Saturday, September 24, 2005 

Moss watch Saturday.

Congratulations to the Daily Mirror on following up last week's scoop that Kate Moss scoops white powder into her nose with today's revelation that she also takes horse tranquilisers. Thanks for letting us know!

The Sun manages to not mention this thrilling developing story on its front page today, instead going with the gorgeous pouting surgically enhanced and certainly not fat Abi Titmuss, who must be modelling the new Marks & Spencer lingerie range, I assume. Who needs a news story related excuse for putting a woman in her underwear on your front page when you get a press release from a company through instead?

The other newspapers may well have had other Kate Moss stories on their front page, but I've lost the will to live already.

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Christian school expels girl because her parents are lesbians.

Reading this, you'd be forgiven for skimming it and assuming that it happened in some bible belt state in the US. This actually happened in Canada, not a country you usually associate with Christian moralistic bible thumping:

A 14-year-old girl has been expelled from school because her parents are lesbians.

The superintendent of Ontario Christian School, Leonard Stob, wrote to Shay Clark's biological mother, Tina Clark, this week saying Shay had been expelled because the family did not meet admission policies, which required that at least one parent did not engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian lifestyle, such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship".

Ms Clark and her partner have been together 22 years and have two other daughters, aged nine and 19.

I'm assuming this is a private school, in which case they can obviously decide who to admit and who not to. Even so, it's still pretty depressing when you consider it's the child that's being taught, not the parents. If you're a teacher and don't happen to like some of the kid's parents when you meet them at an open evening, you don't expel their offspring the next day. It's all well and good not liking homosexuals because you base your morals on what you think a book written thousands of years ago says, but don't take it out on kids they've either adopted or had through IVF treatment. The kid didn't ask to be born, after all.

Edit: My source for this article, the Grauniad, has made me look stupid. They wrongly headlined it as happening in Canada. This actually took place in Ontario, California. Apologies.

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Guardian's saturday comment section.

For those of you who spat your museli all over your sandals this morning on reading Norman Johnson's second column in the Grauniad, if you haven't realised yet, it's a spoof. The Harry's Place blog seemed to think rather grandly that it was based on them, but it's obviously an attack on David Aaronovitch and his leftist-warmonger crap which filled G2 for a couple of years before he left for his more natual home at the Times, and no doubt a higher salary. It's not good enough to be an obvious spoof, and it's a rather Guardian-in joke which not that many people are going to get. It's certainly no Craig Brown, who while you always know that his works are spoofs, they come frightingenly close to the real thing. Today's mention of Paul Wolfowitz was excellent, though.

Still, it's nice to see that Aaronovitch pissed off just as many people who work for the paper as he did the readers. As to who the author is, some on the aforementioned Harry's Place blog seem to think it's Catherine Bennett. No insult to John O'Farrell, who used to write a satirical column weekly, but I think it's too literate for him. A.L. Kennedy perhaps?

Back a couple of pages from Norman Johnson, and you have Marina Hyde, who on her second week writing on showbiz seems to be getting more entertaining, especially her making fun of the Evening Standard in a similar way to the Moss dross I've been following. Never mind that though, check out the picture of her. Is she not a simmering sexpot if you ever saw one? I can see why Piers "Morgan" Moron did and continues to do the dirty with her.

For those too lazy to click:

I meant Harry's Place, not Bar. Durrrr.

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Friday, September 23, 2005 

Foreign insurgents in Iraq count for less than 10% of the actual number, report says.

As barbaric as the resistance or insurgency is in Iraq, don't let yourself be fooled that they are all foreign militants who have traveled to Iraq to commit jihad against the yanks.

The US and the Iraqi government have overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, "feeding the myth" that they are the backbone of the insurgency, an American thinktank says in a new report.

Foreign militants - mainly from Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - account for less than 10% of the estimated 30,000 insurgents, according to the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The report came as President Bush said a pullout of US forces would embolden America's enemies, allowing the Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden "to dominate the Middle East and launch more attacks on America and other free nations".

The report says the presence of foreign fighters is cause for alarm "particularly because they play so large a role in the most violent bombings and in the efforts to provoke a major and intense civil war". The CSIS disputes reports that Saudis account for most of the foreign insurgents and says best estimates suggest Algerians are the largest group (20%), followed by Syrians (18%), Yemenis (17%), Sudanese (15%), Egyptians (13%), Saudis (12%) and those from other states (5%). British intelligence estimate the number of British jihadists at about 100.

The CSIS report says: "The vast majority of Saudi militants who have entered Iraq were not terrorist sympathisers before the war; and were radicalised almost exclusively by the coalition invasion."

The average age of the Saudis was 17-25 and they were generally middle-class with jobs, though they usually had connections with the most prominent conservative tribes. "Most of the Saudi militants were motivated by revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country. These feelings are intensified by the images of the occupation they see on television and the internet ... the catalyst most often cited [in interrogations] is Abu Ghraib, though images from Guantanamo bay also feed into the pathology."

In terms of fighters entering Iraq, Syria is clearly the biggest problem, the report says, but preventing militants from crossing its 380-mile frontier with Iraq is daunting. "Even if Syria had the political will to completely and forcefully seal its border, it lacks sufficient resources to do so." Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has spent $1.2bn (£670m) over the past two years and deployed 35,000 troops in an effort to secure its border.

During the past six months this has led to the capture of 63 Saudis trying to cross into Iraq but also 682 Iraqi intruders and smugglers. The smuggling included explosives destined for Islamist groups in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries.

It's good to see that this report destroys quite a few myths and repeated statements from the USuk coalition. They've blamed Syria constantly for the amount of fighters entering Iraq, while they know full well that Syria is unable to control its border. That's just one consequence of the humiliation Syria has gone through over the past few years, as Bashar al-Assad has seen power slip away from him. The days of hoping that he would be a reformer have long since passed. The possibility of the forthcoming UN report into the assassination of Rafik Hairi pointing the finger directly at Syria could be the catalyst which results in the regime collapsing. With all its problems in the Middle East at the moment, it's not something which the United States will instantly cheer and relish.

Also destroyed is the presumption that it is mainly Saudi fighters who have been fuelling the insurgency. Turns out that the highest percentage is most likely Algerians, who are well versed in rebellion, having fought against the state and then each other. It's also the same country which Britain is currently negotiating with, in the aim of deporting "extremists" there.

Most of all though, it shows that the vast majority of fighters are from within Iraq itself. Whether it is former Ba'athists, disillusioned Sunnis or radical Shias is a moot point. These are not just terrorists, they are those who have been against the occupation from the beginning. It's easily forgotten that the beginning of all the problems in Fallujah was when soldiers indiscriminately shot at protestors after they had took over a school as a base, not when the contractors were lynched.

The war in Iraq has been a disaster. That this can still not be admitted, or that ministers still profess that things are getting better is shameful. If anything, the electricity and water supply is now worse than under Saddam. It took a lot of propaganda, disinformation and lies for the war to be "justified". It will take the truth for withdrawal of all foreign troops and end of the occupation.

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Moss dross continues yet again.

Congratulations to the Mirror, Daily Star and Guardian who all felt that Kate Moss was applicable to put on their front pages today. Trebles all round!

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Thursday, September 22, 2005 

Clarke considers compromise over terror laws, while Ian Blair takes his turn to spout drivel.

One reality check, and one from someone who's starting to seem increasingly deranged:

Charles Clarke said today he was seeking a compromise with opposition parties on his proposals to detain terrorist suspects without charge for 90 days.

In an interview published today in the New Statesman magazine, the home secretary said he was willing to consider limiting the timescale for detention in light of opposition from both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Mr Clarke also alluded to revelations of his own reservations on the matter, when an early draft of a letter to his opposition counterparts was accidentally released. The first draft of the letter to the Conservatives' David Davis and the Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten was more equivocal than the one which was eventually delivered.

Today Mr Clarke said: "I'm convinced the three months is fine. But because David [Davis] and Mark [Oaten] had raised doubts, I was uncertain quite how to word the covering letter. "Will we compromise? We will seek to do so. My preference is to work on a basis of compromise and agreement if we can. But if Mark Oaten wants to say there is no case for extending the time beyond 14 days, I couldn't accept that.

"But you could have a slightly different argument about timescale."

However, Mr Oaten yesterday specifically said the Liberal Democrats were not prepared to "barter" on the matter. Mr Oaten dubbed detention without trial for three months "internment" and said he would oppose all of the government's anti-terrorist bill if that section was not dropped.

He said, "I'm not going to get into a barter [with Charles Clarke] My starting point is we don't need to extend it beyond 14 days. We are not going to barter about 1 month or two months ... "

Today the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, also attacked the idea in his speech to conference. He said: "There can be no consensus on detaining people for three months without charge. This proposal undermines our most basic rights and eats into our most cherished freedoms. If we undermine the foundations of our legal system then we let the terrorists win."

Liberal Democrat peers in Blackpool have suggested that the home secretary would find it very difficult to get his legislation through the House of Lords if he did not compromise on detention without trial and drop the new offence of "glorifying" terrorism.

In his New Statesman interview, the home secretary said he believed that the 90 day period was still justified, because the police and security services needed longer than the present 14 days because of the difficulty of obtaining forensic evidence.

Sir Ian's comments came on the same day as he announced plans to bring soldiers into police firearms units and give officers powers to confiscate driving licences or issue antisocial behaviour orders. His plans provoked alarm among civil liberties groups, but he won qualified support from the Home Office by suggesting that officers should be given radical powers to deliver justice on the spot.

Addressing the Police Superintendents' Association conference in Warwickshire, Sir Ian said he believed the police service should be "bold enough to explore whether certain functions can be carried out by people on short-term contracts, partially warranted only to do a certain type of the police job, whether that be surveillance officers, underwater search, financial investigators, mounted branch or, even, firearms officers.

"Could we bring staff directly in from the armed services, give them a certain amount of basic training and clear instructions as to their firearms duties, so they would be partially warranted, on a fixed-term contract, to undertake only those duties?" In clarification afterwards, the Met said those recruited would be "people leaving the armed services with proven firearms skills" who would be deployed as firearms officers following "a small amount of additional training".

On giving police officers powers to impose interim Asbos or suspend driving licences, Sir Ian said: "Some antisocial activities can be very difficult to deal with through the normal criminal justice system because it takes so long ... but we have to be careful about this. I don't want to see this as a massive widening of powers."

His remarks on pay set him on a collision course with rank and file officers by demanding the abolition of the body which negotiates salaries on a national basis. He told delegates: "We should press for the abolition of the Police Negotiating Board and move towards regional agreements around pay and conditions."

The director of the civil liberties group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, accused the commissioner of behaving like Judge Dredd, the post-apocalyptic policeman-cum-executioner in the comic 2000AD. "This is more like summary justice, which has no place in a democracy," she said.

A Home Office spokesman said Sir Ian's ideas were "part of the ongoing debate we are having about workforce modernisation and the police service".

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, criticised the idea of using soldiers. "There's a vast difference in the way police and soldiers are trained and their roles are very different. The army are trained to cope with war zones. London is not a war zone."

The Liberal Democrats seem to be the only party (that actually has seats in parliament at least) that has principles left. Despite their rather opportunist opposition to war, with their pledge of support to the troops, they have come into their own recently in demanding changes to the government's worst excesses. They helped knock the control orders bill down to size. Now hopefully they will stop the affront to liberty which is the planned 3 month detention. It's good to see that Charles Clarke recognises that there's almost no way he will get away with trying to force the measure through parliament. What I don't believe is claim is that it was him that was coming up with the wording of the letter sent to his opposite numbers. The draft which was sent has the fingerprints of a certain Mr Blair or one of his "advisors" all over it. The glorification clause must also be dropped, because it is utterly unenforceable, a restriction on free speech, and already existing laws can be used against the worst offenders or sympathisers.

Meanwhile, "Sir" Ian Blair seems to be a little worse for wear after his obviously unfortunate dose of reality which was dealt him thanks to his officers murdering Jean Charles de Menezes. His idea of recruiting army soldiers was shown to be a disaster by the events of July the 22nd. That he should consider extending such use of soldiers and even SAS men further shows how little he has learned, despite his professions that he thought about resigning. The police and the army are completely different cultures. Secondly, on the "interim" ASBOs idea, it smacks of the idea of taking "yobs" directly to cash machines to pay their fines. It didn't work and was a ridiculous idea, as is this. As with ASBOs, such interim orders would hit the mentally ill, prostitutes, beggars and the different in society. Such further marginalisation does not solve anything. As for taking away drivers licenses for reckless driving, it's the kind of idea that sounds good on paper but when actually carried in practice could result in people losing their jobs for a moment of silliness, which we all have.

Sadly, Blair's namesake is more and more keen on cracking down on "anti-social behaviour". Of course, this doesn't extend to bar and pubs being allowed to stay open for 24 hours, or for supermarkets to do the same when selling alcohol. Expect ASBO interim orders to be introduced and also used instead of actually arresting or cautioning youths who happen to just be loitering around "with intent". Blair is only interested in quick fixes now. His term is coming to an end, and he couldn't care less about the state of his party once he's gone. It makes a mockery of his slogan while shadow home secretary to be tough on crime and even tougher on the causes of crime. He's only ever tried to deal properly with the former.

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Two views of New Orleans.

Thanks to Rigorious Intuition for bringing this juxtaposition to my attention.

Stripper "Alex" entertains patrons at Deja Vu Showgirls during the strip club's second day of business in the French Quarter of New Orleans, September 20, 2005...entertaining the city's hoard of police, rescue and fire workers.


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Moss dross continues.

Guess I shouldn't have opened my mouth. I can't remember which newspapers had Kate Moss on their front page today, but at least one of the mid-market tabloids did, as well as the brilliant expose detailed below. Congratulations Sun on your superb banner boost splash!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 

Kate Dross: for fuck's sake.

Yes, amazing as it may seem, Kate Moss snorts cocaine. In other news, Pope Benedict has admitted that he has on occasion been known to pray to God.

Seriously, it's incredibly depressing to see the blowback and media hype from the Mirror's incredible expose that a model has been dabbling in illegal substances. She's been dropped as the marketing face of H&M, Chanel and Burberry. It's pretty odd that they thought she was appropriate even though she's dating the junkie Pete Doherty, formerly of the Libertines and a complete and utter fuck-up who should take the Cobain way out as soon as possible. Who honestly cares?

News editors, please note that there's just a few more important stories going on than what's currently in a pathetic model's nose. There's a hurricane heading towards New Orleans again, Iraq is a disaster zone, Britain is under attack not by terrorists but by lawmakers, the government is too cowardly to revalue council tax and stop the poor from paying too much, Uzbekistan is accusing the foreign media of supporting Islamists and conducting a Stalinist show trial, Tesco is continuing to destroy small businesses across the country and what do we get on our front pages? A model that can't even manage to take drugs in private. Get over this shit.

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Horrific failings by prisons, courts and prosecution service.

I opposed the recent plans to introduce double jeopardy (trying a suspect who has already been acquitted of the same crime again) and to reveal the criminal record of the accused as evidence in the prosecutions case. I did this on the basis that those who have changed their behaviour but are known by police could be brought in if they are in the wrong place in the wrong time. The revealing of their past in court could therefore result in miscarriages of justice. Although Ian Huntley was convicted for the murders of the two Soham schoolgirls, it was revealed afterwards that he had been accused of rape before and for having sex with underage girls. There now comes this case which shows that if the revealing of the criminal record had been allowed in the past, this man may not have been able to continue to commit such horrific crimes:

Details of how a killer and serial sex offender attacked women and children over 40 years were revealed for the first time yesterday following the conclusion of court cases in Britain and Northern Ireland. And, as the full history of Robert Howard emerged, it was announced that he could be questioned about a series of unsolved murders of women in the Irish Republic.

Howard, 61, was jailed for life in October 2003 for the murder of Hannah Williams, a 14-year-old with learning difficulties, but reporting of the case was restricted until outstanding sex charges were dropped this week at Belfast crown court. Howard strangled Hannah with a 12-metre rope and dumped her body at a disused cement works in Northfleet, Kent. She went missing in April 2001 but was not found until a year later.

It can also be revealed that this June a jury found Howard not guilty of the murder of Arlene Arkinson, 15, who was in Howard's car the night before she disappeared in 1994. Yesterday Arlene's sister claimed that Howard would not have been cleared of the killing if the jury had known of his past convictions. Kathleen Arkinson said: "The law has to change." Arlene's body has still to be found.

Howard is thought to have committed his first sexual offence aged 20 in 1964. He attempted to rape a six-year-old girl in London after he broke into her bedroom, pretended to be a doctor and told her to undress. In March 1969 he broke into a house in north-east England and tried to rape a young woman. When she escaped he pursued her into her garden where he tried to strangle her. He was sentenced to six years for aggravated burglary.

In March 1974 he was sentenced to a further 10 years after being convicted in Cork of raping a woman aged 58 who was bound with a sheet in her own bed.

In 1993 he lured a 16-year-old girl to his flat in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, where he drugged, stripped and repeatedly raped her over two days while keeping a noose tied tightly round her neck. His victim, who escaped through a bathroom window, claimed he threatened to kill her. He said the teenager had consented, and he was convicted of a lesser charge of having unlawful sex with a girl under 17.

In 1994 he drove Arlene Arkinson, as well as his girlfriend's daughter and her boyfriend, to Bundoran, Co Donegal, for drinks. He dropped the couple off at 2.30am promising to take Arlene home. She was never seen again. He also held a woman in her 20s captive for several weeks. In March 1995 he moved to Drumchapel, Glasgow, but was hounded out after a newspaper exposed his past.

At Northfleet Hannah Williams had played at his home in the months before she went missing.

It has to be asked why he was continually let out to reoffend. It also has to be asked why the judges in the cases did not impose heavier sentences, or even life imprisonment as it became clear what a menace this man was to vulnerable women. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a liberal when it comes to imprisonment. I don't believe that prison works. What I do believe is that there are some people so dangerous that they need to be locked away, for life if necessary, from the general public. This man was one of those people. That he wasn't identified as such is a scandal. Obviously the revealing of past cases would not have mattered in this case, as he was imprisoned despite him being found not guilty of the murder of Arlene. The least he could now do is admit that he murdered Arlene and reveal what he did with her body.

This case doesn't change my feelings that in general past convictions should not be revealed in court before the jury decides on their verdict. I do however feel that circumstances are constantly changing. If the change in the law results in people such as Robert Howard being locked away, then I would happily support it. At the moment however, it will still affect those who should always be viewed as innocent until proven guilty.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005 

British army and Ministry of Defence spinning Basra incident.

Just what on earth actually did happen in Basra yesterday? Almost every news account I come across seems to be different. Here's the Guardian's account:

British troops used tanks last night to break down the walls of a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and free two undercover British soldiers who were seized earlier in the day by local police.

An official from the Iraqi interior ministry said half a dozen tanks had broken down the walls of the jail and troops had then stormed it to free the two British soldiers. The governor of Basra last night condemned the "barbaric aggression" of British forces in storming the jail.

Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the jail, said dozens of Iraqi prisoners also fled in the confusion.

In a statement last night the defence secretary, John Reid, said: "I am pleased to be able to say that the British servicemen who were seen being injured in the graphic photographs are being treated for minor injuries only and are expected to return to duty shortly. We remain committed to helping the Iraqi government for as long as they judge that a coalition presence is necessary to provide security."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We have not had confirmation of the full details of this. We've heard nothing to suggest we stormed the prison. We understand there were negotiations."

In a day of dramatic incidents in the heart of the British-controlled area of Iraq, the two undercover soldiers - almost certainly special forces - were held by Iraqi security forces after clashes that reportedly left two people dead and threatened to escalate into a diplomatic incident between London and Baghdad.

The soldiers, who were said to have been wearing Arab headdress, were accused of firing at Iraqi police when stopped at a road block.

In another incident an angry crowd attacked a Warrior armoured personnel carrier with petrol bombs. A British soldier was forced to flee from his burning vehicle.

Muhammad al-Abadi, an official in the Basra governorate, told journalists the two undercover soldiers had looked suspicious to police. "A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them."

Senior British officials said the Iraqis who attacked the Warrior armoured vehicle had prepared their petrol bomb attack before the incident involving the two undercover soldiers. The origins of the attack on the Warrior, they say, lay in events the previous day when about 200 members of the al-Mahdi Army, a militia headed by the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, made a show of force in Basra, blocking roads in the city and demanding the release of their local commanders.

So, 2 "undercover" British soldiers allegedly fired at a police roadblock, who were then captured and taken to the local lockup. A major incident nonetheless, but possibly a misunderstanding, right?

Here's the wire story from the Xinhua news agency:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Iraqi police detained two British soldiers in civilian clothes in the southern city Basra for firing on a police station on Monday, police said.

"Two persons wearing Arab uniforms opened fire at a police station in Basra. A police patrol followed the attackers and captured them to discover they were two British soldiers," an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua.

The two soldiers were using a civilian car packed with explosives, the source said.

He added that the two were being interrogated in the police headquarters of Basra.

The British forces informed the Iraqi authorities that the two soldiers were performing an official duty, the source said. British military authorities said they could not confirm the incident but investigations were underway.

Now they're attacking a police station with a car packed full of explosives. What would 2 undercover SAS soldiers be doing attacking police stations with cars of explosives, hmmm?

This is the latest BBC report:

The Iraqi government has launched an inquiry into the events that led the British Army to stage a dramatic rescue of two UK soldiers detained by police.

Both men were members of the SAS elite special forces, sources told the BBC's Richard Galpin in Baghdad.

The soldiers were arrested by police and then handed over to a militia group, the British Army says.

Iraq's interior ministry ordered the police force in Basra to release the soldiers but that order was ignored.

Defence Secretary John Reid told reporters that a delegation of six British military personnel, including a legal officer, had been sent to the police station to ease the release of the men.

Mr Reid said surveillance had established the men were being moved to another location, while at the same time an angry crowd posed an obstacle to the departure of the six-strong team.

The British commander on the ground, Brigadier John Lorimer, ordered British forces to move into the police station to help the team.

Almost simultaneously, a separate operation was staged to rescue the men from the place where they had been moved to.

It is understood force was also used in this operation, although there were no casualties as the Shia militia holding the British soldiers fled.

The episode saw a wall flattened at the police station by a British armoured personnel carrier, but Mr Reid said the coalition was still going "in the right direction" in terms of its overall strategy in Iraq and said this incident was merely "local".

Basra governor Mohammed al-Waili said the men - possibly working undercover - were arrested for allegedly shooting dead a policeman and wounding another.

Richard Galpin said al-Jazeera news channel footage, purportedly of the equipment carried in the men's car, showed assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear and medical kit.

This is thought to be standard kit for the SAS operating in such a theatre of operations, he said.

The arrests sparked angry protests from locals in which British vehicles were attacked and set on fire.

Seems like the soldiers captured were definitely SAS members, and that the BBC itself may well be trying to spin why they had "explosives" in their car. Apparently what they had is typical SAS kit. Without seeing any pictures I obviously can't comment. What I can say is that this entire operation stinks and that the government has lied from the very beginning. We've had no explanation as to why these two soldiers were undercover, apart from the rumour they may have been trying to track down insurgents that have recently seemingly perfected roadside bombs. Did they fire at a roadblock or a police station? Why did they do so? Had they infiltrated an insurgent group and were trying to prove themselves, or was this something much more sinister? Whichever it was, the army was very keen to get these two soldiers back as soon as possible. Are the claims that they had been handed over to a Shia militia credible, or more spin to make their use of force to break into the prison look better? Even if they were, it seems unlikely that the militia would have done anything stupid enough to hurt or kill them, as the British army has seemingly turned a blind eye to militias infiltrating or joining the Basra police force, despite Sunday's incident with the Mahdi army.

Whether we'll get any answers is doubtful. What is obviously nonsense is this pathetic statement put out by the army, which I'm not going to bother pasting. One thing though. Does the below look like minor damage to you?

Also, why did the government request that the photos of the two soldiers be pixellated?
Naturally, the Guardian and I would guess the rest of the British media very kindly decided to do what the government requested. Thanks again to RI for providing the uncensored image.

Here's some more minor disturbance photos that show that the UK has won hearts and minds and obviously shouldn't consider withdrawing any time soon:

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Monday, September 19, 2005 

Met chief faces own inquiry into his comments on murder of de Menezes.

This isn't going to go away any time soon:

Britain's most senior police officer is to face an official investigation into whether he told the truth about the shooting dead of an innocent man who was mistaken for a terrorist, the Guardian has learned.

Witnesses have told the Independent Police Complaints Commission about events inside the Metropolitan police on July 22, the day Jean Charles de Menezes was killed at Stockwell tube station. It is believed their testimony raises questions about a claim by Sir Ian Blair, the Met police commissioner, that he did not know that the wrong man had been killed until 24 hours after the shooting.

The Guardian has learned that a senior Met officer has told the IPCC of his concerns that senior colleagues knew or suspected on the afternoon of July 22 that the wrong person had been shot. Investigators have also received the names of other officers at the top of the Met who by the afternoon of the shooting feared the force had made a mistake.

Mr de Menezes was gunned down in a tube carriage by firearms officers who believed he was about to detonate a device. The officers were operating under a shoot to kill policy which allows them to open fire without warning. The IPCC was investigating how Mr de Menezes came to be wrongly identified as a terrorist and then shot, but has decided to widen its inquiries to include Sir Ian.

In an interview last month in the News of the World, Sir Ian said that for 24 hours he believed his officers had shot the right man. The newspaper quoted him as saying: "Somebody came in at 10.30am [on Saturday] and said the equivalent of 'Houston we have a problem'. I thought 'That's dreadful. What are we going to do about that?'" Straight after the shooting, Sir Ian wrote to the top civil servant at the Home Office saying that the police should conduct the inquiry, not independent investigators. Sir Ian told the News of the World: "The key component was that at that time, and for the next 24 hours, I and everybody who advised me believed the person shot was a suicide bomber."

Sources have told the Guardian that by just after 4pm on July 22 senior officers were discussing possible consequences of the shooting. The officers knew the name of the shot man and the fact that he was a Brazilian national. Sir Ian had defended the shooting at a press conference at 3.30pm that day, though senior officers believed there was a significant likelihood that the wrong man had been killed. The commissioner told reporters: "This operation was directly linked to the ongoing terrorist investigation. As I understand the situation, the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions."

I already felt that it was highly unlikely the "Sir" Ian was not aware for 24 hours that the wrong man had been shot. However, this is perhaps one part of the case where we should hold our scepticism for now. It has been reported that senior officers at the Met were unhappy with appointment of "Sir" Ian to begin with, feeling that he was too "politically correct". True or not, this may well be the start of a whispering campaign against him. As in the courts, we should treat "Sir" Ian innocent until proven guilty. He was not in charge of the operation, did not fire the bullet, and may well have been handed faulty information or kept out of the loop. The case may be damning, but until the already discredited IPCC report arrives, it would be too easy to cast stones. If it turns out to be a whitewash, similar to Hutton, then will be the time to start hurling.

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Blair and Murdoch, the not so odd couple.

One is the prime minister of the United Kingdom, an Oxbridge educated barrister. The other is an Australian who has risen from reasonably humble beginnings to head one of the largest media empires in operation. One is meant to be a socialist, head of a party which for decades fought for the working man. The other is a major force behind conservatism, fights for complete domination of the media and has enriched himself and his family for decades while showering the public with propaganda. You would think that they would have nothing in common. You'd be utterly wrong.

The BBC and Downing Street were striving yesterday to avoid reopening old wounds after Rupert Murdoch said the prime minister had criticised the corporation's coverage of Hurricane Katrina as "full of hatred for America and gloating".

Downing Street signalled embarrassment as well as irritation over the widespread publicity given to Tony Blair's remark to the media tycoon, while senior BBC executives tried to play down the impact of the comments, made in a telephone call to Mr Murdoch last week.

Speaking on Friday night at a seminar hosted by former US president Bill Clinton, Mr Murdoch said: "Tony Blair - perhaps I shouldn't repeat this conversation - told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week and he turned on the BBC World Service to see what was happening in New Orleans. And he said it was just full of hate for America and gloating about our troubles." Mr Murdoch, who regards the BBC as elitist and commercially unfair, has often used his newspapers to attack the broadcaster. His son James, chief executive of BSkyB, again criticised the corporation on Friday at a television industry conference in Cambridge.

Senior BBC executives yesterday refused to comment on Mr Murdoch's speech, saying they had received no official complaint from No 10, but privately greeted it with anger and incredulity. Nevertheless, most were relaxed about its impact, given the outpouring of public support that followed the Hutton report. "It says more about Blair's relationship with Murdoch than it does his relationship with the BBC," one executive said.

The BBC senior executives took the polite and low-key approach to such a ridiculous statement. That National Union of Journalists was not so subtle.

The NUJ has attacked Tony Blair for comments he reportedly made about the BBC over the weekend, saying his criticism of the corporation's coverage of Hurricane Katrina "exposed his contempt for public service broadcasting and the BBC in particular".

The NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said the suggestion that the BBC's coverage had been "full of hatred for America and gloating", revealed the prime minister's "craven devotion to President Bush ... only eclipsed by his craven devotion to Rupert Murdoch".

Mr Murdoch revealed Mr Blair's alleged comments at a seminar hosted by former American president Bill Clinton on Friday.

Mr Murdoch reportedly said: "Tony Blair - perhaps I shouldn't repeat this conversation - told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week and he turned on the BBC World Service to see what was happening in New Orleans. And he said it was just full of hate for America and gloating about our troubles."

The NUJ said the comments showed that the prime minister was trying to curry favour with Mr Murdoch.

"Tony Blair's criticism of the BBC for exposing the divide between rich and poor in the US and the slowness of the emergency services to provide relief to the poor of New Orleans is beyond contempt, " Mr Dear said.

"Tony Blair has deregulated broadcasting to serve the interests of Rupert Murdoch. His latest attack on the BBC shows he is still doing Murdoch's bidding."

Both the BBC and Downing Street are trying to distance themselves from a possible fallout.

"We have received no complaint from Downing Street, so it would be remiss of us to comment on what has been reported as a private conversation," said a BBC spokewoman.

Yeah, I'd say that's pretty much closer to the truth. For a start, if Blair really did say that, he's even more out of touch than I thought he was. The American networks were also being just as critical of the relief effort, although the BBC was perhaps quicker to become frustrated and report on it. Secondly, I'm not sure in what sense Murdoch is using the phrase "our troubles". Just a reminder, Rupert. You're not American. You only became an American for tax purposes. Land of the free, etc. Blair is not going to forgive the BBC for the 45 minute report any time soon. Neither is he going to forget the interview with Jeremy Paxman at the election, which even I thought was over the top, nor the Question Time session when he was greeted with booing and also left with it howling around him. That the BBC is anything more pro-government than say, Channel 4 news is, is not the point. The BBC is publicly funded, and any questioning of his policy or investigations from now on may result in the charter now being drawn up dramatically changed.

Murdoch is dying to be able to gain an even bigger strangehold on the media in Britain. It's long been rumoured that he wished to buy into Channel 5, although the time has probably passed for such a move now. The Ofcom rules on impartiality and balance prevent him from turning Sky News into Fox News Britland. If Murdoch can get some more feathers in his cap before Blair steps down in favour of Brown, he'll try as hard as he can.

The real issue though with Murdoch and Blair has been the huge influence which his newspapers have had on the government. Ever since the 1992 election with the boast that "IT WAS THE SUN WOT WON IT" for the Tories, Labour as a whole has been completely craven towards the Sun and the Times. When the Sun switched to supporting Labour in 1997, it was a huge coup for Labour, whether it did any more to help their victory or not. The Hutton report itself was leaked to the Sun the day before it was published, with the source of the leak never properly identified. It's also highly rumoured that Blair gained the support of the Sun for this year's election thanks to him agreeing to hold a referendum on the European constitution, which is now unlikely to be held.

While Blair will no doubt be embarrassed in the short term by Murdoch's loose lips, it won't make any difference towards his position or devotion to courting Murdoch at every turn. While the Sun and Times are unlikely to change support or attack him now before the hand-over to Brown, Blair realises the more sycophantic he is, he may well be able to get him some kind of corporate job with News Corporation when he leaves politics. Blair doesn't care about the Labour party any longer; it always just his host for his own ambitions. Expect him to dump it as soon as he no longer needs it. If the Labour party has any sense left in its collective mind, it'll be sooner rather than later.

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