March 21, 2009
US President Barack Obama has apologised for joking on a TV chat show that a poor bowling performance was “like the Special Olympics”.
He made the comment during an appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, and later phoned the chairman of the Special Olympics to apologise.
Responding, Tim Shriver said Mr Obama’s remarks could be seen as “humiliating” to people with special needs…
Reacting to Mr Obama’s comments, Mr Shriver said the president had apologised for his remark.
“He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate [the disabled] population,” said Mr Shriver. But he stressed that the president’s comments should not be dismissed out of hand.
“I think it’s important to see that words hurt and words do matter,” he added. “And these words that in some respect can be seen as humiliating or a put down to people with special needs do cause pain and they do result in stereotypes.”
- BBC News
March 20, 2009
You’ll be seeing a lot of this one over the next year…
UK unemployment has risen above two million for the first time since 1997, official figures have shown.
During the three months to January, the number of people unemployed totalled 2.03 million, up by 165,000, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS). For February, the number of people getting jobseeker’s allowance added a record 138,400 to reach 1.39 million.
There are now 10 jobseekers for every vacancy advertised in UK jobcentres, the TUC claimed earlier this week.
The ONS added that the unemployment rate jumped to 6.5% between November and January.
Unemployment is rising as the first recession in the UK since 1991 continues to bite. Many economists now predict it will go above three million next year.
- BBC News
March 19, 2009
New Zealand police are investigating whether a woman abandoned her baby after giving birth aboard a flight to Auckland from Samoa, officials say.
Initial reports say the woman, believed to be a 30-year-old Samoan, left the baby on the plane upon landing.
The baby was found by an airline worker in a toilet compartment more than an hour later, local media reported.
Mother and child have since been reunited and are being cared for in hospital, an airline statement said.
- BBC News
March 18, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI, who is making his first papal visit to Africa, has said that handing out condoms is not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids.
The pontiff, who preaches marital fidelity and abstinence, said the practise only increased the problem.
“A Christian can never remain silent,” he said, after being greeted on arrival in Cameroon by President Paul Biya.
The Pope is also due to visit Angola on his week-long trip, where thousands are expected to attend open-air Masses.
Some 22 million people are infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UN figures for 2007.
This amounts to about two-thirds of the global total…
While in Africa, the pontiff is expected to talk to young people about the Aids epidemic and explain to them why the Catholic Church recommends sexual abstinence as the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.
He gave a similar message to African bishops who visited the Vatican in 2005, when he told them that abstinence and fidelity, not condoms, were the means to tackle the epidemic.
- BBC News
March 17, 2009
An Iraqi football player has been shot dead by a spectator as he was about to score an equalising goal.
The shooting happened in the last minute of a game between two local rivals on Sunday, police say.
The striker was shot in the head during the match in the city of Hilla, according to local security officials.
- BBC News
For those not familiar with Scottish soccer, ‘old firm’ supporters are followers of Glasgow-based football clubs Rangers and Celtic. Usually they’re too busy shooting each other to go for the players.
March 16, 2009
…you just have to outswim the other competitors!
Swimmers competing in a race in Sydney, Australia have had a close encounter with two sharks, one of which is believed to have swam directly beneath them.
The 700 swimmers were competing in a Surf Lifesaving race off Cronulla Beach when the two sharks, a hammerhead and a smaller shark, were spotted.
Lifeboats chased the hammerhead in an effort to force it out to sea. It is thought the smaller shark swam away.
This close encounter follows three other shark attacks that have taken place in Sydney waters over the recent weeks.
- BBC News
March 15, 2009
The Foreign Office faced embarrassment today after a secret memo suggested that Russia, Australia and Canada were all “second division” countries at the G20 summit.
A confidential paper, issued to PR agencies ahead of the next month’s London gathering of global leaders, says the UK should focus lobbying efforts on 11 “high-priority states” such as the US, France, China, India and Saudia Arabia.
The memo consigns other countries, including some of the world’s biggest economies, to a “Tier 2” status. Russia, Mexico, Canada and Australia are all effectively relegated to a “B list”.
A Foreign Office spokesman insisted that the list of countries was “absolutely not a firm hierarchy of the most important states for our political relations”.
He said the “high priority” nations had been targeted for lobbying on the basis of the health of their media, civil society, non-governmental organisations and sovereign wealth funds.Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The downgrading of some participants before they have even set foot in London sends completely the wrong message.”
The G20 summit is to take place on 2 April.
March 14, 2009
Documents showing intelligence chiefs were urged to make a key dossier on the Iraqi threat as “firm” as possible have led to new calls for a war inquiry.
Intelligence head Sir John Scarlett was pressed in an e-mail to make analysis of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as “authoritative” as he could.
Details of this e-mail were released under a freedom of information request.
The Conservatives said the evidence was “damaging”, while the Lib Dems said it showed the UK was “duped” into the war.
Critics of the war say the dossier, published in late 2002 as US pressure on Iraq was growing, was “sexed up” to press the case for military action against Saddam Hussein.
- BBC News
March 13, 2009
Only the Lib Dems offer an alternative vision for the future of Britain post-recession, leader Nick Clegg has said.
In a closing conference speech, he said the “one dim light” in the current crisis was that it “opens the door to a genuinely new way of doing things”.
But that would not come from the “cycle of red-blue, blue-red government has got us into this mess”.
And it was the Lib Dems who now carried the “torch of progress,” he told delegates in Harrogate.
And he urged voters to make a “leap of faith” by backing the party.
Mr Clegg has used the two-day spring conference to paint Labour and the Tories as the joint architects of the economic meltdown, by their actions over the past 30 years.
And he has tried to portray his party as the one with a radically different solution to the country’s economic woes.
- BBC News
March 12, 2009
I’ve heard they can predict a social predisposition for criminal behaviour pretty early, but under a year-old seems to be pushing it.
A baby had its details held on the controversial DNA police database, Jacqui Smith has confirmed.
The home secretary said the youngest person to have a DNA profile held on the database was less than a year old and the oldest was over 90.
It is understood the sample would have been taken to eliminate the baby’s DNA from a crime scene…
In December the European Court of Human Rights ruled the UK should not indefinitely retain the DNA and fingerprint records of people who were not convicted of a crime.
Following that ruling, Ms Smith announced changes to the way the database operated – and said the government would take “immediate steps” to remove the DNA profiles of children under 10 from the database.
The baby’s profile is understood to have been taken before the changes were announced.
Since then DNA profiles of children under 10, taken with consent for “elimination purposes” – to compare with samples taken at crime scenes – are deleted, the government says.
- BBC News