. Some experienced people have left, and some new ones have been hired. Several familiar on-air folks, such as Jay DeDapper and Carolyn Gusoff, have been jettisoned. "Change is necessary," Burns said. "We like the results of the change. We've been very focused on what we needed to do, very focused on engaging people in that process and bringing them with us, and getting ideas and hopefully inspiration from them."
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