Daily Archives: June 26, 2008

Mugabe Is Kicked Out Of The Order of Bath

Sky News | Jun 26, 2008

By Alastair Bruce

The Queen, acting on the advice of her Foreign Secretary David Miliband, has “degraded” Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe from his appointment as an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (Civil Division).

This was done as a “mark of revulsion” at the way this increasingly un-civil ruler has shown “abject disregard for the democratic process” in his country.

The term “stripped of his knighthood” is more apt today, but in mediaeval times a ceremony of Degrading would have been staged to remove a knight from an order of chivalry.

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see the Bath King of Arms and the order’s genealogist casting down Mugabe’s banner, stall plate, helmet, sword and crest from the Chapel of the Bath, in Westminster Abbey, then kicking them all the way out of the building and into the nearest gutter.

When this was the practice, it was generally a precursor to the headman’s axe.

However, Mugabe’s name will now be physically removed from the Register of the Order of the Bath.

The last person stripped of the Bath was Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. The axe did not follow for him but a Romanian bullet did – just four days later.

Mugabe was given the honour once awarded to Nelson and Wellington by the Queen on May 17, 1994, when she was advised to invite him on a state visit to the UK by the Prime Minister, John Major.

She presented him with a black box containing the insignia of the Bath, which consisted of an eight-pointed flaming silver breast star, a crimson sash and a gold oval badge with the order’s motto, “Tria Juncta In Uno”. This refers to the three kingdoms of England (including Wales), Scotland and Ireland joined in one.

The tradition of honouring visiting heads of state is an old one. Henry VIII made the visiting Holy Roman Emperor a Knight of the Garter and was given the Golden Fleece in return. Only monarchs get the Garter now but Presidents get the Bath.

The Order of the Bath was founded in 1399 and revived in 1725. The name comes from the symbolic act of washing by new knights in the 14th Century. Washing was rare then. After soaking in a bath they were led dripping wet to a bed and covered in cloth to soak away impurity before symbolically washing their souls with prayer.

Related Info

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath  Companion of the Bath

Motto “Tria juncta in uno”

Three Joined in One

Order of the Bath

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (formerly The Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath)[1] is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on May 18, 1725.[2] The name derives from the medieval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing (as a symbol of purification) as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath.[3] George I “erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order”.[4] He did not (as is often stated) revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.[5][6]

High court affirms gun rights in historic decision

Associated Press | Jun 26, 2008

By MARK SHERMAN

WASHINGTON – Silent on central questions of gun control for two centuries, the Supreme Court found its voice Thursday in a decision affirming the right to have guns for self-defense in the home and addressing a constitutional riddle almost as old as the republic over what it means to say the people may keep and bear arms.

The court’s 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns and imperiled similar prohibitions in other cities, Chicago and San Francisco among them. Federal gun restrictions, however, were expected to remain largely intact.

The court’s historic awakening on the meaning of the Second Amendment brought a curiously mixed response, muted in some unexpected places.

The reaction broke less along party lines than along the divide between cities wracked with gun violence and rural areas where gun ownership is embedded in daily life. Democrats have all but abandoned their long push for stricter gun laws at the national level after deciding it’s a losing issue for them. Republicans welcomed what they called a powerful precedent.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said merely that the court did not find an unfettered right to bear arms and that the ruling “will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.” But another Chicagoan, Democratic Mayor Richard Daley, called the ruling “very frightening” and predicted more violence and higher taxes to pay for extra police if his city’s gun restrictions are lost.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia, a once-vital, now-archaic grouping of citizens. That’s been the heart of the gun control debate for decades.

The answer: Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms exists and is supported by “the historical narrative” both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

President Bush said: “I applaud the Supreme Court’s historic decision today confirming what has always been clear in the Constitution: the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear firearms.”

The full implications of the decision, however, are not sorted out. Still to be seen, for example, is the extent to which the right to have a gun for protection in the home may extend outside the home.

Scalia said the Constitution does not permit “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.” The court also struck down D.C. requirements that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns. The district allows shotguns and rifles to be kept in homes if they are registered, kept unloaded and taken apart or equipped with trigger locks.

Scalia noted that the handgun is Americans’ preferred weapon of self-defense in part because “it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”

But he said nothing in the ruling should “cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”

And in a concluding paragraph to the 64-page opinion, Scalia said the justices in the majority “are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country” and believe the Constitution “leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns.”

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty responded with a plan to require residents to register their handguns. “More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence,” Fenty said.

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority “would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.”

He said such evidence “is nowhere to be found.”

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, “In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas.”

Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

Gun rights advocates praised the decision. “I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of this freedom,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA will file lawsuits in San Francisco, Chicago and several Chicago suburbs challenging handgun restrictions there based on Thursday’s outcome.

Some Democrats also welcomed the ruling.

“This opinion should usher in a new era in which the constitutionality of government regulations of firearms are reviewed against the backdrop of this important right,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

The capital’s gun law was among the nation’s strictest.

Dick Anthony Heller, 66, an armed security guard, sued the district after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his Capitol Hill home a short distance from the Supreme Court.

“I’m thrilled I am now able to defend myself and my household in my home,” Heller said shortly after the opinion was announced.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Heller’s favor and struck down the district’s handgun ban, saying the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to own guns and a total prohibition on handguns is not compatible with that right.

The issue caused a split within the Bush administration. Vice President Dick Cheney supported the appeals court ruling, but others in the administration feared it could lead to the undoing of other gun regulations, including a federal law restricting sales of machine guns. Other laws keep felons from buying guns and provide for an instant background check.

The last Supreme Court ruling on the matter came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. Constitutional scholars agree it did not squarely answer the question of individual versus collective rights.

Top Chinese communist visits Fidel Castro

Cuba’s President Raul Castro, right, jokes with He Guoqiang, member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Permanent Polit Buro, during a meeting in Havana, June 23, 2008. Raul Castro, who replaced the ailing 81-year-old Fidel in February, is said to admire China’s blend of iron-fisted authoritarian political control with a free-market economy.

AP | Jun 25, 2008

By ANITA SNOW

HAVANA (AP) — Former president Fidel Castro stressed on Tuesday the “importance” of Chinese socialism during a visit by a top official from China’s Communist Party.

Castro “underscored the advances of the Chinese people and the importance of socialism with Chinese characteristics” during a two-hour meeting with Politburo member He Guoqiang, according to Cuba’s International Press Center.

His comment on China is certain to spark debate by Cuba watchers at a time of uncertainty about the communist island’s future under Castro’s brother Raul.

Raul Castro, who replaced the ailing 81-year-old Fidel in February, is said to admire China’s blend of authoritarian political control with a free-market economy.

But several Cuban officials have rejected speculation that Cuba will adopt the Chinese model, insisting that the island will follow its own path.

The Cuban government tightly controls the economy in a more strict communist model. But the Cuban economy has suffered, and many Cubans feel strapped by controls that include food rations and government salaries of about $19 a month.

The elder Castro’s meeting with the Chinese leader was the latest in a series of recent encounters with visiting dignitaries. The revolutionary leader also has written more essays — including three over the weekend — in a sign that his health may be improving.

Fidel Castro’s exact medical ailment and condition have remained state secrets since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in late July 2006. He has not appeared in public since.

Nepal PM quits, clearing way for Maoists to take power

Maoist chieftain Prachanda (“The Fierce One”), is getting ready to become the new ruler over Nepal

Reuters | Jun 26, 2008

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU, June 26 (Reuters) – Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned on Thursday, clearing the way for former Maoist rebels to form a new government after their surprise election win two months ago.

Koirala’s move came after criticism from the Maoists that the veteran politician was unwilling to hand power to them even after his party lost the elections for a constituent assembly held in April.

“I announce in this house that I have abandoned the post of the prime minister,” Koirala said in an address to a special assembly in Kathmandu.

The Maoists welcomed the move.

“His announcement is positive,” Maoist chief Prachanda, who is tipped to become the new prime minister, told reporters.

Koirala, 83, became prime minister in April 2006 after weeks of street protests forced then King Gyanendra to end his brief absolute rule and hand power to political parties.

That prompted the Maoists to declare a cease fire and join a peace process with the government.

Although Koirala, chief architect of a 2006 peace deal that brought the Maoists from jungles to the corridors of power, has been elected to the special assembly it is unclear what position he will hold under the new government led by the Maoists.

Some analysts say Koirala was negotiating with the Maoists to become president, a ceremonial position, after the country abolished its 239-year-old monarchy and turned into a republic.

But the Maoists have refused any such role for Koirala.

“It basically shows that he lost in the power struggle with the Maoists who flatly refused to accept him as president,” said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly.

Koirala’s centrist Nepali Congress party, which is the second biggest group in the assembly, says deputies will sit in the opposition in the assembly meant to prepare a new constitution after the abolition of the monarchy. The body will also double as an interim parliament for at least two years.

The Maoists won 220 seats in the 601-member assembly to become the biggest group but are still negotiating with other political parties to form the government.

Party officials said the Maoists were expected to form a new government next week, after the election of the country’s first president by the assembly.

On Thursday, dozens of deputies representing the ethnic Madhesis from the country’s southern plains protested briefly, demanding changes in the interim constitution to include a provision for regional autonomy and more say in the government.

Scores of people were killed last year in ethnic protests and in clashes with rebel groups in the region which is impoverished Nepal’s food basket and business hub bordering India.

Diseases Plaguing Poorer Nations Infect Growing Numbers in U.S.

Bloomberg | Jun 24, 2008

By John Lauerman and Rob Waters

June 24 (Bloomberg) — Preventable diseases commonly seen among impoverished people in Africa, Asia and Latin America are infecting millions of U.S. residents, mostly poor women and children, researchers found.

Chronic infections such as Chagas disease and dengue fever are a major cause of disability, impaired child development, and pregnancy complications in the U.S., said Peter Hotez, author of the study released by the Public Library of Science’s journal Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Parasitic conditions including roundworm and toxoplasmosis, along with tropical bacteria are widespread in many inner cities, the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, and the Mexican borderlands, the study said. Improved recognition, screening and treatment of the diseases are needed to reduce the impact on patients, who are often poor and less educated, Hotez said.

“If these diseases were hitting wealthy people in the suburbs, we would never tolerate it,” said Hotez, chairman of microbiology at the George Washington University in Washington, yesterday in a telephone interview. “We need to make the names of these diseases household words.”

Even before Hurricane Katrina drove thousands from their homes in Louisiana in 2005, poverty and lack of access to health care contributed to high rates of roundworm and other parasites, the study said. Prolonged flooding has paved the way for increased rates of Chagas, a parasite that can cause lethal heart and intestinal complications, according to the researchers.

Red Cross Recommendation

An American Red Cross researcher called in October for screening of all donated blood for signs of the parasite that causes Chagas disease, which may be found in as many as one in 25,000 blood donors in the U.S., and kills as many as one third of patients. The disease can lurk undetected in infected people for as long as 20 years.

Hotez’s study is a wake-up call to state, local and U.S. health officials that more needs to be done about tropical diseases in the U.S., said Mary Wilson, a Harvard School of Public Health associate professor.

“Most people are completely unaware that many of these diseases still exist in the U.S.,” she said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Even for health professionals who work in major cities, this is below the radar screen.”

Infectious diseases can be difficult to track in poor populations, particularly when immigration is involved, said Elias Bermudez, chief executive officer of Immigrants Without Borders, an advocacy group in Phoenix.

Immigrants

“Communicable diseases are not reported by poor people,” especially undocumented immigrants, he said yesterday in a telephone interview. “With the anti-immigrant atmosphere that exists now in Arizona, people are afraid to go to medical clinics and hospitals, and that compounds the problem.”

Soil-dwelling microscopic worms, such as hookworms, penetrate the skin or gastrointestinal tract and infect billions of people throughout the tropical world, according to the World Health Organization in Geneva. The tiny parasites can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, anemia, and may affect mental function and physical growth, the United Nations health branch said on its Web site.

Millions of people in the U.S., most of them in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia, are likely to be infected with worms, Hotez said. In 2000, researchers estimated that 169,000 homes in Appalachia had no indoor plumbing, and in some of the region’s counties, 25 percent of homes lack complete plumbing, the study said. The report cited another 2000 study showing that about 36 percent of Mississippi Delta blacks then lived below the poverty line.

Study, Drugs Needed

More study is needed of which populations are most vulnerable, how worms are transmitted and how to diagnose them, Hotez said.

“We need to take a better look at which interventions are possible,” he said. “The approach to worms is more systematic in Honduras than it is in the U.S.”

New drugs also are needed to treat dengue fever, a mosquito- borne disease frequently found along the U.S.-Mexico border, he said. Better drugs and diagnostics also are needed for parasitic leishmaniaisis, a skin infection that can affect internal organs, he said.

The U.S. is spending billions to find treatments for anthrax, avian flu, and smallpox, diseases that affect few or no one, Hotez said. More resources should be spent on finding new treatments for tropical diseases that sicken millions annually, he said.

“Here we have real suffering, real diseases among the poorest people living in the U.S.,” he said.

Many tropical diseases could be alleviated just by addressing the poverty of people that suffer from them, said Harvard’s Wilson.

“For a lot of these diseases, basic biomedical research is not going to provide the answers,” she said. “We have to alleviate poverty and social inequities, and provide better education for people living in conditions that contribute to disease.”

Be quiet: the surveillance cameras might hear you

Ars Technica | Jun 24, 2008

By Jonathan M. Gitlin

Although crime statistics point to the fact that law-and-order issues are actually less of a problem now than in the past, the general public’s perception remains one convinced that muggery and thievery hides behind every street corner. Politicans and the media stoke these fears, and we get hastily made laws and policies enacted as a result. Over in the UK, the trend over the past two decades has been to abrogate day-to-day policing of the streets to an army of CCTV cameras. Soon, if scientists have their way, the cameras will be able to train their focus on suspicious sounds automatically with new AI technology.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the UK are working on refining AI software that currently allows the cameras to identify visual patterns associated with law-breaking. The plan is to add an audio capability, so that the noise of breaking glass (for example) would cause the camera to take notice and alert an operator. Eventually it is hoped that the AI software would be even more sensitive, according to Dr David Brown, one of the researchers, speaking to the BBC: “Later versions will get cleverer as time goes on, perhaps eventually being able to identify specific words being said or violent sounds.”

I’m not so sure I like the sound of that. We’ve already covered the ineffectual nature of CCTV cameras in crime fighting, and I’m just paranoid enough that I don’t like the idea of cameras that could pick up on target words and film people at will. Not that such concerns over civil liberties seem to be shared by the current UK government, whose 11 years in power have done a fine job of shedding the human rights credentials they wore so proudly during so many years in the wilderness of opposition.

Not that such fears are all that ill-founded; there are growing concerns that some local councils have been making inappropriate use of their CCTV systems. According to the BBC, local governments in the South of the UK have been taking advantage of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on their citizens for a host of reasons, including benefit fraud, dog fouling, and illegal taxi operations. It was even used by one overzealous local authority to monitor the movements of a family so the council could determine whether their children truly did live in the catchment area for their school.

Thankfully for us paranoid, pro-civil liberties types, Dr. Brown’s work is still only in the realm of academic research. The grant, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council—analogous to the NSF in the US—will run for three years. The successful implementation of such a system might prove quite popular with repressive or authoritarian regimes across the world though, since plastering the streets with such devices is even easier than employing an army of secret police to write things down about their neighbors. Brave new world indeed.

Global warming to spur more terrorism and illegal immigration

Report: Climate change linked to national security

Associated Press | Jun 25, 2008

By PAMELA HESS

WASHINGTON – Global warming probably will mean more illegal immigration and humanitarian disasters, undermining shaky governments and possibly expanding the terrorism threat against the U.S., intelligence agencies say.

“Logic suggests the conditions exacerbated (by climate change) would increase the pool of potential recruits for terrorism,” said Tom Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis.

Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia are most vulnerable to warming-related drought, flooding, extreme weather and hunger. The assessment warns of a global spillover from increased migration and water-related disputes, Fingar said in prepared remarks Wednesday to a joint hearing of a special House committee on global warming and a House Intelligence subcommittee.

Climate change alone would not topple governments, he said. But it could worsen problems such as poverty, disease, migration and hunger, creating conditions that could destabilize already vulnerable areas, Fingar said.

But he warned that efforts to reduce global warming by changing energy policies “may affect U.S. national security interests even more than the physical impacts of climate change itself.”

“The operative word there is ‘may,’ we don’t know,” Fingar said.

The assessment of global climate change through 2030 is one in a series of periodic intelligence reports that offer the consensus of top analysts at all 16 spy agencies on foreign policy, security and global economic issues. Congress requested the report last year. The assessment is classified as confidential.

It predicts that the United States and most of its allies will have the means to cope with climate change economically. Unspecified “regional partners” could face severe problems.

Fingar said the quality of the analysis is hampered by the fact that climate data tend not to focus on specific countries but on broad global changes. For that reason, the intelligence agencies have only low to moderate confidence in the assessment.

Africa is seen as among the most vulnerable regions. An expected increase in droughts there could cut agricultural yields of rain-dependent crops by up to half over the next 12 years.

Parts of Asia’s food crops are vulnerable to droughts and floods, with rice and grain crops potentially facing up to a 10 percent decline by 2025.

As many as 50 million additional people could face hunger by 2020. The water supply, while larger because of melting glaciers, will be under pressure from a growing population and increased consumption. Between 120 million and 1.2 billion people in Asia “will continue to experience some water stress.”

Latin America may experience increased precipitation, possibly cutting tens of millions of people from the ranks of those in need of water. But from 7 million to 77 million people could be short of water resources because of population growth.

Fingar’s statement strikes a considerably less ominous tone than a report issued a year ago by the Center for Naval Analyses.

Rep. Edward Markey, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, accused the White House of trying to “bury the future security realities of global warming” in Fingar’s prepared statement. Markey, D-Mass., received a briefing on the classified assessment, which he said is “first-class.”

Fingar said no one in the White House changed any of his public testimony.

The center’s report, by retired military leaders, drew a direct correlation between global warming and the conditions that lead failed states to become the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.

“Climate change will provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror,” said Adm. T. Joseph Lopez, who commanded U.S. and allied peacekeeping forces in Bosnia in 1996.

“Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin for survival, foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies,” the center’s report said. “The U.S. will be drawn more frequently into these situations,” according to the report, which drew on 11 retired generals and admirals.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the request for the intelligence agencies’ report was “a dangerous diversion of intelligence assets.” He said the issue should be studied by climate scientists, not intelligence agencies.

Republicans used the hearing to argue for domestic oil drilling and nuclear power to reduce reliance on foreign energy.

Americans migrate back to the cities

Americans flocked to the suburbs after WWII. Soaring energy prices and the sub-prime crisis are driving them back to the cities GETTY IMAGES

Telegraph | Jun 20, 2008

By Tom Leonard in New York

Americans are choosing to abandon the suburban sprawl in favour of a more comfortable, cheaper and greener life in the city centre.

The mass migration of America’s middle classes from urban areas to the suburbs amounted to a demographic revolution in the years after the Second World War.

But the so-called “driveable suburb” is becoming increasingly unfeasible as soaring fuel costs make a long commute too expensive for many.

Higher energy prices are also having a disproportionate impact on bigger homes, such as those found in the suburbs, as they inevitably cost much more to heat in winter and cool in America’s often fiercely hot summers.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis has accelerated this flight to the cities – experts have christened it New Urbanism – as property prices have particularly collapsed in more remote areas.

According to a poll for Reuters, about 10 per cent of Americans said they were considering moving closer to work while roughly the same percentage said they were thinking about getting a job closer to home.

John Zogby, a political pollster, said the findings added up to a “broad cultural change” which translated into millions of people considering a major transformation in their lives.

He said: “Low energy costs and the availability of autos helped fuel suburbanisation.”

But as people concluded that high energy prices were here to stay, “this is now one of those big changes in our lives that requires nothing short of dramatic lifestyle changes,” he said.

Even before the latest economic downturn, demand for urban living had been rekindled among two generations – the so-called “baby boomers” in their fifties and “millenials”, the latter born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s.

Both are already drifting away from the suburbs, the baby boomers because they want smaller homes and more accessible amenities, and the millenials to rebel against their cul-de-sac upbringing.

Transportation is now the second biggest household expense in the US after housing. Much of the new demand for city homes is in neighbourhoods close to light railway stations, hastening the move away from a car culture.

Some towns around cities have responded to this exodus by rejecting suburban status and working hard to reinvent their own centres.

Americans are not just reconsidering their living arrangements because of the latest economic downturn.

Nearly 39 per cent of those surveyed in the Reuters/Zogby poll said they were considering changing holiday plans, while 31 per cent plan fewer restaurant visits.

“Frankenstein” monster Mugabe stripped of his knighthood

They’ve created a monster: Robert Mugabe pictured with the Queen during his state visit to Britain in 1994, when he was awarded the honorary knighthood. Mugabe was made a Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Bath on the advice of John Major’s government.

Daily Mail | Jun 26, 2008

By Benedict Brogan

Robert Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood as a statement of ‘revulsion’ last night as Gordon Brown ordered tougher sanctions against his increasingly violent regime.

The Queen approved the rare step of removing the award, issued 14 years ago, to mark British anger at human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

With international outrage growing, Mugabe was condemned for terrorising the people of Zimbabwe by one of his former allies.

South African archbishop Desmond Tutu said: ‘He has mutated into something quite unbelievable. He has turned into a kind of Frankenstein for his people.’

And former South African president Nelson Mandela broke his silence over the situation in Zimbabwe, expressing ‘deep concern and sadness’, according to a source.

At the same time the England Cricket Board decided to scrap next year’s cricket tour and suspend relations with Zimbabwe.

The removal of Mugabe’s knighthood was authorised by the Prime Minister as a symbolic gesture following opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to pull out of Friday’s presidential election in the face of escalating violence.

Organised thugs from Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party have embarked on a reign of terror aimed at sealing their stolen victory over Mr Tsvangirai’s beleaguered MDC.

A statement from the Foreign Office said: ‘This action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided.’

The Government had been reluctant to hand Mugabe a propaganda coup in the election campaign by taking a step that would allow him to claim he was being victimised by his country’s former colonial masters.

But with his position now unopposed and worldwide condemnation growing by the day, the Queen agreed to make him only the second world leader after Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu to have an honour removed.

Ceaucescu lost his knighthood in 1989, the day before he and his wife were executed after being removed from power in a popular uprising.

Mugabe was made a Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Bath on the advice of John Major’s government during a state visit in 1994.

Leaders on such visits are routinely offered an honour by the Queen on the advice of the Foreign Office.

Mr Brown is in talks with other countries about tougher sanctions against Zimbabwe to mark international revulsion at the way Mugabe has trampled democracy in what was once one of Africa’s most successful countries.

In the Commons yesterday he called on other countries to help bar Zimbabwe from cricket’s Twenty 20 World Cup being hosted by England next year.

The ECB ban will apply to two Test matches and one-day fixtures planned for next year’s tour, but the International Cricket Council has to approve the team’s bar from the Twenty 20 series.

‘We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year,’ Mr Brown said at Prime Minister’s question time.

He said the whole world had woken up to the ‘evils’ of Mugabe’s ‘criminal cabal’. He called for a ‘peaceful transition’ government as soon as possible.

David Cameron urged Mr Brown to act against British companies with investments in Zimbabwe that could be propping up the regime.

But firms led by Tesco, Barclays and mining giant Anglo American defended their involvement as crucial to the people of Zimbabwe and their chances of rebuilding their economy if Mugabe goes.

Downing Street confirmed it was looking at ways of applying sanctions to the key figures around Mugabe who are orchestrating his terror campaign.

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Mother told baby’s bare bottom is pornographic

Telegraph | Jun 26, 2008

By Laura Clout

When Gail Jordan found an old photograph of her son as a bouncing baby, she thought it would make the perfect adornment for the top of his 21st birthday cake.

But staff at Asda, whom she asked to transfer the print, refused to help unless Miss Jordan agree to censor the picture, because it showed the child’s bare bottom.

They claimed that the photograph – which featured her son David as a five-month-old baby, and lying on his front – could be pornographic, and insisted on covering his backside with a strategically-placed star.

Miss Jordan, 41, said went to a branch of Asda in Liscard, Wirral, with the picture to take advantage of their £9.97 offer to ice a birthday cake with a photo printed on top.
The care worker said: “They said it could be anyone’s child so it could be deemed pornographic.

“But I was asking to have it printed on a 21st birthday cake, so surely it was pretty obvious that it was my son.

“It’s ridiculous – I understand they have rules, but there ought to be a place for common sense as well.”

“In the end they would only do it with a star over his bottom, which to be honest made the whole thing even more hilarious.”

A spokesman for Asda said: “We have a policy, as do many other retailers, of no nudity, whatever the age of the subject.

“In this case we offered a number of alternatives including enlarging and cropping the photo, increasing the border size or applying a strategically placed star to save his blushes.”