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Abu Qatada, preacher of hate, looses appeal

Abu Qatada, the Jordanian terror suspect, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, looses his attempt to appeal against deportation from Britain by Europe's top human rights judges.


This is a major set back for Qatada who has remained on British soil since 1993

when he, along with his wife and five children, fled from Jordan, using a forged UAE passport and then requested asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. He was granted his asylum in June 1994.


The ruling this week, however, after years of legal brinkmanship, sees the 52 year old closer to being formally ejected from UK shores. Britain has battled for 10 years to have the 'hate cleric' deported back to Jordan where he will be facing terror charges.


The Home Secretary, Theresa May said: 'I am pleased by the European court's decision. The Qatada case will now go through the British courts.' Qatada had lodged a last-minute appeal to the court on April 17, claiming he faced the threat of torture in Jordan.


Al-Qaeda themselves have issued their own threats to the UK saying, it would "open the gates of evil" on Britain if Mr Qatada was sent to Jordan.


Currently being held in the high-security Belmarsh prison in south-east London, it has been released that the total cost of housing Qatada during his time in Britain, along with benefits and legal costs, plus security while he was out on bail, exceeded £3million pounds. All coming out of the tax payers pockets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the explosions targeted an intelligence services base, saying at least one of the blasts was caused by a car bomb. Residents said the explosions rattled windows and sent plumes of smoke billowing into the sky.


An apocalyptic scene of charred bodies, rubble and the mangled carcasses of vehicles, with smoke still rising from them filled the televised broadcast. Major General Robert Mood, chief of the UN observer mission in Syria, rushed to the site of the blasts shortly after they took place to survey the damage.


Damascus has been the target of a number of bombs in past months as President Bashar al-Assad faces a revolt against his regime which his forces are attempting to crush.


UN leader Ban Ki-moon warned Syria's government and opposition there is only a 'brief window' to avoid civil war and indicated the future of the ceasefire monitoring mission was in doubt.


Highlighting an 'alarming upsurge' of roadside bombs, alongside government attacks, Ban said in New York both sides 'must realise that we have a brief window to stop the violence, a brief opportunity to create an opening for political engagement between the government and those seeking change'.


The Observatory said that almost 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since the revolt, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, which broke out in March of last year.


Close to 800 of the dead have occurred since a UN-backed truce was supposed to have taken effect on April 12. One can clearly assume, the peace mission is having no affect.

Twin blasts in Syria take death toll higher


The Syrian capital of Damascus  saw two powerful blasts in quick succession rocking its foundations killing 55 people and injuring 200.


The massive explosions hit near a security base in the southern district of Damascas during thursday morning rush hour. State TV is blaming the attacks on 'terrorists.' Most of the victims appear to be civilians.

-Sam Watts -

-Claire Todd -

Bunga, Bunga Bongo - too long in the party-less Congo?

With violence in Afghanistan increasing since the Taliban began a spring offensive in April, vowing to target the government and security forces as well as the 130,000 foreign troops in the country. Kandahar has seen some of its worst attacks.


A bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up in a parking lot near the base, which was packed with lorry drivers and other civilians waiting to get in. A few minutes later, as people gathered at the site of the blast, another bomber walked into the crowd and detonated his explosives.


Provincial police chief Abdul Raziq said the area was used by drivers whose vehicles carry supplies for Nato. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack which has killed civilians only, including local shopkeepers and passersby.


The Kandahar governor's office issued a statement saying, 'Kandahar is bleeding' following it up with, "this is another example of the insurgents' total disregard for innocent lives".


"This attack will not stop the people of Kandahar from building their future through the legitimate government and strengthens our resolve to work together and defeat these violent attacks," the statement said.

Kandahar rocks with yet more suicide blasts


Two suicide bombers have taken the lives of 20 civilians in an orchestrated attack outside the Southern Afghan  airport in Kandahar. Officials say it is one of the worst bomb attacks in recent weeks.


With the large Nato base strategically positioned close to the airport, it is thought that the attacks were aimed for high impact targets, namely, General Abdul Hameed, the Afghan army commander for the southern region and notably, as four governors from the south were at a meeting being held there at the time.

- Gloria Reed -

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Silvio Berlusconi misses the attention. He has all the money in the world, but has been out in the jungle too long, he supposedly said.  He wants to be prime minister again and this stongly rumoured statement, which is not denied by his party, indicates he is preparing to present his candidacy for the 2013 elections.


'The decision has been taken'. They say on the streets of Rome. Berlusconi will once against present his candidacy for the post of prime minister.'

This all started when incumbent Mario Monti reiterated he would step down in 2013. The reports indicate Berlusconi had based his decision on opinion polls which showed his People of Freedom (PDL) party could win up to 30 per cent with him as its head instead of current leader Angelino Alfano, a former justice minister.


Asked about the report, Alfano said: 'There is a major wave of support for Berlusconi to put forward his candidacy again. 'His legal problems have been dealt with, he is free to do what he likes'.


Well we all known what kind of lifestyle macho Silvio likes, but apparently it's no fun for this powerful Italian who relished his former role as the untouchable Italian oligarch, the feeling I personally have, is that unless he is in the public eye - and is the centre-piece of daily media news, not even the wildest unreported Bunga Bunga parties could replace his lust for governmental power.


Figures indicate 'The PDL without Berlusconi would only get 10 per cent, while if Alfano presented himself for the post of prime minister and Berlusconi supported him as head of the party, the results would be around 18 per cent. ' If on the other hand Berlusconi himself ran for prime minister with Alfano and a team of young politicians, he could win up to 30 per cent.' Elections are due in April 2013, when Berlusconi will be 76 years old. I hope the Italian scandal magazines are geared up for then!

- Anne Hunt -

Operation Damascus Volcano, owing to the heavy fighting taking place.


This comes after one of Syria's top politicians, who defected to the opposition said, the Assad regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons if it is cornered. Being over thrown is not an option. In other words, 'as with Gaddafi, they will fight to the end.'


Nawaf Fares, ex-ambassador to Iraq, said unconfirmed reports indicated such weapons might have already been used.


It is now widely known that Syria has been stock piling chemical weapons and will not fail to put them to the test under these intense circumstances. Fares also said that major bombings across Syria had been orchestrated by the regime in collaboration with al-Qaeda.


Although UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is due to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian crisis, there is no doubting that scepticism holds a torch to any bilateral agreement

regarding tougher international action on the Assad regime where Russia is concerned. The Chinese too have joined Russia in vetoing sanctions.


However, at this stage in the day, the UN-Arab League envoy team are proving to be a powerless force in Syria and while Russia supports the six-point plan which calls for a ceasefire and talks between government and Rebel opposition, they still refuse to back any measures which hint at intervention.

Syria - both sides dig in for the long haul

Damascus is seeing an intensification of fighting, from both sides.


The military has deployed tanks and helicopters and shooting has been reported in one of the capital's main streets which houses the Central Bank.


The Rebel forces are calling the all-out assault on the capital

-Claire Todd -

Olympics - sunshine between the rain clouds


-Jan Mosse -

Although an unintended wrong turn by a bus driver giving everyone present a London tour they hadn't planned on. Along with a frustrated tweet by a U.S. athlete who couldn't cope with an empty belly and anything remotely looking like an encumbered detour to take him from his precious timetable.

And, with security company G4S at the 11th hour disclosing that they haven't enough security guards, it all appears to be rather pathetic really and with only two weeks before the Olympic opening ceremony. But still, organizers insist that they will put the best face on the unfolding security collapse with games chairman Sebastian Coe stating, "Let's put this in proportion, this has not, nor will it, impact on the safety and security of these games, that of course is our No. 1 priority."


However, ruefully explaining to MP's on the Home Affairs Select Committee was Nick Buckles from G4S who admitted the company failed to provide enough security staff for the Games and yet still planned to take its £57m management fee. Keith Vaz, committee chairman, said it was “astonishing” that G4S still planned to take the payment.


Still, Buckles was hard-pressed to explain why his company had failed to inform officials until only two weeks before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games that its recruitment efforts had failed.

Ministers warn that the company will pay for its mistakes.


No one wants to see the repeat of previous Olympics where athletes were unable to get to their specialized events on time because of transporting nightmares. If London's special "games lane" was anything to go by on Monday, they better watch out.

With new mounting pressure for the Syrian government forces to reclaim rebel strongholds, namely the neighbourhoods of the commercial hub of Aleppo, helicopter gunships and tanks have been brought in for the massive assault.


The rebels having dug in after a 10 day offensive, taking over several areas around Aleppo, are now being surrounded by military might and muscle that could very well crush them as well as the innocent civilian population who take up residence in and around the region of Aleppo.


Another day at the office for Syria's Assad

Whether the Government's elaborate use of heavy artillery is for actual use or merely an ingenius sabre-rattling ploy to weaken the rebel's resolve. Whatever the mind behind the method, the use of heavy weapons - particularly helicopters - will be seen by the International Community as just yet another nail in President Bashar Assad's coffin.


This rhetoric was announced by the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a stopover in Tunisia, kicking off a Mideast tour expected to focus heavily on the unfolding crisis in Syria.


Already an estimated 200,000 civilians, almost 10 percent of the population, have fled the fighting in Aleppo, according to the U.N. official for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent. Aleppo is Syria's largest city with around 3 million inhabitants.


Syrian state media reported late Sunday that the army had "purged" the southwestern neighborhood Salaheddine in Aleppo and inflicted "great losses" upon the rebels in one of the first neighbourhoods they took control of in their bid to seize the city.


There was also a successful operation in Sukhour neighborhood, in the northeast of the city and another rebel stronghold, it reported. Activists, however, disputed these claims and just describe another day of fierce shelling of certain areas, backed up by the occasional foray on the ground.


"They have tanks in nearby Hamdaniya and there is fighting, and there have been random bombardments of Salaheddine," said Mohammed Saeed, who is based in the embattled city. While giving no indication that the Obama administration is contemplating military intervention, Panetta said it is increasingly clear that the Syrian crisis is deepening and that Assad is hastening his own demise.

-Sam Watts -

Call it a total disregard for human life or, police responding legitimately to an illegal strike at a South African platinum mine run by leading global producer Lonmin.


The clash of protesters and police, which has claimed 30 lives, was a spectacle of force and might which was so disproportionate, that it resembled the days before the end of apartheid. The video footage of the event which shocked and out-raged the nation and the world with its ferocity and over-zealous randomness, has brought the South African police and Lonmin to respond saying. 'We are treating the developments around police operations this afternoon with the utmost seriousness.'


This most violent of days came from a week-long standoff where workers were calling on better work and pay conditions. Hoards of protesting miners who were armed with machetes, sticks, guns and iron rods had camped for days on a hillside near the mine outside the northwest town of Rustenburgin.


The strike spiralled into violent clashes between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is the dominant union at the mine with high-level connections to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), and members of the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).


There had been an escalation in the violence after ten people, including two police, were killed shortly after the strike began on August 10. When the loss of life is all down to percentages and profits. Lonmin said the strike had caused six days of lost production, equivalent to about 300,000 tonnes of ore, making it unlikely that Lonmin will reach its target of 750,000 saleable ounces of platinum.

South African Police's violent clash with Miners

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-Jan Mosse -

French President Hollande, not a popular man


In all aspects of governing, it all comes down to finding employment for one's people. Getting the work force working. But with an unemployment rate of 3 million in France, things are not looking particularly great.


Barely 100 days after the Socialist party was elected to power, many in the left are sorely disappointed, and the people have shown their disappointment as well.

The French President's popularity rating has sunk to 55% in recent weeks, with worries about the economy and jobs. He tried raising spirits at a school in the Paris region – College Youri Gagarine, in Yvelines – with a positive message for the teachers.


He told them about creating 1,000 jobs in education, out of the 60,000 jobs in the country’s various sectors, during his five-year mandate. Hollande said: “I consider that putting school back on track is one of the conditions for pulling our country up, lifting moral and productivity. So, it’s an investment in social cohesion, which is school’s mission, and the fight against unemployment. And it’s urgent.” It is both economically and politically urgent.


The last time unemployment in France went past the symbolic mark of three million job-seekers was 13 years ago, in 1999.


Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking on television, did not try to minimise the importance.


Ayrault said: “If we add the figures in mainland France and overseas territories, we’re at three million, and this is extremely worrying. I don’t want to be an austerity prime minister, with a policy we set out with that turns into a failure. No, the policy is very clear, has been since the start: we have to find room to manoeuvre.”

- Susan Dean -

from getting caught up in the hazardous conditions were set up closing everything off to visitors. Fortunately firefighters were able to control the fires enough to get them moving away from habited areas.


Saldana Jr. had a cooler full of food and drinks in the back of his pickup and was headed toward the mountains before he was forced to turn around. "I requested the day off from work, we were looking for a nice time out today," Saldana said, "It's good that the government's taking precautions, but at the same time it kind of ruins a lot of people's plans."


A day after the wildfire broke out near a campground and forced the evacuation of thousands of recreation-seekers and a few dozen residents, it had grown to more than 3,600 acres.


The forest is heavily used by Southern California residents because it is a short drive from very populated areas.Campgrounds that typically attract up to 12,000 visitors on the holiday weekend, as well as rehabilitation centers and the private mobile home community of Camp Williams Resort, were evacuated Sunday. About 30 of the 75 residents of the mobile home park chose to remain with their homes.irefighters appeared to be gaining the upper hand Monday afternoon in controlling a wildfire that burned about 25 acres in Los Padres National Forest.

Los Angeles National Forest feels the heat


- Gabriele Mendez -

Labor Day plans have been thwarted due to seasonal summer fire fires that have caused disruption to the usual relaxing picnicking and holiday activities in the Angeles National Forest.


Wildfires were spreading out of control throughout the thick undergrowth and tough terrain giving firefighters a huge task to under-take.


Road blocks preventing picnickers