Saturday, April 30, 2005

Militants launch attacks in Iraq and Egypt

Another bloody day in Iraq as attacks near the Syrian border saw 4 US soldiers dead and 4 others injured. In fresh car bomb attacks in Baghdad at least 11 people were killed and 40 injured. ABC also reported that a joint Iraqi – US patrol was attacked in west Baghdad. The final death toll for Friday’s 17 attacks rose to at least 50 in what is seen as an attempt to shake the newly formed Iraqi government. In Cairo, Egypt, 4 people were killed and a number of others injured when ‘Islamic militants’ launched a number of sporadic attacks. In the first a grenade or bomb was thrown from a bridge near to a 5 star hotel and an Egyptian museum. Information was confused as regards the numbers and nationalities of dead and injured. CNN reported that 1 person was dead, believed to be an Arab. It also reported 7 injured, four of them foreigners. One security source was reported as saying that two were Israelis, 1 Italian and a Russian. The Egyptian health minister, Mohammed Awad Tag Eddin, told Nile TV News that the injured comprised three Egyptians, two Israelis, 1 Swiss and one Italian. The BBC report painted a different picture. The Arab was said to be a ‘wanted militant’ who detonated his device after being pursued by police. In another incident they reported that ‘the sister and fiancĂ©e of the bomber’ fired upon a tourist bus before shooting themselves. They reported 3 dead, the ‘bomber’ and his two relatives, and 10 injured. 20:36 GMT/UTC/ZULU

Larry King Live - Lisa Marie Presley promotes CD

Nothing much revealed by Lisa Marie Presley in the first half of the show. Instead Larry spent much of the time talking about her dubious, and outside the US, unheard of musical career, the paparazzi and her privacy. “It’s a hot subject right now” she says when Larry King finally pops the MJ question. As predicted here in an earlier post, she avoided controversy and was guarded in what she’d let rip about Jackson. And “what’s that song about?” asks Larry. Apparently it’s about someone she regards as an idiot. Though, she won’t say who. Larry King doesn’t press her, so all we know is, it’s a him. But is it ‘Him’? In a Rolling Stone interview in April 2003 she said, of the relationship with Jackson, that all she got out of it was a “s*** storm.”
So how did she get drawn towards MJ? "Yeah. You get sucked into the 'you poor, misunderstood person, you.' I'm a sucker for that. Then we sat down to talk, and he was so not what I thought he was. He was very real -- he was cursing, he was funny, and I was like, 'Wow. . . .' I fell into that 'You have this whole Howard Hughes thing that goes on in the press, and you're not anything like that.' "
"I understand it did affect people's perception of me. That's fine; I understand why. But I did fall in love with him. I can't say what his intentions were, but I can tell you mine was that I absolutely fell in love with him and fell into this whole thing which I'm not proud of now."
Concerns over the ’93 accusations were expressed too, "Did I ever worry? Of course I f***ing worried. Yeah. I did. But I could only come up with what he told me. The only two people that were in the room was him and that kid, so how the hell was I going to know? I could only go off what he told me." For the full transcript click here

Italy in standoff with US over 007 killing

A full agreement was described as ‘not met’ after investigations into the shooting of Italy’s 007 by US troops last month during the rescue of an Italian journalist held hostage by insurgents. Italy are due remove their military presence from Iraq by October this year.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Election - Edukayshon, Edukayshon, Edukayshon

So what do the manifestos have to say. The wonderful world of technology gives us the ability to scan for keywords or phrases in the now downloadable PDF documents available from most of the Parties’ websites [links to party websites – click April and scroll down to beginning of campaign] So spawned by a question put to Alan Bolton on Sky News regards what each party might do on the NHS waiting lists. So what did Labour have to say on ‘waiting lists’?

“Going forward instead to services free to all, personal to each: breaking once and for all the drop-out culture in education and the waiting-list culture in health, by raising investment and driving innovation through diversity of provision and power in the hands of the patient, the parent and the citizen.”

This gobbledygook and legalese can only serve to alienate any voter. But can the Tories do any better on waiting-lists? On page 12 their manifesto reads as follows, “We believe that providing a contribution based on the cost of half the NHS operation when people make these choices both recognises the tax they have paid towards the NHS and will help further reduce waiting lists.”

Well, at least the Conservative statement was fairly straight forward. But the punctuation is just appalling. Those responsible for both of these documents need an education in English grammar. Even Microsoft word, or any other spell check, should have brought to their attention as to how disjointed and badly punctuated these diatribes are.

So can the Lib Dems do any better? Page 6 under “Quicker diagnosis for serious conditions”, they say, “We will publish waiting times for tests and scams – figures which the Labour Government has refused to make public.” Short and sweet, but also clear. Additionally they say, “We will complete NHS plans to recruit at least an extra 8,000 more doctors, 12,000 more nurses and 18,000 more therapists and scientists by 2008. That will cut waiting times and improve the quality of care.”

The Green Party does not mention, in itself, the keyword ‘waiting-lists, but instead talk of improving the NHS in general terms. “The Green Party will return the NHS back to its founding principles of comprehensive and universal care, which is available to all on the basis of need, not ability to pay. We will restore the professional medical ethos and reduce the business-centric culture that is commonplace in our hospitals.”

The clearness and terms in which the parties ‘speak to the voter’ seems to be inversely proportional to the ratings in the polls. Only 6 days to go now. I’d post all the manifestos but 1. There’s no space, 2. They are mostly very boring and/or full of lies, inconsistencies and bad grammar, 3. no-one will read them anyway, and since the Lib Dems are resigned to the fact they won’t win, the Tories think they will win, are right and don’t need their mind changed anyway and Labour know they will win, don’t care what anyone else thinks, and stop mentioning the war already… 4. All the above.

Jackson - Damning evidence allowed by judge

In the last hour Judge Melville has allowed 1993 evidence in what may be the breakthrough for the prosecution. The evidence is in the form of a number of books depicting ‘nude boys’. One, titled "The Boy: A Photographic Essay," contains an inscription signed by "M.J." that reads: "Look at the true spirit of happiness and joy in the boys' faces. This is the spirit of boyhood, a life I've never had and will always dream of. This is the life I want for my children." Another, "Boys Will Be Boys," has an affectionate inscription indicating it was given to Jackson by a fan identified as "RHonDA." Judge Melville said the books would be considered sexually explicit under California law. Prosecutor Ron Zonen said the material "adequately corroborates" testimony about the 1993 allegations.

Jackson's wives

The prosecution in the Jackson case seems to be coming to a close. Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s former wife, has taken the stand throughout the week and many seem to think it undermines the prosecution case. Indeed her testimony did seem to substantiate defence claims that ‘the Germans’ were behind much of the so called conspiracy. However, her statements also outline a Michael who only talked to her the one time in a two and a half minute telephone call asking for help. In that call she was asked to take part in the ‘rebuttal film’. Her participation in the film appeared to be hinged upon her desire to see her children. Two of Michael Jackson’s children have not seen their mother for over 6 years. Besides promises from Jackson, she has still not gained access. Asked why by the prosecution she claimed it was due to several of Michael Jackson’s aides preventing it. However many of these same people had not been in Jackson’s employ for several months, and still she had no access. In essence, Jackson only contacted Debbie Rowe when he required her help. Following her participation in the film, Jackson once again discarded her. She dismissed the idea that it was Jackson who had prevented access, “I don’t want to believe that”, she said. Her blind love for the pop star was evident as she said, “I still have fond feelings for the Michael I know…if only he’d talk to me”.

The latest from California is that the prosecution wish to admit several new items as evidence. One of these is a book. Believed to be “The Boy: A Photographic Essay”, it consists of many naked and semi-naked adolescent boys at play, swimming and exercising. The book has previously been mentioned in Court TV exclusives in which Diane Dimond details how detectives found this and other items during a search at the Neverland ranch in 1993. It would certainly be devastating for the defence. The existence of such a book in Michael Jackson’s home would be difficult for him to explain away. Tonight Larry King Live should be interesting. The guest is Jackson’s other former wife, Lisa Marie Presley. In a National Enquirer exclusive, published in December 2003, her uncle claimed she had found sexually explicit material that ‘convinced her Jackson was sexually fixated on boys’. Preacher Rick Stanley, Elvis’ step-brother, said the description she imparted, ‘sent a shiver down my spine.’ What revelations might she reveal tonight? No doubt due to the ongoing case she’ll be very guarded.

Iraq - 27 dead 100 injured...

11 bombs exploded today in Baghdad. At least 27 were killed. 3 amongst the dead were US soldiers. More than 100 were injured. US military downplayed the severity of the attacks and said that attacks were down overall and were not very sophisticated. This despite their being over 100 dead since last Friday alone. 44 US military personel have been killed in April so far. The average death rate is 1.52 per day. Last month the average was 1.29. The general trend cannot be truly measured since particular actions, such as the assault on Fallujah, can send the average daily casualty rate up twice fold. Talking to CNN Gen Webster said, “Attacks have been down the entire year…attacks are severely diminished, we’ve captured 200 insurgents and twice that in explosives”. Claiming that it was only a matter of time before the insurgency discontinues, “The insurgents are seeing they’re losing all around” he said. As Gen Webster made his analysis, a new audio recording was released onto the internet today purporting to be from Al-Zarqawi. Said to be the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi said, “Bush the Dog…we are coming”.

'Axis of Evil' talks continue as some are armed

Iran has threatened to quit talks and continue with uranium enrichment if talks in London are not successful. The statements were made by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Thursday. He said, “If talks with the European Union are not successful tomorrow, negotiations will collapse and we will have no choice but to restart the uranium enrichment program.” Iran is one of a number of countries listed on George W Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’. Concerns are also mounting as Vladimir Putin makes a deal to sell missiles to Syria. Syria, although having withdrawn from the Lebanon, remains on America’s ‘watch list’. The Russian President today visited Israel in an attempt to placate and reassure Ariel Sharon and the Israeli people. He is due to meet the newly elected Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, on Friday. Meanwhile Bush has spent the last hour talking about the issues above. The press conference was called primarily to discuss health reforms. The speech aired on Sky and BBC for a short time, Al Jazeera and CNN covered until the end. Nothing new came from his commentary, but he reaffirmed his position on Syria, Iran and North Korea, that of keeping up the political pressure. Meanwhile in the UK everybody seems to have election fatigue, as Howard and Blair start bitching over the 'war' and 'trust'. 01:00 UTC/GMT/ZULU

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Extinct bird found

In Arkansas an ‘extinct’ Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has been spotted for the first time in over 65 years. The confirmed sighting was announced in a report on CBS tonight.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Election - 8 Days to go

Tony is in Bolton today, still on the subject of education. A hand picked audience again. No boo-ing here. Dismissing the Tory attacks on his integrity he went on to emphasize Labour’s position on education, the NHS and the economy. “I am proud to have the only serious policy in this campaign” he said, “Where the Tory policies add up they are extreme” adding that their economic plan was “inept”.
“I haven’t focused on the Lib Dems since they’re not going to be the Government”, he said. Their tax plans were “not serious politics”.
This was running Live on Sky until 11 am, but then went to Sky Active. BBC 24 continued with coverage as the PM criticized the Conservatives’ “assisted places scheme” saying that it was old policy with a different name. It is now called a ‘voucher scheme’. ITV news is meanwhile showing Live coverage of the ceremonies surrounding the handing out of knighthoods and other honours. Ellen MacArthur was given a VC. She achieved the record for the circumnavigating the earth in a small yacht.
Other news coverage is hinged on the maiden flight of the 550 seat A380. The plane took off from Toulouse, France and was covered on most channels Live.
But the election is never far away and BBC 24 turns to Live coverage from Hornsey where Charles Kennedy is in a primary school. “What’s your favourite food?” asks one small child. The local butcher to Mr Kennedy apparently sells very good pies, he said, so probably “Mr Wenn’s steak pies”. He said he also liked ice-cream. Difficult stuff, but that’s all we’re getting as coverage from that is cut. Back to Sky and political correspondent, Adam Bolton gives a quick summary. ITV news is back to the election coverage showing Live pictures from Bolton where Tony Blair strolls in a school playground. By half past the hour all the channels are onto sports news. CNN are covering very little of the British election. So in some ways it’s an escape. One top story is the business story surrounding the new Airbus A380. More later…

Taiwan chairman returns after 56 years

Taiwan opposition Kuomintang [KMT] Chairman, Lien Chan is visiting Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, in Nanjing – Live coverage on CCTV9 but no mention elsewhere. Described as a ‘journey of peace’ on the strap. The founder of the KMT was buried in the tomb in 1929. Lien Chan is the first KMT chairman to set foot on the mainland since 1949. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to fly to Beijing to meet Jia Qinglin, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, and hold talks with General Secretary Hu Jintao on Friday. Lien's landmark trip has triggered a media war among overseas media organizations as well as those from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. Local officials said at least 400 journalists have flocked to Nanjing for coverage of the "big event." And the scrum on CCTV9 is evidence already. 27/04/05 09:17 LOCAL TIME / 01:17 UTC

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fuel protests may disrupt election

Fuel protests may build in the next few days. Protests are have already been seen in Cheshire and today at the Vopak oil refinery in Essex. Prices have been seen to rise rapidly over the last month with Diesel now selling well above 90p a litre in many areas. The protests come in the same week that saw BP announce an increase of profits this year, up by 29%.

Election - no heckling please we're politicians

As the election campaign nears its final days the bitching between the leaders is starting. The usual “Lib Dems can’t win” and “it’s a wasted vote” were the sentiments coming from both Tory, sorry Conservative, and Labour camps. The Lib Dems themselves were revelling in the defection of Brian Sedgefield from Labour. Issues that have dominated the campaign in the eyes of the media have shifted from Rover’s closure, health and Iraq. Now, all talk is of education. Tony Blair popped into a school near Clacton, Essex only to be boo-ed by a number of students. Or at least that’s what it sounded like! Sky were debating the issue earlier this afternoon. Prescott is still in the West Country, snubbing countryside alliance protesters and journalists. And Tony is now is in Liverpool [only on Sky News Active though]. Michael Howard was visiting a hospital today and failed to wash his hands between patients, provoking criticism from all sides. And can the real people get anywhere near these people. Even as a member of the press it is virtually impossible to even find out about their itinerary, let alone get into the ‘rota’. A Dispatches special, on Channel 4 last night, and a programme on BBC3 called The Heckler, both highlighted the undemocratic, inaccessibility of our contemporary leaders. And as allegations of postal vote fraud were still being voiced in many of today’s papers, the deadline was up and the statistic of 1 in 7 votes being a postal vote was released.

Other numbers of interest: word counts in the party manifestos
Iraq - Labour – 10 / Tory – 3 / Lib Dem – 9 / Green – 3
NHS - Labour – 40 / Tory – 10 / Lib Dem – 16 / Green – 12
Euro/Europe - Labour – 26 / Tory – 16 / Lib Dem – 20 / Green – 17
Terrorist/ism - Labour – 19 / Tory – 2 / Lib Dem – 10 / Green – 4
Labour - Labour – 105 / Tory – 28 / Lib Dem – 54 / Green – 0
Tory - Labour – 11 / Tory – 58 / Lib Dem – 2 / Green – 0
Conservative - Labour – 0 / Tory – 0 / Lib Dem – 20 / Green - 0
Lib Dem - Labour – 0 / Tory – 0 / Lib Dem – 67 / Green – 0
Green - Labour – 0 / Tory – 0 / Lib Dem – 0 / Green – 155

Monday, April 25, 2005

TV viewers may be zapped

Anti-TV protesters are set to disrupt viewing for thousands in pubs throughout the UK in what has been dubbed TV-Turnoff Week. Concerned by the rise of public TVs, in bars, pubs and cafes, the members of White Dot are to use a £14 [$7] device to turn off the all pervasive boxes. One activist said, “In the Goose PH the customers went mad…they went crackers” and “in John Lewis’s TV department ten TVs went off at once. The salesman just looked at them gobsmacked”. Nice idea, but one might get one’s own gob smacked!

Arnie 'not funny' say women

Arnie has upset women of America with a ‘sexist’ joke. He told US DJ, Howard Stern, “If we get rid of the moon, women, whose menstrual cycles are governed by the moon, will not get PMS. They will stop bitching and whining”.

Telephone 'Slamming'

Scammers in the UK are hijacking people’s telephone accounts by way of a legal loophole. Thousands of customers have had their account switched to another provider by companies using only basic information; name, postcode and phone number. They do NOT need a signature, and instead send only a letter of confirmation, which if ignored leads to the continuation of service from the new provider. Advice, there is none really, since the whole procedure of what’s called slamming is within the law. What with unsolicited texts [SMS], silent calls [usually an attempt to find if a line is active], junk e-mail, unsolicited calls on mobiles and landlines asking if you’d like to get your windows double-glazed or informing you of a fictitious prize, there appears to be no end of this constant harassment. Current laws, as recently implemented in the US, DO NOT go far enough. For more information see the UK Govt website.

Japan - 50 dead in train crash

In a massive shock to the Japanese psyche, a train crash has killed at least 50 and injured some 200 near Osaka. The first 3 carraiges of the seven carriage train left the tracks and ploughed through an apartment building. Japans rail system has until now had a good safety record. The crash happened at 9:20 a.m local time. more reports here

Iraq - a weekend of death

In Iraq, Sunday saw a double bombing at around 9 pm near a Shi’ite Mosque in Baghdad. Shortly after the first bomb detonated people gathered, only to be hit by a secondary device. Both devices were reported to have been set off by remote control. At least 16 were killed and some 57 injured. In Tikrit 6 people were killed as two suicide bombs hit near to an Iraqi police academy. At least 26 were injured. In other developments US authorities say they have 10 suspects in custody who they believe were involved in the shooting down of a helicopter on Thursday.
Pakistani Embassy worker, Malik Javaid, who was kidnapped earlier this month by Omer Bin Khatab, has been released by his captors. It is not known if a ransom was paid. On Saturday a US soldier was killed bringing the US toll to 1,569. An AP cameraman was killed and an AP photographer injured in Mosul. The incident occurred as US forces engaged insurgents on Saturday. And a bomb near the notorious Abu Ghraib prison killed 9 Iraqi soldier and wounded 20 others.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Election Canvassing - Brentwood & Ongar

While the main leaders of the political parties, Tony Blair, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy, are taking the main headlines, at the grass roots it is the little man, the unheard of candidate that may [or may not] be making a difference on the ground.
In the contested seat of Brentwood & Ongar, Eric Pickles doesn’t have Martin Bell fighting against him as an Independent. But Mr Bell, otherwise known as the man in the white suit, is lending his support to the Lib Dem candidate Gavin Stollar. In the 2001 election the votes were as follows: Eric Pickles - Conservative 16,558 / Martin Bell - Independent 13,737 / David Kendall - Liberal Democrat 6,772 / Diane Johnson - Labour 5,505 / Ken Gulleford - United Kingdom Independence Party 611 / Peter Pryke - Independent 239 /
David Bishop - Church of the Militant Elvis 68 / Tony Appleton - Independent 52 /

Many names have changed but the fight for this seat is a closely contested one. Stollar brought out the whole gang on Saturday morning. Some 50 supporters, including the Martin Bell Legacy Group, and party workers assembled and put on a show for the press. The soap box routine was briefly heckled but little interaction was made between voter and party activists other than the handing out of leaflets and a free paper. UKIP party activists along with candidate Stuart Gulleford were only metres away trying to sell their ‘get out of Europe’ rhetoric while a lone Labour candidate, John Adams, made a brief appearance.
No doubt feeling safe in his seat, Eric Pickles was noticeable by his absence. He was however spotted in Shenfield recently, so he hasn’t disappeared. Public interaction was somewhat bemused. Expressions of ‘what’s going on over there?’ was on many a passer-by’s face. Oh yes, an election. Disillusion, despondency and disinterest are the main feelings that many voters have. And the failure of many politicians to do any serious canvassing will only bring with it a low turnout on May 5th.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

World Headlines - Saturday 23rd April

Headlines today: Iraq sees more than a dozen dead in Iraq. Several road side bombs killed a number of Iraqi soldiers and police. Eleven were killed in and around Baghdad and more than 30 were injured. CNN reported shooting saw one dead near Basra, south of the country. Japanese prime minister Koizume meets Chinese Premier – talks have been ‘frank’ over ‘war time aggression’ which has been the subject of anti-Japanese protests this month. Talks over Japan’s position regards Taiwan are also on the agenda. Equador’s President Gutierrez remains out of office following his removal in a uprising this week. He is believed holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. He says his removal from office was “unconstitutional”.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Iraq and the War on Terror

Iraq today sees the bombing of a mosque killing 9 and injuring 24 others. A bomb in a BMW exploded outside the Al-Subaih mosque in south-east Baghdad. CNN reports up to 50 insurgent attacks a day in what is being seen as an upsurge in violence. After Fallujah the groups have reformed and “are coming back with a vengeance” says Ken Pollack from the Brooklyn Institute. Meanwhile, the lives of 4 Romanian TV journalists hung in the balance today as their government was given 4 days to pull out from Iraq.
And in the ‘War on Terror’, Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged over the 9/11 attacks, has pleaded guilty, in the United States, to conspiracy and could face the death penalty. In Spain, three men have appeared in court charged with helping to plan the 11th September 2001 attacks in the US. The main defendant at the trial is Syrian-born Immad Yarkas, 42, known as Abu Dahdah. He along with Moroccan-born Driss Chebli, is said to have set up a meeting in June 2001 which was allegedly attended by at least one of the attack ringleaders, Mohamed Atta, who piloted one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers. Another man, Jose Luis Galan, also known as Ghassub al-Abrash Ghaylun, is accused of filming the World Trade Center and other US targets, to be used as reconnaissance. Further trial proceedidings against al-Qaeda suspects in the Uk came to a conclusion as ‘shoebomb plotter’ Saajid Badat was sentenced to 13 years in jail for planning to blow up a passenger plane. The 26-year-old, a religious teacher from Gloucester, was sentenced after he admitted conspiring with fellow Briton Richard Reid. Reid was himself jailed for life in the US for similar charges after being caught on a plane attempting to carry out his attack.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Iraq - Helicopter downed

A helicopter has been shot down by insurgents in Iraq. The Russian built Mi-8 was brought down north of Baghdad, near the town of Tarmiya. Military sources have told Reuters that 3 crew and six passengers were on board. It is believed they were Bulgarian. In other developments, Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq has claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt on Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The bomb had targeted his motorcade yesterday killing two police officers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Prescott - "Bugger off and get on your bus"

John Prescott has once again shown his true colours as an arrogant, ill educated, thug. It was not so long ago he threw punches at a protester who had thrown an egg. A fair reaction, some might have said, others that it was an over-reaction. And certainly something a politician should not become embroiled.
As Mr Prescott visited Wales today, he again became the subject of criticism as he told a newspaper journalist to ‘bugger off’. The journalist, one Mark Choueke of the South Wales Argus, in a discussion that lasted only seconds was told, “You're an amateur mate, go get on your bus, go home.”
The reaction had come after Mr Choueke had asked John Prescott about Peter Law's decision to quit the party after 35 years service to Blaenau Gwent as a Labour politician. Prescott answered, “It didn't even register with us. The voters just have one choice, vote Labour otherwise they'll end up with a Tory government. It's unfortunate that some of our decisions upset some people.” Choueke continued, “But this isn't about upsetting Peter Law, it's about upsetting the many thousands of Labour voters in Blaenau Gwent who helped you form a strong government - they feel alienated.”
Prescott becoming more indignant, “Why are you asking me about this, I don't care, it's a Welsh situation, I'm a national politician”
So why’s he there, one might ask. To get votes? A question then put to him by the journalist, “Are you too big to care about the Labour voters in Blaenau Gwent?”
Walking away, Prescott reacted with this, “Where do they get these amateurs from? You're an amateur mate, go get on your bus, go home.” And adding, “Bugger off - get on your bus you amateur”. Asking if the ‘interview’ was over, and if this was all Prescott had to say, adding that this would go in the paper, Prescott reacted sarcastically, “I'm scared, go ahead, put it in your paper.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Prescott told Sky News that he had already answered questions about Mr Law earlier. She said, "In this particular situation the approach was quite unreasonable and quite unprofessional. There was just one question and the reporter kept going back and back on it."
Mark Templeton, news editor of the South Wales Argus , commented: “That is just absolute nonsense.”

Iraq - Violence intensifies

In Haditha, north-west of Baghdad, insurgents today [Wed 20/04/05] shot 20 Iraqi police officers in a football stadium. Their coach was apparently stopped and they were lined up against a wall before being killed. One officer was reported as having escaped and made it to a hospital. In other developments 50 bodies have been recovered from the river Tigris, south of Baghdad. It has been stated in some reports, to be the victims of a hostage-taking which occurred earlier this week. Three bombings hit central Baghdad today killing 2 and a further suidide car bomb detonated near Iyad Alawi's office killing at least one person according to Breaking News reports tonight. In addition a grenade attack killed two US troops yesterday evening, injuring 3 others.

New pope elected

After some confusion - over the colour of the smoke, the lack of bells, the wrong bells, then the right bells - the throngs of people outside the Vatican, and millions of viewers around the world, learned that a new pope had been chosen. Born in Bavaria in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger was made Cardinal in 1977 and now after two days of secret voting he becomes Pope Benedict XVI. He is viewed as 'hard line' by many observers. And there's no getting away from the wall to wall news coverage.

Jackson's turned into "Gollum"

Court TV – Rabbi Schmuley Boteach discussing the Jackson trial gave an interesting analogy. “Well you know in the movie Lord of the Rings where Gollum was once a normal and caring hobbit and he gets the ring of power and it brings out all his worst qualities, that ring of power today is fame, I’ve seen Michael Jackson turn into a Gollum, we’ve all seen it , and I’ve seen him ruin the people around him almost by association. They all want to be around a superstar. And they’ll pimp and prostitute their children, I don’t mean sexually, but it brings out truly all their worst qualities, look at this trial, this is a celebrity sewer”
With reference to Janet Arviso’s testimony over the last week, Court TV gives the witness a less hostile critique than reports elsewhere. “Her crime here is she’s too sassy and she talks too much” says Diane Dimond, “but there’s a lot of corroboration here…on so many points she’s right…but she’s the sort of woman who has to tell the whole story in her answers, which is what you shouldn’t do in a court of law.” And as to what the jury will make of it, “hard to tell”.
Most other tabloid media have hinged on either superficial ‘lies’ as opposed to the ‘whole picture’, or the fanciful ideas of Jackson kidnapping her boys in a balloon. Janet Arvizo launched a stinging attack on Mr Jackson saying he "really didn't care about children, he cared about what he was doing with children".
"He managed to fool the world. Now, because of this criminal case, people know who he really is." This statement, despite getting much press coverage, was stricken by Judge Melville – though of course the jury have still have the comments in their mind as they form an impression of her testimony.
The latest testimony has been from the boy’s grandmother. Speaking through an interpreter, the Spanish grandparent said, "Those kids were not my grandchildren. They didn't talk to me the same way. They were different kids." She also backed up the testimony of her daughter, Janet Arviso.

Sky News [here in the UK] are no longer broadcasting the re-enacted trial reports in their main programming. This is mainly do to rolling election coverage. Instead it is only accessible via Sky-Active [press the little red button…] The judge has on many occasions become impatient with both the prosecution and defence lawyers, but has seemed to be consistently fair throughout. Watching the acted parts of Janet Arviso’s testimony was almost comical, animated in parts. Directing comments such as, “please don’t judge me” at the jury as she explained how her son came to sleep in Michael Jackson’s room. The prosecution have said they’ll be finishing their side of the case by next week, so only another two months to go of defence. Who will they call to the stand? According to Celebrity Justice one witness is CNN’s Larry King. And what’s his part in all of this? Apparently “King and famed book publisher Michael Viner were once part of a conversation that could damage the prosecution's case” says CJ. More evidence attacking Janet Arviso is believed to be a part of this evidence. King responds, diplomatically as ever, “"You don't count, I don't count; Michael doesn't count. Only the jurors count. We know what other people tell us, but we weren't there."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Election - 16 days to go

Quote of the week must go to John Prescott with this diatribe, “Look I’ve got my old pledge card a bit battered and crumpled we said we’d provide more turches churches teachers and we have I can remember when people used to say the Japanese are better than us the Germans are better than us the French are better than us well it’s great to be able to say we’re better than them I think Mr Kennedy well we all congratulate on his baby and the Tories are you remembering what I’m remembering boom and bust negative equity remember Mr Howard I mean are you thinking what I’m thinking I’m remembering it’s all a bit wonky isn’t it?”.
As the arguments over policy continue, Mr Howard’s probably thinking that bringing up the issue of immigrants was a bad mistake. The accusations of ‘racist’ and the ‘politics of Enoch Powell’ are flying around left, right and centre. Bob Spink, Tory candidate for Castlepoint in Essex, was lambasted following an advertisement placed in a local newspaper. Part of the full page advertisement read, “what part of send them back don’t you understand, Mr Blair”.
Sleep deprivation was certainly affecting Liberal Democat leader, Charles Kennedy, who was lost for words, and figures, during the launch of the party manifesto. Journalists and other politicians attempted to make capital from this.
And although the Greens were given a brief slice of air-time on the BBC news and the ‘sensible’ policies of the Lib Dems are discussed with enthusiasm on BBC TV’s ‘The Week’ political show, this election is really a two horse race.
So it’s the grinning cat [Blair] or the vampire [Howard] - [14:01 BST 19/04/2005]

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Iraq - kidnappings, bombs and shootings...

In a series of developments, Iraq has spiralled back into another cycle of violence this week, only 7 days after the anniversary marking the fall of Baghdad two years ago. A car bomb targeted Iraqi national guard Friday though no casualties were reported. Al Jazeera reported the destruction of a US Humvee from a roadside bomb, injuring 'several US soldiers'. 2 US soldiers were lost in 'combat operations' in previous days. On Wednesday a mortar landed in a camp in western Iraq killing a soldier from the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. On Thursday another US marine fell in combat with insurgents near Ramadi. The same day saw a double car bomb attack at the Iraqi Interior Ministry complex in Baghdad's central al-Jadiriyah neighbourhood, at least 14 people were killed and 40 wounded. A third attack in al-Mahawil killed at least four policeman and wounded six. In this attack a bomb was hurled at security officials guarding the local municipal headquarters.
Deaths were not confined only to the combatants in this continued conflict. On Friday, Shamal Abd Allah Assad, who worked for the local station of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was shot dead by armed men in a car park. It was the second Kurdish journalist to die in Iraq in as many months. Two journalists were shot and killed in the northern city of Mosul in March and February. One of them was a reporter with a local Kurdish television station.
And in the last two hours officials confirmed an ongoing hostage crisis. Up to 60 Shia Muslim hostages, allegedly threatened with death, are being held in a town near Baghdad. Peaceful negotiations have so far failed and Iraqi authorities are considering military action. However, confusion surrounds the incident in the southern Iraqi town of Madain. Speaking to Al Jazeera , a spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr, Shaikh Abd al-Hadi al-Daraji, denied that the incident had taken place at all and said no hostages had been taken. Residents of LaPorte, Ind., USA, the hometown of Jeffrey Ake, holds a candlelight vigil for the 47-year-old. The American contractor is being held hostage in Iraq by an unknown group. NBC5

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Asia and the Far East

After several small earthquakes in Indonesia scientists are watching the seismic activity around the locations of 5 volcanoes. Volcanic activity can be triggered by earthquakes. Denmark's crown prince and the country's prime minister on Saturday visited a shelter for hundreds of villagers left homeless when the December 26 tsunami battered the coast of southern Thailand.

Anti-Japanese protests continue in China in reaction to a book, published in Japan, which 'downplays their atrocitities against the Chinese' in past conflicts. 20,000 rampaged through Shanghai on Saturday, attacking the Japanese Embassy, overturning cars and damaging Japanese shops. The Japanese government has demanded an apology from the Chinese authorities for failing to prevent the rioting. Rioting which the Chinese media has been prevented from showing. As the protests intensify, the authorities are concerned the protests may 'snowball out of control' according to Christopher Lockwood of the Economist on CNN's Insight. Technology does circumvent the authorities ban to some degree and the threat to expell the western media hangs in the air. "This is a real serious situation" says Lockwood, "China do a lot of trade with Japan" and the continuing protests are not going to help this. "It's a big problem".

Pakistani's President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is in India this week for talks on Kashmir.

5.1 Quake hits California

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has hit Southern California, 130 km [80 miles] northwest of Los Angeles. No injuries or major damage has yet been reported. The earthquake struck at 12:18 PDT [19:18 UTC/GMT] 20 km [13 miles]east of Maricopa, and 40 km [25 miles] south-southwest of Bakersfield. Exact position - 35.027°N, 119.178°W . The hypocental depth was estimated to be 11 km [7 miles] by the USGS [United States Geological Survey]. By strange coincidence, Volcano, a disaster tale in which the citizens of Los Angeles are thrown into blind panic when an erupting volcano is discovered beneath the city, is about to air on the ITV1 channel in the UK. [21:16 UTC/GMT - 22:16 BST - 14:16 PDT 16/04/05]

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Riot at LA school

KCAL 9 in California earlier reported [14:12 PST ] a riot at Jefferson High School. Some 200 people injured with police have surrounding the building. The final story: At around 12:45 PST, a gang of 50 Latinos fought another gang of some 50 blacks. All were women. No serious injuries resulted.
Not quite the 'LA riot' as pitched by KCAL 9's earlier coverage.
[updated 01:14 BST 15/04/05]

Chimp that doesn't want to quit smoking

Few have reported this, as yet. A short snippet on BBC Radio Four News and a few reports on the net. Officials at a South African zoo are attempting to stop one resident from smoking. Charlie, a grown male chimp at the Bloemfontein Zoo, has been picking up cigarettes thrown to him by visitors and smoking them. They think the chimp probably picked up the habit after mimicking the humans he saw daily. According to the radio report, Charlie tries to hide the cigarettes as workers enter his cage and attempt to confiscate them.
[22:08 BST 14/04/05]

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Iraq Latest 14/04/05

According to KXTV An Indiana businessman is believed kidnapped in Iraq. The man, Jeffrey Ake, has apparently been seen today in a video, pleading for his life. The U.S. Embassy confirmed the man “appears to be the 47-year-old executive who was abducted Monday while working on a water treatment plant near Baghdad”. The White House said today it would not negotiate with terrorists. In footage shown on Al Jazeera TV, the hostage was shown surrounded by masked gunmen. He called on the US administration to "open a dialogue with the Iraqi resistance" to save his life. Al Jazeera said the statement was "obtained from him in abnormal conditions".
Casualty rate today -0 – so far this Month – 14
since beginning of hostilities – 1548 US / 87 UK / 90 others / TOTAL 1725 dead /
Contractors – 210 dead /

Algerian ‘Al Qaeda’ terrorist jailed in UK

A suspected al Qaeda terrorist has been sentenced to life at the Old Bailey. In a Manchester raid in 2003 he had stabbed and killed police officer DC Stephen Oake. The AWOL asylum seeker Kamel Bourgass’s flat was raided following the discovery of a suspected chemical weapons laboratory in a north London flat. They found recipes and ingredients for poisons including ricin, cyanide and botulinum, and plans to make explosive devices. The 31 year old was convicted of plotting to spread the deadly poison ricin in London, stabbing 3 officers and the murder of PC Oake. [0:28 BST 14/04/05]

Paparazzi to be re-tried

Three paparazzi photographers, Jacques Langevin, Christian Martinez and Eric Chassery, who took pictures of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed on the night of their fatal car crash, will be retried for breaching privacy laws. They were originally acquitted of breaking privacy laws in a November 2003 ruling by a lower court. On Wednesday, the Cour de Cassation asked the Paris appeals court to review the part of its decision related to the couple's car, saying it was a mistake not to consider the Mercedes a private space. That decision only concerned three photos of the crash taken in the car. [0:22 BST 14/04/05]

Election latest

Girl protester arrested at Labour rally as she throws an egg at the campaign coach leaving. Charles Kennedy remains at home as he revels in his new role as a father. And Howard is still trying to convince the electorate that they're thinking what he is thinking.
[15:57 BST 13/04/05]

Related links:

Gatsos on M4

Motorists are under fire on the M4 as speed cameras go on-line today [Wed 13/04/05] .
Set to 79 mph [127 km/h] motorists in Wiltshire between junctions 14 and 18 risk points and disqualification for travelling at speeds which are not uncommon, and not entirely unsafe to travel at on British motorways. Of course, if they'd put them on the M25 they'd have to set them below 50 mph [80 km/h] to make any money.

Related links: BBC

Beware of the Net - People Phishing

Aaron Brown, CNN anchor, tonight brought to viewers' attention the threat of ID theft through phishing and other unscrupulous methods. One victim, a 3 week old baby and a 3 year old kid. This is a billion dollar industry. Less than 1 in 700 cases are prosecuted [in the US]. Maureen won't even share her surname now. After the loss of a wallet her credit score was destroyed as the 'scammers' used her details and took out a number of credit accounts. Many of the credit companies cleared up the problem and wiped the bills after she brought it to their attention. Capital One however took her to court. Even the police report failed to convince the company. They eventually dropped the case, but did not, however, offer an apology. That is until CNN contacted them, although they refused an on-air interview.
And careful what you say in your e-mails sent from work! Your boss might just be reading TOO!

So the watch word for the day is Watch What You Watch and Be Careful What You Say
RELATED LINKS - ZDNet / Guardian

Jackson trial - Larry King Live

Larry King Live is tonight going over the latest on the MJ case. It's a 'credibility issue' says CNN Headline Prime, Former Prosecutor, Nancy Grace. A trial set to last until at least June.
And what of these prior acts. Six alleged accusors making it awfully difficult for Messereau [Jackson's lawyer]. Larry King to Diane Dimonde [Executive Investigative Editor, Court TV], "is it a case of; if it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, looks like a duck, it probably is a duck?".
Messereau "must get the jury to look at this case and to dismiss the previous allegations"
Raymone Bain, Jackson's spokeman, ends up arguing with Diane Dimond with regard an issue of whether the accusors still owe MJ money.
Will Jackson take the stand? "The decision is for Michael Jackson", says Raymone Bain. He "is no slouch". A viewer asks, "Will it jeopardise the custody of his children?" Yes, in short...
Larry King, "Do most people have a gut feeling that they hope these accusations are not true?"
"Of course Larry," says his studio guest Cynthia McFadden.
" The big question," says McFadden, from ABC, "why did the mothers allow their sons sleep in Michael Jackson's bed?" That will be an issue for the jury too. A jury that is said to be "very attentive" according to Diane Dimond [03:08 BST 13/04/05]

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Latest from Iraq

Today saw a car bomb near Mosul, killing 5 and injuring 3 others. A second bomb in Mosul wounded four U.S. soldiers. Rumsfeld arrived Tuesday in Baghdad on an unannounced visit and met Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Bush meanwhile praised troops in a speach to some 25,000 at the Fort Hood military base, Texas. He said reforms in Iraq may herald a “global democratic revolution”. And in other developements the Pakistani government has confirmed that the kidnappers of a diplomat abducted three days ago in Iraq have made a ransom demand [see below]. Pakistani authorities were in touch with the Iraqi authorities and through them efforts were underway to secure the diplomat's release. [0:56 BST 13/04/05] More later...

Eggs, airbrushing and baby boys

23 days to go and the British Election campaign wouldn't be normal with out some eggs. And Tony was the target as he left a conference speach in Oldham. No egg on his face. But Howard's party may be trying to wipe the egg from their faces as airbrushed photos used in a Conservative Party Campaign backfired. Dorset South Conservative Party candidate was used in a doctored photograph campaigning against immigration. The original picture showed Dorset South candidate Ed Matts carrying a photo of an asylum seeker, next to Ann Widdecombe holding a placard saying "let them stay". In the "doctored" version, Mr Matts has a placard saying "controlled immigration" and Ms Widdecombe has one saying "not chaos and inhumanity". He has refused to stand down. Howard's "staged and choreographed" [Sky News] campaign spent today in Kettering. Meanwhile Charles Kennedy has left the chaos of the election campaign for the bedside of his wife, Sarah, who late last night gave birth to a baby boy. Sir Menzies Campbell is taking the Lib Dem campaign to the road in the meantime, but no word yet on their Manifesto launch [delayed apparently, again]. The Greens launched theirs saying that 'climate change was a bigger threat than terrorism'. And what of the other parties? Well no mention so far in the mainstream media of any of the small parties. UKIP, Veritas, Monster Raving Loony Party [yes, still going but with only 20 candidates], BNP, Liberal Party and Respect, amongst others, are not taken very seriously in the media. Until they become a 'threat' or a funny 'and finally' story. 16:56 BST 12/04/2005

Monday, April 11, 2005


Monday morning [11/04/05] brings with it more electioneering. Tory leader Michael Howard launched the 'Battle for Britain' Manifesto. M Campbell is taking the reins from Charles Kennedy as his wife Sarah heads off to hospital to give birth. The Lib Dem Manifesto launch has been postponed. And the Rover crisis continues.

Sky BBC 24 and ITN are all showing constant election coverage. Only the news ticker gives a hint of what's occuring in other news: Shipman's death inquest / Explosion in Bangladesh factory causing many deaths and injuries / Sharon [Israeli PM] at G.W.Bush's ranch in Texas /

CNN, are showing very dull coverage of the Senate Confirmation hearing for the U.N Ambassador Nominee. Even the title is dull! But at least it's LIVE!


Latest from the war zone - A 30 second sound bite on CNN!!!
Unless one trawls the net CNN at least does report the day to day on Iraq. Even if somewhat superficially. The Pakistani Ambassador, Malik Mohammad Javaid, was kidnapped Saturday [09/04/05] in Baghdad by the previously unknown group Omer Bin Khatab. And in regard to the newly assembled government Jalal Talabani, the elected president, told CNN that two years would be enough time for Iraqi forces to rebuild and secure control of the country.

for mor on Iraq's insurgency see

China/Japan/Far East

CNN and BBC News 24 have both reported on Anti-Japanese protests. Triggered by a book alleged to distort history with regard to Japanese atrocities. The protests are set to continue as authorities 'stand-by' and fail to break up the rallies.

Meanwhile Japan was hit by a minor earthquake Sunday hitting a preliminary 6.0. A quake was also reported in Indonesia. No reports on injuries for either incident.

Jackson trial - week 6

The drama continues with many lewd and selatious accusations being made against the star. Strangely Sky's reconstructions 'disappeared' from the schedule on Thursday and Saturday. Even Sky Interactive failed to carry the reconstruction highlights from both Wednesday's and Friday's court proceedings. Interestingly the sound was completely out of sync with Friday's Sky Active showing of Thursday's proceedings. The disturbing stories being discussed may be putting off some broadcasters, but that's just speculation. The week had spent much of the tome dealing with Jackson's former 'molestees' . Jason Francia seemed fairly believable describing classic behaviour indicative of paedophiles, as experts have previously testified in respect to evidence given by Jackson's accuser. His cleaner mum backed up much of the previous testimony, that Jackson showered and was naked in the same room as young boys.

The defence are attempting to assert these people are lying. And that because they've not always told the truth in the past, they're not telling the truth now. ALL of them? Have all these people gathered together with the LAPD and others and come to some common Jackson, alcopop drinking, molester?? Doubtful. But there is a very difficult issue, IF they're lying, WHY are they lying? Money? Is the money these people might get for their story worth the uncomfortable lives they're likely to experience after all this, however it turns out.
Still in the end it's all down to the jury. And we've not yet heard the defence case yet. That will be interesting.

News Sunday 10th April

TV news fails to deliver as per usual. CNN showing a repeat of Larry Ling Live from November 2004. Sky News are showing a repeat of the mornings political show as are BBC 24. The election's well and truly under way. Now the wedding's done and dusted and after all the wall to wall Pope coverage, after the Shiavo coverage...

And of course "Don't mention the War". The issue most definately pushed the back of the current agenda. Saturday's anniversary in Baghdad was barely mentioned in the media. Not even the Independent referred to that hundreds of thousands [well, maybe tens of thousands] gathered in an anti-US demonstration and demanded they leave Iraq. Demands were also voiced for Saddam Hussein's trial to get underway. CNN made a brief mention as did BBC24 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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