Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tickets offered to Jackson fans!

Michael Jackson rehearsing on 23rd June
Pictures of Michael Jackson in rehearsal two days before his death have been released

Michael Jackson fans who paid in advance for the singer's UK concerts have been offered their money back or a souvenir ticket as an alternative.

Promoter AEG Live said the tickets feature graphics "inspired and designed" by the music legend, who died at the age of 50 on Thursday.

An estimated 800,000 people paid £50-£75 to watch the star perform 50 concerts at London's 02 arena.

The company will not be printing any further tickets as collectables.

It adds that the originals will become collectors' items, and feature special images which give them a 3D moving effect.

Fans have until 14 Aug to take up the offer of receiving the original tickets for the This Is It dates.

Michael Jackson rehearsing on 23rd June
Jackson sparkled in rehearsals, said photographer Kenny Mazur

AEG also released pictures of Jackson rehearsing in Los Angeles for the concerts just days before he died.

Photographer Kenny Mazur, who captured his image several times in the 1980s, said: "When he hit the stage at rehearsal, I was thrilled that the magical Michael Jackson was back.

"I felt the same adrenaline rush as when I photographed him the first time moonwalking."

AEG president Randy Phillips said of Jackson: "The world lost a kind soul who just happened to be the greatest entertainer the world has ever known.

"Since he loved his fans in life, it is incumbent upon us to treat them with the same reverence and respect after his death."

Ticket holders can get information about refunds or keeping the tickets at www.michaeljacksonlive.com from Wednesday.



Rai star 'forced French abortion'!

Cheb Mami (file image)
Cheb Mami says he is persecuted because he is a successful Arab

Algerian singer Cheb Mami is to stand trial in France over allegations that he forced a former partner to undergo an attempted abortion.

Cheb Mami, whose real name is Mohammed Khalifati, was arrested at Orly airport in Paris on Monday.

The singer, 42, is credited with bringing Algeria's popular Rai music to an international audience.

He faces 10 years in prison if convicted of complicity in violence but has denied the charges.

Prosecutors at Thursday's trial in Bobigny will allege that Cheb Rami was one of a group who abducted and beat the woman, a French photographer, in the Algerian capital, Algiers, in 2005.

The woman was allegedly forced to undergo an abortion, but on returning to France she discovered she was still pregnant and later gave birth to a daughter.

France issued an international arrest warrant for Cheb Mami after he skipped bail in Paris in May 2007 and fled to Algeria.

He denies any involvement in the alleged abortion and says he is being persecuted because he is a successful Arab star.

His former manager, Maurice Levy, is also under investigation along with two former aides.



Fatal explosion on Italian train!

Emergency service workers at the accident scene

At least 13 people have been killed and some 50 injured after a freight train carrying gas derailed and exploded in northern Italy, officials say.

The carriages jumped from the tracks and crashed into several homes, setting off an inferno in the town of Viareggio in the middle of the night.

Several of the victims died when their houses collapsed. There are fears some people may be trapped under the rubble.

Officials say there is still a risk that other gas tanks could explode.

The explosion happened shortly before midnight local time (2300 BST) when one carriage in the 14-carriage train carrying liquefied petroleum gas came off the tracks before ploughing into several homes near the station in Viareggio.


"The carriages flipped over on their sides on the rails and the gas spread out among the nearest houses before exploding," firefighter Antonio Gambardella was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

A number of fires immediately broke out in the area.

Several of the victims died when their houses collapsed with the force of the blast.

At least two other people are thought to have been killed on the road next to the station.

Many of the injured suffered severe burns.

"It was a terrifying scene which I'll never be able to forget," a witness was quoted as saying by Italy's Ansa news agency.

Police say the incident may have been caused by damage to the tracks or a problem with the train's braking system.

The train's two engineers, who were only slightly injured, said they felt an impact about 200m (650ft) outside the station, shortly before the rear of the train derailed, officials say.

Liquefied petroleum gas is a mixture of propane and butane that is used for cooking or as fuel for specially-adapted vehicles.



Murray wins late-night thriller

Date: 22 June - 5 July
Coverage: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC HD, Red Button, website streaming (UK only) and text commentary, 5 Live, 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC iPlayer
Tennis on the BBC

Highlights - Murray clinches thriller

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Andy Murray kept his campaign on track with a dramatic late-night win over Stanislas Wawrinka as Wimbledon witnessed its first floodlit match.

The fourth-round contest was played under the new roof after a rain shower.

And the Scot battled to a 2-6 6-3 6-3 5-7 6-3 win in three hours 56 minutes, with the end coming at 2238 BST - the latest Wimbledon finish.

Murray was outplayed early on but recovered to set up a quarter-final against wildcard Juan Carlos Ferrero.

"It was pretty special, I thought Stan played a great match," Murray told BBC Sport afterwards. "The standard he set at the start was tough to keep up with.

Dramatic win 'pretty special' for Murray

"He was playing great and he came out with some big shots. In five-set matches there are these momentum shifts sometimes.

"It was great, always when you play indoors the atmosphere is great, but when you've got 15,000 supporters it makes it extra special, so thanks a lot."

The 22-year-old from Dunblane is trying to become the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936, and the first Scot ever to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Murray and Wawrinka had met seven times before, with the Briton holding a slender 4-3 lead, but he had won the last two and thrashed the world number 18 last time out at the US Open.

After Dinara Safina and Amelie Mauresmo had become the first players to play competitively under the roof in the previous match, the men were the first to start a match in the new conditions.

In the unusually echoing surroundings of the now indoor Centre Court, Murray received a huge ovation as he came out to serve, but Wawrinka made the stronger start as he got to 0-40 and converted his fourth break point of the opening game.

If that could be put down to early nerves, the situation got more serious when Murray thumped a backhand well over the baseline to fall two breaks down at 3-0.


There was the first sign of nerves from Wawrinka when successive double-faults offered up a break-back point in game four but Murray could only find the net, and the chance to get a foothold in the match disappeared.

A first-serve percentage of below 44% and no aces was a dramatic decline from previous matches, while Wawrinka grew in confidence as he served out a set he had totally dominated in 34 minutes.

There was a huge cheer after Murray held comfortably at the start of the second set, but he was in deep trouble after the Swiss got to 15-40 at 2-2 with a killer drop shot and an unplayable forehand.

The first break point went begging quickly enough before Wawrinka then went just wide with a forehand, and when Murray unleashed a forehand cross-court winner on game point there was a palpable release of 58-minutes' worth of tension from both player and spectators.

Wawrinka received attention to his left thigh on the changeover before game eight, which then proved to be a key game as Murray finally earned two more break points, converting the second when Wawrinka put a backhand wide.

Andy Murray
Murray and Wawrinka are the first players to begin under the roof

Murray screamed in delight and powered through the next service game to love, taking it with an ace to level up a match that had been in danger of slipping away.

There was no let-up in the tension as the third set began, and Murray's first-serve percentage had slipped to 32% when he offered up three break points in game six.

The Briton was very fortunate that Wawrinka let him off the hook with three unforced errors, and he soon made him pay.

Wawrinka had a lapse of concentration in the following game and Murray pounced, moving to 0-40 and converting his second break point by forcing the Swiss to volley long, and a second break followed soon after as the 19th seed's game temporarily disintegrated.

With the light fading outside as the time approached 2100 BST, there was no danger of the match ending early as the new floodlights ensured play would go on for as long as necessary.

Again it was Murray who faltered first in the fourth set, a poor forehand giving Wawrinka 30-40 at 3-3, but the Swiss sent a forehand long to waste a ninth break.

With the floodlit contest now effectively a night-match, like those seen at the US and Australian Opens, Murray had a break point to serve for the match but netted a forehand and Wawrinka kept the contest alive.

The Swiss then let a chance slip in game nine but finally made the breakthrough on his 13th break point of the match to lead 6-5, and he served out with an ace to force a decider at 2153 BST.

Murray grabbed the initiative in game two of the final set when Wawrinka netted a volley but the Swiss came storming back with three straight games to level at 3-3.

Outside Centre Court, thousands of fans remained glued to the action on the big screen despite the total darkness, and their man urged those inside the 15,000-seater arena to give greater support in a dramatic eighth game.

The world number three netted on two break points before he set up a forehand on the third and cracked it down the line to a huge roar from the crowd, and Murray then threw in a stunning drop shot before surviving a tense Hawkeye challenge on his way to serving out an extraordinary victory.

"I'll have a pretty deep sleep tonight after that," said Murray. "After a match like that you take a lot of confidence, it was a great day."



Monday, June 29, 2009





Iran frees five from UK embassy!

Iranian hardline students burn US and British flags during a protest outside the British embassy in Tehran on 23 June, 2009
Tehran has blamed the US and UK for post-election unrest

Five out of nine local staff from the UK embassy detained in Tehran have been released, Iranian officials say.

Iran's media earlier said local employees at the UK mission were held over their role in protests against June's disputed presidential election.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Separately, Iran's top legislative body began a partial recount of the poll - a move rejected by defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.


"Out of nine people, five of them have been released and the rest are being interrogated," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said at a news conference, state television Press TV reported.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hoseyn Mohseni-Ezhei on Sunday said "the British embassy played a crucial role in the recent unrest both through its local staff and via media", Iran's Irna news agency reported.

"We have photos and videos of certain local employees of the British embassy, who collected news about the protests.

"The embassy sent staff among the rioters to direct them in order to escalate the riots so that the rioters could file fabricated reports about the [rallies] to the world from various locations," the Iranian minister added.

Britain has protested strongly over the arrests, which have now been been confirmed by the BBC.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a news conference in London that Iran's behaviour was "unacceptable, unjustified and without foundation".

Standing alongside his Swedish counterpart and President of the EU Commission, Fredrik Reinfeldt, Mr Brown also thanked the EU for "its support and solidarity".

On Sunday, the European Union warned Iran that "harassment or intimidation" of embassy staff would be met with a "strong and collective" response.

Video appearing to show arrests following protests in Tehran on Sunday

The British foreign office has not said what the four staff still in custody do at the embassy, but the BBC understands that one of them has the job of reviewing local news sources and keeping abreast of political developments, our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in Tehran says.

He says that none of the nine who were detained has dual Iranian-British nationality.

Despite the releases, the fact that some employees are still being held means the issue remains a serious problem for the UK, our editor adds.

12 June Presidential election saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 63% of vote
Main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi called for result to be annulled for electoral fraud
Street protests saw at least 17 people killed and foreign media restricted

Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers - especially Britain and the US - of meddling after the 12 June election.

The poll was won by a landslide by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but his opponents said the victory was achieved by massive fraud. Some 17 people are thought to have died in subsequent street protests.

In the fallout from the crisis, Tehran has expelled two British diplomats and the UK has responded with a similar measure.

However, Mr Ghashghavi said on Monday that "there is no plan at the moment to close any embassy or downgrade ties with them".

Some 17 people are thought to have died in street protests after the disputed presidential poll, which the opposition complains was rigged.

At least 1,000 opposition supporters are reported to have staged a noisy rally outside a mosque in Tehran on Sunday evening before it was broken up by police and militia.

Riot police used tear gas and clubs to disperse the crowd outside the Ghoba Mosque, Iranian eyewitnesses said.

The report could not be independently verified because of reporting restrictions on foreign media.

In a separate development, Iran's state TV said the recount had started on Monday in the capital Tehran as well as in the provinces.

Iran's Guardian Council has offered to recount a random 10% of the votes from the election.

The process was expected to be completed later on Monday and the result would be announced shortly afterwards, al-Alam television said.

But Mr Mousavi insists the poll was rigged and therefore should be annulled.

On Sunday, Mr Mousavi met members of a committee set up by the Guardian Council to examine the disputed poll, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.

It said Mr Mousavi was expected to present his proposal on the issue, without giving any further details.



Man dies at SA initiation school


A teacher at an illegal South African initiation school is expected in court on a murder charge this week, after a man was allegedly beaten to death.

General Morale's body was found hidden in bushes inside an initiation camp in North West Province on Friday.

The other initiates in the school told police the teacher had often beat them since the school opened in May.

Initiates occasionally die after being circumcised but this is believed to be the first death from physical assault.

Circumcision is a tradition in some South African cultures and is seen as a rite of passage into manhood.

Police spokesman Captain Adele Myburgh told the BBC the school has been running since 5 May with eight initiates.

"We understand that the initiates have been assaulted on a daily basis.

"They are told that to be a man you need to be able to take the punches," she said.

Police could not say if any weapons were used during the alleged assaults.

This is the first death of this nature to the reported in the area.

"Usually we have deaths after the circumcision ritual has been conducted; either because it was done incorrectly or an unsterilized tool was used which leads to infection, but this is the first death due to actual physical assault," Captain Myburgh said.

Last month, eight boys died after botched circumcisions in neighbouring Mpumalanga Province.

Police say they are concerned that more more lives could be lost in the coming winter months, as this is the time when most circumcisions are done.

They say they are trying to crack down on the illegal schools but admit that this is a difficult battle to win

"When we learn of an illegal school operating in the area we close it down and in most cases the initiates we find at the schools need some kind of medical attention," Captain Myburgh said.

Initiation schools are required to register with the health department, which ensures teachers are trained how to carry out the circumcisions and makes sure that proper health standards are met.



Madoff sentenced for $65bn fraud

Bernard Madoff has been given a prison sentence of 150 years for masterminding a massive fraud that robbed investors of $65bn (£40bn).

US District Judge Denny Chin is sentencing Madoff on 11 charges, including securities fraud and money laundering.



Ten ways to beat the heat!

A week-long heatwave is forecast for much of the UK. How can one keep cool and carry on when the mercury is rising?

After two less-than-dazzling summers, the sun is back. Temperatures in parts of the UK this week are expected to top 30° Celsius, prompting the Met Office to issue its first ever heatwave warning.

But the effects of soaring temperatures can be countered. With some help from the NHS' Heatwave Plan, here are 10 suggestions - some eminently practical, others a little more ambitious - to help you keep a cool head while all around you are losing theirs.

White houses in Patmos in Greece
In many parts of the Mediterranean houses are whitewashed

The NHS's heatwave plan for England suggests using "pale, reflective external paints" to keep your house cool.

It's something you can see in many of the hottest parts of the world. Go to areas of Greece or north Africa and whitewashed villages are the norm. And there's science behind this.

"It will certainly help," says physicist Prof Robin Marshall. "If you make the roof of your house white you will bounce a lot of heat back into the atmosphere."

Of course, keeping your house white may not be totally straightforward. In a dry, pollution free area of the Med you may be OK. If your house is in London, Leeds or Liverpool, you might find it soon loses its reflective qualities. And titanium oxide paint, which provides the brightest white, may cost a bit.

"Metallic paints are better - they reflect further out into the near infra-red range," says Prof Mark Dickinson, of Manchester University's Photon Science Institute.


Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. If you go outside, walk or sit in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a hat. (To produce vitamin D, which is all important if you want to maintain functioning organs, the body only needs 10 minutes' exposure without sunscreen once or twice a day. And it breaks down if you stay too long in the sun.)

Tuareg man in blue
This Tuareg man seems to believe dark colours are best

The NHS advice says: "Wear light, loosefitting cotton clothes."

So if white houses keep you cool, then white clothes must also be the best for keeping cool? It's perhaps not quite as simple as that. If you go to some of the hottest places in the world, people often wear dark colours. You can find Tuareg tribesmen resplendent in navy blue robes, and Chinese peasants toiling in black.

"I look at what people do who have got experience living in hot sunny climates," says Prof Marshall. "They wear black clothing.

"If you can stay out of the sun it will radiate heat off much better. But if you are in the sun it would be nice to have something on that is white."

Tuareg tribesman wearing white
While this Tuareg man prefers white

Richard Trillo, author of the Rough Guides to Kenya and West Africa, knows a thing or two about dressing to stay cool. He advocates loose cotton trousers, where shorts are not an option.

But there are other things to bear in mind as well.

"Don't carry anything in your pockets. I find even a credit card in my pocket is noticeably uncomfortable. It is covering up a bit of skin surface.

"If you can bear to have a short haircut, do so, it makes you so much more comfortable."


Shut windows exposed to the sun, and draw blinds or curtains against the light. Open these at night, or once the sun has moved off, to let in cooler air.

Palm trees in Miami
Trees offer shade and other benefits

"Trees, plants and green spaces act as natural air conditioners, provide shade and absorb carbon dioxide," says the NHS's plan.

If you're in a warmer part of the British Isles, pop a palm tree in front of your house and it will soon be blocking out the sun.

And there's a chance you'll be contributing to a wider effort. Trees pump out moisture.


You can get the same effect in the house, not just with plants, but by leaving bowls of water around. "Evaporation helps cool the air," says the plan.

Of course, if humidity is not your thing, you may want to ignore this advice.


Keep hydrated with cold drinks, and eat foods with high water content such as fruit and salad.

A chilled lager or iced tea may seem refreshing, but avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.


Insulate lofts and cavity walls - this helps keep the heat out when the weather is hot, and in when the mercury drops.

This may be more practical than painting your house white, says Prof Dickinson.

"It all depends on what your house is made of. If it's good at keeping heat in, it's good at keeping heat out."


Not one from the NHS, but one that would please the Victorians, is proper use of your sash windows.

The simple fact is that many of those who own homes with sash windows don't open them in the right way. We should be leaving equal gaps at the top and bottom of the window.

The theory, explored by researchers at Imperial College London, is that cool comes in through the lower opening and warm air is pushed out through the top.


Avoid over-doing physical exertion. Reaching for a cold drink ought to raise enough of a sweat as it is.



Scant return from Tsvangirai tour!

By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Johannesburg

Morgan Tsvangirai with Barack Obama in Washington, 12 June 2009
Mr Tsvangirai's Western friends were more generous with kudos than cash

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai embarked on a three-week tour hoping to convince world leaders that the time had come to re-engage with Zimbabwe.

On the surface things went well.

A photo inside the White House of a friendly handshake with Barack Obama and meetings with European leaders all helped convey the message that this is a man the West feels it can work with.

Ultimately, though, this was not about goodwill but the cold hard cash that Zimbabwe's government needs to get the country back on its feet.

And of that, Mr Tsvangirai secured very little.

Just over $200m (£121m) is a scant return when the country's finance minister says they need $7bn.

Tellingly, very little of that money will go into the hands of government ministers.

From 7 to 25 June 2009
Visited US, UK, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Norway and France
$200m in aid secured

"To us that is neither here nor there," Prime Minister Tsvangirai said on the French leg of the trip.

"The funds that are being given are going to Zimbabweans."

But the channelling of funds through international aid agencies is a very public rejection of the government Mr Tsvangirai is supposed to be leading, and of his claims that Zimbabwe has embarked on "an irreversible transition to democracy".

On a basic level there is no doubt that things have improved in Zimbabwe since the signing of the power-sharing agreement in February.

The scrapping of the Zimbabwe dollar has put an end to hyperinflation and there are now goods in the shops - available of course if you have the hard currency to pay for them.

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in Britain
Mr Tsvangirai appealed for exiles to return to Zimbabwe

Schools and hospitals are also starting to function again, thanks to salaries being paid.

The maize harvest for this year, thanks to good rains and the liberalising of the grain market, has doubled.

But crucially, there is still little to show that on key political issues Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is being treated as an equal partner, or even heard, by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

Differences over appointments are unresolved, activists are still being detained and media laws restrictive.

Amnesty International recently released a report saying "persistent and serious" human rights violations were still taking place.

Despite that, there are many in Harare willing to give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt.

"Any kind of re-engagement is good," a 24-year-old from the University of Zimbabwe said. "Zimbabwe has finally returned to the family of nations."

And here in Johannesburg there are signs that some Zimbabweans believe things are changing for the better and are heading back.

This month voluntary repatriations organised by the United Nation's International Organization for Migration got underway.

Sixty people were packed onboard the bus as it left early in the morning with more than 100 left disappointed on the side of the road.

"I'm concerned about my security but the degree of concern has actually decreased because of the coalition government," a man called Hardlife told the BBC from his seat on the bus.

Others are returning out of a sense of civic duty.

"More than 10% of Zimbabweans are in exile, so I'm calling for them to go back and rebuild their country," a teacher called Tafudzwa said.

"I'm going back to school I will be teaching on Monday."




By Jonathan Head BBC News, Bangkok.

Burma's highest court has rejected an appeal by lawyers for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to allow two prominent dissidents to testify in her defence.
Ms Suu Kyi is on trial for allowing a US man to stay in her home last month, after he swam there across a lake.
Her lawyers wanted four witnesses but have been allowed only two.
The trial has been widely condemned as a ploy to keep Ms Suu Kyi locked up until after next year's elections, the first in 20 years.
The trial has also cast doubt on a planned visit to Burma by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Burma's Supreme Court accepted the prosecution's argument that witnesses for Aung San Suu Kyi's defence could not be allowed to appear in court as they are government critics, and one is being held under house arrest.

The machinations of Burma's court system are in any case immaterial to many outside observers, who believe the entire case against Ms Suu Kyi has been cooked up as a ruse to keep her in custody.
She is being charged with failing to evict an uninvited visitor to her lakeside home, where she has been held for 14 of the past 20 years.
The court case will now proceed later this week, and is widely expected to deliver a guilty verdict against the opposition leader.
But it is taking much longer than expected, with the authorities allowing far more "due process" than they normally do during dissidents' trials.
The government seems to have been taken by surprise by the storm of international protest over its treatment of Ms Suu Kyi.
Her trial presents a dilemma for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been invited to visit Burma next month.
He is known to want to sustain a dialogue with the country's isolated military rulers, but risks being condemned if he comes away from a visit with no concessions.
Special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has just left Burma after spending two days negotiating the terms of Mr Ban's visit - it still is not clear whether it will go ahead.


Sunday, June 28, 2009


A heatwave is to hit the UK bringing soaring day and night time temperatures and thundery showers throughout the week, the BBC's weather unit have said.
In London the temperature will rise steadily from about 29C on Sunday to about 32C by the end of the week.
In the rest of the UK temperatures will climb from about 22C on Sunday to about 29C on Friday.
However, BBC weather said an on-shore breeze will keep Eastern England and Eastern Scotland cooler during Sunday.
On Friday the Met Office issued a heatwave alert for England and Wales and the Department of Health has asked people to check up on vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbours.
NHS staff have also been warned to prepare for a surge of elderly and ill patients suffering from the heat.

The Met Office has predicted that around the country daytime temperatures could reach 29-30C, with minimum night-time temperatures of 15-18C.
London, the East of England, South West, South East and the Midlands are the most likely to be affected.
Above average temperatures are expected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The high temperatures will be accompanied by high humidity and thundery showers, BBC weather centre said.
Various parts of England were hit by severe thunderstorms on Saturday night.
In Birmingham, a 16-year-old boy suffered a cardiac arrest and five others were hurt in a lightning strike.

Officials had already said this summer may be warmer than the past couple of years.
With climate change, heatwaves are likely to become more common over the next few decades and the Chief Medical Officer has warned of an increase in deaths in times of hot weather.
Heatwave guidance
The Department of Health has advised people to keep their homes as cool as possible and remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk is essential.
"Windows should be kept shaded and closed when the temperature is hotter outside than inside.
"People with respiratory problems should stay inside during the hottest part of the day," a DoH spokesman said.
Other advice in the government's heatwave plan includes to drink cold drinks like water or fruit juice regularly and avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.
Help the Aged and Age Concern welcomed the advice.
A spokesman said: "Older people, especially those on medication, can often find coping with the heat particularly difficult."



Troops in Honduras have ousted the president and flown him out of the country after a power struggle over plans to change the constitution.
After arriving in Costa Rica, deposed President Manuel Zelaya said he had been kidnapped by soldiers in a "coup".
Mr Zelaya, elected for a non-renewable four-year term in January 2006, wanted a vote to extend his time in office.
His arrest came just before the start of a referendum ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and opposed by Congress.
There was also resistance within Mr Zelaya's own party to the plan to hold the vote.
Soldiers stormed the president's residence in the capital, Tegucigalpa, before dawn on Sunday, an hour before polls had been due to open.

In pictures: President ousted
Profile: Manuel Zelaya

Mr Zelaya was taken to an airbase outside the city and rumours swirled over his whereabouts, as his supporters confronted security forces outside the president's home.
Several hours later Mr Zelaya turned up in Costa Rica, where he said troops had arrested him in his pyjamas. He urged Hondurans to resist those who had removed him.
"I've been the victim of a kidnapping by a group of Honduran soldiers," he said.
"This was a plot by a very voracious elite, an elite which wants only to keep this country isolated, in an extreme level of poverty."
Later the Honduran Supreme Court said it had ordered the removal of the president, who had been due to leave office next January.
Honduran MPs are expected to appoint as acting head of state Congress President Roberto Micheletti, a member of Mr Zelaya's own party but an opponent of the deposed leader, reported Reuters news agency.

There was international condemnation of events in Honduras:
• At an emergency meeting in Washington, the Organization of American States condemned it as a "coup"
• Mr Zelaya's ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, blamed "the Yankee empire", and threatened military action in the event that the Venezuelan ambassador to Honduras was attacked
• The White House denied any involvement, US President Barack Obama urged Honduras to "respect the rule of law" and the EU condemned Mr Zelaya's arrest


Elected for Liberal Party in Nov 2005; beat ruling National Party candidate
Has moved Honduras away from its traditional ally the US
Enjoys the support of Venezuela's leftist President, Hugo Chavez
A civil engineer and rancher by profession

The military's dramatic move came after President Zelaya defied a court order that he should re-instate the chief of the army, Gen Romeo Vasquez.
The president sacked Gen Vasquez late on Wednesday for refusing to help him organise the referendum and accepted the defence minister's resignation.
A day later, the Honduran Congress approved plans to investigate whether the president should be declared unfit to rule.
The planned referendum was to ask the population if they approved of a formal vote next November on whether to rewrite the Honduran constitution.
Ballot boxes had been distributed by Mr Zelaya's supporters and government employees throughout the Central American nation.
In an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper published on Sunday, Mr Zelaya said a plot to topple him had been thwarted after the US refused to back it.
"Everything was in place for the coup and if the US embassy had approved it, it would have happened. But they did not," Mr Zelaya said.
Honduras - an impoverished coffee and banana-exporting nation of more than 7 million people - has experienced military coups in the past.
Soldiers overthrew elected presidents in 1963 and again in 1975; the military did not turn the government over to civilians until 1981.


The etiquette of swine flu!

Swine flu advice
All very well, but what do you tell friends?

As the number of UK swine flu cases rise, a whole host of social questions arises if a person is infected. When exposed to the virus, you may find yourself temporarily shunned by friends and family, says the BBC's Bella Hurrell, whose five-year-old daughter recently had the virus. How should you behave?

Medical advice can be pretty confused as health authorities adjust their containment policy on the hoof in a frantic attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

One minute you can find yourself being told it's fine to carry on as normal, only to be advised a short time later by someone else that you shouldn't be setting foot outside your house.

Here are some of the dilemmas you may face if you find yourself exposed to swine flu.


People are scared of this virus, probably more scared than they would be if you said you had TB, but maybe not quite as worried as they would be if you said you had Ebola.

If you meet a friend in the street, a clear announcement is best, before your acquaintance gets too close. It's a great opportunity to avoid any awkward continental cheek-kissing.

Do be prepared for people to take a step back and suddenly remember an urgent appointment elsewhere.

If you have had the virus and your friend stays around long enough to ask: "But how are you?" the correct response is a small sigh, a martyrish smile and: "Well, through the worst..."


Having a child with swine flu, or even getting it yourself, is currently the perfect excuse for a leisurely week or two off work, no questions asked.

Once through the initial illness, which if you are very lucky may just be a couple of days of feeling a bit feverish, the days stretch ahead in a sunshiny haze.

For the childless that may mean a festival of homemade lattes and catching up with holiday reading but for those with children who have been forced into a netherworld of exclusion from school and playgrounds, the time can be a little more fraught.

Medical advice can vary wildly depending on whether you are speaking to the Health Protection Agency, a flu centre, your GP or some other vaguely medical person who doesn't really have that much idea, but will try to be helpful anyway.

So despite Health Protection Agency (HPA) guidelines which state that if you have no symptoms you can carry on as normal, others may advise if you have been exposed that you take the antiviral Tamiflu and stay off work for up to 10 days, just to be on the safe side. So, the choice is yours.


It would be madness to trek to the shops if there is the remotest chance that you or your child is contagious, wouldn't it?

However, being trapped in the house with no interesting food and apparently healthy children who are trying to pull each other's ears off is no fun and a trip to a supermarket can seem like an exciting adventure. After all, who is going to know?

Well, there is some anecdotal evidence that at least one shop in the Midlands, where swine flu has been most acute, took to banning shoppers with swine flu, though how this would work in practice is a bit unclear.

The HPA says that if you have no symptoms you pose no risk to fellow shoppers, but this advice is complicated by the fact that it is possible to be contagious for up to 24 hours before the onset of symptoms.

So just remember, if you do choose to go to the shops, try to prevent panic by not mentioning the S-word in public or popping your Tamiflu in the produce aisle.


Potentially infecting people you don't know is one thing, but possibly infecting those you do seems like another.

The HPA advises that if you no longer have symptoms then it is unlikely you are still contagious.

Symptoms can last up to seven days after the onset of the illness in adults and a day or two longer for children.

So theoretically there is no reason why you can't socialise if you feel fine, but fear is never rational, and your friends may not feel quite so confident in your recovery.

Even if you or your family members are no longer symptomatic, you may want to consider that good manners should prevent you from ruining a social gathering by turning up like Typhoid Mary.

And finally, although no-one really knows for sure, if you haven't developed any symptoms a week after close contact with a person infected by the virus it is likely you are completely in the clear. At least, for now.



Glastonbury bows down to The Boss !

Springsteen got the crowd singing along with classics like Born To Run

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Bruce Springsteen has become The Boss of Glastonbury after a two-and-a-half hour crowd-pleasing headline set.

Hits like Dancing in the Dark, Glory Days and Born To Run got fans moving as the star made his first UK festival appearance at the Somerset event.

Springsteen got close to his British fans with repeated runs from the stage to sing right next to the front row.

"He was down with his fans and cared that he was here," said 28-year-old Siobhan Farmer, who was in the crowd.

"I wasn't a fan before but he certainly puts energy into it."

Her friend Anna Burgess, 23, added: "I knew nothing of Bruce but it was the best gig of the festival so far. His passion made it. It was brilliant."

Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury
Springsteen jumped down from the stage during numerous songs

Another fan, Amil Ahir, 43, from Devon, said he last saw Springsteen at Wembley Stadium about 15 years ago.

"He definitely is The Boss and tonight he proved that again, in terms of entertainment, real rock and a fantastic blend of different musical types," he said.

"Bruce rocked Glastonbury tonight."

Tom Winter from Stoke-on-Trent commented: "Even from miles back, I thought it was brilliant. There was so much energy coming through."

Springsteen started the night with an acoustic cover of Coma Girl by late Clash frontman Joe Strummer.

Strummer wrote the song about Glastonbury, and his love of the festival helped convince Springsteen to play.

The song begins with the line: "I was crawling through a festival way out west," before continuing: "And the rain came in from the wide blue yonder, through all the stages I wandered."

"What happened to all the rain?" Springsteen asked the crowd as the show got under way. "I wore my boots."

In black T-shirt and blue jeans, the 59-year-old star was not short of the indefatigable passion and down-to-earth devotion that have always defined his on-stage persona.

The 25-song stint stretched into all corners of his blood, sweat and tear-stained catalogue.

Fans watching Bruce Springsteen
The Saturday headline show is traditionally the biggest slot of the weekend

But it was not a greatest hits show. He never plays Born in the USA, perhaps his biggest anthem, live these days, although the Glastonbury crowd tried their best to persuade him by chanting its chorus.

During the title track from his newest album Working On A Dream, the singer delivered a lengthy message with evangelical zeal.

"We are so glad to be in the beautiful rain-free Glastonbury tonight," he told the crowd.

"I heard about it, I heard about it, I heard about it - now I'm seeing it.

"The mighty E Street Band has come thousands of miles tonight to fulfil a solemn vow to rock the house."

On No Surrender, from the Born in the USA album, Springsteen was joined by Brian Fallon, singer with up-and-coming band The Gaslight Anthem and a fellow New Jersey native.

Earlier, The Boss had made a surprise appearance on one song with The Gaslight Anthem during their slot on the John Peel Stage, the traditional home of new bands at the festival.

In headlining the main Pyramid Stage, Springsteen followed another redoubtable rock legend, Neil Young, who topped the bill on Friday.

Other acts to draw crowds on Saturday included rapper Dizzee Rascal, comedy rockers Spinal Tap, indie stars Kasabian and reggae-folk singer Paolo Nutini.

Revellers enjoyed warm, sunny weather after downpours on Thursday and Friday.

More than 175,000 people are at the event, which has been run on Michael Eavis' dairy farm for for 39 years.



'Best job' winner flies from UK!

Ben Southall
Ben Southall begins work on 1 July

A man who won "the best job in the world" is en route from the UK to begin work as the new caretaker of an Australian tropical island.

Ben Southall, 34, a charity fundraiser from Petersfield, Hampshire, beat more than 34,000 applicants to the position.

His new job requires him to live and report from Hamilton Island on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Southall was due to arrive in Brisbane on Saturday to begin his six-month post next month.

He officially begins work on 1 July, according to his father Duncan Southall, based in Ropley.

"He was very enthusiastic on Friday and has taken quite a bit with him," he said.

"We [Mr Southall and his wife Margaret] are going travelling in August for three weeks and hope to spend one of them with Ben."

The rigorous selection process involving snorkelling, barbecues and time at a spa, gave a global profile to Australian tourism, which has gone into decline amid the worldwide recession.

Mr Southall was one of 16 finalists competing for the A$150,000 (£73,500; $110,000) position.

He was named as the successful candidate in a reality TV-style ceremony by Tourism Queensland on 6 May.

Earlier, Mr Southall said: "To go away now as the island caretaker for Tourism Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef is an extreme honour."

As well as the salary, the post of caretaker at Hamilton Island comes with a three-bedroom beach home, a swimming pool and golf cart.

The job description requires Mr Southall "to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel, make friends with the locals and generally enjoy the tropical Queensland climate and lifestyle".

As a thoroughly modern caretaker, Mr Southall will also be expected to report back to Tourism Queensland and the world via blogs, a photo diary, video updates and interviews.




A pastor in the US state of Kentucky told his flock to bring handguns to church in what he said was an effort to promote safe gun ownership.
Pastor Ken Pagano told parishioners to bring their unloaded guns to New Bethel Church in Louisville for a service celebrating the right to bear arms.
He said he acted after church members voiced fears the Obama administration could tighten gun control laws.
When the service began, some 200 people were present, AP news agency said.
"We are wanting to send a message that there are legal, civil, intelligent and law-abiding citizens who also own guns," Mr Pagano told the congregation.
"If it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, this country would not be here today," he said.

The pastor also held a handgun raffle, as well as providing information on gun safety.
"I wish more churches did this, I wish more people did this," the Louisville Courier-Journal quoted one attendee, Doreen Rogers, as saying.
"For some reason, most people think that carrying guns is sinful. It's not. I think my life is worth protecting."
About 10 members of a private local militia also attended, the Courier-Journal said.
A coalition of religious groups and campaigners held a rival gun-free event at the same time on the other side of Louisville.
"The idea of wearing guns to churches or any sacred space I think many people find deeply troubling," organiser Terry Taylor told AP.
In the US, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. There are thought to be more than 200 million firearms in private hands.
But some gun owners fear that the new administration in the White House could try to challenge or amend some gun ownership laws.
Critics of the laws, meanwhile, link high levels of gun crime with high levels of gun ownership.








Saturday, June 27, 2009

Suspected swine flu at festival!

Three people attending the Glastonbury Festival have been diagnosed with suspected swine flu.

Two students and a 10-year-old child from a family of four showed symptoms of the illness when examined by festival medical staff.

The students, from Exeter and Edinburgh universities, and the family were moved off the festival site and into an isolation facility.

After receiving advice they have now all decided to return home.

Dr Mark Salter, one of the 600-strong medical team at the festival, said: "This is generally a mild illness but we are taking no chances and strongly advising people with symptoms to leave the festival.

"Because of the number of people it is highly likely that we will see other cases, but we are fully prepared."



Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe !


Dear Family and Friends,

A few months ago a friend was approached by a vendor who had a large
walnut -sized transparent stone. The vendor didn't want to say where
he'd got the stone from but claimed it was a diamond and he was
trying to sell it. The stone had a sharp edge which made a deep
scratch in a steel drill bit without damagaing the stone.Was it a
diamond? Who knows but there are plenty of stories like this doing
the rounds. People in Mutare tell of deals going down all the time,
men in dark glasses, cars with tinted windows and little bundles
changing hands. Some talk of clear stones, others are grey or cloudy
but whatever the colour we are all wondering just who died while
digging for these stones.

A chilling report has just been released by Human Rights Watch
implicating Zimbabwe's military in horrific abuses at the newly
discovered diamond fields in Chiadzwa. Human Rights Watch collected
evidence of violence, murder and forced child labour at the diamond
deposits in Marange. The report talks of military helicopters gunning
people down, of teargas being thrown into shafts and of people buried
alive. It says that at least 214 people were killed during a three
week military operation in October 2008 and of people buried in mass
. Press reports quote Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at
Human Rights Watch as saying: "The police and army have turned this
peaceful area into a nightmare of lawlessness and horrific violence."

Human Rights Watch says that: "Zimbabwe's new government should get
the army out of the fields, put a stop to the abuse, and prosecute
those responsible."

It is incomprehensible that this is going on even now as Prime
Minister Tsvangirai tries to persuade the west that we have changed
and are deserving of their money.

The Human Rights Watch report could not be more damning, or more to
the point when it notes:

"The government could generate significant amounts of revenue from
the diamonds, perhaps as much as $200million US dollars per month, if
Marange and other mining centres were managed in a transparent and
accountable manner. This revenue could fund a significant portion of
the new government's economic recovery programme."

There remains little doubt in anyone's mind just exactly why Zanu PF
refused to concede defeat in the 2008 elections: from farms and
wildlife to gold and diamonds.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

©Copyright cathy buckle 27th June 2009.


Thai protesters return to streets!

Red-shirted demonstrators in Bangkok, 27/06
The protesters want the government to resign and call elections

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Thailand's capital Bangkok to call on the government to resign, in the biggest rally since riots in April.

About 4,000 security officers are policing the red-shirted demonstrators, who are loyal to ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The rally organisers say Mr Thaksin will address the crowd by telephone from Dubai, where he lives in exile.

Protests in April led to the worst street violence in 15 years.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called a state of emergency as the rallies by red-shirted protesters threatened to destabilise his government.

The protest leaders eventually called off their action after days of rioting and clashes with security forces left at least two people dead and more than 100 injured.

One of the organisers of the current protest, Nutthawut Saikua, told the Associated Press the aims of the demonstrators had not changed since the April clashes.

Thaksin Shinawatra, file image
Royalists saw Mr Thaksin's popularity as a threat to the monarchy

"We rally today because we want to get rid of the government, the aristocracy and bring back true democracy to the people," he said.

"We demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resign and dissolves the [parliament] because the government is not democratic."

Mr Abhisit came to power last December after previous Thaksin-supporting governments were brought down by a concerted street protest by yellow-shirted demonstrators.

He was eventually chosen as leader after several MPs who had previously backed Thaksin were persuaded to change sides.

Analysts say the rift in Thai society - symbolised by the red and yellow shirts - remains strong.

Many Thais in rural areas support Mr Thaksin and ally themselves with the red-shirt cause.

The "yellow shirts" draw their support from Bangkok's urban elite, the middle classes and the conservative royalists.



'No foul play' in Jackson death!

There has been an outpouring of grief around the world

There was no sign of foul play in the death of Michael Jackson, coroners who completed a post-mortem on the singer's body have said.

But toxicology and other tests have been ordered, and the cause of the 50-year-old's death could take several weeks to determine.

Police also want to speak to Jackson's doctor who witnessed his collapse.

Jackson's body has been released to his family but no funeral details have been made public.

Michael Jackson's body moved to an "undisclosed location"

Seven hours after the post-mortem examination was completed, Jackson's family was allowed to claim his body, seemingly managing to elude the media crowd outside the coroner's office.

The body has been taken to an undisclosed location.

Announcing the results of a three-hour autopsy, Los Angeles County Coroners spokesman Craig Harvey said there had been no indication of any external trauma or foul play, but he said the cause of death had been deferred.

"It means that the medical examiner ordered additional testing such as toxicology and other studies," Mr Harvey said.

These would take between four to six weeks, he said.

"We know he was taking some prescription medication," Mr Harvey said, without specifying which.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the singer had been taking a daily dose of Demerol, a painkiller also widely known as pethidine.

Strong painkiller, addictive
Same drug class as morphine
Given by tablets or injection
Used post-surgery or for childbirth
High doses can stop breathing or lead to delirium and seizures

Jackson, who had a history of health problems, collapsed at his Los Angeles home around midday on Thursday.

A recording of the telephone call made to emergency services has been released, in which the caller said Jackson was unconscious and had stopped breathing.

His personal doctor - who witnessed his collapse - was trying to revive him, the caller said.

The singer was pronounced dead two hours later at the UCLA medical centre. Jackson's brother, Jermaine, said he was believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest.

Former Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman told US TV that he had been concerned about the star's use of pain relief medication.

Michael Jackson in 1972
Full name: Michael Joseph Jackson
Born: August 29, 1958, Gary, Indiana, US
Also known as: The King of Pop, Wacko Jacko
Biggest hits: I Want You Back, Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Billie Jean, Bad, Black or White, Earth Song
Sold:750 million albums
Earned:$700 million (estimated)

He told ABC's Good Morning America programme that Jackson took prescription pain relief for injuries sustained earlier in his career.

"It caused him great pain. He just didn't like to feel such discomfort. He started taking pain medication. It became part of his life," he said.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said investigators had briefly spoken to Jackson's personal doctor, named by US media as Dr Conrad Murray, but they wanted to speak to him again.

Police also said a car owned by a doctor had been towed away from Jackson's home.

A spokeswoman said the doctor was not under criminal investigation, but that the car could contain "medications or other evidence that may assist the coroner in determining the cause of death".

The star had been due to stage 50 concerts at the O2 arena in London, beginning on 13 July.

Entertainers, world leaders and fans have continued to pay tribute to the star.

Across the world, people have been voicing shock and disbelief at the news of his death. In Hollywood, thousands of people filed past his star on the Walk of Fame.

Dr Conrad Murray
Dr Murray witnessed Jackson's collapse

A White House spokesman said US President Barack Obama considered Jackson a spectacular performer, but said he felt parts of his life were "sad and tragic".

Former Beatle Paul McCartney described Jackson as a "massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul".

Jackson began his career as a child in family group The Jackson 5.

He went on to achieve global fame as a solo artist with smash hits such as Billie Jean and Bad.

Thriller, released in 1982, is the biggest-selling album of all time, shifting 65m copies, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

He scored seven UK number ones as a solo artist and won a total of 13 Grammy awards.

"For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words," said Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller, Bad and Off The Wall.

"He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."

The singer had been dogged by controversy and money trouble in recent years, becoming a virtual recluse.

He was arrested in 2003 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy, but was found not guilty following a five-month trial.

The star had three children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II.

Jackson's former wife Debbie Rowe is the mother of two of the children, and there is already speculation about who will gain custody of them.

He is survived by his mother, Katherine, father, Joseph and eight siblings - including Janet, Randy, Jermaine and La Toya Jackson.




25th June 2009

Dear Friendsm,

There has been a religious foundation on the Southwark site where the present Cathedral stands for over a thousand years. I wonder if, in all those centuries, there have been many scenes that matched in sheer drama what happened there on Saturday June 20th.
Southwark Cathedral has strong ties with Zimbabwe and the Bishop of Southwark is himself clearly in sympathy with the Movement for Democratic Change and has links to many parishes in Zimbabwe. There was thus no reason for him to think that Saturday's address by the Prime Minister would be any other than a joyful occasion. Zimbabweans had travelled from all over the UK to be present to hear Morgan Tsvangirai address them. The vast cathedral was crowded with over a thousand Zimbabweans. I was one of them and what follows is my personal reaction to the tumultuous scene we witnessed.

After two weeks of travel to various capitals and being feted by Heads of State, including President Obama of the US., Morgan Tsvangirai arrived in London. Perhaps the Zimbabwean Prime Minister was a touch complacent about the welcome he would receive from his own compatriots but whatever the reason he was certainly ill-prepared for what happened. It started so well; he entered the Cathedral to a warm welcome from the huge crowd. There was no doubt at all that we all loved him and wished him well. So what happened, where did it all go wrong? There had been press reports all week that the Prime Minister was going to urge the people to go back to Zimbabwe. Indeed on that very Saturday, the UK Independent carried a whole page headed 'Come home, Tsvangirai tells ex-pats. Prime Minister comes to London with message for the Zimbabwean diaspora.' I read it on the train going into London; we knew in advance what he was going to say and they were almost his first words as he stood in the pulpit of this ancient church. That was Morgan Tsvangiral's biggest mistake. He totally failed to gauge the mood of his audience and he failed to understand the strength of feeling among his compatriots, many of whom had lost everything and been brutalised and tortured by the Mugabe regime. By the time he was telling the audience that 'peace and stability prevailed in Zimbabwe,' that schools and hospital were open again and that there were goods in the shops, Morgan Tsvangirai had completely lost his audience. He was hit by a wave of highly vocal anger and he stood apparently bemused by what he was hearing. Instead of raising his voice and reasserting his authority he simply left the pulpit; that was the very worst thing he could have done. When he returned some minutes later, he made things even worse by asking in a rather aggrieved way, 'Did I say start packing now? No, I said you should be thinking about going home.' As if we don't think about that all the time, the audience muttered angrily. The questions from the floor, apart from being very badly organised, were direct and to the point. 'What is there for us to go back to while Mugabe is still there?' And that was the focal point for the crowd's anger; a huge shout went up, 'Mugabe Out, Mugabe Out' but of course, Tsvangirai couldn't respond to that. After all, he sits in partnership with the same man who has given and is still giving the orders to continue the oppression of all dissenting voices. The 'change' we all long for has not come about and the original MDC slogan, 'Chinga' has become no more than an ironical comment on the path the MDC has taken.

Utterly sickened by it all, I walked out of the cathedral only to find hundreds of people already outside. Intensely angry and profoundly disappointed, they sang out their fury at the Prime Minister's message. I spoke to lots of people and I heard nothing but intense disappointment: 'The struggle continues' was the message from everyone I spoke to. What should have been an occasion for renewed hope and belief in the future had turned into a miserable fiasco. One woman, shaking with anger, said “I was raped, my children were beaten and traumatised and Morgan Tsvangirai tells me to go back, go back to what?” she demanded.

I was no longer in the cathedral when Tendai Biti attempted to speak but I understand he was drowned out and the meeting ended with the MDC team being led out of the cathedral by the clerics. It was all over, at least an hour earlier than expected. There are many possible explanations for the ignominious failure of the Prime Minister to make his case. While I understand the choice of Southwark Cathedral as a 'neutral' venue, the setting itself did not make for a suitable meeting place. All the chairs had been removed so the crowd were standing for a long time; the PM was late arriving; the sound system was so poor that much of the input was practically inaudible; there was no obvious chairman to control the meeting and the question and answer session was consequently chaotic. My own impression, however, is that Morgan Tsvangiri himself was not prepared. I had the distinct feeling that he had given little thought to what he was going to say. Perhaps, after weeks of international adulation he just could not believe that his harshest critics would be his own countrymen and women? Yes, there may have been trouble-makers in the audience but if there were, they were tapping into the very real anger of the crowd. Whatever the reason, Saturday June 20th was a disaster for Morgan Tsvangirai and the media, who were present in force in the Cathedral, were not slow to pick up the story. For Zimbabweans in the diaspora their Prime Minister himself had given the British authorities the perfect reason to send them home. Why should the British Home Office allow them to stay here when the Zimbabwean Prime Minister tells his own people that there is 'peace and stability' in Zimbabwe? Just the day before the Prime Minister made that nonsensical claim, the Woza women were savagely beaten by the police and the violent farm invasions were continuing but the Prime Minister made no mention of those unpleasant truths.

As they left the Cathedral, people were asking why could Morgan Tsvangirai not just have told them the truth; that things were not yet right at home but that he and his fellow MDC ministers were working hard to rectify the situation? Instead, he was assuring them all was well. He forgets that all of us in the diaspora are in regular communication with families and friends back home. We understand very well the reality on the ground. He also forgets that without the hard-earned cash contributions from Zimbabweans in the diaspora, thousands of families at home might never have survived. Yet, still, he tells us to Go home. Go home to what? To a country where there is, on Tendai Biti's own admission, 94% unemployment and NGO's are feeding an estimated 5 million people, expected to rise to 7 million next year. It was all utterly incomprehensible and has left Zimbabweans in the UK diaspora stunned and bereft of hope. Instead of an honest and realistic assessment of the situation, the truth was distorted and the man we trusted, the man who was our hero has shown himself no more honest than any other politician.

Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF will be laughing all the way to the ballot box.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.