Entries in Great Britain (10)


Great Britain Offers a Way Out for Syrian President

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Britain’s prime minister is telling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to get out of the country while he still can.

Al-Assad appears more determined than ever to stick out the conflict until the bitter end but if he does decide to change his mind, David Cameron said on Thursday that Britain could guarantee "safe passage" out of Syria although not to his country.

Cameron told Al-Arabiya TV that he wasn't about to let al-Assad get off Scott-free for his alleged war crimes "but if he wants to leave, he could leave; that could be arranged."

At this point, al-Assad probably doesn't have a lot of choices but at least one country has stepped up to offer him asylum.

Tunisia announced that it would be willing to accept al-Assad if he wants to leave Syria.  Ironically, it was the revolution in Tunisia last year that helped spur Syrians to seek democracy in their own country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Madeleine McCann: Police Believe Missing British Girl Is Alive

Metropolitan Police Service(LONDON) -- Investigators still searching for Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who went missing from a Portuguese holiday rental home five years ago this week, say they believe the girl is still alive and they now have the "best opportunity" yet to solve the case.

McCann was 3-years-old when she vanished on vacation with her parents Kate and Gerry McCann and twin siblings in the Algarve region of Portugal.  The girl's parents say they found Madeleine missing after having left the children in the home unsupervised while having dinner less than 500 feet away.

"[We are] seeking to bring closure to the case," Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood told the BBC.

Detectives for the first time since the investigation into McCann's disappearance, dubbed Operation Grange by U.K. police, say that as a result of evidence uncovered during their latest review they now believe there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive and are appealing for direct information concerning her whereabouts.

Police didn't specify what clues led them to believe the girl may still be still alive.

"I am satisfied that the systems and processes that we are bringing to this set of circumstances will give us the best opportunity to find those investigative opportunities that we can then present to our colleagues in Portugal," Redwood said.

Investigators released an age progression image of McCann on Wednesday as her ninth birthday approaches on May 12.  The image was created in close collaboration with the family, according to a statement from the U.K.'s Metropolitan police.

British police on Wednesday called on Portugal to reopen the case, saying they have close to 200 leads that could help find the missing girl alive.  But in Portugal there is much less support for reopening the investigation, and the McCann's own Portuguese lawyer says it is hard to find people who sympathize with the couple.

"Everyone believes I am defending a father and mother that killed the daughter and got rid of the corpse," the McCann's Portuguese lawyer Isabel Duarte said.

With 28 detectives and seven civilian support staff, the Operation Grange team is handling the massive trove of reports and documents on the case.  Hundreds of reported sightings of Madeleine have come in since she disappeared, but they have all led nowhere.

After her reported disappearance on May 3, 2007, the Polícia Judiciária, the Portuguese investigative police, initially decided that the girl had been abducted, but soon stated that they hypothesized that she died in the rented house. 

An Algarve resident named Robert Murat was named a suspect on May 17, 2007.  In September of 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann were also named as suspects in the mystery surrounding what happened to their daughter, but they were cleared, along with Murat, in July of 2008.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Damning Emails Put Murdochs, UK Government Back in Headlines

WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After simmering on the backburner for months, the Murdoch scandal is back on the front pages of London’s newspapers on Wednesday with damning revelations that are igniting a new crisis for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his government.

More than 170 pages of James Murdoch’s emails have been released.  They show that senior staff in the office of Britain’s Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt’s were repeatedly giving confidential information to Murdoch’s lobbyist during critical negotiations over News Corps’ $13 billion efforts to take over BSkyB, Britain’s powerful and highly profitable satellite broadcaster.

Publicly, Hunt had insisted that he was acting independently and impartially, but the emails suggest he was secretly acting in the interest of the Murdochs.

On Wednesday, one of Hunt’s senior advisors resigned.  Now, there are widespread calls for Hunt’s resignation.  Hunt has dismissed those calls, telling parliament, “The idea that I was backing this bid is laughable.”

One email quotes Hunt referring to Murdoch’s efforts to push through the takeover, saying  “we’d get there in the end,” and adding he “shared” News Corporation’s objective.

But the smoking gun is in an email sent by Murdoch’s lobbyist the day before Hunt was to give a key speech in parliament about the takeover. 

The lobbyist wrote to James Murdoch: "Managed to get some infos [sic] on the plans for tomorrow (although absolutely illegal…!)”

The email goes on to give accurate information about what the minister would be saying a day later -- a serious breach of parliamentary privilege in Britain and explicit proof that the Murdochs were working inside the Cameron government.

That lead to screaming headlines in Wednesday morning’s London papers.

In parliament Wednesday, Opposition Leader Ed Miliband pounced on the revelations, saying a “shadow of sleaze” hangs over the Cameron government.

Not far from Westminster, James Murdoch’s father, Rupert, the scion of News Corp, began his first day of testimony at Britain’s media ethics inquiry.  The 81-year-old was sharp, focused and calm under examination.  He did get a little testy when pushed by what the inquiry counsel called subtle “sinister inferences” about his relationship with senior Conservative politicians in Britain.

“I’m afraid I don’t have much subtlety in me,” Murdoch responded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Queen Elizabeth II Celebrates 60 Year Anniversary

John Stillwell - Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- In 1952, the woman known today as Queen Elizabeth II was just Elizabeth, a 25-year-old member of England's royal family visiting a remote village in Kenya.

When word came on Feb. 6 of that year that her father, George VI, had died, Elizabeth cut her trip short and flew home to London.  She was greeted at the airport by her country's then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill and she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

Monday, 60 years later, the 85-year-old Queen marked her Diamond Jubilee anniversary with a message thanking the British people for their support, and pledging to continue her dedication to serving them and people around the world.

"I am writing to thank you for the wonderful support and encouragement that you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years," she wrote Monday in a message to the nation, which was released by Buckingham Palace. "In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope that we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighborliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign."

The Queen and her husband Prince Philip, whom she wed in 1947, marked the anniversary Sunday by attending a church service on her private Sandringham estate in Norfolk, outside London.

The anniversary makes Queen Elizabeth, already Britain's oldest serving monarch, the country's longest-serving monarch after Queen Victoria, who reigned for more than 63 years. The queen, mother to four and grandmother to eight, has now outlasted 11 U.S. presidents.

"Queen Elizabeth II rates among the best, in fact, better than the best," Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the Queen, told ABC News.

"The queen doesn't change. The queen adapts, and that's why it survives," he said of the monarch and the monarchy.

Celebrations of her Diamond Jubilee officially begin Monday when the queen and Prince Philip, 90, visit a nursery school and the town hall in the town of King's Lynn.

The celebrations will continue throughout the year as members of the royal family -- from Prince Charles to Prince William and Kate Middleton -- travel around the world to take part in ceremonies and events honoring the queen.  The queen herself and Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, will embark on a tour of England in March.

The main event, the 2012 Diamond Jubilee weekend, will be held in June and feature a star-studded concert and boat pageant on the Thames River boasting a 1,000 vessel strong flotilla.

The Palace also released on Monday a special set of portraits of the queen and Philip, taken by John Swannell in the Centre Room at Buckingham Palace last December, to mark the Jubilee. Two new photographs of the queen, wearing the same necklace Queen Victoria wore in her own Diamond Jubilee portrait in 1897, were also released.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UK: What's a Grocery Shopping Soccer Fan to Do?

Skygo/Sainsbury's UK(LONDON) -- In Britain, you'll find some fanatical followers of soccer who refuse to miss even a second of play. But what do they do if they have to go grocery shopping? A new innovation has been designed just for them.

“The idea we had was to create a shopping cart that...would allow you to dock your iPad into a docking station and allow people to tap in,” to the game while they do their shopping, inventor Ian Burgess explained.

Armed with a Sky Sports app, the customer's off and running. The device is being tried at one London Sainsbury's store ahead of what could be a wider rollout. The dock even comes with a self-charging solar panel, ensuring the viewing device never runs dry during a match.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Britain's Wootton Bassett Gives Final Salute to War Dead

Standard bearers gather in Wootton Bassett High Street for a sunset ceremony on August 31, 2011 in Wootton Bassett, England. The union flag was lowered to commemorate the end of the repatriation route through the Wiltshire town as flights are switching to RAF Brize Norton in September. Matt Cardy/Getty Images(WOOTTON BASSETT, England) -- As the sun sets Wednesday over the small town of Wootton Bassett, southwest of London, it will take with it the town’s tradition of saluting Britain’s returning war dead, marking the end of an era.

In a solemn ceremony, the town that became known for mourning the country’s troops will no longer remember the dead.  Instead, the bodies of fallen soldiers will now be taken to RAF Brize Norton, a Royal Air Force base located in Oxfordshire.

For the past four years, the residents of Wootton Bassett, thousands of them, lined the streets with dignity, bowing their heads, honoring the fallen.  They remembered the servicemen and women -- 345 of them -- who were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What began as an impromptu act quickly grew to a time-honored tradition to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty, capturing attention around the world. It also contrasted with the more remote scene in the U.S., where troops return to the airbase in Dover, Del., and usually is kept private.

Britain’s mantle will be now be handed to the people of the town of Carterton, close to Brize Norton. The first repatriation, for a Royal Marine killed Tuesday while serving in Afghanistan with the 42 Commando, is expected to take place next week.

President Obama weighed in on what the town has done when speaking with Britain Prime Minister David Cameron during his first visit to the U.S., saying the tributes marked ”the best of British character.”

Cameron thanked the residents of Wootton Bassett for paying tribute to those who lost their lives serving their country, saying, “My message to the people of Wootton Bassett is a really big, heartfelt thank you on behalf of the government and the whole country.”

Cameron said the town’s residents “have done our country proud with the respect and admiration and passion they have shown for our Armed Forces and those who have tragically fallen in battle in Afghanistan and elsewhere…I think it is thoroughly deserved, although it is not something the people of Wootton Bassett ever asked for. They are very public-spirited people.”

To honor that very spirit, its people, and everything they have done, the queen has ordered the town’s name to be changed to “Royal Wootton Bassett.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Jokes About Queen Toast Gaffe

Lewis Whyld - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- President Obama shared a laugh with UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Wednesday about the president's toast mishap Tuesday night.

"I thought you did exactly the right thing," Clegg told Obama, referring to how the president continued speaking even after the orchestra, mistakenly under the impression that the president had concluded his toast to the Queen, began playing "God Save the Queen," creating an awkward moment.

"I thought that it was like, it was like out of the movies when the soundtrack kinda comes in," President Obama told Clegg.

"Like a crescendo," Clegg joked. "A voiceover."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Parents of Missing British Girl Call for Independent Review of Case

Denis Doyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The parents of Madeleine McCann, the British toddler missing since 2007, are celebrating her eighth birthday Thursday by releasing a book about their daughter, hoping it will reinvigorate the search and fund an independent review of the case.

"There will still be a little tea party at home, balloons and cake...I comfort myself by knowing that what we're doing today could be very positive in the search for our daughter," said Kate McCann on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Kate and Gerry McCann hope the book, Madeleine, will jump-start the search for their daughter. Maddie, as she was known, disappeared from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz where the family was staying in 2007. The couple had left their three children and gone to dinner. When they returned, Maddie was missing.

During the international search for the girls, Kate and Gerry McCann were considered suspects by Portuguese authorities, but eventually cleared. The search for the girl ended officially in 2008.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Twelve Arrested in British Anti-Terror Sting

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- British police arrested 12 men early Monday morning who were allegedly in the final stages of a major bomb plot.

The plot was allegedly directed at targets inside the U.K. The men were arrested after weeks of surveillance by law enforcement and MI5 in raids in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent. The men are between 17 and 28 years old and are mostly British citizens from Bangladeshi backgrounds.

"The arrests were absolutely necessary to keep the public safe," said John Yates, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Britain's senior counterterrorism police officer. He also reminded people to remain vigilant due to a large number of terror threats that officials are currently monitoring.

Authorities did not say the attacks were deliberately planned for the holidays, though the U.K. is at its second-highest level of terror alert, and last week U.S. authorities warned of possible attacks during the Christmas season because of their "psychological impact."

Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Europe because of a heightened concern about terror. A captured German jihadi had reportedly provided details of an alleged Mumbai-style small arms attack on civilians. Terrorists killed almost 200 people in a multi-day assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

Authorities said Monday's arrests were not linked to a Mumbai-style plot, and that there were no links to the Swedish backpack bombing earlier this month, in which a British resident killed himself and wounded bystanders in central Stockholm. There was also no link to alleged reports from captured Iraqis that attacks were coming during the holiday season.

The arrests were the biggest anti-terror action in Britain since April 2009, when another dozen men were detained in Manchester in connection with an alleged Al Qaeda bomb plot. Islamists terrorists killed almost 200 people with multiple train bombings in Madrid in 2004, and killed 52 in London in 2005.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US Woman Wants to Pay Brit Addicts to Get Sterilized

Photo Courtesy - Barbara Harris(LONDON) -- An American charity that pays drug addicts to get sterilized has expanded its operation into Great Britain, and while it has so far paid only one British man to undergo the procedure, it has triggered a storm of criticism.

Barbara Harris, the founder and head of Project Prevention, shrugs off the criticism of her group, which has paid 3,600 American drug addicts $300 each to get sterilized or undergo other long-term birth control procedures.

"I really don't understand controversy or people who oppose what we do," Harris said. "I think a lot of people should realize they're never going to be good parents, and never have children."

"If I had enough money, there wouldn't be any pregnancies for drug addicts," she said.

So far, the program has had a modest start in Britain. Harris said that Project Prevention has more than 100 people on a waiting list. She's waiting to get her international nonprofit set up so she can start paying them, and also hopes to hire a British staff member soon.

"It's exploiting people," said Gill Nowland, the chief executive of a drug rehabilitation home for women and children called One25. "The women we work with, due to the drug addictions, are not in sound minds to make such life-changing decisions."

One25 is one of many organizations that have spoken out against Harris' nonprofit. While Nowland supports long-term birth control, she believes sterilization is a step too far. 

In the United States, Harris says she's worked with several government agencies to help spread the word of her program. No such support has turned up in the United Kingdom, but she does have about 50 volunteers ready to go. She said that even though government officials haven't voiced their approval, she knows they're thinking it.

"I really feel they're probably closet cheerleaders," she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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