January 30, 2003
José María Aznar, Spain
José Manuel Durão Barroso, Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Václav Havel, Czech Republic
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark
I am sure you have - all of these have signed an open letter available through this link.
The subject matter relates to the current situation regarding Iraq and the war on terror. While popular pundits and the media misquote to make news, it is helpful and interesting to read a document signed by such gentlemen.
The letter starts off as follows, Europe and America must stand united
THE real bond between the United States and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law. These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the USA. Today they are under greater threat than ever.
Given the process by which documentation of this nature is prepared you can be certain that the wording provides a form of diplomatic clarity that rings a clear message of unity, purpose, and objectives.
Thanks to Iain Murray at Edge of Englands Sword - (see perma-link) for bringing this to my attention
Feedback always invited, please email me.
Link to BBC News
Today, January 30, 2003 is a rather historic day in rewriting British history. For today the Public Records Office (PRO), opened the files relating to the abdication of King Edward and his relationship with Wallace Simpson and how the House of Windsor reacted.
Many books and films have been produced on this subject which until now has not included the full facts. However since the passing of the Queen Mother last year, a subject that has been so sensitive to the most senior members of the Monachy can now be presented in full historical fact to the masses.
Much of course was know, much it has also been revealed was not reported through the media of the time. A golden era when the tabloids knew their place and would not hunt young royals down for tomorrows headline story.
That said, if you have an interest in this particular area of British history, this information will be startling.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 26, 2003
It's Superbowl Sunday, although this highlight of the American sporting year is more than a little tarnished after the Bucks' thrashed the Philly Eagles on home turf in the playoffs to the Superbowl last Sunday. I have yet to fully appreciate the technicalities of the American game, but I expect to sit and watch the Superbowl tonight - too cheer on the Raiders!
That said, to the hardcore readership of LC, I apologise for the reduced volume of blogging in the last week. My attention has turned to other matters, most specifically my responsibilities at the MSAA starting this week. Given the benefit of a little time with no other professional distractions I have taken the time to work on possible future fundraising projects and research.
What are my aspirations, my dreams and goals over the coming years?
With my 40th birthday now a mere 6 days away, I have to admit over the last couple of weeks to thinking back at what I have achieved over the last 40 years. Like some accountant completing a mid-term reconciliation on my life the “books” I can conclude that I am not in deficit.
Just as important in looking back is looking forward, change is the only true constant in life, wouldn’t life be boring if everything was just the same, every day.
Perhaps turning 40 is an opportunity for a life watershed. Time to take a moment to take stock of who we are, where we are, define what is truly important to us and lay out a course, a life action plan of sorts to define the direction we want head.
Personally I life “accruals”, have a couple of outstanding challenges that I want to accomplish in my lifetime, that I thought I may have completed by the age of 40.
I want circumnavigate the globe. – Phyllis Fogg, may have completed the journey in 80 days, but my personal quest is not so much to complete the process in one haul, although to compete on the Amazing Race program would offer this opportunity. Rather in my lifetime complete the journey. To date I have ventured as far west as Vancouver Island, BC, in Canada, and have ventured as far east as Geneva in Switzerland. Yet there are other continents, other countries and time zones yet to be visited.
The other “challenge” is to be present at a shuttle launch. Having grown up through the heady days of the space race watch man land on the moon and return safely to earth has always fascinated me. In my lifetime it is possible that a manned flight to Mars may be attempted and that would be a wonderful sight to see.
For the future,
I seriously want to see if I am any good at the game of Golf. As a young boy I thoroughly enjoyed playing on the putting green in Victoria Park, Finchley. About 10 years ago my yearning for the game was for that moment at least was quenched by occasional visits to the pitch and putt in Winchmore Hill. Yet I was holding back, at the time I was heavily involved in motor sport and did not have the time to spare in exploring any golfing ambition, as I truly thought that should I get hooked I would be a hopeless case. Now ten years and although my interest in motor sport has never waned, active participation to previous levels of involvement are unlikely to ever be repeated. Now I have reached this age, as the years of middle age lay ahead, appears to be the right time to seriously explore if I am a golf nut or not. I may totally bomb on the greens, but I have a deep routed need to find out.
For the future I also look forward to the possibilities of fatherhood. A few simple words that speak volumes of aspirations and wishes in the future. From this short and simple statement I cannot and do not underestimate the magnitude of such an awesome responsibility. Yet one day God willing, I look forward to this more than anything else.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 23, 2003
In an almost throw away statement on a network news program here in the US this evening, it is alleged, as I cannot confirm this in fact, that Saddam has threatened any Iraq scientist and every member of their family with death, should they assist the UN weapons inspectors in their current quest.
With plenty of allied news stories about Iraq should do more to support the weapons inspectors, it is hardly surprising that fellow scientists are unwilling to cooperate.
Watching brief continues.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
Right now the in centigrade, it is –11C, with a wind chill that makes it feel more like –18C. In farenheight the wind chill in my home town at this time is –1F, at 10:40am in the morning, under blue skies and sunshine.
Brits are reknown the world over for talking about the weather, the phrase “nice weather for the time of year” in social circles is as inoffensive as you can get in this politically correct world that we live in today.
Nevertheless, it is dangerously cold here in the Philly area. The following weather warning has been issued.
A BRISK NORTHWEST WIND IS ANTICIPATED THROUGHOUT SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, NEW JERSEY, DELAWARE AND NORTHEASTERN MARYLAND. TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED TO DROP BACK INTO THE 5 TO 15 DEGREE RANGE TONIGHT AFTER RISING INTO THE 15 TO 22 DEGREE RANGE THIS AFTERNOON. WITH WIND SPEEDS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF 20 MPH TONIGHT, WIND CHILL VALUES ARE EXPECTED TO BE FROM ZERO TO 10 BELOW AT THAT TIME.
IF POSSIBLE, SIMPLY REMAIN INDOORS TODAY AND TONIGHT. IF YOU NEED TO VENTURE OUTSIDE DRESS IN SEVERAL LAYERS OF CLOTHING AND LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF SKIN EXPOSED TO THE ELEMENTS.
I cannot ever remember Michael Fish or any of the other Met Office Weathermen and Weatherwomen offering that advice following the early evening news.
A "Code Blue" emergency has been called in Philadelphia and several surrounding communities as the mercury continues to dip down to near zero. The declaration allows homeless outreach volunteers to scour the city looking for homeless people and take them into shelters. The coldest weather in several years is expected to hit the Delaware Valley with wind chills Thursday night in the range of 10 to 20 below zero. The Philadelphia region has not been above the freezing mark since Jan. 13. However, that could change this weekend.
A couple of days ago I was in Center City between 9th and 10th Streets within view of the massive skyscrapers that define the city skyline. At one end of the street was a non descript building that was home to an artist studio who specialized in high-end restoration projects only match by the high end costs. At the other end of the same street I saw a couple of homeless people, who were sleeping rough surrounded by whatever they could find to stave off the vicious cold that permuates through to the very soul.
That night I watched the local news that broke the news of the Code Blue emergency, although through poor decision making in the last 12 months, shelters had been closed down during the year and there were not enough beds in the remaining shelters to meet current needs.
This story, for now did have a happy ending. The local churches stepped in and provided that which the City was unable, perhaps unwilling to maintain.
It is not as if Philadelphia has nowhere to open these City run shelters, Center City is full of old buildings that are uninhabited and with vision and a cash injection by the City could meet the needs of the homeless in Philly.
The City have in the past adopted the position that “no one is to be turned away from the shelters”, yet Mayor Street and his administration in City Hall have created a problem that dissolves this promise as quickly as body warmth evaporates when you lay on frozen ground.
For the last couple of days while I have been snug in my home, venturing out occasionally wearing thick boots and several layers of clothes, I have wondered a great deal about those homeless men I saw I Center City this week.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 22, 2003
The nominations for the third annual "Bloggies" are up for public voting starting today. I am pleased that Blogging Brits, one of the two web rings that London Chimes is part of has been nominated as the Best Web Ring. (LC is one of about 300 indiviual blogs in this ring).
In addition, BlogCritics, is also nominated and is deserving of your vote.
If you feel so inclined, you may cast your votes through this link.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 21, 2003
Britain sends 30,000 troops to Gulf, writes the Independent yesterday.
Can you picture 30,000 troops, let me put this into some kind of context, the NFL Playoff game last weekend held at the Vet in Philly, at its full capacity can seat 62,000. Imagine the Vet Half, full.
For comparison, we have all on both sides of the Atlantic seen the Flyers play ice hockey, and the 76’s play Basketball at the First Union Center. The center has a capacity of 19,000. Imagine it full to the nosebleed seats, empty it in your mind and half-fill again.
30,000 troops is a quarter of the total number of troops in the British Army.
The troops will join up with the American army, on land, sea and air being rapidly assembled in the Gulf. A large US force is already in the area, with 62,000 mobilised in the past 10 days and a further 60,000 on their way.
Britain's contingent, including artillery and armour and 120 main battle tanks, could form part of an invasion force reaching 250,000 as well as a vast naval armada and hundreds of warplanes ready at bases around the world.
The total number of allied servicemen in the task force would total 250,000. That number would fill the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with no seats to spare. That over twice as many people that would cram into Silverstone for the British Grand Prix on race day in the heady years of the Nigel Mansell.
Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon on January 20, announced the deployment of a much larger than expected land force of British troops for potential military action against Iraq.He told MPs the package would include Headquarters 1 (UK) Armoured Division, with support from 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats), 16 Air Assault Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade.
Equipment being sent to the Gulf included 120 Challenger tanks and 150 Warrior armoured personnel carriers, he said in a statement to the Commons. The force amounts to about one quarter of the British Army
These are undoubtly hard numbers which are the result of hard decisions that have been made and some that have yet to be made, voted on and executed in the coming weeks.
This week, both France and Germany have for their own reasons declined involvement in any action against Iraq. This I believe is as much an economic decision that revolves around oil, as a political one that sees both countries as pillars for the EU, taking a popular position within mainland Europe.
Perhaps their stance would be very different if say for argument sake instead of Iraq, the issue was over Austria, who had been under rule of dictatorship and had developed their own weapons of mass destruction that could reach both France and Germany. But the task at hand is not Austria but Iraq and this poses different problems for them.
Meanwhile a huge task force of Army, Navy Marines and Air Force are slowly taking up station within striking distance of Baghdad. Unlike historic conflicts, technology allows the players to be positioned hundreds if not thousands of miles apart, and can for the most part inflict bombing with a fine degree of accuracy. Needless to say it is the few that miss the targets that are played endlessly on the news as part of the propaganda war.
To position these “assets” takes time and support, similar to a game of chess, the pieces need to be in place before an attack of the “king” can be started. You cannot create a checkmate maneuver from the starting move of the game, and when the chessboard covers thousands of miles and involves thousands of individuals, it becomes clearer the enormity of the logistical problem.
Give peace a chance! And everyone is doing just that, while the media and politicians are posturing that war is inevitable and we have reached that point before the fighting has started is simply folly. This multi-layered process is being reported in 2 dimensions and that is not a truthful account of the full picture.
While the fighting has not started there is every possibility of a peaceful resolution to this affair. Peace is being given a chance, war is not inevitable.
That said, I watch some of the peace protests from DC on C-SPAN last weekend, it is a very interesting group of people who are attending these rallies worldwide.
Today the BBC has reported a slither of the overall peace movement in attendance at Westminster. A pop star was there, and a playwright has pledged his backing. The banners getting soaked in the Westminster drizzle came in the main from the usual sources - the Socialist Workers were out and about, as was the famous CND symbol.
But also there were the less prominent people of Individuals Against War in Iraq, down for the day from Welwyn Garden City, complete with homemade banner declaring "Aim for peace, not for the Iraqi people".All were in Westminster to lobby their MPs as part of a day of protest organised by a coalition of groups opposed to military action against Iraq. Blur singer Damon Albarn is backing the campaign, as are Bianca Jagger, playwright Harold Pinter and Robert "3D" Del Naja of pop group Massive Attack.
Vicky Woodcraft from Individuals Against War in Iraq, agreed. The group was formed, she said, in order to create a forum for people concerned about the prospect of military action but with no particular political axe to grind. "We came together because all of us as individuals were really worried about the fact that the government seemed to be blindly following America. "We don't feel that Saddam Hussein is a good thing, but there are plenty of other countries with bad leaders. It's not America's job to go about dealing with other countries."
It was a message echoed by Albarn: "I feel that it is something that I was brought up with, that war is never an answer. In this particular instance I don't think emotionally the country has any stomach for it. I don't think we have been consulted as a democracy. It is the wrong war. "We need a bit more imagination. All we are saying is the country is mature enough to sit down and have some kind of referendum." Albarn said he believed Saddam was "a monster who is the creation of the West anyway, so if we are going to depose him we need to look at the elements in the West that created him".
Patrick Coulton, 77, who had travelled into central London from Greenwich to make his point, said he is concerned about possible reprisals if the UK attacks Iraq. "While being an old man, I don't want my children and grandchildren butchered," he said. "If they continue with these efforts they will be asking for people to come here and do all sorts of things. “Bush intends to get control of the world's oil - if there was no oil in Iraq, Bush would not be bothered about Iraq." The placards splattered with rain said the same. "There is no justification whatsoever for this war," said David Polden of CND. "The inspectors they have sent in have not managed to find anything. They are just desperate to have a war - it's about oil and domination in the Middle East."
London Chimes Comments: What a grand batch of disconnected quotes pulled together to provide coverage of this afternoons activities. As the piece stands, and I have only take parts of the text here to offer a flavor, there are many misguided individuals on how the system works.
Firstly, HM Government is not blindly following America. The Government never blindly does anything, especially something that affects the national security of the UK.
Secondly, for those who remember the cold war, the threat of nukes over London, at least the USSR had a code of conduct that was followed. Ivan was not so terrible, but his arsenal was formidable. Thanks to the diplomatic efforts of many, and the signatures of world leaders not least the toppling of a superpower from within, this threat ceases to exist. But a new and more dangerous threat has emerged from the shadows, one that will not abide by a set of rules, a fact shown by the distain of resolution followed by resolution against Iraq by the UN.
For the moment, the WoMD that may (or may not) currently exist do not have a capability of landing in London, Paris, or Berlin. But there is recent proof that plans were being made to develop their nuclear arsenal to a level that the radius and number of countries that could be harmed by such WoMD increase.
Do we wait until this regime hovers its finger over the trigger before we as a unified voice act to late? Why does a country like Iraq need these weapons in this day and age - anyhow? It is not as if invasion is a threat, with the exception of the threat of friendly forces. So what or who is threatened that these weapons are needed in the first place?
If you believe the words uttered by Saddam, he since 9/11 has offer an allegiance with those responsible for the attacks on the US. By providing these groups and individuals weapons to aid the campaigns of mass terrorism on an unpresencented level, do we simply sit back and let the security forces, the police and MI5 bang doors down in established neighborhoods to find chemical warfare being produced perhaps on your street?
Where is a line to be drawn, and since when does any government have a referendum on such issues? – Cloud cuckoo land that one.
A line has been drawn in the sand; Britain along with other countries has formed an alliance. The weapons inspectors are going about doing their job on a daily basis. The Saudi’s are talking to senior Iraq military leaders to walk away from Saddam before the balloon goes up. These are tense times, only confused by misinformation and propaganda.
These are my opinions, my reactions to what I see, read and hear from around the world. By trying to see through the BS, and strip out the half truths, having an understanding as to how HMG operates from my time working with them, I can still see the possibility of military forces in the Gulf being stood down, or assisting the people of Iraq in a transition period following the overthrow of their government.
It is still very possible, and when possibility exists, talk of war and only war is pure folly. Yet we are getting ever closer to the reports from the UN weapons inspectors, the meeting on January 31 with the PM and President George W. Bush, will have a clearer idea of the hard decisions that will be made.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 20, 2003
I have a question for my readers, one that I have tried to answer using the resources of the internet and cannot find an accurate answer to.
February 1, 2003 is the date of this years Chinese New Year, it is refered to as the year of the Sheep, Black Sheep or Goat. That said, have their been any other occassions since 1963 that the Chinese New Year has been celebrated on February 1?
I look forward to any and all replies.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 17, 2003
Just how much do the heavens have to do with our lives and what in particular is happening right now?
Everyone I am certain can relate to certain times in his or her own lives when everything seems to change in close succession. It happens rarely, but when it does, it can have the positive effect of opening up uncharted possibilities.
From memory has happened to me on one previous occasion, and related to a time where I moved to a better job and moved into my first apartment in a new town. On that occasion in January 1990, it seemed as if there was some unstoppable positive force acting like a wind at my back guiding me forward without hesitation into “uncharted possibilities”.
Adding to the much “blogged” subject of my life starting at 40, and that point is still in double digits (days) just, my professional life is about to turn into a new and exciting challenge as I yesterday I accepted the offer of Special Fundraising Manager for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. I cannot easily convey in words how thrilled I am to be a part of this team for a plethora of reasons, certainly not the least important of them being that when the interview process had reached an advanced stage, my wife Taney stated that “this is the position I have been working towards all my professional career”. I hoped from the outset that I would be offered this position, yet I am certain that it is not hope alone but faith that has opened this door for me.
However, I am not the only member of the Friend family to experience “professional” change. Today Taney has been offered a position at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral as a School Groups Tour Guide. With the Paul Revere House, New England Aquarium, London Aquarium and Philadelphia Museum of Art to her credit, the position offered today is a perfect fit for her skills and knowledge. The school groups that visit Bryn Athyn, I understand visit both Glencairn and the Cathedral, the children take this opportunity to learn more about medieval history and I cannot think of a better place to visit to achieve this.
The heavens that look over us in America are obviously facilitating change in the UK. After living in the same home since November 4, 1966, my parents are moving to a wonderful new home in Hertfordshire. From the photographs I have seen it is a beautiful house with a wonderful garden. I know the town and neighborhood well; in fact, I have walked and driven past the house on a number of occasions.
“Home” in Dollis Road, Finchley, is more than just a home, it is where I grew up from the age of 3 and for my brother Kevin, he was a babe in arms when my parents moved into the Dollis Road from Long Lane, Finchley. I have many happy memories and photographs of the house and the Christmases, parties and playtime in the house and outside in the garden.
I have only briefly panged nostalgically for Dollis Road since my parents announced the house had been sold. After so many years I can still mentally feel my way around the house, remember which of the stairs creaked a little, know instinctively where the power sockets and light switches are despite that I moved out at least fifteen years ago, if not longer.
Since moving to the US, my brother and his family moved from their house in Enfield to South Wales, and my Nana moved from her home also in Dollis Road, for more than fifty years, to East Finchley and now my parents are moving.
It is something of a “disconnection”. When I spoke to my parents only yesterday, I could visualize my Mum sitting in the front room in her chair, cup of tea to hand. Previous calls have found my parents sitting in the kitchen or in the garden sitting under the gazebo. It is a comforting mental image. Yet after February 25, when I speak with parents, my brother or his family, or my Nana, I cannot mentally place where they are calling me other than placing myself into the photographs they have sent.
The “disconnect” does work both ways, until this summer, I would tell my parents on the phone, “I am calling you from the garden, its hot and sunny and blue skies” (happy memories of a summer long since past). But until they came to visit, they could not picture where I would call them from, hence the disconnect.
I am not sad that my parents are moving; I am so pleased that they have something so wonderful to look forward to at the start of a new year. They are moving to a town where my mothers sister, my aunt lives and that to some degree completes the circuit of a wheel as for many years they always lived in Finchley.
There is some comfort to having family living close together, when I was a child, my grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousins all lived in Finchley. A short walk or cycle ride would lead me to any one of the homes. My brother has moved to South Wales to be closer to members of his wife’s family. My niece and nephew, have cousins who live locally and that is important. As for Taney & I in America, we are very lucky to have all the family based within five miles, with the exception of one of Taney’s brothers who is doing sterling work in Washington DC.
For my parents the move from Finchley is an emotional wrench I am sure as they have both lived in Finchley for most of their lives. In that time I am certain they have seen many changes to the town. For my Dad who with the exception of a brief period in Scotland, grew up in living in a Dollis Road that was so quiet that children could play cricket in the street. Not so today as the road always has served as a link between Finchley and Mill Hill, has seen an increase in the volume of traffic that any parent would not need to think more than once to stop any child playing on the street. Until a year or so, the second of the two family homes sat on the other side of the road, a dozen or so houses up the hill.
My Mum was brought up in Long Lane, opposite Victoria Park, the house was a home to many extended family members over the years, the last family member living there was my Gran, who lived on the ground floor while for many years the upper floor was home to my mothers sister, my aunt, Terry, and my two cousins. When Long Lane was finally sold, and my Gran moved out, it seemed as if we had lost a family member, because to me it had been my home for the first 3 years of my life, and I had many happy memories of visiting 78.
I was very pleased to grow up in Dollis Road; I now really look forward to visiting my parents in their new home the next time I head back to Britain.
So with all this change in the Friend family life, something special must be happening in the heavens.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 16, 2003
It has been a busy week politically, with words being backed up with the coordination of military personnel and hardware. Who cannot be stirred by the image of Ark Royal slipping its moorings heading off under the premise of exercises but with the rhetoric in Westminster and Washington it is not unreasonable to believe that these naval officers and ratings are heading towards a conflict.
Yet, we all recognise that “Jaw Jaw, is better than War War”. The UN weapons inspectors have asked for more time to compile their report that is the critical hinge to the deployment of forces into Iraq.
While time may be running out for the diplomats to find a peaceful solution to the matter of an irresponsible country possessing weapon of mass destruction, a country who has a history of courting terrorists, suppressing its citizens, and committing them to death through the use of the aforementioned weapons. Iraq is siding with al-Qaeda, who are in turn responsible for the mass murder of many, including Britons who were in the World Trade Center on September 11, at the Pentagon and flying over a field in Pennsylvania.
Taking stock, let us pause for a moment, and look at the facts as they exist today. There is an excellent piece on the BBC that reflects the mood of the Cabinet, the people in the UK, the The Labour Party Back Benchers, the Conservative Party and the Democrats, the Grass Root Labour Party members and the Church, reviewing each in turn:
Round the cabinet table there is no lack of doubters on Tony Blair's commitment to war with Iraq if the US deems Saddam Hussein to have failed to disarm.International Development Secretary Clare Short has been the most vocal in insisting Mr Blair should "not divert from the UN route" and must resist joining any unilateral military action by the US. Leader of the House Robin Cook is understood to be a fellow leading cabinet sceptic, while conflicting messages from Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (the former publicly repudiated the latter for downgrading the chances of war to "60-40") have added to the impression of a government at odds with itself. Meanwhile, it took Chancellor Gordon Brown until this week to break a long silence (a fact not unremarked on by Blairites) and throw his public backing behind Mr Blair's approach to Iraq.
London Chimes comment. The term “wet” has not been used for many years but it would seem that both Clare Short and Robin Cook are not just wet but have thrown themselves into the River Thames. A Cabinet divided on the brink on action that will commit British forces into armed combat is a folly. We must remember that every day the RAF are within the sights of Iraq forces as they patrol the no-fly-zone.
Regardless of Mr Blair's exhortations, public opinion has remained stubbornly sceptical about the need for war with Iraq. Polls have consistently shown voters unconvinced that the threat from Saddam is great enough to justify war. They are also suspicious of US President George Bush, with many unhappy that Mr Blair may be acting as the US president's "poodle". Moreover, a Yougov poll this week showed that most people believe that any war would be about oil.
London Chimes comment: Of the few Britons I have spoken with, they are very much against any military action. It is considered that the direction Britain is heading creates an ever more dangerous situation, a tinder-box with burning matches close by. As to their suspicion of George Bush, the few sound bites broadcast on the mainstream news make him look like a terrier itching to unearth a fox out of its hole. This is distorted, biased reporting and there are assistant news editors working overtime to carve their niche with their bosses that sadly is not in the best interests of fair and balanced journalism.
Of course a poll with the question; Do you believe that the proposed conflict in Iraq is linked in some way to oil? When asked in the UK with sky high petrol prices, most of which (85%) is taxation by the government will rarely offer a negative response.
The problem with polls, is that the sample polled are very small in relation to the overall population and the questions are invariably biased.
When he addressed the weekly meeting of Labour MPs on Wednesday, Mr Blair focussed on the domestic agenda - but faced a barrage of sharp questions on Iraq. There is deep unease among backbenchers and it is far from confined to any "usual suspect" awkward squad members. Former ministers Peter Kilfoyle, Doug Henderson and Glenda Jackson - no pacifist left-wingers they - are among those at the forefront of backbench concern at what they see as an inexorable rush to war. More than 130 Labour MPs have signed the Commons motion against unilateral US action against Saddam, and for months now suspicion has been rife that British troops will be sent into action before MPs are given the chance to debate or vote on the issue.
London Chimes comment: The author of this piece is confused when he suggests “an inexorable rush to war” and then in the next sentence “for months now”. Given that Britain, like America, is a democratic country there of course will be an opportunity to debate and certainly to vote on the issue. At which time further facts will be available than are currently in circulation. Given the mountains of papers passed over MP’s desks each day, they cannot physically keep up with every bulletin circulated around Westminster on the Iraq situation. Consequently, when occasions arise they will have many questions to ask the PM. OF the 130 MP’s who have signed the motion against unilateral US action against Saddam, (date unknown), I am certain that more facts are known and when the time comes, the government whips will convey the party policy on this matter.
Labour Party general secretary David Triesman concedes that Labour's policy of firm support for the 1990-91 Gulf war set off the greatest wave of membership resignations than any other single issue in recent years. Party managers expect a new war with Iraq may do the same. Officials and MPs across the country report trenchant criticism from their constituency parties, and are braced for tumult in the event of war. With activist apathy and disenchantment having already taken their toll at grassroots level, and a set of difficult local, Scottish and Welsh elections coming up in May, some MPs fear the noise of British fighter jets taking off for Iraq will be drowned out by the sound of membership cards being torn up.
London Chimes Comment: As early as mid February there will be a vast military presence of allied forces in the gulf and eastern Med. Come May and the local elections, much more will be known, possibly decided, with or without the need for military intervention. One should not overlook the human will of the Iraq people who have made it known that they would prefer to see the removal of Saddam and given the motivation and support from Britain, America and other countries like Australia, could take matters into their own hands.
As for the resignation of membership resignations, so what, the established structures of these organizations on both sides of the house have done little to encourage people to join in the first place. The old ploy of the voters are ignorant, is in this day and age as far from the truth as ever before. With access to a wealth of information, news and opinions, beyond the traditional media of television and newspapers, the established political parties should change, in order to embrace this new generation of switched on, passionate, opinionated, caring, individuals, without the stigma of signing them up to be a card-carrying member of the dysfunctional party.
"Closer to Bush than thou" is how one shadow minister describes Iain Duncan Smith's strategy towards the prime minister's Iraq policy, as the Tory leader has seized on evidence of lukewarm attitudes towards President Bush from government doves. The Tories are themselves split on Iraq, though not as badly as Labour. Split enough, nonetheless, for party whips to have ordered MPs not to take part in surveys by the media as to Conservative policy on war with Iraq. Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, meanwhile, finds himself in the crucial role of dissonant voice in the mainstream as the only main political party leader questioning the seemingly unstoppable march to war. With the prime minister and leader of the opposition shoulder to shoulder on the issue, Mr Kennedy has maintained his own consistently tough line on the need for prior UN sanction ahead of any military action - in effect speaking for MPs across the House, not just on the Lib Dem benches.
London Chimes Comment: Moreso today than any other time in the last sixty years, the House of Commons finds itself dominated by one party, with the opposition, principally Conservative and Democrats, even together, unable to prevent the railroading of government policies. Even with an arguably unpopular position on a matter such as Iraq, the voice is muted. With many of the stalwart politicians swept out of their seats in elections over the last 6 years, the House of Commons finds itself full of “newbies” who are so far out of their depth on matters of military conflict there are few stalwarts left to seek both advice and guidance. Ian Duncan Smith is one of these who has found himself as leader of the Conservative party. Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Democrats who I am sure has the ear of the previous leader Paddy Ashdown, a true stalwart and former military man. Unsurprisingly rings out a voice of caution, of considered reason and balance. It is Charles Kennedy one should watch over the next few months as he alone appears to have the pulse of the people.
Uncomfortably for one of the most openly religious prime ministers of the post-World War II era, Mr Blair faces widespread opposition to war from church leaders. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was early to voice his deep doubts as to the wisdom of military action. He has stuck firmly and confidently to that line, and been arguably more effective in voicing and mobilising opposition than has the nascent anti-war movement. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, has made clear his disquiet over Mr Blair's line on war with Saddam - as have Church of England bishops, the Pope and other religious leaders
London Chimes Comment: Should we be surprised at the line of the church?
Continuing the theme of taking Stock, Donald Macintyre of the Independent has written an interesting column this week titled, Don't be fooled: this opposition to war is more than just anti-Americanism - It's not the United States that so much of the Labour Party distrusts. It's George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld
As a Brit in America, it does concern me greatly how Americans view Britons and vice-versa. In social situations, the subject of “what does the people in Britain think” is not the easiest to answer. For my pulse, I look to my family and friends in the UK and review the endless number of opinions and news pages written in Blighty to provide a measure to my responses. That said, this piece from which I have taken extracts, in the Independent this week, once again provides the opportunity for old sores to be opened and salt applied, so to speak.
The warmth of the Clinton reception of the Labour Party Annual Meeting in Blackpool shows that the party has not, largely, reverted to the anti-Americanism that disfigured much of it in the 1980s. The idea, for example, that Robin Cook, a prominent cabinet doubter, is any longer anti-American, is absurd. If he had been, he would not have enjoyed, as Foreign Secretary, such a close relationship with Madeleine Albright. The party has moved a long way since even the 1990s, when a frequent complaint within the party about New Labour's style was that it reflected the "Clintonisation" of British politics. In probable contrast to the Tory leadership, almost the entire PLP wants to see Hans Blix and not the US administration decide whether the Iraqis are in material breach of UN resolution 1441. It is not any longer the US per se that so much of the Labour Party distrusts. It's George Bush and, even more so, some of those around him, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
This simple distinction matters, because that distrust reflects a much wider slice of public opinion, including the non-political establishment, than the traditional anti-Americanism of the Labour left ever did. When Mr Blair addressed the UK ambassadors last week, the diplomats' revolt predicted in some quarters didn't happen, and his speech was pretty well received, partly because he chose to remind the Americans that they had to "listen back". But Robin Christopher, the Ambassador to Argentina, struck a chord with many of his colleagues when he asked Jack Straw to say what, if any, were the limits to UK support of the US.
So while there may have been a trace of the old atavism in Dennis Skinner's pointed advice in the Commons to Mr Blair on what he should tell the US President on his trip to Washington at the end of this month, there was nothing very maverick about his claim that Mr Bush was after Iraqi oil and the completion of the job that his father had left unfinished in 1991.
Without a UN mandate, a US-British invasion would split the party and the Cabinet. Some loyalist ministers are already even more worried about wholesale defections of party members than they are about MPs. Despite his strong expressions of support for the Blair strategy, the party might well turn to Gordon Brown as the Tories turned to Chancellor Harold Macmillan after Suez. Even with informal Security Council consent but no fresh resolution, a war could well be politically hazardous at home.
But here's the paradox. It rather helps Blair that a large section of the party remains so unconvinced when he goes to Washington at the end of the month and argues, as he certainly will, first that Mr Blix be given time to prove a breach, and second that there must be a fresh UN resolution. It reinforces the point that UN support is much more important in the UK than it is in the US – especially since a majority of the PLP will swing, however reluctantly, behind him if he gets the new resolution he surely wants.
So lets us give credit to the Independent, if as they predict at the meeting between the PM and the President on January 31, that the way forward is through diplomacy and the UN, while the military forces continue to conduct their exercise out in the East.
I fear that “spin” or “bias” in the news reporting from the UK can not so much harm more like bruise the special relationship between the US and UK. Actions do after all speak louder than words, and right now with a naval task force steaming eastward, with the Ark Royal very much part of the compliment of vessels, speaks volumes.
Personally, I wish that the UN weapons inspectors do find the “smoking gun”, the stash of WoMD. It would be wonderful that Saddam puts up his hands and admits to the crimes without the need for any action.
Sadly, we know he has the WoMD, we know he has used them and will continue to do so. We know that he has not a second thought on deploying his forces to prove a political point. We know from his public statements that he has allied himself with terrorists.
To conclude this rather long blog, I was sent an email today by a former colleague David Rothman, it was from an editorial printed September 11, 2002, along with this was the message “Great Editorial”.
Those of us who know the tabloids in the UK will recognise the Daily Mirror as great for putting your fish and chips in the following day. Yet, staffed by some journalists of note, from time to time, I wanted to share this editorial with London Chimes readers as we simply take stock.
Before I share the editorial, I also wanted to share some of the comments that have been added as it has been circulated, evidence that while some Britons may be Anti-American, Americans are not Anti-Brit.
It took a British newspaper, The Daily Mirror to publish what American news media should keep doing. This is a wonderful editorial, and you should take the time to read it. We should never forget.
Some great journalism from the Brits
Just a word of background on the Daily Mirror, a newspaper that is published in England. It is a
notorious left-wing daily and is usually very anti-American. In other words, the Daily Mirror is much like most of the U. S. media.
It's kinda hard to believe that they published this editorial. Wouldn't it be nice, just once, to have the NY Times, CNN, or Peter Jennings express an editorial like Tony Parsons of the Daily Mirror does in what follows:
The author is Tony Parsons. It follows.
September 11, 2002 ONE year ago, the world witnessed a unique kind of broadcasting - the mass murder of thousands, live on television. As a lesson in the pitiless cruelty of the human race, September 11 was up there with Pol Pot's mountain of skulls in Cambodia, or the skeletal bodies stacked like garbage in the Nazi concentration camps. An unspeakable act so cruel, so calculated and so utterly merciless that surely the world could agree on one thing - nobody
deserves this fate.
Surely there could be consensus: the victims were truly innocent, the perpetrators truly evil. But to the world's eternal shame, 9/11 is increasingly seen as America's comeuppance. Incredibly, anti-Americanism has increased over the last year.
There has always been a simmering resentment to the USA in this country - too loud, too rich, too full of themselves and so much happier than Europeans - but it has become an epidemic. And it seems incredible to me. More than that, it turns my stomach. America is this country's greatest
friend and our staunchest ally. We are bonded to the US by culture, language and blood.
A little over half a century ago, around half a million Americans died for our freedoms, as well as their own. Have we forgotten so soon? And exactly a year ago, thousands of ordinary men, women and children - not just Americans, but from dozens of countries - were butchered by a small group of religious fanatics. Are we so quick to betray them?
What touched the heart about those who died in the twin towers and on the planes was that we recognized them: Young fathers and mothers, somebody's son and somebody's daughter, husbands and wives. And children. Some unborn. And these people brought it on themselves? And their nation is to blame for their meticulously planned slaughter?
These days you don't have to be some dust-encrusted nut job in Kabul or Karachi or Finsbury Park to see America as the Great Satan. The anti-American alliance is made up of self-loathing liberals who blame the Americans for every ill in the Third World, and conservatives suffering from power-envy, bitter that the world's only superpower can do what it likes without having to ask permission.
The truth is that America has behaved with enormous restraint since September 11. Remember, remember. Remember the gut-wrenching tapes of weeping men phoning their wives to say, "I love you," before they were burned alive. Remember those people leaping to their deaths from the top of burning skyscrapers. Remember the hundreds of firemen buried alive. Remember the smiling face of that beautiful little girl who was on one of the planes with her mum. Remember, remember _and realize that America has never retaliated for 9/11 in anything like the way it could
So a few al-Qaeda tourists got locked without a trial in Camp X-ray? Pass the Kleenex. So some Afghan wedding receptions were shot up after they merrily fired their semi-automatics in a sky full of American planes? A shame, but maybe next time they should stick to confetti.
AMERICA could have turned a large chunk of the world into a parking lot. That it didn't is a sign of
strength. American voices are already being raised against attacking Iraq - that's what a democracy is for. How many in the Islamic world will have a minute's silence for the slaughtered innocents of 9/11? How many Islamic leaders will have the guts to say that the mass murder of 9/11 was an abomination?
When the news of 9/11 broke on the West Bank, those freedom-loving Palestinians were dancing in the street. America watched all of that -and didn't push the button. We should thank the stars that America is the most powerful nation in the world. I still find it incredible that 9/11 did not provoke all-out war. Not a "war on terrorism;" A real war.
The fundamentalist dudes are talking about "opening the gates of hell", if America attacks Iraq. Well, America could have opened the gates of hell like you wouldn't believe. The US is the most militarily powerful nation that ever strode the face of the earth. The campaign in Afghanistan may have been less than perfect and the planned war on Iraq may be misconceived.
But don't blame America for not bringing peace and light to these wretched countries. How many
democracies are there in the Middle East, or in the Muslim world? You can count them on the fingers of one hand - assuming you haven't had any chopped off for minor shoplifting
I love America, yet America is hated. I guess that makes me Bush's poodle. But I would rather be a dog in New York City than a Prince in Riyadh. Above all, America is hated because it is what every country wants to be - rich, free, strong, open, and optimistic. Not ground down by the past, or religion, or some caste system.
America is the best friend this country ever had and we should start remembering that. Or do you really think the USA is the root of all evil? Tell it to the loved ones of the men and women who leaped to their death from the burning towers. Tell it to the nursing mothers whose husbands died on one of the hijacked planes, or were ripped apart in a collapsing skyscraper. And tell it to the hundreds of young widows whose husbands worked for the New York Fire Department. To our shame, George Bush gets a worse press than Saddam Hussein.
Once we were told that Saddam gassed the Kurds, tortured his own people and set up rape-camps in Kuwait. Now we are told he likes Quality Street. Save me the orange centre, oh mighty one!
Remember, remember, September 11. One of the greatest atrocities in human history was committed against America. No, do more than remember. Never forget.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 14, 2003
My 3,000th visitor to London Chimes passed quietly through without leaving a calling card!
17 more days left of being a thirty-something!
It has been a great week and it is only Tuesday. Last night I was kindly invited to join my friend Tor at a Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Game. How could I say no, watching the Flyers was getting ever closer to one of the things I wanted to do and had not to date. The invitation was graciously accepted and last night Tor and I watched the Flyers get Thrashed 7-4 by the Atlanta Thrashers.
I have been lucky to see a few ice hockey games in the past, but none as high scoring as this. The Flyers broke their winning streak of the last 6 games but despite the result I really enjoyed the experience.
The Flyers are nationally recognised as the best (arguably) ice hockey team in the NHL. Yet despite their recent run of success their efforts have been overshadowed by McNabb and his teammates over at the Philadelphia Eagles. With a real chance of making the Superbowl, although the qualifiying match against Tampa Bay this weekend the second seeded team, cannot be conisdered a cakewalk.
In recognition of this, Philadelphia has turned green. The skyline is green, the bridges across the River Delaware have green lights, if it is remotely linked to the Eagles he, she, they or even it is newsworthy on the local channels. As the Flyers sunk behind in the scores, some quarters of the fans at the First Union Center chanted E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles, indifference of the poor performance of the Flyers. Worse still was the booing from the home fans. This is not acceptable, cheer, applaude but never boo.
Given the reputation of the Flyers fans, to hear booing from the stands did little to uphold the reputation, and did take something out of the evening. But of the 18,905 in attendance, the boos I am certain were from a small percentage.
Philadelphia Car Show.
Adding to my wonderful week was an invitation to attend the annual Philadelphia Car Show. I attended the show 2 years ago and was very dissapointed, two years on I can happily report that many of the shortfalls have been rectified, although there is still some work to be done.
The relatively quiet Tuesday allowed easy access to many of the cars including the exotic cars on the upper floors. Many were allowed only to gaze on the supercars, my brother in law and I were allowed access to a beautiful Bentley valued at $220,000 that on opening the drivers door was like walking into the Savoy Hotel. Sitting behind the wheel there was not an inch of dash that was not covered with leather or walnut trim. The car exhaled class through every stitch in its upholstery, but it got better.
Of the three Aston Martins, we were both allowed access to the Aston Martin Vantage, the model currently starring in the latest James Bond film. The car was fitted with paddles behind the steering wheel as currently used in F1 race cars for gear changes. Reverse was selected by pressing a button on the dash! If only my pocket money would extend to the $240,000 price ticket for this car. It was without question everything and much more that I expected from the marque.
Suitably humbled in the most automotive sense for one day, it was playtime around the remainder of the exhibits in the other halls.
I sat in most of the Honda's for which I currently have a great interest in.
The 2003 S Type Jaguars were as always splendid and overshadowed the Lexus brimming with electoronic wizardry including navigation systems.
I fail to see why anyone would want to own a Hummer after sitting behind the wheel of one of the commerically available monsters today. Short of driving over cars in the car park, it is not the most practical of cars unless your backyard runs into hundreds of acres with poor roads.
Ford gave more than a passing nod to its motor sport heritage with an original GT40 on the stand that origianted from the UK with right hand drive and BRDC stickers. (British Racing Drivers Club). Sadly Subaru only could manage a mock of its current WRC rally challenger, on a plinth so high only from the lack of under damage was it obvious it was not for real.
The Audi TT Coupe was a real pocket rocket but too low, the BMW Z4 would be a real winner but the switches are too cheap and plastic for a $30,000 plus sports car. Many of the cars on display are so reliant on electronics that unless they were wired for power it was impossible to move the seats to get the feel for the cars. Pity!
Concept cars by GM, the fly by wire that I truly beleive is the way of the future, Lexus, Jeep, Ford and Chevrolet were a possible insight on the future and that future is retro using technology 60 years ahead of its time. One manafacturer pulled out a classic concept, Buick and their Le Sabre a chrome monster that was from the 50's and would put many of the current concepts to shame. (Ignore the left hand photo, the right hand is much more in keeping with the model seen today.
There was one winner for me, the new BMW Mini. Both the Cooper and Cooper S were on display. This was the first opportunity I had to look over and sit inside one since they arrived in the USA. I was not left wanting. The build and attention to detail would have made Sir Alex Isagnosis the designer of the original very proud indeed. Such is the demand that the waiting list is anything from six to ten months.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 12, 2003
News reports are informing me that Maurice Gibb died in the early hours of this morning.
Music fans either liked or disliked the Bee Gees, four brothers originally from Manchester, England. Yet certainly they are respected for what they have achieved in their field.
As a teenager in the "disco" era of the 70's and remember the impact Saturday Night Fever had on the definition of that era.
I doubt that the unique blend of the voices of the Bee Gees will ever be equalled in my lifetime.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
The rules of American Football are still something of a mystery to me, although with two football seasons almost completed since my arrival, I understand more about the game this morning than I did this time yesterday.
Why? The Superbowl. Last night the “home” team the Philadelphia Eagles, who so closely missed a superbowl appearance last year, is in with more than a shout of playing this year.
Last night at a party hosted by our friends Sean and Holly, I sat with the “chaps” and watched the first 2 quarters, only to watch the rest of the game at home.
Playing the Atlanta Falcons, you would have thought from the pre-game hype over the last week that Germany were to play England in the World Cup Soccer Final at Wembley Stadium.
Game report link.
The headline of this morning’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Birds gut it out!
The spectators, too a crowd of 66,000 stood in below-freezing temps to cheer on the Eagles and their cheering mush have made an impression on the performance of the team.
The Superbowl is on January 26.
During the numerous breaks for adverts during the game for IT companies, Cars and Pepsi were plugs for upcoming national sporting events. One that I will certainly tune into is the Daytona 500, on February 15. In the cold winter months it is wonderful that there are so many great sporting events to divert my attention. Not that I am a huge sporting fan I do know what I like topping the list is motor sport.
Over the last week or so, I have been fortunate to catch many of the reports from the Dakar Rally currently heading towards Egypt this year in the desert. This enigmatic of international rallies for motorbikes, cars and trucks are celebrating it’s twenty fifth year. Historically beset by problems in the region it travels through, and sadly noted for fatalities of some of its competitors, this year I was very surprised to be able to watch limited coverage of that days stages from deep in the desert.
The scenery is breathtaking, yet the scenery is also hostile, resulting in excellent conditions for man and machinery to test themselves. Previously I have only read reports and seen film footage of stages that film crews could reach easily.
Given the broadcasting technology available today, I have been surprised and highly delighted to be able to see a part of the world rarely seen on television.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 11, 2003
Earlier this week, I was engaged in a conversation regarding my personal status as a Legal Resident in the US. After taking a great deal of time prior to moving to the US my status is clear and uncomplicated. The INS laws as they relate to my personal circumstances are clear and I fully understand what is required of me to retain my legal status.
Personally, I strongly believe that the INS have a difficult job to perform, under trying conditions. Yesterday was the deadline date for all men over the age of 16 who hold temporary visas and are of Middle Eastern and South Asian decent (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korean, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen). Another 14,000 men from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have until 21 February to register with the INS. Some quarters may accuse the INS of racial profiling, some of a witchhunt, this is neither, they are simply doing their job.
This process has been deemed necessary following the public outing of flaws in the Entry-Exit Registration System, following the discovery that some of the accused terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were in America on expired student visas.
The men who fall into this category will be fingerprinted, photographed, interviewed, checked against criminal databases and run through international terrorist watch lists.
For the vast majority of immigrants who are caught up in this law, this is nothing less than another hurdle to jump over with the INS. For those who have overstayed their welcome, not maintained their status or have something to hide. Then there is reason to be concerned through their own actions.
A man from South Asia living on an expired visa in the USA has admitted his status to an international news agency and that he does not know whether or not to register - friends who came down earlier in the week were arrested and put in jail for visa violations. "I am so scared, I can't sleep at night," he explained further that he has worked in the city for three years and never been in any trouble. "We have friends inside who have been arrested. I am not legal here. I don't know what to do."
Another man who is as confused to the outcome of his status following the new laws has arrived at the INS offices to register, only to turn around home to figure out the right thing to do for his future. This man has even bigger problems than the first, not only has his visa expired but he has lost his passport and fears arrested and deportation.
The most recent statistics from the Department of Justice in Washington report that so far 400 people have been detained in California on suspected immigration violations since November, when the registration of visa-holders from countries considered high risks for terrorist activity began. All but 20 have been released, their names having been checked against terrorist wanted lists and criminal files.
Across the street standing in line to enter the INS a Tunisian waits patiently in line with his attorney. His tourist visa expired two years ago, and he lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. "I have never been in trouble. I am not a terrorist. I am hearing they are putting people in jail and I am worried for my family," he says. "Behind this law is what happened on 11 September and we are going to pay for it. I am standing here in this line waiting for my future."
I do not believe that the US Government will deport individuals, break up families on sight. They will I imagine, detain many, but arrest and deport but a few.
For too many years it has been possible to remain in the US on an expired visa, to hide within its borders undetected. This loophole in the INS system has been exposed and is being closed through process such as these.
The message from Washington is clear. The processes adopted by the INS are being reinforced, if you are a legal resident, maintain your status. If your status has lapsed do something about it, legally.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 10, 2003
My wife tunes into 1210am the Big Talker most evenings to hear Rollye James. Her Friday night show with the trivia quiz has on more than one occasion resulted in Taney on air winning prizes.
Earlier this week, a news story from the Congo in Africa was given a casual airing on the program. Given current opinion on the power of the United Nations, if it was not a true news story, it could be considered a joke in poor taste.
Early reports suggested that Congo Rebels were forcing Pygmies to provide them with food and water. When the quantity of the food was less than the Rebels needed they were cannibalizing the Pygmies. The United Nations is investigating to provide help to the Pygmies.
Punch line being is the UN going to write a resolution? Hah, Hah.
Sitting thousands of miles from the Congo, we cannot truly imagine to any degree the barbaric human rights violations that are being committed by the Congo Rebels. Taney has asked me to bring this news story to the attention of the readers of London Chimes.
The BBC has the following link to the latest part of the story.
United Nations human rights investigators have interviewed more than 200 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo after allegations that rebel soldiers had committed widespread human rights violations.
People fleeing recent fighting near the north-eastern town of Beni have accused the soldiers of rape, arbitrary execution and cannibalism, according to the UN's peacekeeping mission and the relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
According to MSF, many of the people making these allegations are Pygmies who have been forced to flee their forest homes for the first time ever in their lives.
I receive daily bulletins from the UN for my personal interest. Yesterday this sad situation was included in their reports.
The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has dispatched a team of experts to the northeastern part of the country to investigate reports of summary executions and other serious human rights violations.
According to a spokesperson for the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), the UN team has been speaking to local residents in the North Kivu region seeking more solid information on reports of looting, rapes, mass graves and cannibalism. A report on the investigation will be completed in a few days.
That area of the country has been the scene of clashes between the Congolese Rally for Democracy/Liberation Movement and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, which had sparked widespread violence and caused massive populations displacement since last October, Patricia Tome said.
MONUC said it expects the team's report on the investigation to be handed over to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, when he visits the DRC next Monday and Tuesday.
This is more than a squabble that has resulted in unpleasant human right breaches, but given the public perception of the power of the United Nations being more than just a “league of nations” there is an opportunity for the UN to prove its worth through action rather than pen pushing.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 08, 2003
Life starts at 40 they say and this old, bold blogger is about to have that milestone hit me in 24 days.
I have rather put off the whole thought of this birthday millstone (yes I did mean to write millstone) for a number of reasons.
As my Birthday comes closer I am sure I will have some thoughts to share on the subject.
3,000 HIT Approaching.
We are getting closer to the 3,000 hit on London Chimes. I would be very grateful to hear from my 3,000 reader by email.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 07, 2003
To my Grandad, who would have celebrated his birthday earlier this week. Sadly my Grandad passed to the spiritual world a few years ago, he is missed and not forgotten.
Alexander Falconer Friend, was born and raised in Scotland, living in Edinburgh before taking the bold step to head south to seek his fortune. I believe that his sights were originally set on South Africa but to say that he only made it as far as London is not a sign of failing his objective.
In the days when having a trade was the open door to a job for life, how things have changed, my Grandad was a Master Joiner. Sadly his skills have not passed to either my brother or myself where a substantial woodwork project would be erecting a flat pack from Ikea. A job in our household completed to a better standard by my wife who is very talented in this area.
I have happy memories of standing by the open door to my Grandads shed door in the rear garden that would be his workshop away from work. Just thinking about this recalls the mixed smells of fresh sawdust, light oil and varnishes.
There were many pieces he created for the family, I recall a chest of drawers which to this day still exist in my childhood bedroom and survived the enthusiastic hamfistedness of a small child. In later years the space below the bottom drawer and the floor made for an excellent hiding place of Christmas gifts. On Saturday nights my Grandad would sit and play draughts (checkers) and in time taught me to play chess. The following Christmas I found a beautiful chessboard under the tree that although a little chipped through the ravages of childhood, remains today at my parents home.
I have many happy memories and am glad to share some of my thoughts with you today.
Its so cold...
With snowflakes falling in London this week, are you already fed up with the sticky mess that it leaves behind? We have had snowfall, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that has taken our cumulative total for the winter to 11.25 inches. That is nearly three times as much as last year.
I love it, if it is not really deep enough to shovel, and yet deep enough to look great that suits me fine.
Yesterday I had an appointment that required the best suit and tie. I have a great pair of brogues from Marks & Spencer that look the part and are usually comfortable. Yet with ice on the ground and a windchill of 14F the cold soon penetrated the thin soles into the bones in my feet. It was not until the evening that I finally thawed out my tootsies.
Which leads me onto an observation, before coming to America, I thought that American clothing seemed heavy and cumbersome, big boots, hooded tops, thick jumpers etc. I now know why, it is because they are functional. I could not survive the winters here in the US with my UK winter wardrobe, and I would be far to hot in the summer in the US in I dressed as I would in my UK garb. This Christmas among many wonderful gifts, I was given a pair of urban "boots" with thick soles that combat the current snow and icy conditions without hesitation, somehow a pair of wellies would not do the job. To look at these boots in the UK you would have thought I was to tackle Mt. Snowdon (again), or walk the Pennine Way. In these boots I am sure I could. But walking through St. Albans market or down Darkes Lane, local residents would probably consider the thick soles over the top.
Given the lesson learned yesterday, the brogues are staying in the closet until the ice and snow has gone.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
January 06, 2003
Contary to reports suggesting the worse within hours of the new year, now that a rescue vessel has reached the remote islands ravaged by a cyclone there is good news to report around the world.
The 1,300 islanders followed ancient trails to high ground after learning of the storm's approach on their one solar-powered radio. Islanders took off in the dark with whatever they had on as the huge waves came in and the wind started blowing stronger and stronger leaving everything behind.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
The children's hospital could lose heavily in the battle over an unauthorized version of JM Barrie's tale.
Severin Carrell writing for the Independent this week brought to my attention a news story with great personal significance.
Even the battles in Neverland between Peter Pan and his arch-rival Captain Hook were never quite this nasty. In a court in far off San Francisco, Britain's most famous children's hospital is fighting one of the world's leading law schools for control over the Land of Everlasting Youth. At stake are the lucrative rights owned by Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to royalties from Peter Pan under a secretive bequest to the hospital by his creator, the Scottish author Sir James Barrie. The hospital's copyright, which came into force on his death in 1937 and still covers Europe and the United States, is being challenged in a Californian court by Emily Somma, a little-known Canadian author from Hamilton, Ontario.
Ms Somma, 54, who lived in Northolt, west London, as a child, has written a revisionist up-dating of the Peter Pan tale through an obscure publisher called Daisy Books. To the hospital's distaste, After the Rain – A New Adventure for Peter Pan portrays Neverland as a trap from which Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are rescued by three new child heroes. In her story, Peter Pan is allowed to grow up into happy adulthood.
Great Ormond Street refused Ms Somma permission to use the Peter Pan character or publish her book in Britain and the US last September. But Ms Somma is to release a sequel this year which charts his life in the world of adults: Peter's First Christmas.
The hospital has previously taken successful legal action to protect its copyright, but this case may be different. It could have very expensive consequences for its £12m-a-year fundraising efforts.
Barrie, who lived near Great Ormond Street, made his bequest in 1927, as a gift to the nation's children. But he barred the hospital from disclosing how much it earns from Peter Pan.
Ms Somma's case has been taken up for free by Professor Elizabeth Rader from Stanford Law School, California, who specialises in battles against corporations such as Disney and Microsoft, claiming that they abuse the copyright system to crush creative and intellectual freedom.
With a small team of lawyers and students based at the law school's Center for Internet and Society, Professor Rader claims that Peter Pan is now public property and that Ms Somma's book is a wholly-new creation. The legal case is further complicated by Disney's ownership of the animation rights to Peter Pan and the copyright of its own cartoon images.
In her writ, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, Professor Rader claims that the hospital only has copyright over Barrie's original 1904 play, not his later, out-of-copyright, Peter Pan books or the individual characters. "These original stories are in the public domain, and free for anyone to build on," her team argues.
Ms Somma says the hospital will regret its decision to reject her offer last year of a share of the royalties from her book. "They face loss of ownership, so it seems to me that it would be to their advantage to rethink their earlier decision," she said.
The hospital is confident about its legal case, and describes her book, which has only sold 1,000 copies, as an "irritant". Yet it admits the stakes are high. If she wins, large corporations could follow her lead and cash in.
"If someone comes along and says 'I'm going to breach your copyright a little bit', what happens if someone enormous with good lawyers comes along – what do we do?" asked a hospital spokesman.
At the time of the bequest in 1927, there was speculation it would reap £2,000 a year. When Steven Spielberg's hospital-sanctioned remake Hook was released in 1992, it reputedly earned £700,000.
Similar sums are expected when the first Peter Pan film with a human cast is released this Christmas. The Columbia Tristar production is being filmed in Australia and includes Richard Briers as Hook's sidekick Smee and Lynn Redgrave as a new character, Wendy's aunt.
The hospital's fears are shared by Barrie's only surviving god-child, Laura Duguid, now in her 70s. The daughter of one of the "lost boys" who inspired Peter Pan, Nico Llewellyn Davies, Ms Duguid said: "If it's a legal battle, then I would have to support Great Ormond Street, even if I thought people should have the freedom to publish what they want. It has gone beyond that now."
I am one of the GOSH kids, all grown up, now. Many years ago when Great Ormond Street launched the Wishing Well Appeal, I believed I had a moral responsibility to give something back to the hospital who had at one time did so much for me. I developed the Wishing Well Tour to Pendine Sands in South Wales.
On reading the story this week, my first reaction is what can I do this time to help. Until the verdict is played out in a courtroom thousands of miles from London, I am patiently waiting. The rights to Peter Pan, is beyond a legacy to the hospital, it is beyond a precious jewel in their fundraising. The foresight of James Barrie has allowed to a greater part for the hospital to develop pediatric medicine to the degree that the name Great Ormond Street is sin ominous with the title of best children’s hospital in the world.
Sadly, the argument used in the writ is under normal circumstances not without legal foundation. However, the specific issue over the rights to Peter Pan has been given special dispensation and this fact alone may be the fulcrum point that falls in favor of the Hospital. I certainly hope so.
Certainly this story has been given coverage by the main US on-line news systems and has also appeared in the fan-based web page realm. The legal process has only crossed the starting line, there is it would seem a long way to go before any outcome is reached. However, one would have thought that the film studios who have recently produced "Pan" films would have acted on the copyright issue previously if there was a substantial saving to be made in the production costs. The fact that the publish written word has generated this action is interesting. Further that a potential "legal trouble-maker" has offered their services to represent the author is also interesting. One wonders what their motive behind this action is. Should they be sucessful, and I do hope they are not, I wonder if Professor Rader will sleep soundly in her bed at night? I can understand taking task on companies like Microsoft and Disney, but a National Childrens Hospital. The writ dated this close to the Christmas season, perhaps, just perhaps we have identified the Grinch who's heart is two sizes to small.
I shall continue to keep a watching brief on this news story.
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January 04, 2003
Waltham Abbey Axe Attack & BBCtv Tommorows World axed.
The common wording of the two topics this weekend posting is “axe” although the attack in Waltham Abbey sickens me, the BBCtv axing an established science and technology program is simply saddens me.
Waltham Abbey Axe Attack
The BBC have the following links
Two people were injured and a third left in shock by an axeman who then ran amok inside a historic abbey. A 62-year-old man was taken to hospital with serious lacerations after the attacker - armed with two small axes or hatchets - went on the rampage in Waltham Abbey, Essex. He then burst into the historic Abbey and used the weapons to damage the pulpit, organ, statues and at least one historic stained glass window. A 47-year-old local man was arrested in the abbey in connection with the attack and taken for questioning.
I know Waltham Abbey, Essex very well, two of our dearest friends married in the Abbey so viciously attacked yesterday. To walk through the narrow streets surrounding the Abbey, such as historic Sun Street is in itself a step back in time.
I have driven past the Abbey church on many occasions the structure that exists today, a shadow of the former Abbey building on the site, still impresses. Although I have only been inside the abbey on one occasion, a very happy occasion the wedding blessing for Gary and Nikki. Yet somehow after watching the BBC television report on the web, and being able to associate this with somewhere that is to a degree close to my heart is troublesome. In a world where violent acts against property are not the rarity they should be, an attack against the church, a sanctuary, is morally wrong. Watching the small chippings of the monuments and alter figures carefully being bagged up to help in some small way with the restoration project that will surely follow is deeply saddening. Yet I cannot shake very easily that something that means something to me personally has been violated in such a brazen manner.
After Durham and Norwich Cathedrals, Waltham Abbey has the finest and most extensive range of Norman architecture in England. The eastern end of the original Abbey has long since been destroyed, along with the monastic buildings to its north. This space has been replaced by gardens and lawns from which bits of old masonry protrude. The site of the former chancel, to the east of the abbey, is sacred ground to English traditionalists who still resent the imposition of the "Norman yoke," for somewhere there (the exact site is no longer known) Harold, the last king of Saxon England, was buried after his defeat and death at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
Waltham Abbey was one of the last to be dissolved by Henry VIII. Most of it was pulled down in 1540. Only the nave was left to serve as the parish church. The original tower to its east fell down in 1552, and a new one, in checkered stone, was built at the west end, supporting the rest of the building which was in danger of collapse.
BBCtvTomorrows World “Axed”.
In my childhood years Thursday night on the BBC meant two programs, Top of the Pops, and Tomorrows World, the BBC flagship program for science and technology breakthroughs. I was further saddened today to hear that after 38 years after declining viewing figures the BBC is pulling the plug.
The years I watched were seemingly the “golden years” with a line up of presenters that included Raymond Baxter, who today questioned the BBC's decision. I am in awe of this gentleman for two reasons, firstly he and his TW team in the 60’s and 70’s are responsible for my interest in science, during the time of the developing space race, and much of the technology we simply accept as always having been around.
Secondly, I had the pleasure of attending a Goodwood Festival of Speed some years ago where during a break in the hillclimb came the dolcide tones of Raymond Baxter over the PA system as the WW2 planes thrilled us with low altitude aerobatics. As I looked over my right shoulder there was Mr. Baxter standing not ten feet from me commentating on the display without the aid of any notes. Subsequently I discovered he was a pilot in Spitfires during the war and had more than a deep understanding of the planes and their capabilities. To watch this man execute his craft of broadcasting first hand was by far one of the greatest thrills I have had witnessed at Goodwood. My wife would say meeting Pierce Brosnan a couple of years later, but that is a different story.
Of the many “inventions” covered on this program, the introduction of the debit card and ATM machine in the late 60’s. We all carry them and use them today, but at the time the suggestion of using a piece of plastic to debit from your bank accounts and avoid the necessity of carrying cash seemed far fetched. One other was the introduction by Sir Clive Sinclair was the “C5”, sadly despite huge publicity failed to capture the public imagination.
For some reason I actually attended one of the public days following the launch of the C5 at Alexandra Palace. The concept as with many of Sir Clives inventions was ahead of its time, yet no thanks to the media (again), the C5 was belittled to the point very few were actually manufactured and today a few can found for sale on e-bay for interested collectors.
Eagled eyed readers will have noticed that I have changed the subtitle of London Chimes and removed the reference of myself as an ex-pat. Using the correct definition of the term I am one, but living in the USA, where English is the first language in many of the "processes" of life are to some degree based upon, similar to or have been adopted over the years by Great Britain. I do not feel as much of an ex-pat as those who may have moved to Spain for instance.
Following a conversation with my sister in law this week, I thought myself to be a hypocrite to label myseslf in this manner when I truly do not consider myself to be one in the USA.
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January 03, 2003
American readers will be very interested to hear that steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center will be used to build the Navy’s new USS New York.
Credit for this news buzz from Lionel Mandrake, the Group Captain himself, link here
Who incidently has some rather fetching photographs of a combat helicopter with one of the most intricate paint jobs I have ever seen. Link here
Nevertheless, from a report that was posted on December 25 by Associated Press, the steel from the WTC will be used subject to specifications, to configure the edge of the bow that cuts through the water.The artist impression on the Group Captains site mentally make a link to the twin towers of the WTC. The new USS New York is planned to enter naval service in 2007. A pity that the building program is not so advanced that the vessel could enter service today to provide a cutting comment to those overseas who caused harm to the innocent thousands on 9/11.New York Governor George Paraki most eloquently put it that “We’re very proud that the twisted steel from the WTC towers will soon be used to forge an even strong national defense, the USS New York will soon be defending freedom and combatting terrorism around the globe, while also ensuring that the world never forgets the evil attacks of Sept. 11 and the courage and strength New Yorkers showed in response to terror.” It is interesting that New York state officials needed to get special authorization from Navy Secretary Gordon England to name the vessel the USS New York. Something I was not aware was that currently, only submarines are named after states. Similar to the Royal Navy, the US Navy have a tradition of carrying on the names of vessels. The most recent USS New York was a battleship, commissioned in 1914. The lady saw active combat in both European and Pacific Waters in WW2
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January 02, 2003
Standing not 2 blocks from the first waves hitting the sandy beach of Jersey shoreline Taney & I toasted in the new-year with friends and champers.
A “happy” new year, can be to many people like a white Christmas, the longing for one each year is hit with the reality of weather systems that make a white Christmas something of a rarity. For the first minutes of the New Year, everyone wishes everyone else well, good health and good fortune, but before the first few bars of “auld-Lang” have finished echoing happiness gives way to reality.
Without wishing to cast doom and gloom on the New Year, while we all may look forward to a happy year, indications are that it will be far from that. Iraq and North Korea are set to complicate “happiness” and if there is a debt to be paid for the “happier” new years in past decades, then this could well be the year the debt is to be paid.
In a conversation yesterday we were discussing the virtues of the sprits of nations around the world, and how in over a year perceptions are changing. Perceptions are not to be confused with stereo-types as from first hand experience, the stero-typical, Britain, American, Australian, Frenchmen, German, does not exist and despite media brainwashing to the contrary my first hand experience has taught me that personal judgments on stereotyping is not simply wrong but deeply insulting. I digress.
Perceptions have changed in the spirit of the west, to be proud of your country and be a part of your country adds to the overall return to values that have long since been diluted by time and current fashions. This is a good thing, for the road ahead through 2003 and possibly for longer will require a return to the values that steeled a generation during World War 2. I am not suggesting for one moment that what lays ahead will be anything like WW2, as the circumstances as so far removed from that period, I have difficulty even starting to reconcile the suggestion.
Yet potholes line the route ahead, if a diversion from the route is to be followed, then it is not Presidents or Prime Ministers, Governments the military or the media who will steel this generation, but the people, each and every one of us.
The first blogger?
Thanks to Phil Gyford, he has created a blog that is of historical interest to anyone remotely interested in the Samuel Pepys’ diary written in London.
For nearly 10 years from 1660 Pepys wrote about his experiences day by day: his own intriguing private life, his professional rise through the ranks and important events of the day such as The Great Fire and the Plague. This journal of both large and small scale events often happens in public view today, on web logs. Known as blogs, a few years ago these sites were the sole domain of web geeks but now an ever-increasing number cover thousands of topics. Pepys' diary could make a great web log. The published diary takes the form of nine hefty volumes - a daunting prospect. Reading it day by day on a website would be far more manageable, with the real-time aspect making it a more involving experience.
Recent history, the Public Records Office annual opening of “30-year rule” records.
The Public Records Office in the UK has by law opened its books to the public this new year on government issues that have until now been considered classified information. This annual event certainly seems low-key compared with the usual media scrum of attention that suggests either.
The information released is not that interesting, or much has been sealed for release in later years. Using pure speculation I would possibly suggest the latter as at the time Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath and his government were in power and much of the headlines at the time related to the current events in Northern Ireland. Of the few papers of note that have been opened to the public, what happened when Gerry Adams and other republican leaders met the government in 1972? I considered to be of interest.
The following text is taken from the BBC report, with direct references from the PRO papers.
Despite protestations to the contrary over the years, the British Government constantly maintained open channels with the IRA during the worst of the Troubles. The first major meeting of 1972 when an IRA delegation including Gerry Adams was flown into London is among the most well known. But documents released under the 30-year-rule reveal for the first time the details of official reaction at the time - and confirm that Mr Adams had an earlier longer meeting with two officials which had given the government hope of a breakthrough amid conflict. Officially, there was no chance either wing of the IRA would be allowed into proposed multi-party talks, on the table during the violence of 1972. But in secret, MI6 persued contacts with the IRA as part of attempts to see if they could be persuaded into a ceasefire. These secret contacts, also conducted through leading members of the nationalist SDLP, began to bear fruit. On 18 June, Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw met SDLP MPs John Hume and Paddy Devlin who said they believed the IRA was willing to talk if the government released Gerry Adams, the 23-year-old republican activist held under internment. Viscount Whitelaw agreed and the meeting was on. According to the papers, the historic meeting took place at the home of Colonel MW McCorkell at Ballyarnett, near the border with Donegal.
Representing the government was Frank Steele, described in the papers as a government official but known to be an MI6 agent, and Philip John Woodfield of the Northern Ireland Office. Representing the IRA were Daithi O Conaill (described as David O'Connell in the papers) a senior republican strategist, and Gerry Adams According to his own account, Mr Woodfield opened the meeting by setting out what the government believed to be the IRA's terms for a ceasefire:
· Political status for internees
· An end of "harassment" of republicans by security forces
· A meeting with the Secretary of State once the ceasefire was in place
While he refused to offer political status, Viscount Whitelaw was prepared to suspend arrests of republicans and searches of homes. On the question of a meeting, Mr Woodfield said: "I said the answer was yes - but the Secretary of State must first be satisfied that the ceasefire was effective.
"There was a good deal of haggling over the time of a genuine ceasefire. Eventually we settled on 10 days, the minimum which the Secretary of State had authorised." According to his notes, Mr Woodfield and Frank Steele had agreed beforehand to try and have a "normal conversation". It was a strategy which seems to have helped the meeting last for almost four hours. "There is no doubt whatever that these two at least genuinely want a ceasefire and a permanent end to violence," wrote Mr Woodfield.
"Whatever pressures have brought them to this frame of mind, there is also little doubt that now the prospect of peace is there, they have a strong personal incentive to try and get it. "They let drop several remarks that the life of the Provisional IRA man on the run is not a pleasant one." Mr Woodfield said the appearance and manner of the men was "respectable and respectful". "They easily referred to Mr Whitelaw as the 'Secretary of State' and they addressed me from time to time as 'Sir'," he wrote. "They made no bombastic defence of their past and made no attacks on the British Government. "Their response to every argument was reasonable and moderate. "Their behaviour and attitude appeared to bear no relation to the indiscriminate campaigns of bombing and shooting in which they have both been prominent leaders." On 26 June, the IRA called a "bilateral truce" and talks followed on 7 July 1972.
Arriving at the secret meeting at Cheyne Walk in London were Sean Mac Stiofain, the then IRA chief of staff, Daithi O Conaill, Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, Seamus Twomey and Ivor Bell.
The well documented meeting was a disaster. Sean Mac Stiofain effectively demanded the withdrawal of British security forces and the right for "Irish self determination", the end of Northern Ireland as the IRA saw it, within a few years. "Mr Mac Stiofain was very much in charge," reveals the prime ministerial briefing. "He made it clear that the crucial item was the declaration of intent. If that was got right, the rest would follow. So it was only worth talking about that." Viscount Whitelaw said the demands could not be met because they breached his obligations to act in accordance to the will of the people of Northern Ireland. "The IRA leaders said the commitment should never have been given," records the paper. "What had been enacted by Parliament could be repealed by Parliament." While there had been optimism after the first meeting, there was now a sense of failure. "The Secretary of State admitted to being emotionally exhausted by the afternoon's work," the papers recall. "He was clearly depressed at the outcome of the meeting and found the experience of meeting and talking to Mr Mac Stiofain very unpleasant."
A tragic loss of life at the start of 2003.
3,700 feared Dead in Eastern Solomon Islands in Wake of Cyclone
One might ask what can we do?
There is still no word Thursday on casualties on the two islets in the Solomon Islands chain. An Australian survey plane flying 1,500 above the two volcanic outcrops brought back the first images of the damage, but communications have been cut and there are no landing strips on the islands. Packing winds up to 225 mph, Cyclone Zoe hit the tiny islands of Tikopia and Anuta, said to have a population of about 3,700 people, on Sunday.
An Australian air force C-130 Hercules with officials from the government's aid agency AusAid flew over the islets Wednesday to survey the damage. Judith MacDonald, a New Zealand anthropologist who used to live on Tikopia and who saw photos from the flight, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that at least 15 villages had been washed away. "The damage is tremendously severe and (the villagers') chances of surviving will be pretty bad," MacDonald said. She did not indicate how many people might have lived in the villages. New Zealand cameraman Geoff Mackley, who flew over the more populous island of Tikopia on Wednesday in a chartered plane, said "almost every building has been damaged, a few remain intact, while others have been shredded, and the sea has come through some villages, burying them." A disaster relief boat with food, water and medical supplies had been delayed for days from leaving the Solomons capital, Honiara, because the government didn't have money to pay for it.
After donations from Australia and New Zealand, the relief boat was scheduled to leave Thursday night, Brian Beti, of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office. New Zealand media reported the boat did set sail, but there was no immediate confirmation from Honiara. The boat was expected to take two or three days to reach the islands, 620 miles west of the capital, officials said. The two islands have a population of 3,700 people, AusAid assistant director-general Alan March said. One photo from the Australian flight showed a beach littered with fragments of huts visible among palm trees with trunks half-buried in sand. One hut was reduced to its branch frame. It was impossible to tell from the photo — in which no people were visible — how many huts had been destroyed. Another photo showed a collection of about two dozen huts surrounded by a flattened jungle, with palm trees shattered and uprooted. The roofs of several huts were stripped to the frames.
Small groups of villagers are visible in the photos looking at the destruction. Assessment of the damage from the aerial photos varied widely, and some officials who saw them were more optimistic. March said there had been extensive damage to crops and traditional houses built of leaves and branches. But some residents appeared to be "going about their business including fishing in the lagoon," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Thursday. "On Anuta in particular a number of houses, somewhere between 20 and 25, had been rebuilt," he said.
Australia has given $28,000 to buy food and radio equipment to go on the emergency boat from Honiara, which has been delayed because the cash-strapped Solomon Islands government could not pay for food and other supplies. New Zealand is pitching in $36,600 for the aid mission.
The Solomon Islands is a chain of 80 equatorial islands 1,400 miles northeast of Sydney.
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