A massacre in the Syrian town of Houla prompted international condemnation and calls for an end to the Assad regime on Sunday. The United Nations confirmed that at least 90 people in Houla had been killed, including 32 children under the age of 10. The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague posted on Twitter, ‘Will call on Russia to support rapid and unequivocal pressure on Assad regime and accountability for crimes’ while the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the incident as 'appalling', and added that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 'rule by murder and fear must come to an end.' The Syrian foreign ministry maintains that 'terrorists' are responsible for the attacks.
The sister of a Cheshire schoolgirl who went missing in 2003 witnessed their parents kill her, a court has heard. Iftikhar Ahmed, 52 and Farzana Ahmed, 49, from Warrington, deny the murder of 17-year-old Shafilea, whose remains were found in Cumbria in February 2004. At the start of their trial at Chester Crown Court on Monday, the jury heard Alesha Ahmed, watched her parents ‘acting together to kill her older sister. The prosecution alleges the couple killed their daughter because she was Westernised and refused to obey them. Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, said they embarked on a ‘campaign of domestic violence to force her to conform’. Alesha also revealed that her sister had drunk bleach on a trip to Pakistan after receiving marriage proposals there and being told by her mother she would not be returning to Britain. The trial continues.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Britain to have an economic plan B that should involve more quantitative easing and even cutting interest rates. Its annual look at the UK economy endorsed the government's deficit cutting plan, saying it was essential. But it said if growth failed to pick up, the government would have to consider delaying cuts. Christine Lagarde also warned Chancellor George Osborne, that if growth failed to take off in the coming months then VAT and national insurance should be slashed. She said that ‘growth is too slow and unemployment too high, and polices to bolster demand before low growth becomes entrenched are needed.’
Prime Minister David Cameron was asked to withdraw comments made at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday after he called the shadow chancellor Ed Balls a ‘muttering idiot’. The Speaker John Bercow requested that the word ‘idiot’ be retracted because it was unparliamentary, prompting the Prime Minister to state, ‘I will replace it with 'the man who left us this enormous deficit and this financial crisis'.’ Amidst claims that Balls had provoked the comment, he tweeted, ‘For the record, I was simply asking the Prime Minister, as he boasted the economy was on track: 'Tell us about the recession'...’ Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Labour peer Lord Adonis commented, ‘I can't think of anything Ed would rather have had happen during Prime Minister's Questions than to be called an idiot by David Cameron. He will be dining out on this for weeks to come and it will do his standing huge powers of good.’
Labour MPs are calling for an investigation into an expenses claim by the co-chair of the Conservative Party, Baroness Warsi, in 2008. Questions are being asked about whether she paid rent at a London house, for which she claimed an allowance. Lady Warsi said she made ‘appropriate’ payments equivalent to what she was paying at the time in hotel costs. At the time, peers living outside London were allowed to claim up to £165.50 a night subsistence for staying in the capital. Baroness Warsi says she was paying a friend who was renting the property, Naweed Khan. But the owner of the property in Acton, west London, Dr Wafik Moustafa, says he never received any money from her.
The 'yes' campaign for Scottish independence was launched this week. The 'Yes Scotland' campaign has said that it is seeking one million Scottish people to sign a declaration in support of independence by the time the referendum takes place in the autumn of 2014. The declaration states, 'believe that it is fundamentally better for us all if decisions about Scotland's future are taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is, by the people of Scotland.’ The First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said, 'We unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth. The people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland. We want a Scotland that's greener, that's fairer and more prosperous.’
A demonstration by the English Defence League (EDL) passed off peacefully in Redditch on Saturday afternoon. Police made just three arrests, two for suspicion of assault and one for breach of the peace, and there were just 40 EDL members who turned out for the march. West Mercia Police Superintendent Adrian Pass, said: “There were very few problems during the build-up to and during the assemblies and there were no reports of damage to property. ‘What arrests there were followed isolated incidents and our officers on the ground responded to these and dealt with them quickly and robustly. This was a great effort by the whole community and it is a tribute to all those involved that the town was calm and everything returned to normal so quickly.’
Sweden won the 57th Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday evening. Singer Loreen, who previously appeared on Swedish Idol, was voted the winner with 'Euphoria'. The competition saw twenty-six countries compete in the final, which took place in last year's winning country, Azerbaijan. Britain's entry, 76-year-old Engelbert Humperdinck, was the first act to perform in the contest with 'Love Will Set You Free', but finished in second from last place. Speaking after the competition, Humperdinck said, ‘I've had many highs in my career and Eurovision has been a wonderful experience,’ adding ‘I did the best for my country, the rest was out of my hands.’