Category Archives: UK

War tourism: Tour operators taking advantage of growing interest in travel to conflict zones

Moshe Gilad reports for Haaretz:

‘It’s a thin line between morbid curiosity about the catastrophes of others and a genuine desire to understand the world’s most sensitive areas. It’s what separates war tourism from deep journeying into a region in conflict. Nicholas Wood, a former New York Times Balkans correspondent who founded the study-tour company Political Tours five years ago, insists that his firm’s activities fall into the latter group. You want to get a nuanced and complex understanding of the situations we see on the television news, he said, adding, that the idea is not to be voyeuristic, but rather to gain a deeper understanding.

[...] Political Tours’s list of destinations is long and varied. It includes North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, Libya, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the focus is on the referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. A tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is planned for October.’

READ MORE…

Undercover police spied on grieving families of De Menezes, Groce and Reel

Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd report for the Guardian:

Scotland Yard HQ‘[...] Scotland Yard claimed that the families were not the target of the operations but information on them was gathered and wrongly retained as part of the covert infiltration of political groups. The revelations come as an internal police investigation into the Met’s undercover Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) is poised to severely criticise the force for a lack of regard to the rules and law covering the deployment of undercover officers.

The report, to be published on Thursday will say that the information collected by the controversial undercover unit “served no purpose in preventing crime or disorder”. Among those who have been contacted by the police are the family of De Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was shot dead by police in 2005 after being mistaken for a bombing suspect in the aftermath of the 7 July attack on London.’

READ MORE…

London gangs draw up lists of girls to rape as proxy attacks on rivals

Mark Townsend reports for the Guardian:

Gang‘London gangs are drawing up and disseminating lists of teenage girls whom they consider to be legitimate rape targets, as sexual violence is increasingly used to spread fear and antagonise rival groups.

The so-called sket lists (sket is street slang for “sluts”) have, according to youth workers, prompted attacks so brazen that girls have been dragged from school buses and sexually assaulted. Police and charities say they have recorded an increase in the use of sexual violence by gangs, including incidents of revenge rape, where the sisters and girlfriends of rival gang members are targeted. Claire Hubberstey, interim chief executive of Safer London Foundation, a charity working with young people to reduce crime, warns that gangs are using sexual violence in the same way that they use dangerous dogs to parade their masculinity.’

READ MORE…

British government announces investigation into death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko

Serious Fraud Office launches criminal probe into forex manipulation

Ben Chu reports for The Independent:

‘The Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation into allegations London bankers rigged key foreign exchange benchmarks for profit, the agency announced today [July 21st]. Traders found guilty of illegally manipulating the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market could face jail and the banking institutions for which they work could also face prosecution.

America’s Department of Justice announced its own probe into alleged manipulation of the $5.3trillion a day foreign exchange market last October. At the same time the Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s principal financial regulator, launched an investigation. Market watchdogs in Europe and Asia are also involved. The SFO is understood to have been gathering information for several months before formally launching its investigation. Sources at the SFO said they are working closely with other agencies, both in the UK and abroad, although they stressed the decision on whether to bring criminal charges would not depend on the outcome of parallel investigations.’

READ MORE…

Len McClusky: The NHS is being taken over by Wall Street, and Cameron won’t stop it

Len McClusky, leader of Unite, writes for the Guardian:

Brighton TTIP demo‘Will David Cameron go down in history as the man who gave away this country’s greatest achievement to Wall Street, the man who enabled big American healthcare access to our hospital wards? The answer will be yes – unless the prime minister makes it clear once and for all that he will protect the NHS from the world’s largest bilateral trade negotiations, happening right now in Brussels.

Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives to save the NHS from being sold off lock, stock and barrel. But to make matters even worse a trade deal called TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) will mean that reversing the damage done by this government could be impossible unless Cameron acts.’

READ MORE…

Are Students Who Protest Against the Cuts ‘Extremists’?

Josh Allen writes for Vice:

‘Letters to parents requesting a meeting to discuss “concerns that have been raised” usually only happen at school to the parents of kids with the foresight to realise that smoking while your lungs are still developing is totally badass. When you’re an adult, you don’t have to worry about your parents finding out what you get up to, unless you’re stupid enough to get duped into taking a free holiday by BBC3.

So you can imagine the surprise University of Birmingham Politics student Pat Grady’s parents felt when a letter from counter terrorism police, landed on their doormat inviting them “into the local police station” to “discuss concerns” that their son “[might] be involved with domestic extremism”.’

READ MORE…

UK terrorism laws so broad it has begun to ‘catch those it never intended to’

From The Independent:

‘UK anti-terrorism laws are so broadly drawn they are in danger of catching journalists, bloggers, and those it was “never intended to cover” the counter-terrorism watchdog has said. David Anderson QC has called on the Government to revisit its definition of terrorism in his annual report published today as the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

The UK has some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, Mr Anderson said, giving ministers the powers they need to combat violence perpetrated by al-Qa’ida inspired terrorists, right-wing extremists and dissident groups in Northern Ireland. They also enable prosecutions to be brought for activities in other countries including Syria and Iraq. But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they should be confined to their proper purpose, he said.

“The problem is that our definition has begun to catch people that it was never really intended to catch,” Mr Anderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’

READ MORE…

Ethical Journalism Network Director Speaks to Russia Today About Ethics in Journalism

Tony Blair sees his millions as modest – only in the world of the super rich

Simon Jenkins writes for the Guardian:

Tony Blair Marks The 20th Anniversary Of His Election As Labour Party Leader‘How rich is Tony Blair? What are the needs of an ex-prime minister with grown-up children, a working wife, £25m in property and bodyguards costing the state £1m a year? Blair protested yesterday that he is not worth £100m, “not half of that, a third of that, a quarter of that, a fifth of that, and I could go on.” That gets us down to below £20m. In addition, he pleaded that, “I spend two-thirds of my time on unpaid work,” such as bringing peace to the Middle East. How dare anyone suggest he was motivated by money?’

READ MORE…

MH17: Tony Blair calls for EU defence plan to stand up to Putin

Matthew Holehouse reports for The Telegraph:

‘The EU urgently needs a common defence policy in order to stand up to Russian aggression “on its doorstep”, Tony Blair said today. Europe is “powerless” without the help of the United States in the face of crises threatening the region because its militaries do not co-operate, Mr Blair said. In an apparent endorsement of David Cameron’s approach, he urged European leaders to match the wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Russian companies by the United States, saying the West needs to have a shared position.

…Mr Blair said: “There is such an urgent need today for Europe to have a strong foreign policy and indeed defence policy. If you look at any of the crises that are happening, whether it’s in Syria on the doorstep of Europe, Libya on the doorstep of Europe, Ukraine on the doorstep of Europe, we are completely dependent on the United States. I’m a great fan of the US and it’s important we remain strong allies of the US, but it’s important we develop the capability to be able to handle the problems on our own doorstep.”‘

READ MORE…

Chilcot inquiry: Blair and Straw to get warning letters ahead of publication of report into Iraq invasion

Mark Leftly reports for The Independent:

‘Sir John Chilcot, chair of the public inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is poised to send formal letters to those whose conduct he criticises in his final report.

The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, are among those expected to be sent what are known as “Salmon” or “Maxwellisation” letters in the coming weeks. Anyone criticised in public inquiries is entitled to see and challenge extracts related to them before publication. The letters are named after Lord Salmon, who held a public ethics inquiry in the 1970s, and the late newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, who challenged the way criticisms of his dealings were handled in a public report.’

READ MORE…

David Cameron pledges £1.1 billion to fight cyber terrorists

From The Telegraph:

David Cameron‘The Armed Forces must adapt to deal with “unseen enemies”, David Cameron says as he announces a £1.1 billion investment in the military to tackle new threats to national security.

The Prime Minister will say that spending on “intelligence and surveillance” equipment, such as drones, is a “national necessity”.

Mr Cameron, writing in The Telegraph, warns that Britain faces changing threats in the form of global terrorism and unseen cyber criminals who can target the country from abroad.’

READ MORE…

Charlie Brooker: What is Drip and how, precisely, will it help the government ruin your life?

Charlie Brooker writes for the Guardian:

Dripping tap‘[...] Drip is the most tedious outrage ever, right down to the dreary acronym, which is why they’ll get away with shoving it through the Commons. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are in cahoots with Cameron on this. All three men are, I assume, pretending to have read and understood the bill, which seems unlikely given its dry impenetrability. Siri would fall asleep halfway through. You could swap it with the technical specifications documentation for a Netgear AV 500 Powerline Adapter and no one would notice.

Whenever there’s a state-sanctioned-invasion-of-privacy issue knocking around, a few chirpy types pop up to say: “Hey, I don’t mind if the government wants to spy on me – I’ve got nothing to hide and I’m quite boring really.” That’s your prerogative, but Jesus Christ, how did you get so beaten down, Mr Cog-in-the-Wheel? Mr Pebble-on-the-Beach. Is that really how you see yourself? As a worthless microbe content to be plucked from the stream, examined for a moment and tossed back like an unremarkable, unwanted sprat? An insignificant fluffspeck wafting through the vast aircraft hangar of life, buffeted hither and thither by the nonchalant farts of the powerful?

Yeah, me too. But nonetheless, a close, careful examination of the Drip bill’s various clauses and sub-clauses reveals alarming consequences for the average Joe.’

READ MORE…

Philip Hammond Succeeds William Hague As Foreign Secretary In Cabinet Reshuffle

From The Huffington Post:

‘Philip Hammond has replaced William Hague as foreign secretary after Hague’s shock departure from the cabinet, in a reshuffle dubbed the cull of “middled aged-white men”.

William Hague surprised Westminster on Monday evening by announcing he would quit as foreign secretary, as David Cameron culled male ministers of all ranks as part of a wide-ranging reshuffle expected to see the promotion of several women to top jobs.

Hammond, previously defence secretary, was announced as the new foreign secretary on Tuesday morning. He will take over as Cameron looks to begin negotiating for Britain a looser relationship with the EU ahead of an in/out referendum in 2017.’

READ MORE…

Call for curbs as UK executive pay reaches 180 times average wage

From AFP:

‘The government on Monday faced a call to impose legal caps on executive salaries after a study found top pay in Britain has reached 180 times average wages. The High Pay Centre said that since the late 1990s executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average British worker to nearly 180 times.

It wants the government to consider requiring companies to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest-paid employee. Last year the government gave shareholders the power to vote down executive pay policy at company AGMs if they thought the proposed pay package was too large.

So far, however, every vote at a FTSE 100 company has seen a majority of shareholders support the company policy on top pay, the Centre said. Last year pay received by the average FTSE 100 chief executive increased to £4.7 million, up from £4.1 million in 2012, it said.’

READ MORE…

Latest NSA leaks show extent to which ordinary Web users are caught in the surveillance net

Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani report for The Washington Post:

‘Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents. The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.’

READ MORE…

TSA targets mobile phones and electronics in new security policies

Jon Swaine reports for the Guardian:

Transportation Security Administration screeners check passengers as they prepare to board flights. tsa‘Passengers using airports that offer direct flights to the US may be forced to switch on their mobile phones and other electronic devices to prove to security officials that they do not contain explosives, it was announced on Sunday.

“During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones,” the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said in a post on its website. It warned: “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveller may also undergo additional screening.”

The TSA did not disclose which airports would be conducting the additional screening. It was reported last week that passengers at British airports travelling to the US were facing extra checks on phones. Belgian officials said passengers there would also have devices checked. Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) advised that the new restriction meant any electronic device with a flat battery would not be allowed on flights, the Press Association reported.’

READ MORE…

Britain’s economy forecast to stay on global A-list

Phillip Inman reports for the Guardian:

Canary Wharf Skyline ‘Forecasters have good news for those fearing that Britain faces a long, slow decline into economic mediocrity: the UK will still stand tall among the world’s biggest economies in 2030, having overtaken France and even made progress on closing the gap with Germany.

Only India will leapfrog the UK on the rich list of nations, according to the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as the previously fast-growing countries Russia and Brazil struggle to make ground on the global league table.

According to the report, the youthful vigour of the UK economy, with its high birthrate and flexible labour market, will contrast markedly with the ageing populations of mainland Europe. Ignoring the potential for Scotland to spoil the party by voting to separate in September, the report forecasts that Britain will remain “a significant member of the global economic A-list”.’

READ MORE…

Food bank Britain: can MPs agree on the causes of poverty in the UK?

Amelia Gentleman writes for the Guardian:

“We have found that welfare reforms play a huge part in this,” Reverend Alan Dickinson from the North Tyneside food bank told 60 food bank managers and charity workers gathered in a church hall in South Shields yesterday afternoon.

A group of MPs from the all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty listened for two hours as food bank staff described why people in the area around Newcastle were increasingly demanding their help.

The MPs, both Labour and Conservative, making a rare joint excursion from Westminster, were trying to shed light on one of the most contentious issues of the coalition administration: why is it that use of food banks has exploded in the past four years, and how extensive is food poverty across the country?’

READ MORE…

UK benefits legislation violates human rights, High Court rules

RT reports:

Poundland store‘Britain’s High Court has ruled against legislation supporting a back-to-work scheme that forced people to work for free to qualify for benefits. The decision could lead to the UK government paying out over $223 million to people denied welfare payments.

Justice Beverly Lang ruled Friday that emergency laws, brought in last year to galvanize the coalition government’s back-to-work schemes, were “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the judge, the legislation interferes with an individual’s right to a fair trial when applied retrospectively.’

OECD: England’s teachers overworked and ‘not valued by society’

Graeme Paton reports for The Telegraph:

A teacher helps a boy in red school sweater working at a laptopTeachers in England are working longer hours than those in most other developed nations despite being badly paid and feeling “undervalued” by society, according to international research.

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that just a third of teachers – 35 per cent – believe they are appreciated by the general public.

The study, which was based on an analysis of 106,000 teachers in 34 countries, found that the profession in England generally performed well across most indicators.’

READ MORE…

More banking scandals to come, admits Treasury Minister

Andrew Grice reports for The Independent:

‘More scandals in the financial sector are in the pipeline, the Treasury Minister responsible for the City of London has admitted. Andrea Leadsom, who previously worked in banking and finance for 25 years, warned that there were more “cringeworthy announcements” to come and that there was “still a lot of baggage” in the financial industry.

Ms Leadsom, who held senior roles at Barclays and Invesco Perpetual before becoming an MP, told the parliamentary magazineThe House there was still a long way to go change the City’s culture. Asked whether it is learning the lessons of the financial crisis, she replied: “I would say that at the top echelons of the banks, absolutely. But I think there’s quite a long way to go to really change the culture. I think it did become very transaction-oriented and I think it will take time to recover that. I think we are still going to see a lot of cringeworthy announcements.” She admitted that when she heard about the Libor interbank lending rate scandal, she thought: “Well, if Libor is rigged, then what wasn’t rigged?”’

READ MORE…

Rolf Harris: PR battle waged behind the scenes by Bell Pottinger to protect TV star’s reputation

Paul Peachy reports for The Independent:

‘Rolf Harris hired the controversial PR firm Bell Pottinger as his reputation as one of the world’s most celebrated children’s entertainers was picked apart by allegations of abuse and his own admissions of infidelity. The company – which has previously represented regimes such as Belarus and Sri Lanka – previously worked for Asil Nadir, the former head of Polly Peck, after his misguided decision to return to Britain from his northern Cypriot bolthole in order to fight fraud charges which resulted in a 10-year jail term.

The prosecution claimed that Mr Harris had “manipulated publicity” with his daily “staged, slow walk” into court past photographers with his entourage that included wife, Alwen, and daughter, Bindi, in a show of family support for the man who steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.  While the prosecution claimed it was “nothing more than a public relations exercise”, the publicists claimed that the slow walk was necessary because of the state of wife Alwen’s knees. Bell Pottinger is no stranger to controversy after its executives were secretly recorded in 2011 boasting about their access to the heart of Government and how it could bury bad coverage and influence public opinion.’

READ MORE…

Growing health concerns as UK sets record for smallest properties in Europe

Jonathan Brown writes for The Independent:

‘Britain is in the grip of an invisible housing squeeze with millions of people living in homes that are too small for them, according to new research which reveals that more than half of all dwellings are failing to meet minimum modern standards on size.

The poorest households are being hit hardest, with estimates suggesting that four-fifths of those affected by the Coalition’s “bedroom tax” are already forced to contend with a shortage of space, the Cambridge University study found.

The findings will put pressure on the Government, which announced it was to develop a national space standard – although this will only be enforced where it does not impinge on development. Critics argue that the UK already has the smallest properties in Europe following the end of national guidelines in 1980. But soaring land and property prices and a shortage of new homes are fuelling overcrowding, which causes health problems including depression, insomnia and asthma.’

READ MORE…

Andy Coulson jailed for 18 months for conspiracy to hack phones

Lisa O’Carroll reports for the Guardian:

Andy Coulson‘The disgraced former No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson has been jailed for 18 months for plotting to hack phones while he was in charge of the News of the World. The 46-year-old was found guilty last week of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment, but Coulson received a discount of several months for his previous good character. He could be out in less than nine months because, as a non-violent offender, he is required to serve just half his sentence. Mr Justice Saunders told the court the evidence heard in the trial revealed that Coulson clearly thought it was necessary to use phone hacking to maintain the News of the World’s “competitive edge”.’

READ MORE…

Tony Blair to advise Egypt president Sisi on economic reform

Seumas Milne reports for the Guardian:

Tony BlairTony Blair has agreed to advise the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup last year, as part of a programme funded by the United Arab Emirates that has promised to deliver huge “business opportunities” to those involved, the Guardian has learned. The former prime minister, now Middle East peace envoy, who supported the coup against Egypt‘s elected president Mohamed Morsi, is to give Sisi advice on “economic reform” in collaboration with a UAE-financed taskforce in Cairo – a decision criticised by one former ally.

The UAE taskforce is being run by the management consultancy Strategy&, formerly Booz and Co, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to attract investment into Egypt’s crisis-ridden economy at a forthcoming Egypt donors’ conference sponsored by the oil-rich UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Blair’s decision to become involved in Gulf-financed support of the Sisi regime, which is estimated to have killed more than 2,500 protesters and jailed more than 20,000 over the past year, has been attacked.’

READ MORE…

Hike in airport security may be permanent, says Nick Clegg

Editor’s Note: Typical coverage from CNN (see video below) where they wheel out terror profiteers like Michael Chertoff, the former head of Homeland Security. You can watch a talk by Chertoff from May at a Homeland Security funded event discussing the emerging threat of “Al Qaeda 3.0″. Another former head of Homeland Security admitted a few years ago that he was pressured into raising the threat level when he served under Bush. I would highly recommend reading Trevor Aaronson’s book “The Terror Factory” on how the FBI manufacture terror in order to keep the illusion of a war on terror that is much bigger than it actually is. 

Georgia Graham reports for The Telegraph:

‘Tightened security across UK airports will not be a “one-off temporary thing” Nick Clegg has said, as he warned Britain should be prepared for further hikes. The Deputy Prime Minister said that the new security measures were not a “blip” and were implemented as part of a constant evolution of defences in response to “people want to attack us.”

Security measures at UK airports – reported to include closer scrutiny of personal electronics and footwear – are to be tightened after US officials raised fears about terrorists in Syria and Yemen developing explosives that could be smuggled on to planes.

The beefed up security will fuel fears of massive queues at airports over the summer although the Department for Transport said the extra measures – which have not been disclosed – were not expected to cause “significant disruption” and noted that the official UK threat status remained unchanged.’

READ MORE…

Related News:

Tory party donors handed NHS contracts worth £1.5 billion under health reforms

SOURCE: THE MIRROR

Thatcher’s former Home Secretary Leon Brittan urged to comment on 1980s “paedophile dossier”

From BBC News:

‘A Labour MP has called for a former home secretary to make public what he knew about allegations of paedophiles operating in Westminster in the 1980s. Simon Danczuk said that a dossier of allegations about paedophiles was presented to Leon Brittan when he was home secretary between 1983 and 1985. “It would be welcome if he stepped forward and shared his knowledge of the allegations”, he told MPs.

The MP helped expose the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith as a child sex abuser. Speaking at a meeting of the Commons Home Affairs Select committee, Mr Danczuk called for a national overarching “Hillsborough-style” inquiry into historical allegations of child sex abuse. He said that politics was “the last refuge of child sex abuse deniers” and there was a view among many politicians that alleged offenders should not be named. An inquiry would help identify other perpetrators, he said.’

READ MORE…