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Friday, September 29, 2006

Lifting Veils

Life sentences for W Bank killer
BBC News

The court said Weisgan should be punished for each killingAn Israeli court has handed a Jewish settler four life sentence for killing four Palestinians in the West Bank last year during Israel's Gaza withdrawal.

Asher Weisgan snatched a gun and shot his victims - whom he knew personally was giving three of them a lift home from work - in cold blood.

He told investigators his intention had been to provoke Palestinian retaliation which would distract the Israeli army and would stop them from evicting settlers in Gaza.

Convictions for crimes by settlers in the West Bank are rare, according to Israeli human rights groups.

Weisgan has said he has no regrets about the shootings and claimed he carried them out as a "necessary defence" to prevent greater harm coming to the people of Israel.

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All you need is ubuntu
By Sean Coughlan for BBC News Magazine

Ubuntu. That was what Bill Clinton told the Labour party conference it needed to remember this week. "Society is important because of Ubuntu."

It's a word describing an African worldview, which translates as "I am because you are," and which means that individuals need other people to be fulfilled.

The word comes from the Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa - and is related to a Zulu concept - "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - which means that a person is only a person through their relationship to others.

And it's entered the political lexicon through the political changes in South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his book No Future Without Forgiveness, says: "Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language... It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.'"

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Branson unveils Virgin spaceship
BBC News

Sir Richard tested a passenger seat inside the mock-upSir Richard Branson has unveiled a mock-up of the rocket-powered vehicle that will carry clients into space through his Virgin Galactic business.

The Virgin "spaceships" are designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of about 140km on a sub-orbital space flight.

Tickets on a Virgin Galactic flight are expected to cost £100,000 ($190,000).

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Da Vinci's Mona Lisa was a new mother
By David Ljunggren for Reuters in Ottawa, Canada

A team of Canadian scientists have used special infrared and three-dimensional technology to peer through hitherto impenetrable paint layers on the Mona Lisa. The mysterious woman - identified as Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine merchant Francesco de Giocondo - immortalized in Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece, sits in the Louvre museum in Paris.

Bruno Mottin of the French Museums' Centre for Research and Restoration said that on very close examination of the painting it became clear that the Mona Lisa's dress was covered in a thin transparent gauze veil.

"This type of gauze dress ... was typical of the kind worn in early 16th century Italy by women who were pregnant or who had just given birth ... We can now say that this painting by Leonardo da Vinci was painted to commemorate the birth of the second son of the Mona Lisa, which helps us to date it more precisely to around 1503," he told a news conference.

The council had hoped to discover more details about Leonardo's "sfumato" technique of subtly blending one tone into another, which the artist used to create a hazy effect. But scientist John Taylor said the team had been frustrated by the lack of brush stroke detail on the painting.

"It's extremely thinly painted and extremely flat, and yet the details of the curls of hair, for example are extremely distinct. So the technique is unlike anything we've ever seen before. Leonardo was in a league of his own," he said.

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Confucians say, women now welcome
BBC News

Confucius had said women were hard to deal withFor the first time in more than 2,500 years the family tree of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is to include women descendants.

Kong Dehong, a descendant overseeing the updating of the family tree, said: "We have to move with the times. Men and women are equal now."

Traditional Confucian thinking gave women little status and required them to obey men in its strict hierarchy.

A million descendants may be added to the tree, about 200,000 of them women.

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Death ends the myth of Tokyo Rose
By Adam Blenford, BBC News

Iva Toguri's trial was one of the most expensive of its timeIva Toguri D'Aquino, widely known as Tokyo Rose, who has died in Chicago aged 90, remains the only US citizen convicted of treason and pardoned by her country.

When she was convicted by a court in San Francisco in 1949, few worried that the case against her rested almost entirely on the word of two US-born men who worked on a Japanese propaganda radio station during World War II.

According to Ronald Yates, a journalist who would later reveal that the trial witnesses lied under oath, by the time the case came to trial many in the US had been convinced of her guilt.

She was jailed for 10 years and fined $10,000, but was released after six years for good behaviour.

"There was a lot of racism in America in those days, racism against anybody," he told the BBC News website.

"She risked her life in Tokyo in the war, taking medicines and food to prisoners of war. She never wavered in her support for the US," he said.

"And that's the sad thing."

Pictures courtesy of BBC News online.

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