At the stroke of midnight on August 14-15, 1947, more than two centuries of British colonial rule over the vast Indian subcontinent came to an end. The British Raj's 1947 partition of the sub-continent into two nations -- India and Pakistan -- was accompanied by the massacre of hundreds of thousands and the uprooting of millions of families.
In his independence day speech , Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif suggested the two neighbors celebrate their 50th anniversaries by finding peace. In a flag-raising ceremony in the capital Islamabad, Sharif said Pakistan had initiated dialogue with India because of what he called a growing realization on both sides that the bitter 50-year-old Kashmir dispute should be resolved.The "conflict and arms race between the two countries wasted billions of dollars. It also deprived the peoples of the two countries of peace and prosperity."
Pakistan is overcoming the economic crisis of the past few years, he said. "We are out of (loan) default situation and moving towards development," he said, referring to reforms launched by his six-month-old government to revamp the debt-ridden economy.
Pakistan, caught in an economic straitjacket, confined its golden jubilee events to fireworks, speeches and rallies, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of crowds who took to the streets of Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi overnight. The Pakistani celebrations took place a day before those of India whose largely Hindu population won independence from British rule on August 15, 1947.
In New Delhi lawmakers and other dignitaries gathered for a nationally televised re-enactment of the historic sitting of India's constituent assembly that night in 1947. The audience heard a recording of the "tryst with destiny" speech delivered moments before midnight by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru,, "A moment comes which comes but rarely in history, when we step out of from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance," Nehru said.
In the same parliament hall where Nehru spoke, President Shri K. R. Narayanan immediately after midnight delivered an address to the nation. President Narayanan called for a new partnership between the government and the people to the fight against corruption, communalism, casteism and criminalisation of politics and life in the country. "A social movement or a widespread national movement is needed to cleanse the system. Such a social movement need not be merely negative but for positive purposes.", he said
President Narayanan also said that "the Cold War is fortunately over today partly due to the refusal of India and other non-aligned nations to join up with one or the other bloc" Narayanan, is India's first low-caste president.
Thousands rally for Korea reunification
About 2,000 North Koreans turned out for a government-sponsored rally in the demilitarized zone Thursday, calling for reunification with South Korea. The rally was on the eve of the 52th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese occupation.
The 8th Pan-National Rally held at Panmunjom, a symbol of the country's division, were part of the efforts for peace and reunification of Korea through solidarity of the fellow countrymen in the north, south and overseas. Reunification rallies been held around August 15 every year since 1990 emphasing a 10-Point Reunification Programme put forward by President Kim Il Sung.
Meanwhile in South Korea some 60 students affiliated with the South Korean Federation of University Student Councils (Hanchongryon) started a sit-in at Jogye Buddhist Temple in Seoul on Monday evening, demanding the authorities permit the holding of the Pan-National Rally (PNR) on August 15 .The sit-in at the Jogye Temple is part of activities according to "10-Point guideline for concentrating efforts on national reunification", which Hanchongryon gave out to university student councils on the occasion of August 15.
In Seoul, South Korean President Kim Young-sam in a speech marking the same anniversary said the liberation of the peninsula in 1945 was only partial given that Korea was divided by the victors of World War Two into the communist North and capitalist South. He said although there had been setbacks, relations between the two Koreas were ``clearly making progress,'' which he hoped would lead to reunification of the peninsula.
``The time has come when the South and the North should clearly perceive the true meaning of peace and work to realise it. Peace, above all, means the renunciation of arms,'' he said. `
Cassini Rocket springs leaks
A giant U.S. Air Force rocket that was to launch NASA's multibillion-dollar Cassini probe toward Saturn began leaking during a launch pad test this week, NASA officials said on Aug 7
The 20-story Titan 4B rocket, which was to launch the $3.4 billion mission on Oct. 6, leaked supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen during a fuelling test on Tuesday, space agency spokesman Bruce Buckingham said. Engineers were trying to determine the cause of the leaks and a fresh fuelling test was to be performed to check for further problems. Project officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California were hopeful the international project would launch on time despite the rocket's problems
The Titan 4B, the most powerful unmanned U.S. rocket, is set to launch the mission from Cape Canaveral during a narrow launch window that runs from Oct. 6 to Nov. 4 so the probe could arrive at Saturn in July 2004.
The Cassini mission has generated controversy because of its nuclear power source. Carrying 72.3 pounds of plutonium, the most deadly substance known to man, Cassini will return from Venus in August 1999, hurtle towards Earth at 30,000 miles an hour and do a complicated "slingshot" maneuver around the Earth so it can be slung back out into space to explore Saturn. According to NASA's own estimates, if Cassini's course is miscalculated by a software glitch and it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere as other missions have, a gigantic plutonium shower would expose almost every human on earth to potentially lethal plutonium particles.
Nuclear physicians say that only a single inhaled particle of plutonium can cause lung cancer and other ill effects. NASA says the chances of a radioactive release are one in 900.
Meanwhile in Geneva the Group of 21 non-aligned countries reiterated a proposal for the establishment of a negotiating committee on nuclear disarmament within the Conference on Disarmament. Speaking on behalf of the Group, Ejoh Abuah, representative of Nigeria, said they placed the highest priority on the issue of nuclear disarmament. The Group of 21 regretted that its 5 June proposals for an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament had been rejected out of hand as inappropriate by certain delegations, he added. Mr Abuah specifically called for the re-establishment of the committee on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
Canada to shut nuclear reactors
Canada will shut down seven nuclear reactors after a stinging report that found "deep and wide" problems with its energy program it was announced on Aug. 14. John Earl, spokesman for Ontario Hydro, says the units will be closed until at least 2000, when "we could start looking at the business case for bringing the units back into the system."
"It was at our prodding-this is something that we have been raising yellow flags about for several years now," said Bob Potvin, supervisor of public affairs for Canada's nuclear regulatory agency, the Atomic Energy Control Board in Ottawa. From the mid-1990s onward, Potvin said, the Atomic Energy Control Board started noticing "a trend towards unsatisfactory performance," specifically an increased number of incidents of not complying with procedures, of human errors, of work not being planned and supervised properly, and of inadequate verification of the work.
"There was a lack of what is called in the industry, 'safety culture,' meaning attention to detail and quality of work," Potvin says. "They basically did not have in place a good management program to ensure continued safe operation of the reactors." Although "we consider the operations of the reactors to be safe at the present time," Potvin says, "within a few years, Ontario Hydro would have had to make significant upgrades in several of their plants to continue to meet regulatory licensing requirements."
The problems, Potvin emphasized, "are not with the technology, but with the people." Ontario Hydro is Canada's largest nuclear utility, until recently operating 20 of the country's 22 nuclear power reactors. U.S. consultant Carl Andognini, who prepared the report, said the nuclear reactors, built in the 1970s and 1980s, were designed and built well, but Hydro failed to operate and maintain them effectively.
Pentagon refuses to ban Land Mines
By David Perez, Workers World Service:
U.S.-made land mines caused more U.S. casualties during the Vietnam War than any other weapon. This is the shocking conclusion of a new report issued by Human Rights Watch and Vietnam Veterans of America. The groups, both of which are friendly to the U.S. government, based the report on an analysis of 15 volumes of Army documents.
Sixty-four thousand U.S. troops were killed or injured by land mines in Vietnam. The group didn't say how many Vietnamese suffered the same fate. That number is surely much larger. In the Korean War, according to the report, more U.S. soldiers were killed by U.S. mines than by north Korean armaments.
None of these facts matters, though, to the war makers at the Pentagon. The brass and the Clinton administration still refuse to sign an international ban on land mines. In June, 150 countries met in Brussels, Belgium, for a conference sponsored by the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines and the Belgian government. At the end, 97 countries pledged to sign a binding treaty to ban land mines.
The United States was not one of them, even though it is responsible for planting the majority of the estimated 120 million land mines scattered in 68 countries. If U.S. personnel weren't directly involved in laying these mines, imperialist-supported proxy forces were--such as in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Angola. And if U.S. rank-and-file troops, most of them from working-class and oppressed backgrounds, are blown to smithereens or permanently disabled in the process, as in Southeast Asia, well, that's just the "price of war."
The tens of thousands of Gulf War veterans exposed to depleted uranium and other deadly toxins represent just a continuation of this policy, brought to the world courtesy of the U.S. military-industrial complex--the same entity Clinton and Congress just handed billions more dollars in 1997.
African leaders to meet in Libya
Chad President Idriss Deby, Niger President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara and Mali President Alpha Omar Konare will hold a summit Friday in Tripoli at the request of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Libyan television said on August 14,.
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who began a state visit to Libya Wednesday, is also expected to take part in the meeting scheduled to begin Friday, the television said.
The leaders will "review the situation of Africa in general and the regional situation" and "tackle American chicanery against Libya and the countries of the region," an official in Niger's delegation said earlier. Libya, considered a "rogue state" by Washington, has been under an air embargo since 1992.
Late news : Sahara summit call to redraw map of Africa