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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Famous 'Railway Children' bridge saved by cash award


Bridge 18 on Keighley and Worth Valley RailwayMasonry on Bridge 18 was in serious need of repair after winter frost damage

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A West Yorkshire bridge featured in the 1970 film The Railway Children has been saved amid fears over its future.
Frost had damaged the bridge at Mytholmes near Haworth on which Jenny Agutter was filmed waving her petticoat to stop a train hitting a landslide.
If the deterioration had continued, trains would not have been able to run along the full length of the historic Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
Repair work can now go ahead after grants and donations of £100,000.
The damage to Bridge 18 was the result of severe winter frosts.
A grant of £25,000 was awarded to the railway by the South Pennines Leader Fund.
A further award of £20,000 was given by tourist organisation Welcome to Yorkshire.
'Huge response'
The remaining cash, amounting to over £50,000, came from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Charitable Trust and what is described as "a huge response from the general public" via an ongoing appeal.
Matt Stroh, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway chairman, said he was delighted the repairs could now go ahead.
"We can get the work done and see the railway running for many years to come," he said.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: "This is an historic railway, steeped in history and the home of The Railway Children - an iconic film which is famous worldwide.
"It is a key visitor attraction, which is why it was important we lent a helping hand."
The railway's appeal for funds continues, with around £150,000 still needed to repair a nearby bridge.

The Deir Yassin Massacre - "We Created Terror Among the Arabs"


On April 9, 1948, members of the underground Jewish terrorist group, the Irgun, or IZL, led by Menachem Begin, who was to become the Israeli prime minister in 1977, entered the peaceful Arab village of Deir Yassin, massacred 250 men, women, children and the elderly, and stuffed many of the bodies down wells. There were also reports of rapes and mutilations. The Irgun was joined by the Jewish terrorist group, the Stern Gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir, who subsequently succeeded Begin as prime minister of Israel in the early '80s, and also by the Haganah, the militia under the control of David Ben Gurian. The Irgun, the Stern Gang and the Haganah later joined to form the Israeli Defense Force. Their tactics have not changed.
The massacre at Deir Yassin was widely publicized by the terrorists and the numerous heaped corpses displayed to the media. In Jaffe, which was at the time 98 percent Arab, as well as in other Arab communities, speaker trucks drove through the streets warning the population to flee and threatening another Deir Yassin. Begin said at the time, "We created terror among the Arabs and all the villages around. In one blow, we changed the strategic situation."
From about 1938 on to the founding of Israel, Begin was the leader of the Irgun. That group regularly assassinated English soldiers in Palestine and frequently hung their booby-trapped bodies in public places. Under Begin, the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 97 British civil servants. The Stern Gang, under Shamir, also assassinated the U.N. representative to Palestine, Count Bernadotte, in 1948.
But Deir Yassin was not the only massacre by the Israeli Defense Force. That army, under Moshe Dayan, took the unarmed and undefended village of al-Dawazyma, located in the Hebron hills, massacred 80 to 100 of its residents, and threw their bodies into pits. "The children were killed by breaking their heads with sticks ... The remaining Arabs were then sealed in houses, as the village was systematically razed ..." (Nur Masalha, The Historical Roots of the Palestinian Refugee Question).
We read further. According to Yitzhak Rabin's biography:
We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Alon repeated his question: "What is to be done with the population?" BG waved his hand in a gesture, which said: Drive them out! ... I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out.
Continuing the narrative, Ben-Gurion University historian Benny Morris writes in "Operation Dani and the Palestinian Exodus from Lydda and Ramle in 1948", Middle East Journal, 40
At 13.30 hours on 12 July [1948]... Lieutenant-Colonel Yitzhak Rabin, operation Dani head Operation, issued the following order: '1. The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age. They should be directed to Beit Nabala,... Implement Immediately.' A similar order was issued at the same time to the Kiryati Brigade concerning the inhabitants of the neighboring town of Ramle, occupied by Kiryati troops that morning... On 12 and 13 July, the Yaftah brigades carried out their orders, expelling the 50-60,000 remaining inhabitants of and refugees camped in and around the two towns....
About noon on 13 July, Operation Dani HQ informed IDF General Staff/Operations: 'Lydda police fort has been captured. [The troops] are busy expelling the inhabitants.... Lydda's inhabitants were forced to walk eastward to the Arab legion lines; many of Ramle's inhabitants were ferried in trucks or buses. Clogging the roads... the tens of thousands of refugees marched, gradually shedding their worldly goods along the way. It was a hot summer day. The Arab chroniclers, such as Sheikh Muhammed Nimr al Khatib, claimed that hundreds of children died in the march, from dehydration and disease. One Israeli witness described the spoor: the refugee column 'to begin with [jettisoned] utensils and furniture and, in the end, bodies of men, women, and children.
There were many other such villages with Arabic names that have almost been expunged from memory--but not quite. These facts have always been known to some historians, however they have been consistently denied by the official Israeli histories, as, indeed, Israel has never taken any responsibility for the exodus of Palestinians from the land of the present state of Israel.
Within the last 10 to 20 years, however, there has been an exponential increase in historical studies of the origins of the state of Israel which have coincided with the release by Israel of many, but not all, of the historical and military archives. Ben-Gurion University historian Benny Morris, as well as others, have systematically mined these documents and found numerous instances of massacres, and, by the way, not one shred of evidence for the frequently repeated official Israeli lie that the Palestinians fled Palestine because the surrounding Arab states told them to.
In fact, according to UN estimates, which some say are conservative, 750,000 Palestinians fled the site of the present Jewish state in 1948. Those refugees and their descendents now number about 4.5 million and constitute the largest and longest standing refugee population in the world. Many live in squalid refugee camps distributed in the surrounding Arab states or in the West Bank or Gaza, many retain the titles to their land, recognized by the British before 1948 or the Ottomans before that , and many retain the keys to their front doors of their former homes in what is now Israel, whether or not those doors still exists.
The '67 War generated a second wave of about 300,000 refugees from the West Bank and Gaza who were either expelled through direct or psychological methods or fled the Israel aerial attacks on the territories which included the extensive use of napalm.
The reader is invited to read the Hagana's Plan D , which has been available in English since the 1960s and was a military strategy of 1948 that entailed the evacuation of the Palestinian population from the areas of a future Jewish state.
Those who invoke the suicide bombings against mostly Israeli civilians to infer the righteousness of the Israeli cause live in a twilight of psychic denial of an otherwise unambiguous historical record: the state of Israel was founded on terrorism and ethnic cleansing.
The suicide bombings inside Israel, the first of which only occurred in 1994, after 25 years of occupation, is only a side show. That is a symptom and long way from the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There will never be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until Israel takes responsibility, under U.N. Resolution 194, calling for reparation of the Palestinian refugees, and recognizes the immense suffering it caused at that time. We need also to recognize the US is giving unqualified moral support to a state that is based on racial purity and one that is intrinsically expansionist.
William James Martin is a visiting Instructor of Mathematics at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. He can be reached at: martinw@email.unc.edu
Source: counterpunch.org

Nigella, The Burkini And The "Betrayal Of Her Own Brand". Well, Not Really


nigella lawson burkini
Nigella Lawson ruffled a few feathers recently by daring to wear a burkini on a Sydney beach. And why not, surely no free society should ‘allow’ you to cover up on the beach. There must also be a few wondering who has oppressed her in to making such a decision.
Reading the commentary in the newspapers has been amusing, as people question her motivation.
"Whether this decision was a style blunder, a 'betrayal of her own brand', or a defiant and admirable insistence on privacy for her body."
I am hazarding a guess, but as she does have quite pale skin, perhaps she wants to protect herself from prolonged sun light exposure. Or maybe she’s a little self conscious and feels more comfortable covering up. Whatever her reason, given the media coverage her outing got, she may think twice about wearing it again. I hope that's not the case.

Mock Israeli Checkpoint at Birmingham University


Children flee from Israeli attack on Gaza
Here is the facade.
Here is the reality.
Make a change today, join MPACUK and help relieve the Palestinians from opression and humiliation by putting an end to the Zionist oppression.









The Do's & Don'ts of Palestine


Don’t call it genocide
we don’t want to offend anyone
if we offend them
they’ll never listen to us
we have to be reasonable
1,400 is just a number
no names
no death
we want peace and negotiations
don’t mention Zionism
if you mention Zionism
they’ll call you anti-Semitic
and people will believe them
don’t cite Palestinian sources
no one will believe you
I won’t believe you
trust Israeli sources
don’t ever be angry
if you’re angry
they’ll call you angry
if they’re angry
everyone will call them
understandably emotional
we have to be pragmatic
pragmatism is not a euphemism
for concessions
although it may feel that way
don’t mention Allah or martyrs
it reminds them of Al Qaeda and 9/11
it’s not your job to fix their ignorance
don’t talk about refugees
boycott
or a one-state solution
if we want to win
we have to compromise
the road to peace is just ahead
don’t make analogies that include
the Holocaust, Nazis, or the Warsaw Ghetto
only Israelis are allowed to do this
when discussing wars on
Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran
don’t mention Yaffa, Haifa, Safad
or where your family is from
but if you do
nod when random people say they love Israel
it doesn’t matter where you came from
you can’t go back
don’t
just don’t
and that will lead to doing.....
Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian-American poet, writer, and activist living in New York City. He is the editor of Poets For Palestine and the author of the newly released collection of poetry and CD, Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine.
The collection is available today on www.PoeticInjustice.net.


Read more: http://www.mpacuk.org/story/170411/dos-donts-palestine.html-0#ixzz1Kp6ARltP

Tabsir Redux: Apocalypse Watch: The Man Who Knows Squat


Most people find it hard to take cartoons seriously, apart from political satire and that can become a deadly issue, depending on the target. Given the recent Danish cartoon controversy it would seem that comics and religion do not mix well or at least settle well for the believers who see themselves as the target. But what about comic relief for the political struggle between Israel and the Palestinians? Fundamentalist tract artist Jack Chick, whose comic empire is dedicated to winning souls for Christ by drawing on God’s hate, has been using his pen to spread a rather nasty version of the Gospel for over 40 years. One of his more recent offerings is called “The Squatters” and it provides a virtual roadmap to apocalypse.
When it comes to historical knowledge about the Middle East, Chick takes a luridly literal view of Bible history. The story is an old one and a simple one. God created the earth but ordained a small part of it, now called Israel and Palestine, for the seed of Abraham through Jacob. The black sheep in Abraham’s tent, namely Ishmael and Esau, became the Arabs, a rather sinister looking bunch as Chick depicts them.
God loved Israel, but Israel rejected their Lord, so God sent his son Jesus to die on a cross (and give Mel Gibson a movie plot) and that prompted Satan to invent the Catholic Church (which incidentally invented Islam, but that is another plot).
The Catholic church persecuted “real” Christians, including Hitler’s holocaust against the Jews. Then the Arabs join in the campaign, with the Palestinians being deemed “trash” by the oil-rich neighbors.
So what choice is there but world War III?
But wait, the worst is yet to come. The Bible Belt Christians all get raptured up into heaven and all hell breaks loose on earth with the Vatican and Israel foolishly signing a peace treaty. But along comes “The Beast” and persecutes the Jews worse than ever before and once again they call on God for help. Jesus comes and that’s the way the world ends, not with a bang but a burning lake of fire for the bad guys and streets paved with gold for the good folk.
Were this only a comic, it would be laughable, but Chick’s artistic imagination captures a common apocalyptic scenario of conservative Protestants who hate Catholicism and Islam equally. Given a reality check, Chick does not know squat about the history and cultures of the region. But then again, perhaps all he knows is squat.
Daniel Martin Varisco

Political Party Launches 'Kill Muslims & Blow Up Mosques' Video Game


Austria's far-right Freedom Party sparked outrage by launching an online video game which allows players to shoot down minarets and muezzins calling for prayer. The game, called “Moschee Baba”, or “Bye Bye Mosque”, gives players 60 seconds to collect points by placing a target over cartoon mosques, minarets and Muslims and click a “Stop” sign.
A few weeks ago we asked if it is wrong to play as the Taliban? after Liam Fox got all haughty over the non-issue. This example of inciting racial hatred is yet another example of a blatant double standard that is beginning to garner mainstream support throughout Europe - with all of society's ills being blamed on Muslims and Islam.
The country that gave us Hitler is seeing a rise in support for the far-right, with the "Freedom Party" polling 17.5% of the vote at national level in 2008.
This is religious hatred and xenophobia beyond comparison.

Holland's Vote on Banning Halal and Kosher Practices

In Holland a vote will take place later this month, which could see the practices of halal and kosher means of slaughtering an animal being banned. It is claimed that such practices inflict unnecessary suffering on animals. Switzerland, New Zealand, Scandinavia and Baltic countries already ban these procedures.
The practice of slaughtering an animal in accordance with halal and kosher methods, requires the animal be slaughtered while still awake by cutting the neck arteries with a sharp knife. The blood is then allowed to drain from the body while the heart is still pumping, pushing the blood out. The animal then blacks out and faints. Any movement thereafter is due to muscles contracting. The desire to drain the body of blood is because it has many diseases and is not hygienic. Stunning an animal prior to slaughter stuns the heart, preventing the blood leaving the body fully.
In light of this recent proposal, Jewish and Muslim groups have reacted angrily, calling the bill an affront to freedom of religion. Those in favour of this ban believe it is necessary to protect animals from undue suffering.
This then becomes a thorny issue. On the one hand, due to increasing awareness of animal welfare, growing numbers of people are demanding animal rights be upheld and protected. On the other hand, there is the protection of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. To suggest animal rights trump religious freedom, is not the answer. Here one moves from protecting the right of one group, to protecting the right of another group.
No doubt, legitimate animal rights campaigners are moved by their genuine concern for the ethical treatment of animals, and Muslims worldwide share this belief and concern. The fact this ban is being headed by the Right Wing Freedom Party in alliance with the Party of Animals, gives weight and credibility to the Jewish and Muslim groups' concerns, who sense sinister motives at work. If the Freedom Party was genuinely concerned with animal rights it would be dedicated in trying to end the appalling mal-treatment of battery hens. These hens are squeezed inside small cages, with up to eight or nine others for life, without exercise. They develop severe osteoporosis of intensive confinement, with many becoming paralyzed and dying of hunger. To read the full horrors of what these birds experience click here.
The Freedom Party, moved by concern and well-being for animals would be equally vociferous and condemning against France’s love of foie gras. This is the controversial practice of force-feeding duck or geese more food than they can eat, in order to fatten the liver.
Animal rights are not what is driving the vote for a ban on halal and kosher practices in Holland, it is religious intolerance. The Freedom Party headed by Geert Wilders is vehemently opposed to Islam, having previously called for the banning of the Quran and the building of new Mosques and has now aligned itself with the Animal Party in order to drive its agenda, by banning halal practices. This is not an animal rights issue, this is Islamophobia on the increase.

France discrimination favors Jews


The French public starts to feel betrayed by the government as its debate on laïcité turns out to be focused on Islam and that it is the Muslim community Paris cannot stand.


One of the 16 points in the proposed secularism package by the ruling Union for a Political Movement (UMP) is that no religious community has the right to request a privilege.

UMP Secretary General Jean-François Copé noted that asking for cancellation of exams by educational institutions on the occasion of certain religious holidays as a case in point.

However, it soon came into light that some engineering schools have been pressured by the Elysée to postpone exams coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Passover so that Jewish students could freely participate in the tests.

A senior official in the French Education Ministry leaked the news to a number of websites and the magazine Le Point commissioned its reporters to pursue the case.

The schools, however, declined to comment on the issue, but two school officials acknowledged that they have been under pressure to adjourn the exams but they did not give in to Elysée.

The French government soon denied the allegations but failed to forestall the reflections in the media.

Eventually, the Chief Jewish Chaplain for the French Army, Major General Rabbi Haim Corsia admitted to his efforts to use his position to serve religious purposes.

He said that he asked President Nicolas Sarkozy to order the delay of the Passover exams and that Sarkozy issued a decree in this regard.

The French Jewish Council later said the move was not in contradiction with the concept of laïcité.

But the usually Islamophobic secular sites, normally replete with materials against the faith of Islam and its spread across France, published articles criticizing Sarkozy's move as a threat to secularism in the country. But the articles were removed after a day.

The attempt also sparked an outrage among the country's Muslim population who condemned Sarkozy's hypocrisy.

Now it appears that the entire secularism debate in France, claimed to cover all religious groups, was merely aimed at covering the discriminatory approach adopted by Paris against Muslims in the country and a gateway from religious discrimination charges.

The recent revelations is widely viewed as a scandal that lays bare the French government's double standards in its dealing with religious issues as well as the influence of Jewish lobbies in the country. 

France to ban Muslim street prayers


French Interior Minister Claude Gueant seeks to ban praying in the street as part of a continuation of recent discrimination against Muslims in the western European country.


Gueant said that he plans to make praying in the streets for Muslims illegal, although all public prayers in France receive government approval beforehand.

“Here we have the hypocrisy of the French right. On one side, they authorize in the street and on the other side, they say 'look French people, Muslims are taking over our streets and speak of invasion',” French lawmaker Axel Urgin told a Press TV correspondent.

Even though France has the greatest Muslim population in Europe, Paris has only one mosque. This lack of mosques leaves French Muslims no choice but to attend Friday prayers at about a dozen street locations across France.

“If we are praying in the street, it's because we have no other choice. We are using what we have, and that is the street,” the president of Muslim Association of Openness, Moussa Niambele said.

French politicians use the country's 1905 secularism law as reasoning why taxpaying Muslims cannot be financially assisted by the government to build mosques. Right-wing mayors also allegedly refuse issuing construction permits to those who have the money.

Although another large mosque is currently under construction in the French capital of Paris, many say it will not be sufficient. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

'Wipe my teeth with hundreds': Alleged bank robbers busted after bragging of heist on Facebook


Criminals discover that what goes on Facebook doesn't stay on Facebook.
Chron.com reports that four young people have been charged with robbing a bank in Houston, Texas of $62,000, after police learned about the alleged crime from the suspects' Facebook updates.
Police say the March 23 robbery of the International Bank of Commerce on 1545 Eldridge Parkway was planned by two 19-year old bank tellers, Estefany Martinez and Anna Margarita Rivera.
The young woman allegedly recruited Martinez's 18-year-old boyfriend, Ricky 'Ricko Gee' Gonzalez and Rivera's 22-year-old brother, Arturo Solano, to don plastic masks and stage an armed robbery at the bank at a time when no one else was working there.
One day after the alleged heist, Gonzalez reportedly posted on his Facebook page: 'WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS …'
He also allegedly boasted of wiping another part of his anatomy with $50 bills.
Two days after the robbery, Martinez posted: 'IM RICH …' followed by an obscene rhyme.

We'll murder police, says Real IRA


The Real IRA has threatened to "execute" police officers and warned that the Queen's first visit to the Republic of Ireland is an "insult".
But the dissident republican group behind the latest threat to police officers in Northern Ireland was criticised for being "morally and politically bankrupt".
A statement from the terrorist group was read by a masked man on Monday in a Londonderry cemetery at a rally organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
It comes as security forces face a heightened threat after the recent murder of Catholic Constable Ronan Kerr, 25, in a booby-trap bomb under his car in Omagh, Co Tyrone.
In a statement, the masked member of the Real IRA said: "Oglaigh na hEireann (the IRA) urge all self-respecting Irishmen and women to resist the upcoming insult that is the visit of a British monarch to Irish soil, the criminal free state government invite is not on behalf of the Irish people but to further the selfish interests of a self-serving elite.
"Despite the best efforts of the media, big business, and other power blocks to portray this visit as acceptable we clearly state that the Irish people will not capitulate. The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message."
The Real IRA said police officers would be targeted "regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation".
Foyle MP Mark Durkan said their pretensions to legitimacy would impress nobody. Former SDLP leader Mr Durkan said: "The Real IRA's words are intended to intimidate everyone but their pretensions to legitimacy will impress no one. Politicians do not really have to argue that this group is morally and politically bankrupt when they are driven to attack and threaten nationalists who want to serve the community and their country through a policing vocation. Their statement speaks for itself."
Amid the violence, the Queen's forthcoming visit to Dublin is an effort to strengthen ties between the two countries. Irish president Mary McAleese extended the invitation.
This month motorists near Newry, Co Down, close to the border with the Irish Republic, drove past a car bomb when they moved cones placed there by police.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Furore over royal wedding guest list


Bahraini prince pulls out after global outrage at crackdown on protests / Human rights groups say representatives of despotic regimes should be barred
By Jonathan Brown

Prince Charles and the Foreign Office found themselves at the centre of a human rights row over the guest list for Friday's royal wedding, with protests planned outside Westminster Abbey and five-star hotels because of invitations to foreign despots and figureheads from autocratic regimes.
The Crown Prince of Bahrain was last night forced to pull out of attending the wedding, hours before he had been due to fly in to London, amid anger over his role in the Gulf state's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Human rights activists had pledged to disrupt Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa's stay in Britain with a series of protests, insisting that he is the chief architect of the Saudi-backed security forces' violent response to the demonstrators, which has left up to 31 people dead.
More than 500 opponents of the regime have been arrested since protests began in February, while there has been mounting international outrage at the regime's targeting of medical staff willing to treat those injured in clashes with Baharani police.
The Bahraini prince wrote to the Prince of Wales yesterday apologising for withdrawing, which he described as a matter of "deep regret". He said he had left the decision "for as long as possible in the sincere hope that ongoing events – resulting from recent unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain – might have improved, leaving me able to join the celebrations without being overshadowed by issues in Bahrain."
The prince was due to attend the service at the special invitation of the Queen, sitting alongside overseas monarchy, diplomats and Commonwealth heads of state at the front of Westminster Abbey.
Protests are still expected to go ahead despite his absence because of the presence of Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the UK, and the King of Swaziland over human rights abuses in their countries.
St James's Palace said that all diplomatic invitations had been agreed by the Foreign Office. A Palace spokesman said there were now no plans for anyone to represent the people of Bahrain. The Foreign Office declined to comment. All sides insisted that the decision was a "private matter" and that no diplomatic pressure had been brought to bear.
Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said he believed Britain, which is one of the country's leading trading partners, had asked the Bahraini prince to stay away to prevent further embarrassment.
Bahrainis living in the UK plan to stage demonstrations close to Westminster Abbey at the decision to invite Prince Salman, who has been commander-in-chief of the country's defence force since 1999.
"We are still very upset because the invitation is still valid. He rejected it," he said. "We would like to see the British government fully condemn what is going on – not invite people to a wedding who have blood on their hands.
"Doctors and people are in jail at this moment. Hospitals are under attack... Human rights activists are being killed and tortured to death and thousands of people are in jail."
The human rights situation in the country has deteriorated dramatically in the last month. This weekend opposition leaders said the authorities have demolished 16 mosques as punishment for protests by the Shia majority against their Sunni rulers.
In a report last week, Amnesty International accused the Bahraini government of using "excessive force" since launching an "orchestrated crackdown" against protesters on 16 March. It said security forces were using shotguns, rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition.
Four people are believed to have died in custody while the whereabouts of hundreds of detainees is still not known. Among those held are doctors and nurses from the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain's main hospital.
An Amnesty spokesman called on the British government to use any opportunity to urge Bahrain to halt its crackdown on freedom of expression and demanded it put an end to double standards after vigorously supporting opponents of the existing regimes in Libya and Syria.
In his letter to Prince Charles, Prince Salman said the British media had "fundamentally misrepresented my own position on recent events and sought to involve my attendance as a proxy for wider matters involving Bahrain".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MPs hit at MoD over Typhoon fighters

By John O'Doherty

MPs have criticised the management of the UK's purchase of Typhoon fighter jets –currently being used in Libya –saying the Ministry of Defence failed to cost the project correctly in advance, or provide evidence that the contract achieved value for money.

The report also criticised the management of Typhoon's maintenance and upkeep, saying that there was a lack of spare parts for the jet.

"The history of the Typhoon fighter aircraft represents yet another example of over-optimism, bad planning and an unacceptably high bill for the taxpayer," said Margaret Hodge, chair of the Committee on Public Accounts, which released a report on the matter on Friday.

"The MoD is now buying 30 per cent fewer Typhoon fighter aircraft than originally planned, the cost of the project is now expected to be £3.5bn more than was originally approved and if we take all expenditure into account, the cost of each aircraft has increased by 75 per cent."

Along with the older Tornado, the Typhoon is Britain's main fighter jet. The first batch ordered by the UK were so-called "air-superiority" fighters, intended to defend UK airspace against enemy combat planes, and have been upgraded to make them ground-attack capable.

The second tranche all have the capacity to strike targets on the ground as well as in the air. However, in the current operations on Libya, the RAF has mostly used the Tornado for ground attacks.

The Typhoon is built by a consortium of BAE Systems, Finmeccanica and EADS in conjunction with Germany, Italy and Spain. The project is expected to cost the UK £37bn, including acquisition and support of the aircraft over the next 20 years.

The report criticised the way in which the MoD managed the changing roles of the Tornado and Typhoon. It said that the £119m upgrade to equip the Typhoon for ground attack was subsequently negated by a decision to reprioritise it for air-superiority, calling into question the value of the £119m spent.

Because of the lack of spare parts, mechanics had been forced to "cannibalise" parts from other aircraft to keep Typhoons flying.

This reduced the number available to the MoD, and five pilots had to be grounded in 2010. The report said that this reduced availability left only 8 out of 48 pilots trained in the plane's ground attack capability.

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, said the problems had now been resolved.

"The NAO's March report concluded that after years of financial mismanagement and project delays under the previous government, the Typhoon project has been turned around," he said.

"The Typhoon is a world beating air-to-air fighter and is fast developing a ground attack capability as is being demonstrated in Libya. We have sufficient numbers of qualified ground attack pilots to meet our operational tasks and this number is increasing all the time."

Israeli Army Promotes Killing of Children & Pregnant Women Through Shirts

Lets not forget "Palestine the world's largest open air prison"

The situation in Gaza.

Videos: World's largest open air prison

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