Three women receive Nobel Peace Prize

Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee, Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
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Three women who have fought against injustice, dictatorships and sexual violence in Liberia and Yemen have received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, the Norwegian capital.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, compatriot Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman of Yemen collected their diplomas and medals at Oslo’s city hall on Saturday.

Thorbjoern Jagland, the chairman of the Nobel peace prize committee, said that the three women represented the struggle for “human rights in general and of women for equality and peace in particular”…

“The leaders in Yemen and Syria who murder their people to retain their own power should take note of the following: mankind’s quest for freedom and human rights can never stop,” he said in comments before giving the prize to the three laureates…

“No dictator can in the long run find shelter from this wind of history. It was this wind which led people to crawl up onto the Berlin Wall and tear it down. It is the wind that is now blowing in the Arab world,” he said…

The three laureates, he said, represented each in their way “the most important motive forces for change in today’s world, the struggle for human rights in general and the struggle of women for equality and peace in particular.”

The speeches have it right. They sound through the world because of the strength, dedication and courage of these women.

How many people in our daily lives will not hear them, will not hear the voices of women speaking out for justice – because they are deaf to the sounds of change?

Inside look at first human trials of malaria vaccine

The first clinical trial for a vaccine against the most widespread strain of malaria, Plasmodium vivax, is now under way at the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research, near Washington DC. The BBC’s Jane O’Brien speaks with those heading the trial and individuals who are being bitten by infected mosquitoes to help further the research.

US army medic Joseph Civitello admits that becoming deliberately infected with malaria – one of the world’s deadliest diseases – is “definitely nuts”. But without such volunteers, it would be almost impossible to test a new vaccine aimed at protecting the military overseas and preventing some of the estimated 300 million cases of malaria that occur every year.

First Sgt Civitello is part of the world’s first clinical trial of a vaccine against Plasmodium vivax – the most widespread strain of malaria…

It was weird because I did this knowing I was going to get sick,” says Sgt Civitello. “Fortunately I’m in a hotel room with doctors and nurses nearby and not out in the woods somewhere.”

Unlike most of the other volunteers in this unique trial, Sgt Civitello wasn’t given the test vaccine.

He’s part of a small control group – a human yardstick – needed by doctors to confirm that all the study participants have been infected. And as predicted, about 10 days after being bitten by mosquitoes in a laboratory, he displayed all the symptoms of malaria…

Twenty-seven other volunteers in the study had been given varying doses of the vaccine for several months prior to infection…

Then, at the beginning of November, they were bitten by mosquitoes imported from Thailand and infected with Plasmodium vivax malaria…

He adds: “What we do here plays a critical, pivotal role in the fight against malaria. Without this model of challenging the human body with malaria, we would be unable to effectively develop and figure out whether a vaccine works or not…”

RTFA for the details, the methodology, the human story of the volunteers for this first trial.

Regardless of assurances, knowledge of the history of precedent testing, you never feel quite confident of the outcome especially when – as in this study – you’re assured you are part of the control group. The last human trial I volunteered for was a double blind; so, none of us knew who was part of the control and who was getting the vaccine for the disease under test.

Heroic labrador awarded Victoria Cross for animals

Like his colleagues who have been similarly honoured before him, the latest member of the British military to receive a medal may have woken this morning with a sense that today would not be a normal day.

Unlike other service personnel, the hero of the hour then lapped up water from a bowl on the floor and thrust his face into a dish of dog food.

The actions of Treo, a black labrador trained by the army as an arms and explosives search dog, are to be formally recognised when he is awarded “the animals’ Victoria Cross“.

The eight-year-old was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008, tasked with searching for weapons and munitions concealed by the Taliban.

On 15 August 2008, while working in the town of Sangin, he located a daisy chain IED – two or more explosives wired together to maximise casualties.

A month later, Treo found a second daisy chain, saving a platoon from injury. Recommending him for the award to PDSA [Peoples’ Dispensary for Sick Animals], the army said Treo’s actions had saved soldiers and civilians from death and serious injury.

The black labrador, accompanied by his handler of five years, Sergeant Dave Heyhoe, will be presented with the PDSA Dickin medal by Princess Alexandra at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The bronze medallion, bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” within a laurel wreath, is named after Maria Dickin, founder of the PDSA.


British Army reject earns France’s Legion d’honneur

A soldier who joined the French Foreign Legion after he was rejected by the British army on medical grounds is in line to be received into the Légion d’honneur for his bravery.

Alex Rowe, from Gloucestershire, was turned away by British recruiters as a teenager because he had a detached retina but, determined to follow a military career he signed up for the Légion étrangère, which accepts troops from any country.

Now 43, Rowe has served in the Gulf, the former Yugoslavia and has just returned from Afghanistan, where he earned his award after fierce fighting against the Taliban.

His mother, Jennifer…revealed that Rowe is to be received into the Légion d’honneur, the order established by Napoleon to recognise extraordinary service by military personnel and civilians…

Despite his history of visual problems, Rowe was first made a sniper and was known as a top marksman.

He was previously awarded for bravery while serving in Sarajevo after braving sniper fire to run across a city plaza and shield a mother and daughter from a hail of bullets. In all, his mother said he had already received four awards for bravery.

In Afghanistan he has been fighting alongside Britons, dozens of Russians, and others from as far as Algeria and China. He was involved in a gunbattle recently in which 10 comrades were gunned down.

My respect for courageous, brilliant members of any military is no surprise to regulars here. Day-by-day, the easiest way to distinguish between traditional conservatives and the occasional brain-dead right-winger who wanders in the door is understanding that many of us who fight against unjust and criminal wars don’t roll over and play dead just because we’re confronted with war.

We – I – also understand the traditions and obedience to standards required of someone who makes the decision for a military career. I consider myself fortunate to have marched against bigotry and reaction alongside brave veterans of anti-Fascist war, wars of national liberation.

Alex Rowe, I salute you.

Iraqi shoe thrower – Muntazer al-Zaidi – to walk free!

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As his size 10s spun through the air towards George W Bush, Muntazer al-Zaidi – the man the world now knows as the shoe-thrower – was bracing for an American bullet.

“He thought the secret service was going to shoot him,” says Zaidi’s younger brother, Maitham. “He expected that, and he was not afraid to die.”

Zaidi’s actions during the former US president’s swansong visit to Iraq last December have not stopped reverberating in the nine months since.

Next Monday, when the journalist walks out of prison, his 10 raging seconds, which came to define his country’s last six miserable years, are set to take on a new life even more dramatic than the opening act.

Across Iraq and in every corner of the Arab world, Zaidi is being feted. The 20 words or so he spat at Bush – “This is your farewell kiss, you dog. This is for the widows and orphans of Iraq” – have been immortalised, and in many cases memorised.

Pictures of the president ducking have been etched onto walls across Baghdad, made into T-shirts in Egypt, and appeared in children’s games in Turkey.

Zaidi has won the adulation of millions, who believe his act of defiance did what their leaders had been too cowed to do.

RTFA. Learn a little bit more about how most of the world feels about the New American Century – as well as the previous.

Eight years of Bush and Cheney brought the world to a new level of hatred for American arrogance. Eight years of Bush and Cheney turned loose unbridled greed through unregulated speculation and market rigging, dishonest – or no – oversight.

These were not inmates running an asylum. That would require forgiving the demented. This was crime and corruption at the highest levels of government. Deceit and profiteering by those elected to serve the needs of the people.

Germans question whether the Afghan war is their war

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For many Germans, deployment in Afghanistan meant delivering aid and reconstruction to the country’s relatively peaceful north. But now the situation is becoming increasingly dangerous. And Germany seems to have found itself unwillingly dragged into a war.

Berlin has just changed the rules of military engagement for troops abroad, giving soldiers more leeway to use lethal force. This is seen as important in northern Afghanistan, where attacks by Taliban insurgents are becoming more frequent…

In a joint action with Afghan forces, 300 German soldiers used heavy firepower for the first time in a bid to flush out Taliban insurgents who are moving into the region.

Back home, meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel last month awarded four soldiers the Bundeswehr’s new cross of honour.

It was the first time since the end of World War II that Germany had awarded medals for bravery – a remarkable change in attitude considering post-war Germany’s traditional wariness of military symbols.

But although the German government looks set to get tough on the battlefield, popular opinion is heading in the opposite direction…

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