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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sounds of War

The Un-American Soul Man
By Sean Coughlan for BBC News Magazine

Paul Robeson went from international stardom to obscurityA memorial is being unveiled in London to singer Paul Robeson, blacklisted as "un-American" in the 1950s.

Robeson was one of the world's first musical superstars, his rich, bass voice booming out of wireless sets from Detroit to Dover. In the face of raw racial prejudice, he became a famous athlete, lawyer, Shakespearean actor, movie star and singer - and with success at every turn, he could have basked in well-heeled celebrity status.

But within a decade, Robeson's left-wing politics had almost erased him from public view in his own country - driven off the airwaves, blocked from performing and barred by record companies. It was also a path that led him into a grinding battle with the American authorities suspicious of his sympathies for the Soviet Union.

When challenged by the Un-American Activities Committee with the blunt question: "Why do you not stay in Russia?" Robeson answered: "Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you."

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Iran's growing regional influence
By John Simpson for BBC News, Iran

America and Israel are worried about Mahmoud AhmadinejadFor almost 30 years, the West has concentrated on the religious, fundamentalist aspect of Iran's Islamic Republic.

Now, thanks to several different factors, Iran has suddenly reached a new level of power and influence.

The sky-rocketing price of oil has put a lot of money into it's pocket.

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein by the US has swept Iran's local rival off the chessboard, and free elections in Iraq have brought the Shia majority to power.

Iraq, weakened by the immense violence which has followed Saddam's overthrow, now regards Shia Iran as the dominant partner in the relationship.

Finally, after eight years of ineffectual government by the moderate reformist President Mohammed Khatami, Iran suddenly has a loud, idiosyncratic, fundamentalist president who wants to establish Iran's independence further by turning Iran into a nuclear power.

The US and Israel are seriously worried.

<< Read about the War In Iraq

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Pope says he was 'misunderstood'
BBC News

Pope Benedict says his comments were misunderstoodPope Benedict XVI has told pilgrims at the Vatican his remarks on Islam that angered Muslims around the world had been misunderstood.

He expressed his "deep respect" for Islam during his weekly audience.

"I included a quotation on the relationship between the religion and violence. This quotation unfortunately was misunderstood. In no way did I wish to make my own the words of some medieval emperor," he told thousands of faithful.

This is the third time the Pope, who last month made a plea of clemency for three Indonesian Christian militants sentenced to death for attacks on Muslims in 2000, has apologised for the effect of his words at a public lecture in Germany last week. It remains to be seen whether his words are going to be accepted by his Muslim critics.

The Pope has faced calls from Muslims for an unequivocal apology, but has so far only said he regrets the offence his words caused.

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Movie imagines world gone wrong
By Caroline Briggs, Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Clive Owen plays reluctant anti-hero Theo in Children of MenClive Owen stars in Children of Men, a chilling tale of an apocalyptic world in which women can no longer have babies.

The year is 2027 and a litter-strewn London is under siege from terrorists, illegal immigrants and rising civil unrest.

Owen, whose previous films include Closer and Sin City, says the film works by turning today's issues of mass immigration, terrorism, the environment and infertility into reality.

Director Cuaron said that while the film was futuristic, he deliberately planted the images firmly in 2006.

"Very early on when we were preparing the film, I went to the art department and got photographs from Iraq, Palestine, from Bosnia, from Somalia, from Northern Ireland and said, 'This is the film we are doing.'"

Pictures courtesy of BBC News online.

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