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  • South Korean and US troops have gone on higher alert after North Korea said it was scrapping the armistice treaty that ended the Korean War 50 years ago.
  • Seoul's defence ministry said it would increase reconnaissance operations over North Korea.
  • The UN Command said the armistice - which has preserved a tense peace for more than five decades on the Korean peninsula - remained in force.

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  • On a sunny afternoon in early 2007, a passer-by in an outlying district of Cape Town would have chanced upon an unusual sight, especially for South Africa. Some 250 men and women of a variety of races and nationalities were hard at work with rakes, shovels and hand tools in a garbage-strewn lot. Had the passerby returned three days later, he’d have seen that lot transformed into a playground. He might have guessed that this was the work of a church group or perhaps some international children’s charity.
      
     And he would be incorrect. The activity was, in fact, one of the most unusual marketing exercises to come along in years—and also one of the most ambitious. The work gang’s ultimate objective was to find a way to market a disparate grouping of detergent brands under the Unilever corporate umbrella

  • Polish media and politicians have sharply criticized this week's SPIEGEL cover story about Hitler's European helpers outside of Germany. They believe the article is part of an attempt by Germans to foist guilt for its own Nazi crimes off on others.
  • This week, though, Kaczynski has found his old form again -- with the unexpected help of SPIEGEL. "The Germans are attempting to shake off the guilt for a giant crime," he said, commenting on the latest SPIEGEL cover story, "  The Dark Continent: Hitler's European Holocaust Helpers."
  • "DER SPIEGEL is accusing Poland and other nations of having assisted in the Holocaust," claims the daily Polska. In the future, the polemic continues, SPIEGEL could come to the conclusion that the Jews, too, assisted -- after all, there were Jewish police in the ghettos who were forced by the Nazis to round up men, women and children for the transports to the concentration camps.

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  • China has embarked on a series of joint projects with Britain in Africa, with the aim of avoiding the abuses and mistakes committed by former colonial powers as it rapidly increases its economic role on the continent.

    China invested $4.5bn in infrastructure in Africa in 2007, more than the G8 countries combined, and much of the investment has been private. The number of Chinese companies operating in Africa has more than doubled in just two years to 2,000, with about 400 operating in Nigeria alone, according to new research.

  • In contrast to the "one-dimensional" stereotype of state-owned enterprises extracting natural resources, most of the investment is from privately-owned firms and many are involved in manufacturing.

    However, many of the business practices followed by those companies, such as a preference for using Chinese workers, coupled with Beijing's belief that human rights are the preserve of host country governments, have led to claims that the rapid rise in Chinese influence in Africa has not helped its human rights.

  • "The Chinese firms that are moving are building infrastructure, they are building roads, they are providing jobs for people, but at the same time: what they are not doing, neither the Chinese government nor the companies, is raising any issues about how the population are being treated," Irene Khan, Amnesty International's secretary general, said today.

    "Therefore we find that the Chinese presence is not helping the human rights situation. It might be aggravating it when revenues and resources are being paid into coffers of hugely corrupt and oppressive governments."

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  • Barack Obama today laid out a broad case for closing the Guantánamo Bay prison and banning the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that have been condemned as torture – while accusing his opponents of wanting to scare Americans to win political battles.

    In a grand hall at the US national archives, standing directly in front of original copies of the US constitution and declaration of independence, Obama said the current legal and political battles in Washington over the fate of the 240 prisoners there stemmed not from his decision to close the facility, but from George Bush's move seven years ago to open it.

  • Obama stressed at several points that his administration would never free dangerous terrorists into the US, an effort to counter the Republican party's central argument against the closure. He said US prisons were tough and safe enough to handle the most vicious al-Qaida terrorist suspects now held at Guantánamo.

    "I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people," Obama said. "Al-Qaida terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture – like other prisoners of war – must be prevented from attacking us again."

  • Shortly after Obama spoke, Dick Cheney gave a rebuttal at a conservative Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. The former vice-president defended many of the Bush administration policies Obama is now unraveling, and mentioned either "September 11" or "9/11" 25 times.

    Cheney said Saddam Hussein had "known ties" to terrorists, an apparent rehashing of the widely discredited Bush administration effort to link the Iraqi dictator to the September 11 2001 hijackers.

    "After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalised," Cheney said.

    "In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralising as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists."

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  • Reports are emerging from inside Sri Lanka's internment camps of brutal revenge being taken against Tamil Tiger fighters and the abduction of young children by paramilitary groups.

    Detainees in one of the camps told the Guardian that a number of female Tamil Tigers have been murdered after giving themselves up to the authorities.

    The bodies of 11 young women were allegedly found with their throats slashed outside the Menic Farm camp near the town of Vavuniya, according to people being held behind the razor wire perimeter

  • aid workers say there is also a growing resentment among inmates in the camps against the LTTE over its treatment of the civilian population in the final months of the fighting and that many of the female cadres now shut inside are living in fear of reprisals.

  • Police in Iran believe they have caught the country's first female serial killer and are claiming she has disclosed a literary inspiration behind her attempts to evade detection: the crime novels of Agatha Christie.

    The 32-year-old suspect, named only as Mahin, stands accused of killing at least six people, including five women, according to officials in the city of Qazvin, about 100 miles north-west of Tehran.

  • The summit comes at a time of growing frustration between Brussels and Moscow over a host of issues ranging from energy policy to the war in Georgia. The EU was irritated by Russia's gas war in January with Ukraine and Medvedev's failure to pull Russian troops out of the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
  • For its part, the Kremlin is annoyed by the EU's attempt earlier this month to improve ties with half a dozen post-Soviet countries. A summit of 33 countries in Prague brought the EU's 27 governments together for the first time with the leaders of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
  • Russia believes the EU's "eastern partnership" initiative is a challenge to its own strategic and security interests in a region it regards as its backyard. Medvedev insists that Moscow enjoys what he calls "privileged interests" in states occupying the volatile buffer zone between the EU and the Russian Federation.

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  • "We would not want the Eastern Partnership to turn into partnership against Russia. There are various examples," Mr Mevedev told a news conference at the end of the summit.
  • "I would simply not want this partnership to consolidate certain individual states, which are of an anti-Russian bent, with other European states," he said.
  • Moscow has accused the 27-member bloc of creating new dividing lines in Europe by offering closer ties to six former Soviet republics.

    The Eastern Partnership Initiative aims to forge close political and economic ties in exchange for democratic reforms.

    Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have signed up to the initiative, which seeks to bolster stability in the region.

    However it does not offer the prospect of eventual EU membership.

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  • Israeli police have destroyed the small illegal settler outpost camp of Maoz Esther in the occupied West Bank.
  • But the outpost of seven huts, east of Ramallah, was among dozens of sites also illegal under Israeli law, built without government authorisation.

    The Israeli move comes after the US secretary of state called for an end to "any kind" of settlement activity.

  • Small outposts such as Amos Ester, which housed a few families, are periodically destroyed - but often rebuilt soon afterwards.

    But correspondents say it is much rarer and more politically difficult for the government to evacuate larger ones.

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  • User photographs can still be found on many social networking sites even after people have deleted them, Cambridge University researchers have said.
  • They put photos on 16 popular websites - noting the web addresses where the images were stored - and deleted them.

    The team said it was able to find them on seven sites - including Facebook - using the direct addresses, even after the photos appeared to have gone.

    Facebook says deleted photos are removed from its servers "immediately".

  • The Cambridge University researchers said special photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr and Google's Picasa, did better and Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces removed the photos instantly.

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  • Iran test-fired a sophisticated missile on Wednesday that was capable of striking Israel and parts of Western Europe
  • he solid-fuel Sejil-2 missile used a technology that Iran appeared to have tested at least once before, but the Obama administration nonetheless described the event as “significant,” largely because missiles of its kind can be relatively easily moved or hidden.
  • The Pentagon confirmed that the test of the missile had been a success

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  • Police in New Zealand are searching for a couple who disappeared after a banking blunder deposited NZ$10m (£3.9m, US$6m) in their account.

    The couple had applied for a NZ$10,000 overdraft but received NZ$10m in their business account instead, part of which they withdrew, local media report.

  • A planned U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from a possible Iranian attack would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy, according to a joint analysis by top U.S. and Russian scientists.
  • The U.S.-Russian team also judged that it would be more than five years before Iran is capable of building both a nuclear warhead and a missile capable of carrying it over long distances. And if Iran attempted such an attack, the experts say, it would ensure its own destruction.
  • "The missile threat from Iran to Europe is thus not imminent," the 12-member technical panel concludes in a report produced by the EastWest Institute, an independent think tank based in Moscow, New York and Belgium.

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