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Wide Angle Blog
August 11th, 2009

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to an additional 18 months under house arrest today for having violated the terms of the house arrest she has lived under for 14 of the last 20 years. The conviction, which has been widely criticized by human rights groups and international leaders, means that she will still be in detention at the time of parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

Ahead of the court’s decision, WIDE ANGLE’s Aaron Brown interviewed Neil MacFarquhar, a New York Times reporter who recently visited Burma on assignment, covering U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s trip to the country. Ban was hoping to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi but his request was denied by the military junta.

Next week on WIDE ANGLE, Eyes of the Storm, tells the struggles of several orphaned children in Burma left to fend for themselves and rebuild their shattered lives in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Through the eyes of the Burmese filmmaking team who shot undercover for over 10 months in defiance of the ruling junta’s media blackout, WIDE ANGLE provides a rare window into one of the world’s most secretive countries. Click here to watch a preview.

Neil MacFarquhar’s lastest book, The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday, was recently released by Public Affairs.

August 11th, 2009

Human Rights Watch researcher, Dave Mathieson, spoke to WIDE ANGLE from the Burma-Thailand border about Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence to 18 more months of house arrest, which he says should be a wake-up call for the international community to develop a more unified approach to “draw the military out of its hubris.”

Mathieson says the sentence, while commuted from 3 years of hard labor and not as long as some analysts expected, is a far cry from the unconditional release called for by the United Nations.

Listen to this excerpt from his interview with WIDE ANGLE multimedia producer Renee Feltz for Mathieson’s reaction to the verdict, and his detailed suggestions for how the United States and other nations can more effectively target Burma’s military leaders.

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WIDE ANGLE’s upcoming episode, Eyes of the Storm, tells the struggles of several orphaned children in Burma left to fend for themselves and rebuild their shattered lives in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Through the eyes of the Burmese filmmaking team who shot undercover for over 10 months in defiance of the ruling junta’s media blackout, WIDE ANGLE provides a rare window into one of the world’s most secretive countries. Click here to watch a preview.

August 11th, 2009

Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is sentenced to three years of hard labor for violating the terms of her house arrest, sparking global outcry. Her sentence is commuted to a new term of house arrest of up to 18 months.

The toll from Typhoon Morakot continues to rise as huge mudslides bury a rural village in south-central Taiwan and seven apartment buildings in coastal China, leaving hundreds of people unaccounted for.

Afghan authorities hire 10,000 tribesmen to Afghanistan’s protect insurgency-hit provinces during the election on August 10. Since Monday, several more NATO troops and civilians have been killed, including three U.S. troops, a Polish NATO soldier, two Afghan soldiers, at least nine civilians and 22 Taliban insurgents.

Kuwaiti officials say they have arrested six members of a “terrorist network” linked to al Qaeda who were planning to attack a U.S. military base that is a logistics hub for U.S. troops in Iraq. An interior ministry statement says that all six Kuwaitis had confessed to the crimes after they were arrested.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, presses for an end to violence against women in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Aid workers estimate that as many as 400 women are raped every month in Eastern Congo — a region that has seen two wars and a variety of militia since the end of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

August 10th, 2009

Nearly 50 people are killed, hundreds wounded, and an entire village destroyed in a series of bombings around Baghdad and northern Iraq. The attacks, coming on the heals of Friday’s car bombing that killed 30 outside a mosque in Mosul, have raised concerns about whether or not Iraqi forces will be able to maintain security now that U.S. troops have pulled out of Iraqi cities.

As Typhoons Morakot and Etau continue to wreak havoc in Asia, nearly one million people are evacuated from China’s eastern coastal provinces, at least 13 are killed in western Japan, and hundreds are missing after landslides hit the village of Xialin in Taiwan.

President Barack Obama meets with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the forth annual summit of North American leaders. Major issues to be discussed include the economic crisis, the swine flu pandemic, the drug trade, climate change and immigration.

At least two civilians and three police officers are killed in Taliban attacks on government buildings near Kabul, just 10 days before Afghanistan’s elections, which members of the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.

August 7th, 2009

American officials attempt to confirm the death of Pakistan’s Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud. A C.I.A. missile strike on Wednesday aimed to kill Mehsud, a top priority in the United States effort to weaken the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. NATO’s new chief in Afghanistan calls for additional troops as violence there worsens.

A suicide car bomber in Mosul, Iraq, kills at least 30 people as they leave a Shi’ite Muslim mosque, while a series of bombs in Baghdad kills six Shi’ite pilgrims in the latest of several attacks this week on Shi’ite religious gatherings. The attacks may reignite sectarian violence after a calm since U.S. forces withdrew from urban areas in June. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki orders the removal of concrete blast walls that line Baghdad’s streets.

China evacuates more than 20,000 people from the southeast coast of Fujian Province where typhoon Morakot is predicted to land on Saturday. The medium-strength tropical storm causes limited damage as it passes over Taiwan after killing 11 people and triggering flash floods in the Philippines.

U.S. Senator Jim Webb says he plans to visit Burma (Myanmar) this month, making him the first member of Congress to travel to the Southeast Asian country in more than a decade. Webb chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs and leaves on Sunday for a five-nation, two-week trip to explore opportunities to advance U.S. interests in Burma and the region.

Facebook confirms that Thursday’s “massively coordinated” attack on websites including Google, Facebook and Twitter was directed at one individual. The company says the strike was aimed at a pro-Georgian blogger known as Cyxymu. The blogger says he thinks the Russian government wanted to silence his criticism over the country’s conduct in the war over the disputed South Ossetia region, which began a year ago today.

August 6th, 2009

On the second day of her seven-country tour in Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warns Eritrea to stop supporting Somalia’s al-Shabab militants or the U.S. will “take action.” At least 250,000 Somalis have fled their homes in recent months amid fighting between government forces and militants who control large areas of Somalia.

A senior Parliamentarian urges President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to consult with representatives from both sides of Iran’s political spectrum during his second term in office and suggests that he be “more accepting of constructive criticism.” Meanwhile, the Association of Iranian Journalists reports it has been sealed off by judiciary officials.

Members of the Pacific Islands Forum end their three-day forum by asking all nations to pledge a 50 percent cut in their emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 at U.N. climate change talks in December. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warns that some tiny Pacific Island nations are in a race for national survival because of the threat posed by climate change.

Violent clashes between police and workers at a South Korean auto factory near an end after the company agrees to keep half the workers at the plant rather than lay them off. After the concession by Ssangyong Motor Company, South Korea’s fifth-largest automaker, the workers agree to end their 77-day occupation of the plant.

On the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the city’s mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba, calls upon the nation to support U.S. President Barack Obama’s nuclear disarmament drive. Addressing the crowd in English, he says, “together, we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes, we can.”

In the United Kingdom, thousands gather for funeral of last British veteran of World War I.

August 5th, 2009

After arriving in Burbank, California, Laura Ling and Euna Lee thank former president Bill Clinton and his team for securing their release from North Korea. Clinton’s visit may signal a turning point in talks between the United States and the reclusive, nuclear-armed country.

Iran media reports that more than 5,000 security forces guard the block outside President Ahmadinejad’s swearing in ceremony and use tear gas against nearby demonstrators who shouted “death to the dictator.” When the U.S., France, Britain and Germany refused to send a customary congratualtory message, Ahmadinejad replies that, “the Iranian nation neither values your scowls and threats, nor your smiles and greetings.” His next step is to introduce his new cabinet, which must be approved by members of parliament, many of whom boycotted his inauguration.

While urging American companies to invest in Africa at a trade conference on the first stop on her tour of the continent, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is disappointed at the slow pace of prosecuting the masterminds of post election violence in Kenya. At least 1,000 people were killed and about 650,000 were evicted from their homes as a result of the violence.

Delegates nearly come to blows during the first Fatah General Conference in two decades after participants demand information on the 20 years of the Palestinian political party’s activities and finances since the last conference, and discover that the Central Committee prepared no reports for the conference. President Mahmoud Abbas opens the conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem by saying, “It is a miracle that Fatah is still standing strong in spite of all that has happened.”

Russian military officials suspect Georgia is planning new military action, and say unnamed third countries are helping Georgia rebuild its military potential. Last August’s war saw Russian forces expel invading Georgian troops from South Ossetia amid accusations on both sides of human rights abuses. Russia eventually recognized the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another former Georgian republic.

August 4th, 2009

Former President Bill Clinton arrives in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on a surprise visit to seek the release of two U.S. journalists jailed since March. He meets the ailing Kim Jong-il, who hosts a dinner for him. Clinton’s visit may rekindle long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

Australian police arrest four men linked to a hardline Somali group, charging them with planning a suicide attack on a military base. Police say a warehouse turned makeshift mosque in North Melbourne was a key hub in a sprawling militant Islamist network, whose base in the Horn of Africa is a center of global terrorism.

Sudanese riot police fire tear gas to disperse more than 100 protesters who gather outside a Khartoum courthouse in support of a woman journalist who faces up to 40 lashes for dressing “indecently” in a pair of trousers. Judges delay their verdict until September 7.

Iran’s security officials confirm the arrest of three American nationals in the western city of Marivan, charging the detainees with “illegal entry” and beginning their interrogation. The two men and one woman were in a popular hiking area. One of the men is a journalist whose editor says he was working in Kurdistan.

Survey respondents in China consider sex workers trustworthy, putting them in third place after farmers and religious workers, and ahead of scientists, teachers and government officials. “A list like this is at the same time surprising and embarrassing,” reads an editorial in the China Daily English-language newspaper.

August 3rd, 2009

Iran’s supreme leader formally endorses Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term as president in a ceremony that many prominent critics of the disputed election declined to attend. The president vows Iran will have a stronger global presence in his second term. A mass trial of protesters who opposed the contested election between Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi began on Saturday. Nearly 3,000 people were arrested during the protests, and advocates say their confessions are forced.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins a seven-nation visit to Africa. Her first stop is Kenya for a forum on trade and investment with senior officials from 41 African nations.  Experts say by next year, China will likely overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest investor in Africa.

In a scene that recalls her leadership during the Philippine democracy movement in the 1980’s, tens of thousands thousands attend a funeral procession for former President Corazon Aquino. Thousands more grieve online. Aquino died Saturday of a cardiac arrest after suffering from colon cancer. She defeated dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1987 and is credited with restoring democracy to the Philippines.

Christians in Pakistan close their schools for three days to protest the killings of at least seven members of their community by Muslims who stormed a Christian section of the eastern city of Gojra on Saturday. Spurred by reports that Christians had desecrated a Quran, Muslims burned burned dozens of houses as police failed to intervene.

After returning from a fact-finding mission in Honduras, the head of a London-based media rights group says dozens of Honduran journalists and human rights activists have been attacked or threatened with violence by the military and supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Three Zelaya supporters have been killed since the June 28 coup. More protests are planned this week.

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