the world as we write it
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Georgia calls for ceasefire in S. Ossetia fighting
Saturday, Aug 09, 2008 4:22PM UTC
By Matt Robinson
GORI, Georgia (Reuters) - Georgia called for a ceasefire on Saturday after Russian bombers widened an offensive to force back Georgian troops seeking control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
President George W. Bush said Russian attacks on Georgia marked a "dangerous escalation" of the crisis and urged Moscow to halt the bombing immediately.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Bush the only solution was for Georgian troops to quit the conflict zone.
Russia said it had seized the rebel capital, Tskhinvali, but Georgia denied the claim on the second day of fighting that threatens oil and gas pipelines seen as crucial in the West.
Russian officials said the death toll now stood at 2,000 and 30,000 refugees from South Ossetia had fled to Russia over the past 36 hours. Russia said two of its warplanes had been shot down, 13 of its soldiers killed and 70 wounded.
"I call for an immediate ceasefire," Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in Tbilisi. "Russia has launched a full scale military invasion of Georgia."
Russia's military response to the crisis dramatically intensified a long-running stand-off between Russia and the pro-Western Georgian leadership that has sparked alarm in the West and led to angry exchanges at the United Nations reminiscent of the Cold War.
Abkhazia, another pro-Russian enclave in Georgia, said its forces had begun an operation to drive out Georgian forces, possibly opening a second front against Tbilisi.
Bush, Saakashvili's main ally in the West, said Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected.
"The attacks are occurring in regions of Georgia far from the zone of conflict in South Ossetia. They mark a dangerous escalation in the crisis," said Bush, who is attending the Olympics in Beijing.
In a telephone call with Bush, Medvedev "stressed that the only way out of the tragic crisis provoked by the Georgian leadership is a withdrawal by Tbilisi of its armed formations from the conflict zone," a Kremlin statement said.
Russian officials said there could be no talks until Georgian forces pulled back.
STATE OF WAR
Georgia's parliament approved a state of war across the country for the next 15 days, while Russia accused the West of contributing to the violence by supplying Georgia with arms.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic whose pro-Western government now wants membership of NATO and the European Union, had encouraged Georgia to carry out "ethnic cleansing" in South Ossetia, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Russia, which sent in tanks to back the South Ossetians, said its forces had "liberated" the enclave's capital, but Georgia said Tskhinvali was under its "complete control".
A Russian journalist said the South Ossetian capital had been badly damaged. "The town is destroyed. There are many casualties, many wounded," Zaid Tsarnayev told Reuters from Tskhinvali.
Russian jets carried out up to five raids on mostly military targets around the Georgian town of Gori, close to the conflict zone in South Ossetia, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. At least one bomb hit an apartment block, killing 5 people.
A woman knelt in the street and screamed over the body of a dead man as the bombed apartment block burned nearby. Another old woman covered in blood stared into the distance and a man knelt by the road, his head in his hands.
In Tbilisi, people were nervous but defiant. Most supported Saakashvili but had been shocked by the Russian reaction.
"To fight Russia is crazy," said music studio owner Giga Kvenetadze, 30. "But I do support Saakashvili ... And what Russia is doing is wrong. They must stop."
Russia's ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, said at least 2,000 civilians had been killed. Georgian officials said 129 Georgias had been killed and 748 injured.
Georgia said Russian planes had targeted a vital pipeline that carries oil to the West from Asia but had missed.
Russian troops poured into South Ossetia on Friday, hours after Georgia launched a major offensive aimed at restoring control over the province.
Russia is the main backer of South Ossetian separatists and the majority of the population, who are ethnically distinct from Georgians, have been given Russian passports.
Georgia was planning to bring its Iraq contingent of 2,000 soldiers home as soon as the United States can provide transport, the commander of the unit said on Saturday.
Each side blamed the other for the outbreak of fighting in the pro-Moscow enclave, which broke from Georgia when the Soviet Union was nearing collapse in the early 1990s.
Bombed by The Black Rider at 9:23 AM
Georgia may pull out of Beijing Games
Saturday, Aug 09, 2008 4:11PM UTC
By Karolos Grohmann
BEIJING (Reuters) - Georgia's 35-strong Olympic team may pull out of the Games because of the Russian offensive in their country, their National Olympic Committee told Reuters on Saturday.
"We don't know what will happen but we're talking about it now. It will be the decision of the president of the country (Mikheil Saakashvili)," spokesman Giorgi Tchanishvili said.
Georgia called for a ceasefire on Saturday after Russian bombers widened an offensive to force back Georgian troops seeking control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Russia put the death toll at 2,000, and 30,000 refugees from South Ossetia had fled to Russia over the past 36 hours. Moscow said two of its warplanes had been shot down, 13 of its soldiers killed and 70 wounded.
The Georgian Olympic team urged the international community to help end the violence.
"This deliberate strategy of aggression has grown into a full-scale military intervention involving all regions of Georgia," the athletes said in a statement.
"Georgia calls upon the international community to make it clear (to Russia) that intrusion into and bombing of the territory of a sovereign state is unacceptable in the 21st century and that such acts cannot and will not be tolerated."
The Olympics has suffered boycotts in the past, but it would be highly unusual for a team to pull out during the Games.
Among the most high profile withdrawals was one by several African nations a day after the start of the 1976 Montreal Olympics in protest over a New Zealand rugby tour of South Africa, at the time of the apartheid regime.
Earlier on Saturday the International Olympic Committee said the escalating conflict was a sad reality with the Games essentially being a symbol of peace.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had also issued an appeal calling on all warring nations to honor a traditional truce during the Games which opened on Friday.
"We can only bring the ideal of how sport can bring people together. It is a very complex issue and it is not for the IOC to give a perspective on what has been happening," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.
"It is not what the world wants to see. It is contrary to what the Olympic ideal stands for. The sad reality is that there are a number of countries (at the Olympics) that are in conflict," she said.
U.S. President George W. Bush, who is in Beijing for the opening of the Games, said Russian attacks on Georgia marked a "dangerous escalation" of the crisis and urged Moscow to halt the bombing immediately.
(Editing by Keith Weir)
Bombed by The Black Rider at 9:21 AM
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Comic actor Bernie Mac dies
Bernie Mac, the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor and comedian who worked his way to Hollywood success from an impoverished upbringing on Chicago's South Side, died Saturday at age 50.
"Actor/comedian Bernie Mac passed away this morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital," his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles, California.
She said no other details were available and asked that his family's privacy be respected.
The comedian suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.
Recently, Mac's brand of comedy caught him flack when he was heckled during a surprise appearance at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama.
Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine, Mac joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language. The performance earned him a rebuke from Obama's campaign.
But despite controversy or difficulties, in his words, Mac was always a performer.
"Wherever I am, I have to play," he said in 2002. "I have to put on a good show."
Mac started his comedy career at age 8, with a standup performance at a church dinner. In 1977, at age 20, he took that act to comedy clubs in Chicago.
His film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans movie "Mo' Money" in 1992. In 1996, he appeared in the Spike Lee drama "Get on the Bus."
Mac went on to star in the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise with Brad Pitt and George Clooney. His turn with Ashton Kutcher in 2005's "Guess Who?" -- a remake of the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn 1967 classic "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" -- topped the box office.
Mac also had starring roles in "Bad Santa," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Transformers."
In the late 1990s, he had a recurring role in "Moesha," the UPN network comedy starring pop star Brandy.
The comedian drew critical and popular acclaim with his Fox television series "The Bernie Mac Show," which aired more than 100 episodes from 2001 to 2006.
The series about a man's adventures raising his sister's three children won a Peabody Award in 2002. At the time, judges wrote they chose the sitcom for transcending "race and class while lifting viewers with laughter, compassion -- and cool." iReport.com: Share your appreciation for Bernie Mac
The show garnered Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Mac.
"But television handcuffs you, man," he said in a 2001 Associated Press interview. "Now everyone telling me what I CAN'T do, what I CAN say, what I SHOULD do, and asking, 'Are blacks gonna be mad at you? Are whites gonna accept you?"'
He also was nominated for a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2001 along with his "The Original Kings of Comedy" co-stars, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer.
In 2007, Mac told David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" that he planned to retire soon.
"I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit," Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977."
Mac was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on October 5, 1957, in Chicago. He grew up on the city's South Side, living with his mother and grandparents. His grandfather was a deacon in a Baptist church.
In his 2004 memoir, "Maybe You Never Cry Again," Mac wrote about having a poor childhood -- eating bologna for dinner -- and a strict, no-nonsense upbringing.
Mac's mother died of cancer when he was 16. In his book, Mac said she was a support for him and told him he would surprise everyone when he grew up.
"Woman believed in me," he wrote. "She believed in me long before I believed."
Bombed by The Black Rider at 9:07 AM
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