Category Archives: UK

Save the Children staff furious over ‘global legacy’ award for Tony Blair

Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian:

Tony Blair at the Save the Children Illumination Gala in New York City‘The international charity Save the Children has been engulfed by a furious backlash from staff after it presented Tony Blair with a “global legacy award” in New York last week – despite privately acknowledging that he is a controversial and divisive figure.

Amid widespread criticism on social media, many of the charity’s staff have complained that the presentation of the award has discredited Save the Children (STC). An internal letter, which gathered almost 200 signatures – including senior regional staff – in the first six hours of dissemination, said the award was not only “morally reprehensible, but also endangers our credibility globally”, and called for it to be withdrawn.

It said that staff wished to distance themselves from the award and demanded a review of the charity’s decision-making process.’


U.S. and British Intel Agencies Attacked European Union With Malware

Morgan Marquis-Boire, Claudio Guarnieri, and Ryan Gallagher report for The Intercept:

‘Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.’


The Coming Blackout Epidemic

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

‘​Industrialized countries face a future of increasingly severe blackouts, a new study warns, due to the proliferation of extreme weather events, the transition to unconventional fossil fuels, and fragile national grids that cannot keep up with rocketing energy demand.

“We need a fundamental re-think about how electricity is generated and distributed and who controls this,” said lead author Prof Hugh Byrd of Lincoln University, a specialist in international energy policy and urban sustainability. “It is not in the interests of the privatized power industry to encourage less electricity consumption.”

Every year, millions of people around the world experience major electricity blackouts, but the country that has endured more blackouts than any other industrialized nation is the United States. Over the last decade, the number of power failures affecting over 50,000 Americans has more than doubled, according to federal data.’


The siege of Julian Assange is a farce

John Pilger writes:

Czu.jpg[…] Ny has never properly explained why she will not come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, the Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US before the European Arrest Warrant was issued.

Perhaps an explanation is that, contrary to its reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had been in Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.

The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up; and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables.’


Vodafone-Linked Company Aided British Mass Surveillance

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

They flow deep underneath the Atlantic Ocean and into the United Kingdom below the golden sands of idyllic beaches. But the internet cables that come ashore at the coast of Cornwall, England, are not just used to connect the country with the rest of the world.

According to new reports based on documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the cables have become an integral part of the global mass surveillance system operated by the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, intimately assisted by a company now owned by Vodafone, the world’s third largest cellphone network provider.

The latest details about the extent of the spying were revealed on Thursday by the British Channel 4 News, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung,and the German broadcaster WDR, who worked in partnership with Intercept founding editor Laura Poitras.’


Police face legal action for snooping on journalists

Rob Evans reports for The Guardian:

New Scotland Yard signA group of journalists has launched a legal action against Scotland Yard after discovering that the Metropolitan police has been recording their professional activities on a secret database designed to monitor so-called domestic extremists.

The six journalists have obtained official files that reveal how police logged details of their work as they reported on protests. One video journalist discovered that the Met police had more than 130 entries detailing his movements, including what he was wearing, at demonstrations he attended as a member of the press.

They have started the legal action to expose what they say is a persistent pattern of journalists being assaulted, monitored and stopped and searched by police during their work, which often includes documenting police misconduct.

In legal paperwork, the journalists who have worked for national newspapers describe how they have regularly exposed malpractice by the state and big corporations and have campaigned for press freedom.’


Emotional abuse ‘set to become a criminal offence’

Channel 4 News reports:

Emotional abuseThe new law on domestic violence would make it illegal for someone to exercise ‘coercive control’ over their partner.

The proposals, which could find those guilty facing a maximum 14 years in prison, will be unveiled by the Government this week.

Campaigners have long called for a change in the law to put psychological exploitation on a par with physical violence, in the hope it will encourage more victims to come forward and report abuse in the home.’


Media ‘gagged over bid to report MP child sex cases’

Daniel Boffey reports for The Observer:

The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.

The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

Officials running the D-notice system, which works closely with MI5 and MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, said that files “going back beyond 20 years are not complete because files are reviewed and correspondence of a routine nature with no historical significance destroyed”.’


Prince Harry ‘banging the drum for UK plc’ in Oman

‘Prince Harry is visiting Oman today, led by arguably the world’s longest surviving dictator, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said. He has been lauded for creative diplomacy, maintaining ties with countries NATO opposes like China, Russia and Iran. But as the former Media Manager to Prince Charles, Dickie Arbiter, pointed out on this show, the government have ulterior motives for sending the Royals to a country. Harry will be ‘banging the drum for UK plc.’ not far from the UAE, which is currently fighting a proxy war in Libya against Qatar. And UAE’s allies, Bahrain, are accused by Amnesty International of using the threat of rape of children to extort confessions.’ (Going Underground)

Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

A man walks past a television monitor showing a drop in Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng IndexAnother crash is coming. We all know it, now even David Cameron acknowledges it. The only questions are what the immediate catalyst will be, and when it begins.

You can take your pick. The Financial Times reported yesterday that China now resembles the US in 2007. Domestic bank loans have risen 40% since 2008, while “the ability to repay that debt has deteriorated dramatically”. Property prices are falling and the companies that run China’s shadow banking system provide “virtually no disclosure” of their liabilities. Just two days ago the G20 leaders announced that growth in China “is robust and is becoming more sustainable”. You can judge the value of their assurances for yourself.

Housing bubbles in several countries, including Britain, could pop any time. A report in September revealed that total world debt (public and private) is 212% of GDP. In 2008, when it helped cause the last crash, it stood at 174%. The Telegraph notes that this threatens to cause “renewed financial crisis … and eventual mass default”. Shadow banking has gone beserk, stocks appear to be wildly overvalued, the eurozone is bust again. Which will blow first?

Or perhaps it’s inaccurate to describe this as another crash. Perhaps it’s a continuation of the last one, the latest phase in a permanent cycle of crisis exacerbated by the measures (credit bubbles, deregulation, the curtailment of state spending) that were supposed to deliver uninterrupted growth. The system the world’s governments have sought to stabilise is inherently unstable; built on debt, fuelled by speculation, run by sharks.’


Tony Blair’s Murky Millions

How many Tories defecting to UKIP does it take for people to realise that they’re just another Tory party?

At the end of September, Another Angry Voice wrote a piece on the twelve most significant Tories to defect to UKIP and points out that:

  • UKIP is 90% bankrolled by ex-Tory donors
  • Their leader Nigel Farage is an ex-Tory activist from an establishment background
  • The whole party is completely riddled with failed, disgraced and defected Tories.


How the coalition government has helped the rich by hitting the poor

Daniel Boffey reports for The Observer:

George Osborne's claim that 'we are all in this together' in economic terms is damaged by the findin‘A landmark study of the coalition’s tax and welfare policies six months before the general election reveals how money has been transferred from the poorest to the better off, apparently refuting the chancellor of the exchequer’s claims that the country has been “all in it together”.

According to independent research to be published on Monday and seen by the Observer, George Osborne has been engaged in a significant transfer of income from the least well-off half of the population to the more affluent in the past four years. Those with the lowest incomes have been hit hardest.’


How the House of Lords Mixes Politics and Business

Justin Scheck and Charles Forelle report for The Wall Street Journal:

[…] For centuries, the upper chamber of the British Parliament was filled largely by the landed gentry. But in 1999, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair ’s government replaced most of the hereditary lords with business people, civic leaders and politicians appointed for life.

Mr. Blair said the shift would “end the feudal domination of one half of our legislature.” Opponents said he was turning the House of Lords into a den of patronage—a “House of Cronies” to be occupied by a lord of “Lobbygate” and lord of “Offshore Funds,” said then-Conservative Party leader William Hague.

In the 15 years since, the House of Lords has struggled with the boundaries between public and private service. A code of conduct meant to separate the two has repeatedly been altered.’


Britain has sold its soul with the Qatari deal

Editor’s Note: Britain sold its soul a long time ago, the Qatari deal is just business as usual.

Andrew Gilligan writes for The Telegraph:

Under scrutiny: Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani joined the Queen and Lord Vestey in the Royal Procession at Ascot[…] This is Qatar, the country with which David Cameron has just signed a defence and security agreement. Did the deal, perhaps, include a promise by the Qataris to stop this sort of behaviour [hosting terror financiers]? Did it commit Qatar to end its support for the Islamist militias who have helped reduce Libya to anarchy, or to kick out the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood? It did not.

In fact, it was Britain that made the concessions, committing to share its classified intelligence and expertise with the Qatari state, and agreeing to work more closely with its security forces. We were told that Mr Cameron would talk tough at his meeting with the Emir of Qatar last week. Instead, he seems to have spent much of his time asking for money.

In the words of the Downing Street statement, he “encouraged the Emir to consider more opportunities across [Britain], particularly the Government’s plan to establish a Northern powerhouse by connecting our great northern cities and the development of high-speed rail”. The trinket offered to us is that if we are sufficiently nice to them, the Qataris will buy some of our weapons.’


The story of the millionaire Tory MP and the tenants facing homelessness

Aditya Chakrabortty writes for The Guardian:

Richard Benyon Official.jpgLyndsey Garratt had never heard of Richard Benyon – until he wound up buying her home and those of her 92 neighbours. Now that the millionaire Tory MP and his business partners threaten to make them all homeless, the 35-year-old mother can’t stop talking about him.

Garratt lives on the fringes of the City of London, on the New Era estate. Built by a charitable trust in the mid-1930s, the redbrick square has provided homes to local working people at affordable rents. There was a time when the term “affordable housing” was not a sick joke, when inner London did house people on moderate incomes. But now the capital has become a global hotspot for property speculators; Hoxton is overrun with overpriced burger joints and media start-up companies, and New Era is one of the last estates to provide working-class Londoners with a home.

At least it was until Benyon’s family firm recently moved in as part of a property consortium and snapped up the lot.’


Food ban at ATP tennis tour finals over ‘terror fears’

Chris Ellis reports for BBC News:

O2 ArenaSandwiches and sweets were confiscated from tennis fans attending matches at the O2 Arena because of the UK’s raised terror threat, organisers have claimed.

Ticket holders attending the ATP World Tour Finals said they were “shocked and disappointed” to have their snacks and drinks taken by security upon arrival.

Some fans claimed the reason was that the venue’s food outlets were not making enough money.

Organisers said fans were told about the “security measures” beforehand.’


David Cameron attacked by sexual abuse victims after calling claims of Home Office cover-up a ‘conspiracy theory’

James Slack and Damein Gayle report for The Daily Mail:

‘Campaigners for survivors of child sexual abuse have savaged David Cameron after he called claims of a Home Office paedophile cover-up a ‘conspiracy theory’.

Referring to the findings of a review into allegations of a VIP paedophile ring, the Prime Minister said on the campaign trail in Rochester that ‘conspiracy theorists’ would have to ‘look elsewhere’.

Last night the author of that review flatly called Mr Cameron’s comments ‘wrong’, while the National Association for People Abused in Childhood said his intervention was ‘appalling’.

It seemed to directly contradict an extraordinary admission by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, that there ‘might have been a cover-up’ of an Establishment paedophile ring by her department in the 1980s.’


Chinese firm’s human rights record “wasn’t relevant”, says Mayor of London after a £1bn property deal

The Rise of Europe’s Far-Right: Interview with John Weeks

Editor’s Note: John Weeks is a professor emeritus of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. He is author of ‘The Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy’.

The diplomat who said ‘No’ to Saudi oil

From BBC News:

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud (5-R) in Paris in March 1939 ‘[…] Oliphant was no fool. In a glittering career at the Foreign Office he guided British relations with Persia and Arabia for more than 30 years, rising to a wartime ambassadorship. His stance, though possibly over-cautious and imbued with colonial high-handedness, made perfect sense at the time.

So his emotions at the news of 31 May, that American prospectors had struck oil in Bahrain – off the Saudi coast – just two weeks after he had sent the Saudis packing, can only be imagined.

Within a year Ibn Saud handed the concession to search for Saudi oil to an American consortium – and in 1938 they discovered the world’s largest reserves of crude. Saudi Arabia was “a little-known country” no longer, and the US had begun supplanting British power in the Gulf.’


Tony Blair’s secret deal with Saudi Arabia

Jon Stevens reports for The Daily Mail:

‘Tony Blair has amassed a personal fortune since standing down as prime minister – often acting as an adviser to controversial businesses and regimes.

But yesterday the hefty fees he charges to act as a go-between were revealed.

A previously secret contract with a Saudi oil company headed by a member of the country’s royal family has been leaked showing Mr Blair charging £41,000 a month and 2 per cent commission on any of the multi-million-pound deals he helped broker.

The emergence of the Saudi deal led to new criticism of Mr Blair’s role as a Middle East envoy, but he strongly denied there is a conflict of interest.’


No justice in sight for Iraqi victims of alleged murder, rape, and torture at hands of British troops

Jonathan Owen reports for The Independent:

‘Victims and families of those allegedly murdered, raped or tortured by British soldiers in Iraq could be forced to wait decades before the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) completes its work, despite officials admitting that some cases could amount to “war crimes”.

The investigation team is understaffed, several years behind schedule, and will miss its target of completing its investigations by 2016, according to documents seen by The Independent on Sunday. Based on the current rate of progress, it would take almost 50 years for it to complete the cases on its books. And lawyers claim the interviewing process alone will take 18 years.

Britain is facing increasing scrutiny over alleged war crimes in Iraq – a delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) visited Ihat in June this year. This follows a dossier of allegations by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which prompted the ICC to begin a preliminary investigation into claims of war crimes.’


Remembrance isn’t only about those who fought, but also those who refused

RAF Veteran Harry Leslie Smith writes for The Guardian:

‘As an RAF veteran of the second world war I know that November is a cruel month for both remembering and forgetting the cost of armed conflict. During these past few days when the light grows dim, I have stumbled around London and remembered a time when, as a young man, I witnessed our capital face death from swarms of Nazi bomber planes.

In this day and age we like to impose uniformity on our past conflicts. We see them through a nostalgic lens of wartime propaganda films in which the hero gladly sacrifices his life for a green and pleasant land. But the past is not as simple or as clear-cut as our TV presenters like to suggest during Remembrance Sunday services. For every act of unique heroism we remember, we often forget or ignore all those who, because of post-traumatic stress disorder or moral or religious objections, were unwilling to put their lives on the line for king and country.’


How our governments use military charities to evade the real cost of their wars

Sam Walton writes for Ceasefire Magazine:

The names of 600,000 soldiers are engraved in alphabetical order at the The Ring of Memory international memorial, in Notre Dame de Lorette, France. (Credits: AFP)Say one thing about the British public, we will fill collecting tins for armed forces personnel. The Charities Directory lists 276 army, 188 Royal Marines and Navy, 70 RAF and 90 ex-services (military) charities in the UK, and those numbers are growing every year. The Royal British Legion is by far the biggest in terms of income, with over £100m in turnover, and shares the biggest profile with ‘Help for Heroes’. Almost all of these charities have come into existence since 1999, the majority in the past decade.

However, is the government avoiding the full cost of going to war by getting these charities to take care of soldiers after their return? If a fire-fighter, nurse or other government employee was killed or seriously injured in an industrial accident at work, the government would assume responsibility, rehabilitation and care would be provided and compensation would be paid. Surely, if a national decision is made to go to war then care for the people thrust into that war must be something that the government takes responsibility for.

Looking into some of the service personnel relief charities, their relationship to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) certainly raise some questions.’


Robots Could Eliminate 11 Million UK Jobs By 2034

Michael Rundle reports for The Huffington Post:

‘Robots and automated computers could replace one in three British jobs within 20 years, according to a major new study.

The prospect of widespread industrial disruption by automated systems has been known for some time – the Oxford Martin School reported last year that up to 50% of all jobs could be at risk.

But the new report makes clear for the first time how the UK specifically could be affected. And it’s not good news. Around 10.8 million jobs – one in three of the UK workforce – could be at risk, according to Deloitte and the Oxford Martin school.


Number’s up for “Big Four” accountants behind tax avoidance and wilful blindness to fraud

Professor Prem Sikka writes for This Is Money:

‘The UK is drowning in a tide of greed and complacency, not least among wealthy, educated people occupying city offices.

Examples of this can be found amongst the big four accountancy firms: Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG, which audit 99 per cent of FTSE 100 and 96 per cent of FTSE 250 companies.

Their global income is around £75billion, of which £25billion comes from tax advice.

They have escaped retribution for their role in tax avoidance and duff audits of banks, some would say because they are ‘too big to close’ and wield enormous political power.

The UK’s tax revenues are under attack from major corporations that use ingenious schemes to dodge taxes.

Behind the headlines is a tax avoidance industry often involving the big four firms.’


‘Streets safer’ after Afghan mission, says Britain’s top military officer

BBC News reports:

The UK’s top military officer says the “streets of the United Kingdom are safer” because of the Afghan mission.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton said the “prime strategic purpose” of having troops in the country had been achieved.

“In the last 13/14 years there has not been a single international terrorist attack launched from Afghanistan,” he said.

Britain’s 13-year war in Afghanistan ended last month.

More than 450 UK troops died during the conflict, and as the final UK forces left the country, BBC polls found that 68% of people in the UK said involvement had not been worthwhile for the country.’


TTIP: The British government is leading a gunpowder plot against democracy

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

‘[…] The central problem is what the negotiators call investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The treaty would allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.

Already, thanks to the insertion of ISDS into much smaller trade treaties, big business is engaged in an orgy of litigation, whose purpose is to strike down any law that might impinge on its anticipated future profits. The tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing governments in Uruguay and Australia for trying to discourage people from smoking. The oil firm Occidental was awarded $2.3bn in compensation from Ecuador, which terminated the company’s drilling concession in the Amazon after finding that Occidental had broken Ecuadorean law. The Swedish company Vattenfall is suing the German government for shutting down nuclear power. An Australian firm is suing El Salvador’s government for $300m for refusing permission for a goldmine over concerns it would poison the drinking water.

The same mechanism, under TTIP, could be used to prevent UK governments from reversing the privatisation of the railways and the NHS, or from defending public health and the natural world against corporate greed. The corporate lawyers who sit on these panels are beholden only to the companies whose cases they adjudicate, who at other times are their employers.’


Eric Pickles uses powers to take over running of ‘rotten borough’ Tower Hamlets

Joe Murphy reports for the London Evening Standard:

‘A takeover squad was ordered to run Tower Hamlets today [Nov 4th] after a bombshell report found the council flouted spending rules over millions of pounds in grants and property sales.

Cabinet minister Eric Pickles branded it a “rotten borough” and told MPs there was evidence of “cronyism” and a risk of “corruption”.

In a blow to controversial mayor Lutfur Rahman, who seized control in 2010, a three-man team of commissioners will move into his headquarters. The commissioners will take over the power to give grants and must approve property sales and senior council officer appointments or suspensions.’