Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The ITV News Channel has come to an end, earlier than previously announced. The channel started life on Sky’s digital platform in the UK in 2000 but came to an undignified end shortly after 18:00 GMT on 23rd December 2005. ITV's Chief Executive Charles Allen has cited budget cuts and falling viewing figures for the closure. But viewers will have less choice for rolling LIVE news now that one of the dominant suppliers of news has disappeared from the airwaves. Sky News, part of the Rupert Murdoch empire remains, as does the government funded BBC News 24 channel. ITN, the supplier to the ITV News Channel remains a supplier to Channel 4 News, in the UK, and CNN. CNN, the only US news outlet available free to air, also remains. But as part of the Time Warner empire, there are now fewer independent news stations on the air. Fox News, although available in the UK, is not free to air. The demise of the ITV News Channel also comes as international news broadcasters increase their presence in the west. CCTV-9, an English language Chinese News channel broadcasting from Beijing in China, and PCNE, broadcast from Hong Kong, are both becoming a dominant presence. And in 2006 al-Jazeera are set to launch their English language news channel on the Sky platform. Further shake ups in the media are expected after the death of Australian media mogul Kerry Packer. CNN reported his death on the 27th December and the sale of parts of his media empire are expected in the coming months including Channel 9 one of his major acquisitions.
[21:00 GMT 28/12/2005]
As much of the world celebrated the birth of Christ, Iraq continued to see continued unrest. Protests all over Iraq have declared the recent elections a ‘fraud’. Ayad Allawi, the former interim Prime Minister, also criticized the election and has called for an investigation. There were many attacks on candidates and party headquarters throughout the election according to Allawi, who won fewer seats this time round. Attacks have not diminished since the elections nor over the Christmas period. On Monday, 2 police officers and a civilian were killed by a bomber in Baghdad. And in Baquba 5 officers were killed by another suicide bomber. The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Viktor Yushenko, made a surprise visit to the country on Monday, this followed the high profile visits by British PM Tony Blair and US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld last week. On Tuesday the BBC reported a pipeline attack in another part of the country. The oil industry has been under constant attack since hostilities began. Prison violence was reported on Wednesday in which a prisoner grabbed a prison guard’s gun an open fire. Four guards and the prisoner were killed according to CNN. Meanwhile there has been no word from the four westerners kidnapped last month. Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Virginia, USA, James Loney, 41, of Toronto, Canada, Norman Kember, 74, from Britain, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 of Toronto, Canada, were kidnapped in western Baghdad on Saturday 26th November 2005. All were part of Chicago based Christian Peacemakers Team when they taken by insurgents. Further appeals for their release were made during the Christmas break.
[20:20 GMT 28/12/2005]
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Tony Blair in Basra on Thursday
British PM, Tony Blair visited British troops in Iraq today in a surprise visit. It was his 4th visit to the country since hostilities started [Sky News]. He would not be drawn on how soon a troop withdrawal may begin. Donald Rumsfeld also paid a surprise visit to the country in order to boost moral amongst US troops. Also in Iraq Saddam Hussein’s trial continued amid accusations by the main accused that he had been ‘tortured’. The US denies any maltreatment of this high-profile prisoner [BBC]. His trial has been adjourned until 24th January 2006. In London a hearing was heard against Rashid Aswat who is wanted by US authorities in connection with terror related offences. He is accused of attempting to set up a terror training camp in Oregon [BBC]. Also in London a man is set to appear at Bow Street Magistrates court in connection with the 21st July failed terror attacks. Adel Yahya was arrested at Gatwick airport on Tuesday after arriving on a flight from Ethiopia [BBC]. And in final address to the American people, President Bush said the US was still ‘under threat’ and that he was pleased that the patriot act was approved for a further month.
[21:49 GMT 22/12/2005]
Many tonnes of Cadmium have contaminated a major river in southern China in another environmental disaster to hit the country. The Bei River which flows through Guangdong to the South China Sea near Hong Kong has seen levels of Cadmium at more than 10 times normal levels. The leak occurred at a smelting plant in the city of Shaoguan. Cadmium is a chemical used in protective plating. It can cause liver and kidney damage and lead to bone diseases. [BBC]
[21:45 GMT 22/12/2005]
The Revolutionary Struggle is believed responsible for a bomb blast in Athens. The group is believed to be linked to the now defunct November 17 group. Police say there were no casualties in the blast which occurred near the Ministry of Development.
[21:39 GMT 22/12/2005]
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Flight 210 Boston to Milwaukee made a safe landing after filling nearly an hour of wall to wall coverage on CNN after declaring an emergency. The now confirmed 81 passengers were believed safe and well after the landing. The plane had circled for 2 hours during which it had dumped fuel. CNN coverage continues...
[03:02 GMT 21/12/2005]
A plane with landing gear problems was circling over Boston tonight. CNN brought breaking news as the plane burned off fuel before it was expected to make an emergency landing at Logan airport. Much speculation has been debated as to the problems affecting the Midwest Air Boeing 717 aircraft which en-route to Milwaukee from Boston. The plane, flight 210, carrying 91 people saw an indication of a problem shortly after take off. Sparks are said to have been seen by the pilot near the right landing gear. The incident occurred at around 7:45 ET and is still ongoing [02:40 GMT] and has continued for some 2 hours. [www.flightaware.com]
[02:45 GMT 21/12/2005]
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Iraq and complaints are mounting after allegations of voter fraud, CNN reported tonight. More than a thousand complaints have been reported, some relating to the changing of figures according to one official. Meanwhile, Saddam is expected to return to court Wednesday. On the front in Afghanistan a troop reduction has been announced. It comes after recent comments from President George W Bush who dismissed any move to reductions of a US presence in Iraq. Also in the continuing War on Terror a man was arrested at Gatwick airport Tuesday morning in connection with the 21st July failed terror attacks in London [Sky News]. In another development a man was convicted on terror charges in the UK. Abbas Boutrab was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for downloading instructions on blowing up a passenger plane [Sky News].
Monday, December 19, 2005
'Chemical Sally' - Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash: "no longer a threat" say US
This weekend has seen the surprise release of Dr Germ and Mrs Anthrax, two suspects held since the invasion of Iraq. Both had been held in connection with Iraq’s germ warfare machine. Rihab Taha, also known as Dr Germ, and Huda Salih Ammash, sometimes referred to as Chemical Sally and Mrs Anthrax, were two of a number of high profile ‘terror suspects’ arrested following the US invasion in March 2003. Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash was also part of the infamous deck of cards placing her as the 5 of Hearts [BBC]. In other developments, Spain announced it had arrested 15 terror suspects connected with al-Qaeda, according to CNN . The BBC claimed only 14 had been arrested on their website [BBC]. It is the third large scale detention of terror suspects this month.
[18:48 GMT 19/12/2005]
Today in the latest in a series of speeches the US president has made to the American people, he defended the use of ‘unauthorised wiretaps’ which have dogged his office for the past few days. “After September 11th I pledged to protect America…this new threat demanded a new strategy…and as President and Commander in Chief it was my responsibility to defend our country. How do we effectively detect al-Qaeda in our midst. Consistent with our constitution I authorized the monitoring of international telephone calls of known al-Qaeda suspects. The patriot act allows investigators to track down terrorists.” But, he said, “Key provisions are set to expire in 12 days” and key senators have “killed the patriot act”. “Terrorists are expected to strike America again but the senators who are filibustering the patriot act must give way.” He said. “America cannot afford to be without the protection of the patriot act.”
“The discussing of this issue is helping the enemy,” he went on to say. And he went on to criticise journalists and others who had leaked the information. “It is a shameful act” for someone to leak these ‘secrets’ he said. He added that a previous leak to the press as to the type of mobile phone being used by Osama bin Laden had resulted in his ceasing his telephone calls.
“We’re at war and we must protect America’s secrets” he said. “After September 11th we looked at possible scenarios and the people responsible for protecting America came up with the current procedure of using intercepts …The legal authority is within the constitution…But this programme is limited… they are calls to outside the country.”
“An open debate about law would say to the enemy ‘here’s what we’re going to do’, but we take civil liberties seriously”. He suggested that further wiretaps may take place and may extend to mainland America. “We will monitor [internal] calls if necessary,” he said.
Following the recent elections in Iraq he said, “Iraqis want to live in freedom and liberty… and a free Iraq will serve as a beacon from Tehran to Damascus.”
In answer to critics of the US policy in Iraq he added, “It wasn’t a mistake to go into Iraq – it was the right thing to do”
“I believe in the universality of freedom – deep in everybody’s soul is the desire to live in freedom – but there’s a lot of work to do to get rid of the past.”
His speech continued on the War on Terror as he briefly talked about Iran. He said a diplomatic approach was needed to stop the “nuclear threat” coming from the country. On domestic issues he gave only a brief comment. With unemployment down and a lesser reliance on foreign power sources President Bush said the country was on track. He said he would also strengthen immigration controls. He wished everybody a ‘Happy Holiday’ and urged for all Americans to think of those fighting the War on Terror. “As we prepare to spend time with our families this holiday season we must spare some thoughts for our military abroad who are defending our nation.” [BBC]
[16:45 GMT 19/12/2005]
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
In China, Dongzhou village in Guangdong has been the scene of a police shooting of protesters. Qin Gang, a government official, refused to be drawn on the issue in which it is believed 30 civilians were shot by police. Authorities say that only 3 protesters were killed. The protests were over a lack of compensation given to residents over a land grab by authorities. The land has been put aside for a new power station in the region. For some residents money is not enough as the land taken by authorities has been handed from one generation to another for centuries. It is one more troubling issue to hit China in recent weeks, and another sign of uncertainty for those wishing to invest in the country. [CNN]
[02:35 GMT 14/12/2005]
George Bush admitted for the first time in Monday’s speech that the Iraqi death toll since hostilities started exceeded 30,000. This was in answer to a question put to the President after his third in a series of speeches made in an effort to boost the American public’s confidence of the US policy in Iraq and the War on Terror. Meanwhile the violence continues unabated. Four more US marines died in attacks Tuesday bringing the US death toll to 2,151. The allied death toll stands at 2,352. Since December 13th 2003, when the former dictator Saddam Hussein was arrested by US troops, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Condoleezza Rice has recently criticized the international community in helping to prosecute the former leader saying their “effective boycott” is “helping to fuel the insurgency”. The fourth and final speech by George Bush is expected Wednesday.
[02:24 GMT 14/12/2005]
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Police have said at a press conference that there are 36 casualties as a result of the explosion, 4 serious. Panic buying of petrol has been reported in some areas against all advice from the police. Although the police are treating the incident as an accident they are ‘keeping an open mind’. Anyone feeling unwell was advised to call NHS Direct on 0845 4647. The Chief fire officer described the fire as the largest he’d ever seen. The fire may burn for several days and foam stocks need to be built up before a major assault on the blaze can take place. Most networks have avoided the use of the word ‘terrorism’, but it is surely in the minds of many. An earlier report which said that a plane hit the depot has been dismissed by police. The explosions which happened at shortly after 06:30 GMT, could be heard 60 km away and smoke is enveloping a widespread area with residents being advised to stay at home and keep their windows closed. The M25 and M1 are partially closed and the public are being told to keep away from the scene and keep tuned to TV and radio reports. Terrestial TV remains on regularly scheduled programming. Radio stations are providing slightly better advisory coverage but the main source of information is coming from the 24 news stations, Sky, BBC 24 and ITV News.
[10:48 GMT 11/12/2005]
Massive explosions have hit an oil depot in north-west London. The explosions occurred at around 6.30 am local time near the Buncefield fuel depot close to junction 8 of the M1. Police have said they were treating the incident as an accident but few details are available. Sky are providing rolling news coverage as are BBC 24 and ITV News. [BBC ]
[09:45 GMT 11/12/2005]
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Sky marshals have shot a man on a stop-over flight at Miami airport. In latest reports it has been suggested the man had been ‘aggressively running up and down the aisle’ pursued by a women screaming ‘my husband’ repeatedly. It has also been reported that she had said he was bi-polar and not taken his medicine. Sky marshals then shot the man who had allegedly been threatening to blow up the plane. No explosives have yet been found according to reports.
[21:45 GMT 07/12/2005]
Missing: Saddam failed to appear for his trial
CNN USA tonight continued with the shooting of a suspect on flight 924. Air marshals shot and killed the man after he threatened to detonate a bomb. CNN International broke from this to update viewers with today’s other headlines. George Bush’s 2nd most recent speech on Iraq attempted to build confidence amongst the American public. He said that there had been great changes in Iraq. He cited Najaf and Mosul where he said insurgents had been expelled and reconstruction was underway. Najaf has however been the scene on continued violence and only recently was the scene of a bizarre incident in which the former interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, was chased from a mosque by a crowd throwing shoes and stones. Today Iraq saw the continuation of the trial against Saddam Hussein and other accomplices. However the main focus of the trial was absent. Saddam refused to attend citing that his treatment ‘amounted to torture’. He is also said to have not been allowed to changed underwear for 3 days. The trial continued without him and heard from witness ‘F’. The proceedings were today adjourned until the 21st December. US treatment and abduction of terror suspects also continued to cause debate today with Tony Blair telling the UK parliament he was confident the law was being observed. “The practice of rendition has been the policy of America for many years,” he said. “But it has to be enacted in accordance with international law …and I accept her [Condoleezza Rice] assertion that it is.
[21:39 GMT 07/12/2005]
Baroness Thatcher has been admitted to hospital. The former Prime Minister recently celebrated her 80th birthday and her daughter, Carol, was a winner in the British TV programme ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’. There was no initial word of which hospital Margaret Thatcher had been taken to after she had ‘felt faint’ at the hairdressers. She has suffered deteriorating health in recent years and a serious of minor strokes. Conservative Central Office would only confirm that she had been admitted to Chelsea & Westminster hospital at 5.00 pm, but that doctors were confident she would be discharged in the morning. The news broke on Sky News shortly before 9.00 pm.
[20:51 GMT 07/12/2005]
Breaking News on CNN tonight as a plane remains surrounded by armed police. The Boeing 757 arrived from Columbia and docked at the gate but soon after the passengers were disembarking police surrounded the aircraft. Shots were said to have been fired by a sky marshal and a passenger is described as ‘wounded’.
CNN have said that one source, a senior administration official, has revealed that the passenger in question had claimed to be in possession of a bomb prior to being shot. Flight American Airlines 924 remains stationary at Miami airport and is unlikely to continue to its next scheduled stop at Orlando. The shooting is said to have occurred in the jetway, the area between the plane and the gate. Live coverage continues on CNN.
[20:05 GMT 07/12/2005]
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Thirty six were killed in a number of suicide attacks in Baghdad today in the continuing violence [BBC]. Most were Iraqi police recruits and students according to reports. At least another 11 were killed in shootings throughout the country and another American was reported kidnapped according to reports on CNN. And as the War on Terror continues, Condoleezza Rice was in Germany where she met the new chancellor Angela Merkel. Rice defended the US policy of ‘rendition’, a term used to describe the abduction of suspects who are taken to countries outside the protection of US law for ‘interrogation’. Yesterday she lambasted critics saying that US operations had prevented attacks in Europe and the UK. However many individuals have been mistakenly abducted. The Washington Post cited at least three dozen cases where individuals had been incarcerated in ‘black sites’. One of them was a German citizen who had the misfortune of having the same name as a terror suspect. Khaled Masri was taken from the streets of Macedonia and taken to Afghanistan in December 2003. He was held for five months before US authorities realised their ‘mistake’. Meanwhile the Saddam Hussein trial continues, but little Live coverage is provided and only a brief description of proceedings is given by many news outlets. BBC’s John Simpson gave the most interesting account as he described moments not covered by the cameras. Moments such as Saddam’s encouragement to the insurgency, and his rambling rhetoric and sometimes skilled cross examination of witnesses. Most reports tended to highlight his statement in which he said he did not mind being executed. [CNN]
[16:33 GMT 06/12/2005]
David Cameron is the new Tory leader. He took 68% of the vote against David Davis’s 38%. There were 134,446 votes cast for David Cameron, 64,398 for David Davis. All main broadcasters carried his acceptance speech Live, BBC24, ITV News and Sky News. CNN continued with world news. Cameron is the fifth Tory leader since Labour came to power.
[16:28 GMT 06/12/2005]
A plane has crashed into an apartment building in Iran killing 47 journalists and dozens more in a scene of carnage. The C130 cargo plane was taking the journalists to a military base to cover a story when the accident happened. Sky News reported the plane was attempting to make an emergency landing when the crash happened. State television said the C-130 plane encountered a technical problem shortly after take-off from Mehrabad airport. A large gash was made in the 10 storey building which was part of the Towhid residential complex in the Iranian capital, Tehran. [BBC / CNN ]
[16:23 GMT 06/12/2005]
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Iyad Allawi runs from shoe throwing crowd.
The situation in Iraq, far from developing into a controlled peaceful democracy, is spiralling out of control day by day. Today, former interim prime-minister Iyad Allawi was the latest target of insurgents. His car was hit by gunfire on Sunday as he made his way to a Shia mosque in Najaf. Earlier his convoy was pelted with rocks and shoes [BBC]. Correspondent Nick Robertson described a scene of chaos as an exclusive video, shot by CNN, showed Allawi running from the mosque chased by a mob throwing shoes. The crowd surged out of the mosque and shots were fired at his escaping convoy. Allawi accused Shias of being responsible for torture and death squads in recent press reports and speculation has been made that today’s attacks were in response to his political posturing. His appeal is said to be amongst the ‘intellectual elite’ in Iraq.
On Saturday an attack by insurgents killed 19 in north Baghdad and further insurgent attacks took the lives of 10 US marines in Fallujah earlier in the week. Alleged footage of the earlier attack was released to Arab TV networks Saturday but the Pentagon and US authorities refused to be drawn as to its authenticity. The footage showed a humvee destroyed by a roadside bomb. The release of such footage is the latest in an ongoing propaganda war being fought by both the US military and insurgents. The US military was accused in the week of ‘planting’ stories in Iraqi newspapers. Stories ‘favourable to the coalition’ were printed in Iraqi newspapers in exchange for money, but one US General said the stories were intended to “put the truth out there”. John Warner, a Republican from Virginia, said “Things like this happen. It's a war. The disinformation that's going on in that country is really affecting the effectiveness of what we're achieving, and we have no recourse but to try and do some rebuttal information." Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that, "We want to get the facts out. We want to get the truth out." [CNN]
And propaganda from the other side is coming thick and fast. Several kidnappings throughout the week have brought with it the release of video tapes of the abductees. And as efforts are made to release then hostages, deadlines and ultimatums have been issued by the insurgents. One deadline has come and gone. In previews of articles due to appear on Monday, magazines Der Spiegel and Focus said the ultimatum made in a video that archaeologist Susanne Osthoff would be killed if Germany did not end all support for the Iraqi government had run out on Friday. The German archaeologist was kidnapped last weekend along with her driver. [CNN] And the group holding a Briton, an American and two Canadians has issued a demand that all prisoners held by coalition forces be released by Thursday. Relatives of the Briton, Norman Kember, and the Canadians have both released video tapes pleading for their release. The insurgent group holding them have threatened to kill them on Thursday if their demands are not met.
And the CIA is in for criticism after reports suggest they have secretly used German airports to ‘smuggle’ terror suspects to ‘secret camps’. [BBC]
[23:30 GMT 04/12/2005]
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Tonight Al Jazeera showed footage of the four westerners kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents. The American, two Canadians and Briton were part of a group called Christian Peace Keepers Team. Kidnapped Saturday in Baghdad, this was the first confirmation that they were still alive. The footage shown initially on Al Jazeera was picked up quickly by Sky News, CNN and later the BBC. The ‘Sword of Righteousness’, as the group describe themselves, have released no demands but call the kidnapped individuals ‘spies’. The Foreign Office said tonight, “We utterly condemn this… and it can only cause further distress at this difficult time”.
Also today, footage of a German citizen and her driver was released to a television station by another unknown Islamic group. They were kidnapped Friday. Also in Iraq, another pilgrim died from wounds inflicted during a shooting on Sunday in Baghdad. The pilgrims had been making their way to a mosque as part of their pilgrimage to the country from Northolt in London, UK.
President Bush speaking today said, “Iraq is the central front on the War on Terror…We’re going to win, they [the terrorists] want us to leave because they want a safe haven, but we must not forget the lessons of September 11th…I want to defeat the terrorists” but with regards to a withdrawal he said, “People don’t want me to make decisions based on politics, people want me to make decisions based on our commanders [view] on the ground.” Asked about accusation of torture committed by the US he said, “The United States of America does not torture and it is important for the people of the world to understand that.”
France meanwhile is strengthening its anti-terror laws. Internet curbs, detention without charge increased to 6 days, routine surveillance photography and further CCTV usage are some of the proposed changes to the French way of life . But civil rights campaigners are critical of the new laws which may not specifically target terrorists.
[18:30 GMT 29/11/2005]
Monday, November 28, 2005
"The water tastes great" - Zhang Zuoji
As promised Zhang Zuoji, the provincial governor, took the first drink of water after supplies were restored to Harbin, Sunday. “It tastes great”, said Zhang, in an attempt to restore public confidence following the recent environmental catastrophe with more than 100 tonnes of benzene flowing into the Songhua river in north-east China. Careful plans to ensure water quality are said to be continuing. However, some residents were still without water today. Meanwhile Russia remains on alert as the flow of polluted water heads for its border.
Also in China, emergency procedures were in full swing after Saturday’s earthquake which killed 14, 13 according to CCTV9. Tents were being sent to provide emergency accommodation for the residents of Ruichang and Jujiang in Jiangxi province. The 5.7 quake was felt in neighbouring provinces Hubei, Fujian, Jingsu and Shandong, but there was said to be no impact on the ‘Three Gorges Dam’ currently under construction 900 km from the epicentre.
In another recent disaster to hit China, an explosion in a mine has killed 134 and injured many others in Heilongjing province [Xinhua News]. 15 were also said to be trapped in the second mining accident this week. 3000 miners have died this year in mining disasters. CNN, quoting state run media sources, said 1,000,000 are killed in China every year by natural and man-made disasters.
[21:00 GMT 28/11/2005]