News & Current Affairs

June 26, 2009

Singer Michael Jackson dies at 50

Singer Michael Jackson dies at 50

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson had been due to play 50 concert dates in the UK this summer

Pop star Michael Jackson has died in Los Angeles, aged 50.

Paramedics were called to the singer’s Beverly Hills home at about midday on Thursday after he stopped breathing.

He was pronounced dead two hours later at the UCLA medical centre. Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, said he was believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest.

Jackson, who had a history of health problems, had been due to stage a series of comeback concerts in the UK, beginning on 13 July.

Speaking on behalf of the Jackson family, Jermaine said doctors had tried to resuscitate the star for more than an hour without success.

He added: “The family request that the media please respect our privacy during this tough time.”

“And Allah be with you Michael, always. I love you.”

TV footage showed the star’s body flown from UCLA to the LA County Coroner’s office where a post-mortem is expected to take place on Friday.

Concerns were raised last month when four of Jackson’s planned comeback concerts were postponed, but organisers insisted the dates had been moved due to the complexity of staging the show.

AT THE SCENE
Rajesh Mirchandani
Rajesh Mirchandani
BBC News

Michael Jackson was brought here to the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles around 12 hours ago. Earlier there were several hundred people here, before it got dark – there was a sense of grief, of disbelief.

But in the last few hours, these people have been singing his songs, dancing, there was a guy on a keyboard earlier, playing his songs for people to dance along to.

This has turned into an impromptu celebration of Michael Jackson’s music. He’s the king of pop as far as they’re concerned. They’re still shocked by his sudden death but they’re here because they want to show their support.

A spokeswoman for The Outside Organisation, which was organising the publicity for the shows, said she had no comment at this time.

Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said: “I always doubted that he would have been able to go through that schedule, those concerts. It seemed to be too much of a demand on the unhealthy body of a 50 year old.

“I’m wondering that, as we find out details of his death, if perhaps the stress of preparing for those dates was a factor in his collapse.

“It was wishful thinking that, at this stage of his life, he could be Michael Jackson again.”

Tributes have poured in from the entertainment industry. Sir Paul McCartney described Jackson’s death as ” sad and shocking”.

The pair worked together on two hit tracks, Say Say, Say and The Girl Is Mine from Jackson’s Thriller album.

He said ” I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul.

“His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.

“I send my deepest sympathy to his mother and the whole family, and to his countless fans all around the world.”

Speaking outside New York’s historic Apollo theatre, civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton paid tribute to his friend.

“I knew him 35 years. When he had problems he would call me,” he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Can’t believe it. I’m gutted. RIP Michael, thanks for everything you gave us.

Tommy, Cardiff

“I feel like he was not treated fairly. I hope history will be more kind to him than some of the contemporary media.”

Melanie Bromley, west coast bureau chief of Us Weekly magazine, told the News the scene in Los Angeles was one of “pandemonium”.

“At the moment there is a period of disbelief. He was buying a home in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles and the scene outside the house is one of fans, reporters and TV cameras – it’s absolute craziness.

“I feel this is the biggest celebrity story in a long time and has the potential to be the Princess Diana of popular culture.”

Musical icon

Tributes from the world of music and film have already flooded in from celebrities including Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger and ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley.

Large numbers of fans have also gathered outside Jackson’s home and at the UCLA medical centre with lit candles to mourn the star while playing his greatest hits.

Facebook groups have also been set up for fans to share their memories.

The singer’s albums are occupying the top 15 slots of online music retailer Amazon.com’s current best-seller chart, led by his 1982 smash hit Thriller.

Paramedics were called to the singer’s house in Bel Air at 1221 (1921GMT) following an emergency phone call.

They performed CPR on Jackson and rushed him to the UCLA medical centre.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said the robbery and homicide team was investigating Jackson’s death because of its “high profile”, but there was no suggestion of foul play.

Jackson began his career as a child in family group The Jackson 5.

MICHAEL JACKSON 1958-2009
Full name: Michael Joseph Jackson
Born: August 29, 1958, Gary, Indiana, US
Also known as: The King of Pop, Wacko Jacko
Biggest hits: I Want You Back, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, Billie Jean, Bad, Black or White, Earth Song

He then went on to achieve global fame as a solo artist with smash hits such as Billie Jean and Bad.

Thriller, released in 1982, is the biggest-selling album of all time, shifting 65m copies, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

He scored seven UK number ones as a solo artist and won a total of 13 Grammy awards.

“For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words,” said Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller, Bad and Off The Wall.

“He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”

The singer had been dogged by controversy and money trouble in recent years, becoming a virtual recluse.

He was arrested in 2003 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy, but was found not guilty following a five-month trial.

The star had three children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II.

He is survived by his mother, Katherine, father, Joseph and eight siblings – including Janet, Randy, Jermaine and La Toya Jackson.

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September 10, 2008

Narrow UK class gap, urges Harman

Narrow UK class gap, urges Harman

The class gap must be narrowed in an effort to improve people’s life chances, Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman has said.

She told the TUC annual conference that “equality matters more than ever” and “is necessary for individuals, a peaceful society and a strong economy”.

Ms Harman called for more “clarity of evidence” to suggest the government was making progress on the issue.

But the Conservatives accused her of re-opening the “class war”.

Union criticism

Ms Harman’s comments come after Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an interview with Monitor magazine that “social mobility has not improved in Britain as we would have wanted”.

They will be seen by many as an attempt by the government to rally the unions to Labour, after widespread criticism over the level of public sector pay and demands for a windfall tax on energy firms’ profits.

Ms Harman, who is also Commons leader and minister for women and equality, told delegates at the TUC conference in Brighton: “Equality matters more than ever and it is necessary for individuals, a peaceful society and a strong economy.

“We have made great progress on tackling inequality but we know that inequality doesn’t just come from your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. What overarches all of these is where you live, your family background, your wealth and social class.

“While we have helped millions of people over the last ten years through policies like Sure Start, tax credits and the national minimum wage, we want to do more.

“To advance equality through our public policy, we need clarity of evidence and focus on the gaps in society and how they have changed over the last 10 years.”

Ms Harman announced that the government’s National Equality Unit would be headed by Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics.

She said: “The robust evidence base that the panel will produce will help us properly target measures to address persisting equality gaps and build on the good work that we have already done.”

‘Sidling up’

Ms Harman accused the Conservatives of being “false friends of equality” and of “sidling up to the unions”.

For the Conservatives, shadow leader of the Commons Theresa May said: “I am astounded that Harriet Harman is dismissing the equality issues around race and gender.”

She added: “I also find it surprising that she should raise issues of social equality when she’s part of government that has been in power for over 11 years, presiding over a 900,000 growth in the number of people living in severe poverty and over a country that has the lowest social mobility in the developed world.

“Labour has made poverty more entrenched and returning to the class warfare rhetoric of 20 years ago is neither helpful nor realistic.”


Do you agree with Harriet Harman? Has your child suffered due to a class gap? Has your family benefited through policies like Sure Start or tax credits?

Send your comments

September 7, 2008

France shocked by images of war

France shocked by images of war

Staring out from a glossy eight-page spread in the latest edition of the magazine Paris Match, several Taleban fighters show off their trophies of war.

Funeral for French soldiers

The loss of the 10 soldiers in Afghanistan shocked France

Guns, walkie-talkies and even a wrist-watch are photographed – all spoils taken from the 10 French soldiers they killed in an ambush last month.

Accompanying the pictures is a long interview with the Taleban leader who calls himself Commander Farouki.

He claims they were tipped off about the French mission in their area and were able to prepare an ambush with 140 highly trained insurgents.

“If night hadn’t fallen we’d have killed every one of the soldiers,” he boasts.

He denies reports that other French paratroopers were captured and tortured but warns that every single French soldier found on Afghan soil will be killed.

Propaganda

On French radio today, Defense Minister Herve Morin criticized Paris Match for peddling Taleban propaganda.

“Should we really be doing the Taleban’s propaganda for them?” he asked.

“The Taleban have understood perfectly that Western public opinion is probably the Achilles’ heel of the international community present in Afghanistan.”

A diplomat from the foreign ministry said it was the responsibility of the media to decide what they covered and how they did it, but added: “The reactions of the families of the servicemen speak for themselves”.

“We can only imagine the pain that they felt when they saw these pictures, as well as that of the comrades of these men who are still in Afghanistan.”

The French population can’t accept to see any more soldiers killed
Jean Francois, Parisian

The father of one of the dead soldiers said he was shocked and hurt to see images of the “murderers” parading the personal effects of his son and comrades.

Although the freedom of the press is fiercely protected in France, in Paris many people were outraged at what they believed was irresponsibility on the part of Paris Match.

“It makes me sick,” said one woman who was close to tears.

“I think about how the parents must feel, the sisters and the brothers… and really… I would hate to see this if this was my son.”

Jean Francois, a financial adviser, agreed.

“This kind of report is horrible and unfair for the families,” he said.

“The French population can’t accept to see any more soldiers killed. French soldiers have to come back to France as soon as possible.”

War opposed

A survey taken in April this year when President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he was sending another battalion of almost 800 soldiers to north-east Afghanistan showed that two-thirds of people here believe their country has no place in the Afghan conflict.

Despite Mr Sarkozy’s insistence that France is fighting a battle against terror in Afghanistan, many people here feel they have just been sucked into Uncle Sam’s war.

Earlier this week, the mother of another of the French paratroopers killed in the 18 August attack told the news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur that she had written a letter to Mr Sarkozy, begging him to get France out of the war.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy lays a medal on the coffin of a soldier killed in Afghanistan

President Sarkozy led mourners at the soldiers’ funeral

“Stop following the example of President Bush,” she wrote. “Let’s stay French. Let’s get our soldiers out of the quagmire.”

Last month’s ambush was France’s worst single military loss in 25 years. As well as those killed, another 21 soldiers were injured.

Until then there had been little news coverage of the French mission, although some 3,000 of the country’s troops are currently serving in Afghanistan.

But being confronted with full-page, glossy photographs of the insurgents who killed their troops is bound to rekindle arguments about what France’s role in Afghanistan really is.

The French parliament has called for an urgent debate on the matter but on Thursday Mr Sarkozy – while acknowledging the difficulties and dangers endured by French troops – insisted they would not abandon their mission.

“If we abandon Afghanistan, we’ll destabilize Pakistan,” he warned.

“And I’d like to remind you that Pakistan has nuclear capabilities.”

September 1, 2008

Peru’s first ‘visionary’ editor

Peru’s first ‘visionary’ editor

Doris Gibson, who 58 years ago founded Peru’s leading news magazine, has died at the age of 98. Her strength of character and determination helped the magazine withstand military dictatorships and repressive governments, as Dan Collyns reports.

Front page of Caretas showing a portait of Doris Gibson

Caretas magazine is famous for its mocking of the authorities

She began with 10,000 soles (£2,066), which her uncle had given her, and a typewriter in a single room.

The magazine was going to be called Caras y Caretas – faces and masks – but as Peru was under a military dictatorship at the time they decided to call it just Caretas to symbolize the repression they were living under.

They planned to revert to the original title after the dictatorship but it never happened.

Soon afterwards, the magazine was shut down for the first time. It was to be the first of eight closures, most of them during another military dictatorship in the 1970s of General Juan Velasco.

“She would be very creative in how she overcame the closures,” says her granddaughter Diana. “With her everything was possible.”

Genteel poverty

She was born in Lima, by accident, in 1910.

In those days, people travelled by boat between the capital and Arequipa, Peru’s upmarket second city nestled in the Andes to the south.

Her mother was aboard ship and about to head home to Arequipa when her waters broke and she had to go ashore to give birth.

She was the daughter of Percy Gibson, a poet who rebelled from his wealthy merchant family of British descent to live a literary life.

Doris’ younger sister Charo says he never worked a day in his life and she and her many sisters grew up in genteel poverty.

Bohemian life

Doris Gibson

Doris’ son described her as an instinctive fighter

At a young age Doris married an Argentine diplomat, Manlio Zileri, and bore an only son, Enrique, who went on to become the longest-standing editor of Caretas, earning a reputation as Peru’s best journalist.

Just a few years later she was granted one of staunchly-Catholic Peru’s first divorces and she began an intensely bohemian life surrounding herself with artists, intellectuals and politicians.

Doris was a very beautiful young woman and famous for her long, shapely legs. She had a relationship with the artist Servulo Gutierrez to whom she was both a lover and a muse.

He famously painted a life-size nude portrait of her which – following an argument – he sold to a wealthy businessman.

She was independent at a time when women were dependent on their husbands

Her granddaughter Diana says she went to the man’s house with a photographer from the magazine.

They said they needed to photograph the painting in the sunlight, so they put it outside on the car and promptly drove away with it.

“I don’t want to be nude in your house,” she told the man when he called to ask for it back.

Defiance

Despite her upper-class background her friends say she had an old-world warmth for all the people she knew from the shopkeeper down the road to her domestic servants.

Having money, or not, was a question of luck, she was fond of saying.

The magazine is famous for its front covers. Always visually audacious, ironic and mocking authority

Her warmth was also volcanic, says her son Enrique, like the famous Misti volcano which overlooks her home town of Arequipa. Their arguments were legendary.

But she also aimed that fire at successive repressive governments which tried to silence the most important political magazine in Peru.

She confronted soldiers when they raided the office and had photographers poised to record the break-ins.

“Mala hierba nunca muere” – Bad weeds never die – exclaimed the leaflets she had scattered throughout Lima as if freedom of speech would grow up through the cracks in the pavement.

Caretas could not be silenced.

The magazine is famous for its front covers. Always visually audacious, ironic and mocking authority.

When Alberto Fujimori’s birthplace – and thus eligibility to be president – was called into question in 1997, his head was superimposed on the rising sun of the Japanese flag with the words: Once again: Where was he born?

“She was instinctively a fighter,” says her son Enrique, “and a natural businesswoman.”

Visionary

For years she lived on the eighth floor in the same building as the magazine. It survived for all its years due to her intense presence which inspired fierce loyalty in her journalists.

Doris Gibson

Doris’ determination helped Caretas withstand Peru’s military regimes

She was independent at a time when women were dependent on their husbands.

A feminist before the movement had begun, and according to many, a visionary who influenced the course of Peru’s recent history through the brave and defiant reporting of the magazine she created.

For some time we shared the top floor of a block of flats.

Her carer, Chela, invited me across the hall to meet her. The flat she shared with her younger sister Charo was like a museum. Full of copper pans, paintings and artefacts.

She had just celebrated her 97th birthday. Her cheeks were hollow and her eyes had sunken into her skull, but she looked straight at me.

She held my hand in her tight grip, pulling me forward slightly as she tried to utter some words. I told her who I was and Chela repeated what I had said at volume.

As I walked out of the room I saw a black and white photograph portrait of a beautiful, bright eyed young woman. She had dark flowing hair, porcelain skin and rosebud lips. It was Doris, aged 16.

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