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One Week, Not Too Much To Celebrate

  • April 15th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

gagarin-helmeted.jpgFifty years after a man first went into space, science was battling with the danger of a busted nuclear plant; thoughts of terror still lurked in Northern Ireland; bans were imposed on burkas, and the country of Iran; accusations followed in the awful aftermath of the subway bombing in Minsk, and one of London’s most egregiously intrusive tabloid newspapers, has had to say “sorry”.


gagarin-time.jpgThe week started with celebrations on Monday over the 50th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, the fist man in space.

Partying broke out, especially at research centres or museums, people letting off rockets, firing up special online programs or drinking some vodka, from Manchester, to Delhi to Pasadena – appropriately too; the Gagarin flight,  106 minutes long , included a full orbit of the Earth.

The young Soviet Cosmonaut was killed in an accident flying a training aircraft at 34, in 1968.


burqa-eyes1.jpgFrance’s ban on garments that fully cover the face, most directly affecting Islamic women wearing the burqa, came into force on Monday.

Activists made a protest near Notre Dame cathedral in the capital, some arrested for breaking the permit rules on demonstrations – not for being too covered up.

See EUAustrlia Online : “Veils, financial scandal …”, 14.7.10; “France, Belgium: Battle over the burqa”, (24.4.10).


ireland-bomb-van.jpgBritish police have arrested a man in connection with a large bomb found in a van, along the Belfast – Dublin main highway last Thursday (7.4.11).

They said the man, 26, was detained near Antrim.

Hundreds of cars skirted past the van with the 225-kilogram bomb inside it, parked and abandoned beneath a road bridge.

Northern Ireland has seen stirrings of a revival of sectarian terror, with the killing of a police constable, Ronan Kerr, a Catholic man, at Omagh, on 2.4.11.

A booby-trap bomb went off underneath his car, several attempts having been made against individual police using the same method, in a campaign of harassment.

The police have been questioning three men, aged 28, 33 and 40, over that murder.


minsk-2.jpgThe Belarus President, Alexander Lukashenko, has proclaimed on television that two men were caught and have confessed to the subway train bombing in Minsk (picture) on Tuesday.

He said the peak-hour attack which saw 12 killed and 200 others injured, was the work of terrorists, and spoke of further moves against opposition parties – under pressure from his government since disputed elections on 19.12.10.


sienna-miller.jpgHardly a blush was to be expected but a lot of swift moves to limit damage could be noted in London, as the tabloid Sunday newspaper, News of the World, apologised over its hacking of celebrity voice mail services.

“Voicemail interception: An apology”, it said on page two.

“It was and remains unacceptable.”

The newspaper company, part of the group headed by Rupert Murdoch, has set up a fund to pay damages in out-of-court settlements.

Several of the aggrieved persons who had their messages listened-in-on, frostily knocked back the apology and talked harder with their lawyers.

One, the actress Sienna Miller (picture) was said to be commencing legal action already.

Two senior figures from the newspaper, chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and a former news editor, Ian Edmondson, were arrested on suspicion of carrying out phone intercepts.

Earlier this year another former editor, Andy Coulson, resigned as communications director to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, because of continuing publicity over the scandal, which broke out under his watch on the ‘paper.

Two other journalists from News of the World were locked in  prison over the phones offences in 2007.


eu-flag-movement.jpgConcern over journalists of a different kind was included in the thinking of the European Union which moved on Tuesday to extend its sanctions to more officials, and to energy companies in Iran.

It added names of 32 functionaries, to 37 already being kept on watch, banned from travel to the EU, with any of their assets held  outside of Iran subject to being frozen. It also listed 26 Iranian energy firms, putting a squeeze on external oil trading.

The EU has existing bans on external transactions by the Iranian central bank and sovereign wealth fund; similar to a set of sanctions imposed by the United States.

The European Union Foreign Ministers who decided on the new moves, at Luxembourg, said they were concerned about  human rights violations, including a heavy  used of the death penalty, and the detention of journalists – in greater numbers than anywhere else in the world.

Some Ministers said the energy freeze was part of the campaign to prevent the government of Muammar al-Gaddafi, in Libya, from having any access to the oil trade.

The Libyan Central Oil company heads a list of several petroleum firms now under international bans in the Middle East region.

In reaction, media in Teheran have published a commentary saying the new bans are a politically motivated move designed to keep up pressure on the Iranian government.

Mohammad Marandi, a Professor of North American Studies at Tehran University, said a pretext of human rights was being used by the European powers, because governments they had supported, like the Mubarak regime in Egypt, were falling.

“They are losing hold of the region and Iran is growing much stronger than before,” he said.


fukushima-1411.jpgIn Vienna the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintained its monitor do the nuclear emergency in Japan, keeping the accident on a high rating of 7, for gravity of danger; and checking the impact of two severe earthquake after-shocks, which did not further imperil the situation at tbhe nuclear plant.

The agency said, on 13.4.11:

“Overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious but there are early signs of recovery in some functions such as electrical power and instrumentation

“There have been no changes concerning the provisional INES Level 7 rating and protective measures as reported in yesterday’s brief.”

Reactor facilities at Fukushima were severely damaged in the earthquake that hit Eastern Japan on  11.3.11, and the ocean tidal wave that followed.


AFP, Paris, “News of the World prints phone-hack apology”, 10.4.11., (14.4.11).

AFP, Paris, “UN calls Minsk bomb ‘apparent’ terrorist attack”, 13.4.11.

BBC News, Belfast / London, “Newry van bomb: 26-year-old man arrested in Rostrevor”, 14.4.11., (14.4.11).

Salamander Davoudi and Jane Croft, “Fresh arrest in phone-hacking scandal”, Financial Times, London, 14.4.11., (14.4.11).

Sarah Elzas, “The burka ban came into effect in France …”, RFI, Paris, 12.4.11., (14.4.11).

Euronews, Lyon, “Video: Lukashenko claims Minsk metro bombing ‘solved’” (YouTube), 12.4.11.

Guardian, Manchester, “Police question 26-year-old over 226kg bomb found in vehicle on Belfast to Dublin road near Newry”, 14.4.11., (14.4.11).

IAEA, Vienna, “Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log”, 13.4.11., (14.4.11).

Elizabeth Mahoney, “Series: Radio review, (Gagarin)”, Guardian, Manchester, 12.4.11., (14.4.11).

PressTV, Teheran, “University professor …”, 12.4.11., (14.3.11).

Samuel Rubenfeld, “EU Announces Sanctions On Libyan Oil Companies, Iranian Human Rights Abusers”, Wall Street Journal, NY, 12.4.11., (14.4.11).