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Posts Tagged ‘U.K.’

Diamond Jubilee: Queen’s Celebration Spurs Massive Security Operation

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 2, 2012

JEREMY SELWYN / EVENING STANDARD / ZUMA PRESS
Scotland Yard is preparing the biggest-ever royal-security operation for the Queen’s Jubilee flotilla. On Sunday, more than 13,000 police and security officials will line the Thames in London

On Sunday, as Queen Elizabeth II and members of the extended royal family cruise through London as part of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, security forces will have their eyes on Her Majesty. Given the menace of terrorism, they’ll also be watching the water, the crowds and the sky. Explosives set on bridges could detonate as boats pass underneath. Snipers lurking in tall buildings could fire into the throngs of well wishers along the 11-km route. Hijacked airplanes could crash directly into the river. “A security coordinator is appointed to look at such issues, to take necessary precautions and to advise those in charge,” says Dai Davies, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Royal Protection Unit. “But the truth is that for a journey of this kind and this length, it’s impossible to have total security.”

With the Queen and around 50 members of the extended royal family all gathering in one place, the stakes are higher than ever. As such the London police, Scotland Yard and MI5 — Britain’s counterintelligence unit — have been considering a slew of ugly scenarios as they prepare for this weekend’s Diamond Jubilee, the biggest royal-security operation ever staged in the U.K. Agencies have digitally mapped key locations from the air to identify weak spots, like rooftops, and intelligence units have tuned in to phone conversations and monitored the Internet for chatter of potential Diamond Jubilee terror. On the day itself, more than 6,000 officers will line the route — some dressed in plain clothes and embedded with the crowds. And another 7,000 stewards will help with general crowd control. Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads From Around the World: April 26, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 26, 2012

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GettyImages/Pool

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GETTYIMAGES/POOL
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor takes notes at the start of the judgement hearing of his trial on charge of arming Sierra Leone’s rebels who paid him in “blood diamonds,” on April 26, 2012 at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in Leidschendam outside The Hague

Life For Death? – The five-year trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, accused of 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other offenses, is finally coming to a close in The Hague on Thursday, with a possible life sentence for the ousted leader. The Guardian, live-blogging the verdict from the tribunal, noted that Taylor is “clearly listening with care,” as it is read out. And judges found Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.

New Front in Drone War – The White House expanded the authority of the Pentagon and CIA to carry out drone strikes in Yemen, which is widely believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives, the New York Times reports. U.S. Defense Secretary LeonPanetta has defended the strategy, the Guardian says, but international legal experts argue that drone strikes amount to execution of suspects before trial, making them illegal – especially when carried out in Yemen where the U.S. is not engaged in war.

Questioning Misogyny – Following the fierce debate over its cover story, “Why Do They Hate Us?“ which casts Arab societies as deeply misogynistic, Foreign Policy shares critiques and commentary from six Muslim observers, including the senior editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English-language website. Also chiming in is The Atlantic’s Max Fisher, who argues that while misogyny is a problem in Arab countries, it’s not a distinctively Arab problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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U.K.: Iran Blocked Government Website

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 22, 2011

LONDON — Iran has blocked access to a British government website aimed at Iranian audiences in a new act of aggression against the U.K., Britain’s Foreign Secretary said Thursday.

William Hague claimed that the website – the online presence of Britain’s now shuttered embassy in Tehran – had been deliberately targeted by the Iranian regime.

The decision to disrupt access to the site follows the violent storming of Britain’s embassy by demonstrators last month, when a mob trashed rooms, damaged furniture, scrawled graffiti and tore up a portrait of Queen Victoria, as staff took shelter.

Hague pulled British diplomats out of Iran for their own safety and made the rare decision to expel all Iranian diplomats from U.K. soil.

The British website contained information for Iranian hoping to visit Britain and details on U.K. government policies. Those trying to access the pages are now directed to a list of Iranian government approved websites, including Iran’s English-language Press TV.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Why Qatari Owners of Paris’ Soccer Team Hanker For Aging Englishman Beckham

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 22, 2011

By BRUCE CRUMLEY

Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham fights for the ball against Emelio "Chieffy" Caligdong of the Philippines national football team Azkals during their friendly match at the Rizal Memorial football stadium in Manila December 3, 2011.

Why does perennially under-performing Paris Saint-Germain of France’s anemic professional soccer league see hiring a fading star at over $1 million per month as vital to assuring its future? Because the aging player in question is David Beckham, whose marketing and financial allure is considered as important as his footballing skill by PSG’s Qatari owners. And even if Beckham’s representatives are denying reports that the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder has come to an unofficial agreement with PSG, there are reasons to suspect the resurgent rumors may yet come to fruition. After all, the Paris club is only one part of a mix with which Qatari VIPs are looking to boost the Emirate’s prestige through the world’s most popular sport. And despite his advancing age and slowing gait, Beckham remains not only one of the biggest global draws in the game—but just the kind of meta-star capable of mesmerizing celebrity-crazed, sports-fickle inhabitants of Paris.

French media was again abuzz Wednesday with reports that the 36-year-old Beckham has agreed to sign an 18-month contract with PSG once his Galaxy deal expires Dec. 31. According to dailies le Parisien and l’Equipe, Beckham has accepted a league-topping $1.05 million monthly salary whose total value could be nearly doubled by $22.3 million in performance bonuses—most of those based on Beckham’s merchandizing potential, rather than footballing potency. Indeed, in addition to Beckham’s iconic and hunk status that’s expected to broaden PSG’s appeal to a far wider base of Parisians (a population infamous as fair weather fans who demand big matches, lots of glitz, and the likelihood of victory to even start caring much about sports), the association with the former England hero might well allow Paris Saint-German to finally establish a true brand identity abroad. And that, it’s hoped, could mean millions in new income from PSG jerseys selling alongside the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona merchandize in foreign markets–particularly in Beckham-mad Asia. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Whole World Watches Again: Occupy Wall Street Strikes Back

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 17, 2011

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Protesters cheer as they listen to speakers near Sproul Hall at the University of California at Berkeley as they participate in an Occupy Cal rally Nov. 15, 2011 in Berkeley, California. (Jeff Chiu / AP)

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg authorized the city’s police force to move in and bring an end to the near two month occupation of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, he struck at the symbolic heart of a movement that, through the sheer fact of its presence, captured the imagination of thousands around the world. Bloomberg framed the eviction as a matter of health and safety: he would not let the occupation peter out on its own as New York’s frigid winter set in—“inaction was not an option,” read the statement issued by the mayor’s office following the police raid. But as Occupy Wall Street embarks on a day of action across New York City that’s being echoed by protests around the U.S. and the world, Bloomberg may yet question whether he should have let Zuccotti be.

According to one Occupy Wall Street organizer, estimates for attendance at events planned for Nov. 17 have tripled following the sudden NYPD sweep into what the protesters call Liberty Plaza. Nov. 17 marks two months since the occupation at Zuccotti Park began and Occupy Wall Street, alongside allied organizations, including unions, had been scheming actions weeks in advance. Some New York City officials now expect “tens of thousands” out on the streets in possibly the biggest show of dissent since the movement began.

There are three main events planned in New York, as this somewhat hyperbolic poster (invoking Tiananmen Square) lays out: the first is a mass rally starting from Zuccotti Park (once again opened to protest), attempting to “shut down” Wall Street with a march on the heavily fortified New York Stock Exchange; the second involves disparate groups of protesters taking over subway lines and telling their individual stories through the “people’s mike” while on board; the third will be the culmination of the day’s activities, with thousands streaming into Foley Square, near New York’s City Hall, alongside a substantial presence from local and national labor unions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whither the European (Dis)Union?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 14, 2011

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Is significantly greater integration the surest way to prevent both the euro and even the entire European Union from

A droplet of water falls from a tap in front of the euro sculpture at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov.11, 2011. (Photo: Michael Probst / AP)

blowing apart? Or is EU federation–and the basic powers national governments now wield being weakened in the process–exactly the kind of radical fusion certain to send countries jealous of their sovereignty fleeing for the exits? As euro zone members now consider drastic, big-bang solutions to overcoming their currency’s crisis, leaders of all 27 EU member states find themselves grappling with the question of whether more or less Europe is necessary to safeguard the bloc’s future.

The spread of the single currency’s existential crisis–which began as a debt problem initially believed to imperil only a few small nations before expanding to shake Europe’s biggest economies to their foundations–mirrors the rising pressure posed by a similarly essential dilemma over the wider European Union project, and evoking similar denial from leaders. While most officials agree that deep and dramatic measures must be undertaken to finally contain the debt-driven euro emergency, their concord evaporates over the different options for action—especially centralization of budget and debt rules, and giving real intervention power to the European Central Bank. Central to that disagreement are clashing views over just how bound together EU members should be—a long-standing confrontation between Euroenthusiasts and Euroskeptics that has resurged in crisis anew. As such, moves to save the euro will probably shape the direction—or even future—of the entire EU as it seek a collective horizon to look toward.

News reports Nov. 10 stated France and Germany were consulting partners on potentially radical harmonization measures between euro zone members—or at least those capable of and willing to accept far stricter budgetary and fiscal rules that greater convergence would involve. If true, it suggests the euro zone’s two biggest economies are contemplating tossing unsustainably indebted currency partners out of what would become a smaller, tighter euro ship. German Chancellor Angela Merkel denied those reports, insisting scission of the euro 17 wasn’t an option. Yet her comments elsewhere indicated the status quo could not endure, either. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Say You Wanna Bomb Iran? Take a Number and Stand in Line

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 3, 2011

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Yes, you heard right: Britain  is preparing to bomb Iran. Well, that’s if the latest reported leaks from the British government are to be believed. The Guardian — not known, like some of its British rivals are, for frequent breathless front-page claims of imminent military strikes on Iran — reported Wednesday that Britain’s Defense Ministry has stepped up plans for military action against Iran. Not that the Brits would kick things off, of course; their contingency planning is ostensibly geared towards playing a largely symbolic support role (think “Coalition of the Willing”)  should the Obama Administration “decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities.”

Beneath the attention-grabbing headline, the story is a familiar one:  British officials believe that while President Barack Obama “has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s U.S. election … the calculus could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by Western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.”

The Guardian’s sources create the impression of dramatic new developments and a ticking clock, although the consensus among the  world’s intelligence agencies that Iran remains some years away from having  nuclear weapons, and has not yet decided to actually build them even though it is assembling the means to do so. But the alarmist messaging certainly jibes with an Israeli diplomatic campaign launched to persuade reluctant governments to impose tough new sanctions on Iran if they hope to avoid a potentially catastrophic war. Israel underscored the point, Wednesday, announcing it had successfully tested a missile capable of reaching Iran — at the same time as Israeli papers were filled with stories claiming that  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking cabinet approval for bombing Iran. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will the Washington Bomb Plot Force Obama into War with Iran?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 14, 2011

By Tony Karon 

“We are not talking to Iran, so we don’t understand each other,” outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month. “If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right — that there will be miscalculation, which could be extremely dangerous in that part of the world.”

Mullen’s warning of the perils arising from the two sides’ inability to communicate and understand each other’s intentions — “Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union” — seems especially prescient amid the fallout from the alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, blamed by the U.S. on “elements of the Iranian government.” Claims that officials within the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps initiated a bizarre scheme via an Iranian-American used-car salesman — described by his former business partner as “a sort of hustler” — to enlist the services of a Mexican drug gang for a terrorism strike in the U.S. capital have been seized on by the Administration to press for tougher international action against Tehran.

“We see this as a chance to go out to capitals and around the world and talk to allies and partners about what the Iranians tried to do,” an unnamed official told the Washington Post. “We’re going to use this to isolate them to the maximum extent possible.” Vice President Joe Biden added, darkly, that when it came to responding to Iran’s behavior, “nothing has been taken off the table.” Read the rest of this entry »

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How 9/11 Provoked the U.S. to Hasten its Own Decline

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 9, 2011

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The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building in New York, September 11, 2001. (Photo: Marty Lederhandler / AP)

During his first year in office, President George W. Bush was confronted by the key strategic challenge facing the United States in the new century, in an incident that began with the diversion of a U.S. aircraft — by Chinese fighter planes, which forced a U.S. Navy spy plane to land on the island of Hainan after a collision that downed a Chinese jets, killing its pilot. What followed was a tense 11-day standoff between Washington and Beijing, serving an early warning that China’s emergence as an economic superpower would inevitably alter the geopolitical balance of power in Asia, and globally.

But then came 9/11 — a mass-casualty terrorist provocation on an unprecedented scale — and the Bush Administration convinced itself, and much of America, that the world had changed. The new president had found his “calling” in a campaign to “rid the world of evil doers”, declaring a “war on terrorism” that would become the leitmotif and singular obsession of U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of his presidency — a presidency that despite massive, kinetic displays of military force, left the U.S. strategically weaker at its close than when Bush entered the Oval Office.

“We’d always treated terrorist attacks before primarily as a law enforcement problem… going after and finding the guilty party, bring them to trial and put them in the slammer,” Vice President Dick Cheney told TIME in an interview published in this week’s edition. “After 9/11, you couldn’t look on those as just law enforcement problems anymore. It was clearly an act of war. And that’s a significant shift. You’re going to use all of the means available…”

But while the scale and brutality of the attacks might have been akin to an act of war, 9/11 was the work of a tiny network of transnational extremists, founded on the remnants of the Arab volunteers who’d fought in the U.S.-backed Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. Read the rest of this entry »

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Call Scotland Yard: Britain’s Prime Minister Is in Deep Trouble

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 18, 2011

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David Cameron presented himself to British voters as the candidate of change. He certainly hasn’t let them down. The

British Prime Minister David Cameron holds a press conference with South African President Jacob Zuma following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, on July 18, 2011. (Photo: Jerome Delay / AP)

Prime Minister can claim personal responsibility for triggering a series of unexpected and convulsive changes to public life in Britain that have left Britons, in the words of one habitually understated government official, “gobsmacked and agog.” Over just two weeks, the turbulence has toppled Britain’s top cop and thrown London’s Metropolitan Police Service (widely known as the Met or Scotland Yard) into crisis, shuttered the nation’s biggest Sunday newspaper, led to the arrests of some of the most prominent names in journalism, revived the moribund career of Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband and shaken a global media empire to its foundations. And this is only the beginning as questions mount over the damage to Cameron’s own credibility.

It all goes back to a single decision taken by Cameron in 2007: to make Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now defunct tabloid the News of the World from 2003 to 2007, his communications supremo. Coulson had resigned from the News of the World after the prosecution of Clive Goodman, its royal editor, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator retained by the newspaper. The pair had hacked into the phones of the royal princes and their household. Coulson accepted “full responsibility” for what happened on his watch but has denied knowledge of illegal activities during his editorship or at any other time during his Fleet Street career. “There have been rumors about that kind of activity, I suppose, and media commentators have written about it,” he told members of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2009. “It has been in the ether of the newspaper world for some time, but no, I have never had any involvement in it at all.” Cameron deemed such assurances sufficient to give Coulson “a second chance,” and upped the stakes on this gamble by bringing Coulson with him to 10 Downing Street after scraping into power at the head of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010 — this despite the emergence of fresh evidence that suggested the number of hacking victims might extend into the thousands and well beyond palace walls. Coulson’s second chance expired this January when he left his Downing Street post; he was arrested on July 7 by police investigating allegations of voicemail interception and corrupt payments to police.

(PHOTOS: Inside the World of David Cameron)

Coulson and the nine others arrested so far in relation to these two separate police inquiries must be presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty by law. In overriding others’ advice to appoint Coulson, Cameron must be presumed naive or arrogant or unduly focused on schmoozing with the tabloid press and especially Coulson’s former bosses, Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch and his son James. If Coulson had not provided such a tempting target, Britain’s Guardian newspaper may not have pursued its investigations with such diligence and backbench critics of the Prime Minister probably wouldn’t have kept up their pressure to reopen inquiries into the News of the World. Even when the allegations that the tabloid commissioned the hacking of messages left for murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler surfaced, Cameron could have responded to the shocking development with calm and authority. Instead he has found himself playing catch-up to Miliband, his novice opponent suddenly transformed into a caped crusader against what he calls “a culture of irresponsibility” that underpinned not only #hackgate but also the banking crises and the scandal over MPs’ and peers’ expenses. In the latest demonstration of Miliband’s newfound power, the Labour leader planned to use a speech on July 18 to call for Parliament to delay its summer recess to discuss the hacking affair and its extraordinary repercussions. Before he stood up to speak, Cameron used a press conference during a long-planned visit to South Africa to say he was inclined to extend the parliamentary session. Read the rest of this entry »

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Libya Clashes Escalate But a Diplomatic Compromise Looms

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 27, 2011

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As NATO’s war in Libya entered its 100th day on Monday, an end to the conflict may be in sight — but not necessarily a decisive one. Military and diplomatic signs point increasingly towards some measure of compromise by both sides in shaping an outcome that neither the regime nor the rebels would have countenanced when their struggle began. Rebel forces who have been consolidating their hold on villages in mountains to the West of Tripoli launched a furious assault Sunday on the approaches to the capital, but were repelled by forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The regime appears unable for the foreseeable future to restore control over those — slowly growing — parts of the country where rebel forces have broken Gaddafi’s iron grip, yet the rebels and their NATO backers so far appear unable to deal the regime’s forces a knockout blow. And while the rebel forces may be growing in confidence, the commitment of the Western allies that have enabled rebel advances is clearly finite.

The intensification of fighting so close to the capital suggests that both sides may be aware that the clock is ticking down towards what may be an inevitable negotiated solution, and are doing their best to shape it to their advantage. Recent comments by British military commanders and Defense Secretary Robert Gates underscore the sense that the European NATO members responsible for the air war will be hard-pressed to continue the campaign much beyond the current summer, and diplomatic support for the military intervention is ebbing fast: Italy last week called for a suspension of hostilities, although that suggestion was quickly squelched by NATO partners; the African Union, China, Russia and the Arab League have begun to retract their endorsement of a military campaign they authorized to protect Libyan civilians, but which has morphed unmistakably into a regime-change operation. And President Obama is under fire from both sides of the aisle over U.S. involvement in the campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

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Power Play: How the Childish Behavior of Top Politicians Shapes the World

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 13, 2011

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Democracy is an exercise in adulthood. We don’t want our elected leaders to style themselves, as despots so often do, the fathers of our nations, but we assume them to be responsible grown-ups, focused on carrying out the mandates we have granted them. It’s a nice idea. Unfortunately the more we find out about our political masters—and in this twittery, wittering, wikileaking world, scarcely a day goes by without a politician being exposed or exposing himself—the more we are forced to confront the unpalatable truth. Our politicians really do represent us—in all our fallibility. And while most official histories are narratives of great men (and more occasionally great women) making big decisions, the real histories look rather different. Principle plays a part but so does spite. Childish feuding is a potent force in public life.

Documents published on June 10 by Britain’s Daily Telegraph show that force in action in 2005 as Chancellor Gordon Brown and his supporters worked to oust the newly re-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair. At first glance, there’s nothing hugely revelatory about the letters and memos. That there was a poisonous rivalry between the Labour Party’s two most powerful men has been acknowledged even by the key players themselves. In his autobiography, A Journey, Blair reveals the deterioration in their relationship as Brown realizes Blair is in no hurry to honor a pact struck in 1994, three years before Blair’s first electoral victory, that at some point Blair would make way for Brown to become premier. By 2007, as Blair finally prepares to hand over power, after enduring Brown’s “venomous” moods and a campaign of internal opposition by Brown’s lieutenants, he gives this cold-eyed assessment of his one-time friend: Brown, opines Blair, lacks the intuitive skills that are so important in politics; he has “Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Best And Worst Places To Live: 2010 Human Development Index (PHOTOS)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 4, 2010


Ok, not a problem.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Cost Of The Queen? Less Than $1 Per Person A Year

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 5, 2010


Corrupted leaders from poor countries have to read this news.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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