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
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
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
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
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
Born - May 06, 1953 in
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Protesters to greet Hu at Hong Kong
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
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
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
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
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
Single Americans vote less:
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
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
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 – Wherefore art thou,
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
The high risks of going out far outweigh the pleasures of
“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
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
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
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.