Category Archives: UK

Work less, play more

Lucy Purdy writes for Positive News:

Time is perhaps the most precious commodity of all. While we can buy more possessions and work new jobs, we can never make more time or recapture what has already been spent. But considering how much work dominates our lives, we question concepts around working and time relatively little.

While paid employment can provide security, for many, jobs are a means of putting “food on the table” within a work culture that feels more enslaving than natural or joyful. But now there is growing recognition that traditional working patterns no longer serve us. More and more people are searching for freedom from bosses, wages, commuting and consuming, seeking instead the lives we truly want to lead.’

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Cassetteboy: Emperor’s New Clothes Rap

Interview with Francis Beckett, co-author of ‘Blair Inc: the Man Behind the Mask’

‘Francis Beckett, one of the co-authors of Blair Inc: the Man Behind the Mask, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about former PM.’ (Going Underground)

Tony Blair Is Terrible at Promoting Human Rights, Great at Enriching Himself

Murtaza Hussein writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Tony Blair Is Terrible at Promoting Human Rights, Great at Enriching Himself[…] After almost a decade as envoy, it’s hard to see anything Blair has done to bring Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace. The two parties are farther apart than ever by most accounts, with Israeli leaders publicly disavowing the “two-state solution” the Quartet on the Middle East was created to bring about. During Blair’s tenure, a Palestinian official described the group as “useless, useless, useless.” A Brookings Institution report concluded that “the Quartet’s role was usually relegated to that of a political bystander.”

But although he failed to broker peace, Blair did manage during his time as special envoy to transform himself into a well-paid and outspoken apologist for some of the most brutal autocracies in the world. The former prime minister, who once positioned himself as a principled supporter of democracy, even famously waging a war to bring democracy to Iraq, now leads a consulting firm that has reportedly received tens of millions of dollars doing advisory work for dictatorial governments in the Middle East and Central Asia.’

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US Threatened Germany Over Snowden, Vice Chancellor Says

Featured photo - US Threatened Germany Over Snowden, Vice Chancellor Says‘German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (above) said this week in Homburg that the U.S. government threatened to cease sharing intelligence with Germany if Berlin offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden or otherwise arranged for him to travel to that country. “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” Gabriel said.

The vice chancellor delivered a speech in which he praised the journalists who worked on the Snowden archive, and then lamented the fact that Snowden was forced to seek refuge in “Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Russia” because no other nation was willing and able to protect him from threats of imprisonment by the U.S. government (I was present at the event to receive an award). That prompted an audience member to interrupt his speech and yell out: “Why don’t you bring him to Germany, then?”’

 

The psychology of mass government surveillance: How do the public respond and is it changing our behaviour?

Chris Chambers reports for The Guardian:

Amnesty International has today reported the outcome of a Yougov survey in 15,000 people across 13 countries, studying for the first time international views of mass surveillance and whether the public believe it is changing their own behaviour.

[…] Just how accepting are people of surveillance in the first place? In short, not very. Across all 13 countries, there was no majority support for surveillance – only 26% of people, overall, agreed that the government should monitor the communications and Internet activity of its own citizens, while a similar number (29%) felt their government should monitor overseas citizens. Only 17% of respondents believed their government should monitor everybody – citizens, foreign nationals, and foreign countries – while twice as many (34%) believed their government should never monitor any of these groups.’

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UK shift to China and AIIB “extremely worrying for Washington” – Interview with Liam Halligan

‘Liam Halligan, editor at large of Business New Europe and Telegraph columnist, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He explains it is a rival to not only the IMF but also to the Asia Development Bank, which is Japanese-led. This is extremely threatening to the US as the BRIC countries wield a massive amount of power. There is a difference in the way that America and Britain see China, with the UK seeing them as a trading partner rather than a challenge. It is a symbolic move for Britain to back the AIIB, taking a step away from Washington towards a current that the US sees as a ‘major irritant.’ And he feels there is a growing argument that Britain’s future lies not in the West, with a failing Eurozone, but in a thriving Asian economy.’ (Going Underground)

Report: Tony Blair to resign as Middle East peace envoy

Haaretz and JTA report:

Tony BlairTony Blair is preparing to resign his position as a peace envoy to the Middle East, a report said on Sunday.

According to the Financial Times, the announcement of the former British prime minister’s resignation from his role as the Middle East Quartet’s special envoy will possibly be made this week.

On Saturday, the former British prime minister reportedly met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the Red Sea resort city Sharm el-Sheik to discuss a job change, according to the newspaper. Blair also spoke with UN foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Blair is currently negotiating over a “recast” of his position in the group, sources told the Times, adding that Blair intends to remain involved in the Middle East peace process.’

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British government report concludes Muslim Brotherhood should not be classified as a terrorist organisation

SEE ALSO: British PM Cameron pulls Muslim Brotherhood report

Nigel Morris and Ian Johnston report for The Independent:

‘David Cameron is braced for a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and Egypt when the Government today publishes a long-awaited review into the Muslim Brotherhood which is set to clear it of being a terrorist organisation.

He ordered the “urgent investigation” into the Islamist movement almost a year ago, but the release of its conclusions has been repeatedly delayed amid wrangling between ministers and officials over its findings.

The Prime Minister has been accused of setting up the review under pressure from the Saudi ruling family, which was strongly opposed to the organisation under the late king, although his predecessor Salman appears to favour softening this stance.’

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Data and Goliath: Bruce Schneier on the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

‘Leading security and privacy researcher Bruce Schneier talks about about the golden age of surveillance and his new book, “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.” The book chronicles how governments and corporation have built an unprecedented surveillance state. While the leaks of Edward Snowden have shed light on the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, less attention has been paid to other forms of everyday surveillance — license plate readers, facial recognition software, GPS tracking, cellphone metadata and data mining.’ (Democracy Now!)

ECHELON – CBS 60 Minutes report from February 27, 2000

ISC Report: UK Citizens Must Give Up Right To Privacy Because ‘Terrorism’, Reveals Huge Secret Gov’t Databases

Glynn Moody writes for Techdirt:

GCHQ composite[…] The heart of the report’s failure can be found in its discussion of bulk surveillance:

Our Inquiry has shown that the Agencies do not have the legal authority, the resources, the technical capability, or the desire to intercept every communication of British citizens, or of the internet as a whole: GCHQ are not reading the emails of everyone in the UK.

But of course, nobody said GCHQ was doing that. The problem is that it is ingesting disproportionate quantities of the Internet’s traffic passing into and out of the UK, and then analyzing it — in other words, engaging in indiscriminate mass surveillance. The report pretends to address that issue, writing:

GCHQ’s bulk interception systems operate on a very small percentage of the bearers that make up the internet.

A “bearer” refers to one of the main connections to the Internet — typically fiber-optic cables capable of carrying many gigabits of information per second. The issue is not how many such bearers GCHQ taps, but which ones. One of Snowden’s earliest and most important leaked documents suggests that spying on even a “very small percentage” of the bearers gives GCHQ almost total oversight of everyone’s Internet activities.’

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Could GCHQ soon have access to India’s phone network?

The Orwellian Re-Branding of “Mass Surveillance” as Merely “Bulk Collection”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.

This manipulative language distortion can be seen perfectly in yesterday’s white-washing report of GCHQ mass surveillance from the servile rubber-stamp calling itself “The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC)”(see this great Guardian Editorial this morning on what a “slumbering” joke that “oversight” body is). As Committee Member MP Hazel Blears explained yesterday (photo above), the Parliamentary Committee officially invoked this euphemism to justify the collection of billions of electronic communications events every day.

The Committee actually acknowledged for the first time (which Snowden documents log ago proved) that GCHQ maintains what it calls “Bulk Personal Datasets” that contain “millions of records,” and even said about pro-privacy witnesses who testified before it: “we recognise their concerns as to the intrusive nature of bulk collection.” That is the very definition of “mass surveillance,” yet the Committee simply re-labelled it “bulk collection,” purported to distinguish it from “mass surveillance,” and thus insist that it was all perfectly legal.’

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Super-jails are the inhumane mark of ignorant politicians

Nick Cohen writes for The Guardian:

HMP Oakwood‘The dishonesty of official crime policy cuts two ways. The authorities are treating men, women and, to their disgrace, children with deliberate cruelty. They are stuffing them into ever larger “super-prisons”, run by negligent private punishment corporations and dominated by criminal gangs. You cannot rehabilitate offenders in these anonymous warehouses, and the state’s promise to prisoners that it will try to divert them from a life of crime is nothing more than a pious lie.

The government’s deception of the public is as great. If David Cameron were an honest man – my fantasy, I know, but indulge me – he would say: “We want to cram offenders into super-prisons because it saves money. We know we’re not just putting them at risk, but the public, too. After the prison riots of 1990, Lord Justice Woolf’s inquiry said Britain needed small local prisons, so that wives and girlfriends could visit inmates, and keep their relationships going.’

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Phone hacking ‘rife’ at Mirror Group Newspapers

BBC News reports:

Mirror Group Newspapers‘Phone hacking was “rife” at Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) from 1999 to 2006, a court has heard.

Counsel David Sherborne said the hacking was on an industrial scale and far larger than that which took place at the News of the World.

He said that journalists at the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People hacked phones on a daily basis.

The hearing at the High Court in London is considering cases brought by eight high-profile figures.’

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Britain’s Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] That RT is “biased” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far at all. It is expressly funded by the Russian government to present a Russian viewpoint of the world. But all media outlets composed of and run by human beings are “biased,” and that certainly includes the leading British outlets, which rail against Russia (and every other perceived adversary of the West) at least as much as RT defends it.

All of this underscores the propagandistic purpose of touting “media objectivity” versus “bias.” The former simply does not exist. Revealingly, it is British journalists themselves who are most vocal in demanding that Her Majesty’s Government bar RT from broadcasting on “bias” grounds: fathom how authoritarian a society must be if it gets its journalists to play the leading role in demanding that the state ban (or imprison) journalists it dislikes. So notably, the most vocal among the anti-RT crowd on the ground that it spreads lies and propaganda — such as Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm — were also the most aggressive peddlers of the pro-U.K.-government conspiracy theories and lies that led to the Iraq War.

That people like this, with their histories of pro-government propaganda, are the ones demanding punishment of RT for “bias” tells you all you need to know about what is really at play here. What’s really driving this is illustrated by the edict issued today by one of the High Priests of U.S. Foreign Policy, Brookings President and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All our mainstream media is tied into corporate interests: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

Nafeez Ahmed, former Guardian contributor and currently crowdfunding Insurge, a new media platform, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the paper.’ (Going Underground)

The Power of the ISIS PR Stunt: Unmasking of ‘Jihadi John’ Confirms His PR Value

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

The self-proclaimed “Islamic State” likes to dominate the news agenda and knows how to do so. It also likes to project power at moments of weakness. Thus most of the world knows that Isis burned a Jordanian pilot to death in a cage but few recall that at the same time the movement was losing the battle for the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. A motto occasionally seen on Isis social media reads: “Media is half jihad.”

The choice by Isis of “Jihadi John” – Mohammed Emwazi – as its English-speaking executioner has everything to do with media impact and the reaction to his apparent unmasking shows that this simple PR ploy is very effective. Similar attention-grabbing stunts in the past include the demand for a $200m ransom for two Japanese hostages (if the demand had been a more prosaic $2m would media interest have been so intent?) and the burning of the Jordanian pilot because decapitation had lost its shock impact.’

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The circus: How British intelligence primed both sides of the ‘terror war’

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

‘Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.

A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, but which has since proscription repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.

Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.’

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Is Political Correctness Hampering ‘Free Speech’ In UK Universities?

Peter Oborne on HSBC and leaving the Telegraph

Why I resigned from the Telegraph: Interview with Peter Oborne

Winston Churchill: The Imperial Monster

Michael Dickinson wrote in late January for CounterPunch:

churchillThis week Britain is commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Millions of people worldwide watched his state funeral on television in 1965, and thousands of people lined the streets of London to pay their last respects as his cortege slowly passed. But I somehow doubt that President Obama will be adding his own warm words of remembrance for the iconic British wartime leader.

After all, his own paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of 150.000 rebellious Kikuyu “blackamoors” forced into detention camps during Churchill’s postwar premiership, when the British governnment began its brutal campaign to suppress the alleged “Mau Mau” uprising in Kenya, in order to protect the privileges of the white settler population at the expense of the indigenous people. About 11,000 Kenyans were killed and 81,000 detained during the British government’s campaign to protect its imperialist heritage.

Suspected Mau Mau insurgents were subject to electric shock, whippings, burning and mutilation in order to crush the local drive for independence. Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured for resisting Churchill’s empire. He never truly recovered from the ordeal.’

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10 things the GCHQ-NSA privacy ruling means for you

Paul Bernal writes for Tech Radar:

10 things the GCHQ NSA privacy ruling means for youOn 6th February 2015, in an unprecedented ruling, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that for a period of seven years the UK’s intelligence services had been acting unlawfully in accessing communications collected by the NSA.

It was unprecedented in that it was the first time since the IPT was formed fifteen years ago that it had ruled against the intelligence services. As it is the only court tribunal that is empowered to investigate into the intelligence services (MI5, MI6 and GCHQ) this is a ruling that is very significant. Though, particularly as the ruling only applies to past activities of GCHQ, it may not be quite as monumental as some reports have suggested.

Nonetheless, it does matter, and there are some significant things that should be noted about it.’

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Preventing dissent: How Britain’s new police state will radicalise us all

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

View this content on Medium's websiteIn the UK, an insidious secret network of violent extremists is plotting to subvert democracy. The members of this network detest our way of life, and hate our freedoms. Walking amongst us, this dangerous fifth column is exploiting the very laws we hold dear to campaign for the establishment of an extremist, totalitarian state that would police every aspect of our lives based on a fanatical ideology that is devoid of reason.

No, the ‘Islamic State’ is not about to conquer Great Britain. But the neocons in government and industry who profit from fear might well be.

In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.

Today [Feb 13th], the British government’s controversial Counter Terrorism and Security (CTS) Bill received Royal Assent, after having been passed by the House of Commons on 10th February with minor amendments.’

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Crime chief says Met’s £33m investigation of journalists is “utter nonsense”

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

A police and crime commissioner has described the Metropolitan Police’s four-year £33m investigation into journalists as “utter nonsense” and declared that it is time to stop the “witch hunt”.

Former Met Police commander Kevin Hurley was elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey in 2012.

Figures released to Press Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that the Met has spent £33.5m up to the end of September 2014 investigations allegations journalists have paid-off public officials and engaged in voicemail and computer-hacking.

Hurley said that with police resources under pressure, it was time stop these ongoing investigations and focus on tackling violent crime and serious fraud.’

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The coming online privacy revolution

Jamie Bartlett has an extract featured from his new book, ‘Orwell vs The Terrorists’ over at Index on Censorship:

Extract from Orwell vs the Terrorists by Jamie Bartlett.Motivated by an honourable desire to protect online freedom and privacy, hundreds of computer scientists and internet specialists are working on ingenious ways of keeping online secrets, preventing censorship, and fighting against centralised control. A veritable army motivated by a desire for privacy and freedom, trying to wrestle back control for ordinary people. This is where the long-term effects will be felt.

Soon there will be a new generation of easy-to-use, auto-encryption internet services. Services such as MailPile, and Dark Mail – email services where everything is automatically encrypted. Then there’s the Blackphone – a smart phone that encrypts and hides everything you’re doing. There are dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of new bits of software and hardware like this that cover your tracks, being developed as you read this – and mainly by activists motivated not by profit, but by privacy. Within a decade or so I think they will be slick and secure, and you won’t need to be a computer specialist to work out how they work. We’ll all be using them.’

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Bomber Harris: “I would have destroyed Dresden again”

From The Daily Mail in 2013:

Reduced to rubble: The 'blanket bombing' of Dresden was widely criticised as civilian areas were hit as well as military targetsThe RAF commander who ordered the controversial fire-bombing of Dresden which killed an estimated 25,000 civilians during World War II said he would do it again in a long lost interview filmed 30 years after the end of the conflict.

Former marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, gave the green light for the 1945 bombing which reduced the city in Saxony, Germany, to rubble.

The attack was widely criticised because of ‘blanket bombing’ which hit civilian areas as well as military targets – killing thousands of innocents.

But the newly-discovered interview with Sir Arthur, which was filmed in 1977 and will be aired for the first time on the BBC tonight, shows the RAF chief defending his decision.’

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Former GCHQ legal director: Journalists’ communications not considered in RIPA drafting

Melanie Newman reports for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

GCHQ’s former legal director admitted tonight that journalists’ communications with their sources were barely considered when the RIPA snooping law governing how the police and intelligence services can intercept communications data was drafted.

Michael Drury, who was GCHQ’s director of legal affairs between 1996 and 2010, was partly responsible for drafting the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and was heavily involved in lobbying government over the law.

Speaking at an Oxford University seminar on interception and the law in the digital age, Drury said that at the time attention had been focused on privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, rather than the right to freedom of expression under Article 10, which ensures journalists are free to do their job.’

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