Cowboys and Indians In The Middle East

There will be a straw that breaks the [Yishmael's] camel's back. This thing is getting more and more tense by the moment; Iron Dome is now in Tzfat.

Israel launched a rare airstrike inside Syria, U.S. officials said Wednesday, targeting a convoy believed to contain anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. The attack adds a potentially flammable new element to tensions already heightened by Syria's civil war.

It was the latest salvo in Israel's long-running effort to disrupt the Shiite militia's quest to build an arsenal capable of defending against Israel's air force and spreading destruction inside the Jewish state.

Regional security officials said the strike, which occurred overnight Tuesday, targeted a site near the Lebanese border, while a Syrian army statement said it destroyed a military research center northwest of the capital, Damascus. They appeared to be referring to the same incident.

U.S. officials said the target was a truck convoy that Israel believed was carrying sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the operation.

Regional officials said the shipment included sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which if acquired by Hezbollah would be "game-changing," enabling the militants to shoot down Israeli jets, helicopters and surveillance drones. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

In a statement, the Syrian military denied the existence of any such shipment and said a scientific research facility outside Damascus was hit by the Israeli warplanes.

The Israeli military declined to comment. However, many in Israel worry that as Syrian President Bashar Assad loses power, he could strike back by transferring chemical or advanced weapons to Hezbollah, which is neighboring Lebanon's most powerful military force and is committed to Israel's destruction.

The airstrike follows decades of enmity between Israel and allies Syria and Hezbollah, which consider the Jewish state their mortal enemy. The situation has been further complicated by the civil war raging in Syria between the Assad regime and rebel brigades seeking his ouster.

The war has sapped Assad's power and threatens to deprive Hezbollah of a key supporter, in addition to its land corridor to Iran. The two countries provide Hezbollah with the bulk of its funding and arms.

A Syrian military statement read aloud on state TV Wednesday said low-flying Israeli jets crossed into Syria over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and bombed a military research center in the area of Jamraya, northwest of Damascus.

The strike destroyed the center and damaged a nearby building, killing two workers and wounding five others, the statement said.

The military denied the existence of any convoy bound for Lebanon, saying the center was responsible for "raising the level of resistance and self-defense" of Syria's military.

"This proves that Israel is the instigator, beneficiary and sometimes executor of the terrorist acts targeting Syria and its people," the statement said.

Israel and Hezbollah fought an inconclusive 34-day war in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

While the border has been largely quiet since, the struggle has taken other forms. Hezbollah has accused Israel of assassinating a top commander, and Israel blamed Hezbollah and Iran for a July 2012 attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. In October, Hezbollah launched an Iranian-made reconnaissance drone over Israel, using the incident to brag about its expanding capabilities.

Israeli officials believe that Hezbollah's arsenal has markedly improved since 2006, now boasting tens of thousands of rockets and missiles and the ability to strike almost anywhere inside Israel.

Israel suspects that Damascus obtained a battery of SA-17s from Russia after an alleged Israeli airstrike in 2007 that destroyed an unfinished Syrian nuclear reactor.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the dangers of Syria's "deadly weapons," saying the country is "increasingly coming apart."

The same day, Israel moved a battery of its new "Iron Dome" rocket defense system to the northern city of Haifa, which was battered by Hezbollah rocket fire in the 2006 war. The Israeli army called that move "routine."

Syria, however, cast the airstrike in a different light, linked to the country's civil war, which it blames on terrorists carrying out an international conspiracy.

Despite its icy relations with Assad, Israel has remained on the sidelines of efforts to topple him, while keeping up defenses against possible attacks.

Israeli defense officials have carefully monitored Syria's chemical weapons, fearing Assad could deploy them or lose control of them to extremist fighters among the rebels.

President Barack Obama has called the use of chemical weapons a "red line" that if crossed could prompt direct U.S. intervention, though U.S. officials have said Syria's stockpiles still appear to be under government control.

The strike was Israel's first inside Syria since September 2007, when warplanes destroyed a site that the U.N. nuclear watchdog deemed likely to be a nuclear reactor. Syria denied the claim, saying the building was a non-nuclear military site.

Syria allowed international inspectors to visit the bombed site in 2008, but it has refused to allow nuclear inspectors new access. This has heightened suspicions that Syria has something to hide, along with its decision to level the destroyed structure and build on its site.

In 2006, Israeli warplanes flew over Assad's palace in a show of force after Syrian-backed militants captured an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip.

And in 2003, Israeli warplanes attacked a suspected militant training camp just north of the Syrian capital, in response to an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in the city of Haifa that killed 21 Israelis.

Syria vowed to retaliate for both attacks but never did.

In Lebanon, which borders both Israel and Syria, the military and the U.N. agency tasked with monitoring the border with Israel said Israeli warplanes have sharply increased their activity in the past week.

Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace are not uncommon, and it was unclear if the recent activity was related to the strike in Syria.

Syria's primary conflict with Israel is over the Golan Heights, which Israeli occupied in the 1967 war. Syria demands the area back as part of any peace deal. Despite the hostility, Syria has kept the border quiet since the 1973 Mideast war and has never retaliated for Israeli attacks.

In May 2011, only two months after the uprising against Assad started, hundreds of Palestinians overran the tightly controlled Syria-Israeli frontier in a move widely thought to have been facilitated by the Assad regime to divert the world's gaze from his growing troubles at home.

 This exercise is one shot from going Global.


Russia said on Thursday it was very concerned about reports of an Israeli attack in Syria and that any such action, if confirmed, would amount to unacceptable military interference in the war-ravaged country.

The remarks were issued as Hezbollah called on the international community to condemn the alleged strike.

"If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Israeli warplanes had bombed a convoy near Syria's border with Lebanon, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah in what some called a warning to Damascus not to arm Israel's Lebanese enemy.

Syrian state television accused Israel of bombing a military research center at Jamraya, between Damascus and the nearby border. Syrian rebels disputed that, saying their forces had attacked the site.

Russia has been trying to shield Syrian President Bashar Assad from international pressure to end the civil war against opposition forces that has ravaged the country over 22 months and killed an estimated 60,000 people. Moscow has repeatedly spoken against any foreign interference in Syria, especially military action.

'Attack typical of Israel's criminal ways' Meanwhile, the Hezbollah terror organization released a statement condemning the "Israeli attacks on the scientific research center in Syria." The statement said that "the attack is in line with Israel's aggressive and criminal ways and was made in accordance to a policy which attempts to prevent any Arab or Muslim force to develop its military and technological capabilities."

In its statement the Shiite terror organization claimed that "the attack exposes the background to what has been going on in Syria for years, and the criminal intention to destroy Syria and its army, and undermine its central role on the resistance front."

It also said: "The attack requires wide-scale condemnation from the international community and the Arab and Muslim states."

Nevertheless, it also claimed that "we are accustomed to the international community swallowing its tongue and remaining silent, not condemning or taking a stand when Israel is the aggressor."

Hassan Nasrallah's organization also expressed solidarity with the Syrian people, the Syrian leadership and the Syrian army.

They said, in an implied message to the rebel forces, that "some elements should be aware of the severity of the attack against Syria."

"This aggression should lead to a re-examination of their stance and to adopt political dialogue as the only basis to a solution meant to end the shedding of Syrian blood, in order to keep Syria and protect its role in the fight against the enemies."

Peru & Bolivia: 'No-helmet' law countries

(Photos: Georgie Abbott, crossing border from Bolivia to Peru)

At some stage Australia is going to have eschew national disdain of bicycles, and adopt them as the essential mode of urban transport that they actually are.

Somewhat revealingly, the Guardian reports this month that...'Beijing is just one of hundreds of cities, largely in Asia, where poisonous air is now the fastest-growing cause of death in urban populations'...

...and moreover ' Kabul there are now more deaths as a result of air and water pollution than from conflict.'

Who are Australian politicians kidding with their policies that incessantly ignore bicycles?

Bicycles aren't about to go away anytime soon, and they seriously need to be factored into the urban transport equation immediately.

What are we waiting for?

End of the oneth month

I had a panic attack at work today, just as I was about to go home. I have no problems dealing with them but they do slow me down.

Today one of the call centre guys used the word "oneth" when reading out a date. It's the thirty-oneth of the oneth today; tomorrow will be the oneth of the twoth. When I think about it, there's no reason why we shouldn't say "oneth" for higher ordinal numbers that end in one. The word "first" is really a superlative meaning "nearest the beginning" (just like "best" and "most" are superlatives); it has nothing to do with the number (or digit) one. It's therefore a bit strange that we use "first" in combinations like "twenty-first" and "thirty-first" which have nothing to do with being nearest the start. But that's English for you, and unlike that bloke at work, I'm not going to start slipping "thirty-oneth" into conversation. (By comparison, premier is French for first, but they say vingt-et-unième for twenty-first.)

My short-term memory (seconds or minutes) is a lot better than it was when I moved into this role, but my medium-term memory (a few days) is as bad as ever. Sometimes I'll ring up a medical centre to ask for information about a patient; I'll often end up leaving a message. When the nurse rings me back two days later, I might vaguely remember leaving the message if I'm lucky, but I'll have no idea of the specifics. I might have left other messages on other phones in the intervening period, and that only makes matters worse. I always imagined my experiences were normal, but I've since learnt that other people do remember specifics of phone messages and other work tasks from days earlier. It seems that when I leave the office in the evening I empty my brain of everything I did that day.

Wellington (and the rest of the country) continues to bask in glorious summer weather. I've been amazed by the number of kids busking in the streets, trying to make a few dollars before school starts. This week I heard one girl singing "it's not about the money, money, money..." You know what, I think it is!
They'll have great weather for the Sevens. They gave out a few free tickets at work for Saturday, but I can't make it (I'm tramping) and anyway free would be too expensive for me - someone would have to pay me to go. I must sound so anti-fun with that last sentence, but the whole dressing-up-and-getting-hammered thing isn't really my cup of tea. I've always found the actual rugby games good to watch, but that's not what going to the Sevens is really about.

There were tragic scenes in Brazil last weekend as more than 230 people died in a fire at a nightclub, most of them from smoke inhalation. You can read an excellent article here about the reaction this terrible incident has generated, in the media and in Brazilian politics. It isn't pleasant reading. These are important times for Brazil - they've got a big population and a booming economy but massive inequalities between rich and poor, and major problems with violent crime. The spotlight will be on them as they stage the world's two biggest sporting events in 2014 and 2016.

Here are some pictures from Saturday's walk: a view of the city, a shot taken in the opposite direction with the South Island mountains in the far distance, and an iconic (I know that world is badly overused) fern frond. What great weather we had. I should also mention bush lawyer, a plant we saw a lot of. Its hooked spines will snag on anything.

Coronation Street wins Best Soap at Broadcast Awards 2013

From twitter @krissibohner (Krissi Bohn, Michelle Keegan, Cath Tyldesley aka Jenna, Tina, Eva)
Hot on the heels of winning Best Soap last week at the National Television Awards, Coronation Street has scooped another award for Best Soap.  They were named as Best Soap, beating all of the other UK soaps, in the Broadcast Awards 2013 held last night at the Grosvenor Hotel in that London.

The Broadcast Awards are chosen by a panel of judges to reward excellence in TV.

Congratulations to Corrie!

A full list of winners is here.
From twitter @krissibohner (Krissi Bohn and Patti Clare aka Jenna and Mary)

From twitter @krissibohner (Krissi Bohn and David Neilson aka Jenna and Roy)

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Where to buy Julie Carp's cape

For those asking where Julie Carp got her tartan cape from, worn earlier this week on Coronation Street, then wonder no  more.

Jade, the wardrobe lady at Coronation Street tells us that the cape is vintage and was bought from a boutique in Swinton. She's kindly sent us a photo of the label for any vintage fans who want to check it out.

Katy Cavanagh, the actress who plays Julie Carp on Corrie, is pregnant, in case any one was wondering why she's being covered up with capes and big coats at the moment!

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Ethics of The Fathers - Is Damascus Domestic?

This eruption in Syria could literally be at any time. All kinds of questions are being raised: ethics, contingency plans, "whats next", Iran, Jordan, etc. etc.

All in all, it seems there is no way out of this for anyone - Bibi's bomb is lit, no matter how abstract his red lines can be drawn - this is was and will always be about the showdown in the Middle East between Israel and her neighbors; the clock ticks towards inevitability.

As news reports are rampant with the possibility of an Israeli or US strike on Syria’s chemical weapons, it is important to recall the law of armed conflict principles which come into play.

There is a range of views on preemptive strikes.

Some hold that preemptive strikes are never permitted, as the UN Charter requires an existing “armed attack” for one to use force and carry out self-defense measures.

In the post-September 2011 world, a growing group of nations take the view that if an attack is “imminent,” a preemptive strike can be justified.

One paradigm case is with nuclear weapons, where even a small “dirty bomb” can cause unimaginable carnage, and many would justify attacking a state’s nuclear weapons capability prior to an attack, which Israel has done in the past.

But Syria’s chemical weapons pose unusual issues.

According to former ambassador to Canada and former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, there would be a basis for a preemptive strike if “Syria was uncovering the wraps on its chemical weapons and getting ready to use them, with indications they would be used against Israel.”

But what if Syria only meant to use chemical weapons against its own people, such as the Syrian rebels? “If they were using them against their own people, then maybe Israel can’t use the self-defense argument” to initiate a preemptive strike, said Baker.

“There would be no case for anticipatory self-defense according to customary international law if the threat is not against us,” he said.

Baker elaborated on a “Canadian philosophy” of there being a “right to protect” others, namely that if a nation is “of the view that a people are under threat, it could be the interest and right of any state to protect that people.”

The US and its allies invoked such a “humanitarian approach” in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s and most recently in Libya in 2011.

In both those cases, however, especially in Libya, the intervention was based on a widespread and multinational collective intervention with some degree of UN support.

Regardless, Israel has never undertaken such a mission nor claimed such a right.

Baker said that Israel has “never been in a position with its neighbors where it was necessary,” while citing some accounts of Black September in Jordan 1970 which state that Israel had threatened to intervene if Jordan’s regime allowed itself to be taken over by Palestinian nationalists.

All of this creates a difficult dilemma: What if it is clear that chemical weapons are about to be used or transferred, but unclear whether the intent is to use them against other Syrians or to use or transfer them to terror groups for use against Israel? In a situation of “ambiguous intelligence,” Baker said, there might be a justification for “our intervention. The tendency and percentage of likelihood” of an attack on Israel “would need to be pretty high in terms of intelligence indications” to justify a preemptive strike in such a situation.

Do the calculations change if Bashar Assad is toppled, and the Syrian rebels, who some have said have associations with al-Qaida, take over? If the rebels took over, the “question would be the degree to which the threat is realistic. If Israel’s military people, on the basis of their own intelligence and considerations, come to the conclusion that there is a danger” the weapons could “fall into the hands of terrorists,” and that this will lead to their “use against Israel, then a preemptive strike would be justified,” said Baker.

In other words, what is poorly understood by partisans in the debate over preemptive strikes who have not had to deal with anything beyond theoretical considerations, is that much of the legal conclusion will derive from the indications of intelligence about the threat.

Those who say preemptive strikes can never be justified appear to ignore scenarios where intelligence is certain of an imminent and disastrous attack.

And those who invoke preemptive strikes the second there is any change in status of the chemical weapons appear to ignore the possibility that intelligence may show that the threat is not against Israel.

The other dimension that differentiates chemical weapons from nuclear weapons is that not all chemical weapons use, in any quantity, is necessarily an immediate, massive disaster.

In 1988, Saddam Hussein killed 5,000 people in an instant when 20 aircraft dropped mustard and sarin gas on the Kurdish-Iraqi city of Halabja. In 1995, 13 Japanese were killed when sarin gas was released into the Tokyo Metro.

Both incidents were terrible tragedies, but the gulf in the number of fatalities shows that different amounts and capabilities of delivery for chemical weapons can impact how disastrous its use can be.

Baker said that while Israel could strike preemptively to stop an “immediate, overwhelming and overpowering” threat, there might be scenarios where a limited chemical weapons transfer or use might not be significant enough to justify a preemptive strike, or might require limiting the nature of the preemptive strike.

For example, a massive threat may justify a massive use of airpower, whereas a more limited threat might only justify a narrow and targeted air strike or a limited strike by a small group of covert operatives on the ground.

Again, intelligence would be crucial in evaluating the threat and the legality of various responses.

As the world gets more complex with more complicated actors, and smaller states’ acquisition of non-conventional weapons becomes viewed as a greater threat, the interplay of intelligence and law on the issue of preemptive strikes will only become more important.

Notice the Canadian quote; Canada in the Talmud is called Magog. It does seem each day more and more clear that we are witnessing the foundations of Gog Magog. Would it be fitting for this war to ignite on Canadian philosophy? As long as Israel doesn't think for itself, it remains vulnerable to all of its "friends."

Coronation Street fun night in Canada

The Sparta House tea-room in Sparta, Ontario in Canada, is hosting two Coronation Street fun nights on April 26th and 27th. 

There's a three course meal including Roy's Rolls, Betty's Hotpot and Manchester Sponge. And there's prizes for the best Corrie look-a-like plus fun trivia, and more.

Find out more at the Sparta Houe website.

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Meet the woman who's played 12 different Corrie roles

While it remains true that no one can beat Dave Dutton's claim to Coronation Street fame, as the man who's acted 11 different roles on the cobbles.  Read all about him here.

There is someone who's been on Coronation Street in more roles than Dave - and it's a woman, Ann Aris.  With thanks to Corriepedia for letting us know about Ann and for the information below.

Ann holds the current record for the most credited parts on Coronation Street with twelve roles to her name:
    1. Kay Miller, friend of Sylvia Matthews in April 1976. 

    2. Ratepayers Association secretary Mrs Mottershead in April 1978.

    3. The Registrar at the wedding of Kevin Webster and Sally Seddon in October 1986.

    4. The Usher at the trial of Alan Bradley in October 1989.

    5. Newton & Ridley Secretary in September 1992.

    6. Bettabuys senior manager Mrs Waters in July 1993.

    7. The Assistant Registrar at the wedding of Curly Watts and Raquel Wolstenhulme in December 1995.

    8. A Woman on a golf course who found Fred Elliott injured there in July 1997.

    9. The Magistrate at the preliminary hearing of Deirdre Rachid on charges of fraud in January 1998.

    10. Barrister Fiona Kingsman-Lloyd at the trial of Les Battersby for assault on Mick Hopwood (a trumped-up charge) in May 2003.

    11. Judge Fortune at the at the preliminary hearing of Tracy Barlow for the murder of Charlie Stubbs in January 2007.

    12. The Judge at the trial of Becky Granger for vandalism in November 2008.

    13. Her most recent connection with Corrie was in The Road to Coronation Street in September 2010 in which she played the part of actress Nita Valerie who appeared in one of the 1960 dry runs as Ena Sharples.

    So there you have it. Dave Dutton is the man who's played the highest number of Coronation Street male roles and Ann Aris is the woman who's played the highest number of Coronation Street female roles.

    What we need now, of course, is for them both to return for another part - the one where they fall in love and get married, to each other.

    Now that really would be a soap wedding to celebrate.

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    The faces of 1980s Corrie

    Inspired by Daran Little's 40 years of Coronation Street and having done some research on Corriepedia, I have come up with the top 12 faces of Coronation Street in every decade.

    In the third of five posts, I look at the top 12 faces of Corrie in the 1980s. These are the faces who appeared the most during the decade.

    1. Bet Lynch/Gilroy (738 episodes, 1980-1989)
    2. Ivy Tilsley/Brennan (691 episodes, 1980-1989)
    3. Rita Fairclough (682 episodes, 1980-1989)
    4. Alf Roberts (681 episodes, 1980-1989)
    5. Mavis Riley/Wilton (667 episodes, 1980-1989)
    6. Betty Turpin (659 episodes, 1980-1989)
    7. Ken Barlow (657 episodes, 1980-1989)
    8. Deirdre Langton/Barlow (652 episodes, 1980-1989)
    9. Mike Baldwin (648 episodes, 1980-1989)
    10. Vera Duckworth (628 episodes, 1980-1989)
    11. Emily Bishop/Swain/Bishop (621 episodes, 1980-1989)
    12. Gail Tilsley (613 episodes, 1980-1989)
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    Fat Brenda's Cream Horn

    Well what a palaver! I’ve been squatting in Gail’s garage (not literally, loveys) for a while now after I left the shared housing I was in 'cos I found out Polish Pete had been spying on me through a hole he’d drilled into the wall – he told me it was to let steam escape as I was partial to a hot soapy bath of a Sunday night.
    Anyhow, I’ve been in Gail’s garage for a good year now and I’ve been very happy, but now I’m sharing with hundreds of jars of these green salty grape things! Oh loveys, proper mingin’ they are! It gets me why posh folk think eating stuff that’s horrible makes ‘em seem well to do! They turn their nose up at a Findus Crispy Pancake but give ‘em an artichoke heart or drizzle a bit of olive oil in their general direction and they’re all, “Oooh how delightful!” Get a grip posh folk and bang some McCain’s in’t oven!
    Chips in't it?!
    So I’ve been kipping with these jars every night and when Gail goes out I’ve been breaking into her house using a key I stole from Joe McIntyre’s corpse when he was in’t chapel of rest. Gail buries all her dead husbands with a key to the house so they’ll always have somewhere to stay in’t afterlife or summat like that. Anyway, I got this key and I’ve been sneaking in for me ablutions (that means me number twos an’ that) and to use her Lady Shave on me bits what want trimming back – although in this weather I usually like to go natural but they’re out of control, “nature’s thermals” as me friend Bernice calls it and she should know, her leg hairs get so long in winter she takes her jeggings off and it looks like she’s wearing mohair flamin’ trousers!

    So while I was elbow deep in me leg hairs - like a young machete wielding Michael Douglas in that Romancing The Stone – I heard the sound of squelching and I went to investigate only to find Gail playing saliva bingo with the ever fragrant Lewis and in walks Audrey and I swear to Cliff I thought it was gonna kick off right there and then! I was up the stairs with Gail’s false teeth glass to the floorboards and the whole clan walked in! “It’s disgusting!” David cried forgetting it’s not as bad as pushing yer mam down’t stairs and getting someone to rob yer gran’s house or hitting folks' windows with a baseball bat or sleeping with Tracy Barlow so you’ll keep quiet about the brutal murder of a fella or pretending to be the dead ex husband of yer mam who drove you all into a canal after murdering folk or psychologically torturing yer mam’s FOURTH husband so he’ll put in a good word for you with his daughter, Tina, who you forcibly leapt on while she was dating yer best mate… “Its disgusting!” Yeah David, whatever lovey!

    Ooh that's a bit tutti frutti!
    And as for Nick with his ex drug addled, would-be arsonist insurance swindling lottery stealing prossie wife, well he can shut up an’ all! He’s not all sweetness and light if them looks him and Kylie are giving each other every time David knits another pair of booties are anything to go by– he learned how to knit in’t nick… in fact, you could say he was a nick knitter. If he knitted knickers he’d be a knicker knitting nick knitter! If he knitted knickers for Nick he’d be a Nick’s knickers knicker nick knitter… I’ve confused meself… What was I on about now? Oh aye, Gail!
    Nick's nick knitted knickers!
    So let him or her that’s done nowt wrong cast the first stone and turn yer other cheek in a glass house or summat cos in Weatherfield everyone’s done summat bad to someone – except maybe Roy, Hayley or poor Ty.
    On the subject of Ty, if Dev was to start selling burning torches and pitchforks he’d make a fortune cos the folk of Coronation Street (and Rosamund Street) are after his blood!
    “Kill Tyrone!” they cry outside Tina’s flat. 

    How can Weatherfield have such a good hospital (the only person to have performed more sick healing miracles than them doctors is Jesus) and such a rubbish police force?! Mind you, at least it’s a fella who’s facing a miscarriage of justice instead of our Deirdre, Gail and Fiz! The only person who is actually guilty is Tracy flamin’ Barlow! Her gurning alone should be punishable by death let alone the killing of Charlie with a piece of objet flamin d’art!
    So to cut a long story short, Tyrone has been abandoned by folk with no memory of what he’s actually like and Tracy is going on a date with that fella who’s like Dick Van Dyke. Meanwhile Jenna has lost her job after studying for two hundred and fifty seven years and she’s also come out as one of them lesbians. Kirsty knows how to “play the system” but not as well as me cos I work and claim housing benefit and dole! Who’s the best at playing the flamin’ system now, Kirsty, you evil witch?!
    Remember loveys, in Weatherfield the truth always comes out in’t end… Do you hear that, Dev?! The truth always comes out! He’s been stealing folks’ identities with that cash machine of his! Maybe that’s why Sunita has had a total personality transplant! Maybe Dev stole HER identity so she replaced it with someone else’s!

    I'm here on tweeter: Fat Brenda

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    Tennis talking points

    So Djokovic racked up another major title on Sunday by beating Murray. I correctly picked a 3-1 win for Djokovic but the match didn't pan out as I imagined it might. I never expected two such brilliant returners to hold serve 31 consecutive times before Djokovic finally broke. A turning point came in the second tie-break where Murray picked up a rogue feather off the court between his first and second serves, then promptly double-faulted. That's a situation I often encountered in my low-grade stuff: a leaf, a bug or (most commonly) an errant ball would stray onto the court after I missed my first serve. Do I remove the offending object (upsetting upset my rhythm, making a double fault more likely) or pretend it isn't there?
    I'd say Murray is now world number two behind Djokovic, even if the official rankings say something else. His serve has become a lethal weapon of late; it'll make him increasingly difficult to beat.

    Here are a few talking points (Warning: if you don't like tennis, please click the back button!)

    The first time I went to Wimbledon I saw a match on an outside court between two Latin Americans who would have better suited to a clay court. I couldn’t get over how hard they were larruping that ball and how fast they were moving, usually behind the baseline. Until then I’d only seen professional tennis on TV, which simply doesn’t do justice to the power and athleticism on show. That was in 1998; since then the physicality of men’s tennis has moved to another level – it’s almost like boxing now.

    Equal prize money
    This issue keeps coming up. Men play best-of-five at the Slams and women play best-of-three, so men work harder, so they should get paid more. Right? Well I happen to agree that men should get paid more than women currently, not because they play longer matches but because they offer a far more attractive product right now (ugh, please excuse the marketing speak). Since 2005 we’ve seen no end of awe-inspiring edge-of-the-seat men’s matches, but over the same period on the women’s side I’m really racking my brains. Certainly Venus v Davenport in the 2005 Wimbledon final, but then I’m struggling. And which female players really bring in the crowds any more? Sharapova, the Williams sisters, and that’s about it. It wasn’t always like this. In the nineties there were so many great matches involving Graf, Sanchez-Vicario, Seles, Novotna – even Hingis had her moments – while some of the men’s finals (like Sampras v Ivanisevic in the 1994 Wimbledon final) were sleep-inducing.

    Three sets or five?
    This follows on from the prize-money issue. To make things “fairer”, it has been suggested that women play best-of-five at the majors or that men play best-of-three.
    I don’t think women playing five sets throughout the tournament would get bums on seats, so I reckon that’s a non-starter at this point in time. Plenty of early-round women’s matches finish 6-0 6-1 (or similar); I’m not sure what playing another set would achieve. However I could certainly see them playing five sets in grand slam finals and probably semi-finals as well. Too often a women’s final is over in no time.

    As for men playing the shorter format, for the love of god NO! Yes it’s hard to win seven best-of-fives in a row, but winning a major is supposed to be hard. The longer format allows for so many more twists and turns, and it’s those fluctuations that make for classic matches. To illustrate, there are three ways of winning a best-of-three-set match: WW, WLW and LWW. But go to a best-of-five and there are ten ways: WWW, WWLW, WLWW, LWWW, WWLLW, WLWLW, WLLWW, LWWLW, LWLWW and LLWWW. If matches are going too long, change the court surface, the balls, the rackets, the strings, whatever, don’t change the match format.
    I also think the Masters Series events (or whatever they call them now) need to have five-set finals and the season-ending championships absolutely need one.

    What a great invention the tie-break was. Some people liken it to a football penalty shoot-out but in reality it’s nothing of the sort. A penalty shoot-out bears little resemblance to what came before (and is therefore, in my opinion, a really crappy way to decide a match) whereas a tennis tie-break is … more tennis! (A couple of caveats here: I’m happy for deciding sets of big tournaments to be tie-break-free, and as for the super tie-break that some events use to replace deciding sets, well that’s an abomination).

    The very fact that two players have reached 6-6 in a set would suggest that they are evenly matched, so you’d expect most people to win roughly half their tie-breaks over a large sample size. But this clearly isn’t the case. Pete Sampras had a very impressive record, as does Roger Federer who’s won almost two-thirds of his 500-odd tie-breaks. What’s even more impressive about Federer’s record is how many of those tie-break wins have come at the business end of grand slams (he won all four breakers he played in the quarters and semis in Melbourne). How has he managed it? I’m guessing his mental fortitude has a lot to do with it. He also has a presence, an aura, which comes with being the Greatest of All Time, and I’m sure that intimidates opponents at the crucial moments of matches.

    It’s often been said that tie-breaks favour the better server. I think that’s a myth; it has no logic behind it that I can see. If anything the tie-break should help the returner, who now longer has to win (at least) four points against the serve to prevail. Yes, John Isner (big server) is up there on the list, but Ivo Karlovic (another huge server) isn’t.

    The calendar
    There is often talk of player burn-out, and it’s one reason why some people want to eliminate five-setters on the men’s tour. I don’t think the match format needs changing, I think the calendar does. For a start, why does one of the biggest tournaments take place two weeks into the season? They should move the Aussie Open to November or March (when it isn’t stupidly hot) or, if they must keep it in January when people are in holiday mode, move the off-season to February and March. The tennis season doesn’t have to run on a calendar-year basis – look at other sports like football. There needs to be another week (or two) between the French Open and Wimbledon to give players more time on grass. Perhaps most importantly, they need to reduce the overall number of tournaments.

    How you enforce it I don’t know (decibel meter?) but something needs to be done. It’s not fair on the opponents of grunters and it’s not helping the image of women’s tennis at all. I saw a match between Maria Sharapova and Na Li at the Australian Open in 2005 and Sharapova’s grunting was so loud as to make the actual game secondary.

    Heartbreak for Chesney when Katy kisses Ryan

    There's a Coronation Street spoiler in today's Sun, and this time there are pictures to prove it.  Poor Chesney's going to have his little heart smashed to pieces if he sees who girlfriend Katy's kissing now - it's only druggy Ryan!

    The Sun says that pics taken on location show Katy and Ryan travelling in a van together - I wonder why? Anyway, the van breaks down, and the two of them end up snogging.

    Ah well, I suppose it gives Katy something to do, she's been rather dull of late. But mind you, she does have lovely hair.

    Have a look at all the pics here.

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    Sneak preview of tonight's Corrie - Wednesday 30 January

    Coronation Street, Wednesday 30th January at 7.30pm
    KYLIE FACES A MEXICAN STAND-OFF WITH LEWIS. His scam now in motion Lewis secretly prints off Gail’s bank details from the bistro computer. When Kylie and Nick enter the office he’s forced to hide. As Kylie assures Nick his secret is safe Lewis is stunned to hear Nick could be the father of her baby. His brain in overdrive what will Lewis do with this information?
    SOPHIE AND JENNA FACE AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Sophie and Jenna have a heart to heart. Will Jenna finally admit to her feelings?
    KIRTSY AGREES TO LET TYRONE SEE RUBY. Tyrone’s thrilled when he gets a call to tell him Kirsty’s agreed to let him see Ruby.
    Elsewhere Tracy tells Rob she’ll accept his offer of a date. Over lunch at the bistro she dares him to give her a job, how will Rob respond? Owen and Anna forbid Faye from seeing dad Tim.

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    Coronation Street fan of the week - Charlotte in Canada

    It's Wednesday and time to meet another Corrie fan of the week.
    Would you like to be our Corrie fan of the week?
    Click here to find out more.

    Who are you and where are you from?
    My name is Char Lewis, and I live in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.

    How long have you been watching Corrie?
    I have been watching Corrie since the 1970's. I started watching with my mom, back in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

    Who are your favourite female and male characters - and the reasons why?
    Male character: I really like Tyrone. He's a solid friend, and he's a stand-up guy, never does anything bad. He's the type of guy that every girl hopes for. 

    Female Character: I think that would have to be Rita Tanner. She's the one who is the wise one of the street. She's honest, generous and really cares about her friends. She doesn't let anyone take advantage of her, she is a strong woman as well as independent. She reminds me of my sister, and I think my sister even looks like her. (Well, she will in the future). I would love to be more like Rita. 
    (Editor's note: I think we need to see a photo of your sister for a Rita look-a-like!)

    What's been some of your favourite Corrie storylines over the years?

    I have become mesmerized by the Tyrone/Kirsty storyline. I realize that this really happens, and men are either to embarrassed, or too proud to say anything. It's a real tragedy.

    And what would your fantasy Corrie storyline be?
    I would love to see Sean finally find the one true love of his life, for keeps, and for Dev and Sunita to get back together for good. I also want to see Tracy get her comeuppance, and finally be put in her place in front of everyone. It would be fun to see Les Battersby come back just to pester Stella.

    Have you any snippets or news about meeting any of the Corrie cast, or trips to the set, etc., that you'd like to share?
    Oh, I wish I did. I would love to visit the cobbles, and meet some of the actors.
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    Coronation Street actors who return as different characters

    No one can yet beat Dave Dutton's claim to Coronation Street fame, as the man who's acted 11 different roles on the cobbles. 

    Read all about him here

    But there's a good article on The Radio Times by journalist and Corrie fan David Brown, who writes about Weathefield rovers who return. 

    This was no doubt prompted by an article in this week's Sun which used twitter comments saying fans were angry that actor Joe Duttine had returned to Corrie as one character when we'd already seen him play another. Well, if you follow us and read us regularly, you'd have found that out some weeks ago

    Anyway, back to the Radio Times where they mention some of the actors who have turned up in Corrie more than once in different roles, but none of them beat Dave Dutton!

    Have a look at some of the pics here, it's good.

    See also: Where have you seen...? Corrie's new policeman, Faye's real dadAudrey's date, Harry the councillor, Lewis' friend Patrick,The Corrie Registrar, Marcus' friend Aiden, Kirsty's parents, Jenny Sumner, Corrie's prison Governor, Sunita's Aunties, Ken and Deirdre's pottery teacherTommy Duckworth,  Mrs Hargreaves who died in Audrey's salon, Sally Webster's fella JeffJoy Fishwick's investigator, Charlotte's Parents, Ken Barlow's grandson JamesKen Barlow's son LawrenceDr Matt CarterSaucy CharlotteIzzy's dad Owen Armstrong,The Corrie coppersColin FishwickTrevor the binmanConnie RathboneUncle Umed,Julie Carp's mumLuke StrongSophie Webster's boyfriendEileen Grimshaw's dadNorris' girlfriendGraeme Proctor,Molly's Aunty PamMaria's mum and dadGail's dadScary BrianTina's dadTony Gordon's henchmanLittle Simon Barlow

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    What I loved about Monday's Corrie

    I hadn't watched Coronation Street for over a week, but I decided to tune in again last night as I knew Audrey was going to catch Gail and Lewis and I couldn't miss that! I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by both episodes last night.

    I found the Gail and Lewis developments in equal parts hilarious and disgusting. I don't often find myself in agreement with David Platt! Both David and Kylie's reactions to this latest development were hysterical and Sue Nicholls yet again played a blinder as Audrey. I'm biased because the woman can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. We all know this will end badly for Gail and I can't help but think she deserves it. 

    I also loved the brief exchanges between Gail and Eileen. The On the Buses gag in the Cafe was good fun but I particularly enjoyed their old fishwives routine in the Street. Both gave as good as they got, although Gail was particularly cruel I thought. I would love a proper return to the Gail/Eileen feud of old. Their famous cat fight on the cobbles will always be a Corrie highlight for me and it's clear both actors relish these encounters.

    The surprising thing for me was how much I got involved in the Jenna and Sophie storyline which was the other big feature in the episodes. I love Craig Charles as Lloyd and his touching support for his daughter through her work and personal issues was terrific to watch. The writing was great and although Mandy's true feelings were difficult to watch, the performance was spot on and very believable. More of this please!

    Other minor developments also entertained me. I enjoyed the scene with Ken and Steve conducting their conversation around the irrational, delusional Tracy. Deirdre's offer of making Steve a sandwich was hilarious (well, I thought so!) I also found myself getting very incensed about Julie and Norris ganging up on Tyrone in their exchange with Fiz and Tina. I can understand Norris having a go as he's widely known to be 9 parts nasty and 1 part unpleasant but Julie really should know better. I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

    I hope this positive trend continues! What did you think??

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    And I am on Twitter: Twitter @Edgeof31  

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    The faces of 1970s Corrie

    Inspired by Daran Little's 40 years of Coronation Street and having done some research on Corriepedia, I have come up with the top 12 faces of Coronation Street in every decade.
    In the second of five posts, I look at the top 12 faces of Corrie in the 1970s. These are the faces who appeared the most during the decade.

    1. Len Fairclough (749 episodes, 1970-1979)
    2. Betty Turpin (699 episodes, 1970-1979)
    3. Bet Lynch (679 episodes, 1970-1979)
    4. Annie Walker (676 episodes, 1970-1979)
    5. Hilda Ogden (662 episodes, 1970-1979)
    6. Ray Langton (636 episodes, 1970-1978)
    7. Ken Barlow (634 episodes, 1970-1979)
    8. Stan Ogden (586 episodes, 1970-1979)
    9. Emily Nugent/Bishop (580 episodes, 1970-1979)
    10. Elsie Tanner/Howard/Tanner (557 episodes, 1970-1973, 1976-1979)
    11. Rita Bates/Littlewood/Fairclough (519 episodes, 1972-1979)
    12. Alf Roberts (507 episodes, 1971-1979)

    See also: The Faces of 1960s Corrie

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      Why the Rovers fire could be a good thing

      When most people hear about a fire in the Rovers Return, they seem to picture it as a bad thing. I, however, think maybe it's just what the place needs.

      It's no secret that the Rovers has a dining room and kitchen in Rosamund Street, or that their toilets are in front of the Barlow's television. I think a fire could give the show the perfect excuse to fix those little issues.

      The last time the Rovers was ablaze, they used it to knock the bar, the snug and the select into a small bar, making the tiny street corner pub a bit more realistic.

      I think they could probably give the Rovers a decent new look too, and hopefully one better than Vernon's attempt at redecorating back in 2008.

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      The End.

      I guess I'm done.

      Seven years and 940 posts later, I just don't think I have anything new to say.   Or if I do, it's not about grief and widowhood. 

      Thank you all for reading along with me, for laughing and crying with me, for raging with and encouraging me.  I've met some wonderful people here, and you mean the world to me. Thank you for being a part of this little slice of my life.

      The screen sits empty.
      The words echo and repeat.
      Time to say goodbye.

      Israel In Prophecy: Facing Jordan

      Authentic [even a tad radical] Zionism that leans Right claims Israel extends beyond the Jordan. The Left counters with its views as a perfect negative [and opposite extreme]. And nowadays people speak as moderates, while claims of selling out Israel are often heard in the background.

      But did anyone notice Arab Spring - and happen to take in the last 100+ years of Zionism to form a long view perspective? We may be looking at the closing of one long tekufa in the making that will bring us to Zionism 1.0 as a conclusion, and into 2.0: the Messiah version [and vision of Eretz Yisrael].

      When Zionism first became the vehicle of choice to govern in the Land [and to the Land] while lending itself as a viable method of vision, its extreme blend had a purpose, one that has lasted all the way until today and led to the very threshold that we find ourselves sitting upon today. In 2013 you will hear Zionism speaking of becoming moderate, yet make no mistake, this is not a change of winds; this is the echo of a mission nearly complete.

      In 1948, the Jews return to their Land, disheveled from 2000 years of Trauma, and suddenly take to Israel with 6,000,000 questions as to where to go from here. An immediate redemption although poetic to the ear, would be a cause of sure destruction, so a plan would be needed to bring this thing up to speed. Let the  War of Independence begin!

      Israel will eventually [seem] to win this war, and the struggle will continue over 60+ years of the same themes and characters, over and over again. The same questions will remain - are we being sold out and when will Israel finally fall victim to her neighbors?

      However after much deliberation and commitment to extreme Zionism, something  changed [in the time of the Zohar's predicted times even!]: Arab Spring - in its season.

      With perfect deception in perspective, people look to see where it began, however it is the end game that matters in any round of chess - on any level.

      The end game here is Jordan.

      Jordan possesses the three prophesied gifts to Eretz Yisrael: Edom, Moav, and Ammon, al to be given once The Land - Proper is secured, something that even King David did not do, before his Syrian conquest.

      Speaking of Syria: they are about to fall, causing   black hole eruption that will indeed pull in the kingdom of Yishamel - Iran. When that happens, the Middle East is in total collapse [except Israel no less] with refugees seeking to pour into an already [mysteriously] weakened Jordan. If Jordan is the last player in this, Israel is last man standing - but in face of international isolation as the price to pay for victory.

      This paves the way for Gog Magog onto Israel. But now there is a catch: Even if America lands on Holy soil to negotiate the final [solution] two state submission, Israel now speaks as moderates?

      With Jordan down and last - now Israel can create a Palestinian State from the former Jordan which happens to be the original Palestinian State [if even that existed].

      At this point Authentic Zionism served her purpose, paved the path to a redemption scenario, and allows the prophesied lands to be delivered  as if giftwrapped and served on a platter.

      So if indeed Zionism caused Arab Spring, and Jordan is the main course [while the Right with Left opposition worked like a charm] we may be looking the frail beginning of redemption, a vision shining through after over 100 years in the making.  No longer is the modern moderate seen as a sellout, but rather as a captain steering the ship into port.

      If Bibi signs the draft of a future treifa state, it is my belief that this is no less than divine engineering of a promise delivered thousands of years ago.

      Much like the Para Adumah - from the impure comes forth the pure, and as we saw in Parashas Beshalach - from the bitter comes the sweet. Nothing is more bitter than this Palestinian State - and for this we are told, with Hope to Hashem, we will witness those waters become something sweet for the whole World to drink.

      May we soon taste the sweet waters of the World through the sweet channel of the Beis Hamikdash, that will be built on The Holy Land, and through its expansion of Promised Territory TransJordan. For Your Salvation [Hashem] - We Hope To You [God]!

       While not ready to sign a comprehensive peace deal, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to establish an interim Palestinian state without a final agreement, former deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin said on Monday.

      Speaking during a debate with outgoing settlement council head Danny Dayan, Beilin stated that he had heard from Netanyahu that he would be ready for establishing a “provisional border with the Palestinians.”

      “This is something that I heard from him that he would be ready to do it,” he stated.

      The debate, held at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, was organized by the American Jewish Committee.

      “Both sides prefer a permanent agreement but are not ready for it under either’s current leadership,” Beilin continued.

      Beilin, who was one of the primary architects of both the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Initiative, a framework for peace negotiated outside of official government channels, noted that “what can be done is an interim agreement which establishes a Palestinian state in provisional borders so that Netanyahu will not have to negotiate now about Jerusalem.”

      “Netanyahu, far from being a warmonger, is a very cautious person and therefore not the one [to sign] a permanent agreement. This is not because he doesn’t want it but because he is not ready to pay the price.”

      Beilin negated the possibility of an accord such as his Geneva Initiative being workable in the current political climate or with the “current government.”

      He also asserted that instead of the prime minister being forced to deal with the issue of forcibly evacuating settlements, any settlers who would wish to remain in their homes under Palestinian sovereignty would be allowed to do so. Those not wishing to live within a Palestinian state would be resettled, Beilin said, possibly even in other areas over the green line that Israel would retain.

      “Knowing Bibi,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname, “I believe an interim solution could be realistic.”

      However, the Prime Minister’s Office denied Beilin’s statements. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in response to Beilin’s comments, PMO officials noted that Netanyahu “believes in direct negotiations with the Palestinians with no preconditions that would lead to, as described in the Bar-Ilan speech, a two-state solution based on a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel.”

      Settlement council head Dayan also had an alternative peace plan on hand.

      Currently, he said, Israel and the Palestinians “are devising a modus vivendi that is moderately satisfying for everyone. It’s not idyllic or what we or Palestinians want, but it’s moderately satisfying, and in this region it’s a hell of an achievement.”

      There is currently no long-term solution, he said, but should Jordan experience regime change, it may be possible to push the idea of Jordan as a Palestinian state.

      “There is a significant chance for two states, Israel west of the Jordan River and Palestine to the east, with joint functional control over Judea and Samaria, although not shared sovereignty,” he speculated. “That will be the beginning of serious negotiations, in which Israel [eventually] rules the Jewish population there and Palestine rules the territory in which their people live there.”

      The debate was held during a dinner for the Board of Governors Institute of the AJC, which is currently in Israel as part of a regional tour.

      AJC director David Harris, whose staff organized the debate, noted that members of the board were granted an audience with King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman on Sunday and had met with both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday.

      “This evening is sort of quintessential AJC,” Harris noted. “We always have a major debate as part of our programming. We invite people who are thoughtful and reasoned but have certain perspectives on key issues. We listen to them respectfully and we process the information. Tonight’s debate was very much in that spirit.”

      "Jordan has not avoided Arab awakening or Arab Spring completely but there were actually some protests. And a number of protests that took place in the country over the last two years is actually incomparable with the number of protests that used to take place earlier," Ibrahim Saif, resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, in Beirut, told the Voice of Russia.

      Jordan has not avoided Arab awakening or Arab Spring completely but there were actually some protests. And a number of protests that took place in the country over the last two years is actually incomparable with the number of protests that used to take place earlier. Also the ceiling of the demands by protesters was increasing over time since the Arab awakening. Over the last two years they were demanding the reform of the regime and then they wanted to introduce new issues like constitutional monarchy and to limit the king’s power.

      So, there was a kind of movement at the streets level and within the elites level and the need to introduce new changes. So, Jordan is one of the countries that are actually going through I would say a transitional moment now. But we can also argue that it is a smooth and managed transition in a way, that so far the opposition parties, including the Islamist and other parties, are not having the critical mass as yet to have something like a popular uprising similar to other countries, like Tunisia or Yemen, or like Egypt in that regard.

      And for that there are several reasons that we can consider in understanding why the protests have been minimal, why that so far has not been going up to a way out revolution. There are reasons behind this regarding the nature of the regime, regarding the nature of the social contacts between the state and the society, and the due politics that has been unfolding in the region for that matter.

      Sir, but you said that Islamists have not reached the critical mass in power structures and you said – as yet. Does that imply that you do not rule out the scenario of more turbulent development?

      Actually if we think about scenarios for Jordan and what would happen, I wouldn’t rule out any of the scenarios. The most likely scenario is that we will continue in this managed transition. But if there is a sort of severe economic deterioration and there is a severely high rate of unemployment, as we witnessed around the end of the last year, and increasing number of poor people, and also the rising sentiment against corruption and lack of action in that regard – that would drive increasing numbers to the streets and could witness a serious trouble in the country. This is one of the scenarios.

      But the second scenario which as I argue is the most likely is that the Government is trying to respond to demands at both levels by fighting corruption and having a more participatory policy making. The latest parliamentarian election which by far at least can be characterized as fair election in the sense that there was no forgery, there was no intervention as happened before in the previous elections, though it was boycotted by the Islamists and some opposition groups. But at least the outcome was uncontroversial compared with other previous elections.

      So, now we at least have a legitimate legislative body that can take some more fierce measures regarding the political reform in Jordan and introducing a new election law or a new set of rules for governing the new affairs in Jordan.

      Several times I’ve run into an assumption that Arab Spring poses a certain challenge for monarchy regimes. So, does that mean that Jordan might be one of the models to argument that position? Or is Jordan's case absolutely special?

      Actually I think there are some certain challenges and there are some certain threats. It depends on how you response to this new political landscape in the region and the new political landscape in Jordan. And this challenge could be turned into a threat if you do not act, if you do not react, also if you are sometimes too active and take serious steps towards changing the way that the state-society relations are shaped and how you gain the public support.

      But so far actually, since the revolution or the Arab Spring has started, Jordan has amended its constitution, which is for the first time in 50 years when they introduced some constitutional amendments which reduce the absolute power granted to the king and gave it to the Parliament, also reduce the executive body’s power and empower more the elected legislative body in that regard. So, actually there is a new dynamics that is taking place.

      Sometimes you would argue that maybe they are slower than they should be and they are quite hesitant but I think this is quite natural in a country where there is an entrenched interested groups that have benefiting from the existing arrangement for a long time and you would expect them to resist the shift to a new dynamics whereby new elites and new interests would emerge and take positions in the new political and economic landscape.

      Of course, if you wait, if you don’t react, if you think that all policies would apply today and would reach a conclusive agreement with your own society – then you are definitely mistaken. And a challenge is how really to predict and draft a new social contract and a new political arrangement whereby you increase the level of participation and you don’t take responsibility as a monarchy on your own part or as an individual institution, or a singular institution in the country.

      But Sir, definitely there are other factors which are out of control of the Government, like the situation around the country. So, in what ways does the situation in the neighbouring countries affect Jordan? And can the Government efficiently counter those dangerous effects?

      There are actually two aspects to what is happening in the region, and particularly in Syria. One thing is that this refugee crisis, which is a kind of humanitarian crisis which puts more pressure on the Government and its own resources and how they are responding to this. And this event unfolding in Syria, so far we don’t know how this would end and what kind of new political regime would prevail in Syria. That fight and that geopolitical threat is out of the Government’s hands, and I agree that that is something we have to include when we talk about the regional aspect of this Arab Spring in that regard.

      The second aspect is actually people at the street when they are watching what is happening in Syria, that devastation, that destruction of their infrastructure, the divide in the society, the casualties, the way that the Government and the Army is dealing with its own people has actually put a kind of break to the protest in the street and the public support in the sense that although we are demanding for reforming the polity and reforming the regime in Jordan but nobody wants Jordan to get into the chaotic state that we are witnessing in Syria in that regard. And therefore they are really backing off from supporting any uncalculated movement.

      So, I would say that what is happening in Syria to great extent has weakened the more drastic political demand in Jordan and you would find a lot of people actually leaning towards a managed transition. And probably the outcome of this election is actually the reflection of that, I mean the level of participation and the quality of the parliamentarians who reached the Parliament would reflect that flavor of the opposition but also the flavor of how can we improve the status quo and how can we move forward with the light at the end of the tunnel instead of jumping into the unknown. I think this is where the support and Syria has played a significant role in really creating a group of hesitant people because they are unsure about how this would unfold in Syria and what role could the international community play in the crisis similar to the ones in Syria.