Monday, July 30, 2007

Brown & Bush united in War on Terror

Both leaders insisted a 'special relationship' still exists

Gordon Brown today made his first address to the American public during his first visit to the US as Prime Minister.
“I would describe Gordon Brown as someone I can do business with,” President Bush said in summarizing his feelings towards the new PM. He said shared visions were “all important”. And he referred to the defence of freedom and the ideological struggle against terrorism. He said that success in Iraq and Afghanistan was important to stop the spread of terrorist with dark ideologies. He said they had talked at length about world poverty and said that the new relationship would be a constructive one. Gordon Brown said the partnership was of shared values. Nuclear proliferation, climate change and terrorism were all problems that the two countries faced. Security and reconciliation was important in helping Iraq develop into a stable country the Prime Minister stated. He said Afghanistan was “the front line on terrorism”.

With regards Iran, and its ignoring calls to stop its nuclear enrichment, he urged for further sanctions against the country. He also called for greater efforts in stopping the crisis in Darfur. He said that efforts would also be made to curb climate change.

Back to Iraq, and Gordon Brown said he was pleased with the way in which Iraq was building up its own security. But following a question from the BBC correspondent, both the Prime Minister and the President said it was important that the two allies do not withdraw before the situation was stable.
“This Prime Minister got a taste of what these people will do” President Bush said, referring to the recent attack in Glasgow and attempted car bomb attacks in London; “He handled it well.”

“We’re in a generation-long battle” the Prime Minister said, “and we are at one with that battle.” The President echoed the strong ties existing between the UK and the US. Besides trade, security and common interests throughout the world, he said “We think of the same values of freedom and justice”. As regards as to how he felt personally towards the new PM, George Bush said he thought Gordon was a “humorous Scotsman” as opposed to the dowdy man portrayed in the media.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

tvnewswatch in France

As tvnewswatch is currently in France, news is a little difficult to
receive. BBC World Service is virtually unreceivable on the west coast
though in Normandy both the BBC and CRI (Chinese Radio International)
were partially receivable on medium wave. In St Gille Croix de Vie a
copy of the Times was available at a cost of €3.25, but was in fact
the previous day's newspaper. Nonethe less it provided a much desired
summery of recent events. The main headline was that Hamas is likely
to be isolated by the US whilst at the same time launching "a fresh
effort to kick-start the Middle East peace process". Japan also hit
the front page after a 6.8 quake hit the north east of the country.
Over 500 were injured and 20,000 homes left without electricity after
the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant was damaged. The Kashiwazaki plant
leaked a small amount of radioactive waste into the sea. Iraq
continues to dominate the news with several bombings on Monday. One in
Kirkuk killed at least 80 in triple suicide attack. Finally, Lin Bao,
who died 36 years ago in a plane crash whilst trying to escape from
China, has been 'rehabilitated', according to Xinhua News Agency. The
former head of the military had been accused of plotting against Mao

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

21/7 bombers jailed for life

Four would-be suicide bombers have been sentenced to life imprisonment at Woolwich Crown Court following their conviction on Monday. All had been found guilty in conspiring and attempting to carry out suicide attacks in London on the 21st July 2005. Speaking during the sentencing, Judge Justice Fulford QC said, “I have no doubt that they were both part of an al-Qaeda-inspired and controlled sequence of attacks”. The jury was unable to come to any agreement over two others who the prosecution said had been part of the plot. Manfo Kwaku Asiedu and Adel Yahya both face a retrial later this year. The 21/7 bombers, Muktar Ibrahim, 29, Yassin Omar, 26, Ramzi Mohammed, 25, and Hussain Osman, 28, will serve at least 40 years before being considered for parole [BBC].

Many of the newspapers published on Tuesday, led with the conviction of the would-be bombers. The Daily Mail concentrated on the fact that all four were in fact refugees receiving benefits. It ran with the headline, "To think we gave them sanctuary".
The Sun went a step further, asking why all four men should not be dropped back to the east African states they came from, “with or without a parachute”. Other newspapers reported on the blunders made by the men, specifically the bad mathematics that had led one of the four to mix the bomb ingredients incorrectly. "If the detonators had been slightly more powerful or the hydrogen peroxide slightly more concentrated, then each bomb would have exploded," Judge Fulford said.

Besides this conviction, Britain faces continued threats. Over the weekend al-Qaeda’s number 2, Ayman al Zawahiri issued further threats in a video message and an audio tape [BBC]. In a 20-minute recording, the al-Qaeda second-in-command said the group was preparing a "very precise response" to the knighthood of Salman Rushdie [BBC]. And today a senior Iranian cleric warned of further attacks aimed at the UK in response to the announcement that Salman Rushdie was to be given a knighthood. Grand Ayatollah Saanei told Sky News, “This is blasphemy and an insult to all the prophets in the world. Terrorists can use this as a pretext to attack Britain.” The decision to offer Rushdie a knighthood had already been condemned by Iran last month. Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the decision to praise the "apostate" showed Islamophobia among British officials [BBC]. Sir Salman's book The Satanic Verses sparked protests by Muslims around the world and led to Iran issuing a fatwa in 1989, ordering his execution.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Air China - Chinglish "threat to air safety"

Language barriers between Chinese pilots and western ground control staff are creating cause for concern for some in the airline industry, CNN reports. English is the internationally agreed language for airline pilots, but problems in communication are increasing the possibility of accidents. In one incident highlighted by CNN, an Air China flight from Beijing has a confused discourse with New York ground control staff.
When Air China flight 981 touched down at JFK last April there followed a confused dialogue between the pilot and the tower that could have led to disastrous consequences.

Tower: Make the right turn here at Juliet, join Alpha, hold short of Mike Alpha, Air China 9-81.
Pilot: Air China join right..err..Juliet join Alpha err hold (unintelligible) November.
Tower: OK, I’ll say it again.

Three times the tower repeated instructions, but the confusion persisted.

Tower: Air China 9-81 have they cleared you into the ramp?
Pilot: Roger. Err (unintelligible)
Tower: Have you been cleared into the ramp?
Pilot: OK, going to the ramp.
Tower: No, that was a question. Have the ramp people cleared you into the gate?
Pilot: Roger, to the gate, Air China 9-81
Tower: I’ll try it again, it’s a question. Hold your position. This is a question. Have you been cleared into your gate?
Pilot: OK, we hold here.

The frustrated controller at the tower is then heard to say: Nobody seems to speak English here today.
Air China admits there was an incident with flight 981 but blames the language used by the control tower. “He didn’t use the standard RKO language” Xu Xiukai, from the Air China English Training school, told CNN, “That’s why the pilot didn’t catch the actual meaning”.

Air China will require all its international pilots to have completed an English examination by next March. However as it stand of the 8,593 pilots who fly internationally, only 753 had taken the exam and of them only 651 had passed [source: China’s General Administration of Civil Aviation]. Even where pilots have passed the English exam, there are causes for concern as their grasp of the English language lacks a certain je ne sais quoi! And it was the French that used to create concern only a few years ago. But after many years efforts were made to force all pilots to use English. Capt. Bertrand de Courville, director of flight safety for the French national carrier explained, "Before this decision, we had in the same terminal airspace a mix of Air France flights (speaking aeronautical French) and other international flights (speaking aeronautical English)."

Al Gore - Global Warming is a "planetary emergency"

The polar ice caps are melting at a rate which may see them gone in as little as 30 years, Al Gore told CNN’s Larry King; “But we can still save it” insists the former Presidential candidate. He says he doesn’t miss politics saying he has a far more important mission. “I’m on a very different campaign to solve the biggest problem our planet faces” Gore insists. He is helped by friends and former colleagues. Tommy Lee Jones a former room mate with Gore at Harvard narrates the voice over to commercials promoting efforts to changing peoples’ attitude to protecting the environment. “We are living in a bubble of illusion” says Al Gore, “we are in a planetary emergency”.

And he is helped in his mission by Kevin Wall, Live Earth’s founder and Co-Producer, who says he saw Al Gore’s slide show and wanted to be a part of the effort to save the planet.

The concert featuring a number of top musical acts will be performed in 7 continents from the US to China.

Starting in Sydney Australia, the proceedings will bring coverage from, Shanghai, China; Tokyo, Japan; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; New York, USA; London, UK; Hamburg, Germany; and Johannesburg in Africa. One can only guess the carbon footprint such an event will leave in its wake. However Al Gore is pragmatic with regards criticism targeted at this latest effort to bring the Global Warming threat to people’s attention. “If we can get even a small proportion of people to sign up to this 7 point pledge, then it will make a difference”, Gore insists.

But will really make a difference? And is scepticism in the global warming argument still too strong? Gore concedes there is much work to be done and says people must “wake up”.

Whilst many might agree that pollution is an issue, there still exists disagreement on what the causes of global warming are. A visitor to Shanghai or Beijing in China can see at first hand what pollution can do to the air. Too many vehicles, uncontrolled industry and coal fired power stations all add up to create a toxic mix of pollutants which hang over the city often for weeks at a time. But whilst others live in relatively cleaner environments, and suffer wet and windy summers, the argument for global warming is less convincing.

Gore is not put off by sceptics. “There are some who still think the world is flat” Gore quips, “but it’s hard when some of the largest polluters close their ears and spend millions of dollars a year to intentionally confuse people into thinking this isn’t real”.
But Gore insists the problem is very real, “and some of the problems that scientists say we should watch out for, because they are associated with global warming, are beginning to happen; the stronger storms, the sea level rise, the diseases from the tropics moving into areas where people live, the melting of the ice…”
“This is a moral issue, an ethical issue, it’s about the survival of our civilization, we’re not used to thinking or talking in that way but that’s what’s at stake” says the former US Vice President. “We don’t have that many years to play around”, he warns, “every day we will put 70M tonnes of Global Warming pollution into the atmosphere of the Earth as if it’s an open sewer. And we cannot continue to do that. But we will find it difficult to stop it until there is enough political will, that comes from the grass roots, to embolden the political leaders to pass new laws and policies that stop it.”
Gore says his mission to save the planet is far from over as he tries to convince politicians. “If I do my job correctly, within 500 days when the election is held in the US, then all candidates will be talking about it in realistic terms and offering meaningful solutions.” And although he is taking his message to all the countries of the world he finishes by saying “the US should provide leadership.”
[ / Larry King Live]

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Stuttering PM stumbles over PMQs

Much of the media focused today on the nervousness the Prime Minister appeared to display as Gordon Brown stuttered through his first Prime Minister’s Question Time. “The way, the way, the way forward“ the Mr Brown stammered in reply to one question from David Cameron. “Of course, of course I think that,..I think the …” at which point the Leader of the House urged the assembled MPs to keep order as he wished to hear the Prime Minister’s answer. This ironic remark brought guffaws of laughter from the House. Eventually Gordon Brown only gave further ammunition to the Opposition. “Has he not has forgotten I’ve only been in this job or five days” declared the Prime Minister. This was something many pundits hinged upon saying he was like a nervous schoolboy [Guardian / The Times]. Mr Brown has much to make him nervous as Britain faces a new wave of terror attacks. However, the threat level was today reduced to ‘Severe’ from ‘Critical’ by the government. The situation is still very critical in both major fronts in the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan. Today 6 Canadian NATO troops and an interpreter were killed in Afghanistan [BBC] whilst several suicide attacks killed a dozen in Iraq [BBC]. Two US troops also died in a helicopter crash the US military confirmed Wednesday. Last week saw 5 troops killed in what was described as a ‘coordinated attack by insurgents. Those deaths brought to 99 the number of U.S. troops to die in Iraq throughout June. The toll for the past three months — 329 — made it the deadliest quarter for U.S. troops in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. [Fox News]
And on Tuesday a blast in Yemen killed several Spanish tourists [BBC]. These events have been pushed to the back of the news agenda in light of the events at home. But the news abroad will no doubt be playing on the Prime Minister's mind as much the continuing domestic crisis.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

8 suspects held in terror probe

Dr Kafeel Ahmed, Dr Bilal Abdullah, Dr Mohammed Asha, Marwa Daana,
Dr Sabeel Ahmed, Dr Mohammed Haneef and two un-named suspects are now in custody

After two attempted terror attacks and a car bomb attack in Scotland, the police investigation has moved swiftly with several arrests having been made. Information found on mobile telephones in the failed London car bombs led police to Scotland. One letting agency was contacted, through which one of the suspects had rented a property. But then came the attack on Glasgow airport and the arrested of the two suspected would-be suicide bombers. They have been named as Bilal Abdullah, a doctor of Iraqi descent, and Dr Kafeel Ahmed.
Within hours of the blast at Glasgow airport, police detained Dr Mohammed Asha on the M6 along with his wife, Marwa Daana a 27 year old laboratory technician. His father, Jamil Asha, has said he was a neurologist working in the UK and has said “this is so strange”. Pictures have been shown on some TV networks which depict Mohammed Asha meeting with Queen Noor of Jordan during a graduation ceremony. His father insisted his son was innocent. “Our son is not a fanatic,” he told reporters, “this is a mistake”.

A further arrest was made at a house in Liverpool, named as Dr Sabeel Ahmed, and two more were detained in Paisley near Glasgow a short time later.

COBRA, the government’s security panel, had met several times by early Monday morning and in the fast paced investigation police said they had made much progress. Then came news that another suspect had been detained half way round the globe. Dr Mohammed Haneef was arrested and subsequently questioned after attempting to take a flight to Pakistan from Brisbane, Australia, on a one-way ticket. He is described as an Indian doctor who had also worked in the UK. In addition the Prime Minister, John Howard, said another man was “helping police with their enquiries”. Dr Haneef is said to have moved to Australia in 2005 from Liverpool. He previously worked at Halton Hospital, Runcorn, Cheshire. The 26 year old Indian doctor arrested in Liverpool earlier is also said to have worked at the same hospital. Sky News reported that the men detained at an address in Paisley were trainee doctors. They are said to be 25 and 26 years old.

Several controlled explosions were carried out on Tuesday; one carried out on a suspicious car at a mosque in Glasgow and a further one at Alexandra Hospital, where at least one of the suspects remains in critical condition.

During the reporting of the story there has been confused and differing ways in which the details are reported. Whilst Sky News have used photographs and names of suspects, others, including CNN, have blurred out faces and refrained from reporting their names. Channel Four News on Tuesday showed only three of the eight suspects’ pictures, refraining from showing that of Dr Sabeel Ahmed beside many photographs having already been published of the hospitalized suspect.

Besides Sir Iain Blair saying the attacks could not have been prevented, it has now been reported in the media that MI5 already had some of the suspects in their sights. It may be coincidence, but it has been reported that one supposed al-Qaeda leader had given a coded warning to Canon Andrew White who visited Baghdad recently. He said that the man had threatened attacks in the UK and said, “those that cure you will kill you”.

BBC journalist freed after 114 days

After 114 days in captivity, Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent, has been freed. In that time there had been doubts about his well being and at times rumours that he had been killed by his kidnappers. Most recently concerns were heightened when pictures were released showing the journalist wearing what appeared to be a suicide bomb vest. Speaking to the assembled media he said he was “enormously relieved” to be free. He spoke of his having listened to the BBC World Service during his captivity and he thanked many media organisations for keeping his plight in the public domain. He said he was generally well treated by his kidnappers who provided him with bread, cheese and eggs, food he said he had asked for. At one point one of the kidnappers allowed him to see the television when his parents appeared to make an appeal. But besides these gestures, Alan Johnston spoke of intense psychological pressure and deep depression during his ordeal. It was a “weird, dark world,” he said. He said the pressure by Hamas had probably been the pivotal factor in securing his release. He said the nature of his release came suddenly and without warning. “They burst in my room last night and one looked wild eyed and I thought this was bad news”. He said he was then taken into the centre of town and handed over to some more gunmen after a terrifying car ride. But as he caught a glimpse of a photographer he recognised he said he realized it was all over. He said he was moved by the kindness of ordinary Palestinians and added that today was “the most extraordinary day of his life”. His first press conference was covered in its entirety by CNN. The BBC covered most of the proceedings but cut away to news about the conviction of a murderer. Sky News also cut away after 30 minutes to update viewers on the UK terror investigations, now in their 4th day. Al Jazeera covered the entire 42 minute press conference, which was held at the British Consulate in Jerusalem, and followed up which an in depth studio discussion. The BBC also continued with analysis of the news of Alan Johnston’s release. His plight has been successfully resolved. However the world has become an increasingly dangerous one for journalists. At least 155 were killed last year, 64 of them in Iraq alone.