Monthly Archives: April 2011

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood eyeing big political role


Members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best organised movement, front row from right to left: Issam al-Aryan, Mohammad Marsi, Mahmud Hassan, Saad Al-Qatatin, take part in a press conference to announce the formation of a new party, the Freedom and Justice Party, to contest up to half of parliament’s seats in a September election. Getty Images

Eyeing big political role, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to contest half of parliament’s seats

Associated Press | Apr 30, 2011

CAIRO — The once outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said Saturday its new political party will contest half of the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections in September, revealing plans to become a major force in the country’s post-revolution politics.

Egypt’s largest Islamic group and the best organized opposition movement during ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of autocratic rule sought to ease concerns that it is intent on bringing about an Islamist-dominated parliament.

“This is not a religious party, not a theocratic party,” its newly named leader, Mahmoud Mosri, told reporters Saturday. He described the platform of his Freedom and Justice party as civil but with an Islamic background that adheres to the constitution.

The popular uprising that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11 was driven by broad swaths of Egyptian society, and secular-minded youth activists, in particular, watched with concern as Brotherhood supporters joined the revolution once it was clear it had momentum.

They fear it will forge alliances with other Islamic groups, like ultraconservative Salafists, to dominate parliament and impose Islamic Sharia law in all aspects of life, limiting freedom of expression and dubbing their opponents infidels.

The new party will test to what extent the Brotherhood is willing to moderate its rigid religious discourse to try to win broader political support.

It is well positioned to win big in September’s elections. Having survived years of attempts by Mubarak’s regime to suppress it, the Brotherhood is the best organized political force in the country now that the ex-president’s ruling party has been disbanded.

The activists behind the uprising have yet to catch up and fear they will not be ready by September to rally large numbers of voters.

Mindful of the unease, the Brotherhood has adopted the motto “Partnership, not supremacy” and its leaders are careful to use inclusive political language when talking about Egypt’s post-Mubarak future. The group has also pledged not to field a candidate in November’s presidential election.

“We are facing a critical challenge to transform from pharaonic rule to people’s rule, with a free parliament and elected Cabinet,” leading Brotherhood member Essam el-Arian said.

However, the goal of winning half of parliament’s 508 elected seats was unexpected after an earlier pledge by leaders to contest just a third of the seats.

Brotherhood leaders told Saturday’s news conference at the group’s new headquarters that the political party will be separate and independent from the religious group.

The party’s caucus will be open to Muslims, Christians and women, said another Brotherhood politician, Mohammed Saad el-Katatni. Brotherhood members, however, are barred from joining any other party.

In past parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood successively fielded candidates as independents despite being officially outlawed.

Ammar Ali Hassan, an expert in Islamic movements, said the Brotherhood is facing a dilemma since it will have to function through legitimate channels for the first time in decades.

Other factors have shifted.

Under Mubarak’s rule, Hassan said, turnout was dismally low due to widespread vote-rigging and fraud. And some of those who voted for Brotherhood candidates were driven by their resentment of Mubarak’s ruling party, not necessarily genuine support for the group, he said.

“The Brotherhood fed off both the apathy and the resentment. These two elements served the group’s interest and now both don’t exist,” he said.

Besides its transition to democracy, Egypt is also trying to reckon with its past under Mubarak’s rule. The former president and his sons are in custody and are being questioned over corruption allegations and the killings of at least 846 protesters in the crackdown.

Egypt’s new justice minister said Mubarak might face the death penalty if convicted of ordering the shooting of protesters, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Mohammed el-Guindi was quoted by the daily Al-Ahram as saying that the key to the case is whether former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, also under investigation, would testify that Mubarak had given the order to open fire on protesters.

Mubarak, 82, is in custody at a hospital in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh where he was taken earlier this month for heart problems.

The minister also accused Mubarak of engendering a culture of corruption in the government, and he said the former president’s wealth came from gas exports to Israel through a company owned by a personal friend and from arms deals, the paper reported.

Suzanne Mubarak, the ex-president’s wife, will also be investigated and her questioning will start within days, the minister was quoted as saying.

Mubarak’s wife, who was involved in a number of high-profile charitable ventures, is suspected of illegally amassing wealth through her non-governmental organizations.

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Republicans celebrate with ‘not royal’ street party


Partygoers wait to sign a card at the ‘Not the royal wedding’ street party in Red Lion Square, in London, April 29, 2011. The party was organised by Republic, an organisation calling for the monarchy to be replaced with an elected head of state. Prince William married Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey on Friday. Reuters.

We’re celebrating democracy and people power rather than inherited privilege.

– James Gray, Republic campaign group

CNN | Apr 30, 2011

By George Webster and Leo Dawson

London (CNN) — A lot has changed since the 17th century, when Oliver Cromwell overthrew the monarchy — violently turning England into a short-lived republic. Today, British republicans fight with … street parties.

While billions around the world looked on enraptured as Prince William and Catherine Middleton finally tied the knot, a band of anti-royals gathered in central London’s Red Lion Square to call for the abolition of the monarchy altogether.

But rather than pitchforks or guillotines, these republicans made their stand with bunting, jazz bands and an assortment of delicious cakes.

“We’ve taken a traditional royalist street party as our inspiration, but with a republican twist,” said James Gray, spokesperson for Republic, the campaign group responsible for organizing the event. “What we’re doing is celebrating democracy and people power rather than inherited privilege.”

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Doily-dotted stalls offered a range of republican-themed merchandise, from “I’m Not a Royal Wedding Mug” coffee mugs, to the chance to buy a “Non-Royal Honour” — a twist on the regal system that dishes out knighthoods — all at significantly discounted rates.

T-shirts with slogans were, for many, the fashion accessory of choice on the day. “I paid for the wedding and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” — a reference to the British taxpayer’s contribution to the costly wedding — proved popular, followed by “Never fear, republicans are here” and, more crudely, “Stuff the royal wedding.”

Others came in fancy dress. Jennifer Verson, an artist from Liverpool, came with her three-year old daughter and a group of friends all dressed as zombies. “Britain is the land of the living dead for as long as it continues to uphold this totally undemocratic institution,” she said, while her daughter, Ella, held a sign that read: “Princesses are pigs.”

The organizers estimate the event was attended by more than 1,000 people. “Since Kate and Will announced their engagement in November, our membership has more than doubled to about 15,000,” said campaign manager Graham Smith.

Indeed, 33 year-old Julie Michaels, from Southampton, admitted that she had never thought much about the monarchy until recently, and accused the media for inflating the wedding out of all proportion.

“The 24-hours-a-day news coverage of what is nothing more than two kids getting married has driven me to the point madness,” she exclaimed. “That’s why I’m here today…to vent my frustration!”

“There are people dying in Syria, Libya and Bahrain in order to get rid of their unelected heads, and we’re here celebrating ours, it’s ridiculous,” said Scottish-born Donnachadh McArthy.

Adrian Trippets, 39, from London, was more concerned about the prospect of a future “dud” monarch.

“Our current queen isn’t so bad. But what happens down the line if we get another one that’s mad like King George III, or a Nazi sympathizer like Edward VIII?” He wondered. “We should have an elected head of state that we can get rid of if they’re not doing the job properly.”

A little after lunch-time, Smith drew applause from the crowd after he thanked Wills and Kate for the chance to raise awareness of republicanism: “And we’ve got another big opportunity next year when we celebrate 60 years of having a head of state without an election,” he said.

But, as the party drew to a close, there was the first sign of discord within the republican ranks. A man handing out a round of traditional English cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off caught the opprobrium of another passer-by: “Uh, that’s just how the queen likes them” she quipped.

Bobby Kennedy assassin mind-controlled by “seductive girl in polka dot dress”


Set up: Sirhan Sirhan claims he was manipulated by a seductive girl in a mind control plot and that it was not his bullets that killed RFK

Daily Mail | Apr 29, 2011

The man who assassinated Robert Kennedy says he was manipulated by a seductive girl in a mind control plot and that it was not his bullets that killed the presidential candidate.

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who shot RFK dead in a crowded hotel kitchen in Los Angeles in June 1968, made the claims in court documents filed this week.

The papers detail extensive interviews with Sirhan during the past three years, some done while he was under hypnosis.

The murder changed the course of U.S. history. Kennedy was on course to win the Democratic nomination and may well have beaten Richard Nixon to the White House.

The court files point to a mysterious girl in a polka-dot dress as the ‘controller’ who led Sirhan, now 66, to fire a gun in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel.

But the documents suggest a second person shot and killed Kennedy while using Sirhan as a diversion.

Under hypnosis, he remembered meeting the girl that night and becoming smitten with her. He said she led him to the pantry.

‘I am trying to figure out how to hit on her. That’s all that I can think about,’ he says in one interview cited in the documents.

The Girl In The Polka Dot Dress

‘I was fascinated with her looks. She never said much. It was very erotic. I was consumed by her. She was a seductress with an unspoken unavailability.’

Sirhan said under hypnosis that on a cue from the girl he went into ‘range mode’ believing he was at a firing range and seeing circles with targets in front of his eyes.

‘I thought that I was at the range more than I was actually shooting at any person, let alone Bobby Kennedy,’ Sirhan was quoted as saying during interviews with Daniel Brown, a Harvard University professor and expert in trauma memory and hypnosis.

He interviewed Sirhan for 60 hours with and without hypnosis, according to the legal brief.

Sirhan maintained in the hypnotic interviews that the mystery girl touched him or pinched him on the shoulder just before he fired then spun him around to see people coming through the pantry door.

‘Then I was on the target range … a flashback to the shooting range … I didn’t know that I had a gun,” Sirhan said.

The story of the girl has been a lingering theme in accounts of the events just after midnight on June 5, 1968, when Kennedy was gunned down in the hotel pantry after claiming victory in the California Democratic presidential primary.

Witnesses talked of seeing such a female running from the hotel shouting, ‘We shot Kennedy.’ But she was never identified, and amid the chaos of the scene, descriptions were conflicting.

Through the years, Sirhan has claimed no memory of shooting Kennedy and said in the recent interviews that his presence at the hotel was an accident, not a planned destination.

Under what Brown called the condition of hypnotic free recall, he said Sirhan remembered seeing the flash of a second gun at the time of the assassination.

Without hypnosis, he said, Sirhan could not remember that shot.
Pepper, a New York lawyer with an international practice, previously tried to prove that James Earl Ray was not the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.

The lawyer said he is convinced that Sirhan was a victim of a mind control project such as those used by the CIA in the 1960s. He is seeking an evidentiary hearing to exonerate Sirhan in Kennedy’s killing.

A large portion of the new documents seek to prove the bullets that hit Kennedy came from a different direction than the spot where Sirhan was standing. The papers do not name any other possible shooter.

Sirhan was denied parole in March by a panel that said he had not shown sufficient remorse for the killing.

Body of Pope John Paul II removed from the crypt to be placed before the altar


4 April 2005: The body of the late Pope, who had died two days earlier, lies in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City for public viewing  Photo: EPA

Pope John Paul II exhumed

Telegraph | Apr 29, 2011

Pope John Paul II was exhumed on Friday ahead of his beatification as tens of thousands of people began arriving in Rome for one of the biggest events since his funeral in 2005.

The Vatican said the coffin was removed from the crypts below St Peter’s Basilica while top Vatican officials and some of the late pope’s closest aides looked on and prayed.

Those present at the ceremony included Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary and right-hand man for decades, and the Polish nuns who ran the papal household for 27 years.

The wooden coffin will be placed in front of the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica. After Sunday’s beatification mass, it will remain in that spot and the basilica will remain open until all visitors who want to view it have done so.

It will then be moved to a new crypt under an altar in a side chapel near Michelangelo’s statue of the Pieta. The marble slab that covered his first burial place will be sent to Poland.

Superman renouncing the US, going global at the UN


Superman is seen in this panel from the Action Comics issue #900 is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters April 28, 2011. The Man of Steel, in the latest issue of Action Comics which hit newsstands on April 27, 2011, said he intends to renounce his U.S. citizenship in a speech before the United Nations. Credit: Reuters/DC Comics/Handout

Superman threatens to renounce U.S. citizenship

Reuters | Apr 29, 2011

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Superman, citizen of the world?

The Man of Steel, in the latest issue of Action Comics which hit newsstands on Wednesday, said he intends to renounce his U.S. citizenship in a speech before the United Nations.

“I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy,” Superman said in a short story in the issue, Action Comics No. 900 from the Time Warner Inc unit DC Comics.

In the comic, Superman never actually renounces his citizenship, he only talks about his plans to do that.

But conservative commentators reacted with disgust to the new storyline, given that the fictional superhero has long proclaimed he stood for “Truth, Justice and the American way.”

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In a blog post at The Weekly Standard, senior writer Jonathan Last questioned Superman’s beliefs, now that he seems to have rejected the United States.

“Does he believe in British interventionism or Swiss neutrality?” Last wrote. “You see where I’m going with this: If Superman doesn’t believe in America, then he doesn’t believe in anything.”

The new plot twist for Superman comes as the superhero visitor from a distant planet, who was raised by a Kansas farmer and his wife, looks to take on a more global mission for his battle against evil.

“The world’s too small. Too connected,” Superman said in the comic book.

Superman, who was first introduced in the 1938, has a long association with the United States. But Joe Shuster, the artist who helped create the character with writer Jerry Siegel, was born in Canada.

And critics have described Superman’s life story as a metaphor for the immigrant experience, because he is an alien.

DC Comics co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio seemed to downplay their landmark superhero character’s latest declaration, in a joint statement.

“In a short story in Action Comics 900, Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville,” they said.

Cuba to allow homes to be bought and sold for first time under Communist rule


Raúl Castro replaced his brother Fidel as first secretary of the Communist Party Photo: REUTERS

Cubans will be allowed to buy and sell homes for the first time since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 under a package of sweeping reforms.

Telegraph | Apr 19, 2011

By Robin Yapp, Sao Paulo

Since the Communist revolution, inhabitants of the island have only been allowed to swap homes through a complicated system or pass them on to their children.

But a raft of reforms agreed at the first congress of the Communist Party since 1997 includes a plan to legalise property sales.

Under the current system of home swaps, a culture of corruption involving “under-the-table” payments has developed.

However, President Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, said that the concentration of property would not be allowed and no details were given on how sales would operate.

The plan to allow home sales was one of about 300 approved by the party, which also include more self-employment, cutting a million government jobs in the coming years, encouraging foreign investment and reducing state spending.

Political reform was also on the agenda with President Castro using his speech at the weekend to propose that top political positions, including the presidency, should be limited to two five-year terms.

The radical changes were backed by Fidel Castro, president of the country for 49 years until 2008, who made a rare public appearance at the closing ceremony on Tuesday.

In a front page column in the Communist party newspaper Granma, he wrote: “The new generation is called to rectify and change without hesitation all that must be rectified and changed, and to continue demonstrating that socialism is also the art of making the impossible happen.”

He described “the impossible” as “building and bringing about the revolution of the poor, by the poor and for the poor, and defending it for half a century from the most powerful military power that ever existed,” referring to the United States.

The 84-year-old also formally resigned as first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and was replaced by his brother, who had already fulfilled the role in all but name since 2006.

The reforms announced are aimed at securing the future of socialism in Cuba as the Soviet-style economy struggles and popular uprisings continue to cause political turmoil in the Arab world.

China, one of Cuba’s biggest backers, gave its backing to the changes.

Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the decisions taken in Cuba would have a “profound and far reaching impact on the development of socialism in Cuba.”

But President Castro has ruled out broader market reforms like those adopted by China, saying they would be “in open contradiction to the essence of socialism… because they were calling for allowing the concentration of property.”

Farmer menaced with death threats calls police who turn up to confiscate her shotguns

Officers took 35 minutes to arrive after she was threatened with chainsaws and knives

She was pelted with rocks while a youth threatened to slit her throat and slaughter her cattle

Despite being threatened with chainsaws and knives, police confiscated Mrs St Clair Pearce’s shotgun

Daily Mail | Apr 26, 2011

By Andrew Levy

Treated like a criminal: Terminally ill Tracy St. Clair Pearce was pelted with rocks by some of the travellers while a youth threatened to slit her throat and slaughter her cattle

Having confronted travellers cutting down trees on her farm, terminally-ill Tracy St Clair Pearce found herself subjected to a terrifying ordeal.

Some of the group pelted her with rocks while a youth threatened to slit her throat and slaughter her cattle.

When she dialled 999 she expected the full weight of the law to be on her side.

Instead, however, police officers criticised her for inflaming the situation and confiscated her legally held shotguns – even though they had been locked away in a cabinet at home throughout the incident.

Yesterday, the 50-year-old accused police of causing her ‘harassment and distress’ when she should have been given protection.

‘I’ve been treated like a criminal,’ said Miss St Clair Pearce, who has been given months to live after breast cancer spread to her spine.

The incident blew up after around 18 caravans set up camp illegally in a field owned by Colchester Council last Thursday.

Miss St Clair Pearce, who lives on the adjoining Seven Saints Rare Breeds farm with her brother, Stuart, had a good-natured conversation with one traveller who assured her they would be no trouble and would move on within a couple of days.

But at 7pm on Good Friday she was spraying weeds on the 34-acre farm, where she has ten rare Shetland cattle and three horses, when she heard a chainsaw and found four boys felling trees for firewood.

‘I started shouting “Get out” but they just stood there in my field,’ she said. ‘I said I would spray them with the weed killer and one in a red T-shirt, who was about 14, went ballistic. The language coming out of his mouth was unbelievable.

‘I had a short-bladed knife in my hand for the weed removal and he took that as a challenge. He picked up a fence post and hurled it at me. He then screamed “I will slit your throat, I will slit the throats of your calves and cows”. We were face to face and he slid his finger across his throat.’

Miss St Clair Pearce stood her ground and the youth retreated across the brook that marks the border of her land but by this time several traveller men and a woman had come over.

One was the boy’s father, who used ‘sexually explicit language’ before turning away when asked if he was proud of his son. ‘About eight people were still there and they exposed themselves to me, front and back. Then they started throwing rocks at me so I backed off,’ added Miss St Clair Pearce.

Shaken by the confrontation, she called police and waited 35 minutes for a patrol car to arrive before spending three hours giving a statement. An inspector arrived at 11.30pm but questioned her own conduct, accusing her of making threats against the travellers. ‘They said I had been aggressive, the chainsaw was of no consequence, and I should have politely asked them to remove themselves from my premises then walked away and called 999,’ said Miss St Clair Pearce.

Officers eventually visited the camp that evening and the following morning but told her they were unable to find the teenager who had threatened her.

On Easter Monday she was at a dog show when she received a call from Colchester councillor Gerard Oxford, whom she had contacted for advice, and was told police wanted to confiscate her two shotguns.

She refused to start the two-hour journey home immediately and officers began turning up at the farmhouse ‘every couple of hours’ in an attempt to seize the legally held shotguns.

At 3.15am yesterday armed officers appeared and demanded the firearms otherwise they would ‘pull the cabinet from the wall’.

Left with no choice, Miss St Clair Pearce told her brother where she kept the key and he handed the weapons over.

Officers returned later yesterday and confiscated her gun licence to ‘prevent me buying another shotgun’.

Her brother said: ‘I am in shock. I thought the laws in this country protected people who live and work in their communities – not those who visit for a short time and think they are beyond the law.’

The travellers refused to comment when approached yesterday.

Mr Oxford said: ‘The way Tracy has been treated has been quite appalling. It was quite evident the officers were putting more weight on making sure that the travellers were ok than the threats which had been made to Tracy’s life.’

Essex police confirmed they had not yet arrested anyone in connection with the incident.

A spokesman said: ‘Officers became concerned at the behaviour of a woman and laid information before magistrates accordingly.

‘They were given powers to seize guns in her possession and have done so as a sensible precaution in the circumstances.’