News Picks: Ireland, Palestine Papers, Egypt, Sexy Anchors

Ireland

New Fianna Fail leader says sorry – Maybe it’s all too late but it was nice to hear a change from the usual bluster and arrogance of Fianna Fail leaders as Michael Martin apologised for his and his party’s actions over the last 14 years in power that have led to the country’s economic collapse.

“I am sorry for the mistakes we made as a party and that I’ve made as a minister — very sorry for those mistakes that we made,” Martin said after being elected leader of the party following the political suicide mission conducted by Taoiseach (still!) Brian Cowen last week.

Martin’s task will be to rebuild the party as a credible opposition to the likely Fine Gael/Labour coalition that will be formed in the aftermath of the election due late next month. In one sense he’s already started, challenging the leaders of these two parties to a three-way debate (much in the way Cameron, Brown and Clegg battled it out last year). This has already been rejected by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny who wants to include more parties in the debates perhaps wary of not looking so good in alongside Martin and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore.

Palestine Papers

Saeb Erekat hits back – At first he described the revelations in the Palestine Papers as “a pack of lies” but in an article for The Guardian, chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat has said that the coverage of the release of the documents has distracted from the real issue: “That Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection at the other end.”

This is something I alluded to in my previous post on the subject, that really we should not be criticising the actions of the Palestinian negotiators (although they are questionable in many ways) but examining the reasons as to why, when they were being offered so much, Israel, supported by the United States, were continually rejecting what was on the table.

If Israel cannot in any way consider the offers so far put forward by the Palestinians, then what hopes for a two state solution or at least a peaceful solution?

Egypt

A Manifesto for Change in Egypt – Could this be the tipping point that sends Egypt the way of Tunisia? Mohammed El Baradei, the former head of the European Atomic Energy Agency, is returning to the country ahead of presidential elections due to take place in September. But in the midst of heavy protests on the streets of Egypt’s cities, he has warned in an article for The Daily Beast that “the Egyptian people broke the barrier of fear, and once that is broken, there is no stopping them.”

Protestors across the country are demanding change taking inspiration from Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution”. Toppling president Hosni Mubarak will not be as easy as Bin Ali in Tunisia. For a start Mubarak still holds considerable clout within the country and has the armed forces on his side, something Bin Ali could not really say in the dying days of his regime.

As always, Brian Whitaker’s blog, Al-Bab is an excellent resource of news and comment on what’s happening in the Middle East.

Sexy Anchors

Sexy News Anchors Distract Male Viewers – Of the many revelations that have emerged from Sky Sports over the past week in which their leading lights Richard Keys and Andy Gray have been unceremoniously consigned to the dustbin has been that they only ever hired good-looking women to anchor their programmes, particularly Sky Sports News. Anyone who watches Sky Sports News will know that there are a plethora of  blonde and attractive women delivering the latest sports news.

Now, new research in the US has found that when a female news anchor’s sexual attractiveness is played up (more make-up, tight-fitting tops), male viewers retain less information. Conversely, the researchers at Indiana University found that the men who took part in the study recalled significantly more information watching the unsexualised anchor deliver news than her sexualised version.

 

News Picks: Ireland’s political crisis, Phone hacking, China, Palestine Papers

Ireland

The worst Taoiseach in the State’s history – Events in Irish politics have taken an almighty turn since my last post and have, frankly, descended into utter chaos and farce.

After seemingly his finest hour Taoiseach Brian Cowen reversed all his good work with a politically suicidal attempt to parachute six new people into his cabinet after resignations across the board by Ministers who would be retiring at the election.

He then resigned as leader of Fianna Fail but retained his role as leader of the country prompting the junior coalition partner, the Green Party to withdraw from government. Ireland’s cabinet now consists of just seven people, some with three portfolios and the longest job titles in the world.

There will be final effort to push through a finance bill this week but the desire for change has grown even stronger than it already has been over the weekend and a general election is just weeks away.

Phone hacking/BSkyB takeover

Cameron and Murdoch’s son attended private dinner – Aside from the implications of Andy Coulsen’s resignation last week on David Cameron’s judgement there is also the issue of News Corporation’s attempts to takeover BSkyB, a move feared by many in the UK media, not least because of the phone hacking allegations surrounding the Murdoch owned News of the World, which are unlikely to go away.

The Independent today reports that that Cameron met with James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and chairman of News Corp. in Europe and Asia, late last year. However the PM’s spokesman today said any discussion about News Corp’s proposed takeover of BSkyB would have no bearing on the decision of the Culture Secretary on whether or not to allow the move.

The PM’s spokesman would also not comment on whether the Cameron has any plans to meet with Rupert Murdoch when he comes to London this week in what many see as his attempts to get a hold a crisis that is engulfing his media empire.

China

China grooming Hu’s successor – Much was made of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the White House last week where he was given a full state banquet by President Obama. But it’s unlikely Hu will return to the US with his successor already being groomed to takeover, probably next year.

Profiled in the New York Times, Xi Jinping, the current vice president, is unlikely to alter China’s direction in the world although he could be more popular amongst Communist Party members. How much influence he will wield in an increasingly peripheral position as president of the world’s second-largest economy and fastest-modernising military power is unclear.

Palestine Papers

Leaks show there is no peace process – The leaking of documents relating to discussions about the Middle East peace process show just how much of a gulf there is between what is said in public by political leaders and what is offered and argued in private. This could be said of any political discourse in any country in any part of the world, but it’s all the more crucial here because of the volatility of the region.

As Channel 4 News’ Lindsay Hilsum points out, there is much concentration on the perceived weakness of the Palestinian negotiators, but she asks why did the US not push Israel into more concessions?Why did Middle East envoy Tony Blair not offer more praise for what the Palestinians were prepared to offer?

Truth is, in my view, that this merely confirms the status quo of US-Israeli relations that have been this way for decades. Whilst some may point to an increasing appreciation of the plight of Palestinians in recent years, namely George W. Bush becoming the first US president  to call for a two state solution, the reality is that the US nor Israel really don’t want this to happen.

The up shot of this latest leak (which has nothing to do with Wikileaks by the way), is the certain death of the two state solution and, worse still, possibly further violence and war in the region.

News Picks: Wikileaks, UK election?, Election 2012, Wikipedia, Israel

Wikileaks

US journalists back away from Assange The Miami Herald reports that more and more US journalists are shunning the Wikilkeaks founder Julian Assange amid concern about the organisation’s methods of dumping documents “willy-nilly” as investigative journalist Bob Woodward put it. There are also questions as to whether Assange is actually a journalist. An interesting read.

Election 2011?

Cameron considering a snap election? – Labour MP Tom Watson speculates (some would say wildly) that the Prime Minister may call a snap election in May. Watson cites a weary Nick Clegg, an unfulfilled David Cameron and the belief by some that the Tories could win an outright majority if they called an election given the Lib Dems’ appalling poll numbers. It’s all gossip but it’s well written and thought provoking. It also hints that embattled No. 10 communications director Andy Coulsen will be gone by the end of the month.

Election 2012

The activist Republican candidates court – An interesting piece in the LA Times about the Iowa based activist whom Republicans running for the party’s presidential nomination will all court in the build up to that state’s all important caucuses that kick off the nominee race at the beginning of next year. Joni Scotter is 69, and, it seems, very important to the likes of Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich but she has voted Democrat before.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia at 10, a pioneer of global civility – Timothy Garton Ash has some words of praise for Wikipedia which turns 10-years-old this weekend. Unlike Facebook, this internet success story is not worth billions but is a fine example of a non profit organisation that “still breathes the utopian idealism of the internet’s heroic early days.”

Israel

The rise of fanatical ‘Israeli ayatollahs’ – We all know about fanaticism in the Muslim world but what of the ultra orthodox Jewish rabbis who are becoming increasingly controversial and divise in Israel. They were even involved in the recent tragic death of ex-Liverpool defender Avi Cohen.

News Picks: Arizona shooting, Pakistan, Middle East, Cowen, Dalglish

Arizona Shooting

What we know so far Events are still unfolding in the Arizona city of Tucson following yesterday’s awful shooting at a local shopping mall which, amongst others, claimed the life of 9-year-old girl reportedly born on 9/11. The BBC has a rundown of what is known so far.

Some media incorrectly declare Giffords dead – An interesting rundown of the American media’s initial reporting of the shooting in Tucson where the fact that Rep. Giffords was shot in the head appeared to convince some that she had died as a result.

Sheriff says state has “become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry” – The sheriff of Pima County, where the shooting happened, made some interesting comments in his press conference last night not only about the state of Arizona itself but about the “sad thing of what’s going on in America”. His words are worth a read.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s struggle with extremismThe Guardian’s Declan Walsh has a fascinating insight into the story behind the death of the governor Salmaan Taseer this week. His assassination was in response to his calls for a woman sentenced to death for blasphemy to be released, a campaign he learnt about via Twitter.

Middle East

Israel demolishes historic hotel – What hope for peace talks with stories like this as Israel reportedly demolishes a historic hotel in east Jerusalem to make way for a new settlement.

Ireland

Cowen told to stay away – Ireland’s PM has been told to stay away from any election campaigning with some party members with his popularity at all time low. There’s a suggestion that a General Election in Ireland, originally muted for January, will now be pushed back as far as April, a move that could benefit the current government although they are still likely to lose many seats.

Liverpool FC

Liverpool see sense and turn to Dalglish – Dion Fanning writes a brilliant piece in this morning’s Sunday Independent about the reappointment of Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager. He points out that Dalglish was inexperienced when he first became player/manager whilst also pointing out that the Scot is a uniting figure, if nothing else, in contract to the departed Roy Hodgson.

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That’s it, enjoy your Sunday. Come on you Reds!