Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The British death toll reached three figures today after the 100th soldier to die in Iraq was killed by a road side bomb. Corporal Gordon Alexander Pritchard, 31, a soldier from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards died in a blast in Umm Qasr, Basra province. Of the 100 dead 77 died in combat operations. The US has lost 2,243 in the same time period. One hundred and three other members of the ‘coalition of the willing’ have died in the 1,048 day conflict.[Iraq casualty list /CNN / BBC ]
Monday, January 30, 2006
Monday's Daily Express - "Near-miss nightmare"
Described in one tabloid as a 'heart-stopping' moment, two jets came close to collision according to reports. The photograph which was reproduced in both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express as well as shown on Sky News was captured as the planes flew over London. The Japan Airline and DHL cargo plane appear to be only metres apart. However authorities dismissed there was a 'near miss' and said the photograph was an 'optical illusion'. The Civil Aviation Authority said the planes were at least 1,000 feet [308 metres] apart. [Photo - Barry Bland]
Following Hamas’s win in Wednesday’s election many voices have been aired condemning the party and their continued resolve to remain armed. Scuffles occurred between Hamas and Fatah members escalated throughout the weekend with the parliamentary buildings being attacked by Fatah members. Israel has responded to this historic win with a general condemnation of the new elected party and have so far refused to engage with them.The so called ‘road map for peace’ has been put on hold and governments throughout the world are having to rethink their dealing with the Hamas led government. The EU Parliament has discussed the issue of funding to the Palestinian government. There are fears that money would be channelled into terrorist acts against Israel.[BBC]
After 48 hours and with sub-zero temperatures continuing, hope has all but faded for there being anymore survivors found after Saturday’s roof collapse in Poland. At 16:30 local time [15:30 GMT] a huge weight of snow is belived to have caused the massive collapse during a pigeon show. Up to 500 people were in the hall. BBC News 24 quickly brought pictures to viewers and constantly brought updates throughout the evening. Sky News covered the story only in the headlines. NTV in Germany carried the story Live though its affiliate CNN brought little coverage throughout the evening. In all 62 died in the disaster and 90 were injured. Some were still unaccounted for. It was described as the largest national disaster in years by state officials. After government meetings there are said to be investigations into why some exits were locked. There is also an investigation into why the building collapsed. There are allegations that snow was not swept from the roof regularly. Other theories have been discussed including vibrations from an orchestra and as to whether contraction from the differing temperatures both inside and out played a factor. Meanwhile a surreal scene was described by CNN’s Fionnuala Sweeney; dozens of ownerless pigeons were now flying around the site and roosting in the surrounding trees.
The War on Terror continues...stay tuned
The War on Terror saw further developments over the weekend too as the Saddam Hussein trial recommenced. But not all is well in the continued farce of what is supposed to be the trial of a ‘butcher’ and ‘tyrannical dictator’. The latest in a series of judges sat down to preside over the court Sunday only to be berated by Saddam with a tirade of criticism and abuse. As Raouf Abdel-Rahman took his seat arguments immediately broke out between lawyers, defendents and the judge. Saddam’s half brother, and former intelligence chief, was ejected from the court after asserting the court was “the daughter of the whore”. As he was removed, Saddam stood up and in solidarity shouted “down with traiters, down with America”. The circus continued into pantomime as judge Abdel-Rahman then ejected defence lawyer Salih al-Armouti accusing him of inciting his clients. Saddam and his co-accused then rose and along with their entire legal team, they all left the court in protest. Ruling that none of the defence lawyers may return the court convened later in the day with new lawyers, appointed by the judge, and only four of the eight accused. Eventually the court heard from a witness of the incident which took place in Dujail in 1982 where 140 people were killed and others were imprisoned. Her testimony claimed that she was arrested and detained by two of the accused and tortured.
Elsewhere in Iraq an ABC cameraman and reporter seriously injured in an explosion. Bob Woodruff, 44, an anchorman who replaced the late Peter Jennings, and his cameraman were attacked whilst reporting in Iraq. Both were taken to Landstuhl in Germany. Both were believed to be wearing helmets and body armour during the incident which occurred near Taji. 77 journalists have died so far in Iraq – 63 were killed in the entire Vietnam War. [ABC]. In another incident on Monday a British soldier was killed by small arms fire. The soldier from the 7th Armoured Brigade, serving with the 1st Battalion The Highlanders, was killed on patrol in Maysan province, southern Iraq. His death brings the UK death toll to 99. Two hundred and thirty have been injured in the 34 months of conflict. [BBC].
Kidnappings of westerners is hitting a new high as is the release of video recordings from al-Qaeda. On Saturday a new video surfaced showing four westerners kidnapped in Iraq bringing with it the first hope that they might yet be released. It is the first apparent contact with the hostage takers since early December. But the likelihood of a swift release remains slim after the insurgents demand a release of all prisoners in American hands be released – this is unlikely to be complied with. Ayman al-Zawahiri has surfaced on a new tape this week. On Monday al-Jazeera aired the latest in a series of video and audio tapes in which he called George W. Bush a ‘butcher’ and went on to invite him to become a ‘muslim brother’ and to absolve his sins. The latest video to appear is that from ‘The Revenge Brigade’ or ‘Brigade of Vengeance’. It shows kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll. She is seen weeping, but there was no sound.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Hamas have won the first Palestinian elections in 10 years bringing with their success a serious concern for Israel. Scuffles occurred between Hamas and Fatah members after it became clear the political movement had won. Hamas is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the White House. George Bush, however, praised the elections, calling them a success, but said it was a wake up call for Hamas to make a choice between democracy and violence. “I don’t see how you can be a partner in peace if your party has an armed wing…I will continue to remind people, if your platform is the destruction of Israel then you’re not a partner of peace,” the President said at a lunchtime press conference in Washington. UN Secretary General, Kofie Anaan also called on the group to renounce violence and to disarm. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also called on Hamas to rethink their hostility towards Israel. Hamas have often called on the destruction of the state of Israel. Israel has yet to respond officially to this historic win, but their reaction is likely to be one of condemnation and criticism. [Sky News / BBC /CNN]
[16:42 GMT 26/01/2006]
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
As the British media followed the whale up and down the Thames, the more serious stories were left broadly unreported. Ayman al-Zawahiri surfaced on a new audio tape and the death and killing continued unabated in Iraq. Four children and the brother of a policeman died when insurgents fired a rocket into the officer's house in Balad Ruz, north-east of Baghdad. Four policemen were killed and nine injured in Baquba, north-east of the capital, when a roadside bomb targeted their patrol. A Jordanian kidnapped by militants demanding the release of a failed woman suicide bomber appealed for his life in a video released to an Arabic TV station. And a further 23 bodies were found dumped north of Baghdad; 12 bodies were found last week. They were believed to be police recruits kidnapped a week ago. Election results were announced with the Shi’ites gaining the majority of seats in the Iraqi parliament. This will no doubt cause further riffs between the minority Sunnis and the majority Shia population. [BBC]
The Saddam Hussein trial remains in limbo, awaiting witnesses. Over the course of the trial two defence lawyers have been killed and another injured. Others have pulled out following death threats. Three judges have presided over the case, one left only last week. Ramsey Clark, a former US attorney who is on the Hussein defence team, speaking on CNN, said the whole project should be abandoned. “It (the trial) is dysfunctional,” he said, “It should be an international court…not having a fair trial will only lead to more violence.” The trial is set to continue on Sunday.
In Iran 11 people were killed and 46 wounded in bombing in Ahvas, by unknown assailants. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad cancelled his visit to the area. Ahvaz was also the scene of bombings in June and October that the government blamed on Iranian Arab extremists whom it claimed were trained abroad and maintained ties to foreign governments, including Britain. [Fox News]
CIA prisons and the rendition row continue in the US and the EU. Questions have been raised in the European Parliament. Dick Marty of the European Council called the rendition flights illegal. But US secretary Condoleezza Rice has said the US did not involve itself in torture. But facts are hard to obtain. European leaders are however under pressure to what they knew about such flights. [Guardian] And with allegations of Britain’s MI5 spying in Russia the Cold War seems to have returned again. [BBC]
President Bush is set to meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and discuss both the continuing War on Terror and the relief effort for victims of the October earthquake. Earlier this month a US strike in the northern region of Waziristan killed 18 men, women and children. The targeting of the area was an attempt to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s no. 2. Zawahiri is believed to have survived the attack.
And Wednesday is set to bring with it political change in Palestine with the first elections in a decade. Ehud Olmert, the acting Israeli PM, has expressed his concern over any radical shift in the Palestinian leadership. In an address carried Live on CNN, Olmert said he would bar Palestinian refugees from the ‘Jewish state of Israel’. “The road map is based on a clear idea, if the Arab desire to set up a Palestinian state is to be achieved…the solution must be of two clearly defined states.”
Monday, January 23, 2006
Internet coverage of the whale's last journey [BBC]
Saturation coverage throughout Friday and Saturday had Britain gripped to the fate of a whale stranded in the River Thames. Not since the attacks in London on the 7th July had much of the 24 hour rolling news stations’ time been devoted to one story. Sky hit the airwaves soon after midday Friday with the Breaking News that a whale had been spotted in the River Thames. The ‘Skycopter’ was scrambled, and BBC then joined the chase. Sky stayed with continuing Live pictures of the drama beamed to viewers well into the early evening. Experts were quickly brought to the studio and commentary and discussions on the type of whale and speculation as to what to do with this unusual visitor continued for several hours. The BBC also provided a stream of Live coverage, though they did drop away for other more important stories.
Since the demise of ITV’s News Channel, the coverage of this event was only covered by two channels. However CNN did join the chase as the sun set over London on Friday. And in a pointless Live broadcast in the dark from beside the river Thames, CNN reporter described the drama of the day, with a few clips from the days events. Before long the story was global. From China to the USA and Australia, broadcasters covered the ongoing saga.
The drama continued throughout Saturday when the whale was re-spotted near Battersea in west London. Hundreds of Londoners lined the embankments and Battersea Bridge in order to catch a glimpse of the now correctly identified Bottle-nosed Whale. By 12:30 GMT, the whale had been netted and within 2 hours it was on a journey along the Thames towards the North Sea. The return to sea proved too slow, however, and at 19:00 the whale died as it passed the Essex and Kent border. All was lost. And as the whale was lifted to the dockside at Gravesend, the saturation coverage drained away. Sunday’s papers carried the story prominently in many editions. The broadsheets as well as the tabloids carried the story on the front page. Though some of the tabloids were carrying their DVD give-away promotions far more prominently.
The more serious issue of how a bottle-nosed whale came to be so far outside its usual territory was little discussed through all the media coverage. Specifically as to how it may have a connection to global climate change. Something which has been of great concern in recent weeks as many large regions of the globe are hit by icy conditions. Japan, China, Pakistan, India and Russia have all been hit by record snow fall with temperatures dropping as low as 40 degrees Celsius. Hundreds throughout the regions affected have died.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Osama bin Laden has resurfaced in a new video shown on al-Jazeera Wednesday. In a lengthy statement he promised further attacks on US interests, adding that security measures had delayed such actions. His message read as follows: "This message is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end those wars, it was not my intention to talk to you about this, because those wars are definitely going our way. But what triggered my desire to talk to you is the continuous deliberate misinformation given by your President [George] Bush, when it comes to polls made in your home country which reveal that the majority of your people are willing to withdraw US forces from Iraq. We know that the majority of your people want this war to end and opinion polls show the Americans don't want to fight the Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their (US) land. But Bush does not want this and claims that it's better to fight his enemies on their land rather than on American land. Bush tried to ignore the polls that demanded that he end the war in Iraq. We are getting increasingly stronger while your situation is getting from bad to worse… The war in Iraq is raging and the operations in Afghanistan are increasing. In response to the substance of the polls in the US, which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to. We are a nation that Allah banned from lying and stabbing others in the back, hence both parties of the truce will enjoy stability and security to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by war. There is no problem in this solution, but it will prevent hundreds of billions from going to influential people and warlords in America - those who supported Bush's electoral campaign - and from this, we can understand Bush and his gang's insistence on continuing the war. If your desire for peace, stability and reconciliation was true, here we have given you the answer to your call. I would like to tell you that everything is going to our advantage and the number of your dead is increasing, according to Pentagon figures." [source: al-Jazeera]
Osama bin Laden has not been heard from since December 2004. This recent audio-taped message is believed to be several months old. [BBC]
[17:12 GMT 19/01/2006]
CNN reports at least one dead and at least 10 injured following a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. It is the first such incident to occur this year, there were six suicide bombings last year. CNN speculated that Islamic Jihad was likely responsible. The dead individual is said to be the bomber according to Israeli police, and he is believed to have been carrying a back-pack. The bombing occurred near the old bus station in the southern part of the city at around15:35 local time [13:35 GMT].
[14:17 GMT 19/01/2006]
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Jill Caroll - her fate remains uncertain
Kidnappers have demanded that all women prisoners be released from US custody in the latest in a series of kidnappings in Iraq. The demand came with the release of footage to the Arabic TV station of American Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Caroll [CNN]. There has been little information forthcoming since her capture 10 days ago [January 7th] by the ‘Brigade of Revenge’, a previously unknown insurgent group. A friend of Jill speaking on CNN said she had “tried to blend in” and that she had not taken unnecessary risks. More than 36 journalists have been kidnapped in Iraq since hostilities stated in March 2003. “It’s dangerous all the time everywhere,” said Dexter Filkins of the New York Times, who has been in the country for several months. Michael Holmes, working for CNN, also spoke of the dangers and said he “was forever on alert” and looking over his shoulder. There was some good news; the sister of an interior minister was release unharmed on Tuesday. But there still remains uncertainty over the well being of others held captive. There has been no news of four kidnapped Westerners taken in November. 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, but besides repeated efforts from relatives and church representatives, nothing has been heard from their captors since a deadline expired in early December. Meanwhile the violence in the country continues. Seventeen Iraqis were killed in several attacks Tuesday and 11 bodies have been found in a mass grave north of the capital Baghdad.
[18:13 GMT 18/01/2006]
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has lifted the ban on CNN and allowed their journalists to return to the country. Iran had banned the news organisation after a translation error on Saturday. A translator working for CNN had said that Iran had the right to pursue 'nuclear weapons' instead of the actual phrase 'nuclear energy'. [18/01/2006]
Monday, January 16, 2006
CNN journalists have been banned from Iran. Following a mistake in translation which purported Mamhoud Ahmedinejad to have said that Iran had the right to build nuclear weapons, the international news organisation has been expelled from the country until further notice. The mistake was due to an error by a translator employed by CNN. The statement should have read that Iran had the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy policy. CNN's simultaneous translation of Ahmadinejad's lengthy news conference on Saturday included the phrase "the use of nuclear weapons is Iran's right". In fact, the Iranian president said that "Iran has the right to nuclear energy," the official IRNA news agency reported. [Reuters]
War on Terror - missed al-Qaeda targets, suicide bombs & Iran nuclear row increase concerns for peace
The US led war on terror took a dramatic turn over the weekend when a village was targeted after it was believed Ayman al-Zawahiri was there. Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second in command, was said to be in Damadola which is near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. However the pre-dawn raid on Friday failed to kill the al-Qaeda leader. Instead, 18 men, women and children died in the attack which has precipitated a number of anti-US protests throughout the region. Some opposition leaders have subsequently called for Pakistani leader, Pervez Musharaf’s resignation. Zawahiri, who has a $25 million bounty placed upon his head, remains free [Fox News]. And violence continues in the bordering country of Afghanistan. On Monday a suicide bomber killed 25 and injured many others in Spin Boldak. The Taleban have claimed responsibilty for the attack which is the fourth such attack in the last few days [CNN ]. And in Iraq another suicide bomber killed several people near Baghdad. A second US helicopter was lost north of Baghdad near the village of Mishahda early Monday [BBC], the fate of the crew is as yet unknown. Meanwhile it was confirmed on Sunday that the crew of a US helicopter, shot down near Mosul on Friday, both died. Much of the attention in the continuing war on terror now focuses on Iran and its persistence in following through on its nuclear energy policy. In London, members of the Security Council met to discuss the crisis which further threatens to create instability in the region [CNN] .
Friday, January 13, 2006
Essex celebrity Jodie Marsh, famous just for being famous, has been evicted from the 'reality TV' show Big Brother. The UK is aswamp with television shows which command far more collumn inches in the newspapers than 'real issues'. MP George Galloway's involvement in the programme has even forced many 'serious papers' and broadcasters to report on the show in which several 'celebrities' are put into the same house and filmed for a voyeuristic public. George Galloway, an east London MP, who stood for an independent party, "Respect", which fought on an anti-war ticket, has been heavily criticized for neglecting his political duties. Of course, the tabloids are far more interested in the selacious details of the likes of Chantelle, an Essex 'model' and 'fake celebrity', and Jodie Marsh's sex life. As she talked shortly afer the show, teers rolling down her heavily made-up face, she said that the media portrayed her in a negative way and that she wasn't "a slag". George Galloway MP in the meanwhile is set to miss at least three more parliamentary sessions. The next vote in the Big Brother house is due next Wednesday. [22:00 GMT 13/01/2006]
In Turkey the concern over bird-flu continues as the number infected rises to 18. The World Health Organization also confirmed that the H5N1 virus has mutated slightly which made contracting the disease from infected birds much easier. The virus has not mutated into a human strain as yet however, but scientists remain vigilant for such signs which could precipitate a global pandemic. €100,000,000 has meanwhile been allocated by the EU to fight the spread of the H5N1 virus. [21:40 GMT 13/01/2006]
In Saudi Arabia efforts continue to identify hundreds of dead after yesterdays stampede at the annual Hajj in Mecca. At least 346 are said to have died in what has become an almost annual event. Stampedes have killed many in recent years. The worst incident occurring in 1990 when 1,426 died in a pedestrian tunnel. Stampedes in 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2004 have left more than 680 dead. Other incidents have included fires, building collapses and disease.
Iraq – And the country continues to see daily attacks. In the northern city of Mosul an American military helicopter crashed whilst going to the aid of a group of Iraqi police who were under attack. The US military said the helicopter came down in enemy fire. Two pilots were said to be injured. Meanwhile five police were injured in a car bombing in Baquba.
In a city of precious little security a black market thrives. Playstations, DVDs and other consumer products are freely available; many are counterfeit. “We know it’s fake,” says one customer who had bought some ‘Nike’ trainers, “but we don’t care because it’s cheap”. And bribery can be seen as Iraqis are rationed in the supply of petrol, many taking on the job of queuing for others in never ending petrol lines. And as rationing took the form of supplying to customers with odd and even number plates on alternate days, a black-market in number-plates swiftly took hold.
Iran’s nuclear issue has gone up a notch as George Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both aired their concerns over Iran’s defiance.
“What is essential and crucial is that … a consultation process was followed ... and that a proposal should be made to the Iranians making clear their [nuclear] policy will not be tolerated,” said Merkel whilst on her first US visit. George Bush said Iran can’t have a nuclear weapon to “blackmail other countries”.
Russia said that not all diplomatic efforts had been exhausted. One official speaking on CNN said, “We are giving them a chance to develop their nuclear energy policy but not to enable Uranium enrichment.”
The reaction from Iran continues to remain belligerent. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rejected much of the criticism and threats of sanctions. One threatened sanction is that of sport. Besides having recently called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, Iran has insisted its nuclear policy is peaceful. Yesterday France and Germany both called for the matter be referred to the UN Security Council. Failure in any resolution is feared to precipitate unilateral military action against the country by the US and possibly Israel, both nuclear states.
[21:09 GMT 13/01/2006]
UK – And the trial against a former cleric continues in London. Sheik Mohammad Abu Hamza al-Masri or Abu Hamza has been charged with incitement to violence, stirring up racial hatred and incitement to murder as well as terror related offences,specifically being in possession of an 11-volume “terror traing manual”. Hamza has been much vilified in the British tabloid media and has been sought by the United States with, so far unproved, connection to the events of 9/11. There are however tenuous links; several terror suspects currently held by the US in Guantanamo Bay have attended mosques at which Hamza preached. And Zacarias Moussaoui, the so called 19th hijacker, currently involved in an ongoing trial in the US, is said to have met the radical cleric at the Finsbury Park mosque in London. And several others who attended the same mosque remained in limbo for a long time before being dealt with by US authorities. Feroz_Abbasi, captured in Afghanistan in 2001, is said to have been ‘brainwashed’ by Hamza according to his mother Zumrati Juma. He was released without charge in January 2005 and returned to Britain. James Ujaama, also captured in Afghanistan, and accused of attempting to set up a terror traing camp in Oregon, was also said to have been radicalized by Hamza. He has since been convicted and sentenced after admitting to conspiring to help the Taliban [CNN]. He was sentenced to 2 years as well as a 3 year supervised release in 2003 [USDOJ]. And perhaps unconnected, but significant nonetheless, Abu Hamza’s son, Mohammed Mustafa Kamel, served 3 years for terror related activities in Yemen. He admitted to a court in February 1999 of having help set up an armed group to ‘commit sabotage in the Arab state of Yemen.’ He had denied other charges including possession of a hand grenade. In 2002 Kamel flew to the UK but has remained out of the public eye apart from a trial concerning ‘breaking and entering’ a property in London – the Finsbury Park mosque. In yesterdays opening statements, the jury was shown excerpts from videotapes and heard audio in which Hamza talks of the “evils of democracy” and described Britain as a “toilet”. The trial is expected to last 4 weeks.
[21:05 GMT 13/01/2006]
Monday, January 09, 2006
Iraq continues to see further violence with at least 2 suicide bombers killing 23 and injuring 21 in Baghdad on Monday [CNN] . The attack targeted Iraqi police near the Interior Ministry which was celebrating the anniversary of the newly reformed police force. In Kirkuk a judge was also said to have been assassinated in gunfire. Iraqis weren’t the only victims of the weekend violence. In Tal Afar, in northern Iraq, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed killing all 12 on board. The dead were identified as four civilians and eight US troops according to military sources. Five other marines died over the weekend. Three died in a gun attack and two were killed by bombs whilst on operations in Fallujah. Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz Hakim, a leading Shi’ite in the country has appealed for calm after last weeks attacks which targeted Shi’ite Mosques and killed up to 200 people. People “must not lose patience”, he said in an interview with CNN. He continued by saying that “terrorists are the enemy, not Sunnis”.
A Christian Science Monitor journalist was kidnapped over the weekend but news was a only released on Monday after requests from the Christian Science Monitor such that negotiations might take place. Meanwhile a French journalist, kidnapped one month ago was released by his captors on Sunday [CNN] . Bernard Planche, an engineer, was set to arrive home on Monday night.
In Iran and the second plane crash in 5 weeks has killed 11 people, many of them members of the Revolutionary Guard and high ranking officials. The plane, a Falcon jet crashed in the North West of Iran near the Turkish border. [CNN]
In Israel and the media circus surrounding the hospital in which Ariel Sharon remains, is beginning to dwindle [BBC]. However, even as the Prime Minister was said to be breathing on his own, he remained “Gravely ill” according to CNN. He is unlikely to recover anytime soon and a new leader is likely to be chosen in the coming week.
British politics suffered a blow with the loss of two high profile politicians. On Sunday the leader of the Liberal Democrats resigned from the party besides having told the Independent on Saturday that he “would fight on”. He had battled allegations of being unpopular and ineffective in the party as well as reports that he was a ‘binge drinker’. Much of the criticism was described as media hype, prior to his resignation. He admitted that he had indeed had a drink problem, but was leaving for the good of the party. Another shock came as it was announced in the early hours of Monday that Tony Banks, a former Labour MP, had died. He had been taken ill on Thursday during a visit to Florida suffering from a massive stroke. The 62 year old, described as a ‘maverick’ by some papers, had stood as MP for West Ham in east-London for a number of years before standing down at the last election. He had in his long political career described Margaret Thatcher as having “the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa-constrictor” and former Conservative leader William Hague as a “foetus”. After his death a friend and former Conservative minister David Mellor said Tony was, “a man of passion in his politics and was in possession of a sharp and witty tongue.” Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was, “proud to have him as a Sports Minister” and that “like everyone in the Labour Party, we will miss him very much and regret that he was taken from us so soon”. Dick Cheney, US Vice President, was also hospitalized over the weekend suffering ‘shortness of breathe’. He has suffered continued health problems and has a pace-maker fitted. [BBC]
Further cases of Bird-Flu in Turkey have increased concern throughout the rest of Europe with many countries placing restrictions on imports of Chickens and untreated feathers. Five more cases of the H5N1 virus were said to have been identified bringing the total of 15 cases since Wednesday. A cull of poultry has been implemented in many farms throughout Turkey in order to stem the diseases spread. Russia has advised tourists to avoid the country and WHO inspectors have visited the area of the first outbreak. Meanwhile an 8th case of bird-flu has been found in a 6 year old boy in Hunan Province, China. [CNN /BBC /MAP].
Friday, January 06, 2006
On the 7th floor of an Israeli hospital, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remains in a critical but stable condition after falling ill earlier this week. He suffered a major stroke on Wednesday and since his admission to hospital has undergone several operations. He remains in a coma surrounded by saturation coverage on CNN who follow every development of the story. There is uncertainty in the region as to who will lead Israel’s government after Sharon. And as the immanency of his death become clear many are concerned as to where the peace process will go. A death curse had been made by a number of Jews unhappy with Sharon’s policies. Whether this influenced his health is not clear, but the division amongst the Israeli population is. [06/01/2006]
A third person has died in Turkey from the H5N1 virus. The child was the third to succumb to the disease in the last week. The child, an 11 year old girl, was the third member of the same family to die. Her 15 year old sister and 14 year old brother died only days before. A fourth family member remains hospitalized and up to 20 other children are in hospital with flu like symptoms. [BBC]This latest outbreak has brought with it the increased worry that the virus may have ‘jumped the species barrier’ and brought the risk of a pandemic closer than ever. It is also the closest to mainland Europe that a human victim has been identified. Until now victims of the so called ‘bird-flu’ have been confined to China, Vietnam and the Far East. [06/01/2006]
Three days of continued violence has left more than 170 dead in Iraq. Suicide bombers targeted Shi’ite mosques in Karbala and Ramadi on Thursday, 100 km to the west of Baghdad. And in Baghdad itself at least three explosions were reported. Kirkuk in the north saw further attacks on a major pipeline adding to fuel supply problems in the country. At least 5 US soldiers were killed in attacks yesterday and a further 11 died today in the cycle of violence which puts the political future of the country in doubt. But in protests today hundreds defied the bombers and called for an end to the violence.
In the continuing War on Terror and further accusations of torture have surfaced, this time against the British government. Speaking at a press conference in Athens, Greece, three Pakistanis accused MI6 and Greek intelligence of kidnapping and torture. Besides denials from authorities, one of the Pakistanis said he was taken to a room and interrogated for 2 hours about the London bombings. Mohammed Munir, 34, said, “They asked whether I knew what had happened in London, and threatened to take me with them to England.” Saying that he was beaten during the interrogation he added, “They said that if we did [mention the arrest and beatings] they would slit our throats”.
Appearing on Al-Jazeera today a tape showed Ayman Al-Zawahiri called on President Bush to “Admit defeat” in the war in Afghanistan. He criticized the International Community for not having done enough in humanitarian efforts throughout the earthquake hit region of Pakistan. He also sent his prayers to the grief stricken region. Prayers at the beginning of the Hajj have done little after 76 died in Mecca when a 4 storey building collapsed yesterday. At least 60 people were injured.