Lawyers barred from summit
Two senior international lawyers, including a United Nations Special Rapporteur on judicial independence, have been denied entry to Sri Lanka in the latest sign of a state-led crackdown on dissent before a summit of Commonwealth leaders next week. Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges, pictured, and Lawyers, and Param Cumaraswamy, who once held the same post, were among a high-level delegation from the International Bar Association's
Human Rights Institute who were due to travel to Colombo next week. They were scheduled to attend a meeting addressing the independence of the legal profession in Sri Lanka on November 13, two days before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
US to get the sack
American influence in culture, science and education around the world is facing a high-profile blow today as the US is stripped of its voting rights at the world's cultural agency, Unesco. And it would cost the US hundreds of millions of dollars to win this voice back. The US hasn't paid its dues to the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for three years, in protest over the decision by world governments to make Palestine a Unesco member in 2011. The suspension of US contributions, which account for $US80 million a year - 22 per cent of UNESCO's overall budget - brought the agency to the brink of a financial crisis and forced it to cut American-led initiatives such as Holocaust education and tsunami research over the past two years.
Evangelist is 95
The Rev. Billy Graham celebrated his 95th birthday yesterday with well- wishers who serenaded him and praised him for his spiritual leadership. A crowd of roughly 900 people attended the two-hour party for the North Carolina-born evangelist at an Asheville hotel. Graham's son acknowledged beforehand that it wouldn't be a long party. "We're going to have a short evening," the Rev. Franklin Graham said. "Daddy's 95." The elder Graham was flanked by real estate mogul Donald Trump and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Bring back the bullet
State media say Vietnam is mulling the resumption of execution by firing squad because of problems getting chemicals for lethal injections. The Laborer newspaper quoted Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang as asking the lawmaking National Assembly to allow the use of firing squads until the end of 2015, along with execution by lethal injection. In 2011, the Communist country decided to switch from firing squads to lethal injection on humanitarian grounds, but only seven prisoners have been executed since August after a long delay as it struggled to obtain needed chemicals.
All governments collect intelligence, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says, insisting that Australia maintains an "improving" relationship with Indonesia, amid revelations of espionage operations. Indonesian government officials have forecast a breakdown in the information- sharing alliance between the two countries following news that Australia's top- secret Defence Signals Directorate ran intelligence- gathering from the nation's embassy in Jakarta. "People in Indonesia are realists, just as people in Australia are realists - all governments collect information from a variety of sources," Abbott said yesterday.
Obama watches Mandela film
US President Barack Obama has watched a White House screening of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, a film portraying the life of the South African anti-apartheid leader. The movie recounts the political and personal life of former South African president Nelson Mandela, whom Obama has called an inspiration. The White House's official daily schedule said the president was due to sit down to watch the film at the private White House theatre yesterday at 6pm.