Nation Special


Exit Blair, enter Brown

London – (UK News) After one of the longest political farewells in history, Tony Blair bowed out as British prime minister Wednesday (27) to take to the international stage, as a new political era opened under Gordon Brown.
True to style, and reflecting the impact Blair has made as a ‘popstar’ politician during his 10 years in power, almost everything about his departure was in the public eye.

From the removal men packing up the fridges, beds and wine crates in Downing Street, to his last ride in his official limousine and a rapturous standing ovation in Parliament, the cameras were on him.
Blair, whose leadership role is known by cinema audiences around the world from the award-winning film, The Queen, has been feted by many for his political skills and ‘celebrity style,’ but he has also been reviled as a ‘warmonger’ for his intervention in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brown, by contrast, kept a low profile Wednesday, well prepared for the most important moment of his life by 13 years of waiting.

But those who know Brown well believe that British politics will undergo a ‘seismic change’ under his leadership. The new leader is expected to make a full break with Blairism, turfing everyone, including the tea lady, out of Downing Street.

But Brown has got one problem. The semi-voluntary departure of Blair, and the handover, agreed by the two men 13 years ago, has not been given approval by the voter, or even by his own Labour Party.
The lack of democratic ‘legitimacy’ accompanying the government change in Britain could lead to questions of Brown’s authority, commentators have said.

Brown has said he will lead a ‘new Labour Party,’ bringing a shift towards more open government and a less bellicose response to international conflict.

Observers believe that Brown will face considerable pressure for a ‘radical change of direction’ from within the Labour Party, in order to avoid being identified with the Blair years. If he fails to make a clean break and win popular approval, Brown could be forced into calling an early general election. That poll could either prolong his premiership - or make his tenure one of the shortest in British political history.


Blair - Leader survived on rhetoric

By Bhagavadas Sriskanthadas
Tony Blair’s announcement, in early May, that he would be vacating No 10 Downing Street before the end of June never came as a surprise. Two and a half years ago he made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he never entertained any idea of fighting a fourth general election.
Tony Blair followed his undergraduate studies at Oxford University, where he opted to read law. On completion of his undergraduate studies, Tony followed a one-year course at Lincoln’s Inn. In 1983 he married Cherrie Booth, a product of the London school of Economics.

In the 1983 General Election, Blair won the seat of Sedgefield on the Labour Party ticket, aged 30. From this time for him, as an individual, there was only speedy rise. The unexpected death in 1994 of John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, paved way for Blair to lead the party.

Blair who never closely identified with socialist ideology, and formed the bedrock of the party constitution, played a vital role in changing the image of the Labour Party. In the Electoral College, Trade Union was deprived of the privilege status hitherto enjoyed in electing the leader and deputy leader.

The Labour Party under the leadership of Blair won the 1997 General Election by a landslide, after remaining in the opposition for almost two decades. A raft of reasons were given by political commentators for the Labours landslide, ranging from blaming the inert figure of John Major to desire on the part of British people to bring a change.
Blair as Prime Minister seemed, in a political sense, an unknown quantity to British public. He was someone who had never held any responsible position, let alone in a Cabinet, in any government. For Blair, Princess Diana’s death turned out to be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to develop a rapport with the nation. In front of television cameras he spelled out these, skillfully crafted, words: “I feel like everyone else in this country today. I am utterly devastated…… People everywhere, not just here in Britain, kept faith with Princess Diana. They liked her, they loved her and they regarded her as one of the people. She was the people’s princess and that is how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and our memories forever.”

The role he played during this period helped to dispel the indignation shown by a large section of the British public towards the Buckingham Palace for the, perceived or real, apathy and inertia displayed following the tragic news.
Self –government for Scotland and Wales considered to be one of Blair’s achievements and any mention of this always brought the grin of bonhomie to his face. Northern Ireland received priority in his agenda. As a result of his commitment, a deal has been worked out between Catholics and Protestants based on power sharing, not long before his departure was announced.

Blair always remained pro-Europe, while observing silence when it came to the euro, as the idea of a European currency didn’t go well with the British electorate. Therefore, his decision to keep away from the launch of the euro was seen to reflect the thinking of the constituents. Blair’s decision to send British forces to Kosovo and Sierra Leone, to prevent genocide and large scale human rights violations, enhanced his image in the UK.
Getting Britain embroiled in Iraq brought him humiliation and put his credibility on the line. Blair always maintained that he genuinely believed in the information provided that Saddam possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
Tony Blair will go down in history as a charismatic leader who gave a new lease of life to a party which languished in the opposition for 18 years. Sadly, he will also be remembered as a leader who took his party along a path which the founders never wanted to tread.

Many who voted for Blair might see him as one who survived on empty rhetoric and cliché- ridden speeches. According to Tony Abbott, federal Minister of Health, and a Blair admirer: “Blair’s political genius was the ability to justify ‘right-wing’ policies in ‘left wing’ terms.”


Anthony (Tony) Charles Lynton Blair

Born - May 06, 1953 in
Edinburgh, Scotland
Family- Married, four children - three boys and one girl

Education -After attending Durham’s Chorister School Blair boarded at Fettes College, a notable independent school in Edinburgh. Blair spent a year in London, where he attempted to find fame as a rock music promoter, before going up to Oxford University to read jurisprudence at St John’s College in 1972.
Blair began his political career in 1983, when he was elected to the British Parliament as a member of the Labour Party. He quickly advanced to the party’s front ranks during the Conservative administration of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, when Labour was in the opposition.
From 1984 to 1987 Blair was opposition spokesman on treasury and economic affairs. He then moved to various posts in the Departments of Trade and Industry, Energy, and Employment.
In 1992 Blair was promoted again, taking charge of domestic issues in the Labour Party’s counterpart to the governing Conservative Cabinet.
Blair was chosen to lead the Labour Party following the death of John Smith in 1994.
Tony Blair, at 41, was Labour’s youngest leader. He soon established a reputation as a determined reformer and firm leader, confronting established factions and contentious policy issues within the party. Almost immediately, Blair began working to make the party more mainstream, de-emphasizing its traditional ties to labour and trade unions in an effort to broaden the party’s membership.
In May of 1997, Tony Blair, became the youngest British Prime Minister in almost 200 years.


James Gordon Brown

Born - February 20, 1951
in Glasgow
Family- Married, two sons

Education - Gordon Brown was educated firstly at Kirkcaldy West Primary School, and then, between 1961 and 1967, at Kirkcaldy High School, where he performed well and was placed in an academic fast stream. He was accepted by the University of Edinburgh to study history at the age of 16, making him one of only four university educated Prime Ministers who did not attend Oxford or Cambridge.
Politics - In the 1979 general election, Brown stood for the Edinburgh South constituency, but lost to the Conservative candidate, Michael Ancram.
He was elected to Parliament on his second attempt as a Labour MP for Dunfermline East in 1983 and became opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry in 1985.
After the sudden death of John Smith in May 1994, Brown was one of those tipped as a potential party leader. As Shadow Chancellor, Brown worked to present himself as a fiscally competent Chancellor-in-waiting, to reassure business and the middle class that Labour could be trusted to run the economy without fuelling inflation, increasing unemployment, or overspending – legacies of the 1970s.
Following a reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, Brown became MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath at the 2005 election.
From May 2, 1997 to June 27, 2007 he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer making history by becoming the longest serving Labour in that post.


Mrs. Gordon and family

Gordon Brown married Sarah Macaulay in 2000. He was 48 years old and she was 36.
Sarah Macaulay first sashayed onto the New Labour scene in 1996, as the good-looking and rather elusive ‘close friend and dinner companion’ of the future Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. For five years the couple courted, resisting pressure from the media and other members of the cabinet (most vociferously, John Prescott, who would openly encourage them to ‘get on with it’, during after-dinner speeches) to tie the knot.
The Browns lost their first child, Jennifer, to a brain haemorrhage shortly after her birth in 2002.
Their second child, John, was born in October 2003. Since then Mr Brown has said he is a “father first of all”.
In July 2006 Sarah Gordon gives birth to their second child. James Fraser Brown was confirmed as having the incurable lung condition.
However, Mr Brown and his wife, Sarah, have known that the child could have the inherited genetic disease since his birth in July. The couple chose to make the news public after the diagnosis started to leak to the media.


Jungle girl following in dad’s footsteps

At an age when many girls are still playing with their Barbie dolls, Bindi Irwin has moved on to something a bit more challenging.
“I have Blackie – my black-headed python. I also have Corny the corn snake. He sleeps with me at night,” the eight-year-old-daughter of the late crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, says proudly as she rattles off the names of the menagerie she keeps back home in Queensland, Australia.
It’s a group she hopes to introduce to the rest of the world through her new television show, Bindi: The Jungle Girl, airing Saturdays on the Discovery Kids Channel (5 p.m. ET).
“I also have Jaffa my koala and Ocker, my favourite cockatoo. And I have other birds that stay with me. And Candy, my pet rat, sometimes stays with me,” the blonde-haired, pigtailed bundle of energy continues until her enthusiasm gets the better of her and her words begin to run together, finally tripping over one another in a heap.
“Sorry,” she offers with a giggle as she comes up for air.
Then, a moment later, she’s on a roll again, passionately recounting the horror stories her father would come home with, about the way he saw exotic animals mistreated in shows around the world. He witnessed cobras in India, he told her, that had their teeth yanked out before they were put in baskets for snake charmers with flutes to coax them out of. He saw monkeys that had their young taken away, as an incentive to perform.
“They take their babies away until the monkey does the trick, and then they give the baby back,” he told her.
“It’s terrible what people are doing,” she says, her voice rising. “And they’re just doing it for a living because they don’t know any better. They’ve just grown up like that. I think we really need to teach all people, big or little, they should all know the message of conservation.” Her effort to teach them is Bindi: The Jungle Girl, which takes viewers around the world to see animals in their natural habitat while Bindi discusses things like the status of those in danger of extinction.
“There are only a few thousand left in the wild and they could all be gone by the time I’m old enough to drive,” she says of tigers and cheetahs.
As her father did, she also frequently makes pitches not to use products that result in the needless deaths of animals.
Each show also returns home to Bindi’s two-storey tree house in Queensland, Australia, where the little girl with the soft Aussie accent interacts naturally with her exotic animals and where, Bindi says, she is always happiest.
“I love it in my tree house. It’s the best place to be, pretty much,” she says by phone. “I just go there to sleep over sometimes. My brother comes to visit me for a little sleepover as well. He has his own little snake, Basil. Basil is actually a girl. I know, that’s a strange name for a girl,” she says, letting loose with another giggle. She also keeps a supply of videos of her father there.
“I’m ever so lucky because I have so much footage of my dad in the tree house with me,” she says.
Then she adds softly, “Which is very nice to have because some people only have like one or two pictures of their father or the one who died.”
She was barely eight when her father was killed by a stingray while filming an underwater documentary at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef last September (2006).
The two already had begun working together on what would become Bindi: The Jungle Girl, and Irwin is featured prominently in early episodes doing things like climbing trees to visit the nests of endangered orang-utans.
In one comical moment, a nest’s startled resident briefly shakes a fist in Irwin’s face before deciding he’s all right.
(Yahoo News)


Protesters to greet Hu at Hong Kong festivities

HONG KONG (AFP) - Chinese President Hu Jintao, in Hong Kong to celebrate ten years since the end of colonial rule, was Saturday expected to face fresh calls for democracy in the former British territory. The Chinese leader Friday managed to avoid several protests held across the city, including one rally by pro-democracy activists, but demonstrators vowed to mass outside his hotel on Saturday before an official welcome banquet in his honour.
“I am not sure how many slogans I can shout out before security guards pull me away,” said radical lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, vowing to demand democracy for Hong Kong and an apology from Hu for the bloody 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
It was not clear if protesters would be allowed anywhere near his hotel, where a massive security cordon has been set up, with police vans lining the streets and officers guarding the surrounding area.
The banquet for Hu, to be followed by a variety show, will be attended by officials and the entire Hong Kong legislature, including 25 pro-democracy lawmakers, although they expect to be seated far away from the president.
Early in the day, two young pandas given to the city by the Beijing government as a gift to mark the handover will be unveiled.
Later, a group of Buddhists were to ring a bell for two hours. Shortly before midnight, a group of pro-democracy activists were to stage a rally to urge the public to march on Sunday, to call for greater democracy in the city.
Hong Kong is gearing up for huge celebrations to mark the 10-year anniversary of the handover, which brought the curtain down on 155 years of British rule of the Southeast Asian colony, after London’s lease ran out and it was forced to return the territory to China.
Hu kicked off his visit on Friday without controversy, playing ping pong with a 13-year-old boy and visiting local families before attending a dinner hosted by Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang.
One of the pro-democracy lawmakers, barrister Ronny Tong, said Hong Kong’s democrats had requested a meeting with Hu -- who is making only the fourth visit by a Chinese president since the handover -- but had not yet received a response.


No more female circumcision in Egypt

CAIRO, Egypt - The death of a 12-year-old Egyptian girl at the hands of a doctor performing female circumcision has sparked a public outcry and prompted health and religious authorities to ban the practice.
The girl, Badour Shaker, died this month while undergoing the procedure in an illegal clinic in the southern town of Maghagh. Her mother, Zeniab Abdel Ghani, told the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that she paid about $9 to a female physician to perform the procedure.
The mother also told the paper the doctor tried to bribe her to withdraw a lawsuit accusing the physician of murdering her daughter, in return for $3,000, but she refused.
A forensic inquiry into the case showed the girl’s death was caused by an anesthesia overdose.
The case sparked widespread condemnation of female circumcision, or genital mutilation, and was closely followed in Egyptian newspapers, which also reported the girl had passed out sweets to pupils in her class earlier on the day of her death, to celebrate her good grades.
It also evoked memories of a 1995 CNN television documentary depicting a barber circumcising a 10-year-old girl in a Cairo slum.
On Thursday, the Egyptian Health Ministry issued a decree stating that it is “prohibited for any doctors, nurses, or any other person to carry out any cut of, flattening or modification of any natural part of the female reproductive system, either in government hospitals, nongovernment hospitals or any other places.”


Single Americans vote less: study

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Unmarried Americans are a growing segment of the population but vote less than their wedded counterparts in elections, tending to favour Democrats over Republicans, said a study published Friday.
Single Americans 15 years of age and older now account for 45.2 percent of the US population, against 34.4 percent in 1960, Women’s Voices Women Vote said in its study titled “Unmarried America 2007: America’s New Majority.”
“Unmarried America represents the biggest change in American politics in 40 years and a defining divide in politics today,” said the group in the study it commissioned to Lake Research Partners.
Women make up 56.4 percent of America’s unmarried, said the study, adding that 47 percent of all US women live without a spouse, up from 35 percent in the 1950s.
But regarding civic duty, single people vote less than married people: 35 percent of voters were unmarried in the 2002 elections, and 37.2 percent in 2006, against 55 percent and 56.6 percent respectively for married people.
And when they do go to the polls, the study found, unattached people tend to vote for the Democratic Party, especially single women.
In the 2004 US presidential elections, single women voted for Democratic candidate John Kerry over US President George W. Bush -- who was up for re-election -- by a 62-37 percent margin, while married women voted for Bush by a 55-44 percent margin.
Single men in the same election voted 53-45 percent for Kerry, while married men voted 60-39 percent for Bush.


Romance amidst war in Baghdad

BAGHDAD – Wherefore art thou, Kareem?
Well, he could be making the daily cell phone call to his girlfriend, Dalia. Or maybe he’s off somewhere typing her a tender text message or e-mail.
Basically he’s anywhere, but on an actual date with the woman he says he loves.
Romance has always been one of the expected casualties of war. So in Baghdad — with no end to the violence in sight — the dating game has been forced to adapt.
Sweet nothings are whispered into cell phones. Inboxes are full of flirtations. Even old-style matchmaking is getting back in vogue.
The high risks of going out far outweigh the pleasures of courtship.
“The worst was when we were talking in a cafe one time and we heard a nearby explosion and gunfire,” recalled Kareem Abdul-Aziz about one outing with 24-year-old Dalia. “We weren’t sure if the streets would be safe enough for us to go home.”
That ended one of their few real dates since their first encounter about six months ago when Abdul-Aziz, who sells children’s clothes in a central Baghdad market, slipped a piece of paper with his name and number into Dalia’s shopping bag.
Abdul-Aziz, 25, now speaks with her for an average of two hours every day — usually late at night. The local cell phone company offers huge discounts on local calls made between midnight and noon the next day.
“We have only met a handful of times,” said Abdul-Aziz, despair in his voice.
Baghdad has changed almost beyond recognition over the past four years since the U.S. invasion, and little or nothing remains that would inspire romance or help it flourish.
Instead, the streets are lined with concrete blast barriers topped with barbed wire and plastered with black banners announcing yet another death. Stinking, uncollected garbage and men with guns fill out the picture.
Young women fear being out alone even in daylight. Female high school and university students travel in groups, delivered to and collected from classes by trusted taxi drivers or parents.
The city’s streets empty well before dark. Parties are unheard of. Cinemas are shut, some turned to warehouses. The National Theatre, the only one known to be still functioning in the city, offers performances only in the morning. To foil bombers or kidnappers, they are not publicised.
Other places associated with dating — cafes, fast food spots, ice cream parlours and riverside cafes — have mostly closed.
Long stretches of Abu Nawass, a former Tigris riverside promenade named after a medieval poet from Baghdad who wrote about women and wine, have been mostly closed since 2003. There are plans to reopen it to traffic this summer, but it’s not likely to return to its role as a haven for young lovers.
Only two couples could be seen on a recent midmorning tour of a central Baghdad area whose cafes and eateries were once a favourite with young couples. In Zawraa, the city’s largest park, there were but a handful of couples, some holding hands.
But any public display of affection, no matter how innocent, can attract unwanted attention. In some neighbourhoods, religious fanatics, Shiite and Sunni Muslims alike, admonish couples for being in a ‘prohibited,’ or haram, relationship.


Tooth leads Egypt to Hatshepsut mummy

CAIRO – (AFP) Egypt announced on Tuesday the discovery of the long-lost mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, its most famous female pharaoh, billed as the most important find since the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told a packed press conference in Cairo that one of two mummies found in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor about a century ago had been identified as Hatshepsut.
Hatshepsut, who ruled for 21 years from 1479 to 1458 BC, was one of the most powerful female monarchs of the ancient world, who declared herself pharaoh after the death of her husband-brother Tuthmosis II.
The fabled queen, known for sporting a false beard, was identified thanks to a broken tooth, following scientific examinations of four mummies from the New Empire, the antiquities department said.
The US-based Discovery Channel had quoted Hawass before Wednesday’s news conference describing the mummy as “the most important find in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings since the discovery of Tutankhamun” in 1922.
In 1903, archaeologist Howard Carter -- who went on to become famous for his discovery of Tutankhamun-- had discovered two sarcophogi in a tomb known as KV60 in the Theban necropolis, the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
One apparently contained the mummy of Hatshepsut’s wet nurse Sitre-In and the other of an unknown female.
Later in 1920, he found the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut but the two sarcophagi it contained were empty.
Discovery Channel, which is to air a documentary about the find next month, said Hawass was able to narrow the search for Hatshepsut down to the two mummies discovered by Carter in 1903.
He used CT scans to produce detailed 3D images and link distinct physical traits of one of the mummies to that of her ancestors.
According to the channel, a box that contained the tooth was inscribed with the female pharaoh’s name and a scan of the box found that the tooth “matched within a fraction of a millimeter the space of the missing molar in the mouth of the mummy.”
American Egyptologist Elizabeth Thomas had first suggested years ago that the second mummy in the tomb belonged to the Hatshepsut, because her hand was resting on her chest, a position reserved for monarchs.
Discovery said a team of archaeologists would now carry out DNA testing on the 3,000 year-old mummy to confirm her identity. Hatshepsut, daughter of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I who ruled from 1504-1484 BC, was one of the most powerful female monarchs of the ancient world.
After the death of her husband-brother Tuthmosis II, she reigned as regent for his son by a concubine, Tuthmosis III.
But Hatshepsut soon declared herself as pharaoh, donning royal headdress and a false beard.
Soon after her death, her monuments and tomb were demolished by her jealous successor Tuthmosis III and her mummy was thought to be lost forever.