Policemen killed in Northern Ireland Crash

A car crash in Co. Down has killed four policemen, the Police Service of Northern Ireland reported yesterday.

The two full-time and two part-time officers were travelling on a mountain road between Warrenpoint and Kikeel when they are thought to have collided with a stonewall on the Moygannon Road at approximately 4am on Sunday morning.

It is the worst single death toll for the PSNI since it was established seven years ago.

Missing Manics’ Guitarist Declared Dead

Manic Street Preachers

By Martyn Young

Richey Edwards, the missing guitarist and lyricist with Manic Street Preachers has legally been declared “Presumed Dead” almost 14 years after he dissapeared in February 1995.

A band spokesperson confirmed in a statement that Edwards’ family have obtained a court order which officially changes his legal status. Edwards was last seen in London on February 1 1995 and his car was subsequently found near the Severn bridge which is a common site for suicides. Despite an extensive police search a body was never found. The band and their fans have always held hope that the guitarist would one day return with rumoured sightings of Edwards in places such as Newport, The Canary Islands, and a market in Goa. 

This weeks announcement is highly significant as both his parents and bandmates have refused to confirm his death. In the Uk a missing person can be declared dead after 7 years but his parents have previously refused to take this option until now. The bands spokesperson Terri Hall said that the decision was taken by Edwards parents Graham and Sherri Edwards in an effort to try to move on: “This is a hugely emotional decision for Richey’s parents and the band. It is the parents’ choice and the band is happy to go with what the parents decide is best.

“We all dream Richey will come back one day. You hope he is still around somewhere. But it is no longer a realistic hope and if this offers some kind of closure then the band will be content with that.”

The Edwards family lawyer has stressed that the familys change of heart was prompted by a need to address his legal situation. David Ellis told Walesonline.co.uk that their change of heart reflected “an acceptance that his affairs have got to be sorted” and it was “not the same as an acceptance that he is dead”.

The Manic Street Preachers have continued to pay royalties to Edwards for the three albums they released when he was in the band – Generation Terrorists, Gold Against The Soul and The Holy Bible.  Everything Must Go, the bands most successful record released in the wake of his dissapearence in 1996 also features his lyrics.

Edwards parents have now been granted control of his £455,990 estate.  The Manics had previously announced that their next album will feature lyrics entirely written by Richey Edwards and left behind when he dissapeared.

US perspective on Al-Megrahi failed application for early release

By Dustin L. Gee

Americans do not wish to see Al-Megrahi released from prison after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Americans do not wish to see Al-Megrahi released from prison after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

It’s been nearly twenty years since Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie Scotland and this past week, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, the man convicted for this crime, to the High Court in Edinburgh that he should be released on compassionate ground after a medical test at Inverclyde Royal Hospital indicated he had prostate cancer.
Within hours, this news spread to all corners of the world, reaching family and friends of those who knew passengers on board the transatlantic flight destined for New York City, John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Chief Executive for the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission describes the Al-Megrahi case as being “the longest, most expensive, and singularly most complex case we have ever had to investigate and review.”

What’s more, it has left millions of people torn and questioning Al-Megrahi’s conviction; “upset,” “outraged,” “surprised,” and “confused” are just a few words that can be used to describe the views and opinions expressed by many Americans on whether or not they agree that Al-Megrahi should be released due to his recent medical condition.

Recent MSNBC coverage reported, “Relatives of the victims of Pan Am 103 (are) divided. Some British families have said they think he should be released, but relatives of U.S. victims have said he is guilty and should remain in jail.”
Kathleen Flynn, USA, who lost her son JP believes that letting Al-Megrahi out on bail makes absolutely no sense. Flynn expressed her views by stating, “Why would we let someone out of jail when they blew up an American plane?”
Bob Monetti, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, whose son Rick was killed, told the BBC, “Al-Megrahi should remain in jail. I have been really upset because most of the people in Scotland seem to have a different opinion on the whole thing.”
Al-Megrahi was found guilty in 2001, and was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 27 years. He served the first part of his sentence in Glasgow’s Barliminni Prison, but was transferred to nearby HMP Greenock in 2005.
So far, Al-Megrahi has spent seven years in prison, but since physicians have diagnosed him with advanced prostate cancer, his lawyers are striving to have him released to spend his remaining days with his wife and children. If released on bail, Al-Megrahi would be required to remain in Scotland. He appeared in court on Friday, 14 November in front of Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton.
A Scottish court correspondent reported Lord Hamilton as saying, “The critical question, as the court sees it, is, against the background of the atrocity of which the applicant stands convicted, whether the applicant’s health, present and prospective, is such as the court should on compassionate grounds now admit him bail.”
He then went on to state, “On balance the court is not persuaded, on the information before it, that it should. While the disease from which the appellant suffers is incurable and may cause his death, he is not at present suffering material pain or disability.”
The final court ruling was that Al-Megrahi would remain in prison and not be granted bail. Lord Hamilton ensured all those present at the trial, “The full services of the National Health Service are available to him, notwithstanding he is in custody.”
US Citizens were relieved by this news, but still worried that Al-Megrahi may get out as a written opinion from the judge commented that they might reconsider their decision if his condition worsens.

In December, families, students, and faculty will gather at "A Place for Remembrance" on the Syracuse University campus to honour those who were killed on board Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988.

In December, families, students, and faculty will gather at Syracuse University Campus

Later this month, over 250 people will gather at A Place for Remembrance on the Syracuse University campus for a memorial service to commemorate the 20th Anniversary, since thirty-five of the passengers on board the Pan Am flight were exchange students from Syracuse University, located in New York State.
The press office at Syracuse University did not wish to comment on the release or medical condition of Al-Megrahi.
Dan Cohen of New Jersey, whose daughter Theodora was abroad flight 103 said he was “extremely relieved” at the judges’ decision. “The 20th Anniversary is a very tough day… and it is important that he will still be in jail for it.”

New Stem Cell Research will Help Repair Organs

By Lauren Drummond

Scientists at Edinburgh University found a new stem cell discovery that is expected to help scientists develop pioneering treatments to repair damaged tissues and organs.

Research has shown how the body balances supply and demand to make the best use of its available stem cells. This can be done, as stem cells are immature cells that grow in to a range of different tissue types.

News in Brief – Mr Christmas

Mr Christmas, a.k.a. Andy Park, famous for celebrating Christmas daily for the past 14 years, cuts back due to credit crunch. He is saving for his planned £70,000 Christmas themed funeral. “I may even have to cut out the champagne and start singing for my Christmas dinner,” he said.

Ramsay accused of seven year affair

By Kathleen Oliver

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is facing allegations that he has been cheating on his wife Tana Ramsay for the past seven years with Sarah Symonds, ex mistress of Lord Archer. The Ramsay’s appeared outside their house yesterday for a photocall but the notoriously volatile TV chef did not make any comment to reporters regarding the allegations.

Nine Out of Ten Hospitals Fail Hygiene Test

By Roisin Brady

Only one in ten hospitals are adhering to sanitation standards put in place by the government to prevent the spread of super bugs, according to an inspectors’ report published today.

The Healthcare Commission tested fifty-one unnamed hospitals using the government’s hygiene code, which is a legal requirement for medical trusts and helps to reduce the spread of infections such as MRSA, Clostridium difficile and other hospital-acquired infections.

Anna Walker, the Commission’s Chief Executive said, “At nearly all trusts we have found gaps that need closing. It is important to be clear that at these trusts we are not talking about the most serious kind of breaches. But these are important warning signs to trust boards that there may be a weakness in their systems.”

“It is clear that the NHS is paying close attention to infection prevention and control. Trusts have made real progress with many getting good systems in place and demonstrating clear board leadership on this important issue.”

She added that despite improvements in certain areas, it was vital for hospitals to constantly strive for the utmost in sanitary conditions, to ensure patient safety.

“Now the challenge for trusts is to ensure they drive further sustained improvements by getting the right systems in place all of the time.

“At nearly all trusts we have found gaps that need closing. It is important to be clear that at these trusts we are not talking about the most serious kind of breaches. But these are important warning signs to trust boards that there may be a weakness in their systems.

“In particular, trusts need to ensure that their wards are consistently clean and well maintained, and that they have good decontamination and isolation arrangements.

“It is the consistent application of these systems that will ensure infection rates continue to drop. These issues are a top priority for the public. We make no apologies for demanding high standards.”

From April next year, the new Care Quality Commission will be able to impose fines on medical institutions that fail to meet hygiene standards.

Jackson reaches out of court settlement

by Laura McLaughlin

Michael Jackson reached an out of court settlement last night in a multi-million pound court case.Britain Michael Jackson

Jackson, who was due to appear at the High Court today, reached the deal with the King of Bahrains son, Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who was sueing Jackson for £4.7 million.

A spokesperson for the singer said: “As Mr. Jackson was about to board his plane to London, he was advised by his legal team to postpone his travels since the parties had concluded a settlement in principle”

Jackson had been invited to stay in Bahrain, along with his children and his entourage, by the Sheikh Abdulla shortly after he had been found not guilty of child molestation charges in 2005.  During his stay in Bahrain, Jackson was showered with gifts, and Sheikh Abdulla built a recording studio for Jackson to record songs that Sheikh had helped write.

Sheikh Abdulla understood that he and Jackson had formed a “close personal relationship” and that the both had entered into a “combined rights agreement”.  In this agreement Jackson had agreed to repay $7,000,000 spent by Sheikh Abdulla from royalities that they earned from their recorded material.

Jackson contested these claims, stating that there was never a valid agreement reached and Sheikh Abdulla’s case was based on “mistake, misrepresentation and undue influence”.  Jackson believes that everything given to him by Sheikh Abdulla were “gifts”.

At the begining of the case, which began last Monday, Jacksons representative Robert Englehart QC applied for Jackson to testify via videolink from Los Angeles due to health fears.  This application was withdrawn after medical experts agreed that Jackson was fit to travel.

Millions of people risking their eyesight

By Kathleen Oliver

National Eye Week begins today with a focus on encouraging people to get regular eye tests which are vital for the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of common eye conditions.

Eighty-five percent of people in the U.K have problems with their vision.  Yet despite this, millions of British people are avoiding regular eye tests seemingly because they are worried about how much the tests will cost.

Boots Opticians & the sight charity Eyecare Trust have joined together this week to promote National Eye Week which aims to raise awareness about the importance of regular eye checks. Thirty millions Brits are entitled to free eyecare, paid for by the NHS, or by their place of work but it appears that people are not taking advantage of this free or discounted eyecare.

Sight loss costs the British economy over five billion pounds a year, and it is predicted that the number of people who are registered blind will double by 2030.

Chairman of the Eyecare Trust Iain Anderson said: It is vital that we encourage more people to have regular sight tests- generally once every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrists.’ Anderson points out that worryingly, it is elderly people and children, who are most vulnerable to sight loss who are not getting their sight tested despite being entitled to tests on the NHS.

The Eyecare Trust estimates that one in five children may have an  undetected problem with their eyes. However, the trust also estimated that fifty percent of parents with children aged eight or under have never taken their child for an eye test. Such statistics are extremely alarming considering children’s eyesight is usually fully developed by the time they reach eight years old.


Eye tests can also uncover many other underlying health problems so there is no reason why anybody should be avoiding them.

For more information on National Eye Week log onto http://www.nationaleyeweek.co.uk

BBC journalist killed by pirates in Somalia

By Jessica Rodgers

The family of a BBC producer shot dead in Somalia have today questioned the BBC’s lack of planning in sending her to the war-torn country without vital information that could have prevented her death.

Kate Peyton, 39, shot dead by pirates in Somalia

Kate Peyton, 39, shot dead by pirates in Somalia

Kate Peyton, 39, from Beyton, Suffolk was shot in the back outside the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu in February 2005. An inquest into her death begins today at Ipswich Crown Court. The family will argue that she was not warned about the dangers of the country ahead of her trip, due to ‘lack of planning’ on the BBC’s behalf.

Peyton, accompanied by reporter Peter Greste had been due to film a series of reports in the country when a militiaman fired at them. Greste was unharmed but Peyton died in Mogadishu hospital from internal bleeding.

The militiamen surrounded the hotel where Somali politicians stayed to discuss the transfer of their government from neighboring Kenya. Classified as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for over two decades, it is rare for journalists or aid workers to be sent there. Peyton’s family claim she was ‘under pressure’ from the BBC to complete this assignment.

Her mother, Angela Peyton said: “She came home from work and said, ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go to Somalia next Tuesday’. I have to say that my heart sank but I don’t think I fully understood how dangerous it was.

“She said, ‘This will prove to them that I’m committed’. She told me she had felt under pressure over her contract.” Peyton’s contract was due to end in Summer of 2005.

Ms Peyton’s sister, Rebecca, an actress who lives in Brixton, south London, said: “All the journalists we’ve spoken to who have been to Somalia or who know about it have been quite shocked that she was sent. We say that she didn’t have access to all the information before she went.

Her brother Charles hopes one outcome of the case will be better planning and more information for journalists before being sent to hostile countries. Her family will remain supportive of the BBC, as her sister says “We don’t want anyone’s head on a plate, we don’t want to shut down foreign news – we just want some answers.”

VAT Tax Cuts To Be Announced This Afternoon

By Jamie Nelson

Brown and Darling arriving at The Treasury this morning to put final adjustments to the PBR.

Brown and Darling arriving at The Treasury this morning to put final adjustments to the PBR.

Alistair Darling is expected to announce cuts to Value Added Tax from 17.5 percent to 15 percent in his Pre-Budget Report this afternoon.

Gordon Brown promised to use the tax cuts to inject a new vigour and interest into the British Economy.

Brown said: “Simply letting the recession run its course, to say there is no alternative, is not an option.”

The 2.5 percent cut in VAT is to be funded by another of the PBR main aspects – a 45 percent income tax increase to those earning £150,000 a year or more.

Conservative leader David Cameron was critical of the plans for change, calling it a “borrowing binge”.

He said: “ This lot are promising you everything, promising the Earth and they are going to clobber you with an enormous tax bill.”

The plans outlined in the Pre-Budget Report will put borrowing above £100 billion, leading the Conservative party to accuse Labour of creating and storing a “tax bombshell”

Brown rejected the claims and defended the Labour Party and Mr Darling’s stance, saying: “We have seen in previous recessions how a failure to take action at the start of the downturn has increased both the length and depth of the recession.

“Doing too little too late would mean more damage, more deterioration, the loss of vital businesses, a weaker economy, lower growth, eventually greater fiscal problems and in that event, higher interest rates and higher taxes.

“The best way for taxes to be low in the long term is for us to ensure that the downturn is as limited in length and scope as possible.

“And that means help when help is needed. Not when it is too late.”

Skull of Doom Comes to Edinburgh

skulldoom_682x400_658790a1By Lauren Drummond

Perhaps the most famous and enigmatic skull of the ancient crystal skulls said to be 3,600 years old was on public display in Edinburgh yesterday. The one-day viewing of the skull was organised by the history and mysteries conference, which took place at the Hub on the Royal Mile.

The skull is said to be a work of ancient South American civilization, it is named after the English adventurer and author FA Mitchell- Hedges, and has inspired the latest Indiana Jones films “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.

Controversy surrounds the skull and opinions are divided whether the skull is 3,600 years old or if it is a fake. Bill Homan the current owner of the crystal skull was one of the speakers at the event; he cared for the adopted daughter of Mitchell- Hedges in the last 8 years of her life.

Ana Mitchell-Hedges had claimed to have found the skull in 1924, when she would have been about 17 years old. She said to have found it buried under an altar inside a temple in Lubanntun, Belize, however others believe that her father bought it in the 1940’s from an antique dealer or at an auction.

Mitchell- Hedges first mentioned the skull in his 1954 autobiography, Danger My Ally, he did not specify where or by whom it was found. He wrote, “ It was at least 3,600 years old and according to legend was used by the high priest of the Maya when performing esoteric rites”.

The British museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC have similar skulls on display. However earlier this year research published in the Journal of Archaeological science claimed these two skulls were fakes and were likely to have been made in the 1950’s.

More Down’s babies in caring Britain

images3By Lizzie Beattie

More babies are being born with Down’s syndrome in the UK as parents feel society is more welcoming for their children a BBC Radio 4 Documentary will reveal tonight.

Since screening for Down’s syndrome became common place in 1989, new cases of Down’s fell every year from 717 that year to 594 in 2000. New figures show that the number of babies being born with Down’s has risen fifteen percent to 749, its highest ever level. BBC Radio 4 documentary Born With Down’s Syndrome will claim tonight the reason for this rise is that parents feel their children are increasingly likely to be welcomed into society.

A survey of Down’s Syndrom Association members revealed that a third decided to continue with pregnancy after diagnosis because they felt attitudes towards Down’s syndrome had improved and life chances were better for Down’s babies. A quarter also said they made the decision because they knew someone with Down’s or another disability.

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down’s Syndrome Association said: “When I and others had our babies it was a different world. Now their is much greater inclusion and acceptance, with mainstream education having a huge role. We think this plays a part in the decisions parents make.”

BBC One drama Eastenders recently ran a story involving a Down’s syndrome baby, portraying the struggles faced by the parents. Baby Janet has now left the show and Eastenders bosses have been widely criticised for the decision not to continue with the storyline. Emma Barton who plays Honey, Janet’s mother in the show, said of the decision, “I think it’s a bit of a cop out really. To bring Down’s syndrome to the forefront of the show was a huge step and to avoid continuing with the storyline just seems like they can’t be bothered. Many parents of Down’s babies must be very dissapointed. I know Baby Janet’s real parents are.”

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