News & Current Affairs

July 15, 2009

Flintoff quits Tests after Ashes

Flintoff quits Tests after Ashes

England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has announced he will retire from Test cricket at the end of the current Ashes series against Australia.

The hero of England’s victorious 2005 Ashes campaign has fought a constant battle against injuries and will now concentrate on one-day cricket.

The 31-year-old is currently fighting to be fit for the second Test at Lord’s because of a knee problem.

Flintoff said: “My body has told me it’s time to stop.”

The latest knee injury flared up after the drawn first Test against Australia in Cardiff and Flintoff explained: “It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I think this last problem I’ve had with my knee has confirmed to me that the time is now right.

“I’ve been through four ankle operations, I had knee surgery just a couple of months ago and had three jabs in my knee on Monday, just to get me right for this Test, so I took that as my body telling me that I can’t cope with the rigours of Test cricket.

“For the next four Test matches I’ll do everything I need to do to get on a cricket field and I’m desperate to make my mark.”

The burly Lancastrian dismissed suggestions that his impending Test retirement would overshadow the remainder of the series.

“An Ashes series is bigger than any one player,” he said. “The focus will be on England trying to win a special series.”

So far Flintoff has played for his country 76 times in an 11-year Test career since his debut against South Africa in a famous England victory at Trent Bridge.

But undoubtedly his finest hours came during the 2-1 series success at home to Australia in 2005, a summer that resulted in Flintoff being hailed for his sportsmanship as well as his cricketing ability.

After a duck and then three in the first Test at Lord’s, he made half-centuries in each innings and took seven wickets as England fought back thrillingly to win by only two runs and level the score at Edgbaston – where his hand-on-shoulder consolation for a beaten Brett Lee became perhaps the iconic image of the whole series.

Flintoff’s maiden Ashes hundred helped bring a second home win in Nottingham and there were more runs and wickets as England regained the urn in a fifth-Test draw at The Oval.

Flintoff retirement surprises Ponting

With 2005 captain Michael Vaughan out injured, Flintoff himself was to lead England in their ill-starred bid to retain the Ashes in 2006-07, a series that ended in a 5-0 whitewash.

He lost the vice-captaincy under Vaughan after his drunken late-night escapade on a pedalo at the start of a notably unsuccessful 2007 World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting said his team were “a little surprised” by Flintoff’s decision, but added they will not treat him any differently for the second Ashes Test at Lord’s which begins on Thursday.

“We know how big a figure he is in the England team,” said Ponting. “I think you could even see that last week with his first spell back in the Test side – the whole ground sort of lifted, it changed the real feel around the ground last week.

“I thought we did a good job. We played him very well last week whether it was with the ball when he was bowling or when we had a chance to bowl to him.”

Ponting added: “He’s been a great figure in the game. The way he’s gone about his cricket, the way he’s played the game and how much he’s enjoyed the battle – probably particular in Ashes cricket – is something that’s been very fun to be a part of for me.”

Flintoff’s former Lancashire team-mate Sourav Ganguly said he was paying the price for England’s over-reliance on him.

“I always said England needed to balance his bowling with his batting if they wanted him to survive longer in Test cricket,” said the former India captain.

“With England, every time they are under pressure it is Freddie with the ball because he is their best bowler.

“He’s a big boy and injuries are part and parcel of sport, but there are other fast bowlers around the world who are running in and keep playing and doing well in Test matches.

“I think it more about Freddie Flintoff’s body than the rigours of international cricket. To be honest it’s the amount of bowling he does for England.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said the news was not a surprise and rather than distracting England from the task in hand, it might inspire them in the Ashes.

“It’s interesting that he’s done it now – it’s been talked about a great deal and has been a bit of a distraction,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Now he’s got it out, he’ll want to enjoy his last Tests so if I was an Australian, I’d think ‘oh dear’, – it might be galvanising for the England camp.”

Some cynics have pointed out that sacrificing his Test career means Flintoff is saving himself for the more lucrative limited-overs formats but Agnew said Flintoff was not being selfish.

“There’s a very lucrative one-day league – the Indian Premier League – for which he’s now fully available,” he added.

“They’re paid per match, so if he goes and plays the whole thing, he picks up all the money.

“But I’m not cynical, he’s been on the bench for the last couple of years and England need to know what’s going and build for the future. If he does have problems with his fitness, that uncertainty is removed from their planning.”

Flintoff

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September 3, 2008

Pakistan PM’s motorcade attacked

Pakistan PM’s motorcade attacked

Shots have been fired at the motorcade of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, although it is not clear if he was in the convoy at the time.

Two bullets from an unidentified gunman hit the PM’s car as he was traveling from Islamabad airport into the city, his press secretary told.

But security officials say the car was on its way to collect Mr Gilani.

Mr Gilani’s government is grappling with a growing threat from militants in the country.

It is not clear who fired the shots but Islamist militants based in Pakistan’s border regions have threatened to kill various government ministers, and have carried out deadly suicide bombings against army and government targets.

The incident represents a major lapse in security. In December former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed at an election rally in Rawalpindi.

Shattered glass

“I can confirm the prime minister’s convoy was fired upon while returning from [Islamabad] airport,” his press secretary Zahid Bashir told.

Bullet marks

Two bullets struck the window of one of the front doors

“The prime minister was coming back from Lahore. The firing took place on the Islamabad highway. At this point, we believe the firing was from a small hill on the roadside.”

A statement issued by the prime minister’s office said: “Of the multiple sniper shots fired on the prime minister’s vehicle, two hit the window on the driver’s side.

“However, because of the robust and comprehensive security measures, the prime minister and all the members of his motorcade remained unharmed.”

Television pictures showed the shattered glass of the driver’s door.

Officials say another car in the convoy was also hit by several bullets. There are no reports of injuries.

However, there was confusion when the interior ministry gave a different account of the incident, saying that Mr Gilani was not in the car at the time of the attack.

The government information minister, Sherry Rehman, supported that account: “The convoy was going to receive the prime minister,” she told state TV. “Those who had designs, have failed.”

Mr Gilani had been in Lahore to canvass support for Asif Zardari, Ms Bhutto’s widower, ahead of presidential elections on Saturday.

Ms Bhutto had been favorite to win Pakistan’s general elections and become prime minister for a third time before she was killed on 27 December. The elections were subsequently postponed until February.

Her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) emerged as the winners and formed a coalition with the PML-N party of another former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr Gilani, himself a senior PPP member, became prime minister

The coalition broke up amid political acrimony late last month.

Confident

One of the biggest challenges facing Mr Gilani’s government comes from Islamist militants who control large areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Gilani

Mr Gilani became prime minister after February’s elections

The army has been engaged in a major operation in recent weeks in the district of Bajaur which is estimated to have displaced up to 300,000 local people.

This week the government said the Bajaur operation would be suspended during the holy month of Ramadan.

Last year militants grew increasingly confident and carried out a series of attacks in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the country’s main garrison town.

And last month a double suicide attack at a munitions factory in the town of Wah in Punjab province left nearly 70 people dead.

The loose alliance of militants that calls itself the Pakistan Taleban claimed responsibility for the Wah incident, the heaviest attack on a military installation by a militant group in the country’s history.

Mr Gilani’s PPP and Mr Sharif’s PML-N have spent much of their time since February arguing over issues such as the power of the presidency and the reinstatement of judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf.

During that time the economy has taken a further battering, with the Pakistani rupee falling to an all-time low, while food and fuel prices have risen sharply.

August 28, 2008

Putin blames US for Georgia role

Putin blames US for Georgia role

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Mr Putin said US citizens were in the area during the conflict

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the US of provoking the conflict in Georgia, possibly for domestic election purposes.

Mr Putin told CNN US citizens were “in the area” during the conflict over South Ossetia and were “taking direct orders from their leaders”.

He said his defense officials had told him the provocation was to benefit one of the US presidential candidates.

The White House dismissed the allegations as “not rational”.

Georgia tried to retake the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia this month by force after a series of clashes.

Russian forces subsequently launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, and an EU-brokered ceasefire.

Diplomatic wrangling

Mr Putin said in the interview: “The fact is that US citizens were indeed in the area in conflict during the hostilities.

“It should be admitted that they would do so only following direct orders from their leaders.”

Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defence officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice
Dana Perino,
White House spokeswoman

Mr Putin added: “The American side in effect armed and trained the Georgian army.

“Why… seek a difficult compromise solution in the peacekeeping process? It is easier to arm one of the sides and provoke it into killing another side. And the job is done.

“The suspicion arises that someone in the United States especially created this conflict with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino rejected the allegation.

“To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate – it sounds not rational,” she said.

“Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defense officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”

SOUTH OSSETIA & ABKHAZIA
BBC map
South Ossetia
Population: About 70,000 (before recent conflict)
Capital: Tskhinvali
President: Eduard Kokoity
Abkhazia
Population: About 250,000 (2003)
Capital: Sukhumi
President: Sergei Bagapsh

Diplomatic wrangling over Russia’s actions in Georgia continued on Thursday with the Georgian parliament urging its government to cut diplomatic ties with Moscow.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested some EU countries were considering sanctions against Russia.

Mr Kouchner insisted France had made no proposals for sanctions itself but, as current president of the EU, would aim to get consensus among all 27 countries of the bloc if sanctions were envisaged.

France has called an emergency EU summit on Monday to reassess relations with Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described talk of sanctions as the working of “a sick imagination”.

Such talk was an emotional response that demonstrated Western confusion over the situation, he said.

The US has said it is now considering scrapping a US-Russia civilian nuclear co-operation pact in response to the conflict.

“I don’t think there’s anything to announce yet, but I know that that is under discussion,” Mr Perino said.

The White House has also announced that up to $5.75m (£3.1m) will be freed to help Georgia meet “unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs”.

Rocket test

Earlier on Thursday Russia failed to get strong backing from its Asian allies over the Georgia conflict.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), comprising Russia, China and Central Asian nations, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and spoke of its deep concern.

The group did not follow Russia in recognising the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev insisted he had the backing of the nations over Moscow’s actions.

Amid the rising tension, Russia announced on Thursday it had successfully tested its long-range Topol ballistic missile from a launch site in Kamchatka in the far east of the country.

Russia says the rocket is capable of penetrating the proposed US missile defence.

August 15, 2008

Goody ‘will appear in Indian BB’

Goody ‘will appear in Indian BB’

Jade Goody on visit to India

Goody visited Delhi after the row to apologize to the Indian community

Jade Goody is to appear in the Indian version of Celebrity Big Brother, according to reports.

It comes 18 months after the 27-year-old reality TV star was accused of racism towards Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty in the UK show.

Goody is expected to join the Indian house this weekend. Shetty is the host of the program, known as Bigg Boss.

A spokeswoman for makers Endemol said the identity of contestants was never confirmed or denied at this stage.

Because I’ve been there, done that, I’ll be able to relate to the housemates in a more empathetic way because I can imagine what they’re going through at that point in time
Shilpa Shetty

Bollywood reporter Harshita Kholi told that “a source from the production house has said that they’re under confidentiality”.

“But what they do so say is, yes, there is a buzz, there is a possibility of her being on the show,” she added.

Last week, speaking in an interview ahead of the show, Shetty said her advice to housemates was “just be yourself”.

“Because I’ve been there, done that, I’ll be able to relate to the housemates in a more empathetic way because I can imagine what they’re going through at that point in time,” she said.

Last year’s British show attracted 45,000 complaints to media regulator Ofcom over the alleged bullying of Shetty by Jade Goody and fellow contestants, model Danielle Lloyd and singer Jo O’Meara.

Cooking comment

In a report on the series, Ofcom ruled that, on three occasions, broadcaster Channel 4 had had failed to appropriately handle material.

It said one was where Goody referred to Shetty as “Shilpa Poppadom”.

Shilpa Shetty

Shilpa Shetty became a household name in the UK because of the show

Another was when Lloyd told Shetty, using foul language, that she should return to India.

The third was when Lloyd and O’Meara were seen making offensive comments about Indian cooking.

Gordon Brown – then Chancellor of the Exchequer – became involved in the row while on a visit to India during the show’s run.

Mr Brown said the issue had been raised repeatedly during his trip, adding that Britain should be “seen as a country of fairness and tolerance”.

It also led to a protest in the eastern Indian city of Patna which saw the burning of an effigy.

I am sorry for the hurt and pain that my actions caused
Goody’s apology to Indian community

But after Shetty eventually won the show, she insisted that Goody “didn’t mean to be racist”.

Endemol, meanwhile said it “sincerely regretted the level of offense caused by events in this series”.

When she left the house, Goody said her behaviour had been “nasty” and added: “I’m not racist but i can see why it has had the impact it’s had.”

A month after leaving the house, she visited India and told Indians: “I am sorry for the hurt and pain that my actions caused.”

Shilpa, meanwhile, became a household name in the UK after the series.

August 12, 2008

Spotlight on Egypt’s marriage crisis

Spotlight on Egypt’s marriage crisis

Ghada Abdelaal with her book Ayza-Tgawwiz

Abdelaal’s story started as an online log – now she’s working on a sitcom

“I want to get married” is a perfectly normal thing to say for a young Egyptian man. But when a girl says it in such a conservative society – let alone writes a book with that title – she is making a political statement.

“Girls are not supposed to be actively seeking something, a girl simply exists for someone to marry or divorce her,” says the author of the top-selling book, Ghada Abdelaal. “To say she wants something is seen as impolite.”

The book started as a blog, before it was spotted by an Egyptian publisher and printed as a series of comic sketches in which flawed and failed suitors knocking at her parents’ door.

A paranoid policeman, a hirsute fundamentalist, a pathological liar and other hilarious caricatures portrayed in sparkling Egyptian vernacular.

Marriage anxiety

The veiled, softly-spoken Abdelaal is a sharp and witty observer of social incongruity in Egypt, a feisty spirit trying to tear up stifling tradition.

They ask young girls here when they are three or four, who would you marry… they implant the idea your only purpose in life is to get married
Ghada Abdelaal

She says her target is not Egyptian men but a tradition known as “gawwaz el-salonat” (living room marriage), where a stranger is brought to the family home and the daughter must decide whether to marry him on the basis of this brief encounter.

“People who go for a picnic need to know each other a little longer than that – let alone make a lifelong commitment.”

The book’s popularity – it is in its third print run with a sitcom in the offing – reflects a widespread anxiety in Egyptian society. More and more young people cannot afford to get married.

Although the book focuses on finding Mr Right, she acknowledges finding an affordable flat remains an almost insurmountable obstacle. Many young people stay engaged for years before they can save up enough money.

“By the time they actually get to live together, they are already tired of each other,” says women’s rights activist Nihad Abou El Qoumsan. This causes the unusually high rate of divorce among the newlyweds in Egypt, she says.

Such is the impact of property prices on the marriage crisis, a popular talk show has invited engaged couples to join a draw to win a flat.

A new apartment will be given away by a wealthy businessman every day of the fasting and holiday month of Ramadan, in September. Huge numbers have registered.

Sexual frustration

Some describe it as a social time bomb. Religious customs mean there is no sex before marriage. So how do young people react to this situation?

I don’t think people who harass women on the street are necessarily single, or necessarily sexually frustrated
Anthropologist Hania Sholkamy

Sociologist Madeeha al-Safty of the American University in Cairo believes one consequence is sexual harassment of women and rape reaching unprecedented levels in Egypt.

“If you are frustrated, there is the possibility that you take it out [through] violence.

“Some people choose the safer way in moving towards a more religious attitude – not necessarily extremism, but it might reach the point of extremism,” she adds.

But anthropologist Hania Sholkamy hesitates to link the problems of sexual harassment and rape to the marriage crisis.

“I don’t think people who harass women on the street are necessarily single, or necessarily sexually frustrated. There are many millions of people who are extremely frustrated, but they do not harass women.

“I think the issue is one of violence and gender disparities, pure and simple.”

Gender disparities is a theme running throughout Abdelaal’s book, from the provocative title questioning the woman’s passive role in a traditional society to the way children are brought up.

“They ask young girls here when they are three or four, who would you marry… they implant the idea your only purpose in life is to get married.

“Even after she goes to school they tell her that a girl’s only future is in her husband’s home. So what happens when a girl for any reason cannot get married. Should she set fire to herself?”

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