Tag Archive: Britain


Unease in the Miss. Delta as floodwaters spread

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110512/ap_on_re_us/us_mississippi_river_flooding

By SHELIA BYRD, Associated Press Shelia Byrd, Associated Press 1 hr 28 mins ago

RENA LARA, Miss. – Officials in a small town are trying to assure its 500 residents they are doing what they can to shore up the levee to protect them from the swollen Mississippi River.

“It’s getting scary,” said Rita Harris, 43, who lives in a tiny wooden house in the shadow of the levee in Rena Lara. “They won’t let you go up there to look at the water.”

The uneasiness is being felt all along the poverty-stricken Delta as oozing floodwaters from the Mississippi River and its tributaries spilled across farm fields, cut off churches, washed over roads and forced people from their homes Wednesday.

Some used boats to navigate flooded streets as the crest rolled slowly downstream, bringing misery to low-lying communities. About 600 homes have been flooded in the Delta in the past several days as the water rose toward some of the highest levels on record.

The flood crest is expected to push past the Delta by late next week.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour urged people to get out if they think there is even a chance their homes will flood. He said there is no reason to believe a levee on the Yazoo River would fail, but if it did, 107 feet of water would flow over small towns.

“More than anything else, save your life and don’t put at risk other people who might have to come in and save your lives,” he said.

Much farther downstream, Louisiana officials were awaiting an Army Corps of Engineers decision on whether to open the Morganza spillway to take the pressure off the levees protecting Baton Rouge and, downstream, New Orleans and the many oil refineries in between. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday that residents who would be affected by the spillway opening should assume it will open and should plan to get out of the way.

Crews were using water-filled tubes to bolster levees protecting downtown Baton Rouge, where minor flooding could occur. Sandbags were being placed along a portion of New Orleans’ French Quarter riverfront, though the city isn’t expecting a major impact from the flood. The river could be closed to ship traffic at New Orleans if it rises too high.

The Mississippi Delta, with a population of about 465,000, is a leaf-shaped expanse of rich soil between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, extending about 200 miles from Memphis, Tenn., to Vicksburg, Miss. Along the way are towns whose names are familiar to Civil War buffs, aficionados of the blues, and scholars of the civil rights era: Clarksdale, Greenwood, Greenville and Yazoo City.

While some farms in the cotton-, rice- and corn-growing Delta are prosperous, there is also grinding poverty. Nine of the 11 counties that touch the Mississippi River in Mississippi have poverty rates at least double the national average of 13.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The governor said the state is asking local officials to get in touch with people who might have no electricity and phones and thus no way to get word of the flooding.

“It’s a tiny number, but we have to find them,” Barbour said.

Late Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for 14 counties in Mississippi because of the flooding. Housing and home repairs will be covered and low-interest loans to cover uninsured damage will be available.

In Greenville, Liz Jones, who is unemployed, lives on the second floor of a housing project and worries what might happen in the event of a levee break. She has no means of transportation.

“I got a baby and my mama. I don’t know what we’d do about food and clothes and stuff,” she said.

In Hollandale, one of the small rural towns in the Delta the governor warned might flood if the levee breaks, 62-year-old nursing home worker Geraldine Jackson fretted about what to do if she and her husband have to leave their red-brick house, where pieces of the roof have broken off and the white trim is peeling.

“I have relatives, but all my relatives live in the Delta, and the water’s going to get them too,” she said. “I’m just real messed up.”

Swollen by weeks of heavy rain and snowmelt, the Mississippi River has been breaking high-water records that have stood since the 1920s and `30s. It is projected to crest at Vicksburg on May 19 and shatter the mark set there during the cataclysmic Great Flood of 1927. The crest is expected to reach New Orleans on May 23.

Even after the peak passes, water levels will remain high for weeks, and it could take months for flooded homes to dry out.

About 600,000 acres of cultivated row crops could flood, mainly winter wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton and rice, said Andy Prosser, spokesman with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture. Even if the levees hold, the state expects to lose $150 million to $200 million worth of crops, the governor said. Mississippi’s catfish farmers could also be wiped out if the Yazoo floods their ponds and washes away their fish.

Many of the victims of the slowly unfolding disaster are poor people living perilously close to the water.

In the Memphis, Tenn., area, where the Mississippi crested Tuesday just inches short of the 1927 record, many of the flooded dwellings were mobile homes and one-story brick or wood buildings in low-lying, working-class neighborhoods unprotected by floodwalls or levees.

Maria Flores, her husband, Pedro Roman, and their four children ended up in a church shelter in south Memphis — some 20 miles from their trailer in the Millington area of Shelby County. They lost a trailer in last year’s flood, and it happened to them again this year.

Flores, who works as a baby sitter, and Roman, an unemployed day laborer, did not have disaster insurance and suspect their trailer is a total loss. At the shelter, they were receiving clothing and three meals a day and were sleeping on air mattresses in a room with 20 other people.

Flores said she stopped going to work because it was too far and she could not afford the gas. Roman seemed almost paralyzed by the uncertainty.

“People who have money have a better chance of getting back on their feet than poorer people,” Flores said. “That’s our problem.”

___

Associated Press writers Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tenn., and Emily Wagster Pettus and Holbrook Mohr in Jackson contributed to this report.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110512/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By DIAA HADID, Associated Press Diaa Hadid, Associated Press 21 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – NATO airstrikes struck Moammar Gadhafi’s sprawling compound in Tripoli and three other sites early Thursday, hours after the Libyan leader was shown on state TV in his first appearance since his son was killed nearly two weeks ago.

Explosions thundered across the capital and ambulances raced through the city as the last missile exploded.

Government officials and state-run Libyan television said the strikes targeted Bab al-Azaziya, Gadhafi’s compound, but did not specify which buildings were hit. Reporters who were taken there later Thursday saw one missile-damaged building, and evidence that at least three missiles had hit the compound.

NATO, which has hit the Libyan capital repeatedly this week, said Thursday’s attack successfully hit “a large command and control bunker complex in downtown Tripoli that was used to coordinate attacks against civilian populations.”

In the eastern city of Benghazi, headquarters for the opposition movement trying to topple Gadhafi, rebel spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga claimed that anti-Gadhafi residents in the Tripoli area were staging peaceful demonstrations in many neighborhoods, prompting the regime to deploy troops and tanks in the streets that may have been diverted from other regions.

Ghoga, who did not specify the source of his information, said anti-Gadhafi militants had burned a police station in one suburb, and were setting up night patrols and checkpoints in other neighborhoods. There was no immediate independent confirmation of his claims; the foreign journalists in Tripoli are assigned government minders and limited in their movements.

After the early-morning airstrikes, medics arrived at Khadra Hospital with the bodies of two men they said were killed in the attack. One of bodies was charred; the other was covered by a green blanket, a leg dangling from the stretcher.

From a bus ferrying reporters to the hospital, smoke could be seen rising from part of the Gadhafi compound. Skid marks left from screeching vehicles crisscrossed the roads around it.

The medics said others had been killed by the airstrikes and were still being retrieved from the compound.

Gadhafi’s compound has been a frequent site of recent airstrikes, including one on April 30 that killed the leader’s son, Seif al-Arab. Officials said Gadhafi — Libya’s autocratic leader for 42 years — was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.

NATO has repeatedly said all its targets in Libya are military and that it is not targeting Gadhafi or other individuals. In its latest update Thursday, NATO denied targeting the North Korean Embassy in Tripoli — a response to a report by the Libyan state news agency JANA that the embassy had been damaged during one of this week’s strikes.

Gadhafi had seven sons and one daughter. He also had an adopted daughter who was killed in 1986 when a U.S. airstrike hit the Bab al-Aziziya residential compound in retaliation for a bombing attack on a German disco in which two U.S. servicemen were killed..

In an apparent effort to dispel rumors that Gadhafi himself had been killed, Libyan state TV showed him meeting tribal leaders, but did not record him speaking. To authenticate the scene, the camera zoomed in on the date on a TV monitor in the room, which read Wednesday, May 11. It was apparently recorded at the hotel where foreign correspondents must reside in Tripoli. Gadhafi did not make himself available to them.

The last time Gadhafi had been seen in public previously was April 9, when he visited a school in Tripoli.

Intensified NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces across Libya have given a boost to rebels fighting to oust the regime, with the opposition claiming Wednesday that it had captured the airport in the western city of Misrata. In all, NATO said, the alliance has carried out more than 2,400 airstrikes since March 31 as part of the effort to assist the rebels and pressure Gadhafi relinquish power.

Even though some of the recent reports of ground combat are difficult to confirm, they seem to represent a major boost for the rebels’ military prospects after weeks of stalemate on several fronts.

The rebels control most of eastern Libya, but Misrata — about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli — is the only rebel stronghold in the west. Local doctors say more than 1,000 of its residents have been killed in the fighting and shelling during the siege by Gadhafi’s forces.

In Tripoli, a government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, denied the Misrata rebels’ claims of success, saying regime forces still held the airport.

Ibrahim did acknowledge that the war was creating severe shortages of many commodities in Tripoli.

“The NATO airstrikes and the sea embargo … are badly influencing the lives of daily Libyans,” he said. “We have some shortages in fuel, food and medicine. It makes it difficult to go to schools, hospitals and factories.”

A potential humanitarian crisis was reported Thursday by the World Food Program in the mountain region of western Libya. Josette Sheeran, the WFP executive director, said fighting in the area between rebels and regime forces has prevented aid from reaching civilians trapped in some hard-to-reach villages.

She appealed for a cease-fire so deliveries could be made safely.

Britain said Thursday that it will supply police officers in rebel-held eastern Libya with uniforms and body armor, and help establish a public radio station. The announcement came after Prime Minister David Cameron and other ministers met in London with Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council.

Cameron said he had invited Abdul-Jalil to open a permanent office in London to help cement contacts with Britain, although Britain has not followed France and Italy in recognizing the council as Libya’s legitimate government.

___

Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Benghazi and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

Mullah Omarhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110504/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – Osama bin Laden’s death is likely to revive a debate within the Afghan Taliban about their ties to al-Qaida — a union the U.S. insists must end if the insurgents want to talk peace.

The foundation of their relationship is believed to be rooted in bin Laden’s long friendship with the Taliban’s reclusive one-eyed leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who might now find it more palatable to break with al-Qaida and negotiate a settlement to the war. Much may depend on the newly chastened power-broker next door: Pakistan.

“I think now is an opportunity for the Taliban to end their relations with al-Qaida,” said Waheed Muzhda, a Kabul-based analyst and former foreign ministry official under the Taliban regime that was toppled in late 2001.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, said it was too early to comment.

But the death of the world’s top terrorist gives momentum toward finding a political solution to the nearly decade-long war, according to analysts familiar with U.S. officials’ stepped-up effort this year to push a peace agenda.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration have said they will negotiate with any member of the Taliban who embraces the Afghan constitution, renounces violence and severs ties with al-Qaida. Informal contacts have been made in recent months with high-ranking Taliban figures, but no formal peace talks are under way.

The possible opportunity comes just as the spring fighting season is kicking into gear. The U.S.-led coalition hopes to hold ground in southern Afghanistan gained as a result of the addition last year of an extra 30,000 American troops. The Taliban’s goal remains undermining the Afghan government, discrediting its security forces and driving the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops and other foreign forces out of the country.

Even before bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs at a compound in Pakistan on Monday, the links between the al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban had weakened during the 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muzhda said. Mullah Omar’s refusal to hand over bin Laden after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon prompted the U.S.-led assault on Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban from power. By siding with bin Laden, Mullah Omar’s hardline regime lost control of the nation.

The goals of the two movements are not closely aligned. While al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious superstate in the Muslim world, the Afghan Taliban have focused on their own country and have shown little to no interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan. The car bombing in May 2010 in New York’s Times Square was linked to the Pakistani Taliban — an autonomous group on the other side of the border.

But breaking with al-Qaida would mean forgoing some reliable funding channels in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Syria, according to a Western intelligence officer. Mullah Omar’s association with bin Laden also gave him clout, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Al-Qaida shares its technical expertise in explosives and helps the Taliban traffic narcotics made with opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, he said. For their part, the Taliban allow al-Qaida to come into Afghanistan on the backs of Taliban fighters.

Still, some members of the Taliban’s top leadership council have grown uncomfortable with al-Qaida, and a vocal minority want to distance themselves from the mostly Arab terrorist network, he said.

There are also cultural differences. Al-Qaida has viewed the Taliban as more backward, “kinda like West Virginia mountain folk — unrefined, uneducated,” the officer said.

And “the older generation of Taliban leaders had long ago become fed up with the arrogance of Arab jihadists,” Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote Monday in a column in the Financial Times.

Two other issues, according to the intelligence officer, could affect the Taliban’s internal debate about al-Qaida. While Bin Laden had personal connections to Taliban leaders, the man expected to replace him, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, is a less charismatic, unifying figure. And top Taliban leaders now know that the U.S. might hunt them down in Pakistan even without the cooperation or knowledge of the Pakistani military — as was done with bin Laden.

In June 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that there were probably only 50 to 100 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan — that most of the terrorist network was, without question, operating from the western tribal region of Pakistan. Last month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that while some al-Qaida fighters have been searching for hide-outs in rugged areas of eastern Afghanistan, he did not think they were making a comeback inside the country.

Abu Hafs al-Najdi — a senior al-Qaida leader in Afghanistan and the coalition’s No. 2 overall targeted insurgent in the country — was killed in an April 13 airstrike in Kunar province, a hotbed of the insurgency in the northeast. In the past several weeks, coalition forces reported killing more than 25 al-Qaida leaders and fighters.

While the military offensive continues, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that the United States had accelerated a diplomatic push to craft a political solution to the war. Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan who is heading up the effort, met with Afghanistan and Pakistan officials on Tuesday in Islamabad and agreed to set up a so-called Core Group for promoting the Afghan-led reconciliation effort.

With little known about the secret inner workings of the Afghan Taliban’s governing council, called the Quetta Shura, analysts can only speculate about the group’s plans.

“The killing of bin Laden might motivate them to sever their ties,” said Brian Katulis, of the Washington-based think-tank Center for American Progress. “I think the signal that the Quetta Shura and others are getting from people in Pakistan in the security services will be key.”

The U.S. has accused Pakistan’s military-run spy service of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Afghan Taliban and closely aligned with al-Qaida. Pointedly, the Americans did not inform Pakistan about Monday’s helicopter raid that killed bin Laden until it was over.

That bin Laden’s hideout turned out to be a three-story home a short drive from the capital, Islamabad, and close to various Pakistani army regiments has raised suspicions in Washington that the Pakistanis may have been sheltering him. For years, Western intelligence had said bin Laden was most likely holed up in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The Pakistani government has denied suggestions that its security forces knew bin Laden was there. Pakistani officials have long argued that they have done their part in the fight against militants and denounce allegations that they are backing insurgents.

“The raid was obviously deeply embarrassing for the Pakistanis,” Katulis said. “They could either redouble their efforts to try to cooperate more closely with the U.S. or they can continue to play their passive-aggressive game.”

Don’t expect a near-term divorce with al-Qaida, said Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst with The Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank.

“It makes no sense for the Taliban to concede this point on the front end — without receiving any commensurate concession from the other side,” Hanna said. “Some of the Taliban I have spoken to have made the point that as long as the military fight escalates, they will cooperate with other forces who are willing to assist them in their fight against the U.S.-led coalition. They portray any pre-emptive severing of ties as a type of unilateral, partial disarmament.”

Seth Jones, a RAND Corp. political scientist who advised the commander of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said he suspects “the Taliban would interpret cutting ties with al-Qaida as kowtowing to the Americans.”

Jones said that while the Taliban don’t need al-Qaida to operate, they still retain ties with al-Qaida’s senior leaders as they have for decades.

Former Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Abdul Hadi Khalid said some members of the Taliban want to split with al-Qaida. The fighting spirit of the Taliban has been dampened by recent brutal attacks around the country that killed scores of Afghan civilians — attacks he suspects were inspired by al-Qaida.

These Taliban members “feel they are going the wrong way,” Khalid said.

However, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president, said top Taliban leaders directing the insurgency remain very closely associated with al-Qaida. Al-Qaida still helps train Taliban fighters, and foreign fighters aligned with al-Qaida continue to fight side-by-side with Taliban foot soldiers, he said.

“I don’t know how they will be able to distance themselves,” Karzai said.

___

Associated Press Writers Heidi Vogt, Solomon Moore and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

Iraq expects reprisals for bin Laden killing

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/wl_nm/us_binladen_iraq

By Waleed Ibrahim and Suadad al-Salhy Waleed Ibrahim And Suadad Al-salhy 45 mins ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s army and police went on high alert on Monday for possible revenge attacks in one of al Qaeda’s major battlegrounds after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his Pakistan hideout.

Oil infrastructure, power stations and bridges could be targets of militant attacks, security sources said, to prove bin Laden’s death has not disrupted operations in Iraq, still an important arena for the Islamist group eight years after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Former President George W. Bush referred to Iraq as part of the U.S. “war on terror” although no link was found between Saddam’s regime and the September 11 attacks. It became a battlefield for al Qaeda after the invasion.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have scored big victories against al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate but the Sunni Islamist insurgency remains lethal and carries out dozens of attacks each month.

“We have issued orders to intensify security measures in the street,” said Major-General Hassan al-Baidhani of the Baghdad operations command. “We 100 percent expect attacks.”

The Iraqi government welcomed the news of bin Laden’s death.

“The Iraqi government is feeling greatly relieved over the killing of Osama bin Laden, who was the planner and director behind the killing of many Iraqis and destroying the country,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“VIOLENT REACTION” POSSIBLE

The U.S. military still has about 47,000 troops in Iraq.

“We recognize that the death of bin Laden may result in a violent reaction from al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist organisations that loosely affiliate with the al Qaeda network,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Barry Johnson said. He would not comment on any changes in operations as a result of the death.

Iraqi security sources said they had received intelligence that al Qaeda would carry out reprisal attacks and that markets, religious shrines and infrastructure could be hit.

“We are expecting that they will attack vital targets like oil institutions, electricity stations and bridges in Baghdad, Basra and the middle Euphrates areas,” a senior anti-terrorism officer said. Oilfields, pipelines and terminals are critical to Iraq’s plans to become a major world producer and to rebuild after decades of dictatorship, war and economic sanctions.

U.S. military officials say counter-terrorism operations have severely degraded al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate and damaged its communications with al Qaeda figures abroad. Leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed in April 2010.

But military commanders still point to al Qaeda for many of the scores of attacks each month, including a bloody siege in late March in Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit, where 58 people were killed, and an attack on a Baghdad cathedral last October.

John Drake, a risk consultant with U.K.-based security firm AKE, said bin Laden’s death would not reduce attacks in Iraq.

“While it still receives foreign funding and foreign recruits, a lot of the planning and execution of attacks is by Iraqi nationals operating independently, but still drawing inspiration from the global al Qaeda movement,” he said.

War-weary Iraqis appeared to welcome the news.

“In my life, I have never seen a criminal like this person (bin Laden), who took the religion of Islam to serve his own purpose,” said Ibrahim Ali Hamdi, 68, a farmer who lost a son to al Qaeda in 2006.

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Three Weddings And Two Funerals

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110429/wl_time/08599206848800

By MICHAEL ELLIOTT Michael Elliott 1 hr 44 mins ago

In Britain, all is not as it seems, nor ever has been. As they viewed the preparations for the royal wedding, with all its pomp and circumstance, the non-British seemed to willingly buy into the idea that the monarchy – and popular reverence for it – has been a fixed point in the British firmament for centuries, a source of stability however the nation’s fortunes may have ebbed and flowed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The monarchy does not symbolize some deep sense of tradition; on the contrary, it has long been a contested element of what it means to be British. In the 17th century, revolutionaries turned the world upside down and deprived Charles I of his head more than 100 years before the French did the same to Louis XVI. The Crown was restored in 1660, but 28 years later another King was sent packing into exile. By the early 19th century, the scandal-stained Hanoverian dynasty was widely loathed. In his great sonnet “England in 1819,” the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley described George III and his sons as “An old, mad, blind, despised and dying king, – / Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow/ Through public scorn – mud from a muddy spring.” (See pictures of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day.)

The monarchy was saved and re-invented by the sense of duty of Victoria – just 18 when she ascended to the throne in 1837 – and her remarkable German husband Prince Albert. During Britain’s period of high imperialism and global economic dominance, it suited both the old landed grandees and those enriched by the world’s first modern economy to elevate the Crown into a symbol of changelessness in a society that was changing at breakneck speed.

Victoria’s halo sanctified the reigns of her son Edward VII and grandson George V, a man whose principal pastimes were stamp collecting and slaughtering game birds on his Norfolk estate. But such splendid dullness could not be maintained. Though the reassuring presence of Elizabeth II, who was 9 when her grandfather died in 1936, has indeed been a stabilizing constant in British life, the years since George V’s demise have seen regular eruptions in British attitudes toward the monarchy – all taking place against a backdrop of quiet, but continual and profound, constitutional change.

1937
Not the Wedding They Wanted

On June 3, 1937, at a chÁteau in france, the Duke of Windsor – who had reigned for 10 months as Edward VIII before abdicating in favor of his brother – married the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, an American from Baltimore and, in 1936, the first woman to be named Time’s Person of the Year. (The piece was distinctly catty; Simpson was said to have “resolved early to make men her career, and in 40 years reached the top – or nearly.”) The wedding was a low-key affair, and after the ceremony one guest described the duke as having “tears running down his face,” perhaps out of relief that the whole squalid business was over. If so, it was a sentiment his people shared. A vain, self-centered man who – to put it at its most charitable – was far too prepared to be used by Nazi sympathizers, Edward would have been a disastrous monarch as Britain fought for its survival in World War II.

1947
Relief from Hard Times

Instead of Edward, the nation was blessed to have on the throne George VI, a man of palpable decency, whose wife Elizabeth was widely popular.

On Nov. 20, 1947, their daughter Elizabeth, the heiress to the Crown, married her distant cousin Philip Mountbatten in Westminster Abbey. In the run-up to the wedding, its expense – shades of 2011 – was highly controversial. Exhausted and broke after six years of war, Britain was going through a period of penny-pinching austerity and food rationing, which made the question of a sugary wedding cake politically sensitive. Gifts piled in, from diamond-encrusted wreaths to a piece of cloth that Mohandas Gandhi had spun himself. (Elizabeth’s grandmother thought it was a loincloth; she was not amused.)

Perhaps because it offered a welcome relief from hard times, the wedding was enormously popular. Less than five years later, while in Kenya, Elizabeth was told that her father had died, aged just 56. TIME named her Person of the Year in 1952, with a tone quite different from the one it had used for her aunt. Elizabeth’s significance, we said, was “that of a fresh young blossom on roots that had weathered many a season of wintry doubt.”

It’s for historians to judge whether the Queen has lived up to such promise, but there is little doubt that, partly by assiduously avoiding any controversy, she did much to restore the monarchy’s luster. Then along came a young, wounded, starstruck, beautiful girl from Norfolk. She changed everything. Again.

See pictures of British royal weddings.

See pictures Westminster Abbey.

1981
A Shaft of Light and Gaiety

If you weren’t there, it’s hard to imagine just how grim a place Britain was in the summer of 1981. Race riots convulsed its cities. The economy was in ruins, with large parts of the industrial north of England and the Midlands reduced to rusted wasteland. The government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was not just disliked by half the population; with a vehemence that still seems shocking 30 years on, it was positively loathed.

Into this desperate gloom, the wedding of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, to Diana Spencer, just 20 – and a very innocent 20 at that – projected a shaft of light and gaiety. (That endless train behind her dress! Kiri Te Kanawa’s voice!) Whatever happened in the half soap opera, half tragedy that followed, the sheer glamour of the wedding endowed Diana with a genuine popularity – no, love – that she never lost. (See pictures of Princess Diana.)

The point about Diana that the royal family did not understand when she was selected for the Prince’s hand was that, like everyone else, she would grow up. The ingenue fairy-tale princess became a confident (albeit devious) young woman, comfortable with the happily mixed-up, multicultural, undeferential society that Britain had become, passionate about controversial causes such as the fights against AIDS and land mines and – in the end – openly contemptuous of the serial indignities to which the family into which she had married subjected her. Even had she lived, Diana’s story would have changed attitudes to the monarchy. The revelation that her husband had continued an affair with his true love (and now second wife) Camilla Parker Bowles while married to Diana – coupled with a rash of royal divorces – replaced the allure and mystery of the monarchy with something much more tawdry. And then Diana died.

1997
The Long Week of Grief

Nobody – nobody – was ready for what happened to Britain in the week after Diana was killed in a Paris car crash. A nation that was supposed to be emotionally stunted, with stiff backbones and stiffer upper lips, descended into the sort of public grief normally reserved for the last act of second-rate Italian operas – except that it was genuine. Stuck at their home in Scotland, the royals seemed woefully out of touch with the sentiments of their people. Only at the last minute did the Queen walk into the crowds that were mourning Diana outside Buckingham Palace and show that she shared the national sense of loss.

The criticism of the royal family that week did not lead to a sustained increase in republican sentiment in Britain. To the contrary: once the Queen returned to London, the numbers of those saying they wanted to ditch her dropped to historic lows. But that extraordinary week changed the nature of the relationship between Crown and people forever. The crowds mourning Diana were not subjects. In a way that the revolutionaries of the 17th century would have understood, they were defining for themselves what they expected of a family, one of whose members was their head of state, and compelling that family to act accordingly. It was as if modern Britain were saying, “We get it. We’re more than happy to have you around. But you do the job on our terms.”

2002
A Link to the Past Is Broken

Before that sentiment could solidify into a modern conception of the monarchy, however, there was one more sad piece of business to attend to. On March 30, 2002, aged 101, George VI’s wife and Elizabeth II’s mother – the Queen Mum – died. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of London to see her coffin. The Queen Mum was a direct link to the tumultuous days of the abdication, to “the war.” (There is only one war in British speech.) But she was a link, also, to a Britain, and monarchy, that is long gone. Deeply conservative, she was a blue-blooded member of the aristocratic class that had once provided wives for royal males. No more. There have been eight weddings in the Queen’s immediate family since 1947, but in only one case – that of Prince Charles – did the royal marry into a titled family. The Windsors have become middle class.

Along with that social transformation has come a constitutional one. Since 348 people signed a document demanding reform called Charter 88 (I was one of them, I am very proud to say), Britain has gone through more constitutional change than in any other period in the past 300 years. Subnational parliaments have been established in Wales and Scotland, London has an elected mayor, a charter of human rights has been constitutionally protected, a new Supreme Court has been set up, taxpayer support for the royals has been reduced, and soon, Parliaments will sit for a fixed term. The Queen remains head of state, but in any real sense, she is the least powerful monarch Britain has ever had. You won’t have heard that among the hushed voices of the global TV commentators who prattle on about Britain’s wonderful sense of tradition, but it is true.

Watch a video on the Royals through history.

See pictures of the courtship of Kate and William.

View this article on Time.com

http://omg.yahoo.com/blogs/a-line/prince-william-kate-balcony-kisses-complete-wedding/818

If you looked away from the screen for a moment, you probably missed it. It was a quick smooch. Kate turned to her groom, said something with a smile, and the prince reached over, rather hurriedly, and gave her a very quick kiss.

Maybe that’s why he kissed her again.

The second kiss came just before the Royal Air Force flyover. Another first on a historic day: two kisses on the Buckingham Palace balcony by a newly married royal couple.

Photos: Images from the Royal Wedding Ceremony
All eyes were on Prince William and Kate as they emerged from the palace onto the balcony. Many among the boisterous gathered crowd and those watching around the world surely had one defining image in their minds: Princess Diana and PrinceCharles’ memorable wedding kiss.

It wasn’t traditional for royal couples to kiss in public following their weddings before the summer of 1981. And Prince Charles reportedly resisted breaking tradition when the crowds outside Buckingham Palace that historic July morning called out for them to kiss.

“I am not going to do that caper. They are trying to get us to kiss,” he said to Diana.

Diana’s reported response: “Well, how about it?” The prince hesitated, then said “Why ever not?”

And this image lives on as proof.

Sadly, the marriage did not live up to the sweetness of that first public kiss. And because of that, there is a lifetime of hope wrapped up in today’s royal smooch. The world wishes so much better for this young couple. They have come to marriage older, wiser, and by all accounts, truly in love.

The grand balcony has been the stage for vaulted royal appearances since 1851, when Queen Victoria stepped out onto it during celebrations for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. The Great Exhibition was the first in a series of World’s Fair displays of culture and industry and attended by the likes of Charles Darwin and Charlotte Bront.

Princess Anne was the first of Queen Elizabeth’s newly wed children to appear on the balcony with her new spouse, Captain Mark Phillips, in 1973. But they did not kiss.

Neither did Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex on their 1999 wedding day, though Prince Andrew did follow his elder brother’s lead when he kissed the Duchess of York on the balcony on their wedding day in 1986.

A new iconic royal kiss image is born. Long live the marriage.

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Why didn’t Prince William watch his bride walk down the aisle? Who was that little girl covering her ears and frowning while the newlyweds kissed on the balcony? Where can I get those gorgeous earrings Kate wore to her wedding? The last remaining mysteries of the royal wedding are solved, right here at Shine.

Who was that adorable little girl frowning and covering her ears on the balcony during the big kiss? That’s Prince William’s goddaughter, 3-year-old Grace van Cutsem, who was one of the official bridesmaids (there are no “flower girl” roles in traditional British weddings, so children are often included as bridesmaids or pages). She is the daughter of Lady Rose Astor and Hugh van Cutsem, and great-great-great-granddaughter of William Waldorf Astor, a New York-born lawyer and politician who later became a member of the British Aristocracy. (The Waldorf Hotel was one of his pet projects.) Little Grace was also pouting for part of the carriage ride; apparently, the crowd of adoring fans got a little too noisy.

Are there usually trees in Westminster Abbey? Kate loves the outdoors and, according to the Daily Mail, she ordered more than four tons of foliage to create an English country garden setting inside Westminster Abbey, including pyramid-shaped ornamental Hornbeams to frame the choir and a “living avenue” of 20-foot-tall, 15-year-old English Field Maples through which guests walked to their seats. The cost? About 50,000 pounds, or $83,335.

What music did Kate walk in to? It didn’t sound like the wedding march. The princess walked down the aisle to “I Was Glad” by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, who composed it for the coronation of Prince William’s great-great-great grandfather Edward VII in 1902.

Why didn’t Prince William watch his bride walk down the aisle? Tradition. The groom is the last person to see the bride, and can only do so after she has completed the long walk down the aisle and is at his side. Since the aisle at Westminster Abbey is about 300-feet long, he had at least a four-minute wait at the altar.

What did Prince William whisper to Kate? According to some lip readers, he told her that she looked beautiful—and then looked at his father-in-law-to-be and quipped, “We were supposed to have just a small family affair.”

Where did the bride and groom go in the middle of the ceremony? They went to the Shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor, a room inside the Abbey, to sign the wedding registers.

Why was Prince William wearing red? Prince William holds an honorary rank of Colonel of the Irish Guards, and he opted to wear an Irish Guard’s officer uniform instead of his Royal Air Force uniform. He also wore his Garter sash and star, Royal Air Force “wings,” and Golden Jubilee medal.

Was the bride’s dress inspired by Grace Kelly’s? It seems that way; in fact, Kate’s dress looks very much like the one worn by the American actress when she wed Prince Rainier III of Monaco in April 1956. Both Kate’s gown and that of Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco had long sleeves, a cinched waist, a figure-hugging bodice, short veils, medium-length trains, and lots of delicate lace.

What was in the bride’s bouquet? According to the official royal wedding website, the bouquet was a shield-shaped collection of Myrtle, Lily-of-the-Valley, Sweet William, Ivy, and Hyacinth. The Myrtle sprigs were from plants grown from the Myrtle used in the wedding bouquets of Queen Victoria in 1845 and Queen Elizabeth in 1947.

Any hidden messages? Each bridesmaid had her name and the date of the wedding hand-embroidered into the lining of her dress. The bride and groom could not customize their vows, but they did write their own prayer, which was read by Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, during the ceremony (download a copy of the program here). It was: “God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.” And of course, each of those flowers in the bride’s bouquet had a special meaning: Lily-of-the-Valley represents the return of happiness, Sweet William stands for gallantry, Hyacinth is for the constancy of love, Myrtle symbolizes marriage and love, and Ivy is for fidelity, marriage, wedded love, friendship, and affection.

What are the full names of the newlyweds? Prince Williams of Wales got another set of titles in time for the wedding, according to an announcement on the official royal wedding website. His full name is now His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge, Early of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Master of Arts. (According to the official website of the British Monarchy, those who have the title of HRH Prince or Princess do not need to use a last name, though theirs is Mountbatten-Windsor.) As his wife, the former Miss Catherine Elizabeth Middleton is now Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, but most people will probably call her Princess Catherine or Princess Kate (unofficially, of course).

Was Kate wearing Princess Diana’s tiara? No. Diana wore the Spencer Tiara, a family heirloom of ornate, stylized flowers decorated with diamonds in silver settings. The halo-style tiara that Kate wore was Cartier creation belonging to the Queen. King George bought it for the Queen Mother in 1936; the Queen Mother gave it to the Queen on her 18th birthday.

What about her earrings? The bride’s earrings were designed by Robinson Pelham, according to the official royal wedding website. They are diamond-set stylized oak leaves that frame a dangling diamond-set drop and pave-set diamond acorn. The earrings, which are a wedding gift to Kate from her parents, were made to match the tiara lent to her by the Queen, and were inspired by the Middleton family’s new coat of arms.

Why did the Middleton family get a new coat of arms? What happened to their old one? They didn’t have a coat of arms before, because they weren’t members of the British aristocracy. The new coat of arms features three oak-leaf-and-acorn sprigs representing the three Middleton children—Catherine (Kate), Philippa (Pippa), and James. A golden chevron honors Carole Middleton, whose maiden name was Goldsmith, and two thinner, white chevrons represent the mountains and stand for the family’s love of the outdoors.

Who got to be on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with the royal newlyweds? The bride and groom took center stage, of course, but also appearing before the public were the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall), Carole and Richard Middleton, the couple’s siblings (Pippa and James Middleton and Prince Harry), the pages (Tom Pettifer and William Lowther-Pinkerton), and the bridesmaids (Eliza Lopez, Grace van Cutsem, The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, and the Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones. Yes, even some children have titles in England.)

Yemen opposition warns bloodshed may derail deal

A wounded anti-government protestor is brought to a field hospital during clashes with Yemeni security forces in the capital Sanaahttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110428/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohamed Sudam Mohammed Ghobari And Mohamed Sudam Thu Apr 28, 2:45 pm ET

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s opposition warned the government on Thursday that violence against street protesters demanding the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh could derail a deal aimed at ending the political standoff.

Plainclothes gunmen killed 12 people and wounded dozens more in Yemen’s capital on Wednesday when they opened fire on anti-government marchers just days before a Gulf-mediated deal to end the crisis was due to be sealed. “In the event of your inability to protect protesters, we will find ourselves unable to pursue an agreement that the regime seeks to use to shed more blood,” the opposition coalition said in a statement.

A deal to end the crisis by easing Saleh out within a month was expected to be signed on Sunday in Riyadh, three months after Yemenis took to the streets, inspired by revolts that toppled autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

But on Thursday Saleh appeared to raise a potential problem when he told Russia’s Arabic language Russia Today channel that he objected to the presence of Qatari representatives.

“We will have reservations about signing if representatives of Qatar are present among the Gulf foreign ministers,” Saleh said. “(Qatar) is involved in a conspiracy not just against Yemen but against all Arab countries.”

He singled out Qatar’s pan-Arab television channel Al Jazeera, which Saleh has accused in the past of provoking the protests. He also accused Qatar, a tiny but gas-rich Gulf state, of funding the opposition in Yemen.

The balance of power has tipped against Saleh, long a key ally of the West against al Qaeda, after weeks of violence, military defections and political reversals.

Wednesday’s killings capped a day of demonstrations by tens of thousands of Yemenis, many protesting against a plan supported by the government and the main opposition group which would give Saleh a month-long window to resign.

The protesters in Sanaa demanding Saleh resign immediately were shot at while attempting to reach an area beyond the district where they have been camped out since February, witnesses said. Ten died on the spot, while two more died of wounds on Thursday, doctors said.

In addition to the 12 killed in Sanaa, a protester and a soldier also died in clashes during protests in the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday.

On Thursday night armed men opened fire on state security offices in Zinjibar in south Yemen killing one soldier, and gunmen exchanged fire with guards outside the central bank in the port city of Aden.

The large turnout at protests against the Gulf deal showed the ability of the largely young protesters, from students to tribesmen to activists, to act as potential spoilers. They have vowed to stay in the streets until their demands are met.

It was also not clear that opposition parties, comprised of Islamists, Arab nationalists and leftists who have been in and out of government in past years, could halt the protests even if required to by the transition agreement.

SALEH TO SIGN DEAL ON SATURDAY

Washington and neighboring oil producer Saudi Arabia want the standoff resolved to avert a descent into more bloodshed in the Arabian Peninsula state that would offer more room for a Yemen-based al Qaeda wing to operate.

A government official said that Saleh, who has ruled for 32 years, would sign the agreement on Saturday in Sanaa, a day ahead of the official signing ceremony in the Saudi capital, which Saleh was not expected to attend.

On Sunday, the ruling party’s vice president and a former prime minister, Abdel-Karim el-Eryani, would sign in Riyadh on behalf of the party, the official said. The opposition would also sign on Sunday.

Both sides were expected to host large rallies in Sanaa on Friday ahead of the signing. The government planned a “Friday of Constitutional Legitimacy,” while the opposition planned a “Friday of Honouring Martyrs.”

The deal, brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, would give Saleh and his family and aides immunity from prosecution.

It provides for Saleh to appoint a prime minister from the opposition, who would then form a transition government ahead of a presidential election two months after his resignation. But the one-month window for Saleh to resign has sparked fears it may offer time for potential sabotage.

Whoever leads Yemen’s transitional government will not only struggle to quash an aggressive al Qaeda branch, which has tried to hit U.S. and Saudi targets, but also inherit simmering rebellions in the north and south of the country.

Around 142 protesters have been killed as unrest has swept Yemen, where some 40 percent of its 23 million people live on $2 a day or less, and a third face chronic hunger.

The Interior Ministry said on Thursday that more than 21 policemen had died and 1,000 had been wounded since February 3.

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By WILLIAM LEE ADAMS William Lee Adams 2 hrs 31 mins ago

What do you get a woman who is about to have everything? A coat of arms, of course.

Michael and Carole Middleton, Kate’s parents, commissioned a family crest to mark their daughter’s April 29 nuptial. Working in conjunction with an artist at the College of Arms – the esteemed institution that makes these sorts of things – the family created a lozenge-shaped coat of arms hanging from a blue ribbon (a symbol that Kate is still a Miss and not a Mrs.). Three acorns represent the three Middleton children (Kate, Pippa and James), and invoke the oak tree – a symbol of west Berkshire, where the family has lived for 30 years. The division down the middle of the crest is a play on the Middle-ton family name, while the gold chevron refers to Carole’s maiden name Goldsmith. (See TIME’s special coverage of the royal wedding.)

Thomas Woodcock, the artist who helped the family come up with the crest, says the red and blue coloring was essential: another coat of arms, designed in the 16th century, also features a chevron between three sprigs of oak. “It’s not compulsory, but as their daughter is marrying into the royal family she will have a need probably to use a coat of arms,” Woodcock says. He’s right. The logo will feature in the souvenir royal wedding program, which will be sold to the public for $3. Artists will later remove the blue ribbon and impale Kate’s shield into the middle Prince William’s coat of arms. How’s that for “two become one”? (See pictures of the world’s most stunning tiaras.)

Despite the celebratory nature of the family crest, England’s class system requires cynics to roll their eyes. For those aristocrats looking down their nose at commoner Kate, the coat of arms should probably include balloons and a few streamers. Old-money toffs like to point out that the Middletons made their millions through a homegrown party supplies business. As the guide for the Kate and Wills Royal Wedding Walking Tour recently explained to TIME, Kate and her sister “have been nicknamed, rather unkindly, ‘The Wisteria Sisters.’ Highly decorative, terribly fragrant, with a ferocious ability to climb.”

But sour grapes won’t change history. As the coat of arms shows, the future Mrs. William Windsor really has arrived. (via BBC)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110425/wl_nm/us_libya

By Lin Noueihed Lin Noueihed Mon Apr 25, 5:46 am ET

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – NATO forces flattened a building inside Muammar Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound early on Monday, in what a press official from Gaddafi’s government said was an attempt on the Libyan leader’s life.

Firefighters were still working to extinguish flames in part of the ruined building a few hours after the attack, when foreign journalists were brought to the scene in Tripoli.

The press official, who asked not to be identified, said 45 people were hurt in the strike, 15 of them seriously, and some were still missing. That could not be independently confirmed.

Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam said the Libyan government would not be cowed by such attacks.

“The bombing which targeted Muammar Gaddafi’s office today… will only scare children. It’s impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag,” he was quoted as saying by the Jana state news agency.

“You, NATO, are waging a losing battle because you are backed by traitors and spies. History has proved that no state can rely on them to win.”

Gaddafi’s compound has been hit before, but NATO forces appear to have stepped up the pace of strikes in Tripoli in recent days. A target nearby, which the government called a car park but which appeared to cover a bunker, was hit two days ago.

The United States, Britain and France say they will not stop their air campaign over Libya until Gaddafi leaves power.

Washington has taken a backseat role in the air war since turning over command to NATO at the end of March but is under pressure to do more. Last week it sent Predator drone aircraft, which fired for the first time on Saturday.

MISRATA BOMBARDED

Government troops bombarded the western rebel bastion of Misrata again on Sunday, two days after announcing their withdrawal following a two month siege.

An engineer who works for a dissident radio station in Misrata told Al Arabiya television that at least 30 people had been killed and 60 wounded by the shelling in the coastal city.

The number of dead could not be independently verified.

“There is very intense and random shelling on residential areas. Burned bodies are being brought into the hospital,” Ahmed al-Qadi told Al Arabiya.

A doctor in a hospital in Misrata said that among the dead from what he called heavy artillery and mortar shelling was a 10-year-old boy killed while he was sleeping at home.

A government spokesman said the army was still carrying out its plan to withdraw from the city, but had fired back when retreating troops were attacked.

“As our army was withdrawing from Misrata it came under attack by the rebels. The army fought back but continued its withdrawal from the city,” Mussa Ibrahim told reporters.

The government says its army is withdrawing and sending in armed tribesmen instead. Rebels say the announcement may be part of a ruse to mask troop movements or stir violence between rebels and locals in nearby towns.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told a news conference in Kuwait that the Gulf state had agreed to give 50 million Kuwaiti dinars ($177 million) to his rebel council to help pay workers in the eastern part of the country under its control.

“This amount will help us a lot in paying the salaries of employees who did not receive their little salaries for two months,” he said. “We are capable of only covering 40 percent of this amount. We are in need of urgent aid.”

The rebels have been seeking international recognition as well as material support from the west and the Arab world.

Hampered by their lack of firepower, equipment and training, they have been unable to advance from eastern Libya but are fighting back and forth with Gaddafi’s troops on the coast road between the towns of Ajdabiyah and Brega.

Abdel Jalil also said the rebels had received weapons from “friends and allies,” but did not name them.

At least three people were killed in the mountain town of Zintan, around 160 km (100 miles) southwest of Tripoli, by fire from Gaddafi’s tanks and rockets, residents said.

(Additional reporting by Guy Desmond and Maher Nazeh in Tripoli, Alexander Dziadosz in Benghazi and Sami Aboudi in Cairo; writing by Peter Graff and Myra MacDonald; editing by Tim Pearce)

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