Archive of "other news" from November 2002

Jan 31 ~ "The potential threat posed by Russia's weapons of mass destruction puts into context the threat posed by Iraq

especially given the lack of evidence - despite claims made by George Bush and Tony Blair - of links between the Baghdad regime and al-Qaida" Today's Guardian article "Open Arms" by their security affairs editor Richard Norton-Taylor points up even greater illogicality than that of the North Korea situation

Jan 31 ~ "Safety and Environmental risks"... this highly useful recurring phrase now used in connection with Iraq protest

(Financial Times today) "An anti-war rally should be allowed to gather in The Mall, central London, Tessa Jowell has signalled, paving the way for up to half a million people to protest about the prospect of war in Iraq.
The culture secretary's move came as the government increased its military build-up, announcing a further 4,500 reservists would be called up.
The call-up - tripling the number of reservists announced previously - reflects in part the considerable force Britain is preparing. More than 30,000 troops and other military personnel are being sent to the Gulf.....The accelerating preparations for war could swell the size of the rally planned for February 15. ...... George Galloway, the Labour MP who has persistently criticised the government over Iraq, had warned Ms Jowell she risked sparking a riot if she did not allow protesters to attend a meeting at the end of the march. An aide to the culture secretary said the demonstration, which organisers expect to be attended by up to half a million people, had been barred from Hyde Park because wet and muddy conditions posed safety and environmental risks....".

Jan 31 ~ ID card no one seems any the wiser, or clearer about the Government's intentions.

Stephen Robinson in today's Telegraph: "Today marks the end of the Government's "consultation period" on the merits of introducing a national ID card, yet no one seems any the wiser, or clearer about the Government's intentions. Officials had to deny that they were about to abandon the plan after Lord Falconer, Home Office minister, said last week: "We may not proceed with the scheme, and if we do it will take several years." Since then the signals have been contradictory.
The Government has tried to blunt opposition to the project by calling it an "entitlement card", suggesting it is rather like a bank card which, when put into a slot, will shower all sorts of benefits upon the user. It will do nothing of the sort, nor will it do anything much to assist law enforcement. The overwhelming bulk of benefit fraud is based on bogus claims rather than bogus identity; police say catching criminals is the problem, not identifying them. In political terms, the Home Office appears to have seized on the scheme as a figleaf to suggest it is doing something about the crisis in the asylum system."

Jan 31 ~ Blair's spokesman said France and Germany, critics of the U.S. position, were not invited to sign...

... European Union President Greece was also left out of the picture."
Reuters report on Tony Blair's drive to show broad European support for a U.S.-led war on Iraq. Extract: "With the Iraq issue entering its endgame, Blair is seeking to take on the same globe-trotting and coalition-building role he performed ahead of the 2001 attack on Afghanistan..... denied it was a rebuke to the continent's big powers, France and Germany. .....
France wants United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq to be given more time while Germany is firmly against military action. Britain and France are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council while Germany is a non-permanent member.
The letter caps a flurry of diplomatic activity by Blair ... Blair has also spoken in the past few days to the leaders of France, Canada, Australia, Turkey and Greece. But Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, only learned of the letter from his Hungarian counterpart on Wednesday, despite having spoken with Blair earlier that day, a Greek foreign ministry spokesman said. Blair's trip to Washington came as his government called up more reservists to prepare for a possible war, taking the total number of reservists on duty to 6,000. Tens of thousands of British and U.S. troops are already headed to the Gulf........ Blair aligned his position more closely with Bush prior to his departure by explicitly linking Iraq with the militant al Qaeda network blamed for September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States."

Jan 31 ~ ''Mr. President, even taking you and what you say at face value, we do not need you to protect us from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, if they exist,''

Boston Globe (external link) "Shaw said. He then ticked off a list of concerns he said the assembly fears more than Hussein, including the damage wrought by AIDS in Africa, environmental destruction, a deteriorating economy, and ''how hated we are by so many of our brothers and sisters around the globe.'' The assembly was asked to pray, not only for peace and for wise leadership, but also ''for those in the military, of our country and Iraq, and those who fear for their safety.'' Shaw exhorted the assembly to go home and pray and also to call members of Congress and the president to press for peace. He said they should prepare to protest if war is declared. ..."

Jan 30 ~ "This war is not primarily about democracy or freedom, much as the Iraqi people deserve both.

And it will most certainly not deliver justice for all. It is, fundamentally, about the wilful exercise of unrestrained global power, unfazed by considerations of international law, the principles of collective UN security, and the consequences for everyman. Iraq will form an awesome precedent for what Gerhard Schrvder calls the "law of the jungle". Iraq is just the beginning.... " Read article in today's Guardian leader.

Jan 30 ~ "As the US administration accelerates its drive to war, its most faithful cheerleader is having to run ever faster to keep up.

Guardian (external link) Never mind that every single alleged chemical or biological weapons storage site mentioned in Blair's dossier last year has been inspected and found to have been clean; or that the weapons inspectors reported this week that Iraq had cooperated "rather well"; or that most UN member states regard Hans Blix's unanswered questions as a reason to keep inspecting, rather than launch an unprovoked attack. Jack Straw nevertheless rushed to declare Iraq in material breach of its UN obligations and fair game for the 82nd airborne.
Most people have by now grasped that regime change, rather than disarmament, is the real aim of this exercise and that whatever residual "weapons of mass destruction" Iraq retains are evidently not sufficient to deter an attack - as they appear to be in North Korea. ..."

Jan 30 ~ The state of the turf, ostensible reason for the ban, is surely less important than the state of the world.

Only a minister with no concern for this country's history would go along with the attempt to keep next month's anti-war rally out of Hyde Park. Yet this, incredibly, is what the culture secretary Tessa Jowell has done in backing the ban by the Royal Parks on the February 15 demonstration. See today's Guardian (external link)

Jan 30 ~ The Metropolitan police has "intelligence" that the anti-war demonstration set for February 15 will exceed the 400,000 Countryside marchers

Allow rally or face a riot, says MP Laura Peek in today's Times: "A leading anti-war protester has threatened riots if ministers do not allow a rally in London to go ahead. Tessa Jowell, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, has told the Stop the War Coalition that although protesters may march through the capital on February 15, they are banned from gathering in Hyde Park for a rally.
The coalition, which held a vigil in Bristol last night to oppose war in Iraq, believes that more than half a million people will join the march.
The Labour MP George Galloway, a vehement critic of war in Iraq, said: "This is an extraordinary turn of events. I would want to warn Mrs Jowell that she can either choose between half a million people at the rally or half a million people in a riot because that is what will surely happen if we tell them that, thanks to the British Government, they are not allowed to attend a meeting at the end of the march."
The Culture, Media and Sport Department said the coalition had been refused permission for a rally in Hyde Park for safety reasons. The risk of bad weather would jeopardise the condition of the park. But a spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition said: "There are numerous events in the park throughout the year."

Jan 30 ~ If Schwarzkopf is scared, Americans might want to think again

See yesterday's Boston Globe (external link) "...because of Rumsfeld, no one at the White House, not even Powell, is talking about a few more months. Rumsfeld has even taken to trashing France and Germany, which oppose military action, at least for now. Rumsfeld recently called them the ''old Europe.''
Rumsfeld's mouth has begun to push some surprising people over the edge. Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of US forces in the 1991 Gulf War, told The Washington Post this week that he is ''somewhat nervous'' about Rumsfeld's pronouncements, since the Bush administration still does not have evidence of an imminent threat by Hussein. Schwarzkopf said the weapons inspectors need more time.
Schwarzkopf, speaking about Rumsfeld, said, ''When he makes his comments, it appears that he disregards the Army. He gives the perception when he's on TV that he is the guy driving the train and everybody else better fall in line behind him - or else.'' The general said he was concerned that Rumsfeld and other hawks who have never bloodied their hands in combat are dangerously glossing over the reality of prolonged, deadly involvement in Iraq. Saying that he is worried that the wisdom of career military planners at the Pentagon is being ''ignored,'' Schwarzkopf said, ''It's scary, OK?''
If Schwarzkopf is scared, Americans might want to think again ..."

Jan 29 ~ Surveillance of communications goes through the roof

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:
"The official figures are a travesty. Figures are provided which show that surveillance warrants have doubled since Labour came to power in 1997 - they are now more than double the figures in the Second World War. But no figures are given on other major changes brought in under RIPA 2000 that would show the real extent of interception.
The new method of issuing warrants and changes to them is said to make life easier for officials but at the same time it hides from public view the true extent of surveillance.
The Interception Commissioner admits that the great majority of warrants are issued to combat crime so this enormous expansion cannot be explained away as combating terrorism (national security)."
The annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2001 was published in October 2002. The report, by the Rt Hon Sir Swinton Thomas, as usual shows that no complaint by a member of the public to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has been upheld......" (more)

Jan 29 ~" Interception of telephone calls, email and post by police and the intelligence services has more than doubled since Labour came to power"

(Yes, we know) "and is higher than at any time since the start of the second world war, according to research to be published this week. The total number of communications surveillance warrants issued in England, Wales and Scotland has risen from 1,370 in 1996 to 3,427 in 2001, in stark contrast to official figures which claim that the number has fallen significantly in recent years. ..." See today's Guardian Police and MI5 tapping of phones and emails doubles under Labour by Stuart Millar and Richard Norton-Taylor
The "Communications Data: Report of an Inquiry by the All Party Internet Group January 2003" can be found at:-http://www.apig.org.uk/APIGreport.pdf

Jan 29 ~ The Ministry of Defence doesn't know how hundreds of phials of anthrax vaccine came to be washed up on the the Dorset coast last week

Warmwell reported on Jan 22 that boxes of the vaccine, washed up along a two-mile stretch of the Dorset coast last week, did belong to the MoD.
Defence chiefs had hoped that the batch number on the boxes would make it easy to trace where the vaccine had come from and how it had ended up in the sea. Last week, speculation centred on the possibility that the vaccine had somehow fallen off a Royal Navy ship taking troops to the Gulf.
But Dr Moonie said that doses from the vaccine batch had been issued to so many military units - in preparation for a possible war against Iraq - that it had "not yet been possible to identify how they came to be in the sea".
His comments were prompted by a series of Parliamentary Questions from Paul Tyler, the Lib-Dem MP for North Cornwall. Mr Tyler said it was "quite extraordinary" that record keeping at the MoD was so poor that it was proving impossible to trace the origin of material as sensitive as anthrax vaccine. See report in WMN (external link)

Jan 29 ~ Last night's BBC programme on "Dirty Meat"

Does anyone have any opinion about this? (we can't get BBC in SW France) One emailer writes,"I did try to watch this programme but found it to be typically Beeb - focusing on small farmers and illegal meat producers. OK so the meat producers they filmed were pretty ghastly but the programme seemed to be trying to tar all small farmers with the same brush."
Another: "I missed the first 10 minutes of the programme. What I did see was journalistically poor and smacked of a put-up job. There was no "real" evidence, if the farmers/butchers involved were doing what they were accused of they would have been prosecuted. There was no evidence and no prosecutions as far as I know. Just another manufactured scare story." Jan 29 ~"... very soon we are going to get the chance to ask the boss of the FSA why he ignores whistle-blowers dealing with BIG food safety scams" An email received about last night's BBC programme on Unfit meat contains the intriguing line above.

Jan 29 ~ "It's time the terminally stupid stopped eating food."

If all the cows really had no tags somebody had already lost money on them -I suppose they might have been over 30 months, but no one asked their age and even then they would be worth more in the cull scheme than the peanuts they were supposed to have paid for them. If meat from the above cows really did end up in Birningham Bull Ring as the farmer said (I'm sure that was Midland humour - as per my own father) how many folks did it poison? The reporter said that any meat without a vet stamp was "dangerous", not "possibly dangerous".... What a load of ****! Who brainwashes these idiots?..." read the rest of this refreshing email from Joyce R

Jan 29 ~ "The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times

although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American "interests", such as a voracious appetite for the world's resources, like oil.
When you next hear Blair or Straw or Bush talk about "bringing democracy to the people of Iraq", remember that it was the CIA that installed the Ba'ath Party in Baghdad from which emerged Saddam Hussein.
"That was my favourite coup," said the CIA man responsible. When you next hear Blair and Bush talking about a "smoking gun" in Iraq, ask why the US government last December confiscated the 12,000 pages of Iraq's weapons declaration, saying they contained "sensitive information" which needed "a little editing".
Sensitive indeed. The original Iraqi documents listed 150 American, British and other foreign companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions. In 2000 Peter Hain, then a Foreign Office Minister, blocked a parliamentary request to publish the full list of lawbreaking British companies. He has never explained why....." Read John Pilger in the Mirror today

Jan 29 ~ 'Stormin' Norman,' Gen. Schwarzkopf Is Skeptical About U.S. Action in Iraq

The general who commanded U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War says he hasn't seen enough evidence to convince him that his old comrades Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz are correct in moving toward a new war now. He thinks U.N. inspections are still the proper course to follow. He's worried about the cockiness of the U.S. war plan, and even more by the potential human and financial costs of occupying Iraq.
And don't get him started on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld....." See Washington Post (external link)

Jan 29 ~Bush talks of "just causes" and "sparing the innocent" in his war....

"If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means, sparing, in every way we can, the innocent Bush told a national television audience from the chamber of the House of Representatives, which was brimming with lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries.......Democrats have demanded that the White House bolster its case by releasing more evidence. U.N. arms inspectors have yet to find any major evidence of the weapons of mass destruction Iraq denies having or trying to obtain. ....Democrats were already criticising Bush before he delivered the speech. "The state of the union today is anxious," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
"People are very concerned about their pensions, they're concerned about their jobs, they're concerned about the economy, they're concerned about war in Iraq, they're concerned about the war against the terrorists, they're concerned about education," he said. ." See Reuters report today

Jan 28 ~" Most of the movement believes that the best means of regaining control over political life is through local community action.

A smaller faction (to which I belong) believes that this response is insufficient, and that we must seek to create democratically accountable global institutions. The debates have, so far, been muted. But when they emerge, they will be fierce.
For all that, I think most of us have noticed that something has changed, that we are beginning to move on from the playing of games and the staging of parties, that we are coming to develop a more mature analysis, a better grasp of tactics, an understanding of the need for policy. We are, in other words, beginning for the first time to look like a revolutionary movement. We are finding, too, among some of the indebted states of the poor world, a new preparedness to engage with us. In doing so, they speed our maturation: the more we are taken seriously, the more seriously we take ourselves.
Whether we are noticed or not is no longer relevant. We know that, with or without the media's help, we are a gathering force which might one day prove unstoppable. " George Monbiot in today's Guardian

Jan 28 ~ we are once again a country desperately in need of a clear, temperate voice at a time of unmistakable international crisis.

Article in today's Guardian (external link) by Martin Kettle ".... Rarely has it seemed more important in recent years for the national interest on the world stage to be properly articulated and clearly acted upon. And yet if Tony Blair no longer speaks for England - or, more properly, Britain - then who does?
Even now, it may seem unfair to write Blair so peremptorily out of the script. He still speaks for many more people - and in more subtle ways - than those who rush to label this as "the Bush-Blair war" ever acknowledge. He has, in his way, been pursuing a necessary, often lonely, frequently unrewarding and at times even heroic effort to prevent a dangerous American war against a dangerous Iraq. He is - or was - right to try to contain the administration that rules the US, just as he is also right to seek to contain the threat from Saddam Hussein.
Nor is Blair's frequently stated desire for Britain to have the best of both worlds - European influence and transatlantic influence - either unprincipled or tactically wrong. That policy made enormous sense before September 11, when Blair invoked it to try to head off the Bush administration's early signs of multilateral disengagement. But it has been tested to destruction since September 11. It can no longer bear the weight that the combination of the danger from terrorism and the momentum of the Bush administration's response now place on it. Bush has forced Blair to choose between Europe and the US, and Blair cannot avoid the tragic choice.
That is why this weekend's Blair visit to Bush at Camp David could be pivotal in our modern nationhood. Driven by a combination of anger, oil, domestic electoral calculation, and the awesome re-energisation of what Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, the Americans have got themselves over-exposed on Iraq. By overcommitting militarily so hastily, Bush is now a step away from having to go to war largely to save his own face. War with Iraq is not even in Americams interests, never mind Britain's.
In theory this could be seen as a great opportunity for Blair. In theory, this weekend is the moment when Blair can say to Bush that our national interest is at odds with America's war. In theory, that refusal could matter. In theory, it is even the moment when Blair could start to make the great overdue turn towards Europe to which Bush has finally forced him.
In practice, none of these things is going to happen. Tragically, when Blair says he positively wants America to act this way, he seems to be saying what he believes. Tragically, he cannot contemplate saying no to the US, even when Bush has pushed him to it. That is why we are again at a "speak for England" moment. Yet even AJP Taylor would have been hard put to explain how the man who currently speaks for England is, of all unlikely people, Jacques Chirac. martin.kettle@guardian.co.uk

Jan 28 ~ How others see us?

Gary B in Kansas writes this morning, "...Well, what it all boils down to is this, from an outsider's point of view.....either you comply with your government's wishes...or they will put you out of business That's your U.K government at work....not mine. ....
The U.K is a sinking ship, in its present state.   You are regarded as wooses by the general world public.   And I will not retract that because I have heard too many comments from others all over the world that regard you Brits the same way I do.....from a psychological standpoint....there are lots of people that think you Brits have no back-bone....no ability to stand up for yourselves...and no ability to be heard and LISTENED TO BY YOUR OWN GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIALS
So, you have two problems:
  • 1.  A general un-willingness to challenge and confront your own government
  • 2.  Governmental officials that are DEAF......to your requests.

    Jan 28 ~ "Germany's current resistance to President George W. Bush's war coincides with the re-emergence in Germany of articulated memories of exterminatory bombardment, pillage, population expulsions and mass rape, suffered in the final months of World War II.

    That devastating experience has for years been deliberately repressed in the German consciousness, in acknowledgment of Germany's responsibility for the war and the crimes committed by German forces.
    In recent months a series of books and articles have at last recalled what the Germans themselves call taboo subjects, at a time when the youngest generations of those who experienced these events are mostly still alive.
    This has not been to argue the merits, justification and (minor) actual effect on the German war effort of allied saturation and firestorm bombing of German cities, but in order to establish a moral and aesthetic coming-to-terms with events that, together with the firebombing of Japan's wooden cities, rank among the worst things ever done in or by Western civilization.
    Next to this, the intellectually claptrap war rhetoric of the Bush administration seems unbearably unimportant, evidence only of how remote the political class in the United States remains today from all the rest of the world." International Herald Tribune Europe and America: Some Know More About War by William Pfaff

    Jan 28 ~ "More and more Americans - aware that their President declined to serve his country in Vietnam - realize that their newspapers are lying to them

    and acting as a conduit for the US government alone. More and more Britons are tired of being told to go to war by their newspapers and television stations and politicians. Indeed, I'd guess that far more Britons are represented today by the policies of President Chirac of France than Prime Minister Blair of Britain..." Robert Fisk's article in the Independent yesterday "The Wartime Deceptions: Saddam is Hitler and It's Not About Oil" (external link)

    Jan 27 ~ New York Times speaks out

    "...We urge the administration to brake the momentum toward war....Forty years ago, the United States entered into a conflict in Southeast Asia with good intentions. When it emerged, it was torn at home and humbled abroad. The men and women now preparing to take the country into war in Iraq are, in the main, products of the Vietnam generation. They should be the first to remember how easy it is for things that begin well to end badly. " See article

    Jan 27 ~ Bugs, cameras and Human Rights

    Three articles today to show that Big Brother is on the march in England.

    Jan 27 ~ Cloned transgenic cows used to make cheese production "easier"

    Both the Times and the Telegraph report this New Zealand exercise today (external links). The reports are brief and neutral in tone. However we read that "The cows were created by combining GM techniques with the cloning method used to produce Dolly the sheep. Out of 126 attempts, they produced just 11 calf clones, each one carrying the extra milk protein genes. When the cows produced milk, nine had higher than normal levels of milk proteins." What happens to the 115 failures? We have never been reassured about Dolly the sheep's premature aging and the possibility of genetic defects caused by the cloning process. We note that GeneWatch UK has called for a ban on all GM and cloning of animals for use in agriculture.

    Jan 27 ~ The BBC is to appoint its first countryside correspondent after criticism of an urban bias in its reporting.

    Telegraph (external link) "The post, which will entail reporting on the rural, social and political issues related to the countryside, will be advertised in a month. It will be based outside London, probably in Birmingham where the BBC programmes Country File and Farming Today are produced. It will be the first time that the BBC has had a specialist dedicated to the countryside. Previously the "rural affairs" brief has covered all environmental stories. The news was greeted by the Countryside Alliance as a significant step forward."

    Jan 27 ~ " It is now commonplace knowledge that our (US) government and its foreign policy are controlled by multinational corporations"

    "...Of course no sensible person could possibly believe that the aim of war in Iraq is the welfare of the people of that country." Today, Franklin continued, "our government's motives are blatantly clear. Hence the apt slogan, 'No blood for oil.' "
    In Timing and In Size, Last Weekend's Antiwar Protests Made History (external link) by Scott Laderman extract: "Something remarkable happened last weekend. From Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Portland to Montreal, Damascus, and Tokyo, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Jan. 18 to protest a potential escalation of the American war against Iraq. There are many issues on which these demonstrators would likely disagree. All were emphatic on one point: Not in their name would an American war be waged.
    At Davos Forum, A Slide Toward Alienation .......Much of what has alienated the world from Bush policy could have been avoided if the White House had lived up to its own compassionate, pro-democracy rhetoric. Even the Iraq issue needn't have generated such global vitriol. This administration has unnecessarily shot itself in the foot. It can't offset its mistakes by glitzy State Department public-relations campaigns or beaming hours of pop music and political commercials at Arab youth...."

    Jan 27 ~" The things we see - the filth and obscenity of corpses - cannot be shown.

    First because it is not "appropriate" to depict such reality on breakfast-time TV. Second because, if what we saw was shown on television, no one would ever again agree to support a war...." Robert Fisk's article "Does Tony Have Any Idea What the Flies are Like That Feed Off the Dead?" in yesterday's Independent on Sunday, makes bleak reading.

    Jan 27 ~ Suspect GM corn -" they aren't waiting for the testing to be done"

    Reuters report: "...Iowa farmers and an environmental group on Thursday charged the U.S. government with selling a problem supply of genetically engineered corn to a feed company despite complaints that the corn had caused hormonal problems in pigs. The Iowa Farmers Union (IFU) and Friends of the Earth sent a letter on Thursday to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, asking the USDA to bar use of the corn in human or animal food "as long as the cause of reproductive failure in swine is unresolved....."

    Jan 26 ~ "Military tension increased yesterday with reports that Washington is preparing an unprecedented barrage of up to 800 cruise missiles in the first two days of any war.

    Fewer than 200 were fired in the first two days of the 1991 Gulf war.
    The plan for mass opening strikes, known at the Pentagon as "shock and awe", is intended as a psychological thunderclap to destroy Iraq's will to fight. A US defence analyst also reported that the Pentagon was ready to use nuclear "bunker-busters" against underground targets if Saddam deploys chemical or biological weapons.
    Washington has begun planning for an interim military administration to take over from Saddam. A US general is likely to assume command once Baghdad has fallen. But for diplomatic and military reasons, Washington wants British troops to run the post-combat security operation...." Sunday Times (external link)

    Jan 26 ~ "the British have spoken out against war. Mr Blair must heed them "

    writes Mary Riddell in today's Observer "..... . Outright opposition to war has risen to 47 per cent, according to the latest ICM poll, but unease remains anchored to the sofa. Had such inertia afflicted previous generations, the Magna Carta would have been unsigned, the poll tax unabolished and women might still be pleading for the vote.
    Smollett thought 'the immediate danger of public commotion' was the only real check on arbitrary government. If so, then Bush and Blair can carry on milking an anti-protest mood they helped engender. .....why aren't more people out marching? Through fatalism, some say, but that is too bleak an analysis. Assuming that the weapons inspectors report no smoking gun tomorrow, it sounds as if they will be allowed to carry on. War looks probable but not inevitable. Such modulation is due, in part, to the quiet voices of citizens who can say, as politicians dare not, how hard the choices are and how imperfect.
    Containment, smart sanctions and ongoing UN inspections are simply the least worst option. They don't fit on a placard or inspire the masses. They don't invoke the spirit of Vietnam, and they never will. If you want a street demo, march to save the opera or for the right to abortion, the rally that last week brought Washington to a halt.
    Modern conflict may be too complex for arcane forms of protest. That does not alter the power of dissent. It does not matter whether the forum of public opinion is net-surfing in Basingstoke, grumbling at the Tesco check-out, or on the march in Parliament Square. British voters have stood up against an unjustified or unmandated strike. Tony Blair would defy them at his peril. "

    Jan 26 ~ Oil is the key

    Today's Sunday Herald says "Oil is key as Bush agrees month delay" and "France demands Iraqi oil rights to drop veto" "......Tony Blair and George Bush have privately agreed a joint strategy that will delay any possible war against Iraq for four weeks during which time they will work tirelessly to achieve three key objectives:

    Jan 25 ~ "Traffic on the many parts of the Internet slowed dramatically for hours early Saturday"

    an emailer writes, "..it has been acknowledged that the speed at which the Peace Movement was able to spread around the world and organize demonstrations globally is down to the increased communications via the internet. Any Government wanting to disrupt that communication simply has to bring down the Net. Meanwhile, check your anti-virus is up to date." from Internet traffic broadly affected by electronic attack (Associated Press external link) Traffic on the many parts of the Internet slowed dramatically for hours early Saturday, the apparent effects of a fast-spreading, virus-like infection that overwhelmed the world's digital pipelines and interfered with Web browsing and delivery of e-mail. The latest attack was likely to revive debate within the technology industry about the need for an Internet-wide monitoring center, which the Bush administration has proposed. Some Internet industry executives and lawyers said they would raise serious civil liberties concerns if the U.S. government, not an industry consortium, operated such a powerful monitoring center. http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url/techne /s ecurity/ On the Net: Microsoft fix: bulletin/MS02-039.asp

    Jan 25 ~ "Only the future is certain. The past is always changing."

    The incomparable Matthew Parris in the Times today : ".... I remember arguing then that in an imperfect world where international law was incomplete, the forces of civilisation were well served by the provision of refuge for toppled tyrants. I argue the same in the case of Slobodan Milosevic. I thought I heard Tony Blair answer these arguments with a ringing declaration that in the New World Order there should be no escape for the wicked. Funny, then, that earlier this week I seemed to hear the Prime Minister, quizzed by senior MPs and asked if he agreed with the US Administration that an escape route might be offered to Saddam, reply that it would be "great" (his word) if this could happen.
    Ah, but that was now and this was then, and as Paul Flynn, MP, reminds us: "Only the future is certain. The past is always changing."

    Jan 25 ~" Mr Blair's attempts to focus attention on domestic policies have been blown off course by the prospect of war in Iraq.

    His speech on Thursday night on reform of the public services was overshadowed by an anti-war demonstrator, who gained widespread publicity by gaining access to a hand-picked audience of Labour activists. The incident, at Camden, north London, was a serious blow. Mr Blair had hoped that his speech would impress on the party and the public "where our energies are". Instead, it only served to highlight divisions over Iraq. Anti-war campaigners claimed yesterday that a crowd of 20,000 would confront Mr Blair over Iraq at Labour's spring conference in Scotland next month." Telegraph external link

    Jan 25 ~ "Do we risk changing the fabric of our society so that the highest level of identification becomes the norm for the most mundane of services?

    Will the benefits outweigh the risks to privacy, human rights and social values?".. asked (Jonathan Bamford, the assistant information commissioner)
    Lord Falconer's remarks ("We may not proceed with the scheme and if we do it will take several years.) contained frequent references to "if" the ID card scheme went ahead. "If we proceed we will need a clearly defined set of purposes," he said. "We would have to design the legislation so that future governments could not make changes without coming back to Parliament first.".
    Some good news at last. See Falconer hints at ID card rethink (external link) by George Jones in today's Telegraph.

    Jan 25 ~ Julian Little, of Bayer CropScience "It is possible that we could pull out of Europe."

    GM companies battle to salvage reputation (external link) Fordyce Maxwell in today's Scotsman: "Representatives of the big-six companies involved with genetically modified crops were on a charm offensive in Scotland this week, meeting MSPs, scientists and journalists.
    Paul Rylott, of Bayer CropScience and the chairman of the recently-formed Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), did not put it quite like that.
    He told journalists that the industry - as in his company, BASF, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta - had recognised 18 months ago that the battle for GM was being lost.
    Actual battlefields in Scotland include the Black Isle, Daviot in Aberdeenshire and Newport on Tay, where the controversial GM crop trials are taking place.
    There was also the wider battle of public opinion and a mainly-hostile media. ..."

    Jan 25 ~ Straw in the wind

    "- The White House on Thursday expressed resolve on Iraq in the face of pointed French and German criticism, saying that while it was perfectly possible that France might not join in if there is military action, several other countries from Europe and elsewhere would do so - and would prevail. .....the U.S. position received a boost Thursday when Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, said at the State Department that the British and U.S. position were exactly the same. The two countries reserved the right to act if there is no clear resolution within the UN, he said, standing alongside Secretary of State Colin Powell...." extract from International Herald Tribune - the on the Tocqueville Connection
    The head of the French parliament's foreign affairs committee, Edouard Balladur, tried to turn Donald Rumsfeld's slight on its head, saying: "Old Europe, that is very flattering, a sign of experience and wisdom. I only wish we had thought of it ourselves."

    Jan 24 ~ The refuseniks of Kingsland - revolt against the Government's "snooper's code" has gathered force

    A free country (Telegraph opinion external link) By Stephen Robinson
    "The great parish council revolt against the Government's "snooper's code" has gathered force in the week since Chris Garner of Kings Langley became the first councillor to be struck off for failing to list all his financial interests. Mr Garner was disqualified for one year after the first sitting of the Adjudication Panel for England, New Labour's ethical enforcers.
    However, when the formal notification of the verdict arrived at his home, the sentence had mysteriously doubled to two years. This error was blamed yesterday on computer problems, and Mr Garner is promised a full explanation as to why the accident-prone panel managed to make such a howler on its first adjudication.
    Meanwhile, Rodney Smallwood has fielded well over 100 phone calls and e-mails from fellow parish councillors since we highlighted the case of the refuseniks of Kingsland, Herefordshire, where the entire council has declined to sign the code. Mr Smallwood, a solicitor, hopes to take a class action suit to judicial review, and beyond that to Europe if necessary. Further assistance has been offered by Leolin Price QC, who was so enraged by the bossiness of the Government's meddling that he sat down one evening this week and wrote an opinion for Mr Garner to assist his appeal against disqualification.
    Serious legal minds are now applying themselves as to how to proceed, and Mr Smallwood is considering asking councillors to chip in £50 or so to fund a court challenge. "The best outcome, of course, would be for a single benefactor to come forward and help us fight this all the way, because that is what we will do," he said yesterday. Mr Smallwood is happy to hear from any backers, moral or otherwise, and can be reached at rcsmallwood@fsmail.net."

    Jan 24 ~ " in Russia... more than 20,000 nuclear warheads sit in 120 separate storage sites. A single artillery shell of nerve agents is small enough to fit into a briefcase and contains enough lethal doses to kill 100,000 people.

    "The US is blocking funds to secure Russian stores while it spends billions sending tens of thousands of troops to the Gulf, with British support, to topple a dictator who presents no existing threat to American or British security.
    Sir Michael Quinlan, former permanent secretary at the MoD and high priest of traditional deterrence theory, has described a war against Iraq as "an unnecessary and precarious gamble". General Sir Michael Rose, former head of the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia, raises the question: "How will a war against Iraq impact on the global war currently being waged against terrorism?" Douglas Hogg, lawyer and former Conservative foreign minister, says there is no moral case for war since there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein presents a grave and imminent threat to Britain or the US.
    They are speaking for many in the highest reaches of Whitehall and the military, as well as in the wider world, concerned about the dangerous adventure Blair and Bush are embarking on." (article in yesterday's Guardian (external link) by Richard Norton-Taylor )

    Jan 24 ~ The tragedy is that ancient British liberties are caught in the crossfire.

    Boris Johnson in yesterday's Telegraph (external link). " Under the EU arrest warrant, you can be summarily extradited to another European country, without any examination of the evidence against you, for conduct that is not even a crime in this country. For the first time, British citizens, in Britain, will be subject to the criminal law of other countries - even if the law here says they have no case to answer. And if we protest against this infamy, we are told it is part of the war on terror; and that, of course, makes it politically hard to oppose.
    This law, like others, is part of the eternal but escalating conflict between lawyers and populist Home Office politicians. The more assiduous are the lawyers in protecting human rights, the more ruthlessly the politicians retaliate with new law. The tragedy is that ancient British liberties are caught in the crossfire."

    Jan 23 ~ 41 Labour MPs in anti-war vote

    Labour MPs voiced their opposition to military action last night when they forced through a Commons vote denouncing the government's policy on Iraq. See today's Scotsman (external link)

    Jan 23 ~ Bush faces growing opposition at home

    By Tim Reid in today's Times (external link) : "President Bush faces growing domestic opposition to a war against Iraq even as he struggles to convince European allies at the United Nations that an invasion is now justified. Seven out of ten Americans would give UN weapons inspectors months more to search for arms inside Iraq, according to yesterday's Washington Post. It is the latest in a rash of recent polls that consistently paint a picture of an American public deeply concerned that the case for war has not been made convincingly. ..."

    Jan 23 ~" If ever there was a practitioner for ruthlessness, it's Bush and crew...."

    See the excellent and thought-provoking website Counter Punch " Ruining people's lives seems to be something in which this regime prides itself. Eliminating billions of dollars for birth control programs, food disbursements, benefits for the unemployed (10 percent out-of-work in the US), environmental protections, and promoting what amounts to $2 trillion in tax cuts primarily for the rich is hardly the way to maintain a somewhat egalitarian society. Standing idly by while knowing California's energy crisis was caused primarily by Enron, and while many states-of-the-union approach bankruptcy is to court further disaster. Giving the wacky Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department budget which approaches close to $500 billion while holding spending on infrastructure, education and health care to a ludicrous $350 billion is close to criminal. Inserting church into state through untidy faith-based programs, inserting state into the home through the efforts of convicted criminals like Admiral John Poindexter seems the work of madmen. ..." Yes - we thought so on warmwell at the time.

    Jan 22/23 ~ ITV's film, of course, couldn't be shown - lest it persuade the entire world that no one should go to war, ever, again.

    A moving article by Robert Fisk today in the Independent : (more) Jan 22/23 ~ "Few (we heard none) discussed Israeli policy and the increasingly close partnership between the Bush and Sharon governments as a factor at least as important as oil in pushing the U.S. toward war. " See Counter Punch org. "those of us who oppose war on Iraq should be facing this issue of Middle East transformation head-on, not ignoring it for tactical reasons or out of fear of charges of anti-Semitism."

    Jan 22/23 ~ France served notice yesterday that it would press other European governments to oppose American plans for war against Iraq,

    setting itself on a collision course with the United States and risking a damaging clash inside the European Union with Britain. France's Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, said in Brussels that he would use a summit of EU foreign ministers next week to rally opposition to an early war with Iraq. He said: "It is important Europe speaks on this issue with a single voice. We are mobilised; we believe war can be avoided." See today's Independent

    Jan 22/23 ~ "Congratulations to Devon County Council for sticking up for the public...."

    See Foe press release: " Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Pete Riley said: "This is fantastic news. Congratulations to Devon County Council for sticking up for the public who have made it perfectly clear that they don't want GM food and crops. We hope that more local authorities will follow their lead. Devon County Council should now ask the Government to ensure that GM crops are not grown anywhere in the county in future - something it is able to do under a new European law."

    Jan 22 ~ Hundreds of phials of anthrax vaccine washed up on Dorset beach on Monday morning

    See Western Morning News (external link) "... the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last night admitted the supplies had been issued to the armed forces. It is not clear how the phials ended up on the beach - but it is suspected that they came off a Royal Navy warship involved in the recent deployment to the Gulf headed by HMS Ark Royal. This would be a major embarrassment to the Government, particularly as many troops have refused to be inoculated against anthrax because of serious fears about the vaccine's side-effects...." Seventy-two per cent of Royal Navy personnel have not been immunised against the disease, according to an article in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
    " Exeter-based GP Dr Adrian Midgley, who served with the British Army during Operation Desert Storm 12 years ago, said the find would pose no risk to human health or the environment. "The antidote to anthrax is a dead vaccine. It is brewed over months and is unlikely to pose any threat to health or the environment," he said. "It's sad though that it ended up as flotsam and jetsam."
    ......Asked which chemical or biological weapon would jeopardise the security and welfare of a country, he added: "Probably foot and mouth. "It has the potential to cause great damage to a country's economy. ........"Terrorists may target animals and crops as well as human beings. There is no evidence that the foot and mouth outbreak in the country was caused by terrorist activity, but it is always wise to be on the alert and identify any weapons which can produce damage."

    Jan 22 ~ Mrs Sigmund said the discovery of the antidote washed ashore in Dorset could "raise many questions which should be answered by those responsible in the Government."

    See CAMPAIGNER SHOCKED AT LACK OF CARE "I shall talk to my colleagues at the University of Leeds and Sussex about the implications of this discovery. I cannot believe that this has happened. It will certainly cause outrage with the general public. I shall also speak with my MP and ask him to take this matter to the House of Commons. It is a very serious incident." The campaigner is mostly known for her stalwart attitude against chemical poisoning from organophosphates which she believes can cause severe brain damage."

    Jan 22 ~" English Nature, who are no longer an advisory body but now a political enforcer"

    " It is not true to say that farmers have learned nothing," writes a very angry farmer today "We have learned a lot about political control, including of the media, of ignorance and prejudice, of the non- accountability of some groups of people and that the BBC is no better than Pravda.
    We have learned to be so cynical we can not choose between Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein as far as the truth is concerned. [We already know about Bush]
    I look forward to the day when someone will publish a book on just how much we have learned from the handling of the foot and mouth epidemic.
    My husband has recently sent a letter to our local paper re the activities of English Nature, who are no longer an advisory body but now a political enforcer. We are waiting to see if it will be printed."

    Jan 21/22 ~ "Allegations of racism have been dropped against Robin Page...

    ... a Telegraph columnist who was questioned by police after saying country dwellers should enjoy the same rights as blacks, Muslims and homosexuals." See Telegraph (external link)
    "Mr Page, 61, was arrested on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred after making a speech at a pro-hunting rally in November which began: "If there is a black, vegetarian, Muslim, asylum-seeking, one-legged, lesbian lorry driver present...I want the same rights as you."
    He denied his comments could be construed as racist. He said he was simply calling for freedom of expression as he exhorted the audience to attend the Liberty and Livelihood March in London later that month.
    Mr Page, who lives in Barton, Glos, was released on police bail and ordered to report to Stroud police station. The Crown Prosecution Service has since decided there is insufficient evidence to take the case further.
    Mr Page believes the accusation has been "immensely damaging". He is now planning legal action against Gloucestershire police for unlawful detention and is considering action for defamation. Gloucestershire Constabulary, which investigated complaints from members of the public about Mr Page, confirmed that bail had been dropped."

    Jan 21 ~ "..a blatant example of how the BBC fails its legal obligations under its charter"

    The Shadow Attorney General, the MP Bill Cash, wrote to the Telgraph yesterday: "..Sir Jeremy Isaacs (report, Jan 17) refers to impartiality on matters of public policy under the BBC charter and the pledge of the director general, Greg Dyke, on this issue. Impartiality goes to the heart of whether the public, which pays the licence fee, is properly informed, as it is entitled to be. Given the vast influence the BBC has on public opinion, it also affects the question of whether the Opposition is seen to be effective. I give a graphic example, arising out of the recent interview on the influential Today programme with the Lord Chancellor about the controversial and vital issue of the unsatisfactory guidelines issued by the Lord Chief Justice on the sentencing of burglars, which the Lord Chancellor endorsed. .." (read letter)

    Jan 21 ~ more than 7,000 MoveOn members will be visiting their senators and members of congress in more than 400 local offices across the nation, asking them to "Let the Inspections Work."

    Opposition to war in Iraq is broad and deep in the U.S. and worldwide. See http://www.moveon.org/pressroom.html

    Jan 20 ~ "In an exclusive phone poll, 96 per cent of those who voted said they were against conflict with Iraq.

    Peace protest organiser Clare Marsh said: "The poll just goes to show how ordinary people are overwhelmingly against war and it's about time they were listened to." Western Morning News (external link)

    Jan 20 ~ "The argument for deregulation is always that it will reduce prices.

    But the reality is that it polarises business into the hands of multi-national companies.
    The profits are not recycled into the local community. The superstores do not use the local infrastructure and are not locally sourced, and the regional economy will be the poorer..." This is an article in the Western Morning News (external link) about the threat to local chemists. It has a horribly familiar ring.

    Jan 20 ~ ".. the environmentally beneficial effects of using sustainable fuels made from rape and sunflower seeds rather than fossil fuels."

    ".....it is no coincidence that Mercedes and Volkswagen engines are the most cooking-oil tolerant on the market. Indeed Mercedes motors are so accommodating that they will, apparently, run on lard. ..." See Guardian story Fry and drive While the US is preparing to slaughter thousands of innocents in Iraq in its quest to secure yet more supplies of oil to run its SUVs, the resourceful people of Wales run their cars on cooking oil.

    Jan 18 ~ ".... inept and cunning government scientists and officials, and ill educated, inarticulate and plain stupid ministers that have more than just a little difficulty with the truth...."

    Pat Rickett writes, "Just to support your correspondent who questioned the tone of Radio 4 reporting about the alleged illegal movements of livestock and the expressed opinion that that such movements had caused the spread of foot and mouth. On The Farming programme earlier Miriam O'Reilly, who by the questions she engenders clearly knows nothing about farming, said "Farmers have clearly learnt nothing from the foot and mouth epidemic". She was of course merely repeating our intellectual Minister Idiot Morley who said exactly this on Radio 4 some months ago. We have exactly the same situation with BSE - how many times do you hear the BBC quote that nvCJD is the disease contracted from eating contaminated beef! This statement has yet to be proved and well they know it.
    It would be interesting if some air time could be given to Farmers so that they could enlighten the general public on the full extent of what they have learned about inept and cunning government scientists and officials, and ill educated, inarticulate and plain stupid ministers that have more than just a little difficulty with the truth. "

    Jan 18 ~ Nationally, around 1,500 reservists will receive their call-up papers this week

    The WMN reports (external link) "...Defence sources yesterday said the call-up was merely the "first tranche" of what could well become a larger mobilisation of reservists if Britain is involved in an attack on Iraq. "The thinking on the total number is still developing," one source said. "Obviously it depends on the role that the UK may play and no decision has been taken on that yet." Those receiving their call-up will be given further training, including training in dealing with nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, before being deployed. They could be called up for up to a year. Although some will serve in the UK, the vast majority are likely to be posted to the Gulf in the event of war. An MoD spokesman yesterday insisted that the call-up was not a result of "overstretch" in the armed forces. "They are relied upon to provide certain specialisms and support services," he said. "It is better to think of them as part-time members of the armed forces rather than as civilians......"

    Jan 18 ~ From the current issue of the Ecologist... FOR RICHER READ POORER

    It9s not wealth that makes people happy, says Jeremy Seabrook, but sufficiency. Yet a system based on constant growth always relys on us wanting more. We are perpetually dissatisfied with plenty. Where does gobalisation go now? http://www.theecologist.org/archive_article.html?article=353&category=57

    Jan 17 ~ The Times Wednesday 15th Jan asks for feedback

    "A heavy price to pay for gobbling up cheap food" and The Times Leader on the same subject: "Sell them cheap - Shopping around for a new supermarket chain" http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,172-543398,00.html Please contribute to Debate via comment@thetimes.co.uk

    Jan 17 ~ Would identity cards help police in Bradford, who are having difficulty finding a one-armed, hunchbacked dwarf with a limp and an Irish accent, in connection with a £10,000 jewellery raid?

    Harry Mount in the Telegraph's Free Country (Filed: 17/01/2003) ".....If this useful combination of aural and visual clues is not enough to track him down, you might have thought a card would help. The history of ID cards shows the opposite - that police start to depend on them, as they have on security cameras, and give up on more traditional sleuthing tools such as, say, eyes and ears......what Mr Blunkett envisages for the future hardly matters. He will probably not be Home Secretary in five years' time, when he expects that the cards will be introduced. The record of ID cards in other countries suggests that the cards become subject to so-called "function creep" and that much more information than originally intended is steadily squeezed on to them. Police end up turning a blind eye to criminals, who develop an expertise for card fraud, and come down hard on absent-minded old ladies who leave them on the Tube. ...."

    Jan 17 ~ Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parish councillors have opted to walk away from their responsibilities rather than submit to the Parish Councils (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2001

    See today's Telegraph (external link) "...In the unlikely surroundings of a hotel conference room just off Junction 9 of the M1, Chris Garner, yesterday secured for himself a short footnote in English legal history when he became the first parish councillor to be disqualified for failing to submit to the Government's new "snooper's code". ........the sentence of disqualification for one year, though an irksome outcome for a man who had cheerfully volunteered his time to his village, was not unexpected."

    Jan 17 ~ EU "whistleblower" accountant denounces gagging order

    See http://www.eubusiness.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=98269&d=101&h=0&f=0&dateformat=%o%20%B%20%Y BRUSSELS, Dec 4 (AFP) - The European Commission's former top accountant denounced on Wednesday a gagging order forbidding her speak out after she was suspended for attacking EU bookkeeping. Marta Andreasen, who was suspended in May as chief accountant for the EU executive, said she was frustrated but would continue to fight to clear her good name.
    "I am frustrated," she said, flanked by her lawyer at a hearing in the European parliament. "They have prevented me from giving this assistance which I think is important for the parliament." Andreasen, who had been hired in January, refused to sign off on the Commission's accounts for 2001 after finding "serious and glaring" shortcomings with accounting and computer systems. She had been due to recount the circumstances surrounding her suspension at the hearing in the Brussels parliament. But at the last minute Wednesday morning she received a letter from her Commission bosses, warning that speaking out could have consequences for her "personal status." "She received this morning a letter ... saying she is not allowed to say something ...."

    Jan 17 ~ Western Morning News readers have voted overwhelmingly AGAINST British forces going to war with Iraq.

    "In our exclusive telephone poll, 2,115 said "no" to war with just 86 voting in favour. The scale of the "no" vote suggests a hardening of public opposition towards war with Iraq. Richard Younger-Ross, Lib-Dem MP for Teignbridge, said he was not surprised that the public opposed war. Mr Younger-Ross, who has lived in Iraq, said: "The overwhelming majority of people are opposed to war when they cannot see a purpose...." article (external link)
    See also Times - (external link) "Internet fuels the anti-war campaign" From Chris Ayres in Los Angeles "Protestors provided with vital propaganda tool online
    ANTI-WAR protesters have never had such a powerful communications and propaganda tool at their disposal. Via the internet, conscientious objectors can discreetly use websites to vent their anger at US foreign policy and organise demonstrations with like-minded citizens....."

    Jan 16 ~ So we can have a "communications" independent inquiry - but not one for FMD.

    Alastair Campbell could be given powers over the Government's entire "spin" operation under a review of the Whitehall press machine. Independent (external link) "Whether Downing Street's director of communications should overhaul public relations within every government department is one idea to be discussed by the independent inquiry.
    Other possibilities are abolishing the Government Information and Communications Service, the arm of the Civil Service that runs Whitehall press offices, and integrating departmental press offices into ministers' private offices. ....... Ministers are determined to overcome Labour's reputation for "spin" and "control freakery", which was revived by the controversy over Cherie Blair's dealings with the convicted fraudster Peter Foster.
    The inquiry, which comes five years after the last important review of government communications, will consider whether Downing Street should lead an ongoing review of departmental communication strategies, something that would extend still further the power of Number 10.
    The inquiry will determine whether the fallout from Jo Moore's infamous e-mail urging press officers to "bury bad news" on 11 September 2001 was an isolated problem or symptomatic of a wider malaise within the Government Information Service. It will investigate claims that government press offices have been politicised and examine the status of ministerial special advisers, raising the question of whether it is appropriate for advisers to brief the media when they are paid from public funds. "

    Jan 16 ~ "People have nothing to fear" says Mr Blunkett of identity cards.

    From Philip Johnston's article in today's Telegraph (external link) "....Mr Blunkett said he understood the misgivings of those who were concerned that identity cards would be of benefit only to the state and would restrict individual freedoms. "The most fundamental fear is 'What is Big Brother up to? What is behind all this? Can we trust the Government?'," he said....."
    See also its sister article which suggests that Gordon Brown does not want to fund the ID cards. So we'd be paying for them too.

    Jan 16 ~The BBC has a habit of suppressing controversy.

    "The notion that an acutely intolerant version of liberalism is the end of history and that it has emerged fully-formed as a God-given truth, not one perspective among many, risks subverting the proper relationship between government and journalism. If the state broadcaster is motivated by the same ideals as the state it ought to scrutinise, alternative thinking is stigmatised and forced to the margins of the national conversation." Read the article in this week's Spectator by Tim Luckhurst, who says that the BBC is exercising thought-control over the extent of legitimate debate
    "... The BBC has a habit of suppressing controversy. In the early 1990s, when its criminally undervalued Central European correspondent Misha Glenny filed a series of incisive predictions of ethnic conflict in the Balkans, the corporate instinct was to order him to calm down. Glenny was uniquely well informed and subsequently proved horribly right. .

    Jan 16 ~ Saturday Feb 15th. Anti-War March "No War on Iraq"

    An emailer writes,"In yesterday's Western Morning News there is an article by a leading anti-war campaigner, Glasgow MP George Galloway. He is asking for support for an anti-war march to be held in London, starting at the Embankment at noon and marching to Hyde Park, on Saturday Feb 15th. It will be under the slogan "No War on Iraq". He says it will have to be the biggest demonstration against War. Coaches are being organised from all corners of the UK and anyone interested should e mail him at GallowayG@parliament.uk. It may be the last chance to avert a catastrophe for which we, our children and even their children will pay a high price for if it happens."

    Jan 15 ~ "Not only airplanes, but trains, buses, cruise ships, and major hotel chains are now enforcing ID requirements..." (and will this be happening in the UK soon?)

    See this important message on an internet forum about ID cards
    "I'm asking for a declaration from the court that would overturn the unconstitutional requirement that US persons must show ID to travel throughout the US. Not only airplanes, but trains, buses, cruise ships, and major hotel chains are now enforcing ID requirements, largely at the behest of the Federal Government. ....
    We citizens also have a right to know what the laws are that affect the general public. There is no such law requiring IDs of travelers, and TSA won't publish their secret regulation that purports to require ID. So nobody actually knows whether ID is required, in what circumstances, what kinds of ID are OK or not, what options people without ID have, etc. (By nobody, I really mean nobody -- not even the people "enforcing" this "rule" know what the "rules" are. Try refusing to show ID on your next flight, and when they tell you that you can't board, ask them what regulation requires you to show ID to board a plane. I did this on July 4, 2002. The resulting confusion of different answers from each person in authority would be very amusing if it wasn't an unconstitutionally vague infringement of our right to travel.)" (See message)

    Jan 15 ~ "The United States of America has gone mad"

    John le Carré's article in today's Times is essential reading. "...I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect's sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can't explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar...."

    Jan 15 ~ "A series of placards with rather well drawn caricatures: "Haskins, Whitty, Margaret Beckett, The more they try, the more they wreck it!"

    Anthony Gibson writing in the Western Morning News (external link): "...At the Oxford Farming Conference last week, it occurred to me that British agriculture is indeed controlled by a Gang of Three, albeit not quite the same three. Haskins and Beckett yes, but the third member of our Governing troika is, I would suggest, Sir Donald Curry, rather than Lord Whitty. They were certainly the trio who spoke on the conference's first day (with Whitty hovering in the background), and if none of them had anything terribly startling to offer, at least their respective roles did seem to emerge more clearly from the political fog, and they do, to an extent, complement each other...
    ...If this were a film it would be billed as "From an original concept of Chris Haskins, produced by Margaret Beckett and directed by Sir Donald Curry." And while I appreciate that bracketing those three names together may not fill every farmer with confidence, they do at least represent each of the key interests - farming, the food industry and Government - which simply must be engaged if the strategy is to have any chance of success. So the scope for joined-up policy and implementation exists, even if the delivery is still awaited.
    All of that apart, I found Oxford this year curiously low key and lacking in inspiration. . " Read article

    Jan 15 ~ Concerns about trials in Scotland of genetically modified crops have been raised by MSPs.

    From the Times (external link) "The Scottish Parliament's health committee said in a report yesterday that existing safeguards were inadequate and that the Scottish Executive should do more to examine the effects on human health in trial areas. Trials are under way in three sites in Scotland and are designed to test the effectiveness of a herbicide on GM and non-GM oilseed rape.
    The MSPs said that the Executive's approach had not been sufficiently robust and that the risk assessment procedures in relation to public health were flawed. They said that the procedures did not appear to follow a standard format, that they sought to prove the safety of GM organisms rather than to assess potential hazards, and that they did not identify areas of uncertainty.
    The MSPs said that pharmaceutical-style testing should be applied to GM crops, with more research into the effect of GM pollen, and for all GM crops considered for trials to be tested as if they were to enter the food chain.
    They also called for more information to be made public. "

    Jan 15 ~ One of the consequences of FMD was that livestock markets, particularly for "exotic" breeds, were pretty grim last year.

    This was especially so for alpacas, where good quality animals which previously were selling for 7 thousand pounds or more were selling for about a third of that price. Many owners now have more animals than they can cope with or really want. An emailer writes, "The owners in our area have got together and are organising an auction in St Albans on 15th March. We have developed a website at www.alpacas.org.uk. If there is anything you can do to get us any publicity for the auction we would be very grateful. We feel at a disadvantage vis a vis the big breeders and need all the help we can get."

    Jan 14 ~ Are you in favour of the ID card? The Home Secretary is about to say that you are.

    With only a few days left in the "silent consultation" on the Entitlement Card, the government is still publicly claiming that there is majority support for ID cards, so Privacy International and STAND have joined forces with the Libertarian Alliance to open the consultation fully to the public.
    You can prepare and send a response to the Home Office through STAND's online service at http://www.stand.org.uk/. This is particularly urgent, as the Home Secretary will be giving a speech on Wednesday in which he is likely to claim majority support for the initiative.
    Alternatively, you can leave a phone message stating your views. Privacy International has set up two local rate numbers: in favour of the ID Card: 0845 330 7245, against the ID Card: 0845 330 7246.

    Jan 13 ~ "Jane Fanner-Hoskin has had a brilliant idea: The Village Farm"

    writes Hilary Peters in the latest part of her ediary. "People living in the same village (eg Kirtlington, which has become a commuter village) would keep a few animals and work an allotment jointly. This would mean tasks and produce could be shared. Villagers would produce their own milk, butter, cheese, eggs, vegetables, meat. They would have contact with the animals at all stages of their lives. They would buy shares in the farm, which they could sell if they left the village.
    I can hear, and invent, the objections, based on a realistic assessment of human nature, but starting a city farm seemed much more outrageous at the time. The time just happened to be right." See the ediary for January

    Jan 13 ~ Margaret Beckett has ordered a ruthless clear-out of senior officials in her department who lack the right skills or attitude.

    This would appear to be Polly Pot saying " Kettle, you're black." See article in the FT (external link) "The scheme - thought to be unprecedented within Whitehall in its scale and ferocity - is part of a broader government drive to convert civil servants from pen-pushers to hands-on managers. Defra's "bonfire of the mandarins" will see virtually all 500 officials of civil service grade seven and above - including permanent secretary Brian Bender - graded on their leadership ability and willingness to change. The only senior civil servants who may escape are Defra's 200 specialists, such as vets and lawyers." ....!!....

    Jan 12 ~people do not feel free. They feel fearful...."

    "....New Labour never liked the John Stuart Mill notion of individual freedom, preferring the enabling power of communitarian loyalty. Plural good is admirable, as long as it offers enough plurality and goodness. When transport is appalling, prisons are full, crime policy is in flux, the tension between the judiciary and the executive is palpable, and we are heading for a war lacking popular mandate, people do not feel free. They feel fearful."
    "Britain is growing more coercive by the day. Targets must be met, citizens kept under official scrutiny, pupils tested and slotted into league tables. ..."
    Read Mary Riddell in the Observer.

    Jan 12 ~ "Mr Bush explained that aliens hurtling towards the Earth, possessing massive "war of the worlds" style energy weapons and vastly superior intelligence was clearly a "worrying development that warranted careful monitoring"

    However, several CIA reports indicating that Saddam Hussein could immediately launch a barrage of nuclear weapons "if only he had any" required immediate, urgent action.
    The broadcast follows on from Mr Bush's recent dismissal of the growing belligerence of North Korea. The North Korean premier, Kim Jong-Il, had originally claimed that he was restarting the Korean's illegal nuclear power programme and would begin reprocessing uranium. This was met by mild diplomatic protests from the US. . ...." Don't miss this article from the brainstrust.co.uk

    Jan 12 ~ "....this raises considerable ethical issues with a permanent genetic change. His own work - "zapping" brains with electro-magnetic energy - does no harm, he insists...."

    Stories such as this from the Moscow Times and from today's Telegraph make us hope for a quick end to the world...at least for our species.
    ".... The DARPA "war fighter enhancement" programs -- an acceleration of bipartisan biotinkering that's been going on for years -- will involve injecting young men and women with hormonal, neurological and genetic concoctions; implanting microchips and electrodes in their bodies to control their internal organs and brain functions; and plying them with drugs that deaden some of their normal human tendencies: the need for sleep, the fear of death, the reluctance to kill their fellow human beings..."

    Jan 11 ~ Some good news for pets during Guy Fawkes week and a half

    We hear that the British Fireworks Association has banned noisy fireworks from 1st Jan 2003. This includes "air bombs" and the cheap pocket money bangers thrown by youngsters.

    Jan 11 ~ Oil to become the spoils of war

    See link to New York's Newsday "Bush administration officials are seriously considering proposals that the United States tap Iraq's oil to help pay the cost of a military occupation, a move that likely would prove highly inflammatory in an Arab world already suspicious of U.S. motives in Iraq.
    Officially, the White House agrees that oil revenue would play an important role during an occupation period, but only for the benefit of Iraqis, according to a National Security Council spokesman.
    Yet there are strong advocates inside the administration, including in the White House, for appropriating the oil funds as "spoils of war," according to a source who has been briefed by participants in the dialogue."

    Jan 11 ~ the growing frustration of people who are tired of being able to voice their dissent only to pollsters.

    " But there is also another objective: to remind politicians that there will certainly come a point when more and more people will start to turn from apathy to action. As war gets closer, there will be far more activity on the streets that will reflect the growing frustration of people who are tired of being able to voice their dissent only to pollsters. This may be, in more ways than one, the lull before the storm." Protests against war with Iraq are just beginning (external link) There will certainly come a point when people start to turn from apathy to action on the streets writes Natasha Walter in today's Independent

    Jan 11 ~ Newsnight last night.

    "Why should lower standards be imposed just because they are US ones?" Pascal Lamy. Did anyone tape this important item on AMerica's attempt to impose their GM on Europe? Andrew Osborn in the Guardian writes: "Insulting and threatening someone is no way to go about winning over their heart let alone their mind, especially when they suspect that their own health and the environment may be at risk and that you, the supplicant, are motivated purely by commercial considerations. Yet, bizarrely, America seems to think that just such behaviour is exactly what is needed to persuade a sceptical Europe that genetically modified (GM) food is 100% safe and that Europe should rescind a four-year ban on new GM products. This week Robert Zoellick, the US administration's top trade official, lashed out at a "luddite" and "immoral" Europe. European "antiscientific" policies were, he claimed, spreading to the developing world and convincing famine-hit countries to refuse GM food aid. ..." (more)

    Jan 10 ~ Newsnight tonight

    "The United States might be about to go to war with Iraq, but last night its trade representative launched an all out (verbal) war on the European Union. The Americans want us to import their genetically modified crops. We've refused and now they're threatening to take the matter to court. We talk to the EU trade man, Pascal Lamy....."

    Jan 10 ~ Fatal Harvest Myth 4: Industrial Food Offers More Choices

    The Ecologist "The truth: What consumers actually get in the supermarket is an illusion of choice. food labelling does not even tell us what pesticides are on our food or what products have been genetically engineered. Most importantly, the myth of choice masks the tragic loss of tens of thousands of crop varieties through industrial agriculture." http://www.theecologist.org/archive_article.html?article=355&category=53

    Jan 10 ~ urgent request to write to MPs

    See this page for contacting all MPs - even if you're not sure who yours is. Tam Dalyell has been denied a debate on Iraq. It seems he too has a real battle on his hands. Apparently the best course of action is to write/fax MPs, particularly Labour, as soon as possible, to try to get voices heard and listened to. You might try ringing Labour HQ 08705 900 200 (email: info@new.labour.org.uk ) to voice your concerns. The voice at the other end may (as has happened a few hours ago) immediately interrupt and say "Excuse me, why do you think he (TD) has a right to demand a debate - he only represents the constituents of Linlithgow." Breathtaking? Bully boy tactics may be employed and you may be accused of being personally against the PM. ..even if you say to the voice at the end of the telephone that you want merely him to pass your concerns: the Tam Dalyell issue, and so on. You may be continually interrupted and challenged. Remind such a person that you are not on the phone to debate, only to ask him to let the Party know of real concerns of the electorate. Yet again it illustrates the unpleasant tactics behind the scenes - all too familiar from FMD. But this is too serious to leave to others. If you possibly can...up and at em.

    Jan 10 ~ "With the convenient discovery of a deadly poison in Wood Green, London, Tony Blair has again made explicit reference to the "related" threats of international terrorism and Iraq.-

    - threats that will sooner or later, Blair insists, unite against us.
    As anyone who has glanced even briefly at the subject knows, there is no evidence whatever that Iraq has any links with international terrorism - Saddam's sworn enemy, al-Qaeda, included - despite probably the most intensive and sophisticated monitoring, investigation and surveillance programme in all history........ "

    Jan 10 ~ "Presumably, when every last inch of Iraq has been declared free of WMD, more troops will be required to convince Saddam of the need to cooperate."

    "....Liberal journalists often forget that they are privy to information that is available to a fraction of a percentage of the population as a whole -because they know the truth, they assume everyone else does too. In reality,much of the population is denied even the most basic information: that Iraq was disarmed of 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by 1998, that Western monitoring agencies would know full-well if they had tried to reconstitute that capacity since, and so on.
    Instead people are terrorised by the Sun, the Daily Mail, the BBC, ITN, the Express, the Times and the Telegraph into believing that Saddam Hussein is a dread threat imminently about to deliver WMD into the hands of Osama binLaden.
    Guardian, Observer and Independent readers are trained more subtly to view the actions of our leaders as responsibly 'pragmatic', 'cautious' and 'measured' in response to the 'world's most brutal regime', which clearly is a 'real threat'.
    They train us to lament the many 'gloomy' and 'related "threats" that afflict our fundamentally benign leaders in a world where sometimes even the good have to do bad to avert a greater evil. They soberly report that tens of thousands of troops are being sent to the Gulf to leave Saddam "in no doubt that he must cooperate" - the best way to avoid war, is to prepare for war, after all... With arms inspectors running all over Iraq, literally free to go wherever they please - and yet finding "zilch", as they put it - the 'serious' press fail to notice that still more tens of thousands of troops are nevertheless being sent to leave Saddam in "no doubt that he must cooperate". Presumably, when every last inch of Iraq has been declared free of WMD, more troops will be required to convince Saddam of the need to cooperate." Visit the Media Lens website: http://www.medialens.org

    Jan 9 ~ Some freedoms may be lost, but at least we'll be alive

    is the glib headline in the Guardian (external link) . "The civil contingencies bill is an essential response to possible attack " writes Giles Foden.
    Hmmm. Do human beings learn nothing from history and nothing from the insidious loss of freedoms put up with elsewhere by people who have put their precious and hard won liberties into the hands of the powerful? The trusting animals of Animal Farm did the same.

    Jan 9 ~ Anti-War Train Drivers Refuse to Move Arms Freight

    by Kevin Maguire in the Guardian Train drivers yesterday refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition believed to be destined for British forces being deployed in the Gulf. Railway managers cancelled the Ministry of Defense service after the crewmen, described as "conscientious objectors" by a supporter, said they opposed Tony Blair's threat to attack Iraq. The anti-war revolt is the first such industrial action by workers for decades. ..........MoD later said it had been informed by EWS that mechanical problems, caused by the cold winter weather, had resulted in the train's cancellation. ....
    Dockers went on strike rather than load British-made arms on to ships destined for Chile after the assassination of leftwing leader Salvador Allende in 1973.
    In 1920 stevedores on London's East India Docks refused to move guns on to the Jolly George, a ship chartered to take weapons to anti-Bolsheviks after the Russian revolution.
    Trade unions supporting workers who refuse to handle weapons could risk legal action and possible fines for contempt of court.
    Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition , said: "We fully support the action that has been taken to impede an unjust and aggressive war. We hope that other people around the country will be able to do likewise."
    So do we.

    Jan 9 ~ Iraq insists 12,000-page report detailing weapons stockpiles is complete

    "BAGHDAD (AP) - President Saddam Hussein's chief science adviser insisted Thursday that Iraq's arms report was complete, and Iraq's official press challenged the United States and Britain to prove allegations that Baghdad is hiding biological, chemical and possibly nuclear weapons. ..In London, however, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Thursday that Britain is pressing the United States for any war to be delayed for several months to give weapons inspectors more time to gather evidence against Saddam. The newspaper said senior British officials believe there is no clear legal case for military action against Baghdad. Prime Minister Tony Blair's office refused to comment on the report. Washington has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to go it alone to disarm Iraq. ..." Report in Canadian press

    Jan 9 ~ Matt says it all

    Our apologies to the Daily Telegraph if this is breaking copyright - but the cartoon is unmissable

    Jan 9 ~ when the plucky bird ceases to sing, something noxious and foul is in the air...

    In Norway .... "The looming attack on Iraq is almost universally opposed." See San Francisco Chronicle ".......When, after arduous diplomacy, the United Nations returned inspectors to Iraq, Norwegians hoped that war might be averted. But Washington's subsequent scorn of the inspection process, its dismissal of every conciliatory gesture from Baghdad, and its incessant bombing of Iraqi air-defense sites, is seen as aggressive warmongering. Then the Bush administration, citing fears of nuclear proliferation, refused to let Norway, and other temporary members of the U.N. Security Council, receive Baghdad's complete weapons report. Norway, long an advocate of nuclear-free zones and disarmament, was deeply insulted. Does this small, northern European country matter? In the world of realpolitik, probably not. But the sudden plummet in Norway's regard for America should set off alarm bells in Washington. Like the canary in the mine shaft, Norway is small and inconsequential. But when the plucky bird ceases to sing, something noxious and foul is in the air....."

    Jan 9 ~ Study says that protesting is good for you

    A new British study suggests that taking part in campaigns, demonstrations, strikes, or protests helps improve psychological and physical health. According to researcher Dr. John Drury, "The take-home message from this research therefore might be that people should get more involved in campaigns, struggles and social movements, not only in the wider interest of social change but also for their own personal good." http://thunderbay.indymedia.org/news/2002/12/2599.php

    Jan 9 ~ "Stupid White Men" by Michael Moores (pub. Penguin) - an antidote to Bush, Blair etc.

    Stupid White Men ... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! Anne recommends this book very highly. She latched on to it from something Andrew Marr said on the radio; its eventual publication in the US being a fine example of the power of the internet, when HarperCollins were persuaded to ignore the establishment and publish it even though Bush and friends didn't want it! "The book is something to be recommended to all Warmwell followers," says Anne.
    Bowling for Columbine the Michael Moore film about guns in America that has swept Europe, is also one not to be missed.

    Jan 8 ~ "It was, as one might have expected, a skilful political performance -

    praising Washington while keeping options open as to what might happen in Iraq, massaging potentially bolshie backbenchers with references to the defunct Middle East peace process, tackling poverty and reaching out to the Muslim world.
    The problem for the Prime Minister is that his familiar, all-embracing message is beginning to sound stale and overtaken by events. ..."
    "Jack Straw's insistence that the chance of war with Iraq is "60:40 against" made little impact in Washington as it was seen as being aimed at a domestic audience. If political betting were legal in America, very few people would part with their money at such odds. The political and military momentum towards a pre-spring conflict with Iraq is already seen as virtually unstoppable." The Telegraph today on Blair's speech and on Donald Rumsfeld's "stinging attack on the "inexcusable" twisting of his words by the British media ...."

    Jan 8 ~ GM protest charges dropped

    From the BBC "Protesters who damaged a genetically modified crop claim the case against them was dropped because prosecutors knew a jury would be sympathetic."
    For yesterday's Western Morning News series of articles on GM, please click here.

    Jan 7 ~ The gravest global crisis since the end of the cold war is three weeks away, and most of us seem to be asking why someone else doesn't do something about it.

    There is a Peace March in London on the 15th February and a mass lobby of Parliament on 21st January. See http://www.stopwar.org.uk/ .
    Please read George Monbiot in today's Guardian. "There are several reasons why most British people do not seem prepared to act. New military technology has removed the need for a draft, so the otherwise unengaged young men who might have become the core of the resistance movement are left to blast imaginary enemies on their Gameboys. The economy is still growing, so underlying resentment towards the government is muted; yet we perceive our jobs and prospects to be insecure, so we are reluctant to expose ourselves to trouble.
    It also seems that many people who might have contested this war simply can't believe it's happening. If, paradoxically, we were facing a real threat from a real enemy, the debate would have seemed more urgent. But if Blair had told us that we had to go to war to stop Saruman of Isengard from sending his orcs against the good people of Rohan, it would scarcely seem less plausible than the threat of Saddam of Iraq dropping bombs on America.
    These factors may explain our feebleness. They don't excuse it. ..."
    "....there comes a point at which political commitment is meaningless unless you are prepared to act on it. According to the latest opinion poll, some 42% of British people - as against the 38% who support it - want to stop this war. But if our action is confined to shaking our heads at the television set, Blair might as well have a universal mandate. Are you out there? Or are you waiting for someone else to act on your behalf? Details of the actions already planned can be found at www.stopwar.org.uk"

    Jan 7 ~ "Today's groundswell is "more political from the beginning, based on the conclusion that the war with Iraq is unjust,"

    says Richard Becker, national coordinator of the Answer coalition, which sponsored the October protests. By contrast, the 1960s upsurge was fueled mainly by the fear that more Americans were dying because of the draft. "It took thousands of body bags, with the Vietnam War already going on for a while, before the movement got going," Becker says.
    Scandals in the decades following Vietnam - from Watergate to U.S. support of military dictatorships and its subterfuges in Chile and Central America - have diminished the U.S. public's innocence. "With the Cold War and the red scare gone, people are less susceptible to government spins..." See report from Pacific News Service about peace demonstrations in America.
    See also Straw admits oil is key priority (external link) Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor of The Guardian: "The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday pinpointed for the first time security of energy sources as a key priority of British foreign policy. Mr Straw listed energy as one of seven foreign policy priorities when he addressed a meeting of 150 British ambassadors in London. .... Iraq has the second biggest known oil reserves in the world."

    Jan 7 ~ Quite an interesting parallel with FMD.......the Civil Contingencies Bill.

    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/story.jsp?story=367120 (external link) Extract:
    ".......The relative dearth of legal provisions to control the movements of human "vectors" contrasts with the draconian powers available during the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2000, when livestock transport here was grounded. A Cabinet Office spokesperson confirms that there are "legal issues around the setting up of health cordons". These will form part of the overall debate. They would like to reassure people, however, that "use of force will not be considered" in the bill."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ If only he would listen, this could be Blair's finest hour

    was the headline in the Guardian's comment column today. (external link) As an emailer says, "It really sums up this Government when MPs and ministers are frightened to ask questions for fear of upsetting Washington. WHO is in charge of this country? "

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Daily Mirror says that US government's plans for war are motivated by oil more than anything else.

    From "The Insider" - Information Bulletin In today's front-page news, the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper today highlighted the overwhelming evidence that the US government's plans for war are motivated by oil more than anything else. However, the government has not yet informed the public that oil is a motive for the "war on terrorism".
    The newspaper also warned that America and her allies could face over 10 years of war. According to a Captain currently training US soldiers: "We must reckon with 30 per cent casualties in such combat". A General who served in the Gulf War has predicted that the invasion of Iraq that: "It will be a bloodbath.".....

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ War is not inevitable, says Straw

    Guardian today (external link) " The chances of war with Iraq have tipped to roughly 60-40 against, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, confirmed today. Mr Straw did not deny being the source of the assessment, attributed to an unnamed cabinet minister over the weekend. He said: "That is a reasonably accurate description - but the situation changes from day to day." The foreign secretary was speaking amid reports that the US has been won round to Britain's preference for a fresh UN resolution ahead of any strike against Iraq. "We have always made it clear explicitly our preference is for a second resolution," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. "I believe that is also the position of the United States." .....

    Jan 1- 6 ~ "the most important vote of my 41 years in Parliament"

    In the name of democracy, Mr Blair, read this before you send a single Briton to die Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons and tank crew National Serviceman (1950-52) , has written to Mr Blair in today's Times (Jan 6). ".........what would you think if you were serving in the Forces, if you knew that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Field Marshals Lord Bramall and Sir John Stanier, General Patrick Cordingley, and a host of others, right across the spectrum of British life, were vehemently opposed to what you as Prime Minister were asking them to do? What is the precise military objective? Is this a basis for risking life? Before going along any further with the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz agenda, and before you dispatch any more British forces to the Gulf, you owe the Services one thing: a vote in the House of Commons on an unambiguous motion as to whether Britain should go to war without a clear, updated decision by the United Nations.
    Prime Minister, we are supposedly a parliamentary democracy. Each one of us in the House of Commons should be made to feel personally responsible for the grave step of sending our constituents, their fathers, mothers or children into the perilous situation of a pre-emptive strike. Iraqis will surely fight to defend their homeland as they did not in 1991 to keep a debatable conquest.
    I would regard this as the most important vote of my 41 years in Parliament......"
    Please read the whole letter

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ "....individual liberties will be curtailed in 2003; all of these proposed measures would make us less free, and no more secure."

    Opinion today in the Telegraph

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Terror alerts manufactured?

    "FBI agents say White House scripting 'hysterics' for political effect" writes Jon Dougherty for WorldNetDaily.com "Intelligence pros say the White House is manufacturing terrorist alerts to keep the issue alive in the minds of voters and to keep President Bush's approval ratings high, Capitol Hill Blue reports. The Thursday report said that the administration is engaging in "hysterics" in issuing numerous terror alerts that have little to no basis in fact. "Unfortunately, we haven't made a lot of progress against al-Qaida or the war on terrorism," one FBI agent familiar with terrorism operations told CHB. "We've been spinning our wheels for several weeks now." Other sources within the bureau and the Central Intelligence Agency said the administration is pressuring intelligence agencies to develop "something, anything" to support an array of non-specific terrorism alerts issued by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. ..
    ....You, in these circumstances, Prime Minister, have the unique power to stop the war because American opinion itself would not support a war, without the backing of the Security Council and the United Kingdom. If you choose to do so, many of us believe that your actions at this stage could restrain President Bush. ."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ "Many experienced political journalists have lost all trust in the Campbell propaganda machine.

    So has Michael Martin, the tough-minded Speaker of the House, who made an extraordinarily frank attack on Radio Five Live last week. He said spin doctors were "an absolute nuisance" who should be "done away with". The point has been reached when Campbell is an embarrassment to the government. He destroys public trust." William Rees-Mogg: The scariest link in No 10's chain of fibs

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Open government must be just that

    Observer (external link): Leader Sunday January 5, 2003 ".... all too often - as with recent revelations of details of the Heath government's role in the north of Ireland - an overpowering and distasteful impression is given that the protection of eminent people from embarrassment is more significant a function of our state secrecy than protection of the realm.
    New Labour came to office nearly six years ago promising to end the British establishment's fetish for secrecy. When this government's much diluted Freedom of Information Act finally comes into force in 2005, its many opt-outs and loopholes will still enable Ministers to suppress material which is merely inconvenient or embarrassing. Ludicrously, much correspondence with foreign governments which is made freely available in Stockholm, Brussels or Washington will still be withheld in Britain. The Government could at least reclaim some of its desired reputation for openness if, when the new Act comes into force, it released the great mass of material which has been classified during the last 30 years, instead of continuing to let it trickle out annually, as at present. It might end a diverting new year tradition - but an end to secrecy for secrecy's sake is long overdue. "

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Meanwhile "open government" in America goes into reverse

    Two days before the article above appeared in The Observer, The New York Times had a long article on the demise of openness in the George W Bush administration "....The Ashcroft directive encouraged federal agencies to reject requests for documents if there was any legal basis to do so, promising that the Justice Department would defend them in court. It was a stark reversal of the policy set eight years earlier, when the Clinton administration told agencies to make records available whenever they could, even if the law provided a reason not to, so long as there was no "foreseeable harm" from the release.
    Generally speaking, said Alan Brinkley, a Columbia University historian, while secrecy has been increasingly attractive to recent administrations, "this administration has taken it to a new level.".......since Sept. 11, three new agencies were given the power to stamp documents as "Secret" - the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.....Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, argues that secrecy does more harm than good. The Central Intelligence Agency's exaggerated estimates of Soviet economic strength, for example, would have stopped influencing United States policy, Mr. Moynihan said, if they had been published and any correspondent in Moscow could have laughed at them.
    "Secrecy is a formula for inefficient decision-making," Mr. Moynihan said, and plays to the instincts of self-importance of the bureaucracy.
    ......Since the first few days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government has insisted on a rare degree of secrecy about the individuals it has arrested and detained. The immigration hearings held for hundreds of people caught in sweeps after the bombings have been closed to relatives, the news media and the public.......
    ....."Officials quickly dismantled user-friendly disclosure systems on government Web sites," she wrote. "They censored information designed to tell community residents about risks from nearby chemical factories; maps that identified the location of pipelines carrying oil, gas and hazardous substances; and reports about risks associated with nuclear power plants." Many of those withdrawals mirrored efforts industry had been making for quite a few years, arguing that the public did not really need the information. ...." Read article

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Saddam..must be overthrown - by the people who helped to create his arsenal

    John Humphrys in the Sunday Times "... As a result of the meeting American companies were to sell Saddam components for chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax and bubonic plague cultures. The envoy was Donald Rumsfeld. He was then a high-powered executive in the pharmaceutical industry. Today he is the United States defence secretary.......... It is always right to make a fuss about the suffering of the world's most vulnerable people and the hypocrisy of the world's most powerful. And somebody may be listening. "

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ God Bless America - but not her foreign policy nor her rhetoric

    Three articles of importance from common dreams. Extract 1 William Pfaff : "....A senior White House official was quoted last week in The Washington Post as saying that the United States has assumed "an almost imperial role" today because its responsibilities are the same as when America was "standing between Nazi Germany and a takeover of all Europe." Britain, not the United States, stood between the Nazis and the takeover of all Europe. The United States did nothing substantial to oppose the Nazis until 1942. Churchill pleaded for help, but an isolationist Congress denied it."
    2. Robert Fisk "The Double Standards, Dubious Morality and Duplicity of This Fight Against Terror....Meanwhile, we are ploughing on to war in Iraq, which has oil, but avoiding war in Korea, which does not have oil..."
    3. ( Jonathan Watts in Tokyo) "....It is felt that the ability of the North Koreans to make a bomb has been exaggerated so that Bush can keep tensions on the boil until the next presidential election, just in case an attack on Iraq is not possible for some time." "The CIA reported several years ago that North Korea probably had two nuclear weapons made with plutonium from the Yongbyon plant before it closed down in 1994.
    So questions are now being asked about the fuss surrounding a possible uranium program. that is technically more difficult and will take several years to reach fruition, if ever. "Officials in Seoul are asking why the state department revealed North Korea's supposed nuclear admission when it did," said Michael Yoo, an analyst with the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo. "It is felt that the ability of the North Koreans to make a bomb has been exaggerated so that Bush can keep tensions on the boil until the next presidential election, just in case an attack on Iraq is not possible for some time."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ The Government will order more than 20,000 troops to the Gulf - and we watch in something close to despair

    We remember General Sir David Fraser deploring the insanity of the war in a letter to the Telegraph: "....The impression produced and increased every day is of a medium-sized Arab state being threatened with invasion by a superpower, perhaps supported by a few somewhat unwilling adherents such as ourselves and using unequivocally menacing language. I reiterate: this is unwise, to the point of insanity. By any reckoning - and there are many - it is likely to lead to a worsened situation in the Middle East generally. It is likely to be costly, including in terms of lives: and it is immoral. ..."
    Telegraph report today (Saturday): "The Government will order more than 20,000 troops to the Gulf and the mobilisation of around 7,000 reservists next week in preparation for a war in Iraq..."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ US tore out 8000 pages of Iraq weapons dossier

    Sunday Herald; Glasgow (UK); Dec 22, 2002; Exclusive By James Cusickand Felicity Arbuthnot; Abstract: "THE United States edited out more than 8000 crucial pages of Iraq's 11,800-page dossier on weapons, before passing on a sanitised version to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council. The full extent of Washington's complete control over who sees what in the crucial Iraqi dossier calls into question the allegations made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell ..." Current and former UN diplomats are said to be livid at what some have called the "theft" of the Iraqi document by the United States, the Sunday Herald reported.
    A former UN official is also displeased with the American cover-up, which will prevent Congress from learning the truth even as the president rushes to activate and deploy troops to the Gulf before Congress is able to commence and investigation in January.
    Hans von Sponeck, former UN assistant general secretary and UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq until 2000, called the deletion of eight thousand pages from Iraq's report "an outrageous attempt by the U.S. to mislead," also according to the Herald(external link).

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Who really knew about the damning GM Report - and WHEN did they know?

    This is a story that will not go away. Campaigners in Wales, who led successful protests against GM crop trials in the country, want to know whether the Welsh Assembly Government knew about the report's findings before AMs debated the issue just a week before the report was published. (From icwales.network) "Although it is in favour of a GM-free Wales in principle, the Assembly voted to accept new regulations relating to the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms in Wales on December 18. Nineteen AMs voted against.
    Anti-GM campaigners are now writing to Rural Affairs Minister Mike German to find out what he knew on December 18. Plaid Cymru AMs will also question Mr German when the Assembly reconvenes after the holiday...."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ World Globalisation is accelerating

    Extracts from "The Insider"
    The International Monetary Fund has approved plans that will achieve monetary union for Middle Eastern countries by 2005 and the launch of a single currency by 2010
    During 2002, an extreme acceleration of the globalisation process has unified more nations than ever before. Ten new countries agreed to become member states of the European Union, and when Turkey joins the EU it will become the second largest member state, and the boundaries of European Union jurisdiction will include a substantial part of Asia as well as most of the European continent. The EU is no longer just a United States of Europe.
    The early years of the new millennium will be dominated by the great institutions of world unity, United Nations, the United States of America, the United States of Europe, and the United States of the Gulf. When the unification process is complete, how many separate groups of unified nations will exist? Does this latest round of international unification bring mankind closer toward the United States of the World?

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ The BBC replies to Medialens

    Dear Medialens The rest of the reply is equally polite and well worth reading but it contains the giveaway sentence ".... I credit our audience with more intelligence than that..." Medialens' response is equally polite and equally worth reading. As they say: Read the correspondence

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ So where are these "intelligence reports"? Why have they not been shared?

    The US government claimed last year they possessed intelligence against Iraq and promised to share this with the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. However, the UN weapons inspectors have not yet seen any of the intelligence that the US and the UK governments claim to have. "We need intelligence reports if they exist" - UN weapons inspector. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2596147.stm

    Jan 1- 6 ~"There is growing concern over mounting evidence that the "War on Terror" military campaign against Iraq and Afghanistan is motivated by a hidden agenda of oil, profit and financial factors, rather than national security."

    The Debate website (external link)
    The construction a massive oil pipeline through Afghanistan will now begin, after the final agreement was signed today. The U.S. government gas been planning the pipeline since the 1980s, but a regime change was needed before construction could begin.
    None of the declared objectives of the American-led conquest of Afghanistan were achieved. The military campaign in Afghanistan did not capture or defeat Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda was not found or destroyed, and no peace has been established to date. The one success of the American-led Afghan war was to clear the route for the American-led oil and gas pipe-line through the country. Despite the failures of the previous war, the U.S. government is now planning a new crusade against Iraq, the world's second greatest source of oil....."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ "It's a bit like the emperor's clothes. Someone is going to come along one day and say: 'This is a fantasy. We don't need these people. We should do away with them'."

    The Speaker calls spin doctors a 'nuisance' Guardian: ".... As Labour MP for Glasgow Springburn since 1979, and a former lieutenant of Denis Healey, Mr Martin does not come from the left of the party. But he shares with Ms Short a distaste for modern media management - and, even more vehemently, for most of the modern media, which they regard as trivial and hostile.
    Spin doctors, advisers who seek to shape the political agenda as well as to inform it, are a symptom of the current impasse. Mr Martin called them "a nuisance [who] only clog up the system". Though his relations with the press were prickly for some years, he seems now to be more confident. "There's no harm in speaking to journalists directly and that's what [ministers] should do.
    As for spin doctors: "It's a bit like the emperor's clothes. Someone is going to come along one day and say: 'This is a fantasy. We don't need these people. We should do away with them'."

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Prepare for a dangerous and gloomy New Year, says Blair .... who is on holiday in Egypt

    See Telegraph report of his New Year speech.(external link)
    The Prime Minister - the leading nominee for banishment in the Radio 4 poll according to this Times report (external link) says he "cannot recall a time when Britain was confronted by such a range of problems...." He says 2003 will be a year of "big challenges requiring big decisions". .... .

    Jan 1 - 6 ~ Triumph of doublethink in 2003

    Orwell warned against the kind of lies we are being fed about Iraq writes Paul Foot in the Guardian ...... "The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control' they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'." There is doublethink going on now as Oceania (the US and Britain) prepares for war against Iraq. We, the Winston Smiths of today, know that 15 years ago, the US and Britain were in alliance with Iraq. We know that the British Foreign Office sided with Saddam Hussein when he did those terrible things to his own people listed in Jack Straw's recent doublethink dossier. We know that our government changed their own guidelines in order to sell Saddam the ingredients of any weapons of mass destruction he may or may not now have. We also know that the key bases from which US bombers will take off to kill Iraqis are in Saudi Arabia, whose regime is even more dictatorial, savage and terrorist than Saddam's. But where does that knowledge exist? Only in our own consciousness.
    Orwell's great novel was not only a satire, but a warning. He wanted to alert his readers to the dangers of acquiescence in the lies and contortions of powerful govern- ments and their media toadies. The anti-war movement is growing fast, in Britain and the US. Fortunately, we can still, as Orwell urged in another passage, "turn our consciousness to strength" and shake off the warmongers "like a horse shaking off flies". If we don't, we are in for another awful round of victories over our own memories and of doublethink.

    Jan 1-6 ~ Pure heebie-Jeebie

    The ever-excellent Simon Jenkins in The Times "This past year we have learnt that combating terrorism is the same messy, hit-and-miss business it has always been. Each weekend Downing Street and its "terrorism unit" summons the press for the Sunday scare story. We have now had the Nine-Eleven anniversary scare, the sarin-on-the-Tube scare, the smallpox scare, the "threat to public transport" scare, the Christmas shopping scare and last Sunday's "London quarantine" scare. (Note, these stories always appear on a Sunday.) They offer no useable public advice. They are pure heebie- jeebie.

    Jan 1-6 ~ For "element of non-compliance" read traces of cow manure...What are the Meat Hygiene Service and Anglo-Beef Processors up to?

    We read with unease this report from the Shropshire Star. "...McDonalds has suspended its contract with a Shropshire abattoir after rejecting a shipment of its beef, it was revealed today.
    An investigation is taking place.
    The contract was held by Anglo Beef Processors, based in Harlescott, Shrewsbury. A spokeswoman for McDonalds said today that a delivery from ABP had been rejected around three weeks ago, but that the exact cause of the problem was not yet known.
    "Although the batch had been fully approved by officials from the Meat Hygiene Service, a government agency, there was an element of non-compliance picked up and the meat did not get into processing."
    For "element of non-compliance" read "traces of cow manure" if our sources are correct. The Anglo Beef Processors seems to have moved since the story in August when critics said the ABP's labelling of Beef from Brazil misled customers into thinking they were supporting struggling British farmers. ABP spokesman Alistair McDougal, said: "The suggestion that this is betraying British farmers is ridiculous...."
    Is this not the company owned by beef baron Larry Goodman? We recall the burning down by suspected arson of the Cross Hands plant in Carmarthen last June. Farmers for Action some time ago suspected that Irish pig meat was being processed throught the plant and caught the lorries unloading during the night. All the meat was stamped British - as usual.
    There is something very rotten at the heart of this story.

    Dec 31 ~ Good Old GM!

    That is to say, good old George Monbiot - who here writes in cheerfully apocolyptic terms of the future - unless we find the wit and sense "to reverse not only the fundamental presumptions of political and economic life, but also the polarity of our moral compass." Extract: "..... By shifting taxation from employment to environmental destruction, governments could tax over-consumption out of existence. But everyone who holds power today knows that her political survival depends upon stealing from the future to give to the present.
    Overturning this calculation is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. We need to reverse not only the fundamental presumptions of political and economic life, but also the polarity of our moral compass. Everything we thought was good - giving more exciting presents to our children, flying to a friend's wedding, even buying newspapers - turns out also to be bad. It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that so many deny the problem with such religious zeal. But to live in these times without striving to change them is like watching, with serenity, the oncoming truck in your path."
    Summoning up all the optimism we can muster, we'd like to wish a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all who read warmwell and thank you for your support and tolerance.

    Dec 31 ~ What is the purpose of Parliament if not to control the powers of the executive?

    Today's Telegraph (external link) ". Over and again in recent months, when examining some of the Government's hastily concocted legislation, the Lords has shown itself to be a better watchdog for the public's interest than the Commons. ......A dispassionate examination of Hansard's reports for the past year or so would show that, on the whole, the Lords made a better job of it than the Commons. So this year's approach to reform should be founded in a desire to improve the Lords with a composition that gives it legitimacy; not, as some Labour MPs desire, simply to dismantle it."

    Dec 31 ~ "Perhaps at last the Corporate Press is cottoning on to the fact that most of the population of the UK do not want this war."

    An emailer writes about the article: America helped Iraq to acquire chemical weapons By Toby Harnden (external link) and says, "I found the External links provided interesting; I never thought to see The New Internationalist recommended by the Telegraph! "

    Dec 31 ~ Unlicensed entertainment in England will be a criminal offence: In Scotland you can do what you like.

    An emailer, staggered as we all are by this fresh example of centralisation run stark staring mad, writes: "I think people who read Warmwell should be made a bit more aware of the very serious effect on live music and entertainment that this ridiculous piece of legislation regarding New Licensing Laws will have. Perhaps a read of the link below would help folk get some idea of what could happen (and appears to already be happening in some places). http://users.tinyonline.co.uk/fizgig-tom/law.htm
    This affects carol singers going from door to door, charity poetry readings, parties in your own home, anywhere you rehearse a play etc (so includes somebody's home if that is the venue) or even singing Happy Birthday in a restaurant where you were celebrating, nativity plays in village halls and even Morris Dancers in a field.
    But you can do what you like in Scotland ! The world has gone truly mad."

    Dec 31 ~".. new powers will be included in a civil contingencies bill first planned in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak and the fuel depots blockade. "

    See Guardian yesterday. (external link) Ministers draw up terror cordon and evacuation plans by Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton Taylor " Ministers are planning to give the police and military new powers to quarantine large parts of London or other cities as part of dramatic plans to counter a terrorist attack. Officials are also looking at proposals to evacuate people from inner areas of London, such as Westminster, to outer suburbs in the event of an attack. ... Police already have powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 to set up cordons to investigate a terrorist incident. But at the moment they are not able to set up cordons if they are not sure the incident is terrorist-related, or if they believe it is in the public interest to keep Londoners quarantined. .... .The new powers will be included in a civil contingencies bill first planned in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak and the fuel depots blockade. ..." "The shadow health secretary, Liam Fox, welcomed fresh evidence of planning, but warned: "There will always be a time gap between infection and the first symptoms developing, which could mean movement has already occurred. Therefore it makes sense to allow immunisation of the public when vaccines become available." ...
    An emailer comments: "Echoes of FMD here I think but who would be confident that they could handle a human disease problem any better than the last fiasco we witnessed? Mind you, I think these new powers would come in very handy for placing a cordon around any future FMD infected sites to keep concerned activists out - or anybody else for that matter. It fills in all the gaps in the powers they didn't have last year."

    Dec 30 ~ "Ms Short takes every opportunity to assert that poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability are mutually exclusive, in the face of the evidence from her own department and countless successful projects.

    Renewable energy schemes are regarded by the "First World" as some kind of second-best option. Whereas, in truth, this is an area where the "Third World" has something to teach us -- particularly given own utterly pathetic record on promoting renewable energy here in the UK." Read Jonathan Porrit in today's Independent. (external link)

    Dec 30 ~ Almost all public music-making, singing, dancing and acting becomes a criminal offence unless first licensed by the local authority.

    Even private performance is caught, if it is to raise money for charity, or the performers are paid, or a charge is made for admission. See Telegraph Opinion today.
    (This is an E petition set up by and to be submitted on the 15 March 2003 to Number 10 Downing Street.)

    Dec 30 ~ Why should being scientific and detailed mean it's not on the web site?

    "Defra defended the decision to release the report on Christmas Eve, with a spokesman admitting it was not the "ideal time" to publish but that "there has been no attempt to mislead". "It's 100 pages long. It's very detailed and very scientific -- that's why it's not on the website," he said...." See Independent

    Dec 30 ~ Alarming new results from official trials of GM crops are severely jeopardising Government plans for growing them commercially in Britain.

    The results, in a new Government report, show - for the first time in Britain - that genes from GM crops are interbreeding on a large scale with conventional ones, and also with weeds. The report is so devastating to the Government's case for GM crops that ministers last week sought to bury it by slipping the first information on it out on the website of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Christmas Eve, the one day in the year when no newspapers are being prepared. (Read Geoffrey Lean's article in the Independent)

    Dec 30 ~ Clare Short breaks ranks

    Independent (external link) yesterday "...warnings of a "humanitarian disaster" were echoed yesterday by the International Development Secretary, Clare Short, who again broke ranks with the Government, insisting war against Saddam Hussein cannot be justified if it causes "devastating suffering" to his people.
    Calling on the UK to exert its influence on George Bush to follow the course set by the United Nations, she said: "An all-out war that caused devastating suffering to the people of Iraq would be wrong."
    Ms Short's intervention came as humanitarian charities working in and around Iraq predicted that as well as vast numbers being forced across the borders into Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran, Iraqis could contract life-threatening diseases, including typhoid and cholera, on an "epidemic scale". And already malnourished people could be deprived of food if charities cannot get in to ensure the distribution of vital supplies...."

    Dec 30 ~ Bush to Charles: We don't want you in the USA

    An emailer writes to tell us of this headline in yesterday's Mail: "Prince Charles has abandoned an official visit to the US because the White House has signalled that he is not welcome. There is a furore both sides of the pond. It is thought that Price Charles's Anti-War views would not go down well,and probably cause embarrassment. Also " This would not be a desirable visit at a sensitive time like this."

    Dec30 ~ a ticket to mass hysteria

    An emailer writes: " See Ananova.... And you can guess what would happen if the "mob" decided to leave en masse. Perhaps there is some advantage to being a rural dweller after all. All sounds like "conditioning" to me.
    The US can't really do anything before 27 January when the UN inspectors are due to give their report. There is a lot of talk about there being some kind of terrorist attack here in the UK, expected to happen any time next month, in order to get the populace in the right frame of mind for war with Iraq. We need our opinions "altered" if the timetable is to go ahead without any hiccups. No doubt the piece below is all part and parcel of this "persuasion" by manipulation and brain washing. If we all start to think war is inevitable, it is easier to accept when it actually happens. Watch out for more examples in the next few weeks."

    Dec 30 ~ It is no longer possible to be sent to prison in Britain for burglary, apparently, but in the eyes of the judiciary, defying the BBC would appear to be an altogether more serious offence.....

    Jonathan Miller's Mean Fields "... Either I will lay legal waste to the licence fee, on the basis that it is an unjustified interference with my right to receive information under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as incorporated into British law by the 1998 Human Rights Act. Or I will lose before some lickspittle magistrates bench and face legal stitch-up on appeal as the Establishment rallies to protect its own. In which case, if I stay stubborn, there is a very good chance I could be sent to jail as the first-ever political prisoner of the BBC. A third possibility is that this case will provoke chaos in the courts as hundreds or even thousands decide to join me. It is no longer possible to be sent to prison in Britain for burglary, apparently, but in the eyes of the judiciary, defying the BBC would appear to be an altogether more serious offence.....

    Dec 28/9 ~ No surprises ...the new Cumbria Rural Regeneration Company board has just been announced.

    Alongside the Chairman Charles Woodhouse, Rex Toft (leader of Cumbria County Council), 3 district authority councillors and John Dunning (North West Development Agency, director of Westmorland Motorway Services and Orton farmer) are the following
  • Chris Collier - chief executive of Cumbria Tourist Board
  • Kate Braithwaite - chief executive of Voluntary Action Cumbria
  • James Carr - chairman of Cumberland Building Society and previous head of Cumbria Rural Action Zone Steering Committee
  • Tom Bryson - former director of the countryside management centre at Wye College, University of London
  • Bob Clark - chief executive of Cumbria Rural Enterprise Agency
  • David Brockbank - developer
  • Freddy Markham - businessman
  • Paul Wellings - vice chancellor of Lancaster University and Prof of Population Ecology

    Dec 28 ~ "It was done too quickly. GM was introduced too early and I think that's caused this substantial backlash

    Today's Western Mail.".....Dr Murphy, who has worked with GM oilseed rape and is an adviser to Defra and foreign governments, said, "It was done too quickly. GM was introduced too early and I think that's caused this substantial backlash.
    "I'm principally in favour of GM but not in the way it is done at the moment. The technology is now there to overcome the problems that have arisen but we started too early."
    Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said, "I would totally agree. One of the major problems of the whole issue is that technology has been pushed through because of commercial pressures and the basic safety questions haven't been asked, let alone answered. "Five years ago people were calling for a halt to the trials until these questions were answered but the biotech industry and the Government just wanted to carry on rushing ahead."
    There is little doubt that GM's reputation has been tarnished by the highly publicised problems the technology has encountered in recent years - none of which have enamoured consumers to its potential - including the recent release of an unauthorised variety of GM rape seed in the UK earlier this year and the financial penalties and the order to destroy several fields of edible soybean crops imposed on the US company Prodigene after it was found the crop was contaminated by a GM maize crop grown the previous year.
    There has also been worldwide concern about the contamination of food crops by a new type of GM crop engineered to produce pharmaceuticals.
    Environmentalists and GM protesters cite these cross-contamination issues in their dossier of reasons not to introduce GM on a large scale but they also have concerns about the GM by-product of "super weeds" and the potential for GM to unleash new, and potentially devastating, antibiotic-resistant superbugs on the human and animal population because of the use of antibiotics in the creation of GM crop species."

    Dec 28 ~ The year in food

    by Matthew Fort in today's Guardian 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' - well, no, actually, it wasn't: 2002 has been one of the less extreme years as far as food was concerned. True, the appearance of black widow spiders in grapes at Tesco was one of the year's more original supermarket special offers, but the most remarkable aspect was the fact that there wasn't a major food-related scandal - no new BSE, no new food-born virus, no foot-and-mouth, no GMO on the rampage. (I write this at the start of December, so there is still time for one to leap out on us.) There have been skirmishes, of course. The organic movement took issue, not to say umbrage, at the Food Standards Agency's report that, far from being purer and nobler than their broiler cousins, organic chickens carry more than their fair share of campylobacter organisms. (The FSA also revealed that people in catering weren't that keen on washing their hands after going to the lavatory, and told us to lay off Spanish eggs.)

    Dec 27 ~ "almost as much as Labour blew on foot and mouth"

    The Telegraph Opinion yesterday "... the war will not only involve the deaths of many innocents, but will also co st the British taxpayer considerable sums. The latest figures suggest our bill could be £5 billion, which is almost as much as Labour blew on foot and mouth. That is why it is so important to persuade the public to snap out of their current curmudgeonliness.
    With 65 per cent currently opposed to military action, one can see why the Government goes to such lengths to pretend, for instance, that there is a link between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qa'eda network.
    At every key moment in the Iraq drama, there is a little Whitehall-generated drum-roll of alarm about a terrorist threat in London. Last week, the Americans declared that Iraq was in material breach of UN resolution 1441. The war came closer! And offstage, as if by magic, government sources muttered about anthrax on the Tube, smallpox in the water supply, etc.
    It is a cynical and ludicrous attempt at Pavlovian conditioning. War in Iraq! Terrorist threat! War in Iraq! Terrorist threat! On it will go until the poor mutton-headed public believes that only the first will obviate the threat of the second...."

    Dec 24 ~ General Sir David Fraser deplores the insanity of the war

    See his letter in this morning's Telegraph: "....The impression produced and increased every day is of a medium-sized Arab state being threatened with invasion by a superpower, perhaps supported by a few somewhat unwilling adherents such as ourselves and using unequivocally menacing language. I reiterate: this is unwise, to the point of insanity. By any reckoning - and there are many - it is likely to lead to a worsened situation in the Middle East generally. It is likely to be costly, including in terms of lives: and it is immoral. ..."

    Dec 24 ~ A Peaceful Christmas

    ".. the Bush Administration's war plans in Iraq have awakened "huge reservoirs of unease" in the American public, says Peace Action spokesperson Scott Lynch. The Administration's bullying autumn war drive, its explicit discussion of pre-emptive strikes and regime change, its overtly corporate agenda on energy and oil, and its early, arrogant attempts to make war without Congress, let alone the United Nations, unleashed a flood of antiwar sentiment and activity across the country. The sheer breadth of this opposition could help to birth one of the largest antiwar movements in US history--that is, if these politically diverse antiwar eruptions can join forces as a movement at all." If you do not want to take this war sitting down, please read the article and explore the links. Happy Christmas

    Dec 24 ~ As with all modern wars...follow the money

    As the military machine gears up for another war it seems worth taking a closer look at the links between business and conflict. Corporations were born out of the wars of colonisation and today the relationship between military expansion and companies remains. Read the Corporate Watch Newsletter

    Dec 24 ~ "We want to oppose Saddam by blowing little children to bits,"

    article in the Telegraph by veteran Labour MP Eve-Ann Prentice ....."The lack of conscience I find hard to understand."
    The people now closest to Tony Blair, she says, tend to have come "straight from university or the press - maybe people should do something else first. It is not so much that they are cold or hard, but more that they are unaware."
    Of the Prime Minister, she says: "Tony is very easy to talk to, very approachable, but at the end of the day he has already made up his mind. Conference now is almost like a Democratic convention in the US."

    Dec 23 ~ British government officials have already privately admitted that they do not have any "killer evidence" about weapons of mass destruction. If they had, they would have already passed it to the inspectors.

    See today's Iraq stories from the Guardian Extract: ".... Hands up all those who really think that George Bush is not determined to attack Iraq some time soon. Hands up all those who think that if he does so without UN authority Tony Blair will turn round and say: "Sorry Buddy, you're on your own." Not many takers, I bet. And yet the political conversation in this country has become surreal. Tony Blair and the rest of the government speak and act as if we are going through a patient, careful, international review of Iraq's weaponry. War, they say, may still not happen, so it's pointless to discuss "what ifs". Everyone knows this is nonsense. We are preparing for conflict very soon: tens of thousands of American troops are already in the region, British and US warships are sailing, special forces and marines are being inoculated against anthrax, Bush has cancelled his trip to Africa. We are going to war, but Tony hasn't quite got round to telling us. "

    Dec 23 ~ The fundamental approach of Gats poses a threat to quality public services in the UK. ..(and) .. would adversely impact on workers and vital services for the poor in the developing world.

    Put a stop to Gats plans The Guardian today.
    "We are deeply concerned over current negotiations in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Gats). This World Trade Organisation agreement has far-reaching implications for how governments deliver and regulate health, education, transport, broadcasting and postal services.
    The US and other countries have made sweeping requests to transfer the remaining areas of UK public services into the hands of foreign companies. This would mean that profits will take precedence over public policy aims, such as ensuring that quality public services are affordable for all. The fundamental approach of Gats poses a threat to quality public services in the UK. Further, the EU's aggressive requests of the developing countries would adversely impact on workers and vital services for the poor in the developing world. While we welcome the government's current consultation on Gats, we are not convinced by claims that there are public benefits from Gats. We deplore the lack of parliamentary debate and the government's refusal to provide access to key documents. Gats has been described by the WTO secretariat as "effectively irreversible". That means decisions taken over the next few months will be crucial. This is reckless and undemocratic, especially in the light of mounting evidence of problems resulting from past privatisation's. We call on the government to halt these negotiations until there has been proper research and assessment, parliamentary scrutiny and public debate. (signed) Dave Prentis Unison, Jeremy Dear NUJ, Billy Hayes CWU, Sally Hunt AUT, Paul Mackney Natfhe, Bill Morris TGWU, Eamonn O'Kane NASUWT, Ed Sweeney Unifi
    See also

    Dec 23 ~"We call on the government to halt these negotiations until there has been proper research and assessment, parliamentary scrutiny and public debate"

    HE leaders in Gats attack by Polly Curtis "Higher education representatives today voiced their opposition to the World Trade Organisation's "reckless and undemocratic" attempts to reform public service provision, which they say have wide-reaching implications for the sector in this country. ....... "The fundamental approach of Gats poses a threat to quality public services in the UK," the letter read, before concluding: "This is reckless and undemocratic, especially in the light of mounting evidence of problems resulting from past privatisations. We call on the government to halt these negotiations until there has been proper research and assessment, parliamentary scrutiny and public debate." ....... "Gats would put pressure on the developing world to stop growing their own university systems and buy in external services. It would force UK universities into a role they don't want to be in. And leading universities, including members of the Russell Group, who do think they could exploit their name and make money out of developing a global brand with enormous cache, could support this. It would lead to a colonial model of universities," he said."

    Dec 23 ~ "I want to see the pilot who killed my children"

    While the Blair government continues to claim in Parliament that "no final decision has been taken", Royal Air Force and US fighter bombers have secretly changed tactics and escalated their "patrols" over Iraq to an all-out assault on both military and civilian targets.
    The latest from John Pilger. Read it and weep. Extract: "...I saw the remains of an agricultural water tanker and truck, riddled with bullet holes, shrapnel from a missile, a shoe and the wool and skeletons of about 150 sheep.
    A family of six, a shepherd, his father and his wife and four children, were blown to pieces here. It was treeless, open country: a moonscape. The shepherd, his family and his sheep would have been clearly visible from the air.
    The shepherd's brother, Hussain Jarsis, agreed to meet me at the cemetery where the family is buried. He arrived in an old Toyota van with the widow, who was hunched with grief, her face covered. She held the hand of her one remaining child, and they sat beside the mounds of earth that are the four children's graves. "I want to see the pilot who killed my children," she shouted across to us.
    .....To date, the cost of the current, "secret" and illegal British bombing of Iraq is a billion pounds.

    Dec 23 ~ The United States edited out more than 8000 crucial pages of Iraq's 11,800-page dossier on weapons, before passing on a sanitized version to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council.

    See Sunday Herald "The full extent of Washington's complete control over who sees what in the crucial Iraqi dossier calls into question the allegations made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that 'omissions' in the document constituted a 'material breach' of the latest UN resolution on Iraq."
    Also news that a top-secret Iraq Report reveals U.S. Corporations, Gov't Agencies and Nuclear Labs helped illegally arm Iraq Read more

    Dec 23 ~ The turkey that thinks it's a sheepdog

    (Sunday Sun) and it's become such a part of the family that instead of tucking into a traditional turkey dinner this year they will be getting to grips with a goose. Farmer Colin of Malton, North Yorkshire, pictured, said: "I originally bought Trevor as a fancy bird to have running around the farmyard. But then during the foot and mouth crisis I decided I would start training him. "Last year I taught him to walk a tightrope through a hoop of fire and he became a bit of a mini-celebrity. "This year I've taught him to travel alongside me on the quad bike when I go out to feed the sheep. "He looks a picture in his tinsel garland with the bales of hay wrapped in ribbon. It's like he's delivering a Christmas present to them. "It's so unusual for a turkey to do these sort of things, but once you start training them they love it. I just pull into the yard on the bike and tell him to jump on the quad and then off we go." "Next spring we plan to get him a female turkey so who knows? We could soon have little Trevors running around."

    Dec 23 ~ Roger sends these news links

    Got the Independent on Sunday for a change.  Interesting.
    Bishops defy Blair with anti-war message this Christmas.
    Do I remember correctly that Nestle were the first to say that they would not take vaccinated milk ?
    Do I remember correctly that Nestle are screwing our own dairy farmers ?
    Do I remember correctly that Nestle are trying to screw  £ 3.7 million from poverty / drought stricken Ethiopia ?
    Well, now they are screwing Pakistan as well.
    And if you would like to know about how to boycott the worlds largest food conglomerate. Read "the amazing £3.7 million chocolate bar."
    Last but not only but also, http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/media/story.jsp?story=363645 
    Why cant they let bygones be bygones and let our fond memories live for ever ?

    Dec 23 ~ No apology for the trauma of Foot and Mouth...ever?

    A question posed elsewhere:. "Perhaps the Government avoided any kind of apology because to have apologised would have opened the door to massive law suits. Since it is the "taxpayer" who would have to pay if the government were successfully sued isn't this perhaps just as well?"
    In reply we receive these comments that disagree strongly - "As someone who has poured money into the Treasury during 27 years of hard graft I would far prefer to see it used in this way than propping up corruption and lying. If that is naive - so be it." and
    "The government has no concern whatever with the costs of its mistakes, precisely because it does not have any money of its own to lose. Spending other people's money is painless. How else could it have calculated that the miserly value of the agricultural "export" trade (in reality a swap for imports of equal or greater value) was worth the enormously damaging effects of the mass slaughter policy? It was clear from the beginning that on cost grounds, their policy was counter-productive, but that did not divert them for one moment.
    For the same reasons, the NFU old guard could stick rigidly to a policy that was costing the union nothing - all they were concerned with was negotiating the most advantageous levels of compensation - whereas if they had to bear the cost themselves...
    This has nothing to do with costs to the public purse - if it did, the government would never have followed such an economically disastrous pathway..."

    Dec 21 ~ The one that got away.... Phoenix is pregnant

    Calf that survived cull is pregnant By Richard Savill (Filed: 21/12/2002) "The calf that was reprieved after surviving two cull attempts during the foot and mouth epidemic is pregnant. Phoenix, the charolais heifer who has been kept as a pet on its owner's farm in Devon, is due to give birth next July, when it will be two. Its owner Michaela Board, who lives at Clarence Farm, near Axminster, with her husband Philip, 44, and son Ross, 13, said Phoenix had been artificially inseminated. "She was originally intended for breeding, so we've been planning this for a while," Mrs Board said. Although Clarence Farm did not suffer from foot and mouth disease, 15 cattle, including Phoenix's mother, were culled with 50 sheep after an outbreak two miles away.
    Phoenix was found weak but alive five days later among the carcasses, apparently after a lethal injection administered by a vet failed to work. Mr Board put the calf in his garage where it was bottle-fed and cared for. He then refused to let ministry vets return to kill the animal. The Government changed the rules on contiguous culls (sic) giving local vets discretionary powers to spare the calf."
    This little story encapsulates much of the surreal chaos of last year. The scientific paper by Dr Donaldson of Pirbright showed that there was no chance at all that the virus could travel in the air for two miles. The government (ie Alastair Campbell) realised that to kill the calf after its appealing photo had appeared widely in the press would be a PR disaster of massive proportions. The policy was changed for cattle. Sheep however were perhaps considered more expendable. There were far too many of the things. So it was decreed that the virus could still reach them while carefully avoiding cows. Meanwhile, the botched lethal injections and widespread carnage continued. And the heartbreak has not been as easily covered up as the Phoenix fiasco.

    Dec 21 ~"...the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position". "Our position" is code for lying..."

    "...You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. ..." John Pilger's latest article stands as a beacon against the cynical and frightening waffle in the UK press today, such as - "The game could soon be up for Saddam" ..."Britain and the UK are ready to call bluff on Iraq dossier" (The Scotsman)
    "...As for Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction", these were dismissed, in so many words, as a convenient excuse, which it is. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification," it says, "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." How has this grand strategy been implemented? A series of articles in the Washington Post, co-authored by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and based on long interviews with senior members of the Bush administration, reveals how 11 September was manipulated...."
    ".......innocent people will be killed by the United States. This is reminiscent of Operation Northwoods, the plan put to President Kennedy by his military chiefs for a phoney terrorist campaign - complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans - as justification for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy rejected it. He was assassinated a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but with resources undreamt of in 1963 and with no global rival to invite caution. You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread running through their ruminations is the importance of the media: "the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position".
    "Our position" is code for lying..." (more)

    Dec 18 ~"Those who live by spin can die by spin. The public and the Labour Party itself dislike the sense of superiority of the people they have voted into power."

    Article in yesterday's Times by William Rees -Mogg "...The Downing Street of the Blair period has increasingly become a court rather than an office. It has all the characteristics. Charm is very important to it, the easy smile, the flattering word. It is not a place for common people. It has its intriguers, its money men, its fixers, its beautiful people and its not so beautiful people. It revolves around the ever expanding patronage of the Prime Minister, greater now than at any time since the 18th century. As is inevitable when there is so much patronage, there is a faint, sour smell of corruption, like a bad odour from the drains..."

    Dec 17 ~ If You're Happy and You know it Bomb Iraq...

    All together now....

    Dec 16 ~ New foot and mouth powers are to come into force on January 14.

    An order for "the commencement of the Act" was signed by Elliot Morley last week. The AHB, which received Royal Assent on November 7, gives the Government new powers of entry to farms for vaccination, serology or slaughter. It also provides additional powers to kill animals without the need to prove they are infected "to prevent the spread of disease" in the event of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Slaughter, enforcement and the scrapie powers linked to the Act are also due to come into force from January 14th 2003

    Dec 16 ~ Spinners now out of control

    "Our leaders' weapons of mass assertion deny us access to the truth" Peter Preston in the Guardian today "....Observe how abnormally slow the CIA is to release its precise case against Saddam, to say where the weaponry may actually be housed. No details, no pictures, no intercepts. But that doesn't mean they have to shut up.
    We're going to war on their say-so. Except they won't say-so. We're asked to decide on the evidence. Except we can't see it. Here come the weapons of mass assertion without attribution ... Now that does sound like Cherie swinging from her absurd gate all over again."

    Dec 16 ~"Is our creed more than a confusion of cheap energy, discriminatory education, junk food, shopping malls, cynical housing, privatized public services, property deals, celebrity culture, the machinations of multinational corporations, leisurewear, chic pornography?"

    A moving article from commondreams.org, published in last Thursday's Guardian Extract: "With the experience of Vietnam behind them, what is the moral impulse driving George Bush and Tony Blair to war in Iraq? If Washington and Westminster know what they are fighting against - Saddam Hussein and his "weapons of mass destruction" - what are they fighting for? Is there more to it than installing an oily new regime in Baghdad subservient to Sheriff Bush? Or a military administration led by Tommy Franks, a general who looks as if he has walked straight off the set of Dr Strangelove?
    What can our civilization offer this ancient land, still free of the excesses of US consumer culture, beyond "regime change"? Will we help invest in public hospitals on the one hand, and archaeology on the other, or in lucrative oil extraction and fast-food joints? How do we value this cradle of our own civilization, its history, peoples, antiquities? Do we mean to harm Iraqi civilians who have suffered quite enough over the past 11 years, but have no way of publicly expressing their concerns? How are they meant to trust Washington or Westminster when our support has never been certain?
    During the second world war, Britain had no doubts about its enemy: Hitler, Nazism and governments which believed themselves to be above international the law. But we also had an intelligent view of what we were about. The war developed a moral and positive, as well as a military and destructive, purpose. Politicians who put John Ruskin, Robert Tressel and the Bible....
    This was a very different country from today's New Britain, a land where politicians speak the language of US business schools, where our homes and public services are commodities, and greed a virtue. Before we take a wrathful, Old Testament God - nurtured at the time of Abraham in what is now Iraq - on a trip with us by B-52 and Tornado to smite Saddam and citizenry, we owe it to ourselves to state, on the international stage, what we truly believe today.
    Is our creed more than a confusion of cheap energy, discriminatory education, junk food, shopping malls, cynical housing, privatized public services, property deals, celebrity culture, the machinations of multinational corporations, leisurewear, chic pornography, the right to bear arms, and a deep-seated fear of the Saracen bogeyman handed down in popular legend, and half-baked government dossiers, from the crusades? Most decent British and American citizens, not loath to protest against unrighteous war nor to fight for a just cause, want and deserve better than this. We need to know what we are fighting for, and to give more than a damn. ..."

    Dec 14 ~ Mr John Greenway, MP (Cons) for Rydale to introduce a Private Member's Bill against ragwort next March.

    Horses that eat ragwort die an agonising death since its cumulative effect is to destroy the liver. Ragwort is thought to have caused the death of 500 horses in 2001, with the toll predicted at 1,000 for this year. Mona sends this : "..The British Horse Society is delighted to announce that its Root out Ragwort campaign is to be sponsored in a Private Members Bill by Mr John Greenway, MP (Cons) for Rydale. ... The purpose of the Bill is to impose a duty of responsibility on public landowners to effectively control ragwort, preventing its spread onto grazing land used by equines: horses, ponies and donkeys. Mr Greenway said today, ".... I hope this sponsorship will help create a greater regard for the welfare of equines. There is a significant horse population in my constituency of Rydale and I am glad to have the support of the British Horseracing Board and the National Farmers Union, as well as support in preparing this Bill from the British Horse Society." Adding to Mr Greenways statement, Mrs Kay Driver, BHS Chief Executive, said, "The Society has campaigned hard for the past five years for effective control of ragwort...." Ragwort poisoning is cumulative, destroying the liver. Symptoms do not show until the latter stages, when death, which is agonising, is inevitable. Under the Weeds Act of 1959 it is an offence to allow the plant to seed. However, lack of resources do not currently permit for effective control Ragwort seeds can lie dormant in the soil for up to twenty years, and each plant can produce 150-250,000 seeds a year. See also ragwort page

    Dec 14 ~ ".. this is not a government I trust with my liberty" said Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), to loud cheers.

    The Telegraph's A free country yesterday by By Stephen Robinson: "Many eminent guardians of civil liberties were among the hundreds packed into the LSE's Old Theatre on Wednesday for a public meeting on the Government's plans to introduce identity cards. But an old Tory Cabinet minister, Peter Lilley, delivered perhaps the most telling testimony against the scheme which, by its own admission, would cost taxpayers £1.5 billion.
    Mr Lilley recalled how the Major administration once drew up plans for "an all-singing, all-dancing identity card", but quietly dropped them when members of the Cabinet realised it would deliver none of the benefits promised by the backers.
    Chief constables had said that proving the identity of criminals was not the problem; catching them was. On investigation it was found that only a fraction of social security benefit fraud was related to people using false identities. And as for the inevitable resort to "the fight against terrorism", Mr Lilley pointed out: "The men who hijacked the planes on September 11 never concealed their identity, just their purpose."
    Lord Falconer, the Home Office minister responsible for the "entitlement card" - as the Government prefers to call it - said individuals already entrusted the Government with a great deal of private information: "What we are proposing is giving people the choice to extend that relationship, if they think it would make their lives easier."
    Few at the event, which was organised by Privacy International and Liberty, were reassured by that. Simon Hughes MP, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on Home Affairs, was cheered loudly when he said it was obvious New Labour had resurrected an ID card only because of public dismay about asylum issues. "And this is not a government I trust with my liberty," he said."

    Dec 14 ~ The Guardian takes up the Pointdexter story with the headline "The Secret Disservice"

    See Alexander Chancellor's report today ".....The Orwellian nature of this scheme has not escaped notice in the US. The columnist William Safire, once a speechwriter for President Nixon and hardly a leftie, has called it "the supersnoop's dream", in which "every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every email you send or receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book" will go into the database. The New Yorker has warned that this could help to destroy "the last vestiges of individual and family privacy....."
    What strikes us most is the accelerating speed of the removal of our liberties. Have the powers of darkness in the US and UK concluded that there are no holds barred now that we are so successfully brainwashed by childish terror of "Terror" that we simply don't care if we end up as slaves as long as we don't end up in danger of "terrorist attack"?

    Dec 14 ~Unlike Tony Blair, "Dr. Faustus had the advantage of knowing he sold his soul to the Devil; he could always redeem the pawn ticket.

    But the Prime Minister, giving over Britain's high streets to Wal-Mart, jails to Wackenhut, fields and supermarket shelves to Monsanto, is convinced he's sold his nation's soul to Santa Claus." If you have never read this extraordinary article in the Ecologist by Greg Palast, written in March 2000, it may well open - and widen - your eyes.

    Dec 13 ~ "Shouldn't we be getting some questions asked in the House to ascertain the current picture?"

    An emailer writes, "Great Orton - Of all the terrible things that happened during the FMD epidemic this site defines the most enduring image of all the ills and barbarity that became the 2001 epidemic. With its great burial pits, its vast tents and pens for all the unsuspecting sheep and lambs and its conveyor belt of slaughter and armies of slaughteres and dumper trucks and heavy machinery. All to mindlessly kill 1/2 a million healthy animals. Gt Orton must be one of the most defining testaments to all that was so fundamentally and tragically wrong with the way FMD was dealt with.
    1. It came about from the erroneous pre-emptive cull - which proceeded without any scientific justification, rationale or evaluation.
    2. It demonstrated that those in charge gave no worth or value to healthy animals and cared not a jot for the consequences of their decision on the owners or the wider community, either emotionally, psychologically, financially or in socio-economic terms.
    3. It resulted in nearly (according to Nick - well over) 1/2 a million animals being needlessly slaughtered - those responsible for this sheer waste of life will forever be guilty of committing one of the worst acts of gross barbarity during 2001.
    4. Which then impacted on Great Orton village and all its residents - and has cast a very long shadow over the area and Cumbria, and indeed the UK.
    and now the Great Orton site needs endless monitoring, has taken masses amount of remedial work to prevent leachate from the site contaminating the surrounding area and will involve long term management and expenditure to deal with all the long term problems it has created. Nature Reserve is indeed a strange name to use for such a place.
    Has a Parliamentary Question been posed as to the cost of site purchase, the cost of slaughter, disposal and burial that was undertaken there, the subsequent work that has now been undertaken (I understand that massive engineering work inc, 40 foot deep ditches have been constructed to prevent all the effluent/leachate from draining into the surrounding area) Most importantly what is happening to all the leachate that is being drained off - and what are the long term effects, consequences and costs. I know some questions have been asked about Great Orton - what figures have we got to put to them - and shouldn't we be getting some questions asked in the House to ascertain the current picture?"

    Dec 13 ~ "Our position" is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I have never known official lying to be more pervasive than today.

    (John Pilger) ".... We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair's "Iraq dossier" and Jack Straw's inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb (which his minions rushed to "explain"). But the more insidious lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station, are routinely channelled as news. They are not news; they are black propaganda."

    Dec 13 ~ "They are preparing to go to war with Iraq even though no substantive link has been found between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

    Meanwhile, North Korea admits it does have a weapons-of-mass-destruction program, and the U.S. isn't doing anything..." An extract from yesterday's Toronto Star
      An extract from Decoding Some Top Buzz Words of 2002
    • "Pre-emptive"
      This adjective represents a kind of inversion of the Golden Rule: "Do violence onto others just in case they might otherwise do violence onto you." Brandished by Uncle Sam, we're led to believe that's a noble concept.
    • "Weapons of mass destruction"
      They're bad unless they're good. Globally, the U.S. government leads the way with thousands of unfathomably apocalyptic nuclear weapons. (Cue the media cheers.) Regionally, in the Middle East, only Israel has a nuclear arsenal -- estimated at 200 atomic warheads -- currently under the control of Ariel Sharon, who has proven to be lethally out of control on a number of occasions. (Cue the media shrugs.) Meanwhile, the possibility that Saddam Hussein might someday develop any such weapons is deemed to be sufficient reason to launch a war. (Cue the Pentagon missiles.)
    • "International community"
      Honorary members include any and all nations that are allied with Washington or accede to its policies. Other governments are evil rogue states.
    • "International law"
      This is the political equivalent of Play Dough, to be shaped, twisted and kneaded as needed. No concept is too outlandish, no rationalization too Orwellian when a powerful government combines with pliant news media. Few members of the national press corps are willing to question the basics when the man in the Oval Office issues the latest pronouncement about international behavior. It's a cinch that fierce condemnation would descend on any contrary power that chooses to do as we do and not as we say.
    • "Terrorism"
      The hands-down winner of the rhetorical sweepstakes for 2002, this word aptly condemns as reprehensible the killing of civilians, but the word is applied quite selectively rather than evenhandedly. When the day comes that news outlets accord the life of a Palestinian child the same reverence as the life of an Israeli child, we'll know that media coverage has moved beyond craven mediaspeak to a single standard of human rights.

    Dec 12 ~ "Entitlement" cards will have to be presented

    "A major public meeting is being staged to discuss the Government's plans to introduce "1984"-style identity cards for everyone in Britain," reported the Telegraph, "Ministers believe the scheme will help deter illegal immigrants from coming to the UK and tackle identity fraud, which costs £1.3 billion a year. Speakers at the event in central London include Lord Falconer, Home Office minister, Conservative MP Peter Lilley, Simon Hughes MP, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, and Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph . Civil rights campaign group Liberty has described the ID card proposal as "an Orwellian plan to monitor and check up on us for reasons which have yet to be properly explained by the Government". Although ministers launched its public consultation months ago, the event is the first major public meeting to consider the issue, said Liberty....Under proposals issued by Home Secretary David Blunkett people would be unable to use services like the NHS, schools or libraries without the "entitlement cards".....Read article

    Dec 12 ~ "We need to show people there are lots of Americans who don't agree with this, even if you don't hear that message all that often,"

    WASHINGTON: Anti-war demonstrators have rallied in Washington at the start of a day of co-ordinated protests called across the United States against a possible war with Iraq....Drivers honked in support in the rush-hour traffic. "Be a patriot - question the war monsters," said one poster. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2136253a12,00.html
    LOS ANGELES - Celebrities mobilized against a possible war in Iraq on Tuesday, gathering to publicize a letter urging President Bush to avoid military action. More than 100 entertainers signed the missive, which says a war with Iraq will "increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in the world." "This notion of pre-emptive war is setting a precedent ... and we must ask ourselves, where does this end?" said Tony Shalhoub, star of the ABC detective show Monk. "Where is the next pre-emptive strike?..." http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,72580,00.html

    Dec 12 ~ Trained to fight Bin Laden... ( with sponges, plastic bags and detergent)

    (From the Fire Fighter Strike Bulletin 19) "As preparations for a foreign adventure against a supposed terrorist Iraq intensify, it is reassuring to know that we are protected from terror at home. That is, if you believe the exotic plans drawn up by the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA), as reported in The Times (Wednesday December 11, page 6, T2)
    "Every fire service and police force now has trained teams able to respond to a chemical/biological or dirty nuclear bomb attack," according to newspaper's defence editor. Furthermore, under a scenario dreamed up the wise men in COBRA, in the event of an anthrax attack, "within minutes, workers from all three emergency services, all dressed in protective suits" will arrive to save the day.
    ... So far anti-terror equipment amounts to sponges, plastic bags and detergent. .... Another firefighter's anti-terror training was remarkably brief. 10 minutes watching a US video, to be exact. When one of his colleagues asked if that was it, he was told by his superiors that a "centrally funded" plan, with "all necessary details in place" would start rolling out in the New Year. .. The Times also claims that "the firefighters' strike has provided key lessons in civil emergency planning which could prove invaluable if there is a serious terrorist attack." ...although the FBU has been saying for months that a further £280 million is needed to fund the Fire Service for terrorist incidents, not a single extra penny has been dispensed.

    Dec 12 ~ "Few people will have heard of the World Food and Farming Congress, which held its inaugural conference in London at the end of November.

    And at £1000 a ticket, this was an event for a privileged few, of which there were about 200 (including those who had attended through sponsorship). .... The subject under discussion was the global agenda in world agriculture for trade, development and the environment, and agricultural technology.
    An indication of the aspiring importance of the conference was the presence of the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Supachai Pantichpakdi of Thailand, who addressed delegates on the first day. ....The conference's sole sponsor was the 'International Policy Council' (IPC) a Washington based food and agricultural trade 'think-tank'. The IPC think-tank runs to 38 principal members. Thirty are from the developed world, of which over a quarter are from the US. Many are current and former executives of powerful corporate players in global agribusiness including ag-biotech giants Monsanto and Syngenta....." See message from AgBioIndia Mailing List

    Dec 12 ~ "The rich are robbing the poor" Jeremy Hobbs

    The main points of Jeremy Hobbs' speech at the November Congress above: Jeremy Hobbs (United Kingdom: Executive Director, Oxfam)
    * More 'free trade' is not enough; more 'equitable' trade is what is required; unfair agricultural trade is the biggest cause of global poverty
    * Trade tariffs cost developing countries $100 billion a year - double what they receive in aid
    * Trade barriers against developing countries are estimated to be four times higher than against developed nations
    * A 1% increase in Africa's share of world exports would generate five times the combined amount of aid and debt relief it receives
    * Large cartels use anti-competitive practices to force down commodity prices - 'the rich are robbing the poor'
    * Whilst coffee roasters are making profits of up to 26% the average price paid to coffee producers is below the average cost of production - the market is not working
    * The developed world operates unjust double standards; it subsidises it own farmers whilst at the same time using the WTO to prise open access to vulnerable rural economies where it can dump subsidised produce
    * The world cotton price would rise by 11% with the removal of US subsidies, which are three times the entire USAID budget for the whole of Africa
    * The price of sugar in the EU is three times the world price with surpluses being dumped on other countries; it is the world's largest exporter of sugar despite being a high cost producer
    * When a person in a developing country loses their livelihood there is no social security system to fall back on
    * The is no way poor countries can break out of poverty without access to basic health and education services
    * If the WTO negotiations fail even greater dangers of inequity lie in the potential proliferation of multilateral trade agreements
    * Oxfam is calling for a comprehensive ban on dumping, defined as the sale of products below the cost of production
    * Oxfam recognises that the removal of subsidies will have an impact on farmers in rich countries and calls for the restructuring of domestic support to assist their small farmers
    * There must be an end to anti-competitive behaviour that squeezes out small farmers, whether by countries or corporations

    Dec 11 ~"It's a discouraging and ominous time."

    writes a wise American, Arden Buck in his excellent article What Do We Do Now? "On Nov 5, frightened voters handed our administration unfettered power: power to hasten environmental devastation, to increase the flow of wealth from the poor to the rich, to pack our courts with right wing ideologues, to subject Americans to invasive government scrutiny under the rubric of "homeland security," and to embark on a global military rampage, starting with Iraq. Our leaders haven't tried to conceal their glee. ...."
    Well, some of us, here in Britain share the feelings of pain and frustration and anger. But Mr Buck is not one for alowing feelings of helplessness or hopelessness to sap his strength. His article is a checklist - with many of which most readers here will be familiar - for how to keep on keeping on. We particularly like (and will try hard to live up to)
    *Don't demonize your adversaries. Consider opposing points of view. While we may be correct in what we affirm, there is usually a kernel of truth in our opponent's viewpoint. And, we need to be especially mindful about what we deny, because this is often where our blind spots will be.

    Dec 11 ~ So lets not demonise John M. Poindexter. ( He does not need us to do this)

    On February 13, 2002, Americans were warned that their nation was facing the threat of danger to homeland security. Three hours later it happened, but nobody told America. That day, John M. Poindexter was appointed Director of the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office. John M. Poindexter. Who's John Poindexter? A retired Navy Admiral, John Poindexter lost his job as National Security Adviser under Ronald Reagan, and was convicted of conspiracy, lying to Congress, defrauding the government, and destroying evidence in the Iran Contra scandal. The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe - including the United States. As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant. See this page from http://www.hereinreality.com/bigbrother.html

    Dec 10/11 ~ The really singular thing about the coming war with Iraq is the phrase just employed, the "coming war with Iraq." If I've read it once, I've read it a thousand times.

    Two important articles from Common Dreams Org. and the Toronto Star. "There are several things I would like to see happen in the "coming war with Iraq", since the possibility of its not coming at all is apparently not an option. For starters, I would like to see us pick an appropriate name. Operation Just Cuz, as unbelievers in the State Department dubbed it, was used already back in Panama, so that's out. Operation Nothing Against the Iraqi People seems too long. Operation Finite Justice might serve as a relatively modest variant to last year's Infinite Justice, though Operation All-Too-Human has perhaps the homier feel. I tend to like Operation Whatever. It's just vague enough to suit our intentions, and flexible too - if we have to abruptly shift gears and bomb Iceland or Sierra Leone, at least we won't be groping for a name. To reflect the moral rectitude we claim to carry into Iraq when (not if) we invade it, I would like to further propose that our tanks be fitted with armored bumper stickers that read 'What Would Jesus Drive?' Appropriate stickers could be adapted to all branches of the invading force. 'What Would Jesus Drop?' might bring comfort to the pilots, for instance...."

    Dec 10 ~ CND asks court to tie attack to new UN resolution

    Today's Guardian "....Outside court, the veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said: "This has to be done because a world without international law would be back to the jungle. We simply can't allow that to happen. If there is a victory in this one it would really change the course of British politics."
    Mr Singh argued that there was a "general principle of international law" prohibiting force unless it was in self-defence or specifically authorised by the security council. Neither of those exceptions to the principle applied. Yet Mr Straw and Mr Hoon had both made statements which suggested that Britain would act without a new UN mandate. "
    The case continues - and we watch with hope. We are not impressed by the Government's irritated reposte that it has deliberately refused to define its legal position because of the "highly sensitive issues concerning the international relations of the UK". When you start treating flesh and blood people as pawns in a power game someone needs to point out the tragic error of your "back to the jungle" ways. More especially now that...

    Dec 10 ~ ... Britain opens door to son of star wars

    "Discussion paper points to job and safety benefits of US missile defence" ....and " the tone of the document suggests ministers have already made up their minds"
    Richard Norton-Taylor in The Guardian writes: "The government yesterday gave the clearest indication yet that it will embrace controversial US plans for a "son of star wars" missile defence project, and that the Fylingdales early warning radar station on the North Yorkshire moors will play a key part. ....the government says it is not just in America's interest to upgrade Fylingdales. The radar base could be a "key building block" for a future British or European missile defence system.
    "With interceptors placed somewhere in Europe, such a system could protect the UK and north-west Europe," it argues. Fylingdales would enable the system to "protect most of Europe".
    Such claims are unlikely to dampen widespread scepticism about missile defence among Labour backbenchers, which has been reflected privately by senior military figures. The military has been concerned about the technological difficulties, the strategic necessity, and the cost - estimated at £10bn for Britain alone - of missile defence systems. ..."
    So there we are. More profits for the armament industries and more shame on us for allowing such things to happen in the name of "protecting Europe".

    Dec 10 ~ direct action against failed fisheries management

    The Western Morning News article yesterday makes for hopeful reading. " Westcountry fishermen hope to join with colleagues from France, Belgium, Ireland and possibly Spain, to set aside areas of the seabed all around Europe, "to conserve stocks in a practical way". Cornish fishing leader Paul Trebilcock explained that the move would allow the industry to take part in hands-on fisheries management and leave behind the present EU fish quota management tool of "throwing back dead fish in the name of conservation"....See article"..."It is essential that there is a significant improvement in the accuracy of the scientific data used in stock assessments in this area. Each box runs north-east/south-west, parallel to each other at a length of 24nM, a width of 7.5nM, leaving a corridor of 10nM width in between. "It is an example of fishermen taking control here. It is a seasonal closed area and not about rebuilding stocks that have collapsed. That has not happened, we have ample hands-on evidence from the fishing boats each day that South West stocks are healthy. This is about maintaining a viable and sustainable fishery that we know to be healthy."

    Dec 10 ~ the more environmental local fishing techniques are hit by rules that bear no relation to what the fishermen actually do

    The WMN also reported yesterday that children in Mevagissy have written to Elliot Morley "Father Christmas won't be coming to our house this year because Daddy's out of work. Daddy cannot work because you have stopped him fishing for cod. Daddy can prove that there's plenty of cod out there."
    See also The Death of British Fisheries Extract: "....The other alternative, of course, is the "repatriation" of the control of British waters - and the negotiation of fishing rights with other EU Member States. Short of leaving the EU, however, this is unlikely to be achieved. But the reward could be a revitalised British industry. In the context of our fishing rights having been taken from us under false pretences, many believe that this alone is sufficient reason to leave the EU. It is certainly the only means by which the British industry can be saved."

    Dec 10 ~ "as we can keep sticking a spanner in the works eventually the House of Cards will fall"

    Neil Herron, one of the Metric Martyrs, who were last year's EV Campaigners of the Year, sends this commentary on the 2002 European Voice Year Awards: the winners, the event, and some reflections...: Extract: "We enjoyed the event which was not a stone's throw away from the imposing glass monument to the hubris and arrogance of the political elite, known as the European Parliament.
    Democracy has about as much place in the EU as a black and white shirt in the Stadium of Light.....but as long as we can keep sticking a spanner in the works eventually the House of Cards will fall. The EU is an institution based on foundations of sand. Without those deep democratic foundations known as the consent of all its member states peoples' it is only a matter of time before it crumbles into three metric tonnes of dust.
    We had an early flight back to the North-East as I had two speaking engagements at Newcastle University. One approprately entitled 'The Death of Democracy' and the other 'Regional Assembly...Yes or No ?'
    As I enjoyed a pint and fish and chips last night after a hectic few days amongst the great and the good....a few quiet moments of contemplation and a wry smile....a couple of stubborn raggy-arsed market traders' names on a trophy now held by one of the most powerful, influential and important men in the world.
    I don't think that he will be using it to stop the brown paper banana bags blowing off the counter ;-)
    Neil Herron"

    Dec 9 ~ CND's case began today

    See the CND website relevant page. Their case is that the government will be acting illegally if it uses armed force against Iraq without a fresh Security Council Resolution. It argues also that the present resolutions, including UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (adopted on 8 November 2002) do not impliedly or explicitly contain an authorisation of the use of force. Carol Naughton, the Chair of CND said today: "This war is illegal, immoral and illogical and this deals with the first of those questions. It is vitally important that the government should be made to comply with international law rather than undermine the Security Council by acting unilateral. If the UK is forced to await a fresh Security Council Resolution it gives all concerned the continuing opportunity to obey the law which requires that all peaceful means be used to resolve this dispute over Iraq's weapons."

    Dec 9 ~ Unprepared? Nonsense. We are ordering 5000 body bags.

    Two articles that might at last urge the UK population to consider the implications of what is being done in its name. Protect and Survive gets a new look. And we remember the Beyond the Fringe Civil Defence sketch that used, in saner days, to be funny ..."Just jump into this brown paper bag and we'll tell you exactly what you can do..."

    Dec 9 ~ GM Buffer Zones not "foolproof" admits Ross Finnie

    Minister admits GM 'buffer zones' are not foolproof Sunday Times: "...Ross Finnie, the environment minister, admitted that separation distances could "only minimise levels of cross-pollination" and did not "guarantee zero presence" of GM material in non-GM crops grown nearby.
    The admission contrasts with previous assurances from the government and the GM industry. Until now, the government has insisted that buffer zones are sufficient to prevent cross-contamination. In Britain 50 metres is deemed safe although other countries, including Canada, insist on at least 800 metres.
    In a written response to Bruce Crawford, the SNP environment spokesman,Finnie said: "It has always been recognised that growing pollen-producing plants in the open environment will unavoidably result in very small quantities of pollen travelling outwith the trial site."
    Trials are being held at 178 sites in Britain, 12 of them in Scotland. Earlier this year independent tests commissioned by The Sunday Times revealed that GM crops had contaminated honey in beehives up to two miles from a test site in Newport, Fife. A recent study by the University of Newcastle also revealed that volunteers who ate one meal containing GM soya had traces of modified DNA in bacteria in their small intestines, raising fears that GM foods -- which are often modified to be resistant to antibiotics -- could leave Britons vulnerable to untreatable diseases. ..." THE Scottish executive has admitted for the first time that safeguards to prevent genetically modified (GM) crops from contaminating areas surrounding test sites are not foolproof, writes Mark Macaskill.

    Dec 9 ~ "it's time to insist upon proper presentation of all the facts and a free, uncensored debate from our "public-interest" broadcasting corporation - or else withhold our licence fees"

    Gill writes: "Had a letter printed in Newcastle Journal today. Interesting to see which bits they cut. Here's the letter, cuts in brackets:
      Those of us who wish the UK to remain independent are frequently jeered at by pro-EU politicians and lobbyists when we say that full political and economic union will inevitably lead to our being swallowed up in a European superstate.
      It's interesting, then, that Vladimir Bukovsky, who has had a lot more experience of superstates than anyone born in this country, should be alarmed by growing similarities between the EU and the Soviet Union [and, as a seasoned victim of censorship, even more alarmed by the BBC's refusal to draw attention to these similarities, or to permit a healthy public debate about EU membership outside the usual set parameters of party politics.]
      [Anyone who has written or telephoned the BBC to complain of pro-EU bias only to be ignored, or fobbed off with mealy-mouthed evasions, should visit Mr Bukovsky's website at http://www.bbcbias.org .]
      When someone with his track record and experience calls the EU the EUSSR, we can be sure it's time to insist upon proper presentation of all the facts and a free, uncensored debate [from our "public-interest" broadcasting corporation - or else withhold our licence fees] ("on the issue" substituted by letters editor of Journal in place of bracketed part of the final paragraph.)
      End of letter."
    We note too Jonathan Miller's continuing campaign against the licence fee in his politically incorrect column "Mean Fields"

    Dec 9 ~ ...corroding faith in democracy

    At the end of a week that saw Roy Anderson given an honorary fellowship by the Royal Agricultural Society of England did anyone miss the article by that other person whom Granny Weatherwax, with her regrettable lack of tact, would certainly have called "slimy little maggot"? We still remember with joy an article by Mattew Parris a year ago entitled Stamina, sleaze and style ....extract: "Beside me, and before the closing hymn (yes, hymn), Alastair Campbell sneezed. I tried to say "Bless you". The words stuck in my throat."

    Dec 9 ~ Sunday's Articles

    points downplayed or omitted by the patriotic left and other apologists for war... The apologists for U.S. policy and the imminent war regularly ignore or fail to see the significance of the features of that policy that make it hypocritical, illegal, immoral and criminal. A very sound and readable article by Edward Herman of the ZNet Commentary
    We're planning a war, but don't mention the oil... John Humphrys in the Sunday Times "...Tony Blair has problems selling a war to a sceptical Britain. He would not be helped by newspapers displaying a photograph of a barrel of oil and the bloody corpse of a baby on the facing page. So this part of the war scenario cannot be discussed. ..."
    The most dangerous dossier is the one marked 'War' Independnet "... Downing Street might have taken more care in checking the facts before rushing to publication. There is also the broader question of why the British government, with plenty of other matters on its mind closer to home, should see its role as being the main propagandist in preparing the world for war...."

    Dec 9 ~ A drop in the CAP ocean?

    Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor of the Independent in Sunday's article £500m backing for shift towards healthy farming "Ministers will this week announce a shift towards environmentally friendly farming, in the biggest change of direction in British agriculture for half a century. They will signal the end of a policy of maximising production, adopted at the end of the Second World War, and point farmers towards producing healthy food and conserving wildlife and the countryside. And they will launch a £500m "framework for change" which will direct government agricultural subsidies towards promoting conservation, boost food quality, and persuade farmers to offer low-lying land, in return for compensation, as "water storage areas" to take the strain during flooding....."

    Dec 6/7 ~ Paris, Friday, December 6, 2002 -

    Radio France Internationale Daily Press Review Le Monde looks at how United States newspapers are treating the thorny subject of Iraq. The American print media are unanimous in believing that war is inevitable: George Bush wants to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and no amount of United Nations' inspection or Security Council wrangling is going to change that. While the liberal press tries to mobilize pacifist public opinion against the war, the conservative papers are worried about the time being lost as Saddam leads the inspectors on a wild goose chase. "The inspections are a trap" howl Robert Kagan and William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. "The current stand-off has taken control of the situation out of the hands of President Bush. The sooner the president says 'thanks' to our so-called allies and sends in the troops, the better.Le Monde quotes from The WASHINGTON POST: "I'm thankful to Bush", says the un-named writer in the once-proud publication which told the world about Watergate. "I hope and believe, that he's the man to ignore the diplomatic whining and do the job of killing our enemies." Whoever said that truth was the first victim of war certainly knew what he was talking about.

    Dec 6/7 ~ Foot and Mouth Disease: The Aftermath 2002

    This collection of photographs and interviews by Ian Geeringcan be ordered online at: http://members.farmline.com/stress/aftermath.htm
    (£2 from each copy sold is donated to the ARC-Addington fund - a charity set up to assist the rural community) See Review of this important book on http://members.farmline.com/stress/aftermath.htm#Review

    Dec 6/7 ~ Don't panic..Don't panic..!

    From Private Eye.
    Subject: St Albion Parish News forwarded by St Anna
    A Message From the Rev Dubya Bush, First Minister of the Church of the Latter-Day Morons
    Grettings to my old friend Rev. Terry Bloop and his good lady Charmaine! Many thanks for all your messages of congratulations to me for the resounding vote of support I have just received from my own congregation. The people have spoken, and now we can go forward together to kick the ass of the Great Satan who dwells in his tent of iniquity somewhere in the Baghdad area. You and I , Rev. Bloom, today stand alone as allies in this Holy Shoot-Out With Destiny! I must go now, Timmy, for I have God's work to do!
    Your friend, Dubby!
    PS. I have installed my own website so you can get your instructons at any hour of the day or night. Just log on to: dubyadubyadubya.dubyabush.com
    Some of you may have been a bit worried by Mr Blunkett's warning that the world was going to end on Tuesday with bombs exploding and poison gas filling the sky.
    You will be reassured to know that Mr Blunkett has now had second thoughts and realises that there is no need for alarm after all.
    In the immortal words of St Jones of Warmington-on-Sea, "Don't panic! Don't panic!" It's good advice, so take it!! T.B.

    Dec 6/7 ~ As of December 7, when Iraq is expected to produce its definitive dossier, there should be no illusions: no matter what Baghdad discloses, America and almost certainly Britain are going to war.

    See yesterday's Guardian article by Maggie O'Kane - which concludes:"I am not some naive pacifist. I supported intervention in Bosnia, the war in Kosovo and military intervention in East Timor. Baghdad is a city where terror hangs in the air in every home. Iraqis literally dare not speak Saddam Hussein's name. But now he is cornered, dangerous and possibly dying. Provoking him is criminally irresponsible and provoking him in order to secure a second presidential term is unforgivable.
    Remember the words of JFK to his brother Bobby, spoken in the ante-room of the Oval Office the night before the Cuban missile crisis, now declassified. "I have to do it, Bobby," said John Kennedy, explaining why he was facing up to the Soviets. "I'll lose the presidency if I don't." Krushchev had a way out. He ordered the Soviet ships to turn around. What would have happened if he had nowhere to turn? "

    Dec 6 ~ Early Day Motion 271 EXPORT OF LIVE FARM ANIMALS 3rd December 2002

    "That this House notes that the export of live sheep and lambs for slaughter on the continent resumed in July 2002 after the foot and mouth crisis; is alarmed that thousands of animals are now being shipped out through the Port of Dover every week; is concerned that many of these animals are sent on journeys of 50 hours or more to southern Europe, during which many suffer greatly due to factors such as overcrowding, lack of water and proper ventilation on some vehicles, extreme heat in summer and the sheer length of the journeys; believes that there is an economically viable future for UK sheep farmers without live exports through an increase in meat exports and an increase in the sale to UK consumers of the light lambs which are traditionally exported live; urges UK supermarkets to pay a fair price to UK farmers for these light lambs; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to do all it can to bring the export of live farm animals to an end.
    Mr Gwyn Prosser Mr Tony Banks Mr John Battle Mr Harold Best Peter Bottomley Mr Keith Bradley Tom Brake Ms Karen Buck Dr Vincent Cable Mr Martin Caton Mr David Chaytor Mr Michael Clapham Mrs Helen Clark Mr Tony Clarke Ann Clwyd Harry Cohen Mr Tony Colman Tom Cox Mr Jim Cunningham Valerie Davey Geraint Davies Mr Terry Davis Mrs Janet Dean Mr Brian H Donohoe Clive Efford Mr Neil Gerrard Jane Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Mr Mike Hancock Lady Hermon Mr David Heyes Mr David Hinchliffe Paul Holmes Mr Kelvin Hopkins Mrs Joan Humble Dr Brian Iddon Mr Eric Illsley Glenda Jackson Lynne Jones Mr Nigel Jones Dr Ashok Kumar Mr Mark Lazarowicz Mr David Lepper Tim Loughton Alice Mahon Rob Marris Mr Gordon Marsden Mr David Marshall Mr John McFall Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Austin Mitchell Mr Chris Mullin Dr Doug Naysmith Mr Edward O'Hara Mr Bill Olner Dr Nick Palmer Linda Perham Mr Peter L Pike Mr Greg Pope Mr Gordon Prentice Syd Rapson Mr David Rendel John Robertson Bob Russell Mr Adrian Sanders Phil Sawford Mr Brian Sedgemore Ms Debra Shipley Alan Simpson Mr Dennis Skinner The Reverend Martin Smyth Bob Spink Mr Gerry Steinberg Mr Paul Stinchcombe David Taylor Sir Teddy Taylor Dr Desmond Turner Mr Robert N Wareing Derek Wyatt 79 signatures

    Dec 6 ~ Majorities in France, Germany and Russia oppose the use of military force to end President Saddam's rule.

    See article US image tarnished by motives in Iraq from The Age, an Australian news site. ".....Even in Britain, America's staunchest ally on Iraq, opinion is sharply divided: 47 per cent favour using force to oust President Saddam while an equal proportion disagree. And in Turkey, eight in 10 opposed allowing the US and its allies to use bases in their country to launch strikes against Iraq. There is even sharp disagreement among these key US allies whether Iraq or the Middle East poses the greater domestic danger. In no country except the US was President Saddam's continued rule seen by a majority as "the greater international threat to our country".
    This uneasiness over Iraq arises, in large part, from suspicions of US motives for using military force to remove President Saddam, the survey found.
    When asked whether the US was more interested in achieving stability in the region or more interested in controlling Iraqi oil reserves, majorities in Russia (76 per cent), France (75 per cent), and Germany (54 per cent) said "the US wants to control Iraqi oil"....."
    A poll of more than 38,000 people in 544 nations by the Pew Research Center found the United States losing credibility because of its hard-line stance against Iraq. "The rest of the world is beginning to wonder about our sincerity; Our standing among nations is plummeting" said Maureen Aumand, a member of Women Against War.
    US pressing UN to spirit away Iraqi scientists is the headline from News 24 (South Africa) "US officials are pressing UN inspectors to spirit weapons scientists out of Iraq so they can be offered asylum in exchange for information on banned weapons in their country, The New York Times said on Friday. ..... The United States has offered to set up a witness protection program for "defecting Iraqi scientists" and help them resettle in any country willing to take them. In exchange the scientists would "provide information" on where Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is hiding the banned weapons, the officials added. ..."

    Dec 6 ~ The genome of mice and men

    A group of scientists announced in the journal Nature yesterday that they have completed a sophisticated draft of the mouse genome, and have published their first detailed comparison of the genetic codes of mouse and man - important because of the mouse's critical role in biomedical research. About 25 million mice are used each day in research. Mice and humans are not that different apparently. Both species have about 30,000 genes, although the full mouse genome is about 15 per cent smaller. Very few of the genes - less than 1 per cent - are unique to either species. Human beings even possess the same set of mouse genes that direct the formation of a tail. The draft sequence covers 96 per cent of the genome. Full completion is expected in the next few years. A private company, Celera Genomics, has offered a different mouse genome sequence for a fee since 2001. But the availability now of a free version that can be accessed on the Web is thought to be a treasure trove for research. See National Human Genome Research Institute article yesterday

    Dec 5 ~"rainchecks on the real views of the poor count for little...

    ...in a world where "something new, something very big" and "a turning point" in the global march towards our corporate future, turns out to be Monsanto's soapbox behind a black man's face." Read the whole of this article on the public relations activities of the biotech industry and its supporters activities, particularly with regard to highly suspect rent-a-crowd behaviour at Johannesburg.

    Dec 5 ~" I have recently read small items on the Warmwell site relating to ragwort."

    "The problem has gone out of sight for this year, yet the problem of poisoning animals is still very much in action.
    I have attached a copy of an alert we have sent to some magazines. It is titled October Alert, but the problem will be present all year round. I hope that the article will be of interest and value to some of Warmwells readers." Derek Smith of Ragwort-Uk Ltd
    Extract:"Seedling ragwort is an insidious killer. It is growing 12 months of the year and until the seedlings establish a crown and rosette structure, they are very hard to spot and remove. For the past fi ve years, ragwort seed production has increased inexorably. Ragwort seed blows for many miles guaranteeing that every piece of land gets its share of the burden. Doubtless you did not create the problem, but equally doubtless, you are the recipient of it, and if you do not aggressively and persistently remove ragwort from your grazing, your horses will be the ones that pay the final price with their lives, becoming yet another part of that growing statistic....stopping further seed production is only half of the fight. The huge seed reserves now in the soil will demand a range of interventions and control measures in order to minimise the toll of death and disease that ragwort is poised to deliver to both livestock and to man. Unfortunately one of these vital measures is the labour intensive task of inspecting and cleaning our pastures regularly throughout the whole year.."

    Dec 5 ~ The European Commission invites citizens and interested parties to participate in our online consultation on animal transport open from 2 to 15 December 2002

    Those of us who have strong feelings about animal welfare during transportation might care, faute de mieux, to fill in the questionnaire on http://europa.eu.int/BFM/consultation/index.cfm?fuseaction=form&id_form=240&lang=en Your name and age is compulsory - but not address etc. It is useful to read first the Europa pages on Animal Welfare during transport "The protection of animals during transport is an important concern for the Commission. The first Community legislation on the protection of animals during transport, Council Directive 77/489/EC, reflected the relevant 1968 Convention of the Council of Europe. It has since been replaced by the more detailed Council Directive 91/628/EC as amended by Directive 95/29/EC which introduced important changes such as the approval of transporters, the route plan, as well as loading densities and travelling times limit."

    Dec 5 ~ Does anyone remember the PowerJect story?

    "the government had awarded a contract worth £32m to the PowderJect company to supply 20m doses of smallpox vaccine in case of a terrorist attack. The problem was that Paul Drayson, the firm's owner, had given two£50,000 donations to the Labour party. Dr Drayson and a succession of ministers said it was monstrous to suggest a link and the story curled up and died..... "
    In the same article by John Humphrys, this timely warning:
    "Maybe you're too busy with your own affairs to worry about such arcane matters as government policy-making. But I'll bet you'd like to know if hospitals take the proper steps to guard against spreading such hideous diseases as CJD. Tough. The health department suppressed a report in February on precisely that subject. An internal letter said: "In the light of the somewhat negative outcome recorded by the visiting assessors at the majority of clinical centres, there is a need to ensure at the express request of ministers that the . . . reports remain strictly confidential." Apparently progress on improving sterilisation would be "compromised" if the findings were to enter the public domain in an "inappropriate or unauthorised form". Most reassuring. .......
    Oddly enough ministers are much more sensitive when it comes to us getting information about them than about them getting information about us. Our old friend "national security" is used to justify all sorts of snooping on our phones and on our e-mails and on who we chat to on the internet. You can't say governments don't appreciate the value of knowledge. They know their Bacon." See John Humphrys' Aug 4 article

    Dec 5 ~ Robert Fisk: We are being set up for a war against Saddam

    "The inspections are going unhindered. And what does Bush tell us? 'The signs are not encouraging' Read Robert Fisk's article in yesterday's Independent. "In North Carolina last month, a woman attending a lecture I was giving asked me when America would go to war in Iraq. I told her to watch the front page of The New York Times and The Washington Post for the first smear campaigns against the UN inspectors. And bingo, right on time, the smears have begun....
    ....yet again, the Americans are trying to establish links between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in a desperate attempt to hitch the "war on terror" to the war for oil (which is what, of course, the Iraqi "crisis" is all about). Vice President Cheney has been parroting all the same nonsense about "terror" leaders and Saddam, even though Bin Laden loathes the Iraqi leader. No one – absolutely no one – has produced the slightest evidence that Saddam had anything to do with the international crimes against humanity of 11 September. But still we are forced to listen to this trash.."

    Dec 4 ~ What bureaucrats fail to realize is that shipped-in food from the third world will never be a reliable resource.

    We have been sent this article by Laura McColl called, "TURNING BACK THE CLOCK ON THE WEST"
      "..... what many do not yet believe, much less understand, is that the demise of the American farm and the Canadian farm and the South African farm and the South American farm is a planned demise. It is planned by many non-elected bureaucrats and a few elected ones......
      The Wildlands Project is being implemented very rapidly now (Wetlands restorations, rewilding the farm states by turning loose not dozens, but hundreds, of predatory animals.)
      ......The goal is "pre-European settlement condition," and that means that almost all people -- except those in management and authority positions chosen to "protect and restore" the landscape -- will be removed. A simple search at Google.com using "pre European settlement" will awaken the complacent ones in a hurry!"
    Read the article, do the search on Google.
    Gill writes,"A couple of weeks ago 120,000 Taiwanese farmers and fishermen were on the march - despite personal letters to every one of them from the government, to persuade them to stay at home - in protest at cheap WTO imports. They are now having to sell at less than it what it costs them to produce. Doesn't it sound familiar? Fifteen thousand farmers gone in a year, and UK fishermen about to be eliminated. It makes me weep, quite literally."

    Dec 4 ~ starting December 8th, members of the Bush Administration will claim that Iraq is in material breach of the U.N. resolution

    "Unless wiser heads prevail, this is what we should expect: (1) starting December 8th, members of the Bush Administration will claim that Iraq is in material breach of the U.N. resolution, citing supposed omissions in the coming multi-hundred page report, based on undisclosed intelligence; (2) soon thereafter some "hot" incident, like anti-aircraft fire on U.S. patrols in the no-fly zone, will be used to solidify public support for war, and finally (3) the bombing campaign will begin.
    This could all begin before Christmas ..."
    Warmwell readers might like to consider signing the petition to Mr Bush, which concludes: "We ask that you live up to your word and give diplomacy a chance. We can win without war."
    The Move-On organisation is considered reputable. Clicking the link also gives you the chance to send the page on to others, should you choose to do so.

    Dec 3/4 ~ Outbreaks of Sheep

    "There are suspected cases of sheep at two farms in Cumbria, these have not yet been confirmed and we are awaiting a report from the government vets who have been at the farms this morning..."
    We are grateful to the just-discovered rural website The Cow Egg Review for its fearless reporting today
    The article: "Once again there are reports of outbreaks of Sheep at farms across the north of England, causing alarm at DEFRA and dismay in Westminster. A government spokesperson told this correspondent: "There are suspected cases of sheep at two farms in Cumbria, these have not yet been confirmed and we are awaiting a report from the government vets who have been at the farms this morning" This of course follows yesterdays news confirming that a farm in east Devon had been confirmed as having Sheep. With its promise to rid the countryside of sheep seemingly in tatters the government went onto the counter attack when Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed a hastily convened press conference. "We must be tough on Sheep and tough on the causes of Sheep," he said, before announcing a raft of measures aimed at tackling the problem at its root.
    Initiatives will include the removal of 'green fields' (a notorious breeding ground for sheep) as well as more money for rural development. When questioned about the growing opinion that Sheep, although unsightly, are no threat to humans, and that the mass culling of last year was unnecessary, the PM seemed to glower and replied tersely: "We will pursue our agenda of ridding the British countryside of Sheep, until the cows come home."

    Dec 3 ~ Fate of public services 'in the hands of unelected trade lawyers'

    Without any public or parliamentary debate, health services, private education, rail maintenance, environmental (sewage and sanitation), retail, financial and banking services have already been partially or wholly signed up to GATS.
    Sectors currently being targeted in GATS negotiations for further opening to the free market include: postal services, broadcasting and communications, care homes, health care and education.
    See Press release from World Development Movement Many health and education services already signed up to irreversible free trade agreement. Broadcasting and postal services being targeted.
    Western governments now want to free up trade in services, which account for a larger proportion of their economies than manufacturing. The European Union and the US are seeking gains for their highly competitive service sector firms in the next round of global trade talks in return for concessions they may have to make on cutting agricultural subsidies.
    The Guardian: "The government was accused last night of giving up control of issues at the core of local government in World Trade Organisation agreements being thrashed out in Geneva.
    The Local Government Association is concerned that councils could lose their right to set tough planning laws in the little-known talks about deregulation of services.
    The implications are so far-reaching that anxieties were also raised last night that the BBC could be affected by the negotiations, which are aimed at providing new business opportunities for the City....
    Because services are not physically traded - a company has to be near its customers - Gats is a very different agreement from anything else the WTO or Gatt has done. For foreign service firms to compete on equal terms with domestic firms means that for the first time government regulations could be subject to WTO scrutiny. Geneva rulings will apply not only to how a country maintains its economic borders but to how it controls its entire domestic economy. ."


    John Pilger on the evil art of black propoganda By John Pilger in today's Mirror: "On November 7, the day before the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution that made an American and British attack on Iraq more than likely, Downing Street began issuing warnings of imminent terrorist threats against the United Kingdom.
    Cross-Channel ferries, the London Underground and major public events were all said to be "targeted".
    The anonymous Government sources described "emergency security measures" that included a "rapid reaction force of army reservists" and a squadron of fighter jets "on constant standby". Plans were being drawn up to "evacuate major cities and deal with large numbers of contaminated corpses". Police snipers were being trained "to kill suicide bombers" and anti-radiation pills were being distributed to hospitals. By November 11, Tony Blair himself was telling the British public to be "on guard" against an attack that could lead to "maximum carnage".
    Curiously, the national state of alert for a likely attack, colour-coded amber, which such a grave warning would require, was never activated. It remains on "black special", which is just above normal. Why?
    That was more than two weeks ago, and urgent questions remain unanswered. Now health service teams are to have smallpox vaccinations to "meet the threat of a germ warfare attack"; and the Foreign Office has produced a remarkable video suggesting that Britain is about to attack Iraq because of its concern for that country's human rights record. (This must mean Britain will soon attack other countries because of their human rights records, such as China, Russia and the United States). The absurdity of all this is becoming grotesque, and the British public needs to ask urgent questions of its Government. Where is the evidence, any evidence, for a national "alert" that borders on such orchestrated hysteria? And what explains its uncanny timing with the latest American and British machinations at the UN on Iraq?....(more on this)

    Dec 3 ~ Amnesty calls Jack Straw's Iraq Dossier a "cold and calculated manipulation" of the work of human rights activists.

    The Guardian reports on this today. The warmwell page links to the dossier, the Guardian article and the Amnesty statement.
    "Amnesty International said a dossier released today by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, listing torture, rapes and other abuses perpetrated by the Baghdad regime, is a "cold and calculated manipulation" of the work of human rights activists. "Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf war," the group's secretary general, Irene Khan, said. "They remained silent when thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians were killed in Halabja in 1988......."

    Dec 3 ~ If Saddam is such a monster, why did we arm him and trade with him?

    asks today's Independent which examines the Iraq question in three separate articles: "There is something vaguely pornographic about the Government's little compendium of sadism, with its graphic, stomach-turning descriptions of eye gouging, acid baths and electric drills. But there is no reason to doubt that these things are commonplace in Baathist Iraq, and that the Iraqi people, the Middle East and the world generally would be happier and safer without Saddam.
    Why then, one is forced to ask, did the British and American governments show such enthusiasm for supporting and arming this monster during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s? It is not an adequate response to plead the realpolitik that the Iranian ayatollahs were a more potent threat to Western interests, or that, if we didn't arm him, others would (the defence mounted by the late Alan Clark during the Arms-to-Iraq scandal). For Saddam used the very weapons that the West supplied to him to annexe Kuwait, an outcome infinitely worse than anything the CIA imagined the Iranians were about to visit upon the region.
    Why, also, were Western governments at the time so utterly indifferent to the fate of the Kurds gassed at Halabja in 1988? ...
    .....Robin Cook, the shadow Foreign Secretary at the time of the Scott report, did a good deal to expose the hypocrisy and dishonesty of Conservative ministers under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Mr Cook went on to become Foreign Secretary and to experience problems of his own with the "ethical dimension" of foreign policy, but the point now is to remind this government about the central importance that human rights should play in foreign policy. ."

    Dec 3 ~ (Dissatisfaction with BT) "Broadband?! BROADBAND?!!!

    Sue, looking with envy at the insoucient press release from the CLA below, writes:" I have spent today reconnecting every 10 minutes on a cr*p Dial-up connection, which BT promise will be finally repaired 8 weeks after it was first reported as faulty!! I doubt it will. I DREAM of Broadband!!" and she adds, "One mention of BT and the Quaker Peace Testimony flies straight out the window!" She is seriously unamused. She draws to our attention the article in the Sunday Times about the poor cancer patient Martin Booth, who tells of his frustrating battle to get a vital phone link reconnected in the face of incompetence. Sue says, "6 DAYS!! He's complaining about 6 days!! He was lucky! We were off for a fortnight until being given a temporary line, which breaks down each time it rains (like tonight) Now 5 WEEKS from the first reporting of the fault, the earliest date I have been for sorting my line out is the 19th December. ( And I can confirm everything he says about the efficiency of those working in the call centres!)."
    Read the Sunday Times article about BT We imagine it will strike a chord with many frustrated beyond measure with both BT and with call centres. (BT gripes page)

    Dec 3 ~ Call Centres ....a recent email from Roger.

    "I had to endure one of these today. I could not get any sense at all, so I cancelled the order,and frankly the 'clone' on the other end couldn't give a damn. He just wanted to be rid of me.
    A neighbour's son worked for one of these during a University break to earn some cash for Xmas. He lasted a week. He said that you sit there with a Q & A. sheet and if you cannot find the answer you must not give one off the cuff, so, you ask the caller to hold on while you ask the 'team-leader' for an answer. All calls are monitored and timed. The idea being that you fob-off as many callers as quickly as possible, and must answer a minimum number of calls in a session or you get the sack !"

    Dec 2 ~ The CLA today unveils its new Rural ICT Watchdog.

    See press release ".. This has been born out of the successful 6 month CLA campaign to 'Broadband Rural Britain'. The CLA campaign had twin objectives: pushing for the faster roll out of affordable broadband (faster internet access) in rural areas and seeking greater openness and transparency from the infrastructure providers (such as BT). The CLA has made it clear that rural businesses must enjoy the same access to affordable broadband as urban businesses, otherwise the rural economy will be unable to compete in today's technology driven markets"


    From the current Ecologist magazine "Agricultural pesticides have been linked to infertility, suicidal depression and the most horrific birth defects imaginable. It is time, insists Moyra Bremner, that we realised organic food is not simply a 'lifestyle' choice, but a matter of life over death."

    Dec 2 ~ Test everyone for CJD, says Professor Stan Prusiner

    The Times says that Prof Prusiner "who discovered the cause of BSE" (sic) has said "A million cattle infected with BSE entered the British food chain so almost everyone in the country will have been exposed to the infectious prion proteins that cause variant CJD," said Prusiner. "Every Briton should be tested so that if they are developing the disease it can be spotted before symptoms appear." It adds, " CJD has killed 117 people in Britain since 1995 and another 11 are known to be dying from the disease." Then there is a reference to the prediction made by Roy Anderson : " Some experts" suggest the death toll could reach more than 100,000.
    Bryn has some characteristic remarks to make about all this. "Maybe we should just concentrate on beating breast cancer that kills 16,000 a year and not get too paranoid about a speck of dew in the ocean of mortality. ....to avoid being killed on our roads over here.......3,409 in the year 2000......We can't even organise a get-together in a brewery, nor pay 16% to a few fireman.....how in hell's name are you going to line up 60 million people in the A&E Departments of the few hospitals we have......and who in the name of heaven is qualified to "test" all these samples ? Don't even mention the guys who mixed up cows brains with sheep ! "
    The Observer article adds that Prusiner has discounted Prof Collinge's latest work (see below)
    Yet another emailer comments: " Wonderful isn't it. The press publish the findings of "scientists" - creating scares among the gullible and lucrative jobs for the boys - while the scientists themselves rubbish each others work. They seem like jealous irresponsible children to me - but they are actually playing for very high stakes. Oh for the likes of Dr Dickinson who - according to your website - pursues scientific knowledge with no desire for power, influence or kudos."

    Dec 2 ~ "You may or you may not agree that it makes sense to strive to produce better - not more - meat, better not more milk, better not more eggs and so on. It is not rocket science, it seems to me to be just common sense."

    Jeff Swift is always a breath of fresh air: "....While I'm at it I might as well say (not for the first time) that I don't agree with Lord Haskins when he says "part-time farming is the way forward." My suspicious mind asks: "The way forward for whom?" Are we talking about multi nationals being able to force down further the pitiful price paid to the producer. His lordship is a clever and able man and I'm going to agree with him but only when he's right.
    Farmers are needed to do what they have spent years learning and training for. This business of people looking after more and more stock in order to cut costs as well as going out and taking another job leaves a lot to be desired.
    It doesn't get any better for I have just learned that a committee or working party has been appointed to put into being the recommendations of the Curry Report - and guess what? There isn't a farmer on it. ...."

    Dec 2 ~ "Mad Cow" and FMD interchangeable in the eyes of the terrified

    We read in the Gulf Daily News that a Mad Cow case has tested 'negative' in Scotland. "LONDON: A suspected case of the foot-and-mouth disease in a steer on a farm in Scotland has tested negative, the Scottish Executive said yesterday...There have been several false alarms since last year's epidemic in which millions of farm animals were burned on giant pyres around the country. ...."
    The ignorance surrounding animal disease is not confined to parts of the media.

    Dec 2 ~ UK food tops chemicals league

    Independent " .... A review of British environmental performance by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used per acre of farmland is greater than in any other country.
    Last week, the Department of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) told The Independent on Sunday that the level of chemicals was "not acceptable". And a House of Commons committee said a voluntary agreement with farmers and landowners to control pesticides was in chaos. Defra's reaction surprised farmers' leaders, who are used to government acquiescence in chemical use...."

    Nov 30 ~ Hazard. Single hulled oil tankers like the Prestige are still being allowed to sail on all of the world's oceans until 2015 when a total ban on these ships goes into effect.

    Greenpeace activists have blocked the oil tanker Byzantio in the port of Tallinn, Estonia, preventing it from leaving with its cargo of 50,000 tonnes of oil. The Byzantio is chartered by the same company that contracted the ill-fated oil tanker Prestige that sank off the north-western coast of Spain earlier this month.
    Greenpeace activists are chained to the mooring lines of the ship and inflatable boats are displaying banners with the word "Hazard!" stamped across them.
    If you can support this action, visit the Greenpeace site. Greenpeace says "Thank you to the more than 6000 people who have already written to the International Maritime Organization.
    The Byzantio, with 50,000 tons of heavy-sulphur fuel on board - similar to the Prestige's 60,000-tonne cargo - was declared unsafe when it docked in Ireland in August. See also report in the Western Morning News. It has been common practice over the last few years for tankers to dump fuel in the English Channel.

    Nov 29 ~"I'm taking personal charge. We have heard this over the euro, foot and mouth, NHS waiting lists, Ulster and trains."

    Don't miss Alice Thompson's article in the Telegraph explaining Tony's 10 point plan for every crisis "......During the foot and mouth crisis, even the local Chinese restaurant was blamed because it might have imported illegal meat that found its way into pig swill. In the fire dispute, council chiefs have taken the rap. Meanwhile, Mr Blair avoids responsibility and moves on to new headlines, preferably a war abroad...."

    Nov 29 ~ GM : Sir Robert May demands a more balanced public debate.

    ".... Lord May acknowledges there may be a risks to wildlife from GM hybrids, but suggests the public needs to be made more aware of the potential benefits. He says GM technology can offer real improvements to farming efficiency and lead to the lower use of fossil-fuel subsidised fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides." See Ananova story

    Nov 29 ~ The GM Science Review will form part of the government's strategy to gauge scientific and public opinion on the controversial issue.

    See Ananova "The site invites users to submit their views for scrutiny by a panel of experts, chaired by government's Chief Scientific Adviser Professor David King. It will also provide details of upcoming seminars focusing on specific issues, such as food safety, environmental impact and the regulatory process. The panel will report to the government next summer. Professor King told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme the initiative would offer "an open and transparent review of the science."
    However -
    "Friends of the Earth campaigner Pete Riley said it is further evidence that the public debate "is descending into farce". He said: "The Government told the public that the farm scale trials would provide important information on the safety of GM crops - but the Government's ludicrously short timetable for completing the scientific review, means that those results will now be excluded. "Many people already think that the GM debate is simply a PR exercise."

    Nov 29 ~ EU Farm Ministers Set GMO Content Labelling Threshold

    EU agriculture ministers have reached a deal on the labelling requirements on food products that contain GMO components. In a majority decision, the EU ministers set a 0.9% threshold for GMO content before products have be labelled as containing GMOs. The ministers' GM contamination threshold still has to be approved by the European Parliament, which may try to reduce it to 0.5 percent. The GM industry is likely to start testing the EU's moratorium by submitting GM products for authorization under the main EU regulation which came into force last month.

    Nov 29 ~ Leading members of Monsanto and Syngenta have been appointed to two supposedly independent GM review panels.

    Robert Uhlig writes in the Telegraph "Tony Blair's public consultation on genetically modified organisms was accused of bias yesterdayafter it emerged that members of the GM crop industry have been appointed to two supposedly independent review panels.
    The Prime Minister's campaign to convince the public that GM crops should be grown commercially in Britain involves a scientific review of research into GM organisms, an economic review of their costs and benefits, and a public debate.
    But the panel of scientists includes leading members of Monsanto and Syngenta, the two largest producers of GM seed and products...." Read article and accompanying release from Friends of the Earth

    Nov 29 ~ "It appears some operators are using the Prestige oil spill as an opportunity to illegally clean their tanks close to the shore - dumping more oil into the water and on the coastline."

    A disturbing story from the Western Morning News reveals that oil washing ashore in South Devon may have been illegally dumped.

    Nov 29 ~ animal welfare during transport

    WMN "Great Britain's leading international equine welfare charity is calling on all animal lovers to participate in a European Commission online consultation on animal transportation, to be held from this Monday until December 16.
    The ILPH (International League for the Protection of Horses) has been lobbying the EC and governments both at home and abroad for many years to improve the conditions endured by horses and donkeys during their long distance transport into Europe for slaughter.
    Keith Meldum, ILPH European adviser, said: "We are delighted that the commission has set up the online consultation to allow EU citizens to participate in the decision making process.
    "This is indeed an encouraging proactive response to the thousands of letters they have received on the issue of animal welfare during transport...."

    Nov 29 ~ "Page had been arrested, it seemed, simply on the basis that one unnamed person had complained that in his opinion Page's speech had included 'racist comments'."

    Political correctness has become a tyrant in England. How have we allowed this to happen? Robin Page's recent extraordinary treatment by the Cotswold police must have certainly offended moderates everywhere. Muckspreader's full article may be read here. "..... local police were investigating complaints that the countryside fair had been 'hi-jacked by the pro-hunting lobby' and that Page's speech had incited 'racial hatred'. The paper gave the telephone number of Sergeant Geoff Clark at Stonehouse police station, anxious to hear from members of the public who had been upset by Page's remarks.
    Shortly afterwards Clark rang Page at his Cambridgeshire farm to say he was driving up to "take a statement". When he arrived, with a tape recorder, he told Page that the interview would take place 'under caution' according to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. When a startled Page pointed out that he could not agree to such an interview without his lawyer being present, he was arrested, taken to Cambridge police station and locked in a cell.
    When he explained that his lawyer could not arrive from London until the following morning, he was told that in that case he would have to spend the night in the cells. With cows to be fed back on the farm, he reluctantly agreed that the interview should proceed, but was even more surprised to discover that the policeman had no idea what had actually been said in the speech. Page had been arrested, it seemed, simply on the basis that one unnamed person had complained that in his opinion Page's speech had included 'racist comments'. After the interview, the policeman claimed that people like Page were a menace because they went round "offending the moderates"..."
    Read the full article

    Nov 29 ~ This strike has been in the offing for over a year, yet the government has made no contingency plans at all to train servicemen in handling the up-to-date equipment that is available.

    History repeats itself. The handling of the Firemen's strike has horrible echoes.
    The excellent and independent Western Morning News says: "Prescott's behaviour in recent days has been just about as bad as it gets.
    The Deputy Prime Minister said, in effect, that the agreement did not deal with modernisation and the proposals had not been costed. That is simply not correct and if the DPM had had the wit to have had his own officials in the wings as the negotiations proceeded through the night, even he would have realised that...."

    Nov 29 ~" I call him the feel bad president, because he's all about punishment and death," he said. "It would be a grave mistake to just play him for laughs"

    The Toronto Star reviews a book about the American President. ".... Miller's judgment, that the president might suffer from a bona fide personality disorder, almost makes one long for the less menacing notion currently making the rounds: that the White House's current occupant is, in fact, simply an idiot.
    If only. Miller's rendering of the president is bleaker than that. In studying Bush's various adventures in oration, he started to see a pattern emerging. "He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge. "When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine," Miller said. "It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes."
    While Miller's book has been praised for its "eloquence" and "playful use of language," it has enraged Bush supporters.

    Nov 29 ~ CND is making legal history: the first time a government had been legally challenged over the possibility of a declaration of war.

    The Guardian reports that the CND " is seeking an urgent ruling that no action can lawfully be taken against Saddam Hussein's regime without the UN security council first passing a fresh resolution clearly authorising the use of force. The application for judicial review is against the prime minister, Tony Blair, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon. ....... A CND spokesman said the case was making legal history, as it was the first time a government had been legally challenged over the possibility of a declaration of war. He added support for the action was coming in from all over the world, including from the United States..
    CND solicitor Phil Shiner said: "We are not seeking a declaration that war with Iraq is unlawful, but merely the use of force cannot be lawful without a fresh resolution. We say the government has got the law wrong and ask only that a judge gives a declaration as to what the law is to govern any decision the government makes." .... "

    Nov 28 ~ Where is the evidence of these "daily threats we face"?

    John Pilger today
    "impartiality", a sacred word in the lexicon of British broadcasting which has long lost its dictionary meaning and is a euphemism for the consensual view of established authority. Indeed, it was John Reith, the BBC's founder, who understood the power of establishment myths about "impartiality" and "balance". .....the strange speech by Tony Blair, "warning the nation of the grim threat in our midst". BBC television news faithfully echoed word for word this propaganda designed to soften up the public for Blair's attack on Iraq - an attack to which the great majority are opposed. Where is the evidence of these "daily threats we face"? And if a terrorist attack is coming, surely an unprovoked assault on a Muslim country will create the very terrorists Blair says we should fear? Therefore, isn't the British government endangering its own people with its incessant belligerence? These are vital questions that independent journalism ought to raise." read article

    Nov 28 ~ Scientists fear BSE link to second type of brain disease

    Independent today: ".... Professor Collinge said the results questioned some of the assumptions made about the cause of the sporadic disease in humans. "What it should prompt is a re-evaluation," he said. "It might have several causes and one of those might be BSE." See also the Guardian "BSE may have caused second strain of CJD"
    There is speculation here, not hard fact - as the scientists themselves would be the first to make clear: But this is unlikely to stop many people from assuming that BSE in cattle is now proved to be a link to all forms of CJD in human beings. http://emboj.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/21/23/6358
    The EMBO Journal, Vol. 21, No. 23 pp. 6358-6366, 2002 ) European Molecular Biology Organization
      BSE prions propagate as either variant CJD-like or sporadic CJD-like prion strains in transgenic mice expressing human prion protein Emmanuel A. Asante, Jacqueline M. Linehan, Melanie Desbruslais, Susan Joiner, Ian Gowland, Andrew L. Wood, Julie Welch, Andrew F. Hill, Sarah E. Lloyd, Jonathan D.F. Wadsworth and John Collinge1 MRC Prion Unit and Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, Institute of Neurology, University College, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK 1 Corresponding author e-mail: j.collinge@prion.ucl.ac.uk
      Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) has been recognized to date only in individuals homozygous for methionine at PRNP codon 129. Here we show that transgenic mice expressing human PrP methionine 129, inoculated with either bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or variant CJD prions, may develop the neuropathological and molecular phenotype of vCJD, consistent with these diseases being caused by the same prion strain. Surprisingly, however, BSE transmission to these transgenic mice, in addition to producing a vCJD-like phenotype, can also result in a distinct molecular phenotype that is indistinguishable from that of sporadic CJD with PrPSc type 2. These data suggest that more than one BSE-derived prion strain might infect humans; it is therefore possible that some patients with a phenotype consistent with sporadic CJD may have a disease arising from BSE exposure."

    Nov 27 ~"... rather than devolve fire services back to local communities and leave them to sort out the mess, Downing Street now says it wants to streamline the joint council and run things itself."

    wrote Simon Jenkins in the Times yesterday: "...On Monday a distraught Downing Street declared that its nominee for Fire Negotiator of the Week was to be Ian McCartney. When accosted, Mr McCartney said that, no, Mr Blair was in charge, or that Mr Prescott was in charge, or that someone called "the employers" were in charge. In other words, nobody is in charge.
    Harold Macmillan used to boast that British government was "a Rolls-Royce". He had only to push this button or pull that lever and it purred to life. Not any more. The old banger is now a rust bucket. The conduct of the fire dispute suggests a vacuum at the heart of government. Not only was there no proper contingency for fire services in case of a strike - lest it "inflame things" - but there was no proper framework for negotiations. This is a pay dispute with no real employer."
    Read more.
    Let us devolve all services back to the local communities where those responsible are visible and accountable.

    Nov 26 ~ See you in court, Tony

    We should help the Iraqi people overthrow Saddam, but not by flouting international law
    George Monbiot Tuesday November 26, 2002 The Guardian "Parliament might have been denied its debate and the cabinet might have been silenced, but there are other means of holding the government to account. If, by 4pm today, his lawyers have failed to agree that he will not attack Iraq without a new UN resolution, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will take the prime minister to court. For the first time in history, the British government may be forced to defend the legality of its war plans in front of a judge. ...
    ...If the most powerful countries are permitted to wipe their feet on the UN charter with impunity, then the world will swiftly come to be governed by unmediated brute force.....
    ...Troy Davis of the World Citizen Foundation has been sketching out an ingenious means of pulling the rug from beneath Saddam's feet. The UN, he proposes, should help the opposition groups based abroad and in Iraq's no-fly zones to establish a democratically elected government in exile. This government is then given the world's Iraqi embassies and the nation's frozen assets. It gradually takes control of the no-fly zones and the oil-for-food programme. Saddam would find himself both isolated diplomatically and confronted by a legitimate alternative government. It is not hard to see how his authority over his own people would be undermined, permitting him to be toppled more easily. This plan also ensures that democracy is less likely to be frustrated by the installation of a puppet regime. " Read more

    Nov 26 ~ McRae was not vaccinated and opted not to be vaccinated after being bitten. It is not clear why. "It's his personal business," New Scientist

    "Although the two strains of the bat virus - EBL1 and EBL2 - are common amongst bats on the European continent, only three people have died from the disease since 1977. Roughly 3000 bats have been tested in the last 30 years, but only two have tested positive - the Lancashire case and another bat in 1996 in Sussex. Both cases were Daubenton's bats carrying the EBL2 virus. Bill Reilly at the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health in Glasgow says that McRae's death strengthens the case for a more proactive public health approach. "There could be an argument for extending the [bat] survey to look in a more scientific and structured way, rather than relying on bats that are brought in by the public," he says. Yahoo News
    More jobs for the DEFRA boys..
    "....A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the survey would begin in March or April, once the bats are active again following their winter hibernation. She explained that the survey would focus on three colonies, one of Daubenton bats in either Scotland or the north-west of England, a colony of Serotine bats in the south of England and a colony of Pipistrelle bats at a site still to be decided. The spokeswoman said: "We have been carrying out surveys for the past 15 years and have only found two bats with rabies so far. But none of the surveys so far has involved looking at a whole colony. We will be trying to capture as many bats as we can to see what the situation is in a particular colony." (Scotsman)

    Nov 26 ~"The EU is taking on a maximum commitment but, unfortunately, with no spirit of generosity and a minimum of thought"

    A thought provoking article in the Times by William ReesMogg A bumpy ride for the EU's poorest passengers . "The voters of Europe have been given little or no warning of the effort and sacrifice that may be required. If the ten are accepted at the Copenhagen meeting, we will be committing ourselves to help them develop their societies to the European level. They naturally fear that they may be joining the European Union as second-class citizens; they resent and reject that idea. This is an experiment with the lives of 75 million people and the future of viability of the European Union is at stake. The EU is taking on a maximum commitment but, unfortunately, with no spirit of generosity and a minimum of thought.

    Nov 25/26 ~ I still haven't forgotten the DEFRA stand at the Royal Show this year where those manning it knew nothing about farming but were hired from an agency

    Bill Telfer's column in today's Newcastle Journal: "....Defra has released more details of the review of its rural policy to be undertaken by Lord Haskins, together with a small team of officials. It certainly needs a review.
    I still haven't forgotten their stand at the Royal Show this year where those manning it knew nothing about farming but were hired from an agency, while some of them demonstrated how to make paper sacks into papier mache.
    I see they have been castigated for not putting farming and food production higher up their agenda. I'm not surprised. They take advice from far too many organisations. One has only to look at the spokespersons from non-productive quarters who welcome every swing away from sustainable farming.
    If we are to believe a statement made in Parliament, there are actually 65 different organisations advising Defra. No wonder it doesn't know where they're going.
    I'm very disappointed to read that the 20-day stand-still rule on livestock movement is to stay in place, apparently at the behest of vets working in the Ministry. It seems things have changed little over the years."

    Nov 25/26 ~ "The NHS and the education system are giant, over-centralised bureaucracies, full of inefficiency. ."

    says George Trefgarne in the Telegraph today. "As our YouGov poll shows today, people are very angry indeed about the state of our country's infrastructure and want something done about it.
    Nothing, apparently, works. YouGov didn't ask people "would you pay more tax for improved public services", but that's because the answer is obviously "yes". Superficially, voters still support Mr Brown's strategy, because the Conservatives have failed to offer an alternative vision and at least he is trying. Economically, he is on weaker ground. Higher taxes do not lead to better public services. The NHS and the education system are giant, over-centralised bureaucracies, full of inefficiency. ..."

    Nov 25 ~ EU legislation "which the British Government has already signed up to on ID tags"

    Holding-of-birth tags are to be applied to all pigs that leave their birthplace for premises other than slaughter. This extract from http://www.npa-uk.net/ describes what happened when a DEFRA team arrived to consider the implications of this legislation "....It had been hoped that Fred Landeg would exhibit his prowess with tagging in the farrowing paddock but the response from a distant sow when I captured the first piglet from her hut convinced Fred that this particular point had been absorbed and it was unnecessary for him to test his speed over the twenty metres to the electric fence by continuing the exercise." (See full account)

    Nov 25 ~ Hypermutability - the technique "designed to improve production of new animal and crop breeds" has shocked many scientists and environmentalists.

    An article in this week's Observer by Antony Barnett and Robin McKie : "....Some say the process could result in organisms with human cancer-causing genes being released into the environment. Others worry that attempts to accelerate evolution could be dangerous. However, its creator, the US-based company Morphotek, says it could be valuable to drug and agriculture companies, making it possible to isolate highly profitable breeds, drought-resistant plants or milk-rich cows. Details of the method were passed to The Observer last week by a senior British researcher working for one of Europe's largest biotech corporations. Although a keen supporter of GM technology, the scientist was dismayed to learn about Morphotek's plans after its directors launched a sales tour of Europe. 'I was completely shocked,' he said. 'What would happen if an organism containing such a dangerous gene escaped? What if a gene got into the food chain? Some people could suffer fatal reactions.' ......read article in new window

    Nov 25 ~ Farmers have to decide whether they are going to stand up or roll over and die.

    Robert Persey sends this idea for direct legal action. Extract: "These customers, assisted by friends and family would keep selecting shopping trolleys, filling them with goods and leaving them in the aisles. No offence would have been committed, because the items had not left the store. However, 2p on the price of milk would be a small price to pay in order to prevent such mayhem arriving in their stores..."
    Mr Persey also sends this notice of legal action to be brought against DEFRA next Wednesday

    Nov 25 ~ "Defra should deal as severely with anyone found guilty as farmers who disobey rules which govern their industry "

    said Colin Breed, South East Cornwall MP and member of the Commons Select Committee on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs following the news that twenty DEFRA workers involved in the controversial Krebs badger killing trials in the South West are being investigated over expenses claims. See Western Morning News
    "There's no doubt that if they have discovered fraudulent claims, and, bearing in mind the way Defra implements European directives to the letter of the law and is so quick to come down on farmers who make mistakes in their claims, the same severity ought to apply to their own employees."

    Nov 25 ~ Some other news in brief

    Tony Blair will today take personal control of the firefighters' dispute after the government's handling of the strike yesterday threatened to collapse in chaos. We remember his "personal control" of FMD and consequent refusal to hold an independent public inquiry.
    High Court hearing into Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme. An action by NFU against Defra for allegedly prematurely cutting compensation rates to farmers for animals slaughtered on foot and mouth welfare grounds is expected to begin in the High Court on Tuesday.
    The Scottish photographer, bitten by a rabid bat, has died. It is the first case of an indigenous rabies death since 1902. Much will be made of this.
    Sir Winston Churchill was named last night as the "greatest ever Briton" in the televised debate that many of us thought rather dubious. It seems to us that he himself would probably have named Shakespeare if it had ever occurred to him to take part in such a debate. Still, the result does at least show that the English do not swallow completely the nonsense thrown at them - even though they watch it on their television screens.

    Nov 23 ~"He is wiping out our own farming base so that he can contribute to a greater global economy..."

    An emailer from Cumbria writes today: "The lunacy of our present Government is frightening. We will be going to war soon against a third world country..and we can't even sort out our own house. Troops are being used to put out fires. The Turkish mafia are fighting drug turf wars on the streets of London. The Moss Side black gangs have declared all out war on each other in Manchester and there are shootings and killings each week (legitimate, respectable, hand gun owners are denied hobby use of their guns).
    How on earth can Blair establish and maintain law and order on a country that he has attacked when he can't control his own?
    He is wiping out our own farming base so that he can contribute to a greater global economy. Likewise ..Gordon Brown is wondering where our manufacturing output money income has gone..the taxes and revenues he is expecting...They have all gone! The Chinese have taken over production of most items that used to earn us our incomes/revenues.
    The most noticeable loser in all of this is ... our countryside...it can't remain the same without the input of the hard working farmer. Blair can't understand that. He has his sights set on the Euro Presidency! 'We are all doomed!' ....so the Dad's Army phrase goes..
    Sorry for rambling on again......" The writer has sent a photograph which seems to sum up the state of our livestock farming.

    Nov 23 ~ "..commands are merely barked from the centre as ministers churn out endless targets, plans and diktats"

    Telegraph Leader "... The Government is having to deal with really serious issues and its lack of competence and depth are being exposed. ...What has changed most from the giddy days of 1997 is the state of the economy. As the OECD said yesterday, the downturn in America and the difficulties in Europe are all darkening the sky. It is true that Mr Brown is doing a better job than many of his predecessors.
    But the "purpose" behind his "prudence" is now showing through in new taxes and regulations and a wasteful spending spree that taxpayers are struggling to fund. Public services, especially the NHS, have not been reformed. Instead, commands are merely barked from the centre as ministers churn out endless targets, plans and diktats.."

    Nov 23 ~ "We are right to ask why, on the question of civil liberties, we find that we have more in common with Oliver Letwin than with a Labour home secretary."

    "We are right to ask what happened to our ethical foreign policy (remember that?). We are right to shout about the government's eagerness to support George Bush's warmongering. We are right to ask why Keith Joseph's ratchet effect has been reversed so that Tory clothes now fit comfortably those who should have burned them. ..."
    Article in the Spectator by Sholto Byrnes who is "sickened by the cynicism and opportunism of his New Labour contemporaries " (He speaks for all of us who cheered in 1997 - and who have gradually realised with mounting dismay that the motto of New Labour could be: "the weak don't deserve to survive..")

    Nov 23 ~ The compensation was a long time coming and the bank was hard on us. There was no sympathy.

    Another article in the Spectator this week....."We lost everything to foot-and-mouth,' she said. 'They slaughtered all the livestock just to prevent contamination. The vets arrived, and within two days we had lost the lot in a contiguous cull. We felt that it was the beginning of the end. Mike's family had farmed there for more than 100 years. He wanted to sell up, but there was no market, really, and we would have come out in the end with very little. The compensation was a long time coming and the bank was hard on us. There was no sympathy. There never is when it comes to money. " So Jilly went on the game."..... Why not? Hundreds of nurses and students in the county are forced to supplement their income by selling sex. There's a black humour among the group. ..."

    Nov 23 ~ Other people's disasters are somebody else's pot of gold.

    Consultancy market to reach £1.5 billion Environmental consultancies are continuing to thrive despite a general downturn in the market, says a new report. The industry is growing annually by 10%, with a turnover of £900 million this year. Expanding niche markets include renewable energy and greenhouse gas management, while contaminated land earned companies £133 million last year.
    .... Contaminated land investigation and remediation have brought in the most money, earning consultancies £133 million last year, with environmental impact assessment the second major earner at £118 million. Foot-and-mouth has also commandeered a substantial amount of work, along with government and NGO policy work generating £87 million last year. ...."

    Nov 23 ~ Talking of which....

    Daily Record :"WASTE millionaire Euan Snowie is to face trial next month accused of refusing to take a breath test. ...Snowie describes himself as a farmer despite being a director of 22 firms, including Snowie Ltd, the UK's biggest waste disposal company. ...Months earlier, Snowie Ltd, which he runs with his three brothers in East Gogar, near Stirling, made £34.8million disposing of animal carcasses during the foot and mouth cull.
    A firm spokesman denied the donation had anything to do with the contracts, which were awarded by the Scottish Executive, not Labour........"

    Nov 22 ~ Fireworks. Time to protect our animals from the trauma?

    The Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Kennel Club have got together and started a petition to regulate the sale of fireworks. The completed petitions will be handed to the Government in the New Year. This petition can either be signed on site or downloaded from. www.guidedogs.org.uk.
    In Scotland, Shona Robison MSP is trying to put forward legislation to restrict the sale and use of fireworks. She needs more support to push this forward and would welcome accounts of experiences--frightened/injured people and animals. Petition on her web site: www.dundeesnp.org/shona or e-mail her: shona@dundeesnp.org
    The British Horse Society Scotland are collecting data on horses injured/traumatised in Scotland as a result of fireworks incidents, please e-mail Helene Mauchlen on: bhsscot@aol.com

    Nov 20 ~ HRH Prince of Wales visits Defra

    From the DEFRA website: "His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales made a private visit to Defra's HQ building at Nobel House this afternoon.
    The Prince was greeted by Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett and Permanent Secretary, Brian Bender. His first meeting was with several groups of staff to discuss four key Defra issues: Sustainable Development (particularly climate change); Sustainable Food and Farming; Rural Policy; and service delivery. The Prince then joined Ministers and members of Defra's Management Board for an informal discussion on issues that particularly interest him, such as the Government's response to the FMD Inquiries, illegal imports, economic and environmental issues affecting the future of fisheries, the twenty-day movements standstill, and school farms."

    Nov 20 ~ One of the ways that Denmark ensures low usage of antibiotics is by effective controls on zoonoses.

    The report prepared by Professor Verner Wheelock and Charlotte Foster with contributions from Dr. Bent Nielsen of Danske Slagterier, Dr. Niels Kjeldsen of The National Committee for Pig Breeding and Dr. Flemming Bager of the Danish Zoonosis Centre, also surveys in details the achievements to date of Danish controls on growth promoters, veterinary medicines and Salmonella. For example, the average amount of antibiotics used is now less than 4g/pig produced - as little as one-tenth of the usage in some countries.
    A critical factor in the Danish controls on drug residues and antibiotic resistance is that detailed information on all the medicines prescribed by veterinarians is available through the VetStat registration system, which was launched 2 years ago.
    One of the ways that Denmark ensures low usage of antibiotics is by effective controls on zoonoses. Their Salmonella surveillance and control system was established in 1995 and now 97% of all herds producing over 200 pigs are considered in practical terms free of Salmonella. Copies of the Wheelock and Foster report are available free by e-mail from: office@vwa.co.uk

    Nov 20 ~ Dr Charles Trotman of the CLA will outline in his speech to the DTi Broadband Conference in Birmingham today the business case for rural broadband.

    * The rollout of affordable broadband is too slow for the rural economy
    * ADSL - the affordable broadband option, is unlikely to be available across the country
    * Those living and working in the rural community need to know which Broadband options are viable
    * The three key areas why Broadband is essential to the economic prosperity of rural Britain are farming/agriculture, rural business and the rural economy
    * Market exclusion - Businesses will relocate if affordable broadband is not available: In this day and age, broadband is a must for many businesses. Without it they will not be able to compete.

    Nov 19 ~ Crop trials must stop, says the BMA

    David Scott, Scottish Government Editor of the Scotsman writes: "SENIOR doctors have demanded an immediate halt to genetically modified crop trials ..... The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that insufficient care is being taken to protect public health and that there has been a lack of public consultation about crop trials despite the steady increase in the number of them.
    ...... The BMA's warning about the dangers of continuing with trials will be seen by anti-GM crop campaigners as giving powerful weight to their argument that the issue must now be reconsidered by Ross Finnie, the environment minister. ........ "There has not yet been a robust and thorough search into the potentially harmful effects of GM foodstuffs on human health. On the basis of the precautionary principle, farm-scale trials should not be allowed to continue." The BMA, which will be represented at the committee hearing by Dr Charles Saunders, a specialist in public health issues, will point out to the MSPs that, following public health disasters such as BSE and foot and mouth disease, public confidence in the scientific community's approach to agriculture has been undermined. It adds: "Scientists, farmers and politicians need to re-establish public trust. Further research is required into the health and environmental effects of GMOs before they can be permitted to be freely cultivated. ..."

    Nov 19 ~ The real problem with engineered crops is that they permit the big biotech companies to place a padlock on the food chain.

    George Monbiot today in the Guardian: "By patenting the genes and all the technologies associated with them, the corporations are manoeuvring themselves into a position from which they can exercise complete control over what we eat. This has devastating implications for food security in poorer countries.
    This is the reason why these crops have been resisted so keenly by campaigners. The biotech companies have been experimenting with new means of overcoming their resistance.
    Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, all of which are suffering from the current famine, have been told by the US international development agency, USAID, that there is no option but to make use of GM crops from the United States. This is simply untrue...."
    A quick look at the site mentioned by George Monbiot - http://www.agbioworld.org/ - suggests that it is sinister indeed.

    Nov 19 ~ --A secretive federal court on Monday granted police broad authority to monitor Internet usage, record keystrokes and employ other surveillance methods "against terror and espionage suspects."

    See news report from News.com
    An emailer writes to warmwell, "Electronic spying is the logical response from those who would like to control all information. The internet now represents an effective democracy of ideas and communication. Individual's use of this must, therefore, be monitored. Terrorism, as always, will be the excuse - and legislation will be carried out in secret. The UK is bound to follow suit."

    Nov 18 ~ Mr Morley will echo the Brussels spin, dutifully parroted by the BBC and most of our media....

    That ever excellent watch-rotweiler Christopher Booker, tells us ( in the Sunday Telegraph), the truth about the fishing industry's death. " ....Brussels will continue to permit the outrage of industrial fishing, whereby Denmark and Norway can legally catch more than a million tonnes of sand eels and smaller fish, largely to provide fishmeal for the powerful fish farming industry.
    Astonishingly, while Scottish fishermen are forced out of business by the ban on catching cod, hake and other whitefish, which are their source of livelihood, the industrial fleet is still permitted a "by-catch" of more than 100,000 tonnes of cod and other species, to supply fish farms - which need eight pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of pale and sickly farmed salmon...... The real, hidden, reason for the cod ban lies in the fact that, at the end of next month ..... the "transitional" phase of the Common Fisheries Policy comes to an end. This means that the vast Spanish fleet will then have full right of "equal access" to "Union waters", which until now has been limited.
    It is vital to the commission to eliminate Scotland's whitefish fleet... We are now about to pay the final instalment, by losing what remains of a fishing fleet that in 1973 was still the largest in Europe. On all this next Thursday Mr Morley will stay strangely silent." See also The Death of British Fisheries

    Nov 18 ~ Unfortunately, we have a Home Secretary who is careless with our civil liberties time and again.

    Oliver Letwin in yesterday's Observer "First, he tried to curtail freedom of speech in the Anti-Terrorism Bill. Second, he tried to restrict and control the operational independence of our police forces. Third, he set about giving the Government powers to snoop on our emails and mobile phone conversations. ....... It hardly inspires confidence that Tony Blair last week cited the examples of Germany, Finland and Denmark as having scrapped double jeopardy. According to the Bar Council, he is wrong: Denmark and Finland both have express protection against retrials." This is an important article that can be red in full here (new window opens outside warmwell)

    Nov 18 ~ "..such a deal is likely to involve US bullying over Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and food."

    See message from FOE."....A recent Friends of the Earth publication on GMO contamination in food (1) has identified contamination both in the field and in the human food chain. Any trade agreement that opens the door to increased use of GMOs will only lead to problems, now and in the future.
    "In regards to export agriculture, Australia needs to keep up with global consumer trends, with a growing preference for non GMO products. But research shows once GMO's are released commercially, contamination is inevitable. There will be no going back."
    "GE food has not been proven to be safe to humans, GE crops are a huge environmental risk, and they do not benefit farmers."

    Nov 18 ~ My flock was killed in the so-called pre-emptive cull, weeks AFTER the disease had passed

    A farmer writes, "I wrote to local paper with an extract from Hansard and highlighted both the insurance and hobby farming points my MP, Russell Brown, makes.
    "..as the owner of 40 home-bred ewes before FMD (none of whom had ever been more than half a mile from home) I am no doubt in this category. Hobby farmers do not keep animals for purely financial reasons, they enjoy the challenge of trying to improve the quality of their stock and become very attached to them. To occasionally secure top price in local markets is a bonus. My flock was killed in the so-called pre-emptive cull, weeks AFTER the disease had passed, during which time feed costs had spiralled as lambing was completed. I find Russell Brown's remark extremely hurtful."
    Her letter was published virtually un-edited.
    She remarked sadly,"Comments like Russell Brown's find the raw edges - which don't seem to go away."


    A new opinion poll commissioned by Friends of the Earth reveals that most of the British public think supermarkets are giving farmers a raw deal. Almost two thirds think farmers are not paid enough by supermarkets for the food they produce. And more than four fifths want the supermarkets to give preference to UK products over imported products when in season.

    Nov 16 ~ "My idea was to use my photographs in exhibitions and through a book" Ian Geering

    Foot and Mouth: the Aftermath "It is my experience that when someone sees a book of black and white photographs lying around, the usual human reaction is to pick it up and look at it. I thought that if households throughout the country have the book then the likely result will be that a large number of people will read it and will be concerned. That was the aim.
    The book is something of a family affair: my elder brother runs the family printing business and is publishing the book. This has enabled us to donate £2 from the sale of each book to the ARC Addington Fund - the price is £19.95 It is available on www.Amazon.co.uk and www.Waterstones.co.uk and from Geerings of Ashford Ltd, Cobbs Wood House, Chart Road, Ashford, Kent TN23 1EP. Telephone: 01233 63 33 66 Fax 01233 63 94 04.

    Nov 16 ~ "Meet the cloned cash cow - coming soon to a farmyard near you." Guardian today

    The Guardian has a long article on cloning and semen - a subject that must be taken deadly seriously. (See full article)
    "Replica DNA developed in US will arouse anger if sold in Europe
    "You would be putting semen from a cloned animal into the food chain when you don't really know what its second, third and fourth generation progeny are going to be like. We took the view it was far too risky a thing to do," said Richard Wood, chief executive of the world's largest cattle breeding company, the Cheshire-based Genus. "We think it is totally irresponsible for any farmer or any other company to sell commercial semen from clones at this stage." But such qualms must be pitted against market pressures. The trade in cattle semen and eggs between Europe and America and Canada is about $100m (£63million) a year, and there is high demand in Britain for imported bull semen for artificial insemination. In the wake of BSE and foot and mouth disease, British farmers are restocking. Are clones going to be on their shopping list?"
    Pat' Gardiner comments: "Quite aside from anything else, just look at the figures for semen imports! I'm not surprised that we are getting outbreaks of animal disease. Can you think of a better way of "smuggling" a problem in by mistake?
    No wonder all these places are surrounded in razor wire. They don't want anyone taking too much interest in just what they are up to. Biosecurity Paah!
    No wonder the veterinary industry has been so coy about even suggesting this might be the route for all these diseases into the country. We now KNOW that at least one cattle disease came with imported embryos. How come not a single vet has even suggested this is how CSF and FMD arrived?
    No wonder the MAFF-Defra vets were so keen to cover-up the ownership of the index case of CSF - direct links to farms in China. We are talking big bucks in a big industry operated by and policed by a corrupt secretive profession. The farmers have been conned. Diverted into worrying about what is going on at airports whilst the taxpayer's pocket has been picked."

    Nov 16 ~ "How important is oil as a motive for this war?"

    "It is one thing for the U.S. to target Iraq because Saddam supposedly harbors weapons of mass destruction (though according to just war principles and international law that is by no means sufficient). It is quite another if the goal is to seize control of Iraq's oil.
    "At least one cautious administration supporter, Anthony H. Cordesman, senior analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, is quite candid: "Regardless of whether we say so publicly," he admits, "we will go to war, because Saddam sits at the center of a region with more than 60 percent of all the world's oil reserves."
    "What does this mean? Are weapons of mass destruction the pretext while oil is really the prize? Would Americans back this war if they believed it was really about oil? Would they agree that the appalling military, diplomatic and human costs are worth it?..."
    For those of us who do not necessarily swallow all the official versions on Iraq, here are two more articles from Commondreams.org that ask some deeply serious questions.

    Nov 15 ~ Vaccine plan to tackle bio-terrorism

    Telegraph "The Government policy of giving smallpox vaccine to front-line health workers, then ring-fencing any outbreak, may be almost as effective as mass vaccination to prepare for bio-terrorism, according to a study published today." Hang on....aren't there terrible logistical problems? Who would administer the vaccine to these humans? What about carriers? And how would we know who really had the disease and who was just vaccinated? Seems terribly irresponsible...Surely better to cull.

    Nov 15 ~ Mrs Beckett's Diary

    The Western Morning News finally got its interview with Margaret Beckett - but only after virtually laying seige to her office for ten days. The request was first made 18 months ago. The WMN's editor, Barrie Williams, said,"The request has been made at regular intervals ever since, but officials have always replied that her diary is 'very full'. We should not have had to telephone her press officers every day for ten days to get the face to face meeting we wanted. To have held out for so long was bad manners, not to us, but to the people of the rural Westcountry who we represent and on whose behalf she ought to be working." In a farcical twist, DEFRA began calling up other newspapers to try to turn the event into a kind of press conference. One political editor told the WMN: "The call came completely out of the blue. They were obviously desperate to get people along, because when I said I could not make it they asked me who else I thought might be interested."
    And the nature of the "blood" that was finally prized from the stone in the face to face interview? Some might say it was bloody. Mrs Beckett said the decision to hold three inquiries into the foot and mouth crisis was the right one and their speed and independence justified the Government's refusal to hold a full, open and accountable public hearing. She told the paper that restoring prosperity to the British farming industry and the rural economy as a whole was a "top priority" and she would encourage youngsters to go into farming to be part of the future of the industry. See relevant WMN articles

    Nov 15 ~ Krebs' glib charm

    See relevant Guardian page.
      Example: Questionner A. I would like to ask Sir John why the food standards agency is constantly taking up the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep?
      There is still no conclusive proof that the infective prion theory favoured by the scientific establishment is actually correct. Yet when so much of the said establishment have such a lot invested in this theory in the terms of research funding and reputation, it is hardly surprising that it is accepted as gospel.
      Despite a lack of conclusive evidence the govt a pressing ahead with the national scrapie plan, to eradicate vast numbers of the national flock, at the taxpayer's expense, with no conclusive proof of risk whatsoever.
      JK: Our view on BSE and sheep is the following. We are not advising consumers to avoid lamb; no BSE has been found naturally in sheep, but it could be there.
      Given this uncertainty, we think consumers have a right to know and make up their own minds. Questionner B: Then why instigate the national scrapie plan, which contradicts your last message as it will deprive people completely of the choice of eating meat from rare breeds which have tested as suseptible to scrapie, you have also failed to answer sodbusters question concerning the appropriateness of matching funding for alternative BSE research.
    Sir John was given a rougher ride than possibly he expected. However, he refrained from answering many of the more pointed questions about the NSP or the Science Group. Warmwell did not take part (our own question about the NSP and science funding did not appear) but we are very grateful to those who did.

    Nov 14/15 ~ What do we eat then ?

    asks Roger, bewildered by all the food warnings. "Of course. We all give up our jobs and do it ourselves. Yes, that is the answer. But then our respected vets and the men from the Ministry of Death may pay a visit and murder all our life's work while we make them a cup of tea ! So, whatta we do ?" What indeed? See the rest of Roger's Rant

    Nov 14 ~ Tesco to gobble up One-Stop?

    Friends of the Earth Food and Farming campaigner Sandra Bell said: "Tesco already has too much power in the UK marketplace. Farmers already get a raw deal, because of low prices to producers, absurd quality tests and reluctance to stock local products. Consumers would suffer too, as local shops are driven out of business by a large and ruthless predator. This planned takeover is a classic case for the Competition Commission and should be referred there at once."
    The Office of Fair Trading is taking comments by interested parties until this Friday (15th) and it will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State about whether to refer the case to the Competition Commission for a more detailed investigation.
    "Thousands of Asian shop-owners could lose their livelihoods if Tesco's £519m foray into the convenience store market is approved," says Financial Times.

    Nov 14 ~ North East Assembly - Newcastle Journal urges readers to "vote yes to democratic regional rule"( sic)

    It would be comforting to think that Regional Assemblies are to be democratic and representative of the regions rather than mere tentacles for Brussels. Centralisation in the name of regionalisation is classic Newspeak in the same way that the Animal Health Bill is about putting in place a legal right to kill animals.
    We understand that "the unelected North East Assembly has been running colour adverts in The Journal "Your Region. Your Voice. The North East Assembly", funded with public money (approx. £890,000 p.a.) for many months now. Supporters of the Assembly are reluctant to engage in any public debate, despite repeated requests. On the 5th November Professor Tomaney cancelled an appearance at an FSB debate at very short notice when he was aware he would be up against Dr. Richard North. The Journal did not report this despite its being covered in a national newspaper." We hear too that Professor H. Ellcock of the Campaign for a North-East Assembly gave a lecture on the benefits of a NE Assembly. The email says,
      "One and a half hours later the vast majority of the audience remained unconvinced. Serious questions were unanswered and there were so many imponderables one of the audience stated, "Professor, you are asking us to vote for something that appears to be a complete dog's breakfast and ill-thought out. Can you please come back next year when you know what you are trying to sell us !"

    Nov 14 ~ "I began to wonder, given the po-faced reporting and the presentation of Iraqi news here, if the naive world of Saddam and the naive world of America don't sometimes connect. "

    We offer here, for those who, like us are watching the sad inevitability of all the international posturing over Iraq, four articles from "Comondreams.org.uk" The first is by the always excellent Robert Fisk. "...A vast American armada is slowly taking shape - huge quantities of armour and ordnance are being moved around the world right now from the United States - and most of America doesn't even know it. "See you there,'' I said to the marine last night as we parted company. "Oh, are you coming to Central Command?'' he asked innocently. "No," I told him, "You're going to Iraq."

    Nov 14 ~ "Don't blame Congress or Bush. You are the government. They just represent you. What they are doing is happening in your name."

    This chilling extract from the article by Courtland Milloy in the Washington Post (same page) is transferable. What happens in the UK - in this and all other matters "governed" by career politicians who would fail at every count when confronted with Shakespeare's understanding of wise kingship - all happens in our name. Yet most of us are content to be ignorant or else to speak only in private. We are sleepwalking to utter disaster. Thank God for Ritter, a military man turned anti-war advocate who has been denounced by hawks as unpatriotic for his views.
      "He closed by asking the students whether they really wanted such oppressive, undemocratic practices carried out in their names.
      "Hell no!" came the response.
      "Then it's not too late to send a message that this is not a war that we will stand for," he said, bringing many students to their feet in applause.

    Nov 13 ~ Will the Countess of Mar be Farmers Weekly's Personality of the Year?

    FWi says,"British farming has needed its champions during what has been another difficult year. We want your help to identify the heroes of the past 12 months. Everyone who votes will have their name entered into a £200 draw." Click here to vote (You may have to register if you have not already done so)

    Nov 13 ~ The little red tractor does not guarantee food is GM free

    "Tony Blair is backing a £250,000 campaign encouraging consumers to seek out food bearing the Little Red Tractor logo...." according to yesterday's FWi. However, it is difficult not to feel ambivalent about this campaign - which ought to be wholly admirable. However, Joyce de Silva of Compassion in World Farming, an organisation noted for its politeness and intelligence, said that the scheme seemed to be deliberately misleading the public. Jean Saunders, also a veteran and well respected campaigner, this time of Friends of the Earth, (Swindon), comments, "Good to see the critical comments from Compassion in World Farming about the Red Tractor label. The label doesn't guarantee GM-free food either."

    Nov 13 ~ Terror alert? Or attempt to terrorise?

    "..... Ross Williams, spokesman for Brittany Ferries, which operates services from Plymouth, said: "It's not actually true that a new general warning has been issued in relation to ferry travel and nobody should change their travel plans as a result." ....."See today's WMN

    Nov 13 ~ Don't forget to register in order to put questions to Sir John Krebs.

    The Talk Guardian page about this contains the following priceless paragraph: "The FSA open board meetings are held in a different UK city each month, and on November 14th, the meeting will be held in Brussels to demonstrate the FSA's policy of openness and accountability to EU agencies and politicians."
    Click here to register. Take part in the online debate at 1.30 pm, or post a question earlier for consideration. How much does Sir John really know about scrapie, BSE and current independent scientific views about risk? Is he going to allow himself to be drawn on questions concerning the FMD crisis? Questions about vaccination and vaccinated meat?

    Nov 13 ~ How Dounreay's nuclear dream turned sour

    The Scotsman reports today, "IT IS going to cost more than (GBP) 4 billion in an operation lasting 60 years to decommission Dounreay. The land around the site at Caithness could remain out of bounds for more than 300 years." Full story: http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/paperboy.cfm?id=1262682002

    Nov 12 ~ Where oh where, is the opposition who could force Labour to reawaken its social conscience?

    This question, so often on our mind, might be partly answered by an interesting article by George Monbiot in today's Guardian. As well as being about the US election, is also about how, when faced with a choice between two ugly parties, the electorate doesn't vote at all. "If you doubt that third parties force their bigger rivals to give the voters what they want, take a look at the Barnett formula. This is the arrangement, devised by the Labour government in 1978, for distributing money to the different parts of Britain. As even Joel Barnett, who invented it, now concedes, the formula is "grossly unfair".
    The people of the north-east, for example, are on average 13% poorer than the people of Scotland, but they each receive 20% less government spending. The reason is straightforward: in Scotland and Wales, Labour's vote is threatened by the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, while the voters of north-east England love their party not wisely but too well. Their failure to extend their own political options permits the government to walk all over them. " The message of this article is plain:" A vote for a third political party, even one which has no chance of being elected, could, far from being wasted, be the most powerful vote you can cast. It is arguably the only force which could drag the bigger parties apart, oblige "progressive" politicians to implement progressive policies and enhance the scope of mainstream democratic choice."

    Nov 11 ~ their soil is nurtured naturally, their crops are superbly healthy, their animals (and people) thrive, because bio-dynamic farming gives back at least as much as it takes out.

    (From Hilary's e-diary.)"OAKLANDS is a Camphill Village, one of many communities following the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner. Adults with learning difficulties (the villagers) live and work with people whose difficulties are not so obvious to create a utopian society. It works. The community is based round a bio-dynamic farm. And now I've stubbed my toe on the basic problem. Do my readers know - do I know - what bio-dynamic means? I could explain, but it takes a volume.
    The problem is communication.
    To simplify outrageously, Steiner believed that we are all linked: humans, animals, plants, the earth, and beyond. His farming, education, dance, religion, all worked out aspects of this belief with German thoroughness. Steiner's followers are so dedicated, so thorough and so right that it is quite hard for them to communicate with the rest of the world. That doesn't bother them. There are lots of them and they communicate well with one another. But it should bother the rest of the world because they have something we really need. To take farming, their soil is nurtured naturally, their crops are superbly healthy, their animals (and people) thrive, because bio-dynamic farming gives back at least as much as it takes out...." (more)

    Nov 11 ~ Advance Notice. Sir John Krebs on line on Nov 14th

    The Guardian's talk board on the 14th of November. 1 30p.m. You need to register and get a user name to take part . (http://www.guardian.co.uk/talk/0,1247,546387,00.html)

    Nov 11 ~"..if we have to abide by rules of National Scrapie Plan rare breeds will just become museum pieces"...

    " As a Trust we have grave misgivings behind the NSP. There is confusion over how many varieties of scrapie there are. Our concern is that the Gov are only looking at one type and that other dangers could go unnoticed. We are continuing to stress to Gov that it is really wrong to pursue such a definitive policy with a lack of science especially as it could wipe out our indigenous breeds." Richard Lutwyche (Rare Breeds Survival Trust) in the Scottish Farmer last week. The article also said, "NSP could sound death knell for a number of Britain's rarest breeds. Results from a Government sample survey show that a number have little or no resistance to scrapie. Final results expected in January.
    Next month a CONSULTATION PAPER will propose a ban on meat from susceptible animals within 5 or 10 years."
    We are now living in some kind of Theatre of the Absurd. Except that this is real life and we really are in danger of losing rare breeds - and perhaps the entire sheep population of Britain - because of an idée fixe (genuine or not) about scrapie being connected to BSE. BSE - in turn - is blamed for vCJD. Yet there has been no published evidence for any such claim.

    Nov 11 ~ YOU'VE GOT ME WRONG Mrs Margaret Beckett in the Western Morning News

    In an article in the excellent Western Morning News, Mrs Beckett... "said that her "top priority" was to restore prosperity to the British farming industry and the wider rural economy...."
    Alas, the article is interesting only for the extraordinary absence of anything of substance said.
    In these days of the need for alternative energy sources we wonder if the hot air and gas produced in such quantity by politicians might be put to better use. Powering a Zeppelin perhaps.

    Nov 11 ~"One of the odder features of our current politics is the way that in each of the eight "regions" of England an identical and lavishly-funded campaign is being waged to promote elected regional assemblies."

    "At the same time, the campaign's supporters in each area deny that the plan to give England elected regional governments is in any way connected with Brussels's insistence that some form of regional government must exist throughout the EU...." The informed, amusing and wholly serious Christopher Booker should be required reading for everyone each Sunday.

    Nov 11 ~ I do not recall a more shameful moment in American politics

    See article in the Toronto Sun yesterday. One poignant photo said it all: Georgia's defeated Democratic senator, Max Cleland, sitting in a wheelchair, missing both legs and an arm lost in combat in Vietnam. This highly decorated hero was defeated by a Vietnam war draft-dodger who had the audacity to accuse Cleland of being "unpatriotic" after the senator courageously voted against giving Bush unlimited war-related powers. I do not recall a more shameful moment in American politics.

    Nov 11 ~ Blair is appeasing Bush partly in order to get a share of the world's diminishing supplies of oil

    In the Crocodile's Mouth George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 5th November 2002
    Tony Blair's loyalty to George Bush looks like slow political suicide. His preparedness to follow him over every precipice jeopardises Britain's relationships with its allies, conjures up enemies all over the world and infuriates voters of all political colours. And yet he never misses an opportunity to show what a trusting friend he is.
    There are several plausible and well-established explanations for this unnatural coupling. But there might also be a new one. Blair may have calculated that sticking to Bush is the only way in which our unsustainable economy can meet its need for energy. ....

    Nov 11 ~ David Liddiment, outgoing head of programmes at ITV has claimed the BBC's policy makes its director general Greg Dyke unfit to hold office.

    He described the focus on ratings as a "terrible disservice to cultural values in Britain," and claimed Mr Dyke had "no grasp" of the BBC's public service responsibilities. (This was the interesting part of an article in the Guardian on Saturday.

    Nov 8 ~ 98.97 percent of the inhabitants of Gibraltar voted "No" to the principle of Britain sharing the rock's sovereignty with Spain.

    This result is what everyone expected. What will Jack Straw do now? Can he go on pretending that throwing Gibraltar to the wolves is not a cynical trade move? Peter Caruana, who organised the referendum said: "We say to the British Government: Take stock of this referendum result, it's the will of the people of Gibraltar." and he described the route to joint sovereignty as "a dead end road for everyone, including the British Government" and warned that politicians would ignore the result of the referendum "at their peril".

    Nov 8 ~ there's hope for farming. If we could get consumers behind us, we'd stand a chance of turning things around. Their power is immense.

    " Why do farmers keep going? I think deep down, many of us feel that if we fail, we'll be letting down past and future generations. So we carry on, long after profits have disappeared. It all boils down to farmgate prices. Farming needs to return to profit. It's the only way we can sustain the rural economy and the environment. It's a scandal that traditional farmers are penalised for putting social and environmental issues before profit. I'm not sure why, but I still think there's hope for farming. If we could get consumers behind us, we'd stand a chance of turning things around. Their power is immense. It wasn't farmers or the Government who stopped GM products from getting established here - it was consumers who refused to buy them. I believe that if the public really knew what's happening to farming, they'd be appalled. It's up to us to get off our backsides and get the public on our side." Peter Lundgren, arable farmer and retailer, Lincolnshire
    Extract from the FARM leaflet

    Nov 8 ~ "...the RSPCA are on a mission. A mission to apply pressure to members of Parliament

    so that apparently promised State legislation is pushed through with minimal debate and as soon as possible. I wonder if that legislation might also include provision for increased income to the RSPCA from the revenue that would be derived from the proposed escalation of penalties?" This is an Australian story about the Australian RSPCA and no less interesting for that.

    Nov 8 ~ "They see this as a memorial.'"

    So Great Orton really is to become a nature reserve. The Guardian today reports in cheerful vein, (Nature casts spell over site of slaughter.....) but the unease and distress of the local residents and farmers is still apparent as is fitting for a site where thousands and thousands of healthy, uninfected animals were slaughtered as fast as the piece-rate paid killers could go. This is an English Holocaust site and changing its name to Watchtree, waxing lyrical about hares, newts and birds and sententiously telling the Guardian "We got this feeling for a nature reserve"- none of that will dissipate the feelings that continue to haunt so many of us : "......I don't think any of us would choose to have that site near us," Ms Macdonald said. "We are stuck with it. I am as happy with what as has been planned as I can be in the circumstances." And that - all the DEFRA self-congratulation notwithstanding - would seem to sum up the stoical view of the Cumbrians who live there. We can only admire them yet again.

    Nov 8 ~ Major corruption allegations against customs and excise are being investigated by police

    the Guardian says today. "The inquiry launched this week by Thames Valley police is the third separateinquiry into the crisis-hit organisation's powerful national investigation service.Customs - Britain's oldest law enforcement agency - was already reeling under wide-ranging inquiries by Scotland Yard and West Midlands police after fears that officers had set up bogus drug deals, committed perjury and misled judges..."
    There will be warmwell readers to whom this comes as no surprise whatsoever.

    Nov 5 ~ EU allows vaccination in fight against swine fever

    BELGIUM: November 4, 2002 BRUSSELS - The European Commission will permit emergency vaccination for pigs from November 1 in its fight to stamp out classical swine fever, hoping to avoid mass slaughter of animals in infected areas, it said. While improved legislation would continue to require the slaughter of all pigs on farms with the disease, the option of vaccination in emergency situations, as well as oral vaccinations for wild boars, would now be allowed. "To avoid massive slaughter in such areas, emergency vaccination may be used, subject to evaluation and controls. The Commission is currently buying a stock of conventional vaccine for this purpose," it said in a statement.

    Nov 5 ~ The Shetland Sheep website

    http://www.shetlandsheep.com says that it "gives breeders the facility to advertise livestock inc photos free of charge
    Buyers the facility to easily locate quality stock
    A classifieds section for you to advertise items inc photos free of charge
    Listings of Shetland Sheep breeders both UK and abroad with links to their own web site
    A photo gallery where you can view and post pictures
    Listings of farm related businesses with links to their own web site
    Our Country store selling a range of products
    The Shetland Sheep Forum where you can post and read messages. Let everyone know about coming events, regional news or just what you would like for Christmas
    NEW LAMBING CALCULATOR (click here)"

    Oct 29 ~ Yet another leading scientist despairs at "muddled advice" and the consequent lack of confidence in the general public.

    "..Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse, head of the medical charity Cancer Research UK, told a science conference that pushing back scientific frontiers would create ethical challenges but the problems must be discussed openly and honestly.
    "There are no benefits to be gained from keeping the public in the dark," he said. Many fear a Brave New World scenario. It is the duty of scientists everywhere to ensure an appropriate flow of information to keep confidence high in the community at large and retain its support," he added.http://reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=sciencenews&StoryID=1644147

    Oct 29 ~ West Nile Virus in Britain

    See description of the disease. Note the following: "Certainly there is no need to slaughter WNV infected animals; they are dead end hosts".
    (forwarded email) "...Certainly there is no need to slaughter WNV infected animals; they are "dead end hosts". The big push over here is to validate the WNV vaccine (which is NOT approved yet, but being used conditionally) and to remove as many breeding places for mosquitos as possible. My gut feeling is that most otherwise healthy animals will develop a natural immunity to WNV. What we don't know of course is the titer level for all species to know what constitutes a fatal infection vs. an antibody level and the affected animal died of some other fundamental cause with WNV being only a contributing factor. There is just way too much we *don't* know about WNV. However, if you have had a killing frost that should handle the mosquito population until next spring. I understand there are some species of Culex that can hibernate however. I think the zoo URL listed above will have good information but have not had a chance to read it all yet..."

    Oct 29 ~ "Soon the occasional factory farm will become a tourist attraction, like concentration camps...."

    Hilary's diary. "It is very noticable now that intensive units say PRIVATE, KEEP OUT, with barbed wire, while small farmers mostly welcome the public and are keen to talk about their ideas and products. They are also prepared to talk about animal welfare - and this is the greatest change of all."

    Oct 28 ~ Wanted: more smallpox vaccine - after secrecy fiasco

    The Guardian today reports: "The government has advertised for more smallpox vaccine supplies, in the hope that it could vaccinate the whole population if terrorists launched a biological attack.
    It is believed ministers will have to nearly double stocks to have enough vaccine to protect all Britons if a large-scale attack were attempted.
    They are being more open about their strategy after the political uproar that followed their secret decision to award Powderject Pharmaceuticals a £32m contract for stocks to protect 20m people last April."

    Oct 28 ~"Do we know any committed Cumbrians able to take up the challenge and actually deliver the goods?"

    A Cumbrian emailer writes, " Rather fancy ad in our local paper with the vacancies for the new Cumbria Rural Regeneration Company who will manage the £56m funding programme.
      Chairperson (5 yr term)
      Ambassador for this ambitious regeneration programme. Guides the Board and provides wise counsel to the Chief Executive. Diplomatic skills and commercial acumen needed. Needs energy, enthusiasm and sheer drive to realise the potential of rural Cumbria. (Unpaid, it seems.)
      Non-Executive Directors (5 yr term)
      Individuals with strong commercial backgrounds plus deep knowledge and experience in one of the following key areas: rural business, agriculture, recreation and tourism, countryside and environment or skills development and social inclusion. May also come from the voluntary sector and have strong community links. With obvious drive and enthusiasm, must be wholeheartedly committed to serving the region in a voluntary capacity. Expenses only appointments.
      Chief Executive (c. £65k)
      Needs to already be a successful and proven leader with entrepreneurial flair. Liaising and gaining support at European, national, regional and local levels an essential component. 5 year contract with completion bonus at end of the term.
      Head of Programmes (c. £40k)
      Delivers the vision for rural regeneration in Cumbria over the next 5 years, liaising with all the stakeholders and motivating the team. Needs in-depth knowledge of rural policy frameworks and funding programmes.
    Didn't see anything in the ad that mentioned living in, having close ties with or even having ever visited Cumbria as being an advantage to the post. Anyone who hasn't a clue about Cumbrian people or their unique way of life is in for a very big shock.
    Penna Consulting of Manchester are handling this Executive Search www.e-penna.com
    Do we know any committed Cumbrians able to take up the challenge and actually deliver the goods?"

    Oct 28 ~ Fever outbreak kept quiet to avoid panic

    A report in the Guardian on Saturday about how the outbreak of Q fever in a cardboard factory in Newport was hushed up to "avoid panic"
    Big Brother is certainly watching over our interests.

    Oct 25 ~" After all, we still don't know how foot-and-mouth started."

    An article in the Newcastle Journal tells us that "Farmers lose £1 for each hectare of land "- " farmers are currently earning nothing from growing crops or milking cows....." and concludes with this timely reminder:
    "...In the short term, the consumer may benefit from cheaper prices, but it's important to look at the other impacts such as unemployment and the effect food imports will have on our biosecurity.

    Oct 25 ~ What "events" of July 2000 was Dr Iain Anderson referring to?

    Extract from Efra report "....you do report that the Chief Veterinary Officer was aware of the lack of progress on contingency planning. I think the Drummond Report had reached his level within the organisation. Do you feel that greater urgency should have been shown by him and his team in responding to that?
    (Dr Anderson) Yes, I do. I think this Report is a very important statement in the context of the history of the epidemic. It was provoked as early as 1998 when discussions within the State Veterinary Service raised concerns of potential weaknesses. It was published in February 1999 and was reviewed at intervals all the way through until July 2000 without any substantial progress being made but always with calls for the need for that progress to be made. Then in July 2000 as you know it was overtaken by events. I think that is unfortunate. ...." See Chris Stockdale's email about what "events" Dr Anderson might have meant. Any other suggestions?

    Oct 25 ~ " Many farmers who sell to supermarkets are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their contracts with the retailers"

    FWi yesterday reminds us that the British Food Fortnight starts on Saturday (26 October). " Restaurants, pubs and hotels are also being asked to help breathe life back into rural communities by serving regional food....A new organisation, Grassroots Action on Food and Farming, was recently set up to fight for a better deal for farmers and consumers. Spokeswoman Kathryn Tulip said: "Britain's food sector is controlled by five big retailers which have a great deal of control over the prices paid to farmers. "But the public don't realise the big impact that shopping at supermarkets has on small family farmers who are struggling to survive." Apple growers are particularly hard hit by supermarket buyers who demand perfect fruit in pristine condition. Supermarkets claim they are keen to support British apples and pears. But the reality is that many growers are going out of business..."

    Oct 24 ~ Mystery document appears on EU Council register

    See http://www.statewatch.org/news/2002/oct/04mystery.htm A new entry on the public register of documents of the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) is a complete mystery. The document (ref: 9940/02) was written on Tuesday 15 October and archived on the public register on Wednesday 16 October and appears to be accessible for downloading but the contents of the document reads as follows:
      CLASSIFIED Document
      Subject : Classified document archived in AIS
      This is a classified document archived in AIS.
    Given the classification level, only the references (see notice) are available, not the content."
    "AIS" stands for automated information system.
    The only clue as to its actual contents is that it covers four subject areas of EU activity:

    AUDIO - Audiovisual
    AELE - European Free Trade Association
    JAI - Justice and Home Affairs
    WTO - World Trade Organisation
    There is no indication as to the level of classifications eg: "Restricted", the lowest level or "Top Secret", the highest. Ideas on what might link the four areas above should be sent to: office@statewatch.org

    Oct 23 ~Researchers use sperm to put human genes into pigs to build transplant herd

    Oh Brave New World ......that has such horrors in it...
    We are reminded of William Blake's Auguries of Innocence in which the deliberate cruelty and supression of kindness in Man "puts all heaven in a rage."
    " Italian researchers have created a strain of pig that carries human genes in their hearts, livers and kidneys. It could be a step toward pigs that grow tissue which could be transplanted into people.
    Researchers mixed swine sperm with the D-N-A of a human gene. They then used the modified sperm to fertilize pig eggs. The eggs were implanted into sows to produce litters of pigs that carried the human gene. The human gene then created protein ordinarily found in people.
    However, the organs are not ready for transplants into humans. A researcher says the animals' pig genes would cause any organs to be rejected.
    The study is in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." Copyright 2002 Associated Press.

    Oct 23 ~ Does money for Cumbria mean, in reality, jobs for the boys?

    42 MILLION FOR RURAL CUMBRIA proclaimed the Cumbrian News and Star yesterday. "CUMBRIA has been handed a £42million rural lifeline in the biggest grant of its kind ever made in the UK, it was announced today...." and this, we'd like to assume, is good news - but before we cheer ourselves hoarse ...
    It will be "paid out over the next five years."
    It will support farming, tourism and rural enterprise projects to help get Cumbria's rural economy fighting fit for the 21st century.
    It will finance "Cumbria's pioneering Rural Action Zone (RAZ) - - a masterplan taking in all parts of the countryside economy.... "Any community scheme which supports RAZ's goals will have a chance of getting some of the money." .....
    There will be "a massive online database of hotels and attractions, letting tourists visit virtual Cumbria and book tickets through the internet;"
    "Tourist chiefs plan to use the RAZ to create five new attractions".
    The money will also support radical changes in farming over the next decade. .... to encourage environmentally-friendly practices rather than subsidising over-production. Most of that money will come direct from Europe and not from the cash announced yesterday.
    Rex Toft is rejoicing... "While the rural economy is already benefiting from RAZ through initiatives already underway, this new funding, which will be spread over a five year period, will have a tremendous impact on the worst-affected areas...."
    We hope so. Are we turning into incorrigible cynics to feel our hearts lurch at the words "Projects", "Agencies", "Attractions", "Private Sector Companies" and the dread phrase "administer the money"

    Oct 23 ~ Jonathan Miller has publicly declared his refusal to buy a licence, and invited the BBC to take him to court.

    writes Stephen Robinson in today's Telegraph under the headline "The BBC's licence fee is a poll tax - pull the plug"
    ".... His defence is ingenious, and could conceivably render the debate about the extension of the licence fee beyond its current renewal date of 2006 redundant.
    Mr Miller has scoured the Human Rights Act of 1998 and, in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, found a clause that might well force a fundamental change in the BBC's funding regime: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers."
    This would seem to be an unambiguous prohibition on governments that might seek to restrict an individual's right to receive broadcast information. And it is perfectly logical: after all, how would the Foreign Office react if Robert Mugabe, say, imposed a tax on Zimbabweans tuning in to the BBC World Service? We might think that a rather bad thing.
    The BBC has hired a leading silk, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, for advice on the case, but Mr Miller says that, after taking legal advice, he has reason to be confident he will prevail. The BBC is right to be concerned, for already there is insurrectionary talk on the internet about a boycott of the licence fee, and leaflets are circulating around housing estates advising people how to stand up to the inspectors...."

    Oct 21 ~ "Government of the people, by the people, for the people" has given way to government by the party for the benefit of it and its ideology.

    Democratic reform Times letter today from Lieutenant-Colonel G. Jarratt (retd)
    Sir, Charles Scanlan's view (letter, October 16) that reform should begin in the House of Lords only tinkers with the problem that our political and electoral system is corrupt. "Government of the people, by the people, for the people" has given way to government by the party for the benefit of it and its ideology. Politicians no longer consider themselves elected to represent; staying in power is the be-all and end-all of their policies. Government by representative democracy has given way to government by pressure group.
    The Swiss enjoy true democracy. Under their Constitution they have the right of referendum, which may be triggered by 50,000 signatures to a petition. Additionally, all government-proposed constitutional change is subject to referendum.
    Such an extension of democratic rights (which can be extended down to local government level) will be resisted by most of our political class; therefore, the move towards public funding of political parties (report, October 15) must be resisted. Men and women of vision and courage will then have the opportunity to form a new party based on the Swiss Constitution with its truly representative democracy.
    Yours faithfully, GERALD JARRATT,

    Oct 21 ~ Ireland votes Yes

    The BBC report: "...62.89% of voters have backed the Nice Treaty, which they had rejected in a similar vote last year. ....The No camp, which includes Greens, Socialists and Sinn Fein nationalists, said the treaty would give Brussels too much control over Irish affairs.
    They said Mr Ahern was acting undemocratically by seeking to reverse results he did not like with a fresh referendum, but his supporters argued that the very low turnout of the first vote meant it could not be interpreted as a clear expression of the people's will.
    The number of people voting against the treaty remained constant from the last poll, but the increased turnout appears to have boosted the number of voters casting their ballot in favour of enlargement. ..."

    Oct 21 ~ If we didn't have al-Qaeda, we would have to invent it

    Matthew Parris in the Times on friday was particularly good, as usual, on the language used in the media to create "...the illusions of novelty, causality, and conspiracy. To imply novelty (and fan alarm) the news is made new by means of key words. Watch out for "yesterday", "last night", "just", "emerged" and "today". To imply between events a causal link we employ "in the wake of", "after", "following", "on the eve of", "in the run-up to". Pinned down, we can protest that we asserted no more than a temporal sequence.
    And to imply conspiracy, we insinuate pattern and significance on to events and people. Watch for "a spate of", "linked to" (by whom? The speaker?), "known associate" and "hallmark" -- and for weasel-words like "apologist", "sympathiser", "ally", "friend" or "supporter". The word "network" itself is a prime example. So is "Terror" with a capital T: note how speedily the Israeli Government latched on to President Bush's use of this word, in order to conflate its own security problems with America's. Count the carefully fudged terms such as "ringleader", "leading member", "right-hand man", "feared", "trusted", "key player", "vital evidence", "missing piece in the jigsaw", "breakthrough". ...read article

    Oct 21 ~ "The RSPCA is a professional organisation run by amateurs. The more you work for it, the more you feel animal welfare isn't the main issue."

    This is the view of the front line workers in the RSPCA and we couldn't agree more heartily with them. The RSPCA is one of Britain's richest charities but according to the Telegraph on Saturday, the charity's 180 animal collection officers (ACOs) are furious that their service is to be cut back, leading to an effective pay cut and what many believe could be a phasing out of the service.
    "The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is facing industrial action for the first time in its history as a result of cuts agreed at a meeting last month.
    Amicus, the union that represents the majority of RSPCA employees, is in talks with the management to head off a confrontation, but front-line workers are said to be "champing at the bit" for action...."
    We have always felt extremely sorry for the real RSPCA, the hard-working officers who try to prevent suffering. But as for the ever more politicised heirarchy....How much did those plush new offices in Horsham cost? 18 million?
    Today, the Sunday Telegraph comments, "Campaigns, including the drive against hunting, cost the charity £4,415,000 last year. Freedom Food cost £1,632,000 in direct grant aid, even though trustees have been repeatedly assured that it would be self-funding.
    A council member said: "The problem is that the society has never had to worry about making money so hasn't had to worry about economising.
    "Last year the AGM was in Newport and all the staff and council members stayed in the Hilton Hotel. ......"

    Oct 21 ~" Everything puzzles our scientists, except inventing stories that will secure government funding...."

    is the conclusion of one emailer, who sends this story from the Guardian
    BSE risk may extend to tongue
    Tongue may be the next meat dish to be removed from supermarkets and butcher shops after the discovery that the tonsils of cattle can be infected with BSE. Scientific advisers are considering if consumers are at risk from tonsil tissue accidentally splashed on to the cow's tongue during the dismemberment of the carcass.
    Tongue has never been banned despite the knowledge that tonsil tissue, which is banned, can stick to the root of the tongue. Once a popular delicacy, its sale is now rare
    ...7 Two more cattle have been diagnosed with BSE, born after feed controls in August 1996 were meant to put a stop to the disease. Twenty-four such cases have now been identified since June of last year, a phenomenon puzzling scientists who suggest cross-contamination might have occurred in ships and lorries used in international trade......"

    Oct 18 ~"... there will be no champagne in the corporate boardrooms to celebrate EU directive 2000/18,

    which became law yesterday after 18 months' delay. The EU has not allowed any new GM food or crops to be licensed since 1998, and the reality is that it will take at least another year before Monsanto, Aventis, DuPont and other companies get approval for their crops, and far longer than that before they are planted on a wide scale.
    Despite the directive coming into force, Europe this week is as confused and divided as ever about GM foods. After years of squabbling, wrangling and disagreements, new proposals have been drawn up by the commission's Danish presidency. They have come in two parts - food and animal feed, and labelling and "traceability" - with the idea that together these will provide better safety testing and consumer choice. With these planks in place, the commission has thought, the way would be clear for the crops to be authorised. ...." See John Vidal's article in the Guardian

    Oct 18 ~ Laws don't change public opinion: it is the other way round

    On the question of animal welfare and the apparent lack of interest in the majority of people, Hilary says, " I think there is another reason for people's silence. They can't bear to face the suffering.
    I do really think the vast majority would prefer their meat to have had a happy life, prefer not to inflict suffering, prefer not to hear about it.
    Then along come the greedy few who do put profit before kindness and the very small minority who enjoy suffering, and they play on this fear of suffering that most of us have.
    The trouble with protest is that it evokes a backlash. You just get a situation where people are screaming at each other from opposite sides of the fence.
    What I am trying to do (and I know it's pretty pathetic) is to bring about a change in public opinion. (It's not impossible. Look at drink driving. Look at recycling)
    If everyone thought the quality of farm animals' lives was more important than cheap food, if the first question they asked was "was it free range?" or "how far did it have to travel to be killed?" things would change.
    Laws don't change public opinion. It's the other way round."
    We couldn't agree more and thoroughly applaud Hilary's stance.

    Oct 18 ~No agreement on GM labelling.

    Any Member State wanting to start a new commercial approval process, would have to do so under the new Deliberate Release Directive (which came into force yesterday). This would take 10 to 14 months. Friends of the Earth called on Members States to introduce strict labelling and traceability rule during this period. Friends of the Earth Europe GMO campaigner Geert Retsima said: "The fact that Ministers did not reach agreement on a tighter labelling regime today means consumers will have to wait longer before they have a genuine chance to avoid GM in their food. We urge Ministers to agree strict GM labelling rules as soon as possible. That will effectively establish a new moratorium because 70% of consumers have expressed a desire to avoid GM in their diet. Even with tough labelling rules, major problems such as liability, seed purity and the coexistence of GM and non GM crops need to be resolved before the moratorium is lifted".

    Oct 17 ~ crucial decisions about the labelling and trace-ability of GM foods will be made today in the European Council of Ministers environment meeting

    See letter in the Times"...The Government is committed to holding a public debate on GM crops in the new year. If it is serious about taking the results of this debate into account, it should make no further policy decisions until it is over."
    See also Friends of the Earth press release: "...The UK Government will be the only EU country to oppose European Commission proposals to ensure that food containing GM-derived ingredients is properly labelled when European Environment Ministers discuss the issue in Luxembourg tomorrow (Thursday 17). The position is revealed in limited circulation documents obtained by Friends of the Earth. The UK is also pushing to lift a four year European moratorium on the licensing of new GM food and crops. Friends of the Earth says that their position shows that once again the UK is supporting the interests of the biotech industry over those of consumers and the environment...."

    Oct 16 ~ "Haigneré said in advance of this week's EU meeting that she favours open-air and greenhouse research into GM crops and an end to secrecy,

    'We can't go on hiding behind defensive and wait-and-see principles,' she said. 'Research must be carried out openly. If we don't experiment we will never be able to debate this question calmly, and we might be deprived of the advantages this science can offer'....." From the Observer article, Master chefs feed GM foods rebellion

    Oct 16 ~" It's time we decided whether we want a farming industry in this country,

    or whether we want to simply turn the place into a big ragwort farm and rely instead on a long and vulnerable system of international transport to provide us with ever more processed food....." comment from Andrew Byron in the Sentinel article, "Animals were sacrificed on the altar of New Labour's image"

    Oct 15 ~"There are many of us who have come to see that the only way forward now is a global democratic revolution, which war and a mismanaged US economy could hasten.

    But none of us are deluded enough to imagine that it will be easy" Guardian by George Monbiot. ".... last week the government revealed that it was proposing to rule out forever the renationalisation of the railways. If you missed this, you're in good company: so, it seems, did every journalist, campaigner and parliamentarian in the country. The information is contained on page 52 of a document published last week by the Department of Trade and Industry, called "Liberalising Trade in Services: a new consultation on the World Trade Organisation's GATS negotiations". It's riveting reading for anoraks like me, but it's not very likely to knock Nigella off the bestseller list. ..."
    ""Binding the existing regime" means that the way the railways are run cannot be changed without the payment of special compensation to any foreign companies running franchises, unless the government invokes, in advance, a safeguard clause, which no government has ever used. "Fully binding" suggests both that this exemption is not an option and that, once we've accepted the "request", we'll be stuck with the current model - whether the trains run on time or the entire network collapses, - forever...." (article)

    Oct 15 ~ US shifts tactics in GMO clash with EU

    See FT
    The clash between the US and the European Union over the safety of genetically-modified foods was supposed to come to a head this week. The US had long warned that it would launch a World Trade Organisation challenge if the EU did not lift its four-year-old de facto moratorium on approving GM corn and other crops already deemed safe by the EU's top scientists.
    The result would be a titanic trade struggle pitting the US, its farmers and biotech companies against the EU, wary consumers and host of environmental lobby groups out to rid the world of what they deem as "Frankenstein foods".
    But though new rules come into force this Thursday which the European Commission hopes will help to restart the approvals process, some EU member states are still refusing to lift the ban. And, surprisingly, the US is unlikely to do anything about it. ....
    ....According to Lorenzo Consoli of Greenpeace, which has spearheaded the anti-GMO campaign in Europe: "The market is locked to GM [foods] not because of the moratorium but because people reject them."

    Oct 14 ~ Since January, well over 12,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Britain - including more than 100 in Scotland - compared with fewer than 5,000 two years ago.

    Today's Scotsman "The finger has been pointed at badgers as the main vectors for the disease, which is one of the reasons for the £34 million government-sponsored five-year study - mainly in the "hot spot" areas of the English west country and launched in 1998 - to establish a connection. ..... But there are some who still dispute this and have rallied round the 1973 Badger Protection Act. Edinburgh-based badger follower Tricia Alderson points out that, at least until recently, Scottish cattle have remained remarkably TB-free, in spite of badgers being well spread across Britain. "Badgers are a common wild animal in Scotland, except in the more acidic soil areas of the north west. They thrive in areas were there is an abundant supply of earthworms," she said . "We haven't had TB in Scotland until fairly recently, which suggests that imports of infected cattle from England are the major source."

    Oct 14 ~ "grandmother's footsteps towards a politically united Europe".

    "All small steps, all hoping that nobody is going to notice where we're going, but at the end of the day creating what is ... made absolutely clear, the foundations of a politically united Europe," said Michael Ancram on the Today programme. Mr Hain still insists, "It is not about a United States of Europe". ..... See BBC report about the post of president of the united states of Europe proposed by the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
    The foreign secretary's proposal prompted Mr Ancram to suggest that the powerful position might be in the sights of Tony Blair.
    "Greater love hath no foreign secretary that he proposes a retirement job for his prime minister," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme

    Oct 14 ~ "Every farmer I met was unhappy with GM crops.

    They all said they were using more than one spray of roundup to control weeds, some up to three passes. And even then it was not fully successful. Most of them claimed that they had weeds that were roundup resistant but what they didn't know was if it was natural or by transfer from the crop of roundup ready genes.
    I saw plenty of examples where it had not worked and where roundup ready soybean was a weed in roundup ready maize. All the farmers claimed they used more chemical than before, some are now mixing Atrazine with roundup for spraying maize to get weed control, which defeats the point of GM crops.
    So it would appear that after several years of growing GM crops the claim for using less chemicals as a reason for using them is proving untrue......So far no one to my knowledge has yet successfully defended themselves against having genes in their crop from contamination and with huge legal costs to do so, few will fight anyway. Which means these farmers are trapped in a system in which they see no way out but to remain growing GM.
    The farmers are in the power of the biotech companies and have no way out of their grip. If we commercialise GM crops here and use them, we will also be trapped in their very powerful grip." See more of Michael Hart's article GM crop madness in the USA in the October edition of "South West Farmer"

    Oct 13 ~"Senior police officers are now allowed to access mobile telephone and email records

    without judicial or executive assent. Within two years, all mobile phones are expected to have satellite-locating devices built into them."See the Observer's report on the Government's secret Celldar project and wonder again at George Orwell's accuracy.

    Oct 13 ~ "another case of the Government kowtowing to George Bush, jeopardising the interests of its own people to please its master across the Atlantic" Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth

    As a rightly incensed emailer puts it, "So much for consultation"
    See article in the Independent "British ministers will press this week for a Europe-wide go-ahead on new GM crops and foods. At two crucial meetings of EU ministers, they will push for an immediate end to a ban on approving new GM products, which has been in operation for the past four years...."
    When will there be awareness that the population is being quietly deprived of all means of independent food production? Is there sinister method behind the apparent madness we are seeing in the strangling of agriculture? He who controls the food controls the people is a truism that is even more true these days. We are witnessing an accelerating centralisation, faceless and unaccountable, of everything we used to control ourselves.
    SIGN the FOE petition by 14th October - extract:..."I am concerned about a proposed European Commission Directive that would allow for the contamination of non-genetically modified seeds with genetically modified organisms (GMO) up to a level of 0.3 to 0.7 percent. I want to be sure that the products I buy, which are not labelled as GM, do not contain GMOs either. This would no longer be guaranteed if non-GM crops growing in fields were to be contaminated by GM varieties at a level of 30 to 70 square meters per hectare without farmers even knowing about it..."

    Oct 12 ~ Those of us who dislike hunting

    - but abhor the way hunting has been criminalised are particularly concerned by this paragraph in The Times on October 1
    Extract: "The incident has raised suspicions among rural campaigners that the police are under political pressure to snuff out any demonstration outside the Winter Gardens that might prove embarrassing for Tony Blair." Police round up pro-hunt protesters By Russell Jenkins "FIVE hunt activists, including a retired bank manager, a middle-aged businessman and a master of beagles, accused the police yesterday of using heavy-handed tactics to thwart a planned pro-hunting demonstration outside the Labour Party conference...." more

    Oct 12 ~ "Mr Putin has used the word "propaganda" to describe Mr Blair's dossier

    - an insult that has hitherto been meted out by his underlings - but No10 was understandably reluctant to make that point.
    If Mr Putin was heading anywhere yesterday, it was towards the French position. "It's not just Russia that has economic interests in Iraq, but other European countries too," he said. By other European countries, he meant France - with its oil firms also keen to enter Iraq.
    France is prepared for a fresh UN resolution - but proposes two separate measures, one to install the weapons inspectors and a second for military action if they are stymied by Iraq. Russia, like France, fears that the Americans will have free reign over Middle East oil fields.
    The Kremlin made clear yesterday Russia would never back the threat of automatic US-led military action.
    When Mr Blair's chartered British Airways plane arrived at Heathrow at 7 last night, it was not the glorious return he had been hoping for. ...See The Scotsman today

    Oct 10 ~ Mr Blair gags press from reporting MI6's £100,000 deal with Bin Laden

    See democracy watch David Shayler has evidence to prove MI6 gave £100,000 to bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, arms to Iraq and had prior knowledge of several terrorist attacks on London in the 1990's. ...

    Oct 9 ~ Anger over order to slaughter badgers

    Robert Uhlig writes today in the Telegraph "...Elliot Morley, has taken the unprecedented step of licensing the slaughter of a family of badgers to maintain the value of private property after some invaded the gardens of four suburban homes in East Sussex.
    The first issue of a licence for badger extermination since Labour came to power has angered animal rights campaigners and farmers, who are usually in fierce opposition over the issue of badger culling. ... The National Federation of Badger Groups said Mr Morley's issue of a slaughter licence had set a "deadly precedent". Dr Elaine King, chief executive of the NFBG, said: "It is the first time that a minister has licensed the extermination of a large badger family apparently in order to increase the value of private property and to prevent seemingly minor damage. "It is entirely against the spirit of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992." Farmers were similarly enraged, not because the slaughter had been licensed to protect private property, but because they have been campaigning for years for selective culling to stem the spread of bovine tuberculosis. The badgers licensed for extermination in East Sussex have established a new sett in a residential street in Saltdean after their existing home was bulldozed to make way for a block of flats."

    Oct 9 ~ Big Brother and chips with everything. Feeling secure?

    Sue Sampson, to whom we are very grateful indeed for her vigilance and help, sends this link "From Popular Science. Coming to a country near you? First Smartcards for children; now "Verichips"...."
    Putting a computer chip under your skin makes for better medicine, says America's first family of ID implantation.
    On May 10, the Jacobs family of Boca Raton, Florida, became America's first digital guinea pigs: Each got a rice-size ID called a VeriChip implanted in their arm. Why? We recently caught up with the family to find out.
    Popular Science: How'd you become interested in the VeriChip?
    Derek Jacobs: I've been in the emergency room with my dad when he's in too much pain to answer questions. The chip stores his entire medical history.
    PS: What was the procedure like?
    Leslie Jacobs: It's just like getting a shot. It takes seconds. .......
    PS: Where can you get scanned?
    LJ: Nowhere yet, although 14 or 15 local hospitals are considering it. It's like the first fax machine?you have one, but no one else does, so you can't use it.
    PS: What do you think of plans to incorporate GPS?
    JJ: Daniel Pearl would have certainly benefited, as would abducted children.
    PS: Any Big Brother worries?
    DJ: No. You decide to get the chip implanted and what details go on it.
    JJ: And it can't be stolen or lost. It's a lot more secure than a credit card.

    Oct 8 ~ "sanitised" data that is bound to be "good news".

    Today's Guardian Labour's webmasters are compared to Winston Smith, the character in George Orwell's novel 1984, who spent his time in the Ministry of Plenty rewriting history.
    No individual figure is untrue "in the strict sense of the word. It is just that the way in which the statistics have been put together - mixing and matching years and areas to present the best possible picture of improvement - is disingenuous overall."
    By typing in a postcode, visitors to Labour's site can access apparently detailed information about where they live. But some of the figures presented refer to the UK or England as a whole, some to entire regions, some to council areas, but very few to the specific area let alone the street where people live.
    Website visitors are told of increases in nurses, without being told the figures relate to NHS regions rather than individual hospitals. Literacy and numeracy improvements are stated, without the public being told they refer to entire local education authority areas - which can contain up to 20 parliamentary constituencies. Crime figures on the website are not specific to postcodes but to police force areas, some very large, or even to England and Wales as a whole.
    "According to the Labour party's figures, Britain is fast approaching some kind of social statistical utopia." The academics suggest this picture would look a lot darker if the website also included data on the impact of taxation, teacher and nurse vacancies, delayed trains and numbers of asylum seekers settled in each area.
    The paper says visitors to the party website get "sanitised" data that is bound to be "good news".

    Oct 8 ~ "Mr Bush appears to have done everything in his power to prevent Iraq from complying with the world's demands, while ensuring that military conflict becomes inevitable."

    Read George Monbiot in the Guardian today. " Our voices are as little heeded in the White House as the singing of the birds."

    Oct 6/7 ~"Since the BSE crisis, the dependance of government on scientific experts and, in particular, expert committees, has been questioned."

    (Sunday Times)" The Phillips report, which reviewed the government's handling of the crisis, found the lead committee was not kept informed or given a clearly defined role.

    Oct 6/7 ~ The Sunday Times' Jonathan Miller will not pay a BBC licence for something he does not want.

    "...My refusal to pay for the BBC because I don't want it has now been written up in The Independent. The BBC tells that newspaper that I should expect a visit by an "inquiry officer" and so I suppose I must make preparations. The BBC promises I will be treated just like anyone else. We shall see! I asked Gavyn Davies, the BBC supremo and pal of new Labour's grandest, to explain to me why the BBC needs the exclusive proceeds of a television licence if, as he claims, "almost no one" does not love the BBC.
    He has a spin doctor named Liam English, who sent a supercilious reply. "I am sure you will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for the chairman to comment on an individual licence fee payer's dispute."
    I will happily forward by e-mail (if working) to English any comments from readers disappointed by the chairman's refusal to answer any of my points."

    Oct 6/7 ~ "OIL-SEED rape grown as part of a genetically-modified (GM) crop trial in the Highlands has been harvested to be sold to British consumers

    in cooking oil, margerine and ice cream." (Times) "Experts believe there could be a risk of cross-contamination between the two crops. However, the government has refused to carry out tests because they were grown more than 50 metres apart, the distance laid down in official guidelines.
    Last month, tests commissioned by The Sunday Times found GM pollen had contaminated honey cultivated in hives almost two miles from a government trial site, raising concern that current buffer zones of 50 metres are inadequate.
    ........ food manufacturers are under no obligation to declare the presence of GM material if it forms less than 1% of the whole.
    Control crops at the two remaining farm-scale trial sites, in Aberdeenshire and Fife, will be harvested and sold next year.
    Professor David Atkinson, vice-principal of the Scottish Agricultural College, said:"This is an area of public concern and the government should take the appropriate action to meet that concern. "Yes, the tests should be done and yes, (the results) should be released. There also needs to be an agreed standard of accepted GM in non-GM products across Europe." .....The government is trying to hide behind their expert advisers -- it should stop and the advisers should no longer acquiesce." ...
    Dr Sue Mayer, director of Genewatch, said: "It's quite extraordinary they are not taking the opportunity to test the (GM see below) crop. The buffer zones are being questioned and you would have thought the smart approach would be to test it."
    Supporters of GM foods said health concerns were misplaced and not based on fact. .........
    Last week, the Medical Research Council revealed that new genes inserted into food could provoke allergic reactions and alter human DNA, switching on "silent genes" which may cause harm. It said GM foods could alter the balance of bacteria in the gut or pass on resistance to antibiotics."

    Oct 5 ~ "All presentation and no substance"

    "The Connexions scheme would not be needed if our education system had a soul at its heart, and likewise last year's slaughter. New Labour wanted the problem out of the way so its image would not be besmirched. All presentation and no substance," writes Sue Sampson to warmwell (see her comments reported in yesterday's Telegraph) and she directs us to today's Guardian article "The Age of Selfishness" by Martin Jacques
    which is about the very same thing. It sums up why we, as ordinary people who would far rather leave things to politicians and journalists, feel so driven to communicate on the internet and why we feel such a deep sense of unease in Britain today.
    Unfunded and for many hours a day, warmwell goes on crying in the wilderness - except that the internet is not quite the wilderness and we are recording several thousand hits every day.

    Oct 5 ~"Consider the brew: a vapid, vacuous political project, which has surfed the fashions of the time with little substance and few roots; a decline in politics, first widely discussed 10 years ago, but a process which has since gone very much further; and a hollowed-out, atomised popular culture, increasingly devoid of meaning. This is a recipe for dark times ahead. " Martin Jaques

    "... we are largely unaware of in our post-imperial hubris. I had left these shores with a feeling of unease. Far from sharing the widespread euphoria for New Labour, I was deeply troubled by what seemed to me to be its transparent vacuity, its devotion to hyperbole rather than substance. My disquiet about my country, though, was not confined to the Blair "project": it also had something to do with the state of the culture, with the rise of celebrity, the coarsening of tone, a loss of meaning, though I found it difficult to give expression to these thoughts. "
    "...New Labour subscribes to virtually the same lexicon of beliefs as Thatcherism. Even now, when belatedly it has accepted that the public services desperately require a huge injection of cash, it has utterly failed to make the case for the sanctity and singularity of the public realm. When I left Britain, I had a sense that somehow New Labour would end in tears. A strong part of me thought that New Labour might even implode, given the shallowness of its support and the contrived and superficial nature of its philosophy. But I completely under- estimated the scale of the crisis of the Tory party. People have nowhere else to go. But upon my return I feel no less uneasy about where my country is headed, indeed my disquiet is even greater. I make no excuses for thinking apocalyptically. Consider the brew: a vapid, vacuous political project, which has surfed the fashions of the time with little substance and few roots; a decline in politics, first widely discussed 10 years ago, but a process which has since gone very much further; and a hollowed-out, atomised popular culture, increasingly devoid of meaning. This is a recipe for dark times ahead." ( Read the whole article Best of the Press )

    Oct 5 ~ Organic farming is 'wasteful' says Prof Tony Trewavas

    - but the Farmers Weekly article about the " recent environmental conference in Scotland" fails to mention that it was addressed by those who are utterly committed to genetically modified crops. Why not? See Spin Alert.

    Oct 5 ~ " It is an ancient privacy principle that integration of data damages the integrity and rights of users"

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2295433.stm "A decision in Brussels to create a controversial ID card could radically alter the way citizens interact with government. It is almost certainly a forerunner of what will happen in Britain
    The card will have a digital certificate embedded on it which will allow Belgian citizens to communicate online with government. It is likely to be widely adopted across Europe and could have major implications for privacy. Many countries, including the UK, are considering introducing ID cards but the Belgian Government is the first in Europe to embed a digital signature in the card."
    A short while ago we would have laughed at the nightmare idea of embedded chips in citizens in order that tabs should be kept on them. The nightmare comes ever closer. When these cards are compulsory in Europe it will not take long for it to be suggested that it would be far more convenient if the "smart" chips were embedded under the skin.

    Oct 4 ~ Exeter's Love, Labour and Loss exhibition - on until January

    "...Baro Montag's video screen depicting foot and mouth viruses attacking animal cells is hardly a cheerful metaphor for our beloved countryside, but it is, alas, a real one. As for Damien Hirst's Prodigal Son (calf in formaldehyde) - well, it's shocking but I agree with Clive: "It is beautiful. The way an animal works. It's close to the way we work when you think about it. Quite beautiful." Close all right. Too close to home, perhaps. But then, that's the point of this exhibition - it is close to home. Especially for those of us lucky enough to live in, or near, the countryside." See Western Morning News today to see what Leila Winslade made of it.

    Oct 4 ~"The extent of the information being sought from young people and then made available to every conceivable government agency is horrifying".

    See Democracy Watch. A hundred million pounds has been set aside to issue smart cards to teenagers by the government. Big Brother says they are benign and beneficial. Sue Sampson suspects (as do we) that they are anything but. Sue says "With such inducements, teenagers are more likely to get a card without thinking through the implications of releasing personal data." (See Telegraph article ) "I'm very concerned about the Government's obsession with gathering personal information, and that big business will get hold of spending patterns to target young people. It is an opt-out rather than an opt-in system." The company behind the new Criminal Records Bureau , Capita, has introduced this Connexions Card - a "smart" card that carries personal data. It is being "offered" to more than two million 16- to 19-year-olds and one pound for every card issued is given to the child's school or college. More than 175,000 have already been issued and there will be a huge advertising campaign in December - and the take-up is likely to be very great since young people will notice the trendy velvet glove and not the iron fist beneath.
    This is the largest project of its type in Europe.
    Teenagers are not required by law to have the cards - but if their school or college uses the smart cards to record attandance- surely very tempting - they may be obliged to. They are encouraged to apply by the prospect of "rewards" - points for good work or attendance that can be exchanged for trainers, CDs or days out. This is the thin end of the wedge that leads to National I.D. cards and we must be grateful for the vigilance of Sue Sampson and her understanding of the way this government works. It is the data contained in the cards that is the point. It is to be passed to any government agency for any reason whatsoever. See also the Government Connexions website and the excellent watchdog site of Terri Dowty, from Action for the Rights of Children at http://www.arch-ed.org/

    Oct 4 ~"So here it is again, the same old "we've-got-be-able-to-drive through-your-land" mentality

    which forced the Serbs into war and which is clearly intended to produce the same from Saddam.
    America wants a war and here's the proof: if the United States truly wished to avoid war, it could demand "unfettered access" for inspectors without this sovereignty-busting paragraph, using it as a second resolution only if the presidential palaces of the Emperor Saddam remained off-limits...."
    Robert Fisk shows us that the Anglo-American draft for the UN is intended to give us war, rather than peace and security from weapons of mass destruction. Read the article in today's Independent.

    Oct 4 ~ Bush seeks UN Support for its "U.S does whatever it wants" plan

    Antidote to gloom induced by the Robert Fisk article above can be found at http://www.theonion.com/onion3836/bush_seeks_un_support.html
    Extract: From the Monroe Doctrine to our ignoring of the Kyoto Treaty, America has always boldly defied the powers that be. Ever since its founding, this great nation has courageously asserted its will, bravely tuning out the objections of the other nations of the world," Bush said at the speech's conclusion. "I urge you today, do not let that legacy die. Allow us to continue our long-standing tradition of getting our way."
    Global reaction to Bush's plan has been mixed, with 56 percent of Americans in support and 100 percent of non-Americans strongly opposed.

    Oct 4 ~ The Left are angry at the Prince of Wales's interest in politics not because he will one day hold the highest remaining hereditary office in the land,

    nor because he has views on fox-hunting or the voluntary sector that they prefer not to share. It is because he reminds them, and those who hear him, that he has no base motives for involving himself in political issues. He can say what he likes without having to ingratiate himself with whips, constituents or a prime minister. He has no demon of personal ambition sitting on his left shoulder to whom he has to pay obeisance. He is simply doing what many men and women in the higher reaches of society used routinely to do, which is to seek to further the best interests not of themselves -- whatever vested interests they might have had -- but of the people. For this is a political generation for whom the interests of the people come a very distant second; and the Prince is the most effective (and almost the last) spokesman they have left. " Simon Heffer in the Spectator.
    We have faith in certain members of the House of Lords for the same reasons. Although they will not be numerous enough to stop the nasty and unnecessary Animal Health Bill next week, they will try. Their motives are impeccable and we salute them.

    Oct 4 ~ the Civil Service is not remotely what it was 20 years ago.

    Simon Heffer's article is quite excellent. Its truth was underlined by the DEFRA fellow marcher on Sunday 22nd September who told us that the politicised young civil servants were just waiting for the old ones (of which he was one) to leave.
    " There is a stark difference in tone now between mandarins in their late fifties, who joined the Civil Service in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and those a generation younger who have entered in the last ten years. The former include a high proportion of classically educated ex-public-school and Oxbridge types, themselves not from the old governing class, but shrewd enough to have imbibed certain aspects of it. The latter have been deliberately recruited from very different backgrounds, to make the Civil Service more "representative". It is not that they are not as clever as their predecessors, but that many of them have a different agenda. They are often highly politicised; they lack, for that reason, all the attention to detail that the truly objective tend to bring to their work. However, to blame them for the failures of the government is absurd. Last week's debacle at the Department for Education and Skills shows that for every spavined senior public servant there is always at least one completely incompetent minister. Executive abilities are almost entirely absent from the Cabinet, which is why it relies so heavily on the Civil Service; and if the Civil Service is declining in ability and morale at the same time, largely as the result of government policy, the outcome is sure to be ghastly. "

    Oct 3 ~ "They said again and again that their farming can feed the millions and they needed no biotechnology or TNCs to help feed their populations."

    "We reaffirm that farming is not simply an economic activity. Farming is a way of life, both ethical and concrete. Food is produced in a cyclical and nurturing process of birth, growth, maturity and regeneration. This is a life-affirming process with its own inherent value.
    The Earth sustains us, and is truly our mother. Yet we bury her under a toxic layer of urban sprawl, spoil her with destructive farming practices and give her over to those who have no interest in her life giving capacities. Land should be free from transnational corporate control and placed in the hands of local farmers servicing their communities..." Read the articleabout a unique dialogue between farmers of Asia and Canada

    Oct 3 ~ Sneaking it in - Monsanto's strategy for Europe

    "The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded (with GE) that there's nothing you can do about it, you just sort of surrender."
    Don Westfall, vice- president Promar International, major US food industry consultancy
    Greenpeace writes, "the proposed seed directive is being rushed through quietly by an unelected meeting of bureaucrats from national agriculture ministries. Requests by the European Parliament to have elected MEPs involved in the decisionmaking have been ignored and the members of the seed committee are intending to hold an initial vote amongst themselves possibly as early as mid-October. Greenpeace is urging Agriculture Ministers from all EU countries to instruct their officials to not allow any detectable contamination in seeds (the accepted level of detectability is 0.1%). So far only Austria has vowed to support this lowest possible threshold - other countries need to hear that the people are watching them. "
    Please spend a few seconds of your time now by filling in your details on the Greenpeace letter to the UK agriculture minister.

    Oct 3 ~ Blair's illuminations in Blackpool

    Times letter today From Mr Alan Millard
    Sir, Eric Blair (alias George Orwell) writes in Nineteen Eighty-Four about "The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war". Tony Blair, speaking at the Labour Party conference (reports and leading article, October 2), says: " . . . the only chance of peace is a readiness for war". Are the two Blairs beginning to speak with one voice?
    Yours faithfully, ALAN MILLARD,
    Marine Parade West, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire PO13 9NH. October 2.

    Oct 2 ~ Democracy and democratic standards are not static, they are ever changing.

    "While governments and ministers may, or may not, be open and transparent democracy cannot rely on them. Rather it is sustained by lively parliaments and
    an ever vigilant and critical civil society.
    The fight for openness, freedom of information, and against secrecy in the EU is a small, but indispensable contribution to the maintenance of democratic standards" See this interesting essay by Tony Bunyan of Statewatch. (Also on our Democracy Watch page)

    Oct 2 ~"you have to understand the nature of people, the fact that they have their livelihoods, their animals which they care for, and that you cannot under any civilised society go around killing large numbers of animals to form a firebreak ..."

    The senior vet, Roger Windsor, at the Lessons Learned meeting at Lockerbie.
    One of our very few disappointments with the EU report was its acceptance that things were somehow done better in Scotland. One has only to re-read the transcript of the public meeting in Lockerbie to see how very far from the truth that is.
    Incidentally, it is ironic to read Dr Anderson's words of reassurance at that meeting..." .. your question on access to papers, I have been assured that any papers that are pertinent to the scope of our work in foot and mouth disease terms will be available to us and I can report to you that so far all requests that we have made in that regard have been fully met..."
    So why did Dr Anderson not have access to records of the discussions which led to the bizarre policy of the 3 kilometre cull? And why have commentators not demanded to know why? The Eu draft report is very useful - but there are still so many unanswered questions of national importance.

    Oct 1/2 ~ "Foot and Mouth, the Global Disease" -

    this briefing paper (new window) from Farmers' World Network (see left frame) "represents two perspectives on FMD. John Lampitt FWn Chairman and a farmer from Warwickshire questions what the future holds for farming in the UK after the disease, while Martin Steel, the Development Education Co-ordinator for VETAID reflects on how the disease is managed in developing countries."
    Written in March 2001 it has great relevance today, especially in the light of the Draft document from the EU Temporary Committee.

    Oct 1 ~".. some of the absurd rules and regulations that the WTO pertains to

    - in this case the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPA) The agreement is really about countries using "unproven" health risks to embargo livestock/plant products entering countries. Or, to put it another way, protecting farmers from cheaper imports.
    Remember USA/EU debacle on beef? Well, it's along those lines - except it looks at a Costa Rican farm that recyles pig slurry to feed the undigested food particles to beef animals. The page can be found at www.fwn.org.uk/briefing_papers.htm then the "Cattle, Costa Rica and WTO" button.

    Oct 1 ~ "Some observers of the charity sector are sceptical about the way the RSPCA has invested its money of late."

    says today's Independent "A new £16m headquarters in Horsham, Sussex, has been almost as contentious as the decision to spend £40,000 pursuing an inquiry last year into the activities of David Mawson, a vegetarian chef and member of its council. The cost of the failed attempt to suspend him from the council is reported to have included £3,560 to track his e-mails"
    We are reminded of the groans which greeted the chubby RSPCA balloon at Trafalgar Square on Sept 22. They were indicative of the cynicism, felt by thousands of hunting and non-hunting marchers alike, of the charity's increasing political and financial adventuring. "Where were you when millions of animals were being terrified and inexpertly slaughtered?" Not one case was brought to court. Can the RSPCA be surprised that donations have stopped when so much money, given in good faith, was spent on luxury offices and a vindictive inquiry? Those of us who used to donate willingly to the RSPCA would now not dream of doing so. Even though we still have faith in the hands-on officers and feel very sorry for them today, how can we know that donated money would be used to help relieve distressed animals? As with governments, so with charities. Centralisation and big budgets leads to corruption and a callous disregard for first principles.

    Oct 1 ~ "...director of the Consumers' Association, accused Tony Blair of trying to push the British into accepting GM food.

    She criticised comments by Mr Blair in a speech to the Royal Society in May when he said that opposition to GM was "irrational and based on emotion" Article in today's Times by Valerie Elliott.

    Oct 1 ~ . If we give up the civil liberties on which our society was founded, then what are we fighting for?

    If we trade in our brains for the spin of the oil-company-controlled White House, we're in trouble. .." Who Am I to Question the Commander-in-Chief? by Charles Sheehan-Miles , a decorated Gulf War combat veteran. He is a former President of the National Gulf War Resource Center. He can be contacted at http://www.sheehanmiles.com. The Veterans for Common Sense statement can be read at http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org

    Sept 30 ~ "....a funny thing happened on the way to the battlefield"

    ZNet Commentary on Iraq
    Collective Security Is Working September 29, 2002 By Jeremy Brecher
    "..........For months people around the world have been expressing their outrage. Overwhelming majorities in almost every country except Britain and Israel opposed US plans. Politicians and national elites, while loathe to court the wrath of their patrons and protectors in Washington, have been even more terrified of the forces likely to be unleashed by the Bush Administration's irrational obsession. ..."

    Sept 30 ~ DARTT is " totally committed to stopping the current tyranny from Brussels, destroying it and restoring the sovereignty and independence of this proud nation."

    " Join the first national direct-action group co-ordinating large-scale, lawful resistance and obstruction to the European Union in the UK," writes Neil Herron..... DARTT will use no violence, and cause no damage to people or property. We guarantee never to ask you to do anything unlawful. There will be no party politics, and no recruitment or campaigning for any political parties. Every activist will be acting as a private individual. ..... We are totally committed to stopping the current tyranny from Brussels, destroying it and restoring the sovereignty and independence of this proud nation. We can no longer rely on our government or our members of parliament. They have failed us and lied to us for over 30 years.

    Sept 30 ~ the test of centralisation and also alien invasion

    ".... After nine years in 1865, the forest act came to existence, India's republics were facing the test of centralisation and also alien invasion. It formalised government control over forest and everything inside it thus making villages' access to resources a mercy at the hand of the Empire. Next came the government-created village level institutions to replace the traditional ones. ..."
    History repeating itself. "By coincidence the following article arrived this morning from AgBioindia, giving more background information on Village Republics and some inspiring stories of those that have stood up and are, so far, winning. Now they are under threat again. For "British Empire" read World Trade Organisation." writes Sue having just read the article by Michael Hart, below.

    Sept 30 ~ it means people will have to leave the land.

    Michael Hart, chairman of the Small and Family Farms Alliance, has been to India to meet family farmers. What he has discovered makes chilling reading. Extract:".....To then discover that the UK government through DFID is supporting this Vision 2020 along with other aid agencies I found even more disturbing. This plan is likely to put as many as 20 million farmers off the land in the name of so called efficiency as farm size is increased and mechanisation takes place.
    What they are to do with 20 million ex farmers is not addressed at all other than in vague terms like employment in the service sector.
    There is also mention of training, diversification and adding value to produce as part of the Vision 2020 plan.
    Now anyone who is familiar with the UK government's plan for agriculture will have read much the same plan for farming in the UK. Increase farm size giving economies of scale and so called more efficient farms, produce competing on the world market due to the WTO opening up free trade in food and agriculture by removing barriers that protect each country's food production and therefore their food security.
    In this UK plan we also have training for farmers, diversification and adding value and just like in Andhra Pradesh, it means people will have to leave the land.


    See Alistair McConnachie's (of sovereignty.org) article here.
    Let's have a Fair Trade Mark (or "Marque") on products here in Britain so consumers can be assured that the food producers in this country are getting a fair price for their product. Presently "marques" such as the Red Tractor do not so assure the consumer. Even "Produce of the UK" on the label does not necessarily mean that it is UK farm produce, only that it has been packaged in the UK. A Fair Trade Mark - a "FairTradeUK" marque - could be conferred by A Regulatory Body which could control the spread of income so that the farmer, the farmers' co-op, the processor, the supermarket and the consumer are all getting a fair deal. In addition, let's have Legislation to Restrict the Market Power of the Major Food Retailers. For example: a) supermarket regulation on targets for stocking local and British food, b) tax penalties on the stocking of produce from overseas when the same produce is available at home, c) tax incentives to stock locally produced food. And let's ensure that supermarkets are forced by law to draw up A Fair Trade Charter for Local Produce which will commit supermarkets to demonstrate their commitment to the local community. It's time for Fair Trade UK.

    Sept 26 ~ The Government is trying to CULL the most efficient dairy farmers in the EU

    ".. the UK has the most efficient, cost effective dairy farming in the EU. But we are being forced out of business because milk from the EU14 (200,000 herds) comes into the UK cheaper than we can produce it on our "super efficient" UK farms. The reason they can do this is simply because the EU14 are more subsidised than the UK. Their Governments pay discretionary subsidies and match funded subsidies over and above those that are available to the UK farmer. This unfair trade is set to destroy UK farming in the same way EU export subsidies are destroying agriculture in the Third World.
    Meanwhile we have an inept UK Government, with no understanding whatsoever, telling UK producers to go do something else if they can't compete in a Single Market. The Government is trying to CULL the most efficient dairy farmers in the EU...."see David's explanation

    Sept 26 ~ 'We are being occupied by the seed multinationals that have patented life and are forcing us to pay tribute to them,'

    says Rulli. 'The more we produce the poorer we become.' See article from the Ecologist "...To prevent widescale rioting the government is providing the most needy with free food baskets. One might have thought that it would have purchased the food being given out from Argentina's hard-pressed small farmers. Not a chance. It is importing cheap food from abroad, and - the final humiliation - encouraging impoverished families brought up on beef steaks to eat the very RR soya which is doing so much damage to their country."

    Sept 26 ~" In 2001, the White House made a solemn promise to Africa: 'a new partnership to alleviate poverty.'

    However, the new partnership has turned out to be with American agribusiness, whose 'poverty' is being addressed with some serious corporate welfare," said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First and author of the report. "The farm bill bankrolls the nation's largest farmers, helping them grow surplus crops to dump on the world market. The new farm bill pulls a reverse Robin Hood: robbing the world's poor to enrich American industrial agriculture."
    To read the report go to this link

    Sept 25 ~ What is going on? asks Simon Jenkins

    This is not a dossier but an act of desperation "Times"We still wander in a daze. Democracies rarely stay up all night seeking reasons to go to war. Normally they do the opposite. They talk, negotiate, compromise, take refuge in the United Nations. They do not like fighting, unless driven by an overwhelming logic of events.
    Yesterday's government dossier on Iraq reads like a desperate quest for such a logic. Ministers cannot be quaking with fear at the prospect of an imminent assault from President Saddam Hussein. A year ago they claimed that their bombing was "containing" him, stopping him from harming even his own people, let alone his neighbours or British interests. Of course he seeks nasty weapons. Paranoid dictators always do. But nothing in the dossier constitutes evidence of an early threat, let alone a casus belli between Britain and Iraq. What is going on?

    Sept 25 ~ The Iraq "Dossier"

    anyone reading the weasel words of doubt that are insinuated throughout this text can only have profound concern about the basis for which Britain is to go to war. The Iraqi weapon programme "is almost certainly" seeking to enrich uranium. It "appears" that Iraq is attempting to acquire a magnet production line. There is evidence that Iraq has tried to acquire specialised aluminium tubes (used in the enrichment of uranium) but "there is no definitive intelligence" that it is destined for a nuclear programme. "If" Iraq obtained fissile material, Iraq could produce nuclear weapons in one or two years. It is "difficult to judge" whether al-Hussein missiles could be available for use. Efforts to regenerate the Iraqi missile programme "probably" began in 1995. And so the "dossier" goes on.... .....
    Tony Blair's "dossier" on Iraq is a shocking document. Reading it can only fill a decent human being with shame and outrage. Its pages are final proof -- if the contents are true -- that a massive crime against humanity has been committed in Iraq. For if the details of Saddam's building of weapons of mass destruction are correct - and I will come to the "ifs" and "buts" and "coulds" later - it means that our massive, obstructive, brutal policy of UN sanctions has totally failed. In other words, half a million Iraqi children were killed by us -- for nothing...." Read Robert Fisk in the Independent

    Sept 20 ~ "...there is no additional or new evidence justifying the possible inclusion of sheep casings in the list of specified risk materials"

    At its meeting 12-13 September 2002, the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) examined the most recent data on the safety with regard of BSE, of sheep casings and concluded that there is no additional or new evidence justifying the possible inclusion of sheep casings in the list of specified risk materials "
    " ..... there is currently no reason to include sheep casings in the list of specified risk materials as long as there is no evidence that BSE is present in small ruminants under field conditions and there are no indications pointing at an increased likelihood of such being the case "
    The Food Standards Agency have stated that they will not impose any unilateral U.K. restrictions on sheep intestines so we are happy to report that natural sheep sausage skins will not be banned and that we can continue to enjoy traditional British sausages made with traditional and natural ingredients" NSCA press release mailto:NSCA@NSCASINGS.FSNET.CO.UK

    Sept 20 ~ Poor Michael Hanlon in the Spectator ("Throw them to the Wolves") can barely express himself for anger.

    Not everything he says is ignorant about and contemptuous of farmers (and he makes no distinction between them) - but the tone is so venomous that the very article itself seems to be hissing with rage. See Spinalert.

    Sept 20 ~ 120 out of a million could die ....it says here

    The Independent today"...A team of scientists from Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh tested 8,318 appendixes during the 1990s. One tested positive for the vCJD protein "signature", giving an "estimated prevalence" among the population of 120 cases of vCJD per million. With the UK population about 60 million, that would mean 7,200 deaths....
    ... Estimates of the numbers who could die have ranged from between 1,000 and 80,000, in a scientific paper published in January 1997, to guesses of millions by some who reckoned almost everyone in the UK had eaten BSE-infected material at some stage. Yet although six and a half years have passed since Stephen Dorrell, Health Secretary at the time, told Parliament that BSE and vCJD seemed to be linked, scientists and doctors are still wrestling with the question of when they will have enough information to predict the course of the epidemic accurately.
    ....So far all vCJD victims have belonged to a particular genetic type, found in about 40 per cent of the population. Nobody knows if the other 60 per cent are immune or just have a longer incubation period; and nobody knows if there was a minimum BSE exposure for successful infection, or exactly how much BSE-infected food was consumed, and by whom. "
    (In fact, comments warmwell, no one knows very much at all about the BSE/vCJD link, but any scientist having the temerity to challenge the received "prion" wisdom will find himself sidelined before you can say "SEAC". Knee-jerk measures with no basis in science - such as the Animal Health Bill - can be passed without much of a murmur since those unhappy about the powers contained within them are immediately dubbed "irresponsible" - (or, as George Orwell might have said,) "IRRESPONSIBLE, Comrades," shrieked Squealer, darting suspicious glances from left to right.

    Sept 20 ~ Citizens' rights to object to GM crops are being maintained? Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Friends of the Earth' legal adviser Phil Michaels: " The right to hearings and to cross examine industry witnesses is being stripped away. leaving yet another toothless paper consultation exercise. What the Chardon LL hearing showed was that members of the public were fully capable of presenting complex legal and scientific arguments to challenge the sloppy science carried out by science of the biotech industry and accepted unquestioningly by the regulators. The real reason for the Government's plan is not to save money but to prevent the proper scrutiny of their decision making on GM. The original leaked government proposal noted that "we will be criticised because it will seem we are trying to silence GM objections." Now that the draft legislation is on the table it is clear that there is no question here of 'seeming'.
    Attempting to silence GM objections is precisely what this proposal aims at.
    We will demand that any new legislation upholds people's rights to public hearings on these controversial new crops."" (See FOE statement)

    Sept 20 ~ MediaLens has grown out of our frustration with the unwillingness, or inability, of the mainstream media to tell the truth

    about the real causes and extent of many of the problems facing us, such as human rights abuses, poverty, pollution and climate change. Because much modern suffering is rooted in the unlimited greed of corporate profit-maximising - in the subordination of people and planet to profit - it seems to us to be a genuine tragedy that society has for so long been forced to rely on the corporate media for 'accurate' information. ..( see what George Monbiot and John Pilger say about Medialens )

    Sept 20 ~ farmers are only receiving an additional 10p per kilo for the live animal over the price they can get for meat. This amounts to as little as 33p per lamb extra.

    CIWF is asking that Plaid Cymru create a policy against the live export of Welsh lambs and encourage the return to a "meat only" trade.
    Kirsty Pettman, CIWF Senior Campaigns Officer and organiser of the demonstration said, "Over 30,000 live Welsh lambs have been exported in the last two months in one of the cruellest animal transport trades in the world. We have evidence showing British sheep dehydrated and gasping for air on the docks in Italy, we've seen British sheep having their throats slit in abattoirs in Europe where welfare is an unknown concept. We believe that it is the responsibility of politicians to find ways to ensure farmers can survive by using ethical and humane farming practices". Please see ciwf.org.uk

    Sept 20 ~ Out next week is a new book about the abuse of power in Britain.

    Mike Meredith informs us, "Called "The Cheating Classes" it is written by Sue Cameron, former Political Editor of the "Today" newspaper and Presenter of Channel 4 TV The Parliament Programme. Sue reveals how the British citizens have become progressively disempowered, and suggests what can be done to reverse this. She cites proven cases of abuse, corruption and complacency. Further details at Mike's site: http://members.farmline.com/stress/BOOKS/cheating.htm

    Sept 19 ~ Money no object to the EU answer service.

    " Europe Direct is a service to help you find answers to your questions about the European Union. "
    See http://europa.eu.int/europedirect/en/index_en.html (Thanks, Lina) "New Freephone Number: 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11
    "You may use the single Freephone Number from anywhere in the 15 Member States and you will reach an operator who speaks your own language. The Europe Direct call centre will help you find an answer to your questions about the EU. It can provide direct responses to general enquiries and, if you have more detailed questions, signpost you to the best source of information and advice. More About Europe Direct

    Sept 19 ~ all through stupidity and political correctness

    " English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage actually have a superior body. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee," Richard writes, " And there was I thinking that E.N. was totally unaccountable being judge and jury of its own actions. They have probably killed as many plants as the RSPB have killed birds, and all through stupidity and political correctness!
    Can one find out who sits on this committee and what their connections and qualifications [if any] are? Out here in the hills we get the distinct impression that the only motivation is political and has little or nothing to do with ecology or conservation. 'Rural economy' is a phrase they learned to bray last year, but is still not understood."
    We should very much welcome any information about this shadowy body at warmwell.com if anyone could send an email.

    Sept 19 ~ Within moments we received an ANSWER to the question above:

    Elaine wrote,"Joint Nature Conservation Committee is based in Peterborough. They are the Government's wildlife advisor. Contact details:
    JNCC Monkstone House City Road Peterborough PE1 1JY
    Tel: 01733 562626 Fax: 01733 555948 email: feedback@jncc.gov.uk Updated website at www.jncc.gov.uk
    Their Corporate Plan for 2002/3 is on there plus their annual report for 2001/2. All the minutes of their committee meetings are also on there.
    Their first committee meeting was Sept 2001 and their next one is 26 Sept 2002. There are currently 13 members as follows:
    Professor O.W. (Bill) Heal Acting Chairman, JNCC Mr Ewen Cameron DL Chairman, The Countryside Agency Sir Martin Doughty Chairman, English Nature Dr John Faulkner Director of National Heritage, Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) Dr Lucinda Blakiston Houston Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside Office Professor David Ingram OBE Independent Mr John Lloyd Jones OBE Chairman, Countryside Council for Wales Dr John Markland CBE Chairman, Scottish Natural Heritage Dr Mike Moser English Nature Professor Jan Pentreath Independent (actually at Imperial College) Mr Michael Scott Scottish Natural Heritage Professor Lynda Warren Countryside Council for Wales"
    Richard comments,"Wonderful innit that there doesn't appear to be any landowner, farmer or grazier on the list. Do I expect too much?"

    Sept 19 ~ Farmers Increase Yields 10-300% Without GM Crops

    : Feeding the world? Jules Pretty examines the myths and realities of sustainable farming's quiet revolution Sustainable highlights: * some 223,000 farmers in southern Brazil using green manures and cover crops of legumes and livestock integration have doubled yields of maize and wheat to 4-5 tons/ha; * some 45,000 farmers in Guatemala and Honduras have used regenerative technologies to triple maize yields to some 2-2.5 tons/ha and diversify their upland farms, which has led to local economic growth that has in turn encouraged re-migration back from the cities; * more than 300,000 farmers in southern and western India farming in dryland conditions, and now using a range of water and soil management technologies, have tripled sorghum and millet yields to some 2-2.5 tons/hectare; * some 200,000 farmers across Kenya who as part of various government and non-government soil and water conservation and sustainable agriculture programmes have more than doubled their maize yields to about 2.5 to 3.3 t/ha and substantially improved vegetable production through the dry seasons; * 100,000 small coffee farmers in Mexico who have adopted fully organic production methods, and yet increased yields by half; * a million wetland rice farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam who have shifted to sustainable agriculture, where group-based farmer-field schools have enabled farmers to learn alternatives to pesticides whilst still increasing their yields by about 10%. Full Report: http://www.members.tripod.com/~ngin/article2.htm

    Sept 19 ~ U.S. Agriculture Has Not Been Sustainable For Decades

    http://www.psrast.org/sustbiotech.htm ".....as a result of a series of acquisitions and mergers, DuPont and Monsanto together now own 73% of corn seed producers in the U.S.[5] Seed companies have traditionally had a relatively low profit margin (around 12% to 15%), whereas pesticide producers have had a higher profit margin (20% to 30%). As pesticide companies try to raise the profit margins of their newly-acquired seed companies up toward the levels expected of pesticide companies, the cost of seed and chemicals will probably continue to rise for farmers. ..."

    Sept 19 ~ WASHINGTON - Cloned mice have hundreds of abnormal genes, which explains why so many cloned animals die at or before birth

    and proves it would be irresponsible to clone a human being, scientists said. The process of cloning introduces the genetic mutations, and there seems no immediate way around the problem, Rudolf Jaenisch and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported.http://pub16.ezboard.com/ftb2kfulltopicfrm1.showMessage?topicID=6144.topic


    says Friends of the Earth. "....Friends of the Earth's lawyers concluded: " a report like the Aventis report is not a legally adequate discharge of its license and statutory obligations, and the Secretary of State is acting contrary to law in accepting such reports as compliant." Friends of the Earth believes the Secretary of State is in breach of her legal obligations by accepting "wholly inadequate" reports from the biotechnology companies. Key issues relating to the legal conditions in the farm-scale trial consent issued by DEFRA, such as cross-pollination of neighbouring crops, are seldom reported on by the biotech companies. The environmental campaign group is calling for clear guidance to be issued setting out the type of information that the biotech companies need to provide in their monitoring reports...." See more

    Sept 18 ~ Seeds of Doubt

    This major new report shows that GM crops have been an economic disaster in the USA and Canada. 'Seeds of Doubt' is the first detailed look at what has happened in North America since the commercial growing of GM crops started in 1996.
    This study has gathered sufficient evidence to debunk the myth that GM technology represents progress.
    The evidence suggests that, in reality, virtually every benefit claimed for GM food crops has NOT occurred. Instead, farmers are reporting lower yields, continuing dependency on chemical sprays, loss of exports and, critically, reduced profits. This is leaving farming even more vulnerable to the interests of biotechnology companies and in need of subsidies. (see message from the Soil Association)

    Sept 16 ~ the farmers are only receiving an additional 10p per kilo for the live animal over the price they can get for meat. This amounts to as little as 33p per lamb extra.

    A combined investigation by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Kent Against Live Exports (KALE) and Farmed Animal Action has revealed evidence of blatant breaches of hygiene regulations in the live lamb export trade.
    On Saturday 14th September an animal transport vehicle operated by the company L.E.Jones was shuttling live lambs between a lairage in Kent and the animal export ship, run by Farmers Ferry, moored in Dover docks. The investigators trailing the vehicle discovered that the operator was not disinfecting the lorry between journeys - a breach of the hygiene regulations put in place to protect against the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease.
    A formal complaint was made on Sunday 15th September to the State Veterinary Service and DEFRA. Around 500 lambs were impounded and slaughtered locally, instead of being exported.
    Joyce D'Silva, Chief Executive of CIWF, said "We are delighted that at least one truckload of lambs was diverted and the animals spared the horror of the export journey to a distant slaughterhouse. It is clear from this that the only way that the live lamb export business can be made profitable is by the operators cutting corners. It seems that they have forgotten the horrors of last year's foot and mouth crisis and the impact this had on the farming community. We call on the farmers not to support the live export business and risk another repeat of that diabolical episode."

    Sept 16 ~ CIWF believe that animals destined for slaughter should be sent to an abattoir in the UK

    instead of trucking them across the continent in inhumane conditions. The meat can then be exported throughout the world.
    A recent NOP opinion poll (15-17 February) revealed 78% of the general public want to see an end to the live export trade.
    This year 3,400 UK veterinary surgeons signed a petition calling for an end to the live export of farm animals. Compassion in World Farming can be found here.

    Sept 16 ~ From the Big Beckett Book of Newspeak....

    Mrs Margaret Beckett, who once famously announced that she was "someone who chooses her words very carefully", has now decided to reinvent the word "focus" it seems.
    Bryn writes," One little speech prior her gallivanting around the globe, was the one down in SA on the 12th March 2002, where she redefined the word "focusing" for the western world. Mrs Beckett said:
      " I know South Africa is focusing on energy, water, science and technology, food security, health and the oceans. My visit this week will be a tremendously valuable preparation for the serious work that lies ahead for the developing and developed countries at the World Summit in August and September."
    How does can any country focus on such huge dynamics such as energy, water, science, technology, food security, health and then of course the ludicrous idea you focus on "the oceans". She is having a laugh.
    I thought the word focus meant something to do with bringing all lines of thought into one concentrated spot - maybe not under Beckett's Law of Refraction and Diffraction though. Let's focus on everything that's in a mess...."
    See also Matthew Parris splendid article on Labour's Language; A verbal virus that kills all meaning ..."A virus is attacking the language of politics. It is multiplying fast and destroying meaning. Some of the words it has attacked may be beyond recovery. Some of the noble ideas those words can describe are slipping, by association, into disrepute. ..."

    Sept 16 ~ Clare Short's overseas aid department has quietly funded a £13.4m programme to create a new generation of GM animals, crops and drugs throughout the Third World.

    From the Independent today "..This summer, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique refused to accept GM grain as aid from the US, despite an impending famine which threatens 10 million people in southern Africa. And when Secretary of State Colin Powell attacked their stance in his speech to this month's Earth Summit in Johannesburg, he was heckled by delegates.
    The DFID programme stretches back to the early days of GM crop research, when its predecessor department, the Overseas Development Administration, funded projects to create disease-resistant cassava and groundnuts in the late 1980s....
    Environment groups have applauded Ms Short for aggressively attacking firms such as Monsanto for including "terminator" genes in GM crops. Yet DFID's studies have added to campaigners' suspicions that it is forcing GM on the Third World, in step with biotech companies. Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth called for MPs to conduct an inquiry into DFID's spending. "In public, the Government says we're approaching GM technology with caution, but overseas they are gung-ho. The level of the Government's hypocrisy knows no bounds," he said."

    Sept 16 ~ "One of the most senior civil servants in the Department for International Development has left to join Syngenta, the world's largest agribusiness and second largest GM food company.

    the Guardian - Mr (Andrew)Bennett is known to be a supporter of GM technologies for developing countries, and to have helped to frame the department's policies and influenced its decision to contribute £600,000 a year to GM crop research in poor countries. He is also believed to have backed a controversial £65m British aid programme in Andra Pradesh, India, that supports a state plan to introduce prairie-style farming and GM crops. Critics in India and Britain say the aid will help to force 20 million poor farmers off the land, but this is denied by the international development secretary, Clare Short..."

    Sept 15 ~ an obsession with fox-hunting obscures the real struggle...the Government doesn't understand the nature and complexity of the rural economy

    There is also intense fury at the mishandling of foot and mouth, despite compensation and the fact that the crisis may have cost urban tourism as much as £1 billion..... There is a deep-rooted feeling that Labour is a metropolitan party with no understanding of the countryside. (Today's Observer)
    Peter Bradley, MP for Wrekin and Michael's Parliamentary Private Secretary, told The Observer: 'For a small minority, hunting is hugely important, but for most people the real issues are housing, transport and services. Why should people in the country be any less concerned about education or healthcare?'
    The Burns Report estimated that only a maximum of 8,000 jobs were involved in hunting with dogs, so in that sense Labour is right. But the perception that the party is obsessed with hunting is starting to frustrate the public. A Mori poll last week showed 73 per cent believed the Government has spent too much time on the issue. Last week's announcement of imminent legislation and a possible compromise suggests Ministers want the issue buried as quickly as possible.
    'The whole thing is completely out of proportion,' says Malcolm Bruce, Liberal Democrat spokesman on rural affairs. 'Both sides are wrong to go so hard on this. Agriculture is in crisis because of the exchange rate of the pound against the euro, not because of hunting. There's a growing perception that the Government doesn't understand the nature and complexity of the rural economy.' ...

    Sept 15 ~ "What act of aggression has Iraq committed against us that justifies going to war?"

    said Jason Mark, an organizer with Global Exchange, an international human rights organization. "There has been no Iraqi attack, no Iraqi connection to September 11, no threat against us. Iraq does not pose a clear and present danger to the U.S. Since deterrence is working, why should we launch a war that will undoubtedly lead to massive human suffering? An attack on Iraq would constitute an attack on the Charter of the United Nations." earthtobush.com

    Sept 15 ~ " I am appalled that a British Labour Prime Minister should have got into bed with a crew which has this moral standing."

    From the Sunday Herald's revelations that the US planned a take-over of Iraq in January 2001 - long before the attack on the Twin Towers
    "....Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP, father of the House of Commons and one of the leading rebel voices against war with Iraq, said: 'This is garbage from right-wing think-tanks stuffed with chicken-hawks -- men who have never seen the horror of war but are in love with the idea of war. Men like Cheney, who were draft-dodgers in the Vietnam war.
    'This is a blueprint for US world domination -- a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world. I am appalled that a British Labour Prime Minister should have got into bed with a crew which has this moral standing.'..."

    Sept 15 ~ significantly, Blair and Bush failed to commit to the necessity for a fresh UN mandate for military action, in the form of a specific Security Council resolution.

    Sunday Herald today "Tony Blair is being credited with the PR tactic of stressing UN resolutions as a justification for war, while carefully omitting the need for clear UN authority for military action.
    The Prime Minister is thus deliberately fudging the central issue of the need for the kind of incontrovertible UN mandate that governed the Gulf war in 1991. Then, the aims and parameters of the campaign were defined in a UN resolution, which provided the basis for the 35-member coalition that ejected Saddam from Kuwait. .......
    ...... Of course, the reason for this madness is to ensure that all the power remains in the hands of Tony Blair and the executive. But in the recalled debate next week there should be a substantive government motion which is capable of being amended by MPs. ...
    In the United States, President Bush has promised Congress the final word and a proper policy debate on US action in Iraq -- just as his father carried a motion authorising the use of military force against Iraq in January 1991. There will also be public questioning of administration officials by up to six House of Representatives committees, starting in the middle of this month, in order to determine whether an invasion is justified and would work.
    However, democracy American-style is not to be allowed in the House of Commons.
    We are at the end of the beginning of war preparations. Let us hope it is not also the beginning of the end for the rule of international law, and for any semblance of democratic procedures at Westminster.

    Sept 15 ~ the creation of a national DNA database by stealth, and without Parliament's authority.

    See Telegraph's "Free country"
    "...Kuwait is currently enforcing a requirement for all its citizens to supply a DNA sample to a central database. The emirate is not known for its commitment to privacy and liberty, but its government did at least feel it necessary to pass legislation, rather than create a national DNA database by the back door."

    Sept 15 ~ GM crop taints honey two miles away, test reveals

    Mark Macaskill of the Sunday Times writes, "EVIDENCE that genetically modified (GM) crops can contaminate food supplies for miles around has been revealed in independent tests commissioned by The Sunday Times. The tests found alien GM material in honey from beehives two miles from a site where GM crops were being grown under government supervision. It is believed to have been carried there by bees gathering pollen in the GM test sites. The disclosure, showing that GM organisms can enter the food chain without consumers-- or even farmers --knowing they are present, will undermine assurances by Tony Blair and ministers that such crops can be tested in Britain without contaminating the food chain. The test results come as ministers, under pressure from the American agrochemical lobby, mount a huge consultation exercise to persuade the public of the virtues of GM foods. They have previously given assurances that consumers "are not being used as guinea pigs". The GM material was found in honey sold from farmer David Rolfe's hives at Newport-on-Tay in Fife, almost two miles from one of 18 sites holding trials of GM oil-seed rape. ....... It will also come as a personal setback to Blair, who is determined that British companies will win a share of the potentially lucrative bioscience industry. In May the prime minister attacked GM protesters as part of an "anti-science fashion" in Britain. ....... A spokesmen for Aventis said: "We would be very interested in looking at both the origin of the honey sample and how the tests were carried out. We would like to look at this further."

    Sept 11 ~ To march or not to march?

    Hilary - much respected, hard-hitting and soft-hearted realist, writes." You are only giving one side of the debate about marching on Sept 22. ... I cannot see that marching behind Ben Gill on what will be seen as a Tory march can possibly help the sort of farming that we believe in: ie farming that respects animals and gives back as much to the land as it takes out.
    I know we want to be heard and last year made us realise how difficult it is to get our views heard, but I am convinced that a march like that will hyjack our passionate and well-reasoned arguments to make political capital.
    I may well be wrong because I don't really understand these matters but wouldn't follow Ben Gill if he was leading me straight through the gates of paradise."
    Against this we must remind ourselves of what Joyce wrote:
    "I seem to remember last year we were writing to all sorts of organisations pleading for them to band together against the FMD policy.....together we stand etc.... Now what are we ourselves doing with regard to the L and L March?....what is wrong with joining the Farmers for Action group? Surely we can see that this is NOT only about the hunting issue and it is up to us to have suitable placards or whatever."

    Sept 11 ~ double standards at work

    Robert Fisk in the Independent today writes a lengthy and thought provoking article, of which this is the ending: " The Americans have created a totally false image of the Arab world, peopling it with beasts and tyrants. The Arabs have adopted an almost equally absurd view of the US, believing its promises of "democracy" but failing to grasp the degree of anger many Americans still feel over the attacks.
    Yet still there are double standards at work here. George Bush can rightly condemn the killing of Israeli university students as making him "mad", but blithely brush off the slaughter of Palestinian children by a bomb dropped from a US-made Israeli plane as "heavy handed". Yet it's not just the pitiful remarks of President Bush, but the double standards of whole peoples. Here's what I mean. Today, 11 September, our newspapers and our television screens are filled with the baleful images of those two towers and their biblical descent. We will remember and honour the thousands who died. But in just five days' time, Palestinians will remember their September massacre of 1982. Will a single candle be lit for them in the West? Will there be a single memorial service? Will a single American newspaper dare to recall this atrocity? Will a single British newspaper commemorate the 20th anniversary of these mass killings of 1,700 innocents? Do I even need to give the answer?

    Sept 11 ~It was a careful illusion, performed with Blair charm.

    To everyone's amazement, Tony Blair's war speech to the TUC received a standing ovation. The Scotsman's Fraser Nelson explains how this conjuring trick was performed... "If the challenge to us is to work with and through the UN, we will respond to it," he said. "But let it also be clear that, should the will of the UN be ignored, action will follow."
    Here, it seemed, Mr Blair was promising to bow to the "will of the UN." In practice, he was preparing his cassus belli. Mr Blair will take on Saddam in the name of the UN - with or without its permission. But it fell short of the hawkishness the newspapers had prepared delegates to expect.
    This was listened to with only one heckle. Then, Mr Blair started to play to the gallery. The Conservatives had taken unemployment to three million, he said; applause. They would not guarantee union recognition, like Labour has; applause. They would break up the public sector. Health spending is going up; applause. The NHS has brilliant and dedicated staff; applause.
    Afterwards Derek Simpson, the newly-elected head of Amicus, defended the warm reception he had also given the man he was denouncing as a warmonger.
    " What we heard was much more considered. He has rowed back."
    Except he hadn't. It was a careful illusion, performed with Blair charm.
    And it had brought Mr Blair a first major victory on the road to war.

    Sept 11 ~ Supermarkets give farmers one penny

    Valerie Elliott in the Times says, "The price rise was backed by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Somerfield and Kwik Save." Valerie Elliott gives the credit to the suddenly ubiquitous Ben Gill....."All the leading retailers have been persuaded by arguments from Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, that farmers are not receiving a fair deal in the milk chain and that the average 9p a pint they receive compares extremely badly with the average 29p price of a pint in shops." She does however say, "Last night, however, it was not clear when farmers would see the benefits of the price rise." Asda talks of "increased milk prices by an average of 2p per litre as a measure of support for struggling dairy farmers..."

    Sept 10 ~ Fury over crop trials

    JAMES REYNOLDS and FORDYCE MAXWELL writing in the Scotsman "MINISTERS were last night accused of forcing through genetically modified crop trials in Scotland - despite admitting public confidence had been dented by a contamination scare earlier this year.
    The oilseed rape trials will go ahead at sites in Daviot, Aberdeenshire and Newport-on-Tay, Fife. They will be conducted by Aventis, the biotech company which last month admitted rogue material had contaminated previous crop tests.
    Critics said they were "angry and dismayed" at the move, claiming it flew in the face of public concern. They accused the Executive of rubber-stamping a decision already taken at Westminster...." See newspaper page

    Sept 10 ~ "This whole hyper infectious myth has been based on the fact that TSEs can be transmitted in the laboratory; whereby TSE affected brain tissue is injected into misfortunate laboratory animals

    that subsequently contract TSE. The fact that classes of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases can be transmitted in this way is completely ignored. But these transmission experiments prove nothing in terms of demonstrating whether TSEs are caused by a microbiological infectious agent or not. After all TSEs do not fulfil Koch's postulates; the conventional yardstick for assessing whether a given disease stems from infectious origins.
    The 'all important' success of these 'trumped up' transmission experiments could have equally easily represented the fact that a highly toxic chemical or metal .. which had originally contaminated and killed the initial TSE diseased animal was then being transmitted into a secondary host. Once again, this equally feasible alternative explanation has been ignored. ..." Mark Purdey http://www.markpurdey.com/articles_thewastingland.htm
    Meanwhile, thousands of elk and deer are being slaughtered (just as the water buffalo were, in spite of appalled criticism) by a panicked and ignorant government. And in Europe we have an ill-advised and ignorant Scrapie Policy. The Juggernaut rolls on taking with it all the little reputations that must be preserved.

    Sept 10 ~ If Mark Purdey is right.... it blows a massive hole in the presently held BSE/Scrapie/CWD/CJD theories.

    Jane at farmtalking.org writes "I am convinced that no one knows better than those who keep livestock, that they are what they eat. They also know that the manner in which their stock is kept, the environment, housing, handling, etc,. also plays a very important part in the health and quality of the animals they produce.
    For this reason, I think you are well qualified to judge for yourself, the differing theories and how believeable you think they are, and that's why I'm drawing this article to your attention. http://www.markpurdey.com/articles_thewastingland.htm
    Please do let me know what you think about it, either by direct e-mail or via the Farmtalking - Message Board," she writes.

    Sept 10 ~ stress caused by "too much bureaucracy and paperwork" easily topped the list

    "Talk to anyone working in the health service, schools or the police and it is immediately obvious what a demoralising, all-pervasive problem this has become.
    The real scandal is that, since the disaster created by this explosion in bureaucracy first became obvious a decade ago, it has only got worse. It is 10 years since I reported that a GP registering a mother and baby as new patients, who would formerly have had to fill in two forms, now required 19. It is nine years since I reported that to bring one petty thief to court, the Chelsea police had to fill in 135 pieces of paper, only to see him fined £1.60...." Don't miss Booker's Notebook this week.
    "The politicians, and the presenters of Today, indulge in their usual inane, self-regarding chatter. And so our public services continue to disintegrate, because the deformed monster of our political process has lost any connection with the world in which the rest of us have to live."

    Sept 10 ~ "Last year we were writing to all sorts of organisations pleading for them to band together against the FMD policy.....together we stand etc....

    Now what are we ourselves doing with regard to the Liberty and Livelihood March?....what is wrong with joining the Farmers for Action group? Surely we can see that this is NOT only about the hunting issue and it is up to us to have suitable placards or whatever..." writes Joyce
    Lynne Thomson goes further:"If we country folk don't stick together now and make ourselves heard then we deserve to lose what little we might still have. Archie and I both lost nine months work because of FMD - although obviously we were nowhere near as badly hit as livestock farmers, we still had no money at all coming in. We can ill afford the £90.00 it is costing us but we feel that if we didn't go, we'd just be one of the rest of the apathetic lot that now live in this country. If you feel strongly enough about an issue, then at least try and do something about it.." And Margaret writes this morning..."Lynne Thompson puts up a very strong case for taking part in the March on 22 September. However, I shall not be able to do so though I will be with the marchers in spirit. I live 200 miles from London, have livestock to be milked morning and evening, am 68 years old and have to get my morning chores done on Monday morning by 8.30 in order to fulfil my role as a school driver, the only way I can finance my animals.
    We aren't all apathetic, just running twice as hard as we should have to in order to stand still."
    (. If you are not marching but would still like to register your interest please read this note from Tim Bonner of the CLA )

    Sept 9 ~" I enjoyed the piece recently about organic farming

    by my old friend John Stewart in The Scotsman." writes Hugh Raven in COMMENT: Public support defies official parsimony "He's an entertaining writer, of salty and distinctive views. But he sells short his skills in self-expression by such a distant acquaintance with the facts. He's entitled to dislike organic production; on that we can agree to differ. But to characterise it as dangerous, environmentally-damaging, of no interest to consumers and irrelevant to supermarkets is mischievous. The environmental benefits of organic production are now well-proven. It would be surprising if it were otherwise, since design and practice in over 50 years of organic farming have been for precisely this purpose. Study after study has illustrated its success - showing both greater abundance and more diversity of wildlife and landscape features on organic than on conventional farms."

    Sept 9 ~ Never mind the lables - GM food is getting everywhere

    John Humphrys in yesterday's Sunday Times "...The industry says any GM product entering the market place is more extensively tested than any other product entering the food chain. The Soil Association says GM products have been tested far less even than pesticides and food additives.
    The final claim made by the industry is that GM crops "allow for greater consumer choice". Real choice, it says, means being free to choose between foods and products. But do we have real choice? If our food contains GM material as a result of accidental contamination and we are not aware of it, how can we choose?
    You may take the view that less than 1% contamination is insignificant. Or you may take the Soil Association's view that it represents a real threat. You may agree with the industry that beef fed on GM maize or chocolate made with GM oil is indistinguishable from what Great-Aunt Agnes used to eat 50 years ago -- or you may not. But that's not really the issue in the great labelling row.
    With so much GM material being used around the world it is inevitable that we will eat meat and dairy products from animals fed on it and other food that has been contaminated with GM material by mistake. What worries opponents of GM is that the industry will win this war by default. "

    Sept 7 ~ The deadly Trivial Pursuits of the US administration.

    The terrifying quotation chosen today for the New York Times' "Quote of the Day : "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Andrew H. Card Jr.,White House chief of staff, on why the Bush administration waited until September to press for public support of its Iraq policy."
    Truly unbelievable. But since marketing is now driving US policy - perhaps this sort of comment is to be expected.

    Sept 7 ~ Federal appeal court dismisses Percy Schmeiser's Monsanto fight

    This alarming news from Canada.com. Mr Schmeiser will fight on - but at what cost. His courageous stand represents the fight of the small farmer against a Mega-Goliath: a company that puts profits before the planet. It is hardly being over-dramatic to suggest that the outcome of the case at appeal, if it can reach the Supreme Court, will be of universal significance.
    "Last year, the Bruno-area farmer was ordered to pay $19,000 in damages for using the seed and another $150,000 to cover Monsanto's court costs.
    The farmer had argued that either the seed blew into his field from a passing truck or his crop may have been contaminated by pollination.
    Schmeiser says the patent rights will be the "number one issue" of his application to ask the High Court to hear the case.
    He says the stress from his legal battles with Monsanto has been hard on him and his wife, adding it's taken their life savings to fight the chemical giant to this point. "
    For more information on Percy's fight with Monsanto go to: http://www.percyschmeiser.com/

    Sept 7 ~ Privacy fears revealed

    says the Guardian this morning, "voters are also increasingly concerned about privacy as both public and private sector organisations demonstrate an increasing hunger for information previously regarded as off-limits. At the same time, advances in technology are allowing this data to be analysed and manipulated in ever-more sophisticated ways. .........An even bigger majority, however, disapprove of Mr Blunkett's plans to give local authorities and other public bodies the power to demand the internet and telephone records of every British citizen without a warrant from a judge or government minister. The data would allow agencies to establish who their targets emailed and telephoned, which websites they visited and even their whereabouts whenever their mobile phone was switched on."
    If it can be done it will be done. Governments - like bad schoolmasters - seem to think that putting all their energies into surveillance will somehow keep people under control. And that, in these grim days, appears to be the sole aim of government. The Guardian report says that the vast majority of citizens remain unaware of their rights to see and correct information on them held by others, only 10% say they have applied under the Data Protection Act to demand access to their files.

    Sept 6 ~ It will take one minute to sign

    Please find the web link to sign a petition to the Nigerian President regarding the imminent execution (stoned to death) of Amina Lawal. Her crime - having a child out of marriage. Her lawyers have 30 days to petition the Supreme Court. It will take one minute to sign. Who knows whether an internet pertition will make the slightest difference...but if you share our extreme disquiet at this case, please pass this on to all your contacts. http://www.mertonai.org/amina/OpenLetter.htm

    Sept 6 ~ Anthony Gibson speaks out over milk

    Western Daily Press "...Chairman David Handley said it was "nonsense" for Tesco to limit itself to talking about the liquid market, which only accounts for half Britain's milk output, when it was still prepared to import huge amounts of dairy produce, including cheese.
    The company has recently been importing large volumes of South African cheddar bought for £1,690 a ton a fraction of what it costs to produce in the UK. "We want a minimum of four pence a litre and the withdrawal of all stocks of South African cheese from Tesco, otherwise they can expect action from us, " said Mr Handley.
    A fresh warning that dairy farmers could be forced into direct action to achieve a better price for their milk has come from NFU regional director, Anthony Gibson, who says his members could not be blamed for concluding that the market was being rigged......But Mr Gibson has come under pressure from South West farmers, who say the union is doing nothing while the milk crisis deepens and more producers quit the industry.
    His remarks fall short of encouraging farmers to take action but he says frustration is understandable, when market conditions suggest prices should have improved. (The Citizen)

    Sept 6 ~ 71% of people do not believe that US President George Bush's campaign to crush terrorism has made the world a safer place.

    The poll by Scottish Opinion found. "America's war on terror has made the world a more dangerous place to live, according to a poll today. The survey found that 71% of people do not believe that US President George Bush's campaign to crush terrorism has made the world a safer place. The figure rose to 78% for under-45s, although 15% of the 806 people quizzed in the survey for the Daily Record believed the war on terror had made the world safer.
    But 64% of participants thought the world had changed for the worse a year on from the September 11 attacks
    During the course of today both Mr Blair and Mr Bush were cautioned by other key world leaders about the potentially dangerous implications of any military campaign against Baghdad.

    Sept 6 ~ When will Britain ever learn that a nation cannot be defended by attacking freedoms?

    .....Telegraph ."...substantial limitations on numerous rights, including freedom of assembly, privacy, freedom of movement, the right of silence, and freedom of speech. The report expressed concern over the number of countries, Britain in particular, which had enacted laws requiring telecommunications operators to retain the activity and location data of all people using mobile phones, text messaging, landline telephones, faxes, emails, chat rooms, the internet, or any other electronic communication devices.
    The human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC will launch the report at the Terrorising Rights conference today at the London School of Economics. Human rights advocates from around the world were to have been in attendance, but the British Government has refused to allow several of them into the country for the event.
    These are not dangerous terrorists. They are respected advocates for rights. That action alone sets the Government up for yet another criticism from the international human rights community. When will it ever learn that a nation cannot be defended by attacking freedoms?"

    Sept 6 ~ "The Government says its priority is to make politics more "relevant".

    This turns out to mean making life easier for ministers and Labour backbenchers. New Labour politicians can scarcely conceal their contempt for parliamentary tradition, the purposes of which they cannot be bothered to understand." Today's Telegraph
    "Nor do they have any time for Parliament's primary function of scrutinising legislation in order, through an exhaustive process of criticism, to ensure that the public knows what the Government is about and that laws, when implemented, can work. The document published yesterday does nothing to redress the balance of power between legislature and executive. On the contrary, it actually weakens not only the Opposition but also the few Government backbenchers who still think for themselves...."
    Thus such absurd measures as the Animal Health Bill pass through Parliament. Only a handful of members of the House of Lordshave seriously been trying to stop it. Other politicians have hardly heard of it - let alone understand its significance. But it will be another nail in the coffin not just of British farming but of the right of owners to defend their property against the dead but deadly hand of illogical centralisation.

    Sept 6 ~ The blood tests were of course negative, as were the epithelial samples, but DEFRA had slaughtered everything by then despite our wishes.

    A kind email received at the warmwell site: "You have kept me going over the past year or so and thank you so much. We tried so hard to keep our dairy herd and sheep, same old story of over-zealous diagnosis by a vet from oz who had never seen FMD but would not stand up to Page St. The blood tests were of course negative, as were the epithelial samples, but DEFRA had slaughtered everything by then despite our wishes. Then there was Defra incompetence, bullying, the paperwork and cleaning fiasco and Elliot Morley and Jim Scudamore blaming farmers for everything it seemed. At least our family is still complete and no-one committed suicide. Your site shows that so many people are horrified at the way the FMD outbreak was mishandled and the suffering caused to animals and people, needlessly...."

    Sept 5 ~ Tony Blair told the Earth Summit that sustainable development was the solution to the world's environmental problems.

    says Friends of the Earth. " It's now time for him to act at home. Planning to expand airport capacity, allowing traffic levels to rise and failing to significantly improve the UK's appalling recycling record show that the environment is not at the heart of Government thinking. The Prime Minister's commitment to protecting the planet will be judged by what he does, not what he says"
    See FOE's 10 point challenge

    Sept 5 ~this gifted actor-prime minister

    Today's Telegraph by Boris Johnson
    "You may think there is something a little bit preposterous about Big Tone's swagger on Tuesday, tucking his thumbs into his belt as he told that pesky varmint Saddam Hussein to quit the corral. And, OK, there is something comical about this gifted actor-prime minister. Whatever happens, Britain will not make any decisive military contribution in Iraq. But that is not why they lurve him in the Pentagon. They need him, because he is just so charming and persuasive on the international stage. He has that special British cachet. He is the Hugh Grant of diplomacy.
    When they set out to bomb Kosovo, Clinton was slick, but Blair was sincere. When they bombed Afghanistan with B52s, Bush was bumbling, while Blair was a fluent and hot-gospelling evangelist for war. And while Bush seems to have difficulty convincing his own pop of the need to topple Saddam, Blair can now be relied upon to woo those tricky and discerning European audiences......"
    "Most of us are perfectly willing to be convinced that Saddam is a threat to the region, possesses weapons of mass destruction, and must be taken out. But we have not so far been convinced, and it would be nice to feel that someone was making an effort to do that. More important, most of us need to be filled in on how this "regime change" is to be accomplished, without a revolting and unjustifiable loss of life in Iraq.
    And some of us, finally, would like a clearer articulation from Mr Blair about the priorities in British foreign policy. It is an irony, to say the least, that we are about to make war on Saddam Hussein, who directly threatens no British citizen, when we are doing nothing to stop Robert Mugabe, who has purged or murdered thousands of farmers, many of whom still carry British passports."

    Sept 4 ~ Genetically-modified fish should not be farmed in pens set in rivers or the sea, say top scientific advisers to the UK government.

    The fish might escape into the environment with unforeseeable consequences, warns the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission in a new report on cloned and GM animals. "Once the fish has escaped, there's virtually nothing that can be done to recall it," says commission chairman, Malcolm Grant. (report from New Scientist) Meanwhile Pat asks, "Why would MAFF-Defra want to purge small feed mills for potential slight contamination of animal feed with fish meal? Is fish meal a risk? Why? The same product is legally used in cattle feed. A number of animal feed products have been withdrawn from sale - order of MAFF-Defra." Does DEFRA know something we don't know?

    Sept 4 ~"Let there be toilets"

    Oxfam's verdict on the World Summit: "A triumph for greed and self-interest, a tragedy for poor people and the environment" (BBC)" Agency spokesman Andrew Hewitt said the majority of the world's leaders had "lacked the guts and will" to reach an effective agreement on fighting poverty and conserving the environment. "
    Friends of the Earth gave the summit an "end-of-term report" of "Not satisfactory: must do better".
    Anthony Browne of The Times this morning says, "While politicians lined up in Johannesburg yesterday to hail the agreement that they have negotiated to reduce poverty and protect the environment, usually moderate campaigners competed with each other to denounce it.
    Praise for the deal from some of those who attended the summit has been lavish. Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, said: "We have got a genuine, serious and substantial outcome." ......
    There are just two clear commitments reached by what was the world's largest summit. The first is to set up an international network of marine reserves by 2012. The second, and by far the most significant, is to reduce by half the 2.4 billion people who do not have access to sanitation by 2015. .. ..there are no sanctions if the target is not met and there is no additional money to meet the target, nor any action plan on how to go about it. In effect, the leaders of the world have declared: "Let there be toilets."
    (We have justr received the following from Bryn: "Now all the 'leaders' have to do is find some toilet paper for these 2.4 billion users - they could of course use their briefing notes, which would tie in perfectly and put real meaning to Beckett's constipated statement, "We have got a genuine, serious and substantial outcome...." But these are matters the Privy Council will ponder over........"

    Sept 4 ~ ".. they still want to treat the other 58 million of us as suspects."

    A national fingerprint database is on the way. See Democracy Watch

    Sept 4 ~ "Sustainable development needs GM foods,

    after all it sustains the multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry, which in turn sustains the scientists and politicians all over the world. The vicious cycle is all too apparent. The authoritative analysis below will decipher the dirty politics of GM food for you.
    Don't expect the Johannesburg Summit to give you the final verdict. You too can make a difference. All you need to do is to raise your voice, at whatever platform you can." (http://www.agbioindia.org/newsletter.asp)

    Sept 3 ~ Why are they bothering with a vote?

    (N.J.com )DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Irish government leaders unveiled a nationwide information campaign Monday to overturn voters' rejection of the European Union expansion treaty -- and conceded that the previous defeat was partly caused by their own low-key campaigning."
    Which part of the word "NO" is it that the Irish government does not understand?

    Sept 3 ~ "now, they want to send a new generation of Americans into a Middle Eastern ground war."

    We have been sent an interesting definition of the new word "chickenhawks"

    Sept 3 ~ " Corporations will take what they can:

    when there is a conflict between profitability and the environment or human rights, the profits come first. Voluntary agreements, this case suggests, simply do not work. Big business will protect human rights and the environment only when it is forced to do so. " George Monbiot in the Guardian today. See below

    Sept 3 ~ The corporate promises being made at the earth summit are likely to prove hollow

    George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian this morning, says, "....report suggests that, far from being a model of good practice, BP's showcase project breaks both the commitments BP has published and the promises business leaders have made in Johannesburg. Their findings imply that those who imagine we can rely on trust to save the world are deceiving themselves.
    .....The pipeline, the construction of which is due to begin in December, runs from the Caspian Sea, through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean. It will carry one million barrels of crude oil a day. One of the most important energy projects on earth, it will reinforce Turkey's position as a key strategic ally of the west. The 1,000 kilometres of pipeline running through Turkey will be built by the Turkish company Botas, on behalf of a consortium of oil firms led by BP.
    Botas, which is responsible for the "major stakeholder consultation exercises" of which BP has boasted, claims to have distributed information "to all stakeholders" i...These assertions, the fact-finding mission to Turkey suggests, are untrue. The mission visited eight of the villages Botas claims to have consulted. Four of them, it discovered, had not been contacted at all. In the mission's report there is a photograph of the village of Hagibayram, which Botas says it "consulted by telephone". The houses are little more than piles of rubble: the entire village was deserted years ago. It has no telephones.
    The consultations which did take place appear to have been designed to manufacture consent. ..... The questionnaire noted that the pipeline is a Turkish government project "of high economic and strategic importance" to the country. The people who live along the route (some of whom are Kurds) are likely to have interpreted this as a coded warning that they speak out at their peril. Even the fact-finding mission was stopped and questioned by police. "
    So much for "consultation"of "stakeholders" - as we are learning to our cost in the UK too.

    Sept 3 ~ Attempts to increase the rate of renewable energy -- wind, wave and solar -- were stymied by opposition from the world's major oil producers (Opec) and oil's biggest consumer, the United States.

    ( Independent's report on World Summit) The EU and Latin America wanted a global target to boost the use of renewable energy sources, but the US, Japan and Opec (which managed to persuade most of the rest of the developing countries) frustrated all attempts to establish one. Latin America wanted to quadruple the world's share of clean renewable energy -- such as solar and wind power -- by 2010. The EU settled on a more modest target which would have increased it by just one per cent over the decade and included controversial big dams and the wood and dung burning that kill more than two million people a year. Green groups accused the US of getting the world to toe the line of its domestic oil lobby, an accusation Washington rejected. Meanwhile, ratifications to the Kyoto protocol on climate change increased to 89. But this number is almost irrelevant since the treaty will not come into force until countries emitting 55 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide ratify, and there is still some way to go to that. The United States pulled out of Kyoto last year.

    Sept 3 ~ MEPs are rarely happier than when telling others what to do.

    In the three years since I was elected, we have restricted the amount of time you can spend on a tractor, demanded that you wear ear plugs in noisy places, and laid down an approved way of holding ladders against walls. The idea that herbal medicine is "unregulated" is, to most Euro-MPs, simply a loophole that needs closing.
    This is not because of any suggestion that the supplements in question pose a health risk. Rather, the EU is following what it calls "the precautionary principle"........
    The essence of liberty, and the focus of this newspaper's Free Country campaign, is that we stand up for rights which we do not ourselves want to exercise. Even if you have never been inside a health store before, go into one now and sign the petition on the counter. This is not about science; it's about freedom......(Democracy Watch today on this article in the Telegraph from the MEP Daniel Hannan )

    Sept 3 ~ I, like the majority of those who will be marching on September 22, have never hunted ..... I shall be marching to express my anger and frustration

    Re: Degrees of 'neutrality' letter in thge Telegraph Sir - Alun Michael, when interviewed by the BBC on August 30, stated that the Government was adopting a strictly neutral attitude to fox hunting and would act only in the light of expert evidence to be given by the proponents of each of the "three options".
    The degree of this "neutrality" can be judged from the fact that not only Tony Blair himself but also every one of the senior Defra ministers - namely Lord Whitty, Margaret Beckett, Michael Meacher, Mr Michael and Elliot Morley - have already publicly voted for the total abolition of hunting.
    In doing so they have deliberately ignored the "expert advice" - that hunting involves no more cruelty or suffering than any other method of fox control - given in the Burns Report, which they themselves commissioned.
    I, like the majority of those who will be marching on September 22, have never hunted on horseback. I shall be marching to express my anger and frustration at the arrogance, ignorance, ineptitude, insensitivity and downright hostility of those in the present Government charged with the welfare of rural communities.
    While hunting may have been the catalyst which has brought us all together, the overwhelming purpose of the march will be to demonstrate our contempt for a Government which is attempting, in many other spheres as well as hunting, to interfere with the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.
    We hope that there will be MPs from all parties marching with us, but for any member of the Government to show his or her face would be sheer hypocrisy.
    From: David Parker, Longtown, Cumbria "

    Sept 3 ~ The purpose of this letter is to hold you to your word as a gentleman, and in the letter and spirit of your opening speech, ask you set the standard in "openness"

    "...When it came to the haggis furore, one newspaper in Toronto (Canada) told its readers, Quote "We are now more aware of the extent to which sheep intestine is used in haggis production and this has prompted our request to outlaw its use throughout Europe".............a spokesperson for the agency explained yesterday, on condition of anonymity. Unquote The purpose of this letter is to hold you to your word as a gentleman, and in the letter and spirit of your opening speech, ask you set the standard in "openness" and name the spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous, which goes against your creed of, "we will be open and accessible" - failing that, release the name of the person who actually is responsible for telling the world about the FSAs fears about the haggis."
    Captain Bryn Wayt has written a courteous letter to Sir John Krebs at the FSA...

    Sept 3 ~ Poor old pigs. No sympathy for Babe.

    Pat sends this article from Australia about their imminent FMD war games. What strikes us as much as Pat's sensible comments (in red) is the fact that the pig with snout lesions was of no interest to anyone. Yet its injuries were the result of yet another long cramped journey. When is this cruelty going to end and sanity prevail? No wonder animal disease is so rife when the animals themselves are never part of the equation.

    Sept 2 -World Trade Organisation gets even more power

    We read in today's Guardian: "Last night, developed countries were also close to agreeing to cut by an unspecified amount some of their rising subsidies for energy and agriculture. Although France was reportedly holding out against cutting farming subsidies, ministers were confident that a deal would be struck. OECD countries currently subsidise their fossil fuel energy by over $50bn (£32bn) a year and their agriculture by $350bn-plus. They have been widely accused of hindering the economic development of poorer countries by dumping subsidised surpluses abroad while protecting their domestic markets. The third limited success for poor countries is the probability that developed nations will cut the number of environmental targets and timetables.
    These have been viewed as a form of protectionism, although the deal is expected to enrage environmentalists. The plan which is most likely to be adopted will give the WTO more influence by making it the primary filter for all global environment and development agreements.

    Sept 2 ~ What to make of the RSPCA...

    A stench of hypocrisy. An emailer sends us these two letters from the Telegraph with the comment: "Am I getting senile? I don't remember the RSPCA making a big fuss about FMD, do you? I don't recall any prosecution for cruelty to killing of healthy stock..."
    No - because there was no big fuss. In spite of the enormous moral force that such a public outcry from such a source would have had, there were a few polite bleats - then nothing. While the NGOs and big charities may be full of well-meaning people - highly irritated by the charge that they have compromised their once fine principles and have lost their way in a maze of self-imposed bureaucracy - it is now a truism that the only people prepared to rock the boat over matters of principle are independent individuals. How true this was of FMD. So many were aghast at how common sense was annihilated along with so many millions of healthy animals - but they, like the poor animals, could be disposed of one by one. So a lot of them, unaware that there is a collective forum for their disquiet, kept quiet.

    Sept 2 ~ "...deserved disrespect for a government that gets too big for its boots"

    What would the French do, faced with similar oppression? At the very least they would shut down motorways or paralyse London, squeezing the government until the pips squeaked. Or, possibly, let a few sangliers loose into the national assembly. Of course, if you paralysed the gridlocked motorways in Britain nobody would notice. And if you released a fox in the Commons, the poltroons within would probably feed it.
    As a pioneer of the Meldrew generation of grumpy old bastards, I've been asked to give a lecture at the University of Wales in Bangor in January on the future of the countryside. My thesis is that it has none and certainly none in which country people will have much say.
    Peter Jay, a recent guest at the starter chateau, got quite angry when I admired French peasants, who effortlessly cause chaos when it is time to put ministers in their place. This, he said, was a problem of law and order and of timorous government. I see it more as deserved disrespect for a government that gets too big for its boots...." Jonathan Miller's Mean Fields yesterday

    Sept 2 ~"Pull Ragwort up by the roots, which will kill it. Wear gloves."

    Chris Stockdale understands what to do with this horse-killer. " .. An off-farm diversification opportunity exists for the astute and locally well connected to offer highways Ragwort clearance, either for private gain or as a fund-raiser for say, Scouts, Riding for the Disabled, Waldorf Schools, World Development Movement -- ..... A little organic management (ie Ragwort pulling) is a small price to pay , though we must pay it and find a way to get it done, whether by the acre, parish, square mile, mile of Highway, Kilogramme at say 20% moisture content or any combination that works."

    Aug 31 ~ The latest analysis was carried out by the GM Inspectorate, the very people who failed to spot the original contamination

    BBC News Sixteen sites in England will be sown with winter oil seed rape genetically modified to be tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium.
    Sowing will take place over the next few weeks. But Defra's decision has been questioned by Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth.
    He said: "If Defra want to convince the public that Aventis seeds are what it says on the can then they should have published the results of the analysis in full and the outcome of their investigation into the contamination of the spring oilseed rape seeds. "The latest analysis was carried out by the GM Inspectorate, the very people who failed to spot the original contamination."

    Aug 31 ~ The hidden nastiness and danger of factory farms

    From IHT.com "Agribusiness loves the apparent efficiency that comes with raising thousands of animals in a single large building where they are permanently confined in stalls or pens. Most of the human labour can be automated. It takes less land, because the animals live cheek by jowl their entire lives. And it allows the concentration of enormous stocks of animals in the hands of a few corporations whose goal is usually complete vertical integration - the control of production from birth through butchering and packaging.
    ... "The Rapsheet on Animal Factories," draws a vivid portrait of the environmental violations caused by factory farms, many of which are owned by some of America's largest agricultural corporations, including ConAgra, Tyson Foods, Cargill and Smithfield Farms. What brought these factory farms to the Sierra Club's attention was a pattern of violations that resulted in criminal charges and fines, most often caused by toxic spills.
    .......never use taxpayer money to encourage a method of farming that works against the public's desire for open space, biodiversity and clean, non-malodorous air.......
    The concentration typical of factory farms extends to the genetic level as well. The poultry and pork industries depend on just a handful of different types of turkeys, chickens and pigs, and the beef industry is headed in that direction too. There has been a precarious narrowing of the genetic resources...... .
    The danger is that of an inverted pyramid, an enormous number of animals all resting on the same narrow genetic base, exposing them to the risk of catastrophic disease and requiring an inappropriate use of antibiotics to ensure their health. Genetic diversity is no less important in domesticated animals, like hogs and chickens, than it is in wild animals. The best way to guarantee it is to guarantee a diversity of farmers. "

    August 31 ~ "How did we come to deserve the FSA?"

    Ref Site : http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/haggis
    Haggis - The Facts
    Friday, 30 August 2002
    There have been a number of reports claiming that the Food Standards Agency is proposing a ban on haggis. These reports are incorrect.
    The Agency has proposed to the European Commission a ban on the use of sheep intestines as a precautionary measures against the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep.
    Haggis does not use sheep intestines. This has been verified by the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders.
    Sheep have been shown to contract BSE from infected feed in laboratory conditions but no sheep have been found to be positive for BSE naturally. Sheep intestines, on present evidence, would constitute a significant risk if BSE were to be found in the national flock. That is why we believe they should be removed from the food chain.
    Agency takes further precautionary measures on risk of BSE in sheep
    Theoretical risk of BSE in sheep - your questions answered (see site)

    Aug 31 ~ "Britain must not be drawn into immoral or illegal wars. Labour must not sacrifice its principles, moral values or British interests and lives to the false god of a specious, special relationship with the US hard Right,"

    Malcolm Savidge, the Labour MP for Aberdeen North, has used an article in Tribune magazine to launch "an excoriating attack on Mr Blair's foreign policy." Scotsman article today (democracy watch) on Tony Blair's battle with his own party over Iraq and the fact that a pre-emptive strike would be likely to have an extrememly grave knock-on effect on Middle-East stability. On August 2 the same newspaper reported:"Last week, Mr Blair gave an press conference where the topic of Iraq emerged several times. He would then say only that "no decision has been taken", but did make clear he would not require parliament's consent before making such a decision."

    Aug 31 ~ This looks like morbid folly

    "Zimbabwe has just allowed the grain to be imported, as long as it is milled. Mozambique, however, will not let it cross its soil, and Zambia has decided that it wants nothing to do with it. Why? Because the US cannot guarantee that the grain is not genetically modified.
    This looks like morbid folly, like a dangerous game played with the lives of starving people for political gain. This is precisely true. The US government has been playing this game for well over a decade; the famine in Southern Africa provides merely the latest installment..... .. the US can't find a market for GM grain in the EU or Japan. The solution: dump it onto the starving in the Third World, thus subsidizing US corporate agriculture, and prying open markets for GM food.....
    .Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher won the Right Livelihood Award (the alternative Nobel Prize), by showing that it is possible for Ethiopian agriculture to produce a nutritious and diverse surplus without the intervention of the agrichemicals and 'life science' industries. That these alternatives are being obscured by the debate over GM foods is the third, and perhaps most invidious, reason to resist US aid. (See Beware Americans bearing gifts)

    Aug 30 ~ "satiation turns into deprivation"

    George Monbiot in Tuesday's Guardian
      "...Let us pretend there is no conflict between two of the avowed goals of the current earth summit: relieving poverty in the poor nations while enhancing economic growth in the rich ones. Let us pretend that there is no competition for resources between rich and poor. Let us accept, in other words, the myths of neoliberalism. ... Our reliance upon technology supplants our reliance upon ourselves and other people. As George Orwell suggested, "the logical end of mechanical progress is to reduce the human being to something resembling a brain in a bottle".
      .....while poverty does not cause happiness, there appears to be some evidence that wealth causes misery. Since 1950, 25-year-olds in Britain have become 10 times more likely to be affected by depression. And it is surely fair to say that most of us suffer from subclinical neuroses, anxiety or a profound discomfort with ourselves. ...."
    Agreed. The need for the rich world to grow is like the need of the Red Queen in Alice to keep running in order to stay in the same place. No wonder President Bush is so pressured from all sides by big business. But if the need for growth and the need for oil means plunging the innocent of the world into war - then more than money and getting fat and miserable is involved. And the war will come unless those who, in a helpless and hopeless way, are watching all of us sliding into it stop being helpless and shout NO. See also John Pilger: The Blair government continues to insist that Iraq poses a threat to the Middle East, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

    Aug 29 ~ The Meldrews fight back.

    We are very much heartened by Mark Daniel's article in the Western Morning News yesterday. We are not alone! (see newspapers) "We resent the conspicuous and consistent waste of money by public and publically funded bodies and the wealth and power of those who slavishly enforce regulations to the benefit of no-one but bureaucrats.
    We resent the mediocracy and its stranglehold on money which could be spent on health, heritage - anything but government. ..... New Labour has all but renounced democratic process in favour of regulation from an unelected Brussels Commission and a patently undemocratic so-called Parliament.
    So total is the assumption of power of the political classes that Tony Blair can even consider sending our troops into Iraq without so much as consultation with a once representative Parliament.
    Meanwhile, the health and transport systems have foundered despite New Labour's electoral promises. Farming and fishing have been comprehensively betrayed. The economy, though said to be booming, was totally stagnant. The only boom industry was government. ......."

    Aug 28 ~ And still Alastair Campbell doesn't get it

    The news story in the Independent "Alastair Campbell, and the picture that cost Britain £1bn" focusses on the fact that a photo of Mr Blair in a yellow suit "talking to farmers" during FMD put off potential tourists. "It seemed a good idea for Tony Blair to don a protective yellow suit and visit a farm at the height of last year's foot-and-mouth crisis."
    The "disaster" referred to in the paper is the lost revenue from the New World - not the fact that such cynical spin should have been thought appropriate. In an interview with the Foreign Policy Centre think-tank, Mr Campbell - who, as we have said here many times, naïvely confuses headline making in the tabloid press with serious policyand can now talk only in political clichés - said, "There was this collision between domestic and foreign audiences," he said. "Part of our message, once we'd focused on it as a crisis management issue being led from the top, was that the Prime Minister was involved, sleeves rolled up, talking to the farmers regularly."
    Such an extraordinary statement shows again just how far divorced from the real issues and from humanity is this unelected, unaccountable man who directs Tony Blair. What can be the magnetism binding them? Yet his policies affect us all.

    Aug 27 ~ "All around, the US food industry has lost billions of dollars in exports since introducing GM crops."

    New Zealand news "US maize prices are at their lowest for 30 years - down from US$3 ($6.43) to $1.30 ($2.79) a bushel. In 1996, before GM crops were introduced, US maize farmers made a profit of US$1.4 billion. Last year, they lost US$12 billion. The US Government picked up a third of this through farm subsidies. Our (i.e.New Zealand) Government could never afford to protect farmers this way.
    Francis Weavers, of the Life Sciences Network, assures us that many countries are proceeding to commercialisation of GM crops, and that New Zealand will miss out unless it follows suit. In fact, four countries grow 98 per cent of GM crops - the US, Canada, Argentina and China. All are busy backtracking. China and Argentina are facing commercial realities and implementing plans to reverse their commitment to GM crops.
    ....the US farm sector has become unstable, with record levels of farm bankruptcies. .....The real battle is whether pharmaceutical-biotech alliances can capture world food markets with patented seeds and paired herbicides...."

    Aug 27 ~ The marketing strategy is "Promise everything. Spend big on public relations, farmer advertising and government lobbying. Give away seeds".

    In Argentina, Monsanto captured 90 per cent of the soy seed market this way. Belatedly, the cash-hit Argentine Government will this year spend US$200 million to help farmers to switch from GM crops.
    Farmers here should take note. The sheer dollar size of the US agribiotech alliances dwarfs our economy. They have the capacity to manipulate our agricultural sector.
    The question for the Government is not green versus conventional but should we expose the mainstay of our economy, the farm sector, to the market strategies of giant US agribiotech companies which do not have our interest at heart? "
    From an article by Dr Guy Hatchard, of Christchurch, who was until June the director of economic, regulatory and market analysis at US company Genetic ID, a leading tester of crops for genetic traits.
    (How many people in the UK realise how much money Monsanto is pouring into our agricultural colleges? Is this because they have "our interests at heart"?)

    Aug 27~ until the 1970s, .... livestock had been reared on small farms where animals and crops were interdependent and self-sustaining

    Guardian Aug 21 "By 1991, the industry was "vertically integrated", a few companies controlling meat processing, production of grain for feed, and farming itself. Thousands of small farmers could no longer compete. ........
    Industrial animal farming also had implications for human health and food safety. Animals were often kept in overcrowded, poorly ventilated, dirty conditions - the ideal climate for disease. ..... Estimates by the UK public health laboratory service suggested 30% of raw chicken was contaminated with salmonella, and 75% was contaminated with campylobacter. In the Netherlands, supplying much of the UK market, 85% of pigs sampled were found to be infected with campylobacter.
    Mirroring the rise in food-borne illness, was an increase in antibiotic-resistant infections. Their impact in developing countries could be devastating, the report said. Tests by Compassion in World Farming on factory chickens sold near Cape Town, South Africa, found they were contaminated by bacteria that caused severe diarrhoea, skin ulceration, and even typhoid. The bacteria were 100% resistant to common antibiotics.

    Aug 27 ~ Charities outraged over junk food pacts

    Telegraph today "United Nations plans to involve multinational companies including McDonald's and Monsanto in projects to save the world's poorest countries from environmental degradation provoked a bitter row at the Earth Summit yesterday.
    Charities rounded on the initiative, which has the support of Britain and America, saying they were "outraged" by a proposed partnership between the fast-food chain and Unicef, the UN children's fund. The plan is intended by the summit's UN organisers to be complementary to new multilateral agreements on sanitation, health, fish stocks and energy which America and its allies are reluctant to sign. Britain and America are supporting setting up international partnerships between business, rich governments and poor countries."

    Aug 26 ~ Livestock at risk as weed thrives

    (Guardian) Ragwort, toxic plant beloved of witches and warlocks, is becoming an epidemic expected to cause a painful death to 1,000 horses this year
    Thousands of grazing animals, particularly horses and cattle, are at risk of being slowly poisoned to death by an innocuous looking weed. Ragwort, a willowy yellow plant often found growing on verges and reservations of roads and motorways, is spreading and is expected to kill a thousand horses this year....read more in the Guardian

    Aug 25 ~New maps of Europe already show that England has disappeared to be replaced by nine regions, without the knowledge of, or consultation with, the people

    " I reject the regional structure for this area, and I abhor the concept of England broken up into regions that will be ruled direct from Brussels."
    You might share this view and want to print out and send to your local council the letter which opens in a new window here.
    "..... I object to your being put in the position where you are obliged to spend local taxes on EU projects in preference to what you know is needed in my area.
    ..... frankly I can only see folly and enormous waste in applying abroad to have part of our money returned. Additionally, once enlargement takes place in 2006, EU funding will be reduced ........ is there a contingency plan to prevent this region falling into sad decline or would we be rendered unable to help ourselves by EU regulations?
    I recommend that the concept of regionalism is quashed...." letter

    Aug 25 ~ A summit that must succeed

    says Jonathon Porritt in today's Observer
    "It's been hammered by the media, savaged by squabbling eco-groups, and hijacked by self-aggrandising politicians. But the Johannesburg meeting holds the future of life on Earth in its collective hands.....
    Sustainable development is not yet a central concern for this Government. At best, it's an 'every now and then' kind of thing, to be run occasionally and ostentatiously up the flagpole just to show willing; at worst, it's an irritating pressure point that cuts across more 'mainstream' agendas. Hence the tendency to dump things on the admirable Michael Meacher, but never get to grips with what sustainable development really means at Cabinet level or in No 10. Most of Mr Blair's advisers still see sustainable development as a rather fancier way of talking about the environment. Even fewer understand that it's actually about a robust economic paradigm for the future, social inclusion, public health, global security and real improvements in peoples' quality of life and wellbeing. In short, it's very much one of those elusive 'big ideas' - a great deal bigger in fact than any of the anaemic successors to the short-lived 'Third Way'. ........ Wouldn't it be just so refreshing, for instance, to hear some of the business leaders gathering in Johannesburg get out from behind the pretentious rubbish written for them by their PR departments, and acknowledge that today's 'crony capitalism' is a busted flush? ..."

    Aug 24 ~ Some Background Reading

    An email message from Terry B says, "Have you come across the book 'The Principality and Power of Europe'? The forword is by Lord Tonypandy (Speaker George Thomas) first published 1997 by Dorchester House publications. See http://www.countrysidematters.org.uk/books/bookshop3.html
    I was reading a book by Francis Schaeffer which spoke of authoritarian government as being the greatest threat to western civilization - the date? 1976!!
    As usual the truth is quietly covered up and ignored . . ."
    And Lawrence writes, " Have you read John Le Carre's 'The Constant Gardener'? I am halfway through it, listening on the milking parlour radio/CD and can hardly believe my ears. Plenty that is transferable! I don't know how it will develop but on the basis of the story so far - highly recommended. "

    Aug 24 ~ "Some thoughts on GMs."

    Lawrence says, "Most members of the public probably assume that the companies that promote them are 'responsible' and can be held responsible for any damage that they might cause and thus they must be 'safe'. But just look at the companies involved with asbestos. Turner and Newall was one of the largest in the UK, and was being brought down by compensation claims from those damaged by asbestos. They were taken over by a company [American?], endearingly named 'Federal Mogul'. which promptly invoked Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All compensation payments were imediately suspended - at least one cheque paid into Court bounced.
    Under the Chapter 11 rules the company continues to trade - with the benefit of the assets of Turner and Newall. So when the disaster becomes apparent, the company responsible can, 'with a bound', be free - although in any case the parent company will probably have another subsidiary ready to benefit from the work arising from the consequences.
    How can the effects on the environment of the field trials be assessed when no one attempts to measure the environment in which the field trial is to be conducted before the trial? [It seems that the 'trials' are more to do with spin and an attempt to spread genetic pollution than any true research.]

    Aug 24 ~ Sorry Goliath but David always wins

    "The (anti-globalization) movement is being rebuilt with mercenaries who know how to pressure corporations. No more hiding behind your legislators and regulators Mr CEO, this movement is going to deal with you directly for the next few years..."
    - The head of Greanpeace US, John Passacantando, explains why he is confident that, in the end, the growing worldwide movement of anti-globalists, environmentalists and disaffected citizens will succeed. http://www.theecologist.org/article.html?article=334

    Aug 23 ~ £1 million bribe: Chairman arrested.

    Today's Guardian"Colin Skellett, chairman and chief executive of utility group Wessex Water, arrested on suspicion of receiving a bribe of almost £1m.The arrest threatens to revive controversy over Labour's relations with business because Mr Skellett is known to have met Tony Blair in Downing Street. He was among business leaders who joined Mr Blair to launch a report on ethical and social responsibility in the private sector. "

    Aug 23 ~ Colin Skellett's agency: "so careless in their treatment of farm businesses in their administration of the 'SW Business Recovery Fund'

    Lawrence writes: "I commented on the make-up of the South West Regional Development Agency - the unelected regional body being imposed on us by central government - when they were so careless in their treatment of farm businesses in their administration of the 'SW Business Recovery Fund'" (email today) (In January Lawrence wrote about its unfairness, lack of democracy and strange board. He wrote at the time to his MP, Nick Harvey ) "So I was not surprised to see today's headline news in the Guardian."
    About Colin Skellit, Chief Executive of Wessex Water from the SWRDA website.

    Aug 23 ~ Johannesburg summit:

    Heads of state and government will be asked to endorse two documents -- a political declaration and a plan of action. Both are still being negotiated -- this is what the World Summit is all about.
    The following is the draft political declaration, presented by the chairperson of the World Summit, Emil Samil:

    Aug 23 ~ One of our farms was culled in early April as a result of what was then called a "clinical diagnosis", which sounds convincing, but in fact just means the vet's best guess.

    writes Emma Tennant in the Spectator. " Cases like this were called "slaughter on suspicion", most likely to make the figures look better in the run up to the election. Our vet wanted a second opinion, but this was refused by MAFF HQ at Page Street in London, where decisions were being taken. Without waiting for the diagnosis to be confirmed by tests, MAFF began to slaughter our neighbours' healthy animals. The tests came back negative: the whole thing was a terrible mistake.
    But our farm was now classified as "Infected Premises" and there was no way of removing that label. Once an IP, always an IP. It meant, for instance, that the whole place was subject to an incredibly expensive and absolutely pointless, cleansing and disinfecting programme. Then an official rang me to say that we would not be allowed to restock for four months. A whole summer's grass would be wasted. I am not normally a foul-mouthed person, but at that point I let fly with a spot of verbal abuse, as swearing is now called.
    Even as I did so, I felt sorry for the official at the other end of the line. He had not chosen the unscientific, impractical and barbaric policy that he had to enforce.
    So who was responsible for the debacle? Dr Anderson's report poses more questions than answers. He suggests a few unconvincing explanations for the month-long delay in calling in the Army and opening COBR, the Cabinet Office Briefing Room which is used to manage civil emergencies. I suggest that he asks the Parliamentary Recording Unit (tel. 020 7219 5511) for the video of the Public Accounts Committee held on 3 July 2002. There he will see brain Bender, Permanent Secretary at MAFF's successor DEFRA, say that the delay was due to indecision at the highest levels of government."

    Aug 21 ~".....are going to abdicate responsibility for protecting the environment and alleviating poverty to the private sector"

    (CNN report)The European Union wants a commitment to halve the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015, bringing clean water to an additional 1.5 billion people. It also wants to increase the share of renewable energy sources to at least 15 percent of primary energy supply by 2010.
    Developing countries want to know who will pay for that, while the United States has resisted committing to more targets.
    Washington and the EU both are pushing good governance in developing countries to support private investment and ensure foreign aid benefits those it is intended to help.
    But the United States wants less emphasis on political declarations and more on promoting on-the-ground partnerships between governments, aid groups and -- most controversially -- private companies. ......developing countries such as Brazil worry that public-private partnerships will only give governments an excuse to reduce their financial commitments.
    Anti-globalization and environmental campaigners accuse Western countries of seeking to open up ownership of public services such as water distribution in poor countries to their own multinationals.
    "Basically this means that the (Group of Eight), and many others undoubtedly, are going to abdicate responsibility for protecting the environment and alleviating poverty to the private sector," Greenpeace charged. "
    We note that Michael Meacher's place by Tony Blair at the Conference was threatened until the tabloids objected - while that of the representative of Thames Water was never in doubt

    Aug 21 ~"... the Government wanted to bring about the situation we have now"

    This link is 1999 and the Government which shows that the Government were made well aware of what overzealous implementation of EU diktats would do to the local slaughterhouses. One can only assume that the Government wanted to bring about the situation we have now. The policy would have been influenced by Government advisors who are members of the supermarket food trade. You could say the slaughterhouse business has been reformed by the Government in order to make it more efficient for the large meat packers who want huge quantities for the supermarket trade. The downside is the lack of local slaughterhouses for the farmer who wants to market his own meat through Farmers Markets or local outlets. So my view is that we have got exactly what the Government wanted - the cheapest, most efficient way of doing it. Never mind that the animals have to travel from Scotland to Devon to fill a contract. You will find it is ALWAYS about money"
    (part of the continuing friendly discussion between David and Hilary on the farmtalking forum)

    August 21 ~ it will now be a criminal offence to fertilise land with animal manure.

    Instead they must store it, at a cost amounting to tens of thousands of pounds per farm. Our ministers' excuse for this is that they have been ordered to impose the ban under the EU's nitrates directive, supposedly designed to reduce nitrates in drinking water....(Muckspreader in Private Eye)
    "Good old Muckspreader," writes Roger Ledger " I suppose you don't get nitrates and other suspect things in chemical fertilisers and sprays then. Only in good old fashioned natural muck ?
    They were not concerned about drinking water while they were burning and burying 11 million animals were they?
    Nor were they concerned when leaving rotting animals on the side of the road for weeks on end.
    Nor were they concerned when they were filling sites like Great Orton and the rest with umpteen thousands of rotting animals.
    Nor were they concerned when people such as those living next door to places like Heathfield, Nr. Newton Abbot complained.
    Do they only get concerned when the so-called scientists in the EU make a noise then?
    Makes me sick. Rosa Klebb. Yep, fits her like a glove."

    August 21 ~ "Horse passports. Does anyone share my worry about this?" asks Heather

    "We are all (including me) much too complacent," she says, this morning. Is this yet another regulation with a sinister subtext purporting to be a "responsible" means of checking on livestock?
    We would very much like to hear from someone who can convince us that passports for horses is a good idea. Dog licensing lapsed many years ago - and there was certainly some sense in that. Read Heather's email on the subject of horse "passports"

    August 20 ~" We must be fair to the department for the elimination of farming and rural affairs (DEFRA)"

    writes Muckspreader in this week's Private Eye ...." It is the only one of the Beloved Leader's ministries which is actually delivering on its chief policy: namely to wipe out what remains of British farming. Furthermore, its ministers clearly take increasingly sadistic pleasure in the cat-and-mouse game they are playing to do it; headed by Britain's answer to Rosa Klebb, Margaret Beckett, aided by her loyal gang of bullies, Lord Whitty, Elliott Morley and Alun Michael...." More

    August 20 ~ The BVA Conference is to be held on Saturday 5th October

    The programme and "banquet" details can be seen here. We note the nature of some of the programme. Along with the more usual items such as "Practical approach to wound management" are the alternatives; representatives of the Environment Agency will speak on "Environmental Concerns - veterinary responsibilities", Jim Scudamore and Dr I Chmitelin (CVO France) will talk about "DEFRA and MAF - all veterinary issues under one roof - what's the plan?", another lecture entitled "Sheep on Wheels - control movement to control disease" will be given - as will one on the "EU Inquiries - UK and Europe" by Professor K Linklater and the MEP Kreissl- Dörfler.....
    An interesting programme? But here too is the name of a"vet" who should never be allowed within a mile of a living animal.

    Aug 19 ~ tactics, spin, presentation, image and ratings.

    Politicians are at their worst when they become obsessed with such ephemera writes Norman Tebbit in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph. "Their parties enter a spiral of increasing unattractiveness, vanishing from the sight of pollsters into their own interiors.....New Labour is centralist, elitist and patronising and gets away with it because the Tories are suffering an introspective crisis of self- confidence."
    A commentary in the same paper by the political editor, Colin Brown explains, "Lord Tebbit's outspoken remarks follow the disclosure last week that disgruntled activists were plotting the launch of a breakaway "Start Again Party". The Tory leadership has sought to dismiss the reports as "summer froth", ......... Behind the row lies a power struggle between the modernisers - the so- called "Portillistas" - who wish to transform the Conservatives' image, and traditionalists such as Lord Tebbit, who would prefer the party to fight Labour on the familiar ground of tax cuts and lower public spending....The Conservative leader is planning to silence his critics by using his party's conference to unveil new funding policies, similar to vouchers, for health and education. Money would be allowed to follow the patient and the pupil to better hospitals or schools, including those in the private sector."
    How far from humanity these politicians of both main parties seem to be with their money-based quick-fixes. A Start Again Party sounds like a good idea if such a party could recognise the need for people to regain responsibility for local lives - a real local voice, moving at the pace of genuine two-way communication. But we are slithering ever faster down a slope. The faceless EU machine against which none of us will be able to argue already has the people of Europe within its grasp - and is squeezing ever harder as it meets so little resistance.

    Aug 18 ~ "Elliott Morley has said publicly that he doesn't like live exports"

    On the question of animal welfare, Hilary writes, " I would still say it isn't all about money. Because farming is seen as an industry and judged solely in industrial terms, we have got in a mess.
    We can get out of it by bringing different values to farming. I know this is not going to change overnight and overnight is when fortunes are made, but if we all keep banging on, we can change the climate of opinion, which filtres through to the politicians in the end.
    Yesterday's (anti live-exports) march was well attended -several hundred - and noisy. No lorries that I saw. The noise was aimed at the Port of Dover and I think they got the message. The consensus seemed to be "we are winning".
    I also heard that live exports are not economic and are subsidised by the rate-payer. I've no idea if this is true. Another thing I heard was Elliott Morley has said publicly that he doesn't like live exports. Not cause for rejoicing this last, as we know well that whatever he says, the opposite happens. When we want to know things like why do we still have live exports or why have all the local slaughterhouses closed, the standard way is ask our MP to ask a question. But I expect we have all done that."

    Aug 18 ~ As Mr Morley makes clear, it is big business which is making its presence felt in Whitehall..

    writes today's Guardian, "The minister could not have been blunter. 'There is enormous international pressure to allow GM crops and seeds in this country... from the biotech companies. They are going through national governments and the world trade organisation and pressurising the EU.' ....The British government has to decide between American corporations, which want access to European markets, and its own citizens, who fear a new technology which appears untested and threatening. As Mr Morley makes clear, it is big business which is making its presence felt in Whitehall. Its message of more food produced with less pesticide was enthusiastically endorsed by the first Blair administration which only retreated in the face of public hostility.

    Aug 18 ~ Just what will it take to persuade the Government that it is disastrously wrong over genetically modified crops and foods?

    asks today's Independent leading article "Scarcely a week goes by without devastating new evidence emerging of threats to health and the environment, or without the disclosure of breathtaking bungles by the GM companies or the regulatory authorities. Last week alone two powerful new studies showed that genes from the crops are escaping to create "superweeds", and "a very serious breach of regulations" emerged when unauthorised GM seeds were sown in field trials in each of the past three years. Today we report another alarming development in the controversial trials, where stubble from GM oilseed rape sprouted again and flowered on four test sites. Yet Mr Blair and his ministers continue with plans to foist the technology on a hostile public.
    Every assurance trotted out by the industry, and its fans in the Government, now lies in ruins. They said that the technology would not create superweeds: but report after report shows that they are emerging where GM crops are grown widely and are "inevitable" here if commercial cultivation begins.
    They said that GM and organic agriculture could coexist; but a massive EU study -- which Brussels tried to restrict to "internal use only" -- shows that the hugely popular chemical-free farming would be forced out of business by GM contamination.
    They said the technology would feed the Third World; but last week Zambia, in the midst of the southern African famine, has refused to take GM food aid, on the grounds that it is too dangerous.
    And they said it posed no danger to health: but even the strongly pro-GM Royal Society now admits there could be hazards in future. Last month research found that GM genes could transfer from food to bacteria in the gut of people who eat it -- just a few weeks after the scientific establishment roundly condemned the powerful BBC drama Fields of Gold for suggesting something similar..."

    Aug 17 ~ WHY no local slaughterhouses?

    Joyce writes, "In a local newspaper last week was an article about our local [closed] slaughterhouse, saying that it was illegal under EU law for the council to give money for a re-vamp....well there are two answers to this....one is short term and involves fingers and the other is much longer term...."
    Two-fingered type action seems to us to be long overdue on this and all the other illogical and callously ignorant legislation. Agricultural regulations - whether inspired by the EU or gold-plated by an obsequious government - are strangling farmers, farming and, - most importantly - is actually counter-productive in terms of animal welfare and disease control.

    Aug 17 ~ If the pressure groups really cared about farm animals they should pressure the Government for equal funding with our EU counterparts.

    email about animal welfare ..."Also pressure the Government for discretionary funding to improve housing.
    How about a grant for cubicle mats or mattresses to save thousands of cows being slaughtered this winter as a result of damaged legs? Also why not get some funding so that every cow could have at least one visit a year from a professional foot trimmer - it grieves me to see cows hobbling around just because the farmer does not have the time or the money to call in the foot trimmer(more)

    Aug 17 ~ Money is one issue but not the only one.

    Live exports have been resumed. Hilary writes,"If our concerns about cruelty came first, we could address all the issues you mention. Of course the drive to overstock is wrong as well as being counter-productive in the long run. I know one farmer who could no longer make a living from a dairy herd. He gave up and now has 3 cows and an ice-cream parlour. He is making a living and working far less hard. This is not an isolated example.
    Re travel: No it isn't OK for animals to travel long distances or be put through multiple journeys. Again, if welfare came first, we wouldn't need laws to determine the exact number of miles. Most people can recognise suffering when they see it.
    I agree we need to focus on all areas of animal welfare. The most pressing one I know at the moment is live exports. I don't know everything."

    Aug 17 ~ To be honest, I didn't pay much attention to the story in Thursday's Telegraph - "World faces polyester crisis"

    - in which our Science Correspondent revealed that we could be facing massive polyester shortages by 2008. But I bumped into famed war correspondent John Pilger at the bar that evening and he was waving the paper triumphantly. ...Because it's an abbreviation," crowed John. "Just another chilling Pentagon euphemism to hide what's really going on. 'War on Terror'. Short for 'War on Terylene'." He unrolled a map. "Look at this: 85 per cent of the world's known polyester resources are found in this arc from the Republic of Crimplenistan in Central Asia through the vast desert waists of al-Asticated down to the Gulf of Aqrilaq. Washington's been looking for an excuse to seize them ever since things flared up in the Seventies and they were at the mercy of OPEC."
    Read all about it - if you have a moment for wry amusement

    Aug 16 ~ "Answer me this Sandra, why did we not do the same ?"

    Bryn Wayt - like the rest of us - is beyond mere frustration at the puerile responses put out by DEFRA to concerned members of the public.
    "There is little comparison to be drawn between the UK and Uruguay FMD outbreaks". You have lost me there Sandra !
    I have to call your bluff here and ask you why you cannot see there is more than a passing comparison.
    Uruguay 2057 holdings affected; UK 2026 holdings I call that more than a "little comparison"
    Uruguay FMD 24 April 2001; UK 20 Feb 2001 I call that more than a "little comparison"
    Uruguay last case 21 Aug 2001; UK 30 Sep 2001 - I call that more than a "little comparison"
    Uruguay gets EU permission to export to the EU on 9th Oct 2001; UK free from FMD 21 Feb 2002
    Perhaps you can see why I am dismayed that you consider there is "little comparison" between the two countries in FMD terms. That Uruguay got the disease after us and were exporting again BEFORE us, just demolishes your argument. The EU Decision 2001/767/CE 31 Oct 2001 must surely urge you to examine your rationale ?
    Of course the UK suffered a primary outbreak; they all start somewhere. What do you think happened in Uruguay ?
    You mentioning Argentina with their FMD problems only goes to show that we had more of a chance to solve the problem, but 'blew' it by incompetent amateur dithering.

    Aug 16 ~ "Ministers suspend GM crop-testing"

    The Independent reports: "The Government's controversial GM crop-testing programme was thrown into disarray yesterday after it emerged that a number of fields had been contaminated with unauthorised seeds since the trials began three years ago.
    Ministers ordered the suspension of the final phase of the farm-scale trials, which had been scheduled to begin next week, after a variety of unauthorised genetically modified oilseed rape was grown in 14 fields in England and Scotland. It had been mixed illegally with other GM seeds which were being sown to test their effects on the environment. The company could face prosecution with unlimited fines or five-year prison sentences if found guilty of breaching the rules.
    Environmental campaigners suggested that other "alien" GM seeds could have crept into the trials without being noticed, rendering the field trials invalid. ...The committee has asked Aventis to give "urgent attention" to the "robustness" of its quality control. It also said that it was disappointed that the contamination had gone on for a number of years without being detected.
    The incident has caused severe embarrassment for the company (Aventis) and the Government. "

    Aug 16 ~ Oil lobby dismisses Earth summit

    By Anthony Browne, Environment Editor From today's Times
    CONSERVATIVE lobbyists in the US funded by Esso have urged President Bush to derail the Earth summit in Johannesburg because it is "anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalisation and anti-Western". The lobbyists, funded by the oil company that was also a big donor to the President's election campaign, urged Mr Bush to make sure that global warming was kept off the agenda at the summit, which starts later this month. In a letter leaked to Friends of Earth in the US, the lobbyists tell Mr Bush: "We applaud your decision not to attend in person . . . the summit will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements in critical economic and environmental issues. Your presence would only help publicise various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalisation and anti-Western agendas," it said.

    Aug 13 ~ .... to open their borders to subsidised food from abroad, destroying their own farming industries. ......

    George Monbiot's tirade in the Guardian against the war that the rich world wages against the poor has also a prophetic and sinister ring to it when we think about our own country, our own food security and the war being waged against our own farmers. Under the guise of disease control or environmental do-gooding (both admirable in themselves) the government's recent policies and proposed legislation (Animal Health Bill) will result in large scale loss of smaller livestock farmers and redistribution of land. Great Britain will look very different in a few years time. Elliott Morley talks of silly myths. How does he describe the tragedy now playing all over the world? Every year, some tens of millions of peasant farmers are forced to leave their land, with devastating consequences for food security. In Africa and Asia the process is brutal and caused by greed for money and power. Here the cause is the same - the process a little more subtle. But a "silly myth" it is not.
    George Monbiot writes: "Small farms are up to 10 times as productive as large ones, as they tend to be cultivated more intensively. Land distribution is the key determinant of food security. Small farmers are more likely to supply local people with staple crops than supermarkets with mangetout.
    ...... offends the god of free markets, ......it hurts big farmers and the companies that supply them..." Mr Monbiot is writing about Africa and Asia. But food is power. Those running our country are as fully aware of this as are the faceless, global organisations known by acronyms such as the EU, WTO and IMF. The only hope for the planet - let alone Britain itself, is to decentralise so that responsibility rests in the hands of local people.

    Aug 13 ~ Channel Four will repeat the Milk Wars programmes in prime time slots - if there is enough interest shown from viewers.

    Emails tend to get lost - so:
    Telephone 020 7306 8333
    By Letter : Viewer Enquiries Channel 4 Television 124 Horseferry Road
    London SW1P 2TX
    See also letter in the Inbox from Peter "A very British Revolution" who says, " The producers of the two channel 4 broadcasts -one last Saturday the other next Saturday the 17 August at 7.50 pm - are absolutely correct in their complaint that the timing of the two programs is without doubt deliberately designed to down play the major issues raised. "

    Aug 12 ~"If consumers want and ask for local food in enough numbers, they will get local food.

    If, on the other hand, they want the cheapest, they will get the cheapest - from the cheapest country in the world.
    Supermarkets need to be told by local people that they want local food, properly labelled.(as happens in France)
    Politicians could help by making a law which requires supermarkets to sell - say 25% local food. That would help the local farmers who want to choose quality food, even if it costs a little more. I couldn't believe it when I visited my mother recently and ate some local potatoes - they tasted like the ones I had when I was a kid - because that was where they were grown, on the red soil in Somerset. I haven't experienced that taste for 25 years!" (email)

    Aug 11 ~ Licensing means curtains for Welsh B&Bs

    Under a scheme to be announced this week Wales becomes the first part of the United Kingdom where all such establishments must be officially licensed. Licences will be issued only after officials of the Welsh Tourist Board have checked that the premises comply with a thicket of requirements.
    At present anyone is free to offer bed and breakfast, which is regarded as a private arrangement between owners and their guests. But the thought that any human activity should remain unregulated is these days becoming anathema.
    The Welsh Tourist Board thus claims that, "in order to compete on the global stage in terms of quality of accommodation being offered" to Wales's 13 million annual visitors, all such establishments must now be registered, in return for a hefty fee, and after an inspection to ensure that they meet a long list of conditions.
    Until now it has been possible to register with the board on a voluntary basis, at a cost of £50, to qualify for mentions in its publicity material. Many proprietors have questioned the value of this, inluding Mrs Anna Tribe, whose £50 investment attracted only one guest to her home near Raglan.
    ...... all windows, even those lighting the staircase on the third floor, must be curtained. One inspector explained that every light in the house must have a shade, just as they were entering a room lit by a large chandelier.
    David Davies, a Conservative member of the Welsh Assembly, recently asked the Labour spokesman for economic development how he proposed to enforce the new system.
    Would the police be expected to go round checking on the illegal letting of rooms? He was told that B&Bs would be closed down in the same way that premises could be closed under the fire regulations.
    How long will it be before the first Welsh farmer is faced with a prosecution for the heinous crime of allowing a weary traveller to spend a pleasant night in his unlicensed farmhouse? (Read the whole of Booker's Notebook today - and see more about the effects of regulation run mad in Britain)

    Aug 11 ~ first, do no harm.

    John Humphrys writing in today's Times: "Jibrell believes sustainable development is not about international interference but helping small groups of people to develop their own natural resources on their own terms. She talked movingly to The Ecologist magazine about small boys herding goats being taught to seek out the traces of the rivers. When they find a trace they follow the line to its weakest point and put stones, one on top of the other, to form a small rock dam. Then they go downstream to the next bend and repeat the exercise. Gradually the water deposits soil and manure and maybe some acacia seed. A new bush grows and the goats eat the leaves and manure the ground.
    That is a long way from the 65,000 delegates in Johannesburgs hotels. A long way from the big talk and the sheer hypocrisy of rich nations promising what they know will not and cannot be delivered. The great leaders may smile indulgently at romantic dreaming of small boys and tiny dams. But Jibrell has learnt the lesson handed down to healers through the centuries in the Hippocratic Oath. Its principle ethic says: first, do no harm. If Mr Meacher takes that thought to Johannesburg his trip will have been worthwhile. Then he should tear up his passport.

    Aug 11 ~ An urgent plea for information

    email received today: "In all this talk about the 20 day standstill and how it is to be applied to whom, I can find absolutely nothing that tells me whether my pedigree male goats are going to have any customers this year. Can anyone answer this? DEFRA are determined to maintain that sheep and goats are the same, which I can assure them they are not!
    A ram can be put in a field with a flock of ewes and he'll get on with the job on his own, but goat breeding doesn't work like that.
    How can one run a stud business where a female in season visits a male for service and returns home after the job is done? She can perhaps observe a 20 day standstill, but if the male has to as well, there will be nearly as many dry goats this season as there were last, when the 20 day rules were justified. "

    Aug 11 ~ First signs of victory in metric battle

    (Booker's Notebook today) Passers-by in Queen's Square, Crawley, West Sussex, the other night were surprised to be offered a glass of wine by a cheerful team of volunteers busy repainting 60 council road signs that gave distances in the town in metres.
    The team's leader, Tony Bennett, a non-practising solicitor, has been arrested six times in the past year, for repainting metric signs, which are illegal because, under an exemption from the European Union's compulsory metrication laws, Britain's traffic and pedestrian signs must remain in miles, yards, feet and inches.
    At the end of June Mr Bennett had been arrested and strip-searched for repainting signs in Crawley. When, however, he pointed out the legal position (now confirmed by an official circular issued to councils by the Department of Transport on July 16), the council not only let him off but tacitly agreed to allow him to finish the job of making their signs legal.
    The only objection came from last year's Labour mayor of Crawley, who claimed that he had no problem with converting to metric.
    He was told that the illegal signs were being repainted at the request of local ratepayers and that according to a recent national poll 86 per cent of the public believe that road signs should remain in imperial measures.
    When the former mayor was unable to give his own chest size in the metric system that he claimed to prefer, he stomped off muttering, "I'm not going to get into an argument."
    Four policemen then came on the scene, alleging that the campaigners were causing criminal damage.
    After receiving confirmation from their duty inspector that the council agreed that the signs were illegal, and had approved the skill with which they were being repainted, the policemen moved on, wishing the protesters every success with their campaign. ...... "

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