June 28, 2009
A pastor in the US state of Kentucky told his flock to bring handguns to church in what he said was an effort to promote safe gun ownership.
Pastor Ken Pagano told parishioners to bring their unloaded guns to New Bethel Church in Louisville for a service celebrating the right to bear arms. He said he acted after church members voiced fears the Obama administration could tighten gun control laws.
When the service began, some 200 people were present, AP news agency said. “We are wanting to send a message that there are legal, civil, intelligent and law-abiding citizens who also own guns,” Mr Pagano told the congregation. “If it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, this country would not be here today,” he said.
The pastor also held a handgun raffle, as well as providing information on gun safety.
- BBC News
And if it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, Dr George Tiller would be here today.
June 21, 2009
MPs in the running to succeed Michael Martin as House of Commons Speaker on Monday have come under scrutiny in more allegations over expenses claims. Details of tax-funded expenses have been published in The Sunday Telegraph. The paper says Labour’s Margaret Beckett claimed more than £11,000 for gardening and Tory MP John Bercow twice claimed for help with a tax return.
Mr Martin became the first Speaker to be forced from office in 300 years when he stood down last month. MPs are due to choose his replacement on Monday…
Justice secretary Jack Straw told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that the new Speaker would have to restore public trust in Parliament. He said: “We’ve got put partisan interests aside and elect a Speaker who is best placed to lead the House of Commons to a restored position of authority and trust.” Mr Straw added that the amount of information about MPs’ expenses which had been blacked out when they were released on Thursday had left a “terrible impression”.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg called for a “people’s Speaker” who would open up Parliament for the 21st century, but warned that whoever landed the job faced a tough task. He said: “Even if we get the best speaker in the world, he or she is really going to have their work cut out. The vested interests at Westminster are already manoevering to water down reform.”
- BBC News
The trouble with putting yourself forward for consideration as the next Speaker of the House of Commons is that unless you’re already whiter than white expenses-wise, it smacks of a last ditch attempt to fill your boots AND save your seat before the next general election.
Michael Martin was the first speaker to be removed from the job in 300 years. Traditionally the £140,000+ per year post is a permanent appointment until you retire, aided by a gentleman’s agreement that other parties won’t field a competing candidate in your constituency (thus guaranteeing your re-election in perpetuity). The all time record of thirty-one years is still held by Arthur Onslow, the “great speaker” from 1728 to 1761.
At the moment the only “clean” MP with any kind of public profile seems to be LibDem Treasury Spokesman Vincent Cable. The former economist has spent most of the last six months as the media’s poster boy for financial probity and would be a popular public choice, but he has refused to join a Labour Government. (He’s probably not the ONLY honest politician in the Commons, but you’d be hard-pressed finding enough of them to make up a bridge party just at the moment).
A Speaker doesn’t have to come from the party of government – strictly speaking he or she is the only really independent MP in the place with responsibility for parliamentary administration rather than national government – but most governments find it ‘convenient’ to have a party loyalist in the chair.
In the current political climate, it would take some very fast and smooth talking to convince the public that the election of another staunch Labourite wouldn’t constitute yet another petty corruption of the institution.
June 12, 2009
From Little Green Footballs:
As we noted last Sunday, when murder suspect Scott Roeder was arrested [for the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller], the phone number of Operation Rescue was discovered on a Post-It note in his car.
Now it turns out that this wasn’t just the phone number of the Operation Rescue office, but of a specific person: Cheryl Sullenger, the senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue — who was herself convicted in 1988 of conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic, and served two years in prison.
Sullenger’s name even appears on the Operation Rescue press release about the murder of Dr. George Tiller.
So now we learn that one of the senior officials for Operation Rescue (who are spinning like crazy to portray themselves as a non-extremist group with no connections to violence or to Scott Roeder) is a convicted felon in an abortion clinic bombing plot. Isn’t that lovely?
It’s going to be a little harder to convince people that the perp is a lone gunman when one of your organisation’s three authorised spokespeople has been acting as a spotter for the sniper.
James Purnell the work and pensions secretary, last night dealt a monumental blow to Gordon Brown’s chances of holding onto office when he dramatically announced he was quitting the cabinet and asking Brown “to stand aside to give Labour a fighting chance of winning the next election”.
His statement, in effect declaring Brown unelectable, will further weaken the prime minister’s waning authority and takes the challenge to his leadership to a dangerous level.
Purnell made his sensational move after polls closed in the local and European elections – in which Labour was subsequently decimated across the board, informing Brown by phone last night. It prompted a furious reaction in Number 10 with ministers saying Purnell was profoundly mistaken.
Brown had no inkling that Purnell was going to quit, since the work and pensions secretary shrouded his move in secrecy in order to prevent No 10 mounting a pre-emptive strike against him, or seeking to challenge his motives…
No 10 said it was disappointed Purnell had chosen to tell newspapers before telling the leader of the Labour party.
June 2, 2009
A prominent US abortion doctor has been shot dead at a church in the city of Wichita, Kansas.
Dr George Tiller, one of the few US doctors who performed late-term abortions, had been vilified by anti-abortionists in the US. The gunman fled in a car, but officials say a suspect is now in custody. US Attorney General Eric Holder said the US would offer protection to “appropriate people and facilities” in the wake of Dr Tillers’ killing.
Dr Tiller’s clinic – called Women’s Health Care Services – had often been the site of demonstrations, and he had been shot and wounded by an assailant 16 years ago. Questioning of the suspect, a 51 year-old man, is continuing. Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said he was likely to face one charge of murder and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a gun at two other men.
Dr Tiller, who was 67, was shot just after 1000 (1500 GMT) at the Reformation Lutheran Church. His lawyer, Dan Monnat, said his client was killed while serving as an usher during a morning church service. His wife was in the choir at the time.
- BBC News
May 31, 2009
FIFTEEN members of the Scottish Parliament have been shamed into repaying expenses they claimed for Remembrance Day wreaths. The MSPs – from the SNP, Labour and Liberal Democrats – reclaimed money that was paid to Poppyscotland and the Lady Haig Poppy Factory for the wreaths. Both charities raise funds for veterans.
It came as their actions were last night described as “immoral” and “dishonourable”, although it was pointed out by officials that they fell within parliament’s rules. MPs have been banned from claiming the cost of Remembrance Day wreaths since 2004.
The row has shifted the expenses focus on to Holyrood, which has been regarded largely as “clean” in comparison with Westminster, where MPs have been under siege over their claims. And last night, the scandal forced another MP to quit, with former Labour minister Elliot Morely announcing he would not seek re-election after claiming £16,800 in taxpayer-funded allowances for interest on a mortgage already paid off.
Mark Wallace, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said he was astounded MSPs would even consider claiming back money given to a veterans’ charity. “It is disgraceful that so many MSPs have claimed Remembrance Day wreaths on expenses and that it is allowed under Scottish Parliament rules,” he said.
May 22, 2009
A Tory MP is to retire after admitting he claimed a £1,645 “duck island” on expenses – as two Labour ministers face questions over capital gains tax.
Sir Peter Viggers, whose gardening claims totalled £30,000, is to quit at “the direct request of David Cameron”.
Meanwhile Gordon Brown defended James Purnell and Geoff Hoon, saying they had complied with the “spirit and letter” of rules over the sale of London homes. They both insist they did nothing wrong by not paying capital gains tax…
After hearing about the latest expenses revelations, Tory leader David Cameron told Gosport MP Sir Peter he faced the removal of the whip if he did not announce that he would withdraw at the next election.
The Conservatives’ scrutiny panel will decide what figure Sir Peter will have to pay back. Sources say it will be a “substantial sum”.
Sir Peter said the claims he made “were in accordance with the rules at the time, and were all approved by the fees office”.
- BBC News
May 18, 2009
… to the tune of ‘Comet’.
A new book claims the Spanish dictator, General Francisco Franco, may have had more in common with Adolf Hitler than previously known – having one testicle.
Much like the Nazi leader, Franco’s loss stemmed from an injury he suffered in battle, his doctor’s granddaughter told the historian Jose Maria Zavala.
Franco was wounded in the lower abdomen at El Biutz, near Ceuta, in June 1916.
Biographers have long speculated this affected the reproductive organs of the dictator, who ruled from 1939 to 1975. However, he did have a daughter, Carmen Franco y Polo, in 1926.
- BBC News
May 17, 2009
A radical Muslim who dressed his baby daughter in a hat with “I love al-Qaeda” on it tried to firebomb the home of the publisher of a controversial novel about the Prophet Mohammed.
Ali Beheshti, 40, along with Abrar Mirza, 22, have admitted conspiracy to recklessly damage property and endanger life after they poured diesel through the letterbox of a publishing house in Islington, North London.
Abbas Taj, 30, a mini-cab driver, was found guilty at Croydon Crown court of conspiracy to firebomb the home of Martin Rynja, the publisher of The Jewel Of Medina. He was to be the getaway driver, but was stopped in his car and arrested by armed police near Angel Tube station in the early hours in September last year, just after they had set fire to the premises.
Beheshti’s 20-month-old daughter, Farisa, was pictured wearing the hat when he took her along to a protest against Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed and proudly called her “the youngest member of al-Qaeda”. He waved banners vowing to “Massacre those who insult Islam” and promising “Europe, your 9/11 will come!” During the protests in 2006 he called himself Abu Jihad — meaning holy war.
The three men began their attack when publisher Mr Rynja was preparing to release The Jewel Of Medina, a novel about the Prophet Mohammed and the life of his child bride, Aisha.
The trio were planning to spend the night at Regent’s Park Mosque, in North London, as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but shortly after arrival they set out with “fire-making equipment” for the home of Mr Rynja…
The publication of The Jewel of Medina was cancelled by one major publisher in the United States over fears that it could offend Muslims.
Run that “religion of peace” line past me again…
May 15, 2009
The number of people out of work in the UK rose 244,000 to 2.22 million in the first three months of 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The jobless rate rose from 6.7% to 7.1%. Unemployment benefit claimants in April rose 57,100 to 1.51 million.
The quarterly rises in the jobless rate and number were the biggest since 1981.
The figures were due to be released by the ONS at 0930 BST on Wednesday, but came out at 1400 on Tuesday after an “accidental early release”.
The ONS has launched an inquiry into how the early release happened.
- BBC News