Saturday, August 06, 2005 


60 years ago today, the most horrific weapon man has ever created was used for the first time on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Over 140,000 eventually died as a result. Today is not the time for arguments over whether the use of the atomic bomb was justified then or not. Today we should remember not only those who died in Hiroshima, but also all those who died in the second world war. A war on the scale of WW2 must never be allowed to happen again. Nuclear weapons should also never be used again. Nothing today, no threat from any country to another justifies their use. Call it misguided or otherwise, but nuclear disarmament can still be achieved. The United Kingdom should start by not building a new generation of Trident missiles. It should also follow the examples of South Africa and the Ukraine in dismantling the weapons it has. We have no use for such weapons today. By dismantling them we would send a message that even in these troubled days of international terrorism, such weapons of mass destruction should not be in the hands of any government.

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Blair declares war on Muslims and liberal society.

Blair vows to root out extremism:

Tony Blair last night signalled a turning point in British postwar liberalism when he announced plans to deport extremist foreign Muslim clerics without appeal, close down mosques preaching hate, proscribe extremist Muslim groups and extend the use of control orders to British nationals advocating terrorism.

The prime minister also promised to wage a battle with the British and European courts, warning that he would amend the Human Rights Act if necessary to override likely judicial objections to the proposed deportation regime.

His startling package of measures sparked alarm among many Muslim groups and lawyers and led Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, to say Mr Blair was endangering the cross-party consensus developed since the July 7 bombings. The civil rights group Liberty said: "The fundamental values of a democracy cannot be changed because we are provoked by terrorists."

But the promise to end Britain's reputation as a sanctuary for extremism won broad backing from the police and the Conservatives.

The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, said people had already been selected for targeting with the new measures. He told BBC2's Newsnight he was "very pleased" with the proposals.

Deportations of extremist clerics will start after finalising memoranda of understandings with as many as 10 countries including Jordan, Algeria and Lebanon to try to ensure anyone deported there would not be subject to torture.

Mr Blair said foreign nationals would be deported if they were found to be actively engaged in extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and organisations of concern. A database will list individuals who pose a threat to British society. Anyone on it will be barred from the UK, with appeals happening abroad.

Mr Blair pleased some Labour Muslim MPs by announcing he was proscribing two Islamist organisations, Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Mujahiroun. Hizb ut-Tahrir said: "This exposes the fundamentalism of the government ... Our organisation has a record of 50 years of non-violent political activity ... We will resist the ban through what legal means are available."

It looks what I've feared for a long time is coming to pass. Despite all the rhetoric on keeping a consensus between the parties and with the Muslim community, Blair has decided to once again appease the likes of the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Express.

To come to the proposals, the first and most ridiculous is clearly the idea of deporting foreign nationals or those with joint citizenship back to their country of origin. This will predictably be challenged in the courts and probably struck down. Why can we not prosecute these men in this country instead of deporting them? What is stopping us from doing this? This is one of the major reasons why wiretap evidence must be made admissible in the UK court system, which is stubbornly being refused by the security services for the fear of revealing their methods. The promises of not torturing such deported individuals will not be worth the paper they are written on.

The second stupid move is the banning of Hizb ut-Tahir and the successor organisations of Al-Mujahiroun, which disbanded last year. Hizb ut-Tahir is a horrid grouping which advocates the establishment of a caliphate, sharia law and all the connotations of "Islamic" states. However, it certainly isn't worse than the BNP or the National Front, and is also strictly non-violent and against the authoritarian dictatorships in the middle east. The successors to Al-Mujahiroun, whom a spokesman at a convention of which called September the 11th a "momentous day", are even more marginalised. Banning these organisations will just do more to bring vulnerable and curious individuals towards their paths. Banning something always gives it an air of mystique and subversion. I've always been against banning such fascist groups and extremist organisations, simply for the reason that we should we appear against them in public and show their arguments for what they really are, as a mess and implausible. There is also always the possibility that introducing legislation which outlaws "glorifying terrorism" could be used both against environmental activists and animal rights groups.

The creation of lists of "unacceptable behaviour" is also outrageous, especially in the vagueness of its criteria. Will "justifying" terrorism even narrow down to saying that we can understand why it happens when the British government was involved in an illegal war in Iraq? Will fostering hatred of this illiberal government come under unacceptable behaviour? That's how vague this proposal is at the moment. Also of concern is the new notion that "anyone who has anything to do with terrorism will automatically be refused asylum". As has already been pointed out, such a law in the 1980s could have stopped anyone fighting against apartheid in South Africa from fleeing persecution there. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Stripping citizenship for acting against the "interests" of the country is another terrifying prospect. Does that involve economic interests? Would those campaigning against road-building which destroys natural habitats fall under that?

Most importantly of all, would these proposals have stopped the July the 7th bombing, if we accept the current official story? They almost certainly would have not. We are once again told we have to give up our freedoms in response to attacks which could not have been stopped. The climate of fear and enemies in our midst is further being built up. We should not cast complete judgment on these laws and proposals, as they are yet to be fully published and debated. However, if they remain true to what Tony Blair said yesterday, parliament must stop such draconian and polarising measures from entering the statute books. Britain must not go down the American Patriot Act path.

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Friday, August 05, 2005 

Israeli bus killer lynched by mob.

For those who claim that there is an anti-Israel bias in the British media, it's worth taking notice of the almost non-existent coverage of an extreme right wing Israeli shooting dead 4 Israeli-Arabs:

An Israeli soldier who shot dead four people on a bus in an Israeli Arab town has been lynched by an angry crowd.

The 19-year-old, believed to have deserted in protest against the Gaza pullout this month, opened fire as the bus passed through Shfaram.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the incident a reprehensible act by a "bloodthirsty terrorist" (sic).

The gunman was beaten to death by a crowd of people who stormed the bus after his weapon ran out of bullets.

Israel is preparing to pull its settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza Strip and correspondents say there have been fears of attacks by Jewish settlers opposed to the pullout.

Apart from Ariel Sharon's hilarious comment, the incident is incredibly serious. The Gaza pullout must go ahead, whether or not it is simply a ploy by Sharon to gain an ever larger chunk of the West Bank and continue building settlements (in defiance of the road map). Whether Gaza is turned into a large open-air prison or not, this is a first step towards a possible peace and the two-state solution which has been dreamt about. Despite the Israelis claims, groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are prepared to settle for a Palestinian state, as long as East Jerusalem is the capital, the settlements are demolished, and the refugees have the right of return. The last of those demands will be the hardest to fulfill, and was the one which evaded Arafat at the Camp David negotiations.

Israel itself is facing a demographic timebomb. Before too long, Jews will be the minority, as the Arab birthrate is far higher. For Israel to remain a Jewish state, it needs to act now, unless it wants to seal its own fate. Hopefully the Gaza pullout is the first sign that peace can be achieved.

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Petrol price hits £1 a litre.

The collapse edges ever closer:

Petrol prices in some areas have now gone over £1 a litre, the AA Motoring Trust warned today.

The average price in the UK is around 90p a litre, the AA said, but some garages in remote areas have been charging over £1 a litre since mid-July.

"Prices have risen 10p a litre since January, because of the rising cost of crude oil, which has gone up from about $58 to $60 a barrel," said the trust's petrol price analyst Ruth Bridger. "We don't expect average UK prices to exceed £1 a litre for a long time."

"But we received information yesterday showing that at least 46 garages are already charging over £1 a litre."

Some garages in the Western Isles admitted today that they had increased their prices to over £1 a litre.

The Uig Community Shop in Timsgearraidh, on the Isle of Lewis, has increased its prices to £1.05 a litre for diesel and £1.02 for unleaded. Elaine Newton, the shop's manager said prices broke the £1 barrier two weeks ago, after a month at 99p. "We're 37 miles away from Stornoway and that went up two weeks ago and we followed soon after," she said.

BP supplies the remote two-pump store in the Outer Hebrides every two or three weeks and according to Newton the price fluctuates at each delivery.

Ms Newton said: "BP gives us our cost price and we put a 10% mark-up on it."

As the price of motoring rises inexorably, you would think that public transport would become all the more important. With the underground and buses being targetted in London though, more have actually returned to using bicycles and unfortunately, driving into work.

No country in the world has yet faced up to the disaster of neo-liberal economic policies, that profits and domestic product must show growth every year. With peak oil production likely to be reached within the next decade, and that's being optimistic, our car and transport based economies are faced with terrible consequences. We are nowhere near accepting these facts yet, nor are we effectively planning for the end of cheap oil. The Labour government's transport policies are a complete disaster. The railways show little improvement since the Hatfield crash, which was the death blow afdisastrousastrious decision by the Major government to privatise British Rail. Even worse is Labour's stubborn determination to not even consider renationalising them. The roads get more clogged every year. Supermarkets demand for fresh goods and full shelves means that trucks fill the motorways. Unless we change course now, and start evaluating how our behaviour and economic assumptions are leading towards a global meltdown, we are quite frankly, screwed.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005 

Corporate greed rises even further. Pope admits to admiring God and Virgin Mary.

Chief executives' pay rises to £2.5m average:

Directors' pay at Britain's top companies climbed an average of 16.1% last year - four times faster than average earnings and eight times the rate of inflation.

The increase takes the average pay for a chief executive, including bonuses and gains from long-term incentive plans, to more than £2.5m.

The continuing rapid rise in directors' remuneration is revealed in the Guardian's annual executive pay survey.

The 16% increase for 2004-05 follows a 13% rise for the previous year and 23% the year before that. Average earnings are rising at 4.1% and the average annual salary is £22,060. An average chief executive is paid 113 times more than an average UK worker.

The survey has identified more than 230 directors who received more than £1m last year - up from around 190 the year before. The figure is reached by adding salaries, annual cash bonuses and gains from longer-term share options and performance plans.

The highest-paid executive last year was Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, the world's second biggest advertising agency. Pay plans came to fruition for Sir Martin in 2004, taking his rewards to more than £52m.

Among other top earners was Tony Ball, the former chief executive of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, who is ranked second as a result of agreeing not to set up in opposition to Sky for at least two years. The broadcaster paid him £10.7m.

Jean-Pierre Garnier of the drug group GlaxoSmithKline, James Nicol of the engineering group Tomkins and David Harding of the bookmaker William Hill occupy other top slots.

The Guardian survey also reveals that five female directors were paid more than £1m last year - compared with none the previous year - but two made it into the exclusive league only because they received substantial payoffs.

Sir Martin Sorrell's one-off rewards make the WPP board this year's most expensive in the FTSE 100. Excluding WPP, however, the directors of Tesco emerge as the best rewarded for the second consecutive year.

The total boardroom pay rose from £26m to more than £31m in the last year. That dwarfs the £18m paid to the directors of BP, the UK's biggest company with a stock market value of £131bn. The market values Tesco at £25bn.

At the other end of the scale, the worst-paid employees work in the catering and hospitality industries, at companies such as Compass, Mitchells & Butler and Whitbread. Tesco is also among the companies with the lowest-paid staff.

It's worth noting that the Marjorie Scardino mentioned in the article is married to Albert Scardino, an executive editor at the Guardian who has recently announced he is leaving, so there is a slight whiff of hypocrisy. Despite that, the whole survey is shocking but still completely expected. As we grind further towards the inevitable major economic collapse, those at the top will continue to enrich themselves more and more. As oil production peaks, as global warming rages on, we can be safe in the knowledge that when the looting and panic breaks out, that our corporate heroes will be safely tucked in their mansons and bunkers, watching us. Our humanity won't have died, but theirs did a long time ago.

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Army was involved in murder of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Surprise, surprise. Slowly but surely the truth is coming out:

A new army special forces regiment was involved in the operation that led to the killing of an innocent man at Stockwell tube station in south London last week, the Guardian can reveal.

The Special Reconnaissance Regiment, set up in April to help combat international terrorism, was deployed in the surveillance operation which led to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician, on July 22, according to Whitehall sources.

Yesterday Whitehall sources told the Guardian that soldiers of the Special Reconnaisance Regiment, modelled on an undercover unit that operated in Northern Ireland, was engaged in "low-level intelligence behind the scenes" when the Brazilian was shot. There was "no direct military involvement in the shooting", the sources said.

It is believed to be the first time the new regiment was engaged in an operation.

The regiment absorbed 14th Intelligence Company, known as "14 Int", a plainclothes unit set up to gather intelligence covertly on suspect terrorists in Northern Ireland. Its recruits are trained by the SAS.

Geoff Hoon, the then defence secretary, said the unit had been formed to meet a worldwide demand for "special reconnaissance capability".

It's all coming together. The RUC in Northern Ireland has been well-documented with carrying out assassinations. SAS involvement was always a possibility, and this now shows how the whole police and government story stinks. For now, it seems they haven't managed to get away with an execution. If the IPCC whitewashes the police actions, then shoot to kill will become a reality. That must not happen.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005 

Mo Mowlam critically ill.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam is critically ill, hospital officials said this afternoon.

Ms Mowlam had previously suffered a brain tumour and her increasingly frail appearance in recent months prompted fresh fears for her health.

The former MP for Redcar is at King's College hospital in London. A hospital spokeswoman described her condition as "critical but stable".

Although she stood down as an MP in 2001, she has been one of the most popular and charismatic politicians of recent times - earning massive public affection not just for her role in the Good Friday agreement, but from her efforts to overcome a brain tumour, which saw her appear in public with a headscarf to disguise her hair loss.

Mo Mowlam is also a case of a politician with some honest and integrity. As well as helping the Northern Ireland peace protest, she also campaigned for all drugs to be legalised. I probably like her mainly because she is firmly old Labour, and was against the war in Iraq. Most of all though, she is just a warm human being, and not someone who would never break the official party line. Here's hoping that she manages to pull through.

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What we're up against.

The Sun is the biggest selling newspaper in Britain. It sells just under 3 million copies a day, and claims to reach 10 million. That's why when it puts such falsehoods and distortions on its front page it's a big deal. This is today's front page. On Saturday, the day after the alleged bombers of July 21st were arrested, its front page was a picture of one of the men, half naked, with the headline: "GOT THE BASTARDS".

What I like most about their front page is the juxtaposition of politically correct policing with racist murders on our doorstep. Obviously the Sun would like us to go back to the days prior to the Macpherson report, when the death of Stephen Lawrence led police to suspect the friend who was with them and to not tell his parents anything of the case. He was murdered by racists who are still at large. Political correctness is the catch-all of the right wing media, a stick it can use to beat those it thinks as "useful idiots". It's also vile that they consider the Human Rights act a bad thing, when it's probably the finest piece of legislation New Labour has ever passed.

Speaking of useful idiots, here's Anthony Browne, with a point i'm sure you'll agree with:

Islamic radicals, like Hitler, cultivate support by nurturing grievances against others. Islamists, like Hitler, scapegoat Jews for their problems and want to destroy them. Islamists, like Hitler, decree that the punishment for homosexuality is death. Hitler divided the world into Aryans and subhuman non-Aryans, while Islamists divide the world into Muslims and sub-human infidels. Nazis aimed for their Thousand-Year Reich, while Islamists aim for their eternal Caliphate. The Nazi party used terror to achieve power, and from London to Amsterdam, Bali to New York, Egypt to Turkey, Islamists are trying to do the same.

The two fascisms, one racial and one religious, one beaten and the other resurgent, are evil in both their ideology and their methodology, in their supremacism, intolerance, belief in violence and threat to democracy.

The support of Islamic fascism spans BritainÂ’s Left. The wacko Socialist Workers Party joined forces with the Muslim Association of Britain, the democracy-despising, Shariah-law-wanting group, to form the Stop the War Coalition. The former Labour MP George Galloway created the Respect Party with the support of the MAB, and won a seat in Parliament by cultivating Muslim resentment.

It's often said that once you've compared someone or something to Hitler or the Nazis, you've lost the argument. Ignoring that, let's just humour Mr Browne for a short time. Most Muslims don't want the destruction of Israel, or the death of all Jews. What both they and I want is a negotiated settlement, a complete withdrawal of the IDF from the West Bank and Gaza, and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Call this the two state solution or whatever you like. Palestine is, and always be an issue for Muslims until this is sorted. Also recognise he doesn't call fundamentalists Islamist extremists, he tars all Muslims as Islamists. The first problem with this disturbing theory is that there are no Islamic fundamentalist regimes which govern a major country. You can argue about Iran and Saudi Arabia all you like, but they are not governed by al-Qaida. They don't call for the destruction of the West or for a caliphate, whether Iran calls the United States the great Satan or not. Hitler gained power in 1933 in a country that had been humiliated with defeat in the first world war, had its back broken by the Treaty of Versailles, and had suffered two major financial meltdowns. The ground was fertile for extremism. None of that is here today. Let's not dwell on the full number of deaths attributed to the Nazis, but just on a generally accepted figure of those who died in the Holocaust. 6 million Jews were tortured, starved and finally gassed during the second world war, mostly during 1941-45, not to mention the repression before then. The highest figure Islamic terrorism has got, if you want to call it that, was slightly below 3,000 on September the 11th. Let's also forget about the deaths of 500,000 through sanctions in Iraq, about how Israel was founded on terrorism, and how up to a million may have died since the war on Iraq.

Anthony Browne mentions the case of the girl who won the right to wear the jilbab to school. I wasn't a supporter of that decision, but I'm also not a supporter of school uniforms, which was what she was claiming was unfair. The fact that she wanted to wear a jilbab was just part of the story, again distorted by Browne. The Guardian in fact did not comment on the case in an editorial, but it did print a number of letters, none of which were fully complimentary or supported the decision.

Islamic fundamentalism is not a threat to democracy. Only a tiny microcosm of men and women support the idea of a caliphate or even sharia law. What is a threat to democracy is those who are using the attacks by those who Anthony Browne calls Islamic fascists to remove our fundamental freedoms, to lock us away without charge and to ship people out to countries where torture is common-place, to name just a few. We're not the useful idiots. The attackers of freedom, both in the shape of the right and fundamentalists, religious or not, are the ones who should be in the dock.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005 

Bad law, bad governing, bad economics.

Until recently there was a loophole in British drug law that allowed magic mushrooms (various species, active ingredient is psilocybin) to be sold legally, as long as they were not dried and completely fresh. Drying them or otherwise was considered to be 'preparing' them, making them illegal. For around 2 years this was allowed to carry on, with few raids on market stalls and shops which had decided to sell them. Then the government decided to close the loophole. This is sad news, mainly because magic mushrooms are much milder than LSD, to which it is similar, and that it is mostly harmless. There are worries about the possibilities of them bringing on mental health problems, but this is more likely to be depression than the worries over cannabis and schizophrenia. It's now also been discovered the sufferers of cluster headaches seem to have a found an almost miracle cure for their affliction:

Richard Ayliffe, 39, a chronic sufferer from Dudley in the West Midlands, says he has tried conventional treatments but the only thing to have brought him relief is magic mushrooms. Without them he says he would not be able to hold down a job.

"People are quite sympathetic at first but once you've let them down for the third time sympathy turns to exasperation," he says. "Magic mushrooms have enabled me to lead a normal life."

Like other members of ClusterBusters - an online forum where cluster headache sufferers swap notes and discuss alternative treatments - Ayliffe claims that taking magic mushrooms not only interrupts his cycle of headaches, but buys him longer remission periods between attacks. Some sufferers claim that since taking mushrooms they have been pain-free for up to two years.

And, because an attack can come at any time many members stockpiled mushrooms ahead of the government's ban this month.

Last week one member of the group, a 41-year-old father of two who asked to be identified only as Lee, admitted he had already taken one dose in contravention of the ban.

Under the Drugs Act 2005 possession of magic mushrooms is a class A offence punishable by a seven-year prison sentence. Previously, only psilocybin and other preparations of mushrooms, but not the fresh product itself, were controlled.

"The way I see it, either I break the law or forgo the most effective treatment I have found in nearly six years," says Lee.

Since he began taking mushrooms a year ago, he says the intensity of his headaches has shrunk by a third and the remissions between attacks have lengthened to 40 days.

"It's absolutely incredible," he says. "I can't tell you how much magic mushrooms have changed my life."

Similar to how those with MS and other painful illnesses have found that smoking cannabis helps with the pain, it seems that magic mushrooms now also has followers other than those interested in getting wasted and seeing colours. Other reports have been made of mothers in their 30s taking them at parties, due to the very limited side effects and non-addictive qualities. Why prosecute people over a drug that is even less dangerous than cannabis, especially when cannabis is now supposedly not an arrestable offence if you are found with a small amount in your possession? Even worse, mushrooms are in Class A, along with heroin, crack and ecstasy. At times all this government seems to care about is the economy. In outlawing mushrooms, they've just sent an industry which wasn't hiding back underground, along with all the connotations and criminal practices that brings with it. I would say it was a case of the government running scared of a tabloid backlash, but I think it's more just down to pure ignorance that mushrooms have been outlawed. For a government that has tried to promote equality and bring down poverty (or so it says), successful or not, this seems ludicrous.

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Some things never change.

It's good to know that even though there's supposedly a huge terrorist threat to the country right now, with police being deployed to every major underground and railway station in London, there was still a few around to arrest some peaceful protestors for daring to exercise their rights:

Five anti-war activists demonstrating against a new ban on unauthorised protests in the vicinity of parliament were arrested yesterday as the police moved to uphold the controversial new law.

The ban on spontaneous protests within half-a-mile of Westminster which have not been cleared by police came into force at midnight on Sunday.

No protest will be lawful unless prior police approval has been sought in writing and granted at least 24 hours before the start of the demonstration. One of those present at yesterday's demonstration was Lauren Booth, the sister of Cherie Blair.

"This is all about silencing critics of the war in Iraq and ID cards and denying people the right to free speech," she said. "If you heard on television that someone in another country was banned from gathering near a government building to stage a legitimate protest you would probably think thank goodness that kind of thing doesn't happen in this country," she said.

Police initially tried to act in a low-key way to prevent the largely symbolic protest. But, faced with the possibility that the new law would be shown to be unenforceable on its first day, they eventually moved in against a group of about 50 people wearing black gags to symbolise the "infringement" of their right to protest. The arrests occurred as Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP for Islington North, was speaking to the gathering.

The police took photographs of many of the protesters and handed out leaflets warning they were involved in an unauthorised protest.

Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition and one of the protest organisers, said the new law meant police could now decide who was allowed to demonstrate, which was "totally unacceptable".

The Home Office says that the new laws simply put static protests on the same footing as processions, for which police also need to be notified.

It's reassuring to know that the police are there to protect us from such extremists.

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CIA and America's approach to torture: Do it elsewhere.

There's been allegations for a while from various sources that the US has been effectively off-shoring suspected terrorists to countries where torture is commonplace. Looks the Guardian has finally found something conclusive:

A former London schoolboy accused of being a dedicated al-Qaida terrorist has given the first full account of the interrogation and alleged torture endured by so-called ghost detainees held at secret prisons around the world.

For two and a half years US authorities moved Benyam Mohammed around a series of prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, before he was sent to Guantánamo Bay in September last year.

Mohammed, 26, who grew up in Notting Hill in west London, is alleged to be a key figure in terrorist plots intended to cause far greater loss of life than the suicide bombers of 7/7. One allegation, which he denies, is of planning to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a US city; another is that he and an accomplice planned to collapse a number of apartment blocks by renting ground-floor flats to seal, fill with gas from cooking appliances, and blow up with timed detonators.

In an statement given to his newly appointed lawyer, Mohammed has given an account of how he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials who he believes were from the FBI and MI6. As well as being beaten and subjected to loud music for long periods, he claims his genitals were sliced with scalpels.

He alleges that in Morocco he was shown photos of people he knew from a west London mosque, and was asked about information he was told was supplied by MI5. One interrogator, he says, was a woman who said she was Canadian.

Drawing on his notes, Mohammed's lawyer has compiled a 28-page diary of his torture. This has been declassified by the Pentagon, and extracts are published in the Guardian today.

Recruits to some groups connected to al-Qaida are thought to be instructed to make allegations of torture after capture, and most of Mohammed's claims cannot be independently verified. But his description of a prison near Rabat closely resembles the Temara torture centre identified in a report by the US-based Human Rights Watch last October.

Furthermore, this newspaper has obtained flight records showing executive jets operated by the CIA flew in and out of Morocco on July 22 2002 and January 22 2004, the dates he says he was taken to and from the country.

If true, his account adds weight to concerns that the US authorities are torturing by proxy. It also highlights the dilemma of British authorities when they seek information from detainees overseas who they know, or suspect, are tortured.

MI6 is already using information or "intelligence", as they like to call it from torture victims in countries such as Uzbekiztan, as exposed by Craig Murray. The appeal court has already ruled that evidence extracted under torture is a-ok, as long as us Brits didn't do the torturing.

Furthermore, it's worth remembering that the dirty bomb scenario is a complete red-herring. BBC's Horizon conducted some research that the government and fearmongers would rather you didn't know about:

Horizon publishes the results of specially commissioned research, modelling two possible dirty bomb scenarios: attacks on either London or Washington DC. The main conclusion is that the health risks from a dirty bomb explosion are localised to people who are close to the incident or are in contact with the contamination. Although the modelled attack scenarios could have wide-ranging economic repercussions, the majority of the population of either capital city would have only a negligible increase in their risk of developing cancer.

In other words, they're better off using their bodies as explosive devices, as shown recently, and constantly in Iraq.

Whether this man is a terrorist or planning attacks is beside the point. The US is too cowardly to even torture suspects itself. The horrendous images of Abu Ghraib will forever haunt the Bush administration, and Guantanamo Bay is a scar on the conscience of the American people, or as described by Amnesty International, a modern day gulag.
Torturing and inducing fear in suspects is what groups such as al-Qaida do. How have we sunk so low that we are carrying out the same things they do, supposedly to maintain our freedom? We made it through the second world war without torturing prisoners of war. What's different now?

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George Monbiot.

I've been a fan of George Monbiot's journalism for a long time. His book Captive State has shown how corrupt and mendacious New Labour is, especially with its private finance initative and constant cosying up to the business lobby.
Here though is one of his finest pieces in a long time:,5673,1540683,00.html

It deserves to be very widely read, whether you agree or not.

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Monday, August 01, 2005 

You reap what you sow.

Uzbekistan kicks US out of military base:

Uzbekistan has given the US six months to close its military base there, in its first move to sever relations with its former sponsor.

The air base near the southern town of Khanabad, known as K2, was opened weeks after the September 11 attacks to provide vital logistical support for Operation Enduring Freedom in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Analysts have said that Uzbekistan agreed to the base, the first Pentagon presence in what is a former Soviet stronghold of central Asia, because of a large US aid package and Washington's silence about the country's appalling human rights record.

The US presence in Uzbekistan has been under intense moral scrutiny after the massacre by Uzbek troops of hundreds of civilians in the southern city of Andijan in May.

The White House was at first muted in its criticism of the massacre, but the state department has grown increasingly vocal in condemning the attack and calling for an independent investigation.

The United States still hasn't realised what it's doing in the former Soviet republics. While Bush paints America as the giver and bringer of democracy to the Middle East and elsewhere, it's ignoring the tyrants that it's propping up for small favours like using air bases. Miniscule amounts of aid are given, then when an outrage like a massacre happens and the US has to say something so that it doesn't look incredibly hypocritical, the country realises it's better off in the hands of the see no evil hear no evil of the East, mainly China (Russia also has a similar if not entirely the same approach). Robert Mugabe has already seen the effectiveness of this. It's better to be eat from the same plate from those similar to yourself than to get crumbs from the plate of those who demand change, however small.

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Bush bypasses Congress and appoints John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.

Who didn't see this one coming:

The US president, George Bush, today bypassed the senate and installed the controversial neo-conservative John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.

Mr Bush took advantage of his power to fill vacancies without senate approval while Congress is in recess. Under the constitution, Mr Bolton's recess appointment during the senators' August break will last until the next session of Congress, which begins in January 2007.

"He will provide clear US leadership for reform," Mr Bush said. "He will insist on results. He believes in the goals of the UN, in peace and human rights."

Additionally, from the BBC:

Mr Bush said Democrats had forced him to bypass Congress by using "shameful delaying tactics" to prevent a vote.

"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about UN reform," Mr Bush said.

There's just a few questionable remarks there. John Bolton and the US only believe in the United Nations when it is willing to do its bidding, as shown by the showdown over Iraq in 2003, ending when the "coalition of the willing", or USuk, started bombing regardless of a second resolution which would have authorised force. The US has vetoed dozens of resolutions over the years condemning the Israelis for their violations of international law. Mr Bolton is such a believer in peace that he was one of the members of the Project for a New American Century, which advocates American power, I mean leadership worldwide, culminating in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bolton has also been one of the most bellicose on Iran, advocating war at every opportunity over the nuclear dispute.

The Democrats did not use shameful delaying tactics. They were holding investigations into Bolton's distinguished career in bullying his staff into his world view and annoying and challenging his colleagues.

There is no war, Mr Bush. You said the war in Iraq was over in May 2003. Or do you regret that now? I doubt it, seeing as when asked if you regretted anything of your years of being President, you couldn't remember anything.

What I do agree on is that the United Nations needs vital reform. It needs to be reformed so it can resist attempts by nations such as America to use it to declare war on countries like Iraq which pose no threat whatsoever to anyone, except its own citizens, which is a separate issue. It needs to reformed so that when it refuses to do the above, it isn't dismissed as "irrelevant", or as living in the past. The security council does need more permanent members, such as Brazil, India, Nigeria or South Africa. The veto should be entirely stripped. The human rights council does need urgently reforming so that human rights offenders cannot lead it and attack free nations. John Bolton won't achieve this now even if he wanted to, and if it is achieved, it'll be down to Kofi Annan more than anyone, the same person who Republicans are still baying for the blood of for daring to call the war in Iraq illegal. John Bolton was the wrong choice then, and he's a even more disgraceful but predictable choice now.

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