Big Blue Marble

AF&O’s periodic sampling of news from around the globe…

Showdown: A battle royal in Britain’s parliament turned out to be a losing cause for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The House of Lords today rejected key parts of Downing Street’s controversial anti-terrorism bill. As a result, 11 suspected terrorists being held in detention could be set free next Monday, when the present anti-terror law expires. Britain’s highest court ruled the current set of regulations unlawful last December — hence, Blair’s need to have new legislation enacted right away. Much of the opposition to the bill, which allows house arrest, electronic tagging, and curfews for terror suspects, comes from those who believe the Prevention of Terrorism Bill tramples over civil liberties. After the PM conceded to permit judges to make the final determination in house-arrest sentences and to allow parliament to review the law annually, Blair’s bill did win passage in the lower House of Commons yesterday. But he refused to concede on other aspects of the legislation, among them a provision allowing imprisonment without trial. This did not win favor in the House of Lords. Now Downing Street is under pressure to make more concessions. The contentious debate and the obvious differences in positions held by the two houses could have an impact on national elections scheduled for early May — especially if the 11 suspected terrorists are freed. Four of them face a bail hearing later today.

Troop Pullout Under Way Thousands of Syrian troops are on their way out of Lebanon under a two-phase pullout plan. The first phase, agreed on Monday by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese leader Emile Lahoud, stipulates that Syrian forces deployed in north Lebanon and areas in and around Beirut would pull back to the eastern Bekaa Valley near the border. In the wee hours of the morning, a convoy of more than 100 Syrian military vehicles situated in north Lebanon crossed the border. Others deployed east of Beirut also left Lebanon. The remaining Syrian soldiers are packing up to return home. Meanwhile, Lahoud reinstated pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karameh; the Sunni Muslim had quit his post 10 days ago after anti-Syrian protests in Beirut. The plan now is to build a Lebanese unity government.

Gander, Meet Goose: Palestinian leaders say the recently struck cease fire between that nation and Israel could be in jeopardy. Israeli soldiers today killed an armed Palestinian militant during a raid on the West Bank town of Jenin. Palestinians said such actions could jeopardize a fragile truce. These attacks were fairly common during the past four years of the intifada, but they all but ended after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the truce in Egypt weeks ago. The Israeli raid was prompted by anger over a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last month. When that tragic violence occurred, Israel threatened that retaliation was possible and world leaders told Abbas that he needed to restrain his nation’s militants. Following this latest Israeli raid, Abbas warned, “Just as calm is demanded of us, we also ask that Israel not do things like this.”

Bushies Say “Au Revior, World Court”: Unhappy with a 2004 international tribunal decision ordering new hearings for 51 Mexicans on US death rows, the Bush Administration has withdrawn from an international pact giving the tribunal the right to rule on such cases. The move to pull out of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations means foreigners in US jails no longer have the right to talk with consular officers. State Department spokesperson Darla Jordan defended the pullout, telling the New York Times, “We are protecting against future International Court of Justice judgments that might similarly interfere in ways we did not anticipate when we joined the optional protocol.” The State Department insists that incarcerated foreigners will be able to raise their issues in court. But Peter J. Spiro, a law professor at the University of Georgia, says the Bush Administration’s act shows bad form. “It’s a sore-loser kind of move,” he said. “If we can’t win, we’re not going to play.”

Diabetes Breakthrough?: Type 1 diabetes has no cure at present, but that may change soon. EarthTimes reports that for the first time ever, UK doctors have successfully transplanted islet cells to a patient, “thereby assuring a complete cure from the condition.” This news is huge: According to Professor Stephanie Amiel, Diabetes Consultant at King’s College Hospital in England’s Denmark Hill, “This breakthrough is hugely exciting. Eventually, this could mean the end of insulin-dependence for all Type 1 diabetes sufferers.” More research must be done before this procedure can be considered a widespread cure, but today, there is hope.

Bill Clinton's on the mend. Good News for Bubba: Former US President Bill Clinton is out of surgery following his second heart operation. Doctors report the generally low-risk procedure was successful and that there were no complications. Clinton entered New York Presbyterian Hospital after doctors found that he suffered from a pleural effusion, a condition in which scar tissue caused fluid to compress his left lung. Today’s operation was intented to drain the fluid and remove the scar tissue. The erstwhile chief exec is expected to remain in hospital for the next three to 10 days.

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5 thoughts on “Big Blue Marble

  1. From the tone of your reporting on the first story it sounds like you are glad the suspected terorrists will be released. I can understand being glad they get a day in court or glad they see a lawyer, but shouldn’t we make sur ethey are not terrorists before setting them free?

  2. That’s the sense you get from the item? Think again, friend. I don’t know what gives you the idea I am happy about the suspects being freed. Yes, I have problems with many of the things Blair wants — civil liberties and justice are huge issues for me. At the same time, the sense I get is that the British government is in a bit of a sticky situation. Many of the 11 are in max-security situations right now; this connotes to me that they may be quite dangerous. The parliament needs time to deal with the proposed law thoroughly and fairly — they must have time to protect citizens’ rights. As it is, time is running out. The notion of 11 dangerous would-be terrorists on the streets is one I find frightening. Personally, I hope that some judge will stay the Monday deadline until the House of Lords has ample time to deal with the various provisions of the bill and the state has time to investigate fully and *fairly* the allegations against the 11.

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