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This page features brief excerpts of news stories published by the mainstream media and, less frequently, blogs, alternative media, and even obviously biased sources. The excerpts are taken directly from the websites cited in each source note. Quotation marks are not used.
This page features brief excerpts of news stories published by the mainstream media and, less frequently, blogs, alternative media, and even obviously biased sources. The excerpts are taken directly from the websites cited in each source note. Quotation marks are not used. Because most of our readers read the NYT we usually do not include the paper's stories in HIGHLIGHTS.
Name of source: BBC
SOURCE: BBC (12-27-09)
The four-times Liberal prime minister was born at 62 Rodney Street in the city on 29 December 1809.
An exhibition at St George's Hall, which is less than a mile from his birthplace, will begin on Tuesday.
Records, books and diaries from his career and other memorabilia will be on show until the end of March.
SOURCE: BBC (12-27-09)
Just days before the invasion, eight mountaineers from what was then the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan were getting ready to fly to neighbouring Tajikistan for a routine rescue operation in the Pamir Mountains.
They were further surprised when the pilots announced they were heading for Kabul.
They did not yet know about the imminent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - the Kremlin announced it the next day. But at the very moment when the plane touched the runaway, Soviet special forces were preparing to take over the then Afghan President Hafizullah Amin's Tajbeg palace.
It was the start of a nine-year war in which at least a million Afghans and more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers died.
On the ground, the Soviet military finally explained to the mountaineers the true nature of their mission.
A few days earlier, a military plane full of Soviet soldiers had crashed in the Hindu Kush mountains, some 60km (38 miles) from Kabul. On board, there was a black leather briefcase with some top-secret documents - and it had to be retrieved.
SOURCE: BBC (12-26-09)
The explorer died of natural causes in Oslo's hospital, the Kon-Tiki museum director said.
The expedition was launched from Peru by anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl to demonstrate that South Americans could have settled Polynesia.
During World War II, Mr Haugland was member of the Norwegian resistance movement.
He was honoured by Britain for his role in helping to disrupt Nazi plans to create nuclear weapons.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said the captain, Yitzhak (Ike) Aharonovitz, had made a unique contribution to the state of Israel.
The Exodus was carrying over 4,000 mostly Holocaust survivors when the ship was forced to return to Germany.
The incident sparked widespread sympathy for their plight.
SOURCE: BBC (12-25-09)
The US, UN and EU were joined by human rights groups in a chorus of anger over Mr Liu's 11-year sentence.
The UN human rights commissioner said it was "extremely harsh", and cast an ominous shadow over China's commitments to protect human rights.
Mr Liu, 53, helped draft Charter 08, a petition urging political change in China. His wife said he would appeal.
Workmen replacing the chimney at Neil Doherty's family home in Buncrana discovered the letters stuck in the flue.
He was only five years of age when his sister Mona wrote the letter to Santa for him in 1941.
Mr Liu, a prominent government critic and veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, could be jailed for 15 years if convicted.
He has been in jail since 2008, after being arrested for writing a document calling for political reform in China.
The EU, US and rights groups say the trial is politically motivated and have called on Beijing to release Mr Liu.
SOURCE: BBC (12-22-09)
The report by a Lithuanian parliamentary committee says that in 2005 and 2006 CIA chartered planes were allowed to land in Lithuania.
It says that no Lithuanian officials were allowed near the aircraft, nor were they told who was on board.
Poland and Romania hosted similar CIA "black sites", media reports say.
SOURCE: BBC (12-22-09)
And they have insisted that the bust was acquired legally by the Prussian state nearly a century ago.
Egypt first requested the return of the antiquity in 1930, but successive German governments have refused.
Name of source: Telegraph (UK)
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-27-09)
The tomb, discovered in Xigaoxue village near the ancient city of Anyang in Henan Province, has an epitaph and inscription that appear to refer to Cao Cao, Central China Television said on Sunday.
The tomb contains the remains of a man in his 60s, corresponding to Cao Cao's age at his death, and two women.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-23-09)
Pope Pius XII has been condemned for not doing enough to prevent the Holocaust and his path to canonisation has sparked outcry.
Last week, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree proclaiming the "heroic virtues" of Pope Pius – throwing the current Pontiff's planned visit to Rome's synagogue next month into doubt.
However in an attempt to dampen the row, the Vatican issued a statement which said it the decree should not be seen as a "hostile act".
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-25-09)
In March 1939 Kaspar was with his first regiment in the Slovak capital of Bratislava when the Wehrmacht marched in to proclaim the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. Setting out immediately for Warsaw, he joined a Polish military intelligence unit which sent him on a training course. Three weeks later he was smuggled into Prague to command a Czech unit spying on the enemy.
Returning to Prague after almost 50 years, he found few relations and a country greatly changed by communist rule. He spent his last years in Surrey and Oxfordshire.
Mila Kaspar, who died on November 4, is survived by his wife and three sons.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-25-09)
The campaign follows the Belgian government's decision to close 23 barracks across the country by 2011, including the so-called 'Heinz' barracks at Bastogne where US General Anthony McAuliffe had his headquarters during famous Battle of the Bulge in 1944.
The announcement by defence minister Pieter de Crem has caused a storm of protest among US and British war veterans as well as many other people living in Belgium.
A war veteran's group has written to Howard Gutman, new-appointed American ambassador to Belgium, appealing to him to intervene and help halt the closure.
The barracks is the home of the Belgian 1st Field Artillery Regiment, currently deployed in Afghanistan, and also houses a small museum dedicated to the sacrifice made by US and British troops.
The Battle of the Bulge has special significance for allied war veterans as it is seen as key turning point in WW2.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-23-09)
Nothing captures the commercialisation of Christmas quite as effectively as the history of Santa Claus. To illustrate the point, look at a wonderful 16th-century painting that hangs in Room 7 of the National Gallery in London. Most people who pass by it are unaware of its significance. But this panel, circa 1555-60, preserves a particularly pure element of the Christmas spirit.
The painting, attributed to the Tuscan mannerist Girolamo Macchietti, depicts the most important legend of St Nicholas of Myra.
To the right, a nobleman slumbers, surrounded by his three daughters, who are also asleep. According to tradition, the family was so poor that the father was on the brink of selling his girls into prostitution. To the left, their saviour appears at the window, dressed in a sumptuous orange tunic adorned with a red robe. Under the cover of darkness, he prepares to lob through the aperture the second of three balls of gold (each represents a purse stuffed with money) that will provide dowries for all of the daughters, so that they won't have to sell their bodies to survive.
For Macchietti's contemporaries, this youth would have been instantly recognisable as St Nicholas. But, today, he goes by a much more familiar name: Father Christmas.
This may come as a surprise. How can Macchietti's Mr Goldenballs, with his gilt sandals and curly, glowing hair, be related to roly-poly, red-faced Santa Claus? For starters, he's too thin. And beardless. He is dressed like an inhabitant of the Mediterranean, not Lapland. He is standing by the window, not peering down the chimney. And, anyway, where's his retinue of reindeer?
But, then, this is one of the sad truths at the heart of Christmas present. These days, it isn't only the birth of Christ that is threatened with oblivion. The charitable St Nicholas, associated with Christmas since time immemorial, is rapidly sliding towards anonymity, too. Meanwhile, the stock of his more recent incarnation as Santa Claus, the darling of department-store managers, filmmakers and advertising copy-writers the world over, continues to rise.
Canon James Rosenthal, who has earned a reputation as one of the Church's leading authorities on St Nicholas, believes it's time that the "real" Father Christmas is remembered.
"I always think it's sad that people are ignorant of the origins of our customs," he says. "Santa Claus is fine, but St Nicholas is so much better. Like us, he is real.
"I believe there is a bit of St Nicholas in all of us. For Christians, he is a model to push chubby Santa back into fairyland."
St Nicholas's standing is currently so low that Canon Rosenthal was recently banned from visiting children held at an immigration centre in Bedfordshire. When he arrived at Yarl's Wood, dressed as St Nicholas, wearing a magnificent fake white beard and a bishop's mitre, he had hoped to deliver presents donated by the congregations of several London churches. But he was turned away by security guards, who eventually called the police. "I felt like a criminal for trying to spread cheer and a few gifts," Canon Rosenthal told me this week.
St Nick must have been a pretty impressive figure to inspire such devotion, but, in truth, few facts about him are known. He was probably born around AD 260 in the port of Patara on the southern coast of what was then Asia Minor, now Turkey. He grew up in the eastern reaches of the Roman Empire, which was still hostile to Christianity, but found himself drawn to the new religion, and rose to become the bishop of Myra, now the Lycian town of Demre. He died in Myra in 343, possibly on December 6 (the date on which he is usually venerated today).
"The first Life of St Nicholas is from the 9th century," says Robin Cormack, professor emeritus of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and an expert on Byzantium. "Maybe St Nicholas was a bishop in the 4th century AD; all else seems fiction."
But what fiction! Scintillating legends quickly gathered around the memory of Myra's bishop, who acquired a reputation for generosity. Aside from rescuing the daughters of the impoverished nobleman in Macchietti's picture, he is said to have resurrected three boys who had been killed by a psychotic butcher, who'd chopped them up, salted their remains in a barrel, and planned to sell their cured body parts as ham during a period of famine.
Over the centuries, St Nicholas evolved into the patron saint of sailors and fishermen, pawnbrokers, children, scholars, druggists – and even people being mugged.
By the 10th century, a basilica containing his relics had been built at Myra. In those days, the remains of holy figures were big business, since thousands of pilgrims flocked to shrines all over Europe. In 1087, a bunch of brigands from the Italian port of Bari on the Adriatic Sea set sail for Myra, where they looted the basilica, before returning home with the exhumed remains of St Nick. A shrine was quickly established back in Italy, and people flocked to Bari to peddle the holy "manna" which was said to drip from the saint's bones.
The arrival of St Nicholas in Italy accounts for his popularity among Italian artists of the Renaissance. Fra Angelico and Masaccio both depicted the saint in altarpieces. Veronese painted the saint, with a white beard, in a grand canvas from 1562 that can be seen in the National Gallery.
St Nicholas was soon venerated across Europe. He was especially beloved in Holland, where, to this day, children receive gifts on the Feast of St Nicholas rather than Christmas Day. The tangerines traditionally left as gifts in the stockings of children who have been good allude to St Nicholas's emblem – three balls of gold.
His transformation into Father Christmas only occurred after the Dutch had emigrated to North America in the 17th century. In the New World, they continued to observe the feast day of Sinterklaas, as they called St Nicholas. This dialectical quirk became "Santa Claus".
Most of Santa Claus's current iconography – the flowing beard, red-and-white livery, reindeer – dates from 19th-century America, where the traditions of the early Dutch settlers were fondly recalled. Clement C Moore's poem The Night Before Christmas, published anonymously in 1823, cemented the image of Father Christmas in the popular imagination as a jolly old soul with a white beard who arrives through chimneys to deliver gifts into stockings, before riding off into the night on a sleigh laden with toys and powered by prancing reindeer.
The New York caricaturist Thomas Nast later refined our image of Father Christmas, fattening him up in a series of cartoons that appeared in Harper's Weekly from 1863 onwards. Nast was also responsible for changing the colour of Santa's cloak from tan or green to red, decades before the Coca-Cola advertising campaigns of the mid-20th century, featuring Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom's vision of Father Christmas swigging from a bottle of Coke. The first of these ads appeared in 1931, marking a watershed in St Nicholas's transformation from icon of Christian self-sacrifice to the plump, friendly face of yuletide capitalism.
The question remains why it was specifically St Nicholas, rather than any other saint, who became indelibly linked with Christmas. For Canon Rosenthal, the answer is simple. "St Nicholas hit all the right chords in the hearts, minds and imaginations of the people," he says. "He went to prison for his faith, he smashed pagan altars, he gave away his wealth, and he even restored three boys to life. Not bad for one person."
But Prof Cormack is not so sure. "No one understands the reason for the popularity of St Nicholas," he says. "All the stories [associated with him] are conventional saints' stuff. He just got lucky."
The US leader was saved shortly before his car was due to drive over a bridge in Manila where a bomb had been planted.
The foiled attack came during Mr Clinton's visit to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the city in 1996.
Prof Gormley’s book, for which he interviewed Mr Clinton three times, focuses mainly on the former president’s pursuit by Ken Starr, the independent counsel.
Mr Starr’s conclusion that Mr Clinton lied during a sworn deposition about his affair with Monica Lewinsky led to the president’s impeachment.
The Venerable English College has claimed that England's leading playwright was a secret Catholic who spent "lost years" in Rome.
Father Andrew Headon, the vice-rector of the college, said that college records correspond with a previously undocumented period in Shakespeare's life after he left Stratford in 1585 and before he emerged as a playwright in London in 1592. "There are several years which are unaccounted for in Shakespeare's life," said Father Headon.
Diane de Poitiers was renowned for her youthful looks and porcelain skin and thought the concoction preserved her youth.
Experts say she was up to 20 years older than the king but her appearance made them look the same age. One courtier said she was "as fresh and lovable" in her final years as when aged 30 and had skin "of great whiteness".
But her secret was the elixir she drunk every day made up of gold chloride and diethyl ether.
It was one of a host of anti-ageing treatments peddled by apothecaries, along with recipes including spider webs, earthworms, frogspawn and scorpion's oil.
However, French experts writing in the British Medical Journal say the yellow liquid said to harness the powers of the sun and keep her immutable actually slowly killed her at the age of 66.
Name of source: The Times (UK)
SOURCE: The Times (UK) (12-27-09)
A scholar has found evidence that a distraught Vincent van Gogh slashed his ear after learning that his brother, Theo, on whom he depended financially and emotionally, was about to get married.
Martin Bailey, who has written a book on van Gogh and curated two exhibitions of his work, devised his theory after meticulous detective work on a letter in a painting that the artist completed soon after he injured himself.
Bailey concludes that this letter was written by Theo from Paris in December 1888 and contained news of his engagement. This, he believes, tipped Vincent, who was already psychologically disturbed, into self-harm.
SOURCE: The Times (UK) (12-24-09)
A spokesman for the Swedish security police confirmed that the authorities were taking seriously a threat by a militant Nazi group to disrupt national elections next year.
Allegations concerning who ordered the theft, and why, have surfaced today in Swedish newspaper reports after the former leader of a Swedish Nazi group claimed that it had been stolen to order for a collector in England, France or the United States.
Name of source: NYT
SOURCE: NYT (12-26-09)
Few people outside health policy circles may recall it, but two decades ago, after Congress congratulated itself on the passage of another health care bill, a public uproar forced its repeal a mere 16 months later.
That legislation was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law in July 1988. The law’s intent was to give better financial protection to people enrolled in Medicare by limiting their out-of-pocket payments for things like hospital stays and doctors’ fees if they became very sick.
But this was not a free new entitlement, as Medicare beneficiaries were quick to realize. The new benefits would be financed by higher monthly premiums for Medicare enrollees and by a surtax paid by the more affluent enrollees.
SOURCE: NYT (12-21-09)
Nixon, the 37th president, was known for working with Democrats on health care policy, including legislation in 1971 that opened a major government effort to fight cancer.
But his contribution to the current bill was to serve as more of a political counterforce: five of the six Democratic committee chairmen primarily responsible for writing the current health legislation were first elected to the House in 1974, riding a wave of public resentment over the Watergate scandal.
SOURCE: NYT (12-26-09)
Two decades after the Velvet Revolution overthrew Communist rule here in 1989, a group of Czech senators is pressing to ban the Communist Party, the only surviving one in the former Soviet bloc in Europe and, to its many critics, a national embarrassment and aberration.
“The Communists ruined this country and oppressed freedom and yet here they are 20 years later in our Parliament,” said David Cerny, the iconoclastic Czech artist, who in 1991 painted a Soviet tank pink, transforming a memorial to the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army in 1945 into the equivalent of a large toy. “It is a national disgrace. The Communists are endangering the country. The Czechs need to wake up.”
This month senators took the first step, petitioning the government to file a legal complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court, the country’s highest electoral authority, for suspension of the Communist Party’s activities.
SOURCE: NYT (12-24-09)
Dozens of New Deal “resettlement” communities dotted the country: the Penderlea Homestead Farms in North Carolina; the Phoenix Homesteads in Arizona; the Dyess Colony in Arkansas, where Johnny Cash grew up. And here: on fertile West Virginia land beside the Kanawha River, a community named after Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the New Deal.
Over the years, these New Deal towns have been praised as a sound response to paralyzing poverty and criticized as flawed, communism-tinted social experiments. But in this hard time, as half-built subdivisions stand as ghostly testaments to economic failure, a place like Eleanor reflects a government action that worked, and works.
SOURCE: NYT (12-23-09)
The thieves first tried to steal the sign, which means “Work Makes You Free,” last Thursday evening. But they lacked the right tools. Undetected, they drove to a hardware shop in the nearby town of Oswiecim and bought better tools. When they returned to the camp past midnight, there were no guards in sight, no evidence that surveillance cameras were functioning.
They set to work. Just as any visitor to the concentration camp could, they easily climbed atop the modest wrought-iron gate. They unbolted one side of the sign and then ripped off the 66-pound metal frame when the other side proved more difficult.
SOURCE: NYT (12-24-09)
At $21,465.56, the eclectic collection of goods and services is about 1.8 percent more expensive than a year ago, largely because of higher gold prices, according to PNC Wealth Management in Pennsylvania.
The group has compiled the list for 26 years as a catchy way to track the annual cost of living. The Web site, pncchristmaspriceindex.com, now includes sample lesson plans, games, music and other media to help elementary and high school students learn about economic trends.
Gold, an investor haven, rose almost 43 percent this year, lifting the price of the carol’s five gold rings to about $500, PNC said. Gold rings are one of five items on the whimsical gift list that rose in price. Four other items remained steady, and three fell from last year — bringing the total for the carol’s gifts to $385.36 more than 2008.
Name of source: AP
SOURCE: AP (12-25-09)
After months of financial uncertainty, the 57th annual re-enactment of Washington's daring Christmas 1776 crossing of the river -- the trek that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War -- took place without problems Friday.
Thousands of spectators came out to hear Washington's stand-in deliver stirring words to the troops and watch three boats make the crossing from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The role of Washington was played by John Godzieba, a Pennsylvanian who has been a re-enactor for 17 years.
It was the first time in three years that re-enactors were able to cross in boats. The past two years, the re-enactment was thwarted by bad weather and high water levels, which forced re-enactors to walk across a bridge.
SOURCE: AP (12-24-09)
Caldera died around 2 a.m. in the capital of Caracas, his son Andres Caldera told Globovision news channel.
Andres Caldera did not give a cause of death, but the former president suffered from Parkinson's disease for several years.
SOURCE: AP (12-24-09)
He said he was offering an Al Het, a prayer said on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It signifies a plea for forgiveness.
"We must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," Carter said in the letter, which was first sent to JTA, a wire service for Jewish newspapers, and provided Wednesday to The Associated Press.
SOURCE: AP (12-23-09)
A Vatican statement said Tuesday that the move should not be an obstacle to dialogue between Jews and the Catholic Church, and insisted Pope Benedict XVI has sentiments of "great friendship and respect" for the Jews.
The statement sought to quell the outrage sparked among many Jewish groups after Benedict signed a decree on Pius's virtues. The decree means that Pius can be beatified — the first major step toward sainthood — once a miracle attributed to his intercession has been recognized.
SOURCE: AP (12-20-09)
In an executive order the president is likely to sign before year's end, Obama will create a National Declassification Center to clear up the backlog of Cold War documents. But the order also will give everyone more time to process the 400 million pages rather than flinging them open at year's end without a second glance.
The order aimed at eliminating unnecessary secrecy also is expected to direct all agencies to revise their classification guides — the more than 2,000 separate and unique manuals used by federal agencies to determine what information should be classified and what no longer needs that protection. The manuals form the foundation of the government's classification system.
Two of every three such guides haven't been updated in the past five years, according to the 2008 annual report of the Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees the government's security classification.
The anticipated timing of Obama's order was disclosed by a government official familiar with the planning who requested anonymity in order to discuss the order before its release. A draft of the order leaked last summer.
The still-classified Cold War records would provide a wealth of data on U.S.-Soviet relations, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, diplomacy and espionage. A Soviet spy ring in the Navy led by John Walker headlined 1985, which became known as "The Year of the Spy."
It took 19 years and a lawsuit for the National Security Archive, a private group that obtains and analyzes once-secret government records, to get documents on the 1959 crisis when the United States and the Soviet Union faced off over control of West Berlin. For nearly two decades, the contested documents were shuttled back and forth among various offices in the Defense Department, then on to the State Department and an unnamed intelligence agency, each conducting a separate declassification review, before the government finally gave some of them up.
An open government
Obama's executive order will follow on the president's inauguration day initiatives on open government. On his first day in office, Obama instructed federal agencies to be more responsive to requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act and he overturned an order by President George W. Bush that would have enabled former presidents and vice presidents to block release of sensitive records of their time in the White House.
William J. Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, says the classification policies in place under executive orders signed by Bush and President Bill Clinton have protected national security and enabled increased declassification.
But Obama's review is necessary to enhance security and increase declassification "to a level that our open society expects and deserves," Bosanko said.
Obama's executive order "is an experiment, but it just might work," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. "By changing the rules about what gets classified, this could lead to a dramatic reduction in secrecy throughout the government." Aftergood obtained a leaked copy of an early draft of the executive order last summer.
The government spent more than $8.21 billion last year to create and safeguard classified information, and $43 million to declassify it, according to the oversight office, part of the National Archives and Records Administration. The figures don't include data from the principal intelligence agencies, which is classified.
"What we're seeking to do is come up with a system that refocuses the finite resources available," says Bosanko.
"Serial reviews" are among the requirements causing declassification delays that can take years to resolve. When a classified document contains secrets from multiple agencies, each agency must review its part, a process that can add years to the declassification process.
In 2000, Clinton gave agencies a three-year extension to complete a review of multiple-agency classified records. When it became clear that the deadline wouldn't be met, Bush in 2003 gave federal agencies a six-year extension.
Declassification spending was cut from an average of $224 million annually in the last four years of the Clinton administration to only $47 million a year during the last four years of the Bush administration.
Today, the problem is not much closer to being solved than it was in the 1990s. Under the terms of Bush's extension, sensitive information in hundreds of millions of pages of historical documents will be declassified automatically on Dec. 31 unless Obama acts.
"If the agencies haven't found the sensitive old documents after nine years, that's some indication those records don't deserve being secret anymore," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.
Obama's order probably will centralize the review process for old records, having all agencies look at the same classified documents at the same time through the new National Declassification Center. Michael Kurtz, who has been with the National Archives for the past 35 years, has been chosen as the center's acting director.
Much of the work of a National Declassification Center probably would be conducted at the National Archives facility in College Park, Md., where many of the documents are housed and many of the agency declassifiers already spend a great deal of time.
Critics say Obama should do more than the upcoming executive order is likely to. They note that Clinton ordered a "bulk declassification" of millions of records from World War II and before; they want Obama to do the same with Cold War-era records.
The premise of bulk declassification is that "we're not going to spend taxpayer dollars to go through these records one by one," said William Leonard, Bosanko's predecessor as Information Security Oversight Office director.
And the planned National Declassification Center, said Leonard, should have authority to decide the status of millions of classified records on its own.
"We shouldn't need multiple opinions from multiple agencies," said Leonard.
But intelligence agencies have resisted surrendering their authority over secrets to an interagency group.
SOURCE: AP (12-20-09)
At age 12, a furtive glance at a medical record deepened Jean-Jacques Delorme's doubts about who he was. Throughout adulthood, he unearthed relics of his long-hidden history.
He was the product, he discovered, of a shame-tainted liaison between his French kitchen servant mother and an officer in the German army occupying France — one of an estimated 200,000 such children, many of whom grew up stigmatized, their identities confused.
Now, in a striking example of the healing powers of the European Union, Delorme and others like him are being offered dual German and French citizenship in a belated effort by both countries to come to terms with the past.
For Germany it is a simple matter of atonement for invading France and subjecting it to four years of brutal occupation. But France also feels a need to atone — for the ferocious score-settling that followed its liberation, in which supposed collaborators were summarily executed and women accused of "horizontal collaboration" with the enemy had their heads shaven, were paraded through jeering crowds and were jailed.
Name of source: Philadelphia Inquirer
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (12-25-09)
The announcement came from Mayor Nutter's administration, which is managing the $8.5 million project, and Independence National Historical Park, which ultimately will run the site.
The house had been scheduled for a July 4, 2010, grand opening, and it was hoped that President Obama would attend. The nation's first African American president will be invited to the rescheduled opening, said Rosalyn J. McPherson, project director.
The delay, announced late Wednesday, was not entirely unexpected. The site's explanatory displays have been the grist of controversy over how to balance describing the home of Presidents George Washington and John Adams, the little-known stories of the nine slaves who toiled there, and the reality that few Americans even knew that there had been slaves in the nation's first executive mansion until the site was excavated in recent years.
Name of source: CNN
SOURCE: CNN (12-26-09)
But the Rev. C. Thomas Anderson, senior pastor of the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona, preaches a version of the Christmas story that says baby Jesus wasn't so poor after all.
Anderson says Jesus couldn't have been poor because he received lucrative gifts -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- at birth. Jesus had to be wealthy because the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for his expensive undergarments. Even Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, lived and traveled in style, he says.
"Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey," says Anderson. "Poor people ate their donkey. Only the wealthy used it as transportation."
Many Christians see Jesus as the poor, itinerant preacher who had "no place to lay his head." But as Christians gather around the globe this year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, another group of Christians are insisting that Jesus' beginnings weren't so humble.
They say that Jesus was never poor -- and neither should his followers be. Their claim is embedded in the doctrine known as the prosperity gospel, which holds that God rewards the faithful with financial prosperity and spiritual gifts.
SOURCE: CNN (12-22-09)
A wall of water twice as high as a house engulfed communities like Ani's around the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to East Africa, the day after Christmas 2004, leaving some 200,000 people dead or missing in 12 countries in a tsunami that the U.S. Geological Survey says caused more casualties than any other in recorded history.
Ani was also unable to fight the swirling vortex of water. She was carried on the currents far out to sea, where she drifted semi-conscious for more than ten hours.
Five years on, her neighborhood has been rebuilt, with homes made of wood and concrete, but little inside. The roads, bridges and mosques are better than you would find in an average Indonesian town.
The baby she was carrying in her womb the last time we met is now a healthy four-and-a-half-year-old boy named Zahri. He is a child of the tsunami -- carried on the killer waves that spared him and his mother but took so many others.
Name of source: BBC News
SOURCE: BBC News (12-26-09)
In Indonesia's Aceh province, where 170,000 died, thousands held prayers in public mosques and private homes.
On Thai beaches, Buddhist monks chanted prayers as mourners held pictures of loved ones lost five years ago.
Hundreds of tourists also returned to Phuket island to mark one of the worst natural disasters of modern times.
A moment of silence was observed on Phuket's popular Patong Beach marking the time the tsunami struck.
German survivor Ruschitschka Adolf, 73, and his wife Katherina waded into the turquoise seawater to lay white roses as a tribute to the dead.
"We [still] come and stay here because we are alive," Mr Adolf told Reuters news agency.
Other ceremonies were expected in the 14 countries hit by the massive wave.
Thousands of survivors in Indonesia's Aceh province, the hardest-hit area, gathered at mosques and beside the mass graves where tens of thousands were buried.
TSUNAMI 26 DECEMBER 2004
# Hit Indian Ocean countries from Indonesia to Somalia
# Killed more than 220,000 people, including thousands of foreign tourists
# Hundreds of thousands of others lost homes and livelihoods
"None of my family members survived in the tsunami," Siti Aminah, 72, told AFP news agency at a grave site near Banda Aceh, Aceh's capital.
"My children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, they all have gone and left me alone here."
Banda Aceh's main business district, which was completely destroyed by the tsunami, is again bustling with activity, says the BBC's Karishma Vaswani there.
Our correspondent says many have rebuilt their lives thanks to billions of dollars in international aid.
But five years on, the grief and trauma of the disaster are still very real for the people of Aceh, she adds.
After Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the country worst hit by the tsunami.
More than 40,000 people died there and half a million were displaced.
Visitors can still see blackened, destroyed buildings in the country's south and west, the BBC's Charles Haviland reports from Colombo.
There are also large vistas with a view of the ocean from the coast road, which were once blocked by buildings, our correspondent says.
But there has been good recovery too - aid grants have brought some farmers to a higher technical level than before.
And one model village built by a philanthropist - which started out as 1,000 homes for victims - has now developed to take in a health centre, diving classes and more, our correspondent adds.
The tsunami was sparked by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra - the mightiest earthquake in 40 years.
In Aceh province, the quake toppled homes and buildings and sent panicked residents rushing into the streets.
About 20 minutes later, a wall of water up to six stories high surged in from the sea, burying thousands in thick black mud and leaving others to scramble up buildings or cling onto trees.
It was a disaster on an unprecedented scale, the BBC's Rachel Harvey reports from Bangkok.
Apart from the deaths, hundreds of thousands people lost their homes and livelihoods.
No single agency or government could have been prepared for the challenges the tsunami presented, our South-East Asia correspondent says.
Following the disaster, the UN has been designated to coordinate relief work in massive disaster zones.
The so-called Cluster System for emergency response was used to good effect after the Padang earthquake in Indonesia in September, our correspondent says.
Name of source: National Geographic News
SOURCE: National Geographic News (12-21-09)
Though a far cry from the movie's venom-spitting Dilophosaurus, the 125-million-year-old Sinornithosaurus may have attacked like today's rear-fanged snakes, a new study suggests.
Rear-fanged snakes don't inject venom. Instead, the toxin flows down a telltale groove in a fang's surface and into the bite wound, inducing a state of shock.
In Sinornithosaurus fossils, researchers discovered an intriguing pocket, possibly for a venom gland, connected to the base of a fang by a long groove, which likely housed a venom duct, the study says. Sinornithosaurus fangs also feature snakelike grooves in their surfaces.
SOURCE: National Geographic News (12-23-09)
The fossil whale, thought to be between 25 and 28 million years old, hints that mud sucking might have been a precursor to the filter feeding used by today's baleen whales.
Many modern whale species use hair-like structures called baleen to filter tiny prey such as krill from seawater. Baleen species include the humpback, the minke, and the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth, the blue whale.
The newfound fossil whale, which measures just nine feet (three meters) long, shares the same distinct jaw and skull structures as today's baleens.
Name of source: AFP
SOURCE: AFP (12-25-09)
A master in the art of writing Hebrew Bible scrolls, Shai Abramovich seems oblivious to the outside world as he traces the characters onto cow-leather parchment, his bespectacled face just centimetres (inches) from his desk.
He insists his composure belies the excitement he feels working at Masada, an archaeological site seen by many as an emblem of Israel's fighting spirit two millennia after 960 Jews are believed to have committed suicide on the isolated, wind-swept plateau rather than surrender to the Romans.
Name of source: Science Daily
SOURCE: Science Daily (12-21-09)
Relatives did not treat their dead gently. Besides being headless, some of them had had their arms and legs broken, in order to fit into the coral reef cavities. Ravn suggests they may have been left to rot first, and buried later as skeletons.
The local museum's staff of the Vanuatu Culture Centre, a range of researchers, lead by Stuart Bedford and Matthew Spriggs from the Australian National University (ANU), forms an international and cross-disciplinary team, working to gather information about the Pacific islands' inhabitants. Mads Ravn's expertise in migration and colonising over great distances, as well as in digital excavation documentation and recording, makes him an important contributor to this cooperative effort.
Vanuatu is a nation of 83 islands, located 1,750 kilometres east of Australia. The soil contains remnants from a violent volcano eruption, believed to have taken place exactly 3000 years ago. Scientists have found no sign of human activity predating this event.
Name of source: MSNBC
SOURCE: MSNBC (12-21-09)
The three pieces of the infamous sign proclaiming "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free)" will be welded together and restored to the main gate at the former Auschwitz death camp after an improved security system is put in place to guard against another theft.
Officials at the Auschwitz memorial museum said Monday the new system would be aimed at better protecting not just the recovered sign but many other objects testifying to Nazi crimes — from two tons of human hair to a trove of written documents to the ruins of gas chambers now sinking into the earth.
The added cost involved only adds to the museum's troubles, because it is already dealing with dilapidated structures demanding enormous preservation efforts if they are to continue to stand as a testament for future generations.
Last week, Germany pledged $87 million to help preserve the site, calling it an expression of the nation's historical responsibility. But that was still only half of what Auschwitz officials say is needed.
Name of source: Times (UK)
SOURCE: Times (UK) (12-24-09)
“I know what I would rather have been doing,” said Mr Cirlan, who was a member of the three-man squad that killed Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, on December 25, 1989. “As a Christian it is a horrible thing to have to take someone’s life — and that on Christmas Day, that holy holiday.”
Mr Cirlan was in the elite 64th Boteni parachute regiment when Romania crumpled in the 1989 revolution. Unlike the upheavals in Poland, East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, blood was spilt — some of it on Mr Cirlan’s paratrooper boots.
“You have to picture how it was then,” Mr Cirlan said. “Rumours were swirling — there was panic everywhere on the radio, on television, even on the army radio frequencies. It was like the coming of the Apocalypse.”
SOURCE: Times (UK) (12-24-09)
The Ceausescus had been held captive by the militia for three days after their capture on December 22, as they tried to flee a rally in Bucharest by helicopter. Despite widespread regional unrest, when protests broke out in the western city of Timisoara over the harassment of a dissident Hungarian priest, Ceausescu had refused to take the rebels seriously. He went on a trip to Iran, leaving arrangements to his wife, Elena, who was deputy premier, and the army. On his return, Ceausescu again misjusged public mood, calling a pro-government rally, which turned against him.
The brief but bloody Romanian revolution followed revolution all over Communist Eastern Europe. The Iron Curtain had begun to topple with key political reforms in Hungary in 1988 and from then onwards, anti-regime movements swept Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and East Germany, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
Even without the Timisoara protests, plots by top communists meant that his days were probably numbered.
Name of source: Guardian (UK)
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-23-09)
A team of Greek marine archaeologists who have spent years conducting underwater excavations off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt have unearthed a giant granite threshold to a door that they believe was once the entrance to a magnificent mausoleum that Cleopatra VII, queen of the Egyptians, had built for herself shortly before her death.
They believe the 15-tonne antiquity would have held a seven metre-high door so heavy that it would have prevented the queen from consoling her Roman lover before he died, reputedly in 30BC.
"As soon as I saw it, I thought we are in the presence of a very special piece of a very special door," Harry Tzalas, the historian who heads the Greek mission, said. "There was no way that such a heavy piece, with fittings for double hinges and double doors, could have moved with the waves so there was no doubt in my mind that it belonged to the mausoleum. Like Macedonian tomb doors, when it closed, it closed for good."
Tzalas believes the discovery of the threshold sheds new light on an element of the couple's dying hours which has long eluded historians.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-23-09)
It is these charges as much as whether intelligence was doctored that are likely to make the Labour political class squirm when they give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry starting in January.
The chronology to disaster that has seeped from the inquiry makes sometimes shocking reading. It is after all the first time the British diplomatic and military establishment have had to discuss openly their secretive relationship with the US in the run-up to the war.
The diplomats have been freed to disclose their distaste for the simplicities of the neo-cons in Washington, their limited entry points into Washington bureaucratic in-fighting and their shuffling admission that they went to war knowing the aftermath was unplanned – a "known unknown" in the immortal words of US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of the villains of this inquiry so far.
Yet what has emerged already from the 12 sessions with British defence, intelligence and diplomatic officials is the extent to which Britain seemed to slide into war, ultimately with little Whitehall resistance. The inquiry has also shown the extent to which Whitehall went to war ignorant of Iraq's near economic collapse, or the risks of a Sunni-Shia civil war.
Name of source: LiveScience
SOURCE: LiveScience (12-23-09)
Perhaps the earliest known example of the intentional creation of water pressure was found on the island of Crete in a Minoan palace dating back to roughly 1400 BC. In the New World, the ability to generate water pressure was previously thought to have begun only with the arrival of the Spanish.
Scientists investigated the Mayan center at Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. At its height, this major site, inhabited from roughly 100 to 800 AD, had some 1,500 structures - residences, palaces, and temples - holding some 6,000 inhabitants under a series of powerful rulers.
The center at Palenque also had what was arguably the most unique and intricate system of water management known anywhere in the Maya lowlands. These involved elaborate subterranean aqueducts to deal with the spring-fed streams that naturally divide the landscape and could otherwise cause flooding or erosion.
"The ancient Maya called this city Lakamha' or 'Big Water' because of its nine perennial waterways, 56 springs, and hundreds of meters of cascades," said researcher Kirk French, an archaeologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
One peculiar finding at Palenque was a buried, spring-fed conduit some 216 feet long (66 m). While other aqueducts under the site's main plaza stayed relatively level and maintained a roughly constant width, the rectangular conduit was located on a steep slope and abruptly narrowed at its end.
Assuming this sloping conduit was smoothly plastered as the aqueducts were at Palenque, the researchers calculated the resulting water pressure could drive a fountain shooting water roughly 20 feet high (6 m).
"This finding is yet another technological achievement made by the Maya independently of the Old World," French said. "The Maya of Palenque had water pressure technology by 750 AD at the very latest and most likely much earlier."
French noted it has been speculated for decades that the palace in Palenque had running water for toilets. "Getting running water to the palace was impossible without water pressure," he said. Because of this new find, "the toilet theory isn't so far-fetched."
Running water would have been a luxury, not a necessity.
"I actually think that the creation of water pressure at Palenque was a sign of wealth," French said. "It was definitely not necessary. They had water everywhere. The Maya of Palenque were never more than 150 meters (492 feet) from a source of water. Water pressure technology would have been useful through the display of power and knowledge, similar to how priests and shamans used astronomical events."
There may be other examples of Precolumbian water pressure throughout the Americas that have been unseen or misidentified, French said. For instance, ceramic tubes have been found at several sites throughout central Mexico.
"There is a widely held view that the Maya were not necessarily great engineers because their buildings were relatively simple," French told LiveScience. "But in regards to water management their engineering expertise was by all accounts very impressive."
During the next five years, French plans to use this focus on water in "hydroarchaeology" to shed light on aspects of past life such as droughts, population levels and settlement patterns.
French and his colleague Christopher Duffy, a hydrologist at Pennsylvania State University, detailed their findings online December 16 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Name of source: Deutsche Welle
SOURCE: Deutsche Welle (12-23-09)
"At the current stage of the investigation, although the accused is not believed to have participated in committing the murder, she is strongly suspected of three counts of abetting murder." the Federal Court of Justice said in a statement. "(However) there is no compelling reason for her continued imprisonment on remand."
Name of source: USA Today
SOURCE: USA Today (12-22-09)
Not with the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 30 years and a stock market that had just closed at a historic high. Not in the world's only superpower.
So began a decade when America experienced its worst attack by foreigners and its worst natural disaster; its second-deadliest domestic plane crash, and the most divisive, protracted presidential election since 1876.
There were two wars, both longer than World War II; two stock market crashes; and two recessions, including the worst since the Great Depression.
The first African-American president was inaugurated in a city where, 60 years earlier, Barack Obama's father couldn't have sat at the same lunch counter as a white man.
Americans learned that there was water on the moon and that Tiger Woods wasn't perfect.
Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Skype and Hulu all debuted, as did the iPod, the iPhone and iTunes. Books were joined by e-books. Television broadcasting moved from analog to digital, and TV viewing from cathode ray tubes to flat screens.
Name of source: Time
SOURCE: Time (12-22-09)
What may be more surreal, however, is the resurgent popularity that Stalin is enjoying at the moment in Russia. Just in time for the 130th anniversary of his birth on Dec. 21, the state-run polling agency VTsIOM released a survey showing that despite the millions of Soviet citizens who fell victim to purges, starvation and summary executions under Stalin's regime, 54% of Russians now have a high opinion of his leadership qualities. And when asked about his personal attributes, 50% of respondents said they viewed them as average or above average — up from 45% when the same survey was conducted in 2000.
This is no historical accident. The Russian government has been sending clear signals in recent years that Stalin's achievements must be revered — despite the "mistakes," as officials often put it, that were made during his time in power. During Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's annual call-in TV show earlier this month, which included several staged questions aimed at sending the public a message, Putin warned Russians against making any "overall judgment" against Stalin. To prove his point, he cited the forced collectivization of agriculture, a process that historians say caused millions of deaths from starvation in the 1920s and '30s, when Stalin was general secretary of the Communist party. "It's true, there was no peasantry left after that," Putin said. "Everything that happened in this sphere did not have any positive effect on the villages. But after all we did get industrialization."
Last year, a new history textbook was adopted for schools, which makes mention of the repressions of the Stalin era, but also describes the leader as a "competent manager." The characterization in the book — written with the help of a historian from Putin's United Russia party — drew fierce criticism from historians in Russia and abroad. But perhaps the most blatant example of rewriting history yet came in August, when the city of Moscow unveiled an inscription to Stalin in the marble entryway of the Kurskaya Metro station. In giant letters, it reads: "Stalin raised us to be loyal to the fatherland, inspired us to labor and great works." The praise caused an outcry from human rights groups and opposition politicians, but officials haven't taken any actions to remove it.
What's behind the move by the government to rehabilitate Stalin's image in the eyes of the public? Some opposition politicians believe it's tied to the United Russia party's efforts to solidify its power. "The state is hinting that Stalin's tactics are also part of its arsenal for controlling the country," says Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the opposition Yabloko party. The widespread sympathy toward Stalin, he adds, is also a result of the lingering impact of Soviet propaganda, which the Russian government never tried to erase from the public consciousness after communism fell. "All countries emerging from totalitarianism and evolving into a normal form of government carried out a long and difficult program of reforms and re-education, of coming to grips with the past," he says. "Germany is still carrying out de-Nazification, while we never even began this process."
Name of source: New York Times
SOURCE: New York Times (12-21-09)
Its sudden unveiling caused passers-by and neighbors to wonder how old it was and what purpose it had served.
Was it a furnace? A fireplace? A coal vault?
Time to call in an expert. Breaking away from holiday shopping, Joan H. Geismar rushes to the scene, as only a dedicated urban archaeologist would.
Upon hearing a rough description of this remnant, Dr. Geismar, president of the Professional Archaeologists of New York City, had guessed it was a vault that held coal to heat a long-gone building. But upon further review, Dr. Geismar was less certain.
“This isn’t typical,” she said, after leaning over the edge of the street to inspect the stones.
Normally, a coal vault would be made of bricks and open at the top. But this wall of stacked stone had a rectangular opening at the bottom that made it resemble a fireplace. She speculated that it could have been the foundation of a structure built in the 19th century and that the opening had been cut in more modern times to accommodate utility lines.
Name of source: Reuters
SOURCE: Reuters (12-20-09)
The loss of the Centaur in 1943 while sailing to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea was one of Australia's great wartime disasters. Survivors and their relatives have long pressed for the wreck to be found, fearing salvagers would reach it first.
On Sunday, it said the wreck's location had been confirmed by a team led by U.S. marine search expert David Mearns, whose other finds include HMAS Sydney, another Australian wartime wreck.