Saturday, July 30, 2005 

These are the men we're meant to be afraid of?

After the fear-mongering which has been going on ever since July the 7th, and on a lesser scale before that date, it's somewhat refreshing to see that those who we are meant to fear are so pathetic themselves.

Some officers could then be heard shouting to the suspects to strip to their underwear, walk out of the flat, turn into the corridor, and then stop. Officers could clearly be heard addressing the suspects as "Muhammad" and "Mr Ahmed".

Towards the end of the siege they could be heard demanding why one of the men would not come out of the building. He shouted back: "I'm scared. How do I know you won't shoot me?"

In a reply which apparently referred to the shooting of an innocent man a week earlier, one officer is said by witnesses to have shouted in reply: "That was a mistake."

Police said that neither man wanted to leave the building, but, a Scotland Yard source said: "In the end there was so much gas in there that they had no choice."

Eventually, both men could be seen being led away to police vehicles, wearing white paper overalls and gloves, their faces hidden behind boards held aloft by detectives.

We've been told on numerous occasions that Islamic fundamentalists love death as much as we love life. We've been told that these terrorists are cold-blooded, that they care nothing about the innocent blood they spill. We've been told of the ever-changing number of virgins they'll receive when they reach heaven after their martyrdom here on Earth. Instead, we have pictures of two incredibly frightened men stripped naked on a balcony, spitting and cowering. One was too afraid to come out because he thought he would be shot like Jean Charles de Menezes. Inevitably, the fact all four (or five, they now seem to think there was a fifth bomber) have been arrested alive and well raises questions about their level of loyalty or their plans to be suicide bombers at all. You would have expected dedicated suicide attackers to kill themselves if their plans failed. At least one of the bombers left his device on the bus, so he obviously was not intending to be a suicide attacker. Were the rest transporting their bombs elsewhere or going to leave them on the underground before making good their escape? Did they only flee in panic when the bombs detonated prematurely and failed? All these questions will help identify whether these men really were Islamic terrorists or simply some kind of copycats or amateurs.

Along with this we should remember that the government and opposition parties are still talks over new terrorism laws. "Sir" Ian Blair tried to make the idea of terrorist suspects being detained and questioned without charge for up to 3 months sound better by saying it would have to be renewed by a judge every 14 days. There's not many judges who are going to disagree with keeping someone in custody if police say they are damage to themselves or to the public, whether it's true or not. A good comment piece on some of the draconian measures which the police want to be brought in is here.

Finally, if you're here in the UK, desperate times call for desperate measures. It really probably is time to join Liberty. Membership is only £8 if you're unwaged, which is a small price to pay to try protect our greater freedoms.

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Friday, July 29, 2005 

Brian Haw wins battle to continue vigil.

Thank god for the courts:

A man who has held a four-year anti-war protest outside Parliament, has won a legal battle to continue his vigil.

From 1 August all protests in a half-mile zone in Westminster, London, must have prior permission from police.

But the High Court has ruled Brian Haw, 56, from Worcestershire, who claimed he was exempt as his protest pre-dated the new laws, can continue his protest.

But on Friday judges ruled by a 2-1 majority that secondary legislation could not be used to catch Mr Haw, who sleeps in the square in front of a large display of anti-war banners, placards and flags.

They also granted a declaration that Mr Haw is not required to seek authorisation to continue his protest.

A victory for peaceful protest. Maybe this'll show No Trousers Charlie how reactionary his new legislation on demonstrations around parliament is, although somehow I doubt it.

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Robert Kilroy-Silk resigns as leader of Veritarse.

Chatshow host turned MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk tonight quit as leader of the fringe party Veritas, which he set up less than six months ago.

He had earlier joined the UK Independence party and was elected MEP for the East Midlands in 2004, but left after a failed leadership bid.

The former BBC presenter, who entered public life as a Labour MP in the 1970s, now faces calls to quit his European parliament post. Tonight the MEP, who was facing a leadership challenge from disillusioned Veritas members, said he was standing down immediately having "tried and failed" to change the British political system.

In a statement, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "It was clear from the general election result - and more recently that of the Cheadle byelection - that the electors are content with the old parties and that it would be virtually impossible for a new party to make a significant impact given the nature of our electoral system.

No Mr Silk, we're not content with the "old parties". However, we're not going to vote for a racist who covers his policies with a veneer of legitimacy. It's nice to see he took the easy option of blaming the electorate for being too stupid to see that he is obviously the rightful leader of this septic isle.

In case you forgot, this is how he rather sweepingly generalised Arabs:

"Apart from oil - which was discovered, is produced and is paid for by the west - what do they contribute? Can you think of anything? Anything really useful? Anything really valuable? Something we really need, could not do without? No, nor can I.

"What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors?"

Quite the guy, I'm sure you'll agree. Still, at least he obviously sees himself for the failure he is. Shame he didn't realise that a long time ago.

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Breaking: All four suspects of July 27th bombings arrested.

Perhaps we can now finally get back to investigating who carried out the bombings of the 7th of July.

There were hopes tonight that all four of the chief suspects in the failed suicide bombings of July 21 were in custody after arrests today.

Two of the three remaining main suspects were detained in west London by armed police this afternoon, a security source told Guardian Unlimited.

Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, said later that a London bomb suspect had also been arrested in Rome.

If the reports from Italy are confirmed, all four of Scotland Yard's main suspects from last week's bungled attacks have been arrested, though police have said there may be a fifth bomber, and the size and scope of the cell involved remains unclear.

Today's arrests come after Wednesday's arrest in Birmingham of Yasin Hassan Omar, who is suspected of the attempted bombing at Warren Street. He was the first of the main suspects to be detained.

A security source told Guardian Unlimited that the suspects held in west London this afternoon were Muktar Said-Ibrahim, who police believe attempted to blow up a No 26 bus in Shoreditch, and the unnamed man who is wanted for the attack on the Oval tube station.

The Oval bomb suspect was arrested at Dalgarno Gardens, a block of flats in Ladbroke Grove, after a dramatic siege, the source said. Ibrahim was arrested less than a mile away at a residential property in Tavistock Road.

Mr Pisanu was quoted by the Italian news agency Ansa as sending his congratulations to police in the city, who named the Rome detainee as Osman Hussain from Somalia. He is suspected of attempted to bomb Shepherd's Bush tube station.

During today's operations a third man was arrested at one of the raided addresses in west London where dozens of armed officers, some wearing gas marks and carrying machine guns, were deployed in operations that began mid-morning. Sources said at least one of the properties had been under surveillance overnight.

Some analysts have stated that the now fabled CCTV photo of the 4 supposed July 7th bombers is a fake. While I have no way to verify this, the photo itself always did seem suspicious. A good analysis of it can be found at To show that the above photo hasn't itself been doctored, here's the original on the Met website. I have no wish to entirely delve into the conspiracy theories that are floating around about July the 7th, and how the events of the 21st may well have been a distraction away from the investigation into about the actual bombings which took place on that day. That said, the above does raise questions about the supposed bombers that have been named. The BBC has reported that the Hasib Hussain who travelled to Pakistan was a 16 year old of the same name, not the alleged bomber. There have been similar accusations about how there appear to be two Mohamed Atta's, who were in the US before September 2001.

Maybe now we'll also seem a climbdown in the ramping up of the fear level, especially by "Sir" Ian Blair, who has been repeatedly telling of the threat of further attacks. The less police with guns on the streets, the less chance of more deaths such as those as Jean Charles. Despite this, there's been a further no doubt unnecessary arrest of two women at Liverpool Street station. Expect them to be released shortly, with no apology issued as is usual.

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IPCC denounces Home Office smear of Jean Charles de Menezes.

This is reminiscent of the smear campaign which was directed at David Kelly after he was identified as the source of the Andrew Gilligan report on the dodgy dossier.

The Home Office was strongly criticised today by the man heading the inquiry into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said the department should stop issuing "partial information" after government officials released details about the immigration status of the 27-year-old Brazilian electrician, who was mistaken by police for a suicide bomber.

He added that people should "shut up" until his independent investigation had established the facts.

Mr Hardwick's comments came after the Home Office yesterday confirmed Mr De Menezes' visa had expired and implied he had a forged stamp in his passport. Officials said a stamp appearing to give Mr De Menezes "indefinite leave to remain" in Britain had not been in use by immigration officials on the date indicated in his passport. His student visa ran out in June 2003, the Home Office confirmed.

"It's entirely irrelevant information," Mr Hardwick said today. "I'm rather surprised the Home Office should issue it. We won't be releasing partial information until we've independently established the facts.

Even if the Home Office information is true, it's irrelevant to the facts that have emerged and the lies of the police so far. This young man was murdered by the police, for the simple reason they thought they could get away with it, and to further their clandestine campaign to be able to shoot to kill with no investigations into deaths which occur. I doubt this will be the conclusion the IPCC will reach, but they will undoubtedly find that this was an execution carried out by incompetents whose actions must be held to account.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005 

IRA says armed campaign over.

Beginning of the end, or end of the beginning?:

The IRA has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means.

In a long-awaited statement, the republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path ending more than 30 years of violence.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the move was a "courageous and confident initiative" and that the moment must be seized.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was a "step of unparalleled magnitude".

"It is what we have striven for and worked for throughout the eight years since the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

The IRA made its decision after an internal debate prompted by Mr Adams' call in April to pursue its goals exclusively through politics.

Mr Adams said Thursday's statement was a "defining point in the search for a lasting peace with justice" and also presented challenges for others.

"It means that unionists who are for the Good Friday Agreement must end their ambivalence," he said.

"And it is a direct challenge to the DUP to decide if they want to put the past behind them, and make peace with the rest of the people of this island."

A genuinely huge step forward. What must not be allowed to happen now is two things. Firstly, the IRA must stop its intimidation and criminal activities immediately, as well as disarming. The murder of Robert McCartney has proven to be a turning point, and anything like it must never be allowed to happen again. The McCartney sisters deserve quite a lot of credit in getting the IRA to agree to its own armed disbanding.

Secondly, pressure must now also be firmly applied to the Unionists. Attempts at power-sharing restarting were dashed last December only because of the attempts of the "Democratic" Unionist Party to humiliate the IRA through showing their disarmament. As long as the weapons are confirmed gone by independents, we don't need to see photographs of them being destroyed. That should never have been an issue. What is also an issue is that Unionist splinter groups must now also be heavily cracked down on. The Guardian has reported that there appears to be a bloody feud between the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Loyalist Volunteer Force currently taking place (Echoes of Life of Brian, anyone?). Such armed loyalist groups should also disband forthwith. Ian Paisley must not be allowed to stall any further attempts at returning to devolution.

It's now not only up to the IRA and Sinn Fein, but also Irish and British politicans to make sure that disarmament fully takes place, and that all promises are kept to both parties. This statement must mark the beginning of the end, and not the end of the beginning.

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Met admits to lying about the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Murkier and murkier still:

Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian shot dead in the head, was not wearing a heavy jacket that might have concealed a bomb, and did not jump the ticket barrier when challenged by armed plainclothes police, his cousin said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Metropolitan police, Vivien Figueiredo, 22, said that the first reports of how her 27-year-old cousin had come to be killed in mistake for a suicide bomber on Friday at Stockwell tube station were wrong.

"He used a travel card," she said. "He had no bulky jacket, he was wearing a jeans jacket. But even if he was wearing a bulky jacket that wouldn't be an excuse to kill him."

How on earth are the Met even going to attempt justifying shooting this man as a potential terrorist? It turns out that he had no connection to the suspected bombers, that they let him board a bus, that he used a travel card to get on the tube instead of jumping the barriers and that he was not wearing an suspiciously heavy jacket for the weather at the time.

To make an assumption, the police must have started chasing him when he legally entered the tube station. Whether they shouted a warning at him or identified themselves must be considered to be unknown at this time, especially in light of yesterday's story that they need not shout any warning to a suspect. Did they simply shout 'stop' at him and then chase him? What would you do if you were at a station and being chased by men with guns? It seems as if Jean tried to escape by jumping on a train just about to leave.

The murder of Jean Charles was meant to prepare Britain for what they are going to or want to do. The police want the power to shoot to kill, with no investigations into their actions, as demanded by the Murdoch rag the Sun. They chose a target that they thought they could get away with murdering. He looked like a Muslim. He came out of flats that were under surveillance. In short, they could fill the rest of the gaps in the story in themselves. Unfortunately for the Met, they made numerous errors. He wasn't a Muslim. He was Brazilian, and one who had been living here for 6 years. He had relatives that would contradict their lies. He ran away when they challenged him at the station. They shot him dead in front of commuters who could challenge their version of events. They didn't count on some of the media questioning their barbaric methods. They didn't count on Brazil calling for a full independent inquiry.

Despite this, the Met has lied about the murder from the very beginning. They had stooges at the station who said that the man had a bomb belt under his heavy jacket. Then Ian Blair said that the man was 'directly linked' to their investigation of the July 21st attempted bombings. Once their story began to fall apart, they began to spin further. They leaked to the BBC that his student visa had ran out, since contradicted by his relatives and even Jack Straw. (Update: The BBC is reporting that the Home Office is now saying his visa had ran out, and apparently a fraudlent stamp was on his passport giving him indefinte leave. More spinning or truth? Who knows? Does it make a difference?) Now their facts of the shooting are being exposed as lies.

His murder must not be forgotten. Unless we challenge the death squad mentality which the police, government and some of the media want, more innocent people will die at the hands of the police, in the name of "protecting" the public. We cannot, and must not, let this happen.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 

Government continues disgraceful censorship over books.


The Foreign Office is threatening action against Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, if he publishes an unauthorised book attacking the use of intelligence obtained under torture.

Mr Murray was deprived of his ambassadorship last year after the leak of a report in which he criticised the use of torture material by MI6. He said yesterday: "I'm not surprised the government want to ban my book. It contains a lot of information they don't want to have known. None of it concerns national security, but illegal and underhand behaviour by the British government".

I've already posted on "Sir" Jeremy Greenstock's book being censored (censorship and greed) but that was a completely different case. This attempt to censor Craig Murray is a thoroughly vindictive attack on a critic of the government's foreign policy, support for intelligence obtained under torture, and the propping up of some of the worst governmental regimes on the face of the planet.

Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, until he dared to speak out about its appalling human rights record at a conference in Tashkent. His speech was picked up on by Kofi Annan. It was not until August of 2003 that he was first challenged on trumped up charges, mainly of having sex with girls in his office and hiring "dolly birds" to work in the visa office. He was exonerated of all these charges in January of 2004. He subsequently had a nervous breakdown and suffered from depression, but managed to keep his job until October 2004 when one of his complaints about the use of torture was leaked to the Financial Times. (A good breakdown of the charges and details of some of the methods in the torture by the Uzbeks used is here).

Since then, he stood against the foreign secretary Jack Straw in his Blackburn constituency, winning 2,082 votes. He's been a thorn in the side of the government ever since his appointment. Finally, they've found a way of gaining revenge on a man who has done nothing other than be honest, attack hypocrisy and defend innocent civilians. The dark clouds over the country have just got even blacker.

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State sanctioned death squads can shoot without warning.

Absolutely unbelieveable:

Police have been given permission to shoot dead suspected suicide bombers without any verbal warning, the Guardian has learned.

A police source has told the Guardian that there is no need for officers to verbally warn a suspect before opening fire.

The source said: "If the firearms team are reasonably certain the person is a suicide bomber then there is no need to issue any warning.

Seeing as we can now be shot without any warning, here's some tips to aid our survival: 1.) Don't wear unseasonable clothing, i.e. a bikini in December, sandals in February, a buttplug in August, or a fur suit at any time. 2.) If your skin is any colour other than pale white, invest in either a quantity of chalk dust or tippex: use liberally all over any visible parts of your body. 3.) Go naked. You might get arrested, but hey, it's better than getting shot 7 times in the head, right? 4.) Leave this septic isle and go somewhere safer, such as Israel or Iraq.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005 

Suicide and China.

Suicide is the main cause of death among young adults in China, the state media said yesterday in a report that highlights the growing pressures to succeed in love, work and education in one of the world's fastest changing societies.

Increasing stress, loneliness and a lack of medical support for depression are thought to have contributed to an annual suicide toll that is estimated at 250,000 people a year.

According to the China Daily, an additional 2.5 million to 3.5 million make unsuccessful attempts to kill themselves each year.

The article doesn't make any mention of the human rights issues and ultra-capitalist ethos which defines China, and what effect they may have on the mindset of the young. I often view China as a mirror of the United States, with one major difference. While America has the illusion of freedom, China doesn't even have that. Communist only in name, China is a country which has fast become one of the biggest threats to the world as we know it. Get rich quick, but don't ask for any favours like democracy in return. The sad fact is though, that the young don't even seem interested in overthrowing the tyranny from which they are under. Since the massacre at Tiananmen Square, the only thing occupying most seems to be to become the most consumerist society in the world. Never mind that most of the people in the country are living in crushing poverty, that the regime still runs forced labour "re-education" camps, and executes the most people in the world, what really matters is yourself.

While we continue to disassociate the rise of consumer culture and kleptocratic capitalism with the rise of mental illness and depression, and fail to see the signs that more money and choice does not bring happiness, we'll not begin to even understand why more and more are becoming ill and killing themselves. The more we lie and delude ourselves, the more we will die.

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Brian Haw - hero.

Brian Haw is an unemployed man who sleeps rough every night. You'd probably think he was a drug addict, or an alcoholic if you didn't know anything else about him. The difference is that every night he sleeps in parliament square in the heart of London, where he's been holding a peace vigil since 2001. The Labour party and other MPs view Brian as such an annoyance (he tends to shout through a megaphone when they're in session) and "security risk" that they almost certainly made a special part of the new Serious and Organised Crime Bill especially to deal with him. Unfortunately for them, they drafted this new section of the act rather carelessly, meaning that it does not apply to demonstrations already in effect in Whitehall and the surrounding area. Brian today successfully won the right to challenge the law, and its attack on peaceful protest in the heart of our democracy. Brian, I salute you. He's already survived being arrested and having his display dismantled. He won a case against Westminster council that he was an obstruction. Here's to hoping that he wins this case as well.
An article in the day in the life of Brian (from 2002) is here.

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Monday, July 25, 2005 

8th time lucky.

Just when you thought that the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes couldn't get any worse, it does.

Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician mistakenly gunned down by anti-terrorist police at Stockwell tube station, was shot eight times, an inquest was told today.

Mr De Menezes, 27, died on Friday, the day after the failed suicide bombings on London's transport network. Details of how he died were confirmed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

An inquest, which was opened into his death earlier today at Southwark coroners court, heard that he was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

Eyewitnesses to the shooting had reported he had been shot five times after failing to stop when challenged by the plain-clothes officers. His family are considering legal action.

The pen is meant to be mightier than the sword. Maybe the pen on the lawsuit will be.

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GM crops create superweed, unfortunately not the smokable kind.

Modified rape crosses with wild plant to create tough pesticide-resistant strain:

Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant "superweed", the Guardian can reveal.

The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago.

The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects.

Unlike the results of the original trials, which were the subject of large-scale press briefings from scientists, the discovery of hybrid plants that could cause a serious problem to farmers has not been announced.

The scientists also collected seeds from other weeds in the oilseed rape field and grew them in the laboratory. They found that two - both wild turnips - were herbicide resistant.

The five scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the government research station at Winfrith in Dorset, placed their findings on the department's website last week.

A reviewer of the paper has appended to its front page: "The frequency of such an event [the cross-fertilisation of charlock] in the field is likely to be very low, as highlighted by the fact it has never been detected in numerous previous assessments."

However, he adds: "This unusual occurrence merits further study in order to adequately assess any potential risk of gene transfer."

Brian Johnson, an ecological geneticist and member of the government's specialist scientific group which assessed the farm trials, has no doubt of the significance. "You only need one event in several million. As soon as it has taken place the new plant has a huge selective advantage. That plant will multiply rapidly."

I'm not going to pretend that I completely understand the science behind GM crops and foods. In fact, I don't even moderately understand it. What I do understand is that these crops and foods pose a multiude of risks, as these trials and experiments in Canada and America have shown. Before we even consider planting them commercially here, we need to do a lot more experimentation. The advantages have not yet overcome the disadvantages.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005 

Police murdered an innocent man. No one says much.

Shot man not connected to bombing:

A man shot dead by police hunting the bombers behind Thursday's London attacks was unconnected to the incidents, police have confirmed.

A Scotland Yard statement said the shooting was a "tragedy" which was regretted by the Metropolitan Police.

The man was shot dead after police followed him from a south London flat to Stockwell Tube station on Friday.

The statement read: "We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday 22nd July 2005, although he is still subject to formal identification.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday 21st July 2005.

"For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

The statement confirmed the man was followed by police from a block of flats that was under surveillance.

Oh never again, oh never again. They gave us 5 shots to the back of the head. And we're all dead. Now.

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More on the execution on the tube.

It seems to have been proven that the man shot dead on the tube was
not carrying a bomb or any explosive device.
Reuters and Sky have been carrying similar reports to the Times. Reports on this are still confusing and contradictory, but I'm going to attempt to piece together what seems to have happened.

It appears to be agreed upon that the man came out of a house which was under surveillance by police, as having some link towards the "attacks" on Thursday. Something I haven't seen in other reports and accounts features in the Independent's story, which is that the man first got on a bus. Now, while the Independent may well have got this wrong, what's so different from a bus than a tube train? Why did they not stop him from boarding the bus, or even arrest him when he left the house? Both need answering.

When the man approached Stockwell tube station, he appears to have jumped the barriers, and was at the time being chased by armed, plain clothes police. As he approached the tube train, he either tripped as he jumped on, and fell against a pole and a person, or was tackled by police, who then bundled on top of him. He was then shot at least 3, probably 5 times, in the head. It appears the train had been delayed, which hasn't been explained, but I presume it was because the next station on from Stockwell is Oval, where one of the "attacks" took place the previous day.

The Guardian has published 7 helpful eyewitness accounts, the most authoritative and quoted is that of Mark Whitby:
"An Asian guy ran on to the train. As he ran, he was hotly pursued by what I knew to be three plain-clothes police officers.

"He tripped and was also pushed to the floor and one of the officers shot him five times.

"One of the police officers was holding a black automatic pistol in his left hand. They held it down to him and unloaded five shots into him. I saw it. He's dead, five shots, he's dead.

"I'm totally distraught. It was no more than five yards away from where I was sitting as I saw it with my own eyes.

"As the man got on the train I looked at his face. He looked from left to right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, like a cornered fox. He looked absolutely petrified.

"He looked like a Pakistani but he had a baseball cap on, and quite a thickish coat. It was a coat like you would wear in winter, a sort of padded jacket.

"Maybe he might have had something concealed under there, I don't know. But it looked out of place in the weather we've been having.

"He was quite large, big built, quite a sort of chubby guy.

"I was crouched down and basically ran as fast as I could in a crouched position. I just was worried about bullets flying around.

"It was just an instinctive reaction to get out - people running in all directions, looks of horror on their faces, screaming, a lot of screaming from women, absolute mayhem.

"And the smell of cordite as well, the gunpowder smell, that sort of acrid sort of gunpowder smell.

"It was an absolute nightmare. I'm just waiting for the pubs to open to be quite honest - nice stiff Scotch.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life. I saw them kill a man basically. I saw them shoot a man five times."

The only person who seems to have claimed to have seen some kind of bomb belt was Anthony Larkin. He also said that he heard only 2 shots being fired. Whether he will be completely discredited remains to be seen.

This whole thing is very, very distressing and disturbing. The police seemingly had chances before he got to the tube to stop him. They chose not to. It has horrible echoes of being a chance to show the public that they mean business, as well being a plan to further terrify Londoners into thinking that there are suicide bombers all around them. Of course, this could be an entirely innocent incident. The police could well have just cocked it up, and saw something which wasn't there. Still though, some things don't add up. This BBC article which quotes Margaret Gilmore, the home affairs correspondent who I've often suspected of having right wing sympathies, as quoting a police source:
"He ran, they followed him. They say they gave him a warning, they then shot him.

"They brought in the air ambulance. They did everything they can to revive him. He died at the scene."

Other witnesses do mention there being a helicopter in the air. Was this an air ambulance, or just a normal police helicopter? When you shoot someone five times in the head, it's pretty odd to then try to revive them. The way they shot him shows that they obviously meant to kill the man. Calling the air ambulance or reviving him afterwards just seems to add insult to injury. It smacks of them trying to make what they did look better, as if they cared for this man they executed.

Vikram Dodd, in an excellent Grauniad article, spells out the police thinking and plans:

The shooting yesterday at Stockwell tube station was the first time police used special tactics developed to tackle the threat of suicide bombers.

Under Operation Kratos a senior officer is on standby 24 hours a day to authorise the deployment of special armed squads, who will track and if needs be, shoot dead suspected suicide bombers.

One of the most senior officers involved in protecting London confirmed there were special teams of armed officers ready to be deployed.

A senior Metropolitan police source with knowledge of firearms procedures said of the shooting at Stockwell: "This was an intelligence led operation, within the parameters of Kratos." Officially the Met will not talk about Kratos, but the tactics have been in place for a year and were developed after British officers learnt from their Israeli counterparts how best to tackle suicide bombers.

So it is admitted. Britain is taking lessons in stopping "terrorists", from the country which kills and assassinates with impunity.

My stomach has been churning ever since I first heard the news of the shooting. The police didn't try to stop this man; they killed him in cold blood. By all accounts, it seems like he was trying to run away. They didn't shoot him in the leg, the chest or the shoulder, they shot him in the head. Not once, but at least 3, possibly 5 or more times, in the head. This was an execution. I still find it reassuring that the police in this country don't ordinarily carry guns. That reassurance is starting to die. If the police can get away with killing a man like this in front of ordinary commuters who saw what happened, what next? Perhaps we truly are sleep walking into a police state.

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Friday, July 22, 2005 

Man shot dead on tube, more on the 'bombs', and police want even more draconian measures...

Police shoot man dead at tube station:

Police today shot a man dead at Stockwell tube station in south London.

Scotland Yard said: "We can confirm that just after 10am armed officers entered Stockwell tube station. A man was challenged by officers and subsequently shot. London ambulance service attended the scene. He was pronounced dead at the scene."

A witness described the man being "shot dead" in front of him as an officer "unloaded five shots" from a pistol. Another witness said he heard three shots.

None of the witnesses describe the man as carrying any weapon, or even a bag or rucksack. He did however have on a heavy coat, a sure sign that he was asking for it. There was talk of there being a 'shoot to kill' policy on suicide bombers, but this man doesn't fit that description, and neither does the way in which he was executed. In those situations it is meant to be one shot to the head, not 3 or 5 shots. The fact that the police tried to resuscitate him speaks volumes. Why shoot someone 5 times then try and bring him back to life? Obviously he may well have dropped an package or bag that may have had explosives or a weapon in, but I would have thought if he had the idea then would have been to take him alive, not dead.

On the 'bombings', police haven't made anything clear yet on what happened. Experts have said that the possibility of 4 bombs all failing to detonate would be extraordinary. Only 2 of the attacks have confirmed reports of men actually running away, at the Warren Street and Oval stations. The package on the bus in Shoreditch was apparently left on there. Witnesses have reported both smells similar to vinegar and to burning rubber. On the whole, these all seem like completely amateurish attempts. That said, the police may yet come forward and say that the explosives did fail to detonate. Many questions still remain though. Why let the bombs go off at 12:30 in the afternoon, when there's a lot fewer people on the tube than would be during the morning and evening rush hours? If you're an al-Qaida affiliated grouping, the point is meant to be to cause as much carnage and death as possible. The only things these achieved was a couple of hours of panic, at the most. The one thing they have demonstrated is that they have shown that security is woefully lacking, but in that respect there is very little than can be done about it. These challenges have to be faced up to. I still feel that it's possible these people could have been pranksters, or mules, perhaps thinking they were transporting drugs, which would explain the men transporting the rucksacks running away. The bag left on the bus could have been for someone to pick up at a later stop along the way.
Again, it seems like it could be a distraction away from something much bigger that is being planned. It seems pointless to speculate, but the whole thing is deeply worrying.

Even more worrying is the draconian measures which the police are now demanding in the wake of these further 'attacks'.
Police ask for tough new powers:

Police last night told Tony Blair that they need sweeping new powers to counter the terrorist threat, including the right to detain a suspect for up to three months without charge instead of the current 14 days.

Senior officers also want powers to attack and close down websites, and a new criminal offence of using the internet to prepare acts of terrorism, to "suppress inappropriate internet usage".

They also want to make it a criminal offence for suspects to refuse to cooperate in giving the police full access to computer files by refusing to disclose their encryption keys.

The police would also like to see much clearer information given to the public about the threat level, the creation of a specialist border security agency and further discussions about the use of phonetap evidence in terrorist cases.

The Association of Chief Police Officers published its list of 11 further changes in the law it wants after meeting Mr Blair and security services chiefs yesterday.

Other powers police told Mr Blair they needed include:

· Terror suspects to give compulsory answers to questions similar to obligations on company directors in fraud trials;

· A duty on the private sector to install protective security in designated locations;

· Putting private security staff at the disposal of the police in the immediate aftermath of an outrage;

· New generation CCTV cameras at ports and airports.

The police sought extra funding for a regional network of Special Branch officers and a further £45m to ensure national coverage for the new generation CCTV cameras, which scan number plates and alert intercept teams.

Police complain that 14 days isn't enough to get enough evidence against supposed terrorist suspects. Instead of then asking for a more reasonable month, or 6 weeks, they demand 3 whole months. These measures beg the questions: what are they doing to the suspect in those 3 months? Are they going to be depriving them of sleep? Are they going to be facing hostile questioning for hours at a time? Are they going to be allowed to have lawyers present? Even more frightenining is the possibility of them demanding encryption keys. How long before software companies demand that police use similar powers to take hold of programs created by others which they feel are a threat? The power to shut down and 'attack' websites, whatever that means, is even more of an attack on free speech. I've long felt that a huge clampdown on the internet is overdue, and it looks like the police are going to use the current circumstances to their advantage. What is inappropriate internet usage? Will record companies be able to use similar circumstances along those lines to attack by complaining to police about those using file-sharing software?

However, perhaps most frightening of all is the removal of the right to remain silent. This has been held to be one of the tenants of rights of anyone arrested in any democracy and courtroom. As we have seen with terrorist legislation being used against demonstrators and others, is there any chance that if this gets onto the statute book it'll end up being used against those arrested who have nothing to do with terrorism? At the moment the whole country seems to be on a very slippery slope. What's more, how do they make people talk? Do they just charge them with perverting the course of justice, or something more sinister? We seem to be now entering a new era in Britain, and it's one that's very frightening. Not because of those who wish to cause us harm, but because of those who govern us and think they are doing what is right.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005 

21/07/05 - never forget!

Congratulations to the pranksters, extreme right-wingers, republican/loyalist dissidents, fundamentalists or security services which performed today's hilariously pathetic 'attacks' in London. There hasn't been such a humourously useless attack in Britain since the Real IRA fired mortars at the MI6 building, breaking a window.

There's little point in commenting on these incidents as yet, but the reliable Richard Norton-Taylor from the Grauniad has written some quick analysis. I'm not sure whether this was simply a warning or possibly a distraction from something else big that is going on/going to happen. The next few days may be very interesting.

Also of note today is this:

Overall crime in England and Wales has dropped by a further 7% in the past year, contributing to a "historically unprecedented" fall over the past decade, according to official figures published today.

But this continuing fall in total crime is marred by an apparent rise in violence against the person, with the number of incidents recorded by the police topping the million mark for the first time.

Home Office statisticians describe the continuing fall in overall crime - down by 44% from its peak in 1995 - as "quite extraordinary and historically unprecedented, at least for the last century".

The 2004-05 results of the British Crime Survey, which is regarded as the most reliable indicator of crime trends, show that overall crime fell by 7% in the past year, with a 20% fall in domestic burglary, an 11% fall in car thefts and an 11% fall in violent crime.

If these figures are right, have we all just become more sensitive to crime? It's still never out of the gaze of the media. Poverty certainly hasn't dropped by any significant margin, so it can't be down to that. I don't have any answers, and I haven't seen any that have been suggested either.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005 

BBFC wins appeal over hardcore at 18.

No surprises:


The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) announced today the outcome of the appeal by eight distributors against the decision by the BBFC to pass nine video works ‘R18’. The seven members of the VAC were unanimously of the view that the appeal should be dismissed.

The distributors submitted their works with a request for an ‘18’ rating. The BBFC rated all of the works ‘R18’, the category reserved for sex works which are only available through licensed sex shops. The distributors appealed to the VAC under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984.

In upholding the Board’s decision on the nine works the VAC in its Judgment expressed the opinion that “the material which is the subject of this appeal is not suitable for distribution other than in a sex shop. We have considered each video individually but in none of them do we find any grounds to change the classification. The Board has the onerous task of ensuring that material of this kind does not fall in the hands of children or the vulnerable and the fact that a person may not order it by mail in this country and must purchase it in person goes some way to enable the Board to discharge this duty.”

The nine works were Lubed, The Secrets of Kama Sutra, Ben Dover – Cumming of Age Volume Two, Heart of Darkness, Queensway Trailers, Dungeon Diva 2, Semi-Detached, Catering for all Tastes – Finger Buffet for Six and L’Elisir d’Amour.

In case you're not familiar with the works of our quaint British censor, the BBFC has to give a certificate to every piece of film that is to be shown in a theatre, or sold on video/dvd. Until 2000, hardcore pornography was banned in the UK. After a ruling by the judicial court, such works, if they can be called that, were classified as R18, meaning they are only allowed to be sold in licenced sex shops. They cannot be sold by mail order, or on the internet by UK retailers.

Since and before the ruling, there have been several films which have featured unsimulated sex scenes, some of which have been passed 18 uncut, others not. These include Baise-Moi, The Idiots, The Pornographer and Romance. Then last year saw the arrival of 9 Songs, a film which consists essentially of bands performing and a couple of lovers having graphic real sex. It was passed 18 uncut for both cinema and DVD, mainly due to its art-house pretensions.

Understandbly, this has upset the companies behind adult film titles. If a film can consist mainly of real sex, no matter how boring or unerotic it is, and be passed at 18, why can't their works be passed at the same certificate? The fact is that the market for R18 works in the UK is tiny, due to the fact that there are very few licenced sex shops to buy them from, and that mail ordering is illegal. Web sites selling R18 titles have recently been prosecuted and shut down. Despite this though, it is perfectly legal to import hardcore from abroad, as long as it does not contain anything that would be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act. Hence the appeal by the distributors to have their works classified as 18. They range in err, hardness, from close to what is now passed as 18 as 'simulated' sex, to as far as the BBFC will allow at R18. (Fisting, most urination, choking and other nasty stuff is mostly forbidden.)

On the whole, this is a silly situation. I'm no fan of pornography, especially some of the degrading acts which take place in the 'gonzo' genre of films, in particular the way in which scenes nearly always finish with a 'facial', with the man ejaculating onto the woman's face. However, I also feel that most of it is completely harmless. If we can't face up to the fact that people want to have sex, and people want to watch other consenting couples having sex, then we'll be stuck with puritanical Victorian values for ever. There are a lot more pressing issues out than those to do with getting paid to have sex on camera.
The obvious solution would be for porn to be rated at 18, but it should be enclosed in special sections within shops, with appropriate packaging and ID required for anyone who looks obviously underage or relatively young who attempts to buy it. They could perform similar types of checking up as they do with getting teenagers to buy cigarettes and alcohol. This would be easy to achieve, and although it might annoy the Daily Mail, since when has that been a bad thing?

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25,000+ civilians killed in Iraq since invasion.

This article needs no comments:

Nearly 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the two years since the invasion, and four times as many died at the hands of US-led forces as from suicide bombers and other insurgents, according to a detailed study of the human cost of the conflict.

The survey, which calculates the toll of dead and injured since March 2003, also shows that the rate of criminal violence has risen dramatically.

According to Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group, the two independent researchers behind the study, the figures in the report should be regarded as the "baseline of the minimum number of deaths".

It has concluded that

· at least 24,865 civilians were killed up to March 19 2005;

· 9,270 or 37% died at the hands of the Americans or other coalition forces (86 were killed by British troops, 23 by Italians, and 13 by Ukrainians). Most of these deaths are thought to have occurred during the conflict and its aftermath.

· The second largest cause of death (36%) was criminal violence.

· Anti-occupation forces have been responsible for 2,353 deaths.

· At least 50 babies up to the age of two have been killed;

· 1,281 children aged between three and 17 have also died.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005 

Government decides that fee-charging ATMs are A-OK!

Just another part of consumer 'choice':

Fee-charging cash machines (ATMs) are aiding rather than hurting consumer choice, the government has said.

The government welcomed the spread of over 20,000 fee-charging ATMs as convenient and not posing a threat to the free-to-use machine network.

Overall, consumers now pay £140m a year to access their own money, the committee's report concluded.

This is mind boggling. I seriously can't believe that any government, let alone a supposed Labour government, new or not, could possibly justify charging people to access their own money. Even worse, these charges affect those on benefits, which are now paid straight into bank accounts. When you're living on £64 a week, having £1.75 taken from it to access it isn't just unacceptable, it should be viewed as theft.

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Death of a fascist.

BNP founder dead:

John Tyndall, the 71-year-old founder of the far-right British National party, has been found dead at his home in East Sussex, police said today.

Tyndall, who was due to appear at Leeds crown court on Thursday for allegedly stirring up racial hatred, died at his flat in Westbourne Villas, Hove. He had been charged in connection with a speech he made in March 2004 in Burnley, the site of race riots in 2001 that were blamed on the BNP.

Death is not something we should celebrate, or wish on people. That said, when a person such as John Tydall kicks the bucket, it's not exactly something to cry about either. The BNP and National Front have been poisoning politics in this country for decades. If you want to read a load of lies and the kind of cultural analysis written by someone who thinks that Hitler had the right idea, then his commenting on this year's BNP manifesto is worth a gander. It includes such gems as:

Then Hitler again gets a mention when he is included among Continental rulers who sought to invade and conquer Britain. This is factually untrue; Hitler could easily have walked-in in 1940, but chose not to do so, because he never wanted conflict with this country.

Many will feel that there is indeed a conspiracy behind the drive to eliminate the British people as an ethnic group, and that certain Zionist elements have a hand in it. But why bring the matter up here? And why make a denial concerning it that is clearly contradicted by thousands of facts?

Also noticeable in the Manifesto is any reference at all to the soaring rates of illegitimacy, the breakdown of family life, the absent fathers, the single mothers who deliberately seek that status for their own advantage as distinct from having it forced upon them, and the appalling rate of abortion and its detrimental effect on the birth-rate, particularly among Whites. The British social fabric is simply falling apart but no one would suppose that the BNP has any ideas for reversing this process.

I'm sure you'll agree, this man was quite a guy.

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It's not all doom and gloom, you know.

It's very easy to fall into the trap of constantly being cynical and pessimistic. I often get into this cycle of misery. Just to try to counter this, with all the depressing news of political parties coming together to fight free speech, Iraq fast becoming the most deadly place on the planet and President Bush moving the goalposts over his previous pledge to sack whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press, here are two heartening and optimistic news stories you may have missed.

Mugabe asks South Africa to bail him out:

President Robert Mugabe is pleading for a loan worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Zimbabwe's neighbour South Africa to buy food, fuel and electricity in what is being seen as a sign of the deepening crisis afflicting the country.

Far-ranging negotiations are taking place between South Africa and Zimbabwean officials that could lead to Mr Mugabe agreeing to significant economic and political reforms, South African officials said yesterday.

In what could be a turning point in resolving Zimbabwe's crisis, South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, is demanding that Mr Mugabe make substantial reforms, including an immediate halt to housing demolitions.


Economic reforms that South Africa will require include a significant devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency. Another requirement will be for Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party to hold talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change over the constitution, conditions for elections and human rights abuses.

As long as those economic reforms don't involve enforced privatisation, this could finally be the beginning of the end of Mugabe's reign of tyranny against his own people. It shouldn't be forgotten that he was first thought of as an excellent leader, and one of Africa's foremost statesmen. It's only in recent years, with his expulsion of white farmers which so thoroughly annoyed the west, especially Britain, that he has become an international pariah. His despicable demolitions of "slums", have been the last straw, after his crass human rights violations and stolen elections. Hopefully now other African leaders will denounce him, but also help to rebuild the shattered country.

Indonesia and Aceh rebels agree peace:

Indonesia and the rebel province of Aceh have struck a peace deal to end a 30-year-conflict that has killed up to 15,000 in the region worst devastated by last December's tsunami.

The deal will lead to the withdrawal from the province of 27,000 Indonesian troops and police, and the disarming of 5,000 guerrilla fighters, and speed up the delivery of aid to the area's 4.1 million people.

Negotiators expect a formal peace agreement to be signed on August 15, in time for Indonesia's independence celebrations two days later.

The breakthrough came after Jakarta agreed to drop objections to Gam becoming a political party, a move with ramifications for separatists elsewhere in the archipelago.

Jakarta has traditionally banned regional political parties for fear of stoking separatist movements.

The draft deal submitted by Gam was approved by Jakarta on Saturday, said Mr Djalil. "The president has agreed to the draft submitted by Gam about political parties" the minister said yesterday. "Finally we have reached common understanding about the issues we discussed last night."

Around 250 EU observers and 100 monitors from the Association of South-east Asian Nations will oversee the end of the war, which will involve the guerrillas laying down their weapons under an amnesty, while more than half of the 50,000-strong Indonesian force in the province withdraws.

I realise that these agreements are often broken, as can be seen in the inexorable chain of war and peace between Israel and Palestine and Sri Lanka, not to mention Northern Ireland, but they can often also lead to relative calm between sectarian communities. It's a start, if nothing else.

If liberals and left wingers are constantly negative, and fail to have a vision of what we actually do want to change, we will never be taken seriously. The revolution will still take a long time in coming, but the quicker we start the quicker it will arrive.

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Monday, July 18, 2005 

Censorship isn't the story; greed and hypocrisy are.

FO accused of censoring insider book on Iraq war:

Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, is blocking passages from a fly-on-the-wall account by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former ambassador to the UN, on the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Downing Street disowned any involvement in the censoring of the book yesterday after reports in the Observer and the Mail on Sunday that Tony Blair had wanted to block publication.

No 10 put the responsibility on the Foreign Office and Whitehall procedures to vet civil servants' memoirs for the removal of parts of the book, The Cost of War.

Sir Jeremy, who was also Mr Blair's special envoy to Iraq for a year, has been known to be a critic of the politicians' handling of the war.

The Observer said yesterday that some of the removed passages were highly critical of the US.

In one, Sir Jeremy calls America's decision to go to war "politically illegitimate" and says that negotiations in the United Nations "never rose above the level of awkward diversion for the US administration".

The story here isn't about the fact that the government is censoring his book, although that is important and should be condemned. What is the story is the way that Jeremy Greenstock has gone from being one of the biggest supporters and spokespersons for the war on Iraq, to being a supposed critic. Until June 2003, "Sir" Jeremy was Britain's ambassador to the UN. He had a major role in drafting the failed second resolution which would have "authorised" war (source: Blair's Wars by John Kampfner), which was never presented to the UN Security Council. He regularly appeared on Newsnight and other programmes at this time defending both the British and American governments efforts. He followed the line.

His first major break with policy was in July 2004, over a year after the invasion, when he was one of the first associated with the attack on Iraq to admit there had been major failures, as in the small matter of there being no weapons of mass destruction, and that the US had listened to the lies and distortions of Iraqi exiles too willingly, hearing what they had wanted to. He's now written his book, as many others have/or are doing. What's going on in here is the rewriting of history. They want us to forget that they supported this disastrous war, and what's more, they're succeeding. Is the situation in Iraq on the front pages of newspapers or on the main headlines of the news anymore? Do bears defecate in tree-rich environments? It doesn't matter that 150 died over three days of suicide bombings last weekend.
What really matters is that these people get their money.

A forthcoming book by Sir Christopher Meyer, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to 2003, will reveal the inner workings of Britain's lobbying in the run-up to the war, but it does not appear to have been censored.

Like Sir Jeremy, he has negotiated a newspaper serialisation deal and his book is due out this autumn.

That means that "Sir" Jeremy will have a nice fat wad of cash for his book. Let's see what else he's been up to since his posting to Iraq. Ex-ministers cleared to work for lobbying firm:

Civil servants faced much tougher restrictions. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former special representative to Iraq, had to agree not to visit that country on business for six months last year after taking a job as special adviser to BP.

BP eh? What's BP when it's at home? Oh yeah, I think they just might have had an interest in war in Iraq. Too bad that the US doled out nearly all the contracts to their own firms. "Sir" Jeremy also now has took up a directorate at the Ditchley Foundation, which seems to have a nice line in hosting talking shops for politicians and others concerned in "international affairs".

The sad fact is that the deeper you dig into the Iraq war, the more corruption you run into. This war was all about greed and hypocrisy; "Sir" Jeremy Greenstock is just one tiny cog in it.

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Saturday, July 16, 2005 

Attack on the neutrality of the court system increases.

Families of murder victims to have their say in court:

Relatives of murder victims will be given the right to speak out in open court about the effect of the loss of their loved ones on their lives, under plans to be unveiled by the Department for Constitutional Affairs next week.

They will be allowed to make their speeches, either in person or through their own lawyer, at the hearing which decides the killer's sentence.

The idea, to be outlined in a consultation paper, is part of a programme intended to "rebalance" the criminal justice system more in favour of victims.

At present, ministers believe, there is too much emphasis on defendants' rights and too little on victims' needs.

The plan is not to influence the sentence imposed but to give relatives an opportunity to vent their grief in open court as part of the criminal justice process, rather than outside on the court steps.

Let's keep in mind how this will affect the possibility and length of sentences. There are many doubts over recent murder cases, in particular that of Sion Jenkins, who is now facing a 3rd trial over the murder of his step-daughter, Billie-Jo Jenkins. Would he have even got past the first appeal if his wife and daughters had been allowed to make an emotional speech denouncing him after the first trial which found him guilty in front of the judge? Another case which excited public opinion and which Private Eye have condemned, is that of the conviction of Michael Stone for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell. His latest appeal in January was again denied by three judges. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the murder. He was convicted mainly on the word of another prisoner, Damien Daley, who is known to have perjured himself while giving evidence.

Murder cases are always going to be emotional. Why do we need the victims family to make a speech about how it has effected them? The evidence given in the trial already would allow the judge to gain an insight into their pain. The whole suggestion smacks of further cosying up to the tabloid agenda, who often cry that the courts are in favour of the accused rather than the victim. The whole point of the court system is that it should be neutral in every way, both from the government, the victims and the alleged offender. To position it in any other way is to subvert our whole system of justice.

We need to stop wallowing in self-pity, which seems to have pushed ever forward since the death of Diana in 1997. While we should never hide our emotions, to constantly use them to affect such serious circumstances is something that should be bitterly opposed.

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Questions over 'suicide' attacks and yet more new laws.

The questions over whether the London attacks were suicide bombings or not have not been answered yet. Although this report is from the Daily Moron, not the most reliable source, it's worth quoting:

Why did they buy return train tickets to Luton? Why did they buy pay & display tickets for cars? Why were there no usual shouts of 'Allah Akhbar'? Why were bombs in bags and not on their bodies?

THE London bombers may have been duped into killing themselves so their secrets stayed hidden.

Police and MI5 are probing if the four men were told by their al-Qaida controller they had time to escape after setting off timers. Instead, the devices exploded immediately.

A security source said: "If the bombers lived and were caught they'd probably have cracked. Would their masters have allowed that to happen? We think not."

The evidence is compelling: The terrorists bought return rail tickets, and pay and display car park tickets, before boarding _ a train at Luton for London. None of the men was heard to cry "Allah Akhbar!" - "God is great" - usually screamed by suicide bombers as they detonate their bomb.

Their devices were in large rucksacks which could be easily dumped instead of being strapped to their bodies. They carried wallets containing their driving licences, bank cards and other personal items. Suicide bombers normally strip themselves of identifying material.

Even this hypothesis that they were tricked has problems. If the first three bombs all went off at the same time, as is thought, why did the bus bomber's not? Does this point to the first three being activated by an outsider, possibly by mobile phone, who knew that the bus bomber was not ready to detonate his explosives? The fact that the car at Luton was left with explosives in it has been troubling me. It seems to make very little sense to leave such an obvious lead for the police to find.
If anything, this points to a whole trail of incompetence in the bombers planning.
The fact that newspapers still seem to believe that Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri order such attacks show they have not yet recognised the autonomous nature of the new extremist groupings. These groups are not a part of al-Qaida, they just share its murderous philosophy, and are if anything, just copying their lead.

On the home front, here's even more news to be cheerful about: 'New anti-terror measures outlaw camp recruits'

A new package of counter-terrorism measures which will be proposed by the government on Monday would outlaw those who provide or attend terrorist training courses in Britain or abroad and make it a criminal offence to describe those who carry out suicide bombings as martyrs.

Evidence that somebody was involved in terrorist training could include the discovery of bomb-making instructions, attempts to acquire certain chemicals and accessing terrorist-related websites.

The bolding is mine. The first is an infringement of free speech. While no one should call these deeply deluded people martyrs, why should such a stupid remark be made illegal? In this country we have dealt with the BNP and its also-rans for decades. We've never felt the need to outlaw them. Why should we now that those who are making those remarks are Muslims instead of Christians?
The second is even wider. We've already had the botched "ricin" plot, which was nothing of the sort, and just plans which would have undoubtedly failed. Just what websites will be classed as "terrorist-related"? We've also already faced the prospect of prisoners not being allowed to see new evidence held against them under terrorism laws, and demonstrators at an arms conference being stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act. How do we know that these new laws won't be a new excuse for further attacks on the internet and individuals who have done nothing wrong or are just exercising their rights? The wider the government puts the boundaries on new laws, the more chance the innocents will be implicated and tried as "terrorists".

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Friday, July 15, 2005 

Don't fuck with the DVLA.

DVLA clerk sacked after sex film:
A DVLA worker whose mobile phone video-clips of herself having sex were sent to her colleagues has been sacked for gross misconduct.

The Swansea-based Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) clerk filmed herself having sex with her boyfriend. The film was then forwarded to staff.

The 23-year-old made the mobile phone film with her boyfriend, while on a romantic hotel break.

It was then texted to staff at the DVLA, eventually reaching nearly 300 people.

I'm not going to name the woman involved, as I'm sure she's embarrassed enough. She didn't have sex with her boyfriend on company time; if anything, it was the workers who were wasting time watching it. So what's the problem? Seems like the DVLA has a problem with consenting people engaging in what is a normal and loving act.

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We whack Iraq we whack Iraq we whack Iraq we whack Iraq etc

One day, two very different reports on Iraq. Military chiefs attack Iraq lawsuits:

The country's most senior military figures yesterday mounted an unprecedented assault on the Ministry of Defence, accusing it of imposing unacceptable legal constraints on British commanders and their soldiers.

A string of former chiefs of staff attacked the ministry for subjecting British soldiers to litigation - including the prospect of being charged with war crimes under the jurisdiction of the international criminal court (ICC) - which, they said, undermined morale and the crucial relationship between commanding officers and their troops in the field.

They sharply criticised the government in a Lords debate prompted by lawsuits relating to incidents involving British soldiers in southern Iraq. They include the murder of Baha Mousa and other Iraqis allegedly maltreated by soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in September 2003.

Let's ignore the simple fact that war in Iraq was illegal, and an aggressive attack on an impoverished state weakened by 12 years of sanctions, and just concentrate on what the British army did once it got there. The article mentions the death of Baha Mousa, who died after being held in custody for just two days.

The occupation was six months old in September 2003 and the British-controlled port city was febrile, with sporadic attacks on British forces, when the soldiers raided the Ibn Al Haitham hotel.

They found five assault rifles and two pistols used for hotel security. Unable to locate their quarry, one of the hotel's owners, they took Baha and six colleagues to the British military base.

According to Kifah Taha, 46, a maintenance engineer who was one of the six, beatings started immediately. There was a competition to see which soldier could kickbox a prisoner the furthest, he claimed.

Each prisoner was allegedly given a footballer's name and beaten if he failed to remember it. Freezing water was allegedly poured through hoods placed over their heads.

Baha suffered the most and on the second night he was taken to another room from which Mr Taha said he could hear him moaning

"Blood. There's blood coming from my nose. I'm going to die."

After punches and kicks, Mr Taha's kidneys failed and he nearly died. He and the other five survivors were eventually released without charge.

I don't know about you, but that all sounds entirely reasonable to me. I can't think why they dared to try to prosecute the kind humanitarian soldiers that cared so deeply about these Iraqi men. Even if the above account is inaccurate, there has been no other explanation about Baha Mousa's death. The family was offered the derisory sum of $8,000 in compensation.

The other major incident of abuse of Iraqis was at Camp Breadbasket in southern Iraq, where British soldiers took photos of Iraqis they had supposedly found stealing food from the camp. This was uncovered after one of the soldiers took the wise decision of taking his photos to a 30-minute developing shop. The employees phoned the police.
The soldiers were ordered to 'work the thieves hard', itself a contravention of the Geneva convention. The pictures included 2 Iraqis who were forced to simulate anal sex, whilst giving a thumbs up. In all, they took 22 pictures. To add insult to injury, the sentences passed on those found guilty of this abuse were later cut without it being released to the press. It was only uncovered when the fiancee of one of the offenders told a local newspaper he would be home within the next month.

If the commanders in charge of soldiers in Iraq can't teach them right from wrong, and can't stop them from treating the people with whom they deal in a proper way, we should withdraw from Iraq immediately. The British part of the occupation is not even in the deadly Sunni triangle, it's in the mostly quiet Shia south. The military is not known for its humility, and this attack on the Ministry of Defence, which is actually trying to hold to account some of the breaches of international law which have occurred, should ignore this arrogant attack on it by those who want similar powers to the US and Israeli armies, which act with impunity and ignore or investigate then whitewash incidents. For once, the MoD is doing a service, and once recognised as such, the more chance the army has of winning hearts and minds with its approach.

The other news from Iraq is even more depressing. 'Civilians bear brunt of Iraqi insurgency':

Iraqi civilians and police officers are being killed by insurgents at a rate of more than 800 a month - one an hour, according to new figures released by the interior ministry.

The figures published yesterday show that between August 1 2004 and May 31 2005, 8,175 Iraqis died as a result of insurgent activity.

About 1,500 of those have died since the Shia-led government of Ibrahim al-Jafaari took office on April 28.

8,175. 8,175. 54 have so far been confirmed to have died in the London bombings. That's something of a difference, and I don't recall having any 2 minute silences for them. Note these are official figures. According to, the minimum number of civilians killed since the war is 22,823, with the maximum 25,869. These are compiled from news reports, and not from hospital figures or based on surveys among the public. A study conducted by the Lancet, which was pilloried in the press after it was released, estimated that 100,000 civilians had died since the invasion. Apart from US soldiers, of which 1,581 have died since the invasion, the US famously 'doesn't do body counts'. If the Lancet study is anywhere near correct, and we should keep in mind it was released in October of last year, and so now is out of date, we can tell why.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005 

More video/audio on the Visor Consultants exercise on the tube.

In case you're having doubts about the exercise on the tube last Thursday, here's some more proof:


Radio 5 Live

Thanks to both cryptogon and for these.

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The old five-finger discount.

I've often been suspicious of retailers' almost imaginary made up figures for how much they lose to shoplifters. One study quotes that as a whole they lose £3 billion pounds each year. While these should be taken with more than a grain of salt, seeing as the main research agency counts as clients almost all every big retailer in Britain you can name, the study they released yesterday is certainly interesting.

The study reveals that significantly more men than women are jailed for shoplifting and thefts by staff, and that the offenders are predominantly older, more organised and frequently steal higher-value goods to order.

The research by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) at Nottingham University also shows that theft by staff, unlike shoplifting, is on the increase in the UK. While staff theft accounts for far fewer losses than theft by shoppers, the sums stolen per offence are higher, averaging £816 for women and £919 for men.

I've often felt that staff theft is a much bigger problem than the stores will ever own up to, and that instead they blame it on the stereotypical Vicky Pollards of this world. While not going all the way to prove this, the study is certainly more eye-opening than the typical rant against shoplifters.

One of the little known facts is that most major stores now operate a civil recovery system. If a person gets caught trying to steal, as well as being reported to the police, they are sent a demand from a very friendly company (warning: link leads to a very ugly flash site) who demands money in compensation, otherwise they will pursue the offender through the courts. In the letter they warn that if they fail to comply then higher costs will inevitably arise. A lot of people would, and do instantly cave in. As the retail research site mentions, the money demanded usually amounts to between £60 and £150.

Let's take a second to just figure all this out. Companies such as Tesco, who last year made a profit of £2 billion and who have reported sales growth of 14.6% in the first quarter of this year are demanding money in recompense from often the most vulnerable in society, those who are stealing to sell items for their drug addiction, to the extremely impoverished, and the mentally ill. We're not talking piffling sums here, we're talking up to £150. That's more than double what the average person on income support in the UK gets a week. This is on top of the charges police may bring against the offender, who faces the possibility of a hefty fine, a community order or jail.

The fact is that a lot of police forces in the country now don't regard shoplifting as a major offence, and they don't bother to haul the majority of first time offenders through the courts. Instead, they usually put them through a course where they attend the police station and meet the managers from a local store, and hear their side of the story. This kind of punishment is of course not good enough for the average Daily Mail reader, or of course the likes of Tesco. Hence, the civil recovery scheme. If the police won't punish the offenders properly, they jolly well will.

The issue of stealing by staff can be linked to the low wages that Tesco and co pay. It's usually just above the minimum wage, which at the moment is £4.85, which is not a living wage. Socialists and others have long campaigned for the wage to be at least made £6, if not higher. The government does seem to be at least going in this direction, with increases made irregularly, usually once every 6 months at the moment.

Civil recovery is regarded as a success. Obviously for the likes of Tesco, whose motto is "every little helps", it certainly does. At the general election, the Liberal Democrats made a call for women to not be sent to jail for shoplifting. It was rejected by Labour. I'd go one further. No one should be sent to jail for shoplifting. All it does is increases the cycle of imprisonment and offence. Imprisonment usually results in the offender losing their home, their job and their friends, if they had any in the first place. With little after prison care provided, you can guess what they do as soon as they are released and the small amount of money they are given runs out. If anything, offenders should be made to work in the stores where they offend and give back to the community. Hell, I'd even be prepared to allow the employers to tag them and search them when they leave work to make sure they don't steal while they are working. At the moment no other solution is working.

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How kind of you Kuwait.

I'm sure that along with the rest of Britain, I'd like to thank the Kuwait Information Centre for taking a full page advert out in today's Grauniad.

It's nice to know that a Middle Eastern country so close to Iraq, and with such a close history to it, is paying attention to what's happening here and not in the country it shares a border with. Looks like they're thanking us for liberating them from Saddam in 1991.

It's also interesting to note that Kuwait only very recently agreed on the suffrage of women, with the vote held in the Kuwati parliament supported by 35 against 23. It's also unclear what conditions will placed on women when they finally get the chance to express their opinion via the ballot box in 2 years time. Among the other Arab states that have democracy, or some form of it, only Saudi Arabia seems to be holding out against the dangerous notion of letting women muddy the policital waters.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005 


With the revelation that the attacks on London were seemingly suicide bombers, indeed, ones who lived here and were "normal" young men, the soul searching once again goes on. Jonathan Freedland in the Grauniad has called it a challenge to the whole of society. This is typical of a society which cannot understand people taking their own lives, for any reason, or at any time. Recently, the painkiller Coproxomal was withdrawn from the market because of the high number of suicides associated with it, despite it being a prescription only drug. The only time that we often ever deal with suicide is when a bullied child takes their own life, which usually excites the media.

In our meritocracy, with seemingly everything available to anyone who wishes to work for it, with our lattes, i-pods, big brother and consumer bliss, why would anyone want to end their life? Often we can be judged by what happens in our prisons, where we throw the mentally ill, the petty criminals, the different, as well as murderers and others who are a threat to society. In the first 12 days of June, there were 12 suicides in British prisons. That is shocking enough, as is the fact that Britain has the highest prison population in Europe. What is more shocking is the silence that meets these facts. The only voice we often hear is of those who demand that more yobs be locked up.

Japan, well known for having a very high rate of suicide, has recently been dealing with group suicides, usually arranged on chat rooms, where young people agree to meet at a beauty spot and then poison themselves with a charcoal burner. Again, they have responded by clamping down, rather than looking at the reasons behind it. In a society in which suicide has in the past been viewed as noble, you would have expected something different.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, and almost everyone knows someone who is either depressed or has some kind of mental health issue. Yet, we still view these topics mostly as taboo. While we can't understand the motives of those who want to die, or who cannot die because of the law, we won't be able to understand those who want to take others with them in the process.
Suicide bombings, have and always will be a means to an end. In our western society, where looks and life and image mean everything, to destroy all those three things is one of the most shocking things that you can do. Self-harm and the like are not usually pleas for attention, they are methods often used to try and live with the misery and pressures of modern life. Suicide bombing is just this on a much larger scale. By taking others with them in a spectacular fashion, they are just trying to make themselves live forever, in another way. When you can't live with yourself in this life, why not take others with you and become an idol forever? At least you won't be around to deal with the fallout and the hate that your image will conjure up. That people are willing to take this step in Britain shouldn't be shocking. We should be shocked that it hasn't happened before.

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Evolution has specifically selected me for extinction.

Another day, another attack on the presumption of innocence by No-Trousers Charlie: Clarke presses for EU fingerprint plan:

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is to press today's emergency European counter-terrorism summit to adopt a plan to compulsorily fingerprint all EU citizens who already carry identity cards.

I thought we'd already got rid of one bearded extremist as home secretary, but it seems that as the weeks pass we've gained another one. Charles Clarke was at first supposed to be a moderate, not a firebrand like Blunkett, who attacked judges who dared to disagree with his decrees. Clarke was meant to be a skeptic of ID cards, fast becoming Labour's poll tax. Instead he's argued for more clampdowns, especially now that he can take advantage of last Thursday's events.

As more and more fallout starts to appear from the aftermath of these bombings, we seem to have fallen into a state of apathy already. I seriously expect that rolling over and playing dead is going to be the order of the day in parliament for at least a few weeks. The third reading of the bill on the "incitement to religious hatred" went through with very few people even noticing. Even without suicide bombings, which should never be connected to any serious religious message, there are plenty of examples of how religion itself incites hatred among those who are non-believers. As minorities become immune from the slightest criticism for believing in bullshit of the highest order, freedom collapses around us. We're not challenging religion any more. We're giving in to it. The freedom to believe in lies is obviously more important than the freedom to challenge those lies.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005 

Suicide bombings?

After first saying that there was no evidence that the bombings on the trains were suicide attacks, the police have now seemingly changed their mind. In other developments, explosives have been found in a car in Luton rail station car park.

Wait, what did I just say? That doesn't seem to make much sense, at least on the mainstream level. If these four bombs were all suicide attacks, carried out by four different people, why did they leave explosives in Luton? It doesn't seem like they'd be coming back. Was someone meant to pick these explosives up? Was one of the bombs not going to be a suicide attack, for instance the bomb on the bus that may well have exploded accidentally?
Why also carry information that seemingly identifies you if you're going to blow yourself up? Is this the vanity of a martyr who wants to be identified? Perhaps these questions will be answered. Perhaps they won't. At the moment this whole thing seems to be incomprehensible.

One of the things I most fear is that this is definitely going to lead to a huge clampdown on the internet. Already Big Ears (aka Charles Clarke) has demanded that up to 3 years of data on the details of all the traffic and location where mobile phone calls, emails and text messages are made be kept by service providers, despite the huge cost this will incur and storing space this will require, let alone the fact it'd be nearly impossible to search for relative information.
On the news they are constantly referring to the videos of attacks on soldiers in Iraq and Chechnya, which are meant to be radicalising the youth and easily available at a computer near you. Also of note are the forums which carry the messages of responsibility for bombings or assassinations, although many of these are often rubbish made by armchair activists. It's starting to look like as though we have even darker days ahead than many of us thought.

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Oh sweet jesus.

Noam Chomsky has often said that mainstream newspapers leave the most revelatory or amazing point or fact until the very last paragraph or sentences in their reports. Here's one incredible example of this: Terror cell capable of further attacks;

In a bid to get closer to potential home-grown terrorists, newly recruited police officers are being encouraged to plan a terrorist attack. The course is designed by Hertfordshire police.

Note they're not trying to actually infiltrate a terrorist group, or extremist meetings. They're actually going to plan an attack. They're no longer even being coy about what they're doing. Expect in the next few days that the police will announce they'd like to get dna samples from every child born, as they have done before. They're already establishing such a database by stealth, but in these times, what's the point of being underhand or secretive about it?

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Blitz spirit.

I knew as soon as I woke on Thursday that this navel-gazing would go on for days, if not weeks. It has come to pass. As yet, everyone is still blaming Islamic fundamentalists. Any bombing now is instantly blamed on the invisible but always present spectre of Islam. This is what our friendly cave-dweller always wanted.

Let's just try and forget that we already have something that seems incredibly coincidental coming to the surface. On Thursday morning, a company called Visor Consultants was conducting an exercise on the London underground, at the exact same stations as the bombs exploded, involving simultaneous explosions. Visor itself is based in the heart of London, and boasts on its home page of how many lecturers on risk and business continuity it has on its hands. In the interview the managing director Peter Power did on BBC Radio 5 Live late on Thursday night (note that 5 Live isn't exactly a hotbed of conspiracy theories) he states how this exercise was being performed for a company which he neglects to mention. His reticence on this matter certainly doesn't make this any less disturbing or troublesome. Some links leading to the clip are available here:

Away from the possibility that this was an operation that had nothing whatsoever to do with so-called Islamic extremists, we have the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the victims and relatives of them. Yesterday we had to deal with the nauseating sight of Marie Fatayi-Williams, who decided to wail on a street corner near King's Cross about her missing son. To call it stomach churning would be an understatement. What's worse is the way the media just happened to be passing by at the time to capture this spectacle. The Guardian has it on their front page. It was featured on the BBC 1 O'clock news in the most sycophantic and uncritical stance I have ever seen. This wasn't some crazy woman would couldn't face up to the fact her son had died. This was a person who expressed the feelings of a whole city, who conjured up the true essence of the blitz spirt, who made us all look at ourselves in a different light and feel how thankful we should be that it wasn't us caught up in this tragedy.
It also helped that she was black, and that of course makes us realise that this wasn't just a tragedy directed at the white middle and working class who commute into London every day. Also disgusting was the obviously hastily rushed together Panorama which was shown on Sunday night, which in part followed two of the survivors over the last couple of days. It felt voyeuristic, debasing, especially to see the female survivor so obviously mixed-up and in need of counseling saying how she would fight on against the terrorists and that they would not win, by doing her duty of carrying on with her life. I'm sure that those who carried out the attack will be terrified.

Even more sickening than the way the press is dealing with the aftermath is the way that Labour MPs in particular are attacking the likes of George Galloway for daring to suggest that this attack had anything to do with our participation in the war on Iraq. Tony Wright, who even voted against the war, said that anyone who connected the bombs with Iraq was talking "not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense." I'm not sure those people are the ones talking nonsense here.

The war on terror continues unabated. A lot of people don't see any connection with what happened in London with what has been going on for two years now in Iraq. On Sunday there was a suicide bombing which killed at least 20 people. There's usually at least one such barbaric attack every day in Baghdad. Do we care? Do we hell. The same people who are coughing up the same old Churchillian statements here can't see anything that might just help explain why this is happening, both here and now.

Even more disgraceful is the way that so little has been, or how so much has been said about how the economy and capitalism are so heavily involved here. Sales of bikes have soared, according to the Grauniad. Oxford Street is supposedly deserted. Forget about the stock market, and how some businesses profited hugely from this human disaster as the FTSE fell and then rose, what really matters is that we get back to normal straight away. Get back to work, says the normally eloquent Ken Livingstone. Business as usual. The business of death will never stop the business of slow death.

To come back to the opening points of Islamic fundamentalism, if this wasn't an op by the government or some lower echelon, this wasn't an attack by people with a religious background. If it was committed by Muslims, it wasn't with any ideology behind it. The problems of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan are all there, and needed to be sorted now, but this doesn't excuse the murder committed by people who will point to those as to why they are carrying out the attacks, in the same way that when we attacked Iraq we were doing it based on the lies of weapons of mass destruction and defeating terrorism. These people don't belong to any religion. Muslims need to stop defending themselves and saying they are a religion of peace. We already know, and they don't need to make these excuses for people who are doing these things in the name of Allah. What these people are is not Islamo-fascists, as some people have christened them. They are simply murderers. They are people whose only motive is killing. It's not for a reason. It's because they can, and they will. Until we get over the name calling, the petty nationalism and realise that three of the main religions all originate from the same complete and utter nonsense, we will not get anywhere. Religion is not the problem. It's the fact that people still believe in a higher being that is.

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