The Islamic extremist movement handed over 10 women and two men to tribal elders in three separate releases several hours apart outside the central town of Ghazni.

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VIDEO: Hostages freed

The aid workers were then driven to safety in Red Cross vehicles.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that 12 hostages had been released and taken to the Red Crescent Society offices in Ghazni, south of Kabul.

ICRC representative Greg Muller said they looked in good shape.

The freed hostages were among 23 Christian aid workers kidnapped by Taliban militants on July 19.

Two male captives were executed by their captors and two female hostages were freed earlier this month.

The South Korean embassy in Kabul said the freed hostages were likely to be flown to the US military base at Bagram, north of Kabul, before leaving Afghanistan "as soon as possible."

'Diplomatic achievement'

The releases came a day after the Taliban announced it would free all the hostages in the wake of South Korea's pledge to withdraw its military force from Afghanistan and ban missionary groups from the country.

The agreement came in face-to-face talks between Taliban negotiators and South Korean diplomats in Ghazni.

The Taliban said the remaining hostages would likely be freed today.

The United States welcomed the release, but refrained comment on whether the agreement for their freedom set a dangerous precedent.

Amid speculation over whether a ransom was paid, both the Taliban and the South Korean government denied there was any secret deal.

The hostage-takers said it would take several days to free all the captives as they were in different areas.

News of the deal triggered tears of relief from their relatives who have been watching and praying for their lives since they were seized on a bus travelling from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar.

Troops withdrawal

The South Korean government promised to pull out its 200 troops in medical and engineering units from Afghanistan by the end of the year — something it was already planning to do.

The government has also imposed a ban on all unauthorised travel to the war-torn nation.

The Taliban killed the two hostages to press their demand for the release of jailed fighters, but the Afghan government rejected any such swap.

Presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-Seon said in Seoul said the insurgents apparently accepted assurances by Seoul that it was powerless to influence the Kabul government to release prisoners.

The kidnappings are among a series of incidents blamed on the Taliban, who are waging a bloody insurgency against the Kabul government and its coalitionallies that has spiralled in intensity over the past year.

A German engineer is still being held in Afghanistan.

Read More →

MPs and senators are departing Canberra after what many expect to be the last sitting day of parliament.

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Pundits are tipping Prime Minister John Howard will call the federal poll before parliament returns on October 15.

Ugly display

But if it was to be their last hurrah, MPs did little to cover themselves in glory as accusations and insults were traded across the chamber after Labor accused the government of hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

Question time was suspended and insults were thrown across the House of Representatives for more than an hour as the government denied mounting a smear campaign against Labor MPs.

Deputy Labor Leader Julia Gillard admitted the display wasn't "good for politics".

But she expects things may only get worse.

"We've said for months this will be a very dirty campaign," she told ABC television last night.

"All this government has left now is the politics of fear, they are going to be out there every day saying 'be very scared of change, be very scared of Labor'.

"They've got the politics of personal attack. What they don't have is they don't have any plans for the future."

Ms Gillard revived claims that staff were working out of Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's office monitoring what Labor was saying and doing.

"We know that there are staff attached to Philip Ruddock's office who appear to be running monitoring of media and perhaps more beyond," she said.

Mr Ruddock has previously denied claims that a "dirt unit" was operating out of his Sydney office.

Coalition gains ground

Another opinion poll shows a further improvement for the coalition in regional areas, Queensland and among older voters.

Today's Newspoll in The Australian newspaper shows the opposition falling by two points in Queensland to 52 percent on a two-party preferred vote, compared to the Government on 48 percent.

In Western Australia, the coalition's edged ahead by one point, securing 51 per cent of the vote after preferences.

Labor has dropped one point in South Australia, but remains well ahead on 55 per cent.

In New South Wales, the coalition is up three percent, but still trails on just 42 per cent of the vote after preferences.

Newspoll shows the two-party-preferred vote in non-capital cities has improved for the government, rising from 44 to 48 percent.Read More →

An Australian umpire caught up in the deadly ambush on the Sri Lankan cricket team said he felt let down by Pakistan\’s security arrangements for the tour.

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Steve Davis, who arrived at Melbourne Airport on Thursday morning en route to his home in Adelaide, appeared calm but still shaken by his ordeal where gunmen killed six Pakistani police officers and two civilians.

Davis was in a vehicle convoy transporting the Sri Lankan team to the cricket ground in the Pakistan city of Lahore when gunmen opened fire on Tuesday.

He described how he slumped to the floor as he heard gunfire and then saw the windows being shot in and glass shattering around them.

The driver of their bus was shot dead and two others inside were seriously wounded.

He recalled feeling helpless as the security for the van – which was behind the Sri Lankan team bus – appeared to have abandoned them during the shooting.

\’Vulnerable position\’

“We were certainly left without any security in our van when we were being fired upon,” he said.

“The security obviously went with the Sri Lankan bus when they managed to get away. We were left there and no one came back for us.”

His van remained at the scene for about eight minutes until a police officer arrived and drove the bus to safety in the stadium, he said.

“There\’s a bit of anger there that we were let down. We had all sorts of assurances before and I am sure the team feels that way too.

“Despite all that, this was still able to happen and we were put in a very vulnerable position, and felt very helpless.”

Grenade thrown at bus

He also described the surreal scene where a grenade was thrown under the Sri Lankan team bus which failed to explode and a rocket was launched, just missing the bus.

“They were obviously trying to immobilise the Sri Lankan bus and they missed the driver when they tried to shoot him and he had the sense to seize the opportunity to get the bus out of there,” he said.

“But we were still there and we were fired upon.

“I couldn\’t fathom this was happening to a group of umpires who were here to umpire cricket.

“We didn\’t have much time to think about anything else other than just fearing for our lives.”

\’Too early\’ to lay blame

Mr Davis said it was too early to lay blame anywhere, but said questions needed to be asked about the security arrangements.

“I don\’t know who was responsible for it,” he said.

“I don\’t like to make wild accusations. I know that we were let down. Someone needs to find out … a lot of questions (need) to be asked.”

He said Tuesday\’s attack on the cricketers had changed the game, but said it was too early for him to say whether it would stop him from travelling to other areas to umpire cricket.

“I was naive to think cricket was above all that,” he said.

“Why should we be any different to any other innocent victims that get caught up in terrorism?”

Read More →

France defeated the All Blacks 20-18 in Cardiff while England's forwards, as well as the trusty boot of Jonny Wilkinson, over-powered the Wallabies 12-10 in Marseille.

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For New Zealand, who were 13-3 ahead at the break at the Millennium Stadium, defeat was as devastating as their 43-31 loss to France in the 1999 semi-final at Twickenham.

Early departures

It was also the first time in the World Cup's 20-year history that New Zealand had failed to reach the semi-finals.

In Marseille, Jonny Wilkinson and defending champions England again proved Australia's nemesis in a tense 12-10 win at the Stade Velodrome.

England, who downed the Wallabies in the 2003 final in extra-time and the 1995 quarter-final both with drop goals, came from 10-6 down at halftime.

Aust under pressure

England, with Wilkinson setting a new World Cup points-scoring career record of 234, had the Australians under relentless pressure with their forwards preventing the Wallabies from gaining any momentum.

Wilkinson again kicked England to victory as he did in Sydney four years ago with his extra-time drop goal, this time landing four penalties from seven attempts with the Wallabies coming up with the only try through winger Lote Tuqiri.

"I thought we were the better side, but it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard and it became a bit of a nail-biter in the last 10 minutes.

“I'm just so pleased for this group of players," England coach Brian Ashton says.

‘Guts’ aided to victory

Skipper Phil Vickery said self-belief and 'good old-fashioned' guts got England home.

"There were lots of things that went into today's win, but ultimately we showed what England can do and good old-fashioned guts," he says.

"We came out prepared to put ourselves into positions where it was going to hurt and we had to push ourselves to levels which we haven't got to for a sustained period in previous games."

‘Unfounded criticism’

"You write us off at your peril. We had a huge amount of criticism, some of that criticism was justified but a majority of it wasn't."

Wilkinson says: "The energy and sheer desire to get on the loose ball and then get off the floor and get back in the game saved us.

“Everyone was great at getting back into the line."

Sad farewell for key players

For Australia, it was a bitter international farewell for record-capped scrum-half George Gregan, in his 139th Test match, and also for his long-time team-mate 102-capped Stephen Larkham, who missed the match with a knee injury.

"It was our worst performance," says coach John Connolly who also coached his last game for the Wallabies.

"England controlled the breakdown very strongly and from that we never got any momentum. Our game never got off the ground."Read More →

Police have confirmed that prescription medication was found in the apartment where Australian actor Heath Ledger's body was found today and said signs pointed to either an accidental overdose or suicide.

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The 28-year-old actor, who rocketed to fame in his role as a gay cowboy in the Oscar-winning movie “Brokeback Mountain,” was found dead, naked in bed, in a New York residence in the posh district of Soho at 3:26 pm (2036 GMT) on Tuesday.

The cause of his death could not be confirmed. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

“There were prescription pills found around the body,” Lieutenant John Grimpel, of the New York Police Department, said.

“I believe they were sleeping pills.”

He confirmed the pills were in Ledger's name.

Police earlier said there was no obvious indication of suicide.

The actor's family has denied he killed himself, the TMZ.com website reported. The site also said he was sick with pneumonia when he died.

In an interview with the New York Times in November, Ledger said he had been taking Ambien sleeping pills.

Lt Grimpel said he had no evidence at this stage to support reports that Ledger had been suffering from pneumonia.

“I just heard about that now,” he said.

“I have no idea about pneumonia.”

Masseuse discovered Ledger

Lt Grimpel said it was believed the housekeeper had been in the apartment from at least midday. Police were alerted at about 3.30pm.

It was not until a masseuse arrived at the apartment to give Ledger a scheduled massage that it was discovered Ledger was unconscious.

“Apparently he had a massage appointment,” Lt Grimpel said.

“The housekeeper went to get him and that's when the housekeeper found him unconscious.

“When she went to wake him up for his appointment, he was unresponsive.”

Lt Grimpel said he was unsure whether the housekeeper resided at the three-bedroom loft apartment or only worked there during the day.

“I don't know if she lives there or stays there, but she was in there from at least noon onwards,” Lt Grimpel said.

When the police and ambulance officers arrived, Ledger could not be revived.

“The police department responded to his apartment at 3.30pm this afternoon,” Lt Grimpel said.

“They found a white male unconscious in his bedroom.

“He was pronounced DOA (dead on arrival) at the scene by EMS (ambulance officers) and he was removed to the Medical Examiners Office.

“The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy and will determine the cause of death. He'll probably do that sometime tomorrow.”

Ledger told the New York Times he was taking sleeping pills after completing I'm Not There, in which he played one of the many incarnations of singer Bob Dylan.

“Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,” Ledger told the NY Times.

“I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”

He said he took two Ambien pills, which only worked for an hour, the paper said.Read More →

Were you annoyed by anti-World Youth Day T-shirts this week? Gearing up for the Tour de France? Or simply excited about Nicole Kidman's first child with Keith Urban? Check out the top stories on SBS World News Australia Online this week.

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World Youth Day has been splattered across the front pages of most news outlets this week, including this one.

However the coverage has been far from favourable for the Catholic Church and WYD organisers. Earlier this week the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, claimed he didn't deliberately mislead a victim of sexual assault, after allegations emerged he erroneously dismissed a complaint made against a Catholic Priest.

In a statement, the leading Catholic cleric said he had sent a letter to the victim, Anthony Jones, that was “badly worded and a mistake” and any fault in the drafting of the letter was his.

Cardinal Pell admitted he made an 'innocent error' but refused any suggestions that he should stand down as head of the Catholic Church in Australia.

But it was the 'anti-annoyance' laws for WYD that got the most clicks from SBS Online viewers, with a story on the Top 10 anti WYD T-shirt slogans among the top 10 most viewed articles.

We can't list them all here, but among our favourites are:

– “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who wear t-shirts that cause annoyance or inconvenience…”

– World Youth Day: You can cross yourself, but not the city

The 'annoying' NoToPope Coalition held a fashion parade in Sydney. While it was far from fashion, the 'models' paraded outside State Parliament with more colourful anti-Pope slogans.

VIDEO: WYD protest hits Sydney

IN-DEPTH: World Youth Day

With surging petrol prices hitting our back pocket (and making the blood boil in the case some motorists) the CSIRO reckons Australians could end up paying $8 a litre by 2018.

In a study entitled Fuel for Thought, the organisation says increased demand for petrol and dwindling supplies could see Australians paying an extra $220 a week to run their cars.

Find out more about the food and fuel crisis.

And climate change was a hot topic at the G8 Summit where world leaders agreed to cut carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050.

But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the commitment on fighting climate change was not strong enough.

“The challenge will be great and there is no great breakthrough at this particular meeting,” Rudd said

The issue of child pornography also made it back into the top headlines this week, with child protection activists again calling for clearer laws to stop naked images of children being presented as art, after a photo of a six-year-old girl appeared on the cover of an art magazine.

Have your say: Nude child photos: art or exploitation?

Entertainment and sport also topped the news agenda this week, with Hollywood glamour girl Nicole Kidman announcing the birth of her first child with hubby Keith Urban.

The baby girl was born in Nashville Tennesee on Monday morning, and has been affectionately named Sunday Rose Kidman Urban.

Kidman, who turned 41 in June has two adopted children, Isabella, 15, and Connor, 13, with former husband, Tom Cruise.

We've also donned the black and gold here at SBS with the Tour de France season. We're providing round the clock coverage of the world's most famous cycling extravaganza here.

Highlights: Tour de France

And we round off the week with a couple of stories from the lighter side of life.

Straight from the category 'Only in America' comes the story of a Florida shopper getting more bang for his buck after being bitten by a deadly rattlesnake in the local Walmart store.

The 30cm-long snake was hiding among leaves in the store's gardening section, when it took a bite out of the man's arm.

Click here for more off beat stories

While we all know rugby is one of New Zealand's favourite passtimes, fans of the country's Toyota Grassroots rugby program got the shock of their lives this week.

Human error saw the station accidentally mix signals and transmit four minutes of porn from Sky TV's pay-per-view 'Spice' channel. Prime Television spokesman Tony O'Brien said technicians established there was a mix-up in the distribution process and that the network apologised for any offence caused, Newstalk ZB reported.

What makes me think most rugby fans wouldn't have minded so much?Read More →

Newcastle moved to the brink of progression in the Asian Champions League with a spectacular, come-from-behind 2-1 win over an under-strength Beijing Guoan.

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The Jets looked to be heading out of the competition after Beijing\’s Australian striker Ryan Griffiths, a former Newcastle NSL player, scored against the run of play in the 69th minute at Energy Australia Stadium.

But the Jets produced an amazing late show with veteran striker Sasho Petrovski equalising in the 88th minute and unknown 20-year-old substitute Sean Rooney hitting the winner four minutes into injury time to put the Jets on track to qualify for the knockout stages.

“There\’s good character in this team and they\’ve pretty much got a never-die attitude,” Jets coach Gary van Egmond.

“I didn\’t think it was over … to come back and to win the game is just a testament to the players\’ resolve.”

The Jets are now second in Group E and only need to draw their final group match against Ulsan Hyundai in South Korea to reach the last 16.

Even if they lose they could still progress if Beijing lose at home to the already-qualified Nagoya Grampus of Japan.

Newcastle will be without Adam Griffiths in Korea after he picked up a yellow card but they will welcome back suspended Ben Kantarovski.

“We\’ll go there with a lot of confidence taken out of a game like this and we\’re very much looking forward to it,” van Egmond said.

The Jets had dominated until Griffiths, the younger brother of Newcastle brothers Adam and Joel, turned the game.

He was released into space by substitute Yang Yun and got between Jets defenders Ljubo Milicevic and Tarek Elrich before calmly slotting the ball past Ben Kennedy.

But the Jets refused to give in and Petrovski pounced on a lovely Elrich cross to fire home from a tight angle.

Newcastle didn\’t take their foot off the pedal either, with Rooney – who was picked up by the Jets from Sydney FC\’s youth team for the ACL – collected a knock-on from Milicevic and fired in a stunning, curling shot from outside the box to send the small but vocal crowd into raptures.

Beijing had kicked off without six players that started in their 0-0 Chinese Super League draw with Shanghai Shenhua on Friday as they battled a heavy fixtures schedule between competitions.

Their Korean coach Lee Jang Soo admitted it had taken its toll.

“The result is disappointing but I\’m satisfied with the players, they gave their best,” he said.

“Because of the high intensity of games in the ACL and Chinese Super League our players are tired.”

The Jets now sit on seven points in Group E, four behind Nagoya, who secured progression by thrashing Ulsan 4-1 at home.

Read More →

REPORTER: Matthew Carney

Israel`s recent attacks on the West Bank flew in the face of international opinion.

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And while the world repeatedly called for Israel to withdraw Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was manoeuvring behind the scenes to make sure the campaign continued. Sharon effectively sidelined his major coalition partner, the Labour Party. They objected to the reoccupation of the West Bank. To make sure the military campaign would be finished to his satisfaction, Sharon brought in this man, Effie Eitam. Eitam is a hardline reservist general and the rising star of the far right in Israel. He wants to see the Palestinian Authority, the PA, destroyed and that`s almost complete.

EFFIE EITAM: The PA is not an innocent civilian authority, we must say that also very clear. It`s the greatest terror consortium in the world.

For the moment Effie Eitam is content with the military`s progress. Eitam was never a supporter of the Oslo peace process. And he now wants to move on to the next phase of his plan – expelling the Palestinian leadership.

EFFIE EITAM: We will have to take this leadership out of the area. Until they are here, until Arafat is here, no chance for any new leadership to come up. So this is the first thing that we`ve got to do, to get rid of him.

REPORTER: So, where do you take him, you just take him out of the country, or…?

EFFIE EITAM: Yes, that is what we have got to do, to take him out of the country, and to make sure that the international community will understand that he`s not a partner any more.

Effie Eitam`s appointment as a minister met with outrage by Labour members and opposition parties. His sudden rise to power meant Labour had just lost their influence and Sharon had moved his Government further to the right. Effie Eitam`s national religious party holding only five seats was now in Sharon`s unity Government and Eitam himself was given a place in Sharon`s inner circle – the security Cabinet. Labour leader and defence minister Ben Eliezer and Labour`s stalwart and Foreign Affairs Minister Shimon Peres effectively lost their power in the Cabinet.

OPHIR PINES-PAZ, LABOUR PARTY: We thought that it was a great mistake of Mr Sharon. Number one, Mr Eitam just entered politics, he had never been a member of the Knesset, he was never elected, he don`t have that kind of experience, he just came out of the army.

As an army man, Israelis have lionised Effie Eitam for his role in freeing these Israeli hostages from Entebbe in Uganda in 1976 and his service in Lebanon in 1982. But his opponents say he went too far in the first Intifada of 1987. Eitam was charged with giving illegal orders to his soldiers to break the bones of Palestinian protesters. Four soldiers were convicted of assault, but Eitam was cleared of any offence.

MOSSI RAZ, MERETZ PARTY: He is not clean. When you talk about somebody who they act in a violent way against civilians, I don`t think that he should be part in our Cabinet.

EFFIE EITAM: No base for these allegations because I mean you can see my record, I seen the first Intifada, I was promoted four times, I became a general in the ADF, they brought it to court, three or four times in court, including the Supreme Court of Justice – just roll them out of the hole, telling them you are coming without clean hands it is all political manipulation.

When the tanks rolled into the West Bank, Eitam was happy. His vision was becoming a reality. Eitam does not believe in a Palestinian state and plans to reoccupy all of the West Bank and Gaza. When all Palestinian militants have been rooted out he`s prepared to offer the Palestinians some autonomy but not democratic rights. But this is only the first stage of Eitam`s grand plan for the Palestinians.

EFFIE EITAM: We saw what happened, 3,000 rifles became an illegal army of terror and we cannot allow them to vote to our Parliament, because that will undermine the Jewish majority in Israel and the Jewish majority is a precondition for what we believe should be a Jewish state.

What has shocked moderate Israeli politicians is Eitam`s support for transfer. The euphemism for removing Palestinians from their homelands in the West Bank and Gaza and relocating them to Jordan or Egypt. He outlined his views to a leading Israeli university: “The Israeli defence force can tomorrow conquer Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and expel the population there overnight. It`s not a problem to do this. We have a problem of having the will to do this. As a nation, we are inhibited.” Now he is a minister, Eitam says he rejects the idea of transfer as morally repugnant. History tells him that`s precisely what the Nazis did to the Jews, but he still believes the Palestinians have to go.

EFFIE EITAM: Solving the problem is to offer the Palestinians a state which will be combined out of Gaza and Sinai Desert. Sinai is the only significant reservoir of land we have in this region. Egypt doesn`t need it – not for settlement, not for defence, only a few buildings from in there and it is a very huge area, four times bigger than Israel with all the occupied territories. So this must be a kind of cooperation between Israel, Egyptians and the international community and I don`t see any reason why in Hell the Egyptians were enjoying such a massive Western support in money and military aid. Why don`t they offer, or why shouldn`t they offer Sinai as a piece of land which is so empty and really can allow to solve the problem peacefully.

OPHIR PINES-PAZ: His ideology, his ideas – we resent them, we are against them, we oppose them. We don`t like them and we cannot, from my point of view, participate in any Government that he is part of.

In protest at Eitam`s sudden rise to power and his extremist views, Labour says it will leave the Sharon Government.

REPORTER: So when will you leave the Government?

OPHIR PINES-PAZ: I hope as soon as possible. I hope as soon as possible.

REPORTER: When does that mean do you think?

OPHIR PINES-PAZ: I have no idea. I have no idea. I hope that, I mean, we have reasons to leave, daily reasons to leave. The question is when our leaders mainly Shimon Peres and Ben Eliezer will get to the point that they must leave.

EFFIE EITAM: No, they will not come out of unity Government because me and my party came into the Government. That`s rubbish. You know, it`s an area which psychiatrists must really explore. You know, I`m not that good in exploration of hatred, especially not hatred amongst brothers, amongst Jews.

Effie Eitam backs Israel`s Messianic Zionists. They are a minority driven by a biblical vision. They believe the Messiah will only return when every inch of the West Bank, a land they call Judea and Samaria, has been settled by the Jews. Central to their belief is the Jews` first temple needs to be rebuilt on the Temple Mount. This means destroying the al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam`s third holiest site.

DANIEL BEN SIMON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And he is bringing God with him into politics. And I would say that this is not what the Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs need today – the strong involvement of God. This is a political conflict on politics and mainly on an issue of land and I think that the introduction of religion and God into this conflict is counterproductive and Effie Eitam represents this divine side of bringing religion into politics, I think it is very, very dangerous.

In the face of an unprecedented number of Palestinian suicide bombers, many Israelis are turning to Eitam, a strong man for challenging times. The majority see his ideas as extreme, but he is gaining popularity. 46% of people recently polled supported the idea of transfer.

DANIEL BEN SIMON: Israelis are so disappointed by conventional politics that they are looking for different solutions and then comes somebody who represents himself as a strong believer in God and somebody who will, who will really enhance the coming of the Messiah, many Israelis today are ready to consider very strange ideas even such ideas like the Messiah. So I would say he comes in a very low point in Israeli politics and in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. And within this framework of death and despair, such people can have a lot of support.

The appointment of Effie Eitam means extremism is winning in Israel as it is on the Palestinian sides. If Labour walks out of the unity government it will take any hope of a negotiated political settlement with it. And Eitam`s opponents fear Israel will only see more death and destruction.

OPHIR PINES-PAZ: Because it won`t do anything right now, politically, I`m talking about politically, the terror will rise again in a week time, or two weeks time or three weeks time. It`s a matter of time. So we have to be in that sense wise and try to prevent it by political means.

MOSSI RAZ: I would say that I am optimistic about the long run but pessimistic about the short term. But don`t think anybody knows what is going to happen.

Read More →

Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men, has given more than a million dollars to expand computer and Internet services in NT indigenous communities.

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The Microsoft founder donated $1.25 million to the NT Library as recognition for the 'Our Story' database, which enables Aboriginal people to preserve and share their culture.

The award aims to help Aboriginal communities increase their technology and literacy skills while helping local people preserve and share their cultural heritage.

"It does this by training staff in communities to help archive digital recordings, photographs, film, stories and song in local languages, using library computers," said NT Minister for Local Government Elliot McAdam.

Mr McAdam said the NTL had used an innovative approach bringing computer and internet technology to remote communities.

"This award is one of the highest accolades for libraries across the world and the staff of Northern Territory Library should be very proud that their hard work has been recognised on a global scale," he said.

NTL director Jo McGill accepted the award in Durban, South Africa, during the 2007 International Federation of Library Association's General Conference.

"Being recognised for the work libraries are doing in remote communities is a fantastic accomplishment for us," Ms McGill said.

She said community libraries were helping to address the social and economic disadvantage faced by indigenous communities by connecting people to information.

Ms McGill said Aboriginal people had an oral tradition of sharing knowledge and culture.

"Very little of this knowledge is captured in books. The Northern Territory Library recognised the need to capture this local content and made it accessible to the indigenous communities.

"We have seen people who, for the first time, are able to find photographs of family members and other information related to their family histories.

"This is extremely important, particularly for those who were forcibly removed from their families and communities and suffered a loss of cultural connection."

Read More →

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has hit back furiously after standing accused of trying to smear rival Barack Obama by circulating a photograph of him in traditional African dress.

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“Enough. If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed,” Clinton's campaign manager Maggie Williams said in a statement.

Obama's campaign had accused the Clinton camp of “fear-mongering” after the picture of Obama in an African robe and turban appeared on gossip website Drudge Report, which said it had been distributed among Clinton aides.

“Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely,” Williams said.

“This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry. We will not be distracted.”

Foreign policy address

The Obama camp's anger over the photograph threatened to overshadow what Clinton billed as a “major address” in Washington on foreign policy, a week before make-or-break primaries in Ohio and Texas.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe had issued a blistering statement accusing the Clinton campaign of underhand tactics over the picture of Obama, whose father was Kenyan, taken during a 2006 visit to Wajir, Kenya.

“On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election,” Plouffe said.

“This is… exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world,” he said.Read More →