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December 16, 2011

Author and contrarian Christopher Hitchens dies at age 62

Author and contrarian Christopher Hitchens dies at age 62

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens speaking in 2007 at The Amazing Meeting 5 (TAM5) conference in Las Vegas.
Image: ensceptico.

British-born author, journalist and political commentator Christopher Hitchens has died yesterday aged 62 at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer in June 2010.

Hitchens was born in 1949 in Portsmouth. After graduating from Oxford with a third-class degree in politics, philosophy and economics in 1970, Hitchens wrote for the Times Higher Educational Supplement briefly, before moving on to the New Statesman where he met the novelist Martin Amis. After moving to the United States in 1981, he started writing for U.S.-based publications like Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and Slate.

In more recent years, Hitchens sided with George W. Bush in supporting the war in Iraq, and also went on to write a polemical book on religion, God Is Not Great, following a theme apparent in his earlier debunking efforts towards Mother Teresa—”a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud” according to Hitchens. The death of Jerry Falwell raised Hitchens’ ire, stating that it is “a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to” and calling him a “faith-based fraud”.

In his memoirs, Hitch-22, he wrote of a sexual encounter with two (unnamed) male members of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. Hitchens was well-known for his drinking and smoking habits, consuming 50,000 cigarettes a year according to one report, and drinking enough every day “to stun the average mule” (according to Hitchens himself). The discovery of cancer last year was, according to Hitchens, “something so predictable and banal that it bores even me”.

Salman Rushdie, whom Hitchens had supported against Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, wrote on Twitter following Hitchens’ death: “Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops”.

Hitchens was not close to his brother Peter Hitchens, a conservative columnist. He is survived by wife Carol Blue, daughter Antonia, and two children Alexander and Sophia from an earlier marriage.

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February 4, 2009

UK television presenter sacked after \”golliwog\” comment

UK television presenter sacked after “golliwog” comment

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The BBC building in White City, London, from where The One Show is broadcast
Image: Redvers.

The BBC has sacked Carol Thatcher after she compared a black tennis player to a golliwog doll.

Thatcher, daughter of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was dropped from the primetime BBC One magazine programme The One Show after she made the remark after the show in the studio green room. The BBC has declined to name the tennis player in question.

Illustration of a child with a golliwog doll.
Image: Amandajm.

The BBC said that it had hoped for an unconditional apology from the 55-year-old journalist and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here winner after staff reported that the remark to management, but a spokesman said “We’re no longer going to be working with her on The One Show” when the apology did not appear.

Thatcher’s spokesman said that she “never intended any racist comment”, adding that “[s]he made a light aside about this tennis player and his similarity to the golliwog on the jam pot when she was growing up. There’s no way, obviously, that she would condone any racist comment – we would refute that entirely. It would not be in her nature to do anything like that”. He said that “[s]he has summarily apologised”.

The BBC said that remarks of this type were “wholly unacceptable”. Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit said “It does seem very odd that Jonathan Ross can be back broadcasting having made obscene, insulting remarks on the air, and Carol Thatcher, who said something which is allegedly highly offensive but which I rather doubt was meant to be so, in private, should be banned in this way,” adding, “It is probably a bit of a way for the BBC to get back at Carol’s mother”. The AFP news agency reports that Thatcher will still work with the BBC on other projects.

The Corporation has suffered scandals in the last few years, such as the recent Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross episode, which saw the two presenters making obscene phone calls to actor Andrew Sachs.



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August 25, 2008

Margaret Thatcher suffering from dementia, says daughter

Margaret Thatcher suffering from dementia, says daughter

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Margaret Thatcher in 1983.
Image: White House.

Carol Thatcher, the daughter of the former Prime Minister of Britain Margaret Thatcher, has revealed that her mother is suffering from dementia.

The revelation is to be published in Carol’s memoirs titled A Swim-On Part in the Goldfish Bowl: A Memoir, which is to go on sale in September. In them, Carol states that her mother’s illness is “a case of classic dementia, coupled with a series of mini-strokes.” Mrs Thatcher suffered several strokes in 2002, but suffered no short term memory loss as a result. Carol states that the signs of her illness began to take effect in 2000.

“As she became increasingly frail, many of her friends and colleagues became extraordinarily considerate when dealing with the new Lady T. The woman who had dominated discussions for so long could no longer lead debates or keep up with the thread of a drinks-party conversation,” wrote Carol who also said that at times Mrs Thatcher forgets that her late husband Denis is dead. He died in June of 2003 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

“I had to keep giving her the bad news again and again. Every time it finally sank in that she had lost her husband of more than 50 years, she’d look at me sadly and say ‘Oh’,” states Carol in her memoirs.

Margaret Thatcher is currently 82. She was born on October 13, 1925, and served as the Prime Minister of the U.K. for 11 years, from 1979 to 1990.



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June 20, 2008

Guinea coup trial defendant names co-conspirators

Guinea coup trial defendant names co-conspirators

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Equatorial Guinea
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Simon Mann, a former United Kingdom SAS officer, told an Equatorial Guinea court that he was one of the “junior” members of a 2004 attempt to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and not the mastermind as the prosecution claimed. In his address to the court, Mann named several others involved in the plot including Mark Thatcher, son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Chelsea-based Lebanese billionaire Ely Calil, whom Mann alleges was one of the major players.

The planned coup was allegedly plotted and bankrolled by a group of influential figures, including Calil, in an attempt to put self-declared opposition leader Severo Moto — currently living in exile in Madrid, Spain — in power and claim the profits from de facto ownership of the country’s oil reserves. Mann, who had run mercenaries in civil conflicts in other African countries, claims Calil convinced him to run the operation through financial and moral incentives. “They knew I would be sympathetic to the story they told about the oil money not getting to the people,” he told the court. Mann claimed that he was told the coup was supported by South Africa, Spain and the United States, as well as several unnamed oil companies, and that the conspirators included several members of Nguema’s own parliament who kept watch of his movements.

Mann was arrested in Zimbabwe at Harare airport in 2004 on the way to Equatorial Guinea along with 61 alleged accomplices. He was found guilty of attempting to buy arms for the alleged coup plot, and sentenced to seven years’ prison in Zimbabwe. In May 2007 a Zimbabwe judge court ruled for him to be extradited to Equatorial Guinea. Co-conspirator Nick Du Toit, who is currently serving a 34-year sentence for his role, was already in the capital city of Malabo with a troupe of mercenaries when Mann was arrested.



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2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d’état attempt



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May 17, 2008

Warsaw court requests testimony from Thatcher and Gorbachev

Warsaw court requests testimony from Thatcher and Gorbachev

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Poland
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Margaret Thatcher in 1983.

Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.

A Warsaw court threw out an indictment against nine persons accused of illegally imposing martial law in communist Poland in December 1981. In handing the case back to National Remembrance Institute (IPN) prosecutors it pointed out “significant shortcomings” in the underlying investigation and requesting testimony from several world leaders from that time, including British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and later Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The court also ordered the IPN to obtain documentation from various foreign archives, including Russian ones. It said the information presented in the indictment was incomplete, outdated and self-contradictory.

General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who headed the Polish government during martial law and who originally asked for testimony by world leaders to be included in the trial, declined to comment.



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September 6, 2007

Former Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau criticised in new book \”Brian Mulroney: Memoirs 1939-1993\”

Former Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau criticised in new book “Brian Mulroney: Memoirs 1939-1993”

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mulroney gives an interview following the release of his memoirs.
Image: Joshua Sherurcij.

Written in his new book “Brian Mulroney: Memoirs 1939-1993”, a 1,100-page to-be-released book, former Progressive-Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who was PM of Canada from 1984 to 1993, has revealed that he called former Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau a “coward” and criticised his decisions on the Meech Lake Accord, questions Trudeau’s moral leadership, his refusal to fight against Nazis, his admiration for leaders such as Adolf Hitler, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration views, and his belief in the independence of Québec.

According to the Canadian Press, Mulroney was quoted saying after Trudeau died that he was “an exceptional individual who served his country effectively and well . . . a gallant political warrior who loved his country.”

In his book, one quote says “Pierre Trudeau, Captain Canada? I think not.” Another quote says Trudeau was “opposed to enlightened policies designed to wipe out the curse of Nazism.”

“‘Bunglers’, ‘cowards’, ‘snivelers’ — Trudeau knew whereof he spoke,” Mulroney also writes.

The book not only criticises Trudeau, but former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien and former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard.

The book hits stores next Monday. A 90-minute special television interview conducted by news anchor Lloyd Robertson entitled “Triumph & Treachery: The Brian Mulroney Story” will air on Sunday night on CTV at 7:00pm ET. [1] Quebec French-language channel TVA will air a version in french.

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“This is a Brian Mulroney Canadians have never seen before,” a news release written by Robertson said. “He opens up and shares intimate details about world leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela. He also lashes out at his political opponents and deals with the controversies that have followed him through the years.”

“This is a man who questioned the Allies and when the Jews were being sacrificed and when the great extermination program was on — he was marching around Outremont here on the other side of the issue,” Mulroney told CTV.

Trudeau, who died in 2000 at the age of 80 from Parkison’s disease, was prime minister of Canada from 1968 to 1984. He is considered the most well-recognised prime minster and particularly popular with many in Canada. Both prime ministers were from Quebec.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion and many others rebucked Mulroney for his comments.

It is regrettable that, after attending Prime Minister Trudeau’s funeral and praising him as ‘an exceptional individual who served his country effectively and well … a gallant political warrior who loved his country,’ Mr. Mulroney would seem to be at such odds with his own views.

While Mr. Mulroney’s track record in politics may indeed explain his frustrations with Prime Minister Trudeau, they do not qualify him as a historian.

If Mr. Mulroney wanted to fight with Mr. Trudeau when he was alive, that’s one thing. But Mr. Trudeau is not there any more and Mr. Mulroney should respect the man and respect what he did for the country and for the world.

Adversary or not, one cannot ignore Mr. Trudeau’s contributions to Canada. In bringing us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Prime Minister Trudeau ensured that the human rights of all our citizens would be protected.

Surely Mr. Mulroney wouldn’t dispute that in so doing, Prime Minister Trudeau earned the respect of all Canadians.

– Dion said in a press release on the Liberal party’s website.

“I wasn’t angry when I read it; I was just kind of sorry for him,” said Tom Axworthy, Trudeau’s principal secretary. I just think it’s sad that this former prime minister (Mulroney) is still so consumed by his predecessor that he’s spending time attacking a man who’s dead rather than talking about his own accomplishments. I’m sorry that he still obviously feels so threatened by the achievements of Trudeau.”

Trudeau’s sons, Justin, who will be a Liberal candidate for the Montréal, Québec riding of Papineau in the next federal election, and Alexandre, a journalist, have not yet commented.

In 2005, secret recordings taped by German-born arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber of his conversations with Mulroney, 68, were released in a book. In them, Mulroney made harsh statements and used bad-language. Schreiber said he paid Mulroney CAN$300,000 ($285,000) during the ongoing Airbus affair, which is now a subject of a legal battle.



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August 29, 2006

Historian Beckett names Thatcher & Attlee greatest Brit PMs

Historian Beckett names Thatcher & Attlee greatest Brit PMs

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Margaret Thatcher and Clement Attlee topped a list of the greatest British Prime Ministers, evaluated by Historian Francis Beckett. Writing in the BBC History Magazine, Beckett gave 20 Prime Ministers a score from 0 to 5, basing his view on the leader’s implementation of their policy rather than the content of their policies.

Margaret Thatcher

Clement Attlee

Thatcher and Attlee topped the list (both scoring 5). Identifying her victory over the miners as the key decider, Beckett said of Lady Thatcher: “Today few people under 40 remember a time when trade unions were a real force in the land, when the public sector controlled large swathes of the economy, when local councils controlled education and other local services, when benefits were considered rights of citizenship,”

Thatcher, the only woman to have become British Prime Minister, is recognised as one of the most significant British politicians in recent history and her policies have been met with both strong support and strong opposition.

Attlee, the longest serving Labour party leader (at 20 years) and Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, ranked highly due to his key role in major reforms in British politics and economy. He was responsible for the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) and for granting independence to India. In 2004 a poll of political academics (organised by MORI) Attlee was voted the most effective (non-wartime) British Prime Minister of the 20th century.

The current Prime Minister, Tony Blair ranked mid table; with a score of 3. Beckett noted that Blair’s handling of the Iraq War in 2003 marked him down, although his running reforms of schools and hospitals counted in his favour ensuring an average mark.

In a 2002 public poll (conducted by the BBC) Sir Winston Churchill (awarded 4 points in this new ranking along side Edward Heath and Harold Macmillan) was voted the greatest Briton of all time. Interestingly, in the same poll Thatcher came 16th whilst Attlee did not feature.

Of the twenty, only Neville Chamberlain and Sir Anthony Eden scored 0. Beckett cited Chamberlain’s failure to prevent the Second World War as his reason for the low marking.

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July 12, 2006

UK to get new nuclear power stations

UK to get new nuclear power stations – Wikinews, the free news source

UK to get new nuclear power stations

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The British government has given permission for new nuclear power stations to be built in the United Kingdom. This decision follows months of public debate and controversy over the proposal. Many Britons have argued for greater use of renewable energy supplies, but the government has said that even with a big increase in investment, renewable sources will not meet all of the UK’s additional energy demands. It is expected that 25 GW of additional generating capacity will be required over the next two decades, partly as compensation for old nuclear stations which will be closed down. This additional capacity must be met while reducing overall greenhouse gas emission as per the Kyoto Protocol.

The government also announced big increases in spending on renewable energy research and for the construction of onshore wind farms. It is claimed that 20% of energy will be produced from renewables by 2020, and if there are new breakthroughs in renewable energy science this figure may be increased further. Philip Wolfe of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) told the BBC “The government has seen the light on renewables. The energy review supports what we and many others have been consistently saying – that renewables, energy efficiency and decentralised systems are the strongest prospects for secure and sustainable energy supplies.”

The new nuclear plants will cost 400-500 million UK pounds (700-900 million US dollars) and will generate 1.5 to 2 GW of power each. These will provide the baseline amount of additional power should there be a lack of success in new areas of renewable energy research. The private sector will initiate, fund, construct and operate the new nuclear plants and will cover the full cost of decommissioning and their full share of long-term waste management costs. The Government proposes to address potential barriers to new nuclear stations, but says it will not provide any taxpayer money for the nuclear industry – tax investment will only be put into renewable energy research. This approach is similar to the successful approach adopted in the USA. It contrasts with early UK nuclear power development, where individual power plants or small groups of plants were planned and built by separate publicly funded research and engineering groups, but there was poor planning of nationwide issues such as waste management. Critics argue that the government has only put the nuclear option on the table as it is privately run and does not require government investment, whereas increasing renewable energy production would cost taxpayer money.

The review also discusses energy self-sufficiency, and points out that the increase in renewable energy to 20% of the total will improve the UK’s self sufficiency. No mention is made of opening uranium mines in the Orkney islands (or reopening Cornish uranium mines) in order to make the UK self-sufficient in uranium, something which Margaret Thatcher tried to address in 1980.

Some critics were disappointed that the review had little discussion of the reduction of emissions from transport, a sector which gives a larger contribution to the total UK emissions than electricity generation. This may relate to the high costs associated with significant reductions in emissions in the transport sector.

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July 17, 2005

Sir Edward Heath, former British PM, dies at 89

Sir Edward Heath, former British PM, dies at 89

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sir Edward Heath

Sir Edward Heath, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970-1974 and leader of the Conservative Party from 1965-1975, has died at his home in Salisbury just a week after his 89th birthday.

Heath implemented the decimalization of the British coinage, led the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community, attempted to end industrial unrest with the Industrial Relations Act, initiated a failed power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, and, in order to cope with a coal strike on top of the 1973 fuel crisis, instituted a three-day work week in the UK.

Today he was eulogised by fellow politicians, including Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who succeeded Heath after he was ousted from the Conservative Party leadership in 1975. She said that with Heath’s death Britain had lost a ‘political giant’. There was also praise, from Heath’s former political secretary Sir Douglas Hurd, for his contribution to the EEC.

‘He got us into the European Union,’ Sir Hurd said. ‘I mean that is a huge step, a very difficult one, which I doubt would have happened without his particular kind of thoroughness and determination. That was an amazing achievement.’[1]

Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement describing Sir Heath as ‘a man of great integrity and beliefs’.

Heath was offered the post of Ambassador to the United States in 1979, but declined. He continued to represent the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup as a backbench MP until his retirement in 2001. He was created a Knight of the Garter in 1992.

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June 4, 2005

Big shoes to fill at eBay

Big shoes to fill at eBay – Wikinews, the free news source

Big shoes to fill at eBay

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Saturday, June 4, 2005

There are often odd, unusual and controversial items up for sale on eBay – multi-million euro planes, the Pope’s old car and a young woman’s virginity, to name just a few. But how about the Prime Minister’s shoes?

Shoes custom designed for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have been put up for sale on eBay. The shoes, which have a reserve price of £2,930 (US $3,580), are currently owned by 65 year old Eleanor Graham. Ms. Graham bought them in a Sue Ryder charity shop after seeing a member of Thatcher’s staff drop them in the shop. She guessed that they would increase in value over the years, so Ms. Graham purchased them.

The Rayne shoes – which come in gold, silver and black suede – are size five and come with a letter received in 2001 from Ms Thatchers office confirming that she did wear Rayne shoes.

You can see the shoes at eBay by clicking here.

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