Friday, October 31, 2008





A landing gear door fell of a KC-135 operating out of RAF Mildenhall.
US Air Force staff in Suffolk have appealed for help in finding a landing gear door which fell off an aircraft mid-flight.
The door dropped from a KC-135 refuelling plane during a flight from RAF Mildenhall to the Wash.
The plane from the 100th Air Refueling Wing was on a routine mission when the panel fell off on Thursday.
The USAF has appealed for anyone who finds the door, measuring one foot by two feet, to report it immediately.
The aircraft travelled north from RAF Mildenhall toward RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire before carrying out the refuelling mission over the Wash and returning to base.
A USAF spokesman said it was not clear at what stage of the flight the door fell off, nor what caused the accident.
The spokesman said: "If anyone discovers this door, they should contact local authorities immediately."



The English is clear enough to lorry drivers but the Welsh reads "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated."
When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.
Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated."
So that was what went up under the English version, barring lorries from a road near a supermarket.
"When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh," journalist Dylan Iorwerth said.
Swansea council became lost in translation when it was looking to bar heavy goods vehicles near an Asda store in the Morriston area of the city.
All official road signs in Wales are bilingual, so the local authority e-mailed its in-house translation service for the Welsh version of "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only."
The reply duly came back and officials set the wheels in motion to create the large sign in both languages.
The notice went up and all seemed well - until Welsh speakers pointed out the embarrassing error.
Welsh-language magazine Golwg was promptly sent photographs of the offending sign by a number of its readers.
Managing editor Mr Iorwerth said: "We've been running a series of these pictures over the past months.
"They're circulating among Welsh speakers because, unfortunately, it's all too common that things are not just badly translated, but are put together by people who have no idea about the language.
"It's good to see people trying to translate but they should really ask for expert help.
"Everything these days seems to be written first in English and then translated. Ideally, they should be written separately in both languages."
A council spokeswoman said : "Our attention was drawn to the mistranslation of a sign at the junction of Clase Road and Pant-y-Blawd Road.
"We took it down as soon as we were made aware of it and a correct sign will be re-instated as soon as possible."



US rock star Bruce Springsteen has put a free musical download on his website as a seasonal treat for fans.
The new song, entitled A Night With the Jersey Devil, talks about "16 witches casting 16 spells".
Springsteen wrote: "If you grew up in south or central Jersey, you grew up with the Jersey Devil."
The musician recently cancelled an annual Halloween display at his New Jersey home over concerns about the volume of visitors it would attract.
Springsteen's website also features a video to accompany the song.
The Jersey Devil is a legendary two-legged creature, often depicted with wings and hooves, which is said to inhabit the Pine Barrens area of New Jersey.
Various sightings of the animal have been reported since the 18th century.



Conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans are growing ever more desperate as the political crisis continues, says human rights group Amnesty International.
In a report, Amnesty warns that many people are at risk of extreme hunger after a failed agricultural season.
It says many victims of the political violence that followed the March elections were subsistence farmers.
Amnesty has released video footage of a farmer said to have been beaten up by secret police earlier in October.
Some famers have been crippled and are now unable to work the land, the group says, leaving them dependent on food aid.
Amnesty says much of the violence was state-sponsored, often perpetrated by members of the security forces in government vehicles.

The report, Zimbabwe - Time for Accountability, urges southern African leaders to resolve the political crisis.
Although a power-sharing agreement was signed six weeks ago, there is deadlock over the allocation of cabinet posts.
"Every day that passes without a political solution, the living conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans become more and more desperate," says Amnesty International's Zimbabwe researcher Simeon Mawanza.
Mr Mawanza warned that "the most vulnerable Zimbabweans are at risk of extreme hunger".
"If we think the food situation in Zimbabwe is bad now, just wait until the end of this year, when half of the population is likely to need aid," he said.

Amnesty said the majority of victims it had interviewed said they could name their attackers, most of whom were in the security forces, so-called war veterans or local activists with the ruling Zanu-PF.
In video footage released by Amnesty, a 26-year-old farmer and MDC supporter recalls an attack earlier in October, which left her with internal injuries.

One farmer, whose face has been obscured to protect her identity, said she was attacked this month - filmed by Amnesty International
"I locked my doors, but they broke them down and came in. They started beating me, they hit me on the head with a big stick and kicked me in the chest while I was on the floor," she said.
Lyn, an 86-year-old farmer, told Amnesty her arm was broken for not attending Zanu-PF meetings.
She told the rights group: "I am now disabled. I can't work in the field. I want to be compensated for the injuries. I want [my attackers] to be brought to justice."
President Robert Mugabe denies his government backed a campaign of violence and torture against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.



By Professor Ngaire Woods - Presenter, Analysis, BBC Radio 4.

The dollar is becoming more of a problem for the US, Prof Woods argues.
We are living in economic chaos. Banks, homes, jobs, and businesses are at risk.
Yet curiously, the one thing that seems stable is the dollar.
It is a symbol - and a lever - of American power and leadership, itis the standard unit of account for much of the world's economic activity. And in times of crisis, it has often seemed a safe haven.
But in the longer term, some experts believe this crisis could mark a turning point in the dollar's fortunes, hastening a fall from power which has seen its value decline over several years before its recent rally.
"I think today's financial crisis is going to hasten the end of the dollar as the world's reserve currency", says Avinash Persaud, chairman of Intelligence Capital Limited.
"For the first time ever we're now seeing that in the financial markets it costs money to guarantee you against a US government default."

Dollars and dominance
Listen to the programme

He wonders whether the combined cost of foreign wars and domestic bail-outs is being seen as "a burden too far" for the US.
But for the dollar to lose reserve currency status would end what has been in many ways a huge bonus for the US.
It is sometimes described as the ability to write cheques that no-one ever cashes.
So for the American government there is simply no such thing as living beyond its means. With the rest of the world demanding dollars, all the US has to do is to keep printing them.
This makes possible things that no other government could imagine - a power that America's rivals have historically denounced as an "exorbitant privilege".
In the early 1970s, US Treasury Secretary John Connally even told the outside world, brutally, that the dollar was "our currency, but your problem".

Since then, Europe has developed its own currency, the euro, which has taken on a global role. As it grew in strength against the dollar it challenged some of the dollar's glamorous reputation. Supermodels in New York started asking for contracts in euros rather than dollars. But European leaders are far from keen on seeing their currency become the world's reserve money.
"Europe has got a much less vast set of ambitions than America has ever had", says David Marsh, a banker who is just finishing a book charting the birth of the euro. Adopting the currency, he adds, was a "flight into a lack of ambition". So might a rising economic power like China supply the dollar's eventual global successor?
At present, China lacks the open markets or institutions to support that role. But Avinash Persaud points out that similarly dismissive things were said about the US a century ago.
The US did not have a Central Bank until 1913, yet within a few decades the dollar was challenging sterling for world domination.
For now, China has a huge stake in what happens to the dollar, as it has built up well over a trillion dollars' worth of assets in the US currency thanks to its recent export boom.
That gives China a vested interest in a strong dollar. But it also gives Beijing the power to undermine the US currency should it choose to move its money.
This has been called by one former US Treasury Secretary the "balance of financial terror".
"It's like the idea of mutually assured deterrence" says leading US political scientist Barry Eichengreen. "We hope that everybody becomes respectful of the financial power of the other side, but that such destructive power won't be deployed."
So a new kind of American economic diplomacy has to emerge, particularly with the Gulf States. They're not only holding dollars, but pricing their oil in "petrodollars".
The US government is torn. Dollar-rich foreign states may demand a strong US currency, but that is bad for American exporters.

It makes every American car or computer sold abroad more expensive. That is why the dollar has been quietly let slide over the last six years - and the weaker dollar has boosted American exports.
Jim O'Neill, Head of Global Economic Research at Goldman Sachs, believes "we are emerging into is this very hazy and slightly worrying state of affairs where there isn't going to be any single country leading the world in the way the US has done and with it no single currency either".
So the next American President has a delicate balancing act ahead.
If dollar-rich foreign countries don't like what's happening to the US currency, they may look for alternatives. And everyone knows that, down the line, the power of the dollar has to decline as the global balance of economic power changes.
So the dollar is no longer their currency and everyone else's problem. It is now the world's currency - and mostly America's problem.


Thursday, October 30, 2008


A French judge has rejected President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt to stop sales of a "voodoo doll" in his image.
Dismissing the case, the Paris judge said the doll was "within the authorised limits of free expression and the right to humour".
Mr Sarkozy's lawyer said the president would appeal against the decision.
The doll comes with pins which users can stick into memorable quotes from the president printed on the doll, such as "work more to earn more".
Mr Sarkozy took the makers of the kit - publishing company K&B - to the courts after it went on sale on 9 October. His lawyer said Mr Sarkozy had "exclusive and absolute rights" over his own image.

The company refused to stop selling the kit, saying Mr Sarkozy's reaction was "totally disproportionate".
The case has attracted a fair amount of mockery in France and boosted sales of the kit, says the BBC's Alasdair Sandford in Paris.
K&B also released a similar doll of Segolene Royal, Mr Sarkozy's rival in the presidential elections last year.
She has decided not to take action against K&B, saying: "I have a sense of humour."
This is Mr Sarkozy's sixth legal action since he was elected last year, but it is the first case the courts have rejected.
Voodoo has become associated with zombies and sticking pins into dolls to curse an enemy, but practitioners say this misrepresents their religion.



By Quentin Sommerville - BBC News, Beijing.

Three more Chinese brands of chicken's eggs have been found to contain high levels of the chemical melamine.
Tests in Hong Kong first revealed dangerously high levels of the substance in eggs from a mainland supplier earlier this week.
Officials were reportedly aware of the contamination a month earlier.
The growing scandal follows the discovery of melamine in Chinese milk, which has killed four children, and triggered product recalls across Asia.
Like the milk scandal before it, the contamination of China's egg supply appears to be far more widespread than first realised.
And as before, it seems that local officials on the mainland attempted to cover up news of the contamination.

A newspaper in Beijing reports that the sanitation department of Liaoning province, in the north-east, began investigating a local egg producer at the beginning of October.
It then ordered a ban on any media interviews.
Four babies died as a result of the milk scandal and thousands were made sick.
Despite a nationwide campaign to raise food safety standards and reassure consumers, the mainland's broken down food safety inspectorate is still failing to catch and report lapses in standards when they happen.
Hong Kong is stepping up its tests of mainland Chinese food products, and is asking China's help to trace the source of melamine contamination in eggs.
Testing of animal feed, chicken meat and eggs will also be introduced.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Women who don a little red dress before going out with a man may find their date more attentive and generous, according to scientists.
The University of Rochester study, published in a psychology journal, supports other evidence linking the colour to attractiveness.
Men said they would spend more money on a woman pictured in red, compared with the same woman wearing a blue shirt.
Experts say that red signals ovulation or attractiveness in other species.
The colour has traditionally been linked with romantic and sexual matters, from red hearts on Valentine's Day, to red-light districts.
The researchers say that their study is clear evidence that the colour red makes men feel more amorous - even if this is only on a subconscious level.
Their volunteers were told they had $100, shown the picture of their "date", then asked how much of that money they were prepared to spend.
On average, wearing red meant a more expensive night out, and in general, a higher rating of attractiveness.
When the pictures were shown to other women, there were no wardrobe-dependent differences in attractiveness ratings.

Professor Andrew Elliot, who led the research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, said: "It's fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as colour can be having an effect on our behaviour without our awareness."
Dr Jo Setchell, an anthropologist from Durham University, said that, as the colour of blood, red was the easiest signal for an animal to produce externally, and had become a handy method of advertising fertility.
"For example, a lot of female monkeys have bright red sexual swellings, which show that they are around the time of ovulation.
"There has been controversy over whether, in female humans, ovulation is advertised or not, although there is some evidence that behaviour, such as going out, changes around that time.
"But wearing red could give you an advantage."



Croats have been shocked by a spate of mafia-style killings.
Croatia's new justice minister has announced a package of measures to tackle organised crime, following a spate of mafia-style killings.
Ivan Simonovic told the Croatian parliament that courts would fast-track such cases and witness protection would be improved.
He said the problem needed "a scalpel", because it threatened people's security and Croatia's bid to join the EU.
New legislation would allow criminals' property to be confiscated, he said.
"That way we will hit the mob where it hurts most - their wallets!" he said.
On 23 October a car bomb blast in the capital Zagreb killed Ivo Pukanic, editor of the weekly newspaper Nacional, along with the paper's chief marketing executive, Niko Franic.
Earlier this month, a prominent lawyer's daughter, Ivana Hodak, was shot dead in Zagreb. Her killing prompted Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to replace his ministers of justice and the interior.
"Croatia doesn't need a sabre, but nor does it need an aspirin. It needs a scalpel that cuts deep and with precision," Mr Simonovic said on Wednesday.
The new Interior Minister, Tomislav Karamarko, pledged police reforms, saying: "I'm sure the Croatian police will very soon regain lost trust from citizens."
Special departments will be established at municipal courts in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek to deal with organised crime and corruption cases.
Mr Simonovic also said there would be closer monitoring of communications between prisoners jailed for organised crime and their outside contacts.
Effective action to combat organised crime and corruption is a key condition in Croatia's bid to join the European Union. The European Commission will deliver a progress report on its bid next month. Croatia hopes to join as early as 2010.



The Polish government says it wants Poland to adopt the euro in 2012, but opposition to the plan - including from the president - may force a referendum.
The pro-EU government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk approved a roadmap for eurozone entry at a meeting on Tuesday.
But opposition Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, favour a referendum on the euro.
Poland committed itself to adopting the euro under its 2004 EU entry terms.
Poland's constitution would have to be amended to enable its currency, the zloty, to be swapped for the euro.
Mr Tusk said eurozone membership would make Poland more secure in the long term.
But PiS opposition in parliament to the plan could force a referendum. The PiS believes switching to the euro could undermine Poland's strong growth and national sovereignty.
"If there is no other possibility and I need the opposition's support on this matter, we may have to decide to organise a referendum," Mr Tusk said, quoted by the AFP news agency.



A growing number of British couples are undergoing procedures at clinics overseas to determine the gender of their babies. However, as the BBC's Colette McBeth reports, this service is often offered illegally.

Like many a story, it started out with a simple conversation with a friend.
Is that really possible? I remember asking, before going straight home to my laptop and typing the words "gender selection" in the search engine.
My friend had told me she knew of someone who was going abroad to have a daughter through IVF.
The woman in question had two boys, both conceived naturally, but had a burning desire for a girl and didn't want to leave anything to chance.
Once on the internet, I was amazed to learn how many women not only wanted the same but felt so strongly about it.
I found whole websites devoted to discussion about where gender selection was legal (not the UK or most of Europe) and the cost of treatment (anything from £7,000 to £17,000).
Many patients who were planning to go abroad were completely confused as to where it was legal and where it wasn't

Women who had four boys but couldn't rest until they had a daughter, or three girls and desperately wanted a son.
And this wasn't a cultural thing. If anything, girls won over boys.
It is possible to almost guarantee the sex of a baby using IVF and a type of embryos screening called Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).
In most countries, though, PGD is used only for medical reasons. So if there is a genetic disease which runs in boys, couples would be allowed to have PGD to implant only female embryos.
Website advert
Some countries, such as the US and Russia, do allow sex selection - but I quickly realised there was a problem with all of this.
Many patients who were planning to go abroad were completely confused as to where it was legal and where it wasn't.
And some clinics seemed to be profiting out of the confusion.
One such clinic is the Jinemed Center in Istanbul. It has a slick website and boasts the claim "life begins with us".
It was also advertising on a gender selection website. You could even plan a fortnight's break in the sun, tell your friends you're taking the family on holiday and go for IVF/PGD.
The only problem with all of that is that gender selection is illegal in Turkey.
No matter, I found many posts in which women said they'd had treatment there or had been told it was possible.
And it happened two Jinemed representatives were coming to London for the weekend to see prospective patients.

So one Sunday a few weeks ago I went along to a dental practice in Shepherds Bush in London where the Jinemed had hired a room.
I took a small handbag which in itself was fairly normal except this one contained a hidden camera. We (my husband accompanied me) waited an hour to be seen.
The doctor and nurse had been rushed off their feet, it seemed.
Two days of back-to-back appointments - and 50% of those couples wanted sex selection.
I began to explain our story. "I'm 33 and we have two boys conceived naturally and..."
Before I could finish the nurse interjected with a smile. "And you want a daughter."
Over the course of half an hour they explained the costs involved and said we could have the whole procedure done in Turkey.
They also said they normally put in three embryos. That rang alarm bells.
The maximum in the UK is two and most doctors would like to see that reduced to one because multiple pregnancy is the single greatest risk with IVF.

In an earlier conversation it was suggested any extra foetuses could be "taken out" or aborted if I did get pregnant with twins or triplets.
I showed Professor Peter Braude of King's College London our footage.
Having been involved in IVF for many years he advocates implanting only one embryo in women going for fertility treatment.
He said: "Putting three embryos back in a young woman is really bad practice because of the high risk of multiple pregnancy.
"So even if you went abroad for treatment and had your IVF treatment you're bringing those twins back for care in this country - and besides the impact on the NHS there's significant impact on those babies."
Despite being told we had filmed its representatives offering to carry out the procedure, the Jinemed Center says it does not do it, and always warns patients about the risks of multiple pregnancies.
But, after contacting the Turkish government with our findings, it has now launched an official investigation into the Jinemed Center and warned UK patients not to travel there for gender selection.
Proof if needed that the desire to complete a family with a son or a daughter by going down the "high tech" route could turn into a legal nightmare.




Andrew Sachs says he accepts Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross's apologies.
Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand are to be suspended and all their shows taken off air until the BBC has investigated their prank calls made on Radio 2.
It follows a series of calls made by the pair to actor Andrew Sachs on Brand's Saturday night programme.
The actor, 78, said he would not be reporting the matter to police.
Meanwhile, Brand has told reporters: "It would be silly of me to speak without thinking because that's caused all this trouble in the first place."
He added he was sorry he upset Sachs, famous for his part in Fawlty Towers, over comments made about the actor's granddaughter.
Sachs, 78, said he was "not surprised" by the BBC's suspension of the pair but added: "I am not going to take it anywhere. I'm not out for revenge."
The calls were broadcast as part of Russell Brand's pre-recorded show on 18 October.
During the calls, Ross swore and said Brand had slept with Sachs' granddaughter.
More than 18,000 people have complained to the BBC while watchdog Ofcom has launched its own investigation.
The corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust, has now called a special meeting of its editorial standards committee for Thursday.
Director general Mark Thompson will report management findings to the meeting and tell bosses what action he plans to take.
Announcing the suspensions in an earlier statement, Mr Thompson said he would be returning from a holiday and would "in the coming days, announce what action we will take".

Statement in full

"Since Sunday, I have been in regular contact with the senior executives I tasked with handling this issue," he said.
"In the meantime, I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned.
"This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers."
He added his "own personal and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, his family and to licence fee payers for the completely unacceptable broadcast".
BBC One show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross was due to have been filmed at BBC Television Centre, west London, later on Wednesday.
Guests on the show were to have been Sir David Attenborough, comedian Frank Skinner, US teen singer Miley Cyrus and band The Killers. The BBC said people with tickets to be in the audience should not attend.
A decision has yet to be taken on what should be shown in its place on Friday night.
Ross's Saturday morning radio show, as well as Brand's Saturday night radio show, have also been pulled from Radio 2's schedules.
Meanwhile, Ms Baillie, 23, told the Sun the pair should "pay for what they've done with their jobs".
Brand and Ross both have Saturday shows on Radio 2. She said her grandfather was "really upset and says he wants the whole situation to end".
"What's funny about humiliating a lovely old man who has never harmed anyone in his life?" she added.
She said Brand and Ross were "beyond contempt".
"It was bad enough that they recorded these things on my grandfather's answer machine but astonishing the BBC saw fit to broadcast it when they could have stopped it.
"Someone high up at the BBC must have decided it was funny and suitable for national radio. They've shown an appalling lack of judgement."

Andrew Sachs is best known for playing Manuel in Fawlty TowersPrime Minister Gordon Brown criticised the pair for "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour", while Conservative shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a speech on Wednesday that it was "wrong for broadcasters to produce programmes that legitimise negative social behaviour".
He told BBC News the corporation's reaction to the affair was "concerning".
Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, former chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, said it was "essential for the BBC to ascertain quickly who was responsible for approving this pre-recorded episode".
"This has not been handled well - clearly this should not have been broadcast in the first place and if Mr Thompson did not know about it then he needs to cut some heads off of the people that didn't let him know," he told BBC News.
Sir Gerald added that if media regulator Ofcom were to fine the BBC for the incident, it should not be paid with licence payer's money.
"If the BBC is fined I believe the two people involved should pay the fine and not the licence payers," he said.



Bizarre stock market activity made Volkswagen briefly the world's biggest company by market value on Tuesday.
The carmaker's shares peaked at 1,005 euros, which valued the company at 296bn euros ($370bn; £237bn), which is well over Exxon Mobil's $343bn value.
The panic buying was caused by traders who had short-sold VW shares desperately trying to buy them back so they could close their positions.
Porsche bought VW shares at the weekend, leaving few others available.
On Sunday, Porsche announced that it held more than 74% of Volkswagen's shares.
VW's home state of Lower Saxony controls 20% of the shares, leaving just over 5% available on the market.

Before Porsche's announcement, many traders had been betting on VW's shares falling.
They had borrowed VW shares and sold them in the market, planning to buy them back when the shares had fallen, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.
But what actually happened was that the shares rose as a result of Porsche's effective takeover and the traders found themselves forced to buy the shares at any price to close their positions.
In afternoon trading, VW shares had fallen back to 686 euros, up 32%, following Monday's rise of 146.6%.
Last Friday, the shares closed below 200 euros.
"Each and any short-seller in the world is trying to close up their position and there is no way they can do it, except for trying to buy like mad," said Heino Ruland, an analyst at FrankfurtFinanz.
As an indication of how silly the market valuation is, Exxon last year made profits of $41bn on sales of $390bn. It employs 80,800 people worldwide.
Volkswagen managed profits of about $8bn on sales of $136bn.



Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross both have separate Saturday shows on BBC Radio 2.
The BBC is coming under increased pressure to sack Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross following their prank calls to actor Andrew Sachs.
His granddaughter Georgina Baillie told the Sun the pair "should at least pay for what they've done with their jobs".
Tory media spokesman Jeremy Hunt will say in a speech that Radio 2 was wrong to approve the material.
The BBC has apologised, and it and the regulator Ofcom are investigating following 10,000 complaints.
Brand and Ross made a series of prank calls to Sachs, 78, famous for his part in Fawlty Towers. The calls were broadcast on Radio 2 as part of a pre-recorded show on 18 October.
During the calls, Ross revealed Brand had slept with Sachs' granddaughter.
Shadow culture secretary Mr Hunt will say it is "wrong for broadcasters to produce programmes that legitimise negative social behaviour".
"That is why the BBC was quite wrong to take the decision to broadcast the offensive phone calls", he will say in the speech at the London School of Economics.
Someone high up at the BBC must have decided it was funny and suitable for national radio. Ms Baillie, 23, said she felt "betrayed" and "embarrassed" the relationship had been publicly revealed to her grandfather.
She said he was "really upset, and says he wants the whole situation to end".
She added of Brand and Ross: "They are beyond contempt. They are warped for what they have put me and my grandfather through.
"It was bad enough that they recorded these things on my grandfather's answer machine but astonishing the BBC saw fit to broadcast it when they could have stopped it.
"Someone high up at the BBC must have decided it was funny and suitable for national radio. They've shown an appalling lack of judgement."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also criticised the pair for their "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour" on Brand's radio show.
But Comedian Helen Zaltzman, who ran a comedy club where Brand performed before he became famous, told BBC Radio Five Live it was well-known Brand and Ross "toe a particularly risky line" and said that was why millions of people listened to their Radio 2 shows.
"I'm sure they regret this trouble. But, I think the reason why Russell Brand is popular is because... he is a liability.
"He was sacked from MTV, he was sacked from XFM.
"This is why people are interested in him as a broadcaster - and why, presumably, he got employed and has a very popular show - about which the majority of people didn't complain."



This weekend the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, told his followers he had lost hope of reaching agreement with China about the future of his homeland. The BBC's Asia analyst Jill McGivering assesses what this means.

The Dalai Lama has championed a "middle path" policy with China. For decades, the Dalai Lama's approach to China has been cheerfully patient and optimistic.
So the announcement he is giving up attempts to persuade China to grant greater autonomy to Tibet will come as a shock to many.
He has expressed frustration before - and threatened to go into political retirement. But the key question now is what implications this announcement will have.
Will it lead, for example, to a hardening of position by the Tibetan government-in-exile, if the Dalai Lama's middle ground of modest autonomy within China is abandoned?
And does it also mean that the Dalai Lama wants to extract himself personally from the political fray? That too is unclear.
The full answers may not emerge until after a special meeting of Tibetan exiles, now scheduled for November.
It is clear that frustration in the Tibet camp has rarely been greater.
In the aftermath of the riots in Tibet and surrounding areas earlier in 2008, China promised fresh talks.
Some Tibetans said at the time that they feared this was an empty gesture, merely designed to ease international pressure on Beijing in the run up to the Olympics.
The apparent deadlock in the talks seems to have confirmed those fears.
There is also confusion about what new strategy might emerge from the Tibetan camp.

Riots broke out in several Tibetan areas in March. Despite China's allegations, the Dalai Lama has always stopped short of a demand for full independence.
But pressure for independence has grown amongst a feistier young generation which feels years of attempts at compromise have achieved nothing.
It is unlikely the Dalai Lama would support a pro-independence policy, but there may be some hardening of the Tibetan position.

As a political ploy, the Dalai Lama's move does help to push Tibet back into the spotlight.
Post-Olympics, many Tibetans feel forgotten. And there is also the wider question of whether the Dalai Lama may indeed decide this is the time to extract himself from the political process in which he's been engaged for so long.
That would have striking implications. His international profile is one of Tibet's strongest cards and the government-in-exile would surely be weakened without his advocacy.
But his absence would also raise the stakes for China. Many see the Dalai Lama as Beijing's best hope - and urge the Chinese to do business with him while they can.
They may find what comes next - in terms of policy and personality - much less acceptable.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Reykjavik has already arranged a $2bn loan from the IMF.
Iceland's central bank has raised its key interest rate to 18% from 12% as the country battles against financial collapse.
The move came as Iceland's prime minister said the country needed another $4bn (£2.6bn) in loans.
"It's not a precise number, it's not a scientific number but we are looking in that neighborhood," Geir Haarde said.
The country has already agreed a $2bn loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).



By Brian Wheeler - Political reporter, BBC News

She may no longer make speeches, on doctor's orders, but there is no keeping Lady Thatcher away from her public.
From the moment she clambered shakily from the back seat of a black Jaguar, on to the forecourt of the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, this was going to be her night.
At 83, and reportedly suffering from dementia, she makes few public appearances these days.
But this was a special occasion - the 20th anniversary dinner of the Bruges Group, which takes its name from a speech in which she first warned against the creation of a European "super state".
She is still recognisable from her prime ministerial heyday. The extraordinary sweep of back-combed hair is still there - as is the famous handbag - but she is clearly very frail.
She walks with tiny, deliberate steps, all her effort seemingly concentrated on getting from A to B.
But she managed to summon up a hint of the old steel, as she paused at the hotel entrance for the photographers, shooting them a determined glare of the type that once reduced Cabinet ministers - and Brussels bureaucrats - to jelly.
And instead of being shepherded past the crowd of admirers in the bar on her way to the top table, she was thrust straight into the middle of them.
They could hardly believe their good fortune.
"How many times in your life, do you get to meet a legend? She will be remembered for hundreds of years," said Nikki Sinclaire, a UKIP Euro election candidate.
"She is the reason I got involved in politics."
These are Thatcher's people - true believers who had paid upwards of £125 each for the opportunity to have dinner in her presence, including several current Tory MPs, the novelist Frederick Forsyth and the UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
And for a good half hour she walked among them, steadily working the room as her minders battled to keep the pin-striped throng at bay.
At times, the crowd threatened to overwhelm her, as they held up their camera phones to film her progress and pushed forward with outstretched hands, always deferential, but eager for just a few seconds with the former prime minister.
"You are my heroine," said one woman.
"You inspired me," said another, reaching out to grasp her fragile hand, "we need more like you".
Ms Sinclaire explained that she was standing for the UK Independence Party in the West Midlands.
"Good for you. Never give up, never give up," Lady Thatcher told her.

Then, unexpectedly, as she pushed further into the crowd, I found myself face-to-face with her.
"It's an honour to meet you," I said, shaking her hand and, for reasons which now escape me, adding: "I come from the North East."
She seemed delighted.
"Thank you for coming down. Give them my warm regards," she said.
I did not have time to explain that, on this occasion, I had only come down from North London, but it did not seem to matter.
She seemed much sharper than I had expected.
Her daughter, Carol, recently wrote about her battle with dementia and that on bad days "she can hardly remember the beginning of a sentence by the time she got to the end".
There was little sign of that here.
"I think she gets a bad press about how bad her condition is. She comes to visit us and talks to people for hours without any trouble and of course the pensioners love her," said Susan Smith, of the Chelsea Pensioners' Appeal, one of Lady Thatcher's charities.
She appeared to be flagging a little by the time dinner was over and the speeches were under way.
She was seated at the top table, next to her old comrade in arms Lord Tebbitt, who gave a speech calling for a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU - and a move towards an alliance of sovereign states, of the kind first outlined by Lady Thatcher in her Bruges speech.
It was typically red-blooded stuff, with much scorn poured on the "euro fanatics" in his own party and their "fellow travellers" in the civil service and the BBC, which went down a storm with the die-hard Euro sceptics in the audience.
But the night belonged to Lady Thatcher.
The sense of betrayal many of her supporters felt 18 year ago at the way she was ejected from Downing Street is evidently still raw among members of the Bruges Group.
As she reached the end of her final procession through tables of applauding admirers, pausing at the top of the stairs for a farewell wave, a chant went up from the back of the room which summed up the night perfectly and - if she heard it - will have left her with a smile on her face.
"Ten more years! Ten more years! Ten more years!"



A passenger on a French train had to be rescued by firemen after having his arm sucked down the on-board toilet.
The 26-year-old victim was trapped when he tried to fish out his mobile phone, which had fallen into the toilet bowl, and fell foul of the suction system.
The high-speed TGV train had to stop for two hours while firemen cut through the train's pipework.
The man was carried away by emergency services, with the toilet still attached to his arm.
"He came out on a stretcher, with his hand still jammed in the toilet bowl, which they had to saw clean off," said Benoit Gigou, a witness to the man's plight.
The incident happened on Sunday evening, aboard a train travelling in western France between La Rochelle and Paris.



A summit of African leaders in Zimbabwe has failed to reach a breakthrough to end the country's political deadlock, say government officials.
Power-sharing talks between President Robert Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, have been taking place in the capital, Harare.
The process has been deadlocked over the allocation of key cabinet posts.
The Southern African Development Community says a larger regional summit should be held to try to reach a deal.
Six weeks have passed since Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai shook hands in Harare and signed what appeared to be an historic power-sharing agreement.
But attempts to form an inclusive government have run into serious trouble, BBC Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles reports.
On Monday, Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai held 13 hours of talks under the continued mediation of South African ex-leader Thabo Mbeki, with leaders from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland.
The meeting had been due to take place last week in Swaziland, but Mr Tsvangirai said he could not attend as the Zimbabwean authorities had refused to give him a passport.
Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says President Mugabe and his party, Zanu-PF, seem intent on controlling all the important ministries and sidelining the MDC.
Regional leaders from SADC had hoped to use Monday's summit to put pressure on Zimbabwe's rival leaders to bring an end to the political impasse.
But following a day of talks, they released a statement saying the talks had failed, and calling on all member states to hold a summit "to further review the current political situation in Zimbabwe as a matter of urgency".
'UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said that it was "urgent to resolve the ongoing political impasse so that recovery can begin".
A statement issued in New York said he was concerned that "the humanitarian situation in the country may worsen in the course of 2008 and 2009".

"Our commitment is to an equitable power-sharing arrangement, otherwise we are not going to be party to it and we may as well look for alternative political options," Mr Tsvangirai told a rally of his supporters on Saturday.
"When it comes to negotiations, no-one is to bully us."
The MDC leader has threatened to pull out of the deal, under which he would be named prime minister.
Mr Mugabe has allocated the key ministries of defence, justice and foreign affairs to Zanu-PF.
After four days of talks earlier this month, he agreed to let the MDC have the finance portfolio.
The deadlock is centred on the question of who gets responsibility for the home affairs ministry, which controls the police.
The deal specifies that Zanu-PF should have 15 ministries, Mr Tsvangirai's MDC 13 and a breakaway MDC faction three.
But Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says the MDC also wants a share of provincial governors and ambassadors.
Although Mr Mbeki remains the facilitator of this tortuous process, some observers say he may have lost some of his influence since being forced to resign as South African president just days after brokering the deal.
The MDC has long criticised Mr Mbeki for his policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards Mr Mugabe and has previously called for him to be replaced.
"We respect Mbeki but quiet diplomacy has its limits if it leads to quiet approval of wrong things," Mr Tsvangirai said.


Monday, October 27, 2008


US government agents say they have foiled a plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Court records unsealed on Monday quote agents as saying they had disrupted plans by two neo-Nazi skinheads, the Associated Press news agency reports.
The pair also allegedly planned to murder more than 100 black people at a school in the state of Tennessee.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) brought the case, AP reports.
The two skinheads allegedly planned to rob a gun store and then carry out a killing spree at an unnamed predominantly African-American high school, AP quotes the court records as saying.
Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville field office of the ATF, told AP that the two men had planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14. The numbers 88 and 14 are said to be symbolic in the white supremacist community.
Mr Cavanaugh said the men had sought to go on a national killing spree, with Mr Obama as its final target.
"They said that would be their last, final act - that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama," Mr Cavanaugh told AP.
"They didn't believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying."
The Obama campaign had no initial comment on the report.
Mr Obama, who if elected will become the first black US president, is leading Republican rival John McCain in opinion polls ahead of the 4 November election.



By Aleem Maqbool - BBC News, Ramallah

For so many of the Palestinian fans that packed their brand new stadium hours before kick-off, or those that found vantage points on the roads and buildings outside the ground, this was the most important match that had ever been played.
"I'm a big sports fan," said Rashad Bishtawi, from Jerusalem.
"For Palestinian people, football is the most important sport. My son loves it, but up to now he's had to watch European sides on TV, like Barcelona and Real Madrid. Now we have the chance to see our own team. It's incredible."
The ground is basic by international standards; two concrete stands, seating just under 7,000 people.
But it is much more than the Palestinian territories have had until now.
It was almost exclusively men and boys that filed through the gates, where they were checked by Palestinian security forces.
On the opposite side of the ground, behind one of the stands, children were excitedly clambering over boundary walls, not seeing the need to queue.

Fayaz Kattoush predicted his team would win 2-1Most had never seen the team they were coming to support, one which languishes close to the bottom of the world ranking tables drawn up by football's governing body, Fifa.
That did not seem to matter.
Ten years ago, Fifa allowed the Palestinian team to play under the name Palestine even though the state has yet to be created.
But since then, because of conflict and poor sporting infrastructure, "home" internationals have had to take place elsewhere in the Middle East.
Fans were determined to use this first match on home soil as an opportunity to display some
'national' pride. Huge Palestinian flags were draped over the sides of buildings, and well before the game started, nationalistic songs were being sung from every corner of the ground.
Leading the singing in one section of the crowd was Fayaz Kattoush, who had come dressed in a Palestine football shirt and a Palestinian flag wrapped around his waist.
"For so long, we have been thirsty for this kind of football in our lovely land. I have been to see the team before, but that's always had to be abroad. It makes me feel so proud."
In the traditions of football supporting all over the world, he added "I think we'll win... 2-1."

There was a huge roar when the home team took to the field for their pre-match warm-up exercises, and the public address announcer took his time in announcing the name of each player, ensuring that they all had a taste of whole-hearted applause from a home crowd.
Fifa President Sepp Blatter was warmly received by the fans too. He said this match was about "realising a dream."
But this event could not mask the problems of living under occupation.
A concrete wall, part of the barrier Israel has built, runs alongside the stadium.
Some of the players who live outside the Palestinian territories were not given Israeli permission to come to the West Bank.
And fans in the Gaza Strip had to be content watching the match on television, since getting Israeli clearance to leave Gaza has become almost impossible for most Palestinians.
But having missed many internationals in the past, the Gazan members of the Palestine football team were permitted to travel. They lined up alongside their team-mates in the al-Ram stadium for a passionately sung Palestinian national anthem.
Noise levels in the stadium reached new heights just a few minutes later.
Ahmed Kashkash from Gaza, wearing the white and green strip of the Palestine team, rounded the Jordanian goalkeeper and slotted the ball just inside the near post.

The first Palestine goal on Palestinian soil.
Even the tea-sellers outside the ground put down their cups and embraced, just as thousands were doing inside the stadium.
Hussein, from Ramallah, sitting in front us, was ecstatic. "Seeing that goal is a feeling you can't really describe," he said. "It's a sense of pride for all Palestinians. It really is an amazing feeling."
Jordan may have equalised early in the second half, but the celebrations did not stop, even after the final whistle.
We tried to get hold of the Palestine goal-keeper, Muhammed Shbair, on his mobile phone soon after the game.
"I can't hear you, we're having a party, we're so so proud," he shouted, with singing and cheering going on in the background.
Of course, this match changes little in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but over and over again those who managed to come and see it, told us they were convinced it could lead to bigger steps.
"It's given us some sense of freedom," said Nidal Zigari, from Ramallah, excitedly "I am just very happy right now."



Some of the world's leading Islamic feminists have been gathered in Barcelona for the third International Congress on Islamic Feminism, to discuss the issues women face in the Muslim world.
Some of the women taking part in the conference explained the problems in their home countries, and where they hoped to make progress.

ASMA BARLAS, Author, Pakistan
Religions always come into cultures, they don't come into abstract and pure spaces. Islam came into a very patriarchal, tribal and misogynistic culture. One of the deepest damages to Islam has been its reduction to "Arabisation".
I'm not going to say that the Arabs are particularly misogynistic in a way that nobody else is, but I do think there are very particular traits and attitudes towards women that have crept into Islam.
I have a friend who has been studying the interface between what he calls the Persian models and the Arabist models of Islam in the subcontinent and surprise, surprise: the Arabist models are misogynistic, authoritarian, unitarian and the Persian models are much more plural and tolerant.
This is a fight on two fronts - on the one hand we are struggling against the kinds of oppression dominant in Muslim patriarch societies and, on the other, Western perceptions of Islam as necessarily monolithic, and confusing the ideals of Islam with the reality of Muslim lives.
If we read the Koran as a totality rather than pulling out random verses or half a line, that opens all kinds of possibilities for sexual equality.

RAFIAH AL-TALEI, journalist, Oman
Oman is relatively liberal, women are free to choose what to wear, and can choose their jobs and education. And the law does not require us to wear any particular form of clothing. But there are strong social and cultural factors - coming from the fact that we are in Arabia - that limit women.
Sharia is fair, but it is the wrong interpretations that are the problem. Male judges often don't understand the principal goals of sharia
As a journalist, it has not been hard for me to work among men, but it has been hard for some of my colleagues whose families told them this was not "appropriate" work for them.
The biggest difficulties are the social and cultural factors, and some aspects of law. For example, women who marry a foreigner cannot pass on their nationality to their children, whereas men in that situation can.
Religion is not an issue in our struggle, although there are problems with family law about divorce and marriage status. Omani laws are based on sharia law. Sharia is fair, but it is the wrong interpretations that are the problem. Male judges often don't understand the principal goals of sharia. We feel the law is fair, but ends up being unfair for women because of how judges interpret it.
Cultural and social factors often get mixed up with religion. Educated women can be more empowered and separate the two, but many don't dare challenge the conventions.

NORANI OTHMAN, Scholar-activist, Malaysia
I don't think it is any more difficult to be an Islamic feminist than a non-Muslim, or secular feminist.
Feminists in general have to face up to political and cultural obstacles, to achieve our objectives of women's rights. Even Western feminists have had a similar history - having to engage with certain religious beliefs not conducive to gender equality.
Perhaps the only distinctive difference peculiar to Muslim feminists is that we are caught in the cross-currents of modernisation and a changing society, due to a modern economy on the one hand and the global resurgence of political Islam on the other.
Political Islam wants to impose a world view about the gender order that is not consistent with the realities and the lived experiences of Muslim men and women in contemporary society.
Our detractors would hurl empty accusations at us - calling us Western, secular or anti-Islamic
There is a difference between South East Asian Muslim countries and the ones in the Middle East - culturally we are less patriarchal, we can always respond to our detractors by pointing out we don't have the cultural practices that they do.
Our detractors would hurl empty accusations at us - calling us Western, secular or anti-Islamic.
Our arguments are rooted within Islam - we want renewal and transformation within the Islamic framework. They don't like that.
We have a holistic approach, seeking gender equality within the Islamic framework, supported by constitutional guarantees. We see that these are not inconsistent with the message of the Koran, particularly during its formative stages. We have to understand the history and cultural context and extract the principle that will be applicable in modern times.

SITI MUSDAH MULIA, Academic, Indonesia
In my experience, I find that it is very difficult to make Indonesian Muslim women aware that politics is their right.
In Indonesian society, politics is always conceived as cruel and dirty, so not many women want to get involved, they think it is just for men.
According to the [radicalist] Islamic understanding, women should be confined to the home, and the domestic sphere alone We try to make women understand that politics is one of our duties and rights and they can become involved without losing their femininity.
Personally, I'm non-partisan, I'm not linked to one political party because, in Indonesia, the political parties often discriminate against women.
I struggle from outside the political sphere to make it women-friendly, to reform political parties and the political system.
One day, I hope to be involved more directly, if the system becomes more women-friendly. We have passed a law about affirmative action and achieving 30% female representation, but we won't see if it is implemented until after 2009 elections. We are waiting.
In Indonesia, some groups support us, but some radical groups oppose what we are trying to achieve. They accuse me, accuse feminist Muslims, of being infidels, of wanting to damage Islamic affairs.
According to their Islamic understanding, women should be confined to the home, and the domestic sphere alone.

AMINA WADUD, Academic, United States
There are many more conversations going on today between different interpretations of Islam. Some interpretations are very narrow, some are more broad, principled, ethically-based.
Unless we have sufficient knowledge about Islam, we cannot bring about reform of Islam. I am not talking about re-interpretation, I am talking more about gender-inclusive interpretation.
We have a lot of information about men's interpretations of Islam, and of what it means to be a woman in Islam. We don't have equal amounts of information about what women say it means to be a good woman in Islam. Now it's time for men to be active listeners, and after listening, to be active participants in bringing about reform.
There is a tendency to say that it is Islam that prohibits women from driving a car, for example, when women drive cars all over the world except in one country. So then you know it is not Islam. Islam has much more flexibility, but patriarchy tends to have the same objective, and that is to limit our ability to understand ourselves as Muslims.
I have always defined myself as pro-faith and pro-feminism.
I do not wish to sacrifice my faith for anybody's conception of feminism, nor do I sacrifice the struggle and actions for full equality of women, Muslim and non-Muslim women, for any religion. Islamic feminism is not an either/or, you can be Muslim and feminist and strive for women's rights and not call yourself a feminist.

FATIMA KHAFAJI, Consultant, Egypt
In Egypt, Islamic feminism is a way for women activists to reach a large number of ordinary women in the villages and in urban low-income areas, using a framework of Islam. So there would be a reference to Islam when talking about women's rights. Experience has shown that that is an easy way to get women to accept what you're saying.
Not many women get information about women's rights easily, so you have to counter what has been fed to them, to both men and women, from the strict, conventional, religious people who have more access to women.
They have their own idea of women's rights in Islam - that is, patriarchal, still limiting opportunities for women. But women have been receiving this concept for ages, through the radio, TV, mosques, so the challenge is how to give them another view, of enlightened Islam, that talks about changing gender roles. It's not an easy job.
Sexual harassment is happening because men think the control of women's bodies is a matter for them
Historically, in Egypt in the feminist movement, there have been both Muslim and Christian women. It has never been a problem. Unfortunately nowadays, it has become a problem. Religious discrimination has been dividing people very much. We have to think carefully about how to supersede the differences.
With family law, we're aiming to change the philosophy of the law itself. Traditional family law puts women down. I can see this whole notion of "women do not have control over their bodies" in so many laws, in the penal code and family law. For example, sexual harassment is happening because men think the control of women's bodies is a matter for them. Even the decision whether to have children is the decision of men. This whole notion has to be changed in a dramatic way if we are really going to talk about women's rights in Egypt.






Two Britons found guilty of having sex on a Dubai beach could have their jail terms increased, their lawyer has said.
Michelle Palmer, 36, of Oakham, Rutland, and Vince Acors, 34, of Bromley, south-east London, were both sentenced to three months in prison.
But Hassan Matter said prosecutors had lodged an appeal, arguing the sentence was "not enough", and a judge would now have to decide whether to extend it.
Mr Matter has already lodged an appeal against the pair's convictions.
Both were found guilty of unmarried sex and public indecency at Dubai's Court of First Instance earlier this month.
They were also fined 1,000 dirhams (£160; $350) for being drunk in a public place and issued with deportation orders.
Mr Matter said on Monday: "The Dubai Public Prosecution made an appeal yesterday.
"They say the three months is not enough. They say it should be longer.

"It means the judge will now have to decide whether to increase their sentences."
Mr Matter said the prosecution appeal would be heard on 18 November at the same time as the defence argument against the convictions.
Palmer and Acors were arrested on 5 July on Jumeirah Beach hours after meeting at a champagne brunch.
After their conviction, a spokesman for the judge said a sentence of three months was "usual in these cases".
But senior prosecutor Faisal Abdelmalek Ahli said he was disappointed.
"It's very light," he said. "It's normal for a sentence to be six months to a year for an offence such as this."
Palmer, who was sacked from her job in Dubai as a publishing executive after her arrest, said in a statement she and Acors had been "just kissing and hugging".



By Jonah Fisher - BBC News, Johannesburg.

In the seven weeks since the signing of a power-sharing agreement in Harare, the poisonous relationship between Zimbabwe's political parties has continued to sour.
What some hailed as a "miracle" has stalled over the allocation of cabinet portfolios between Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
A regional summit on the deadlock is due to open on Monday in Harare as power sharing for President Mugabe so far does not extend to giving the prime minister designate - MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai - freedom of movement.
Having spent the last few years canvassing support abroad, Mr Tsvangirai's passport ran out of pages earlier this year and the Zimbabwean immigration authorities are refusing to give him a new one.

Such is the toxic atmosphere that an issue that had previously just been an irritant to the MDC has become a major obstacle to further talks.
The MDC refused to attend a regional meeting in Swaziland last week unless this was resolved.
"The denial of that passport is a symptom of the real problem in Zimbabwe," said MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti.
"Despite the Global Political Agreement on 15 September there is no readiness on the part of Zanu-PF to enter into co-operative government with Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC."

In the week that followed the breakdown of former South African President Thabo Mbeki's latest negotiations in Harare, a copy of the facilitation document was leaked to the press.
It contains Mr Mbeki's proposals to the parties and is a revealing insight into what the mediator regards as a fair deal.
When Mr Mugabe unilaterally announced his cabinet the opposition condemned it as "a power grab, not power sharing".
Those words were echoed by EU foreign ministers, but Mr Mbeki's proposals only differ slightly from Mr Mugabe's list.
Just two ministerial allocations have been changed. The finance ministry was awarded to the MDC, while home affairs - and control of the police - was to be shared.
Twenty-seven ministries were listed in the paper with each party given a stake in so-called "priory sectors".
It may have looked fair on first reading but Mr Mbeki made no mention of four ministries that Zanu-PF have also claimed for themselves.
They are not insignificant: defence (and with it control of the army), justice, information and foreign affairs.
The MDC has never had much confidence in Mr Mbeki as mediator and one source said that following these proposals they had informed the former South African president that he could "go to hell".
In that light, it is of little surprise that those four days of talks failed to move the process forward.
"It says a lot about Thabo Mbeki's own ideology and the way he sees democracy in the African context," Zimbabwean analyst Immanuel Hlabangana says.
"You can see a man who struggles with Western ideologies and is trying to champion something different for Africa."
The MDC now talk about Mr Mbeki in the past tense, but his spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, dismissed queries about whether his mediation would continue.
While stressing that they remain committed to the 15 September agreement, the MDC now say both the spirit and wording of the deal have changed since they were first initialled. Three full days passed between the announcement of a deal and the signing ceremony.
During that time the MDC say a number of small but significant changes were made to the publically released text.
These included an increase in the number of non-constituent senators given to the smaller MDC faction and the removal of a promise that MDC and Zanu-PF would have to agree on ambassadorial appointments.

Zanu-PF: 15 ministries including:
Foreign affairs
Local government
Main MDC: 13 ministries including:
Constitutional and parliamentary affairs
Economic planning and investment promotion
Arts and culture
Science and technology development
MDC (Mutambara): Three including:
Industry and commerce
Source: Government gazette

The meaning of the word "consultation" in the document is also being hotly debated.
Under the terms of the agreement President Mugabe is entitled to allocate cabinet portfolios after "consultation" with other parties.
Much to the MDC's annoyance, Zanu-PF are interpreting that to mean that after discussions, Mr Mugabe decides.
"We have had a big quarrel over the meaning of the word consultation," Mr Biti said.
"As far as us negotiators are concerned, whenever the word consultation appears in the agreement it means in agreement with the prime minister."
For different reasons neither Zanu-PF nor the MDC want to be the one to walk away from this agreement.
"If the MDC do walk away they risk being seen as a weak party and not understanding the African context," Mr Hlabangana says.
"For Zanu-PF this deal provides an opportunity for them to stay in power and keeps them from prosecution."
But with prospects appearing bleak, thoughts are beginning to turn to what will happen next.
The MDC has called for an extraordinary summit of all southern African leaders but is now openly talking about new elections.
Last week Botswana, Mr Mugabe's sternest critic in the region, called for a re-run of the 27 June presidential election.
If that was to happen the big question would be whether the violence that forced Mr Tsvangirai to pull out in June could be avoided.



European markets have opened sharply lower following hefty falls in Asia that saw Japan's Nikkei index falling 6.4% to its lowest close since 1982.
The FTSE 100 in London was trading down 4.6%, the Cac 40 in Paris fell 5.7% and the Dax in Frankfurt lost 4.1%.
It follows hefty falls on Friday with investors continuing to fret about the depth of the global slowdown.
The Japanese yen stayed near its 13-year high against the US dollar, despite threats of G7 intervention.

In other market news:
In the Philippines, the main index fell 12.3%, as the country's second biggest bank Banco de Oro Unibank reported a loss of 1.3bn pesos ($26.8m; £16.8m) because of its exposure to the US investment bank Lehman Brothers
The Seoul market reversed early losses to close up 0.8% after South Korea's central bank cut its key interest rate from 5% to 4.25% at a rare, unscheduled meeting
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed down 12.7% in its biggest single-day fall since 1991
Chinese shares also fell, with the Shanghai Composite Index losing 6.3% to its lowest level since September 2006
India's Sensex index dropped 6.1% to its lowest level since November 2005.
"There is more pain left. The global turmoil does not appear to be resolving soon," said Atul Mehra at the brokerage J M Financial in Mumbai.

Earlier on Monday the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations issued a statement warning that the strength of the yen was a threat to economic stability, which was taken as a threat of co-ordinated action to reduce the value of the currency.
While the yen briefly weakened, it soon climbed back towards Friday's 13-year high against the dollar.
The yen has been strengthening as a result of the end of the carry trade, in which traders borrowed the Japanese currency and used it to buy currencies with higher interest rates.
As the difference between Japanese rates and those elsewhere in the world has fallen, traders have been unwinding the carry trade, which means they have been using other currencies to buy yen, which has boosted the Japanese currency.
In other currency news, the Australian government intervened for a second time to support its currency, which was trading at a 5-year low against the US dollar. One US dollar was worth 0.6122 Australian dollars.
The Australian central bank last intervened more than a year ago and before that had not done so since 2001.


Sunday, October 26, 2008


By Mark Duff - BBC News, Milan

Police in Milan are investigating an unusual $1m (£628,420) robbery in the heart of the Italian fashion capital.
It was, said the victim, "a masterpiece of its kind". It was certainly daring - in broad daylight and on one of Milan's swankiest shopping streets.
Staff at Pederzani's, one of the city's exclusive jewellers, thought nothing amiss when a window cleaner went to work on the plate glass display.
Dressed in regulation overalls, he propped his ladder against the window.
But then, instead of using the bucket and squeegee to clean it, he calmly unscrewed it before scooping an estimated $1m-worth of jewels into his bucket and walking off into the Friday shopping crowd.
This is not the first audacious crime to hit Milan's fashion district this year.
In February robbers tunnelled their way into another top jeweller's - escaping with almost $24m-worth of gems while its owners were away entertaining Hollywood stars at the Oscars.



Three men convicted over the 2002 Bali bombings will be executed in early November, the Indonesian attorney general's office says.
The three - Imam Samudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas, also known as Ali Ghufron - were sentenced to death for their roles in the attacks which killed 202 people.
They were found guilty of planning the attacks, which targeted nighclubs at Bali's tourist resort of Kuta.
The bombings were blamed on the militant group Jemaah Islamiah.
Friday's announcement comes after several appeals made on behalf of the three men.

The three are held in Nusakambangan maximum security prison, where officials said the executions would take place.
A pledge by the attorney general to see them die by Ramadan - which fell in early September - was not met.
However in its latest statement, his office said: "All legal recourse for the convicts has been finalised, and all requirements met.
"The execution of Amrozi, Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudra will be carried out at the beginning of November."
Earlier this month, Indonesia's Constitutional Court rejected defence arguments that the three should be beheaded, instead of being executed by firing squad, which, they argued, did not guarantee instant death and would amount to torture.
The BBC's Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says few Indonesians support the bombers, but the execution of men who say they were defending Islamic values is likely to spark some reaction even so.


Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

The names are felled !

Saturday 25th October 2008.

Dear Family and Friends,

Every day ends in Zimbabwe with the most magnificent golden sunset at this time of the year. As the sun drops over the horizon we are bathed in orange, copper and caramel and are then so spoilt to witness a magnificent vista of stars light up our night skies. Some evenings the wattled plovers call in alarm as someone walks near their nests, other evenings the bats swoop over the garden catching insects but every night I think of a friend who has now left who told me that no matter how bad things got, I should keep looking up!

Looking for a telephone number in my address book the other day I got distracted by the names of people who needed to be erased as they aren't in the country anymore. In the last eight years all of my immediate and extended family members have gone; my lawyer, doctor, optician and chiropractor have emigrated; the vet I took my animals to has left so has the electrician, plumber and car mechanic. Nurses and teachers that I knew are gone, so has a physiotherapist, radiographer and three pharmacists. The farms where I bought meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables have all been taken over and none of them produce anything for sale at all anymore - they have been reduced to dusty weed lands housing a few desperately poor subsistence farmers and their families. The two huge agricultural companies where I bought tools, seed, fertilizer and equipment are all but empty. The stock feed companies where I bought cattle and chicken food, flour, salt and maize meal for many years now have nothing at all to sell, not even a bag of dog food. The polythene factory has closed down, two transport companies have gone, a butchery, abbatoir, florist, sports shop and school outfitters have closed down. The nursery where I used to buy tree seedlings has collapsed and the flower nursery has gone too and then of course come the friends and neighbours who have left. Page after page in my address book the names are felled and each one is crossed out with a heavy heart. How far Zimbabwe has fallen and all because a handful of people are so determined to stay in power.

For the last eight years those of us who have managed to stay in Zimbabwe have been deeply traumatized witnessing the break down of communities and the collapse of our country. Most days we don't know how, when or if, it will ever end and if we can ever be "normal" again. At the same time, the millions who have left the country are just as traumatized by everything they've left behind: families, friends, pets, homes, memories and simply that feeling deep in your soul that you are at home. I can't wait for the day when I can write to the millions of Zimbabweans scattered all over the world and say: come home, we are ready to rebuild. Sadly that time has not come yet, we hope it will be soon.

Until next time, thanks for reading,
love cathy



By Dr Daniel Sokol - Medical ethicist.

Hippocrates: the father of modern medicine?
When I asked my medical students to name famous doctors in the history of medicine, their first answer was Harold Shipman, the GP who murdered hundreds of patients.
I nearly swallowed my tongue.
Their second answer was House, the fictional doctor from the American TV series.
Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes.
Their third answer was Hippocrates, presumed author of the Hippocratic Oath - I breathed a sigh of relief.
Written nearly 2,500 years ago, the Oath is the most famous text in Western medicine, yet most people (including doctors) know precious little about it.
One GP recounted the story of an elderly patient who believed the Oath instructed doctors never to tell patients the truth. It contains no such advice.

Here is a brief guide to the Oath.
The Oath starts: "I swear by Apollo the physician and by Asclepius and Hygieia and Panacea... to bring the following oath to fulfilment."
Apollo, the god of healing, fell in love with a human, Coronis.
I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them
In his absence, Apollo sent a white crow to look after her.
When the crow informed Apollo that Coronis loved another man, Apollo's rage turned the crow black.
To avenge her brother, Apollo's sister shot Coronis with an arrow and, as she lay dying, Coronis told Apollo that she was bearing his child.
Although Apollo could not save Coronis, he rescued the unborn child, Asclepius.
Hygieia, the goddess of health, and Panacea, the goddess of cures, are the daughters of Asclepius.
According to legend, Hippocrates was a descendant of one of Asclepius' sons.
Doctors taking the Oath would doubtless have been inspired by this illustrious lineage of healers.
The next section instructs the doctor to treat his teachers as his parents, and to pass on the art of medicine to the next generation of healers.
In a pure and holy way, I will guard my life and my art and science -Hippocratic Oath
The Oath continues: "And I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them."
In other words, doctors should act in the best interests of their patients, and when unjust circumstances arise - for instance, a certain life-prolonging drug may not be available on the NHS - they should strive to correct the injustice harming their patients.
The next part seemingly concerns euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, saying: "And I will not give a drug that is deadly to anyone if asked, nor will I suggest the way to such a counsel."
Two leading scholars of the Oath, Littre and Miles, have however suggested that this passage alludes to the then common practice of using doctors as skilled political assassins.
Steven Miles notes: "Fear of the physician-poisoner may be traced very close to the time of the Oath."
The word "euthanasia" (meaning "easeful death") was only coined a century after the writing of the Oath.
The text continues: "And likewise I will not give a woman a destructive pessary."
This passage is often interpreted as a rejection of abortion.
However, abortion was legal at the time and the text only mentions pessaries (a soaked piece of wool inserted in the vagina to induce abortion), not the oral methods of abortion also used in ancient Greece.
As pessaries could cause lethal infections, the author of the Oath may have had a clinical objection to the method, rather than a moral objection to abortion itself.
The next sentence - "In a pure and holy way, I will guard my life and my art and science" - is a call for professional integrity.
Doctors should refrain from immoral behaviour and resist the temptations that accompany their privileged position (today, from drug companies offering generous gifts, for example).
The Oath continues: "I will not cut, and certainly not those suffering from stone, but I will cede this to men who are practitioners of this activity."
Another common misconception is that the Oath forbids surgery.
About whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings, I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable -Hippocratic Oath.
In fact, it instructs doctors to acknowledge the limits of their competence and to refer cases to more specialised practitioners.
Next, the doctor enters the patient's house: "Into as many houses as I may enter, I will go for the benefit of the ill, while being far from all voluntary and destructive injustice, especially from sexual acts both upon women's bodies and upon men's."
The need for such a statement reflects the wide distrust in healers at the time.
In a competitive marketplace where quacks abounded, it was necessary to reassure the public that doctors would not exploit patients.
The penultimate section deals with confidentiality and reads: "And about whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings, I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable."
As today, patients in ancient times shared deeply personal information with doctors on the assumption that their details would not be revealed to others.
Without this trust, patients may withhold facts that would help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
The text ends with the rewards that await those who respect the Oath ("the benefits both of life and of art and science, being held in good repute among all human beings for time eternal") and the punishment of those who do not ("if, however, I transgress and swear falsely, the opposite of these").
This whistle-stop tour of the Oath gives some idea of the content and spirit of this ancient text. In an age of technological developments, cosmetic surgery, complementary medicine, drug companies, and many other temptations for patients and doctors alike, the spirit of the Oath is as relevant as ever.

• Dr Daniel Sokol is a medical ethicist at St George's, University of London, and Director of the Applied Clinical Ethics (ACE) programme at Imperial College, London.



WHO, WHAT, WHY? The Magazine answers...

Comedian Matt Lucas and his partner Kevin McGee are splitting up, in what has been described as the first "gay divorce". So what's different about the break-up of a civil partnership?
With the news hitting the headlines of the first celebrity "gay divorce" of Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee, following within days of Madonna and Guy's much publicised separation, certain important questions arise.
Is gay divorce any different to straight divorce? Will divorcing gay couples receive the same sort of hefty divorce settlements that have given London the title "Divorce Capital of the World"?
Despite the fact that the courts have been carving up the assets of husbands and wives for years, it is still quite difficult to accurately predict what someone like Guy Ritchie will receive. It is even less clear in relation to gay couples since there have been so few cases to draw upon.
Civil partnerships only began in 2005. Matt and Kevin entered their civil partnership in December 2006, making their marriage only 22 months long.

It's a dissolution, not a divorce
In most aspects it is the same as a divorce
But adultery cannot be cited as a reason
And maintenance is less likely to be an issue

So are the rules the same for gay couples getting divorced?
Yes, virtually all of the same rules apply. As with straight couples, gay couples must have been married for at least 12 months before they can file for a divorce (or "dissolution" as it is known).
Although Lucas and McGee announced in June that they would split, this week a decree nisi was ruled by London's family court, in the same way that it would for a married couple.
All the same grounds apply for a gay couple, save that "adultery" cannot be used since it is technically only possible to commit adultery within a relationship between two people of opposite sexes. Consequently, in same-sex unions, it is not applicable, although would probably be described as "unreasonable behaviour".

Splitting the assets.
On the issue of whether money would be divided up in the same way as for straight couples, the courts have been at pains to emphasise that there should be no discrimination and that exactly the same principles apply.
This means that they can each claim for a share of the capital assets, for properties to be transferred to each other, for their pensions to be shared and for ongoing maintenance payments.
The fact that the same claims are theoretically available does not mean that they will be appropriate in every case. Gay unions are statistically less likely to produce children and therefore it is likely that less maintenance orders will be made.
That is because such orders often arise because a spouse has given up work to care for children, making that spouse financially dependent on the other and therefore in need of maintenance after a split.
It is most unlikely that Kevin McGee will get half of Matt Lucas's wealth, for the same reasons that Guy Ritchie will not get half of Madonna's wealth.
Both Madonna and Lucas were well-known and wealthy prior to getting married and their relationships have been fairly short, particularly so in relation to Matt and Kevin.
The court takes into account a number of factors when deciding on the right award to make.
These include:
• the length of the marriage/civil partnership
• their ages
• whether there are children
• how much money each had before the marriage/civil partnership
• how much they have each contributed both in monetary and non-monetary terms to the relationship

There is no easy answer to what Guy Ritchie or Kevin McGee will receive as the manner in which courts treat the division of assets on divorce depends very much on the individual facts of the case.
This is why Heather Mills-McCartney only received what amounted to 6% of Sir Paul's assets whilst Beverley Charman (in one of the largest reported British divorces) walked away with 37% of the assets (just under £48 million).
It will, however, be important for the courts to demonstrate that what Kevin McGee receives is the same award that a wife in his situation would have received.
Unless the courts can show there is an even playing field, there will inevitably follow a number of human rights act cases initiated by gay divorcees complaining that the treatment they have received amounts to discrimination.
Compiled by Anne Kay at Boodle Hatfield



Two large Japanese food manufacturers have found insecticide in their instant noodles, triggering a food scare.
First, Nissin - which invented the instant noodle - recalled 500,000 pots after a woman became ill. She had eaten from a cup containing insect repellent.
Now another Japanese food giant, Myojo, says it too has found the same substance in two of its own pots.
The incidents are the latest in a series of scares that have shaken the confidence of Japanese consumers.
Earlier this year ten people fell ill after eating dumplings imported from China.
The Japanese manufacturers are warning customers not to eat noodles with a strange smell or damaged packaging.


Saturday, October 25, 2008


10 things we didn't know last week

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Stars make noise.
More details
2. Fast eaters are more likely to be obese.
More details
3. 'Stink bomb' gas can control blood pressure.
More details
4. Alan Bennett does not own a computer.
More details
5. Peeling sticky tape emits X-rays.
More details
6. Gay couples can't commit adultery.
More details
7. Kate Moss's favourite drink is a vodka tonic.
More details (The Times)
8. Robin Gibb has never watched Saturday Night Fever all the way through.
More details
9. Warm drinks aid friendship.
More details
10. The Smurfs have sold more than 10 million albums in the last three years.
More details






The online game Maplestory has gained in popularity around the world.
A woman has been arrested in Japan after she allegedly killed her virtual husband in a popular video game.
The 43-year-old was reportedly furious at finding herself suddenly divorced in the online game Maplestory.
Police say she illegally accessed log-in details of the man playing her husband, and killed off his character.
The woman, a piano teacher, is in jail in Sapporo waiting to learn if she faces charges of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating data.
She was arrested on Wednesday and taken 620 miles (1,000 km) from her home in southern Miyazaki to Sapporo - where her "husband", a 33-year-old office worker lives.
If charged with the offences, and convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

A Sapporo police official, according to the Associated Press news agency, said the woman had used the man's ID and password to log in to the game last May to carry out the virtual murder.
"I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry," she was quoted by the official as telling investigators.
Maplestory is a Korean-made game, which has grown in popularity around the world but has a strong fan base in the Far East.
The game centres on defeating monsters, but players can also engage in social activities and relationships - including marriages - through their digital characters, called avatars.



Peter Biles reflects on his trip to Zimbabwe, where one of the country's worst harvests, spiralling inflation and political deadlock mean prospects for change seem to be disappearing.

Under the facade, many parts of Zimbabwe are in poverty. In October - at the start of summer here - Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, looks at its very best.
The lilac-flowered jacarandas are in full bloom. So too are the purple bougainvillea and the red flamboyants.
The tree-lined avenues are a riot of colour. There is no finer sight anywhere in southern Africa right now.
It all seems idyllic. The suburbs laid out by the British more than half a century ago are spacious.
On the well-watered playing fields of the city's private schools, young boys play games of cricket, while the nearby golf course is also beautifully maintained, and here, too, the sprinklers are turning.
But it is all rather incongruous because as I drive around Harare, probing the city's facade, I can see the decay and degradation.
Some houses have not had water for many months.

For some in Harare, holes in the ground are their main source of waterZimbabwe's crumbling infrastructure has forced many residents to sink boreholes or buy in supplies of water that have to be delivered off the back of a truck.
In the matchbox homes of the high-density suburbs - the traditional townships - life is worse, a great deal worse. There are no private schools and boreholes here.
The political optimism of the Harare Spring that we savoured in mid-September is fast being eroded.
The historic power-sharing deal - when Robert Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, agreed to form a coalition government - has come to naught so far.
Millions of people are now facing the threat of hunger, with food and money in short supply There is deadlock on who should control which ministries. Robert Mugabe has shown a steely determination to cling on to power at all costs, outmanoeuvre his opponents, and grab all the key cabinet posts.
A cartoon in a South African paper this week summed up the situation.
It showed three men: "the Broker" - Thabo Mbeki who has been facilitating the talks, "the Breaker" - Robert Mugabe and "the Broke" - the penniless Zimbabwean who symbolises the plight of so many.
And there is suffering aplenty in Zimbabwe.
Millions of people are now facing the threat of hunger, with food and money in short supply.

Soaring inflation has left many Harare shops with empty shelves. Every day, long queues form outside the banks in Harare, as people wait patiently to get cash.
The daily limit that can be withdrawn is miniscule, little more than it costs to make the bus journey into town, or buy a loaf of bread. It seems rather pointless, but this is a hand-to-mouth existence.
I wandered into a local supermarket to see what I could buy.
I had seen the television pictures of empty shelves some months ago, but the situation gets more and more desperate.
The store looked as though it was closing down. It was a depressing sight. There were a few packs of frozen meat in the freezer and a few unappetising vegetables.
But no mielie meal, the staple diet. No dairy products and no household goods. It soon became apparent to me that this was not the place to find essential supplies.
Of course, if you have access to foreign currency, life is a lot easier. But few Zimbabweans have US dollars or South African rand, and most do not earn enough to buy what little food is on sale, especially if it has been imported.
A question I am often asked is how the country keeps going. Why has it not fallen victim to this staggering economic decline and collapsed completely?
The answer lies in the importance of foreign remittances.
Millions of Zimbabweans living abroad - many of them in neighbouring South Africa - regularly send money home. Without this, many more lives would be in ruins.
In the meantime, Zimbabwe's inflation has become legendary.
Annual inflation in July was officially 230,000,000%. Ten zeroes were knocked off the currency a little while ago.
It has made no difference. The Zimbabwe dollar is worthless.
The figures change by the day. No-one knows what the inflation rate is any more. It could be as much as 1,000,000,000% by the end of this month.
It is generally illegal to trade in US dollars, but it is the only option now.
People continue to express themselves with a dignified eloquence In the meantime, worthless bank notes are discarded, and some people collect these absurdities as souvenirs. After all, a 5bn Zimbabwean dollar note must be something to show your grandchildren one day.
I spoke to one keen observer of the Zimbabwean scene.
He likened Robert Mugabe to Cambodia's Pol Pot, and said that President Mugabe seemed hell-bent on political survival.
"If that means reverting to a peasant society, and bringing the country down in the process, then so be it," he said.
The other unusual feature of life here is the patience which ordinary Zimbabweans display.
Voices were raised in the queue outside the bank, but there was no pushing and shoving, and certainly no sign of open rebellion. And people continue to express themselves with a dignified eloquence.
When I was in Harare to witness the signing of the power-sharing agreement last month, I saw a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition supporter on the street outside, voicing a simple - yet poignant - remark as he wandered among the crowd:
"More jobs, more food on the table," he said. Make no mistake, food is what Zimbabweans need now, and time is running out.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday 25 October, 2008 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.