The Wider World - news summaries
"...... governments were not, on the whole, staffed by people who had a grip, ... plans were what people made instead of thinking." Terry Pratchett, Night Watch p205BAE scandal latest
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Today's Papers, radio and other media
Sept 6 2007 ~The BBC drops Planet Relief See Independent ".... Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said the decision was very disappointing "considering the huge potential for the BBC in helping us more quickly make the shift toward a low-carbon society."
Andrew Neil, who presents the Daily Politics and This Week on the BBC, said: "I'm delighted the BBC has cancelled it. Our job is to cover these things, not to comment on them. There's a great danger that on some issues we're becoming a one-party state in which we're meant to have only one kind of view. You don't have to be a climate-change denier to recognise that there's a great range of opinion on the subject."
August 13 2007 ~ Karl Rove is leaving the Bush administration at the end of August Google has the latest news on this
August 3 2007 ~ Sir Ian Blair was really kept "almost totally uninformed"? Kept uninformed for at least 24 hours about the de Menezes doubts? The Guardian today
August 3 2007 ~ Big Brother Statutory Instruments... all published together just before the long Parliamentary summer recess Spyblog comments: "This Secondary Legislation, over which there has been little or no public debate, represents another Great Leap Forward into into a Surveillance Police Nanny State" and gives links to SIs that gives central government powers
August 2 2007 ~ "The Government's onward march towards a surveillance state has now become a headlong rush. They seem determined to hoover up the DNA details of as many people as they can, regardless of guilt or innocence." says Nick Clegg the Lib Dem spokesman on Home Affairs.
Ben Russell, the Independent's Political Correspondent: "People are being added to the Government's national DNA database at the rate of more than one a minute, figures from the Liberal Democrats have revealed. Their research showed that 547,020 profiles were added last year, the equivalent of 62 an hour, leading to claims that ministers were taking Britain into a "headlong rush" towards a surveillance state as numbers on the controversial police record topped four million..."
(As Andrew Marr points out in his History of Modern Britain, ID cards would not have stopped the July 7 attack. We are reminded too of the assertion by that most apolitical of all commentators, Quentin Crisp, : "If it can be done, it will be done " but even he had no idea of what would soon happen to the Home Office and its ever accelerating desire to hold central control whether civil liberties are put at risk or not. We are grateful at least to learn that the Human Genetics Commission has now launched a major inquiry into the use of DNA records by police. It will report in the spring, " it will look at the size of the DNA database, the large number of black men whose samples are recorded, and the difficulties in removing samples once they are entered into the system.")
August 2 2007 ~ "I never sought to injunct five million law-abiding individuals."
- scenes of near farce at the Royal Courts of Justice Independent "BAA suffered further embarrassment in its attempt to block a climate change demonstration at Heathrow, when a High Court judge admitted yesterday to being confused over exactly who the company wanted to ban from travelling to the airport......
Mr Lawson-Cruttenden said the company's ban was only aimed at "protesters" who were acting unlawfully, but was unable to clarify who might come into that category under the terms of the injunction.
Opponents of the injunction have claimed that up to five million members of environmental organisations could be affected.
Campaigners also claim BAA has resorted to "legal bullying" by trying to extend the ban to people using roads and public transport to get to the airport, even including the Piccadilly line on the London Underground.... Justice Swift said she was "frankly puzzled" and demanded a clear explanation of BAA's intentions when the hearing continues today."
(It turns out that the judge is, like many of us, a member of the RSPB and the Council For The Protection Of Rural England and a benefactor of the National Trust.)
August 1 2007 ~ "Next to Bush, Brown had only to read his script to look like a master communicator...."
Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian "... Brown wanted his Washington debut to look nothing like the Bush-Blair love-ins of the past, and he succeeded. .... a shift not only in the so-called special relationship, but a deeper, strategic rethink in what Brown pointedly does not call "the war on terror".
......while the president said the west confronted "an ideology of darkness", Brown declared that "terrorism is not a cause; it is a crime". That immediately denies the terrorist the dignity of an enemy and casts him instead as a mere criminal, to be hunted down chiefly by policework and intelligence. Noticeable too was Brown's desire to be specific: the conflict was not with "terror" - an abstract noun - but "al-Qaida-inspired terrorism".
... Bush still refers to Iraq as the "central front" in the war on terror, but Brown named Afghanistan as the "frontline". Above all, Brown put the US on notice for an eventual withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, dependent on the word of military commanders on the ground. ..... A headline in yesterday's Washington Post declared of Brown: "More bulldog than poodle." ..... his praise at Camp David was for America rather than the Bush administration, ... he made a point of visiting congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. From now on, the special relationship will be with the US, not the Bush White House... "
August 1 2007 ~The De Menezes official report, published tomorrow will apparently clear Sir Ian Blair but Andy Hayman, the overall head of counter terrorism and intelligence is to be singled out for having been deliberately misleading. The Guardian says, "....in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, sources say there were unconfirmed rumours that the man who had been killed may not have been one of the four suicide bombers being hunted. Mr Hayman is criticised by the IPCC for not passing this on to Mr Blair at a briefing he had with him at 6pm that night..
...Three officers who were facing criticism began an application for a judicial review of the findings alleging the IPCC had breached procedural rules.
As a result the IPCC is understood to have re-edited the report in the last two weeks to remove the bulk of the criticism against them.
The first official report by the IPCC into the shooting itself - which has yet to be published - recommended no disciplinary action against 11 officers, including the two firearms officers who shot Mr de Menezes on the tube.
Four senior officers - including Cressida Dick, the senior commander who ran the armed operation and is thought to have authorised the order to shoot - were told by the IPCC that they will have to wait for a decision on discipline until the end of a criminal prosecution of the Met under health and safety laws. Ms Dick has since been promoted.... ."
July 31 2007 ~US secretary of state says proposal to sell billions of dollars of weapons would shore up friendly regimes against al-Qaida and Iran. Guardian "..... The package also includes a 25% increase in arms sales to Israel over the next 10 years, ensuring it maintains its military superiority in the region...
....Iran has criticised the promise of arms, accusing the US of trying to sow fear and mistrust in the Middle East and of aiming to destabilise the region...
The arms deals need to be approved by Congress, where some members have said they plan to block the sale of advanced weaponry - including satellite-guided bombs, to Saudi Arabia."
July 31 2007 ~ George Monbiot: "The prime minister has broken his word and put us all at risk by allowing a US missile defence base on the North York Moors." Guardian "....Thus, without consultation or discussion, the defence secretary announced that Menwith Hill, the listening station on the North York Moors, will be used by the United States for its missile defence system. ....Des Browne's note asserted that the purpose of the missile defence system is "to address the emerging threat from rogue states". This is a claim that only an idiot or a member of the British government could believe. .....He claimed to have assurances from the US that "the UK and other European allies will be covered by the system elements they [the Americans] propose to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic". Browne must be aware that this is a United States missile defence programme. It incorporates no plans for defending other nations. The British government has handed over its facilities, truncated parliamentary democracy and put its people at risk solely for the benefit of a foreign power.
The diplomatic cost of this idiocy is incalculable..."
July 30 2007 ~ "Either he is running some of the most sophisticated and brilliant rings around all of us, or the British secret services who tried to run him are a bunch of complete Charlies..." Snowmail on Channel 4 News' exclusive TV interview with Bisher Al-Rawi, a survivor of Guantanamo who had lived in the UK for 20 years but never bothered to get a passport Jon Snow wrote, " I cannot do better than draw your attention to our press release, which has some of the more bizarre exchanges in my interview with him tonight. It is very evident that his sense of humour, together with his obsession with his no-claims bonus on his motorbike insurance, got him through."
On the subject of complete Charlies, Australian police yesterday said they held an innocent doctor as a suspect in the plot to bomb London and Glasgow because they were initially sent wrong information by Scotland Yard. See Guardian. Mistakes do happen - but the Sim card used to incriminate him was actually found in Liverpool and not in the burning Jeep in Glasgow at all.
July 30 2007 ~"Nearly a third of the population of Iraq is in need of immediate emergency
aid according to a new report from Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs (
The report said the Iraqi government was failing to provide basic essentials such as water, sanitation, food, and shelter for up to eight million people.
It warned the continuing violence was masking a humanitarian crisis that had grown worse since the invasion in 2003.
It also found that four million Iraqis had been uprooted by the violence.
More than two million people have been displaced inside the country, while a further two million have fled to neighbouring countries, according to the report...." BBC
July 30 2007 ~ Consider signing the petition
July 27 2007 ~ the British Airports Authority want to allow police to arrest demonstrators against airport expansion. See Independent
July 27 2007 ~ Indian doctor free. Charge after failed terror bombings in London and Glasgow was a mistake.The Guardian reports, ".... An Indian doctor will be freed from custody after Australia's chief prosecutor said that a charge linking him to failed terror bombings in London and Glasgow was a mistake....Haneef has been in custody since July 2, when he was arrested at Brisbane International Airport as he was about to fly to India on a one-way ticket. Haneef had been charged with providing reckless support to a terrorist organisation because he gave his mobile phone SIM card to his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, in July last year. He had faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. ..."
July 26 2007 ~ Are these the last days of the Oil Age? William Rees Mogg in the Times ".....For the future, oil supply will be a zero-sum game. Some nations will be "haves" but others will be "have nots".
The shortage of oil and natural gas, relative to demand, had already changed the balance of world power. Historians may well conclude that the US decision to invade Iraq was primarily motivated by the desire to gain physical control of Iraq's oil and to provide defence support to other Middle Eastern oil powers. Political motivations are always mixed, but oil is an essential national interest of the United States. If the US is now deciding to withdraw from Iraq, the price will have to be paid in terms of loss of access to oil.... ..nothing will take us back towards the innocent expectation of indefinite expansion of the first months of the new millennium."
July 26 2007 ~ " The whole process is alarming and I fear that this matter will seriously set back relations - both nationally and internationally - between the Hindu community, politicians and the government." New Kerala.com reports the Shambo case
July 25 2007 ~ Oil and gas may run short by 2015
Geoffrey Lean in Sunday's Independent. on the new 420-page report, Facing the Hard Truths about Energy (exc summary)
produced by the National Petroleum Council, a body of 175 authorities that reports to the US government. It includes the heads of the world's big oil companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum, Shell and BP. See summary on warmwell's oil depletion page
(The UK floods - whatever their "cause" - are a stark reminder of the fragility of our civilised way of life. The loss of energy throws it into chaos. It is interesting that the term peak oil, referred to here since April 2004, is now far more widely used and accepted.)
July 25 2007 ~ 28 day detention rule at risk again Independent "... Gordon Brown will reopen the controversy over detention without trial in a Commons statement today on planned new anti-terror legislation. Although ministers insist they want to reach consensus on the issue, Ms Smith made clear the Government was prepared to press ahead with extending the limit if it believed the step was justified on security grounds.
The Tories and Liberal Democrats, backed by civil liberties groups, strongly oppose an increase in the maximum 28-day period. They say it amounts to internment and argue it could backfire by causing resentment in Muslim communities...... David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, accused Ms Smith of a " distraction from the real and vital work we should be doing to maintain and protect our security". He added: "All the evidence so far is that 28 days is enough."."
The alleged attempted suicide bombings in London and Glasgow are, apparently, the "evidence" referred to by Jacqui Smith for extending the 28 day detention rule yet even John Reid said he had not seen evidence from police that showed it was necessary to extend the limit.
July 24 2007 ~ The Guantanamo Bay trial of Australian national David Hicks was a charade, according to the Law Council of Australia BBC ".... According to the report prepared by lawyer Lex Lasry, aspects of Hicks' plea agreement appeared "an attempt to protect the credibility and interests of the US government". The deal also meant that his tribunal became "a contrived affair played out for the benefit of the media and the public". It was "designed to lay a veneer of due process over a political and pragmatic bargain", the report said. Mr Lasry called the Howard government's support for the tribunal process "shameful" and said Australia's moral authority had been diminished by it. .."
July 24 2007 ~ The five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor are free. They stepped off the French presidential plane in Sofia early today, "greeted by the hugs of crying relatives and by Bulgarian officials". Cecilia Sarkozy helped secure their release. The International Herald Tribune says,"...The release came at the end of eight years of imprisonment, three trials and two separate death sentences. The medics deny infecting the children and say their confessions were extracted under torture. The Libyans agreed to the release only after the families of the infected children agreed to accept $1 million in exchange for dropping their demands for the medics to be executed, permissible under Libyan law. Most of the families received the money last week, after Bulgaria agreed to forgive Libya's foreign debt dating to the Cold War.... "
July 24 2007 ~ Flooding: "... it emerged last night that the government was warned in two separate reports that the plans in place to tackle flood risks were "complex, confusing and distressing for the public". In July 2004 the government said it needed to improve co-ordination between water companies, councils and the Environment Agency; then in 2005, the government also agreed to "work towards giving" the agency "an overarching strategic overview across all flooding and coastal erosion risks". Ministers promised to transfer this responsibility by 2006." Guardian
July 23 2007 ~ "I request a full, proper explanation and a thorough investigation into why he was refused intensive care and into the events surrounding and leading up to his sudden death." Readers of warmwell will be distressed to learn of Janet Hughes' bereavement - and of her continuing efforts to discover why her partner, Glyn, was hospitalised under the wrong patient number, wrong GP Practice and why his death certificate also had the wrong number. She is very concerned that his treatment was wrongly administered. She is still hoping for answers but was not allowed to read out the statement that she has now sent to warmwell.
July 23 2007 ~ "every direction ends in water...".Snowmail on Tewkesbury "There is an amazing spirit here. The community have risen to the occasion. They are friendly and upbeat, despite everything. Harry Jennings finished decorating his retirement home here three weeks ago. He had come out of the army 12 months ago and spent all the time since beautifying his semi-detached red-brick home. Today it is devastated. Tears well in his ruddy face. His grandchildren run about with fishing nets. Next door's goldfish pond has lost its contents. They are swimming somewhere down a sidestreet....But perhaps the most telling thing I have seen is the ongoing construction of 400 new dwellings on the flood plain right inside Tewkesbury...."
July 23 2007 ~ rise in animal testing continues BBC "....The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) announced it was taking the Government to the High Court in London on Tuesday over the fate of laboratory animals. The case will seek a declaration that the government has failed to ensure animal suffering in Home Office licensed laboratories is kept to a minimum. The judge will be asked to order the Home Office to re-examine its licensing regulations..."
July 22 2007 ~ Guantanamo inmates win right to see evidence A federal appeals court in Washington has ordered the United States government to hand over nearly all the classified evidence gathered against prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. See Sunday Telegraph who says this marks "a new blow to its controversial detention of alleged terror suspects. The White House had fought unsuccessfully to limit how much information it must share with the courts and lawyers of the 360 remaining detainees..." The ruling ...paves the way for a fresh round of legal challenges to the detentions at the US naval base in Cuba..."
July 22 2007 ~ Cash for Honours. The Public Administration Select Committee is poised to reopen its own investigation. JohnYates is keen to talk to the Committee. The Sunday Telegraph tells us that Sir Christopher Evans, the founder and chairman of Merlin Biosciences and the only secret lender arrested in the cash for honours investigation, has lost faith in the party to whom he secretly lent £1 million to help fund its 2005 general election campaign. Apparently he spoke to Lord Levy about the possibility of becoming a working peer and was even mooted as a future science minister.
In spite of Gordon Brown's insistence that he knew nothing of any secret loans, Sir Christopher's friends told the paper that had Sir Christopher been charged, he had intended to call him, as well as Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock, as witnesses to establish his credentials as a supporter and contributor to the party.
July 22 2007 ~ The second anniversary of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes was marked by a ceremony at Stockwell Tube station. There has been "insufficient evidence to bring charges" in that case too. Relatives of Mr de Menezes, along with friends and campaigners, gathered at the station at 9 o'clock this morning to hold a one-minute silence and lay flowers close to a makeshift shrine. See BBC. "On Friday night an image of the Brazilian - accompanied by the words "Two Years, No Justice" - was beamed on to the side of the Houses of Parliament."
July 22 2007 ~ no one minister is in charge of floods strategy Observer ".... pressure was growing on Brown last night as it emerged that no one minister is in charge of floods strategy, responsibility for which falls across four different government departments. Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said: 'There is a lack of clarity in the chain of command. We need to know who is in charge.'...."
Large areas of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire are still under water and there are eight severe flood warnings, covering Oxfordshire, Berkshire and parts of London.
July 22 2007 ~ Anyone who dares tentatively to question the received wisdom of global warming, however well read in the subject they are, seems nowadays to become an immediate pariah and worthy of angry scorn. Whatever the cause of the recent abnormal weather conditions, (and no one is certain), this questionning is the modern heresy and it is worrying. But perhaps things are about to change. Christopher Booker writes in the Sunday Telegraph:
July 21 2007 ~ "The awkward truth is that Campbell comes across as a thug and Blair as something of a weakling." On the subject of the Campbell diaries, Anthony Howard is quoted today in the Guardian. Matthew Parris too: "Unwittingly perhaps, this is a brilliant, absorbing account. Vivid, direct, immediate, and honest in its way, it draws you into a world for which 'evil' is hardly too strong a word ... If Bill Sykes's bull terrier had written an autobiography it would read like this: a snarling, compelling, gut-wrenching splicing of loyalty with faithlessness ... This is the diary of a dog, a sort of devil-dog.".
July 21 2007 ~ Cash for Honours Carmen Dowd, reviewing lawyer and head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said today: "The investigation was lengthy, which is an indication of the complexities involved and the diligence and professionalism of the officers conducting the inquiry.
While there has clearly been much speculation and rumour surrounding this case I must stress that my decision is based solely on a fair and balanced assessment of the evidence available.
Having considered all of the evidence in this case I have decided that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any individual for any offence in relation to this matter."
She added that a document explaining the decision is to be published today, and is also available to view on the CPS website (www.cps.gov.uk (pdf)). Paragraph 30 is interesting. " In relation to possible breaches of the 2000 Act, we are satisfied that we cannot exclude the possibility that any loans made - all of which were made following receipt by the Labour Party of legal advice - can properly be characterised as commercial."
(So there we are. The CPS did not pursue a prosecution because there wasn't the 'evidence' for a conviction...... in other words there may be a case - but not enough papers or records of telephone conversations to prove it. It might perhaps be helpful if the Public Affairs Select Committee (which has been carrying out its own investigation into the funding of political parties) called for the police evidence to be made public so that the court of public opinion should decide if there is a case to answer.)
July 21 2007 ~ The BBC suspended several editorial staff over the phone-in scandal today as Scotland Yard revealed the Corporation may face a criminal investigation. Independent
July 21 2007 ~ " It was all very well for Sir Liam to say that he was sorry. But sorry is not good enough. Article on Land-Care.org "...the Chief Medical Officer for England, he did not deny that he was the person responsible for a scheme that was so clearly riddled with unfairness to young doctors that it could not conceivably provide a competent appointment system. And so it turned out. Thousands of young doctors, expensively trained within the NHS and our Universities, feel desperately let down by a system that is manifestly unjust. Their complaint is that there is no possibility of the best applicants being successful within the jobs available: not by any believable criterion. As if that was not bad enough, the young doctors had already undergone the anxiety of their personal details (that they were required to submit within this scheme) being made widely available for others to scrutinise. Assurances given by the Department of Health over basic data protection meant nothing. And that is a serious offence..."
July 20 2007 ~ "Labour today held on to two safe seats with reduced majorities in the first parliamentary by-elections since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. But the results were also good news for Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who saw his party take second place in both the west London constituency of Ealing Southall and Tony Blair's old seat in Sedgefield, county Durham. .." Independent
July 20 2007 ~ Cash for Honours. No charges. The Scotsman quotes Angus MacNeil who said he would continue his campaign to establish what happened ".... "This is corruption and the message it sends out is that the UK is not a wholesome place. .....I don't want to see any individuals jailed but I want to find out precisely what took place. We now have this rather odd situation where politicians are talking about public funding for political parties but trying to ignore private funding. ...Hopefully the general public will see that the political culture has changed but there is the risk they might look at Mr Brown as being involved in this decision in some way. Personally I don't think he was and my advice to him and all politicians would be to steer clear - politicians shouldn't be involved in justice and the judiciary." Mr MacNeil added that the scandal, coupled with the Hutton inquiry and the Saudi arms deal had tarnished the UK's reputation worldwide.
July 20 2007 ~ Suit against Cheney dismissed A U.S. judge on Thursday threw out former CIA analyst Valerie Plame's lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials for disclosing her identity to the public. Reuters
July 20 2007 ~ The Danish military has secretly airlifted out of the country about 200 Iraqis who were helping its troops. The Iraqi civilians, mostly those working as aides and translators in the southern region of Basra, will now be offered asylum in Denmark. BBC
July 19 2007 ~ the critical issue is not how much oil is below ground but how fast it can be produced. See oil depletion page for Aspo's take on the NPC report. "The concern is not barrels of reserves but rates of flow. Although the NPC identifies "producibility" as a concern, it seems not to appreciate how depletion is ravaging the world's giant fields. Depletion is tireless, quick, inevitable, relentless and automatic. Investment is halting, slow, optional, costly and sporadic..."
July 19 2007 ~ Blogosphere not amused by Labour's u-turn on cannabis - nor the hypocrisy Chicken Yoghurt "Confession time
Back in the 1980s while I was at university, I wanted to be home secretary. I only thought about it a few times and did not enjoy it. I think it was wrong that I thought it when I did. I have not done for 25 years..."
and he asks
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ Tony Blair spoke to Rupert Murdoch three times in the 10 days before the outbreak of the Iraq war - once on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. Guardian "....The telephone conversations were among six calls between the two men detailed by the cabinet office in response to a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury. ... Lord Avebury said: "Rupert Murdoch has exerted his influence behind the scenes on a range of policies on which he is known to have strong views, including the regulation of broadcasting and the Iraq war. The public can now scrutinise the timing of his contacts with the former prime minister, to see whether they can be linked to events in the outside world."...."
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ "the fact that there are some people getting up and publicly expressing their concern and dissent is not surprising." The Guardian quotes ex-CIA officials who endorse Dick Marty's claim that it was CIA dissenters themselves who helped expose secret renditions
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ Home Office leak reveals Big Brother' plan for police to use new road cameras
".....Bit by bit, vast computer databases are being made inter-operable and yet the government seems to running scared of a full and public debate."
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "It is one thing to ask the public for special measures to fight the grave threat of terrorism, but when that becomes a Trojan horse for mass snooping for more petty matters it only leads to a loss of trust in government."..."
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ In Japan, the two earthquakes have caused radioactive water to be released from a Nuclear reactor The BBC reports today that the situation is worse than previously thought. "Owner Tokyo Electric Power company said 50% more radiation was discharged into the sea, following the magnitude 6.8 quake, than was earlier reported. ....... Despite Tepco's reassurances, the incident has triggered public concern and criticism of the company. The seven-reactor plant suffered more than 50 malfunctions as a result of Monday's earthquake. As well as the leak, a small amount of radioactive gas was emitted into the atmosphere. There was also a fire at an electrical transformer, and a number of drums containing low level nuclear waste came open after falling over. ....."
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ "Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran." Guardian ".... A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."....vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates. Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week..."
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ Diplomatic clash looms with US over BAE arms sale investigation says the Guardian as the UK is asked to hand over secret payments evidence. Refusal to do so, says David Leigh, could endanger sharing of intelligence. The US Department of Justice has taken over the corruption investigation after British prosecutors were forced to halt it late last year on alleged grounds of national security. (BAE) (Since the UK depends far more heavily on the US than on Saudi Arabia it is suggested that the definitiojn of "national security" may need to undergo a transformation...)
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ "George W. Bush acknowledged on Thursday that America was "tired of war" but showed no sign of shifting policy on Iraq in spite of a White House report that presented a mostly negative assessment of the situation there.
The report said the Iraqi government had failed to bolster adequately its security forces, which were still prone to sectarianism....The report said Iraq had made very little progress developing security forces that could operate independently of US soldiers. It had also shown little success in preventing Iraqi commanders pursuing sectarian goals....
In a symbolic move, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday voted 223-201 to approve legislation to bring combat troops out of Iraq by April 1 2008.
Defying a veto threat from Mr Bush, House Democrats hope the vote will put pressure on the Senate to attach a similar troop withdrawal timetable to a military policy bill it is debating. Two previous efforts either died in the Senate or were vetoed by the US president..." FT
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ an independent foreign policy decoupled from Washington.......Having lieutenants make nuanced speeches in Washington is one thing; saying no to the White House on a matter of war and peace is quite another. Julian Borger in the Guardian ".... The appointment of Mark Malloch Brown as minister of state at the foreign and commonwealth office could not have been clearer. At the UN, Malloch Brown was seen by the US as an American nemesis - so much so that the American ambassador at the time, John Bolton, tried to get rid of him.
The message is clear. Britain is an ally, but no longer an unconditional ally..... Dick Cheney .... is still the biggest player of all in the policy debate. Bush still talks to him last before making up his mind on important policy decisions. The vice president doesn't always win, but he often does. And unless there is a diplomatic breakthrough he may win again, over Iran.
If Bush does decide to bomb as a way of halting Tehran's nuclear programme, Brown will be faced with possibly the hardest choice of all. US bombers would need British bases in Diego Garcia and in Britain itself...."
Reuters says, " Prime Minister Gordon Brown denied on Friday a shift in foreign policy away from the United States after one of his ministers told an audience there that a country's strength depended on alliances not military might."
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ Gordon Brown's cabinet. Useful Guardian page. It does not, however, include the not unimportant detail that Hillary Benn, now at DEFRA, is a vegetarian.
June 24 2007 ~ "Only when he restores liberty can we praise him" Henry Porter in the Observer "... it is for the opposition to express in the most forceful terms that an overbearing state represents a threat to every part of our national life..".
June 24 2007 ~ Tony Blair "planned to scupper" Gordon Brown's career and break up the Treasury
just two years ago. Independent on Sunday He " had no intention of making a 'smooth transition' of power to Gordon Brown....The secret "Gov 2015" programme, the start of a 10-year plan to be put into effect the moment the 2005 election was over, is entitled "3rd Term Plan: Implementation Pack". It shows that the Prime Minister not only wanted a new Chancellor but also to emasculate the Treasury as a power base...."
So much for the Granita restaurant deal.
June 24 2007 ~ Tony Blair says a deal on a new EU treaty protects Britain's interests Critics call it a "major shift in power". The EU referendum Blog spot "Both The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times today offer powerful leaders demanding a referendum following yesterday's European Council. And both have also - with commendable speed - sussed that the treaty "mandate" is little more than another attempt to get the failed EU constitution, dressed in the different clothes of an "amending treaty", onto the statute book...."
June 23 2007 ~ "It's not a treaty" EU referendum Blog spot today "...it's a mandate for a treaty." So said Margaret Beckett, foreign secretary, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. And here is the "not a treaty"...All we need now to see is the statement from Blair, telling us what a good deal it all is for Britain (we don't need a referendum, honest guv!), and we have a full house. Then, with the fun and games over, our work will start, as we look at what the "colleagues" have actually agreed, and where they've sold us out. ....." (Be warned. The Not -Treaty is a large pdf file
June 23 2007 ~ Attorney general's announcement ends career dogged by Iraq and BAE case The Guardian "Lord Goldsmith dramatically announced his resignation as attorney general last night, days before he was expected to be ousted when Gordon Brown takes over .." See our Goldsmith page
June 22 2007 ~ "....an unregulated, unaccountable realm of the state with a vested interest in growing and intruding into personal freedom..
says Simon Jenkins in the Guardian on the Hancock egg ban ".... There is clearly now a danger in any film material depicting smoking, drinking, fast driving and adults cuddling young children (unless part of a balanced cuddling regime). The truth is that Blair has created a bureaucratic industry whose existence depends on stopping the British people having a good time and being responsible for their own life and liberty.
I puzzle over what can be done to reverse this puritan revolution. Its health and safety apparat enjoys a power similar to that of the military. This apparat exploits the politics of fear much as does the military. Its work is enhanced if it can scare us witless. Sadly a generation of British politicians has lacked the courage to stand up for common sense. The result is an unregulated, unaccountable realm of the state with a vested interest in growing and intruding into personal freedom..
...show me a politician with the guts to stop this nonsense.."
June 22 2007 ~ Guantanamo's future Washington Post "... The Associated Press reported yesterday that a meeting of several top Bush administration officials about Guantanamo's future was scheduled for today, but the White House denied such a meeting was taking place. .... Justice officials have argued against moving Guantanamo detainees to the United States because it would immediately grant the alleged terrorists habeas corpus rights...
The move toward closing the facility is rooted in part in the international outrage its existence has provoked, drawing criticism from international human rights groups, legal advocacy organizations and governments that can point to the indefinite detentions there as an example of U.S. hypocrisy about legal rights.... four suicides in the past year .....John Bellinger III, legal adviser to the State Department, said that the administration is "acutely aware" of concerns that have been raised at Guantanamo and understands that it has been "a lightning rod for international and domestic criticisms."
See also Yahoo news today
June 22 2007 ~ "...a steepening decline which will have massive consequences for the world economy and the way that we live our lives" "How Peak Oil went mainstream" is a Money Week headline this week: "Matt Drudge has just taken Peak Oil mainstream.
Up until today, you could randomly ask 10 people on the street what "Peak Oil" is and you'd get a blank stare from at least nine of them...."
See Peak Oil pages, on warmwell since April 2004.
June 21 2007 ~ "....That the Prime Minister is becoming increasingly loopy as he heads for the exit says something about him and the extraordinary way he distances himself from his own decisions, as if they were made by a mysterious "other" who had no choice at the time. But it should not be allowed to divert attention from the fundamental issue of Iraq, and why it was such a horrendously wrong decision....Britain needs a proper inquiry into the whole sorry story - not to apportion blame (we all know that it was Blair who pushed the project), but to answer just how it came to be that we waged war in the first place, neither coming clean with the public as to the reasons, nor taking any advice as to what we were letting ourselves in for. Sir David Manning's evidence makes clear what we all suspected, that Blair signed up to the invasion nearly a year before it happened, knew it was virtually unstoppable but kept telling the public it was not. It also makes clear that we gave it our full backing, despite concerns, and despite the fact that, according to Condoleezza Rice, we were given a way out. There's plenty here for an inquiry to establish, not least so that we can't be led down this particular path again. What it will not do is give cover for those who supported the war and now excuse themselves by saying it was only US incompetence that led it to go so wrong." Adrian Hamilton in the Independent
June 21 2007 ~ "the MBE was not awarded by the Queen. It was awarded by a committee connected to No 10, and then sanctioned by Mr Blair." Independent article by Joseph Corre, co-founder of Agent Provocateur, who turned down the MBE
June 21 2007 ~ "Rural communities should be free to raise their own taxes, elect new leaders, and plan their own futures if they are not to fall into poverty and neglect, say development experts who have visited hundreds of villages across the UK, Ireland and beyond, taking evidence from thousands of people. The 20 members of the Carnegie trust commission said they found many rural people beset by an array of problems which successive governments had either failed to see or neglected to address..." Guardian
June 21 2007 ~ There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Independent article today on Professor Barry Commoner, who realised in the 70s that when you throw something away, there is really no "away" to throw it to; it had to go somewhere in the biosphere, the thin layer of life enveloping the Earth
June 21 2007 ~ France bans BlackBerry " concern is that information sent from a BlackBerry gets routed via servers in the United States and Britain, and that this poses "a problem with the protection of information". Independent
June 18 2007 ~ "Christian Aid yesterday blasted British policy in the Middle East accusing the government of exacerbating the unrest in the region by refusing to engage with the Hamas group. However, the charity was swiftly rounded on by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett..." AFP
June 18 2007 ~ " The results will be Gaza in full darkness, with no cars" Guardian Many areas of Gaza have been without electricity since power cables were damaged in last week's fighting. Gazans also stockpiled food, emptying supermarket shelves of food and contributing to price rises.
Workers at Gaza's only fuel warehouse told the Associated Press that supplies had run out. .....
June 18 2007 ~ Blair to face grilling on Europe BBC Tony Blair will face questions about the planned EU treaty in his last Commons liaison committee session....critics say the treaty retains the substance of a constitution and must be put to the public vote. "
June 18 2007 ~ Derek Simpson of Britain's biggest union, Unite, will call on Gordon Brown today to sack Patricia Hewitt Guardian
June 17 2007 ~ Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq Nicholas Watt in the Observer " .... In a devastating account of the chaotic preparations for the war, which comes as Blair enters his final full week in Downing Street, key No 10 aides and friends of Blair have revealed the Prime Minister repeatedly and unsuccessfully raised his concerns with the White House..... He also agreed to commit troops to the conflict even though President George Bush had personally said Britain could help 'some other way'. The disclosures, in a two-part Channel 4 documentary about Blair's decade in Downing Street, will raise questions about Blair's public assurances at the time of the war in 2003 that he was satisfied with the post-war planning...."
June 17 2007 ~ "The United States has not shown that moderation pays or will accomplish more than violence." Robin Wright in the Washington Post on the deepening morass in the Middle East: "...The people we rely on the most to help are under siege, just as we are," said Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution fellow and former National Security Council staffer. "Three of the four leaders may either not make it [politically] through the end of the summer or find themselves irrelevant by then." The broad danger is a breakdown of the traditional states and conflicts that have defined Middle East politics since the 1970s, said Paul Salem of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Beirut office. An increasing number of places -- Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories -- now have rival claimants to power, backed by their own militaries...Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and State Department policy planning chief during President Bush's first term. "The United States has not shown that moderation pays or will accomplish more than violence.. The U.S. bears responsibility, both for things it's done, particularly in Iraq, but also for things it's not done, which is where the peace process comes in," Haass said. "The president never developed his idea of a Palestinian state. He never used his leverage to help Egypt get launched on a trajectory of greater openness." The United States finds itself active in more Middle East theaters than ever but with less ability to influence events, said Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group. "It is very much now manipulated in places that it once thought it could manipulate."
June 17 2007 ~ Agent Orange: United States maintains there is no scientifically proven link between the wartime spraying and more than three million people Vietnam says are disabled by dioxin over three generations. Reuters "...... the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange has tried to put more than 30 U.S. companies that manufactured the defoliant on trial. Two years ago, a U.S. federal court turned down the case. The plaintiffs are appealing that ruling in a U.S. appeals court in New York on Monday, but it could be months before the judges announce any decision...."
June 17 2007 ~ Robert Zoellick, almost certain to be the next head of the World Bank...took aim at Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, warning that his oil-fueled socialist revolution was headed for trouble...Chavez...has said he wants to withdraw Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil supplier, from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, blaming their decades-old economic recipes of tight budget control, privatizations and open markets for poverty across Latin America...." Reuters See also John Pilger below (Guardian) on the populist movements that are rising up against western intervention in Latin America.
June 16 2007 ~ The US-led administration set up to run Iraq following the invasion in 2003 was a "dysfunctional organisation" which almost completely ignored the British, according to its director of operations. Patrick Wintour in theGuardian
"Andrew Bearpark, probably the Coalition Provisional Authority's central British figure, also revealed that when he asked for details of the plan to restore the Iraqi power supplies, he was given a one-page piece of paper with a list of a dozen Iraqi power stations and their potential output, amounting to what he describes as "a wish list". "That was the CPA plan", he said in an interview with the Guardian.
He described Britain as "being complicit in Iraq's current position as a failed state due to its the failure to prepare a postwar plan."
....He said there was never a consistent approach to police training. He revealed that in 2003, three different individuals were handed the responsibility for Iraqi police training, including Yorkshire's chief constable, Doug Brand. The British had told Mr Brand he would replace the initial adviser on police training, Bernie Kerrick, the New York officer responsible for the city's response to 9-11, but his elevation was blocked by the US.
Mr Bearpark said British attempts to be signatories to the formation of the CPA as a joint occupying power under the Geneva convention were brushed aside by the Americans.."
June 15 2007 ~The rising price of oil is producing what Pentagon contractor LMI calls a "fiscal disconnect" between the military's long-range objectives and the realities of the energy marketplace. "The need to recapitalize obsolete and damaged equipment [from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan] and to develop high-technology systems to implement future operational concepts is growing," it explained in an April 2007 report. However, an inability "to control increased energy costs from fuel and supporting infrastructure diverts resources that would otherwise be available to procure new capabilities.......the American military has been transformed into a "global oil-protection service" for the benefit of U.S. corporations and consumers, fighting overseas battles and establishing its bases to ensure that we get our daily fuel fix. It would be both sad and ironic, if the military now began fighting wars mainly so that it could be guaranteed the fuel to run its own planes, ships, and tanks -- consuming hundreds of billions of dollars a year that could instead be spent on the development of petroleum alternatives. " See article from Tom Dispatch
June 14 2007 ~ "Politicians can no longer hide from the shameful truth behind Iraqi civilian deaths in British custody" Phil Shiner in the Guardian ".....The Lords held by a four-to-one majority that the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights did apply in south-east Iraq in detention cases, including that of Baha Mousa, who died in British military custody in September 2003 after sustaining 93 separate injuries. Following yesterday's damning verdict, there must now be a full, independent and public inquiry..."
June 14 2007 ~ "Scientists have criticised a major review of the world's remaining oil reserves warning that the end of oil is coming sooner than governments and oil companies are prepared to admit....A survey of the four countries with the biggest reported reserves - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait - reveals major concerns. In Kuwait last year, a journalist found documents suggesting the country's real reserves were half of what was reported. Iran this year became the first major oil producer to introduce oil rationing - an indication of the administration's view on which way oil reserves are going....." Independent - and for full background see warmwell's oil depletion news page updated since April 2004.
June 14 2007 ~ "An internal FBI audit has found the agency violated rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data on domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years.....some two dozen of the newly discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have, the audit found." Reuters
June 14 2007 ~"....These days, with
misnamed "reality" programmes consuming much of television like a plague of
cane toads, cinema has been handed a timely opportunity. Such are the dangers
imposed on us all today by a rampant, neo-fascist superpower, and so urgent
is our need for uncontaminated information that people are prepared to buy a
cinema ticket to get it.
The War On Democracy examines the false democracy that comes with western corporations and financial institutions and a war waged, materially and as propaganda, against popular democracy..." John Pilger (Guardian) on the populist movements that are rising up against western intervention in Latin America and why only the cinema was big enough to tell their story
June 13 2007 ~ Mischief: A Dirty Weekend in Hospital
The programme this evening at 8 pm on BBC2 showed "an angry army of a hundred MRSA victims armed with mops launch a mass guerrilla clean-up of ten British hospitals." The excellent Tim Samuels and his cameraman made at least one viewer (me) want to cheer aloud. With humanity, self deprecation and humour they coaxed stories from those of all ages and backgrounds who had suffered so unnecessarily and whose losses and grief were understated and the more heartbreaking as a result. The programme celebrated common sense and sense of responsibility - a stark contrast to the arrogant Mrs Hewitt, sweeping past Tim Samuels' request that she - as her Tory and Lib Dem counterparts had agreed - provide an MRSA check nasal swab. She had been delighted to see the film crew - until MRSA was mentioned. This demonstration of the continuing problem of hospital-borne disease got right up the noses of Patricia Hewitt and her Ministry of Health. The letter sent to Samuels, a classic of po-faced New Labour Speak, was read aloud with incredulity and cold disgust by the brave participants.
It was an insight into just how far from reality the smooth assurances of Ministers can be and best of all, extraordinarily entertaining.
June 13 2007 ~ Tonight on Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman goes to Northumberland, close to where the Foot and Mouth epidemic began, to see how rural life has changed during the last decade and finds some people are still reeling from what happened then. One former farmer told him she believes that "country people are the most ignored minority group there is".
June 13 2007 ~ "As the importance of recycling becomes more apparent, questions about it linger. Is it worth the effort? How does it work? Is recycling waste just going into a landfill in China? The Economist offered some answers this week. ".....one of the biggest barriers to more efficient recycling is that most products were not designed with recycling in mind. Remedying this problem may require a complete rethinking of industrial processes."
June 13 2007 ~ Baha Mousa : Today's ruling means that anyone held in custody abroad by the British Army, will be protected by the Human Rights Act. As such they will have a right to life, a right not to be tortured and the right to access to a fair trial.. Guardian "The House of Lords today delivered a resounding blow to British conduct in the war in Iraq by ruling that human rights law applies in the case of an Iraqi civilian who died in UK custody after alleged torture. The law lords decided that the UK was obliged to conduct an independent investigation into the death of Baha Mousa (see below), who died after sustaining 93 separate injuries in Basra in 2003. ...."
June 13 2007 ~ Who exposed this colossal bribery? Why, the feral beast
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian says "...Whitehall has been complicit in a colossal, secret and illegal act of bribery to win a grossly inflated contract. That is why Goldsmith had to suppress the SFO inquiry and why BAE dare not let Lord Woolf near the stinking trough. And Blair has the gall to call the press cynical...
He writes that in "any honest country the al-Yamamah participants would be in jail. ...I thought that little more could be squeezed from the Guardian's BAE/Saudi corruption story until the BBC's revelation on Monday that long-denied bribes had actually been countersigned by the Ministry of Defence. Those who jeer at the ethical standards of foreign governments should understand that these officials, were they in Washington, would now be in handcuffs..."
More on the BAE page and the Goldsmith page
June 13 2007 ~ "The arguments deployed in favour of the Bill were spurious and specious and collapsed after the most cursory scrutiny..." Tom Brake, Lib Dem for Carshalton and Wallington, has brought in a new bill
June 13 2007 ~ Mrs Beckett's farewell to Lord Levy will cost the country an estimated £6000 according to the Guardian
June 12 2007 ~ BAE: Lord Goldsmith remained silent on whether he had advised that information about the Bandar payments be concealed from the OECD - the world's anti-corruption organisation. Guardian "....Robert Wardle, head of the SFO, says that he himself took the decision to withhold the facts from the OECD on the grounds of "national security". This followed meetings with Lord Goldsmith's staff and MOD officials. Lord Goldsmith insists that he did not personally give the order, but has not so far disassociated himself from it. Lord Goldsmith is responsible for the SFO to parliament, and played a key role in the termination of the SFO's inquiry into allegations about the Saudi contract..." Goldsmith page. BAE page. ( Tony Blair had called in Lord Goldsmith and insisted that "national security" could be said to be at stake [document], rather than simply "commercial interests". M16, however, refused to tell the OECD that they "agreed with [this] assessment"...." Guardian )
June 12 2007 ~ "Only 17 per cent of people now believe the government can be trusted to put the interests of the country ahead of their party, the classic trust test. More than double this number - 38 per cent - had faith in the government in 1986........... The pattern is reinforced by figures also showing a striking decline in people trusting the reliability of government information. More than two-thirds, 68 per cent, believe official figures are distorted to support leaders' arguments..." Guardian
June 11/12 2007 ~ Tories demand an Iraq war inquiry Guardian "The Conservatives today demanded a full-scale inquiry into the Iraq war and its aftermath - warning that without a swift investigation the government could dispose of embarrassing evidence. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, insisted there should be an in-depth inquiry into the war before it was too late. And in a damning display of distrust in the Blair government, he told MPs the investigation must happen before "memories fade, documents are shredded and emails become untraceable.......The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, faced ire from MPs when she branded the call for a rapid investigation "self-indulgent". Mrs Beckett was heckled loudly..." .
June 11 2007 ~ Blackwater - the world's "most secretive and powerful mercenary firm", carrying out quasi-military operations on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the U.S. The Daily Mail's headline yesterday was "The picture that proves 'torture flights' are STILL landing in the UK"
June 11 2007 ~ "BAE Systems used a secret payments system to transfer more than £13m to a company linked to David Hart, the controversial former Conservative defence adviser, according to legal sources. He has acted as a lobbyist both for Britain's biggest arms company and also for the giant military manufacturer Boeing in the US. Mr Hart, an Old Etonian who lives in a Suffolk mansion, became notorious in the 1980s for helping the then prime minster Margaret Thatcher break the miners' strike...This is the latest allegation to emerge from corruption investigations into BAE, being conducted by prosecutors from three countries - Switzerland, Sweden, and the Serious Fraud Office in the UK...." Guardian (See BAE page)
June 11 2007 ~ Centrica may be target of Russians Guardian .....the idea of a major British purchase has alarmed the government in the wake of Russia's bullying of some of its neighbours by using gas supplies as a weapon.
Gazprom bought the British energy retailer Pennine Natural Gas last year and has been busy signing up big name firms and organisations to expand its British customer base...."
The possibility that the Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom could use its gas exports as a form of political pressure is a cause for concern. Wsws.org wrote last year "... Many politicians regard this dependence as a political danger that will intensify if Gazprom buys up European power suppliers and thereby not only supplies gas to Europe but also increasingly controls the European infrastructure for its distribution..."
June 11 2007 ~ Clostridium difficile Scotsman ".... Previously, reporting of the infection was voluntary and many boards did not submit information on all infections. Now early figures, released to The Scotsman under Freedom of Information laws, are starting to reveal the true extent of the problem. From October 2006 to March 2007, 2,996 cases of illness related to C difficile were reported to HPS. If cases continue at the same rate, the figure could hit 6,000 or more after a year. But many believe the number might be even higher when taking into account people under-65 who pick up the infection.....Katherine Murphy, from the Patients' Association, said that health chiefs could hide behind the statements claiming that C difficile was coming in from the community. But she added that in many cases, while someone might have come into hospital from outside with the infection, its origins could be traced back to an earlier contact with healthcare settings. ..."
June 10 2007 ~Sir Menzies Campbell wants an inquiry into the allegations surrounding the Al-Yamamah deal. BBC
"He is particularly concerned about allegations that the attorney general concealed from investigators from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that payments were being made over a decade to a Saudi Prince.
"What general advice does the SFO have from the attorney general?" he asked on the BBC's Sunday AM programme. "Were there any conversations between anyone in the attorney general's office and the Serious Fraud Office and Number 10 about what was to be done in relation to the OECD?"
Lord Goldsmith has denied the allegations and BAE Systems has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing."
June 10 2007 ~"The BAE episode is serious for several reasons. A British company has escaped criminal investigation on grounds other than the evidence; this has been admitted by the prime minister, attorney general and head of the Serious Fraud Office. Caren Ross in the Guardian "..... Our interests in Saudi Arabia cannot be seen in isolation. This episode has undermined and will continue to undermine British credibility in supporting the rule of law across the board, not just on corruption. ..... This episode shines an unforgiving light not only on the actions of the attorney general and prime minister. It also shows the mental landscapes of those who frame and make our foreign policy. Their assumptions about what foreign policy is "about" and which priorities to choose are simplistic and arbitrary - they may be right, but they may also be terribly wrong...." See BAE page
June 9 2007 ~ "...... those now angling for a pardon for Libby, who say that his trial "criminalized political differences." It would be truer to say that pardons of government felons have the effect of politicizing criminal differences." An article in the Huffington Post by David Bromwich, deserves to be read in full
June 9 2007 ~ "the US is planning a long-term military presence in Iraq" Guardian " This is a geopolitical development of the first importance. In spite of current difficulties - May was the most lethal month for American soldiers since 2004, with 119 killed - the United States firmly intends to maintain control of Iraq and its vast oil reserves. Iraq's neighbours, and energy-hungry states and oil companies, will take note."
June 8/9 2007 ~ Extraordinary rendition on trial Snowmail tonight "Accused of carrying out one of the most controversial aspects of America's war on terror: 25 CIA agents and US airforce colonel - have gone on trial in Milan. They're charged with kidnapping a Muslim cleric off the street as he walked to his mosque in 2003. Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr - better known as Abu Omra -- was abducted in February 2003 and flown via Germany to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He was released in February this year. None of the Americans turned up for the trial, which began in a courtroom lined with empty cages. One Italian agent who was also charged WAS present - saying he had nothing to hide."
June 8 2007 ~ Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees
involving Council of Europe member states: second report
Explanatory memorandum* (pdf)
Draft resolution and recommendations: a "spider's web" of illegal transfers of detainees woven by the CIA in which Council of Europe member states were involved, and expressing suspicions that secret places of detention might exist in Poland and Romania. ..." "7. The detainees were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, sometimes protracted. Certain "enhanced" interrogation methods used fulfil the definition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture.."
Warmwell's secret renditions page According to the Daily Mail, the British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia was also a "black site" used to process "ghost" prisoners whose locations were kept secret.
June 8 2007 ~ Radioactive Wastes: Waste Management Hansard
Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to reply to the Fourth Report of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Fourth Report on Radioactive Waste Management: an Update. (See below)
Ian Pearson: The Department expects to provide the Government's response to the Committee's Report within the recommended two month deadline.
June 8 2007 ~ extraordinary renditions- the smoking gun Snowmail's comment: "the Council of Europe report on extraodinary rendition....is dynamite.
The report, to be broadcast on C4's Dispatches, says categorically for the first time that illegal detention centres around the world existed and were set up by the CIA, in effect to kidnap and torture people from whom the USA wished to get information.
It really is the smoking gun as it were, of what has been suspected and hinted at for so very long."
So prisons did indeed exist in Romania and Poland and there were flights which had been "permitted" simply by signing agreement.
See Wikipedia's entry on Extraordinary rendition
June 8 2007 ~ Dr Caroline Lucas has beaten Gordon Brown and David Cameron to be named politician of the year in the second Observer Ethical Awards. She said, "This award isn't really about me - it's about the Green Party, its policies and its fresh approach to politics. People are increasingly disillusioned with the three main parties and are looking for a progressive alternative which genuinely has social and environmental justice at its heart. Cameron and Brown may talk green - but it's only the Green Party that's doing green, as an increasing number of people up and down the country are realising."
June 7 2007 ~ BAE paid Prince Bandar 1 billion Independent "British arms company BAE Systems secretly paid a Saudi prince more than £1bn over a period of more than 10 years, an investigation has revealed. ...The Serious Fraud Office discovered the payments during an investigation into the Al Yamamah deal which was halted last year after a review by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith. He said it was in Britain's national interest to drop the investigation.
Prince Bandar and the MoD declined to comment on the matter, and BAE said that the company acted lawfully at all times. "
See warmwell's BAE page for the background. We have covered this since last November when it emerged that Mr Blair had overruled his own cabinet, and forced through a deal on behalf of BAE Systems, the UK defense contractor and Carlyle Group partner. The decision to end the Serious Fraud Office inquiry came after reports that the Saudis were threatening to pull out of a deal to buy 72 Eurofighter jets from BAE.
June 6 2007 ~ Radioactive waste - the government's plans are 'incoherent and opaque' according to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee which, on Sunday, issued a news release attacking the government's proposals for the next phase of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme. They therefore "recommend that the government should establish a statutory body, independent of day to day government control and accountable to Parliament, to oversee the implementation of the geological disposal programme". They also "criticise the institutional framework for the implementation stage of the MRWS programme. They label the government's plans 'incoherent and opaque' and urge the government to establish independent expert scrutiny and clear lines of accountability for the next stage of the MRWS programme." (Many thanks to Bryn Wayt for this link.)
June 6 2007 ~ G8 - Heiligendamm is now a total exclusion zone, ringed by razor wire and patrolled by the German police. Telegraph Blog "The only way for we journalists (sic) to get there is on a special steam train leaving from our media centre. But the protesters - who are all dressed as clowns - managed to block the line and the train didn't even make it out of the station. ...." A commentator on the blog remarks, "One group of clowns imitates every movement and action of the police confronting them: trying a new kind of disaramament? The members of another group shed all their clothes and lock arms in order, presumably, to confuse and disorient the police."
Monsters and Critics reports: ".... Police used water jets and tear gas to clear thousands of protesters off Highway 105 which runs past Heiligendamm at a distance of about 6 kilometres. The protesters also sat down on a coastal lane leading into Heiligendamm from the east and an antique steam railway on the coastline from the west, forcing organizers to transport reporters to the venue on Germany Navy boats. Another sit-down protest halted traffic on the autobahn near Rostock Airport, where the non-German delegations were landing Wednesday to travel to Heiligendamm by road. Exultant demonstrators voiced surprise that the police had not stopped them. Organizers said they had 10,000 protesters on the move in the countryside near Heiligendamm to disrupt the summit. ..."
June 6 2007 ~ G8 George Bush's chief environment adviser, James Connaughton, has said the summit would end without an agreement on fixed targets. But see Peak Oil page latest: "Severe climate change unlikely before we run out of fossil fuel."
June 6 2007 ~ What Blair has done for Bush. Some plain speaking in the Independent today, "..Blair gave Bush unquestioning loyalty from first moment Iraq invasion was raised. Stood by him throughout the aftermath of the 2003 invasion despite no WMD being found, and the deaths of 149 British soldiers in the war... Betrayed the British nationals held without trial at Camp Delta by remaining silent for the first two years. The Prime Minister only called for the camp to be closed in March 2006, after it had been open for four years....Blair allowed secret flights from American "black site" prisons to refuel at British airports in the knowledge that prisoners would be tortured, but concealed the information from European investigators....PM's support for US policy undermined his position with Palestinians and his desire to be an honest broker. Backed Bush in refusing to demand an immediate ceasefire during the Israeli onslaught in Lebanon last year....Sacrificed his popularity in the country and provoked hostility within the Labour Party and around the world, to preserve what is seen as a one-sided relationship - summed up in the phrase 'Yo, Blair!' ...."
June 6 2007 ~"... talk about being opaque, this is a government that is so hidden from us..." Seymour Hersh on Dick Cheney "....any time you have violent anti-Iran policy and anti-Shia policy, you have to start looking there. Look, clearly this president is deeply involved in this, too, but what I hear from my people, of course, the players -- it's always Cheney, Cheney. Cheney meets with Bush at least once a week. They have a lunch. They usually have a scheduled lunch. And out of that comes a lot of big decisions. We don't know what's ever said at that meeting. And this is -- talk about being opaque, this is a government that is so hidden from us. ..."
June 6 2007 ~ "An experienced British officer serving in Iraq has written to the BBC describing the invasion as "illegal, immoral and unwinnable..." John Pilger " .. which, he says, is "the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers". In a letter to the BBC's Newsnight and Medialens.org he accuses the media's "embedded coverage with the US Army" of failing to question "the intentions and continuing effects of the US-led invasion and occupation". He says most British soldiers regard their tours as "loathsome", during which they "reluctantly [provide] target practice for insurgents, senselessly haemorrhaging casualties and squandering soldiers' lives, as part of Bush's vain attempt to delay the inevitable Anglo-US rout until after the next US election." He appeals to journalists not to swallow "the official line/ White House propaganda"...."
June 6 2007 ~ "Republican candidates have broken ranks and turned on President Bush with a series of withering remarks about his performance on Iraq, immigration, and his failure to control spending and corruption..." Telegraph
June 6 2007 ~ Rulings leave Guantánamo in legal limbo Guardian " George Bush's administration faced renewed demands yesterday to abandon the separate legal system operating at Guantanamo Bay and to try detainees at military and civilian courts..."
June 6 2007 ~ China tightens food safety standards amid a string of scares over toothpaste, pet foods, and other goods. BBC
June 6 2007 ~ "Fears that global sea levels this century may rise faster and further than expected are supported by a studyshowing that 300 glaciers in Antarctica have begun to move more quickly into the ocean. ...rising temperatures are causing glaciers as far apart as Alaska, Greenland and now Antarctica to break up and slip into the ocean at a faster rate than expected. Independent
June 5 2007 ~ "The mission is no longer worth another life" Sir Christopher Meyer today told the Iraq Commission, the cross-party group set up to review the situation in Iraq. Britain's ambassador to Washington during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq said he believed British and American lives were being "wasted" in Iraq. See Channel 4 News
June 5 2007 ~ Venezuela to Propose the Most Sweeping Restrictions on GMOS in the Western Hemisphere (more on GM page)
June 5 2007 ~ White House Criticizes Guantanamo Trial Ruling Washington Post ".....Two military judges on Monday dismissed charges against a Canadian and a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo Bay, ruling that their war-crimes trials cannot move forward under the current military commissions law, a decision that could delay future legal proceedings at the U.S. detention facility.....Army Col. Peter Brownback's decision suspended the case against Omar Khadr, a 20-year-old detainee who allegedly killed a U.S. serviceman during fighting in Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr, whom the military has labeled an "enemy combatant," was scheduled to be arraigned on Monday in what was to be the second case to go before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.....Khadr will not be released following the decision...."
June 5 2007 ~
"Libby's lawyers say he should be given leniency because of his lengthy career in public service."See Valerie Plame case.
Washington Post "... They also note that nobody was charged with leaking Plame's identity and suggest that Libby should not be punished as if he was a leaker. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has asked that Libby serve up to three years in prison, in part because he has shown no remorse. Libby "lied repeatedly and blatantly about matters at the heart of a criminal investigation concerning the disclosure of a covert intelligence officer's identity," Fitzgerald wrote in court documents. "He has shown no regret for his actions, which significantly impeded the investigation." If Libby addresses the court and does not apologize, he risks reinforcing that image..."
Update. Libby was given two and a half years for perjury. It remains to be seen what President Bush will do about this.
June 5 2007 ~ "You know, when I was over there, it was a real space and nothing was media and when I came back everything was media and the war wasn't here. There was no one to relate to and you try to talk to the people who are closest to you and everyone's forming an opinion about what the war is and what it means and they have no understanding of what is actually going on. And that's what Iraq Veterans Against the War is trying to do today."
June 4 2007 ~ China's political system... is appalling. But the trend, at least, is towards smaller government, localism and personal freedom. In Europe, the opposite is true. That is our tragedy. Daniel Hannan wrote (Telegraph Blogs) "It's a polar switch. The Orient is becoming decentralised, dispersed and dynamic, just as the Occident becomes centralised, sluggish and sclerotic....Yes, China has serious economic problems. Much of the country is still in poverty (which is why the EU gives China development assistance, simultaneously complaining about the unconditional nature of China's own financial support for various African dictatorships). And China's political system, as I wrote on Tuesday, is appalling. But the trend, at least, is towards smaller government, localism and personal freedom. In Europe, the opposite is true. That is our tragedy."
June 4 2007 ~Meanwhile, on the subject of Russia, Hilary Alexander writes on her Telegraph Blog about Gorbachev at his fundraising " Russian Midsummer Fantasy" at Hampton Court Palace on Saturday night
June 4 2007 ~ Russia. Putin warns Europe in missile row and says Russia may point missiles at Europe if the US goes ahead with its missile defence plans BBC President Putin also says the UK extradition request over Alexander Litvinenko's murder is "pure foolishness" BBC
June 3 2007 ~ Analysts in 2002 Described Worst-Case Scenarios, Including Anarchy in Iraq, Global Antipathy to U.S. Washington Post " On Aug. 13, 2002, the CIA completed a classified, six-page intelligence analysis that described the worst scenarios that could arise after a U.S.-led removal of Saddam Hussein: anarchy and territorial breakup in Iraq, a surge of global terrorism, and a deepening of Islamic antipathy....while the Bush administration was putting a spotlight on the CIA's intelligence on Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be wrong, it either buried or ignored the agency's more accurate assessments of the problems that could emerge in the aftermath of regime change in Iraq, the Senate report said...."
June 3 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown is planning a raft of new anti-terror measures when he becomes Prime Minister later this month." ITN He "wants to revive proposals to extend beyond 28 days the period during which police can question terror suspects before charge - a move which was rejected by MPs in 2005, in Tony Blair's first defeat as Prime Minister in the House of Commons."
June 3 2007 ~ Six U.S. soldiers reported killed in Iraq attacks Reuters " Six U.S. soldiers were killed in five separate attacks across Iraq on Saturday, the U.S. military said on Sunday, days after it recorded its deadliest monthly toll in more than two years. .."
June 3 2007 ~ To drop a cigarette stub is a worse offence than theft Booker's Notebook "... As from July 1, when the great smoking ban comes into force, an army of council officials will be empowered to levy on-the-spot fines of £80 on anyone dropping a cigarette-end in the street. ... In the light of new guidelines that shoplifters can be let off if they mumble an apology when caught, discarding a cigarette butt is now officially viewed as a worse offence than stealing (pity the Almighty didn't have that in mind when he issued the Ten Commandments).."
May 30 2007 ~ "Why Casey Died For Nothing" - Cindy Sheehan has had enough. Cindy Sheehan www.informationclearinghouse.info "..This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources...."
May 29 2007 ~ Five Britons kidnapped in central Baghdad Guardian" Urgent attempts under way to free four security guards and finance expert seized by gunmen in police uniforms.....The incident also raises the effectiveness of a joint US-Iraqi security crackdown in Baghdad, widely seen in Washington as a last-ditch attempt to stabilise the Iraqi government. The missing Britons have not been named for their own safety. ..."
May 28 2007 ~ The entire Labour party shares blame for the horrors in Iraq
Guardian Haifa Zangana: The members may want to pin responsibility on just one man, but they have a moral duty to question their own role. ....In the fifth year of occupation, Iraq is a country of horrors, invoking comparison in the mind of Iraqis with the barbarity of the Mongols in 1258. An academic, who fears for his life, told me last week that every aspect of human rights has been violated.
...The overwhelming majority of Iraqis want the occupation forces out now, and they believe that the enemy is the occupation itself and not "al-Qaida and Iranian-backed elements", as Blair tells the world....."
May 28 2007 ~ Army must come clean on torture in Iraq, says the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights "Stark inconsistencies" emerged in evidence about the death of an Iraqi detainee. Now the MoD is being pressed for answers says Jamie Doward in the Observer
May 28 2007 ~ "Fraud has become endemic" "..... Ourselves ten years ago would not recognise the British society of today. Blair suffered from the Genesis Delusion. He thought he merely had to say "Let there be X" and there would be X. He never quite cottoned on to the truth of Bismarck's dictum that "Politics is the art of the possible." It is the inevitable outcome of electing a leader who has never run anything, but no doubt the British will do it again. In turn this is the inevitable outcome of the youth and celebrity culture..... Ten years ago, for example, electoral fraud was unknown in Britain. Widespread voting fraud is now acknowledged, all just to gerrymander a few more votes for the governing party...." www.numberwatch.co.uk
May 28 2007 ~ " It has not
been a partisan debate" On Thursday the House of Lords held a most important debate entitled Government: Civil Service and Judiciary . Lord after lord looked with saddened and critical eye at the state we are in. Lord Howe of Aberavon (Geoffrey Howe) was congratulated for "hitting the jackpot" for having initiated the debate. Lord MacNally said, " As the Prime Minister-designate goes off on Recess, he
would profit from taking with him the Hansard of this debate. It has not
been a partisan debate."
All should read it.:
May 28 2007 ~ "...this manifestly centralising tendency displayed by Her Majesty's Treasury over the past 10 years certainly does not bode well for the resurrection of Cabinet government when the new tenant moves into No. 10 Downing Street next month.
Nothing more clearly indicates the need for Cabinet government than the 2004 report of the privy counsellors under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, on the Iraq war intelligence. It clearly highlighted the resources of wisdom, expertise and experience available in the independent Civil Service, not least in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - and not to mention Cabinet Ministers themselves - which was almost systemically neglected throughout that period. The privy counsellors, in paragraphs 606-11 of their report, express,
May 28 2007 ~ "even more need for clear and transparent parameters for procedure"Baroness Shephard of Northwold "..... .....Since 1997, literally innumerable agencies, quangos, regional bodies, task forces and review bodies have been set up by this Government, but I am not aware of the accountability of any of them being made clear. Indeed, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will be able to tell us how many there now are. Their existence certainly puzzles the public, who know that they cannot turn to these bodies to hold anyone to account..."
May 28 2007 ~ "...the Chancellor has a Council of Economic Advisers, which has been estimated to cost more than £1 million a year. Five of its members are appointed on special adviser terms. Why did the Chancellor find it necessary to gather advisers around him in this way when he was surrounded by the undoubted intellects who exist in large numbers among Treasury civil servants? Has the advice of his civil servants been replaced and, if so, why was that necessary?
It is not surprising that some of the Treasury's Permanent Secretaries and other civil servants have found working with the Chancellor's regime very difficult. If they did not adapt to the Chancellor's way of doing things, they found it difficult to survive. His way of doing things was well documented in an excellent book by Mr Tom Bower, entitled Gordon Brown. This included bypassing the Civil Service way of documenting meetings and decisions; that was also a feature in the report produced by the noble Lord, Lord Butler..." Baroness Noakes
May 28 2007 ~ " It is quite inconsistent with our historic constitutional procedures that such major constitutional changes should have been introduced without any of the normal processes.." Lord Lyall of Markyate "...It is astonishing that, in the declining years of his historic term of office, the Prime Minister should have inflicted on the country two such hastily conceived and ill-thought-out policies: first, the decision in 2003 to seek to abolish the position of Lord Chancellor and to push the judiciary out of Parliament into a so-called Supreme Court; and, now, the creation of a new so-called Ministry of Justice, combining two major Home Office functions and the Lord Chancellor's responsibility for the judiciary and the Courts Service. It is quite inconsistent with our historic constitutional procedures that such major constitutional changes should have been introduced without any of the normal processes - without Green Papers, without White Papers, without consultation and without even full and careful consideration within the Civil Service beforehand.. Both policies appear to have been dreamed up by Tony Blair and his Home Secretaries with the very minimum of consultation even within government. ...""
May 28 2007 ~ an extraordinary amount of material to suggest that things are not well. Lord King of Bridgwater".... I was struck today by a newspaper article by Mr Peter Riddell, who is not the most tabloid of journalists, on the new Ministry of Justice. He said that the changes had been handled in a "typically inept way" and that the new ministry had been introduced in "a similarly crass manner". That is a pretty severe verdict. When one considers the background of the Rural Payments Agency, HIPs and doctors marching in the streets in protest at the shambles that has been made of their future career prospects, one realises that there is an extraordinary amount of material to suggest that things are not well."
May 24 2007 ~ a verdict whose implications are potentially hugely significant for both the government and anti-war protesters Richard Norton-Taylor, writing in the Guardian yesterday:
"Two protesters who broke into an RAF base to sabotage US B-52 bombers by clogging their engines with nuts and bolts were acquitted yesterday after arguing that they were acting to prevent war crimes in Iraq.... a verdict whose implications are potentially hugely significant for both the government and anti-war protesters....The protesters argued that war crimes would be committed in the bombing as the B-52s carried cluster weapons - which scatter unexploded "bomblets" that kill and maim civilians. They argued that the aircraft were also armed with "bunker busting" bombs tipped with depleted uranium that fragments and spreads radioactive toxins harmful to civilians.
The prosecution conceded only that delaying the bombers would have prevented civilian casualties since it would have allowed people fleeing cities more time to escape. ...."
May 23 2007 ~ the jury agreed that the Fairford protesters were right to try and stop the illegal war in Iraq and the use of depleted uranium. "The jury at Bristol Crown Court this afternoon declared Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch, the two Oxford peace activists (known at the 'B52 Two') not guilty. They had been accused of conspiring to cause criminal damage at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on 18 March 2003 when they tried to prevent B52 bombers from bombing Iraq.......Philip Booth, a Stroud District councillor, said: "This Court decision is most welcomed. The war, as the Green party have said all along was illegal. We now must withdraw our troops from Iraq, declare we will not participate in any attack against Iran and pursue a foreign policy independent of the US administration." ." (From Stroud Green Party news release)
May 22 2007 ~ BAE scandal See below. Corruption investigation seems to indicate possible links between the cash for honours and the BAE scandals - both involving Jonathan Powell.
"Police investigating alleged corruption by Britain's biggest defence company sought access to Downing Street's computer system to trawl for e-mails sent by and to Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff. They suspected that Lord Powell, his brother, an adviser to BAE Systems, the firm at the centre of the inquiry, was lobbying Downing Street aides to have the investigation stopped. They approached officers investigating the cash for honours scandal, which had access to Downing Street e-mails, to see if they could trace e-mails between the Powell brothers. They were looking for evidence that individuals might have tried to influence the outcome of the police investigation. " (Sunday) Times
May 22 2007 ~ A US doctor who pledged to treat al-Qaeda fighters has been convicted of "conspiracy to support the terror network". BBC "........He said he only agreed to help treat injured al-Qaeda fighters because of his medical obligation to treat everyone. After the verdict, Sabir's lawyers said he was "deeply disappointed". "It is another example of the erosion of constitutional rights that we suffer post-9/11," lawyer Ed Wilford said. New-York born Sabir could face a maximum of 30 years in jail."
May 22 2007 ~ The British establishment is not at ease with freedom of information says David Leigh at www.indexonline.org "....An Act that ought to be strengthened is proving instead to be, day by day, under an insidious attack.
MPs themselves, smarting no doubt from the revelations about their own expenses, have not risen up against this plan. Instead, they have cooked up a private member' s bill of their own, promoted by former Conservative chief whip David Maclean, to exempt themselves entirely from the Act. The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill is said to be designed to prevent disclosure of letters from MPs to public bodies on behalf of their constituents - or, of course, on behalf of other, less salubrious, interests. Ostensibly, the concern is for privacy. But the Act already protects constituents' identities. The real effect of the bill would be to enable politicians not only to mis-spend the taxpayers'
money but also to lobby under cover. This is the very opposite of accountability.
Along with the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, Leader of the Commons Jack Straw is backing the bill...."
May 22 2007 ~ America's reputation is in tatters says Max Hastings in the Guardian "But after Bush, recovery could be swift The next US president will inherit a legacy of global mistrust. Restoration of its authority must begin with a painful exit from Iraq...A few months ago I heard a British diplomat in Washington bemoan the horrors of the current administration. We must just somehow stagger through to the end, he muttered....... "Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be worse than what we have got now.".......The last 20 months of Bush will seem interminable. As my diplomat friend in Washington said, the world must just muddle through them as best it can, noses held and teeth clenched. What follows American withdrawal from Iraq is likely to be horrible. But if a new president acts swiftly, we may be surprised by how soon the US recovers from its self-inflicted wounds. Then, if we are fortunate, it can begin to restore its shattered moral authority abroad."
May 22 2007 ~ Prosecutors considering charges over the poisoning of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko are to make an announcement. BBC Two other former agents Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun, who saw Mr Litvinenko on a number of occasions, have been widely mentioned.... But the pair, who are resident in Russia, have repeatedly denied any involvement. The Director of Public Prosecution, Sir Ken Macdonald, is holding a news conference in London in connection with the case. Any charges against the pair or other individuals could lead to a diplomatic row between Moscow and London, says BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera.
May 22 2007 ~ Serious fighting between Lebanese troops and Islamic militants continues Despite talk of a ceasefire dozens of people including civilians have died during the clashes, at the Nahr al-Bared camp outside Tripoli. The Red Cross has asked for a truce to let casualties out of the camp, home to some 40,000 Palestinian refugees, and allow humanitarian supplies in. See BBC
May 21 2007 ~ Secret US plot to kill Al-Sadr after luring him to peace negotiations at a house in the holy city of Najaf in August 2004
Patrick Cockburn Independent
"The US Army tried to kill or capture Muqtada al-Sadr, the widely revered Shia cleric, after luring him to peace negotiations at a house in the holy city of Najaf, which it then attacked, according to a senior Iraqi government official.
The revelation of this extraordinary plot, which would probably have provoked an uprising by outraged Shia if it had succeeded, has left a legacy of bitter distrust in the mind of Mr Sadr for which the US and its allies in Iraq may still be paying...... It is not known who gave the orders for the attempt on Mr Sadr but it is one of a series of ill-considered and politically explosive US actions in Iraq since the invasion. In January this year a US helicopter assault team tried to kidnap two senior Iranian security officials on an official visit to the Iraqi President. Earlier examples of highly provocative actions carried out by the US with little thought for the consequences....The US authorities appeared to have little understanding of the reverence with which the Sadr family was regarded by many Iraqi Shia..." The article should be read in full
May 21 2007 ~ Brown must act on US rendition flights, say MPs Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian Britain's records on rendition are wholly inadequate, says the parliamentary rendition group chaired by Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP for Chichester. "Questions have been raised about 170 possible CIA rendition flights through the UK," the group says. "The government does not appear to have independent records to indicate whether these were or were not rendition flights."
May 21 2007 ~ Bush presidency worst in history, says Carter "..... speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Carter criticised Mr Blair... for his close relations with Mr Bush, particularly concerning the Iraq war. "Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient," Mr Carter said when asked how he would characterise the British prime minister's relationship with Mr Bush. "I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world." He told the BBC that if Mr Blair had opposed the invasion he could have made it tougher for Washington to shrug off critics. "One of the defences of the Bush administration in America and worldwide ... has been, 'OK, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us'." Guardian
May 21 2007 ~ Blair to replace Wolfowitz?
"......That anger, and resentments bred during Mr Wolfowitz's two-year tenure over his previous history as an architect of the Iraq war, as well as his policies at the bank on corruption, global warming, family planning and Iraq, fuelled calls from European officials yesterday for the Bush administration to move quickly in nominating a replacement.
The US traditionally retains the right to choose the president of the World Bank, but Mr Bush's selection must then be approved by the bank's board.
There was already mention of possible contenders yesterday - including the prime minister, Tony Blair...
.....Although Mr Wolfowitz is barred from making personnel decisions during his remaining days at the bank, staff said yesterday that they feared his coterie of trusted Bush administration officials who came to the bank with him in 2005 would try to exact revenge for his downfall." Guardian
May 21 2007 ~ "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is likely to resign before the Senate takes up a no-confidence resolution, according to Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. A vote on such a measure could come as early as this week." Washington Post See below
May 20 2007 ~ BMA Chairman James Johnson resigning because of the long-running scandal over the job-selection process for our junior doctors. Snowmail "They have been enraged for months over the computerised system which has forced a number of major u-turns from a government which started out trying to convince anyone who would listen, that it was all a question of technical 'teething troubles'. Today's developments are further proof of the absurdity of that proposition. In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Johnson talks about a 'failure of policy' and describes the medical profession in the UK as being ' on the edge'. See also Guardian
May 20 2007 ~ "Scotland on Sunday can reveal the Prime Minister elect is working on a withdrawal plan that could see troop numbers slashed from 7,000 to as few as 2,000 within 12 months. If implemented, the strategy would culminate in total withdrawal no later than spring 2010, the date by which Brown must go to the country to seek his own mandate. Policy under Tony Blair involved keeping a small force in Iraq for many years to come. But it emerged last night that President George Bush has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement from Downing Street within Brown's first 100 days in power...."
May 20 2007 ~ "If it's in our villages, are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation
where cameras are at every street corner?" The BBC quotes the deputy chief constable of Hampshire Ian Readhead:
"And I really don't think that's the kind of country that I want to live in."
There are up to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain - about one for every 14 people.
May 17 2007 ~ This Friday the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, the private member's bill introduced by David Maclean MP, will once again be debated on the floor of the House of Commons. If passed, it would exempt both Houses of Parliament and all communications between MPs and public authorities from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Liberal Democrat MPs at Westminster, spearheaded by Norman Baker and Simon Hughes, are working hard to stop it. You can help us by contacting your MP - via www.writetothem.com - and asking them to publicly declare their opposition to the Bill. Of all public servants, MPs have least right to be exempt from public scrutiny.
May 17 2007 ~ "... it emerged last weekend that Campbell and others had misled the Hutton Inquiry about the missing draft of the September 2002 dossier by Foreign Office spin doctor John Williams. The information commissioner revealed that John Scarlett, former Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chairman and now head of MI6, had asked Williams to produce what was the first full draft of the dossier. This directly contradicted the evidence Scarlett and Campbell gave Lord Hutton. The story should have been broken last weekend on the BBC, but the Beeb bottled it and the rest of the media - which missed the point the first time around - largely followed its (failure to) lead..." Comment is Free Guardian Chris Ames
May 15/16 2007 ~ "...Of course, the daily catastrophe that is postwar Iraq was not part of his equation; the reason his legacy is holed permanently below the waterline, and the good is overwhelmed, is that so many had his nightmare in plain sight." Times "Mr Blair misjudged it all: the threat of galvanised insurgency; the divisions within Iraqi society; the unpopularity of an invading army, no matter its mission; the ineffectiveness and corruption of his partners; the reaction at home; the impossibility of the predicament, which is his true bequest to the country.
In any summation of the Blair years, all bar Iraq should be a footnote. One commentator even wittered on about Tony Blair's Olympics. Get one thing straight. When our six billion quid sandpit lies dormant after the 2012 circus has left town, this country will still be knee-deep in the Middle East...."
May 14 2007 ~ Another antidote to adulation is the article today in the Guardian byProfessor Avi Shlaim "... America and its pillion passenger in the "war against terror" are now embroiled in a vicious, protracted and unwinnable conflict.
Blair has the audacity to say that God will be his judge over the Iraq war. This is a curious attitude for a democratic politician to adopt. History will surely pass a harsh judgment on Blair. He has the worst record on the Middle East of any British prime minister in the past century, infinitely worse than that of Anthony Eden, who at least had the decency to accept responsibility for the Suez debacle."
May 13 2007 ~ "... In the first months of the occupation of Iraq, al-Qa'ida for the first time found a sympathetic environment in which to grow." Patrick Cockburn's article (11th May Independent) is essential reading.
May 13 2007 ~ "all those front-page stories trumpeting a "reprieve for pounds and ounces" woefully missed the point." Booker's Notebook explains that
May 12 2007 ~Thatcher... turned on the traditional civil service, believing that business was always more efficient. Blair and Brown carried on her tradition of privatization and the gutting of the civil service. Salon.com "...... "Special advisors" and P.R. people fanned out across Whitehall to ensure that power would be concentrated in political hands; the traditional administrative caste was sidelined. Shortly before the outbreak of the Iraq war, I interviewed Douglas Hurd, who had been Thatcher's foreign secretary, and indeed a failed candidate for the leader of the Conservative Party, who lost because he was seen as too posh. He was certainly part of the old establishment, and he was horrified by the thought of the war, and said so. So were people like him throughout Whitehall and in the upper reaches of the army.
All of that institutional wisdom was discarded by Blair because, like Thatcher, he had concluded that the only empire that made sense in the modern world was the American one. ..."
May 11 2007 ~ "his trinity of psychological flaws - the pathological craving for attention exhibited since toddlerhood; the monomaniacal certainty in his own wisdom and moral rectitude that precluded him listening to dissenting voices; and that utterly amoral disregard for the facts - combined to entice him into Iraq, and annihilate whatever remained of his reputation for competence, judgment and humanity...." Matthew Norman's article in the Independent
May 11 2007 ~ Freedom Of Information: Government could be forced to publish secrets of Iraq memo The FOI request was actually made 18 months ago. See Independent
May 11 2007 ~ Reporters' round-up: Blair legacy BBC Extract: "On the streets of Baghdad, though, most people seemed indifferent to Mr Blair's impending departure. The day-to-day struggles of surviving amid the chaos and violence that grip the city four years on from the US and British invasion are uppermost in people's minds. .."
May 11 2007 ~ Cost of ID cards rockets by £840m Guardian " The official estimated cost of the controversial national identity card scheme has soared in the last six months by an extra £840m to a total of £5.75billion, according to new Home Office figures .."
And the Independent "John Reid was accused of spin after a report on the soaring bill for ID cards was delayed until the day of Tony Blair's resignation."
May 11 2007 ~ John Prescott is off as well Independent "....Freed from the chains of office, Mr Prescott has the media who made his life a misery in his sights. Friends have advised caution, but now he is free to speak his mind, there are some things he wants to get off his chest. "
May 10 2007 ~"... ill-fated war with Iraq claimed two more victims yesterday" Top news this afternoon is not the long goodbye of the Prime Minister but rather the prison sentences and large fine judged appropriate for whistleblowers David Keogh and Leo O'Connor ( Reminder of chronology of the leaked memos)
The Independent reports it thus: " Tony Blair's ill-fated war with Iraq claimed two more victims yesterday when a civil servant and an MP's researcher were convicted of disclosing details of a secret conversation between the Prime Minister and President George Bush.
Last night, MPs, lawyers and civil rights groups described the prosecution as a "farce" and accused the Government of misusing the Official Secrets Act to cover up political embarrassment over the war. .." As Simon Jenkins said of the Attorney General at the time, "...Goldsmith risks going down in history as the most miserable holder of his Janus-faced office. He is supposedly an "independent law officer" and adviser to the government (as over Iraq). Yet he also enjoys the patronage of the prime minister as his private legal counsel (as over Iraq). ..."
May 10 2007 ~ "Spin, Iraq, cash for honours, politicisation of the civil service, sofa-style government, "Cool Brittania," the Millennium Dome, the "Third Way," and spending his last two years in office obsessing about what he would be remembered for. Cruel? Maybe. But someone has to balance out all this absurd memorialising that's going on." Part of Paul Linford's blog today.
May 8 2007 ~ The end of the enforced outlawing of "the pound, ounce, yard, foot, the mile and the pint.." Neil Herron of the Metric Martyrs has sent this campaign news release
May 8 2007 ~ Bush won't give up military option on Iran - says Condoleedza Rice Reuters "The American president will not abandon the military option and I believe that we do not want him to do so..." ( One wonders who the "we" is.)
May 8 2007 ~ in the years since 1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125 per cent, the highest increase of any country in the world. Independent ".....Denis Halliday, who resigned as the UN's humanitarian coordinator in protest at the sanctions, said at the time: "We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral."
Kathy Kelly, an anti-war campaigner with Voices in the Wilderness, said last night: "The punishment of children through the economic and military war against Iraq has been the greatest scandal."....."
May 6 2007 ~ "We are about at the acceptable limit of restraints on freedom of speech and association.." Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, formerly chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), quoted in the Independent on Sunday
May 6 2007 ~ "...It was precisely because Blair tried to run so much that he achieved so little. Not only did he attempt to accrue all government power to himself, he also tried to take it into new areas, setting targets for smoking, obesity, drinking and teenage pregnancy, to give just a few examples. As Riddell observes drily, "what ministers say has run well ahead of what they can do". Guardian Man without a shadow by Peter Wilby
May 6 2007 ~ " Home Secretary John Reid has said he will stand down as home secretary in June "when Tony Blair goes". BBC "Mr Reid said he will back Gordon Brown as the next Labour leader but wants to give the chancellor "space" to establish himself. He told the BBC's Politics Show he will quit the Cabinet and return to the backbenches..." BBC
May 4 2007 ~ "the onus is upon him to provide chapter and verse" Brian Jones (see warmwell pages on Dr Jones) Guardian letter commenting (along with others) on Geoff Hoon's strange article yesterday in which he said, "Although I have reconciled it in my own mind, we perhaps didn't do enough to see it through the Sunni perspective. Perhaps we should have done more to understand their position..."
May 3 2007 ~ General Sir Michael Rose on Newsnight last night The experienced general who led forces in Bosnia said it is vital Britain and America "admit defeat" and withdraw to protect soldiers' lives. His new book compares the insurgents' tactics with those of George Washington's forces in the American War of Independence. "I don't excuse them for some of the terrible things they do, but I do understand why they are resisting." He said
May 2 2007 ~ ".... Perhaps we should have done more to understand their position." the Guardian, Geoff Hoon's admission (he is now minister for Europe) that "we didn't plan for the right sort of aftermath" in Iraq.
May 2 2007 ~ Big Brother microphones could be next step Telegraph Hidden mini-cameras and microphones that can eavesdrop on conversations in the street are the next step in the march towards a "Big Brother" society, MPs were warned yesterday.
May 2 2007 ~ Blair - the Movie"... a British director disclosed yesterday that he had made a damning Michael Moore-style documentary feature film about Mr Blair's 10 years in office which he is to release nationwide on June 8. The 90-minute film, Taking Liberties, focuses on the erosion of civil liberties and the increase of surveillance under Labour. The director, Chris Atkins, said yesterday that he wanted to expose "the Orwellian state" that now threatened Britain as a result of Mr Blair's policies..." Telegraph
May 2 2007 ~ " Envoys 'warned of Iraq invasion nightmare' Telegraph International News Every British ambassador in the Middle East warned the Government that invading Iraq would be a "nightmare" and turn popular opinion against the West, a former envoy has told The Daily Telegraph.... "Every ambassador in a Middle East post accurately predicted what a nightmare invading Iraq would be," .... Sir Ivor Roberts, now the president of Trinity College, Oxford,........ who retired last year, called for an official inquiry into the war in Iraq. "How we landed up in this mess is going to be the subject of a long inquiry, I hope," he said..."
May 2 2007 ~ Bush vetoes Democrats' attempt to set timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq Guardian President says naming a date would help enemy Conflict in Congress reaches new pitch ..."The Democrats lack sufficient votes to muster the two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress needed to overturn the veto. In that knowledge, they have indicated they might agree to an alternative bill that would fund the troops while at the same time introducing benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet. Failure to hit the benchmarks would trigger US troop withdrawals. However, any reference to withdrawal is likely to be resisted again by the Bush administration..."
May 2 2007 ~" Let us not mince words. Hewitt is being...terminologically inexact." From NHS BLogdoctor " I have just had an email from a BBC television producer. He says:
May 1 2007 ~ Hansard April 30 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan):" Identity cards can be made compulsory for all United Kingdom residents only after further primary legislation. However, we will start issuing identity cards to British citizens from 2009, alongside compulsory biometric immigration documents to foreign nationals from 2008."
May 1 2007 ~ " ....The New Labour deal on civil liberties was that we gave up certain rights in return for security. Now one side of the contract has been broken.." Martin Bright in the New Statesman "...... When Straw took over at the Foreign Office, much of the responsibility for community cohesion went with him, a historic error in the fight against extremism. However, like Gordon Brown, he is right to identify the battle for hearts and minds as the only way forward now. Brown's new cultural Cold War is at yet undefined. But a good place to begin, the moment he becomes Prime Minister, would be to overturn John Reid's decision not to launch an inquiry into 7/7. There could be no better way of beginning to find common ground on the most urgent issue of our times - and thus begin a new chapter in the "British story".
May 1 2007 ~"the welfare of the animals does not seem to bother them..." The manager of one of the raided properties, Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre, quoted in the Telegraph.
There has been a massive swoop on so-called "animal rights extremists" The Telegraph reports " ....across the UK and Europe .... 700 officers targeted 30 properties in 12 British counties, as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands, arresting 30 people in the "substantial" operation..... The manager of one of the raided properties, Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre in Ince Blundell, Merseyside, claimed police used "heavy-handed" tactics in the raid this morning.
Dave Calendar said some of his staff were injured as they attempted to protect the animals and some animals had been released during the raid. "They have been extremely heavy-handed in their approach, and the welfare of the animals does not seem to bother them.".....15 men and 15 women arrested, 27 remained in custody and were being questioned at police stations across the country ."
May 1 2007 ~ "that would mean accepting the replacement of a relatively secure system by an insecure one, then bolting on ID cards as the sticking plaster..." The Register yesterday; " ID card will be needed to vote, says UK election watchdog"
May 1 2007 ~ Gordon Brown has, it seems, awarded Mr Blair "ten out of ten" for his achievements in office ITN, reporting that Tony Blair will finally make a statement about stepping down next week, adds, "Mr Blair said he would give the Chancellor the same score for his record....."
May 1 2007 ~ "Brushing aside White House opposition, Republican leaders in Congress said yesterday that negotiations on a second war spending bill should begin with benchmarks of success for the Iraqi government, and possible consequences if those benchmarks are not met.
Democratic leaders will send a $124 billion war funding bill to President Bush today that would establish such benchmarks and tie them to troop withdrawals, which would begin as early as July 1 if they are not met. The bill will arrive at the White House on the fourth anniversary of Bush's speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, when he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq before a banner that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished...." Washington Post
At least 104 United States soldiers were killed in Iraq in April, the highest of any month so far this year. Another 13 deaths among other allied forces have been reported, making it the highest monthly death toll for combined allied forces in more than two years. The final total for the month could be higher.
May 1 2007 ~ July 7 victims deliver inquiry demand Guardian".... today delivered a letter to the Home Office calling for an "independent and impartial public inquiry" into the attack. The letter, addressed to the home secretary, John Reid, called for a wide-ranging investigation into the communication between government, police and the security service. ..A survivor of the Piccadilly line bomb, Rachel North, said it was clear the bombers did not "come out of the blue" and urged people to sign a petition posted on the Downing Street website demanding a public inquiry. "I do not blame people in the security services for their mistakes and failure to use intelligence. It is failing to admit mistakes and then trying to cover up mistakes which is unforgivable and inexcusable," she wrote on her blog...". ."
May 1 2007 ~ "......Tenet did not say those things publicly at the time of his resignation, when Bush was running for reelection and championing progress in Iraq, and he remained publicly silent for three years, until he completed the book, which garnered a $4 million advance." The Washington Post quotes a former senior CIA officer who left the agency shortly after Tenet resigned in 2004. ".... I think he is a guy that did care and tried to do the right thing, but he didn't have the moral courage to stand his ground when you need to."
April 28 2007 ~ "public criticism from an active duty officer is rare and may be a sign of growing discontent among military leaders at a critical time .." The Guardian on the criticism by Lt Col Paul Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment who has written that the generals went into Iraq prepared for a high-tech conventional war but with too few soldiers, having no coherent plan for postwar stabilization. He says they failed to tell the American public about the intensity of the insurgency.
April 28 2007 ~ "When government personnel risk lives for the sake of a headline, why should we accept erosion of civil liberties? " asks Marina Hyde in the Guardian
April 28 2007 ~ "Judges blow hole in Blair's anti-terror strategy" Guardian Deportation deal with Libya overturned. Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty, said the case showed the government had to work to raise the human rights standards of friendly countries rather than dilute British standards. Amnesty International said: "Britain should not be trying to cut a deal with torturers. If people are suspected of committing a crime, they should be charged and put on trial." Mr Justice Mitting said that it would be "on the cusp of legality" to keep the Libyan terror suspects in detention after they won their appeal.
April 27 2007 ~ "Basra is lost, they are in control now. It's a full-scale riot and the Government are just trying to save face" A returning soldier is quoted in the Independent He says that British soldiers are now "sitting ducks" to an increasingly sophisticated insurgency.
Meanwhile, Channel 4's Snowmail reports that "....Nick Paton Walsh, who has been delving into post-traumatic stress disorder stats and come up with the fact that PTSD has doubled among still-serving soldiers coming back from Iraq, in the past year. When you take into account the uncharted areas of territorials and the fact that PTSD can take many months, or even years, to surface you've got a big issue. Those caught up in this have been telling their stories."
April 27 2007 ~ "Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister (Baroness Amos) accept that her reply to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, about the particular vulnerability of those who have worked as interpreters and drivers for British forces did seem rather weak? People who have risked their lives by working with British forces do represent a real obligation for this country, given that we bear responsibility for getting them into these particular difficulties in Iraq? Can the Government not set a higher priority on looking after those who have risked their lives to assist British troops in Iraq?" Hansard (Baroness Amos was unable to answer the question about how many Iraqis who have worked for us have been allowed into Britain.)
April 27 2007 ~ George Tenet expresses skepticism about whether the increase in troops in Iraq will prove successful. "It may have worked more than three years ago," he wrote. "My fear is that sectarian violence in Iraq has taken on a life of its own and that U.S. forces are becoming more and more irrelevant to the management of that violence."
He has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a "serious debate" about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States. The 549-page book, "At the Center of the Storm," is to be published by HarperCollins on Monday. See New York Times
April 27 2007 ~The Bush administration is fighting not so much a war on terror as "a war on justice". Guardian article by the US lawyer, Brent Mickum "Advancing legal arguments which the civilised word reviles as morally repugnant, the government renews its claims that: 1) prisoners have no right to counsel; 2) the military is free to disregard the attorney-client privilege that, among other things, may be outlining legal strategy; and 3) prisoners' attorneys who have security clearance are forbidden access to classified information. ...Of all the prisoners at Guantánamo, only 8% were found by the military to be al-Qaida fighters. The military concluded that 55% committed no hostile act against the United States. Only 5% of the prisoners at Guantánamo were captured by the United States. A vast number of the prisoners at Guantánamo - 86% - were turned over by warlords in Pakistan and Afghanistan in return for huge bounties offered by the United States. ...... In the final analysis, however, it is the government's breathtaking ability to classify almost anyone an enemy combatant....:
April 27 2007 ~ BAE The Serious Fraud Office ended its investigation into a 1986 arms deal with Saudi Arabia in December 2006 saying it was"not in the public interest" to continue. The BBC reports that in January a US embassy official issued a verbal protest at the Foreign Office. The decision to end the SFO inquiry came weeks after reports that the Saudis were threatening to pull out of a deal to buy 72 Eurofighter jets from BAE. More on BAE below
April 27 2007 ~"... the game of one-way strip poker that is our global trade system, in which the United States and Europe - via the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation - tell the developing world: "You take down your trade barriers and we'll keep ours up." From farm subsidies to the Dubai Ports World scandal, hypocrisy is our economic order's guiding principle. Wolfowitz's only crime was taking his institution's international posture to heart. The fact that he has responded to the scandal by hiring a celebrity lawyer and shopping for a leadership "coach" is just more evidence that he has fully absorbed the World Bank way: when in doubt, blow the budget on overpriced consultants and call it aid." Naomi Klein in the Guardian
April 26 2007 ~ Condoleezza Rice - "... will not propose a date to testify, she will not agree to testify, and she insists that our committee be satisfied with partial information that was previously submitted to other committees." BBC ".... On Wednesday night, Mr Waxman said Ms Rice had left his committee with "no choice but to proceed with the subpoena". "We have hit a brick wall with the secretary of state," he said as the Democratic-led committee voted 21-10 to issue a subpoena to compel Ms Rice to testify. .."
April 26 2007 ~ The killers of Terry Lloyd, the ITN war correspondent, are unlikely to face prosecution, says the Telegraph, "because lawyers have been unable to establish which American soldiers fired the fatal shots, it was reported yesterday" This seems odd.
It will be remembered that a coroner ruled last October that Terry Lloyd had been wounded after being caught in a gun battle, and was then shot in the head and killed by US soldiers as he was being driven away for treatment. Last October, Sir Menzies Campbell asked Mr Blair during prime minister's questions whether the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, would make an application for the extradition and trial in Britain of the un-named soldiers. The prime minister said it was not his place to comment on the legal implications of any case.but said "Once again, however, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Mr Lloyd's family." Sir Menzies replied: "Not much comfort there, I think."
But in February, Scotland Yard's war crimes unit launched an investigation. It emerged that British authorities did obtain the identities of the men responsible for the killing The Observer said it was " a major breakthrough following the Pentagon's refusal to sanction the release of their names. The US authorities refused to pass on their details to the coroner during last year's inquest into Lloyd's death in Iraq in March 2003."
We find all this very worrying.
April 26 2007 ~ Condoleezza Rice subpoenaed "... to testify about a central and later refuted administration justification for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But the administration said it might fight the subpoena, citing a legal doctrine that can shield a president and his aides from having to answer questions from Congress....On a party-line vote of 21-10, the House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a subpoena for Rice, which was quickly issued. It directs her to answer questions from the panel next month about the administration's claim -- later proven false -- that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for nuclear arms.... ."
April 26 2007 ~ The United Nations accused Iraq on Wednesday of withholding sensitive civilian casualty figures because the government fears the data would be used to paint a "very grim" picture of a worsening humanitarian crisis. Reuters
April 26 2007 ~ Court Asked to Limit Lawyers at Guantánamo The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has "asked a federal appeals court to impose tighter restrictions on the hundreds of lawyers who represent detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the request has become a central issue in a new legal battle over the administration's detention policies. Saying that visits by civilian lawyers and attorney-client mail have caused "intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo," a Justice Department filing proposes new limits on the lawyers' contact with their clients and access to evidence in their cases.... The filing says the lawyers have caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media, assertions that have drawn angry responses from some of the lawyers..!
April 26 2007 ~" The House last night brushed aside weeks of angry White House rhetoric and veto threats to narrowly approve a $124 billion war spending bill that requires troop withdrawal from Iraq to begin by October." Washington Post
"The narrow approval of the measure tonight sets the stage for a fight between majority Democrats and President Bush, who has said he will veto the bill." New York Times
"Defying President George W. Bush's veto threat, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill providing new war funds while setting a timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by March 31 next year..." Reuters (But this does not, of course, mean that all other US personnel would start to go then.)
April 26 2007 ~ Paul Wolfowitz The European Parliament yesterday called for the resignation of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz Reuters
April 25/26 2007 ~ "This is the American people's government, not the Republican Party's" Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has called on George Bush to fire Karl Rove if he refuses to testify under oath about alleged illegal activity.
".....Edwards accused Rove of working with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to play politics within the Department of Justice. Congressional Democrats are investigating whether politics played an improper role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.....
."...with a new investigation aimed squarely at Karl Rove, the President should fire him if he continues to refuse to testify under oath. New reports that federal employees were urged to assist Republican candidates through their official duties are outrageous. This is the American people's government, not the Republican Party's," Edwards said. (ketv.com)
April 25/26 2007 ~ "if the police don't trust them who on earth will?" asks Jon Snow about the fact that the Home Office is now to going be split off, to take full command of anti-terror activity. Snowmail on Wednesday reports that the head of the anti-terror unit, Peter Clarke, says that someone has been leaking acutely sensitive information about anti-terror arrests. " It seems pretty clear that he's pointing the finger not at the police but at the political classes. The finger of suspicion appears to be pointed right into the private office of the Home Secretary and the highest echelons of government. " Mr Clarke said those who deliberately leaked sensitive information were "beneath contempt" as they compromised investigations by revealing "sources of life-saving intelligence; in the worst cases, they put lives at risk". See The Herald
April 25 2007 ~ Sir Menzies Campbell asked today in PM's Questions why MPs should be exempt from freedom of information requests, after the government gave Parliamentary time to a private members' bill calling for such an exemption. Sir Menzies said it would seem to the public that MPs had "something to hide". David Maclean's Private Members bill that we thought had been put to rest last Friday is to be resurrected this Friday. On the BBC Politics programme at lunchtime today, Shirley Williams and Sadiq Khan both deplored the bill and called it "shocking".
April 23 2007 ~ The judge found that a group of soldiers had engaged in systematic torture and humiliation, but none had been charged because of an "obvious closing of ranks". Who were the torturers? The Guardian on the murder of Baha Mousa. See also below As Phil Shiner says in the Guardian, "The evidence of British abuse and killing of Iraqi civilians is part of an iceberg of disgrace which demands a public inquiry."
April 23 2007 ~ the mercy of officials armed with powers which are not subject to proper control "I very much hope that this paper...will provide the catalyst for a long overdue regulation of an area where for too long the rights of the citizen have been put at the mercy of officials armed with powers which are not subject to proper control." Professor Richard Stone of the Lincoln Law School at the University of Lincoln writes the Introduction to Crossing the Threshold. 266 ways the State can enter your home by Harry Snook. (See above)
April 22 2007 ~ "The announcement of a study that suggests that Iraq's oil reserves could be almost as large as those of Saudi Arabia, the world's leader, has come amid fresh evidence of the monumental difficulty of realising that potential, as bombs in Baghdad left 200 people dead in a single day and Iraqi MPs wrangled over the details of new oil legislation...." Economist
April 22 2007 ~ "Build power from below" says Hugo Chavez - who expects an invasion from the US and is preparing a nationwide militia. See Sunday Telegraph ".... Tensions with Washington and the West are likely to escalate further next month, when the Chávez government plans to begin taking control of the main European and American-owned oil fields in Venezuela - a move ordered by presidential decree in February. The communal councils project is being overseen by David Velasquez, a communist who is the president's new "minister of the popular power for participation and social development"
April 22 2007 ~ 266 ways in which the state can enter your home.
"unprecedented increase in the powers of the state over its citizens" Booker's Notebook today explains officials have been given "ever more right to behave high-handedly and arbitrarily towards the public, which many have been only too quick to exercise........ From Brussels, down through Whitehall, to our town halls (not to mention the proliferating government agencies), we are ruled by officials answerable, in effect, to no one but themselves and the shadowy system they serve.
..... how many people know that over 80 per cent of the laws that emerge from the EU are hardly seen by an elected politician? Not only are they negotiated and drafted by civil servants, it is also the officials who, through the Committee of Permanent Representatives, pass them into law. The idea that these directives and regulations are somehow debated by the Council of Ministers is just a convenient fiction, preserved, like much of the work of Parliament itself, to give the illusion that we still live in what can be called a democracy. It is hardly surprising that the ranks of officialdom should continually be awarding themselves new powers to enter our homes, to check on and "license" almost everything we do - because no one has power any longer to control them.. "
April 22 2007 ~ The Association of Muslim Social Scientists will, on Thursday, present the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, with a life-time achievement award in recognition of his contribution to understanding between faiths.
April 2007 ~ "The Internet is freedom's best friend and the bane of control freaks. Its eradication is one of the short term goals of those that seek to centralize power.." Those of us who see the internet as an extraordinary and healthy counterweight to spin will be alarmed by this report from www.globalresearch.ca
April 21 2007 ~ Cash for Honours. "the CPS has denied newspaper reports this morning that Scotland Yard were pressing for charges" Channel 4
April 21 2007 ~ Bush asserts progress in Iraq war, despite carnage Reuters reports that "Bush said the two-month-old security crackdown under which he is adding 28,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq was "meeting expectations" and the ongoing violence reflected an expected reaction by insurgents." Meanwhile, we read in the Guardian: "... the greatest irony is that weapons of mass destruction do actually exist in Iraq: they are called car bombs, and their detonation has destroyed any idea that Gen Petraeus's brigades can secure Baghdad, or that the Americans can protect their newly purchased Sunni allies in Anbar province.
The statistics are implacable: since the "surge" began in February, Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents have mounted at least 93 car bombings, killing or wounding more than 4,000. Further, from the start of the occupation in 2003, there have been more than 1,050 deadly car and truck bombings. The total civilian death total from vehicle explosions now amounts to about 30,000..."
BBC "... film-maker Oliver Stone is to direct an advert for a campaign calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. A US serviceman or woman, or relatives, will discuss the impact of the war in the ad, as part of the campaign by the MoveOn and VoteVets organisations..."
April 21 2007 ~ Cash for honours " three key suspects to face criminal charges.." Scotland Yard detectives believe they have gathered sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution over allegations that peerages were traded for donations to the Labour Party. A file demanding the prosecution of Labour fundraiser Lord Levy, Downing Street aide Ruth Turner and millionaire Sir Christopher Evans was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service. If convicted, the suspects face up to two years in jail. See Daily Mail
April 21 2007 ~ New head of MI5 Telegraph Jonathan Evans, currently MI5's deputy director-general, replaces Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, who is retiring after five years at the head of the service."
BBC profile of Mr Evans
The Guardian reported in January that sources told the paper that Dame Eliza had - one day before the July bombings - reassured them that there was "no imminent threat to London or the country" from a terrorist attack. "They also say she appeared rather detached from the detail of security operations that must have been taking place at the time....Security sources denied that Dame Eliza's decision to retire was in any way connected to the briefing given to the Labour whips, or to any aspect of MI5's performance before the July 7 bombings. They said she had made her plans clear in early 2005 to Charles Clarke, then home secretary, before the bombs went off. This would suggest that just two and a half years into her tenure, she was able to give a leaving date more than two years in advance..."
April 21 2007 ~ Robert Fisk yesterday on the March of Folly in Iraq "......From its creation by the loonies of the American right - as a pro-Israeli policy to aid Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu - and then foisted on Bush, to the hell-disaster that Iraq now represents, the real war had to be turned into myth; nightmares into dreams; destruction into hope; terrible truths into profound mendacity.
Even today the occupation powers tell awesome lies. Democracy is taking hold when the "Iraqi" government controls only a few acres of Baghdad greensward. The insurgency is being crushed when 40,000 armed Iraqis are ripping into the greatest army on earth; freedom is taking hold when thousands of Iraqis are dying each month. "Operation Swarmer" is now supposedly targeting those who want a civil war in Iraq. Some of the men who are trying to provoke civil war however, work for the Iraqi interior ministry, and are paid, ultimately, by us. ..."
April 21 2007 ~ Sectarian concrete wall is being built in Baghdad by the US. See Guardian
April 20 2007 ~ "Problems with new software for checking postal votes could undermine confidence in next month's council elections, officials have warned." Telegraph
April 20 2007 ~ Cash for Honours The police have handed their file to the Crown Prosecution Service. BBC "Scotland Yard said that 136 people had been interviewed. They include Tony Blair and some of his closest aides. The Crown Prosecution Service will now decide whether anyone should be charged. All involved deny wrongdoing. .." See also Telegraph and Guardian
April 20 2007 ~ The Vermont state senate passed a symbolic resolution on Friday calling on the U.S. Congress to impeach U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over their handling of the unpopular Iraq war. See Reuters
April 20 2007 ~ "The bid to impeach Blair foundered because not enough Labour MPs who had voted in favour of the war subsequently did their homework." A letter in the Guardian from Public Interest Lawyers, Birmingham " If they had read the full attorney general's advice of March 7 2003 and followed the debate.... they should have been infuriated enough to back impeachment. That they did not says everything about the state of our parliamentary democracy. The judicial review is presently awaiting a Lords decision ..... As for war crimes during the war and occupation, my colleagues and I made various complaints to the international criminal court prosecutor. His answer? He accepted that war crimes had been committed, but took the view that the number of offences didn't compare to, say, Uganda, so he would not undertake an investigation. We don't accept that as an adequate answer ...."
April 20 2007 ~ US attorney General Alberto Gonzales NYT "...instead of contrition, the attorney general treated the committee to a mixture of arrogance, combativeness and amnesia. Even his would-be defenders on the Republican side were appalled.
.....For much of the very long day, the attorney general responded like a child caught in a lie. He shifted his feet under the table, balled his hands into fists and occasionally pointed at his questioners. He defended his actions: "The decision stands." He denied responsibility: "This was a process that was ongoing that I did not have transparency into." He blamed the victims: "Poor judgment . . . poor management." He blamed his subordinates: "When there are attacks against the department, you're attacking the career professionals."
Mostly, though, he retreated to memory loss...."
April 18 2007 ~ Give us a smile article in the Guardian by Peter Singer and many of the readers' comments below it are worth the time taken to read. "The glow of goodwill should be a state priority. It's a cheap and effective way to improve lives "
April 18 2007 ~ Secret renditions A Pakistani man, Khalid Rashid, who vanished after being arrested in South Africa as an illegal alien in 2005, whose family says was abducted as part of the U.S.-led war on terror, is in custody in Pakistan after 18 months of secret detention. Amnesty International: "Mr. Rashid has already suffered 18 months of secret detention, and it is totally unacceptable for the Pakistan authorities to continue to deny him access to his lawyer, family and medical care." See Reuters
April 18 2007 ~ "In Iraq, universities struggling to operate in the midst of a war zone have been struck repeatedly by bombings, shootings, assassinations, and abductions that have left behind hundreds of killed and wounded, victims and forced thousands of students and professors to stay away, or even leave the country.
On Monday, the same day as the Virginia Tech mass shooting, two separate shooting incidents struck Mosul University, one killing Dr. Talal Younis al-Jelili, the dean of the college of Political Science as he walked through the university gate, and another killing Dr. Jaafar Hassan Sadeq, a professor from the Faculty of Arts at the school, who was targeted in front of his home in the al-Kifaat area, according to Aswat al-Iraq.
In January, Baghdad's Mustansiriya University sufferred a double suicide bombing in January that killed at least 70 people, including students, faculty, and staff. A month later, another suicide bomber struck at Mustansiriya, killing 40. ...." Iraqslogger
April 18 2007 ~ Caution - Hotel magnetic key cards contain
April 17 2007 ~ "They do not resign just because they are useless. If they did there would not be enough bodies to fill the ministerial payroll."
John Rentoul in the Independent on Des Browne
"....Ministers should resign if they make a bad decision which has practical consequences. The closest we have come to that recently was the sacking of Charles Clarke as Home Secretary over the foreign prisoners issue last year - although that was partly disguised by being part of a wider reshuffle. Or ministers should resign if they break the rules designed to protect the integrity of the political process, as David Blunkett did...."
(Des Browne's words? "I have expressed a degree of regret than can be equated to an apology" )
April 15 2007 ~ "It is a phenomenon of Tony Blair's cabinet that almost nobody in it has run an organisation composed of people. When ministers found themselves in charge of the biggest corporation in Britain, they did what they did in opposition: make wish speeches and rambing pledges. They had no conception of how organisations work, which is why they have become obsessed with consultants, who have no obligation to deliver. ...." Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times on the almost unbelievably crass control freakery that is the UK government today. He concludes,
April 15 2007 ~ little mention of the real Iran debacle Mary Riddell in the Observer ".........Better the ramblings of the HMS Cornwall Two than the institutional omerta of the soldiers who have never said what happened on the night the Iraqi hotel worker, Baha Mousa, perished in British custody.
Tomorrow, as the blame game reaches Parliament, there will be little mention of the real Iran debacle. President Ahmadinejad's paean to nuclear breakthrough is one more reminder of Europe's lack of progress in halting his bomb by coupling diplomacy with trade blocks. This week, as the US moves to legislate on tougher enforcement of sanctions, campaigners will try to put down 'speed bumps' to slow any White House move towards an unwinnable and undreamably destructive war...."
April 15 2007 ~ Opponents of President Putin plan a rally in St Petersburg, a day after a Moscow march ended in arrests.
Anti-Kremlin demonstrators are planning to take to the streets...... Organisers said the tough reaction to the Moscow march would boost the turnout at the rally in Russia's second-largest city. "After what Moscow and Russian authorities are doing, I think far more people will come," said Olga Kurnosova, the leader of Mr Kasparov's United Civil Front in St Petersburg. ..."
April 15 2007 ~ Moscow protests Guardian "There were pensioners clutching single roses, students wearing jeans and a young man weaving through Moscow's anarchic traffic on a chopper bike. Ranged against them were 9,000 riot police wielding truncheons and the might of the Russian state. And yet for one moment yesterday the demonstrators got the better of their opponents. After surging down the Boulevard Ring, the protesters began a defiant chant: 'Russia without Putin: Russia without Putin.'...Vladimir Putin was yesterday confronted with a genuine popular revolt. About 2,000 opposition demonstrators gathered in Pushkin Square, defying an official ban on their meeting and threats of arrest. It was the largest-ever anti-Putin rally in the Russian capital. ...."
April 14 2007 ~ Russia protests NYT "Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion turned opposition politician in Russia, was arrested with nearly 200 other protesters during a rally in Moscow on Saturday that ended in clashes with riot troops.
April 14 2007 ~ "Suicide bombers have been about their miserable work in Iraq again today." Snowmail puts it so well..."They've killed 30 people in the holy city of Kerbala, another 10 in Baghdad. British forces have achieved what appears to be a small victory; killing eight apparent bombers who were laying landmines in Basra."
April 13 2007 ~ "I do support direct action. I do not advocate or support violence." Boris Berezovsky. Mr Berezovsky told the Guardian in an intervie that he was "bankrolling" people close to Mr Putin who were planning a coup.
Moscow is now urging London to send Mr Berezovsky back to Russia for a trial. Last November Mr Bereovsky said he had no doubts that Russian authorities were behind the poisoning of
Alexander Litvinenko. Wikipedia says that "after his self-exile, prosecutors in Russia had accused Berezovsky of a host of crimes, including fraud and preparing a violent overthrow of Putin's government. Berezovsky denies all the allegations."
Today, the Times says "Today's stand-off marks the latest stage in an intense conflict between the Kremlin and Mr Berezovsky, who was in the 1990s an influential Russian billionaire and close friend of former President Boris Yeltsin."
April 13 2007 ~ Instructive Contrast Moazzam Begg in the Guardian "...... Tony Blair described the capture and treatment of the British sailors in Iranian custody as "cruel and callous". He called the detained personnel "hostages" who had had to endure an unimaginable ordeal; it took him four years just to call Guantánamo an "anomaly".....When I visited the el-Banna family last week I was shown a Foreign Office letter to Jamil's 10-year-old son stating that officials are unable to make any representation for his father because he is not a British citizen. I was also shown another document that harks back to a time when the British government had made another fine mess of its foreign policy. It was was Jamil's father's passport. It's British, issued under British Mandate Palestine. .."
April 13 2007 ~ "Paul Wolfowitz's position as head of the World Bank looked increasingly untenable today after he was forced to retreat from a meeting after being booed by his employees and the bank's governing board met overnight to decide his fate..."Guardian ".....One staff member who was in the atrium said: "To see the bank's president being heckled by his own staff was amazing. He looked shocked, very shocked, by the reaction and the anger." (The "shock" is what is interesting here. Today's powerful politicians - so many of them responsible for the most catastrophic policies and loathed by so many - seem to consider themselves above any ethical considerations. Instead, we get yet another with hindsight "apology")
April 13 2007 ~ we will insist that he listen to concerns of the American people Reuters ".....Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement, issued after the White House rejected an invitation to meet lawmakers this week on Capitol Hill, saying that they would attend a meeting with Mr Bush at the White House next week after a face-off over a $100 billion Iraq war spending request "We will be at the White House on Wednesday to talk with the president. We will listen to his position, but in return we will insist that he listen to concerns of the American people that his policies in Iraq have failed and we need to change course," the statement said.
April 13 2007 ~ Karl Rove, covering his tracks? The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform now seems at last to be hot on the heels of Karl Rove and others. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has apparently destroyed all e-mail records from White House officials using RNC accounts from 2001, 2002, and 2003 and it seems that Karl Rove deleted all his e-mails prior to 2005 from the RNC server. See letter from Chairman Waxman to Attorney General Gonzales. According to that letter, White House officials ppear to have retained the abilitv to delete e-mails from the RNC server until as recentlv as this month.
April 12 2007 ~ "...Under a law written by US and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth to Anglo-American companies.." John Pilger Center for Research on Globalization "...Nothing like this piracy has happened before in the modern Middle East, where Opec has ensured that oil business is conducted between states. Across the Shatt al-Arab waterway is another prize: Iran's vast oilfields. Just as non-existent weapons of mass destruction or facile concerns for democracy had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, so non-existent nuclear weapons have nothing to do with the coming American onslaught on Iran. ..."
April 12 2007 ~ More "hindsight" The Independent quotes Mr Blair in his defence of the selling of the hostage stories
April 11 2007 ~ Robert Fisk on US "gated communities" plans for Iraq Independent
April 11 2007 ~ DEFRA to be absorbed in new style "Super Ministry"? See Guardian's New green ministry could endanger DTI
April 11 2007 ~ "The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today seeking hundreds of pages of new or uncensored records related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year, officials said. .." Washington Post
April 9 2007 ~ Iran hostages "When a fiasco of this magnitude takes place in any walk of life, those responsible must not only be sacked, they must be seen to be sacked." eureferendum.blogspot.com
"...(Max) Hastings was under the impression that there would be a Board of Inquiry and his own fears of a "naval whitewash" now look exceedingly likely to be realised. But, with Band leading the cover-up attempt, apparently endorsed by Des Browne, it appears that they too are putting their careers on the line.
They should know that, in the way of these things, it is often the attempt to cover-up, rather than the original events, which destroy the players."
April 7 2007 ~ " ... we are no longer arm-waving with models; this is empirical data, we can actually measure it,"
The IPCC report (BBC) concludes that global warming is "very likely" due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Key findings :
"75-250 million people across Africa could face water shortages by 2020
Crop yields increase could increase by 20% in East and Southeast Asia, but decrease by up to 30% in Central and South Asia
Agriculture fed by rainfall could drop by 50% in some African countries by 2020
20-30% of all plant and animal species at increased risk of extinction if temperatures rise between 1.5-2.5C
Glaciers and snow cover expected to decline, reducing water availability in countries supplied by melt water The report states that the observed increase in the global average temperature was "very likely" due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The scientific work reviewed by IPCC scientists includes more than 29,000 pieces of data on observed changes in physical and biological aspects of the natural world. Eighty-nine percent of these, it believes, are consistent with a warming world. "
April 5 2007 ~ "...drought, rising sea levels and crop failures, which could provoke border conflicts and social collapse"
Snowmail tells us that the IPCC are expected to warn of "millions of climate refugees caused by drought, rising sea levels and crop failures, which could provoke border conflicts and social collapse." Will this usher in a new wave of "security" measures and provide the justification for them?
Many of the same consequences feared by the man-made-global-warming camp are also feared by the Peak Oil camp. Energy and water conservation is being taken seriously at last - (the concept of Global Warming is a "green" and a powerful persuader whereas the political and powerful have not publically subscribed to the peak oil theory - covered here since April 2004 - at all) Energy supplies are looking increasingly fragile. Dramatic and frightening changes are inevitable but telling the public the truth is always better than coercion through fear. To be running down farming at such a time is the height of folly.
April 5 2007 ~ Hostages freed "Margaret Beckett appears to have been elbowed aside." (It looks as though the government were very miffed that John Snow was able to speak to Mr Larijani on Channel 4 news but the government was not.) Independent"..... How come Mr Larijani had personally contacted Channel 4 News and not the Government, when we want to talk to Mr Larijani, the minister wanted to know. The envoy agreed at that meeting to arrange the call between Mr Larijani and Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Mr Blair's chief foreign adviser. ..The Iranian official told Mr Sheinwald during their hour-long conversation that people should pay attention to the Iranian President's intervention at a press conference until the very end.....It was the only hint of yesterday's announcement that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was pardoning the hostages as an "Easter gift to the British people". But nobody in Downing Street, the Foreign Office or Ministry of Defence could be sure of the outcome until he pronounced those words. Even the Iranian Foreign Ministry was reportedly taken by surprise."
April 5 2007 ~ "Home Office attempts to send hundreds of Darfuri asylum-seekers back to Sudan have been blocked after the Court of Appeal ruled that deportations were "unduly harsh". Independent The court refused the Home Office leave to appeal. But a spokeswoman said Khartoum was safe for Darfuris and said the Home Office was considering an appeal in the House of Lords. .
April 4 2007 ~ Hostages to be freed. A "gift" See Guardian
There will no doubt be cynical and knowing comments - but we are more impressed by a simply stated comment in an email received today, "you may be interested to know a colleague of mine has just been to Tehran (...getting back just before this navy business happened). He said, charming welcoming people, no hostility to him as a Brit whatsoever. It make you wonder what is really going on." .
April 4 2007 ~ 'Damn your political correctness Mrs Beckett' says Falklands SAS commander The Mail quotes General Sir Michael Rose. He accuses the Foreign Se cretary and the Prime Minister of getting the commemoration of yesterday's 25th anniversary wrong. And he blames Mr Blair for the loss of Britain's international reputation, claiming he had gone to war in Iraq on a 'false justification' and says that the moral certainties that drove the UK to war in the South Atlantic..
April 4 2007 ~ "These cases reflect very badly on the British government who have used these men and their families as expendable pawns."Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather's understatement is quoted in the Guardian on the case of British resident Jamil el-Banna. He was seized by the CIA four years ago and secretly flown to Guantánamo Bay, after MI5 wrongly told the Americans that his travelling companion was carrying bomb parts on a business trip to Gambia. This is not the stuff of traditional spy fiction. The article would be sickening to anyone who still believed there was any honour in what British Intelligence does in our name. It quotes a document in which an MI5 intelligence officer describes the UK's attempt, while sitting in his house with his wife and children, to recruit Jamil el-Banna as an informer, with the lure of a new identity, relocation and money. After his refusal to inform on his friend ( Abu Qatada the cleric accused of being al-Qaida's spiritual leader in Europe) it seems it was arranged for him to be seized by the CIA. In Guantánamo, the US has repeatedly questioned him about Abu Qatada and have offered money and resettlement in the US for him if he agrees to testify against the cleric. He is still a prisoner.
April 4 2007 ~ The Home Office wants quietly to deport Dafur refugees before the Court intervenes. even though a High Court judge said that there were "serious errors in the Home Office's case" Unfortunately, the judgement may not be handed down until after the deportations are a fait accompli This is shameful. Concerned readers who own a fax machine can fax British Airways (Fax No: 020 8759 4314) urging them not to carry out forced removals to Sudan (Example text ( needs updating to this week) and/or fax Liam Byrne MP, Minister for State for Nationality, Citizenship & Immigration Fax: 0207 035 4745 (from outside the UK + 44 20 7035 4745) or even try emailing the Minister (not recommended but better than nothing.)
April 4 2007 ~Tax raid on pensions Telegraph Documents released by the Confederation of British Industry last night appear to blow apart Gordon Brown's claims that the employers' lobby group supported the Chancellor's controversial tax raid on pensions.
Brown's alibi has been blown apart by the documents CBI released yesterday
The news came as it emerged that the cost of the Chancellor's decision to scrap advanced corporation tax on pension funds a decade ago has since jumped from £5 billion to £7 billion a year.
Internal Treasury documents released last week showed how officials warned about the catastrophic effect of the decision..." See below.
April 3 2007 ~ Pensions row Tony Blair was warned by his own special adviser, Derek Scott, that Gordon Brown's £5bn-a-year raid on pension funds was "crackers" ...... but, like the Treasury officials, his advice was cast aside. He said last night that Mr Blair decided not to oppose the plan for Mr Brown's first Budget because he did not want a knock-down fight with the Chancellor. See Independent
April 2 2007 ~ All 15 Britons detained by Iran accept they were inside the country's waters, Iranian state radio reports. BBC Both the UK version of events and the Iranian version of events can be seen on this BBC page
April 2 2007 ~ Robert Fisk "....There is a lot we do not know - or care to know - about all this. In the meantime, however, it will be left to Blair, Bush and the merchants of the SKY-BBC-CNN-FOX-CBS-NBC-ABC axis of shlock-and-awe to play the Iranian game. Will they put Faye on trial? Will our boys be threatened with execution? Answer: no, but be sure we'll soon be told by the Iranians that they are all spies. A lie, needless to say. But Blair will fulminate and Bush will roar and the Iranians will sit back and enjoy every second of it.
The Iranians died in their tens of thousands to destroy Saddam's legions. And now they watch us wringing our hands over 15 lost souls. This is a big-time movie, the cinemascope of political humiliation. And the Iranians not only know how to stage the drama. They've even written Blair's script.
And he obligingly reads it to cue." Independent
April 2 2007 ~ there is a bigger problem here than clumsy diplomacy. Independent Leading article today "... Quite simply, Iran is holding most of the cards. Because of the catastrophe in Iraq, the UK has no real diplomatic leverage in the region. Tony Blair calls the Iranian action illegal in international law and cites the United Nations mandate for the presence of British forces in Iraq. But the US and Britain invaded Iraq ignoring the will of the UN. The former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, called the action illegal. Mr Blair has little moral authority ...."
March 30 2007 ~ Today, GAO issued its 82- page report on peak oil, entitled Crude Oil : peak oil is real, The report was initiated at the request of Maryland Representative Roscoe Bartlett (More on peak oil page) It acknowledges that a decline in oil production will occur within essentially one generation ".....The amount of oil remaining in the ground is highly uncertain, in part because...OPEC controls most of the estimated world oil reserves, but its estimates of reserves are not verified by independent auditors. For example, Kuwait's official estimate of its oil reserves remained unchanged between 1991 and 2002 despite having pumped 8 billion barrels of oil during that period, while making no new discoveries." http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07283.pdf
March 30 2007 ~ The Senate narrowly approved a $122 billion war spending bill that calls for combat troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this summerWashington Post ".....Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was prepared to blame Bush if a veto fight slows down funding from reaching the military, including billions for veterans health care and other benefits. "If the president vetoes this bill, it is an asterisk in history," said Reid after the vote today. "He sets the record of undermining the troops more than any president we've ever had."....."
March 29 2007 ~Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem
Daily Journal "...Manouchehr Mottaki's statement in an interview with the Associated Press came on a day of escalating tensions, highlighted by an Iranian video of the detained Britons that showed the only woman captive saying her group had "trespassed" in Iranian waters. Britain angrily denounced the video as unacceptable and froze most dealings with the Mideast nation.
Mottaki said that if the alleged entry into Iranian waters was a mistake "this can be solved. But they have to show that it was a mistake, that will help us to end this issue."
"Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem," he said ..."
FT "in a sign of the UK's limited leverage over Iran, British officials said the European Union's efforts to reach a deal over Iran's nuclear programme were too important to be disrupted by the dispute over the detentions. "We know we have to keep the door open on the nuclear issue," said a Downing Street official. Separately, Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general, said on Wednesday night that he planned to have a breakfast meeting with Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Motaki in order to press for the captives' release. Both are attending the Arab League summit in Riyadh."
March 29 2007 ~ Charles Clarke's "only question that matters" in today's Guardian is, "How can Labour win again?" (And he fails to see the irony when he fulminates against New Labour's being "self-obsessed, media-fixated and corrupt"?)
March 29 2007 ~ John Reid will be counterterrorism supremo
Telegraph "....... a departmental split could create "a whole new set of problems".
Plans for a split have been knocking around Whitehall for years. Before the last general election, there were serious discussions about setting up separate ministries for justice and security to replace the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
Critics say the Home Office has too much on its plate. But it has far less than it used to. Within the past 10 years, the Home Office has lost responsibility for licensing, gambling, fire, obscenity, human rights, equal opportunities, communities, animal welfare and charities. Twenty years ago, it was responsible for broadcasting and civil defence as well.
When it was set up in 1782, it was run by a staff of about 20. Today, it has 35,000 ..."
The FT says.
March 28 2007 ~ Thank the Lords yet again. They have " inflicted a shock defeat on the government by narrowly rejecting controversial plans for a supercasino in Manchester and 16 other large and small casinos across the country. In a surprise vote in the Lords, peers rejected the government's regulations by 123 to 120, a majority of three." Guardian (And see Letters page)
March 28 2007 ~ With more than 650,000 civilians dead in Iraq, our government must take responsibility for its lies says Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet
" ...This week the BBC reported that the government's own scientists advised ministers that the Johns Hopkins study on Iraq civilian mortality was accurate and reliable, following a freedom of information request by the reporter Owen Bennett-Jones. This paper was published in the Lancet last October. It estimated that 650,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the American and British led invasion in March 2003.
Immediately after publication, the prime minister's official spokesman said that the Lancet's study "was not one we believe to be anywhere near accurate". The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, said that the Lancet figures were "extrapolated" and a "leap". President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report". Scientists at the UK's Department for International Development thought differently. They concluded that the study's methods were "tried and tested". Indeed, the Johns Hopkins approach would likely lead to an "underestimation of mortality". .."
March 28 2007 ~ "Nanny State gone mad" The Guardian "...The children of prisoners, problem drug users and others at high risk of offending will also face being "actively managed" by social services and youth justice workers. New technologies are to be used to boost police detection rates while DNA samples are to be taken from any crime suspect who comes into contact with the police. The "early intervention" approach is part of a package of proposals on security, crime and justice produced by Downing Street ...." and
March 28 2007 ~ And see Simon Jenkins
March 28 2007 ~"The population is in despair," says respected US general An influential retired Army general released a dire assessment of the situation in Iraq, based on a recent round of meetings there with Gen. David H. Petraeus and 16 other senior U.S. commanders. "The population is in despair," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in an eight-page document compiled in his capacity as a professor at West Point. "Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate." Washington Post
March 28 2007 ~ A U.S. federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to hold former Donald Rumsfeld and others liable for the torture and abuse of Afghan and Iraqi prisoners, including some at Abu Ghraib prison. See Reuters Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqis have been crammed into detention centers designed to hold only dozens of people after a Baghdad "security crackdown" NYT
March 28 2007 ~ Senators have angered President Bush by endorsing a deadline of next March for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. See Telegraph
March 28 2007 ~ Jonathan Freedland: The Arab League should bypass Ehud Olmert and go directly to the Israeli people.
March 27 2007 ~ Hard won US freedom claimed by Gonzales aide to protect herself. Monica Goodling, an aide to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was involved in the firing of the attorneys (allegedly on political grounds only, see below) See Reuters " invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify before a Senate panel investigating the firing of eight prosecutors. , said: "I have decided to follow my lawyer's advice and respectfully invoke my constitutional right because the ... circumstances present a perilous environment in which to testify." ...."
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports: "A Democratic House committee chairman yesterday told the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign to retain copies of all e-mails sent or received by White House officials using e-mail accounts under their control, raising the political stakes in the congressional inquiry into U.S. attorneys' firings...."
March 26 2007 ~ "that most of these seers have had uncommonly poor records when it comes to predicting any developments in Iraq over the last four-plus years is seldom brought up either. .." TomDispatch is worth reading in full - but here is a flavour: "Sometimes it seems as if all the major figures on our television landscape were simply in some hypnotic state, claustrophobically recycling the same stale air. Oddly enough, as far as I can see, the only disqualification for being a pundit or expert in our TV world, when it comes to the President's Afghan and Iraq wars (or his prospective Iranian one), is having been right in the first place, having imagined from the start something of what actually did occur -- as, for instance, was the case with Nation columnist Jonathan Schell and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, or, for that matter, any of the millions of protestors who took to the streets in early 2003."
March 26 2007 ~ "Whatever Lord Falconer professes in public, you may be sure that this bustling personage is not the citizen's foremost champion and the idea that denying journalists access to information will benefit the citizen should be dismissed with the derision it deserves." Henry Porter on the notion, put about by Lord Falconer, that the Lord Chancellor is the people's friend . "His every cynical action disproves that," says Mr Porter.
March 26 2007 ~ David Blunkett has taken a job advising the Texas-based security firm Entrust, interested in bidding to run Britain's identity cards programme. David Davis: 'David Blunkett was a staunch champion of ID cards and involved right at the heart of the project. The British public will be rightly sceptical about his involvement with a company that could benefit lucratively from this £20bn scheme..." The Tories have pledged to scrap plans for ID cards, which they describe as a 'plastic poll tax', if they get into power. See Observer No2ID said that having helped draw up the initial legislation Blunkett was extremely well informed about the process and had also been closely involved in negotiations across Europe about identity and security, knowledge of which could be of interest to a US company.
March 25 2007 ~ "....relations between Scotland Yard and Downing Street remain deeply strained." Sunday Telegraph "... The Sunday Telegraph has also learnt that the police are "highly surprised" that neither Miss Turner, 36, nor Lord Levy, 62, has been suspended from their positions given the seriousness of the cover-up accusations against them...... There were tensions over the first police interview with Mr Blair on December 14, which - unusually for a meeting not under caution - was tape recorded. Some days later, detectives sent minutes of the interview to Mr Blair's office to be "signed off".... Downing Street refused to sign them off even when detectives reminded political aides that the interview had been recorded and they were merely supplying a transcript of events. More than three months after the interview, the issue remains unresolved..."
March 25 2007 ~ the controversy over the sacked US attorneys The Age "... yet again raises the question of the competence of the Bush Administration, and George Bush's penchant for appointing cronies and friends to senior government positions. It was always the prerogative of a president to sack US attorneys, given that they are political appointees. In 1993, Bill Clinton sacked all but one of the 93 attorneys. But Mr Gonzales seemingly misled Congress about the sackings, and so did senior Justice Department officials who said that the dismissals were not "political" and that Mr Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, was not involved. It turns out that Mr Rove was involved, which is why two congressional committees have threatened to subpoena him to answer questions under oath about the affair. Mr Bush has said he would not allow Mr Rove or any other White House adviser to give sworn testimony before Congress, citing executive privilege. The mess may end up in the Supreme Court, though few doubt that Mr Gonzales will be gone long before that happens..."
March 24 2007 ~ The crushing fear that stalks America Robert Fisk so neatly explains the fear that is fuelling the continuing horrors.
March 24 2007 ~ The Baghdad government has caved in to a damaging plan that will enrich western companies. Michael Meacher writes in the Guardian "....Perhaps the single greatest gain of the west learning this lesson of weaning itself off its oil addiction is that it would end this interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries simply because they happen to have oil - the central cause of world conflict today."
March 21 2007 ~ "Poor Iraq. First the lies and now, even worse: more help" Simon Jenkins in the Guardian "After years of deceit, we are expected to believe things are getting better. What this country really needs is to be left alone ...".
March 21 2007 ~ Subpoenas for President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove and other top White House aides, setting up a constitutional showdown over the firings of eight federal prosecutors, have been approved. See Washington Post This means that the president's top aides will have to testify publicly and under oath about their roles in the apparently politically motivated dismissing of seven United States attorneys
March 21 2007 ~ Russia accused the United States today of using "Cold War methods" to persuade Europe to host an anti-missile shield that Moscow says is a threat to its national security. Reuters
March 21 2007 ~ Budget quick guide Independent
March 20 2007 ~ "Half of those who responded said life is worse now than under Saddam" Independent "....Asked if life was good, two years ago 71 per cent said "Yes", but now that figure has almost halved. Fewer than one in 5 has confidence in the coalition forces, and 51 per cent say that attacks on the occupying troops are justified. Half of those who responded said life is worse now than under Saddam. Even the Iraqi weightlifting champion who, four years ago, was famously filmed pounding a statue of Saddam with a sledgehammer, said: "The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day....."
March 19 2007 ~ Fourth anniversary.
"Four years after he began the Iraq war, a diminished President George W. Bush has sacrificed much of his domestic agenda and eroded U.S. credibility abroad in pursuit of the sort of nation-building he once scorned, analysts say..." Reuters
"Four in five Iraqis have little or no confidence in U.S.-led forces and most think their presence is making security worse, but despite that only about a third want them to leave now, a poll showed on Monday..." Reuters
" Police arrested several anti-war protests outside the New York Stock Exchange on Monday after they lay in front of the entrance to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq..." Reuters
President Bush's speech tells the American public that "hard days lie ahead" and that the fight "will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through"
He did not respond to questions.
( Pictures from Kirkuk today - the carrying of dead passengers from the bullet riddled bus and the expressions on the faces of those helping - gives a context to all this.)
March 18/19 2007 ~ "Margaret Beckett has dismissed as "complete nonsense" claims by... Hans Blix that, aside from Saddam Hussein's fall, everything in Iraq since the invasion has been a disaster..". Guardian
March 18 2007 ~ "White House political strategist Karl Rove and others will face Senate subpoenas this week if they do not agree to testify in a dispute over fired prosecutors that has put pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to quit, a Senate committee head said on Sunday...." Washington Post
March 18 2007 ~ " Thousands of demonstrators marched to the Pentagon on Saturday to mark both the fourth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq and the 40th anniversary of the march along the same route to protest the Vietnam War. The march coincided with other demonstrations in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and elsewhere in advance of the March 20 anniversary of the invasion..." NYT
March 18 2007 ~ Valerie Plame Independent Yesterday was the first time Ms Plame had publicly answered questions about what happened. She said it was a terrible irony the CIA had worked so hard to protect her covert status, only for it to be "carelessly and recklessly" exposed by senior government officials. The implications, she added, were considerable. "If our government cannot even protect my identity, future foreign agents who might consider working with the Central Intelligence Agency and providing needed intelligence would think twice," she told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee." Background to the case
March 16 2007 ~ "When acquitting two more soldiers this week, Mr Justice McKinnon said... 'None of those soldiers has been charged with any offence simply because there is no evidence against them as a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks.'
March 16 2007 ~ Haditha trial "....no full US investigation into what happened until three months later when video footage taken by a local human rights activist of the aftermath reached Time Magazine. Once their report showed flaws in the initial marine statement, an investigation began. .." BBC
March 16 2007 ~ Valerie Plame, the Spy Who's Ready to Speak for Herself Washington Post "She has been silent nearly four years. Today, the CIA officer whose unmasking fueled a political uproar and criminal probe that reached into the White House is poised to finally tell her own story -- before Congress..."
March 16 2007 ~ Gonzales row (the politically motivated dismissing of seven United States attorneys) NYT "E-mail messages indicate that Karl Rove and Alberto R. Gonzales had considered a proposal to replace prosecutors earlier than either has previously acknowledged..." Even a Republican senator is quoted by the NYT " I think the attorney general is going to have to explain himself because this has cast a cloud over the department "
March 15 2007 ~ Snowmail on top form See Channel 4 We hear that the Pentagon has finally described the situation in Iraq as "civil war", that Peter Goldsmith, the attorney general, has countered astonishment and gloom at the escalating bill for the London Olympics (now in excess of £9 billion) by saying that fraud costs Britain £14 billion every year. (As Jon Snow wryly remarks, "So if they did something to combat that, we'd have a free set of Olympics..." ) Snowmail does not mention the timing of the "news" about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's "confessions" about 9/11 - but it will not have escaped most people's notice that Mr Bush is in a bit of bother at the moment with his own attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, and wants to remind his restive subjects of the terror they ought to be feeling. The carte blanche for any and all policies that Mr Bush has come to expect may be about to be torn up.. (Clicking the AlterNet link is worth it for the priceless photograph alone.)
March 14 2007 ~ "MPs are voting for a white elephant. And they know it" "The nuclear deterrent is a cold war relic," says Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, "Renewing Trident for a hypothetical conflict only deprives the army of basic resources"
March 14 2007 ~ "...Did I do what I could to resist the takeover of my country and the brutalisation of my fellow human beings? How much further could I have gone? ..." Rebecca Solnit, writing in the Guardian, writes as an American but speaks for all who have worried about the "war on terror" and have agonised about what can be done to resist what seem insane, callous and terrifying policies by governments.
March 14 2007 ~ On the other hand... If Rebecca Solnit seems to be welcoming a waking up, Tom Engelhardt -after summing up the findings in the recent Seymour Hersh revelations - writes, "In my childhood, one of the Philadelphia papers regularly ran cartoon ads for itself in which some poor soul in a perilous situation -- say, clinging to the ledge of a tall building -- would be screaming for help, while passersby were so engrossed in the paper that they didn't even look up. Now, we have the opposite situation. A journalist essentially writing bloody murder in a giant media and governmental crowd. In this case, no one in the mainstream evidently cares - - not yet anyway -- to pay the slightest attention. It seems that there's a crime going on and no one gives a damn. ..."
March 13 2007 ~ Trident "Some Labour MPs said they were being forced to sit on obscure committees to avoid getting the chance to speak against the Government in the Commons."
".....rebellion was growing last night after former health secretary Frank Dobson and former transport minister Gavin Strang tabled an amendment saying they believe the case for replacing Trident "is not yet proven and remains unconvinced of the need for an early decision". Organisers claimed last night that Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, could become the most senior Labour rebel. ....
Downing Street tried to belittle the rebellion....
The Liberal Democrats threw their support behind the Labour rebels, after heated talks within the Lib Dem leadership. It could lead to a group of about 10 Tory MPs defying their own three-line whip and voting against the Government.
David Cameron, the Tory leader, has ordered his MPs to vote for the Trident replacement ....
Lord Goldsmith was dragged into the controversy by the rebels with a demand that, before the vote, he should publish the secret legal advice he gave the Cabinet on the renewal of Trident... Jon Trickett, the Labour MP who is leading the Trident revolt, wrote to Lord Goldsmith calling on him to explain how Britain could replace the nuclear system without breaching the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). "
ITN GreenPeace activists have scaled a crane next to Big Ben in protest.
March 12 2007 ~ "ministers are planning to charge companies around 60p a time to check details held on the giant "big brother" database..." Daily Mail "The Government is already facing a backlash over charging people £93 each for an ID card - which will contain 49 different pieces of personal data. Now ministers are planning to charge companies around 60p a time to check details held on the giant "big brother" database. They hope for up to 770million "verifications" each year. .."
March 9 2007 ~ "an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War Three". Despite the sabre-rattling it is, I suspect, unlikely that the Bush administration will attack Iran. Public opinion in the US and around the world is overwhelmingly opposed. It appears that the US military and intelligence community is also opposed. Iran cannot defend itself against US attack, but it can respond in other ways, among them by inciting even more havoc in Iraq. Some issue warnings that are far more grave, among them the British military historian Corelli Barnett, who writes that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch world war three"......"A genuine interest in preventing the development of nuclear weapons in Iran would lead Washington to implement the EU bargain, agree to meaningful negotiations and join with others to move toward integrating Iran into the international economic system." Noam Chomsky read in full
March 8 2007 ~ You Tube video about the clash between Islam and the West Takes only a few seconds to watch. http://www.Avaaz.org/en/stop_the_clash/tf.php
March 7 2007 ~ UK culture of secrecy continues - Proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act In December last year, the government proposed two amendments to the Freedom of Information Act that could block the route to information held by public bodies. Guardian today, "......changes are based on evidence provided by a report...commissioned from consultants (Frontier) ...that a small proportion of complex requests were consuming disproportionate resources. Despite FOI requests from the Campaign for Freedom of Information and the BBC, the full background data used to inform the report has not been disclosed by the Department for Constitutional Affairs...". So the Department for Constitutional Affairs commissioned a report - whose findings we are not allowed to see - which will allow FOI requests to be denied far more easily. Refusals will be either on grounds of cost or on the grounds that "too many" requests are being made. The given justification is the wasting of money and time - but the likely effect of the changes is that the bona-fide researchers and serious journalists will have even less freedom of access to important information whose disclosure is in the public interest.
March 7 2007 ~ Simon Jenkins: The cash-for-honours scandal will not stop MPs voting tonight to retain the lucrative status quo in the House of Lords. Guardian .... intriguing is why it is thought that Downing Street might have leaked the email. For it appears to exculpate the prime minister from this particular corner of the imbroglio while leaving Lord Levy twisting painfully in the wind. It vividly evokes the Chinese walls of patronage that partition Britain's so-called constitution, shrouding the wink from the nod and the nudge from the wad of fivers. The more I read about the peerages game, the more I want to shout: "Why not just sell the bloody things on the open market and give the cash to the poor?"
March 7 2007 ~ Washington Post - in rather more measured tones- echoes others in saying that Libby was the fall guy. "....as lead defense attorney Theodore V. Wells Jr. described it, was made a scapegoat by the White House to protect other presidential aides who were complicit in disclosing Plame's identity to reporters."
March 6 2007 ~ Scooter Libby has been found guilty The Valerie Plame case has everything to do with the war in Iraq and how things were twisted to justify the war. Valerie Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, looked into reports that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger - and made it publicly clear that they were forgeries and that there had never been any substance to the allegation that Iraq had attempted to buy quantities of uranium from Niger. Even after the claim had been discounted, both to the Senate and to the White House, President Bush used it in the State of the Union Address, and the US made the case for war principally on the threat that Saddam might soon have nuclear weapons
Wilson's credentials and information had therefore to be undermined or they would serve as confirmation during the presidential campaign that Bush had knowingly used false claims. So Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover CIA operative was leaked to the press in an effort to discredit her husband and to "punish" him for writing in The New York Times that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war. Her cover company was revealed as a CIA front and the fate of the agents working for that company, the people they met and talke to is unknown - but one can guess. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff to the Vice-President Dick Cheney, may now face up to 25 years in jail. Will he now take others down with him?
March 4 2007 ~".....we have come to believe we are living on the edge of chaos and lawlessness..." Henry Porter in the Observer " It's the police who have a gun problem"
March 4 2007 ~ The Joint Committee on Human Rights have accused ministers of failing to give Parliament a proper chance to debate the use of control orders. BBC".... Last month the government's independent reviewer of terror laws, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, called on ministers to draw up an "exit strategy" from the control orders regime."
March 2 2007 ~ "the biggest overselling scam in history" Anyne who shares our concern about the accelerating cost of the London Olympic Games should read in full the article by Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian entitiled "Jowell and Coe have been duped by the biggest overselling scam in history"
March 1 2007 ~ one isn't going to be able to stabilize Iraq unless one secures a modicum of support from the neighboring states" Reuters "By opening the door to a high-level dialogue with Iran and Syria, the United States appears to be embracing a diplomatic strategy that its critics have long said was essential to stabilize Iraq. The move follows more aggressive U.S. diplomacy with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons programs and a new U.S. push on Israeli-Palestinian peace after years of being accused of relative neglect. "I think that it's an acknowledgment of reality. It's in effect a move toward a foreign policy less based on ideal outcomes and more based on realistic possibility," said James Dobbins of the Rand Corporation, a former top U.S. diplomat. It's long been the view of most area experts that one isn't going to be able to stabilize Iraq unless one secures a modicum of support from the neighboring states," Dobbins added. "They simply have too much access, too much influence and too much at stake themselves in Iraq's future to be ignored."
March 1 2007 ~ Share prices around the world have continued to slide as stock markets in Asia followed London in showing little sign of stabilising. ITN
March 1 2007 ~ MPs to vote future of UK's nuclear weapons ITN MPs will vote later this month on whether to replace Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, says Jack Straw
February 28 2007 ~ The United States agreed yesterday to join high-level talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq, an abrupt shift in policy that opens the door to diplomatic dealings Washington Post "Bush policy reversal widely seen as attempt to limit criticism of war..." says Guardian
February 28 2007 ~ " the public must decide whether they wish to pay more in order to support a network of small mixed farms ..." Independent "... An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group, which reported last year, found 11 per cent of independent shops, about 5,000, had closed in just five years since 2000. The MPs warned that if supermarkets continued their growth unchecked, by 2015, independent grocers, petrol stations and newsagents were unlikely to survive. They expected rural shops and bakers to survive and gave post offices a "moderate chance" of survival..." Independent on the meeting at the Emmanuel Centre in Marsham Street tonight:
February 28 2007 ~ Venuzuela - "a peaceful revolution but it is not unarmed". Guardian George Galloway says "The mendacious propaganda that Chávez is a dictator and human rights abuser is being spread with increasing urgency by the Atlanticist right and their fellow travellers ....The so-called "dictator" Chavez is nothing of the kind. He has won election after election, validating his radical course......Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez delivered a mightier blow to the neocon dream of US domination, announcing an extension of public ownership of his country's oil fields - the richest outside the Middle East...... Washington's biggest oil supplier is now firmly in the grip of a social revolution. This month I watched with Chávez as thousands of soldiers, French and British tanks, Russian helicopters and brand new Mirage and Sukhoi fighter bombers passed by: the soldiers chanting "patria, socialismo o muerte" - enough to make any US president blanch. Chávez answered the salute with the words: "the Bolivarian revolution is a peaceful revolution but it is not unarmed"...."
February 27 2007 ~ ID cards. Why not? The Guardian article by Steve Boggan - by putting the Government point of view as well as that of such as Liberty, explains better than most - to those trustful people who think that an ID card can only protect us - exactly why not: "all the talk of 'perfectly sensible' reforms and 'transformational government' masks a chilling assault on our privacy" As he concludes:
February 27 2007 ~ Iraq bomb kills children playing football Channel 4 snowmail "More death and mayhem in Iraq, but this time particularly desperate. The softest of soft targets: children playing football. A bomb in their midst, and 14 of them are dead, this in the town of Ramadi. We may be seeing one consequence of the surge on Baghdad being that the killers are now fanning out to less protected areas." More at http://www.channel4.com/news/special-reports/iraq.html?intcmp=news_snowmail_iraqfootballkidskilled
February 26 2007 ~ US "Redirection" - a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker ".....To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has covperated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration's perspective, the most profound - and unintended - strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran...." Read New Yorker article which concludes, "...Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, a Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, told me, "The Bush Administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the Intelligence Committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been 'Trust us.' " Wyden said, "It is hard for me to trust the Administration."
February 23 2007 ~ Internet gives power back to the people The Independent article, Consumers' revolt; Power to the People and From banks to football, the consumers' revolt grows show h ow online campaigns are creating a new and powerful opposition to greedy corporate power.
February 23 2007 ~ "Heavyweight demands for a wide-ranging investigation" into mistakes made in Iraq have followed a five-hour debate in the House of Lords led by the former foreign secretary Lord Hurd of Westwell, "who won the backing of several other former cabinet ministers......Lord Howe of Aberavon, said the decisions taken by America and Britain over Iraq had had "a catastrophic effect", with grave damage done to the standing of Britain, the US, the stability of the Middle East and the world. Lord Butler of Brockwell, the former cabinet secretary who conducted an inquiry into the pre-war intelligence in 2004, accused Mr Blair of being "disingenuous" ...." Sir Jeremy Greenstock is reported as saying, "There was a vacuum from the beginning into which looters, saboteurs, the criminals, the insurgents moved very quickly," Independent
February 21 2007 ~ huge implications for people's privacy if the authorities are going to be allowed to go on a fishing expedition through the files of innocent people The government's decision to allow police to use the entire national database has alarmed formerly pro-ID politicians. The Independent reports, ".... Opposition parties claimed Mr Blair was "changing his tune" and that they never realised the police would be able to use the database in such a way. Damian Green, a Tory home affairs spokesman, said Mr Blair's comments went "flatly" against the Government's undertakings to Parliament. "Obviously it has huge implications for people's privacy if the authorities are going to be allowed to go on a fishing expedition through the files of innocent people," he said...."
February 21 2007 ~ A US appeal court has ruled that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay cannot challenge their detention in US courts Independent " The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding the prisoners, a decision that will strip court access for the hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending. .... Lawyers for the detainees said they would appeal to the US Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration's plan for trying detainees before military commissions. .."
February 21 2007 ~ partial British withdrawal 1,000 troops out by May, all gone by end of 2008, but pace of pullout much slower than anticipated. Guardian
February 20 2007 ~ Another e-petition withdrawn "The introduction of ID cards will not prevent terrorism or crime, as is claimed. It will be yet another indirect tax on all law-abiding citizens of the UK". This response from the Prime Minister, rather in the manner of a sorrowful headmaster at the wilful obduracy of his pupils, was sent to signatories ".....I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities...."
Captain Bryn Wayt has sent us the somewhat tetchy reply he is sending to Mr Blair : .".....Add it up fella - the MAJORITY of real brains in the UK don't want ID Cards............ get it? You are not Stalin, so don't try it on." It is rather good.
February 18 2007 ~ "Iran is not engaged in
supply of weapons." wrote John Pilger on Feb 1, adding that "General Peter Pace, chairman of the
US Joint Chiefs
of Staff, has said no such evidence exists".
In fact, General Pace's reported words are: "I do not know if the bombs made in Iran are sent to Iraq with the command of Iranian government. If there exists such a finding that cannot be interpreted as the Iranian government is involved in the event."
EditorandPublisher.com comments, " .... After General Pace rendered inoperative the first official rationale for last Sunday's E.F.P. (explosively formed penetrators) briefing, President Bush had to find a new explanation for his sudden focus on the Iranian explosives. That's why he said at Wednesday's news conference that it no longer mattered whether the Iranian government (as opposed to black marketeers or freelance thugs) had supplied these weapons to Iraqi killers. "What matters is, is that they're there," he said. The real point of hyping this inexact intelligence was to justify why he had to take urgent action now, no matter what the E.F.P.'s provenance..."
February 18 2007 ~ Recognition for pardoned soldiers BBC "Two World War I soldiers who were shot dead for cowardice but pardoned 90 years later are being formally honoured on a war memorial. ..The two men were among 300 soldiers to receive posthumous pardons last year. .."
February 18 2007 ~ "hung out to dry by Tony Blair and his government and all of his associates and ministers." Des Smith ITN and BBC ".... They didn't even wait to see if there was any evidence against me before cutting me off."
It is alleged Mr Smith told an undercover journalist that businessmen could get an honour by sponsoring the so-called City Academies, sparking the police investigation that has rocked the Labour Party and damaged Mr Blair's image.
Mr Smith added: "After my arrest, Blair and his government did nothing to help me or my family. He sat by and said nothing, like the shallow, fair-weather friend he is. They knew I wasn't involved and now the world knows. I wanted to die. I thought about it many times but didn't have the courage." Mr Smith was first arrested in April 2006, but prosecutors said in early February they did not have enough evidence to charge him."
February 18 2007 ~ "...Letters from MPs to the Prime Minister on difficult matters go unanswered. Cabinet Ministers find themselves having to rubber-stamp decisions taken by faceless apparatchiks behind the doors of No 10. Now, even the courts don't count, with the Prime Minister telling us only last week that the new consultation forced on him won't change one iota of his policy ..." a very angry article today in the Mail on Sunday by Norman Baker quotes the words of Bertholt Brecht: "that the government, being displeased, must now dissolve the people and elect a new one.."
February 17 2007 ~ "Splat! Ministers caught out cheating..." Matthew Parris in the Times "....Is Tony Blair reckless of the effect of the sentences he puts together, or is he just very, very thick? How many ways are there to explain to a slow-witted student that if, in the same breath as you promise a full consultation, you announce that it won't make any difference, people will conclude that your consultation will be conducted in bad faith? If Mr Justice Sullivan had declared before taking evidence from Greenpeace and the DTI that, whatever he heard, he had already decided on his verdict, wouldn't Mr Blair have felt this was a teeny-weeny bit unfair? ..."
February 16 2007 ~ House Passes Measure Opposing Troop Surge Washington Post ....... Congressional Democrats have signaled a willingness to directly challenge and curtail Bush's warmaking powers, a move that will almost certainly spark a legal or constitutional confrontation. ...."Congress should assert itself . . . and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, any president to go into Iran," (Nancy Pelosi)
February 16 2007 ~ The Government's decision to opt for a new generation of nuclear power stations was declared unlawful by a High Court judge because of a "seriously flawed" public consultation process. Greenpeace won a hard-hitting ruling from Mr Justice Sullivan that the consultation exercise which preceded the decision made last July was "procedurally unfair" and in some respects "not merely inadequate but also misleading". Guardian
February 14 2007 ~ "no provision if cross-pollination from GM crops contaminates nonGM or organic produce" The Countess of Mar will give the opening address at Genetically Modified Crops and Human Health. Presentation to Government at the Central Hall, Westminster. (Methodist Hall) Tuesday, March 6th, 2007. 9am - 5pm (See details for how to book)
February 14 2007 ~ Forest Gate raid report Scotland Yard should apologise directly to the families caught up in the Forest Gate anti-terror raid, the IPCC has said. The Independent Police Complaints Commission says the families in the houses were "victims of failed intelligence" and criticised Scotland Yard for its handling of the operation, during which one innocent man was shot and injured by police. The families were put through a "terrifying experience" they say. Officers employed "very aggressive" tactics The IPCC does accept the raids were justified, and also that the "forceful and aggressive" police tactics were inevitable given they believed they were dealing with a serious terror threat. The key police failing, says the Commission, was failing to change their response even after they'd gained control of the situation. The families involved called the report a whitewash. See Channel 4
February 11 2007 ~ Brian Haw has won the viewers vote for Channel 4 personality of the year. An emailer tells us that "he then gave an acceptance speech which made the assembled great and good look extremely uncomfortable. If you can catch it on the web try and have a look. It was some of the most riveting stuff I have seen for ages - and Brian - in his direct words - stripped away all the stuff and nonsense that has been said about Iraq and war. "
February 9 2007 ~ "The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defence," Scotsman on a report by the Pentagon inspector general's office, which investigated the Pentagon's intelligence-gathering and found it seriously flawed, especially in its search for links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
February 7 2007 ~ Simon Jenkins "Britain is now fighting two wars which it is patently losing" Guardian "...... Tony Blair has already found to his cost that those who lie about the cause of a war are unlikely to be believed about its conduct. When they also lie about its conduct they sacrifice support from an already sceptical public. Professional soldiers know they may die in messy circumstances. That does not mean the circumstances need be concealed. The relatives of victims are owed the facts so as to give sincerity to whatever apology is appropriate....
...The recent recourse of British troops in Afghanistan to aerial bombardment has, by general agreement, set back the cause of winning hearts and minds. A relative killed or a village destroyed only fertilises the desire for revenge. "One dead Pashtun recruits 10 Taliban," is not an idle boast. Close air support may win one day's battle, but only to necessitate another. Yet Nato forces in Afghanistan continue to bomb villages from the air."
February 7 2007 ~ "after failing to heed the warnings of so many experts "..... As the violence spirals out of control and any remaining vestige of a fraudulent justification of the invasion evaporate - that Iraq is better off from having been 'liberated' from a despotic dictator or that the world is safer from the threat of global terrorism - the American people have slowly come to the realization that it was all a terrible mistake. It reminds me of a story I read in the paper a number of years ago when I was living in San Francisco about a jumper who had somehow managed to survive his plunge from the Golden Gate. As I remember it the hapless one said his first thought after his ill-conceived leap was "Oops, that was a mistake." That's about where we are today as a nation after failing to heed the warnings of so many experts and hundreds of thousands of protestors around the world and instead following the Fox News and New York Times propaganda that cheered on the Bush Administration's leap into the abyss that is now the war in Iraq. ...............In refusing deployment to Iraq Lt. Watada is serving the country with his conscience, and in so doing, is giving the highest service. If Lt. Watada goes to prison, as seems now very likely, he will be a powerful symbol of the injustice of the nation and its shame in ignoring the judgement at Nuremberg and refusal to remember Justice Jackson's counsel..." ichblog.eu
February 7 2007 ~ Two of the nine men arrested during anti-terror raids in Birmingham have been released without charge BBC
February 6 2007 ~"... We have to produce food differently. The ADM / Monsanto / Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human labor. The value-added activities associated with farming -- e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils -- will also have to be done much more locally.
This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities..." Energy Bulletin
February 5 2007 ~ "....Other hurdles for Mr Blair include a Commons vote on his plan to replace the Trident nuclear missile system, on which he will face a growing Labour revolt; and his strategy for pulling troops out of Iraq which he is committed to announcing later this month when "Operation Sinbad" against insurgents in Basra is over.
The first test of backbench support since it became known he had been interviewed by police a second time will come tonight at the regular meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It is unlikely there will be open criticism of Mr Blair but there is increasing concern about the damage that the investigation is causing.
An ICM poll yesterday showed that 56 per cent of the public want him to go now ..." Independent
February 4 2007 ~ John Reid wants to split the Home Office into two departments, dealing with security issues and justice. BBC
A quotation that seems relevant is from The more we manage, the worse we make things by Simon Caulkin in the Observer last October
February 4 2007 ~"President George W. Bush on Monday will seek $245 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while boosting other military spending and curbing domestic programs, setting the stage for a big battle with Democrats over funding priorities.." Reuters
February 4 2007 ~ " Iran will not suspend its uranium enrichment work as demanded by a U.N. sanctions resolution, the country's top nuclear official said on Sunday in the latest statement of defiance from Tehran as a U.N. deadline looms. .." Reuters
February 2 2007 ~ eerie similarities between Iraq and Iran rhetoric In this video clip, Keith Olbermann compares the eerie similarities between Bush's 2002 Iraq rhetoric and his 2007 Iran rhetoric. It is a brief - but makes for alarming viewing.
February 2 2007 ~ Civil war acknowledged. Reuters " U.S. intelligence has concluded key elements of Iraq's violence could be described as "civil war," a term Bush administration officials have been reluctant to use, a new report said on Friday...." See also New York Times
February 2 2007 ~ "you will have to put up with me for a bit longer" The Independent reports on the "highly-charged interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme" in which Tony Blair betrayed " deep frustration about the way the cash-for-honours affair has dominated the news agenda over the past months." Mr Blair was asked whether it would not be better for Labour and the country for him to "put an end to it all" by resigning now.
February 1 2007 ~"Suddenly, near the top of Whitehall, he was surrounded by police who arrived in two cars and a van. He was arrested for 'breach of bail' (an imprisonable and serious allegation) and despite his explanation that he had been to court and was clearly leaving the zone, they bundled him in a van and took him once again to Charing Cross. ..." Steve Jago was arrested just before 5pm in Whitehall tonight (Feb 1) See IndyMedia for News related to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and the Parliamentary 'exclusion zone' in central London.
February 1 2007 ~ Libby trial " has turned a rare and merciless spotlight on the system of nods, winks and leaks that operates between senior officials and the media that cover them...." Comment Independent "....A court has not pronounced judgment on the invasion and, short of an impeachment of Mr Bush, probably never will. But public opinion, as expressed by the President's abysmal approval ratings, most certainly has. And so - barring Mr Cheney and a few diehard neo-conservatives - have experts and historians....
...In future whistleblowers in government may be less inclined to provide information truly in the public interest - unlike the nonsense peddled by unspecified "senior US officials" over Saddam's non-existent weapons. But Ms Miller is villain as well as heroine. She may never have written a word about Ms Plame. But the erroneous stories she had written earlier about WMD underline a lesson for journalists everywhere. If unnameable sources dangle a scoop in front of you, make sure it's true."
February 1 2007 ~ ministers were more interested in boosting deportation figures than listening to the cases.
Austin Mitchell says the government's deportation of a family in his constituency makes him ashamed to be a member of the Labour Party. He said he received a call from Mr Bokhari's wife that day, saying the family had been "handcuffed, put in a car and carted off to Heathrow".
He said he immediately called the immigration minister Liam Byrne but was told he was unavailable, a fax from the Home Office was only sent to his office after it closed, and an e-mail only reached him the following day..... the move came after several frustrating meetings with the Home Office where he claimed ministers were more interested in boosting deportation figures than listening to the cases. See BBC and Independent
February 1 2007 ~ "We do not know whether the police are going to talk to Mr Blair again. We do not know whether Mr Blair is suspected as someone who will be charged, or as a figure on the fringes of the investigation. There are many questions unanswered. But, all this does serve to add to the air of crisis around Downing Street. The image of police going in and talking to the Prime Minister is an extremely negative one and Labour MPs desperately want this to end...." Times
February 1 2007 ~Court grants extra time to question nine men arrested in Birmingham. Times Channel 4 Snowmail comments "There's talk that now the Government wants powers of indefinite detention. Under the new rules of detention which allows a suspect to be held for up to 28 days. As far as I am aware only five have ever been held as long as 27 days and the police have been reticent about coming back to ask for more. It was the Director of Public Prosecutions who only last week urged us all to stop fighting the war on terror and recognise that we were dealing with criminal acts against which the full force of the criminal law should be used and nothing more."
January 31 2007 ~ Nine people arrested by police in Birmingham There is said to have been a plot to kidnap and possibly kill a Muslim British soldier. Sky TV quoted sources as saying the intent was to mimic the abductions and beheadings of Westerners carried out by militants in Iraq and post a video of the killing on the Internet. Reuter's headline is UK thwarts terrorism kidnap plot: source.
January 31 2007 ~ The White House "can't just let things go through without any discussion about their value and morality." Der Spiegel (English version) interviews former chief of the CIA's Europe division, Tyler Drumheller in the wake of EU investigations and the fact that a court in Germany has ordered the arrest of 13 people suspected of being involved in the abduction of a German national who says he was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. It is very much worth reading in full.
January 31 2007 ~ "British diplomats said privately that they did not wish to create difficulties for the United States at a delicate time.." Britain blocks Italy's bid to ban death penalty .....Romano Prodi, was in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday, trying to persuade African heads of state to sign up to a global moratorium on capital punishment after Britain sank an effort to have the EU back the initiative as a bloc. ...when his Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, tried to obtain backing for the proposal at the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels last week, Britain shot it down..." Independent
January 31 2007 ~ Cash for Honours "Let us separate the substance of the police investigation from the politics..." says Steve Richards in the Independent
No one knows for sure what evidence the police have got, and what they suspect has been kept from them. Evidently, they sense a cover-up of significance......Downing Street insiders are adamant that they have co-operated fully with the inquiry. Evidently, the senior officers involved have their doubts - apparently they are as focused now on what they suspect to be a cover-up as they are on the original allegations.
... The consequences spread beyond the traumatised Downing Street entourage. Before yesterday's developments, some Labour MPs were stirring, wondering how much damage Blair is doing to his party by staying on until July. .... As Blair insists unrealistically that he has still much to do in the time left to him as Prime Minister, a police investigation intensifies..... the latest twists of the investigation must test even his powers of concentration..... The investigation could end without a dramatic denouement, in which case the police officers will have many questions to answer. But for now, the inquiry is making Blair's final days almost impossibly bleak."
January 30 2007 ~ The Brookings Report on Iraq.."unremittingly bleak document" says that the US must abandon Iraqi cities or face a nightmare scenario. Independent "...based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.
January 30 2007 ~ US Army has announced it has dropped its subpoena of Sarah Olson in the Ehren Watada court martial. (see below) The Honolulu Advertiser
1st Lt. Ehren Watada's lawyer said.".....
"By agreeing beforehand to all of the facts the government would ask of the ... reporters, Lt. Watada shielded these journalists from the heavy-handedness of the government. .... While we don't think any charges should have (been) filed at all for simply exercising free speech, we are pleased with the government's willingness to reduce Lt. Watada's potential sentence by two years."
The 28-year-old Honolulu native had been facing two years in prison on charges of missing a troop movement, and four additional years imprisonment on four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for his public statements critical of the Iraq war.
His court-martial is expected to begin Feb. 5."
Sarah Olson says, "While I am glad to see the subpoena against me in this court-martial dismissed," Olson adds, "I still worry about the US military using this tactic to chill dissenting voices and whistle blowers from coming forward in the future. We need to be vigilant at this critical time in our country's history in order to push back against these tactics." See also YouTube
January 29 2007 ~ Nelson Mandela joined top leaders, nobel laureates and elder statesmen on Monday calling on the world to reinvent Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent approach to solving conflicts. Reuters
January 27 2007 ~Amnesty International has raised concerns about the welfare of two terror suspects the UK has deported
BBC The men - known only as Q and K - were sent back to Algeria "despite the risk that they would be tortured".
Remember this from the Independent about the dismal background to Belmarsh and its aftermath for detainees who were never even questioned - and this article from last October 'Contradictory' evidence used in deportation case? As one detainee said, "They use so-called secret evidence. Can you believe our solicitors are not entitled by the rules of this court to look at the evidence against us? So how can we defend ourselves? Everything is based on fabrications."
January 27 2007 ~"this man is looking for a pretext for another war" "...Bush says US troops are authorized to "kill or capture" suspected Iranian intelligence agents operating in Iraq." Professor Juan Cole
January 26 2007 ~ "Here's how Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, defined 'Britishness' on Radio 4:
January 26 2007 ~ Join Saturday's global peace marchvirtually This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Americans will march on Washington DC to demand peace and justice in Iraq and the Middle East. http://www.avaaz.org/en/global_peace_march/ Avaaz supporters in Washington have offered to carry real banners and placards at the US demonstration - showing how many internet marchers from all round the world are joining in and will carry the flag of each country that generates more than 500 internet marchers.
January 25 2007 ~ At least 650,000 Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq since the war began Before announcing his presidential bid in mid Decenmber, Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) held a Congressional briefing on the Iraqi civilian death toll. For every US serviceman killed 200 Iraqis have been killed.
Dennis Kucinich invited Dr Les Roberts of the recent Lancet study of October 2006 and Professor Juan Cole. The rush transcript can be read on www.democracynow.org.
(Kucinich has accused the leadership of the Democratic Party of not pushing hard enough to end the Iraq war).
January 25 2007 ~ Helen Thomas interview If you listen to Senator Bernie Sanders speaking at the National Conference for Media Reform, on the 22 January "End Corporate Control Over Our Media" you will also hear the hugely respected veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas talking frankly to Amy Goodman about the press corps and their reluctance to ask the right questions. President Gerald Ford once remarked, "If God created the Earth in six days, he couldn't have rested on the seventh - he would have had to explain it to Helen Thomas." The interview is very well worth listening to in full. Extract:
January 25 2007 ~ "China is rapidly becoming Britain's biggest rubbish dump" For those who worry about the crazy excesses of "packaging", here is an article in the Independent that should increase alarm
January 25 2007 ~ an act of contempt to the House and an expression of total disregard of the British public.... Independent Leader
January 25 2007 ~ "We went into Iraq for the wrong reasons. We should not pull out for the wrong reasons too." Steve Richards in the Independent
January 24 2007 ~ The criminal justice response to terrorism must be "proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law" "The director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, put himself at odds with the home secretary and Downing Street last night by denying that Britain is caught up in a "war on terror" and calling for a "culture of legislative restraint" in passing laws to deal with terrorism." Guardian article: 'There is no war on terror'
January 24 2007 ~ ~a troubling precedent in the US Sarah Olson, an independent print and radio journalist, has been been served with a subpoena requiring her to be a prosecution witness in a military court against Lieutenant Watada who refused to fight in Iraq because, as he said and she reported, he challenged its legality The Center for Media and Democracy today launched Defend The Press, a new coalition of journalists, public interest groups, academics and citizen activists. As the Defend the Press website says
January 24 2007 ~ ~"Not only does our footage show the active ethnic cleansing of both Sunnis and Shi'as daubing paint on doors to identify people who need to be driven out but it also shows fire-fights between ethnic groups and worse. We also see a joint patrol of US and Iraqi troops in Baghdad, where our camera captures the pretty brutal treatment meted out by the newly trained Iraqi soldiers to three suspected insurgents caught in a car, all to the accompaniment of laughter, whoops and egging on from the US soldiers who watch from their humvee. ..." Channel 4
January 24 2007 ~ ~ Secret Renditions - Geoff Hoon criticised in the report (see below) which "deplored" the way he co-operated with the committee investigating secret renditions claims. See Independent "....Overall the UK emerged as one of the countries which tolerated a significant number of "black flights" and failed to assist British citizens who were abducted in other countries. The document, agreed yesterday, expressed "serious concern about the 170 stopovers made by CIA-operated aircraft at UK airports, which on many occasions came from or were bound for countries linked with extraordinary rendition circuits and the transfer of detainees"..... The authors of the report also said they were outraged by the legal opinion of the Foreign Office adviser Michael Wood "according to which receiving or possessing information extracted under torture, as long as there is no direct participation in the torture, is not prohibited"...." (See report from November below)
January 23 2007 ~ ~ Iraq: sliding "into the abyss of sectarianism" Reuters reports that a U.N. envoy said today that Iraq was sliding "into the abyss of sectarianism" and urged Iraqi political and religious leaders to halt the violence after two car bombs in a Baghdad market killed 88 people.
January 23 2007 ~ ~ Secret CIA "renditions" - Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the UK are at the top of the list in the name-and-shame campaign.
The European Parliament's committee on CIA activities in Europe has called for sanctions to be imposed on member states which have condoned violation of human rights by US intelligence and strongly criticised the EU council for "trying to lie" to parliamentarians.
The final report was adopted today and it demands that the European Commission begin an independent investigation without delay and " impose sanctions on member states in case of a serious and persistent breach of human rights". Not much chance of this, according to a senior Dutch member of the CIA committee, Jan Marinus Wiersma. See EUobserver.
January 22 2007 ~ ~ Conditions placed on Brian Haw "unclear and invalid" says Judge. Mr Haw, who has been outside Parliament in a lone protest against the Iraq war since 2 June 2001. ...." has won his latest legal battle. Police claimed terrorists could hide bombs under his many banners and placards. District Judge Quentin Purdy said he had not breached conditions imposed on him by the Metropolitan Police (Met) as they were unclear and invalid. More
January 22 2007 ~ ~ Don't mention the oil.. Mr Blair's claim in 2003 was that only conspiracy theorists said the war had anything to do with oil. An oil law now on the point of being presented to the Iraqi cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad is about to allow oil giants like BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil. Justin links to the petition below:
January 22 2007 ~ ~ We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to not allow the privatisation of Iraqi oil, against the wishes of the Iraqi people. More details
January 22 2007 ~ ~ "A leaked letter from Geoff Hoon, the Europe Minister, shows that the Government turns a blind eye in Brussels to possible illegality because it can be used as a trade-off in EU negotiations....Eurosceptic Conservative MPs...said such "dubious backroom dealing" had become the hallmark of Tony Blair's approach to the EU. Every month, ministers such as Mr Hoon were "cosying up" to the integrationists in Brussels and waving through new EU regulations, even though they knew some of them might be illegal...." Telegraph
January 20 2007 ~ ~ Making dishonesty mundane Quotation from David Sirota of the San Francisco Chronicle"....A country whose national political conversation is dominated by voices that deny their own complicity in national security tragedies; downplay human casualties, and generally make dishonesty mundane, is a nation prevented from reflecting on its bad decisions -- and thus is doomed to repeat such bad decisions in the future." (Alternet)
( David Sirota is the author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government--and How We Take It Back published byCrown, 2006)
January 20 2007 ~ ~ Chinese satellite killer The Guardian says, "....The concern in the US is that the satellite-killing missile test - said by the US national security council to have been carried out on January 11 - demonstrated China has the capability to knock out its military satellite system, which the Pentagon depends on for navigation and surveillance.
American military and diplomatic analysts said a Chinese attack on about 40 to 50 satellites in low orbit round the world would leave the country's military blinded within a matter of hours.
But others, more sceptical about US policy, insist China had a right to challenge the US's effective monopoly of space. They noted that Beijing has repeatedly pressed for the US to sign agreements outlawing arms in space, overtures Washington has repeatedly rejected..."
January 20 2007 ~ ~ "White House efforts to portray Iran as a growing threat are reminiscent of rhetoric about Iraq..." The NYT on Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who on Friday sharply criticized the Bush administration's increasingly combative stance toward Iran. "... Mr. Rockefeller was biting in his criticism of how President Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic radicalism since the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he believed that the campaign against international terrorism was "still a mystery" to the president. "I don't think he understands the world," Mr. Rockefeller said. "I don't think he's particularly curious about the world. I don't think he reads......"
January 20 2007 ~ ~ "Iraq's system of higher education was near to collapsing even before the recent bombing at al-Mustansiriya University. Attendance is down by as much as half, and thousands of professionals have fled the country." Professor Juan Cole
January 19 2007 ~ ~ Tony Blair's director of Government relations arrested. See Channel 4 "in connection with alleged offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and also on suspicion of perverting the course of justice"....Ms Turner's arrest will spark speculation that police are widening their inquiries to look into the possibility of an attempted cover-up...." She has now been released. .
January 19 2007 ~ ~ British Airways today bowed to public pressure by announcing that it is to change its uniform policy to allow staff of all religions to display symbols of their faith. BBC
January 15 2007 ~ ~ Prüm Treaty Observer "Police and security services in the European Union will share access to an unprecedented range of individuals' personal data under a radical package of measures to be discussed by EU justice ministers this week. It allows agencies in different countries to search one another's databases - DNA records, fingerprints, vehicle details - and other personal information. Even if someone has no criminal record and their DNA is not on a database, police can ask their foreign colleagues to collect a sample...."
January 15 2007 ~ ~ "the European Parliament should be turned into a proper legislative assembly.... an "urgent requirement."
At a time when (to only whimpers of outrage from the very few) so many hard won democratic rights and responsibilities are being snatched away, the authors of an article for Welt am Sonntag, one of whom is former German President between 1994 and 1999, Roman Herzog, say that parliamentary democracy itself is under threat from the European Union which is slowly taking away all national parliaments' powers The article says that the EU Council of Ministers should have two legislative chambers The second would be to check that the EU was not "over-stepping its competences" and they call for "a clear cut and definitive list of what the powers of the EU are and what the powers of member states are." This idea was rejected at the time the EU Constitution was drafted because "they feared it would put a halt to the EU's evolution".
See what the EUobserver says about the article. ( "Every little bit helps," says EUreferendum blog)
January 15 2007 ~ ~"Blair's Britain now has the most intrusive government in our history. It's time we put a halt to this."Sir Menzies Campbell, commenting on New Labour's proposed mega Database. Quotations from news.independent.co.uk include:
January 12 2007 ~ ~ "Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, angrily condemned the "escalation" of the war. Washington Post
January 11 2007 ~ ~ " a growing divide between Britain and the US at a strategic as well as an operational level...." Even as Mrs Beckett appeared to praise the Bush speech, saying it "showed the US administration was determined to get to grips with the security situation, particularly in Baghdad" and Mr Blair said it "made sense", the Prime Minister was preparing a keynote speech in Plymouth to say that extra UK troops will not be deployed in Iraq (see ITN) The FT says that a
January 11 2007 ~ ~ "I believe it's a tragic mistake," Reuters "Democrats and some moderate Republicans on Thursday hammered President George W. Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, leaving the White House increasingly isolated in its decision to deepen American involvement in the unpopular war.....As Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, its Democratic chairman offered a tough view of Bush's plan. "I believe it's a tragic mistake," said Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, a 2008 presidential candidate...more from Reuters"....."America is no longer in the driving seat. It has lost Iraq and adding a few thousands troops is not going to help because the situation is beyond fixing," said Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, a political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.
Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University, said: "The Bush plan is based on many erroneous assumptions such as thinking that a military solution is possible. I think that is impossible." "He has abandoned the classical American pragmatic approach. He considers that he has a vision but he is completely detached from the reality on the ground," he added. .... "
January 9 2007 ~ ~ "a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally" It may be remembered that Dr Hans Blix warned in November that the decision to press ahead with a full replacement for Trident would make it more difficult to stop Iran acquiring the bomb. Now we read that four former senior US defence officials, including Henry Kissinger, have called for urgent and concerted action to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In the Wall Street Journal, they call for "a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world."
January 9 2007 ~ ~ Trident Peace Protest at Faslane - police remove politicians for "breaching the peace"....
Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon MSP and Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader Colin Fox, SNP MSPs.
Carolyn Leckie, Rosie Kane and Frances Curran and Green MEP Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Dutch Socialist MP Krista Van Velzen were arrested when taking part in a blockade of the entrance to the Scottish Trident nuclear submarine base in Faslane. Jill Evans, the deputy president of Plaid Cymru was also detained. She said, ".....The Labour government has to make a decision on the future of Trident. This is the opportunity to honour the commitment made by Britain 35 years ago in the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty to disarm its nuclear weapons. In financial, environmental and security terms, the costs are too high."
Caroline Lucas said,
January 2007 ~ ~ "What China has taught me, paradoxically, is the value of the West." Will Hutton: "I ... now see more clearly than ever (that) the kinds of connection I identified in The State We're In between economic performance and so-called 'soft' institutions - how people are educated, how trust relations are established and how accountability is exercised (just to name a few) - are central. They are equally important to a good society and the chance for individual empowerment and self-betterment.....I have often thought about that chance exchange. Britain and the West take our enlightenment inheritance too easily for granted, and do not see how central it is to everything we are, whether technological advance, trust or well-being. We neither cherish it sufficiently nor live by its exacting standards. We share too quickly the criticism of non-Western societies that we are hypocrites. What China has taught me, paradoxically, is the value of the West, and how crucial it is that we practise what we preach. If we don't, the writing is on the wall - for us and China. " Fascinating article on China - and the West - in the Observer
January 2007 ~ ~ "the Keystone Cops school of border control" In the Summer, the US government will demand that visitors have all 10 fingers scanned when they enter the country. The information will be shared with intelligence agencies, including the FBI, with no restrictions on their international use. The demands were disclosed in 'undertakings' given by the Department of Homeland Security to the EU and published by the Department for Transport after a request under the freedom of information legislation.
January 2007 ~ Drilling ban in Alaska to be permanent? BBC "Legislation has been tabled in the United States aimed at making a ban on oil drilling at a wildlife refuge in Alaska permanent. Wildlife campaigners are hoping the new Democrat-led Congress will adopt such a move, which has been rejected on several occasions in the past. .... "
January 2007 ~ Troops may protect power plants Sunday Times "Ministers are considering using soldiers to guard power plants against terrorist attack, it has emerged. But the Home Office said the review of protection arrangements did not come in response to any specific terrorist threat against facilities such as electricity power stations or gas pipelines. ....."
January 2007 ~ ~ Robert Fisk "The lynching of Saddam Hussein - for that is what we are talking about - will turn out to be one of the determining moments in the whole shameful crusade upon which the West embarked in March of 2003. ...the "official" videotape of the hanging was silent - and discreetly faded out - before Saddam was abused. It was cut at this point, not for reasons of good taste but because that democratically elected Iraqi government - whose election was such "great news for the people of Iraq" in the words of Lord Blair - knew all too well what the world would make of the terrible seconds that followed. Like the lies of Bush and Blair - that everything in Iraq was getting better when in fact it was getting worse - butchery was supposed to have been presented as a solemn judicial execution. ..." Read
January 2007 ~ ~ Riverbend on recent events. "I'm so tired of all of this"
".....It's one thing to have militias participating in killings. This is allegedly the democracy the Americans flaunt. Is this how bloodthirsty and frightening we've become? Is this what Iraq stands for now? Executions? I'm sure the rest of the Arab countries will be impressed.
One of the most advanced countries in the world did not help to reconstruct Iraq, they didn't even help produce a decent constitution. They did, however, contribute nicely to a kangaroo court and a lynching. A lynching shall go down in history as America's biggest accomplishment in Iraq. So who's next? Who hangs for the hundreds of thousands who've died as a direct result of this war and occupation? Bush? Blair? Maliki? Jaffari? Allawi? Chalabi?
2006 has definitely been representative of Maliki and his government- killings like never before and a lynching to end it properly. Death and destruction everywhere. I'm so tired of all of this ...." See full posting
January 2007 ~ ~ The number of US military deaths in Iraq has reportedly reached 3000 since the 2003 invasion began. ITN
December 18 2006 ~ Mr Blair's hubristic mission Independent Leader
January 2007 ~ ~ Apologies. Warmwell has not been updated for a while owing to an eye injury - which is now getting better slowly but surely. Best wishes for a saner and happier new year to all readers of this page.
December 18 2006 ~ Arms Sales Scandal Following the news that Mr Blair's intervention stopped the 3 year long Serious Fraud Squad's investigation into corruption
on secret arms-deal commissions in its tracks, we read in the Independent "...It was claimed scrapping the contract for 72 Typhoon fighters would threaten 50,000 jobs. But international law forbids countries from using commercial considerations to exempt firms from anti-corruption prosecutions.
...Tony Blair personally took charge of efforts to pressure the Attorney General to drop the probe. He ordered supportive assessments from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office. These were then presented to the head of the SFO and formed part of Lord Goldsmith's "public interest" justification for calling off the probe...." Read in full
Critics say that the British government refrains from criticising the Saudis' appalling human rights abuses, in order not to upset the arms sales. Campaigners will decide today whether to mount a legal challenge
December 18 2006 ~ "The massive scare was, as I said at the time, "More propaganda than plot"...." Craig Murray has written an article debunking the so-called evidence in the airport scare that caused such massive disruption in August.
December 18 2006 ~ Fairford coaches On March 22 2003, the police seized three coaches carrying people to a peaceful demonstration at Fairford,and held them for two hours. The Peace protesters, some Quakers, many middle-aged or older, were stopped, searched and forced to return to London. Amongst the passengers was the 64-year old aunt of one of those killed in New York on 11 September 2001. On arrival in London a number of police vehicles were waiting at Euston. We were appalled at the time The law lords have now ruled that both actions were unlawful and that freedom of
expression was "an essential foundation of democratic society".
(Steve Bell's cartoon.)
Guardian "On December 13th five law lords unanimously upheld the right to protest and ruled that police had acted unlawfully in detaining Iraq war protesters and forcibly turning them back. Amnesty International called the ruling "a case of fundamental importance for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest" ....."
December 15 2006 ~ Tony Blair faced fresh questions over the case for war in Iraq today amid claims that the Government never viewed Saddam Hussein as a threat to the UK. Telegraph
December 2006 ~ Short break in updates Warmwell will be back as soon as possible. For an overview of the papers click here
December 11 2006 ~ The case for a British inquiry is irresistible, both to ensure that lessons are learned and to hold the government to account for making the case for war in a less than straightforward manner. Guardian Leader ".... although parliament must initiate and "own" the inquiry, it must not be run by a backbench MP, however senior. Instead MPs could, as in the Butler inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraq, sit with other advisers on the panel that draws up the report on the basis of inquiries into specific areas subcontracted to academics and institutions such as Chatham House. It will necessarily be chaired by a figure from parliament, but it should be a figure sanitised by time and distance from day-to-day politics. Paddy Ashdown, for example, could contribute not only a military background but his experience of nation-building in Bosnia. The chair, and the terms of reference, are the chief determinants of an inquiry's outcome. Lord Hutton demonstrated how to use his remit as a shelter for a cautious judge. Lord Butler, ever deferential to constitutional propriety, pitched his findings in opaque language that helped shelter the government. Lord Ashdown, armed with the right terms of reference, could be a powerful force. ..."
December 11 2006 ~ "lies about Hugo Chavez" Today's Independent
December 11 2006 ~ Pinochet is dead. Margaret Thatcher says she is saddened. Mrs Thatcher's feelings notwithstanding, "the streets of Santiago were a cacophony of car horns and cheering yesterday, as Chileans took to the streets in droves to celebrate the demise of South America's most notorious dictator." ( See Independent for latest articles)
Anyone who knows anything at all about Chile will feel only relief that one remorseless, world stage killer at least has now left the scene - and wonder yet again at how black can be made to appear white by the spinning of propaganda spiders and - as the comment about Chavez shows above - how white can be made to look black. Thank goodness for the internet.
December 11 2006 ~ Iraq. " In this war of imaginings, appearance is all." Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times "...The naive belief that US power could create a beacon of secular democracy in the Islamic world may have been confined to the salons of neocon Washington and London, to whom war seemed like an intellectual party game. Yet it captured the leaders of two world governments and led them to their doom. .."
December 9 2006 ~ Trident "sickening opportunism from many who should know better" Guardian article "... A CID officer asked to be let into her cell to shake her hand to show his respect for the Hawk action. ...
....Democracy in the Labour party has all but been destroyed by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and sickening opportunism from many who should know better. The response of the Lib Dems has been pathetic. Civil disobedience is the only way to give voice to the majority of people who want the UK to champion, not undermine, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and who want the billions being sunk in the Clyde to be spent on ending the poverty that feeds violent conflict. .... '
December 9 2006 ~ Basra s the key export point for Iraqi petroleum. Professor Cole says today that it has been ' been plagued this year by militia and tribal violence. The militias and Marsh Arabs smuggle petroleum and fight turf wars with one another about it. It is not an exaggeration to say that unl"ess security can be restored to Basra, and unless its militias and feuding clans can be broug"t under control, Iraq "itself has a dim future.'
He also reprts on the latest incident ivolving air strikes on two houses in a predominantly Sunni village northwest of Baghdad . The US says that they were used by the guerrillas an" that twenty Iraqis were killed, including two women. Local Iraqi police, however, insisted that the houses belonged to civilian families and that children had been killed. The US denied it. 'At least one AP photograph does appear to show the " corpse of a child.' says Juan Cole. Aljazeera says that local Iraqis in Ishaqi maintain that the US troops had entered the houses and killed people, then called down the air strikes to destroy the eviden"e.
Professor Cole tells us that
December 6 2006 ~'Ten American soldiers were killed in four incidents in Iraq on Wednesday, a U.S. military spokesman said, as a report from an elite panel recommended the United State" begin to withdraw forces from combat. ...Under pressure to end an unpopular war that has killed more than 2,900 Americans and thousands of Iraqis, President Bush said he would take the report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group 'very seriously'...' """ Reuters 'T"e small group of British detectives who arrived in Moscow on Monday were virtually relegated to the role of observers by chief prosecutor Ch"ika who has publicly insisted Russian authori"ies will direct interviews on Russian soil....' "
December 6 2006 ~ Litvinenko 'British police said on Wednesday they were now treating the death of poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko as murder.' Reuters
ITN ' Traces of radiation have been found at the British Embassy in Moscow by the team probing the death of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. " "
December 6 2006 ~America's ability to resolve the crisis in Iraq is narrowing and the costs could rise to more than $1 trillion "Reuters '. The Democratic co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, former Rep. Lee Hamilton said, 'The c"urrent approach is not working andthe ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing. No course of action in Iraq (is) guaranteed to stop a slide toward chaos. Yet, in our view, not all options have been exhausted. "
December 5 2006 ~ Lib Dems warn of consumer debt and property crash '......risks facing the economy. ....'The biggest I think is personal debt. We are getting towards levels of debt servicing in relation to people's income which preceded the time of the crash under the Tory government in the early 1990s. 'Interest rates may be lower but people are having to repay their debts. Most of the debt is associated with mortgages ... All the government assumptions are based on the fact that house prices are stable, but you can see from the charts that when there has been a big boom there has been a big crash. I'm not predicting anything but history suggests we do not get a soft landing.'...' Independent
"ecember 4 2006 ~ FOI threatened 'The real problem is that ministers don't like daylight.' Guardian Comment
December 4 2006 ~Kofi Annan Iraq is in the grip of civil war ITN.
'worse than civil war' Telegraph
Professor Juan Cole says
December 4 2006 ~Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez " stormed to a re-election victory in Sunday's vote, handing him an ample mandate to broaden his promised socialist revolution and challenge Washington's influence in Latin America. .." Reuters Top News
December 4 2006 ~ Guantánamo Washington Post "The Pentagon is invoking emergency authority to expedite funding of a war-crimes-court compound at its Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England has informed Congress....John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his successor in the next Congress, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), have filed a joint letter of protest."
December 1 2006 ~ Electronic voting is not secure Washington Post "Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout the Washington region and much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission."
December 1 2006 ~ Iraq "Bush in denial" Robert Fisk "....Bush even appeared oblivious of the current sectarian map of Iraq. "The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence," he said. "I agree." But Iraq is already "split into parts". The fracture of Iraq is virtually complete, its chasms sucking in corpses at the rate of up to a thousand a day...." Independent
December 1 2006 ~ Litvinenko affair "Irish police are investigating whether a former Russian Prime Minister was poisoned the day after ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko died." ITN A post-mortem examination is due to be carried out on former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko who died of radioactive poisoning. ITN
December 1 2006 ~ Cash for Peerages "....sources close to the inquiry have revealed that Mr Yates has secretly briefed MPs on the powerful Public Administration Committee that he is confident of collating enough evidence to bring charges..." Mail
November 30 2006 ~ Trident - Government's position decided before the consultation exercise A White Paper is expected before Christmas. MPs will vote after a " three-month consultation exercise" - but Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have already signalled their support for building a "son of Trident" submarine-based system, which could cost up to £30bn. This is at a time when money to fund hospitals, schools, the environment, proper research and development etc etc is desperately short.
Independent ".... MPs are gearing up for a battle over Britain's independent deterrent. Forty-two MPs have signed a Commons motion calling on ministers to publish all the possible options and their costs to ensure an informed debate.
Another motion attacks the Government for deciding its position before the consultation exercise and deplores moves to deny Labour backbenchers a free vote. Two separate motions, tabled by Labour and Tory MPs, call for at least a year-long discussion before MPs vote..."
November 30 2006 ~"New Labour's reactionary agenda has failed" Independent Leading article:
November 30 2006 ~ Harmondsworth all four wings were hit by fires and rioting early yesterday morning. Specialist teams of anti-riot prison officers spent more than 16 hours fighting to quell the riot. The Independent says, "....The disturbances came less than 24 hours after the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, delivered a damning verdict on Harmondsworth..".
November 30 2006 ~ "the Government's headlong and self-induced race to absurdity" In another Independent article about prison overcrowding, Lord Ramsbotham, the former prison chief , is quoted. "The justice system is absurd. Broken. Chaotic"
November 30 2006 ~ Is the criminal justice system fair? In the Independent the question is answered by seven experts. The first is Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty "Politicians have created a panic about crime so the public now fear there won't be enough space in prison for all the people who are guilty of offences. They have trapped themselves in a debate where they tell the public there is nothing wrong with the system, then enact more criminal laws to change it."
November 30 2006 ~ The Iraq Study Group has "decided to recommend the U.S. military transition from a combat to a support role in Iraq roughly over the next year, a source familiar with the panel's deliberations said on Wednesday." Reuters The independent, bipartisan group also calls for ".. a regional conference that could lead to direct U.S. talks with Iran and Syria"
November 30 2006 ~ "Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, postponed a a meeting in Jordan with George Bush yesterday after a leaked White House memo revealed deep US misgivings about Mr Maliki's willingness or ability to curb sectarian violence." Guardian
November 30 2006 ~ President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has written a letter to the US people. It criticizes U.S. policy and offeres to work with Americans to reverse those policies. See NYT
November 30 2006 ~ Litvinenko - 3 BA planes contaminated Although low level radiation doesn't pose a significant health threat, two British Airways planes are to undergo detailed examination after traces of a radioactive substance were discovered on board. Tests are to see if the substance is polonium-210. 221 flights involving the three aircraft and 33,000 passengers are involved. See BBC " The aircraft have made a large number of flights since they were contaminated. carrying many thousands of passengers, and the company was trying to alert them all." ....
November 29 2006 ~"As the Prime Minister spoke with his usual Hugh Grant charm...misconception after misconception poured from his lips." Patrick Cockburn in the Independent"Slaughter in Iraq soon seems to be part of normal life. Iraq is rending itself apart. The signs of collapse are everywhere. In Baghdad, the police often pick up more than 100 tortured and mutilated bodies in a single day. Government ministries make war on each other..."
November 28 2006 ~ EU report into 'extraordinary renditions' UK 'uncooperative' EUobserver '.... Italy, the UK, Germany, Sweden and Aus"ria saw terrorism suspects snatched on their territory the report by Italian socialist MEP Claudio Fava will say, while the UK, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Romania and Poland hosted hundreds of secret CIA flights...Warsaw declined to field any government ministers or MPs to answer MEPs' questions and the Polish parliament opted not to hold any enquiry into the affair. ....Italy, the UK, Austria, Romania and Macedonia are to be named as uncooperative states as well, while Macedonia and Bosnia are to be accused of seeing suspects snatched by US intelligence on their soil. ..."
November 28 2006 ~ Asylum-seekers are not criminals - they are people who are vulnerable and scared. Their treatment should reflect that The Independent 'Almost half of the failed asylum-seekers at Britain's largest immigration removal centre have complained of bullying by staff, t"e ja"ls watchdog will say today.
November 28 2006 ~ Let's win the war first, then maybe look at how we got into it New York Times on 'The sudden rise of Chris Carney, a pre-Iraq war Pentagon intelligence analyst turned newly elected Democratic congressman ... Mr. Carney recalled that there was a wealth of prewar intelligence predicting that an insurgency would develop quickly after the invasion, and he said he was stunned by the Pentagon's failure to plan for it or even acknowledge its scope. ....It bothered me when the secretary started calling the insurgency a bunch of dead-enders.... He said of Pentagon officials: 'T"hey were saying that the looting was just the way the Iraqis behaved. It showe that we didn't seem to get it...they still ""ought they were fighting Desert Storm. That's the war they thought they had, and that's how they managed it.'
November 28 2006 ~ Kofi Annan says Iraq is almost in the throes of a civil war BBC 'I think given the developments on the g"ound, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact we almost are there.' "
November 28 2006 ~ US eavesdropping Reuters ' The Justice Department is launching an internal review of its participation in the Bush administration's controversial domestic eavesdropping program, the department's inspector general told congressional leaders on Monday...The American Civil Liberties Union, a critic of the program, said Fine's review was long overdue. 'We applaud Inspector General Fine for his perseverance in pushing for this investigation and hope it will be comprehensive and free from political pressur",' said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.'
November 28 2006 ~ 'Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic lurched downward yesterday as retail anxieties clouded the American economy and the US currency slipped closer to a rate of $2 against the pound. In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped to its lowest close in seven weeks, losing 72 points to 6,050 in spite of upbeat UK housing data....' Guardian "
November 27 2006 ~Shares of BAE, Europe's largest defence firm, fell 4.4 per cent today on reports it might lose a Eurofighter deal with Saudi Arabia if a fraud probe is extended to the Saudi royal family. See Ireland.com" "..... the Saudi government was set to tear up its Euro"ighter Typhoon agreement with Britain and give the jets contract to France if the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) opened Swiss bank accounts"alle"edly linked to members of the Saudi royal family as part of a long-running investigation.' See below ""
November 27 2006 ~Litvinenko mystery deepens Reuters - "Traces of radiation have been found at several more sites in London during investigations into the death of a former KGB spy last week, British Home Secretary John Reid said on Monday. ..comments deepened the mystery over how and where Litvinenko ingested the poison that caused his agonizing death, causing his hair to fall out and gradually shutting down his vital organs.
The possible contamination of members of the public "as heaped pressure on the government to explain what it knows about Litvinenko's death."
The Guardian reports that three people have been tested for radiation and Max Hastings' article says of Putin, " The president may not have personally ordered Litvinenko's murder, but he is overlord of a culture which legitimised it .."
November 27 2006 ~ "They lied their way into Iraq. Now they are trying to lie their way out" Gary Younge in the Guardian is not mincing his words "Bush and Blair will blame anyone but themselves for the consequences of their disastrous war - even its victims ....Franco-German diplomatic obstruction, Arab indifference, media bias, UN weakness, Syrian and Iranian meddling, women in niqabs and old men with placards - all have been or surely will be blamed for the coalition's defeat. As one American columnist pointed out last week, we wait for Bush and Blair to conduct an interview with Fox News entitled If We Did It, in which they spell out how they would have bungled this war if, indeed, they had done so...."
November 27 2006 ~ Iraq no schedule for troop withdrawal Reuters "A draft report prepared for an influential panel considering U.S. alternatives for Iraq urges direct talks with Iran and Syria, but sets no schedule for troop withdrawal, The New York Times reported on Monday."
November 27 2006 ~"Dr Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector, will launch a new attack on Tony Blair today, warning that the decision to press ahead with a full replacement for Trident will make it more difficult to stop Iran acquiring the bomb.....Dr Blix's speech will increase the doubts among those who question the value of a more powerful nuclear weapon with multiple warheads designed to penetrate "hardened" targets, when the foreseeable threat is from rogue states or terrorists. Unlike in the 1980s, there are significant military figures with doubts over the renewal of Trident. " Independent
November 27 2006 ~ calls for cabinet posts to be filled by experts rather than political placemen. The Independent quotes the civil liberties lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who will deliver the Longford Lecture. He backs demands for a British Bill of Rights and ridicules plans to reform the House of Lords as laughable.
November 27 2006 ~ Hain criticises Russia's 'huge attacks on liberty' What will the bloggers make of that? Watch this space... Meanwhile, we read in the Telegraph" that airline passengers are to face routine fingerprinting, with the Governme"t already involed in talks with the aviation industry over the installation of scanners at airports.
November 26 2006 ~ ' The constitutional and political potential of that moment"is, to put it mildly, absolutely explosive.' Martin Kettle the Guard"an, who considers Lord Bingham one of the greatest livng Eng"lishmen, writes about Lord Bingham's recent Cambridge University lecture on the rule of law.
November 26 2006 ~ Wikipedia on Litvinenko
November 26 2006 ~ Michael Moore 'We Americans are better than what has been done in our name.'
November 25 2006 ~ assassination squad? The Independent reports that John Reid chaired an emergency meeting of Cobra yesterday over fears that the murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko could mean an assassination squad is targeting dissidents in London.
The New York Times says "....alarm spread across London after the police found traces of radiation in three places the former spy had been: a sushi bar, a hotel and his North London home. Scientists were astounded at the use of the rare and hard-to-produce substance, polonium 210, which is dangerous when breathed, injected or ingested.. ..it would have required high-grade technical skills and a sophisticated scientific process to produce, probably within a nuclear lab. ... All the while, diplomats scurried to prevent the case from becoming an international incident ."
The Guardian says, "....He was killed by polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope which is so toxic that there may never be a postmortem examination of Mr Litvinenko's body, for fear of causing further deaths....Last night health officials were contacting up to 100 people - hospital staff and relatives - who came into contact with the former spy during his three weeks at two London hospitals, so they can be screened for contamination..."
(Wikipedia is bang up to date on polonium 210 today)
November 25 2006 ~ Iraq "Precarious government teeters" as sectarian killings reach new peak. Guardian
November 25 2006 ~ Henry Porter's 'Suspect Nation' documentary is up on YouTube (new window - It seems to get cut off after Al Gore. Has anyone been able to watch it to the end?)
November 24 2006 ~ Trident - MPs will have the chance to debate and vote Independent "....backers of Britain's continuing nuclear arsenal point to the large stocks of weapons still held around the world, and point out that nuclear powers such as China could be a source of future instability, while Russia could become destabilised and pose a renewed threat to the West...
"....critics claim a British nuclear weapon would be of little use as a deterrent......Renewing Britain's nuclear arsenal would undermine efforts to persuade other nations not to develop them .... A decision to replace Trident could breach international non-proliferation treaties to which Britain is a signatory ...'
The article answers interesting questions in a balanced way
November 23 2006 ~ BAE Systems and Trident. Jack Straw says (See Guardian) 'This is about the defence of this country and its people and its future over many decades.
'Spea"ing to the parliamentary defence committee earlier this month, Mur"ay Easton, head of "he submarine division at BAE Systems, warned that a delay could have a 'catastrophic' impact on the industry.
(Some might feel that a 'catastrophic effect' on the arms industry might be preferable to the potential catastrophic effects caused by the weaponry from "hich its huge profits are derived.)
More on BAE below"" "" ""
November 23 2006 ~ Iraq 'scenes utterly appalling' Snowmail '...the reality that the human disintegration of Iraq in general, and Baghdad in particular, has reached an altogether new level of horror. At least 145 people dead from a car bomb blast, the scenes utterly appalling. The city of Baghdad tonight on a permanent curfew - presumab"y it will have to be lif"ed at some stage" but a sense of panic has set in" And it seems t"at the authorities have taken the unprecedented step of a lock-down until they can work out what to do next...'
Reuters 'Six car bombs killed 160 people in a Shi'ite stronghold on Thursday in the bloodiest attack in Baghdad since the U.S. invasion and the authorities imposed an indefinite curfew on a city fearful of a sectarian civil war...' ""
November 22 2006 ~ Mr"Blair ' once c"nfessed ...that he regretted not having studied history at Oxford. He never spoke a truer word..... Simon Jenkins in the Guardian. The article - as always - needs to be read in full.
November 20 2006 ~ Someone will have to carry the can The Times 'Police investigating 'loans-for-peerages' allegations will release their findings to MPs in a move which could force some of the Prime Minister's closest aides to resign... Scotland Yard will disclose their dossier to the House of Commons' Public Administra"ion Committee, even if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides that there is "o case to answer. .....""" Speculation will fall on the futures of Lord Levy, the Prime Minister's personal fundraiser who was arrested in August, and Jonathan Powell, No 10's chief of staff, who is to be questioned under caution by police. .....' "
November 20 2006 ~ secret arms-deal commissions The Serious Fraud Office Guardian on secret arms-deal commissions:
November 20 2006 ~ BAE Systems makes a killing... It is the fourth largest arms company in the world. Each year it sells about £11 billion worth of arms around the globe. In 2005 BEA Systems ranked seventh in a list of companies supplying the Pentagon. See pdf link, at www.caat.org.uk (new window)
November 20 2006 ~ No secret drive to develop nuclear weapons in Iran The United States and other major powers believe Iran's uranium enrichment program is utimately aimed at producing fissile material for nuclear weapons. However, Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, says
November 20 2006 ~ counter-terrorism bill expected soon could increase the 28-day period for which suspects can be held without charge.
Guardian "... the prime minister insisted last week that he had not changed his mind about pressing for longer detention periods...
But Lord Goldsmith said in a media briefing that such a change would need evidence which he had not seen so far.
The government's initial attempt to increase the maximum detention period from 14 to 90 days led to Tony Blair's first defeat in the Commons a year ago. Parliament agreed only to double the period to 28 days.... also said he favoured a change in the law to allow police to interview suspects after they have been charged, a power that would reduce the need for lengthy pre-charge detention.
It could apply to other criminals (sic) as well as terrorism suspects, he said. There would need to be safeguards to ensure that suspects were not "browbeaten time and time again" by police in the interview room, he added.... "
November 19 2006 ~ Margaret Hassan was brutally murdered after 20 days of captivity in Baghdad. In the Mail on Sunday, her sisters, who were very close to Margaret, claim that " Jack Straw's arrogance, Tony Blair's indifference and Foreign Office incompetence all contributed to her death."
November 19 2006 ~ "..Parties should stop selling peerages and start selling themselves, their policies and politics generally to the electors. " Simon Jenkins in the Times "... Yates's big break appears to have been the oldest in the copper's book. Four gentlemen came up with the cash but the coronets failed to arrive. (The peerages were stopped by the very scrutiny committee set up by Blair to highlight "Tory sleaze".) Yates suddenly found himself with some very unhappy witnesses. What had seemed a minor Westminster diversion went critical.
.... The prime minister of Britain is thus about to be questioned, presumably under caution, for a criminal offence. All party leaders have sold peerages and everyone in the know knows it. ..." ."
November 19 2006 ~ Henry Kissinger says it is impossible for the United States to achieve military victory in Iraq. "An international conference should be called that involves neighbors (of Iraq), perhaps the permanent members of the Security Council and countries that have a major interest in the outcome, like India and Pakistan," he told BBC television." Reuters. And the unrelenting violence continues
November 19 2006 ~ Serious Fraud Office Tanzania deal investigation News in the Times and Reuters that the Serious Fraud Office and Ministry of Defence police are looking into allegations that BAE Systems paid backhanders to the Tanzanian Government in 2001 for a £28 million military air traffic control system has not been mentioned in the mainstream press since November 12 . It was a deal personally approved by Tony Blair who overruled Cabinet objections. There were objections too from the World Bank who said that Tanzania could, for a tenth of that price, have bought a civilian system, but our Prime Minister overruled the cabinet and forced it through the deal on behalf of BAE Systems, the UK defence contractor and partner to the Carlyle Group. Barclays Bank loaned Tanzania the money for the deal - a debt repaid from aid given to Tanzania by Britain to assist sustainable development, including primary education. The Times wrote:
November 19 2006 ~ Condoleeza Rice Urges Iraq to be more like Vietnam. (cbsnews.com) She pointed to Vietnam's success in reforming its economy and making up with the United States and held it out as a model to Iraq. "Whaaat?" writes Professor Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment is usually far more calm sorrow in tone than anger, but today he is aghast:
November 19 2006 ~ "The prime minister does not use the word disaster..." Tony Blair agreed with David Frost on Aljazeera's English channel that Iraq has been a disaster:
When challenged by Sir David said it had "so far been pretty much of a disaster"
Tony Blair replied: "It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? "
Downing Street however is saying that Mr Blair's views had been misrepresented and he'd been simply acknowledging the question when he agreed with Frost's suggestion.
November 17 2006 ~ They're not laughing now The BBC quotes Alex Salmond, Leader of the SNP, about the speculation that Mr Blair is to be questioned "soon" after all.
November 17 2006 ~Blair overruled his own cabinet, and forced through a deal on behalf of BAE Systems, the UK defense contractor and Carlyle Group partner. Truthout.org has an article in which we read,
November 17 2006 ~ Mirza Hussain's nightmare is over and he is expected to return home. The Independent has the story. "....his death sentence was changed to life imprisonment on the orders of Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf. Today, the country's interior minister said the Briton has been released from custody after 18 years behind bars... "
November 15 2006 ~ "...For the moment, denial still rulesSimon Jenkins in the Guardian ".... In America last week I was shocked at how unaware even anti-war Americans are (like many Britons) of the depth of the predicament in Iraq. They compare it with Vietnam or the Balkans - but it is not the same. It is total anarchy. All sentences beginning, "What we should now do in Iraq ... " are devoid of meaning. We are in no position to do anything. We have no potency; that is the definition of anarchy....
....To talk of a collapse into civil war if "we leave" Iraq is to completely misread the chaos into which that country has descended under our rule.... Foreign soldiers can stay in their bases, but they will no more "prevent civil war" than they can "import democracy". They are relevant only as target practice for insurgents and recruiting sergeants for al-Qaida. The occupation of Iraq has passed from brutality to mere idiocy.... "
November 15 2006 ~ Campaign for Freedom of Information has written to all MPs asking them to sign a Parliamentary motion (EDM) 140 MPs had supported it by 8th November The motion has been tabled by an all-party group of MPs
November 15 2006 ~Iran and Syria Times ".... both regimes insisted that the situation in the region would only improve if Washington changed its policies....President Ahmadinejad said that Tehran had always been ready to talk to America if certain conditions were met......in the past Iran has demanded that the United States unfreeze Iranian assets held by the US Government, withdraw forces from Iraq, drop its support for Israel and stop its efforts to halt Tehran's nuclear programme. ..... Mr Ahmadinejad repeated his determination to press ahead with uranium enrichment work...
...The question being asked by some of Syria's political classes, however, is, why should we help? Ayman Abdel Nour, an economist and key reformer in the Baath party, said: "What can Britain offer Syria? It has followed America's policy of isolating Syria, but has discovered it did not work. The Gulf States are flush with oil money and have been investing heavily in Syria, meaning economic sanctions have not worked."...."
November 15 2006 ~ White House seeks dismissal of CIA leak suit The lawyers also said that Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, failed to allege that any of the defendants had violated a constitutional right. See Valerie Plame page
November 15 2006 ~ Iraq abductions "....accounts by one of a group of about a dozen people released by the kidnappers later on Tuesday... suggest that the abductions may have been the latest in a series of mass kidnappings carried out by Shiite gangs and death squads operating from inside the interior ministry.....The government's swift response in ordering the arrest of police commanders in the neighborhood where Tuesday's kidnappings occurred was a break with a pattern of inaction bordering on indifference in several earlier mass kidnappings that appeared to have been linked to Shiite death squads. While concern to show a new resolve to restive critics of the war in Washington was likely to have been a major spur, another was the sheer scale and audaciousness of Tuesday's attack. By seizing such a large number of people from a government building, in the center of the capital, in broad daylight, the kidnappers appeared to be sending a message that they could pounce anywhere with effective impunity. ..." NYT
November 15 2006 ~
"Abuses carried out under the CIA's secret programme of extraordinary rendition are to be investigated by one of the Senate's most powerful committees, it emerged today.
The new chairman of the Senate armed services committee, the Democratic senator Carl Levin, revealed that he was "not comfortable" with the rendition system and said it was making the US less secure...............
.... the Financial Times reported him as saying. "I think that there's been some significant abuses which have not made us more secure but have made us less secure and have also, perhaps, cost us some real allies, as well as not producing useful information. So I think the system needs a thorough review ...." Guardian
November 15 2006 ~
Al Jazeera is launching its much-delayed English language service at 1200 GMT today The Independent says, "....Al Jazeera has occasionally been targeted during the "war on terror". it was revealed last year that Tony Blair talked George Bush out of bombing the firm's Doha headquarters during a meeting between the two leaders in April 2004. David Blunkett has also admitted that he urged Mr Blair to break international law and bomb Al Jazeera's Baghdad television transmitter during the Iraq conflict, claiming the station was "attempting to win a propaganda war on behalf of our enemy".
It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the launch of an English-language channel will further rile those who have accused the station of being a mouthpiece for terrorists, and claimed (wrongly) that it has broadcast beheadings. Those involved say, however, that AJI will continue to follow the news agenda of its parent station. They deny accusations of bias; instead, they say, the station offers a counterbalance to the "Western tyranny" of other international broadcasters. "We will take a global view, rather than looking at things from a purely Western perspective," Alan Fisher said. ..."
November 14 2006 ~ War Crimes - Rumsfeld "Civil rights groups filed a suit with German prosecutors on Tuesday seeking war crimes charges against outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the alleged abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo prisons. .." Reuters
November 14 2006 ~"Gunmen in Iraqi police uniforms snatched up to 100 staff and visitors from a ministry building in Baghdad on Tuesday, sparking a huge manhunt by a government struggling to control increasingly audacious sectarian militias..." Reuters
November 14 2006 ~ George W Bush has "gone abroad"... Reuters reports
November 12/13 2006 ~ "Carne Ross told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the US government was repeatedly warned by British diplomats that Iraq would fall apart if Saddam Hussein was toppled. But from mid-2002 instructions were received to change that view to fall in with the Bush administration..." Independent
November 12/13 2006 ~ fresh attempt to make the Government reveal its exit plan from Iraq Independent on Sunday
November 12/13 2006 ~ Cash for Peerages - more pressure The Sunday Times Leader is outspoken
November 12/13 2006 ~ UK deaths in Basra Snowmail tonight suggests that American troops could begin pulling out of the country within 4 to 6 months (See Reuters top news) - but Baghdad Burning, the respected Iraq blog, leaves us in no doubt of the worsening horrible mess for anyone outside the Green Zone - and four British servicemen have been killed and three seriously wounded in an attack on a boat patrol in Basra today. The Observer says,
November 10 2006 ~ "It has taken two years to force the Foreign Office to admit that the draft even exists....." The New Statesman article this week on the possibility that the Iraq dossier originated with the government's spin machine rather than the intelligence services
November 10 2006 ~ Warmwell pages on Dr Brian Jones' concerns. Extract from Independent 8 October 2004 :
November 10 2006 ~ Loans for Peerages "It is now only a matter of time before the Prime Minister is questioned over this issue. It is becoming ever clearer that Mr Blair is not in charge of events over this: events are controlling him." The Mail reports the words of SNP MP Angus MacNeil, who initiated the police inquiry into the cash-for-peerages affair. Although the headline is Blair to escape indignity of first PM to be quizzed by police it is now " almost certain the Prime Minister will be quizzed under caution as a potential suspect." The Daily Mail says, "The revelation that the inquiry could spill over until next year will increase suspicion that party officials are deliberately dragging their feet to avoid handing over potentially embarrassing information. " and that "The rigour of the inquiry, led by Assistant Commissioner Yates, has stunned Westminster observers - many of whom had predicted that the probe would be a whitewash."
November 9 2006 ~ Vote embarrasses allies Reuters.com reports
November 9 2006 ~ There seems to be a huge wave of optimism in Iraq at the news of the Mid Term elections and Rumsfeld's departure.
Professor Juan Cole is concerned that "there may be a great deal of disappointment and even more anger when the Iraqis gradually realize that Gates cannot provide security either. It is not clear, either, that the Democrats can bring the troops home any time soon. Disappointment and anger in Iraq turn into violence..." He reports from the Baghdad newspapers Iraqi reaction to the departure of Donald Rumsfeld. The Times of Baghdad, Al-Zaman:
November 9 2006 ~ UK Government is refusing to release a secret draft of its dossier on Iraq's supposed WMD The BBC quotes Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, who has been pushing for a Parliamentary inquiry into the war:
November 9 2006 ~ Robert Gates, the 63-year-old career intelligence officer chosen to replace Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, takes over with the clearest of missions: get American troops out of Iraq as quickly and cleanly as possible.... Times
November 8 2006 ~Reuters reports Mid Term results Reuters "Democrats swept Republicans from power in the U.S. House of Representatives and gained seats in the Senate, riding to victory on a wave of public discontent with the Iraq war, corruption and President George W. Bush's leadership.....Democratic control of the House was likely to make outspoken liberal Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker, slam the brakes on much of Bush's agenda and increase pressure for a change of course in Iraq.
The fight for the Senate was still up in the air. ."
November 8 2006 ~"... the debate has centered around democracy, terrorism and the human and financial costs of the conflict. Very little has been said about the fact that oil is central to economic growth and that there is no ready substitute for it. It's as if the basics of civilization - -stable climate, fresh water, fertile soil, minerals, and energy supplies - were afterthoughts or at most a problem of location as in the case of oil. And yet, major issues in American politics flow directly from our ecological predicament...." See warmwell's Peak Oil news page or go direct to Energy Bulletin's The 'dark matter' of American politics
November 8 2006 ~"..reports of dirty campaigning, most if not quite all of it carried out on behalf of the Republican Party cascaded across the country so fast that it was almost impossible for law enforcement, or anyone else, to keep up.
In several states, Democrats - especially African Americans - complained that they had been called and told the location of their precinct had changed, when it hadn't. In 20 of the closest House districts around the country, registered Democrats and independents found themselves bombarded with so-called "robo-calls" - computer-generated messages that sound at first like get-out-the-vote initiatives on behalf of Democratic candidates but grow ever more negative as they go on until it finally becomes clear they are endorsed by the Republican Party. .." Independent
November 8 2006 ~"Israel fired artillery shells containing white phosphorus in its recent conflict with Hizbollah militants in the Lebanon, according to an official investigation by the United Nations. .." Independent
"White phosphorus is banned under the Geneva Convention when used against civilians or in civilian areas, although Israel insists that the shells were directed against solely military targets.
However, the UN team failed to find any evidence that Israel used depleted uranium, enriched uranium or any other radioactive material in bombs dropped on Lebanon during the month-long war, which ended on 14 August."
November 8 2006 ~ Effects of Depleted Uranium used in Iraq The photographs (pdf) show in distressing detail what happens to children and adults in Iraq when they are affected by weapons containing depleted uranium.
November 5 2006 ~ " They voted against their party, but for parliament and democracy." Henry Porter's important article in the Observer
November 5 2006 ~" there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD" The Iraq Options paper, a memo from the Overseas and Defence Secretariat Cabinet Office outlining military options for implementing regime change and dating from March 2002, ( as mentioned by Henry Porter below), can be seen in full at DowningStreetMemo.com - which has both the pdf file of the photographed pages and the transcription. Very near the top we read : Despite sanctions, Iraq continues to develop WMD,. although our intelligence is poor. Saddam has used WMD in the past and could do so again if his regime were threatened, though there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD"
November 5 2006 ~Lord Goldsmith, Sunday Telegraph ".... the Attorney General, was under intense and growing pressure last night to stand down from advising on whether Tony Blair should be charged in the "cash for honours" affair. .....critics have questioned his impartiality. His advice on the legality of invading Iraq in 2003 sparked huge controversy when it appeared to change ...""( See also Lord Goldsmith pages on warmwell)
November 3 2006 ~"Israel says it fired upon armed militants - but is looking into how unarmed women were hit." Channel 4 News is being as fair as possible about the two unarmed women shot dead today at a mosque in Gaza. "This is another of those incidents where everything depends on which angle you were watching from. Were these women offering cover to terrorists and effectively throwing themselves in front of the bullets? Or were they brave, unarmed civilians killed by Israeli soldiers for stopping them catching their targets?" The latest: www.channel4.com/news
November 3 2006 ~ Iraq "... a public inquiry ... in order to appal future generations." "...It remains to be seen if there's much new to come out about how we got where we are. What we do know, however, a public inquiry should collect in one place in order to appal future generations. ..... the report wouldn't give anybody cancer or cause birth defects like the depleted uranium weapons we're using out there, or lie around unexploded for children to find like the cluster bombs we're so fond of.
In fact, there's only one face it would explode in. And you can just imagine it making a satisfying boof sound ....." (Article in this week's The Friday Thing.)
November 2 2006 ~ 5th annual Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index Reporters Without Borders compiled the Index by asking the 14 freedom of expression organisations that are its partners worldwide, its network of 130 correspondents, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists, to answer 50 questions about press freedom in their countries. The Index covers 168 nations. Others were not included for lack of data about them. In equal top place= Finland Iceland and Ireland. UK ranks =27, France, Australia = 35, US= 119
November 2 2006 ~ ".. networks of surveillance and the reach of databases had grown with such little public awareness." Henry Porter in the Guardian "Databases have an organic tendency to creep towards each other, creating new pathways of exchange that were never intended in the first place but which delight those that wish to control and know everything about us.
...There is now absolutely no excuse for ignorance. ....we cannot rely on Parliament. None of these reports was produced or even enabled by MPs, who largely remain unaware of the great threat to society and their own institution. Laws have been passed in the vague belief that they fight against crime and terrorism. Only on the Liberal Democrat benches has there been any consistent concern raised about security of databases, privacy and the type of controlled society that Tony Blair is creating.
Among the main parties there is very little evidence of democratic instincts .The Conservatives are compromised by a need to seem as tough on crime and terror as the government, while on the Labour backbenches you see a group of individuals who claim an entitlement to power which is utterly unmerited by their performance as democrats. ..." Read in full
November 2 2006 ~ the surveillance society has come about almost without us realising Guardian "The report by the Surveillance Studies Network group of academics spells out some "fairly conservative" scenarios which would become reality in 2016. ..... Dr David Murakami Wood, who headed the study, said:
November 1 2006 ~ Britain's debate on the Iraq war is taking place in the media. It should be in parliament. Simon Jenkins (Guardian) after last night's vote. "...... Even if select committees are too scared of the whips to act, parliament is sovereign. It need not ask Downing Street's permission to scrutinise. Parliament even has a second chamber, albeit one too terrified for its future to do more than rap the government's knuckles...."
November 1 2006 ~ "edging toward chaos" NYT "A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict. "
October 30 2006 ~ General Charles Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, told the Observer
October 30 2006 ~ "clearly plenty of terrorist activity against the UK and its citizens pre-dated Iraq." We see that Number 10, faced with the leaked document piblished by the Sunday Telegraph saying that all of Britain's overseas activities over the next decade must aim to "reduce terror activity, especially that in or directed against the UK" insists that "clearly plenty of terrorist activity against the UK and its citizens pre-dated Iraq." See Herald ( What terrorist activity in the UK exactly? Is anyone challenging this? ) Lord Owen, former Labour foreign secretary, branded Mr Blair "a terrible failure" in foreign policy, describing Iraq as "a fiasco...far worse than Suez", and called for the PM to quit.
October 30 2006 ~ British army is so stretched that 40% of army divisions say they suffer from "serious or critical" problems. AFP A further document published yesterday by the Independent on Sunday said the British army is so stretched from being in Iraq and Afghanistan that 40% of army divisions say they suffer from "serious or critical" problems. Shortages mean that soldiers have to go on tours of duty before they are properly rested or trained, according to the newspaper, citing a Ministry of Defence (MoD) briefing document. Lawmakers who have seen the official memo say the problem is threatening the army's ability to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD insists that the military is "stretched" and still able to fulfil its orders, the newspaper said.
October 27 2006 ~ "....spinning out implausible scenarios - like the claim that it might take only 12 to 18 more months for the Iraqis to be able to defend themselves - won't get Iraq any closer to containing the mayhem, nor this country any closer to extricating itself.
What is needed is an explicit, credible and public set of deadlines - for Iraq's leaders but also for President Bush - to confront the most difficult problems, including disarming sectarian militias, stabilizing Baghdad, protecting minority rights, and apportioning the country's oil wealth.
That's the only way Iraqis and Americans can judge whether progress is being made and whether the effort is worth the cost.
...... We hope it's clear to Mr. Bush that Americans have already lost patience with his bumbling conduct of this war, and the remaining grace period can be measured in months, not years. That's a real deadline, for concrete progress, not for more rosy notions of victory...."New York Times
October 26 2006 ~ Money Down the Drain in Iraq New York Times
"..... It isn't only money that was lost. Washington's disgraceful failure to deliver on its promises to restore electricity, water and oil distribution, and to rebuild education and health facilities, turned millions of once sympathetic Iraqis against the American presence.
Their discovery that the world's richest, most technologically advanced country could not restore basic services to minimal prewar levels left an impression of American weakness and, worse, of indifference to the well-being of ordinary Iraqis. That further poisoned a situation already soured by White House intelligence breakdowns, military misjudgments and political blunders. .."
October 25 2006 ~ "US and UK policy in Iraq is now entering its retreat phrase" Simon Jenkins in the Guardian We have turned Iraq into the most hellish place on Earth
"Armies claiming to bring prosperity have instead brought a misery worse than under the cruellest of modern dictators ....
...Where there is no hope of victory, the necessity for victory must be asserted ever more strongly. This was the theme of yesterday's unreal US press conference in Baghdad, identical in substance to one I attended there three years ago. There is talk of staying the course, of sticking by friends and of not cutting and running. Every day some general or diplomat hints at ultimatums, timelines and even failure - as did the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Monday. But officially denial is all. For retreat to be tolerable it must be called victory...." More
October 25 2006 ~ "anger at a president is not a plan for what happens next". Excellent, thoughtful NYT editorial: Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster
October 24 2006 ~ Fast Track extradition to the US: "The treaty was negotiated in private, decided in private and agreed with inadequate debate in parliament." The Guardian reports that the government has tonight survived a revolt by a small group of Labour MPs who backed a House of Lords amendment aiming to include a clause ensuring that a judge could not order extradition to the US unless it was deemed in the "interest of justice" They have failed. The vote was 313 votes to 272. 313 British MPs either think fast track extradition is right or are too frightened of the Whips to vote with their conscience. Either way, it is alarming.
October 24 2006 ~ Comrades, Comrades, "stay the course" has never been our policy! And anyway, it means "twist and turn" It really could have been Orwell's Squealer twitching his tail persuasively while coldly eyeing his audience. US Press Secretary Tony Snow said, in answer to a question about "staying the course":
October 24 2006 ~ 12 - 18 months? General George Casey's press conference today (Washington Post transcript) ".... it's going to take another 12 to 18 months or so until I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security. .."
October 2006 ~"... isn't this the world in which we live? Aren't we all veiled from the truth? Robert Fisk
October 2006 ~"...it beggars belief that the Prime Minister hasn't been impeached" Henry Porter in the Observer reminds us of the Downing Street Memo (on this website since it was leaked in May 2005) Mr Porter writes today:
October 2006 ~ "This is a lifeboat that will not float Matthew Parris in the Times pulls the carpet from under those anxious to leave - with their reputations intect - the Iraq fiasco. "The good ship Neocon is going down. She has struck the Iraqi rocks, the engine room is awash, and on the deck in anxious pursuit of something to float them away is a curious assembly..... .The former hawks of press and politics now scramble for the status of visionaries let down by functionaries.This is a lifeboat that will not float. Let these visionaries understand that occupation is always brutal and usually resisted; that occupying armies are always tactless, sometimes abusive and usually boneheaded; that in the argument between hands-on and hands-off you're damned if you do and damned if you don't; and that the first, original and central cause of the Iraq fiasco was not the bad manners of this or that poor, half-educated squaddie from Missouri, nor the finer points of this or that State Department doctrine of neocolonial administration.
The reason for failure was not the post-invasion strategy. It was the strategy of invasion. Blame the vision, not the execution."
October 2006 ~ John Reid (...be afraid, be very afraid.....) The Independent reports that the '"Home Secretary fuelled speculation that a fresh anti-terrorism Bill will be announced in the Queen's Speech next month as he trie"d to turn the fire on the Tories and Liberal D"ocrats for opposing controversial measures designed to crackdown on extremists. He told MPs: "I want stronger powers to detain and control; I want stronger powers to deport."
October 2006 ~ "On October 17, 2006 freedom died in the United States of America. We now live in a dictatorship. We live in a dictatorship even if you think George W. Bush will be a wise and beneficient king or dictator. It is defined as the possession of absolute power as opposed to checks and balances..." Paul Lehto at Op Ed News
October 2006 ~"Bush and a supine, cowardly Congress shredded the US Constitution on Tuesday, abolishing the right of a court review (habeas corpus) for some classes of suspect. Suspect, mind you, not proven criminal. .." Juan Cole
October 2006 ~ "National yawn as our rights evaporate.... We are strangely silent..." Keith Olbermann - Anchor, 'Countdown'Video and transcript. (new window)
October 2006 ~"Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic believe there is an endgame being played out for Mr Blair and Mr Bush and a policy shift is growing nearer. Labour MPs said privately last night that Mr Blair may be the last one standing by the President...." Independent "...leaked report by the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former US secretary of state James Baker, a close friend of the Bush family, paved the way for a large-scale withdrawal of US forces and a dramatic shift of US policy..."
October 2006 ~
"Last week's row over controversial remarks by the army chief, Sir Richard Dannatt, was concerned not with what he said but whether he should have said it. Every one is waiting for the US to move.' Simon Jenkins (Guarrdian) on top form: '....What is humiliating for Britons is that not a whisper of "uch lateral thinking can be he"rd from the government. Downing Street is intellectuall" numb, like a forgotten outpo"t of a crumbling Roman empire. It can see the barbarians at the gates yet it dare not respond as it knows it should because no new instructions have arrived from Rome.
As for parliament, the opposition, academics, thinktanks and most of the media, a zombie-like inertia is all. Last week's row over controversial remarks by the army chief, Sir Richard Dannatt, was concerned not with what he said but whether he should have said it. Every one is waiting for the US to move.
Blair's last comment on Iraq was that any withdrawal would be 'craven surrender" and would endanger British security. This is mad. Even Bush can admit to be "open to new ideas on Iraq". Blair has clearly not heard of Baker's report. Perhaps he shou"d hurry to Washington for new instructions from the boss...."
October 2006 ~ Paul Moorcraft, director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, said Sir Richard's comments had prompted the "biggest crisis in civil-military relations" since the Second World War. "General Dannatt has breached the norms of British democracy for a noble cause," he said. http://express.lineone.net/news_detail.html?sku=559
October 2006 ~ A Podcast by Dr Moorcraft, formerly in the UK's Ministry of Defence, and now director of the of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, can be heard here. (MP3) In it, he discusses what he calls the Macarthur option - i.e. that pulling all western forces out of the Middle East within a few months might be the only long term solution to the so-called War on Terror.
October 2006 ~ Prison Camps for any dissidents Bush chooses? "Kellogg Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, is constructing a huge facility at an undisclosed location to hold tens of thousands of Bush's "unlawful enemy combatants." Americans are certain to be among them. ......Anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on Bush's list
of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's
policies could be declared an "unlawful enemy combatant" and imprisoned
indefinitely. That includes American citizens..."
See this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/42458/ It is written by Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. Her new book, "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law," will be published in 2007.
See also New York Times editorial ".... it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error..." (or here)
October 2006 ~ On October 11 news organisations began reporting the results of an article published by the Lancet : 'Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey.' The study was led by Gilbert Burnham of the prestigious Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The survey itself was conducted by eight Iraqi doctors led by Riyadh Lafta of Al Mustansiriya University, Baghdad. The doctors collected data from 1,849 households comprising 12,801 individuals in 47 population clusters across Iraq. The survey findings were staggering:
October 2006 ~ '...Everyone in the group laughed at the others' stories of beating detainees.' Guatanamo BBC"
'.......The sergeant also reported that some guards claimed they denied detainees privileges purely to annoy them.
The BBC's James Westhead in Washington says the allegations are significant because they come from a serving member of the US military.
Separately, the Red Cross said on Friday that it had met top terror suspects at the camp.
The US has said it recently transferred the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and other al-Qaeda suspects to the camp. They were believed to have been held before that in secret CIA-run jails. Some 450 terror suspects are thought to be detained at the camp.' "
October 2006 ~ '.....The PM has always seen himself as some kind of therapist to a troubled world, most cheeringly evidenced in his exasperated insistences that people 'move on' from Iraq, a" though it were a meaningless one-night stand, or could be solved with a televised DNA test....' says M"rina Hy"e in the Guardian (Britain has 7,200 troops in Iraq. Since March 2003, 113 of them have been k"lled there.)"
October 2006 ~ David Keogh and Leo O'Connor charged with the leaking of the Al-Jazeera memo, are to be tried behind closed doors. As Simon Jenkins said last year
October 2006 ~ General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army, has written in the Daily Mail that the British army should be withdrawn from Iraq 'sometime soon'.
He says that the British government's aim of creating a liberal democracy in Iraq was 'naive' and would not be achieved and he warns that 'whatever consent we may have had in the first place' from the Iraqi people 'has largely turned to intolerance.' October 2006 ~ The family of British journalist Terry Lloyd hit out at the 'trigger-happy cowboys' of the US military and called for the "American soldiers responsible for his death to be tried for murder. State of Denial answers the core questions: What happened after the invasion of Iraq? Why? How does Bush make decisions and manage the war that he chose to define his presidency? And, is there an achievable plan for victory? After more than three decades of reporting on national security decision mak"ng, incl"ding his two #1 nat"ional best sellers on the wars in Afghanista and Iraq, Bush at War and Plan of Attack, Woodward provides the fullest account, and explanation, of the road Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and the White House staff have walked.'
October 9 2006 ~ Afghanistan 'Ministers are shamelessly committed to stifle debate' Max Hastings in the Guardian '.." If Blair is right that the media is inventing stories about inadequate manpower, short"ges of helicopters and vehicles, poor pay and treatment of"casualties, why are so many so"diers complaining about these things?
This is a vivid example of the government's approach to defence in general and to Blair's wars in particular, and I write as a supporter of the Afghan commitment. Ministers are shamelessly committed to stifle debate. They seek to quarantine the soldiers at the sharp end from the media, and to deny the British public information it is entitled to have....'
October 6 2006 ~ New analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of the 2001 census figures. An Independent article by Yasmin Alibai-Brown gives"food for thought today: '..... Our nation's psychotic preoccupation with bad news on integration and race will succeed where bom"s failed. ' October 5 2006 ~ Ken Livingstone'The high court has overturned a decision to suspend Ken Livingstone from his duties as mayor of London.
Mr Livingstone challenged a decision by the Adjudica"ion Panel for England that he was guilty of being 'unnecessarily insensitive and offensive' in comparing a London Evening Standard journalist with a Nazi....The decision of the unelected panel members to remove the elected mayor from "ffice for a month has been widely criti"ised. ..' Guardian"
September 2006 ~ '... Every time the President mentions 'victory' these days, the word 'loss'"/A> sho"ld come to our minds.' 'So what exactly does 'victory' in George Bush's Iraq look like 1,288 days after"the invasion of that country began with a "shoc"-and-awe" a"tack"on downtown Baghdad? A surpris"ng amou"t of information rela"ed to t"is has appeared in the press in recent weeks, but in purely scattershot form. Here, it's all brought together in 21 questions (and answers) that add up to a grim but realistic snapshot of Bush's Iraq." September 2006 ~ National Intelligence Estimate completed in April but leaked to the press in the past few days. An NIE represents the consensus of judgment among the 16 agencies that make up the US intelligence community. See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html " A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks..."
September 2006 ~ A former Iraqi prisoner asked a court martial to show compassion to the alleged ringleader of the British troops accused of abusing him while he was being held captive.
Independent "....It is alleged that a group of Iraqis, suspected insurgents arrested at a Basra hotel on 14 September 2003, were detained for 36 hours; kept hooded, cuffed, deprived of sleep and beaten for failing to maintain stress positions - all pre-interrogation "conditioning" techniques that the prosecution says are banned under international law..."
September 2006 ~ a "massive embarrassment" Reuters quotes Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth on the subject of the anti war rallies in Manchester on Saturday 23 September.
September 2006 ~ "Some Israeli officers are protesting at the use of cluster bombs, each
containing 644 small but lethal bomblets, against civilian targets in
Lebanon. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told
the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets,
spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields.
See "follow-up article in the" sound very hollow
Urgently needed as counter-weight to the sort of easy propaga"da that fuels hopeless, angry jingoism is the clear sight of those such as Andrew Bartlett. Yesterday's posti"g 'Leak and Spin' concludes '......someone was keen to paint Muslims opposed to current gover"ment policies as aggressive and unreasonable. In other words, someone"is stage ma"aging speeches by"government sp"eches in such a way that the result aids the anti-Muslim racists.
That this kind of propaganda also helps John Reid to cement his political ambitions is, I am sure, entirely co-incidental...' "
With even Jack Straw now admitting that the situation is "dire", this Tom Dispatch page is a grim reminder how empty is the rhetoric coming from the White House and Downing Street.(Mr Bush has just used the comparisons of "Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal" to try to inject some patriotic fervour into those whose "sacrifice" is required.)
"In Lebanon, we covered
entire villages with cluster bombs," he said. "What we did there was crazy
and monstrous." Independent
October 2006 ~ The family of British journalist Terry Lloyd hit out at the 'trigger-happy cowboys' of the US military and called for the "American soldiers responsible for his death to be tried for murder. State of Denial answers the core questions: What happened after the invasion of Iraq? Why? How does Bush make decisions and manage the war that he chose to define his presidency? And, is there an achievable plan for victory? After more than three decades of reporting on national security decision mak"ng, incl"ding his two #1 nat"ional best sellers on the wars in Afghanista and Iraq, Bush at War and Plan of Attack, Woodward provides the fullest account, and explanation, of the road Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and the White House staff have walked.'
October 9 2006 ~ Afghanistan 'Ministers are shamelessly committed to stifle debate' Max Hastings in the Guardian '.." If Blair is right that the media is inventing stories about inadequate manpower, short"ges of helicopters and vehicles, poor pay and treatment of"casualties, why are so many so"diers complaining about these things? This is a vivid example of the government's approach to defence in general and to Blair's wars in particular, and I write as a supporter of the Afghan commitment. Ministers are shamelessly committed to stifle debate. They seek to quarantine the soldiers at the sharp end from the media, and to deny the British public information it is entitled to have....' "
October 6 2006 ~ New analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of the 2001 census figures. An Independent article by Yasmin Alibai-Brown gives"food for thought today: '..... Our nation's psychotic preoccupation with bad news on integration and race will succeed where bom"s failed. '
October 5 2006 ~ Ken Livingstone'The high court has overturned a decision to suspend Ken Livingstone from his duties as mayor of London. Mr Livingstone challenged a decision by the Adjudica"ion Panel for England that he was guilty of being 'unnecessarily insensitive and offensive' in comparing a London Evening Standard journalist with a Nazi....The decision of the unelected panel members to remove the elected mayor from "ffice for a month has been widely criti"ised. ..' Guardian" ""
September 2006 ~ '... Every time the President mentions 'victory' these days, the word 'loss'"/A> sho"ld come to our minds.' 'So what exactly does 'victory' in George Bush's Iraq look like 1,288 days after"the invasion of that country began with a "shoc"-and-awe" a"tack"on downtown Baghdad? A surpris"ng amou"t of information rela"ed to t"is has appeared in the press in recent weeks, but in purely scattershot form. Here, it's all brought together in 21 questions (and answers) that add up to a grim but realistic snapshot of Bush's Iraq."
September 2006 ~ National Intelligence Estimate completed in April but leaked to the press in the past few days. An NIE represents the consensus of judgment among the 16 agencies that make up the US intelligence community. See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html " A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks..."
September 2006 ~ A former Iraqi prisoner asked a court martial to show compassion to the alleged ringleader of the British troops accused of abusing him while he was being held captive. Independent "....It is alleged that a group of Iraqis, suspected insurgents arrested at a Basra hotel on 14 September 2003, were detained for 36 hours; kept hooded, cuffed, deprived of sleep and beaten for failing to maintain stress positions - all pre-interrogation "conditioning" techniques that the prosecution says are banned under international law..."
September 2006 ~ a "massive embarrassment" Reuters quotes Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth on the subject of the anti war rallies in Manchester on Saturday 23 September.
September 2006 ~ "Some Israeli officers are protesting at the use of cluster bombs, each containing 644 small but lethal bomblets, against civilian targets in Lebanon. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets, spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields.
September 2006 ~ "morally repugnant" 120 doctors and physicians, including 2 members of the FO Pro Bono Medical Panel, have written a letter to the Times deploring the Foreign Office's refusal to accede to the BMA's proposal that an independent group of British doctors visit Guantánamo to assess the medical treatment of British residents held prisoner there. The letter reveals that in more than four years, neither the pro bono medical nor legal panels have ever discussed Guantánamo.
September 2006 ~ You Gov poll In online interviews with 2,131 British adults conducted from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7, 2006, the question Do you think Tony Blair's policies towards the Middle East have made Britain more of a target for terrorists? received the following replies
No, they have not
September 2006 ~ Afghanistan Never has it been seen to be so true that we do NOT learn from history than in Afghanistan. Channel 4 tells us that "all British broadcasters are pretty much censored out of the continuing war."
September 2006 ~ Short shrift. To those writing to applaud her statement in the Independent, Clare Short sends the full text
September 11 2006 ~ - The threat posed by terrorists -- like that of the Soviet menace during the Cold War -- has been massively exaggerated..." . An article by Joshua Holland, Alternet Posted September 11, 2006.
"Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror." --Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933
"We don't blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they'll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won't remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.." New York Times Sept 28 2006
"You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good, but it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all." - Peter Storey, former president of the Methodist Church of South Africa
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell
"... If, in order to be able to detain those we suspect of intending harm, we reduce, for the time being, the long-established methods of accumulating evidence and establishing the burden of proof, how will we be able, at some future date, to reinstate them? How long will it take our children and our grandchildren to recognise the importance of what has been lost, to recover and reinstate the rights we freely gave away?" Lisa Jardine