Wednesday, August 31, 2005 

Lock us all up.

Looks like the ways of the USSR certainly haven't quite died out yet:

A leading human rights activist in Uzbekistan has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital in an echo of Soviet-style practices after distributing anti-government leaflets which prosecutors claimed insulted the country's emblem.

Elena Urlayeva had earlier criticised President Islam Karimov for the Andijan massacre in May when government troops allegedly shot hundreds of innocent protesters.

Mrs Urlayeva, who is a member of the opposition Free Peasants party, was arrested in the capital, Tashkent, on Saturday and incarcerated in the mental health ward of a city hospital.

Talib Yakubov, chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, said Mrs Urlayeva had been detained in the past and forcibly injected with drugs. "It is because she is such a persistent critic who works 24 hours a day to help the people," he said.

Mr Karimov's regime is accused of a catalogue of human rights abuses and fears a backlash from opposition groups. The Free Peasants party is not officially recognised.

A police spokesman confirmed to Interfax news agency that Mrs Urlayeva was arrested for distributing leaflets with a caricature of the Uzbek national emblem: a fairytale bird with outstretched wings representing freedom that was depicted as downcast and bedraggled.

Yesterday the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights called for Mrs Urlayeva's immediate release.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Anne Applebaum's incredibly moving and detailed short history of the Russian gulag, primarily focusing on it during Stalin's time as leader, but also before and after. Unlike most history tomes, it's readable and doesn't fall into being dry. From the 60s right through to the collapse of the USSR, throwing activists into psychiatric wards was a popular of getting rid of them, and also involved doctors making up fake disorders to keep them there. It's sad to think that similar practices are still being used today, and even more shameful that Craig Murray was sacked for speaking out about such dreadful abuses in Uzbekistan.

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Britain already using new terror laws to stop other "subversives" from entering the country.

I really didn't see this one coming, oh no:

Charles Clarke, the home secretary, has used the government's crackdown on preachers of hate to ban an American professor who speaks for the Animal Liberation Front.

Steven Best, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso, had intended to travel to the UK to take part in an event to celebrate the closure of a farm breeding guinea pigs for research.

In the wake of the London bombings of July 7, the Home Office announced it would not allow people to enter the UK who "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; [or] foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts."

In July Dr Best spoke at an international animal rights conference in England. At that conference, he was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: "We are not terrorists, but we are a threat. We are a threat both economically and philosophically. Our power is not in the right to vote but the power to stop production. We will break the law and destroy property until we win."

According to the newspaper, he added that activists did not want to "reform" vivisectionists but to "wipe them off the face of the earth". The Home Office cited these words in a letter to Dr Best last week banning him from entering the UK. Dr Best, who claims his words have been taken out of context, said he was not surprised by the ban. "It was only a matter of time, especially after July 7. The climate in Britain is totally unbelievable. It's very fascist. It's becoming a police state," he told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Animal Liberation Front is a destructive violent organisation which I hold no brief for. Despite this, the laws in current effect are meant to deal with those who are preaching hatred against the country and fomenting suicide attacks on innocents. The Animal Liberation Front has never done either of the above, although it is an organisation which can quite easily be described as terrorist in nature. Why stop this obviously foolish academic from coming to crow about how "they" stopped a guinea pig farm from continuing business?

In short, it's another step towards the US approach of having lists of people with names that might be connected with terrorism, who they immediately stop from entering the country or who they detain on arrival. Expect it not to be too long before we have Yusuf Islam barred from this country.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005 

Deadly Israeli hypocrisy.

This is a really horrible case that exposes the Israelis not only as hypocrites, but as hypocrites that are prepared to let a child with cancer die.

The electricity pylons that could mean the difference between life and death for Ennas al-Atrash are dotted a few hundred yards from the little girl's village in Israel's Negev desert.

But the residents of Sawa are Bedouin Arabs whose village is deemed "unrecognised" by the state, and so they are deprived of the basic services that Ennas's doctors say are essential if the frail three-year-old is to have a chance of survival.

Ennas was diagnosed with cancer in her chest cavity in January and subjected to weeks of chemotherapy and two operations. She was sent home to recover with a daily injection of medicine to boost her collapsed immune system. The drug has to be stored at a steady temperature between zero degrees and 4C (32F-39F).

But the Atrash family has no reliable means to do so because the Israeli government refuses to allow 80,000 Bedouin Arabs to be connected to the power, water or sewerage infrastructure on the grounds that their villages are illegal - even though many have stood since before the modern Israeli state existed.

It has made no difference that Ennas's father, Yusuf, is a doctor in Israel's state health system who treats other, more fortunate, children while his own daughter's health is hostage to politics.

"We put her drugs into a plastic bag and pack it with ice cubes to try to keep it cool. We're not sure it keeps it the right temperature," he said.

Last week, Ennas, who has lost her hair and is said by her mother to be terrified of going to hospital, fell victim to secondary infections and underwent another operation. The doctors say she needs radiotherapy and more drugs to boost her immune system. But the family still has no proper refrigeration.

The Atrash family shares a generator with four other homes, but the cost of running it constantly is so high - about £900 a month, which is the average monthly wage in Israel - that it is turned on for only four hours each evening.

The family says its last hope is a petition to Israel's highest court to be heard on Thursday.

Dr Atrash spent months pleading with government departments. Officials said they were constrained by the law, although this has not stopped the infrastructure ministry from providing power, water and roads to Jewish outposts in the West Bank which are also regarded as illegal.

The Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal. According to Israel, the Bedouin Arabs village is also illegal. The difference is that the Arabs aren't the right religion or the right colour. It's ok if their children die, while Jewish settlers were shown being cradled by IDF soldiers, their bodies spasming with emotion and misery as they were evacuated from the Gaza strip, recorded as a part of Israel dying. If Israel still has any compassion for anyone apart from its own population, it will let the little girl's family have power.

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Skewed priorities.

Jane Longhurst was murdered by a friend's boyfriend. She was 31 years old and a special needs teacher. Undoubtedly, her death was a tragedy. What makes this death different from any other however is that her killer was found to have an obsession with violent internet pornography.

Coutts (35), a voracious consumer of web sites devoted to snuff movies and necrophilia, was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of 30 years. The Scottish-born part-time musician visited Web sites with names such as "necrobabes", "death by asphyxia" and "rape pleasure".

More than 800 pornographic images were found saved on Coutts' home computer over three quarters of which showed acts of violence against women. The court also heard that Coutts had accessed violent images the day before Ms. Longhurst was murdered in March 2003.

After strangling Ms. Longhurst with a pair of tights, Coutts took her body to a storage unit, for which he had a pin number for out-of-hour-access. The security log showed that he had visited the corpse at least 10 times in the month before he finally disposed it in a marsh.

After the discovery of Ms. Longhurst's body, employees at the Big Yellow Storage company in Brighton informed the police that Coutts had hired the lockup shortly after her disapperance. When they opened the lockup, police found Ms. Longhurst's possessions as well as a blood-stained rope and a condom containing Coutts' semen.

What has followed this case has been the usual calls for a complete crack-down on violent internet porn. The government has now appeared to cave-in to such a measure.

The Home Office will today propose to outlaw the possession of extreme adult pornography downloaded over the internet from abroad.

Although the existing Obscene Publications Act makes publishing such pornography an offence, the government argues that the internet has made getting hold of it easier while at the same time allowing suppliers to evade prosecution. In a consultation document published today the Home Office suggests making illegal "the possession of a limited range of extreme pornographic material featuring adults". It cites the depiction of bestiality, sexual interference with a human corpse or certain forms of extreme violence involving serious bodily harm.

"This is material which is extremely offensive to the vast majority of people and it should have no place in our society," said the Home Office minister, Paul Goggins. "The fact that it is available over the internet should in no way legitimise it. These forms of violent and abusive pornography go far beyond what we allow to be shown in films or even sold in licensed sex shops in the UK, so they should not be available online either."

The government and campaigners cite the case of Jane Longhurst, killed in 2003 by a man obsessed with violent sexual pornography. Her mother Liz, who has helped organise a petition that has so far been signed by more than 35,000 people, yesterday welcomed the proposed new law.

Snuff movies do not exist. There has never been a single one that has come to light which depicts the actual murder of a person, with it being sold as entertainment and the others involved in the movie getting paid. So, does real necrophilia on the internet really exist? I personally feel that it is extremely unlikely, but who knows? There might be some real east European necrophilia sites out there somewhere, or possibly on an obscure usenet group. The chances of Mr Coutts actually running into one of those and not a site which depicts necrophilia is far more likely. There are defintely sites such as that out there, as there are ones based around incest (again, debatable whether they are real or not) beastiality, and extreme bondage/S & M/rape type sites.

I find a lot of pornography distasteful, but I'm happy to admit I watch and use it. I also have a soft spot for Jess Franco type softcore erotica. I'm a firm believer that the government should keep out of the bedroom. That also applies to what consenting adults wish to do for money. If they want to take part in films that depict rape and involve pain to do with sex, that is up to them. If an adult wishes to pay to view such simulated acts, that is also up to them. The most important part of the government's consultation document is the following.

The consultation document admits that research into the subject is not advanced enough to confirm the link between such pornography and violent crime. "We recognise that accessing such material does not necessarily cause criminal activity," it says. "We consider the moral and public protection case against allowing this kind of material sufficiently strong."

In other words, we don't have any evidence that viewing such material will turn such a person into a necrophiliac that will go out and seek women to strangle. However, we do have a campaign on our hands and with some of the most draconian laws on obtaining porn in the western world, who's going to care about banning disgusting violent porn?

A case highlighted by the campaigns at Melon Farmers is that of a man identified only as "braintree". He was illegally selling DVDs recorded off adult channels. However, he unfortunately happened to have an animal and scat DVD in his possession when he was raided. While he had no intention of selling such material, he was charged with intent to supply under the Obscene Publications Act. In addition to the these two DVDs, some of the others he had recorded contained urination (urinating is allowed on its own at R18, but urinating on another person or showing someone licking or drinking it is usually cut) and fisting, both of which are regularly cut from R18 titles by the BBFC as they are considered "obscene". In the end, he pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to 4 months in prison. A fuller account is available here.

What did the above case serve anyone? Yes, he was breaking the law by selling DVDs he had recorded, but there are many other examples of sites based in the UK selling R18 DVDs, which itself is illegal as recently decided by a high court ruling. Why are the police not going after them? As usual, the police and the power of state is turned on one person.

If the above consultation stays in more or less the same shape and becomes law, we can expect there to be many other braintrees. The government has no evidence that such explicit material makes a person likely to be more violent. I've always found that those who watch or seek out such material are less likely to act out any fantasies they might have had once they have actually seen it or acts depicting such fantasies. Mental health professionals admittedly are split on the issue, though. Furthermore, would such a law affect mainstream "art" cinema? Films such as Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave are still not available uncut in the UK, both of which deal with rape and the resulting revenge. The first inparticular is possibly the best polemic against violent gratuitous action films and even violence itself which I've seen. Irreversible, which contains a long anal rape scene, passed uncut in the UK, could also fall under such laws.

Why has this come up now? This government is facing such pressure over so many other issues that a tabloid-pleasing law such as this may help take some heat off Labour. As a result, many innocent citizens who have unusual or minority tastes may end up in prison for paying to watch consenting adults have sex for money. I thought those days had passed. Most of all though, is this what Jane Longhurst would have wanted? Is this what Graham Coutts' ex-girlfriend wants? Why is it that one murder can cause the loss of freedom for so many? It seems we are no nearer moving away from knee-jerk reactionary decisions.

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Monday, August 29, 2005 

The Sun-watch.

Yesterday was a pretty slow news day, I'll admit. What with a huge hurricane looming off the Gulf coast of the United States, threatening to swamp New Orleans, and the Shias and Kurds pushing through an Iraqi constitution without Sunni approval. Hell, there was even a cricket match of some sort won by some country. So, what does the leading tabloid newspaper put on its front page for this fine bank holiday Monday?

Yep, it picks on a "welfare cheat" who's been spreading his seed a little too freely. That's if the story's true, of course. Rebekah Wade, if you actually did edit the paper yesterday and you're not swanning it off on some beach somewhere, you're an inspiration to us all.

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You mean the government knew the Iraq war was stirring extremism???????

New Labour, as most governing parties are, is often fundamentally dishonest. The cries from Tony Blair and others that the attacks on July the 7th had nothing to do with the war on Iraq, and that there was no reason to think such a thing have been rather undermined by the appearance of a letter leaked to the Observer, available here.

The Foreign Office's top official warned Downing Street that the Iraq war was fuelling Muslim extremism in Britain a year before the 7 July bombings, The Observer can reveal.

Despite repeated denials by Number 10 that the war made Britain a target for terrorists, a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, to the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull - obtained by this newspaper - makes the connection clear.

The letter, dated 18 May 2004, says British foreign policy was a 'recurring theme' in the Muslim community, 'especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq'.

'Colleagues have flagged up some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion,' the letter says. 'But another recurring theme is the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq.

'Experience of both ministers and officials ... suggests that ... British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims.'

The letter continues: 'This seems to be a key driver behind recruitment by extremist organisations (e.g. recruitment drives by groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al Muhajiroon). The FCO has a relevant and crucial role to play in the wider context of engagement with British Muslims on policy issues, and more broadly, in convincing young Muslims that they have a legitimate and credible voice, including on foreign policy issues, through an active participation in the democratic process.'

The letter or the article doesn't tell us anything we didn't know already. What it does show is that the government knows full well what it is doing and what it is doing wrong. They know they was no reason for Britain to take part in the war on Iraq, apart from Blair's slavish subservience to George Bush. What has he got in return? His majority at the election was slashed, he's widely viewed as a liar and many no longer have any trust in what he says. That it took 8 years as prime minister for this to come about is more surprising than anything else. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this is that Blairism and the sycophants who surround Blair are now seen as spoilt goods. While it's hard to get enthusiastic about a Brown-led Labour party and government, surely anything is better than the deceit and spin that the Blair years will be remembered by.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005 

John Bolton: what a guy!

John Bolton, besides grooming his mustache to look as much like Stalin's as possible, has been busy. Around a month after being made US ambassador to the UN by President Bush, thanks to a recess during which Congress could not oppose or filibuster his choice, he's laid down a number of hugely encouraging amendments to the UN summit agreement, due to take place in September. All in all, he's made around 750 proposed changes to the UN draft. Here's just some of the changes:

Values and principles

We further reaffirm that core values and principles, such as respect for human rights and human dignity, freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, [deleted: respect for nature], the rule of law, shared responsibility, multilateralism, and non-resort to the threat or use of force [inserted: in a manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations] are essential for peaceful coexistence and cooperation among states.

We rededicate ourselves to support [deleted: all] efforts to uphold ... the sovereign equality of all states, respect for their territorial integrity and political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, resolution of disputes by peaceful means, and the right of self-determination of peoples [deleted: which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation]

We pledge to make the United Nations more relevant, more effective, more efficient, more accountable and more credible [deleted: and to provide the organisation with the resources needed to fully implement its mandates].


We [deleted: remain concerned, however, by the slow and uneven implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium development goals and] reaffirm our commitment to eradicate poverty and promote sustained economic growth, sustainable development and global prosperity for all.

We resolve to... make the fight against corruption at all levels a priority, as agreed at Monterey, and welcome all actions taken in this regard at the national and international levels including the adoption of policies that emphasise accountability, transparent public sector management, competitive markets [deleted: and corporate responsibility and accountability]

[Deleted: We welcome the establishment of timetables by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7% of gross national product for official development assistance by no later than 2015 and to reach at least 0.5% by 2009 and urge those developed countries that have not yet done so to make concrete efforts towards allocating 0.7% of their GNP for ODA...]

Protecting our common environment

[Deleted: We recognise that climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the world. We call for further technological and financial international cooperation for the sustainable use and management of natural resources in order to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns as a means of keeping the balance between the conservation of natural resources and the furtherance of social and economic objectives.]

We therefore resolve to [deleted: undertake concerted global action to address climate change, including through meeting all commitments and obligations under the Kyoto protocol...].

Meeting the special needs of Africa

We resolve to provide, as a priority, assistance for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment in African countries [deleted: on a grant basis, and encourage pharmaceutical companies to make anti-retroviral drugs affordable and accessible in Africa]

I'm sure you'll agree that all of these changes are excellent substitutions for the originals. I personally cannot wait for the day when the United Nations

Use of force under the UN charter

We also reaffirm that the provisions of the charter of the United Nations regarding the use of force are sufficient [deleted: to address the full range of security threats and agree that the use of force should be considered as an instrument of last resort].

Disarmament and non-proliferation

We also recognise that non-compliance with existing arms control, non-proliferation and [deleted: disarmament] agreements and commitments also threatens international peace and security of all nations and increases the possibility of terrorist acquisition of WMD.

We reiterate our firm commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty [deleted: its three pillars, disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy].


... we commit to end the impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes [deleted: by cooperating with the international criminal court, the existing ad hoc and mixed criminal tribunals and other mechanisms for international justice as well as through strengthening national legal systems].

I'm sure you'll agree that all of these changes are excellent substitutions. There's no way that the UN should have any concern for nature or worry about climate change, bring war criminals to justice through an established international criminal court or dare to suggest that the use of force to settle disputes should be the last resort. Also, corporations should be self-governing and responsible only to their shareholders. Plus, who cares about those damn Africans? It's their own fault for being poor and catching AIDS through their own dumb promiscuity. Why should drug companies lower their prices just for them? Thank God for the straight talking and shooting John Bolton, he's finally shook some sense into a moribund and irrelevant organisation. What a guy.

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New Labour, no compassion part deux.

A day after the Kachepas were deported to Malawi, the government is wasting no time in deciding to start sending back failed Iraqi asylum seekers to quite possibly the most dangerous country on the face of the earth.

The first enforced returns of failed asylum seekers to northern Iraq are expected possibly as early as this weekend despite objections from regional Kurdish authorities and the UN refugee agency.

The Home Office has confirmed that 38 men are being held at immigration detention centres around Britain and that officials are "looking at a number of dates" for their return.

They are likely to be flown on an RAF aircraft, via Cyprus, to the newly opened airport in Irbil, the regional capital. The Kurdish community believes the first flight will leave tomorrow. Many refugees say they could be killed, even in northern Iraq.

There are thought to be as many as 7,000 Iraqis in the UK who have been refused asylum and face deportation. The deportations will begin by the dispatch of single men to Iraqi Kurdistan, which has largely - though not entirely - been spared the onslaught of Islamist suicide bombings.

"We will only return to areas assessed as sufficiently stable and where we are satisfied individuals will not be at risk," a Home Office spokesman said yesterday. "Enforced returns will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

"It's important for the integrity of the asylum system that anyone found not to be in need of protection is required to leave the UK. Enforced returns will commence as soon as we have made relevant arrangements."

The decision to deport was taken in February 2004 but two new factors have stiffened the government's resolve: a reassessment of immigration priorities after the London tube bombings and the first flight this month into Irbil of those returning voluntarily.

Although only 18 people were on the plane arranged by the International Organisation for Migration, it opened up a route that avoids the dangers of overland journeys via Baghdad.

"It has made life a bit easier for those wanting to go back," said Marek Effendowicz of the organisation. "In the last year we have helped 300 Iraqis return from the UK."

But the Home Office decision has triggered protests by human rights bodies and refugee groups who warn it is not safe anywhere in Iraq. One Kurd told the Guardian he was no longer reporting to the Home Office because he feared he would be detained.

The London office of the UN high commissioner for refugees yesterday restated its opposition. "Iraq is still extremely unstable and dangerous," it warned. "No part of Iraq can be considered safe, although ... some areas are more stable than others. The UK government [should also] review its low recognition rate of Iraqi asylum seekers."

Even the regional government in Irbil has warned it does not want to be burdened with unwilling returnees.

It seems somewhat beyond comprehension that we can even consider sending people back to Iraq yet. The Kurdish regions are not by any means safe, as continued fighting in Mosul and Kirkuk has shown. As mentioned above, even the government does not want failed asylum seekers to be sent back at the moment. This is also ignoring the individual plights of some of the asylum seekers; not all fled because of persecution under Saddam's regime. Some are still frightened due to tribal conflicts, and the overthrow of the Ba'ath party has not made that threat go away.

Returning refugees to Zimbabwe was recently stopped thanks to the high court deciding that new evidence is needed to prove that Zimbabwe is "safe". If Zimbabwe isn't safe, Iraq sure isn't. Again, this whole problem can be linked back both to the tabloids and colonialism. There is no way that all the recent problems in Zimbabwe to do with Robert Mugabe would have got so much attention in this country if it wasn't a: a former British colony and b: affecting rich British exile farmers. Rigged elections and removal of "slums" are par the course in Africa. It is the same tabloids and papers which were still supporting apartheid in South Africa 25 years ago that are now campaigning for tough sanctions on Zimbabwe. This is not to say the country is not ruled by a despot with no regard for life; it is. What then is so different about Iraq?

The Sun newspaper (Proprietor R. Murdoch. Every single paper he owns supported the war in Iraq, including those in China.) was the head cheerleader in this country for the disastrous Iraqi adventure. Unsurprisingly, it is also one of the biggest cheerleaders for deporting asylum seekers and other "undesirables". The Labour government has long been afraid of incurring the Sun's wrath, almost as much as it has the Daily Mail. One conspiracy theory was that a meeting with one of Mr Murdoch's associates led to Tony Blair calling a referendum on the European constitution in return for support in the election. True or not, the Sun has a stranglehold on a lot of politicians and the largest circulation of a daily paper. Its influences run wide. It was through such campaigns as "kick out asylum seeker scroungers" that led to Labour adopting a hardline approach to asylum, although the Tory election campaign also has had an impact. We are now also told that the 7th of July attacks have also led to the immigration situation becoming much more important.

In short then, the government is not sending immigrants back to a country governed by a despot, but still at least has a functioning government, while it is prepared to send them back to a country occupied by foreign armies and infiltrated with suicidal insurgents. A typical case of New Labour joined up thinking. 52 innocents were killed on the 7th of July; thanks to tabloid pressure and a lack of empathy, many more will be living in fear of their lives. Congratulations Mr Murdoch and Mr Blair.

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Friday, August 26, 2005 

New Labour, no compassion.

Just when you thought that this government could not sink much lower in the human empathy stakes, what with bombing Iraq and executing innocent Brazilians on tubes, they deport a settled integrated family despite fears for their lives.

The first time they were snatched by immigration officials at dawn before church on a Sunday. On the second occasion, they left 50 Weymouth teenagers weeping as they took a hired van to Heathrow.

And yesterday, Verah Kachepa and her four children were made to go through their third traumatic farewell to their adopted home as the Home Office finally deported the family to Malawi.

Two hundred local people, from pensioners to school children, gathered outside their flat and joined prayers, gave impromptu speeches and applauded the Kachepas on to a coach which immigration officials drove to the airport.

Today Mrs Kachepa, Natasha, 21, Alex, 17, Tony, 16, and Upile, 11, will wake in Zimbabwe before being flown to Blantyre in Malawi. Mrs Kachepa's eyes glazed over when asked what lay ahead.

The Kachepas legally arrived in Britain in 2001. Soon afterward however, Mrs Kachepa's husband left, returned to Malawi and started a relationship with the former dictator Hastings Banda's niece. They were warned never to return to Malawi, and death threats were also made. In response to this, the Kachepa's claimed asylum. They were refused, and have been fighting to stay in Britain ever since. Yesterday, after previously being arrested by immigration officials and held at a detention center, as well also having packed ready to leave only for the incompetence of the immigration service to temporarily reprieve them as no one arrived to put them on the flight, they were deported.

Why? What harm was this family causing to anyone? The family had integrated. The eldest daughter was to study at Southampton University to become a nurse. The eldest son is a talented musician and actor, receiving an award for his part in a short film. Verah Kachepa herself worked in a charity shop and helped out at a pregnancy centre. The whole family had campaigned for racial tolerance and understanding. What more could have been asked of a family? The tabloids constantly moan about "sponging asylum seekers". This family was the very opposite, yet they have fallen victim to the tabloid hate campaign. The government has only recently decided to become "tough" on asylum thanks to the lies and intolerance preached nearly every day by the Sun, Mail and Express. Thanks to stories such as "ASYLUM SEEKERS EAT OUR DONKEYS AND SWANS", a whole part of society which deserves compassion and help has become stigmatised and a scapegoat. The result? Families such as the Kachepas being deported back to countries where they may well end up imprisoned or even killed.

Despite the best efforts of the people of Weymouth who wrote letters, protested and elected a Labour MP who promised to save the family, the Kachepas now face a life of fear and uncertainty. Labour is now likely finished in the Dorset area. Worse than that, the immigration minister and services have shown their true faces. Targets for deportations and the tabloids are more important than the wellbeing of actual people. Not just a sad day for those who knew the Kachepas, but also for those who thought they were living in a country which defended freedom and the right not to live in constant fear.

A site for leaving messages for the family is here.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005 

It's the oil, stupid.

Oil prices have hit a record $68 a barrel after the US reported a fall in gasoline stocks, while China said its crude imports had risen sharply.

Fears that tropical storm Katrina might hit production in the Gulf of Mexico also pushed the cost of oil higher.

US light crude touched $68 a barrel in Asian trade on Thursday before slipping back to $66.95. In London, Brent crude hit $66.56 before falling to $65.69.

Demand from the US, China and India is expected to keep oil prices high.

Maybe the price of oil will drop back when the American driving season finishes. Maybe. One politician suggested that the price of a barrel could hit $100 by 2012. To me that sounds incredibly optimistic. The price of a gallon in the good ol' USA is currently around $3, half of what it costs here in this septic isle, and they're already deluging the phone-ins on the radio stations complaining. It's going to be quite a shock when they start to realise that high oil prices are here to stay, and are likely to get higher year on year. Maybe the US really should take Pat Robertson's advice and put a price on the head of our friend Hugo Chavez, especially after his latest comments that he might supply cheap fuel to poor Americans:

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela hit back vigorously at calls by an ally of President George Bush for his assassination by offering cheap petrol to the poor of the US at a time of soaring fuel prices.

In a typically robust response to remarks by the US televangelist Pat Robertson, Mr Chavez compared his detractors to the "rather mad dogs with rabies" from Cervantes' Don Quixote, and unveiled his plans to use Venezuela's energy reserves as a political tool.

"We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States," he said.

Venezuela, the world's fifth largest crude exporter, supplies 1.3m barrels of oil a day to the US. It remains unclear how poor Americans might benefit from the cheap petrol offer, but Mr Chávez has set up arrangements with other countries for swapping services in exchange for oil. Cuban doctors are working in the poorer areas of Venezuela in exchange for cheap oil going to Cuba.

Jamaica yesterday became the first Caribbean country to reach an agreement with Venezuela for oil at below-market terms. The Petrocaribe initiative is a plan to offer oil at flexible rates to 13 Caribbean countries. Jamaica will pay $40 a barrel, against a market rate of more than $60.

Mr Chavez said oil importers such as the US could expect no respite from the oil market, predicting the price of a barrel would reach $100 by 2012.

I'm pretty sure that such talk is simply rhetoric, as you can imagine the huge outcry about subversion and infiltration within the States if such a proposal actually became reality. However, that doesn't stop the main thrust of Chavez's point. The real power soon could be in the hands of those who have the oil. China has been making deals around the globe with countries such as Sudan and Iran which the United States is loath to work with. It all depends whether they decide whether to do business with tyrannical regimes, or take the easy route and bomb them into submission. At the moment, it appears to be advantage China and Chavez.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 

New photos of Saddam Hussein!

I know that this is what I was waiting for. Here's a brand new picture of this hairy beauty, looking a lot better than in previous photos which showed him washing his underwear:

Personally, I still prefer this luscious shot:

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Dare to justify Palestinian suicide bombings, get deported.

"As long as young people feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress."

Who do you think said the above remarks? Was it Yasser Arafat, Omar Bakri Mohammed or maybe even an al-Qaida apologist of some sort? No, it's an exact quote of what Cherie Blair said three years ago on the day of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

Why do I bring this up? Well, today Charles Clarke published the guidelines or rules which if broken by foreign nationals in this country will result in their deportation:

The list, which the Home Office says is "indicative rather than exhaustive", will cover any foreign-born national "writing, producing, publishing or distributing material, public speaking including preaching, running a website; or using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader to express views which foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts; or foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK."

Although the list does not give the home secretary more powers to deport extremists than he currently enjoys, it specifies behaviours which will define the basis of "not conducive to the public good."

Mr Clarke said: "As I said when the consultation started, we recognise the sensitivities around the use of these powers and intend to use them in a measured and targeted way. These powers are not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues. Britain is rightly proud of its openness and diversity and we must not allow those driven by extremism of any sort to destroy that tradition."

Note that this only applies to foreign nationals. Due to the fact that the government either can't be bothered to introduce new laws which would make the above easier to prosecute or won't face up to the security services opposition to such plans, they've decided to just get them out the country. This is similar to the way a child will clean his room by just pushing everything under the bed. Out of sight, out of mind.

No Trousers Charlie's follow up remarks are also comical. He lists what will be considered not conducive to the public good in Great Britain, then says that this will not stifle free speech or legitimate debate. Tell us Mr Clarke, if Cherie Blair was a foreign national, would comments such as hers lead to her deportation? Suicide attacks within Israel cannot be justified. I personally find that attacks on the IDF in the occupied territories are justifiable, if not in either sides best interest. Does this make me not conducive to the public good in this country?

There seems little point in arguing with the guidelines set out today, as it's unlikely to make any difference whatsoever. Both the Conservative and Liberal Democrats are fully behind the plans. According to a Grauniad/ICM poll on Monday, 73% of the British public believe it's right to give up civil liberties to "improve security". Faced with this, perhaps we'll end up with we deserve. When unpopular political viewpoints can lead to a foreign national being deported, we lose the moral high ground. Charles Clarke and parliament should keep this in mind before carrying out any further expulsions.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005 

"It is going to be a cleanup day to find those weirdos who think the messiah will come".

Not the words of a Palestinian rejoicing at the Gaza settlements being nearly evacuated, but of the IDF's Brigadier General Hagai Dotan. Ariel Sharon has now, if anything, shown how effectively settlements can be dismantled and the extremists removed. How then does he now stop the pressure on him worldwide to evacuate the larger settlements in the West Bank? Why, by saying there will be no more pullouts and that the settlements will be further expanded, of course!

As Israeli forces removed residents from the last Jewish settlement still to be cleared in the Gaza Strip yesterday, Ariel Sharon sought to win back support from the Israeli right by promising continued expansion of Israel's West Bank colonies and no more unilateral pullouts.

In an attempt to reassure the Israeli right, the prime minister told the Jerusalem Post that he will continue expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are home to about 400,000 people. "There will be building in the settlement blocks," he said. "Each government since 1967, right, left and national unity, has seen strategic importance in specific areas [in the occupied territories] I will build."

The newspaper said Mr Sharon specifically mentioned further construction in Ma'ale Adumim settlement, designed to link it to Jerusalem despite Washington's objections. He said that Ariel settlement, in the heart of the West Bank, would be annexed as "a part of Israel for ever". The prime minister also said there would be no further unilateral withdrawals.

Is this rhetoric an attempt to stop Binyamin Netanyahu from attempting to overthrow Sharon as Likiud leader? Partly. However, I don't see how Sharon can now continue in this position. Can he really believe that the Palestinans will settle for an emasculated state, with fervent religious Jews and a wall separating them from their land, destroying their economy? Can the military or the country afford to keep the West Bank checkpoints, to keep killing Palestinians who go too near watchtowers, to keep taking loses just to protect some "weirdos who think the messiah will come?"

Let's hope above hope that Sharon sees the error of his ways in constantly expanding the settlements, in believing that Zionism can still exist when faced with a nation growing angrier by the year, with world attention now focused on how quickly and speedily those breaking international law and the road-map can be evicted. Let's just hope that Sharon has seen the light and realised that peace can be achieved not through the barrel of a gun, but through removing those who are blocking it with their houses.

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Wiped off the face of the Earth.

London is probably the city with the largest amount of surveillance cameras in the world. In addition to the thousands of cameras there to make sure we're not breaking any law, such as dropping a cigarette or farting out of turn, there's also the many cameras which police the congestion charge in central London.

Imagine my shock then when it turns out that the cameras at the Stockwell tube station were actually working on the morning in question. They were recording. The tapes had been replaced the previous night before as usual, despite the police taking the 21sts away to help with their inquiries. Just one problem. When the police took away the videos of them wiping Jean Charles de Menezes off the face of the Earth, they "found" that the tapes themselves were blank. A "police source" however has told the Guardian:

But last night a source told the Guardian: "Tapes were recovered with useful material, although they don't cover all parts of the station. There is CCTV coverage from the ticket area but there is an issue about the platform."

Asked if there was no useful footage from either the platform or the train, the source said: "You may be right."

It wasn't the IPCC team which removed the tapes. It was the police, immediately after the shooting. The same police team which undoubtedly planted or paid off the witnesses who told such blatant lies and untruths to the waiting media. Despite all the evidence which is piling up, even the visiting Brazilian team doesn't want to rock the boat.

Brazilian officials have said they do not believe there was a Scotland Yard cover-up over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

But ambassador Manoel Gomes Pereira said he had been "perplexed" by leaks from the inquiry that contradicted early police and eyewitness reports.

He "completely" trusted the Independent Police Complaints Commission, he added.

The IPCC has said it will end its probe into the shooting this year. Mr Menezes died after being mistaken for a bomber.

The 27-year-old electrician was killed at Stockwell Tube station, south London, a day after the failed 21 July bombings.

In addition to that, the report is now not expected until Christmas, and also won't be published until possible criminal or disciplinary hearings have been held. In other words, we might be waiting years. Unlike the Brazilians, I don't have faith in the IPCC. A public inquiry should be held immediately, with a view to publishing a thorough investigation as soon as possible. Until then we will be stuck with a failed shoot-to-kill policy, trigger happy police and more lies and deceptions from those in high office.

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Monday, August 22, 2005 

Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Here's what all the spilt blood and money has gone towards.

The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.

One of last week's victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge's southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town's security, administration and communications.

A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to.

Haditha exposes the limitations of the Iraqi state and US power on the day when the political process is supposed to make a great leap - a draft constitution finalised and approved by midnight tonight.

There is no fighting here because there is no one to challenge the Islamists. The police station and municipal offices were destroyed last year and US marines make only fleeting visits every few months.

Two groups share power. Ansar al-Sunna is a largely homegrown organisation, though its leader in Haditha is said to be foreign. Al-Qaida in Iraq, known locally by its old name Tawhid al-Jihad, is led by the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There was a rumour that Zarqawi, Washington's most wanted militant after Osama bin Laden, visited early last week. True or not, residents wanted to believe they had hosted such a celebrity.

A year ago Haditha was just another sleepy town in western Anbar province, deep in the Sunni triangle and suspicious of the Shia-led government in Baghdad but no insurgent hotbed.

Then, say residents, arrived mostly Shia police with heavyhanded behaviour. "That's how it began," said one man. Attacks against the police escalated until they fled, creating a vacuum filled by insurgents.

Alcohol and music deemed unIslamic were banned, women were told to wear headscarves and relations between the sexes were closely monitored. The mobile phone network was shut down but insurgents retained their walkie-talkies and satellite phones. Right-hand lanes are reserved for their vehicles.

Now insurgents earn praise from residents for allegedly pressuring managers to supply electricity almost 24 hours a day, a luxury denied the rest of Iraq.

The court caters solely for divorces and marriages. Alleged criminals are punished in the market. The Guardian witnessed a headmaster accused of adultery whipped 190 times with cables. Children laughed as he sobbed and his robe turned crimson.

Two men who robbed a foreign exchange shop were splayed on the ground. Masked men stood on their hands while others broke their arms with rocks. The shopkeeper offered the insurgents a reward but they declined.

DVDs of beheadings on the bridge are distributed free in the souk. Children prefer them to cartoons. "They should not watch such things," said one grandfather, but parents appeared not to object.

One DVD features a young, blond muscular man who had been disembowelled. He was said to have been a member of a six-strong US sniper team ambushed and killed on August 1. Residents said he had been paraded in town before being executed.

The constitution talks, the referendum due in October, the election due in December: all are deemed collaboration punishable by death. The task now is to bleed the Americans and destabilise the government. Some call that nihilism. Haditha calls it the future.

Back home in America, where Cindy Sheehan once staged a lonely vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Texas, supporters of the war against Iraq have started their own counter demonstrations. 350 bikers drove past the camp. Other conservatives are due to leave San Francisco and travel down the country, picking up further pro-war enthusiasts on the way. Christopher Hitchens, a man who was once the editor of the Socialist Worker and wrote the Trial of Henry Kissinger, said that Cindy Sheehan was "spouting piffle". A more cerebral Fox News commentator said she was a "crackpot". It's not worth repeating what Rush Limbaugh said.

Is the above story what the latter wanted? Is that what they had in mind? Did they want a state that is likely today to announce a constitution which has Islamic law as its base rather than as a part of it? Did they want over 25,000 Iraqis dead? Did they want 1,970 US servicemen to lose their lives? Did they want to establish a country so corrupt that it makes even Saddam-era Iraq look good? That's what those still supporting the war are now defending. It hasn't made anyone safer. Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction. It didn't have any link with the September the 11th attackers. All that's left is the brutality of everyday life in Iraq, and the brutalisation of politics in the United States and Britain.

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Houston, we have a problem.

Three days since I last posted about the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, and yet again, the details surrounding his death and subsequent police actions and statements get even worse.

In an interview with the News of the Screws (World, horrible Murdoch Sunday newspaper full of sleaze, adultery and right wing lunatics), Blair said that an officer came to him the day after the shooting and said the equivalent of 'Houston, we have a problem'.

'He didn't use those words but he said "We have some difficulty here, there is a lack of connection". 'I thought "That's dreadful, what are we going to do about that?".'

For one, I refuse to believe that he didn't know within hours, or even minutes of the shooting that they had killed an innocent man. They say a week is a long time in politics. The days following the July 21st attacks were like weeks in themselves. If he wasn't told by lackeys or those lower in command for over 24 hours, then he is head of either an incompetent organisation or one which was interested in covering up its own mess without informing him. Secondly, for an official to tell him that they had executed an innocent man who was not acting suspiciously but was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the phrase "we have a problem" is incredibly callous and offensive. To then repeat that to a right wing rag of the lowest denominator shows a lack of any feelings for the de Menezes family.

The Observer article goes on:

A police source said: 'There is no way those three guys would have been on the train carriage with him [de Menezes] if they believed he was carrying a bomb. Nothing he did gave the surveillance team the impression that he was carrying a device.'

The Observer can also reveal that the de Menezes family was offered £15,000 after the shooting. The ex gratia payment, which does not affect legal action by the family or compensation, is a fraction of the $1 million (£560,000) reported to have been offered the family. Police yesterday denied they had made the offer, which the family has described as 'offensive'.

Members of the firearms unit are said to be furious that de Menezes was not properly identified when he left his flat, the first problem in the chain of events that led to the Brazilian's death.

For the firearms officers involved in the death to avoid any legal action, they will have to state that they believed their lives and those of the passengers were in immediate danger. Such a view is unlikely to be supported by members of the surveillance unit.

For reasons as yet unclear, members of the firearms team have yet to submit their own account of the events to the IPCC. The two members of the team believed to have fired the fatal shots are known to have gone on holiday immediately after the shooting.

In short, the surveillance team and the firearms team are now blaming each other. Secondly, for the members of the firearms team to be allowed to go straight off on holiday instead of giving statements is another badly made decision. When you kill a man, you don't suddenly get out the country or elsewhere unless you have something to hide. They should have been taken off duty but not allowed to leave.

The amount of money offered to the de Menezes family is also an insult, especially the way in which it was conducted. The letter was in English. His parents only speak Portuguese. The offer was also put forward in Brazil without their lawyers being present. It appears almost to be an offer to shut them up. £15,000 and everything will be alright again.

Also now coming increasingly into the frame is the senior police commander in charge on the morning of July the 22nd.

De Menezes took a bus to Stockwell tube station, stopping briefly at Brixton. The surveillance operation logged his every step. An assessment was made on the basis of his demeanour: he was identified as a suspect. By whom? That is still unclear. It is also understood that the senior police officer in charge of the operation, Commander Cressida Dick, had ordered de Menezes at this stage to be detained before he went into the tube station and that he should be alive.

Apart from having a horrendously bad name, Cressida Dick needs to fully explain what she said and how she said it. What did she know and when did she know it? What made the firearms officers misinterpretret her so badly, if the official story is to be believed?

And finally:

The government yesterday entered the dispute to give Sir Ian its full backing. Asked if the prime minister had full confidence in the Met chief, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Yes."

John Prescott, the deputy prime minister - in charge of the government while Tony Blair is on holiday - and the home secretary, Charles Clarke, also both insisted Sir Ian, the most senior police officer in the UK, retains their full confidence.

Yep, we have full confidence in you "Sir" Ian. You told a press conference on the day in question that a terrorist suspect had been killed when you didn't know the facts. You instantly tried to stop an "independent" investigation. Your force spun what had actually happened and let the media stories go uncorrected. You let vital witnesses go away on holiday. Your force attempted to buy off the de Menezes family. There's no problem here, Houston.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005 

Swaziland admits: abstinence doesn't work.

Thinking that you live in a culture-free decadent shithole full of selfish attention whores can get you pretty depressed. Knowing that the religious right wants the exact opposite of this always makes me feel just a bit better. Articles like this are then the equivalent of the best sex you've ever had combined with a feeling of euphoria you get from knowing that those you hate are wrong:

The King of Swaziland has abandoned a four-year campaign to enforce chastity among teenagers following criticism of his own behaviour and with figures showing that the policy has completely failed to stop the spread of HIV in the country.

The announcement in the kingdom's papers yesterday coincided with the release of government statistics revealing nearly a third of Swazi 15- to 19-year-olds carry the virus that causes Aids, the scourge King Mswati III had hoped to combat with his appeals to girls to remain virgins.

Alarmed at the high rate of HIV infection, Mswati in 2001 reinstated for five years the "unchwasho" rite, banning sexual relations for unmarried girls younger than 18.

Swazi girls were instructed to wear a tasselled scarf as a symbolic badge of virginity.

If an unchwasho girl was approached by a man, she was expected to throw her tassels at his homestead, forcing his family to pay a penalty of a cow.

When the king chose a 17-year-old as his ninth wife in 2001, about 300 young women marched to a royal residence, laying down their tassels in protest.

The king's aides argued the ban was designed to discourage casual relationships, not marriage. But Mswati surrendered the cow, which was roasted and eaten by the young women.

As a result of criticism that he has behaved hypocritically, the king decided to end the teenage chastity rite a year early.

The Aids crisis has compounded poverty, with estimates that 480,000 people now carry HIV. Aids has hit Swaziland harder than almost any country in the world.

According to results released yesterday, 29% of 15- to 19-year-olds are HIV-positive.

The report said 42.6% of pregnant women tested at clinics were infected and 40% of adults aged between 30 and 39 who opted for voluntary counselling and testing were HIV positive in 2004.

One of the tenets of the Bush administration's foreign policy, especially on Africa, is that countries will not receive any aid towards family planning clinics or anything that even suggests the evil that is abortion. This also applies to a lesser degree on condoms. The religious right is convinced of the virtue of this policy; after all, sex before marriage or with multiple partners is going to send you straight to hell. This obviously ignores the HIV/Aids pandemic which is sweeping through Africa, leaving a whole generation of children growing up as orphans, many themselves born with HIV. It's therefore heartening to hear that the king of Swaziland himself has admitted that such a policy is a complete disaster.

The UN supported fight against Aids in Africa is often referred to as ABC: abstinence, be faithful, condoms. The US problem is that it only wants the A and the B of that plan. Not only does this ignore the cultural differences of Africa, it also misunderstands the difficulty of a lot of women in the continent in saying no to male advances. It's often the husband who passes on the virus to his wife after he's slept around with other women without using condoms.

Uganda is widely regarded as the best model in the fight against AIDS; a report found that while prevalence of HIV was 15% in 1992, this has now dropped to around 6%, although this has been disputed. This was mainly due to education on abstinence and condoms in schools, as well as prophylactics being made widely available. The very worst advice comes from the Catholic church, which claims that condoms have microscopic holes which let HIV through.

It's about time that the United States stopped deluding itself over some of its very worst and inhumane policies. Sucking up to the religious right might work in the short term, but as usual it's storing up even more problems for the future. If we let the religious right impose their false moral superiority over Africa, it'll be us next.

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Friday, August 19, 2005 

Rigorous Intuition: from fascism to Islamic fundamentalism.

There's a brilliant article on the free-thinking Rigorous Intuition blog, chronicling the changing views of one David Myatt.

In the mid-90s, in an essay entitled "Death Before Dishonour," he wrote:

To live and act like an Aryan - that is, with nobility of character - means upholding and living by this principle of Death Before Dishonour. Nothing else is more important - not personal happiness, not personal love, not personal comfort and wealth. This principle expresses the spirit, or ethos, of the Aryan warrior, and to be Aryan means to live like such a warrior, for however short a time.

Two years ago, in "The Perspective of Islam," radical theoretician and al Qaeda apologist Abdul Aziz wrote:

The majority of Westerners condemn martyrdom operations on the basis of the Western perspective, using Western criteria, failing to understand the Muslim belief that this life of ours is only a means, a test, and thus failing to understand that many Muslims are willing to give up their own lives in order to do their Islamic duty, trusting as these Muslims do in the judgement of Allah.... Our life here on this planet we call Earth is only an opportunity - never to return - to gain entry into Jannah and that one of the best means to gain such entry is to strive, and if necessary die, in the Cause of Allah.

What do these people have in common? Everything. They - and many more, besides - are the same person. Let's call him, for simplicity's sake, David Myatt. But what he is, there's nothing simple about that.

The article in full is here.

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Mo Mowlam: 1949-2005

2 leftish Labour politicians dead in 2 weeks. Might may well be worth taking out a bet on Michael Foot or Clare Short kicking the bucket; after all, deaths are meant to come in threes.

Mo Mowlam was special though. It's not often that a politician can win gratitude and tributes from both the republicans and loyalists of Northern Ireland, as she did. Her effort in mediating the groups led to the Good Friday agreement and the inevitable recent statement that the IRA has abandoned armed struggle. More than that, she said what she thought and wasn't afraid to be radical and go against the political orthodoxy. There's a full obituary here.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005 

"Sir" Ian Blair personally tried to stop independent investigation into Stockwell shooting.

Britain's top police officer, the Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Ian Blair, attempted to stop an independent external investigation into the shooting of a young Brazilian mistaken for a suicide bomber, it emerged yesterday.

Sir Ian wrote to John Gieve, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, on July 22, the morning Jean Charles de Menezes was shot at short range on the London tube. The commissioner argued for an internal inquiry into the killing on the grounds that the ongoing anti-terrorist investigation took precedence over any independent look into his death.

According to senior police and Whitehall sources, Sir Ian was concerned that an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission could impact on national security and intelligence. He was also understood to be worried that an outside investigation would damage the morale of CO19, the elite firearms section working under enormous pressure.

Later that same day, after an exchange of opinions between Sir Ian, the Home Office and the IPCC, the commissioner was overruled. A Whitehall insider said: "We won that battle. There's no ambiguity in the legislation, they had to do it."

Even more damning than "Sir" Ian Blair's attempts to stop an independent investigation required by law is the way the IPCC was then further obstructed:

But a statement from the Met yesterday showed that despite the agreement to allow in independent investigators, the IPCC was kept away from Stockwell tube in south London, the scene of the shooting, for a further three days. This runs counter to usual practice, where the IPCC would expect to be at the scene within hours.

That was in the Guardian this morning. Since then, the reality has got even worse:

Scotland Yard "initially resisted" the investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has said.

The inquiry was not formally handed over to the IPCC until five days after the Brazilian was shot dead by police on a Tube, BBC News now understands.

Three days, then five days. During that time it appears that the CCTV footage was either removed, or that the IPCC was told that it wasn't working or that the press was misled into thinking it wasn't working. There's been no conclusive answers on that score. Thankfully, the lawyers for the de Menezes family now do seem to be making their voices heard:

Lawyers for the family of the innocent Brazilian shot dead by police demanded today to be told whether misinformation about the killing was due to incompetence by officials or "something sinister".

Gareth Peirce and Harriet Wistrich, acting for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, said many of their urgent questions remained unanswered after meeting investigators this morning.

Ms Peirce said her main concern remained why the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had not been called in immediately to begin the inquiry.

None of this leaves the Met or the IPCC investigation in a good light. "Sir" Ian Blair at best was misinformed (being head of the Met, this would be damning of his leadership and the officers below him) about the shooting, and at worst actively tried to cover it up by delaying the investigation. If the latter is true, he also lied in the Friday press conference. It's still not clear how or why the documents from the IPCC were leaked to ITV News. Was it by a whistleblower who wanted the misinformation from the police corrected, or was it to draw attention to a cover-up which was actively being organised? The blocking of an independent investigation doesn't quite vindicate my suspicions that this shooting was an attempt to win plaudits for courage from the press and to stop investigations into the police use of fire-arms, but it also doesn't disprove it either. At the moment the whole thing smacks of a cover-up. Even the notorious right wing rag the Daily Mail asked a similar question on its front page today.

The lawyers are right to ask for an independent inquiry, and one needs to carried out quickly. While we've had a bad recent record in this country with inquiries, i.e. both the Hutton and Butler reports, we need one here to properly establish the truth of what happened on that morning, the police conduct following the shooting, and the IPCC's inquiries up until the leak. The faith in the IPCC's investigation has been shaken too far for their report to be considered fair or an accurate representation of what actually happened.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005 

Jean Charles de Menezes - It was murder.

The truth has come out. Jean Charles de Menezes was already being held with his hands at his side by a surveillance officer when he was shot dead.

From a Guardian article, following up the leaking of documents to ITV News:

The documents reveal that a member of the surveillance team, who sat nearby, grabbed Mr de Menezes before he was shot: "I heard shouting which included the word 'police' and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

"He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 [firearms squad] officers ... I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting ... I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage."

Let's just get this completely straight. It's been admitted that Jean Charles was not aware he was being followed. He was not positively identified by the police watching the Tulse Hill flats, as the officer at the time was 'relieving' himself. It doesn't say whether he was masturbating or urinating, unfortunately. He was followed by plain clothes police on the bus to the Stockwell tube station. He was not wearing a heavy jacket or belt, rather as the above photo suggests, he was wearing a light denim jacket. He used a rail card to gain access to the tube station; he did not leap the barriers. It's now thought that was one of the armed officers in high pursuit. He may have ran to get onto the train as it arrived, details of that are rather sketchy. He sat down on the train. A shout of police was apparently made, and Jean Charles stood up and walked towards the surveillance officer and the CO19 (SO19?) gunmen. The surveillance officer grabbed Jean Charles, pinning his hands to side, and pushing him back into his seat. The witness then describes hearing a gun shot, and being dragged away.

It's now quite obvious from these reports that Jean Charles de Menezes was executed. An additional report in the Financial Times said that he was believed to have been Hussain Osman, the July 21st suspect arrested in Rome. If that is true, it doesn't make any difference. The only reason that this man was now shot is that it was an exercise in demonstrating the use of the shoot to kill policy, and also a further attempt to stop automatic investigations into police shootings. Imagine the tabloids on hearing that one of the evil terrorists had been killed by a heroic police officer just as he was about to detonate his explosives in a crowded tube train. The only problem with this was that they shot and killed an innocent man.

It's becoming clear that the police almost instantly recognised their mistake. They've been attempting to cover it up ever since. They planted witnesses or paid them off to speak to the press. Mark Whitby, one of the most interviewed witnesses has refused to comment on these revelations. There must now be questions about the independent inquiry itself. Why were these documents leaked to ITV News, and how did it happen? Both the Observer and Guardian reported that most of the CCTV cameras were not working at the tube station, according to the police. The image at the top of this post now already refutes that suggestion. Were these pictures and documents leaked by someone involved in the inquiry who knew that a cover-up and whitewash were being prepared? The police has already encountered problems with its CO19 (SO19?) fire-arms squad going on strike after two of its members were suspended from work following an investigation into the shooting of Harry Stanley. Stanley was shot in the back, after raising a chair leg in a plastic bag at an armed police officer. A similar setback here, with charges against the gunman now seeming likely, would be a disaster.

This is a huge mess of the Mets own making. They could have come clean straight away, admitted they had shot the wrong man in a tragic accident, and corrected the misinformation and lies which was spread immediately afterwards. While they did call the shooting a tragedy, they didn't stop the lies and the spinning. It's took a leak from the inquiry to do that. Instead it now seems as if a cover-up was in progress. Most of all however, there was no need to shoot the man, terrorist suspect or not. He had been held. He could have instantly been handcuffed. Instead he was shot 7 times in the head, once in the shoulder and 3 or 4 bullets even missed him. The perpetrators of this execution must now be brought to justice. The terrorist attacks were acts of criminal inhumanity. That an innocent man was murdered by police to win tabloid plaudits and stop legitimate investigations into avoidable incidents ranks on the same level.

An excellent comparison of the original stories and the leaked documents version of events is available here. Thanks to the Guardian and ITV News for the image at the top of this piece.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005 

Bearded extremist threatens to deport more "preachers of hate", alleges link between bombings.

A new wave of expulsions of foreign-born "preachers of hate" who foment terrorism is likely to emerge within days, the home secretary indicated last night.

The disclosure came as Charles Clarke warned that it would "be absolutely foolish" to assume there would not be a third terrorist attack on London - but he made clear after meeting the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, after his return from holiday that there was no specific intelligence to suggest another attack is imminent.

Mr Clarke said last night that a much wider purge of those "working against the interests of this country" will be implemented when his wider powers to exclude or deport come into effect this weekend.

The new powers announced on July 20 will give Mr Clarke the right to throw out of Britain or exclude from entering the country any foreign nationals who represent "an indirect threat" because they "foment terrorism" or justify or glorify terrorism by preaching, running websites or publishing material either here or abroad. The two-week consultation period on the "list of unacceptable behaviours" that will trigger such action ends on Friday.

"We are continuing to look at people in this country whose presence here is not conducive to the public good," said Mr Clarke.

"We will be looking at further steps that can be taken to ensure that those who are working against the interests of this country are properly dealt with."

After he emerged from Scotland Yard, the home secretary was asked if there was still a risk of a third attack on London. He said: "We remain worried. The commissioner has been very clear throughout that it would be ridiculous for us to assume that a further act would not take place.

The message was backed up by Sir Ian. "The fact that there's been two attacks makes it more, rather than less, likely that there'll be further attacks. I mean, that's just the logic of all this, but we of course are working incredibly hard with the intelligence services to prevent it," he said.

I'll come to "Sir" Ian Blair's incredible statement in a moment, but first let's welcome back No Trousers Charlie from his well-earned break. After having to deal with the ghastly Hazel Blears making daily statements, it's almost a relief.

It appears that Britain is following the United States policy, particuarly in the banning of individuals from coming here even to give speeches. I expect that Cat Stevens will be told of his imminent removal in due course. Secondly, we've had a long consultation period to consider these illiberal plans. Two weeks is hell of a long time when you're lounging around on a beach, especially when parliament isn't in session to discuss the measures. It's nice to see that the government can take such unilateral actions based on a quarter of the public's support at the election and on a majority of 67 seats. It's not worth debating the merits of deporting these so-called "preachers of hate" at the moment, especially as we don't know who they are. What has to be remembered is that these men have not committed a crime. They are being deported simply for "not being conducive to the public good". Also, they will again most likely be deported to countries that condone or have been known to use torture. Once again, the British government proves it is rising above the likes of the indiscriminate extremists. We won't torture you, but it's fine if our allies do.

Sir Ian Blair has already given out misinformation, and admitted to the Met lying about the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. In case you missed it, it turns out the CCTV at the station where he was shot wasn't working. You know, just a day after the attempted terrorist attacks, when everyone was incredibly nervous in case they might try again. Looks like the investigation will have to rely on witnesses, which to judge by the news reports are contradictory or even blatant police plants. Anyway, I digress. How does the fact that there have been two attacks make another more likely "Sir" Ian? How is that logical? The bombers in the July the 7th attacks are supposed to be dead. All the failed bombers of July the 21st are in custody. With two groups of terrorists gone, is he telling us that there are more out there, at the same time as saying that there's no intelligence of any groups planning attacks? Another case of blatant scare-mongering by those in power who have come to rely on it.

Here's No Trousers Charlie again, this time sticking his foot right in it:

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, today said it would be "very, very surprising" if the two terrorist bomb attacks on London last month were not linked.

In his first comment since returning from a strongly-criticised summer holiday, Mr Clarke said there was no evidence "in the judicial sense" to yet link the July 7 and 21 attacks, but that the intelligence services were looking at the "support, training, inducting and tasking" of the men involved.

If there's no evidence in the judicial sense, why is he bringing it up? If a newspaper printed this, there would be a possibility that it could be hauled in front of a judge under the contempt of court act. Linking the failed 21st of July bombers with those of the 7th who "succeeded" is surely a daft remark to make at such a time.
The 21st of July bombers were so well-trained that none of them killed themselves and that they were tracked down and arrested by the police without a fight. Hardly in the al-Qaida style of going out with all guns blazing, as has happened in Pakistan and Spain.

More and more misinformation is spiralling out of mouths and into print. I'd blame the silly season, but it looks like in Britain we might have to question everything for a long time to come.

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More loyalist killings and aggression in Northern Ireland.

It's about time that attacks by loyalists on Catholics and loyalist feuds were higher up the news agenda. The alleged IRA bank robbery last December and the murder of Robert McCartney were front page news for weeks. These incidents are almost completely ignored:

A man was shot dead as he arrived for work in Belfast yesterday in what appeared to be the latest murder in a loyalist feud which has claimed four lives in the past six weeks.

Two gunmen ambushed the victim, Michael Green, 42, at 8.15am, as he got off his motorbike outside Gilpins furniture store, in Sandy Row, a loyalist heartland in the south of the city. The father of three was shot several times from behind. An ambulance arrived within minutes but he died at the scene.

The LVF blamed the UVF for the murder and although an LVF source denied Mr Green, from Ballysillan in north Belfast, was one of its members, other loyalists claimed he had LVF links.

He is the fourth man to be killed in the feud, which is costing £30,000 a day to police. All three previous murders have also been blamed on the UVF, which is supposed to be observing a ceasefire.

Jameson Lockhart, 25, was shot as he sat in a lorry in east Belfast on July 8; Craig McCausland, 20, was shot in front of his girlfriend and baby in their north Belfast home on July 12; and on July 30 Stephen Paul, a father of four, was shot dead outside his north Belfast home.

The UVF has vowed to wipe out the smaller LVF, which it accuses of terrorising people through drug dealing, but other loyalist sources say there is drug dealing on both sides and the feud is about power and grudges.

If it was a feud between say, the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA, such a happening would be major news. As it's a loyalist feud, no one except the Guardian and Independent cares. The apologists for the Ulster Unionists and "Democratic" Ulster Unionist party in the Daily Telegraph ignore such incidents and only call on the IRA to abandon all activity immediately. Often in these communities, it's the loyalists who are causing friction, not the Republicans. Just one example:

A couple are to leave their County Antrim home after an overnight attack.

Bottles filled with paint were thrown at the house in Tudor Vale in Ahoghill, at 2330 BST on Monday.

Police have said they are treating the attack on the Catholic couple as sectarian. A primary school and Catholic church were also targeted.

Pat McGaughey, who has lived there for eight years, said they feared for their lives. "We are not willing to take a chance on our safety," she said.

"We are going to move, we are going to leave, we'll have to sell our house and go.

But Mrs McGaughey said she felt "nothing has been said" by the church leaders or the politicians to help to end such attacks.

On Tuesday morning, the parish priest of St Mary's Church on the Ballynafie Road in the village discovered that paint had been thrown on the driveway.

There was a similar attack at St Joseph's School in the village.

The DUP Mayor of Ballymena, Tommy Nicholl, condemned the attack and said he sympathised with the McGaughey family.

He called on "all right-thinking people to ensure that this type of activity is brought to an end".

Such weasel words from the DUP Mayor are worthless. Only weeks ago the DUP leader Ian Paisley was demanding that the IRA don "sackcloth and ashes" and produce photographs showing their disarmament. Apologies were also demanded for those who died in bomb attacks. Such measures are designed not only to humiliate the IRA, but also the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. Ian Paisley is the type of fire and brimstone preacher who could be deported under Charles Clarke's new measure for dealing with extremists. Sadly, there'll only be people with brown skin deported, while Ian will be invited to join Mr Blair in a nice cup of tea when he returns from his snorkeling holiday.

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Monday, August 15, 2005 

Israel begins pullout from the Gaza strip.

Israel is at long last beginning to withdraw from land it has occupied illegally since 1967, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It's obviously not worth getting over-excited about the chances of further withdrawals, as over 150,000 settlers now live in the West Bank. The majority of those are highly religious fanatical Jews, who believe in the so-called Greater Israel spreading from Samaria to Judea.

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which has largely become a prison for its Palestinian occupants during the intifada, should be greatly welcomed. That it has been orchestrated by Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest proponents of settler communities and often called a war criminal, is all the more surprising. Critics on the left are wise to suspect that this may well be a ploy to keep huge parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It's worth remembering that President Bush himself declared that full withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967 was "unrealistic". Despite a call from the United States to stop any further building of settlements in the West Bank, itself a violation of both UN resolutions and of the "road-map" to peace, Sharon in 2004 gave the go-ahead for the building of 1,000 new homes. Also not to be forgotten is the security wall, which is surrounding Jewish settlements, cutting off some Palestinian farmers off from their land, and destroying the few remnants of economic activity which the Palestinians have left.

Although it may be scaremongering by the Israeli government, warnings have been constant about the possible threats to the lives of those carrying out and promoting the Gaza disengagement. Yitzak Rabin was assassinated by a extremist religious Jew after the Oslo peace accords. Similarly, the disengagement also faces resistance by some former cabinet ministers, including Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been wrangling with Sharon for the leadership of the Likud party for the past few years. Netanyahu is a symptom of the Israeli far-right: the misplaced belief that strong military power, occupation and assassinations will keep the Palestinians suppressed, while suicide bombings by Islamists will stop the international community from demanding Israel stops such actions. We have seen over the years of infitada what a disastrous policy that is. Such a policy also ignores the consequences of the far higher Arab birth-rate within Israel and the occupied territories, leading to Arabs becoming the majority by as soon as 2025.

Despite all this, the disengagement is one of the first positive moves towards peace that Israel has made in the last few years. Now that Yasser Arafat is gone, the Israeli excuse for not having a partner to deal with has also disappeared. No longer should Israel be allowed to not discuss the status of the West Bank with the excuse that armed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad stop the "terror" and disarm. The peace processes in Northern Ireland and Aceh in Indonesia did not start with the armed organisations instantly melting down their weapons. Neither should this be the case in Israel. A Palestinian state, living in harmony alongside Israel would be one of the greatest chances for the establishment of peace and the end of other theocracies and dictatorships throughout the Middle East. It would rid religious extremists of an excuse for terrorism all across the world, not just in Israel. It's uncertain whether Ariel Sharon can deliver peace. What is certain is that he will not unless he is fully pressured by the United States. If President Bush truly believes in bringing democracy and peace to the Middle East, he should start by making Sharon negotiate a viable Palestinian state on the borders of occupied 1967 land now. Anything less will, and should be rejected.

(Thanks to the Guardian for the map at the top of this piece. Click to enlarge it.)

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