Mecca Crane Crash
At least 107 people were killed and 238 were injured when a crane toppled over at Mecca’s Grand Mosque less than two weeks before Islam’s annual haj pilgrimage.
A statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circle the Kaaba – the black-clad cube towards which the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray.
Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of Muslims who converge on Mecca to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Last year, they reduced the numbers permitted to make the haj pilgrimage on safety grounds because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque.
Saudi authorities have since spent vast sums to expand the main haj sites and improve Mecca’s transport system, in an effort to prevent more disasters. Security services often ring Islam’s sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorisation.
Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East.
David Cameron has been facing calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery ahead of his first official visit to Jamaica.
Ahead of his trip, Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, has called for Cameron to start talks on making amends for slavery and has also referenced the prime minister’s ancestral links to the trade in the 1700s through his cousin six times removed, General Sir James Duff.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller called for non-confrontational discussions at the UN in 2013, but Britain has never accepted the case for any compensation payments.
Downing Street has stated that the prime minister does not believe reparations or apologies for slavery are the right approach, but the issue is set to overshadow his trade trip to the island, where he will address the Jamaican parliament. A Number 10 official said that Cameron’s purpose in visiting Jamaica and Grenada was to reinvigorate their relationship with the UK.
Volkswagen recently admitted that 11 million of their cars worldwide were fitted with software that enabled them to cheat on emissions tests. Devices were fitted to the engines of models such as the VW Golf to give false low readings that meet strict rules on toxic emissions.
The Clean Air in London campaign described the effects of diesel vehicle emissions as the “biggest public health catastrophe”. The organisation’s founder, Simon Birkett, said: “If manufacturers have deliberately contributed to that problem in some way the only way to get to the bottom isn’t a police investigation but something that has much wider powers”.
VW boss Martin Winterkorn has issued an apology in a video statement on Volkswagen’s website.
“I’m very sorry, I’m utterly sorry,” he said. “The violations of these diesel motors by our company go against everything that Volkswagen stands for….at this time I don’t yet have the answers to all the questions. I’m utterly sorry that we have damaged trust in this way.
“I offer my deepest apologies to our customers, the authorities and to the public at large for our misconduct.”
VW has also stopped selling any the cars in the US until it can guarantee they meet official pollution standards. The controversy will reignite calls to ban ‘dirty’ diesel cars which make up almost 50 per cent of the total sold in the UK this year.
Pig Gate Scandal
Claims that David Cameron once inserted his penis into a dead pig’s head as part of an initiation ceremony during his time at Oxford University have began to circulate following the publication of a book by a former high profile Tory member.
The book entitled, ‘Call Me Dave’ is filled with the likes of smoking cannabis and organising cocaine parties which have been seen as pale by comparison to the alleged incident in which the PM was attempting to join an Oxford University dining club. The source has also said that there is photographic evidence.
In response to this, the PM publicly rejected allegations made by Lord Ashcroft. “I can see why the book was written and I think everyone can see straight through it. As for the specific issue raised, a very specific denial was made a week ago and I’ve nothing to add to that,” Cameron told reporters accompanying him on a flight to New York.
The prime minister suggested that Ashcroft was driven by revenge to make these “false claims” as he was denied a ministerial position by Cameron in the 2010 coalition government. Ashcroft has himself admitted to a bitter feud between the two regarding the ministerial berth, despite making a £8m donation to the Tory party, calling it a “personal beef”. He however denied that the book was written with any malicious intent to seek revenge.
When asked if he planned to take legal action, Cameron added: “No, I’m too busy running the country, taking decisions, getting on with work.
“If you do a job like this, you do get people who have agendas and write books and write articles and write all sorts of things. The most important thing is not to let it bother you and get on with the job.”
Image credit: flickr.com/bikeman04