Coincidence? You decide. Elie Hobeika was blown up by a car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon, three weeks ago. He was a leader of one of the Lebanese fascist groups which massacred over 2,500 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in 1982. Hobeika had agreed to give evidence to a Belgian inquiry into the role of current Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in the atrocity.
Lebanese news agencies have now uncovered details surrounding the death of Jean Ghanem, Hobeika’s political deputy. He died four days before Hobeika, following a car crash.
The authorities claimed Ghanem suffered a heart attack and drove into a tree. But he had no history of heart problems. The crash took place within a few hundred yards of where the car bomb that killed Hobeika went off. Documents
Ghanem was reported to have held the documents that his former boss was to present to the inquiry in Belgium. The person who has the most to gain from the deaths is Ariel Sharon. Sharon has backed Israel’s assassination of over 60 Palestinian leaders in the last 16 months.
ARRIVA IS the transport giant that claims striking workers on its Northern Trains have ignored the fair and honest way management have dealt with them. The Office of Fair Trading has just fined Arriva’s bus division in Yorkshire for operating a cartel with FirstGroup.
The £848,000 fine on both companies is the first punishment meted out by the Office of Fair Trading under powers it got last March.
US ATTORNEY General John Ashcroft is a key figure in the war against ‘Islamic fundamentalism’. Ashcroft knows a thing or two about fundamentalism himself. He leads his staff in a Christian prayer meeting every day, regardless of their faith.
And he has had two statues at the Department of Justice covered up because he felt their limited nudity offended decency. He was just the man to take on the Taliban and their insistence on covering up the human form.
The Labour Party’s national executive committee is still supposed to be a key democratic institution where elected members of the party hold the leadership to account.
Tony Blair has made no secret of his contempt for the committee. Now he has ruled that he will only answer questions that are submitted in writing in advance. This apparently is ‘to make better use of the prime minister’s time’.
US SECRETARY of State Colin Powell claimed two weeks ago that Western military intervention in Afghanistan and Central Asia will steer the region towards democracy.
Perhaps he had in mind Uzbekistan, which has the biggest US presence in Central Asia. Its president, Islom Karimov, has ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist since it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. He forced a law through last week to yet again extend his term of office so that he does not face election for five years.
Karimov got 90 percent of the vote in the last election, which international observers denounced as totally rigged. He banned genuine opposition candidates. Karimov’s sole ‘opponent’ said he was voting for him.
There are 7,000 political prisoners in Uzbekistan. The scale of repression has driven people to support the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is now high on the list of US targets in the ‘war on terrorism’.
‘It is necessary to remember that the quality of democracy is not determined by the number of parties,’ says Karimov. Karimov praises privatisation, free market economics and attracting multinationals. Maybe that’s what puts him in the US’s good books.
The outgoing boss of Northern Foods, Christopher Haskins, was on Radio 4 last week condemning business donations to political parties. But from 1992 to 1997 he gave £100 a week to the Labour Party.
He increased this to £270 in 1997 after New Labour came to office and made him Baron Haskins of Skidby.
Computer multinational IBM’s advertising campaign in San Francisco has landed it in trouble. It paid people to paint fake graffiti all over the city to promote its new software package.
The paint turned out to be permanent and resistant to detergent. The people it hired to do the painting face possible sentences of 30 days community service.
Remember home secretary David Blunkett’s response to the inquiries into last year’s riots in the north west of England? He claimed they were the result of immigrants into Britain not learning English. Estelle Morris, who is Blunkett’s successor as New Labour’s education secretary, last week froze the amount of money available for helping ethnic minority children to learn English.
Inflation means the freeze will in fact be a cut. This cut will lead to the first large-scale teaching redundancies for many years.
‘With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, you may think of sending red roses to nurses at your local hospital.’
New Labour chief whip HILARY ARMSTRONG‘s answer to flagging morale in the NHS
‘We have many friends in government.’
KARL MILNER, Enron lobbyist and former adviser to Gordon Brown
‘A global leader in professional services.’
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM programme describes Arthur Andersen accountants
‘Don’t talk to me about compassion. We have spent trillions of dollars on overseas aid, but we have precious little to show for it.’
PAUL O’NEILL, US Treasury Secretary
‘It appears as though Mr Mandelson is going to have more comebacks than Mike Tyson but without the latter’s personal charm.’
PETER KILFOYLE MP on rumours that Peter Mandelson may return to cabinet office
‘In principle, I’m sorry we didn’t liquidate him.’
ARIEL SHARON on Yasser Arafat
‘At some point, we may be the only ones left. That’s OK with me. We are America.’
GEORGE W BUSH on coalition building
‘Let’s pick them off one at a time.’
GEORGE W BUSH on being told that Al Qaida exists in 60 countries
‘Patience to measure our lust for action.’
DONALD RUMSFELD, US Defence Secretary, leading the prayer before a cabinet meeting
‘It’s a question of supply and demand, and I don’t feel guilty about taking advantage. It’s what capitalism in America is all about.’
HOTEL OWNER in Utah on evicting families to cash in on the Winter Olympics
The US defence department announced last week that a satellite positioning device had been found in an Afghan cave. They said the equipment was lost in Somalia in 1993. The discovery, they proclaimed, was concrete evidence at last that Bin Laden's Al Qaida network was behind the deaths of 18 US soldiers in the disastrous raid on Mogadishu.