Ingrid Betancourt
Monday, February 7, 2005, 03:00 - Reflections, The News
Imagine being held hostage for three years somewhere in the jungle of Colombia! Three years of hardly any contact with the outside world, of being watched all the time, of constant relocation.

It is the fate of the now 43 year old Colombian former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who was kidnapped in February 2002 by guerrilla organization FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Her impassioned calls for an end to political corruption and Colombia's vicious civil war had made her a popular public figure, but a dangerous instigator to many within her country's political machine.

Even in captivity she hasn't stopped protesting: she nearly died in the course of one of at least three hunger strikes while in captivity.

On Feb. 23, 2005, the anniversary of Betancourt's kidnapping, a book will come out titled "Searching for Ingrid", written by her husband Juan Carlos Lecompte.

The book delves into a dirty truth about Colombia: more than a thousand human beings are kidnapped here every year and bartered for ransom. But even a king's ransom cannot get Betancourt and some others out.

The rebels call them "exchangeables" and say they will be freed only in a swap for rebels held in Colombian prisons. Some of the exchangeables - including politicians, soldiers and police - have been captives for eight years.

"The Gates"
Saturday, January 29, 2005, 22:28 - The News
The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude are at it again. This time they are not wrapping something, but it still will be very impressive: a 37km long trail of orange gates throughout Central Park in New York.
The work of art will be completed on February 12, weather permitting, and will remain for only 16 days.

Making of the Gates.

Thank you Poland again
Tuesday, January 25, 2005, 06:42 - The News
Yes! Again thanks to Poland the software patents were removed from the agenda of today's meeting of Ministers of Fishery.

But the race is not won yet:
"it is still not unlikely that the directive could reappear on an unrelated Council meeting as an 'uncontroversial' A-item, i.e. scheduled for adoption without vote."

Thai elephants toilet trained
Sunday, January 23, 2005, 23:15 - Humor, The News

Diew, a five year-old Thai elephant, demonstrates how to use and flush a toilet at an elephant camp in Chiang Mai province, in northern Thailand. Having taught Thailand's elephants to paint, dance and play musical instruments, their Thai handlers are now toilet-training the beasts, media reported.

Source: AFP

Wife recovers from coma after husband's suicide
Sunday, January 23, 2005, 00:28 - The News
An Italian man committed suicide out of grief over his comatose wife. Several hours later the woman came out of the coma she had been in for four months after having had a stroke.

The man, 71, had visited his 67-year-old wife at least once a day. They had spent their whole lives together and had no children. He was very pessimistic about the chance of her recovery and finally took his own life in their garage. Some twelve hours later, the woman awoke and asked about her husband.

What a tragedy.

Software patents again
Saturday, January 22, 2005, 07:03 - The News
After the failed attempt in December, the European Commission tries again to sneak in the software patents directive. Thanks to Poland the decision was postponed last time. Now the EC added it again at the last moment to the agenda for the meeting on Monday of the Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries.

It is added again as a so-called 'A-item' that is normally not discussed or voted on, but accepted by acclamation. But there SHOULD be a discussion, as there are a lot of people that at least have doubts or are plainly against the patents.
Dutch minister Brinkhorst is in favor of the proposition, but the Parliament asked him to withold any further support. So far he has refused to comply.

Appearently there is a very big lobby active to get the patents directive approved. The big companies like to try to register a patent for everything they can think of. And then sit on the patents and/or sue anyone who might be violating it.
But small companies and individuals who come up with great pieces of software don't have the money to register patents or to buy licenses.

Obviously the big companies have a lot of cash to spend on persuading governments to accept the directive. I hope Poland or anyone else will put their foot down again to prevent this bad thing from getting accepted.

Something fishy going on at the fishery meeting?

Aid for tsunami victims
Monday, January 10, 2005, 00:08 - The News
Partly thanks to a large TV and radio action on Thursday, here in the Netherlands the amount of money donated by the public and raised through private initiatives has reached over 112 million euro (145 million dollar) which is about 9 dollar per capita.
The Dutch government had already donated 30 million euro (39 million dollar) for immediate aid and has reserved a couple of hundred million euro for rebuilding the areas in Asia and Africa that have suffered from the tsunami.

Nations all over the world have so far provided over 3 billion US dollars according to Wikipedia.
The European Commission will see to it that the EU countries will actually pay up the amounts of money that they have promised.

Why is so much money collected? Of course the enormous scope of the disaster and the sudden and direct cause play a role. But here in the Netherlands we've also had a rough time that started with the assassinations of Pim Fortuyn and recently Theo van Gogh. Those events have led to a hardening society and separation between natives and immigrants. Also the threats of terrorism fed the desire to do something positive together and it seems that raising funds has created some unity.
Hard as it may seem to those directly hurt this news is a diversion of all the negative news close at home. But money can't fix everything. A lot of labor is needed to rebuild completely destroyed villages. And a lot of time is needed to make the pain bearable of losing so many loved ones at once.
Long before that other news will have taken over the headlines in the West and this disaster will be almost forgotten.

And there are still other emergency situations elsewhere in the world, such as Congo and Sudan. The United Nations warns us that we should not forget that estimatedly 1000 people die per day in Congo. That's 365,000 deads per year.
Fighting in Darfur is escalating and the Sudanese region could face a new upsurge in violence despite efforts by the UN.

There is a lot of shit going on in this world!

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