Obama Signs Landmark US Military Gay Law

President Obama has signed a landmark measure ordering the US armed services to allow gay men and women to serve openly for the first time.

Approval of the measure by Congress this month was a victory for Mr Obama after he made the repeal of the so-called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy a campaign issue.

At the signing ceremony in Washington the president said that valour and sacrifice in the armed forces are no longer defined by sexual orientation.

Mr Obama said he was proud to fulfill his campaign pledge and sign a bill which he believes will "strengthen national security".

Since 1993, when the Pentagon introduced the policy allowing gays and lesbians to join the armed forces if they did not reveal their sexuality, at least 13,000 people have been expelled from the armed forces for violating the rules.


The Pentagon will now have to draft a plan for implementing the altered rules, deciding how troops will be educated about the new policy.

Decisions will also have to be made about disciplinary procedures and the status of those who were fired for violating "Don't Ask" in the past.

Some top military figures have opposed the repeal and believe it is too risky to make such a change when the armed services are already stretched fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A recent study found about 30% of troops expressed negative views or concerns about the repeal.

But the signing is a victory for America's gay community and for Mr Obama who had been criticised for not acting swiftly enough.

He hailed the courage and vision of defence secretary Robert Gates and praised Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who advocated changing the 17-year-old policy.

"No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country they love," Obama said.
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Local Pastor Charged with Over 100 Counts of Child Porn

CLEVELAND —Rev. Dr. Mark Griggs, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Olmsted Falls, has been charged with trading in child pornography.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that Griggs, 48, faces 112 counts that include downloading, trading and possessing child pornography.

Griggs is one of 27 adults, along with three juveniles, charged in a six month investigation called "Operation Lake Effect." The investigation has been conducted by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

Prosecutors charge that Griggs downloaded and saved images of children being sexually abused onto his computer. They say Griggs traded child porn images from both his home and church computers.

"Shocking...always," Mason says of a pastor being indicted on such charges.

But Griggs', attorney, Jay Milano, says his client will fight the charges.

"Reverend Griggs is going to plead and he's going to defend himself," says Milano. "He's not a child pornographer."

Milano says Rev. Griggs was on "Limewire" -- an internet file-sharing program.

"If you're downloading files from Limewire, you don't have any control of what's coming into your computer," Milano says.

Prosecutor Mason rejects the notion that Griggs made innocent mistakes.

"The amount of downloading and file sharing he has is significant," Mason says.

The church's website talks about Griggs' "commitment and love of children."

In a statement released Thursday, the Presbytery of the Western Reserve said the following about Griggs' arrest: "We do not have much information about this situation yet but the Presbytery takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will cooperate with authorities in their investigation."

All of these cases are in Cuyahoga County, indicating how pervasive child porn can be. 34 other cases have been sent to other jurisdictions.

Prosecutor Mason says the investigation shows the need for parents to monitor what their children do online. And he also says that predators should be aware that, if they continue trading in child porn, they may well be caught.

An initial court date for Griggs and the other defendants has not been set yet.

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Faiths Unite To Pray For Rain In Holy Land

Jews, Christians and Muslims have united in the Holy Land to pray for rain.

An unusually dry autumn has left Israel and the Palestinian territories perilously parched.

Authorities are deeply concerned about the impact on water supplies and agriculture, after years of insufficient rainfall. Forecasters expect another dry winter.

So, imams, rabbis and priests gathered in the West Bank village of Walaja to hold the unusual ceremony.

On a dry, dusty hillside overlooking the outskirts of Jerusalem they bowed and chanted prayers, each calling on their own Almighty to end the drought.

After the ceremony they sowed the land with wheat.

They were called together by a group of pacifist Jewish settlers called Eretz Shalom, (land of peace), that claims to promote moderation among fellow settlers and Palestinians.

Walaja has been the focus of recent protest by Palestinians and Israeli and international peace activists.

The village of a few thousand Palestinians is being almost completely enclosed by Israel’s controversial security barrier.

The picturesque hillside is being scarred by Israeli construction work erecting the barrier.

When it is complete villagers will be cut off from some of their land and links with Jerusalem will be severed.

This week’s rain ceremony was a rare moment of solidarity in this troubled part of the world.
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Brazil elects Dilma Rousseff, nation's first woman president

(CNN) Dilma Rousseff has won the election for president in Brazil, according to the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal Minister, making her the nation's first woman to hold the office.

TSE Minister Ricardo Lewandowski made the announcement to the local press around 8 p.m. local time (6 p.m. Eastern) stating on the tribunal's website that she was "mathematically elected the president of Brasil."

Rousseff -- President Luiz Inacio da Silva's right-hand woman -- has served as his chief of staff. Previously, as energy minister, she claims to have helped turn Brazil into one of the world's leading energy giants.

A left-wing guerrilla fighter during the military dictatorship rule in the 1960s, Rousseff said during a congressional hearing that she was "barbarically tortured" after she was charged with subversion by the military regime.

Her opponent, Jose Serra, also suffered persecution during Brazil's military rule and was forced into exile during the 1960s.

A centrist politician, he served as health minister during Fernando Henrique Cardoso's government. He recently left his job as governor of Brazil's richest state, Sao Paulo, to run for presidency.

Millions of voters lined up across Brazil's vast territory to vote in the heated runoff.

Voters living abroad correspond to about 0.15 percent of the Brazilian electorate, about 200,000.

In 60 Brazilian cities, voters used their thumbs instead of ballots on a newly launched biometric system, where voters scan their fingers to log in and vote.

TSE officials said all regions, however remote, will have the ubiquitous electronic voting machine. In indigenous areas in the Amazon, these voting machines were delivered by boats and helicopters. It costs the state of Amazonas 5 million reais. (U.S. $3 million) to place the voting machines.

One of the most challenging trajectories, officials said, is the one to Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, a densly-forested area in the Amazon.

"There, our electronic machines first leave Manaus by plane," said Pedro Batista, TSE Director for the Amazon.

"It's loaded onto a helicopter, and then travels by boat before being carried on some one's back for a long walk to a remote village," he said.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, voters faced heavy rains and threats of flooding.

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Accused pastor crusaded against homosexuals

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- As Bishop Eddie Long poked through a salad in his church office one summer day in 1999, he shot a weary look at a person ticking off his ministry's successes.

His Atlanta megachurch had already reached 25,000 members. He had been invited to the White House, built a global television ministry and drove around town in a luxury automobile.

But Long told the visitor who had come to write about him that the pressures of being a high-profile pastor could be brutal.

"You don't want any of this," he said in a raspy baritone as he shook his head. "You don't want any of this ..."

Long didn't get more specific about those pressures.

Today, the 57-year-old minister, known for his public crusades against homosexuality, faces serious allegations.

On Tuesday, two young men who were members of Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church filed lawsuits claiming he used his position as their spiritual counselor to coerce them into sexual relationships.

The men -- Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20 -- allege Long used a private spiritual ceremony to mark a "covenant" between them, with both becoming his "spiritual son."

Flagg alleges that Long then used that relationship to take him on overnight trips where they shared a bedroom and engaged in kissing, masturbation and "oral sexual contact."

Robinson, who claimed Long engaged in oral sex with him, said the pastor would cite Scripture to justify their relationship.

"We categorically deny the allegations," Art Franklin, Long's spokesman, said in a written statement. "It is very unfortunate that someone has taken this course of action."

Franklin said "our law firm will be able to respond once attorneys have had an opportunity to review the lawsuit."

The men's lawyer, Brenda Joy (B.J.) Bernstein, would not make them available for comment.

Long's crusades against homosexuality

The allegations against Long run contrary to his public image.

He is a celebrity preacher in the black church world and a star in the evangelical world as well. His church is one of the largest in the country.

In the pulpit, Long seamlessly blends muscle and ministry.

He wears tight shirts that display his weight-lifter arms. He writes books such as "Gladiator, the Strength of a Man," that teach men how to be warriors for God. He says he has a special calling to reach out to men.

He's a married man who preaches about the sanctity of the union between a man and a woman. He denounces homosexuality. In 2004, he led a march in Atlanta against gay marriage. He once declared that his church had created a ministry that "delivered" people from homosexuality.

His public statements about gays and lesbians have helped reinforce homophobia in the black church, says Shayne Lee, a sociologist and author of "Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace."

"The homophobic atmosphere he helped perpetuate," Lee said, could "come back to possibly harm him."

Long's controversial ministry

Long has been the center of public controversy before.

In 2005, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a charity Long created to help the poor and spread the Gospel had made him its biggest beneficiary.

An examination of the nonprofit's tax returns and other documents revealed that the charity provided him with at least a million dollars in salary over four years, and the use of a $1.4 million home and the $350,000 Bentley.

A frequent critic of black preachers (he once said they "major in storefront churches"), Long responded by saying he was a CEO of a global business who deserved his lifestyle.

"You've got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that's supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering," Long said, explaining the compensation he received from his charity.

In 2007, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to Long asking detailed questions about his financial operations. Long was one of six televangelists whom Grassley targeted.

After an initial flurry of publicity following Grassley's request, the investigation appeared to peter out.

In recent years, Long seemed to become more humble, says the Rev. Tim McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta.

In private talks, McDonald said, Long told him about the pressures of leading a megachurch. He said he no longer had as many close friendships and yearned to return to the more intimate relationships that McDonald seemed to have with his much smaller congregation.

"He said, 'Tim, I may have the numbers, but you have the love,' '' McDonald said.

God's 'scarred leader'

For all his outward confidence, Long also displayed a vulnerable side.

He built an intimate bond with many members of his church by talking about his private failings: his divorce from his first wife; being rejected by his father; and being fired from a job in corporate America.

He called himself God's "scarred leader."

He also became known for his generosity. He would give out cars and money to strangers at church services. He built ministries to help the poor, AIDS patients and young people.

He talked proudly about his ability to reach young men. He called himself a "spiritual daddy" to many of the young men he mentored at New Birth.

He would pay the college tuition for some men, give business suits to others and play basketball and lift weights with his male ministers.

Once, he even boasted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some mothers at New Birth trusted him enough to bring their wayward teenage boys to him for paddling.

"When I say bend over, even on Sunday, they bend over," he said, referring to the boys he paddled. "Why? Because they respect me. Because I first died for them ..."

The two men who filed suit against Long, though, said he used their relationships to instruct them, as "spiritual sons," to follow their "master."

They also say Long enticed them "with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics." Robinson claims the pastor paid for his college tuition.

In Flagg's suit, he claimed that when some young men found girlfriends, Long would attempt to block those relationships by "increased contact and spiritual talk" about "the covenant between the Spiritual Son and himself."

In addition to Long, the lawsuits name as defendants his church and a youth academy where Long was pastor and mentor. Both suits seek unspecified punitive damages on counts ranging from negligence to breach of fiduciary duty.

Lee, the sociologist who has written about Long, says he expects him to mount a fierce counterattack.

"He'll demonize the accusers," Lee said, "and couch it in terms of how the enemy Satan is trying to hurt the ministry."
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Religious leaders hit back at Hawking

London, England (CNN) -- Religious leaders in Britain on Friday hit back at claims by leading physicist Stephen Hawking that God had no role in the creation of the universe.

In his new book "The Grand Design," Britain's most famous scientist says that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published in The Times of London.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he wrote.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going."

But the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, told the Times that "physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing."

He added: "Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence."

Williams' comments were supported by leaders from across the religious spectrum in Britain. Writing in the Times, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said: "Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation ... The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being."

The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, added: "I would totally endorse what the Chief Rabbi said so eloquently about the relationship between religion and science."

Ibrahim Mogra, an imam and committee chairman at the Muslim Council of Britain, was also quoted by the Times as saying: "If we look at the Universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty conqueror."

Hawking was also accused of "missing the point" by colleagues at the University of Cambridge in England.

"The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander, director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.

"Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge.

"Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative," he added.

Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science, said that it's not the existence of the universe that proves the existence of God.

"A creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said."

Hawking's book -- as the title suggests -- is an attempt to answer "the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything," he wrote, quoting Douglas Adams' cult science fiction romp, "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

His answer is "M-theory," which, he says, posits 11 space-time dimensions, "vibrating strings, ... point particles, two-dimensional membranes, three-dimensional blobs and other objects that are more difficult to picture and occupy even more dimensions of space."

He doesn't explain much of that in the excerpt, which is the introduction to the book.

But he says he understands the feeling of the great English scientist Isaac Newton that God did "create" and "conserve" order in the universe.

It was the discovery of other solar systems outside our own in 1992 that undercut a key idea of Newton's -- that our world was so uniquely designed to be comfortable for human life that some divine creator must have been responsible.

But, Hawking argues, if there are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy, it's less remarkable that there's one with conditions for human life. And, indeed, he argues, any form of intelligent life that evolves anywhere will automatically find that it lives somewhere suitable for it.

CNN's Richard Allen Greene contributed to this report.
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Hunt for Jamaican drug suspect to resume

Security forces in Jamaica plan to renew a push Monday to arrest an accused drug lord at the center of violence that has now killed 76 people, the country's police commissioner said.


Police officers and soldiers plan to launch the second phase of an operation Monday aimed at executing an arrest warrant for Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a suspected drug kingpin who is wanted in the United States, police commissioner Owen Ellington said.

The death toll has risen to 76 as a result of violence triggered by Jamaican authorities' attempts to arrest Coke, Ellington said. The dead include 73 civilians, two police officers and one soldier, he said.

Authorities have detained more than 700 people, he said.

Clashes have unnerved residents in the Kingston neighborhoods of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town.

Violence flared there after authorities tried to arrest Coke, who was charged last year in U.S. federal court with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and with conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms. Authorities in Jamaica sought to arrest him after federal prosecutors in New York sought his extradition, but his supporters attacked police stations in response.

Coke has a heroic reputation in Kingston's slums. He has been likened to Robin Hood and Jesus because he has helped the community by handing out food, sending children to school and building medical centers.

The plans for a new push to arrest Coke unfolded amid credible evidence that criminals from around the country have converged on Tivoli Gardens to help him avoid arrest, Ellington said in a press briefing with reporters.

At that briefing, Ellington reiterated government denials that members of the security forces have burned bodies. Some people in Tivoli Gardens told CNN this week that they saw security forces torch dead people and that they feared the authorities were burning bodies to cover up the extent of the violence.

"I literally saw them wrap up men in sheets and put tires on them and burn them," one man said, adding that the people were already dead when their bodies were burned.

He and others who described burning bodies declined to be identified for fear of reprisals from the authorities.

Reports that authorities have burned or secretly buried bodies are false, Ellington said. Several senior officials who investigated the reports found no sign that they were true, he said.

The violence that gripped much of Kingston for much of the last week seemed to have largely abated Friday. Charred debris, broken windows and deserted streets served as a reminder of an anxiety still felt by some, but businesses in Kingston's main commercial district were open, and officials expressed hope for a sense of normalcy.

The president of Jamaica's Chamber of Commerce, Milton Samuda, said more businesses reopened Friday.

"I anticipate and hope that it will be fully back to normal by Monday," he said.

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Pope says 'sorry' for Irish church abuse

(CNN) Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday he is "truly sorry" for the abuse suffered by victims at the hands of Catholic priests in Ireland.

The pope directly addressed the church abuse crisis that has rocked the Irish Catholic Church in an 18-page letter, which was made public Saturday. It is expected to be read in churches across Ireland on Sunday.

"I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious," the pope wrote.

Foto: Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

"I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way church authorities in Ireland have dealt with them."

The deeply Catholic country has been badly shaken by a government-backed report that found the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Catholic Church authorities in Ireland covered up child abuse by priests from 1975 to 2004. Child sexual abuse was widespread then, the report found.

The head of the church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, apologized this week for his role in the church's investigation of an abusive priest in 1975.

Brady's office said he investigated the priest, who was later convicted of dozens of counts of child abuse, and reported his findings to his superiors. But critics say Brady should not have remained silent about what he learned.

"No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly," Benedict said in his letter.

Contributing factors to the crisis can include inadequate procedures for determining suitable priesthood candidates, insufficient moral and spiritual formation in seminaries, and "misplaced concern for the reputation of the church and the avoidance of scandal," the pope said. He called for them to be addressed urgently.

The pope acknowledged the crisis has shaken people's faith and even turned many away from the church, saying it has "obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing."

Benedict then addressed the victims of abuse and their families, recognizing the tragedies they have been through.

"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry," he says. "I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen."

According to Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, the pope started thinking about writing the letter last summer after the publication of the Ryan report -- one of three separate reports on sexual and physical abuse by Irish clergy that has come out since 2005.

The Ryan report, published in May 2009, investigated abuse in Catholic-run institutions primarily from 1936 to 1970. Many of the alleged abusers in the 2,600-page report were not priests, but nuns or Catholic lay people.

The pope says he expressed "shame and remorse" and asks the victims not to lose hope.

"I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred," he says.

"I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his church -- a church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity -- you will come to rediscover Christ's infinite love for each one of you."

Next in the letter, the pope turned his attention to the priests and religious officials who have abused children. He sharply criticized them and said they must answer to the authorities.

"You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals," he says. "You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonor upon your confreres."

He added, "Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life."

The pope urged guilty priests to "take responsibility" for their sins and "seek to atone personally" for their actions.

"Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy," he said.

Lombardi said guilty priests should follow the laws in their own country and cooperate with justice authorities, as well as follow the church's rules. Benedict proposed several concrete steps to address the situation, including asking the Irish faithful to pray for the church for one year, starting at Easter.

But he also announced an apostolic visitation of certain Irish dioceses, seminaries, and congregations. Such visitations are actually Vatican investigations; the church held one in the United States after the clerical sex scandal in 2002.

The letter is specific to Ireland and did not address similar scandals now coming to light in other European countries like Austria and Germany. Lombardi said the pope is aware of the situations in those countries, but did not think it was appropriate to address all of them in Saturday's letter.

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US defends $6.4bn weapons sale to Taiwan

The US has defended a proposed weapons sale to Taiwan following a furious response from China.


The US State Department said on Saturday that the sale contributed to "security and stability" between Taiwan and China, Reuters reported.

Beijing announced a series of moves against the US in retaliation for the proposed $6.4bn (£4bn) sale.

Ties between the two countries are already strained by rows over trade and internet censorship.

"Such sales contribute to maintaining security and stability across the Taiwan Strait," said US State Department spokeswoman Laura Tischler, quoted by Reuters.

The US is the leading arms supplier to Taiwan and has a treaty obligation to provide it with defensive arms.

'Severe harm'

Beijing said it would suspend military exchanges with the US, review co-operation on major issues and impose sanctions on companies selling arms.

However, the US - like the EU - has banned its companies selling arms to China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, so it was not clear what effect Chinese sanctions would have.

Chinese defence ministry spokesman Huang Xueping said the measures reflected the "severe harm" posed by the deal.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the arms deal would have "repercussions that neither side wishes to see".

Difficult ties

Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Beijing has hundreds of missiles pointed at the island and has threatened to use force to bring it under its control if Taiwan moved towards formal independence.

Defence ties between Washington and Beijing have been on ice for several years because of differences over Taiwan, though the two countries' leaders pledged to improve them in 2009.

Taiwan, meanwhile, welcomed the US move.

"It will let Taiwan feel more confident and secure so we can have more interactions with China," the Central News Agency quoted President Ma Ying-jeou as saying.

The Pentagon earlier notified the US Congress of the proposed arms sale, which forms part of a package first pledged by the Bush administration.

Friday's notification to Congress by the Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) was required by law. It does not mean the sale has been concluded.

US lawmakers have 30 days to comment on the proposed sale, Associated Press reported. If there are no objections, it would proceed.

The arms package includes 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters and communications equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fleet, the agency said in a statement.

It does not include F-16 fighter jets, which Taiwan's military has been seeking.

Last week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Beijing with a call to China to investigate cyber attacks on search giant Google, after the company said email accounts of human rights activists had been hacked.

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Haitian doctor takes 100 patients into his home

But a magnitude-7.0 earthquake has brought the 59-year-old pediatrician's involvement to a whole new level.

Surena has converted his property into a field hospital for more than 100 quake victims. His patients are treated in the shaded, leafy patio of his undamaged home while thousands of others in the city lie in the dirt under a merciless sun waiting for attention from a handful of doctors.

"I have to thank whoever brought me," said Steve Julien, who says the last thing he remembers before he blacked out was rescue workers calling his name as they dug through the rubble of his house.

When he woke up, he was lying on a mattress inside Surena's soothing oasis.

It wasn't long after Tuesday's earthquake leveled nearly all of the houses next to Surena's that neighbors started showing up at his doorstep.

"It was a blessing from God my house is safe," he said. "We at least have been able to do something for everyone."

Surena has been relying on food and supplies salvaged from ruined homes to treat patients' broken bones and, for the dying, provide at least a minimum level of comfort away from the devastation.

The patients show physical and emotional wounds from having their homes collapse on them. Julien, 48, is among the least severely injured, with only a few scrapes and a sore body. Others have compound fractures and festering wounds. Surena said at least 10 patients are in critical need of more substantial help.

The injured sing Christian hymns as they huddle close together beneath sheets strung up as tents, but the earthquake still haunts them. Aftershocks rattled the city as recently as Friday morning.

"Sometimes they just start crying. We still get some movement," said Surena, who is also the local district chairman for Haiti's disaster relief agency.

The conditions at his home are far from ideal. Plastic buckets serve as toilets, and for some patients Surena can do little more than change dressings on infected wounds. But they are better off then many in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of 3 million people.

Surena earned his medical degree in Haiti and spent a year at the University of Illinois training in neonatology. He has been tending his ward with the help of two other doctors, including a Lake Worth, Florida-based gynecologist, Frantz Python, who was working in the area when the earthquake struck.

Eighteen of their patients have died. No case hit Surena harder than a pregnant woman who died shortly after she started having contractions Tuesday night, likely from internal hemorrhaging. Despite a rudimentary Cesarean-section, they could not save the baby.

"She was really suffering," Surena said. "The most difficult thing emotionally is that you know how to do it, but you don't have the materials do it."

The patients say they knwo Surena is doing his best.

Florene Francois, 19, was trying to soothe her fussing 18-month-old son, Rick Joey, on blankets in a corner of the patio between Surena's grill and a built-in bar. She said she is fine despite the scrapes on her face, but she worries about a deep gash on the back of her son's head.

"They just don't have what they need for the stitches," she said.

A 39-year-old tailor, Roger Hubert, had bandages on wounds and a sling for a severely broken arm. His bones have not been reset because there is no X-ray machine available.

"Considering the materials here, they are taking good care of us," Hubert said.

The supplies of food, water and medicine were quickly running out. Surena drove himself to the airport Thursday after neighbors cleared away debris blocking the only road down the hill, but his hopes of finding help were dashed in the confusion of so many arriving aid flights.

"So many planes. You don't know where to go and who to talk to," he said.

Still, he is optimistic more help is coming. He said Rotary International has pledged to send supplies including shelter boxes for the patients, and he expects more doctors to come, too.

Meanwhile, he keeps everyone at his house because they have nowhere else to go. He sent three patients in urgent need of surgery to a hospital on the airport road Thursday, but he took them back in after they were refused admission.

"They would have left their bodies on the street," Surena said.

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BBC:Haiti earthquake survivors await global aid effort

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are awaiting the start of a global rescue effort in the wake of the country's devastating earthquake.

BBC correspondents say the situation is increasingly desperate, with no coordinated rescue plan so far and aid only trickling in.

The search for survivors continues but rescuers have little lifting equipment and are often using their bare hands.

Tens of thousands are feared dead and up to three million affected.

Aid groups say there is a race against time to find survivors under the rubble of the collapsed buildings - the first priority of the rescue effort.

Heavy lifting gear and sniffer dogs are desperately needed to seek out trapped victims, with medicine, food and water also in short supply.

Elisabeth Byrs of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said: "The priority is to find survivors. We are working against the clock."

The head of Medecins du Monde, Olivier Bernard, told AFP news agency that aid had to arrive by Thursday evening.

"To save lives, surgery must be available ideally within the first 48 hours."

A few US aid planes and a 50-strong Chinese rescue team with sniffer dogs have landed at the airport serving the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Other plane-loads of rescuers and relief supplies are said to be on the way from the EU, Canada, Russia and Latin American nations.

A British rescue team with heavy lifting gear and dogs has landed in the Dominican Republic and will be in Haiti later on Thursday.

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "This is a tragedy on a massive scale. Britain is playing its part in the huge international response."

US President Barack Obama said the "people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States" in an "aggressive" aid campaign.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has cancelled a trip to Asia to deal with the crisis. Her husband, Bill Clinton, the UN special envoy for Haiti, told the Washington Post the quake was "one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas".

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier will arrive on Thursday. The USS Bataan, carrying a Marine expeditionary unit, is also on its way. The Pentagon said it was "seriously considering" sending thousands of marines.

The World Bank is funding $100m of emergency aid.

The World Food Programme is working on supplying 15,000 tonnes of food and the Red Cross has begun a $10m appeal.

The help is desperately needed as there is no coordinated rescue at present.

Doctor's assistant Jimitre Coquillon told Associated Press: "This is much worse than a hurricane. There's no water. There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die."

Haitian President Rene Preval could not give an official estimate of the dead, saying: "I don't know... up to now, I heard 50,000... 30,000."

He spoke of how he stepped over dead bodies and heard cries of those trapped in the parliament building.

Singing hymns

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and correspondents say it simply does not have the infrastructure to manage a rescue operation.

One Chilean UN peacekeeper told Reuters: "We just don't know what to do. You can see how terrible the damage is. We have not been able to get into all the areas."

The UN peacekeepers, who played a key role in maintaining public order in Haiti even before the quake, have been deployed to control any outbreaks of unrest as reports come in of looting.

The UN says 16 personnel are confirmed dead and between 100 and 150 staff are missing. They include UN mission head Hedi Annabi.

Medical aid agency Medecins sans Frontieres reported a "massive influx" of casualties at its makeshift clinics, many of them with severe injuries.

Patients with "severe traumas, head wounds, crushed limbs" have been streaming into MSF's temporary structures but the agency is only able to offer them basic medical care, spokesman Paul McPhun told reporters.

Thousands of Haitians spent a second night in the open on Wednesday, too scared to sleep inside damaged buildings. Many sang hymns to keep up their spirits.

The BBC's Matthew Price visited the grounds of one hospital and spoke of seeing about 100 bodies - but there were many people bedding down for the night to sleep among the dead.

The 7.0-magnitude quake, Haiti's worst in two centuries, struck at 1653 local time (2153 GMT) on Tuesday, just 15km (10 miles) south-west of Port-au-Prince and close to the surface.

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Brazil truth commission arouses military opposition

A package of reforms put forward by the Brazilian government to improve human rights is causing growing controversy.

A proposed truth commission to investigate torture during military rule is said to have so angered forces chiefs that they threatened to resign.

Parts of the Catholic Church have opposed moves thought sympathetic to abortion and gay civil unions.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to consider how to deal with the row when he returns to work this week.

'Sense of one-sidedness'

The National Human Rights Plan first provoked a row when it was revealed that it proposed setting up a truth commission to investigate torture and killings carried out during the 21 years the military was in control, from 1964 to 1985.

Although the number of victims in Brazil was far smaller than under military rule in neighbouring Argentina and Chile, hundreds of people died and thousands were tortured or forced into exile.

In the period before democracy was restored an amnesty law was passed, in effect granting immunity to state officials involved in torture as well as those in the opposition who had resorted to violence.

Military chiefs believe the truth commission is an attempt to get round the amnesty law, while supporters argue it is simply designed to secure justice for the families of those who died and disappeared.

President Lula reportedly had to head off possible resignations by his defence minister and senior military figures, including the heads of the navy, air force and army, by promising to review the matter.

Brazil's former President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, told the BBC the government had not presented the proposal well.

"The way the situation has been presented was in the sense that all the crimes that had been exercised by those in power in the past would be judged, not the crimes that also the other side eventually could have responsibility for," he said.

"So this gave a sense of one-sidedness, and this produced unrest in the armed forces."

"I don't think it was necessary to produce this unrest. I don't understand why, since a text had been approved by both sides before, why at the last minute a change was introduced to turn the text so one-sided," he added in the BBC interview.

"I think they are creating an unnecessary political issue - and with this an obstacle to what is important, which is to know the truth about the past."

The issue is a delicate one for President Lula, who was himself briefly imprisoned as a union leader under military rule, while prominent members of his Workers Party were involved in the resistance.

Some military figures are suggesting the commission could look both at the actions of the country's then military rulers and those who used violence to oppose them, but the minister behind the proposal says he would resign if that approach was adopted.

With sections of the Catholic Church, the media and his own agriculture minister antagonised by other aspects of the human rights plan, the president will have a challenge to find a solution that is acceptable to all sides.

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BBC News:Alastair Campbell defends 'every word' of Iraq dossier

Tony Blair's ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell has said he "defends every single word" of the 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

He told the UK's Iraq war inquiry that parts could have been "clearer" but it did not "misrepresent" Iraq's threat.

The UK should be "proud" of its role "in changing Iraq from what it was to what it is now becoming", he argued.

But he said Mr Blair told President Bush privately in 2002 the UK would back military action if necessary.

Critics of the war have called for private correspondence between the two leaders about their views on Iraq to be published.

Countdown to war

Mr Campbell is the most prominent figure to appear so far before the inquiry, which is looking at UK policy before and after the 2003 war.

The BBC's Security Correspondent Frank Gardner said he had given a defiant performance, showing no contrition over the controversial decision to go to war or the arguments used to justify the action.

Mr Campbell said the prime minister recognised the deep opposition to military action amongst much of the British public but believed there would be a "bigger day of reckoning" to come with Saddam if he was not confronted at the time.

As No 10 director of communications between 1997 and 2003, he played a key role in the drawing-up of the government's September 2002 dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, containing the controversial claim that they could be deployed within 45 minutes.

"Could things have been done differently, almost certainly," he said of the March 2003 invasion.

"Any decision, you can go back over it, but on the big picture, on the leadership that he [Tony Blair ] showed, on the leadership that the British government showed on this issue, I was privileged to be there and I'm very very proud of the part that I was able to play."

He added: "I think that Britain, far from beating ourselves up about this, should be really proud of the role that we played in changing Iraq from what it was to what it is now becoming."

Mr Campbell said he was "very close" to the prime minister but stressed that Mr Blair fully consulted other key ministers on Iraq policy - including the then Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Mr Campbell, who has given evidence to three previous inquiries on Iraq, said claims that Mr Blair endorsed regime change after a meeting with President Bush at his Crawford ranch in April 2002 were not true.

British policy was still focused on disarming Iraq and getting it to abide by UN resolutions, he argued, as Mr Blair "genuinely believed" Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction must be dealt with.

Mr Blair was clear that military action should be regarded as a last resort if the diplomatic process failed and still hoped that the issue could be "peacefully resolved" right up to the eve of war.

"You seem to be wanting me to say that Tony Blair signed up to saying, regardless of the facts and WMD, we are going to get rid of this guy," he said. "It was not like this."

But he revealed that Mr Blair had written to President Bush during 2002 about the disarmament strategy, saying: "If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there. That would be the tenor of the communication to the president."

The Lib Dems, who opposed the invasion, have called for the letters to be published, saying Mr Campbell's evidence cast further doubt on the legality of the war.

Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who opposed the invasion, said the letters would show the extent to which Tony Blair and George Bush were "hand in glove" over the issue and should be available to the public.

Asked about weapons of mass destruction, Mr Campbell said Tony Blair believed Iraq posed a "unique threat" because Saddam Hussein had used them before and there was no means of dialogue with him.

Mr Campbell said he had provided "presentational" support on the key September 2002 dossier but, at no stage, did No 10 try to "beef up or over-ride" the judgements of the intelligence agencies.

Describing it as a "cautious" assessment, he insisted it had not been designed to present the "case for war" but to highlight why Mr Blair was increasingly "concerned" about the threat posed by Iraq.

"I don't believe the dossier in any sense misrepresented the position."

The dossier included a foreword by Mr Blair in which he wrote that he believed the intelligence had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.

Sir John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, told the inquiry last month that the foreword was "overtly political" and "quite separate" from the rest of the dossier.

45-minute claim

Mr Campbell, who drafted the first version of the foreword - ultimately approved by Mr Blair - said no-one in intelligence challenged this statement which, he added, never suggested Saddam Hussein "was able to do something terrible to the British mainland".

On the 45-minute claim, which was retracted after the war, he said the dossier "obviously" could have been clearer about it referring to battlefield munitions.

But he insisted Mr Blair put forward a balanced argument in the House of Commons on the issue and the 45-minute claim was only given "iconic" status by the press.

Questions about Mr Campbell's role in the dossier were at the centre of a post-war row with the BBC culminating in the death of the government weapons expert Dr David Kelly and the subsequent Hutton inquiry.

Mr Campbell said he was "never in doubt" that Iraq would be found to have weapons of mass destruction and the realisation that they did not was "very difficult".

On the invasion's aftermath, he said it became clear within a week that things were not going well and there was a lack of "grip".

He argued that Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short, who resigned shortly after the invasion in protest about post-war strategy, was "difficult to handle" and suggested there was a fear she might leak things she did not agree with.

Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will give evidence to the inquiry next week with Mr Blair expected to appear at a later date.

His successor as prime minister, Gordon Brown, will not give evidence until after the general election, expected to take place in May.

The SNP have called for Mr Brown to give evidence before the election as it was he, as chancellor, who "bankrolled" the military campaign.

The Iraq Inquiry's final report is due to be published by early next year.

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Death toll rises to 75 from Brazilian floods

The death toll rose to 75 Sunday on Brazil's southeast coast after three days of torrential rains unleashed a series of deadly mudslides, an emergency official said.

CNN / Rede Record Internacional

Dozens of people were killed when a large part of a mountain collapsed as mud Friday, sliding into the upscale Sankay Inn resort in Angra dos Reis, two hours west of Rio de Janeiro.

More than 3 inches of rain has accumulated in Rio's western regions since the end of last week, according to Geo-Rio, the state official weather forecast center. Brazilian forecasters are predicting more rain to come in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Angra dos Reis is a popular destination for wealthy vacationers and celebrities, many of whom were spending New Year's in the resort town. According to local reports, the 24-year-old son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was among the vacationers in the area this week. Pierre Sarkozy, 24, was staying at the home of Ivo Pitanguy, a top Brazilian plastic surgeon and a family friend, the reports said.

The town is also home to one of Brazil's major nuclear plants -- the Central Nuclear Almirante Álvaro Alberto complex, managed by Electronuclear. Officials at the power plant denied reports they would shut down operations due to safety concerns raised by local officials.

The inundations began Wednesday. Erosion caused by the deluge created a massive crack in the Rio-Santos Highway, forcing authorities to shut down the road Saturday night.

Rio de Janeiro's State Governor Sergio Cabral on Friday declared three days of mourning and ordered the state's civil defense rescue teams on duty round the clock.

In the poorer suburbs of Rio de Janeiro's Zona Norte, several makeshift homes built on steep slopes fell victim to mudslides, leaving at least 350 people homeless, the officials said.

In nearby Jacarepagua, rescuers carried three bodies of a family of four from the wreckage of their hilltop home after it was hit by a mudslide.

CNN affiliate Record TV broadcast the rescuers' attempt to find the family's toddler, Mariana. After sifting through rubble, the rescuers heard her cries emanating from beneath the rubble, dug her out and carried her to safety amid cheers. But hours later, the television station reported that the girl had died.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told reporters he will send marine and naval forces to aid in rescues in remote coastal areas where more bodies were believed to be trapped.

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Revealed: Height of World's Tallest Building

The world's tallest building has opened in Dubai as the official height was revealed - 828 metres (2717ft).

Adam Arnold, Sky News Online

The world's tallest building has opened in Dubai as the official height was revealed - 828 metres (2717ft).

In a surprise move, the Burj Dubai was renamed Burj Khalifa by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The new name is after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan - the president of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The Burj Khalifa towers over its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, which rises 508m (1,667ft).

That makes it about twice the height of the Empire State Building.

At the opening ceremony, thousands of residents and tourists crowded around the base of the half-mile tall tower, which is at least 160 storeys high.

Dubai's ruler unveiled a plaque, kicking off inaugural festivities.

They included traditional Gulf Arab dance performances and skydivers with parachutes emblazoned with the colours of the UAE flag.

The top of the building can be seen from 60 miles away and the exterior is covered in about 26,000 glass panels.

The building boasts the most storeys and highest occupied floor of any building in the world, and ranks as the world's tallest structure, beating a television mast in North Dakota.

"We weren't sure how high we could go," said Bill Baker, the building's structural engineer, who is in Dubai for the inauguration. "It was kind of an exploration ... a learning experience."

Revealed: Height of World's Tallest Building

7:41pm UK, Monday January 04, 2010

Adam Arnold, Sky News Online
The world's tallest building has opened in Dubai as the official height was revealed - 828 metres (2717ft).

In a surprise move, the Burj Dubai was renamed Burj Khalifa by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The new name is after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan - the president of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The Burj Khalifa towers over its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, which rises 508m (1,667ft).

That makes it about twice the height of the Empire State Building.

At the opening ceremony, thousands of residents and tourists crowded around the base of the half-mile tall tower, which is at least 160 storeys high.

Dubai's ruler unveiled a plaque, kicking off inaugural festivities.

They included traditional Gulf Arab dance performances and skydivers with parachutes emblazoned with the colours of the UAE flag.


The top of the building can be seen from 60 miles away and the exterior is covered in about 26,000 glass panels.

The building boasts the most storeys and highest occupied floor of any building in the world, and ranks as the world's tallest structure, beating a television mast in North Dakota.

"We weren't sure how high we could go," said Bill Baker, the building's structural engineer, who is in Dubai for the inauguration. "It was kind of an exploration ... a learning experience."

The Burj's opening comes at a tough time for Dubai's economy with property prices in newer parts of the sheikhdom down by nearly half over the past year.

The city-state turned to its richer neighbour Abu Dhabi for a series of bailouts in 2009 to help cover debts amassed by a network of state-linked companies.
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Heavy Snow Set To Bring More Travel Chaos

Commuters in London and the south-east are being warned of travel chaos as snow and sleet is expected to spread southwards on Tuesday.

Sky News

Heavy snow already affecting parts of Scotland and Ireland is expected to hit many parts of England by morning and reach the Home Counties and the capital by lunchtime.

Sky weather presenter Lucy Verasamy said "significant snow" would cause disruption during the morning rush hour.

"It will be very wintry and snowy come Tuesday morning, with plunging temperatures and frost and ice on the roads once more, and a line of sleet and snow anywhere from the East Midlands and Lincolnshire, across the West Midlands and into Wales," she said.

"It will shuffle into the South East, Greater London and Home Counties by the latter stages of the morning.

"Further sleet and snow is expected in the South and East. In the West there will be brighter skies with some sunshine but it will be terribly cold for all of us.

"And it is to stay bitter as the week goes on, with very low temperatures, sunshine and snow showers."

The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings for the South East and warned of travel problems due to snow and sleet.

The cold weather has already resulted in delays for travellers returning to work after the festive break.

In London, there were overland rail delays at Liverpool Street Station and in north and east London due to a broken down train.

On London Underground there were part-suspensions on two lines due to signal failures - the District and the Hammersmith & City.

In Scotland, severe weather conditions led to delays to rail services between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

After a freezing night during which temperatures dipped to -12C (10F) in places, a series of accidents led to jams on major road routes.

A vehicle fire closed a section of the M6 in Warwickshire and part of the nearby M42 was also shut, as was the M6 toll slip road to the southbound M6 in the West Midlands.

An accident closed a section of the A38 in Staffordshire, while broken down cars led to congestion on the A2 in Kent, the M1 in Leicestershire and the M5 in the West Midlands.

Thousands of school children enjoyed an extra day's holiday as dozens of schools were shut due to the wintry weather.

There were 19 closures in Northumberland, 13 in Lancashire and 12 in Durham.

Seven schools were also shut in North Yorkshire due to weather and heating problems and one in Staffordshire due to conditions on local roads.

But the freezing conditions have delivered an unexpected bonus for some people.

Around 60 guests seeing in the New Year at the Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales - England's highest pub which stands at 1,700ft above sea level - were forced to spend three days snowed in.

Heavy, relentless snowstorms on New Year's Eve left the guests stranded in the pub as 7ft drifts left them unable to get to their cars as they tried to leave on New Year's Day.

But resourceful landlady Tracy Daly, her husband Mike Peace, and two staff sprang into action to keep the stranded guests watered and fed.

The guests passed the time by playing cards and servicing the bar until the roads were finally cleared today.

Ms Daly said: "There was a lovely, community atmosphere despite the fact nobody could get home. I suppose there are worse places to be snowed in than a pub."
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