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Warmwell PoliticsPage archive for December 2004 - March 2005

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11/13 March 2005 ~ Balanced Sunday Telegraph comment "Praise the Lords" on the Terrorism Bill: "...The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary had tried to imply that the Bill as originally worded had the full support of the security services. Mr Blair's history of exaggerating the claims of the secret intelligence services - the episode of the notorious dossier on Iraq is still fresh in people's minds - did not encourage confidence that he was accurately reporting the views of MI5. The grounds for scepticism on that point were reinforced when he later suggested that MI5 was opposed to the insertion of a "sunset clause" - a claim that Lord Falconer was forced to withdraw in the House of Lords. (see below)

11/13 March 2005 ~~ Independent "The Attorney General is facing a damaging inquiry ... MPs have lodged a formal complaint with the Bar Council.... the Government confirmed yesterday it would not release the legal advice for war despite a request to review its decisions.
Yesterday, Clare Short... was also told her complaint about the Attorney General's presentation of legal advice - with no supporting documentation - would be investigated by the council's complaints commissioner. .... "I am told the inquiry will be independent," she said...... Jack Straw was also under pressure after MPs claimed he "misled the Commons.." See Goldsmith pages

11/13 March 2005 ~ The Bill was finally passed on friday evening. The government has produced a timetable for Parliament to review and amend the law and has promised Parliament time to draft more wide-ranging legislation later in the year.
CNS News remarks, "Opposition to the Prevention of Terrorism Bill created some unlikely bedfellows, from Conservative lords to Liberal members of Parliament, and Jesse Jackson even weighed in on the dispute. "Neither the U.S. nor the U.K. Government has proved itself trustworthy enough to conduct democracy by secret intelligence," Jackson said in a statement released by the London-based civil rights group Liberty."

11/13 March 2005 ~ New York Times".... It has been a chaotic week, with the proposals bouncing back and forth between an increasingly angry House of Commons and House of Lords as the deadline for the law's expiration loomed. Meanwhile, it was unclear under what circumstances the detainees would be released.
On Thursday, Gareth Peirce, a lawyer for some of the men, said that she had never seen "such an extraordinary, ill-prepared, ill thought-out and cack-handed shambles" and asked, "How could anyone be convinced that those responsible know what they are doing?"

11 March 2005 ~ The Prime Minister said on Wednesday that to accept either the amendment on the sunset clause or the other amendment to change the burden of proof would be contrary to the strong advice given to us by our security services and our police . Lord Falconer was asked by the Earl of Onslow early this morning: 'Have the security services told the Government that the security of the country will be at risk if we have a sunset clause?" To the astonishment of peers, the minister replied: "No, my Lords, they have not."

11 March 2005 ~ News of the progress of the Bill - articles as they arrive.
(The Register comments, " the main battle now seems to be for electoral advantage, with Tony Blair taking every opportunity to portray the Tory opposition as being 'soft on terror.'...what happens after midnight on Sunday, presents us with the interesting prospect, if Tony Blair eventually gets his way, of control orders imposed without charges or trial, and enforced by the private sector..")

11 March 2005 ~"The attorney general's advice on the legality of the war is to come under separate scrutiny, as a group of London lawyers has called on the Bar Council to investigate whether he has broken the profession's code of conduct. .." Guardian yesterday

11 March 2005 ~ The Journal reports that, in spite of 78% of voters saying No to the idea of a North East Assembly, John Prescott has been pressing ahead regardless with his plans for regionalisation.

11 March 2005 ~" There is nothing new about left-wing parties being taken over by factions with a totally different agenda." Frederick Forsyth recently wrote "Beware of Fascists in Blairite Clothing."

11 March 2005 ~ Lord Goldsmith went out of his way to insist that his parliamentary answer on 17 March 2003 on the legality of the war did not reflect his legal advice and was not even a summary of it. Now that Sir Andrew Turnball has revealed that there was no full legal advice at all (Independent) what will Lord Goldsmith say now? The extent of the lying that took us to war in the face of a huge public outcry has still not been revealed. That parliamentary answer from Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, was the final legal opinion on the case for war.

11 March 2005 ~ Sir Andrew Turnbull has disclosed that no "full" legal advice on an invasion of Iraq has ever existed and that a short parliamentary answer by the Attorney General was the "definitive advice" on the war sent to the Prime Minister and that "there is no other version". Independent articles today in full and the Goldsmith pages on warmwell.

11 March 2005 ~ "Tony Blair appears to be sinking deeper and deeper into a hole of his own making over the legal case for war in Iraq. Yesterday's admission by the Cabinet Secretary that there was no formal legal opinion by the Attorney General .....provides further evidence that corners were cut in the rush to war, and is bound to fuel criticism that the advice of the most senior law officer was manipulated for political reasons. See Independent and Goldsmith pages on warmwell.

10/11 March 2005 ~ Mr Blair voted - he was in the Palace of Westminster - but he wasn't in the House of Commons to answer the insistent questions about exactly what "advice" made these new unBritish measures so necessary. "Thursday" can last until Sunday March 13th in the surreal world of parliament.

9 March 2005 ~The Guardian reports on the first internet blogger to attend the regular press briefing at the White House

9 March 2005 ~The Guardian letter page carries comments on the George Monbiot article about the proposed EU services directive

9 March 2005 ~ "Tony Blair is facing calls for a formal investigation after it emerged that he breached the official code of conduct.....Crucially, the cabinet meeting on 17 March was given only the two-page parliamentary statement by Lord Goldsmith. After written questions by MPs it emerged yesterday that, under the ministers' code of conduct, the Cabinet should have seen the Attorney General's full advice as well as his summary.
The evasions and the contradictions do not end there. .." Three articles from the Independent on the Goldsmith question. See warmwell's Goldsmith pages - now extensive.

9 March 2005 ~Today Mr Clarke will try to meet his critics half way by conceding to their demand that judges rather than the home secretary will normally decide whether the lesser category of control orders that restrict an individual's contacts and activities should be imposed and accepting that the proposed law would have to be renewed every year by votes in both Lords and Commons. He told the Guardian that he cannot agree to replace the test of reasonable suspicion with a higher level of proof, the so-called balance of probabilities See Guardian.

9 March 2005 ~ Independent "....Government whips were using a mixture of threats and concessions to try to bring dozens of backbench rebels into line when the Prevention of Terrorism Bill returns to the Commons for a showdown today. The Government was heavily defeated five times yesterday, with peers voting by nearly three to one to impose a "sunset clause" to ensure that plans to put suspects under house arrest expire in November. However, Mr Clarke will offer two crucial compromises today in a bid to save the controversial Bill, according to an interview with the Home Secretary in today's Guardian..".

8/9 March 2005 ~ ".. it also appears to impose on member states a compulsory commercialisation of their public services, while destroying their ability to defend their people from corporate exploitation. It is - or was - due to have been approved by the end of this year..." George Monbiot on the EU Services Directive and the country of origin principle "Peter Mandelson, our gift to the rest of the Union, has urged the Commission not to "retreat in the face of illegitimate pressures", by which he appears to mean the people of Europe..."

8/9 March 2005 ~ " When the film-maker Peter Kosminsky began his drama about David Kelly he didn't assume the government would cooperate. But neither did he expect it to stop him speaking to any army personnel, bar him from all military bases and even prevent him from filming at museums. What, he wonders, could it be so afraid of? See Guardian or this extract .

8/9 March 2005 ~What would Thomas Jefferson have said about what is happening on both sides of the Atlantic? What do we say?

8 March 2005 ~"Tens of thousands of pro-Syria demonstrators took to the streets of the Lebanese capital Beirut today to protest at foreign meddling in the country's politics and counter weeks of anti-Syrian rallies." Guardian
In the Independent, Robert Fisk warns that ".. there are growing signs that the Syrian retreat is reopening the sectarian divisions of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war."

8 March 2005 ~ China has outlined its proposed anti-secession law, which would allow it to use "non-peaceful" force against Taiwan. The EU has the intention of removing the arms embargo against China imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. (See Telegraph 15 Jan) It seems that the Taiwanese government is quite right to be jittery. See also New Kerala com

8 March 2005 ~They have to be better than the awfulness of what is in this bill," Helena Kennedy, a senior lawyer and peer in the Labour party, of the amendments to the Terrorism Bill. See Reuters

8 March 2005 ~Belmarsh. The senior judge in charge of the secret court reviewing the detention of 10 foreign terror suspects, Mr Justice Ouseley, chairman of the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (Siac), has written twice to lawyers to request that the Government sets the terms of the release. Independent

8 March 2005 ~ The Lords savaged it. Lord Irvine did not support the government's proposals. And, unlike Sir John Stevens, another former metropolitan police commissioner, Lord Condon, was among those to vote against proposals to allow the Home Secretary to impose "control orders " on suspected terrorists. See Independent's Lords inflict defeat on anti-terror Bill

7 March 2005 ~In the recent television series, 'The Power of Nightmares', the film director, Adam Curtis, argued that since politicians are no longer able to appeal for votes by offering people hope of a better future ( no one believes they can deliver this) they have instead decided that the best way to win votes is to frighten people into voting for them. This also allows them to introduce authoritarian laws which add to their power.. You can read, watch and listen again here

7 March 2005 ~ ".... Mr Blair has attributed his gradual transformation to his becoming aware of “the society of fear”...." Tom Baldwin in today's Times, asks "whatever happened to the man to whom Cherie became engaged in that summer of 1979 ...?" and looks at how the once liberal lawyer has turned into the leader taking civil liberties

7 March 2005 ~ 200 fully trained terrorists wandering about? According to today's Guardian, "The official Home Office assessment of the emergency anti-terrorist legislation .. admits that only 10 to 20 terror suspects are expected to be issued with control orders each year."
Tony Blair spoke of "hundreds of potential terrorists" in a recent radio interview. See Andrew Rawnsley yesterday on the connection of all this to the election.
The former Metropolitan Police commissioner, John Stevens, (someone who a year ago warned of terrorist attacks that have not materialised - such as that of Canary Wharf ) said that those of us who oppose the Bill "simply haven't understood the brutal reality of the world we live in"
Perhaps he is right. However, the brutal reality of misinformation, lying and spin to squash opposition is something we are, very reluctantly, beginning to understand.

7 March 2005 ~ The Guardian reports on the story that private firms are to police terror orders in an attempt to save money, according to preparations being made to implement the policy by the Home Office. Senior civil servants have been asked to assess the likely impact of the control orders which are being rushed through parliament. Their report discloses that private security staff are to monitor the day-to-day surveillance of the terror suspects through electronic tagging. "where possible the monitoring of the orders will be contracted out to private companies as per existing arrangements with companies like Securicor and Group 4". .....The existing powers allowing terror suspects to be detained in Belmarsh lapse next Monday."

7 March 2005 ~ Birmingham postal vote rigging. "Returning officers wrote to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister saying that concern about fraud was putting the integrity of the elections process at risk..." Dominic Kennedy in today's Times

6/7 March 2005 ~ New Scientist " The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture..."

6 March 2005 ~ Independent on Sunday "The Prime Minister warned Britain last week that there are 'several hundred people in this country who are engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist acts'. ...But Mr Blair himself said a few weeks ago that only "a handful" would be affected by the control orders being proposed. ...
... many question the tactics and timing of the Government's words and actions on the issue, such as the sudden, and still unexplained, appearance of armoured vehicles at Heathrow just before the Iraq war began. Last November.... fury among security officials who said they had never seen a specific threat to Canary Wharf. .." Read in full
We note that The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times and Reuters all report Sir John Stevens' warning that "as many as 200 al-Qa'eda terrorists are at large in Britain..." Should we be as afraid as Mr Blair would like us to be? ask Raymond Whitaker and Paul Lashmar in the Independent on Sunday.

6 March 2005 ~ Sunday Herald "...Professor Alan Miller, part of the International Bar Association team training more than 650 members of Iraq’s fledgling judicial system, claims that the UK government’s Prevention of Terrorism Bill has sparked outrage by undermining the same civil liberties it is determined to impose in the Middle East. “After centuries of pride in its status as a bastion of liberty, suddenly the UK has abandoned the rule of law, one of this county’s most fundamental principles”....."I now have to spend the first two days of every training session trying to unravel the fury over Britain’s hypocrisy. They [the trainees] ask how likely it is that regimes like Libya are going to stop detaining political prisoners when the so-called shining lights have just effectively endorsed the practice. They are outraged that an almost impossible task has been made even harder.” Read in full

6 March 2005 ~ ".... In effect Blair is again playing the same “trust me” card that he used in the run up to the war in Iraq. That “trust me” card on Iraq proved to be a fraud – and there are many civil liberties groups in Britain unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt, believing it would mean no end to the erosion of civil liberties in Britain since 9/11." Sunday Herald on The politics of paranoia by James Cusick, its Westminster Editor

6 March 2005 ~ "Bad laws won't stop the bombers," says Andrew Rawnsley in the Independent, "The real trouble with ministers is not that they want to be despots. It is that they are terribly, terribly spooked .." Read in full

5/ 6 March 2005 ~ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he has evidence the United States has been planning to assassinate him. We have said several times on warmwell that we fear that Venezuela is in danger of attack from the US.
Reuters "... The exchange of accusations between the left-wing Chavez and U.S. officials has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, raising questions whether the multibillion-dollar energy relationship between Washington and one of its top oil suppliers is at risk."

5/ 6 March 2005 ~ " Sgrena was freed on Friday but was wounded when U.S. forces opened fire on her car as it approached Baghdad airport, killing an Italian secret service agent travelling with her." Reuters. It seems that Sgrena's partner, Pier Scolari, has said that the shooting had been deliberate. "The Americans and Italians knew about (her) car coming. They were 700 meters from the airport, which means that they had passed all checkpoints." An emailer writes, "... If Westerners aren't safe, it's no wonder that Iraqi Arabs are even less safe."

5/6 March 2005 ~ Times of Oman "Iran's top nuclear official on Saturday warned the United States and Europe of the danger of an oil crisis if Tehran is sent before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme, rejecting outright their demands to halt uranium enrichment. Taking the matter to the Security Council would be "playing with fire", Hassan Rowhani, whose country is the second largest oil producer in OPEC, told reporters. "The first to suffer will be Europe and the United States themselves.." See peak oil pages

5 March 2005 ~ "...he got away with it, because even sceptics asked the wrong question. Instead of, "does Saddam really possess noxious weaponry?" the question should have been, "is Saddam's weaponry, whatever it might be, the real reason for the war on which this country is about to embark, or is it a pretext, provided after Blair has already decided to go to war?" .... Blair's deepest falsehood was not so much the WMD claims as his pretence that he was "working for peace" and had made no military commitment - when he had certainly done so no later than his meeting with George Bush in Texas in April 2002. .." Blair still took us to war on a lie says Geoffrey Wheatcroft in th Guardian

5 March 2005 ~ The Independent's Political Correspondent, Ben Russell, writes " ... the Joint Committee on Human Rights said yesterday that plans to give judges - rather than the Home Secretary - the power to put suspected terrorists under house arrest without charge still failed "to satisfy the basic requirement of legality". ... police could already hold a terror suspect for up to 14 days before bringing charges. ... lesser "control orders"....should also be decided by the courts... It questioned whether the proposed system of hearings "constitutes a sufficient safeguard against arbitrary detention to satisfy the basic requirement of legality".
Peers will resume the debate on Monday, before it returns to the Commons on Wednesday. The ex-law lord, Lord Ackner,said senior members of the judiciary would find the measures "unacceptable". .." Read in full ( If ministers try to undo Lords' amendments, the Bill will be bounced back and forth, possibly until the 14 March deadline.)

4 March 2005 ~Thanks to the change of heart by the Conservatives, the Government's plan to bring in a national identity card scheme is to be shelved until after the general election. See Independent

3 March 2005 ~ "The government's hand was forced by a demand the previous day from Lord Boyce, then chief of defence staff, for "unequivocal" advice that the invasion would be lawful - a clear indication that the March 7 advice was equivocal. So concerned was the government to keep the March 7 advice under wraps that it initially refused to show it to the Butler committee. It gave way only after the committee threatened to go public over the refusal..." Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian today "The attorney who passed the buck" "Earlier this week Lynne Jones MP asked Tony Blair whether the complete text of the attorney's opinion on the legality of the invasion of Iraq was seen by the full cabinet, as the official ministerial code requires it to be. With no hint of irony, he replied: "Information relating to internal meetings, discussion and advice and the proceedings of cabinet and cabinet committees is not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion."

3 March 2005 ~ See today's Independent for " Terror Bill: Taking liberties Today, the House of Lords debates the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. So how have our civil rights been eroded under Tony Blair? " Read in full

3 March 2005 ~ Independent Mr Blair has turned down the sunset clause. "....After a three-day Lords debate, the Bill will return to the Commons next week. The Government, which has already given some ground to its critics, may be forced to make more concessions to avoid a defeat. Its Commons majority was cut to just 14 after a revolt by 62 Labour MPs on Monday."

2 March 2005 ~ Independent: "...The retired law lord Lord Lloyd of Berwick said ministers "have produced this illiberal Bill and told us that, unless it is passed by March 14, the heavens will fall. I do not believe it." Lord Lloyd, whose review of the law formed the basis of the Terrorism Act 2000, dismissed the proposed judicial involvement in control orders as "a charade" and "a sham". He said: "It is essentially a political decision, which would expose judges to a political backlash of just the kind from which it is our duty to protect them. I am deeply opposed to this Bill."

2 March 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins in the Times "What should the Lords do? They should reject the Bill out of hand — and have no truck with last night’s Tory desperation to appear “tough on terror” by conceding its essence. The addition of a judge to any part of the control order process merely co-opts the judiciary, indeed the High Court, as accessory to authoritarianism. .....The rottenness of this Bill is in process not persons. British citizens are to be labelled terrorists and deprived of their freedom without knowing what they have done wrong, who accuses them or even whom they are thought to be..."

1 March 2005 ~ "amid angry scenes, MPs accused ministers of displaying "contempt" for Parliament by forcing the bill through the Commons in just six hours, and condemned Mr Clarke for announcing major concessions without allowing MPs to debate his new proposals in detail. A string of senior MPs demanded the debate be halted to allow clarification of the proposals.." Independent

1 March 2005 ~ Warmwell has been concerned about postal voting fraud ever since it was introduced. Now we read in today's Times, "The Government has ruled out safeguards against rigging postal votes in the general election because time has run out, it emerged yesterday, as a court was told that Labour supporters forged 1,200 votes in a single council ward last June." Read Dominic Kennedy's article in full

28 February 2005 ~ "The blame for the Iraq war lies with our supine cabinet Why did our ministers not question the attorney general's legal advice?" asks Peter Hennessy in the Guardian (Read in full)

28 February 2005 ~ The excellent WMN reports on a Kurdish woman and her daughters who have lived here for three years and are about to be deported They report a charity worker who says, "We will do all we possibly can to make sure they stay in Plymouth. The family has already been through so much. Ruir took her girls away from Iraq to save their lives. And now she has tried to hang herself in the detention centre."
"Speaking from a detention centre near Gatwick, Sabrin said: "We did not even know who the officers were at first. They said we had to pack right away or they would take us in our sleeping clothes." Read in full

28 February 2005 ~ Independent "Barbara Follett has joined a growing Labour backbench rebellion against the Bill to allow house arrest for suspected terrorists, saying supporting it would "dishonour" Steve Biko and her murdered first husband ...In a sideswipe at two ministers backing the Bill, Mrs Follett told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "Patricia Hewitt [the Secretary of State for Trade] and Harriet Harman [the Solicitor General] were bugged by MI5 in the 1980s. If we had had this law, who knows what would have happened? Liberty is something that you have to guard and we could be in danger of losing it." ."

27 February 2005 ~ Michael Portillo's comment in the Sunday Times sums up very well the current bewilderment over the government's authoritarian stance. "puzzlement gripped Labour’s back benches last week. Brian Sedgemore lamented that “the unthinkable, the unimaginable” is happening here and talked of “new Labour’s descent into hell”. Barbara Follett spoke of her first husband’s five-year detention in South Africa under house arrest before he was shot dead in front of their young daughters. “I tried to comfort them,” she said, “by telling them that we were going to Britain, where people were not detained without trial or put under house arrest.” Follett failed to move ministers..." Read in full

27 February 2005 ~ The IOS suggests that immediately after the Downing Street official spokesman had denied that the meeting at Crawford in 2002 was a "council of war", the Government was investigating the legality of such a war. Sir Menzies Campbell: "To be asserting the authority of the UN when there were discussions about possibly breaking the UN Charter is double standards at the very least. It underlines the need to know precisely when this request [for legal advice] was made."
The IOS says, "Special Branch police questioned opposition parties in December about leaked documents on the war. The move to crack down on leaks is thought to be an attempt to prevent the full text of the Attorney General's advice from emerging.." Read in full

27 February 2005 ~ We know that arguments raged about the legality of the war right up to a crucial cabinet meeting on 17 March 2003, two days before the attack began. But now new evidence pieced together by the 'IoS' strongly backs the suspicion that the PM had already made the decision to strike a year earlier. See Independent on Sunday on the "Crawford Deal"

27 February 2005 ~ Herald "... Iraq has not faded away quietly. At the core of Blair’s problem is the issue he cannot avoid: the legality of his decision to unquestionably support the Bush administration in going to war in Iraq when virtually all international legal advice warned there was no justification for doing so. ....legal evidence that would brand Blair a potential war criminal .... the publication next week of Lawless World....a detailed account of how the attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, changed his mind on the legality of the war within a crucial 10-day period .."

27 February 2005 ~ British Liberty is Under Threat ".. an inviolable principle has always been that no British citizen should be denied liberty without the promise of the evidence against him or her ultimately being tested in court. In one of the toughest ever anti-terrorist measures taken in Britain, the former Home Secretary held foreign terrorist suspects in Belmarsh without trial or knowledge of the evidence against them. He was rightly condemned by the Law Lords. Tomorrow, the government will try to wriggle free from this hook..." Observer Leader

27 February 2005 ~ "...no doubt Lord Falconer and his colleagues might argue that it would be ridiculous to allow some fusty 800-year-old document to overrule the right of Mr Clarke in the 21st century to imprison his victims without permission of the courts. What Mr Clarke has overlooked, however, is the landmark judgment given three years ago in the case of the "Metric Martyrs", in which Lord Justice Laws named Magna Carta, alongside the Bill of Rights, as a "constitutional statute", which cannot be overridden by any subsequent legislation, unless this is explicitly the will of Parliament..." Booker's Notebook

27 February 2005 ~ "the political class doesn't seem to realise that the post-democratic attempts to make voting customer-friendly are reviving the corruptions of the pre-democratic age, and forcing us to fight the battles of the Chartists all over again." Observer

27 February 2005 ~ The Sunday Times "Peter Benenson, the British lawyer who founded Amnesty International, the human rights campaign group, has died aged 83. The son of an army colonel, Benenson set the group up in 1961 after he read about the arrest and imprisonment of two students in a Lisbon cafe who drank a toast to liberty when Portugal was still run by a military dictatorship. He was so enraged that he walked out of a Tube station and into the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square to light a candle and see what could be done to mobilise world opinion. .."

26 February 2005 ~ "The general election is wide open to fraud, thanks to the headlong rush into postal voting, the Government was told yesterday. Ministers have been urged for years to introduce safeguards against cheating but have refused to change the law, according to John Owen, Birmingham’s elections officer and one of the country’s leading experts on the subject..." The Times read in full

26 February 2005 ~ The cartoon on the warmwell democracy watch blog comes from International Herald Tribune (not the New Yorker. Apologies)

25 February 2005 ~ Snowmail, ".... Tony Blair would not confirm our story that there was no formal written legal advice in favour of war. Needless to say, we're very keen to see the only formal legal advice that was written on March 7th..."

25 February 2005 ~ " The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, this evening forcefully rejected accusations that Downing Street had drafted a parliamentary answer summarising his advice to the government on the legality of the Iraq war. In a written statement, he rejected claims that the answer of March 17 last year had been drafted in No 10 by Lord Falconer ...Earlier today Tony Blair angrily rejected repeated calls for the government's legal advice on the Iraq war to be published in full, after a member of Lord Butler's inquiry (Michael Mates) broke ranks to demand the document now be aired. ." Read in full - Guardian

25 February 2005 ~The Guardian yesterday published evidence Lord Goldsmith gave to the Butler inquiry where the attorney general said a parliamentary answer - presented by ministers as his legal opinion of the case for war - was drafted by Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan, Mr Blair's director for political-government relations. .... Lord Lester QC, the Liberal Democrat peer and human rights lawyer, said the attorney general's advice had been "tailored to political convenience". http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1425046,00.html

24/25 February 2005 ~ "Q: Would you say you were tortured in Bagram?
BEGG: Yes. Yes. A particularly harsh interrogation took place in May, in which I faced two members of the FBI, one CIA, one major, and one other unknown chap, and I believe it’s those, amongst them that date, particularly the FBI and the CIA, which had ordered my punishment or harsh treatment, which included me being hog-tied, left in a room with a bag put over my head, even though I suffered from asthma..
..If Britain were invaded by another country what would we do? We would fight for our survival. That's literally what's happening in a lot of these places. ... " Jon Snow interviewed Moazzam Begg on Thursday evening.

24/25 February 2005 ~ "...The shadow attorney general, Dominic Grieve, said the allegation that Lord Goldsmith's summary of his advice - the full details of which have still not been released by the government - was written by others, including members of Mr Blair's political staff, was "disturbing and extraordinary". .... Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned before the war saying that an attack had no legal legitimacy and would amount to a "crime of aggression". Guardian - read in full

24 February 2005 ~ 'Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair in a document on 7 March 2003 that the use of force against Iraq could be illegal. Mr Sands wrote: "So concerned was the Government about the possibility of such a case that it took steps to put together a legal team to prepare for possible international litigation." See today's Independent on the continuing pressure on Mr Blair to publish the legal advice on which he took Britain to war in Iraq. Lord Goldsmith's insistence that,"The parliamentary statement was genuinely my own view and I was not leaned on to give that view. It is nonsense to suggest that No 10 wrote the statement" is sounding increasingly lame.

24 February 2005 ~ "....Last night the Tory leader wrote to Mr Blair accusing him of misrepresenting the Tory position and saying that the prime minister's attempt to justify control orders by citing the need of the police and security services to act quickly against suspects is wrong. Powers to arrest people for up to 14 days, "initially without even a warrant", already exist under the 2000 Terrorism Act, said Mr Howard, who called for more debating time. Earlier he accused No 10 of wanting to "steamroller" botched legislation through parliament..." Guardian

24 February 2005 ~ Independent Editorial, February 23 "At the nub of the debate is the question of just how grave [the terrorist] threat is. The government argues that the sprawling terrorist entity known as al-Qaida represents a danger of a different order to anything Britain has ever faced. We disagree. ....."
The Daily Mail: "In a draconian piece of legislation, this government proposes to tear up our treasured safeguards as part of the war on terror ... but this wretched measure is not a serious attempt to address this problem ......." See Guardian and democracy blog

24 February 2005 ~ Thirty-two Labour MPs joined the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in opposing the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, more than halving the government's majority. The bill will apply to both British citizens and foreign nationals and would give the Home Secretary power to make a “control order” against any individual if he has "reasonable grounds for suspecting" that the individual is or has been "involved in terrorism-related activity"
See Hansard for the division. Mr Blair, hoping to lessen the blow, has written in today's Telegraph that there is "no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack". However, the Telegraph quotes Mr Blair in 1994, when he was shadow home secretary, as saying: "The liberty of the subject should be taken away not by the act of a politician, but by a court of law." The bill goes to the House of Lords next Monday.

23 February 2005 ~Two British soldiers were today found guilty of charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Camp Breadbasket aid camp near Basra, in southern Iraq. Guardian

23 February 2005 ~ "..... Lord Goldsmith was later "asked the question - would regime change be lawful per se, and he said no, it wouldn't". .."
A fascinating extract from Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules by Philippe Sands in today's Guardian "... The attorney general's published opinion - that a non-existent authority to use force can "revive" at the behest of three of the 15 members of the security council -makes a mockery of the UN system. How could the attorney general have been prevailed upon to lend Britain's name to such a weak and dismal argument?" Read in full

23 February 2005 ~ Clarke's terror law blow Evening Standard "Tories and Liberal Democrats united today to oppose Charles Clarke's controversial anti-terror laws. The rival parties tabled an amendment saying plans to restrict suspects' movements without trial were wrong and unnecessary. .."

23 February 2005 ~ "Divisions over Iran, the future of Nato and EU plans to lift an arms embargo against China yesterday cast a shadow over carefully stage-managed efforts to heal the transatlantic rift." Belfast Telegraph

23 February 2005 ~ "Charles Clarke was backing down last night over plans to place terrorist suspects under house arrest in the face of opposition from MPs, police and security chiefs. The Home Secretary was condemned by members of all parties and civil liberties groups as he published the Prevention of Terrorism Bill..... In an embarrassing admission, he told MPs that the police and security services had advised him it was not necessary at the moment to put anyone under house arrest....."
Yet
".. A Home Office briefing paper published yesterday said plots had been uncovered that pointed to clear evidence of a "real threat to British people and British interests" from terrorists linked to al-Qa'ida. .." Independent - read in full

22 February 2005 ~ Jon Snow writes in the Channel 4 news update "Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary sets out his stall of new terror suspect containment measures. They may include indefinite house arrest and much else. Intriguingly it seems the Belmarsh detainees, whose incarceration (without trial, or charges) prompted all this when the House of Lords judges found it to be illegal, will not be put under house arrest but let out with restricted tags."

22 February 2005 ~ The Committee to Protect Bloggers (opens in new window) is asking those with blogs to dedicate their sites on Tuesday to the "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day". Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad are both in prison in Iran. It is salutary to remember that this website can say what it likes - to the relief of many and to the irritation of many. However, there is a growing backlash among powerful authoritarians against Freedom of Speech. We would be wise not to take it for granted - or to think that freedom of speech is a right we need not bother to defend. Please see Democracy Page (new window) for more information. Read about Arash and Mojtaba.

22 February 2005 ~ "The Government was accused of showing contempt for hundreds of years of history after it announced plans to hold terrorist suspects under house arrest would be rushed through the Commons in two days.
A Bill setting out plans for "control orders", including home detention for the most serious suspects, will be published today by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary.
To the fury of opposition parties and some Labour MPs, two parliamentary days ­ tomorrow and next Monday ­ have been set aside for debating its provisions. .." Today's Independent. Read in full.

22 February 2005 ~ So two days only to rush through the Terror Bill (and read Simon Jenkins on the subject) while " ..more than 700 hours of parliamentary time were devoted to the hunting ban.." Guardian comment last week.

21 February 2005 ~The setting of "targets" We read in the BBC that the Home Office has been criticised for "not revealing it changed a key criminal justice target because it wasn't going to be achieved."

21 February 2005 ~ Herald "Wednesday. Margaret Beckett is on the radio and is a prime example of the political language of obfuscation and sociological jargon. Thus, she or the government is "on track", and is "moving on", in order to put the "agenda" somehow "in place". .... This, of course, shouldn't bother me but it does. It drives me to fury. It is speaking but not talking. Unfortunately, even quite normal people now reduce language to a sort of rune, designed to be impenetrable enough to hide the fact that they are either doing nothing or making things worse."

21 February 2005 ~ "...Mr Blair was told that an additional £50m over three years would safeguard the progress in the arts under Labour. But the announcement a week later that the Arts Council grant would be frozen at £411m a year for the next three years made clear that the pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
Phillip Pullman: "I do not think he was there to listen, he was only there to be seen to be listening. I feel cutting back on public arts funding is a disgrace and a scandal."
"Sir Christopher Frayling, the chairman of the Arts Council.... suggested politicians were embarrassed to be associated with the arts. " See Independent.

21 February 2005 ~ Spanish voters endorsed the European Union constitution in a referendum yesterday, but turnout was only 42%.

20 February 2005 ~ "....growing evidence of a White House campaign to bypass or control the media in its everyday presentation of government policy , which included paying one journalist hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote its policies. .They have discovered that a partisan and atomised media can be controlled, manipulated and used to an unprecedented degree. ..." Observer - read in full

20 February 2005 ~ UK Army link to torture techniques. "... the revelation raises serious questions about who in the Army's chain of command knew of the interrogation techniques being employed at Abu Ghraib and when..." Observer
Adam Ingram now admits that two written parliamentary answers last year wrongly stated that "UK officers had not participated in drafting the document .." As a disillusioned emailer writes, "Seems our government was being economic with the truth last year. I am so disgusted by this government, and the utter dishonesty - basically the policy seems to be to tell lies until somebody can prove otherwise."

19 February 2005 ~ Guardian "Charles Clarke, will announce next week that he will rush new emergency counter-terrorism legislation through parliament before the existing powers of imprisonment without trial, which have been sharply criticised by the law lords, lapse on March 14...The move follows the failure yesterday of Tony Blair and the home secretary to win the backing of the opposition party leaders, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy, at their first formal meeting at Downing Street for eight years..."

19 February 2005 ~...Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty: "The government must not underestimate the opposition to these rushed proposals. No one should have any illusions about the gravity of this moment. With or without the fig leaf of judicial involvement, control orders still constitute punishment without trial." ."
See also Simon Jenkins last week "Despite two years of hyperbole, the Government has not convinced anyone but itself of the scale of the threat. It did not convince eight out of nine law lords, the Law Society, the Bar Council or a bevy of former defence chiefs .."

17 February 2005 ~ "when people like John Morrison and David Kelly and Brian Jones break ranks then that is a very serious thing and something not only the government but the people of this country need to take note of..." Sir John Walker on the Today Programme last July. Now Dr Rod Barton too has "broken ranks" - and the Foreign Office are anxious to deny his claims.

16 February 2005 ~ WMD dossier The news that "Both Washington and London wanted other things put in to make it - I can only use these words - to make it sexier.." has been revealed by Dr Rod Barton, a microbiologist in Australian intelligence.
Independent "The Foreign Office denied Dr Barton's claims and said that they had been investigated by two public inquiries and had been found to be untrue. Dr Jones said: "I know Rod Barton well and he is a very sound guy and a very honourable man."
See also Warmwell page on Dr Brian Jones former Assistant Director of Intelligence (Nuclear, Chemical and Biological) Science and Technical in the Defence Intelligence Staff, and an expert in whom we have confidence.

15 February 2005 ~ "Conspiring in torture, betraying our freedom. Charles Clarke is a disaster" writes Simon Jenkins in the Times. See Democracy page
"Mr Blair and Mr Clarke seek to bolster their case through asserting some “means of mass destruction” available to Muslim extremists to “undermine the entire British way of life”. Both threat and consequence are implausible. ...(Mr Clarke) is making Britain less free and less safe. Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy should have nothing to do with him on Friday."

15 February 2005 ~ Kyoto tomorrow.. "The globe will not notice Kyoto - but we will notice, because it will cost us a bomb. What is the collective noun for environmental modellers? Try a catastrophe.
.... when these speculative “images of alternative futures” come to be thought of as “the latest scientific evidence” and work their way into the decisions that politicians take and taxpayers and consumers pay for. In climate change, careless talk costs livelihoods. .." Times

14 February 2005 ~Beirut and the murder of Rafik al Hariri. Channel 4 News email says: "... there is every danger that he could prove to be the name that comes to symbolise a new period of instability. The Americans are outraged and blame Syria. The UN is exercised..."

14 February 2005 ~Attorney General 'distanced himself from war advice "Only after receiving a written reassurance from No 10 that it is "indeed the Prime Minister's unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations" did the Attorney General deliver his legal backing for the war to Parliament on 17 March." Independent So there we are. The Attorney General appears to be rattled - particularly perhaps since Kofi Annan has said that the invasion was illegal. It was Mr Blair and no one but Mr Blair who decided, in the face of advice and warnings, to take this country to war. A letter from 16 professors of international law from Oxford, Cambridge, and London universities, as reported in The Guardian 7 March 2003, warned him: "On the basis of the information publicly available, there is no justification under international law for the use of military force against Iraq."

14 February 2005 ~ITV news "On April 2 2004 I surrendered myself to the authorities in Pakistan and was detained in the most despicable conditions for over 10 months. Throughout my detention I was tortured mentally and physically and subjected to interrogation by British, American and Pakistani intelligence authorities. On February 8 2005 I was finally released without any criminal charges but when I entered the UK, to my surprise, I was arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK." Salahuddin Amin, arrested at Heathrow last Tuesday.

14 February 2005 ~ "Blair admits he must win back voters' trust" is the Independent's headline.

14 February 2005 ~ "Jaw-jaw on hunting is a sop to MPs for war-war in Iraq" Guardian comment by Geoffrey Wheatcroft "The ban is Blair's crust to Labour for backing an immoral war...more than 700 hours of parliamentary time were devoted to the hunting ban, as against seven hours spent on the decision to invade Iraq, a comparison that sums up the way we are governed. ...As the election approaches, with a further drop in turn-out all too likely, politicians are wondering why they are so widely despised. Here is their answer. Blair got his war, Labour got their hunting ban.."

14 February 2005 ~The Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first attempt to control climate change, finally comes into force on Wednesday. The Times reports that Margaret Beckett is challenging the EU's displeasure at the UK's plan for dealing with emissions from power generators and manufacturers and "has warned Stavros Dimas, the Environment Commissioner, that the UK will take Brussels to the European Court if he does not approve the revised British plan." Only seventeen of the 25 EU members have agreed their plans with Brussels so far. But see also today's front page

13 February 2005 ~The Telegraph reports that "thousands of neo-Nazis have marched through Dresden waving black flags and carrying banners, marring the official 60th anniversary commemoration of one of the fiercest Allied bombing raids of World War Two"
- but before we rush in horror to the conclusion that this is evidence of the "biggest far-right demonstration since the war" it is worth noting that many of these residents of Dresden, ( 85% of which was destroyed along with civilian inhabitants) were carrying balloons, saying:
"Allied bomb terror - then as now. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and today Baghdad. No forgiveness, no forgetting."
The protestors wear black, the counter protestors wear white. But things, as we have learned in four long years, are neither black nor white but a very confusing shade of grey.

12/13 February 2005 ~ Splendid Mr Booker shows that "fixed penalties without conviction cannot be legalised. Either that, or the Metric Martyrs were innocent. " - highlighting yet again the illogical mix-up between our own laws and those of Brussels. Because of the perspicacity of feisty individuals, bureaucrats are thrown into disarray as more and more of us cotton on to the fact that we are unlikely to be taken to court for non-payment of a revenue-swelling fine, illegally imposed.
Also in today's article he coins a timely new word: "priviligentsia" referring to those sitters upon countless EU bodies who enjoy privileges above national law - such as not having to pay domestic tax (and who cannot be, presumably, even threatened with fixed penalties).

12/13 February 2005 ~ "Disappointing oil output growth outside the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) is threatening to put world supplies under renewed strain this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said..." See peak oil news page

12 February 2005 ~ "Plans to introduce identity cards face a mauling in the Lords, despite winning overwhelming support last night from the House of Commons..." Independent read in full

11 February 2005 ~ North Korea declared itself a nuclear power yesterday, announcing that it had developed a nuclear weapon to protect itself from what it sees as an increasingly belligerent White House. Guardian

8 February 2005 ~ Quotation of the Day: "The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." - H.L. Mencken

8 February 2005~Charles Clarke, "suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday" in his legal attempt to return the 35-year-old Algerian "G" to prison because he'd "breached the terms of his bail". After a secret hearing in which government lawyers presented evidence, the Special Immigration Appeal Commission ruled Mr Clarke had failed to prove his case. G was arrested shortly after 11 September 2001 under the terms of the " hastily drafted Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001". He has never been informed of the full evidence against him. See Independent

8 February 2005~Peter Mandelson has warned the BBC not to criticise Alastair Campbell, saying that it had "brought it trouble before." The BBC report this.

8 February 2005~ "Sweeping cuts in welfare, education and housing programmes for the poor were the centrepiece of austerity budget proposals announced by George Bush yesterday to meet his campaign pledge of halving the US budget deficit in his second term." Guardian

6/7 February 2005~ It is reassuring to see Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, attacking Tony Blair's style of government, and warning that "the Prime Minister and Government are open to the charge they want to control everything". See his interview in the Independent. Read in full With many intelligent and disillusioned emailers to this website saying that they want to emigrate and/or that they don't think they' ll vote, his warnings are timely.

6/7 February 2005~ Martin Mubanga from Wembley, who has dual Zambian and British nationality is planning to sue the British government. He claims that British secret services played a crucial role in his abduction and that British intelligence officials played a key role in consigning him to Guantanamo Bay.
Charles Clarke is now facing criticism Scotsman for saying : "I am absolutely unapologetic in saying it, that anybody in my job has to have national security at the centre of their concerns. And if there are people who threaten national security, it is necessary to deal with that and address it in a very rigorous way. ....”
" Fair Trials Abroad director Stephen Jakobi responded angrily saying national security was no excuse to “rush out trying to lock up people and torture them”... “What is he really saying? Provided somebody raises the words ‘national security’ you can do anything to anyone? But is that not exactly the same that any right wing dictatorship has ever said?"

6 February 2005~ We watch the US reaction to Venezuela with real misgivings. President Chavez looks set to switch to the Petro-Euro. The US looks set to get Colombia to invade Venezuela. See also below

6 February 2005~ Sunday Times on the return of Alastair Campbell and the use to be made of the new "freedom of information" laws to discredit the opposition : "...This weekend senior Labour insiders disclosed that one of Campbell's key roles in his new role of head of strategic election communications was to attack Howard's record. Labour activists are being urged to request information from Whitehall departments that could be used to discredit the Tories in the election campaign..." See inbox (opposite) for the sort of filthy tricks campaign envisaged. Also democracy page

6 February 2005 ~ Christopher Booker quotes Mark Leonard, the foreign policy director of the Centre for European Reform.... "...The British House of Commons, British law courts and British civil servants are still here, but they have become agents of the European Union implementing European law...."and adds, "I am grateful to see a keen fan of the EU making the point so much more candidly than I would dare to do myself."
(After looking at the original CER BULLETIN, ISSUE 40 , we would quote in addition "..the strength of the EU is broad and deep: once sucked into its sphere, countries are changed forever."

6 February 2005 ~ Howard backs down over ID card support Sunday Telegraph
"...The Tory leader has told aides that the party will abstain from a key vote on the controversial proposals on Thursday...... confronted by a big revolt in December when more than half his MPs refused to support the Bill. ..... Several spoke out passionately against it, however, including Peter Lilley, the former cabinet minister, who called ID cards "fascist". .... it could mean that it runs into trouble in the Lords.....If Mr Blair calls a general election for May 5, as expected, the Bill must have passed through the Commons and Lords by the first week of April if it is to avoid becoming the subject of fierce horse-trading when Parliament is prorogued."

4 February 2005 ~ "In a report, the joint parliamentary committee on human rights casts fresh doubt on Government claims that an ID card would help tackle crime, terrorism and illegal immigration. .." See democracy page

4 February 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins at the Times (until he moves to the Guardian) ".... The neocon bragging over a “beacon of democracy” now being raised over the Muslim world is absurd. There were active, contested elections in Palestine in 1996, Egypt in 2000, Iran in 2001 and Pakistan in 2002. Just as Washington and London supported Saddam (and sold him ghastly weapons) when it suited them, so they support elections only when convenient. America refused to acknowledge Yassir Arafat as a democrat or condemn General Musharraf as a dictator. It continues to favour such undemocratic rulers as Colonel Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and Karimov of Uzbekistan. The trumpet of democracy sounds an uncertain note whenever offered for export. .." Read in full Extracts cannot do the article justice.

3 February 2005 ~ "Staff working for political parties and pressure groups contacted The Independent after it reported yesterday how the Government was refusing to disclose information under the Act. Rob Blackie, head of research for the Liberal Democrats, said he had even been refused updated information that he had received before the Act came into force. Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, urged people to appeal to the freedom of information commissioner who has the power to force a department to comply." Independent

2 February 2005 ~ The Independent's look at "Is this Freedom of Information?"

1 February 2005 ~The terror suspect known as "C" has been freed after being interned under the Government’s anti-terror legislation for more than three years. Times Jon Snow comments: "..ahead of a hearing tomorrow that was to be the first to review his case since the House of Lords rules that all the Belmarsh detainees being held without trial are being held illegally.
This a man deemed so dangerous by the government that at vast expense and total detriment to his life and family he was held without trial in massive security for three years.
In truth my Snowmail is held up by the sheer improbability of the world we seek to portray.
This is a hall of mirrors, in which a man prepares his case for three years deprived of all liberty and then on the day he is asked to present himself, he has no case to answer. And when he asks why was he held, he can get no answer and neither can we. ..."

31 January 2005 ~One of 11 foreign nationals detained in the UK without charge or trial on suspicion of terrorism, was granted bail today. See Guardian update in full

31 January 2005 ~ "Foreign terror suspects being held in Guantánamo Bay can challenge their confinement through the US courts, a federal judge ruled today. US district judge Joyce Hens Green also criticised the Bush administration for holding hundreds of people without legal rights. ..." Guardian

30/31 January 2005 ~ "...You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran. All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. They make up the gap with oil revenues. Shrink the oil revenue and they will have to open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple. .." readable article by Thomas L Friedman. See peak oil news

30 January 2005 ~ Reuters. "Millions of Iraqis have been flocking to vote in a historic election, defying insurgents who killed 25 people in bloody attacks aimed at wrecking the poll."

30 January 2005 ~ An emailer writes of her past in South Africa "remembering the dreaded days of 'house arrest' in old-style apartheid South Africa during my own student days which cannot be many years different from those experienced by both Peter Hain and the chief scientist David King. I wonder if they too remember exactly what it was like then...."

30 January 2005 ~ "On the road to tyranny - Mr Clarke's authoritarian plans for house arrest demolish one pillar of human rights .." Mary Riddell in the Observer. Democracy page

30 January 2005 ~"...George Churchill-Coleman, a former head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad, was not kidding when he said last week: “I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state.” ....politicians cannot be trusted to decide whether a person should be deprived of his liberty. The government hates judges because they cannot be relied on to do what it wants. That is precisely why judges alone should decide. Ministers do not weigh evidence. They measure political risk.... Political risk should not be confused with threat to the nation..." Comment in the Sunday Times

30 January 2005 ~ "a reluctance to challenge pro-EU assumptions". said the Wilson Committee of the BBC. Booker comments: "... Instead of presenters doing their homework and establishing the facts for themselves, so they can interview with real knowledge and authority, the game here ...is simply to allow two talking heads to shout past each other, making contradictory points, until the presenter can say: "That's all we've got time for, the debate will doubtless continue."
The listeners are left wholly bemused (and bored) because they are not given enough information to know who is telling the truth. Therein lies the real problem, and there is scant evidence that it is even understood, let alone being addressed..." Read Booker's Notebook in full

30 January 2005 ~ The Independent on Sunday "Lib Dems could win election, poll shows - .... Mr Kennedy would become Prime Minister with a majority of 126 over Labour, and the Conservatives would be reduced to a rump of 56 seats. Six current cabinet ministers would also lose their seats: Margaret Beckett, Charles Clarke, Patricia Hewitt, Alan Johnson, Tessa Jowell and Ruth Kelly. The figures suggest the potential for meltdown in the electoral system if the Liberal Democrats can persuade voters in their target seats that they have a "realistic chance" of winning. And they reveal the extent to which Tony Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq has shaken the kaleidoscope of British politics."

30 January 2005 ~ The EDP24 poll (new window), using the referendum question "Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty establishing a constitution for the European Union?" was at Yes 38.45% and No 65.55% on Sunday morning.

29 January 2005 ~ " The Prime Minister is abusing his powers of patronage and appointing too many peers directly to the House of Lords .." The House of Lords Appointments Commission, set up by Mr Blair himself to vet new peers and oversee the appointments process has made a formal objection to Downing Street.. The Independent says, "..In its plans for House of Lords reform published in 2003, the Government said it would "remove a significant ele ment of prime ministerial patronage" so that "no prime minister can in the future create peers as she or he wishes". Since 2001 the Prime Minister has appointed eight independent peers (and).... appointed dozens of Labour peers..."

29 January 2005 ~ "There seems little doubt that (Douglas Feith) operated in the Pentagon in such a way as to produce false and misleading "intelligence," that he created an entirely false impression of Iraqi weapons capabilities and ties to al-Qaeda, and that he is among the chief facilitators of the US war in Iraq..... his departure now may help keep Bush from being blamed for his shady dealings in intelligence "analysis..." Juan Cole. Read in full

29 January 2005 ~ Independent MPs plan revolt against house arrest plan - MPs are planning a parliamentary revolt over the Government's "chilling" measures to place the families and friends of suspected terrorists under house arrest. ...... Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights pressure group Liberty, said: "In a country of suspects not citizens, even the children will not be presumed innocent. At least the Home Secretary is beginning to honestly set out the full, chilling logic of his new proposals." Robert Marshall-Andrews, Labour MP for Medway, said: "I think there will be a narrow majority in the Commons if the Government attempt to push it through and it will fail in the Lords. If they do, there will be one of the most sizeable rebellions in Labour ranks, not least because it will be electoral suicide."

29 January 2005 ~ Baroness Mallalieu has condemned yesterday's High Court decision that use of the Parliament Act to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales was sound. "What it means is that the House of Commons can pass legislation to destroy any constitutional power of the House of Lords."

29 January 2005 ~ The BBC reports that one in 10 Europeans knows nothing about the new EU constitution. They might usefully be directed to the extremely well-informed EU referendum blog (new window), updated every day.

28 January 2005 ~ The sourced quotations from Bush and co (see below) clearly illustrating their contradictions can now be attributed - with gratitude - to David Traynier of Scoop.co.nz.

28 January 2005 ~ "The Home Secretary's plan to intern British citizens without trial stinks. He must know it. His colleagues must know it. Some politicians need to have their heads banged and their ears shoved to the ground so they can hear the echoing drumbeats of history. Yesterday I listened to Charles Clarke trying to defend his proposals on the radio. He sounded miserable and unconvincing. He implied that his critics were ignorant of some massive threat known only to him and his secret advisers. He seemed in thrall to forces of darkness which lurk deep within all governments but which stronger politicians hold in check. ..." I have never felt so grateful to Simon Jenkins. Please read in full.

28 January 2005 ~ "He is facing an uphill struggle to convince other ministers of the wisdom of the move, which has been condemned as the greatest extension of state powers over United Kingdom citizens for 300 years. .." The Independent on Clarke's proposals.

28 January 2005 ~ "Sir, Far from remedying the grave defects of the current law permitting indefinite detention without trial of non-British terrorist suspects, the Home Secretary’s proposals for its replacement (report and leading article, January 27) reproduce and extend them. .." Thank goodness we do still have those who are prepared to speak out. Here is Sir Brian Barder, Lay member, Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 1998-2004, writing to the Times that "...what is now proposed goes much too far. Parliament and public opinion should insist that no one should be deprived of his liberty, or have his freedoms otherwise curtailed, except after a proper trial and conviction by judge and jury..." Read in full

28 January 2005 ~"12 months on, a series of questions still need to be answered. How did Hutton get it so wrong? How did the general public know instinctively that his report was a whitewash? How damaged is the BBC? Did Dr Kelly kill himself? And the biggest question of all, how has the Prime Minister survived the political fallout from Iraq, Hutton and, in particular, the Butler report?.." Greg Dyke in the Independent He ends: "post-Butler, I suspect history will remember Blair for Iraq and spin and not a lot more, which is unfair to his colleagues with real achievements to their name. But then, they should have done what Robin Cook did. They should have stood up when it mattered." Read in full

28 January 2005 ~ An email is circulating. It quotes with full sources the contradictory statements from Mssrs Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Blair about the "threat" from Iraq. As the email says, "Please remember these statements, the next time you listen to George W. Bush, Tony Blair or our 'impartial and honest' media telling us that we are threatened by the people of Iran." Sourced statements

28 January 2005 ~ "Is the world safer now? As war ended, our correspondents examined key questions about Iraq's future. With the elections looming, the updated answers highlight the global impact of the conflict http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=605327

26/27 January 2005 ~ We are not reassured that the government proposes that the eleven foreign terror suspects held without trial for three years at Belmarsh, Woodhill and Broadmoor are to be "released without charge" - since new "control orders" will be imposed by the Home Secretary, and not by a court of law.." When we started this website we never imagined that we could ever be reporting such a thing. Presumably, the British public are now so depressed by politics that they feel powerless to respond with the necessary anger at a government so careless of the liberties we used to take for granted. Democracy page

27 January 2005 ~ The four Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday after being held captive for almost three years were released without charge last night after being held by police for just under 28 hours.

27 January 2005 ~ Only half the money requested by the UN for immediate tsunami aid has been received, says Oxfam. BBC

25 January 2005 ~ "Twenty-three inmates at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay staged a mass suicide attempt in 2003 by trying to hang or strangle themselves. US military confirmation of the mass suicides came yesterday as the families of four Britons detained without charge for three years by the US authorities waited for their loved ones to arrive home from the prison on Cuba. The four will be arrested by anti-terrorist police officers as soon as they are released from American custody.....The men could be free within 24 hours if the police follow the same course they did with the first five Britons, who were flown home from Guantanamo Bay in March last year. ...." Independent

25 January 2005 ~ Iran and Venezuela are OPEC's second and third biggest oil producers. Condoleezza Rice has criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - saying that he is "a democratically elected leader who governs in an illiberal way.'' (since "liberal" is, for supporters of Mr Bush, now a term of loathing, we find this particular term ill-judged for its purpose) In view of such remarks, it is hardly surprising that supporters of President Hugo Chavez marched through Caracas on Sunday, demanding respect for Venezuela's sovereignty. See also TomDispatch "....Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for instance, returned from a Christmas trip to China, where he apparently sold America's historic Venezuelan oil supplies to the Chinese together with future prospecting rights. ..A kind of post-Cold War global lineup against perceived US hegemony seems to be in the earliest stages of formation, possibly including Brazil, China, India, Iran, Russia and Venezuela...."

24 January 2005 ~ We are moving nearer to a Sci-fi horror world in Iraq. BBC "The US military is planning to deploy robots armed with machine-guns to wage war against insurgents in Iraq....
The Foster-Miller company is owned by the QinetiQ Group, a joint venture between the UK's Ministry of Defence and US-based holding company, Carlyle Group. These two darkly influential groups are present behind much that is of concern to this website. It will be remembered that the BBC governor most anxious to see the back of Greg Dyke was Dame Pauline Neville-Jones She owns a huge financial stake in Qinetiq - shares which are held through the Carlyle Group. There is even a link with Exercise Hornbeam - "A small in-house team was established to develop the project with additional specialist expertise provided by consultants from QinetiQ Ltd.." What 'additional specialist expertise'? As for the huge oil services company, the Carlyle Group, John Pilger's article on "Lies, damned lies and terror warnings" of Dec 2002 is instructive - as, of course, is Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

24 January 2005 ~ Noam Chomsky interview Independent "....The Nazis didn't have this much trouble in Europe. But somehow the US has managed to turn it into an unbelievable catastrophe. And it is partly because of the way they are treating people. They have been treating people in such a way that engenders resistance and hatred and fear." The long-awaited Iraqi elections are to be held next Sunday but Chomsky calls talk about a sovereign, independent, democratic Iraq a "poor joke"...."

23 January 2005 ~ Professor Juan Cole writes, "The political season in Iraq is turning extremely nasty. Not only were over 20 persons killed and dozens injured in bombings of a Shiite mosque and a Shiite wedding by guerrillas, but charges and counter-charges among politicians have now resulted in the prospective arrest of long-time Iraqi expatriate politican Ahmad Chalabi..." Iraq pages

January 22 2005 ~ ".....Mr Bush said “freedom” 27 times in his speech. John F. Kennedy could be more sparing with the word because the idea behind it shone so brightly for America then, and for the world. ...America had the best arguments, the best visions, and the best tunes.
Deservedly or undeservedly, America has lost the tune. Just as happened for Britain during the Boer War, something has gone unaccountably off-key. .." Matthew Parris on Bush's America: "He has over-reached. His country is overstretched, losing economic momentum, losing world leadership, and losing the philosophical plot. America is running into the sand." Read in full

January 21 2005 ~ "Fireworks in Washington, despair around the world. The Bush administration is in denial about its disastrous failure in Iraq " Robin Cook's Comment in the Guardian "... Yesterday's jollities cannot conceal the brutal truth that they neither know how to make the occupation succeed nor how to end it without leaving an even worse position behind. And, God help us, thanks to the unshakeable loyalty of our prime minister, we are left trapped in Basra ....Nor should we accept the implicit assumption of Bush's muscular foreign policy that freedom can be delivered from 38,000ft through the bomb doors..."

January 20 2005 ~ If Mr Blair wins an election expected this year and serves out his term, his third term in office will roughly match Bush's second, tying him to the American leader forever in history books. As for the invasion of Iraq, in this Guardian interview today : "I would take the same decision." He also says he is "not worried about how he will be remembered".

January 20 2005 ~ Colin Powell, the lone voice of moderation in the US administration's war council, has given a tearful farewell address to the State Department. While Condoleeza Rice's confirmation as the new Secretary of State is a foregone conclusion, as a gesture, Democrats promised yesterday to delay Senate confirmation until next week. There, as here, the juggernaut is accompanied by a chorus of platitudes. Ms Rice said on Wednesday

Not a terrible misjudgement but difficult historical circumstances... while the "sacrifice" consists of hundreds of thousands of filthy, futile deaths.

January 20 2005 ~ Mr Bush, Bible in hand, at his inauguration today, will say: "In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty." See Reuters

January 16 -22 2005 ~ "Mr. President," writes US Senator John Kerry, in a letter calling for the removal of Donald Rumsfeld, "I was surprised and disappointed that you told the Washington Post last week that no Bush administration official should be held accountable for our failures in Iraq...."

January 16 -22 2005 ~Mr Blair, shocked at the graphic images of abuse: : "The difference between democracy and tyranny is not that in a democracy bad things don't happen, but that in a democracy when they do happen people are held and brought to account....." The irony of such a statement appears to escape the PM. As Sir Simon Jenkins writes today, "The fact is that in Baghdad last month Mr Blair dared not put one foot outside the palace compound for fear of his life. Saddam had the same problem."

January 16 -22 2005 ~ "Serious Organised Crime Bill" An emailer draws our attention to clauses 123 and 124 of the bill. These clauses deal with protests around the Palace of Westminster and could be invoked to stop groups of people lobbying their MPs. ..the proposal to create an offence of 'spoiling the visual aspect' is specifically aimed at removing Brian Haw who has been protesting in Parliament Square against US and UK policy in Iraq since 2 June, 2001. Please see Democracy page if you share our concern about all this.

January 16 -22 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins in Wednesday's Times ".. Britain has one escape route to redemption. This week we are told that the White House wants to move on to Iran. .... Even Downing Street is likely to find this a lunacy too far. Many ministers and officials are fed up with having spent two years acting as America’s poodle..... They want to be their own masters again. White House belligerence towards Iran that would win an Oscar for idiocy would suit them just fine. ..." Read in full

January 16 -22 2005 ~ In the wake of yesterday's resignation by Rick Scannell, the special advocate representing the Belmarsh prisoners in protest at the government's failure to act , the government is apparently going to announce its plans for changes to its anti-terror laws. Neither the detainees nor their lawyers are allowed to see the secret evidence against them. It can be seen only by the special advocate appointed - who may not discuss it with the detainee or his lawyers. Ian Macdonald QC, one of the most senior special advocates, who attacked the anti-terror laws as "odious" stepped down last month. See Guardian for a report.

January 16 -22 2005 ~ Seymour Hersh's revelations about Iran overshadow most other news today. See New Yorker : "....The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran’s ability to go nuclear. .... the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership.... Leverett, who is now a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at the Brookings Institution, warned that an American attack, if it takes place, “will produce an Iranian backlash against the United States and a rallying around the regime.”....Congress has always worried that the Pentagon is going to get us involved in some military misadventure that nobody knows about....” Read in full

January 16 -22 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins in the Times ".....Drink and drugs are the skull and crossbones of British social policy. The one is now being deregulated by choice, the other by neglect. Policy on both is in disarray. But unless Mr Clarke can bring home to Mr Blair the social pollution being caused by cheap drink and unregulated drugs, these afflictions will be the biggest stain on his administration..."

January 13 2005 ~ The United States' hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has now been officially abandoned. See Guardian "..a final report in the spring that will be almost identical to the interim assessment he delivered to Congress last October. That assessment found Saddam had destroyed his last weapons of mass destruction more than 10 years ago, and his capacity to build new ones had been dwindling for years by the time of the second Gulf war. .."
Warmwell readers will remember that on September 24th 2002 Mr Blair stood up in the House of Commons, raised the dossier above his head and said,

January 13 2005 ~ "Sri Lanka is worried a Paris Club freeze on its debt payments may be too short, and is angling for outright debt forgiveness to help it rebuild and recover after last month's devastating tsunami, government officials said .." Reuters

January 12 2005 ~ How refreshing and heartening to read - as quoted in the Independent on Monday - the Chairman of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, ex Head of MI5, Sir Stephen Lander - admitting government failure and difficulties:

As John Lettuce of the Register remarks: "In our short acquaintance with Sir Stephen we have grown to love him dearly; his lack of media savvy is a heartening boon for freedom of information, and should be savoured in that brief period before his bosses twig and get a bag over him.... given that many of the threats that are alleged to be being tackled by, say, ID cards are precisely those the Government hasn't been able to quantify in public, does the harm model include any more enlightening data? " See also Democracy page

January 12 2005 ~ The Guantanamo four. "... a glaring contradiction. The government has worked for the release of detainees in Guantanamo but is detaining foreign nationals in its own jails without trial and in breach of fundamental human rights," said a spokesman for human rights group Amnesty. Reuters

January 12 2005 ~ As the Snowmail newsletter put it last night, "The British and American governments have somehow managed to spring the four British prisoners from Guantanamo. They will be back in UK sometime soon. Why now? Why them? Why were they held at all for three years? Was it worth the disgrace it heaped upon the Bush administration? ..." As Reuters says, "The government faces a major headache in deciding what to do with four detainees ...the four were not wanted in Britain before their capture in Afghanistan...any move to press charges in Britain is complicated, as evidence obtained in Guantanamo, where prisoners say they were tortured, would be legally inadmissible.."

January 12 2005 ~ "Of course I trust Blair," insists Gordon Brown. Guardian

January 11 2005 ~ Michael Moore writes, "Last night, at the People's Choice Awards, "Fahrenheit 9/11" was named the Best Movie of the Year. It was a stunning moment for us. And, somewhere inside the Bush White House, someone there must have been stunned, too. 21 million people voted in the People's Choice Awards. They chose our film over "Shrek 2," "Spiderman 2" and "The Incredibles." If we can beat that many superheroes, surely we can survive the next four years...."

January 11 2005 ~ John Lettuce in the Register "The European Union is poised to accept that its current plans for biometric visas are unworkable, reports Statewatch.. Last year a Council of Ministers technical group concluded that multiple RFID chips in passports would render the whole snooping match unreadable... Now the Luxembourg incoming Council presidency has .. tentatively recommended two possible ways forward that were proposed by the technical group. Both of these are silly, each in its own way. .." Read in full

January 11 2005 ~ £39 million has already been spent on ID cards and there are now 80 staff even before Parliament has approved the project. Telegraph "A "small army" of officials and consultants working on identity card plans.... more than 80 staff - 39 civil servants, three people on secondment and 40 consultants from PA Consulting, the Government's private sector "partner". .... The ID Card Bill was given a Second Reading in the Commons before Christmas, with Conservative support. However, with an election expected in May, the legislation - which would normally take six months or more to get through Parliament - will only make it on to the Statute Book if the Tories are prepared to do a deal. Despite such uncertainty around 39 million has been spent on the early stages of the project..."

January 10 2005 ~ "...At a certain point this week I was gripped by a cloying despair....The tsunami response has given us a glimpse of the wider, poorer world as it really is, selfish, short-term and chaotic. No amount of aid will end Indonesia's misrule of Aceh province or Sri Lanka’s wretched civil war against the Tamils. No fine words can justify Britain spending more on “humanitarian” war in Iraq (some £6 billion) than the entire world is offering to tsunami victims. . ..." Simon Jenkins in the Times says that if government wants to aid the Third World, they must confront the lobbies that block free trade.

January 10 2005 ~ "the signs are ominous for our tradition of dissent," says Paul Barker in the Guardian today. His article will echo what many of us feel. "...The man, or woman, in Whitehall doesn't know best. Even in the government's current troubles, the present chances of change seem bleak. But every libertarian must hope it's the dark before the dawn. Otherwise, forget America and Russia: it's farewell freedom in Britain."

January 9 2005 ~ The 2-year-old boy below was reunited with his uncle, who spotted the child's picture on the Internet. See Associated Press

January 9 2005 ~ The Observer reports that the Blair/Brown feud is out of control. "....Blair first offered to resign at a dinner in November 2003 .. admitting that he had lost trust over the war in Iraq and would not 'turn this around for a very long time'. .." But "....Blair organised a snap reshuffle, bringing Alan Milburn into the cabinet to run the election campaign, and following the move with an unprecedented announcement - kept from Brown until the last minute - that he would stay on for a full third term before quitting."
See also Brown's Britain by Robert Peston. on Amazon

January 9 2005 ~ Long-running armed rebellions in Indonesia and Sri Lanka cast a shadow over massive relief efforts Independent on Sunday

January 5 2005 ~ Tsunami: A 2 year old boy was found in Khoa Lak & is missing his parents. The photo was sent as an email to be passed to all on anyone's email list who could safely do so.

January 5 2005 ~ "It only takes one member of the House and one member of the Senate to stop the acceptance of the Electoral College vote and force a legitimate debate and investigation. Do you know why this provision is set in stone in our nation’s laws? I mean, why would we allow just two officials in a body of 535 members to throw a wrench into the works? The law exists because nothing is more sacred than the integrity of the ballot box and if there is ANY possibility of fraud or incompetence, then it MUST be addressed. Because if we don't have the vote, what are we left with?" Michael Moore's letter to the US Senate about Ohio.

January 4 2005 ~ Telegraph Opinion "... The charitable effort of the past week also serves as a timely reminder that the fewer areas of life that government dominates, the better... When we can bypass political structures and donate money to charities we trust, it seems easier to believe that we are truly helping. ..."

January 4 2005 ~ "...The woman who runs the bakery told me about the homeless man she had seen, who emptied his pockets in the bank, saying "I just want to do my bit"..." George Monbiot in the Guardian today points out that: "...our leaders appear to have lost the ability to distinguish between helping people and killing them. ....While they spend the money we gave them to relieve suffering on slaughtering the poor, the world must rely for disaster relief on the homeless man emptying his pockets. If our leaders were as generous in helping people as they are in killing them, no one would ever go hungry."

January 4 2005 ~ "..the predicted number of British fatalities alone is higher than for almost any peacetime disaster in living memory, dwarfing the 67 killed in the September 11 attacks. Mr Straw was speaking as opposition leaders and victims' families stepped up criticism of the way the government has handled the disaster. ." Guardian

January 3 2005 ~ In the Telegraph, W F Deedes ".. setbacks and failures would be worse but for the networks that have been established in these countries by UN agencies and the world's main aid organisations..... We're in it, Kofi Annan of the UN tells us, for the long term. Now the priority is food and medicine for those clinging to the rim of the earth. Then look towards seeing what the resourceful people of Asia, aided by good samaritans of the West, can achieve. Thus, we renew what the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls the covenant of human solidarity and celebrate the brotherhood of man. ..."

January 3 2005 ~ UNICEF had, by yesterday, already delivered 150,000 oral rehydration salts for sick children, medical supplies sufficient to serve 150,000 people for three months, shelter equipment, blankets and other urgent relief efforts. They say, "We are loading more flights for the hardest hit regions now..."To donate go to https://www.unicef.org.uk

January 2 2005 ~ "She looked like a simple housewife when she checked in," recalled Ravi Singh, the hotel manager in Port Blair. "But now I marvel at the courage she has shown." Yet another story of how ordinary people make a gigantic impact in the face of disaster. Washington Post

January 2 2005 ~ "The public will have no right to see details of private disputes between ministers or embarrassing rows in Cabinet, despite the introduction of new disclosure laws.." Independent on Sunday

January 2 2005 ~ Booker's Notebook "... In the coming year, hundreds of new laws will come into force, costing us billions of pounds, over which our elected representatives in Westminster will have no influence whatever. On paper, for instance, Margaret Beckett is one of our most powerful ministers.... in reality she exercises far less power than..the Greek environment commissioner ..... Still the doings of our EU government are reported as "foreign news" and we go on pretending that our country is run by Tony Blair and John Prescott....." Read in full

January 1 2005 ~ Freedom of Information Act - see Democracy Watch page

January 1 2005 ~ Reuters: "..U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for an unprecedented operation to help. His emergency relief coordinator said the toll was approaching 150,000, with perhaps a third of them children. "It is hard to imagine the fear, confusion and desperation of children who have seen enormous waves wash away their worlds," said another aid official, UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy. "Children have lost all semblance of the life they knew, from parents, siblings and friends to homes, schools and neighbourhoods. They are in desperate need of care." Others worried for the next generation -- unborn babies -- with at least 150,000 pregnant women in tsunami-hit areas..."

January 1 2005 ~ The British government has raised its contribution to £50 million of taxpayers' money. British private donations have passed that figure, with £60 million already pledged. The Telegraph reports that "The Prime Minister, facing criticism for not returning to Britain to take charge of the aid effort, interrupted his break to voice his concern for the victims of the disaster..."

December 31 2004 ~ Roger writes about the contrast between the response of ordinary people and governments ".....A pub there had advertised on the local radio that he was collecting light clothing and anything that people could find. We were directed round the back to an old barn like structure where a chap was holding open the doors. Well, the building was almost full. An Alladin's cave of clothing, towels, plastic sheeting, cans of food, plastic water bottles and children's TOYS ! All destined for Sri Lanka. One man did that..."

December 30 2004 ~ "Millions of people on Indian Ocean shores are scrambling for food and clean water as disease, thirst, hunger and panic threaten survivors of the most devastating tsunami on record..." Reuters.
To donate to the International Red Cross click here (new window). They send an emailed acknowledgement. The ICRC is concentrating its relief efforts on Sri Lanka and the Indonesian province of Aceh, where it has a strong presence. If you have a slow connection, you may find that it takes some time to donate online today. This is perhaps an encouraging sign. Refreshing the page does work - eventually.

December 30 2004 ~ Washington Post yesterday "...In Britain, the predominant U.S. voice speaking about the disaster was not Bush but former president Bill Clinton, who in an interview with the BBC said the suffering was like something in a "horror movie," and urged a coordinated international response." Professor Juan Cole comments: " US President George W. Bush has missed an important opportunity to reach out to the Muslims of Indonesia. The Bush administration at first pledged a paltry $15 million, a mysteriously chintzy response to what was obviously an enormous calamity. Bush himself remained on vacation.."

December 30 2004 ~ Telegraph " ..... although the Tory leader's move, ahead of last week's Commons vote on the Identity Cards Bill, was endorsed by the shadow cabinet, only two of his 17-strong team actively backed it. ... Having "proper policing" and "getting control of the ports of entry" was targeting the priorities of people who were worried about anti-social behaviour and robberies, Mr Redwood said.... David Davis...: "There's no point in backing a bodged scheme that is all expense and no benefit."

December 29 2004 ~ The Times "Children as young as eight living near Gleneagles will be issued with identity cards as part of a massive security operation planned for next year’s G8 summit.... Nationalist MSP Roseanna Cunningham condemned the plans.... “Here is a warning, before they are introduced at a national level, of how ID cards can be used to control the actions of ordinary people,” she said....."

December 28 2004 ~ George Monbiot in the Guardian. " ... If we accept the consortium's account of how much it (the Skye bridge) cost to build - £25m - we have paid for it 3.7 times. ..... though there was no possible security argument for keeping it secret, both the Tory and Labour governments have hidden the contract behind the excuse of "commercial confidentiality"..... If we are not allowed to see what's being done in our name, there's a pretty good chance we are being ripped off."

December 27 2004 ~ South East Asia's suffering as a result of the undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami overshadows all other news. Seven Asian countries have been affected by the giant waves. The Washington Post staff writer, Michael Dobbs, was an eye-witness. To donate to the International Red Cross click here (new window). They send an emailed acknowledgement.

December 26 2004 ~ "...at the end of this epic year in politics, the gold standard of the official inquiry has been devalued." Read Iain McWhirter in the Sunday Herald. ".... the war goes on in Iraq, and Tony Blair remains in office and in power. The story of the year is not Tony Blair’s refusal to resign, but his party’s reluctance to hold him to account. "

December 20 - 26 2004 ~ "Charles Clarke, the new Home Secretary, produced not one good reason on Monday for Britons to be compelled to hold an identity card linked to a nationally accessible data register." Simon Jenkins writes in the Times this week "I never thought I'd say this, but thank you to the Lords, the Libs and the law" We say, thank you to Simon Jenkins.

December 19 2004 ~ "The United Kingdom....has biometrics projects underway for national identity cards and for e-Borders, the British version of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S.-VISIT) program, which uses biometric identifiers to track travelers entering and leaving the country..." The Washington Post announces that "Northrop Grumman" has won the contract from the UK worth 244 million dollars... "Other features to be added later include mobile fingerprint-checking, facial imaging and video identification."

December 19 2004 ~ Our fears, growing in intensity since the foot and mouth crisis, find their echo in this excellent article in the Sunday Herald Britain has become a Kafkaesque nightmare "....when the Prime Minister and his Cabinet can choose to ignore and undermine the most senior law makers in the land, it’s difficult to imagine what effect the mere electorate can have on this gradual creep towards the loss of justice, liberty and plain decency." Read in full or see extracts on the Democracy Page

December 19 2004 ~ Jack Straw has seen fit to attack the decision by Britain's highest court. They were "simply wrong" he said. But, as Sir Thomas More says in A Man for all Seasons

Do governments who kick aside traditional safeguards in the dubious name of "safety" have any idea of the dangerous forces they are letting loose? How fragile our liberties now seem.

December 19 2004 ~ Ian MacDonald QC, a Special Advocate before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), is to resign tomorrow from his role defending the 11 men the House of Lords says are being held behind bars illegally. He says the Government's anti-terror legislation is "contrary to our deepest notions of justice". "My role has been altered to provide a false legitimacy to indefinite detention without knowledge of the accusations being made and without any kind of criminal charge or trial," he said. IoS and BBC

December 19 2004 ~ "Untruth piled up upon untruth. .." The Sunday Telegraph on Blunkett "... cover-up always causes more damage than the original misconduct. The Blunkett scandal has escalated into something a single Cabinet resignation and an internal Home Office report cannot possibly settle. A full judicial inquiry, with testimony taken on oath, is now required: nothing less will do.

December 19 2004 ~ The government must act quickly on the Law Lords' ruling on foreign detainees, Mary Robinson says BBC

December 19 2004 ~ Sunday Telegraph "Michael Howard faces an embarrassing rebellion this week when senior members of his team "go missing" rather than support his policy on identity cards."

December 19 2004 ~ The Conservatives have branded the government "hypocritical" over reports of mass e-mail deletion at the Cabinet Office. BBC

December 19 2004 ~ Letter in the Sunday Telegraphfrom Nigel Bowker, Banchory, Aberdeenshire"First Iraq; now identity cards. When will the Conservatives rediscover the wisdom of Lord Randolph Churchill's phrase "It is the duty of an opposition to oppose"? "

December 18 2004 ~ In an entirely predictable move, the government is telling staff to delete emails before Monday. Read in full Times' Purge of e-mails will deny the right to know "... deleted e-mails will be stored on back-up systems, these have been declared off limits to freedom of information requests because of the cost of accessing them." We hardly need the Tory Party to suggest that the government is " deliberately trying to destroy embarrassing information." Read in full

December 18 2004 ~ Mr Blair is inviting a constitutional crisis if he refuses to accept the law lords' ruling.
Independent The Government's refusal to withdraw its anti-terror laws has left Britain on the brink of a constitutional crisis that threatens centuries of hard-won civil liberties, it was claimed last night." Read in full

December 18 2004 ~"... By seeking indefinitely to detain terrorist suspects and use other extraordinary powers to protect the public, the government asks us to place unlimited faith in the judgment of the home secretary and the intelligence services. Does their record suggest that this should be granted?.." Max Hastings in the Guardian

December 18 2004 ~ "...To permit indefinite detention, coupled with the isolation of the detained person from friends and family over years, is to destroy the very structure of human rights and justice we claim to defend." Shirley Williams, House of Lords Read Guardian letter page and also the Times letter page extract: "Three hearty cheers for the law lords. Once we abandon the rule of law, we are no better than the terrorists. Their lordships have restored my faith that Britain is a country ruled by law, not political expediency. .."

December 17 2004 ~ Jon Snow wrote in the update yesterday "Ms Blears revealed she hadn't read the judgement. Her minder dictated that I could have three questions and that she was anyway only doing 'clips'. That, in plain man's language, is 'sound bites'. In other words, one of the most critical and far reaching judgements affecting the government's 'war on terrorism', a judgement in which they have been found woefully at fault, meets a response of 'clips'. The interview at seven - a splendid insight into the relationship between the rule of law, the law and ministerial office, not to mention Parliament. Oh and of course the nine prisoners in Belmarsh top security wing and Woodhill Prison, who've been without trial for three years and who are still there tonight."

December 17 2004 ~ "People are going to find this absolutely extraordinary. Here is the highest court in the land that says you are in breach of the European Human Rights Act and furthermore, that you are in breach of just about every tenet of English law. They have said they are unequivocal about this, that eight to one they have said you are in the wrong, that these men should be freed…" Jon Snow spoke to Hazel Blears last night. Channel 4 Transcript An emailer writes. " unbelievable conversation ...At the end of the interview the camera stayed on her and she was glaring at Jon Snow and I`m sure her top lip curled into a snarl. I felt sick and saddened."

December 17 2004 ~ When one of one's own highly unflappable, law abiding, pillar-of-the-community relatives writes that "I am appalled at the response of the Government to the House of Lords judgment yesterday. I should like to make some gesture.." we begin to wonder if the tide is not at last beginning the turn and scales dropping from eyes in all directions. Reply: "First, write to your MP and MEP. A very, very painless way of doing this is to use http://www.writetothem.com which is a new version of the excellent www.faxyourmp.com.."

December 17 2004 ~ Charles Clark talks about "how we ensure safety and security within a democracy without undermining the values that are at the very heart of it. ..." and goes on to defy the Law Lords (yesterday's Ministerial Statement) : ".... It is ultimately for Parliament to decide whether and how we should amend the law. The Part 4 provisions will remain in force until Parliament agrees the future of the law. Accordingly I will not be revoking the certificates or releasing the detainees, whom I have reason to believe are a significant threat to our security .." Read in full

December 17 2004 ~ Independent on the Law Lords condemnation of Blunkett's terror measures ".... The director of the civil rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said future generations would be "proud" that democratic values had been chosen over "the politics of fear.."By acting as judge, jury and jailer, the Government has flouted the very values it claims to defend. It must now act and charge or release all those currently held without delay."

December 17 2004 ~ Tories suspect Blunkett case cover-up Guardian ".. Mr Davis's suspicions have been aroused by media reports that several officials, including the permanent secretary, John Gieve, were present at a meeting where an angry Mr Blunkett had showed them the immigration department's letter warning the nanny of a 12- month delay. Mr Blunkett's supporters say that, in a busy life, he could easily have forgotten the exchange which took place 20 months ago. .." Read in full

December 17 2004 ~ Simon Jenkins (The Times) on David Blunkett "....His pandering to base populism was blatant. He terrorised his office into dancing to any tune played by the morning newspapers. His predecessor in such demonology, Michael Howard, was at least a rationalist. He would argue every toss. Mr Blunkett was an emotionalist. He was the demagogic face of Blairism. .. " Read in full

December 17 2004 ~A letter in the Herald must surely echo the thoughts of many of us.

December 16 2004 ~ We are relieved that the House of Lords has ruled in favour of the nine foreign nationals, held for three years in British prisons without trial under the emergency " terrorist laws". The Lords voted 8-1 that the legislation is incompatible with parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. The illegally held men are to stay in prison "for the time being". For details see early report in the Washington Post British Anti-Terror Tactic Dealt Blow See also warmwell's Democracy page

December 16 2004 ~ On the subject of the resignation of Mr Blunkett, the Independent this morning: "The personal tragedy for Mr Blunkett is also a blow for Tony Blair, who backed his fight to remain in office....Mr Blunkett admitted his decision had been taken in conjunction with Mr Blair but denied the Prime Minister had asked him to quit. "We kind of came to it together," he said. "We sort of gave each other a hug."

December 15 2004 ~ Guardian ".....while a series of what were widely regarded as nobbled inquiries have at least gone through the motions of holding them (the government) to account, there has been no attempt to hold the media to account for its role in making war possible. .... how it is possible that a free press could fail to challenge even the most transparent government deceptions in the run-up to the attack. The crucial arguments of the vindicated former chief Unscom weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, for example, were largely ignored...." Read in full See also the warmwell pages on Scott Ritter

December 15 2004 ~ depleted uranium. "...Randall Parrish, a scientist who played a big role in developing the British test, says he can't understand why the United States is satisfied with an inferior test...." The Capstone Report concluded that there was "little risk" from depleted uranium in the body.. " However, Beate Ritz, an epidemiologist at the University of California, says "The type of models that the Capstone study relies on for its conclusions are frequently shown to be flawed, she says. That's much of what health science is all about - testing the models and showing whether they work... " DailyPress.com

December 15 2004 ~ Independent "MPs... last night demanded a wide-ranging investigation into all allegations of brutality by British troops. There are about 40 cases claiming brutality and unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians by the British Army. . An independent inquiry will now investigate whether there has been unlawful killing and breaches of Articles 2 and 3 of the convention, which guarantee the right to life and freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatmen..."

December 14 2004 ~ Yet another urgent demand for a proper, open, public inquiry. This time the case of the Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British custody in Iraq. Guardian: "....not enough for the military to investigate behind closed doors. There must be an effective public investigation by an independent official body. Only such an investigation could reveal what really happened and who might be responsible. Family members must be kept fully informed of the process."

December 14 2004 ~ We read that the Conservatives are going to back the Government’s Bill introducing identity cards. Why?
The Times ".. to avoid being outflanked by Labour on crime in the general election campaign..."

December 14 2004 ~ " The problem for many of us has never been a problem of revenge. What does interest us is how history is written..."Juan Pablo Letelier, son of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador assassinated during Pinochet's regime by Chile's secret police - "Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, was charged with involvement in a homicide and nine kidnappings in the 1970s ... " Bloomberg

December 13 2004 ~"It is in making the charge of centralisation, rather than politicisation, that Lord Butler has something valuable to tell us about modern government.... ." comments David Clark in today's Guardian
See also democracy page ".. a party so mired in unreality that it cannot challenge a prime minister who attempted flagrantly to mislead us all because he misled himself, and who has been incapable ever since of even basic honesty over the issue..."

December 13 2004 ~ Juan Cole writes today,"...Yushchenko's poisoners clearly made an epochal mistake, increasing sympathy for him and probably assuring his election in the rescheduled polls. It happens seldom enough that miscreants get their just deserts."

December 13 2004 ~ The Belfast Telegraph, along with other newspapers across the globe that read the Observer yesterday, wonders again how Dr David Kelly really met his death. "Ms Hunt said the only blood she saw was a stain the size of a 50p piece.." On 28th January 2004 however, the Daily Mail reported that Dr Nicholas Hunt,the forensic pathologist, told the Hutton Inquiry that a substantial amount of blood had been found on and around Dr Kelly's body. In particular, there was a patch of blood stains "two to three feet long" next to his body. There were also blood patches on his neck, face, trousers, arms, elbows, right hand and fingers.
How could these have been missed by the paramedics, experienced ambulance crew who were among the first on the scene? Dr. Hunt himself called the Channel 4 newsroom on March 16th 2004 and told them he would, “feel more comfortable with a full coroner’s inquest.” It was, as we know, denied.

December 12 2004 ~ Dr David Kelly : " Two paramedics called to the scene of the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly have expressed doubts over the manner in which he died. ..."When someone cuts an artery, whether accidentally or intentionally, the blood pumps everywhere." But ....there was very little blood at the scene of Dr Kelly's death..." BBC

December 12 2004 ~ At the Hutton inquiry there was no jury, no oath, and no powers to subpoena witnesses. Suicide has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
See the Observer from which today's story came and the warmwell pages several of which suggest that the "suicide" of David Kelly has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

December 12 2004 ~ Postal votong "...Across the country yesterday, police said they were still looking into claims of irregularities in the June 10 European and local polls. Voters in the North of England told a Times investigation during the campaign that they were too intimidated to complain to the authorities about being bullied into supporting certain candidates. .."Sunday Times Read in full

December 12 2004 ~Sunday Times "Tony Travers, local government expert at the London School of Economics, said: “I’m surprised that the Government’s determination to have somewhat higher turnouts has overridden the issue of confidence. Turnout isn’t everything. Some of the higher turnouts in Ukraine were among the most worrying features of the election.” Read in full

December 12 2004 ~ IoS "...Mr Straw is said by witnesses to have been "white with anger" over the way Mr Blunkett had talked openly about internal arguments within the Government over ID card legislation....Legislation for ID cards will be debated in the Commons on Tuesday week. ..."

December 12 2004 ~ North East Referendum - re the breaking of the purdah period by Ministers. Booker's Notebook: "... I spoke to local observers, including a senior reporter who had covered each of these visits. None could recall a single occasion when the ministers had made it clear that they were not speaking in a ministerial capacity. When I asked the ODPM for evidence to confirm Lord Rooker's claim, I was told that "as far as we are aware, he told the truth". In other words, there was no evidence that ministers had not broken the law, and Parliament was thus assured that they hadn't..." Read in full

December 12 2004 ~Ukraine: “there is no doubt” Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned. Dr. Michael Zimpfer told a group of reporters on Saturday ...CFRA Radio

December 10 2004 ~ "The government has decided the Electoral Commission is wrong to say there should be no more exclusive postal voting trials in Britain because of the risk of fraud. .However the Tories, the Electoral Commission and even some Labour MP's feel the system is open to abuse - with heads of families able to vote for their whole household if they wish." Channel 4 update. It also tells us that although Berlusconi has been found guilty of fraud he cannot be convicted because too much time has passed. We are weary of corruption and lack of accountability.

December 10 2004 ~ "What, we ask, took the good Lord Butler of Brockwell, so long? In his first interview since delivering his report on intelligence and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the former Cabinet Secretary has torn a strip off the Prime Minister for exerting too much central control, not consulting enough and confusing salesmanship with governing..."
This article is pay-to-view, but the Independent has also this."....The Independent learnt last night that a Labour-led Commons select committee was also planning to deliver a wounding attack on the Blair Government in the new year for the way it has handled the "whitewash'' public inquiries by Lords Butler and Hutton on the Iraq war and its aftermath."

December 10 2004 ~ Fairford Coach Action (see also "A Threat to Democracy" by George Monbiot) are now saying they will go to the House of Lords. A comprehensive list of reports of the case can be found at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/12/302517.html including the judgement. An emailer writes, "The audacity of both our government and the US administration is both frightenning and breathtaking - However, not one of the Guantanamo cases has come to court yet...the rhetoric was that these 'terrorists' would face the death penalty, but, just as in 2001, cases haven't come to court when the government in question realises it doesn't have a leg to stand on legally."

December 10 2004 ~ 'Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.' Sun Tzu (2400 years ago)

December 9/10 2004 ~ Today Fallujah...Tomorrow? "The returning population of Fallujah is to be ".. finger printed,given a retina scan and then an ID card, which will only allow them to travel around their homes or to nearby aid centers, which are now being built. TheMarines will be authorized to use deadly force against those breaking the rules." See The Register

December 9 2004 ~Channel 4 email update says, "Former cabinet Secretary Robin Butler gets heavy with Tony Blair's modus of governing - too much stuff that's never recorded apparently..." while the Guardian has (read in full) "Lord Butler launched a scathing attack on the government today, accusing it of too much central control, too much emphasis on selling policy and too little reasoned deliberation. He also claimed that politicians were delegating decisions to unaccountable quangos because they did not want to take responsibility for them.."

December 9 2004 ~Yet another nail in the coffin of accountability and democracy at a time when trust is at an all time low. Read John Ware's article in today's Guardian "Behind Closed Doors" " Ministers say their inquiries bill, which will be debated for the first time in parliament today, will make public inquiries as "effective as possible"..." However, if ministers are to control the whole process of public inquiries what on earth use will they be? See also Simon Jenkins today "...This parody of inquisitorial justice.."

December 9 2004 ~One billion children - half the world's population of children - suffer from poverty, conflict or AIDS, says the United Nations Children's Fund in its annual report. See Guardian

December 9 2004 ~Changing the law to protect householders from prosecution if they tackle burglars. "There will be suspicions that the proposed law change will become another component of Mr Blair's strategy to win the election with a campaign based on fear..." Democracy page

December 9 2004 ~ "We were told it was a new kind of war, that these were evil people and they had to be dealt with." Independent The warmwell IRAQ pages fill us with increasing anxiety and wonder that we are allowing war crimes to be committed in our name.

December 9 2004 ~ "...the principal greenhouse gas, will always be overtaken by the rising new emissions of the developing nations, led by China and India, who are not parties to the Kyoto treaty, said Professor Wallace Broecker of Columbia University, New York....Only radical new technologies for extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air would halt global warming ..." Independent

December 9 2004 ~"..the Government turned down demands for a public inquiry last week but ordered a review of extensive allegations of bullying and sexual abuse of soldiers at Deepcut....Peter Hain:".... I have thought for a while that the number of deaths are too many to be a coincidence." Independent

December 9 2004 ~ "Secretary-General Kofi Annan won a standing ovation from the UN General Assembly, a rare public display of support in response to recent calls for his resignation from several US lawmakers..the secretary-general has received strong backing from the 54-nation African Union, the 25-member European Union, Arab nations and many other countries. ..." The Age

December 8 2004 ~ Jonathan Freedland thinks that "if Blunkett goes, the prime minister is likely to take over the home secretary's security agenda himself.."

December 8 2004 ~ Another serious and urgent plea for an "independent, peer-reviewed inquiry" has been rejected. This time it is in a letter to Mr Blair from 46 concerned people from public and military life, including General Sir Hugh Beach, formerly deputy commander in Chief of the Land forces, for a proper examination into Iraqi civilian casualties.

December 8 2004 ~Geoff Hoon talked on the World at One about the "Iraqi authorities" having the relevant information on civilian deaths. More reliable is Naomi Klein's account of how US and Iraqi forces have seized control of or destroyed hospitals and clinics, making sure that doctors and nurses are unable to report casualties.

December 8 2004 ~ A letter in the Independent yesterday contains both praise for our wonderful government and excellent advice for the Cabinet!

December 7 2004 ~ "People Power is on track to score another triumph for western values in Ukraine. Over the last 15 years, the old Soviet bloc has witnessed recurrent fairy tale political upheavals. These modern morality tales always begin with a happy ending. But what happens to the people once People Power has won? .." article in the Guardian by Simon Almond - who once carried dollars to dissidents

December 7 2004 ~ Michael Howard was facing a rift ... over identity cards yesterday ....Alan Duncan: "It will have lots of extra data which is actually giving the state more powers to intervene in your life where it ought not to have those powers." Independent

December 7 2004 ~ "MRSA is caused by overuse of antibiotics, especially by the agriculture industry, where they are added routinely to animal feed as growth promoters. Bacteria resistant to the drugs grow and multiply, by a natural process of evolution, and the more widely the drugs are used the greater the opportunities for resistance to develop." Independent

December 7 2004 ~Intense talks between Ukraine's government and opposition fail to reach agreement on key issues. BBC

December 5 2004 ~ "Allegations detailed in Scotland on Sunday today will throw into further doubt Blunkett’s chances of surviving in his post, despite Tony Blair’s robust support for one of his most loyal Cabinet allies.." As an emailer comments wearily, "I really am disgusted by all of them."

December 5 2004 ~ Deepcut. Independent on Sunday "... life at the Surrey camp was dominated by a "climate of fear". The former corporal was speaking on condition of anonymity. He claims he has been threatened with retribution should he ever speak out..." An emailer comments: "Thank goodness more people are coming forward. This makes my blood boil, same old cover up, narrow Inquiries, etc. Apparently the parents are going to mount a legal challenge if they don't get a public inquiry. What a relief if the truth can finally be discovered."

December 5 2004 ~ The US Navy says it is investigating photos that appear to show abuse of Iraqi detainees. BBC

December 5 2004 ~ The price of criticising the Bush Administration? We read in today's Observer "Annan is mired in the deepest crisis of his career as America continues to put pressure on him to resign..."

December 5 2004 ~ "...To sacrifice freedom for protection in time of war is a fair bargain; to do so for the convenience of civil servants is not. The government must set out clearly what it believes ID cards can achieve and demonstrate that they can expect to be successful. Until then, we should strenuously oppose their introduction." See democracy pagequoting from the Observer Leader today

December 5 2004 ~ ".. "Don't you realise that the real business of government these days is taking place outside the theatre, and none of you are noticing it?" Booker's Notebook in the Sunday Telegraph

December 5 2004 ~ EU Referendum " thanks to a remarkable feat of detailed research by the British Management Data Foundation, run by Brig Anthony Cowgill and his son Andrew, a 47-year-old tax expert, it will be possible, at last, for members of the public to read precisely what the EU's politicians have agreed to in their name, to see what is new in it, and its wide-ranging implications..." Booker's Notebook

December 5 2004 ~ Booker's Notebook also considers the perhaps now shaky looking finances of the EU Galileo satellite navigation system. We note also that the Ukraine, where a popular wish for democracy is only a part of the story that seems to be far more about energy, has been negotiating with the EU Commission on a 'cooperation agreement' relating to Galileo. Seehttp://www.eubusiness.com

December 5 2004 ~ The Black Watch. Channel 4 update: "... They will return without five of their colleagues. Several others remain seriously injured. ... Tony Blair said the country could be proud of what their they have all achieved. The question now is who from the British armed forces will be sent in to follow them in the critical period leading up to elections? .."

December 4 2004 ~ "We want security discussed every day before the election," disclosed one party official. .." Scotsman

December 4 2004 ~ "The collapse of the national automated fingerprint identification system (Nafis) is the latest embarrassing computer failure to affect a public body and will raise fresh questions over the Government's plans for a national identity card system, which will include "biometric" details such as fingerprints." Independent

December 3 2004 ~ Ukraine's Supreme Court has called for a new election on December 26th after ruling the original vote invalid.

December 3 2004 ~ Channel 4 news update is always refreshing: "...New Labour has the delightful prospect of a full blown paternity case with the Home Secretary at its heart rolling right through the upcoming general election campaign."

December 3 2004 ~ "Silvio Berlusconi's four-year corruption trial is expected to draw to a close today." - BBC
In August 2004, the Observer: "If they have the eyes to see it, the Blairs will catch the wretched state of Italy in microcosm when they begin their free holiday at Silvio Berlusconi's retreat tomorrow. If they are truly prescient, they will also glimpse their own political mortality hovering in the heat haze. .the lesson that Blair has learned from the Iraq crisis is that he can get away with anything...but.. the British electorate ...hates Prime Ministers who get too big for their boots, and think they can swan off with every rogue. .."

December 3 2004 ~ " I suspect that Annan's persecutors are after something else: not the man, but the institution itself." LA Times See also Independent

December 3 2004 ~ A rally is planned in Bhopal, India, where one of the worst industrial disasters took place 20 years ago. BBC

December 2/3 2004 ~ Professor Roy Anderson, now Chief Scientific Advisor at the MOD wants to award a 4 billion pound contract to the Halliburton subsidiary, KBR. So Halliburton will make Britain's largest warships ever, a thousand people will lose their jobs in Fife and one wonders more than ever where the wheels within wheels are getting their grease from. (More)

December 2 2004 ~ The Ukraine situation. "... this conflict could well decide the geo-resource direction of the planet itself...Intelligence operatives and provocateurs on all sides are undoubtedly working in high gear.." See From the Wilderness article and also peak oil news page

December 2 2004 ~ George Galloway has won his libel case against the Telegraph. The Guardian says "Justice David Eady agreed with Mr Galloway that the paper had surrounded its reports with a "blizzard" of comment and inference..."Allegations of treason are not part and parcel of the knocks one expects to take in the course of everyday political debate."

December 2 2004 ~ "Outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has won Vladimir Putin's backing against calls for a quick re-run of the last round of the disputed presidential election the opposition is certain it would win" Reuters

December 1 2004 ~ Ukraine's Parliament has voted to sack the Government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. See The Times

December 1 2004 ~ " The dollar has plunged to an all-time low against the euro, and fell past $1.90 to the pound, as European and Japanese central bankers stayed quiet on the prospect of an intervention." Telegraph - and re-read Geoffrey Heard?

December 1 2004 ~ Millions of workers took part in a general strike in Italy in protest at the economic policies of Silvio Berlusconi's government. We would rejoice at this example of people power - but the alternative? Romano Prodi. As the Telegraph commented in January ".. he has been the subject of only three judicial investigations, a clean record for any Italian party leader."

December 1 2004 ~ "....A Nigerian officer, his voice thick with emotion, told me he didn't have the armoured vehicles necessary to rescue Tutsi civilians being murdered in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The problem, he explained, was that the Americans were arguing over the rental terms..." The Independent's Christmas Appeal. Fergal Keane: "...tell the hungry and beaten-down that you give a damn, that they are worth your compassion...tell the governments that oppress them, or who have abandoned them, that there is an alternative world community which wants action..."

December 1 2004 ~ Deepcut. We spoke too soon. Independent "Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, conceded yesterday that an independent review was needed.....but defied mounting calls for an inquiry. "How much more evidence, how much more grief do they want before they are going to give us a public inquiry?"..."

December 1 2004 ~ Deepcut "Having effectively said 'no' to anything in terms of an independent inquiry or much else, the Ministry of Defence has changed its tune. There is now to be a 'review' of the evidence."(Channel 4 news update yesterday) "If it can happen with Deepcut," many readers may be thinking, "can it not finally - at long last - happen with foot and mouth?" This too was an appallingly unBritish catalogue of blunders and official bullying which must never be allowed to happen again.