Truthout | News in Brief (11)

Thursday 22 April 2010

The BBC and MSNBC reported Thursday that as many as 28 people were reported to have been injured following a series of explosions in the Thai capital of Bangkok.

According to an Army spokesman, the blasts were caused by grenades, but it was not clear who had fired them. Bangkok has been the center of a long-running stand-off between government troops and Red Shirt protesters, who are demanding the resignation of the prime minister.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has called an emergency meeting with security chiefs.

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Reuters reported the surge in popularity of Britain’s third largest political party in the electoral race, following a televised debate last week.

The centrist Liberal Democrats have given the ruling Labor Party and opposition Conservative Party a run for their money for the first time in years. An election system quirk means the perennially third-ranking party’s lead is too small to sweep them to power, but could lead to the first hung Parliament since 1974.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll, the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, is largely in Labor-held marginal seats. The Conservatives will have to win these for an outright victory.

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The Guardian reported that “South Park” creators seemed to censor their show last night, following threats from a US Muslim group about the planned portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in their cartoon.

The group, named Revolution Muslim, posted a messages on its web site warning Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show’s creators, they they would “probably wind up like Theo van Gogh” if the planned cartoon was broadcast. Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, was stabbed to death in 2004 by an Islamic militant over a film he had made that accused Islam of condoning violence against women. The post also had details of the location of the creators’ homes and offices.

The show was meant to be an irreverent one about religious leaders – in one scene, Buddha is shown snorting drugs. The program that aired was labeled with the word “Censored,” as well as beeping out the word Prophet Muhammad and replacing images of the prophet in a bear costume with those of Santa Claus in the same outfit.

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The BBC and Reuters reported that Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme has decided to resign following the withdrawal of a key ally from his five-month-old governing coalition, putting strain on the country’s fragile economy.

The Flemish Liberal Party pulled out of the coalition, precipitating the collapse of the Belgian government. Leterme visited King Albert, the Belgian monarch, to tender his government’s resignation Thursday following an emergency cabinet meeting, but the monarch did not immediately make a decision as to accept the resignation.

This puts into doubt a scheduled parliamentary debate on a law that would ban full-face Muslim veils in public – it would have been the first such law to be adopted by a European country.

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The New York Times reported that the United States is urging NATO to maintain its aging stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe as a deterrent. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to caution ministers of NATO nations to get together on the issue, and push them to embrace the America missile-defense system planned for Eastern Europe.

Clinton’s message comes as officials from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries put pressure on the United States to start negotiations with Russia to reduce nonstrategic nuclear weapons. The United States currently has aerial bombs stored in underground vaults on air bases in five NATO countries.