Category Archives: UK

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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The Disunited States of Europe

Vivienne Walt writes for Fortune:

‘[...] The intense nervousness over how the Scots might vote extends far beyond the territory’s rugged mountains. Many in Europe fear that Scotland’s independence fervor could ripple across the continent, where a number of separatist campaigns have simmered for years. The hotspots range from the mountainous Basque region at the border of Spain and France to the Mediterranean island of Corsica to the lowlands of Belgium, where many in the Flemish majority want to say tot ziens to their French-speaking countrymen. Some of these movements have a history of violence; several more seem merely rhetorical—and, well, quixotic (independent Venice?). But taken together, the sovereignty pushes are yet another reminder of how tenuous the notion of one cohesive “European Union” truly is.’

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BT alleged to have supplied high-speed fibre-optic cable to aid US drone strikes

Juliette Garside reports for The Guardian:

domestic high speed fibre optic network in close up‘The government has been asked to investigate whether BT is aiding drone strikes with a specially built military internet cable connecting US air force facilities in Northamptonshire to a base for unmanned craft in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

Evidence is mounting that the $23m (£13m) fibre-optic circuit built by BT in 2012 was installed to facilitate air strikes in Yemen and Somalia by US air force drones, according to a complaint filed by the human rights group Reprieve.

The circuit runs from RAF Croughton, a base where US air force personnel staff a command, control, communications and computer support hub for global operations organised by the US military.’

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Study concludes that Britain is “deeply elitist” with a “closed shop at the top”

Andrew Sparrow reports for The Guardian:

An establishment acrostic‘Britain is “deeply elitist” because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a “closed shop at the top”, according to a government report published on Thursday.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering'”.

[...] The commission’s 76-page report mostly focuses on analysis, but it does include recommendations, saying government, schools, universities, employers and even parents all need to play their part in promoting social diversity.

Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.’

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Cardiff turned into high security ‘prison’ with 10 mile ‘ring of steel’ ahead of NATO conference

From The Daily Mail:

‘Cardiff city centre has been turned into a high security ‘prison’ with 10 miles of fencing – which is being dubbed the ‘ring of steel’ – ahead of the Nato conference next week. Police have erected the nine feet high security fencing around Celtic Manor resort in Newport where Barack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders will meet in Wales on September 4 and 5, as well as the city centre. It comes as former foreign office minister, Kim Howells, issued fears that home grown Islamic State terrorists could be planning to attack the 2014 summit.’

Cardiff city centre resembles a high security ¿prison¿ with its 10 miles of fencing - dubbed the ¿ring of steel¿ - put up ahead of the Nato conference in Wales next week

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Tens Of Thousands Of UK Residents Being Needlessly Jailed

British Home Secretary introduces new restrictions on stop and search powers

The Telegraph reports:

‘Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has unveiled a series of measures which will scale back the way police can stop and search suspects. Tougher thresholds will mean officers in England and Wales are able to use the most controversial form of stop and search powers much less frequently.

Another new measure will make it compulsory for police to record whether or not a stop and search led to anyone being arrested. More than 20 police forces have agreed to implement the restrictions immediately after Mrs May failed to persuade Downing Street of the need for compulsory reforms.’

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Women need protection from undercover officers

Owen Jones writes for The Guardian:

A general view of New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police‘Imagine the scenario. You meet someone and, from the outset, the attraction is mutual: silently shared smiles, lingering glances. You bond over shared interests and worldviews, and exchange telephone numbers. You start sleeping together and – as your pulse quickens every time the phone rings – you realise you are falling for each other. Days are spent together, walking in parks, trips to the cinema, romantic meals; time apart becomes difficult. Eventually, your partner moves in, and for years you share everything. Maybe you even have a child together. Then – suddenly – they appear depressed and become distant. One day, they are gone, leaving only an apologetic note on the kitchen table. You then discover everything you knew about them was false. They have invented a fake identity; their backstory, opinions, entire life, all a lie. They are undercover police officers, and were sent to spy on you and your friends.

It sounds like a dystopian fantasy belonging in the Stasi archives of former East Germany. But this is the experience of several British women who are pursuing a civil case against the Metropolitan police. Last week, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that four undercover police officers who spied on activists would not face sexual offence charges, including rape, sexual assault, sexual intercourse by false pretences, as well as misconduct in public office. These women consented to sleeping with men they believed were fellow activists, not police officers spying on them – and yet the CPS believes there is “insufficient evidence” for a prosecution.’

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NSA Created Search Engine Tool To Share Communication Records With Government Agencies

Cat Zakrzewski reports for TechCrunch:

‘A set of classified documents published by The Intercept on Monday shows how the National Security Agency (NSA) makes more than 850 billion records about various forms of communications available to other U.S. governmental agencies through a portal similar in look and feel to a traditional web search engine.

The search tool, called ICREACH, provides access to all communications records collected under a Reagan-era executive order, known as executive order 12333, that targets foreign communication networks. The purview of 12333 has recently attracted negative attention due to the lack of oversight of its surveillance, and the lack of public information regarding its use and breadth.

In the wake of the revelations sourced from documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, much public discourse has focused on how the government uses, and shares data that it collects — which agencies have access to specific information, and how privacy is treated have been key topics of discussion. The Intercept’s most recent report throws light onto one way NSA-collected metadata is shared inside of the larger U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities — simply, widely, and often, it appears.’

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For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Craig Timberg reports for The Washington Post:

‘Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.’

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Suspect Identified in James Foley Beheading Is Failed Rapper

Rachel Browne reports for the Sydney Morning Herald:

‘British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have identified the man suspected of the horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley, according to British media reports. The hooded man with an English accent is believed to be 23-year-old Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, known to fellow Islamic State militants as Jihadi John.

The former rapper left his family home in an affluent west London suburb last year to fight in the civil war in Syria. In early August he tweeted a photo of himself wearing military camouflage and a black hood, while holding a severed head in his left hand. British SAS forces are hunting Foley’s killer, using a range of high-tech equipment to track him down and potentially free other hostages.’

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Tony Blair advises Kazakh president on publicity after killing of protesters

Haroon Siddique reports for The Guardian:

Tony Blair‘s role advising countries with poor human rights records has come under scrutiny again after he gave Kazakhstan‘s president advice on how to avoid his image being tarnished by the killing of 15 civilian protesters by police… The former Labour leader’s consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, set up in the capital, Astana, in October 2011, signing a multi- million pound deal to advise Kazakhstan’s leadership on good governance, just months after Nazarbeyev was controversially re-elected with 96% of the vote and weeks before the massacre.

[...] Activists say Blair’s appointment has produced no change for the better or advance of democratic rights. In its World Report 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the country’s “poor human rights record continued to deteriorate in 2013″. It said torture remained common and referred to restrictions on free speech, dissent and religious worship… Blair and his companies have been awarded a string of multimillion consultancy contracts with private corporations, dictatorships and regimes, including, Kuwait, the UAE and Colombia.’

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Foreign Secretary: UK won’t work with Assad in Islamic State battle

BBC News reports:

‘Britain will not work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the battle against Islamic State (IS) extremists, the foreign secretary has told the BBC. Philip Hammond said to do so would not be “practical, sensible or helpful”. Former head of the Army Lord Dannatt and ex-Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind called for the move following the beheading of US journalist James Foley by IS militants. Mr Hammond also defended the monitoring of suspected extremists in the UK.

The UK government has called for President Assad to be removed as Syrian leader as a result of his actions during the country’s civil war. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, the foreign secretary said to co-operate with the Syrian regime would “poison” what the UK was trying to achieve. He said: “We may very well find that we are fighting, on some occasions, the same people that he is but that doesn’t make us his ally.” Earlier, Lord Dannatt called for a dialogue.’

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Islamic State: British fighters make up a quarter of foreign jihadists

Jonathan Owen reports for The Independent:

‘The brutal beheading of US journalist James Foley by a Briton fighting in the ranks of Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, is the latest – and most shocking – example of British jihadists committing atrocities in Syria and Iraq. Britain accounts for around one in four of all European fighters who have pledged their allegiance to Isis, with an estimated 500 Britons among 2,000 foreign fighters from across Europe.

One reason is the sheer ease with which people can get to Istanbul in Turkey, and then catch a bus to get into neighbouring Syria, according to Charlie Cooper, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation. Isis wants to “show off” its foreign fighters as part of its propaganda, he added. And the unnamed man who beheaded Mr Foley “will have committed himself entirely to furthering the aims of the Islamic state” and “completely rejected his British nationality”.’

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WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to leave embassy ‘soon’

Kim Hjelmgaard reports for USA Today:

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange taking part in a live video conference in Mexico City earlier this month. ‘WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced Monday that after spending two years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London he will “soon” leave the diplomatic safe harbor. He made the comments during a joint press conference with Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. Assange did not elaborate on the timing.

It has been suggested that Assange may need hospital treatment and that any move could be to address suspected health problems, although he refused to be drawn on that specific point, saying only that when he does leave it will “probably not” be for the reasons reported on.

He said that his health has suffered as a result of his confinement. “It’s an environment in which any healthy person would find themselves soon enough with certain difficulties they would have to manage,” Assange said. He said the embassy “has no outside areas, no sunlight.”‘

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White-collar crime could thrive under ‘plea bargain’ code

Jim Armitage reports for The London Evening Standard:

‘[...] The scrutiny of business people’s wrongdoing is, I fear, to be severely lessened under new powers for the SFO allowing companies to effectively plea bargain their crimes away in return for a hefty fine and no trial. These so-called deferred prosecution agreements are based on the US model which has garnered billions of dollars in fines, but potentially seen serious crimes committed by very well-paid executives swept into filing cabinets that will remain locked for ever more in prosecutors’ offices.

For, while deferred prosecution deals make it easier to raise fines from companies, they foster a perception that corporate corruption is not as serious as, say, ATM fraud by gangs. Imagine the uproar in the popular press if a gang of east European credit-card cloners paid off the courts with a £50,000 fine and a vow not to do it again. It’s easy to see why the SFO might want to go down the plea bargain route. This underfunded organisation has blundered repeatedly in attempts to take on the richest people, and organisations, in the land. But to let off the criminal companies with fines — which will inevitably be a fraction of their weekly profits — adds to the temptation of employees and directors to see potential settlements with the SFO as part of the everyday cost of doing dirty business.’

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Global Police State Calls for Globalization of Dissent and Protest

Gilbert Mercier writes for NewsJunkiePost:

‘A report from The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations presents alarming case studies of protest suppression and criminalization of political and social dissent around the world. Ironically, the name of the report, “Take Back the Streets,” came from an order from Toronto’s police commander to his force in June 2010, when more than 100,000 Canadians took to the street to protest the G20 summit. Despite the fact that the anti-G20 summit were peaceful, within 36 hours, more than a 1,000 people — protesters and journalists alike — were arrested and detained.

The report, which is the result of a collaboration between nine civil rights organizations, exposes disturbing worldwide governmental policies and law enforcement practices where the fundamental democratic right to protest publicly is viewed as a threat that requires a brutal police response. Countless cases of unnecessary legal restrictions, discriminatory responses, criminalization of leaders and unjustifiable use of force are documented. There are nine case studies from nine countries: Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Israel and the Occupy Territories, Kenya, Hungary, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. All of the cases reflect instances of repression of democratic rights through the legal system, criminalization of leaders, and excessive use of force by police resulting in injuries or deaths. “These cases collectively illustrate the use of lethal and deadly force in response to largely peaceful gatherings seeking to express social and political viewpoints,” says the report. In most of the cases mentioned in the report, the deaths and injuries are caused by firearms with live ammunition: for example, against protesters in Egypt; but some are also caused by so-called non-lethal weapons such as tear gas or rubber bullets fired directly into crowds.’

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Universal Basic Income vs The Current Welfare System

From Another Angry Voice:

I’ve already written a fairly comprehensive article explaining Universal Basic Income, so for the sake of brevity I’m not going to go into masses of detail about it again here, other than to say that it is a form of unconditional welfare payment to which all citizens are entitled.

Ideally the UBI payment should be set at a rate which covers the basic costs of living (housing, water, energy, food) meaning that nobody would be forced to live in abject poverty in 21st Century Britain. Those wanting anything more than a frugal and very basic standard of living (stuff like foreign holidays, expensive furniture, new cars, fashionable clothes …) would have a strong incentive to work in order to pay for their luxuries.

One of the main benefits of a universal, unconditional welfare payment would be the removal of virtually all of the costly means testing bureaucracy from the welfare system. Another benefit would be the near complete elimination of welfare fraud, which would free up teams of fraud investigators to go after much bigger fish such as tax-dodgers and organised crime networks.

There are so many flaws in the current welfare system that it would be literally impossible to list them all in a blog post. It was in bad enough shape when New Labour left office in 2010 but after four long years of Iain Duncan Smith‘s hopeless mismanagement, it is now a humanitarian disaster of bad planning, poor implementation and dehumanising bureaucracy. For the sake of brevity I’ll limit myself to detailing just four of the worst aspects of the current welfare system, and how the introduction of UBI would represent a significant improvement.’

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Official report into horsemeat scandal ‘blocked’ amid new food safety fears

Felicity Lawrence reports for The Guardian:

Horsemeat scandal[...] The findings are likely to embarrass ministers. The Guardian understands they are similar to conclusions in the interim report submitted last year highlighting the impact of deep spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry. It said confusion reigned when the horsemeat scandal broke because the coalition had stripped the FSA of overall responsibility for the integrity of food.

The report concluded that the industry’s own audits were inadequate to protect the public and that unless audits were unannounced, they were of little value. He also told a conference of food experts in May he had been warned by a senior civil servant that his report into the horsemeat scandal was so hard-hitting the government might want to bury it. This week, he declined to comment other than to say he was still awaiting notification of the publication date.’

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Tony Blair’s Egypt links in spotlight after HRW report on Rab’a Massacre

Chris Green reports for The Independent:

‘Tony Blair’s close ties to the Egyptian government have been called into question after some of the country’s key officials were accused of collaborating in the “widespread and systematic” killings of more than 1,000 protesters. A year-long investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that Egyptian security forces “systematically and deliberately” killed large numbers of mainly unarmed demonstrators who had gathered in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo last August to protest about the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi.

The group said the massacre was as bad as Tiananmen Square and that it “likely amounted to crimes against humanity”. It called for several senior Egyptian officials to be investigated for their role in the incident – including the country’s current President, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who was defence minister at the time. Tony Blair, who is a Middle East peace envoy, supported the coup against president Morsi and has voiced his support for the new Egyptian government. He is also acting as an informal adviser to Mr al-Sisi on economic reform.’

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City banker made a peer by PM had given £300,000 to Tories two months earlier

Jochan Embley and Oliver Wright report for The Independent:

‘A Tory donor ennobled by David Cameron last week had handed over £300,000 to the party just two months before, it has emerged. Figures released by the Electoral Commission reveal that the city financier Michael Farmer was the Tories’ third biggest donor between April and June. In total Sir Michael has given the Conservatives more than £6m. Details of donations made the main parties show that in the second quarter of 2014 the Tories moved further ahead of Labour in the fundraising stakes, raking in £7.18m. More than a third of that came from just 10 donors.’

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We failed elderly because we were too scared care home owners would sue us, watchdog admits

Laura Donnelly reports for The Telegraph:

Emergency care in crisis admits NHS regulator‘The elderly and vulnerable were failed by a watchdog set up to protect them because it feared legal threats from owners of care homes, it has admitted. The head of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it has too often “backed off” from making attempts to close unsafe homes and “tended not to fight back” when was legally challenged.

David Prior, chairman of CQC, made the disclosures as the regulator vowed to change its approach, to be “much more robust” in taking on poor providers of care. He said its own data suggests that at least 750 care homes providing care to elderly and disabled people have been failing to hit at least one basic standard for more than a year. From October, 25,000 homes and homecare providers will be subject to a new inspection regime which will rate them. The worst homes can be put on special measures, giving them a limited time to improve or close.’

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Iain Duncan Smith urged by senior Tories to shut all Jobcentres

Asa Bennett reports for The Huffington Post:

Job Centre PlusIain Duncan Smith is reportedly being urged by senior Tories to shut down all Jobcentres and let private companies and charities to step in to help Britain’s unemployed back to work. The proposal, backed by allies of chancellor George Osborne, is being considered for potential inclusion in the party’s election manifesto for 2015, in what would be a radical step for Britain’s system to help people into work.

One senior Tory told The Sun: “Introducing competition into the job search market is a natural Conservative thing to do. Tailoring help from experts for what people really need will work far better than the clumsy one-size-fits-all state solution.” However, Duncan Smith is believed to be sceptical about the idea, with a source describing the proposal as “expensive and complicated”.’

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Sanctions against those on sickness benefit up 350 per cent in Government crackdown

Emily Dugan reports for The Independent:

‘Soaring numbers of sick or disabled people are being punished by having their benefits taken away in a Government crackdown that experts say is pushing the most vulnerable in society to destitution.

The use of sanctions against those on sickness benefits has gone up by 350 per cent in a year as part of an aggressive drive to push more people into work. Those with serious health conditions can have their benefits removed for up to three years because of minor mistakes, such as missing an appointment at the Job Centre or forgetting to attend skills training.’

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Is Britain’s housing bubble about to burst?