The Wider World - news summaries   

"The lesson of history is that people do not learn the lesson of history." AJP Taylor:
"If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.": Howard Zinn, historian and author

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." Groucho Marx

ARCHIVE September 05 - May 06 and earlier archives

Today's Papers, radio and other media

August 14 2006 ~ No word from Hezbollah that it will remove its troops from southern Lebanon as required for the ceasefire to hold.

August 14 2006 ~ " purposeless catastrophes" Guest Comment from Patrick McGreevy writing from Beirut - Informed Comment (should be read in full)

August 14 2006 ~ " It would be a demo for Iran" Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker claims that the Bush administration gave the "green light" to Israel's military strikes against Hizbollah - with plans drawn up months before two Israeli soldiers were seized. George Bush and Dick Cheney were convinced that it could both increase Israel's security and serve as a prelude to a American pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear installations. The White House also wanted Hezbollah stripped of the ability to retailiate against Israel in the wake of an American attack on Iran.

The Independent reports

August 14 2006 ~ "The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis" The New Yorker article above quotes Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bushs first term

August 14 2006 ~ Muslims must do more to tackle extremism in their communities Government ministers are, according to the Today Programme, "cross" that Muslim leaders have sent an open letter calling for a shift in British foreign policy to stop the radicalisation of young Muslims. (See BBC)
We remember that in early July the Government said "Moderate British Muslims are not doing enough to tackle the problem of extremism in their communities, which cannot be defeated by the Government alone" (sic) The Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan pointed out that the Task Force Preventing Extremism Together had not listened to the recommendations of the moderate Muslims that took part

It is encouraging at least that William Hague, now Shadow Foreign Secretary, is saying that the vast majority of Muslims in the UK are moderates who need support from the wider community. (Yet we hear with deep misgiving of a planned "English Crusade" in London on 10th September which, however peaceful and determinedly "English", could well be used by extremists to stir up more tension.)

August 14 2006 ~ Threat level In spite of the fact that the attacks were not imminent, the threat level went up to "critical" on Thursday 10th on the day when - apparently as a result of pressure from the US - it was decided to arrest suspects and John Reid had made his speech about the "need" to "modify" some of our "freedoms". (See below) John Reid says that police have been investigating around two dozen major terror plots and that at least four major terror plots had been foiled in the past year. Now, the threat level has been downgraded to "severe".
See article in the Telegraph

August 13 2006 ~The UN ceasefire is set to start at 0500 GMT tomorrow.

August 13 2006 ~ Iraq "A Shi'ite leader has called for neighborhood committees to provide security in their own districts and questioned the ability of Iraqi and U.S. forces to ease violence, which killed 48 more people on Sunday in Baghdad. .." Reuters reports

August 13 2006 ~ "an attack was not imminent... the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets.... some did not even have passports...." MSNBC reports that it was US officials that pressured the UK to arrest the suspects being watched. A spokesman from the White House is quoted in the article. He uses language that should raise more than mere hackles:

No sense here of the accused being assumed innocent until proved guilty. One does rather wonder what freedoms we still have. Alex Cox below also muses on freedoms; " We still have the freedom to shop, of course. And the freedom to go on a ludicrously-cheap piss-up weekend in Florida or the New Europe, as long as we don't mind sundry humiliations en route..."

August 13 2006 ~ "Almost everyone hates air travel. And so, Mr Tony's latest airport panic scare (coming the same day as British commanders in Afghanistan - in open rebellion against Blair's government - withdrew all their troops to Kabul) may backfire in a big way. If enough middle-aged, white businessmen like me choose not to fly, it will bankrupt several airlines and shut down a host of sock emporia and handbag shops. The Spanish purchase of Britain's airports will seem a very poor deal indeed. ...." Read Alex Cox on "Why I oppose Freedom"

August 13 2006 ~ The United Nations said Israeli and Lebanese leaders had agreed a ceasefire would take effect at 0500 GMT on Monday to end the month-old war, but fighting raged on Sunday as Israeli forces met fierce resistance from Hizbollah guerrillas.... Reuters

August 13 2006 ~ "replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, power, and the military .." Chalmers Johnson is a professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego

August 13 2006 ~ Matthew Parris ".....Watch out for the commentary that "after this week's discoveries, nothing will ever be quite the same again" - and prepare to spit. .." Times

August 12 2006 ~ Why now? Who benefits from the new security measures?
John Reid says that all the "main players" have been accounted for. (See FT) Scotland Yard Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson has announced that "we are confident that we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction and commit mass murder".
The independent London journalist, Gwynne Dyer, comments:

The same FT article reveals that Mr Blair and Mr Bush had also "spoken about the plot" in the days before the arrests. Mr Blair's holiday was not delayed. Mr Reid's speech was dead on cue. And our liberties are looking more and more vulnerable from those who tell us that the best way to keep our freedoms is to give them up.

August 12 2006 ~ The UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was adopted unanimously by the Security Council today after more than a week of intense discussions. The resolution calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" and authorises 15,000 peacekeeping troops for the existing UN Interim Force in Lebanon. See BBC

August 12 2006 ~ Daniel Barenboim called for peace in the Middle East during a massive concert of his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Madrid on Thursday. The orchestra is made up of young musicians from countries such as Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The concert was dedicated to the victims of both sides of the current conflict. The statement referred to the "savage brutality" of the conflict between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli armed forces. Daniel Barenboim

Edward Said (died 2003) considered the orchestra to be his greatest achievement - a moving statement when you consider Said's worldwide reputation

August 10 2006 ~ Critical. Hmm. The threatened plot was not, apparently going to happen today. Comment from Spy which should be read in full.

(On the other hand, John Reid's irritated words about those who are under-impressed when there is no evidence given and no proper information released to the public did appear today .)

August 10 2006 ~ "over stretched and under resourced" Huge coverage of Heathrow/bomb alert. Virtually none that the Defence Select Committee has reported today that UK troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are over stretched and under resourced. "Committee members visited Iraq in June and also say operations in Afghanistan are being done on a "shoe string". ..."

August 10 2006 ~ "Bigger, dafter, creepier" Gordon Brown's ID scheme rescue plan is described by John Lettuce at the Register

August 10 2006 ~ " Once dismantled, due process of the law will take centuries to rebuild" Meanwhile, in today's Guardian we read that "John Reid yesterday accused the government's anti-terror critics of putting national security at risk by their failure to recognise the serious nature of the threat facing Britain. "They just don't get it," he said..." and he warned that " ...traditional civil liberty arguments were not so much wrong as just made for another age."

And news of a " major terrorist plot" is being reported carefully by the Guardian and elsewhere this very morning. Words like "Allegedly" and "police say" do not appear in articles accidentally.
That there is a threat to what Mr Reid calls "our fundamental values" is undeniable. Read again Lisa Jardine's Point of View

August 10 2006 ~ pro-war Joe Lieberman loses crucial vote Mr Lieberman, "a senator for 17 years and Al Gore's running mate in 2000, narrowly lost the Connecticut Democratic primary election to Ned Lamont, a millionaire political near-novice who ran on a platform of opposition to the war in Iraq. The turnout of Connecticut Democrats was 50%, double the normal showing...." See Guardian

August 10 2006 ~ Eager, Erratic and Very Green A disturbing article about Iraq in the NYT " As Baghdad has slid further into chaos, the U.S. military has sent thousands of troops to bolster the raw Iraqi forces that police the capital.

August 7 2006 ~ "Most of us today, vigorously defend our political positions but have lost focus on creating and having a constructive dialogue" My friend, Yunes, Management Advisor to the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre and Central Mosque in London, recently welcomed a Jewish Delegation. His speech is moving. It should be read in full. In the light (or darkness) of what is happening, his words are a reminder that whatever the historical reasons for the present fear, misery and anger, and whatever the posturing of those addicted to power, it falls to ordinary people like ourselves to try to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation.
An extract from Yunes' speech

August 6 2006 ~ Peak Oil Theory of the US-Israeli war on Lebanon Professor Cole says, "I've had a message from a European reader that leads me to consider a Peak Oil Theory of the US-Israeli war on Lebanon (and by proxy on Iran). I say, "consider" the "theory" because this is a thought experiment. I put it on the table to see if it can be knocked down, the way you would preliminary hypotheses in a science experiment...."
(An extract from what Prof Cole "puts on the table" follows - but I would urge warmwell readers to look in full both at Professor Cole's post and the letter to which he refers.)

August 6 2006 ~ Former Israeli Education Minister Shulamit Aloni spoke out in the demonstration by thousands of Israelis who marched from the Rabin Square to the Cinematheque plaza in Tel Aviv in protest of the fighting in Lebanon on Saturday. She said, "the government has allowed the destructive powers of the army to drag us into the killing. The Defense Forces cannot be tuned into the army of occupation and killing. We must call in international forces, negotiate and make peace." The demonstrators urged Israeli soldiers not to take part in the Lebanon operation, chanting: "Listen up, soldier - it's your duty to refuse." Other slogans recited by the participants were: "The occupation is a disaster, leave Lebanon now," and "Children in Beirut and Haifa want to go on living."
See also Informed Comment by Professor Juan Cole who adds,

August 6 2006 ~"The Israelis lack good intelligence. They have completely underestimated the size of the Hezbollah arsenal, the amount of weapons they've got stockpiled," Rosemary Hollis of the Chatham House foreign affairs institute said Saturday. (Yahoo News) "It's the classic situation of a guerrilla (war). You can't win except by the most appalling devastation, which is a pyrrhic victory anyway." Israel failed to identify how deep the militants bury themselves in southern Lebanon, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert allowed himself to be convinced by the chief of staff -- who is from the air force -- that air power could achieve more that it can, the analyst believes.

August 6 2006 ~ Both sides spoke of fighting on " Israeli troops battled Hizbollah in south Lebanon and eight civilians died in two of many Israeli air strikes on Sunday as both sides spoke of fighting on, even if the U.N. Security Council votes to end the violence. .." Reuters
The UN resolution calls for

  • a "full cessation of hostilities,"
  • asks U.N. peacekeepers to monitor it
  • and stipulates principles necessary for a permanent political settlement.
    Reuters says "A vote has not been set yet but is expected on Monday or Tuesday. The resolution is the result of negotiations by the United States, an ally of Israel, and France, tipped as the possible leader of an anticipated international force for south Lebanon. The resolution is the first of two to deal with the violence that has killed more than 700 Lebanese and 78 Israelis. The second measure, expected in about two weeks, would cover plans for a permanent peace agreement and authorize the international force. Despite negative reactions from Lebanon and Hizbollah, most council members hope the resolution will at least subdue the fighting and allow access for relief workers."

    August 6 2006 ~ UK Closure of Cottage Hospitals "...The decision to close many cottage hospitals across the country is driven by panic rather than patient need," said Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison.

    Amicus, which represents 100,000 NHS workers, described the closures as the "ugly face of the government's reform agenda". "The effect of the reforms is felt by small communities across the country," a spokesperson said. ..." BBC

    August 6 2006 ~ Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said on Sunday that any countries that impose sanctions on Iran's atomic work will get a painful riposte

    August 5 2006 ~ A Deal? " Lebanon suffered more Israeli airstrikes on Saturday, a day after jets killed at least 40 civilians and Hizbollah rockets hit deep inside Israel, as world powers edged slowly toward a deal to end hostilities. .....The main division on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution is between France and the United States. Paris wants existing U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanon's army to monitor a truce, while Washington wants the Israeli army to stay in southern Lebanon until an international force arrives. ." Reuters reports that "A senior Iranian official admitted for the first time Friday that Tehran did indeed supply long-range Zelzal-2 missiles to Hezbollah." The NYT says, "The Bush administration has carefully stopped short of accusing Iran of inciting the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. .."

    August 5 2006 ~ Families of soldiers killed in Iraq are to form political movement aimed at bringing down those they hold culpable for the deaths of their sons.

    August 5 2006 ~ Israeli soldiers recount stories of a terrifying week facing the snipers and missiles of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon "It was hell. They are really well trained. They're not suckers, they know how to fight, said one, slumped on the pavement. You're scared the whole time over there. We didn't get any sleep the whole week." There was not a voice of dissent..." Times

    August 5 2006 ~ UK debt "1.1 million adults in Great Britain are in some danger of becoming insolvent. The situation is here to stay and is set to grow.......Mark Sands, director of personal insolvency at KPMG, said: "Pressure could mount further as consumers face higher energy bills and rising interest rates and we predict a record number of personal insolvencies of 100,000 in 2006, and we think the figures mean someone is entering formal insolvency every minute of the working day."
    The financial advisers Grant Thornton said the problem was "spiralling out of control". ...Vince Cable, Treasury spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, blamed the financial services industry for aggressive selling of credit and called on ministers to work with lenders to establish independent advice centres. .." Guardian

    August 5 2006 ~ ".an Army unit numbed by months of extreme combat stress and left at one of the deadliest security checkpoints in Iraq without experienced leaders" The NYT reports on the case against U.S. soldiers accused of raping and killing a 14 year-old Iraqi girl

    August 4 2006 ~ Hasan Nasrallah issued a videotape on Thursday in which he threatened to send rockets on Tel Aviv if the Israelis bombed Beirut again. He told the Arab leaders that they are not going to be able to keep their positions in America's "New Middle East." They will be overthrown, he said, and their countries will be reduced to chaos and split up into small postage stamp countries. (He appeared to be reasoning on the basis of what the US has done to Iraq). Excerpts from the Daily Star article:

    Nasrallah mocked the "stupid, massive and ignorant Israeli military machine"
    Juan Cole comments: He also says,It is falling to France, Egypt and Jordan to - as Cole says - "play the grownups" and try to get a cessation of military hostilities.

    August 4 2006 ~Moscow takes Syria under its protection

    August 4 2006 ~"What would you call a country where there is an armed insurgency that kills thousands each month?" Professor Juan Cole comments today, in his daily informed commentary on Iraq, "There was an outbreak of candor, deliberate and inadvertent, among UK and US officials on Thursday. In the UK, a dark memo from the outgoing British ambassador in Baghdad to Prime Minister Tony Blair was leaked..." However, he adds,

    August 3 2006 ~ "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it," General John Abizaid, the commander of US central command, told the Senate armed services committee. He said the top priority in the Iraq war was to secure the capital, where factional violence has surged in recent weeks despite efforts by the new Iraqi government to stop the fighting..." Guardian

    August 3 2006 ~ "Each deeply suspicious..."
    Hizbollah fired more rockets into Israel on Wednesday than on any previous day of the 22-day-old war, killing one Israeli and wounding 123 after helicopter-borne commandos launched Israel's deepest raid into Lebanon. Reuters
    Israeli jets pounded Hizbollah's Beirut stronghold and troops battled the guerrillas in the south on Thursday while world powers struggled to come up with a plan to stop a war now in its fourth week. Reuters

    August 3 2006 ~ "Civil war is the most likely outcome in Iraq a confidential memo to ministers obtained by the BBC from Britain's outgoing ambassador in Baghdad, William Patey, has warned

    The Foreign Office said it did not comment on leaked documents. " BBC

    August 3 2006 ~ Security: In Iraq, It's Difficult to Trust Anyone in Uniform NYT Iraqis have become suspicious and fearful of men dressed as those who are supposed to protect and serve.

    August 2 2006 ~ "The United States and Britain are hoping that a United Nations Security Council resolution will force Iran and Syria to tread carefully before rearming Hezbollah, even though an existing resolution calling for the disarming of Lebanese militias has not been carried out. The Bush administration is also hoping that an international agreement will convince Hezbollah that it cannot continue to function as a military organization.
    But the strategy depends on a weak Lebanese government being able to stand up to Hezbollah and on Israel pushing Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. And it assumes that a settlement can be reached without Syrian assistance, something few diplomats, except those in the Bush administration, think is possible. The administration does not talk to Syria; it withdrew its ambassador last year after the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister. United Nations investigators have linked Syria to the killing.
    United States officials hope that their main Arab allies - Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - can pressure Syria to distance itself from Iran and endorse the peace plan." NYT

    August 2 2006 ~ Tony Blair is back in Britain. Deputy UN Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown has urged Mr Blair to take a back seat in Mid-East peace talks.
    During his four day trip to the US Mr Blair has continued to avoid calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon, insisting that he wants a proper plan for longlasting peace. The BBC has learned that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett had urged Mr Blair to press the US to call for an immediate end to hostilities but that Downing Street rejected this. In Mr Blair's speech on Tuesday to the World Affairs Council he said that Syria and Iran were miscalculating if they continued to support terrorism and said they would "be confronted". :

    Reaction to Mr Blair's speech in the UK has been mixed, says the BBC.

    August 2 2006 ~ Hezbollah fired a barrage of more than 100 rockets at northern Israel today, killing an Israeli man at a kibbutz and wounding six. One missile reached as far south as the West Bank. The number of rockets hitting Israel had started to drop away in recent days, but today's total suggests that Hezbollah's military capacity remains far from crippled.
    This morning Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, pledged that Israeli soldiers would carry on fighting in Lebanon until a strong international force was posted there to keep out Hezbollah and keep the peace.
    "We are trying to push, more and more, the Hezbollah from where they were and to open up for the international force to take over, and the sooner the better," Mr Olmert told Reuters.

    August 2 2006 ~ "....With France and the US vying to take the diplomatic lead, the UN chief summoned ambassadors from the five veto-bearing powers to breakfast at his residence to try to prevent a repeat of the splits over the 2003 Iraq war. . The big powers are considering dispatching a rapid reaction force to Lebanon, to be followed by a larger international force as part of a political settlement, diplomats said. ." Times

    August 1 2006 ~ ".....Some Lebanese civilians took advantage of the bombing lull to move north out of southern Lebanon, and aid agencies drove convoys of food and medical supplies into the south. Lebanese rescue workers retrieved at least 49 bodies from destroyed buildings, Reuters said.
    An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Israel had agreed to the suspension and a 24-hour safe-passage period for civilians heading out of southern Lebanon as a way to "take the steam" out of Sunday's bombing in Qana.
    But he also said the fight against Hezbollah would continue until there was a diplomatic solution that stopped the rocket fire against Israel and that deployed an international force on the border. "We couldn't ignore Qana," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, as is customary. "And if we want to continue to get the full cease-fire we want, with an international force, it was important to change the tone and the conversation."....." NewYork Times

    August 1 2006 ~" Israeli troops fought fierce battles with Hizbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon early on Tuesday, as the Jewish state gave the green light to widen a ground offensive and push deep into Lebanese territory. Hizbollah said it was battling Israeli incursions near the border areas of Aita al-Shaab and the village of Kfar Kila. An Israeli military source reported "on and off" clashes but did not give further details...
    ...Israel's inner security cabinet gave the go-ahead to widen the ground offensive against Hizbollah. "The security cabinet approved a widening of ground operations without any objections," a government official said early on Tuesday. The aim was to push Hizbollah back to the Litani River, some 20 km (13 miles) north of the border, a political source said. Israel Radio reported plans to call up more reserve soldiers to support the expanded ground operations. The radio said additional three divisions -- which could mean at least a further 15,000 reservists -- would be called up. " Reuters

    August 1 2006 ~ Iraq "After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation..." Washington Post

    July 31 2006 ~ Sergeant Steven Roberts Times "An urgent request from army commanders for enhanced combat body armour to give extra protection to troops preparing to fight a war with Iraq in 2003 was delayed for two months by Geoff Hoon, then Defence Secretary.
    A devastating report by a board of inquiry into the death of Sergeant Steven Roberts of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, who was not wearing one of the vital life-savers and died of a bullet wound in the chest on the fifth day of the war, said he would have survived had he been protected by the special body armour...."

    July 31 2006 ~ no ceasefire"... Ehud Olmert has said there would be no ceasefire in the war until the threat from Hizbollah rocket attacks was removed and captured Israeli soldiers were freed. "The fighting continues. There is no ceasefire and there will not be any ceasefire in the coming days," Olmert told local officials, drawing sustained applause. Civilians fled battered villages in southern Lebanon after Israel agreed partially to halt air strikes for 48 hours, and aid convoys headed into the area to deliver supplies...." Reuters

    July 31 2006 ~ "They have mounted a tiger, and can't be sure of getting off without being torn to pieces. War has its own rules. Unexpected things happen and dictate the next moves. And the next moves tend to be in one direction: escalation. ..." Informationclearinghouse Uri Avnery, an Israeli journalist, writer and peace activist.

    July 31 2006 ~ Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clarified Monday morning that the decision to halt Israel's air strikes for 48 hours was the fruit of an Israeli initiative and not a "capitulation" to the United States' demands.
    Sources at the Prime Minister's Office told Ynet on Monday morning that the Americans only asked for the creation of a humanitarian corridor through which refugees will be able to leave southern Lebanon and head north, but Israel decided to suspend its strikes in order to allow an investigation into the Qana village bombing, which killed 60 civilians, including 27 children. ..." Ynet

    July 31 2006 ~ Robert Fisk in the Independent ".....This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity ­ yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the " pinpoint accuracy'' it claims, this was also a war crime. Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbollah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana ­ as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about "Muslim terror" threatening " western civilisation" ­ as if the Hizbollah had killed all these poor people..."

    July 31 2006 ~ "Condoleezza Rice returns to the U.S. capital today, her Middle East diplomatic mission in tatters after the Qana bombing and Washington's relationship with Jerusalem showing signs of strain for the first time since the fighting began....Rice did win agreement from Jerusalem to halt air strikes for 48 hours unless the Israelis learned that attacks were being prepared against them. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Israel would work with the United Nations to provide safe passage out of southern Lebanon for all those wishing to leave, the state department announced..." Toronto Star

    July 31 2006 ~ Hezbollah firing metres away from apartment block Disturbing photos from the Herald Sun (Australia) include one of a group of men and youths preparing to fire an anti-aircraft gun metres from an apartment block with sheets hanging out on a balcony to dry.
    Others show a militant with AK47 rifle guarding no-go zones after Israeli blitzes.
    Another depicts the remnants of a Hezbollah Katyusha rocket in the middle of a residential block blown up in an Israeli air attack. The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named said he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated.

    July 31 2006 ~ Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to rain down more rockets on Israel Al Jazeera "....His comments came as Israel pressed ahead with its massive air and ground assault on Lebanon aimed at securing the release of two troops captured by Hezbollah in a July 12 cross-border raid.
    The UN relief chief, Jan Egeland, had earlier appealed for a truce to allow casualties to be removed and food and medicine to be dispatched to war zones, saying one third of the casualties in the conflict were children.
    There is something fundamentally wrong with a war where there are more dead children than armed men. That has to stop," he said, quoting Lebanese figures that put the death toll at 600. But the Israeli government spokesman, Avi Pazner, said, "There is no need for a 72-hour temporary ceasefire because Israel has opened a humanitarian corridor to and from Lebanon."..."

    July 30 2006 ~ US: No immediate ceasefire, despite QanaUS Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns emphasized that, in the event of an immediate ceasefire, "Hizbullah will keep firing on Israelis and Israel will stay in Lebanon."
    He added that efforts to create a multinational force will continue, stating that several nations expressed willingness to participate in such a force, but refraining from naming them explicitly. Earlier, ynet reported that these states were France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and India, who had been approached by the US. .."

    July 30 2006 ~ Pope Benedict XVI today appealed for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. "In the name of God, I appeal to all those responsible for this spiral of violence, so that they immediately put down their arms on all sides," he said.

    July 30 2006 ~ Kofi Annan urges UN call for Lebanon ceasefire Annan said both sides bear responsibility for the violence and probably violations of international law. He said that no one disputed Israel's right to defend itself "but its manner of doing so it is causing death and suffering." France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, expressing dismay at the attack on Qana, said "such an action cannot be justified" and renewed his government's plea for an immediate end to the fighting...." Reuters

    July 30 2006 ~ "Hezbollah has launched rockets at northern Israel for years. "They come every few months," said Kobi Simchi, a bomb disposal technician at the Galilee district's bomb squad headquarters in Acre. There are several kinds of rockets falling on Israel, many of them more powerful than Katyushas..... ..." NYT ".....The United States....backs Israeli demands for the Lebanese army, bolstered by an international force, to deploy to the south of the country currently controlled by Hizbollah which has used the territory to rain rockets down on towns in northern Israel. "

    July 30 2006 ~ QANA, Lebanon " An Israeli air strike killed 54 civilians, including 37 children, on Sunday, prompting Lebanon to tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice she was unwelcome in Beirut and fuelling world pressure for a ceasefire. .." Reuters
    "....Prime Minister Ehud Olmert justified the action, saying Tel Aviv had warned residents to leave and put the blame on Hizbollah for launching rockets from the area.

    July 30 2006 ~"...The prime minister, who held talks with President Bush at the White House on Friday, is now spending several days in California promoting his climate change plans and UK hi-tech business. " BBC

    July 30 2006 ~ Something bad is going to happen Robert Fisk on Seymour Hersh : "The greying, bespectacled, obscenity-swearing Hersh is about all we have left to frighten the most powerful man in the So it's good to know he's still doing some fighting...

    July 30 2006 ~ "Aid" corridors are an illusion " An international medical charity has said that Israel's promised humanitarian aid corridors in south Lebanon are an illusion and that rockets have landed close to its teams two days in a row."

    July 30 2006 ~ The truth of Blair's 'urgent diplomacy' Blair and his masters regard ceasefires as a weapon, a means to a political end.
    Robert Fisk in the Independent

    July 29/30 2006 ~ "More than 1,000 tonnes of Red Cross emergency relief has reached Lebanon, where concern is growing about shortages of water and food in many villages. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that the health, water and nutrition situation is "alarming" after recent visits to villages in the far south of Lebanon. Water is scarce, as tanker trucks are no longer supplying some of the villages. Moreover, water pumps are not working due to lack of electricity and fuel. Food supplies are running low and basic medicines are needed, in particular for the treatment of chronic diseases...." Donate to the International Red Cross (new window) - and hope that some aid does get there.

    July 29/30 2006 ~ stark, staring bonkers "How mad for Britain to be the US poodle: the neocons will fade away" Matthem Parris in the Times is aghast at ".... some dangerous voices in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and outside it among the set to whom senior Tories listen. One of these voices is Michael Gove, my fellow-columnist and the capable frontbencher who speaks on housing and has just had a notable success on housing information packs. Michael is a moral man, a subtle and persuasive writer, a spellbinding speaker and a powerful mind. He is also - on questions of foreign policy - stark, staring bonkers.

    July 29 2006 ~ " Israel on Saturday rejected a United Nations call for a 72-hour truce in the Lebanon conflict to enable humanitarian aid to get to trapped civilians. "We cannot accept a ceasefire with Hezbollah ... "
    The BBC reports:

    July 29 2006 ~ Nebulous language While Mr Blair yesterday was saying of Hezbollah (see NYT)

    we also see, with Dahr Jamail what happens when the bombs fall

    July 29 2006 ~ Ceasefire "sometime" NYT "........Facing pressure from Arab and European allies to end the violence, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, at a joint White House appearance, painted the broad outlines of a plan in which an international peacekeeping force would insert itself between the warring sides and help the weak Lebanese military take control of the southern region controlled by Hezbollah. ...The rising civilian death toll has placed added pressure on Mr. Bush from European and Arab allies who have called for an immediate cease-fire. But Mr. Bush has said that Israel cannot stop its attacks unless Hezbollah does first....The United Nations will begin talks about the makeup of the force on Monday, though the official said it was almost certain that United States troops would not be part of it. ....."

    July 29 2006 ~ de Menezes "Brazilian's family shocked at 'hurtful' decision ....Sir Ian (Blair) is himself the focus of a separate IPCC inquiry following allegations about his behaviour after the shooting. ....." says Guardian

    July 28 2006 ~ "more than half believe that the Blair Government's handling of the affair has been poor or very poor." Times "... According to a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph, more than three fifths of people think that Israel's response has been disproportionate, and more than half believe that the Blair Government's handling of the affair has been poor or very poor. Nearly two thirds think that Mr Blair is doing whatever the Americans tell him.
    An ICM poll in The Guardian showed that 63 per cent think Mr Blair has tied Britain too closely to the US, including more than half of Labour supporters.
    Public support has already been strained by the dispute over the American failure to notify Britain that bombs being sent to Israel were on aircraft being refuelled in Prestwick. The problem has been the lack of openness rather than the flights, which are likely to continue. ..."

    July 28 2006 ~ "The UN warned Israel with at least 10 separate telephone calls during six hours that repeated aerial and artillery attacks had already landed at or dangerously close to their post in Khiam, south Lebanon, before the bombing that killed four of its observers there on Tuesday. Independent

    July 28 2006 ~ UN Human Rights Committee has said that the US should immediately shut all secret detention facilities used in its campaign against terror groups and has called on the US to give the International Red Cross prompt access to those held in such jails. BBC

    July 28 2006 ~ de Menezes shooting Times "The two police firearms officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes are to resume full operational duties, Scotland Yard said today...." See also ITN

    July 28 2006 ~ Central London blackout Times : A second wave of power cuts could affect thousands of homes and businesses in Central London today, the energy supplier, EDF, has warned....

    July 27 2006 ~ "Could the Prime Minister really not speak up....?" Sir Stephen Wall, one of Tony Blair's former foreign policy advisers, has said in the New Statesman "Could the Prime Minister really not speak up for the simple proposition that the slaughter of innocent people in Lebanon, and the destruction of their country and the ruin of half a million lives, were wrong and should stop immediately?"

    July 27 2006 ~ Lessons Not Learned Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian

    July 26 2006 ~Kofi Annan " is absolutely convinced that the Israelis did deliberately target his forces in southern Lebanon yesterday. He's described vividly how the general in charge of his main command post on the border reported that he was being shelled constantly all yesterday morning. Annan's office called the Israelis, the general called the Israelis. But still the shelling continued. By seven pm the post was all but demolished and four UN soldiers lay dead. It seems to have been a brutal signal to the outside world that this is what can happen to those who might wish to interpose themselves between the warring parties. " Snowmail

    July 26 2006 ~ Lebanon continues to be blown to pieces ". Fiddling in Rome Snowmail

    July 26 2006 ~ UK airport used to transport bombs to Israel The Times says "The British Government will make a formal complaint to the United States over its use of a British airport for transiting bombs to Israel.."

    July 26 2006 ~ "...the UK government has a particular responsibility to uphold and ensure universal respect for international humanitarian law. We also call on the entire international community to press for an immediate ceasefire by all parties; to help secure the release of prisoners held unlawfully, whether by Israel, Hizbullah or by Palestinian militias; and to take even-handed steps to secure the implementation all UN security council resolutions concerning the Middle East, including the realisation of a viable Palestinian state alongside an Israel secure in its lawful borders."
    Extract from letter from MPs in the Guardian

    July 24 2006 ~ Rice insists Hizbollah release the two Israeli soldiers and pulls back from the border before any ceasefire. Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki says the attacks by Israel on southern Lebanon as it seeks to destroy militant group Hizbullah "violates everything that the international community is based on".
    Mr Blair said: "Of course we're fully aware of what is happening to the reputation of the West and our relations with the Arab world if this continues. My message is very, very simple. What is happening in Lebanon is of course a catastrophe - who could watch the pictures of innocent civilians being killed without wanting this to stop now. But it has to stop on both sides and it's not going to stop on both sides unless a plan is in place to make it stop..." Condoleezza Rice flew to Lebanon today. A Lebanese source said she had insisted Hizbollah release two Israeli soldiers and pull back from the border before any ceasefire. See Reuters etc

    July 24 2006 ~ Extraordinary renditions See Reuters

    (Sismi is the Italian military intelligence agency. Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister at the time, has denied that he or the Sismi military intelligence agency knew about a plot to kidnap Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and fly him to Egypt, where Nasr says he was tortured. One of the Sismi suspects, Marco Mancini, says Sismi knew more than authorities have publicly admitted. )

    July 23 2006 ~ 'a violation of humanitarian law.'. United Nations relief coordinator Jan Egeland on Sunday condemned the devastation caused by Israeli airstrikes in Beirut describing it as 'horrific' and terming it 'a violation of humanitarian law.'. 'The whole thing has to stop. ...
    UN condemns Beirut devastation amid diplomacy, attacks

    July 21 2006 ~ "humanitarian truce" called for - but Britain and the US prate about this being a "quick fix" that would "not deliver a sustainable peace in the Middle East" - (as if anyone has been suggesting that it would.)
    In the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, a hospital flooded with casualties from Israeli bombardment has begun burying the dead in a mass grave today.
    Reuters reports that

    July 21 2006 ~ Tony Blair today dismissed increasing demands from the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior Labour MPs to back a UN call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Guardian "......spokesman also denied a report in The Guardian that a rift has developed between Tony Blair, who has been supportive of Israeli military action, and officials and junior ministers in the Foreign Office who want the UK to back the UN ceasefire call. "

    July 21 2006 ~ Israel pounded Lebanon from the air on Friday in its bloody 10-day-old assault against Hizbollah, but the guerrilla group insisted it would only free two Israeli soldiers it is holding as part of a prisoner swap. ".Israel warned residents to leave southern Lebanon on Friday as it considered expanding a ground offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas despite mounting casualties and a looming humanitarian crisis. .." Reuters
    "U.S. helicopters plucked frightened Americans from Beirut on Friday and Turkey agreed to become a transit point in the coming days to share the burden with Cyprus which has been flooded with foreign evacuees. ..." Reuters

    July 21 2006 ~ Iraq - one of the bloodiest weeks this year. US military officials admitted that the average daily number of attacks in the Baghdad area is up 40%. Prof Juan Cole says,

    Reuters reports "Police officers and neighbors said six members of one family were killed when U.S. helicopters rocketed their house. .."

    July 21 2006 ~ John Prescott "....The committee for standards and privileges found "shortcomings" requiring "urgent attention" within Mr Prescott's department concerning the recording of ministerial gifts - a pronouncement that prompted the deputy prime minister to launch an "urgent" internal review of his own department. But the committee ruled out further sanctions after it noted that the deputy prime minister eventually "acted correctly" in registering his three-day stay with Philip Anschutz - albeit some eleven months late and only after a complaint was lodged by Tory MP Hugo Swire..." Guardian

    July 20 2006 ~ Good News for civil liberty - (via Tim and ChickenYoghurt) we learn that The Independent's parliamentary sketchwriter, Simon Carr, has got a website. As Justin says,

    July 19 2006 ~"...Margaret Beckett, lost her cool during an interview yesterday morning on BBC Radio 4'sToday programme and denied any connection between the latest Middle East flare-up and the Iraqi quagmire. However, Tony Blair was overheard on Monday telling President Bush, in what he thought was a private conversation, that it is "all part of the same thing". In fact, the Prime Minister has always linked Iraq to the broader Middle East conflict...." Independent Are the events in Lebanon linked to the Iraq conflict?

    July 19 2006 ~The situation is both alarming and catastrophic "Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have already been displaced. UNICEF's representative in Lebanon told Agence France-Press that "The situation is both alarming and catastrophic. There are about 500,000 people displaced already." (ABC Online) ">

    July 19 2006 ~ Israeli war planes have struck an army barracks east of Beirut in an overnight raid in which 11 troops, including four officers, were killed and 40 injured. That wasn't a Hizbullah barracks. That was the regular Lebanese army. As Juan Cole says today, it was the one " the Israelis say they would trust to patrol the Lebanese border with Israel, and which they wish would take on Hizbullah. So why are they bombing the Lebanese Army?"
    Xinhua reports that the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, (who came to power as part of an anti-Syrian political movement supported by the Bush administration)

    Reuters reports " Israel struck Lebanon from the air and made limited attacks across the border on Wednesday as thousands awaited evacuation and the death toll mounted in a conflict that has entered its second week with no end in sight. ..." and we read in the Telegraph that "the second wave of British evacuees from">anon have arrived in Cyprus after a 12 hour journey from Beirut." They were taken by the Royal Navy. ">

    July 19 2006 ~ President Bush told Siniora in April tht the United States " strongly supports a free and independent and sovereign Lebanon"
    ">Professor Cole notes that this is the first sentence of a news item today:

    Juan Cole comments

    July 19 2006 ~ Gaza "At least nine Palestinians have been killed in fresh Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Under heavy gunfire Israeli tanks entered Mughazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip before dawn. ..." BBC

    July 19 2006 ~ "...Lashing out in anger was never the way to win the Middle East, and critical friends of Israel wonder if now could be a turning point at which Israel recognises that years of harsh, trigger-happy responses have got it no closer to lasting peace and security. If either Blair or Bush had credibility in the Arab world, they would be better placed to be that critical friend." An article today in the Herald Yo, Blair, who calls the shots in this double act? by Douglas Fraser is well worth reading.

    July 18 2006 ~ Bush Blair chat while Lebonon burns - NYT comments and so does the Independent - at some length.

    July 18 2006 ~ "Israel refuses to rule out invasion" "Israeli warplanes pounded Lebanon on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, as diplomatic efforts brought no signs of an early end to the week-old assault launched in retaliation against Hezbollah attacks. .." Reuters Professor Cole comments:

    July 17 2006 ~ "What both men didn't realise was that a microphone was still switched on..." Snowmail this evening reports "......the crisis in the Middle East has dominated the G8 summit in St Petersburg. In a private conversation with Tony Blair, George Bush spoke candidly about the situation and what he believes needs to be done. You can watch and listen to what was said here now:

    You can see more of this on both Channel 4 and More4 News tonight.

    July 17 2006 ~ No criminal charges " No police officers will be prosecuted over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station. But the Metropolitan Police will face charges under health and safety laws which require the Met to ensure its operations do not put the public at risk...." Streatham Guardian The paper quotes Ken Livingstone: "... it makes absolutely no sense to apply such legislation in the case of such an extreme situation. I doubt that al-Qaeda will be considering the implications for health and safety legislation when they are planning their terrorist activities."
    The De Menezes family will consider private prosecution of officers. See also Guardian

    July 17 2006 ~ " Henry Porter is the most important columnist writing today" is the opinion of Alistair Duff in today's Independent

    The other political columnists examined in Alistair Duff's extremely interesting Independent article are, "Keith Aitken (Scottish Daily Express), Simon Carr (The Independent), Peter Hitchens (The Mail on Sunday), Simon Jenkins (The Guardian and The Sunday Times), Boris Johnson (The Daily Telegraph), Dominic Lawson (The Independent), Deborah Orr (The Independent), Matthew Parris (The Times), Henry Porter (The Observer), William Rees-Mogg (The Times and The Mail on Sunday), and Polly Toynbee (The Guardian). A good mixture."
    ( See also some of the other Warmwell pages citing Henry Porter)

    July 17 2006 ~ Iraq Reuters' FACTBOX-Developments in Iraq on July 16 contains news of the now daily horrors in many parts of the country, including Basra.

    July 17 2006 ~ Israel may be planning a ground incursion into southern Lebanon, according to The Guardian.
    Professor Cole, typically even-handed, comments on both sides with exasperation.

    but he is also scathing about the "megalomania" of Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah (Hezbollah)

    July 16 2006 ~ Israel steeply escalated its military campaign against Hizbollah in Lebanon yesterday with a series of air strikes that left more than 35 civilians dead, including a single strike on a convoy of families fleeing the fighting in a village near Tyre in the south of the country that killed more than 20 people, most of them children... See Observer

    July 16 2006 ~ Britain opposed a cease -fire? Professor Cole reports that Lebanon has charged that the US blocked a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. " If so, it is contemptible," he says. He cites where we read that Britain opposed a cease -fire too

    July 16 2006 ~ Blair and Bush blame Iran and Syria ITN reports that Tony Blair and US President George W Bush have blamed Iran and Syria for the latest flare-up in the Middle East.

    July 14 2006 ~ Emergency UN session as Israel steps up offensive in Lebanon Times

    July 13 2006 ~ "Very, very dangerous.." We have become so used to violent ghastliness in the Middle East that it is easy to forget just how extremely dangerous is the situation now in Gaza and now in the Lebanon. Professor Cole's view is, as usual, balanced and deeply worried

    The Independent begins its report "Israel widened its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas today, targeting the country's only international airport and forcing its closure..." Robert Fisk's article begins

    July 13 2006 ~ Honours scandal reaches Number 10 with the arrest of Lord Levy Guardian "The cash for peerages scandal paralysing Labour moved perilously close to Tony Blair's door when the Metropolitan police yesterday arrested Lord Levy, Mr Blair's personal party fundraiser, Middle East envoy and personal confidant. The news No 10 has been privately dreading for months came after the police spent all day interviewing Lord Levy at a north London police station before releasing him on bail without charge. It is understood that at least three senior Downing Street officials have also been interviewed by the police, but not under caution. Since Mr Blair has himself said the buck stops with him over party fundraising, Downing Street seems to accept that it is inevitable detectives will now interview the prime minister too...."
    Jack Dromey's angry comments about how he has been "kept in the dark" and that the Labour party was now being run from Number Ten were quoted this morning on the Today Programme

    July 12 2006 ~ "Rethink 'war on terror' strategy Richard Dearlove is quoted in the Guardian. He "singled out CIA rendition flights and the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo for rebuke. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado before an audience of global politicians, experts and commentators last week, Sir Richard also said the west was "doomed" unless it "reclaimed the moral high ground".......questioned about which policies he was referring to when he said they "would have been illegal under British common law". Sir Richard replied: the "whole Guantanamo operation" and CIA "rendition", where suspected terror suspects are knowingly transferred to third countries where torture was practised..."
    (It will be remembered that in the Panorama programme, Iraq - Tony & the Truth well-placed sources told the BBC that Sir Richard Dearlove was minuted as saying that "the facts and the intelligence" were being "fixed round the policy" by the Bush Administration.)

    July 12 2006 ~ Halliburton The U.S. Army will discontinue its multi-billion dollar contract with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has drawn scrutiny for its work in Iraq from auditors, congressional Democrats and the Justice Department, which is investigating potential overcharges for fuel, dining and laundry services.
    .... .. the Pentagon plans to split the Iraq work among three companies to be chosen this fall and Halliburton would be eligible to make a bid. ...." (Reuters)

    July 12 2006 ~ Mumbai gets back to work "Millions of people packed trains and buses to get to work in India's biggest city on Wednesday, as the country's financial hub shook off seven bombs on its vital commuter rail network that killed at least 183 people. " Reuters

    July 12 2006 ~ GAZA (Reuters) - Israel targeted Hamas's top commanders in a Gaza air strike on Wednesday that killed six Palestinians and reduced to rubble a three-storey building where the militants were believed to be meeting.

    July 10 2006 ~ Iraq - At least 80 Dead in Civil War Bloodbath Government Forced to Depend on Local Gunmen . Professor Cole reads the daily newspapers in Arabic and is surely the best source for news and informed comment

    July 10 2006 ~ IRAQ: Insecurity, under-funding threaten children's health in Basra "...Children are dying in the dozens in southern Iraq because of lack of basic medical care and medicines. Reuters reports, '"There's a lack of everything. Children are dying because of bleeding because there are no blood bags available," said Fernandez. "Antibiotics, Pentostam [an antimony compound used in the treatment of parasite infection], special milk for dehydrated children, and almost all medical material for emergency conditions aren't available." ' . Lack of security, corruption and the flight of middle class professionals have all contributed to the crisis...."

    July 10 2006 ~ More British soldiers to Afghanistan ITN "Defence Secretary Des Browne is expected to confirm that more British troops are being sent to Afghanistan." See also BBC

    July 10 2006 ~ ID Cards Guardian "Opponents of identity cards yesterday stepped up their campaign for the multi-billion pound scheme to be scrapped, after it emerged that the government is planning a scaled-down version of the project so that it can meet a 2008 deadline..." (But even if the cards themselves are delayed, it has always been the accompanying national database that represents such a serious threat to our privacy. The list of more than fifty categories of information intended to be required for the register demonstrate the present government's obsession with central control. Quite apart from the civil liberties question, the government's lamentable record of IT competence make the whole enterprise dangerous.)

    July 9 2006 ~ "Suspicion of foreigners, fears over terrorism, suspects held without charge..." Required listening for all - particularly for John Denham perhaps - is this morning's Point of View on Radio 4 in which Lisa Jardine presented a comparison of our own paranoid times with that of Elizabeth 1. She concludes

    It really is worth listening to in full (or reading here) The programme was preceded by Sunday Worship - not a programme I would normally listen to - but the address by the revd Philip Auden, Chaplain to the Port of Bristol, was an impressive example of someone speaking from the heart- just uncomplicated goodness. From St Stephen's Church, Bristol, the music by the Exultate Singers too, was as good as anything I have heard in months.

    July 9 2006 ~ ID Cards Sunday Times - ID cards doomed, say officials

    See also Leading article

    July 9 2006 ~ Iraq Professor Juan Cole writes in his website that the National Unity Government of Iraq is on the verge of collapse. The posting should be read in full. Particularly noteworthy is

    July 9 2006 ~ GAZA Kofi Annan has demanded that Israel take urgent action to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip. See Bahrain News Agency

    There have been more Israeli air strikes overnight on targets in Gaza. A key bridge was bombed despite calls by the United Nations to stop destroying the territory's fragile infrastructure See Euronews

    July 9 2006 ~ "George W. Bush is not above the Geneva Conventions" "... 15,000 prisoners detained by the US in Iraq ... held with no access to counsel, no formal charges, or any basic legal process" We also read in Professor Cole's post that

    July 9 2006 ~ Craig Murray served an injunction Murder in Samarkand The supporting documents in Craig Murray's book are, in view of the behaviour of the Powers that Be (who are deeply offended by being examined by one they'd thought properly housetrained), now being mirrored across the UK internet blogosphere. (See Blairwatch ) In spite of their having been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents Mr Murray had wanted to publish have been blocked and legal action is threatenend over breach of "copyright of the Crown". The documents are published at - and will soon be appearing on many other sites. Strangely, they keep disappearing from Mr Murray's own website.

    July 9 2006 ~ officials of the Environment Agency"..... prefer to see valuable medicines buried in landfill rather than put to use in Africa. This is only the latest example of the growing confusion about what constitutes "waste" under EC law, made worse in Britain by the uniquely zealous way in which the agency enforces the rules..." Christopher Booker's Notebook. in the Sunday Telegraph. Always unmissable

    July 8 2006 ~ Israel Update Israel says its troops have left their positions in the northern tip of the Gaza Strip and returned to the Israeli side of the border. BBC

    July 8 2006 ~ the NatWest Three "Four of Britain's most eminent law professors have strongly criticised the extradition arrangements.... The professors say that extradition arrangements with America are biased against UK citizens and that some of British justice's traditional guarantees are being undermined by political expediency...." Telegraph (British citizens can be extradited to the US without evidence being produced that there was a case to answer, even though there is no equivalent arrangement for the extradition of American nationals to the UK.)

    July 8 2006 ~Afghanistan ".....former defence minister Doug Henderson called for British troops to be confined to barracks until the purpose of the mission was clarified. He told GMTV: "I think until a political strategy has been worked out and agreed ... then in some senses there should be a withdrawal of British troops to barracks". He claimed troops did not know what they were doing or for how long...." Guardian

    July 8 2006 ~ Gaza More under-reported horror. The NYT reports,

    July 8 2006 ~ Haditha The BBC tells us that

    The New York Times reports in detail

    July 8 2006 ~ No agreement on small arms "A U.N. meeting meant to expand a five-year-old crackdown on the illicit global trade in small arms ended in chaos on Friday as delegates ran out of time without reaching agreement on a plan for future action. .." Reuters

    July 8 2006 ~ North Korea " threatened on Friday to take "stronger physical actions" after Japan imposed punitive measures in response to its barrage of missile tests and pushed for international sanctions at the United Nations. .." Reuters

    July 8 2006 ~ Berlusconi and David Mills The estranged husband of Tessa Jowell was yesterday ordered to stand trial in Milan accused of fraud, tax evasion and money-laundering. He faces up to 12 years in an Italian prison if convicted. He is accused of helping Silvio Berlusconi to avoid as much as 60 million (£41.5 million) in tax between 1994 and 1999. The Telegraph says that he "... is also facing another possible trial for allegedly accepting $600,000 in order to gloss over details of Mr Berlusconi's media holdings when he testified in two court cases."
    As for Mr Blair's friend Berlusconi, he himself is to stand trial over alleged fraud at his media firm. See BBC report.

    July 8 2006 ~ John Prescott "faced calls to quit last night from his own back benches as it emerged that he had been due to meet the Millennium Dome's billionaire American owner in London this week. The Deputy Prime Minister had planned to defy his critics by pressing ahead with face-to-face talks with Philip Anschutz, but the tycoon pulled out after a furore erupted over their relationship..." Telegraph
    The Ministerial Code says that ministers must not "accept gifts, hospitality or service from anyone which would, or might appear to, place him or her under an obligation".

    July 8 2006 ~ Iraq "Virtually every Iraqi institution of higher education is at risk. Universities, colleges, and research institutions operate under severe political duress and without adequate resources, transparent funding mechanisms, or the civil and legal protections to nurture and promote a vibrant intellectual climate and civil society.." Professor Juan Cole MESA & AAUP Condemn Violence Against Iraqi Academics

    July 7 2006 ~ 52 innocent people died on July 7 2005 in the London bombings. A two minute silence is no bad idea - even if our own feelings about the bombings, their causes and the aftermath may be somewhat different from the view given out by Downing Street

    The government remains resolute in its insistence that the country's foreign policy had no connection with the motivation of the bombers. (See )
    The latest video to emerge, we hear the voice of Shehzad Tanweer : "What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a strain of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and until you stop your financial and military support to America and Israel."
    It is heartbreaking that the follies of the West can lead so inexorably to revengeful murders from those who think "Al Qaeda" has an answer to them.
    The indiscriminate killings embraced people from all ethnic backgrounds and classes. As the British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks said at the time: And the killings of July 7 led to the horrible misunderstanding of Islam itself and of Muslims in Britain who follow a religion that categorically forbids terrorism. I tried to express some of this last year in the warmwell blog - but, as that blog explains, it is all so much better said by Simon Jenkins.

    July 4 2006 ~ " issues before the Cabinet are not put to the vote" Tony Blair appeared before the Commons Liaison committee today. Guardian (One BBC headline is 'I'm no dictator', says PM Blair ) His answers included:

    July 4 2006 ~ "It's like encouraging children to dig up roads when they could be designing bridges" Interesting report today about the criticism, long overdue, about the Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) mark schemes. As the headmaster in the BBC report says, "There's no room for individuality. It's like encouraging children to dig up roads when they could be designing bridges." and that the OCR exam board's assessment scheme, which the school used, was "too mechanistic". and he is reducing the maximum number of GCSEs a pupil at the independent school can sit from 11 to nine, to free up more time for "critical thinking". See Telegraph

    July 3 2006 ~"on the wrong side of history" "We built this big monster with Iraq, and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq"
    Seymour Hersh, in a long article in the New Yorker, writes about the Pentagon's attitude to Iran , "senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President's plans" but the problem is, as a former senior intelligence official says, "It's a very narrow line between being responsive and effective and being outspoken and ineffective."

    (The article needs to be read in full.)

    July 3 2006 ~ Gaza "If the purpose of Israel's military campaign so far is to secure a major shift in Palestinian public opinion, it does not appear to have worked. Flanked by his parents and many of his own and his brothers' children, Mr Mughari says that even if there is an Israeli ground incursion: "We'll take it even if it gets worse." There are few overt signs of preparations by militants, but Mr Mughari adds: "If [the Israelis] come here they will not get roses...." Independent

    July 3 2006 ~ "Thank God for lawyers" Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times

    July 3 2006 ~ Parris on Blair An odd article about Matthew Parris in the Independent nevertheless contains an interesting quotation:

    July 1-2 2006 ~ Alex Thomson in Saturday's Snowmail

    and tonoght (Sunday) he says " thanks to all of you who responded to my thinking out loud about whether you should ever lead a news programme with football - or any other sport for that matter? Given the unanimous nature of your replies - you will all be pleased to note that not one response felt we should have led last night with the England - Portugal game. In the end, as you might have seen, we led on Gaza."

    July 1-2 2006 ~ "...a quarter of the British soldiers killed in action in Iraq have died because they must patrol in Snatch Land Rovers, which give no protection against mines and roadside bombs. This tragedy has since drawn wider attention in the press and was raised last week in both Houses of Parliament.

    Booker's Notebook, as ever pinpointing the absurd and the frighteningly surreal.

    July 1-2 2006 ~ "Whistleblowers who leak confidential Government information could

    (The very name "whistleblower" shows how vital such people are in drawing attention to the various fouls played against our civil liberties. No wonder a government which prefers to throw out the inconvenient rule book wants to eliminate them.)

    July 1-2 2006 ~Gaza " An Israeli helicopter fired a missile into the empty office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday in an apparent signal the Hamas leader could be targeted unless militants released an abducted soldier. .."

    July 1-2 2006 ~AfghanistanTwo British soldiers have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan following an attack at a regional headquarters. The Ministry of Defence has announced the soldiers, from the 3rd Para Battlegroup, were killed in action in the town of Sangin when their base came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack.

    July 1-2 2006 ~ Iraq The New York Times reports that "a powerful suicide car bomb ripped through a bustling street market in a Shiite slum here (Baghdad) on Saturday, killing at least 62 people and wounding nearly 120 in the deadliest insurgent assault since the new Shiite-led government was installed in May..
    .....A Sadr official, Abdul Zahira al-Suweidi, said in a telephone interview that the American occupiers were ultimately to blame for the explosion rather than militant Sunnis. "Yesterday, we asked the government for a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces," he said. "As long as they stay, terrorist activities will increase." ......"

    June 30 2006 ~ Gaza Snowmail this evening: ".... 64 Hamas now under arrest including cabinet ministers and senior civil servants, all kidnapped by the Israelis while the Palestinians in turn are claiming to have kidnapped another Israeli soldier on the West Bank. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has condemned Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip and has vowed not to be pressurised into making concessions Water, fuel and sanitation are dangerously low. ..." This is all deeply disturbing.

    June 30 2006 ~ Gagging the press The New York Times says, "In a largely party-line vote, lawmakers called on the media to cooperate in keeping classified programs secret.....The House vote followed denunciations by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney of the disclosure, a request for prosecution of the sources of the article and Times employees and calls to revoke their press credentials. The Republican-written resolution did not identify any publication by name. But many of the resolution's backers said The Times had acted irresponsibly.
    Representative David Dreier, Republican of California, said The Times had led other news outlets in deciding to publish classified material. He dismissed arguments that the disclosure served a public interest, saying the public would rather be safe from terrorists than "all-knowing" about antiterror efforts...."

    June 30 2006 ~ Guantánamo After the US Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that military tribunals, set up to try Guantanamo inmates, violate the Geneva Convention, NYT says today that privately,

    (Reading, with nausea, about the reality of life inside Guantanamo, one is ashamed that our protests have not yet had any effect.)

    June 30 2006 ~ Iran should respond by July 5 to a proposal meant to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program, says the New York Times

    June 30 2006 ~ YouGov Reuters reports that Tony Blair is less popular than his main rival for the first time in 12 years. "....Blair also suffered more bad news on the electoral front, with results from by-elections for two vacant parliamentary seats yielding a poor showing for his Labour Party."

    June 30 2006 ~ By-elections The Telegraph says, ".... Labour was relegated to fourth in Bromley and Chislehurst, behind the UK Independence Party. Independent candidates won Blaenau Gwent's seats in both the Commons and on the Welsh Assembly, leaving Labour without a majority on the latter...."

    June 30 2006 ~ Gaza " Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza on Friday, setting ablaze the Interior Ministry offices of the Hamas-led Palestinian government in a widening military effort to secure the release of a captured soldier..." Reuters

    June 30 2006 ~ secret plan to privatise an entire tier of the NHS in England " was revealed prematurely yesterday when the Department of Health asked multinational firms to manage services worth up to £64bn. The department's commercial directorate placed an advertisement in the EU official journal inviting companies to begin "a competitive dialogue" about how they could take over the purchasing of healthcare for millions of NHS patients...Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, said: "If this is not privatisation of the health service, I don't know what is. It is about putting multinational companies in the driving seat of the NHS."....." Guardian

    June 29 2006 ~Guantanamo The US Supreme Court has ruled that military tribunals, set up to try Guantanamo inmates, violate the Geneva Convention..."An Amnesty International spokesman also commented on the ruling, saying: "Today's Supreme Court ruling blocking the military commissions set up by President George W Bush is a victory for the rule of law and human rights." He added: "The US administration should ensure that those held in Guantanamo should be either released or brought before civilian courts on the US mainland." ITN

    June 29 2006 ~ "Scotland Yard has declined to comment." on the case of Steven Jago, 36, a management accountant, who yesterday became the latest person to be charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. On 18 June, Mr Jago carried a placard in Whitehall bearing the George Orwell quote: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." In his possession, he had several copies of an article in the American magazine Vanity Fair headlined "Blair's Big Brother Legacy", which were confiscated by the police.
    Henry Porter, Vanity Fair's London editor, wrote to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, expressing concern that the freedom of the press would be severely curtailed if such articles were used in evidence under the Act.

    See the Independent today with Mr Porter's article Blair laid bare: the article that may get you arrested . Henry Porter's criticism over the past months have generated a huge response from the public - and also the Prime Minister. The Independent published their email exchange in which Tony Blair rejects the criticism - and said he plans to go even further

    June 29 2006 ~ The European Commission wants to take complete charge of law and order The Commission wants to speed up the creation of a single "judicial area" by scrapping the national vetoes on law and order issues and transferring decision-making powers to Brussels. Proposals also cover the training of judges, give police the right to pursue criminals across international borders, and routinely give information about criminals to foreign police forces.

    June 29 2006 ~July bombings given as justification José Manuel Barroso cited the London July bombings last summer as a justification for the European Commission to centralise the running of law and order in Europe

    When we read that Franco Frattini, the justice commissioner, thinks scrapping national vetoes would "help to unblock his plan for a pan-European crime for inciting racial hatred" we remember that Uzbechistan's Karimov, is apparently on the same wavelength, having just signed into law a bill introducing greater penalties for people convicted of inciting ethnic or religious hatred.
    (Time seriously to worry now? And is Britain being so relaxed about this sleepwalking into supranationalism simply because it can trot out the old argument that it could, if it wanted, make use of its own cosy opt-out or magic bean?)

    June 29 2006 ~ "the disclosure of this is disgraceful" President Bush and the right are furious at New York Times. Newt Gingrich said: ".... My sense is that they hate George W. Bush so much that they would be prepared to cripple America in order to go after the President." Today's London Times says