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It has been said that the Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic led the 'ethnic cleansing' that saw thousands raped, tortured and killed in the early to mid 1990's.

 

With a hatred for a people that was so strong and so vile, the area of Srebrenica alone was purged of over 7,000 Muslim boys and men in 1995.

 

This is just one of the many charges brought against Mladic, who is himself, in ill health.

 

Captured and brought to justice under a year ago, he goes on trial in The Hague, 20 years after the start of the conflict in Bosnia. His focus at the time was to eradicate Bosnia of its Muslim influence, known as 'non-Serbs.'.

 

Gen Mladic faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, in connection with the brutal four year period of 1992-95 Bosnian war.

 

He is also charged in connection with the 44-month siege of Sarajevo during which more than 10,000 people died.

 

Leading prosecuting counsel, Dermot Groome said they would prove Gen Mladic's hand in the crimes.

 

"Four days ago marked two decades since Ratko Mladic became the commander of the main staff of the army of Republika Srpska - the VRS," he said.

 

"On that day, Mladic began his full participation in a criminal endeavour that was already in progress. On that day, he assumed the mantle of realising through military might the criminal goals of ethnically cleansing much of Bosnia. On that day he commenced his direct involvement in serious international crimes."

 

Mr Groome continued by saying that by the time Gen Mladic and his troops had "murdered thousands in Srebrenica" they were "well-rehearsed in the craft of murder".

 

He emphasized his point with video footage taken of the aftermath of a notorious shelling of a market in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where dozens of people were slaughtered.

 

Gen Mladic spent the next 15 years on the run before being apprehended by Serb forces May 2011 where he was sent to The Hague. Mladic has called the accusations against him "monstrous" with the court entering a not guilty plea on his behalf.

 

Although the trial is forecasted to be a lengthy one, possibly even lasting in the vicinity of up to three years in duration, a number of crimes for which Mladic stands accused has been almost halved in order to speed up the procedure.

 

Some have even said that with Mladic's ill health weighing in the balance, he may not even last out the trial.

 

However, if the pre-trial hearings are anything to go by, with Mladic being characterised as ill-tempered and defensive while heckling the judge and interrupting proceedings with outbursts of; "The whole world knows who I am," he said "I am General Ratko Mladic. I defended my people, my country... now I am defending myself."

 

Undoubtedly, it is going to be a case which will stir up strong emotions on both sides, but in the case of the watching survivors, who witnessed loved ones being mewn down in their droves, the last thing they want to see is Gen Mladic  taking control and getting the upper hand.

Ratko Mladic on trial in the Hague

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The departure of one and the swearing in of another. Francois Hollande, France's first Socialist president in 17 years takes the reins from former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to much public fanfare.

 

In the wake of a European debt crisis, which for many countries, and most notably Greece who is finding the roads ahead to be rather slippery indeed, one could imagine the French people hanging on to the idea that a newly elected president will quite literally mean, 'a new start.' What Sarkozy failed to do as president, this self proclaimed 'normal' man of 57 will turn the tables of wealth and prosperity around for all.

 

With public sentiment and support recoiling from Nicolas Sarkozy's flair for the dramatic, a man who never shied away from the limelight and to many, promoted capitalism over employment and growth. We now see a total reverse in action.

 

Hollande, seemingly, at first glance, an almost Clouseau-like character, seen waving to supporters from his vehicle's open sunroof as it made its way slowly and deliberately up the magnificent Champs-Elysees avenue. And, undeterred by the savage, pelting rain totally drenching the new leader's Marks and Spencer's basement quality suit, which appeared to soak up every last drop, one wondered whether they should laugh or possibly even cry.

 

Festivities over with and presidential business around the corner, a waterlogged Hollande took off for Germany, and a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

Although Monsieur Hollande and the German Chancellor come from diametrically opposite spheres in dealing with their individual economies, it is unanimous that the goal in mind is to deal with and solve Europe's escalating debt crisis.

 

With Greece almost toppling the House of Economic Cards, the survival rate for the rest of the eurozone, is shaky at best. New figures in show that the eurozone avoided a double-dip recession, but that can be argued, as it was primarily due to the growth and stability of the German economy and therefore, down to their very own concerted work ethic and psyche to push along and forward.

 

When Hollande was first declared president he immediately acknowledged the challenges that lay ahead: "a massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, degraded competitiveness, and a Europe that is struggling to come out of crisis."

 

Hollande also promised to fight financial speculation and "open a new path" in Europe. Unlike Sarkozy and Merkel, he intends to fight against harsh austerity measures with a thinking that spending your way out of a crisis is the road to survival. It seems he knows nothing of Gordon Brown's disasterous journey down that route. "To overcome the crisis that is hitting it, Europe needs plans. It needs solidarity. It needs growth. To our partners, I will propose a new pact that will tie the necessary reduction of public debt with the indispensable stimulus of the economy," he said. Hollande also pledged to bring "dignity and simplicity" to the presidential role. This was possibly viewed as a direct side swipe in the direction of France's former president, Nicolas Sarkozy who seemed to err on the side of elitism.

 

With France's economy at a merky standstill, most French people are looking towards this presidential change-over as a chance for a 'new start.' A fresh perspective is required. One also hopes, that the principle of, 'The Devil that you Know'  versus, 'Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire' will be far removed thoughts once the new guy settles in to his new role and the concept of a real 'Clouseau' in charge, will never be brought up again.

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Hollande takes over the reins

- Anne Hunt -

- Alan White -

Ecuador has agreed to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange and there's 'no law in the United Kingdom allowing it to carry out threats to attack Ecuador's embassy in London,' Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino claims. Is this really true? Well, the answer is not quite clear cut. Technically, if push came to shove, the Foreign Office could suspend Ecuadors Embassy's rights to function in the UK. But, would they take such dramatic steps? Most doubtful. International Lawyers could hold that up for years and it may harm the UK's international reputation.

 

The decision to grant diplomatic protection comes two months after Assange took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning for alleged sexual misconduct. Patino says Ecuador found that Assange faces a real threat of political persecution including the threat of extradition to the United States, where Patino said the Australian would not get a fair trial and could face the death penalty.

 

Ecuador's decision certainly increases tensions between the UK and the South American country, which has been warned the situation could have "serious implications" for diplomatic relations. Ecuadorian Ministers accused the UK of threatening to enter the embassy to seize Assange, after it emerged that a 1987 law could allow the revocation of a building's diplomatic status if the foreign power occupying it "ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post." That would be a technical manouevre in execution - and open to challenge in an International Court.

- Anne Hunt -

- Catherine Marceau -

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In the name of being a, 'good sport' the Queen took a flying leap into the history books during the Olympic Games opening ceremony, which left everyone's expectations heightened to say the least. 'What a Jolly Good Sport.'

 

Escorted into the darkened skys was none other than trusty James Bond, (Daniel Craig) who saw Her Majesty safely to the Olympic Stadium where the latest Bond Girl officially announced the UK's Olympic Games open.

 

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge praised London as a "diverse, vibrant, cosmopolitan" city and thanked it for hosting the games for a record third time.

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Queen takes the plunge and goes for gold

The IOC leader made his remarks in a speech to 60,000 spectators and thousands of athletes at Friday's opening ceremony. Rogge continued "a major boost for gender equality" that all 204 participating countries included female competitors for the first time.

 

The opening ceremony to the Olympic Games was given a resounding thumbs up by the British press who are usually critical on all fronts. But the creative and inovative opening, directed by Britian's home grown Danny Boyle, did not seem to put a foot wrong.

 

Capturing the hearts and imagination of all children who loved to read, plus introducing all aspects of music across the years and with a historical core showing Britain through its industrial age and including the much loved and yet debated, National Health System.

 

With touches of good humour thrown in for good measure, Boyle managed to tie, what is intrinsically British about Britain, into a neat little bow.

 

Queen Elizabeth II did not hint at any suggestion she may return to reprise her role in the forth coming Bond film, 'Skyfall' but there's no doubting, as with Friday evening, if she did, we all would be amused.

Under international law, diplomatic posts are considered the territory of the foreign nation. Short of a war, or a much more serious incident, suspending such status is a risky business for the UK. The Foreign Office said the decision on Mr Assange's application for political asylum would not affect the UK's legal obligation to Sweden. Could the Police, or would the Police, search every diplomatic vehicle leaving the embassy for Assange? They could, but it is most doubtful they would. This will most likely be a drawn out matter and only solved by diplomatic negotiation.

 Could the UK legally stop Julian Assange

from leaving England now that he has been given

asylum by Ecuador?

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The answer is 'Yes,' but there's a powerful 'No' thrown in too if the UK don't want to become embroiled in a touchy 'Diplomatic Stand off.'

By the share strength of those lungs, Isaac could well be laughing out very loudly, however, no-one else is laughing with him.

 

Harrowingly poignant as it seems, seven years to the day when his Mother Katrina ripped through the Louisiana city of New Orleans  causing utter chaos and devastation, Isaac licks his lips and ploughs his way towards the American coast line with 80 mile an hour winds and heavy rain.

Isaac takes his wrath out on 4 US States

Thousands of people have already fled the rebuilt city not wanting to risk their lives that saw over 1,800 die to the awesome impact of Katrina in 2005 and which caused property damage of over $80billion.

 

With their new floodgates closed in the hope that this will stop any impact of high waters brought in by sustained winds people who are staying put are laying low.

 

Caitlin Campbell, a spokeswoman for Plaquemines Parish - where Isaac first touched down - said water was running over an 18-mile (29-km) stretch of the levee and some homes were flooded.  

 

Officials say they are confident that improvements to water defences in New Orleans will prevent a repeat of the 2005 Katrina catastrophe.

However, about 75% of New Orleans residents were without power and there was some minor street flooding, according to emergency officials.

 

The storm's surge topped a levee in a sparsely populated community south of the city, closer to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

 

At 8 a.m. ET, the Category 1 hurricane was about 50 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, packing sustained winds of 80 miles an hour after making landfall in Louisiana Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said.

 

A hurricane warning remained in effect from east of Morgan City in Louisiana to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

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- Penny Mathews -