Saturday, September 17, 2005 

Taking the piss - CCTV installed in school toilets.

Parents have protested to Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, after security cameras were installed in a secondary school's lavatories.

Staff at Westhoughton High, near Bolton, Lancashire, say the measure is necessary to combat vandalism, smoking and drug-taking.

But more than 80 parents have signed a petition demanding the removal of the CCTV cameras, and have asked Ms Kelly to intervene.

One parent, Carol Galloway, described the move as "an invasion of privacy". Bolton council said the school was seeking to "reassure parents about why it is necessary to have cameras in place".

Just imagine for a second that this wasn't in a school. Say it was in a busy shopping mall. The security and management of the mall installed CCTV in the toilets because they said that vandalism, smoking and drug-taking occurred in there. Not only would there be universal outrage, those behind the scheme would possibly get sacked and for good reason. While Britain has taken the constant surveillance of nearly every street in the country in its stride, I can't imagine anyone daring to defend putting CCTV in toilets.

That the school has decided to take such a measure shows how obviously disconnected the leadership of the school is from its own pupils. Any teacher will tell you that if you respect your students, they will respect you. This measure removes any notion of that. Instead of taking the option of positioning a member of staff near the toilets, who could monitor how long people were in there and possibly what they had been doing, they've decided to install a constant monitor of exactly what they're doing in probably the one place that most people consider to still be private.

That it's none of the school's business if the kids are smoking is obviously irrelevant. I never saw the point when I was at school of punishing children for smoking. It was their decision, they knew perfectly well what they were doing. They could have informed the child's parents if they caught them doing it. Instead they put them on "report", constantly monitoring the child's behaviour even if it was exemplary, and gave detentions. That this was completely hypocritical as it was well-known that many teachers smoked on school property didn't matter. Drug-taking is a different matter if it is occurring on school property. I only ever witnessed people smoking weed or coming back to lessons completely stoned, and they caused little harm generally. That said, drug taking and possession/selling is obviously more heinous than simple smoking. It needs to be dealed with. Unfortunately, the government is currently encouraging random testing, even though it's a private matter if it doesn't happen at school. The invasion of those at school's privacy climbs year on year, as more schools also adopt random searching for weapons.

I always felt that school was simply a lesser form of a totalitarian dictatorship. You had little say in any of the matters of running the school. Mine had a "student council" which relied on elections, which were blatant popularity contests. It didn't matter if those elected were too shy or idiotic to even take notes or then stand up in front of the class and say what happened. This was democracy in action.
Another thing that annoyed me was the hypocrisy of some of the teachers - the typical kind who demanded you take off your coat in the dead of winter while they sat there in theirs, sipping hot tea from their mug with a daft slogan on it. The many who always considered you guilty until proven innocent, for whatever misdemeanors which may have occurred. The humiliating experience of having to go and a piece of paper saying what time you had arrived if you were so much as two minutes late. This time was then how long you would spend in detention, added up over the week. This is not to say that schools are full of little angels who obey every command. Mine was full of uncooperative shits who would have tested the patience of Ghandi. It's simply that some teachers came in who already had a trench warfare mentality; that treating you like dirt would somehow make you fear them. It didn't work, and never has. Most of the above is simply counter-productive.

This installation of CCTV is from a similar school of thought. It ignores that students sometimes use toilets as havens as well as places to smoke, roll joints and throw wet toilet paper at the ceiling. Some would sit in there at lunchtime to be alone or avoid other people. I never did that, but I often left the school when I didn't have a lesson and went and sat in nearby public toilets. I could read in peace without anyone bothering me. As Michael Moore said in Bowling for Columbine, it sucks being a teenager and it sucks having to go to school. When schools treat you as a threat rather than as someone to teach, what do they honestly expect?

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Friday, September 16, 2005 

Was Clarke overruled by Blair?

Seems the Charles Clarke definitely had doubts over the possible imprisoning of terrorist suspects for up to 3 months. Was he then overruled by the Dear Leader who demanded that he follow the requests from the security services and police?

Signs emerged today that Charles Clarke shared opposition doubts about the detention without trial of terror suspects for up to three months, as proposed yesterday in his draft anti-terrorism bill.

Close examination of the letter the home secretary sent his opposite numbers by email yesterday showed that in an earlier draft Mr Clarke had himself been unsure about acceding to the police request for longer detention periods. Both Liberals and Conservatives immediately objected to the proposal on receiving the letter.

Mr Clarke's doubts were revealed by the accidental inclusion of an earlier draft in an "annex" to the letter. In a version of the letter later released to the press this annex had been removed. However, the slip will reignite speculation, fuelled by Sunday newspaper stories recently, that the prime minister regards Mr Clarke as too soft on civil liberties, and may replace him in a future reshuffle.

By the time the letter was sent, Mr Clarke had hardened his stance to agreeing with a three-month detention period - putting the onus on the opposition to make the case against.

The three-month issue - dubbed "internment in all but name" by Amnesty International yesterday - was the main sticking point in reaching cross-party consensus on the bill, which will be introduced when parliament returns in October.

In the first draft of his letter, Mr Clarke said: "I think the case for some extension is clear, though I believe there is room for debate as to whether we should go as far as three months, and I am still in discussion with the police on this point."

But the correspondence actually sent reads: "It may be that you are convinced by the case for some extension but feel that three months is too great an extension. I would be interested in your views on this particular point."

Is Charles Clarke going to turn out to be another critic of government policy when/if he leaves the cabinet? It was rumoured when he was promoted to Home Secretary following David Blunkett's resignation that he had been firmly against the introduction of ID Cards; he soon rectified that rumour by continuing with Blunkett's campaign to get them through parliament as quickly as possible. That still doesn't explain what his personal view is though. In recent weeks there have been persistent reports that Blair is not happy with Clarke's performance, that he is "too soft". That this is nonsense doesn't matter; the tabloids loved Blunkett until he became an easy scapegoat for their hatred of Labour before the election. The Daily Mail especially put the knife into his back. The tabloids this time are not supportive of Clarke. That Clarke still seems to have some doubts about the way the new terrorist laws are being seemingly drafted by Blair is encouraging - what's depressing is that he seems to be failing to have much input on them.

As well as this, yesterday's annoucement on the offence of "glorification" has today been further clarified:

The government's proposed anti-terrorism laws published yesterday are so widely drawn that anyone who "glorifies, exalts or celebrates" any terrorist act committed over the past 20 years could face a sentence of up to five years in prison.

But the small print of the draft terrorism bill published yesterday shows that the home secretary is preparing to go even further and draw up a list of historical terrorist acts which if "glorified" could mean a criminal offence being committed.

A Home Office spokeswoman said 9/11 was such an example; it would become a "listed event", the appropriate ban lasting longer than 20 years. However, the 1916 Irish Easter Rising would be exempt.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said the offence of "glorification" was so broad it meant the home secretary was now acquiring powers to determine which historical figures were terrorists and which freedom fighters.

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, said the power was needed because the "celebration of despicable terrorist acts over the past weeks has only served to inflame already sensitive community relations in the UK". But he acknowledged that the proper exercise of freedom of speech meant the offence had to be carefully drawn. His proposals came as it emerged that the Crown Prosecution Service was preparing guidelines for "intelligence-only" interviews, whereby terrorism suspects could give information which would not be used against them. Senior prosecutors are convinced that this, plus other measures such as intercept evidence and plea bargaining, would strengthen their hand against international terrorism and organised crime.

An earlier draft of the letter made clear that powers allowing the police "to close down places of worship used to foment extremism" had been dropped.

Two other measures outlined by the prime minister - refusal of asylum to anyone who connected with terrorism anywhere in the world, and a maximum time limit on extradition cases - were also absent from yesterday's package.

Making the gloryifying of historical terrorist attacks a criminal offence smacks of countries which make Holocaust denial an offence. There is no doubting that such people are misled, stupid or willing to make others think that the opposite to the truth is the actual reality, but what is the point of wasting time legislating and then prosecuting such people? I'm not sure whether Holocaust denial falls under incitement to racial hatred in this country, but even if it does the point stands. Why can we not tackle these people through debate and summaries of the facts? Also as mentioned yesterday, the UN can't even decide what an act of terrorism actually is. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

What is good to see is that some of the most extreme measures which the Dear Leader previously outlined have been quietly dropped or sidelined for the moment - hopefully for good. Closing down Mosques on reports of extremism is only going to enflame the situation around the country. As the Finchley Park debacle showed, the Mosque there was reclaimed while the likes of Abu Hamza just went outside and carried on their preaching in the street, solving little. The refusal to asylum of anyone associated to "terrorism" would have been an unworkable mindfield that may have condemned some to death at the hands of despotic regimes. The government seems to have seen sense on that point. Hopefully the government, with opposition from civil liberties groups and other political parties, will yet see sense on other measures of this draconian and mostly unnecessary bill.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005 

Prince Harry: For God's sake, shut up.

It's pretty pathetic that so much of this country still seems so obsessed with the royal family that Prince Harry's 21st birthday can't go by without there being a huge amount of bile splashed across both the TV and newspapers about him, with the interview being the main focus. Apparently he wants to fight for his country. If so, send him to Iraq. In fact, send the whole goddamn royal family there. The sooner we stop viewing them as important people and as commoners who have simply had the luck to be born into richness beyond most of our dreams, the sooner we'll get rid of the lot of them.

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No Trousers Charlie carries on with his determination for 3 months internment for "terror" suspects.

The cross-party consensus on anti-terror legislation broke down today, as the home secretary, Charles Clarke, proposed detaining terror suspects without charge for three months.

The Liberal Democrats immediately opposed both longer detention periods, which the police have requested, and the intention to create a new offence of "glorifying terrorism".

David Davis, the Tory home affairs spokesman, echoed the first objection, saying the government had "yet to make a convincing case" for extending the maximum period of detention.

After seeing the details of the offences, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten, said: "We still want to try to seek consensus. However, two sticking points have emerged for us." Those sticking points are longer detention, and "glorifying terrorism".

The Liberal Democrats oppose the "glorification" offence on pragmatic grounds of how it would be drafted and interpreted by the courts, a spokesman said, rather than the principle of endorsing terrorism.

On detention without charge, they argue that if the police have difficulties amassing a case for a charge within a fortnight, that is a question of police and forensic resources, rather than a reason to increase the detention period.

A spokesman added: "The period has only recently been increased, from seven days to a fortnight, so that, plus more resources, should be tried first."

Mr Davis meanwhile repeated long-standing Tory concerns that the government was unwilling to allow security service phone tapping as evidence, but welcomed Mr Clarke's statement he was now willing to look at the possible use of such material.

The plan to increase detention periods was also immediately denounced by civil rights campaigners as "a new British internment".

3 months is a ridiculously lengthy amount of time to compile a case worthy of charging a suspect, whatever they are accused of doing. I accept that cracking PGP keys or encryption is obviously time-consuming, but three months? If anything this just shows under-staffed with specialists the police are. Note that it's only recently been agreed to extend the time to 14 days - the suspects in the July 21st "attacks" were charged before that period had even elapsed. A month, even six weeks may have been acceptable. Instead the government has followed the most draconian measures which the police and security services have demanded. It also brings into question how suspects will be treated during their time in custody. It needs to be clarified exactly how long they can be questioned for without a break. When arrested now, you are handed a piece of paper explaining your rights in detail. Those arrested under the terrorism acts need to be even more aware of what can and cannot be done.

The Lib Dems are also right in at the moment opposing the glorification offence. As has been shown at the UN in the last few days, defining terrorism itself is difficult enough, so what exactly would "glorification" be? Would it be daring to call Palestinian suicide bombers martyrs? If so, the current leaders of mainstream Islamic organisations may well be in trouble. Those glorifying acts of violence against innocent populations are obviously deluded and a possible danger, but so is the BNP. We've dealt with them and the far-right without banning them for half a century. Exposing their arguments for what they are has worked for a long time. The rush to make free speech illegal is worrying. Instead of engaging with Islamic groups, we've had BBC's Panorama which was a very one-sided and unsubtle veiled attack on the current leadership. The banning of peaceful but radical grouping Hizb-ut-Tahrir is also a retrograde step. At the moment the government and the media seem intent on provoking rather than helping and understanding.

Even more disgraceful is the move today to attempt to deport some of those who were acquitted in the so-called ricin case. It certainly seems to be taking revenge on those who humiliated the government when their case fell to pieces. While most of the media followed the government line, especially the BBC, whose reporting was some of the worst on the case that I have ever seen on the corporation, the Guardian demolished the government's case and reported the truth.

Evidence in the trial showed the British and US govern ments had made exaggerated or misleading claims based on the raid on the north London flat where Bourgass lived.

Making the case for the Iraq war in February 2003, the former US secretary of state Colin Powell said in his speech to the UN security council that ricin had been found there and that that demonstrated a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida. No such evidence was produced in court. Mr Powell spoke of a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network".

The marathon trial, estimated to have have cost at least £20m, also revealed that government claims that ricin had been found continued after their own scientists concluded that none had been. The London flat where Bourgass's poison recipes were found had been raided on January 5, but within two days experts at Porton Down concluded that no ricin had been produced, according to a court document seen by the Guardian.

It can also now be reported that the attorney general took the rare step of warning his ministerial colleagues about prejudicing the jury after comments by the former home secretary David Blunkett. The trial judge wrote to Lord Goldsmith after Mr Blunkett, when in office and as the jury was hearing the case, said last November: "Al-Qaida is seen to be, and will be demonstrated through the courts over months to come, to be actually on our doorstep and threatening our lives. I am talking about people who are and about to go through the court system."

Lord Goldsmith has decided Mr Blunkett's remarks did not amount to contempt but yesterday the trial judge criticised Mr Blunkett for comments made during the trial.

Last night Muslim groups condemned the publicity over the plot. Azad Ali of the Muslim Safety Forum, where top police officers and Muslim leaders discuss terrorism and other issues, said: "The ricin plot was part of government thinking and public justification in bringing in control orders. This will confirm the feeling in the Muslim community that it is being victimised on the basis of intelligence that was not tested in anything like a court, and when it is, it is thrown out."

What also emerged was that an early test on a pestle and mortar, conducted when the flat was raided, showed possible traces of ricin.

But a more advanced test on January 7 found none, a result confirmed by a DNA test.

Professor Alastair Hay, an expert in biochemical poisons, reviewed Porton Down's tests for the defence.

Porton Down documents show that by January 8 scientists at the defence research facility had written to the police declaring there was no ricin on several items from the flat.

The jury heard that the plan had been to kill people by smearing ricin on door handles in Holloway, north London. But Prof Hay said: "With these recipes they could not have killed people. Ricin is not absorbed through the skin."

The government hyped the case from the beginning. Colin Powell used it in his now hilariously funny UN presentation on Iraq's "Weapons of Mass Destruction". When the jury acquitted the men, they had passed judgment that they were innocent. Now instead of the government trying the men again, they are deporting them, probably back to Algeria when they come to an agreement with that country on torture. If this isn't to be seen as a government lashing out for being humiliated in spite, they have a lot of explaining to do.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005 

Pathetic fuel protestors fail to turn up.

After all their bluster and rhetoric, the greedy and selfish minority today failed to even bother to turn up and make their threats reality:

Fuel protests which sparked fears supplies could be blockaded fell flat when only a few protesters turned out today and no blockades were reported.

Early this morning, only around 12 people arrived for a demonstration outside an oil refinery in Jarrow, south Tyneside, with a similar number at an oil terminal in Purfleet, Essex, where one man was arrested for causing an obstruction.

Demonstrations failed to materialise at other refineries around the country, and journalists outnumbered protesters at at least two refineries visited by the Guardian this morning.

Farmer and haulier Andrew Spence, who was involved in the 2000 protests, said ministers had been forced to make concessions by the latest campaign.

He said that without it "I doubt that the government would have given us the 1.2p freeze in duty proposed for October. I like to think that we have achieved something this week."

Mr Spence, who was among a small group of protesters at the Shell refinery in Jarrow, south Tyneside, said: "We didn't want a lot of people here, I would rather there was just a handful of us."

Another protester, farmer Martin Stevenson, said that despite the low turnout, support for the cause was "very large" as "everybody is dissatisfied with the amount of money they're paying in tax on fuel".

At Purfleet in Essex protesters held placards saying "Support British Hauliers" and "End Labour's War on the Motorist". A man from Sheerness in Kent was arrested for obstructing the highway.

Mr Spence doesn't know what he's talking about. Fuel duty has been held at the same level for the last two years because of the high oil price - there was little to no chance that Gordon Brown was going to raise it, especially after Hurricane Katrina. I'd like to think that the majority that were going to protest have realised that the high price of fuel is nothing to do with the government, and all to do with the volatile situation in the Middle East, the hurricane and the greed of the oil companies themselves. Instead, the extremists are those who have showed up. The farmers who already are heavily subsidised and those who hate Labour with a passion.

The real culprit for the panic buying seen on Monday and Tuesday and according to some reports continuing today is the mass media. I assume the reports on possible shortages were in the scaremongering Sunday rags; I only saw the Sunday Mirror and didn't see any mention of it in there. Instead of reporting the situation which the petrol retailers and the government has said all along, that there was no shortage and no chance of one, they went along with their line of a juicy story to cause fear. It also wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't something to do with the number of adverts being placed in the media by the oil and petrol companies, constantly trying to convince us that they take human rights, the environment and climate change seriously. Is this their revenge for spending on the adverts, helped along by the media who gets a large amount of their advertising revenue from such companies? I honestly can't say I know.

The main thing is that the protests have failed, barring any militant action tomorrow or on Friday, when there is supposed to be a go slow blockade on the M4. The public may be unhappy about the price of fuel, but turning up at depots and blaming the government isn't going to solve anything.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005 

Held to ransom by the selfish and the greedy.

It doesn't take a lot to get people panicking in general. When the panic involves the price of petrol, before you know it people are filling their cars full and leaving the stations empty. That's exactly what happened in some areas yesterday, and appears to be continuing on a slightly lower level today:

Customers began panic-buying petrol in some parts of the country yesterday, with long queues and anger on the forecourts as fears grew of fuel blockades.

Drivers were caught in hour-long queues in London, Yorkshire and Essex, while in the West Country and the Midlands some fuel stations ran out of petrol temporarily.

The stockpiling came after protesters predicted a fierce battle with the government as they prepared for three days of blockades outside refineries.

The protesters from the Fuel Lobby, including farmers and lorry drivers, have given the government until 6am tomorrow to meet them or face protests. They are demanding that the chancellor, Gordon Brown, cut tax on petrol by 10%. But Mr Brown will use a speech to the TUC's annual conference today to emphasise the global nature of the problem.

There were signs yesterday that not everyone is supporting the demonstrations. The Road Hauliers Association, which represents 10,000 hauliers, is not taking part in the protest.

"The police are concerned about terrorism at the moment; they have said they will throw an iron ring around refineries," said Steve Williams, from the association. "They are overstretched already with the terrorist threat and we don't want to be involved in something that will stretch them further."

The Fuel Lobby protesters say they will start three days of demonstrations if ministers do not meet them on Tuesday.

It wants the public to "attend" oil refineries on Wednesday to protest.

Lobby spokesman Andrew Spence said: "We are not calling for a blockade, but if oil companies decide they cannot send out lorries while there is a public presence at their site, then that is a matter for them."

Sir Jonathan Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, said the last thing the government should do was cut fuel duty.

Fuel prices needed to be kept high to drive changes in consumer behaviour and drive investment in new energy efficiency technology.

The average cost of petrol in the UK is now around 96p a litre. The price has risen dramatically this year due to the rising cost of oil, and has now been pushed higher due to Hurricane Katrina in the United States, which knocked out a series of refineries.

The price in the UK for petrol is higher than most countries on the continent for a few simple reasons. While countries such as France have lower tax duty on petrol, they pay more in taxes than we do in Britain in other ways. Secondly, this is not the government's fault. Gordon Brown has frozen the rise of fuel duty in line with inflation now for two years due to the high price of oil. As a result, pump prices have actually risen slower than in other countries. Britain is also running out of oil in its North Sea plants, making us coming to rely more on imports, especially from the Opec countries.

This however goes straight over the heads of the constantly angry majority in the country. The farmers, haulage industry and business leaders are all majority Tory voters and supporters. In addition to this, most farmers do not pay duty on their fuel, as they get the special "red-diesel". The haulage industry, which wants to introduce huge 60-ton trucks to British roads, permanently demands lower and lower fuel prices. This is not out of wanting to charge their customers lower prices; it's because they want to pocket the difference and make even huger profits, at the expense of the environment.

In fact, they have chosen the entirely wrong target. They should be focusing on the oil companies themselves, who are making huge profits in the wake of record oil prices. In July both Shell and BP announced record half-year profits, totaling 11bn. Imagine how those profits could be used to help lower the burden on the consumer. Of course, they will instead continue to please their shareholders by driving for ever huger surpluses.

Most of all though, it shows how out of touch the majority are, and how the general public and business is not admitting to a new global reality. Global warming is here, and it isn't going to go away. As we continue to use up the remaining oil we have at an ever faster rate, we are ever closer bringing us towards a crash. We need to reduce our use and reliance on oil, the car and the airplane immediately. This means changing our lives. Unless we face up to this, the crash will be more devastating and arrive sooner. At the moment we are being held to ransom by the selfish, the greedy and the dishonest. If the government gives in, then their entire environmental policy will be shown to be even more of a sham than it already is.

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Collagen being made from executed Chinese prisoners.

There's something pretty ironic about this. In Fight Club Tyler sold women the waste from their liposuctions back to them as soap. In this supposedly free age where women can pay huge amounts of money to become 'beautiful', they may well be being injected with what was the flesh of someone who most definitely wasn't free:

A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.

Agents for the firm have told would-be customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot. The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is "traditional" and nothing to "make such a big fuss about".

It is unclear whether any of the "aesthetic fillers" such as collagen available in the UK or on the internet are supplied by the company, which cannot be identified for legal reasons. It is also unclear whether collagen made from prisoners' skin is in the research stage or is in production. However, the Guardian has learned that the company has exported collagen products to the UK in the past. An agent told customers it had also exported to the US and European countries, and that it was trying to develop fillers using tissue from aborted foetuses.

In China, authorities deny that prisoners' body parts are harvested without their consent. However, there is some evidence to suggest it may be happening.

In June 2001, Wang Guoqi, a Chinese former military physician, told US congressmen he had worked at execution grounds helping surgeons to harvest the organs of more than 100 executed prisoners, without prior consent. The surgeons used converted vans parked near the execution grounds to begin dissecting the bodies, he told the house international relations committee's human rights panel.

Skin was said to be highly valued for the treatment of burn victims, and Dr Wang said that in 1995 he skinned a shot convict's body while the man's heart was still beating. Dr Wang, who was seeking asylum in the US, also alleged that corneas and other body tissue were removed for transplant, and said his hospital, the Tianjin paramilitary police general brigade hospital, sold body parts for profit.

Although the exact number of people facing the death penalty in China is an official secret, Amnesty International believes around 3,400 were executed last year, with a further 6,000 on death row.

Not that this will make any difference to the average person who decides to have cosmetic surgery. These are the same people who think nothing of having a poison (Botox) injected into their foreheads to try to remove wrinkles. A recent article in Adbusters highlighted the number of young women who are now so concerned with how their vaginas look that they are having their labias augmented. A quick google search brings up 2 places offering the service. Another now popular request is apparently for anal bleaching - making the brown eye pink so to speak. If anything, this just seems to have been prompted by women looking at pornography and seeing the girls with their clean perfect bottoms, although there also seems to be rumours flying around about various celebrities having it done.

It does make you wonder where all this is going to end. Is it that people now are so vain or infatuated with beauty that they turn to the knife to sort out their problems? Is it the media, or is actually ourselves, with our seeming demand only for beautiful people to be our heroes? I can't say I know.

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Monday, September 12, 2005 

The changing of the Guardian.

The Guardian has changed its size from broadsheet to the Berliner (around mid-size between a tabloid and broadsheet) following the moves of the Independent and Times which went tabloid a couple of years ago. The wait and the money spent was well worth it; the paper really does look fantastic. The paper is now full colour throughout, the first national in Britain to go so. It's much more foldable, and I even found it easier to read than before. The G2 section though has to be the biggest triumph. It's gone to half the size of the Berliner, stapled, and is beautiful. The full colour printing really does lift the content.

You can view the whole of today's edition in PDF files, which are available here.

Not everything is perfect however. The masthead is nowhere near as good as the iconic old one sadly, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. They haven't got the ink quite right yet, and I found more on my fingers than usual. The TV guide has lost the acerbic comments and its expanded pick of the day section. There's also a lot of people who are very disappointed, even angry that the Doonesbury cartoon has been dropped without any notice. While I'm not one of them, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be brought back.

All those are teething problems however. The new paper and design is fantastic. Here's to the journalism remaining the same quality and to hopefully a lot more readers coming to the best paper in the UK.

Here's a photo illustrating the change of size:

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Unionism's shameful days.

I still can't quite believe that Unionist politicians are blaming the government for the completely unnecessary and pathetic riots which have consumed Baghdad, sorry, Belfast for the last two nights:

Fifty police officers were injured during the weekend's riots across Belfast, Northern Ireland police said today.

A police spokesman said 18 officers were injured in riots last night and this morning, bringing the total number of officers injured since Saturday night to 50. The officers were largely injured by shrapnel from homemade grenades.

The violence began on Saturday night when loyalist supporters became angry at the re-routing of an Orange Order parade.

Last night, armed protestors set up roadblocks as police and the army battled with violent mobs up to 700-strong in the east of Belfast. In other areas, men with revolvers halted cars in the north of the city and in Rathcoole, although there were no reports of anyone being shot.

Riot police held back crowds with water cannons and fired several hundred plastic bullets in an effort to disperse the protestors. One Protestant man, who had been shot in the arm by British troops, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain challenged loyalists this morning to decide if they wanted to become known as police killers. He told BBC Breakfast he was "horrified" by the violence that had ravaged the streets.

"This is taking Northern Ireland, or attempting to take it, back to a hideous dark past," he said. "These were serious attempts to kill police in some instances.

"This is really not loyalism but 'gangsterism' masquerading in this community. They are turning on themselves. These communities are being torn apart by their own paramilitary groups."

The Northern Irish chief constable, Sir Hugh Orde, said he was holding the Orange Order "substantially responsible" for the rioting, which was "some of the worst" in the province for many years.

He said his officers had come under attack from petrol, blast and pipe bombs as well as live rounds.

"We are very clear, our intelligence picture is very clear, this was loyalist paramilitary groups firing from the cover of the riot, aiming at my officers," he told the Today programme.

"There was a call by the Orange Order for their supporters to come out and support the march which had been banned from a certain route and had been given a determined route to go down.

"That's why we are holding them, or I am holding them, substantially responsible for the disorder that followed. It was inevitable and it was predictable."

Sinn Fein general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin said there had been disturbances across Belfast and North Antrim since the IRA announced the end of its armed struggle.

Mr McLaughlin argued that unionist politicians had left "a vacuum of leadership" which was being filled by loyalist paramilitaries.

Also speaking on the Today programme, he said: "It would appear that there is a deep sense of foreboding and concern about the future and there is an absolute vacuum of leadership within unionism at the present time, and unfortunately that manifested itself at the weekend."

Mr McLaughlin said many Protestants believed they had been short-changed in the peace process.

"I'm afraid that is the reality for unionists. It is not the reality for people who have been seeking for many years equality and indeed there is a puzzlement as to why equality and parity of esteem would threaten anyone's interest.

"But the fact of the matter is that many unionists feel that and clearly that is an issue which has to be addressed in the discussions if we could get the unionist party leadership to sit round the table and discuss these matters."

Peter Hain is utterly wrong. This is not gangsterism. This is loyalism's seeming revenge for what they see as a peace process that favours the republicans. That this is not only nonsense, but ignores the realities of the situation since the signing of the Good Friday agreement is even worse. These riots are the equivalent of a child who feels neglected when a new baby is born, and attention is diverted from them. Unlike the jealousy of a child who may do something silly and is too immature to realise the consequences, the loyalists know full well what they are doing. This was not a banning of their parade. It was a simple 100 metre diversion so that the parade did not pass through a Catholic-majority street and cause unnecessary trouble. The police were entirely right in their actions.

Unfortunately, unionism is now, as has been shown in the last few months, at war with itself. The IRA is to disband. Within weeks it will most likely have completely disarmed. Such a gesture is one that completely destroys the current unionist position of not talking or going into government with Sinn Fein while it has links with the IRA, or lies in the same bed as it. Ian Paisley's humiliating requests for photographs of weapons being destroyed were rightly denied. His only intention is to belittle the republican community, and portray them as weak at a time when they have just decided to perform such a historic move.

Most of all however, you can imagine the fury and denounciations which would be filling the airwaves if it had been the republican community rioting. Instead, Sinn Fein and others have mostly kept quiet, a credit to their judgment. Loyalist politicians themselves have shown themselves to either be incompetent, unable to control their own followers, or complicit in the violence itself. They have chosen to act like someone found guilty who then blames everyone except themselves and wallows in self-pity:

Belfast's most senior Orangeman, County Grand Master Dawson Bailie, told the BBC on Monday that the Orange Order was not responsible for the weekend disorder.

When asked if the Order condemned the violence, he said: "As far as I'm concerned the people to blame for that are the secretary of state, the chief constable and the Parades Commission, fairly and squarely."

DUP leader Ian Paisley denied prompting riots by saying the parade re-routing "could be the spark which kindles a fire there would be no putting out".

Mr Paisley condemned the violence but said his prediction had come true.

"I was telling the truth, I said I was very very worried," he said on Monday.

"At that time I was in the midst of trying to get a way whereby this would not happen. And it has happened - my words have been proved to be right."

The parade was re-routed by 100 metres. That such an act would spark violence is an outrage. The second Palestinian intifada was prompted by Ariel Sharon visiting the Al-Haram As-Sharif mosque, surrounded by 1000 bodyguards. This was not even close to such a provocative and stupid decision. This was an excuse for the loyalist thugs to show that they are still in action and are not going to go away any time soon, unlike the IRA. That Ian Paisley is either aware of this or actively encouraging it while denying it in public, is a disgrace. Sadly, he'll get away with it, just like loyalism will. Within two months this will have been forgotten, and once again, the republican community will be being attacked, with no news coverage of it whatsoever.

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