World In Review 2012
Compiled by Dinouk Colombage
Border Staff Search White Air Passengers To ‘Even Up Racial Mix’
White air passengers are routinely stopped and searched by customs officials simply to ensure the right racial ‘mix’ of travellers are being approached, a report in the UK revealed on Thursday.
It found staff searching for illegal goods at Gatwick Airport selected white passengers to balance the numbers against black and other ethnic minorities they suspected to help avoid race discrimination complaints.Details of the practice are exposed in one of two highly critical reports by John Vine, chief inspector of the UK Border Agency, who said it was unlawful and must stop. The second, criticising Heathrow Terminal 3, raised concerns about queues at the borders and found staff were allowed to clock off at some of the busiest times, resulting in long delays for passengers.Targets for queuing times for passengers from outside the European Economic Area were breached 62 times between September 18 and 30 last year. The longest wait was two hours and 15 minutes. The racial scanning, seemingly widespread at Gatwick, involved pulling out white passengers when officials wanted to question a black passenger.
One official told inspectors he and his colleagues ‘specifically detained a number of white passengers’ from one flight so they could ‘show that white people were also being questioned’.He said that when they saw arrivals they ‘knew they had a problem’ because the person they wanted to intercept was the only black passenger on the flight. The inspectors added: ‘The officer also reported that this practice … is also used for Caribbean flights to reduce the potential for future race claims.’
Vine said the approach was ‘not justifiable’ and that there was ‘no legal basis for detaining people for such purpose’. At Heathrow Terminal 3, inspectors found two-thirds of passenger searches were ‘neither justified nor proportionate or in line with legislation and agency guidance’.
The reports reveal a number of other areas where the border controls at Britain’s two biggest airports are failing. At Heathrow Terminal 3, they raised questions over immigration controls, with the number of people refused entry by border staff falling by 20 per cent from 2009/10 to last year.
The numbers kicked out of the country after being blocked at the terminal border fell by one third. Vine questioned whether the UK Border Agency was still able to maintain ‘an effective and efficient border control’.
At Gatwick’s North Terminal, inspectors found passengers arriving from outside the EU were routinely allowed to enter through the ‘nothing to declare’ channel with too much alcohol and up to three times the legal amount of cigarettes. Staggeringly, customs officers waved through passengers found with cannabis in their luggage, instead of arresting them. The report said they had failed to follow ‘appropriate procedures’ and the passengers should have been arrested. Inspectors reported ‘an almost total lack of visible detection presence’ in customs for ‘large parts of the day’. And too many suspected illegal migrants were being allowed through, including cases where attempted deception and breaches of immigration rules were clear, it found.
Courtesy Daily Mail
London 2012: Olympic Flame To Be Lit In Greece
The Olympic flame was lit in a ceremony in Olympia, Greece, on Thursday ahead of the start of the torch relay and the London 2012 Games. The flame is kindled by a ‘high priestess’ that captures the morning sun’s rays in a parabolic mirror. The ceremony comes amid political and economic turmoil in the home of the Ancient Olympics, where a week-long leg of the relay will be held. The flame flies to Britain on 18 May for a 70-day relay around the UK. Locog Chairman Lord Coe, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos will be in Olympia for the moment marking the countdown to London 2012. The lighting ceremony took place in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera at 11.30am local time.
The flame, an Olympic symbol meant to represent purity because it comes from the sun, is then placed in an urn and taken to the stadium where the ancient Olympic Games were staged.
There, it will light the London 2012 torch of Liverpool-born Greek world champion 10km swimmer Spyros Gianniotis, who will carry it on the first leg of the relay around Greece.
He will pass it on to Alex Loukos, 19, the first British torchbearer, a boxer and, in 2005, one of a delegation of east London schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore as part of London’s final bid for the Games.
The torch is due to travel 2,900kms through the country, carried by 500 torchbearers, on a route circling the country and travelling out to Crete.
Greece has seen huge demonstrations of social unrest in previous months, sparked by financial chaos and efforts to reach a deal with the European Union on a bail-out for the Greek economy. Talks to try to form a new government have been ongoing after elections on Sunday failed to produce a conclusive result. Several international companies including BMW have stepped in to help fund the torch’s journey. The Greek section of the 2012 torch relay ends at the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, on Thursday 17 May, where the flame is handed over to London Olympic Games organisers. The stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
The last torchbearers in Greece will be Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning who lit the cauldron at the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony.
The 2008 Olympic torch relay, which travelled the globe, was dogged by pro-Tibet, democracy and anti-China protests. The 2012 flame will travel straight from Greece to the UK on 18 May, flying into the Royal Navy airbase at Culdrose, near Helston in Cornwall. The UK torch relay begins at Land’s End the following morning.
Carried by 8,000 torchbearers, the Barber Osgerby-designed torch will cover 8,000 miles across all of the country’s nations and regions, to reach the Olympic Stadium in Stratford on 27 July to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. For the ancient Greeks, fire was a divine element believed to have been stolen from the Gods. A flame was first lit at the modern Olympics at the Amsterdam 1928 summer games, but it was not until Berlin 1936 that a torch relay route was set out from Greece to Germany.
Courtesy The Telegraph
Obama Says Same-Sex Couples Should Be Able To Marry
US President Barack Obama has ended months of hedging the issue of gay marriage by saying he thinks same-sex couples should be able to wed. He has become the first sitting US president to back gay marriage. Mitt Romney, the Republican who is set to challenge Obama for the White House in November’s elections, promptly said he was against gay marriage.
In recent days, Vice-President Joe Biden and cabinet member Arne Duncan had expressed support for gay unions.
A Gallup poll on Tuesday suggested that 50% of Americans were in favour of legalising gay marriage, a slightly lower proportion than last year, while 48% said they would oppose such a move. The interview with ABC News was apparently hastily arranged as Obama came under mounting pressure to clarify his position on the issue.
“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC.
He pointed to his administration’s commitment to increasing rights for gay citizens. He cited the repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and said his administration had dropped support for the Defense of Marriage Act.
“I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community. I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient,” Obama said.
He said he had changed his views after seeing gay members of his own staff who were in “incredibly committed monogamous relationships”, and service personnel who felt constrained by not being able to wed.
Obama also said discussions with his own family had helped the “evolution” of his views on the issue. “There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and… Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently,” Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
In 2010, Obama said his views on the issue were “evolving”, a stance that had frustrated gay rights supporters and donors. His comments aired on Wednesday come a day after North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment effectively banning same-sex marriage or civil unions. The Obama campaign had opposed that measure, which was passed with 61% in favour and 39% against. In the US, 31 states have passed constitutional amendments or legislation against same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Romney set the stage for an election year clash over the polarising social issue by saying he was against gay marriage. The former Massachusetts governor told a Fox News affiliate: “I do not favour marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favour civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name. “My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.”