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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sign separation papers: report

By John Harlow

Hollywood golden couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have signed papers paving the way for a legal separation with joint custody of their six children, The Sunday Times in London reported Sunday.

The couple, known as Brangelina, have been together since shooting the thriller Mr and Mrs Smith five years ago.

They are said to have agreed that the children will live with Jolie.

The couple are not married - having said they would marry only when American homosexuals were also able to wed.

Even so, documents were filed with a Los Angeles lawyer earlier this month to help with a smooth separation, unnamed sources told the News of the World newspaper.
Pitt and Jolie will keep all the money they have earned, which Forbes estimates at more than US$100 million each.

Pitt, 46, will have full access to their three biological children, Shiloh and the twins Knox and Vivienne, as well as three adopted children, Maddox, from Cambodia, Zahara, from Ethiopia, and Pax, from Vietnam. All have the surname Jolie-Pitt.

On Saturday, associates of both actors declined to comment, one saying it was a "private matter".

The News of the World says the lawyers, based in Beverly Hills, have cleared the path for an announcement that has been the subject of rumors for many months.

Last week, National Enquirer magazine carried a story that Pitt and Jolie had a final explosive row at a New York restaurant called the Alto on January 6.

It claimed that Pitt staged the six-hour dinner as an intervention to persuade Jolie, 34, to get psychiatric help.

It alleged that she had suffered depression since the death of her mother from ovarian cancer three years ago, since when Jolie's weight has dropped dramatically. It also claimed she had made a suicide attempt.

The magazine said that after that stormy night, the couple agreed their relationship was over and "their focus is now on making a smooth transition for their children".

Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, 40, his former wife, were seen backstage together at the Haiti telethon in Los Angeles on Friday while Jolie was in New York promoting her next film, Salt.
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Save the tiger: Pressure mounts for tougher action

HUAI KHA KHEANG WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, Thailand (AP) — After trudging through the wilds of western Thailand for several hours, the forest rangers thought they were finally onto something: the distant sound of crunching leaves.

Automatic weapons drawn, the five Thais crept forward, hoping to catch a tiger poacher. It turned out to be a banteng, a wild cow, which disappeared into the woods.

But all in all, the absence of illegal hunters was good news, said ranger Sakchai Tessri. "When we passed before, we would always run into poachers." Now he felt their room for maneuver was narrowing.

"In the old days," he said, "they would spend many nights in the forest for poaching. Now they just come in, shoot, grab and go quickly."

The 6,400-square-kilometer (2,500-square-mile) Huai Kha Kheang and Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuaries on the Myanmar border represent a rare success in the struggle to save the world's dwindling tiger population.

Funded by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, the increased patrols, armed with the latest technology, have scared off poachers and helped stabilize the tiger population of more than 100, along with animals such as the banteng which they prey on.

Elsewhere, tigers are in critical decline because of human encroachment, the loss of more than nine-tenths of their habitat and the growing trade in tiger skins and body parts. From an estimated 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, the number today ranges between 3,200 to 3,600, most of them in Asia and Russia.

Now hopes are rising that 2010 will see a turning point.

Ministers from the 13 countries with tiger populations will hold a first-ever meeting Wednesday through Friday in Hua Hin, Thailand to write an action plan for a tiger summit in September in Russia, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been championing the survival of the tiger.

The purpose of this week's meeting is to elicit promises of more money for conservation and to persuade countries to set tiger population targets. It is being organized by the Global Tiger Initiative, a coalition formed in 2008 by the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institute and nearly 40 conservation groups. It aims to double tiger numbers by 2020.

"The bleeding continues," said the World Bank's Keshav Varma, the initiative's program director. "I'm not sure if these poachers are feeling the heat of regional and global and national action. They seem to be operating rather freely."

David Smith, a tiger expert at the University of Minnesota who will attend the meeting, says action "has got to be now. We are at that critical stage."

But at least one skeptical activist is skipping the meeting.

"All we have gotten from ministers and heads of state is rhetoric," said zoologist Alan Rabinowitz, president of Panthera, a New York City group that works to conserve the 36 species of cats. "Putin loves tigers but (Siberian) tiger numbers are plummeting in the Russian Far East."

The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates the number of Russian tigers in the wild at 300 — down from a 2005 estimate of 500.

Past efforts in tiger countries have been dogged by a lack of financing, poor coordination among conservation groups and weak government response.

India acknowledged in 2005 that Sariska National Park, a premier tiger reserve, had lost all of its big cats to poachers, who cash in on a huge market for tiger skins and a belief, prevalent in east Asia, that tiger parts enhance health and virility.

Poaching could undermine Malaysia's goal of doubling its tiger population to 1,000 by 2020, and tigers could go extinct in China in the next 30 years, the World Wildlife Fund has warned. Populations have also crashed in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Environmentalists say governments need to overhaul their protection of sanctuaries, involve local communities more deeply in their conservation efforts, and protect critical habitat from the encroachment of roads, bridges and dams.

Park patrols are often outgunned by poaching gangs, underpaid and vulnerable to bribes.

Smith said countries are starting to invest more in patrols and that the successful methods from Thailand's Huai Kha Kheang and Thung Yai reserves are being introduced in Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The two sanctuaries are patrolled by 300 rangers

Dubbed Smart Patrols, they are equipped with guns and uniforms, digital cameras and GPS devices, and a detailed form for listing signs of poachers, tigers and prey.

Instead of just patrolling a park's perimeter, the Thai rangers trek through forest and mountains for up to five days. The data they gather go into a computer so trends can be detected to guide rangers on the next patrol.

Campfires, gunshots, shell cases, snares and other evidence of poaching have fallen by 80 percent in the past five years, said Anak Pattanavibool, the Thailand director for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Poachers still enter the park — one was nabbed this month — but Anak said they remain at the periphery, no longer build camps and rarely stay longer than a few hours.

That's a remarkable turnaround for a time when gunfights with poachers were routine. Monuments honor four rangers killed in the line of duty 15 years ago.

The recent visit to the Huai Kha Kheang reserve revealed an ecosystem on the mend —fresh tiger tracks on a muddy river bank, and sightings of a panther, scores of deer, wild pig, jackal and a lone fish owl.

Conservationists say patrols alone are not enough — that institutions must look at the big picture of humanity and wildlife in growing confrontation.

Indian scientist K. Ullas Karanth, a tiger expert, says World Bank infrastructure projects "have been among the most damaging for tigers in Asia," and ways must be found of "separating people from breeding tigers" by drawing communities out of wildlife areas with offers of jobs and free land.

The World Bank's Varma said his organization is looking harder at development projects that split up tiger habitats.

"That is a huge change," he said. "It's a new beginning and acceptance we have made mistakes in the past."


The 13 countries which have wild tigers, and which will attend this week's meeting, are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Vietnam offers 120 scholarships to Cambodian students

Vietnam will provide 120 scholarships each year to Cambodian students majoring in agriculture, healthcare, and information technology from now to 2015, said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan.

Deputy PM Nhan, who is also Minister of Education and Training (MOET), made the announcement at his talks with Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Im Sethi, in Phnom Penh on January 22.

He also suggested organising workshops on education and training to share experiences and provide mutual assistance.

During the talks, both sides agreed to foster cooperation in education during the 2010-2020 period and they were unanimous about developing an annual plan and promoting exchanges of information, to improve the management of students.

The two sides discussed the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam cooperation framework, under which Vietnam will continue to provide 20 scholarships for Cambodian personnel and students to study in Vietnam, commencing with the 2009-2010 academic year.

Deputy PM Nhan took this opportunity to announce that Vietnam will build a senior secondary school for the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh as a token of the Vietnam-Cambodia friendship.
Minister Im Sethi thanked the Vietnamese Government and people for their assistance in education and training, especially with the construction of boarding schools in Cambodia’s north-eastern provinces.

Aproximately 100 Cambodian students travel to Vietnam to study tertiary and postgraduate levels each year and in the 2009-2010 academic year, the Vietnam MOET received 116 Cambodian students.

During his two-day working visit to Cambodia that ended on January 22, the Deputy PM also met with Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, and toured the Norodom and Sisovat High Schools and the Royal University in Phnom Penh.

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Summit County philanthropist departs for Cambodia to support firefighters

By Robert Allen

SUMMIT COUNTY — A local man departs for Cambodia next month on one of many philanthropic trips to support firefighting services in the impoverished nation.

“The people are just so friendly, caring and giving,” Doug Mendel said, adding that they're “spiritually rich” and “materialistically poor.”

He'll leave Feb. 12 on his 16th trip to the Cambodia, where he'll distribute goods that have already set sail for the South East Asian country. Mendel has run The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund since 2003; it has been a nonprofit since 2005.

He most recently collected goods donated by Colorado fire stations and shipped a 20-foot container with 100 sets of bunker gear, 115 helmets, 5,000 feet of fire hose, 200 pair of firefighting pants and more on Jan. 13.

The ship is expected to arrive in the country Feb. 8. It was insured for $110,000.

Three firefighters from Denver International Airport are traveling with Mendel to help train about 25 Cambodian firefighters in Phnom Penh, the nation's capitol.

Mendel said he hopes the firefighters will begin making regular trips to the country.

Cambodia has about 14 million people divided among about 25 provinces — each with only about one fire station.

Phnom Penh (pop. 2 million) has about 90 firefighters and 12 trucks “to protect the whole capital,” Mendel said.

He is trying to raise $25,000 to $30,000 for a fire station in the remote Ratanakiri Province, to which a fire truck was donated in 2007. He's raised about $15,000 so far.

In 2006, an old fire engine from the Breckenridge's Red, White and Blue Fire District was donated to Sihanoukville.

Mendel is packing several donated toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste among other items to distribute to the Cambodian people.

His relief fund's objectives also include supporting organizations that care for disadvantaged children and disabled adults, and assisting Cambodia's national parks.

Mendel lived in Summit County from 1991 to 2006. He moved to Moab, Utah and also lived in Montrose before moving to Silverthorne, where he now resides.

He sells Cambodian crafts, such as purses, through local vendors including the Next Page Bookstore in Frisco.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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13 years of working to ensure that the Khmer Rouge trials belong to Cambodians

By Youk Chhang — Special to GlobalPost

Published: January 23, 2010 10:12 ETPHNOM PENH, Cambodia — During the Khmer Rouge period from April 17, 1975, to Jan. 7, 1979, Cambodians walked constantly. They walked from the cities to the countryside, from their villages to distant provinces, and from the rice fields to the battlefields. After Jan. 7, 1979, the survivors of our country's genocide walked again; this time back to their homes.

In 1997, Cambodians began another journey: the journey to seek justice for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. And today, 31 years after the Khmer Rouge regime fell, we are taking a giant step along the road to justice.

On Feb. 6, 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) — commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) — officially began setting up offices at the military barracks outside of Phnom Penh. The first trial, Case 001, began on March 30, 2009, two years behind schedule. The case opened with the defendant, former head of S-21 prison Duch (Kaing Geuk Eav), apologizing to victims and accepting responsibility, but ended shockingly however on Nov. 27, 2009, with Duch rejecting responsibility on jurisdictional grounds because he was not a "senior Khmer Rouge leader or those most responsible" as stated in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Law. The judgment of Duch will be delivered this March.

In late 2010 or early 2011, the most important Khmer Rouge trial will begin. Case 002 will try the highest level Khmer Rouge leaders still alive today: Noun Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith. This trial will be a crucial moment in Cambodia's road to justice because the evidences and analyses brought forth will provide answers to many fundamental questions about the Khmer Rouge regime that survivors had wondered for more than three decades.

The United Nations, Cambodia and several other countries have worked for many years to help us see justice delivered. The United Nations and national governments raised much of the initial $56 million budget for the KRT and stepped in during budgetary shortfalls in late 2008.

These governments have also generously funded many Cambodian human rights and international NGOs that support and monitor the trial process by helping victims file complaints of Khmer Rouge atrocities to the court, observing and reporting on the activities of the Cambodian government and United Nations, providing counseling to those who suffered during Democratic Kampuchea and other activities.

Perhaps the most important way that NGOs can help is to work with the Extraordinary Chambers and each other to ensure that the public is informed about the trials and involved in them.

These trials are about seeking justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. These are your trials, Cambodians, and without your participation in them, we will not be able to judge whether the trials are fair, of high standards, and accessible to all.

But how can the people of Cambodia participate in the trials? They are far away and it is expensive to travel to Phnom Penh. Many NGOs in Cambodia are working to make certain that people can read about the trials through magazines and other written materials that are delivered to sub-district and district offices across the country. Others will broadcast news on the radio, and the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) is working with TVK and other stations to produce television programs that will help educate people about the Extraordinary Chambers.

In the past few years, DC-Cam has also implemented a project, called the Living Documents Project, which brought up to 500 villagers every month from across Cambodia to Phnom Penh to visit genocide memorial sites and meet with officials at the KRT courtroom. Phase two of the Living Documents Project began in early 2009, and allowed victims to directly attend Duch's trial hearing, participate in KRT educational workshops and view Khmer Rouge-related videos.

Villagers returned home afterward to share their experiences with community members during village forums, so that Cambodians have the opportunity to learn about the trials from people like themselves, in addition to tribunal officials and NGO staff. All of these activities have helped villagers understand how the trials work and to become familiar with the tribunal process. For Case 002, DC-Cam will increase its activities and outreach efforts given the significance of this trial.

All of us want to see trials that are fair and just, and for the Cambodian people to participate in them without fear of intimidation or uncertainty. Learning about the tribunal from the written word, radio and television, and from family, friends and neighbors will help you see that justice can work in Cambodia and that building a more just future for our children can become a reality.

Youk Chhang is the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the publishing of DC-Cam Genocide Magazine: "Searching for the Truth." With the ministries of Interior and Information, DC-Cam has distributed 1.5 million copies of the magazine to the villagers within Cambodia. DC-Cam is 13 years old.
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