News & Current Affairs

July 17, 2009

Pope breaks right wrist in fall

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:17 pm

Pope breaks right wrist in fall

Pope Benedict XVI has suffered a fall and broken his right wrist while on holiday in northern Italy.

The Vatican said the 82-year-old pontiff had accidentally slipped during the night in his chalet.

However he was able to celebrate Mass in the morning in the alpine town of Aosta, before undergoing surgery to re-align the fractured wrist bones.

A hospital spokesman said the operation had been successful, but the Pope would have to wear a cast for about a month.

He left hospital after an operation under local anaesthetic that lasted about 20 minutes.

The Vatican said it was the first time Pope Benedict had been treated in hospital since his election in 2005.

He insisted on being treated like any other patient and waited his turn for an X-ray, Italy’s Ansa news agency says.

He has been staying at a house in the village of Les Combes in the Valle d’Aosta region. It was a favourite vacation spot of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

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July 16, 2009

LA to foot Jackson memorial bill

LA to foot Jackson memorial bill

Michael Jackson memorial

More than 17,000 fans flocked to Los Angeles for the memorial

The city of Los Angeles will pay the costs of policing Michael Jackson’s memorial concert, its mayor has said.

“This is a world-class city and we provide fire and police protection,” said Antonio Villaraigosa.

City council officials have suggested Jackson’s family and promoter AEG Live should pay some of the $1.4m (£860,000) needed for police and traffic control.

But Mr Villaraigosa said that “the idea we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical”.

The mayor was on holiday in South Africa a week ago when more than 17,000 fans flocked to downtown Los Angeles to watch the public memorial.

In his absence a website was set up encouraging public donations to help cover the costs of last Tuesday’s event at the Staples Center.

‘Hard decisions’

Meanwhile, AEG Live’s chief executive has revealed he wants to stage a one-off London tribute concert featuring the Jacksons and other artists.

Speaking to 6 Music, Randy Phillips said “hard decisions” would need to be made if the event was to take place on what would have been Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday.

“What we’re thinking about is one massive tribute that’s broadcast around the globe,” he said.

However, he played down reports that a concert was already in the works featuring such artists as Leona Lewis and Justin Timberlake.

Mr Phillips also rejected calls for AEG to reimburse LA authorities for the costs incurred by last week’s memorial.

“I think the city should cover these costs,” he said. “[When] someone of this fame dies, do you not give them a proper funeral?”

July 5, 2009

Madonna in Jackson stage tribute

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 7:59 am

Madonna in Jackson stage tribute

Madonna kicked-off her revamped Sticky And Sweet tour at London’s O2 Arena with a tribute to Michael Jackson.

Jackson, who died last week, was due to perform a series of 50 farewell concerts at the venue from 13 July.

As Madonna sang Holiday she was joined by a dancer dressed in Jackson’s unmistakable style of sequined jacket and sparkling white glove.

Madonna told the crowd: “Give it up for one of the greatest artists the world has ever known – long live the King!”

Signature moves

Pictures of Jackson as a boy flashed up on a giant screen as the dancer moon-walked across the stage to the strains of Billie Jean.

He went on to perform some of Jackson’s signature moves to Wanna Be Starting Something.

An estimated crowd of 17,000 watched Madonna perform at the first of two concerts in London this weekend.

She moves on to Manchester on Tuesday, followed by several dates across Europe.

Madonna closed the show with Give It 2 Me, and donned a jewelled glove, along with her dancers, in a final, simple, tribute to Jackson.

Solo stars

Lyrics from his hit Man In the Mirror scrolled across the screens. It read: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.”

Michael Jackson and Madonna montage

Jackson and Madonna both became huge solo stars in the 1980s

The tribute, albeit brief, impressed fans at the O2. Victoria Mears, of Billericay, Essex, said: “I really liked it. It seemed very fitting for the queen of pop to pay tribute to the king of pop.”

Nina Lawrence, 32, of Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, said: “It thought it was good, but it was a shame she didn’t sing one of his songs as a tribute.”

And Helen Levy, 30, of Winchester, Hants, said: “She seemed very passionate when she spoke about Michael Jackson. It’s clear that he was a great inspiration to her.”

Jackson and Madonna both became huge solo stars in the 1980s.

Speaking after the 50-year-old’s death on 25 June, Madonna said: “I can’t stop crying over the sad news.

“I’ve always admired Michael Jackson – the world has lost one of its greats, but his music will live on forever.”

A public memorial service for Jackson will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Over half-a-million fans have applied for just 17,500 tickets available for the event.

September 13, 2008

Thousands stranded by XL collapse

Thousands stranded by XL collapse

The collapse of the UK’s third largest package holiday group has left tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad.

The decision to place XL Leisure Group into administration has also left thousands of staff facing the axe.

Chairman Phil Wyatt said he was “totally devastated” by the failure which has grounded XL’s 21 planes. The company flies to about 50 destinations.

There are 67,000 stranded who booked directly with XL, and another 23,000 who booked via other companies.

The Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) also said the firm had 200,000 advance bookings.

‘Sad day’

CAA EMERGENCY HELPLINE
Customers abroad: +44 (0) 2891 856547
Customers in the UK with advance bookings: 0870 5900927

“We’ve made every effort, myself and my fellow directors, to find new funding for the business – and it’s a very sad day for me personally. I am totally devastated,” XL chairman Phil Wyatt said.David Clover, a spokesman for the CAA, said it was making arrangements to help customers of the four tour companies within the XL group.

“In respect of people who are currently abroad we’re making arrangements and working very closely with the travel industry to organize repatriation flights.

“Clearly though, with XL Airways no longer operating, we’re having to bring in substitute aircraft to bring people home.”

He said package deals are covered by the CAA’s Air Travel Organizers’ Licensing (Atol) scheme and those customers will be offered repatriation flights or their money back if they have an advance booking.

Struggling

However, those who booked directly with the airline or XL.com – who are in the minority according to the CAA – will face a fee.

Anyone yet to take their flights should check their insurance policies, and with their banks or credit card companies about refunds, he added.

XL – which carried 2.3 million passengers last year – is the latest travel business to face financial difficulties, as the industry struggles with high fuel costs and an economic downturn.

But an agreement has been reached whereby Straumur investment bank has acquired XL’s German and French subsidiaries, which Straumur considers to be financially viable and sustainable businesses.

They will continue operations as separate commercial entities.

Share prices in holiday firms TUI Travel and Thomas Cook were up 6% and 7% following the collapse of their rival.

Economic downturn

“As the travel industry matures in Europe, there was always going to be pressure on those operating in the mid-market,” said Lastminute.com chief executive Ian McCaig.

A statement on the XL group’s website said: “The companies entered into administration having suffered as a result of volatile fuel prices, the economic downturn, and were unable to obtain further funding.”

XL COMPANIES
XL Leisure Group
XL Airways UK
Excel Aviation
Explorer House
Aspire Holidays
Freedom Flights
Freedom Flights (Aviation)
The Really Great Holiday Company
Medlife Hotels
Travel City Flights
Kosmar Villa Holidays

BBC travel correspondent Tom Symonds added that the industry would be facing an “enormous challenge” as it deals with the fall out of XL’s collapse.

“XL wasn’t just an airline it was a fundamental link Britain’s package holiday industry,” he said.

“Getting these people to and from their holidays will be an enormous challenge not least because of the shortage of aircraft caused by so many airline collapses in recent weeks.

“XL can’t use its own airliners for among other reasons it has no insurance now.”

The CAA said it was working with the travel industry to bring stranded holidaymakers home, and denied it had been responsible for the grounding of XL’s planes.

Airlines BA, Easyjet, BMI, Flybe and Ryanair have offered to fly some of the stranded passengers home.

Easyjet chief executive Andy Harrison told that its fuel efficient planes had helped it cope with the high cost of aviation fuel although on Thursday it said it would cut up to 60 jobs to remain competitive.

Fuel pressures

Mr Wyatt added that spiralling oil prices had increased the firm’s costs “year-on-year by over $80m”.

“So where many people have been making hay with high oil prices, this is the repercussions of that hay – 1,700 people potentially out of work today in the UK,” he said.

Rival TUI warned that rising fuel costs meant that “airlines with less than robust business models” – such as XL and Futura – were now failing.

It added that the government should take steps to ensure all holiday companies must belong to the Atol scheme, which offers package holiday makers financial protection.

In the US, one flight from Orlando to Manchester managed to set off, while one bound for Gatwick was grounded. A source at the airport said accommodation was being found for the “distressed” passengers.

In the UK, air traffic control prevented three XL aircraft from taking off from Manchester Airport.

The XL group, which is based in Crawley, West Sussex, runs an airline and owns several travel companies, including Travel City Direct, Medlife Hotels Limited, The Really Great Holiday Company, Freedom Flights and Kosmar Holidays.

‘Going nowhere’

The company flies mainly from bases at Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow airports.

Travel writer Simon Calder warned that many thousands of XL customers hoping to fly to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, North Africa and North America, from airports across the UK in coming weeks and days “simply won’t be going anywhere”.

Jim Duwaine, from Portsmouth, said he was given the news when he arrived at Gatwick where he had been due to catch an early morning flight to Menorca.

HELP OFFERED TO XL CUSTOMERS
Flybe – offering flights for 90 euros (£71.50)
BA– offering a one-way discount
Easyjet– flights offered for £75
BMI – provided aircraft to CAA for transport people home
Ryanair – has offered spare plane to CAA for transport

He said: “Absolutely devastated. Got up at midnight planning on going on holiday, but got let down, unfortunately. We’re here, just trying to get some other flights, but it’s not looking good. I think everyone else has got the same idea.”

Other holidaymakers have said they have been quoted vastly inflated prices for replacement flights.

Robert Spurgeon, of Norwich – an XL customer who had been due to fly to Tenerife from Gatwick – said: “We’ve not been told anything but my wife’s been quoted £2,000 for alternative flights.”

Also among those affected are a 130-strong choir on tour to Canada from Wales who were booked on Zoom and lost £50,000 when it folded last month, and then re-booked with XL.

XL is the current kit sponsor of West Ham United but football club said it would end the sponsorship deal and play on Saturday in an unbranded kit.


Are you struggling to make your way home from your holiday destination? Have you paid for a holiday that you may not be able to take? If you were an employee of XL what are your views? Send us your comments

August 24, 2008

Blast demolishes landmark towers

Two iconic concrete cooling towers in South Yorkshire have been demolished in a controlled explosion.

Millions of drivers passed the 250ft (76m) towers by the Tinsley viaduct on the M1 at Sheffield over the decades.

At 0300 BST the blast to reduce the “salt and pepper pots” to rubble left part of the north tower still standing but it has since collapsed.

The Highways Agency said the motorway remains closed as planned while safety checks are carried out.

How is a cooling tower demolished?

The blast was watched by several thousand people and the M1 motorway had to be closed from midnight on Saturday, between junctions 32 and 35. It is thought the motorway may reopen on Sunday afternoon.

The towers stood only feet away from the twin-deck Tinsley viaduct, which carries the motorway on the top deck and the A631 on its lower deck.

A joint statement from tower owner E.ON and the Highways Agency said: “The demolition has now been successfully completed.

“The viaduct remains closed and the exclusion zone remains in place as planned to allow safety checks to continue.”

Tinsley towers

Only part of the north tower fell initially

After the dust settled, about a third of the north tower was still standing but a BBC reporter at the scene said the pile of rubble left after the explosion gradually fell in on itself and reduced significantly in height.

Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council, said the focus was now on getting traffic moving.

“We need to get the M1 opened as soon as possible,” he said. “We have a Bank Holiday where people will be moving around the country, coming back home, going to see relatives or going to see places.”

Despite campaigns to save the towers, which were the only remnants of the Blackburn Meadows power station, E.ON said it was destroying them as the 70-year-old structures had deteriorated.

Emily Highmore, from E.ON, said preserving the towers would have been very expensive.

“They would require a very, very significant investment and fundamentally speaking we are an energy company and our job is to keep people’s lights on.”

Nowhere else in the world has anyone sought to bring down similar structures that sit so close to a major highway viaduct
Arthur Ashburner, Highways Agency

The firm has been given permission to build a £60m biomass power station at the site.

Arthur Ashburner, from the Highways Agency, said: “This demolition is a unique situation and as far as we are aware, nowhere else in the world has anyone sought to bring down similar structures that sit so close to a major highway viaduct.

“We will carry out a series of checks to ensure that there has been no damage to the viaduct, which in itself may take several hours.

“We will reopen the road only when we are entirely satisfied that it is safe to do so.”

Some locals had tried to save the cooling towers and have them turned into art.

Campaigner Tom Keeley said: “You see very few cooling towers that are in quite such a visible position, they’re 12 metres from the M1, and they kind of symbolise not only a gateway to Sheffield and Yorkshire but they also symbolise a gateway to the North.”


Were you at the blast? Has the failed demolition affected your journey on the M1? Send us your comments

August 23, 2008

Montana meth ads winning drug battle

Montana meth ads winning drug battle

They call Montana “Big Sky Country” or “The Last Best Place” – and it is easy to see why with its wide open spaces, majestic mountains and meandering rivers.

But there is a far less wholesome side to this wilderness, a problem more associated with grim urban despair – drugs.

And one drug in particular – Methamphetamine.

Also known as crystal meth, the stimulant is more addictive than heroin or crack cocaine.

It is also relatively easy to get hold of the basic ingredients, including drain cleaner and cold medicines, although more dangerous to mix them.

The day that meth walked into our house was the day our life took a spiral
Gerri Gardiner

That said, Montana’s wide open spaces have provided the perfect cover for makeshift meth labs, which are used to make the deadly cocktail.

Until recently, the north-western state was ranked among the top five in the US with the worst meth problem.

Fifty percent of the children in foster care in Montana were there because of meth, while 50% of the prison population was there because of meth-related crime.

‘Life-destroying’

It was a drug destroying lives, like that of Gerri Gardiner, whose daughter Angela starting using meth in school as many of those who eventually get hooked do.

METHAMPHETAMINE
Methamphetamine crystals (US Drug Enforcement Administration)
Sold as powder, tablets or crystals
Can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed
Can alter personality, increase blood pressure and damage brain

Addicts talk of the initial highs, the burst of energy, the loss of weight. But for Angela it ended with depression and despair and her eventual suicide.

About a year later, Gerri’s grieving father took his own life too.

“The day that meth walked into our house was the day our life took a spiral,” she says.

We also met Katrina, who started taking meth when she was 11 years old – and carried on until she was 20. She got the habit from her mother.

“I did it all the time… I liked everything about it,” she says. “I didn’t have time for my boyfriend or my daughter.”

Now she says: “I think it’s retarded – I wish I had never done it.”

‘Un-selling meth’

Katrina managed with help to break the hold of the drugs. Many others have failed.

Tom Siebel

Tom Siebal said it was easy to “un-sell” meth as it is “pure evil”

But fortunately for Montana, there was a rich part-time rancher in their midst. The good, among the bad and the ugly.

Tom Siebel made his millions in the computer software industry and he approached the scourge of meth as if it were any other business.

“We took an unusual approach,” he said when we went to meet him at his holiday home.

“We viewed it as a consumer product, researched it as a consumer product and marketed it… or un-marketed it as a consumer product.”

Mr Siebel says the task of “un-selling” meth was particularly easy because it is so nasty – “pure evil” in his words.

He then used his money to set up the Montana Meth Project.

Shock tactics

The project came up with a “shock campaign” – a series of hard hitting adverts and posters that graphically portrayed the costs of taking meth.

If you live in Montana, the chances are that you have almost certainly seen or heard the ads… ending with the slogan: ‘Meth – not even once.’

He brought in Hollywood directors to produce the ads, which were shown on prime-time television.

They illustrate all too well the breakdown in family relationships caused by meth, and the physical decay for those who use it – the dramatic weight loss and the scabs on the skin.

If you live in Montana, the chances are that you have almost certainly seen or heard the ads on television or radio, ending with the slogan: “Meth – not even once.”

Two years on, the posters are still on prime billboard spots around the state.

The campaign has been a remarkable success.

In just two years, meth abuse in Montana has nearly halved.

Teenage meth use is down by 45% and adult use down by 75%. The state that once had the 5th biggest meth problem in the US is now ranked 39th.

More than that, about a dozen other states are now in the process of following Montana’s lead.

Montana still has a problem – but one that it is now rooting out and something that will no longer overshadow its image as “The Last Best Place”.

August 16, 2008

Madonna turns 50: Highs and lows

Madonna turns 50: Highs and lows

https://i1.wp.com/blog.mobiles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/madonna300.jpg

Madonna – one of the most successful stars in pop history – celebrates her 50th birthday on Saturday.

Use our interactive timeline to find out more about the ups and downs of her career.

Full name: Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone

Born: August 16, 1958, Bay City, Michigan, USA

Also known as: The Queen of Pop, Material Girl, Madge, Esther, Mrs Ritchie.

Biggest hits: Holiday, Into The Groove, Like A Prayer, Vogue, Ray of Light, Music.

Quote: “A woman who pulled herself up by her bra straps and has been known to let them down occasionally” (Bette Midler, introducing Madonna at Live Aid in 1985).

1963 – MOTHER DIES

Madonna’s mother, also called Madonna, dies of breast cancer. The tragic event has a lifelong impact on the singer. “You walk around with a big hole inside you, a feeling of emptiness and longing,” the star later says.

1982-1985 – INITIAL CHART SUCCESS

Madonna moves to New York in 1977, where she studies with choreographer Alvin Ailey and works as a model.

Madonna

Early music demos recorded with her boyfriend Stephen Bray make their way to Sire Records boss Seymour Stein, who demands to meet her, even though he is in hospital with a heart condition. Impressed with “the drive, the zeal, the ruthlessness” of a young Madonna, he signs her on the spot. But her first few releases only make an impact in clubs.

Holiday becomes Madonna’s first breakthrough hit in the US, reaching number 16 in late 1983. Her first top 10 hit comes a year later with Borderline, a song she later disowns. She is more proud of the subsequent, career-defining hits Like A Virgin and Material Girl. The sell-out Virgin Tour begins in 1985 with support from the Beastie Boys.

1985 – MARRIAGE

Madonna receives rave reviews for her role in mainstream film Desperately Seeking Susan (she previously made low-budget sexploitation movie A Certain Sacrifice in 1979).

She also hits number one with Into The Groove, plays Live Aid, and marries actor Sean Penn on a Californian clifftop, their vows drowned out by the roar of press helicopters circling overhead.

1986 – TRUE BLUE

True Blue

True Blue was the first time Madonna had a writing credit on every song.

The album True Blue, with its iconic Herb Ritts cover, cements Madonna’s reputation as the first lady of pop, reaching number one in 12 countries and spawning five hit singles.Papa Don’t Preach, which deals with teenage pregnancy, confirms the star’s willingness to tackle controversial issues, while Live To Tell’s raw vocals (recorded on the first take) show new emotional depth.

Her first world tour, Who’s That Girl, sees the singer mobbed by adoring fans in cities across the globe.

But Madonna’s film career takes the first of many serious beatings with the release of Shanghai Surprise.

A year later, she separates from Sean Penn, and the couple are granted a divorce in 1989.

1989 – LIKE A PRAYER

Like A Prayer video

The video for Like A Prayer caused storms of protest

The release of Like A Prayer marks the moment when critics first begin to describe Madonna as an artist, rather than a mere pop singer. The title track’s video, which shows the star kissing a black saint, causes storms of protest – but sends her straight to number one.She follows up the album with the hit single Vogue and the lavish Blond Ambition tour. At the end of 1990, Madonna seals her reputation with a Greatest Hits album – The Immaculate Collection.

1992 – SEX

Sex book

The sex book was shot by noted fashion photographer Steven Meisel

A coffee table photo book, Sex, finds Madonna in a number of sexually explicit poses with the likes of Naomi Campbell and Vanilla Ice. The book is derided in the press, and the dark and seedy Erotica album suffers as a result.Two years later, she makes a bizarre, expletive-filled appearance on David Letterman’s talk show. Madonna asks the host to smell her underwear, smokes a cigar and quizzes Letterman on whether he urinates in the shower. When she refuses to leave the stage, several audience members shout “get off”.

The show marks a low point in public perception of the star.

1996 – EVITA

Madonna’s casting in Evita helps to rehabilitate her image – and her film career. Meanwhile, she falls pregnant to fitness trainer Carlos Leon, giving birth to her first daughter, Lourdes, in October.

1998 – RAY OF LIGHT

Ray of Light

Ray of Light was produced by British musician William Orbit

Ray Of Light marks a musical return to form. Its laid-back blend of dance and electronica catches the pop superstar in a reflective mood, musing on fame and parenthood. She continues to mine this rich seam of futuristic pop with Beautiful Stranger in 1999 and Music in 2000, albeit with diminishing returns.In the meantime, she meets Guy Ritchie at a party thrown by Sting’s wife Trudi Styler. The couple have a son, Rocco, before tying the knot in Scotland days before the new Millennium.

2004 – RE-INVENTION

Re-invention tour

The Re-Invention tour took more than $125m (£62.5m) in ticket sales

After the lacklustre American Life album, Madonna looks to the past for her Re-invention World Tour. Highlights including the yoga-inspired dance routines of Vogue, and a bagpipe version of Papa Don’t Preach.She follows it up with a love letter to disco, Confessions on a Dancefloor, produced by the tour’s musical director Stuart Price. Based around European dance music – including a prominent Abba sample on Hung Up – sells 8 million copies, but its singles perform badly in the US.

The accompanying tour draws flack when Madonna performs Live To Tell while strapped to a mirrored cross, wearing a crown of thorns.

2006 – ADOPTION

Madonna and David Banda

Madonna ‘s adoption was challenged by Malawian civil rights groups

Madonna visits Malawi, arriving by private jet in the capital, Lilongwe. She says she is in the country on a humanitarian mission to visit Aids orphans, but government officials say she plans to adopt a child.A week later, Yohane Banda tells the Associated Press news agency the star has adopted his 13-month-old son, David. “I know he will be very happy in America,” he says.

Madonna denies she has used her status to “fast-track” the process, and the adoption does not receive final approval until 2008.

2008 – KEEPING BUSY

Hard Candy

Hard Candy features collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Kanye West

Showing no signs of letting up the pace as she approaches 50, Madonna parts company with record label Warner Brothers to sign a ground-breaking contract with concert promoters Live Nation.She is also inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; releases an album, Hard Candy; directs her first film, Filth and Wisdom, and produces I Am Because We Are, a documentary about Aids orphans in Malawi – all while fending off rumours about trouble in her marriage.

After celebrating her 50th birthday, the megastar sets off on her Sticky and Sweet world tour next week.

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