Category Archives: UK

European court to investigate laws allowing GCHQ to snoop on journalists

Lisa O’Carroll reports for The Guardian:

GCHQ Cheltenham,‘The European court of human rights (ECHR) is to investigate British laws that allow GCHQ and police to secretly snoop on journalists.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has gone straight to Strasbourg in a bid to get a finding that domestic law is incompatible with provisions in European law which give journalists the right to keep sources confidential from police and others.

Its application was filed on Friday and has been accepted by the ECHR, which has indicated in the past it will expedite cases on surveillance through its legal system.’

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Roman Abramovich’s binge at the Bridge really is no laughing matter

Matthew Syed writes for The Times:

Roman Abramovich ‘As the second goal went in for Chelsea on Saturday, the cameras wheeled around to Roman Abramovich, who was clapping and grinning. It is a picture we have seen a hundred times over the years and the response of the commentator was equally familiar. “That will make the owner happy,” he said. There is nothing wrong with this. Nothing wrong with an owner taking pleasure in his team’s success. Nothing wrong with a TV camera picking up on the moment. Indeed, this is the stuff of football. How many times have you heard it before: “Abramovich will be celebrating tonight!”; “That’s put a smile on Roman’s face!”; “Even the owner is dancing a jig!”

It is not what is said that troubles me, however; it is what is not said. You see, I am not sure I have heard a commentator offer a word about where the money that has funded the 11-year binge at Stamford Bridge came from. I have rarely heard pundits, who are happy to talk ad nauseum about Chelsea’s transfer dealings, relate that Abramovich’s billions were gained in an episode described as “the largest single heist in corporate history”. This is not just an elephant in the room; it is a festering pile of manure.’

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The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer and Christian Grothoff report for The Intercept:

‘Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

The breathtaking mission is described in a document from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provided to The Intercept and Der Spiegel. Treasure Map’s goal is to create an “interactive map of the global internet” in “almost real time.” Employees of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance—England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—can install and use the program on their own computers. It evokes a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.’

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South Downs and New Forest national parks under threat from electricity pipeline plan

Tom Bawden reports for The Independent:

The South Downs and New Forest national parks are potentially under threat from plans drawn up by a major Conservative donor to build a giant electricity pipeline from France to southern England.

Alexander Temerko, a former boss of the Russian oil giant Yukos, is developing an interconnector from the Flamenville nuclear power station in north-west France to the village of Lovedean, near Portsmouth. It would bring enough electricity to power 1.4 million households.

But the electricity grid in the South of England is already operating so close to capacity that Mr Temerko claims he has been told by the National Grid that he cannot plug in his pipeline at Lovedean substation.’

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Manifesto Club Briefing on Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO)

The Manifesto Club recently published a briefing document regarding new laws in Britain called Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) that will come into force in on the 20th October:

‘The Manifesto Club, along with other groups, has previously expressed concerns about the open-ended nature of Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) powers contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. In a briefing document on this subject, we argued that the Act provides an unprecedented degree of power to local authorities to control activities in public spaces, posing a major threat to public liberties.

The Home Office gave assurances – in parliament and in personal communication – that the Statutory Guidance would prevent these powers being used unreasonably or to target marginal groups.

The final version of the Statutory Guidance has now been published, and the date set for enactment of these powers is 20 October. However, unfortunately the guidance places minimal restrictions on the uses of PSPOs, leaving it open for these powers to be targeted against public activities that are merely considered unusual or unpopular, or with which the council disagrees.

This report details some of the ways in which local councils are likely to use PSPOs after 20 October, restricting a range of activities including busking, rough sleeping, parking outside schools, and charity collections. Given that the forms of consultation and appeal for PSPOs are extremely limited, we call on the public to be on high alert this autumn for unreasonable or unduly restrictive PSPOs.’

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George Osborne denies UK defence spending will fall below 2% of GDP

Patrick Wintour reports for The Guardian:

‘George Osborne has refused to commit to an increase in defence spending after the general election and challenged claims that next year it will fall below 2% of GDP, the guideline figure agreed at the Nato summit on Friday.

The independent thinktank Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) has claimed spending will fall to 1.8%, but on Sunday Osborne said he did not accept that assessment, saying: “I think we need to continue to meet the 2% commitment,” adding that as chancellor he will always put Britain’s security needs first. Osborne was speaking after promising he will do whatever it takes to defeat Islamic State (Isis).’

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New BBC chief sued over claims HSBC laundered terrorists and drug cartels’ money

Alasdair Glennie reports for The Daily Mail:

‘The BBC’s chairman-elect is being sued over her involvement in the HSBC money-laundering scandal, it was revealed yesterday. Rona Fairhead, who is set to become the first woman to lead the corporation, had her appointment approved by MPs yesterday.

But hours after the Commons hearing it emerged the 53-year-old is facing a class action lawsuit by HSBC shareholders over allegations the bank allowed terrorists and Mexican drug cartels to launder money.

Mrs Fairhead chaired the bank’s ‘risk committee’ in 2012, when it was fined £1.2billion by US authorities to settle allegations that it allowed drug traffickers to launder millions of pounds. The bank was also accused of breaching sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Burma and Zimbabwe.’

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TUC leader speech on class system cut off by royal baby newsflash

Editor’s Note: This story reminded me of when an MSNBC host cut off a U.S. Congresswoman who was talking about the NSA’s bulk collection of phone data, just so that she could bring us “breaking news” about Justin Bieber appearing in court. Hilarious yet absolutely shocking at the same time but is it really any surprise? Bieber and the Royal baby are just another example of what a joke the media is on both sides of the Atlantic. A media which is largely there to keep us misinformed and distracted for the benefit of those own the system. So strap yourself in for another long, drawn-out, gooey eyed ride with Britain’s favourite celebrities. Puke!

Andy McSmith reports for The Independent:

‘Live television coverage of a speech by Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, was cut off this morning minutes after she had warned of a return to a “Downton Abbey” society –  for a newsflash announcing that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her second child.

The second royal pregnancy was deemed to be so important that nothing more was heard of Ms O’Grady’s speech, in which she expanded on her theme that the British class system is being reinvented, as the gap between rich and poor widens.’

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Tony Blair Faith Foundation ‘assessed’ by charity watchdog after concerns raised about former PM’s influence

Lizzie Dearden reports for The Independent:

‘A charity watchdog will meet with representatives from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation after a former employee claimed the ex-Prime Minister uses it as a “think-tank” for his private office.

The Charity Commission said it was “assessing” the concerns raised and will publish a report but has not started an official investigation or identified any “regulatory issues”.’

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Britain’s Last Hangman

Executioner Harry Allen

Harry Allen, one of Britain’s last hangmen, who officiated from 1941-64. Photograph: Daily Mail /REX/G Priestley

‘On a winter morning in 1963 Harry Allen hanged Russell Pascoe, the penultimate execution of his 23-year career. Fifty years after the final hanging in the UK, prison officer Robert Douglas recalls being present for the last hours in the short life of a condemned man.’

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Fiona Woolf, boss of VIP child abuse investigation, linked to Leon Brittan

Martin Beckford and Simon Murphy report for The Mail On Sunday:

‘The new chairman of a long-awaited Government inquiry into historic child sex abuse was facing calls to resign last night after The Mail on Sunday discovered her astonishing links to Leon Brittan – a key figure embroiled in the scandal.

Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London, was appointed to carry out the important role of investigating claims of an Establishment cover-up of VIP paedophile rings on Friday, two months after the original chairman was forced to step down over conflicts of interest.

But this newspaper has found that the top corporate lawyer is also closely linked to Lord Brittan – who is likely to give evidence to her inquiry.’

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UK In “Full Panic Mode”, Rains Brimstone, Bribes On Scotland As “Yes” To Independence Poll Crosses 50%

From Zero Hedge:

All pundits who over the past few months have been saying the possibility of Scottish independence as a result of the September 18 ballot, is at best a pipe dream got a rude wake up call overnight, when Scottish YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the “Yes” (for independence campaign) on top for the first time since polling began, with No below the majority cutoff line for the first time, at 49, when undecided voters are excluded, and even when including undecideds “Yes” is still ahead by two points at 47-45. As the Spectator reports, “in the space of four weeks, “No” has blown a 22-point lead.”

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Supporters of Scottish independence take narrow poll lead for first time

Stephen Addison writes for Reuters:

‘Supporters of Scottish independence from Britain have taken their first opinion poll lead since the referendum campaign began, indicating a real possibility that they might win, according to a YouGov survey for the Sunday Times newspaper.

With less than two weeks to go before the Sept. 18 vote, the poll put the “Yes” to independence campaign on 51 percent against “no” camp on 49 percent, overturning a 22-point lead for the unionist campaign in just a month, the Sunday Times said.

YouGov said that the results excluded those who would not vote and those who did not plan to vote or did not know how they would vote. With those groups included, secessionists would be on 47 percent and those championing the United Kingdom would be on 45 percent, it added.’

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Joseph Stiglitz: I’ve been shocked by No camp’s use of fear and bluffs

The Herald Scotland reports:

‘Professor Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner who was chairman of US president Bill Clinton’s council of economic advisers, said a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK could work, as he dismissed the refusal of the main Westminster parties to agree to such a deal as “bluffs”.

But he also stressed that there were a range of of options for the currency of an independent Scotland, pointing out that Panama has used the dollar for more than a century, while countries such as Canada and some European nations have adopted their own currency successfully.’

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Fearmongering: Why Independence Could Put Scotland In Danger Of Russian Invasion

Editor’s Note: Of all the fearmongering coming from the ‘no’ campaign, this has to be my favourite piece. THE RUSSIAN’S ARE COMING! Desperate.

James Cook writes for Business Insider:

HMS Astute sailing to Faslane Naval Base in Scotland‘If Scotland votes “Yes” on independence, it will begin a long process of creating its own naval defence force, a process that could leave its coastline at risk. The Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank, said last week that Scottish independence would trigger a national debate over the U.K.’s nuclear weapons if the submarines carrying the Trident missile system were relocated to the south coast of Britain, away from the fleet’s current base in Scotland. The relocation could add £3.5 billion to the cost of maintaining the U.K.’s armed forces.

But there are larger concerns over the future of Scotland’s naval defenses. While Scottish independence would indeed spark a debate on Britain’s nuclear future, as well as kickstarting a costly process to relocate the submarine fleet, some experts caution that Scottish independence could leave it vulnerable to naval threats.

Put simply, the Russians sail their submarines into Scottish waters on a regular basis. Russian vessels approach Scottish waters about once or twice a year, close enough to require the Royal Navy to perform counter-maneuvers.

And Russia has a recent history of military adventurism, in the Ukraine. Although there is absolutely no reason for Russia to invade Scotland, the departure of Trident from Northern waters could — in theory — let the Russians do whatever they like up there.’

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Scotland: A Question of Independence (Documentary)

Russel Brand: Independence, Yes. But Not Just For Scotland

How the taxman is building Big Brother Britain

Richard Dyson writes for The Telegraph:

‘Last weekend we reported that the taxman was sending 40,000 letters to people it believed were failing to pay tax due on property investments. The letters said: “HMRC has data relating to landlords and is comparing this with what individuals have or have not told us. HMRC is aware that you are. .  .”

Along with panic and alarm, I imagine the reaction of the recipients of these letters was to ask: “How did the taxman get this information?” HMRC won’t answer in any detail. So I’ll try to here.

It’s not that I advocate tax evasion. The opposite: every penny of unpaid tax recovered for the Exchequer is to be celebrated, but with the important proviso that the cost of collecting it is proportionate. And part of that cost relates to privacy. Do we really want HMRC to amass, process and store the vast and growing hoards of information available to it?’

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Payday loan hardship cases up 42%, says UK debt charity

BBC News reports:

cash loans sign‘The number of people struggling with payday loans has risen by 42% in the past year, according to a debt charity. The charity StepChange is asking the City regulator to take further action to protect consumers who suffer from such financial hardship.

It said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should impose an even stricter cap on payday loan costs. The FCA said it would study the idea, along with all the other responses to its current consultation.

StepChange’s latest figures suggest the number of people getting into difficulty as a result of payday loans is continuing to increase. In the first half of 2014 it dealt with 43,716 consumers who were in trouble. That compares with 30,762 in the same period last year.’

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U.S. and Allies Form Coalition Against ISIS

Helene Cooper reports for The New York Times:

‘The Obama administration said Friday that it had formed a coalition of countries to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, unveiling a military and political campaign that officials said could eventually serve as a model for fighting extremist groups around the world.

In a hastily organized meeting on the outskirts of the NATO summit meeting, diplomats and military officials from the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark huddled on what they called a two-pronged strategy: working to bolster allies fighting on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while the United States, alone so far, bombs Sunni militants from the air, so long as they are in Iraq.’

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Woman found beheaded in north London garden

Vikram Dodd and Peter Walker report for The Guardian:

 Victim Palmira Silva and the local familly cafe where she worked‘A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after an elderly woman was beheaded in broad daylight in a suburban back garden.

The victim, named by police as Palmira Silva, 82, was found at an address in Edmonton, north London, just after 1pm on Thursday.

Residents described scenes of terror and panic as the suspect, dressed in black, waved a machete-like weapon as he wandered screaming and shouting through private gardens.

Police said a man had run through back gardens armed with a weapon, with officers smashing windows to evacuate terrified residents. They risked their lives and distracted the man so he did not harm anyone else.

Armed officers were sent to the scene. The Metropolitan police said the 25-year-old man was cornered in a house, Tasered then arrested. One officer broke his wrist in the struggle.’

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Terror Mania in Britannia

Binoy Kampmark writes for CounterPunch:

‘Mischief in response to mischief may seem like sound arithmetic. But ethics, morality and political sensibility are not matters of mathematical calculation. The response to the beheading of US journalist James Foley by what may well have been a British radical fighter has seen a mix of hysteria and incoherence. It has seen Parliamentarians beats the drums of war. It has seen the Prime Minister, David Cameron, reach for the repressive law book.

This book involves seizing passports, imposing more control orders, and being particularly vigilant about particular Britons travelling out and into the country. Judges are getting ready to hand down convictions. But it also means keeping the British security forces busy by crowding various key sites wishing that a threat would materialise. Emergencies, even if unproved ones, tend to give more employment and urgency to the policing arm of government.

After a time, such regulatory frameworks become matters of dictation. There is no need for evidence. There is no need for an empirical framework, even if the tradition of verification is very much a British one. All the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has to claim is that there are dangers posed by Britons and foreign fighters engaged in hostilities in Syria and Iraq.’

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Disbelief as Tony Blair is handed ‘jaw-dropping’ philanthropist of the year title at GQ awards ceremony

Tamara Cohen and Jim Norton report for The Daily Mail:

‘Tony Blair was last night improbably named philanthropist of the year by a leading magazine. The former prime minister was handed the award to a ‘muted’ response at a celebrity-packed gathering in central London. It was in recognition of his ‘philanthropy, establishing three charities’.

GQ magazine’s decision drew immediate criticism, with Labour MP John Mann saying last night: ‘It sends the wrong message. This sort of award should go to an unsung hero who has given up their time for charity.’ Tory MP Charlie Elphicke pointed out that Mr Blair has advised Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, including on how to improve his image after his police killed 14 unarmed protesters. He said: ‘It is jaw dropping that he should be given this award given his involvement in spinning the alleged brutal massacre in Kazakhstan.’

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Mass Eviction Of London Homeless As Police Swoop In Anti-Begging Operation

Jack Sommers reports for The Huffington Post:

‘Police and immigration officials swooped on London’s homeless hotspots this morning in a clamp down on rough sleepers and beggars. Officers descended on popular sleeping points, including Marble Arch, at around 4am this morning in a joint operation with the UK Border Agency to target those in the country illegally.

Dubbed Operation Encompass, the officers and border officials “processed” 37 people and made scores more leave. Of the 37, there were 35 who were given “cease and desist” notices, one will be removed from the country and another agreed to return to Romania.’

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Boys & Their Toys: NATO military flights surprise over Cardiff and Newport

Gavin Thomas reports for BBC News:

Osprey MV-22 aircraft ‘A series of training flights by military helicopters and other aircraft ahead of the NATO summit startled residents in Newport and Cardiff on Monday. The elite US Marine Corps HMX-1 squadron, which provides air support to US Presidents, thundered over the cities, along with RAF Military helicopters and police air support.

Perhaps the most dramatic sight were the Osprey MV-22 aircraft, which can land and take off like a helicopter but then tilt their rotors to become conventional planes. The Ospreys, which visited both the Celtic Manor summit venue and Cardiff city centre, were accompanied by Sikorsky VH-60N helicopters, a VIP version of the US Blackhawk.’

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£50 million spent on a massive fence to protect politicians ahead of NATO Summit

Michael Krieger writes for Liberty Blitzkrieg:

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 11.35.16 AM‘Most of us woke up this morning to news that the UK had raised its terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe.” Considering the competence and trustworthiness of the nation’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, there must be some specific threat they’re concerned about to justify instilling fear in a population of 65 million. Nope.

Although the new threat level rates the risk of an attack on the UK to “highly likely,” Home Secretary Theresa May stated that “there was no evidence to suggest one was imminent.” Well then.

It makes you wonder if the the change in threat level is being used in part to justify the extraordinary $80 million [£50 million] sum spent on building a fortress around the Newport and Cardiff city centers in Wales, which many are describing as “similar to the Berlin Wall,” or a “zoo,” in an unprecedented display of protection for many of the world’s most corrupt politicians.’

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It’s socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest of us in Britain

Owen Jones writes for The Guardian:

UK Fears Triple-dip Recession.‘Socialism lives in Britain, but only for the rich: the rules of capitalism are for the rest of us. The ideology of the modern establishment, of course, abhors the state. The state is framed as an obstacle to innovation, a destroyer of initiative, a block that needs to be chipped away to allow free enterprise to flourish. “I think that smaller-scale governments, more freedom for business to exist and to operate – that is the right kind of direction for me,” says Simon Walker, the head of the Institute of Directors. For him, the state should be stripped to a “residual government functioning of maintaining law and order, enforcing contracts”. Mainstream politicians don’t generally talk in such stark terms, but when the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg demands “a liberal alternative to the discredited politics of big government”, the echo is evident.

And yet, when the financial system went into meltdown in 2008, it was not expected to stand on its own two feet, or to pull itself up by its bootstraps. Instead, it was saved by the state, becoming Britain’s most lavished benefit claimant. More than £1tn of public money was poured into the banks following the financial collapse. The emergency package came with few government-imposed conditions and with little calling to account. The urge to punish all bankers has gone far enough,” declared a piece in the Financial Times just six months after the crisis began. But if there was ever such an “urge” on the part of government, it was never acted on. In 2012, 2,714 British bankers were paid more than €1m – 12 times as many as any other EU country. When the EU unveiled proposals in 2012 to limit bonuses to either one or two years’ salary with the say-so of shareholders, there was fury in the City. Luckily, their friends in high office were there to rescue their bonuses: at the British taxpayers’ expense, the Treasury took to the European Court to challenge the proposals. The entire British government demonstrated, not for the first time, that it was one giant lobbying operation for the City of London. Between 2011 and 2013, bank lending fell in more than 80% of Britain’s 120 postcode areas, helping to stifle economic recovery. Banks may have been enjoying state aid on an unprecedented scale, but their bad behaviour just got worse – and yet they suffered no retribution.

Contrast this with the fate of the unemployed, including those thrown out of work as a result of the actions of bailed-out bankers. In the austerity programme that followed the financial crisis, state support for those at the bottom of society has been eroded. The support that remains is given withstringent conditions attached. “Benefit sanctions” are temporary suspensions of benefits, often for the most spurious or arbitrary reasons. According to the government’s figures, 860,000 benefit claimants were sanctioned between June 2012 and June 2013, a jump of 360,000 from a year earlier. According to the Trussell Trust, the biggest single provider of food banks, more than half of recipients were dependent on handouts owing to cuts or sanctions to their benefits.’

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Rotherham child abuse files deleted

The Telegraph reports:

‘Top ranking staff ordered raids to delete and remove case files and evidence detailing the scale of Rotherham’s child exploitation scandal, sources have revealed.

More than 10 years before the damning independent inquiry revealed sexual exploitation of 1,400 children in Rotherham a raid was carried out on the orders of senior staff to destroy evidence, it has been claimed.

In 2002 high profile personnel at Rotherham Council ordered a raid on Risky Business, Rotherham council’s specialist youth service, which offered one-to-one help and support to vulnerable teenage girls, ahead of the findings of a draft report, according to the Times.’

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Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan: UK a rogue state and a danger to the world

Mark Hirst writes for RIA Novosti:

Craig John Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan and former Rector of the University of Dundee, a British blogger, political activist.‘The United Kingdom as a rogue state and a danger to the world, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said. “The British Government is deeply, deeply immoral. They don’t care how many people they kill abroad if it advances them. Anybody who votes No [to Scottish independence] is voting to support a pathological state which is a danger in the world, a rogue state and a state prepared to go to war to make a few people wealthy,” Murray said in a speech made ahead of an historic vote on Scottish independence to be held in just three weeks.

He told an open public meeting in St Andrews that the actions he witnesses as a senior diplomat had changed his “world view” and said it was now “impossible to be proud of the United Kingdom.” [..] “I’ve seen things from the inside and the UK’s foreign interventions are almost always about resources. It is every bit as corrupt as others have indicated. It is not an academic construct, the system stinks,” a former British Ambassador said.’

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Britain facing ‘greatest terrorist threat’ in history, threat level raised to ‘severe’ (right before NATO summit)

The Telegraph reports:

‘Britain faces the “greatest and deepest” terror threat in the country’s history, David Cameron warned as he pledged emergency measures to tackle extremists.

The UK threat level was raised to “severe” — its second highest — meaning that a terrorist attack is “highly likely” in light of the growing danger from British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria… The raised alert will lead to an increase in the number of armed police on the streets, especially around landmark sites and airports.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, insisted that the move was not a result of any specific plot, but in light of the increasing dangers posed by British fanatics and other foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. The change also comes less than a week before a NATO summit in south Wales, which will be the biggest gathering of heads of state in the UK.’

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