News & Current Affairs

August 14, 2008

Arkansas party leader shot dead

Arkansas party leader shot dead

Bill Gwatney (handout image courtesy of Arkansas Democratic Party)

Bill Gwatney was taken to hospital but died of his injuries

The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party has died after being shot by a gunman at the US state’s party HQ.

Bill Gwatney, 49, was shot several times by a man who barged his way into his office near the state capitol building in Little Rock, police said.

The attacker was shot and killed after a police chase, officials said.

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said Mr Gwatney’s killing was a “senseless tragedy”. Bill and Hillary Clinton said they had lost a friend.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that Bill Gwatney has passed away,” the Clintons said in a joint statement.

He was, they said, ” a cherished friend and confidante”.

The couple lived for years in the Arkansas capital of Little Rock while former President Bill Clinton was governor of the state.

Barack Obama, who competed with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination to run for US president in November, also said he was “shocked and saddened” by news of the shooting.

Map showing Arkansas

Police have named the suspected gunman as 50-year-old Timothy Dale Johnson of Searcy, a town about 50 miles (80km) north-east of Little Rock, the Associated Press reported.

The motive for the shooting remains unclear.

A 17-year-old volunteer at the party headquarters building told AP that the suspect had pushed past staff to get into Mr Gwatney’s office.

“He said he was interested in volunteering but that was obviously a lie,” Sam Higginbotham said.

Mr Gwatney was taken to hospital in a critical condition and died of his injuries about four hours later.

He was a former state senator and was due to attend the Democratic Party’s national convention in Denver later this month as a super delegate.

He supported Mrs Clinton during the contest for the party’s presidential nomination.

Last December, a man who claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest walked into Mrs Clinton’s campaign office in New Hampshire, prompting a hostage drama lasting several hours.

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August 12, 2008

Le Pen sells party HQ to Chinese

Le Pen sells party HQ to Chinese

Jean-Marie Le Pen

The National Front party headquarters was dubbed The Cruiseliner

France’s anti-immigrant party, the National Front, is selling its  headquarters to a Chinese university, according to the party leader.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has confirmed that the party base has been purchased by a Shanghai university.

Mr Le Pen, 79, has campaigned to become president several times under the slogan “Keep France for the French”.

But his party faces growing financial difficulties. It has already sold its bullet-proof car on Ebay.

The party has a total debt of some 9m euros ($13.4m; £7m), according to French newspaper Le Monde, partly due to a poor showing in the 2007 legislative elections which meant it had to cover its own campaign costs.

Language school

“A formal sale offer has been signed with a university in Shanghai,” the National Front’s press service said, quoted by AFP.

The unnamed Chinese higher education institution has reportedly paid between 12 and 15m euros ($18 – 22m; £9.4m – 11.7m) for the sprawling mansion in the western Paris suburb of Saint Cloud, known as The Cruiseliner.

The university is reportedly considering turning the building into a French language school.

The building, thought to be the party’s biggest asset, was inherited from a millionaire supporter in the 1970s.

The organization has already had some bank accounts frozen after disagreements with creditors.

Right-wing firebrand Mr Le Pen startled Europe by reaching the second round of the 2002 presidential election. In 2007, he achieved some 10% of votes in the presidential race.

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