Category Archives: UK

The Seven Stages of Establishment Backlash: Corbyn/Sanders Edition

Glenn Greenwald wrote for The Intercept last month:

The British political and media establishment incrementally lost its collective mind over the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the country’s Labour Party, and its unraveling and implosion show no signs of receding yet. Bernie Sanders is nowhere near as radical as Corbyn; they are not even in the same universe. But, especially on economic issues, Sanders is a more fundamental, systemic critic than the oligarchical power centers are willing to tolerate, and his rejection of corporate dominance over politics, and corporate support for his campaigns, is particularly menacing. He is thus regarded as America’s version of a far-left extremist, threatening establishment power.

For those who observed the unfolding of the British reaction to Corbyn’s victory, it’s been fascinating to watch the D.C./Democratic establishment’s reaction to Sanders’ emergence replicate that, reading from the same script. I personally think Clinton’s nomination is extremely likely, but evidence of a growing Sanders movement is unmistakable. Because of the broader trends driving it, this is clearly unsettling to establishment Democrats — as it should be.

[…] Just as was true for Corbyn, there is a direct correlation between the strength of Sanders and the intensity of the bitter and ugly attacks unleashed at him by the D.C. and Democratic political and media establishment. There were, roughly speaking, seven stages to this establishment revolt in the U.K. against Corbyn, and the U.S. reaction to Sanders is closely following the same script.


How The Guardian Milked Edward Snowden’s Story

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange wrote for Newsweek in 2015:

RTR4NZECThe Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding is a hack job in the purest sense of the term. Pieced together from secondary sources and written with minimal additional research to be the first to market, the book’s thrifty origins are hard to miss.

The Guardian is a curiously inward-looking beast. If any other institution tried to market its own experience of its own work nearly as persistently as The Guardian, it would surely be called out for institutional narcissism. But becauseThe Guardian is an embarrassingly central institution within the moribund “left-of-center” wing of the U.K. establishment, everyone holds their tongue.

In recent years, we have seen The Guardian consult itself into cinematic history—in the Jason Bourne films and others—as a hip, ultra-modern, intensely British newspaper with a progressive edge, a charmingly befuddled giant of investigative journalism with a cast-iron spine.

The Snowden Files positions The Guardian as central to the Edward Snowden affair, elbowing out more significant players like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras for Guardian stablemates, often with remarkably bad grace.

“Disputatious gay” Glenn Greenwald’s distress at the U.K.’s detention of his husband, David Miranda, is described as “emotional” and “over-the-top.” My WikiLeaks colleague Sarah Harrison—who helped rescue Snowden from Hong Kong—is dismissed as a “would-be journalist.”

I am referred to as the “self-styled editor of WikiLeaks.” In other words, the editor of WikiLeaks. This is about as subtle as Harding’s withering asides get. You could use this kind of thing on anyone.


EU Renegotiation: David Cameron’s PR Machine and The Theatre of Brexit

In the first interview, Afshin Rattansi talks to Robert Oulds, director of Eurosceptic think tank the Bruges Group, who discusses David Cameron’s PR theatrics over the EU referendum and the Brexit. In the second interview, Labour MP Kate Hoey discusses David Cameron’s so called EU renegotiation, and her being on the side of the out campaign. (Going Underground/RT UK)

‘We pull everything we see’: GCHQ’s data-mining techniques revealed in new Snowden leak

Glyn Moody reports for Arstechnia:

A “Data Mining Research Problem Book” marked “top secret strap 1” has been leaked that details some of the key techniques used by GCHQ to sift through the huge volumes of data it pulls continuously from the Internet.

Originally obtained by Edward Snowden, the 96-page e-book has been published by Boing Boing, along with a second short document entitled “What’s the worst that can happen?”. Boing Boing describes this as “a kind of checklist for spies who are seeking permission to infect their adversaries’ computers or networks with malicious software.”

The data mining handbook was written by researchers from the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research in Bristol, a partnership between GCHQ and the University of Bristol. According to Boing Boing, “Staff spend half their time working on public research, the other half is given over to secret projects for the government.”

The handbook provides valuable insights into some of the details of GCHQ’s data mining work, at least as it was in September 2011, when the document was written.


U.S. Government Jet Lay In Wait For Edward Snowden In Copenhagen

David Crouch reports for The Guardian:

A US government jet was lying in wait in Copenhagen to extradite the whistleblower Edward Snowden if he had come to Scandinavia after fleeing to Moscow in June 2013, the Danish government has revealed.

The twin-engined Gulfstream aircraft, which had previously been used to fly Abu Hamza to the US from the UK, landed shortly before the FBI called on Scandinavian police forces to arrest Snowden and hand him over for extradition.

Søren Pind, the justice minister, wrote to Danish MPs: “The purpose of the aircraft’s presence in Copenhagen airport is most likely to have been to have the opportunity to transport Edward Snowden to the United States if he had been handed over from Russia or another country.”

This week, Pind confirmed to the Danish parliament that the aircraft had been given high-level permission to land in Copenhagen, but said he did not know the purpose of its visit.


Freeing Julian Assange: The Last Chapter

John Pilger writes:

JA.jpg[…] The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden. The Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape” and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and “railroading” her, protesting she “did not want to accuse JA of anything”. A second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.

The Assange case is rooted across the Atlantic in Pentagon-dominated Washington, obsessed with pursuing and prosecuting whistleblowers, especially Assange for having exposed, in WikiLeaks, US capital crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of civilians and a contempt for sovereignty and international law.  None of this truth-telling is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”.

Obama, the betrayer,  has since prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the US presidents combined. The courageous Chelsea Manning is serving 35 years in prison, having been tortured during her long pre-trial detention.

The prospect of a similar fate has hung over Assange like a Damocles sword. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Vice-President Joe Biden has called him a “cyber terrorist”. In Alexandra, Virginia, a secret grand jury has attempted to concoct a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted in a court. Even though he is not an American, he is currently being fitted up with an espionage law dredged up from a century ago when it was used to silence conscientious objectors during the First World War; the Espionage Act has provisions of both life imprisonment and the death penalty.


UK Rejects UN Ruling that Assange Detention Is Illegal: Interview with Carey Shenkman

Jessica Desvarieux talks to human rights lawyer and Assange attorney Carey Shenkman who explains how the UK is undermining the authority of the UN while simultaneously relying on it to release detained UK citizens. (The Real News)

UN Panel Rules Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Is Being Arbitrarily Detained: Interview with Mads Andenæs and Jennifer Robinson

After a United Nations panel officially concluded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and should be allowed to walk free, Amy Goodman and company talk to Assange legal representatives Jennifer Robinson, and U.N. special rapporteur on arbitrary detention Mads Andenæs. (Democracy Now!)

A high-powered network: How Google became embedded in British politics

Juliette Garside and Alice Ross report for The Guardian:

The furore over Google’s £130m deal with the UK taxman has triggered outrage among politicians, business figures and tax campaigners. It has also raised questions over the search engine group’s proximity to the corridors of power in Britain. An analysis of meetings between Google executives and senior politicians, as well as the regular appointments of political figures to major positions within the company’s PR machine, shows how the California-based tech company has become deeply entwined within the British political landscape.


Cecil Rhodes statue to remain at Oxford after ‘overwhelming support’

Kevin Rawlinson reports for The Guardian:

rhodes statue 425x265Oriel College has said it will not remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University despite a campaign by students who believe the British imperialist’s legacy should not be celebrated.

The Rhodes Must Fall movement said the statue of the man who was an ardent imperialist and left a sizeable sum to the college in his will, was representative of Britain’s “imperial blind spot” and should be taken down.

But on Thursday the college, which owns the statue, said a consultation process had shown “overwhelming” support for keeping it.

“Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place and that the college will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there,” it said.

The college confirmed it had been warned of the possibility that it would lose about £100m in gifts should the statue be taken down but a spokesman insisted the financial implications were not the primary consideration.


The West’s return to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya proves the warmongers wrong

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Despite an almost total lack of public debate, Western military escalation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is on the rise.

Renewed military interventionism has been largely justified as a response to the meteoric rise of Islamic State networks, spreading across parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Missing from government pronouncements, though, is any acknowledgement that the proliferation of Islamist terrorism is a direct consequence of the knee-jerk response of military escalation.

Discarded to the memory hole is the fact that before each of the major interventions in these three countries, our political leaders promised they would bring security, freedom and prosperity.

Instead, they have done precisely the opposite.


What’s Britain’s Role in the Carnage in Yemen? Interview with Dr. Lisa Cameron

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Dr. Lisa Cameron, a member of the UK parliamentary committee investigating evidence against David Cameron and his government in regards to the mass slaughter in the Saudi Arabian war in Yemen. (Going Underground)

Goldman Sachs backs campaign to keep Britain in European Union

Jill Treanor and Larry Elliott report for The Guardian:

Goldman Sachs signGrowing concern in the City about Britain’s possible exit from the European Union has been underlined by the fact that the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs had pumped a significant sum into the campaign for staying in.

The move on Wednesday by the high-profile US investment bank to back the in campaign – Britain Stronger in Europe – comes at a time when the City has started to focus on the possibility that the UK will vote to end its 43-year relationship with the EU.

Other City firms are known to be spending large sums of money considering the implications for their business of a possible Brexit, even though the date for a referendum has not yet been set.

David Cameron would like the referendum to be held in June to avoid the possibility of prolonged coverage of refugees fleeing to the EU. The news of the donation by Goldman Sachs to the in campaign – said to run to six figures – appeared to be carefully timed: Cameron is due to address delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where a large delegation of UK business leaders and financiers have gathered for the annual event in the Swiss ski resort.


Phone Hackers: Britain’s Secret Surveillance

IMSI catchers are portable surveillance tools used for spying on thousands of phones in a targeted area, tracking their location and even intercepting calls, messages, and data. They are supposed to help identify serious criminals, but cannot operate without monitoring innocent people too. UK police have IMSI catchers, but they refuse to tell the public how and when they are used. This has privacy campaigners worried. And, even if the state is using them sparingly, what if criminals also have access to the technology? VICE News searches London for IMSI catchers, then goes shopping at a state security fair, and finally finds a shady technology company who’ll sell us the spy gear. (VICE News)

HBOS whistleblower Paul Moore exposes badly designed corporate culture

Anthony Hilton reports for the London Evening Standard:

Last year was a record one for mergers, and early indications are that there will be a lot happening this year too.

So it is perhaps time for a cautionary tale of what can — and indeed usually does — go wrong. Far more businesses are destroyed by deals than enhanced by them.

Back in 2000, Bank of Scotland could legitimately claim to be one of Europe’s most respected banks and the Halifax one of its most envied savings and mortgage providers.

In 2001, the two organisations merged to create what was then hailed as the fifth force in British banking.

In four years, profits virtually doubled. In eight years, the bank was bust.

Total collapse was only avoided by selling out to Lloyds, which then meant both had to be bailed out by government.

This is also the story of whistleblower Paul Moore, the man who saw the insanity at first hand, tried to stop it and was personally sacked by the then HBOS chief executive James Crosby for his pains.


Gaddafi’s warnings to Blair about Islamists sound almost prophetic now

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

The transcript of the Blair-Gaddafi phone conversations are publishedThe Libyan uprising always contained more extreme Islamists than portrayed by its supporters inside and outside Libya. There is a measure of truth in Muammar Gaddafi’s claim to Tony Blair that the jihadis had “managed to set up local stations and in Benghazi have spread the thoughts and ideas of al Qaeda.”

His claims sound particularly prophetic since the transcript of the Blair-Gaddafi phone conversations are published on the same day that a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives killed an estimated 65 people at a Libyan police academy. The attack is likely to be the work of the Libyan branch of Isis which today controls Sirte, Gaddafi’s home region and last stronghold, and has been battling over the last week to take over Libya’s main oil ports.

But it is also true that protests which began in Libya on 15 February and turned into a general uprising had wide popular support among Libyans. By the time of the phone call, protesters had seized Benghazi, Misurata and many other cities and towns while part of the regular armed forces had defected to the opposition.

Gaddafi’s repeated claim to Mr Blair that there was nothing happening in much of the country shows that he was either eager to downplay the swift spread of the rebellion or he did not know what was going on. The latter seems the most likely explanation, given Gaddafi’s repeated invitations to Mr Blair, who was in Kuwait, to come to Tripoli and his belief that once foreign journalists arrived they would see for themselves that accounts of violence had been exaggerated. “Send reporters and politicians,” the Libyan leader says. “Talk to them [protesters] directly; see what kind of people they are and their connections to AQ [Al-Qaeda].”


FoI loophole used by Commons Speaker to block release to PA about alcohol problems in UK Parliament

PA Mediapoint and Press Gazette report:

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has used a loophole in the Freedom of Information Act to suppress reports detailing the scale of alcohol problems at Parliament.

The move, in response to a request by the Press Association, follows a series of incidents that highlighted the issue of alcohol at parliament.

There are around a dozen bars and restaurants on the estate serving politicians, staff and other passholders, with a taxpayer subsidy of £4 million a year.

Former MP Eric Joyce was convicted of assaulting a fellow politician during a brawl in Strangers’ Bar in 2012, while another ex-member, Mark Reckless, confessed to missing a late-night parliamentary vote in 2010 because he was too drunk to attend.


Bumbling would-be UK bomber asked Twitter followers for target suggestions

Glyn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

TwitterA would-be UK bomber and his wife have been found guilty by the Old Bailey court of plotting to carry out an explosion in London to mark the tenth anniversary of the 2005 suicide attacks that took place in the same city. Both have been sentenced to life imprisonment: a minimum of 27 years for Mohammed Rehman, and a minimum of 25 years for his ex-wife Sana Ahmed Khan.

A report by The Guardian explains the case: “Mohammed Rehman, 25, who secretly wed Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, intended to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 atrocities with blasts that would have inflicted mass casualties in either Westfield shopping centre, west London, or the London Underground.”

Remarkably, Rehman took to Twitter to ask for advice on which of those two targets he should choose: “Westfield shopping centre or London underground?” Rehman asked. “Any advice would be appreciated greatly.” The post carried a link to an al-Qaida press release about the 2005 London bombings. Sky News reports that Rehman’s Twitter name was “Silent Bomber,” with the handle@InService2Godd. As if that weren’t enough, his Twitter bio read: “Learn how to make powerful explosives from the comfort of ones’ bedroom.” The Twitter account has since been suspended.


Saudi executions were worthy of ISIS – so what now for the West?

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

[…] The killings represent far more than just Saudi hatred for a cleric who rejoiced at the death of the former Saudi interior minister – Mohamed bin Nayef’s father, Crown Prince Nayef Abdul-Aziz al-Saud – with the hope that he would be “eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of hell in his grave”. Nimr’s execution will reinvigorate the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which the Saudis invaded and bombed this year in an attempt to destroy Shia power there. It has enraged the Shia majority in Sunni-rules Bahrain. And Iran’s own clerics have already claimed that the beheading will cause the overthrow of the Saudi royal family.

It will also present the West with that most embarrassing of Middle Eastern problems: the continuing need to cringe and grovel to the rich and autocratic monarchs of the Gulf while gently expressing their unease at the grotesque butchery which the Saudi courts have just dished out to the Kingdom’s enemies. Had Isis chopped off the heads of Sunnis and Shias in Raqqa – especially that of a troublesome Shia priest like Sheikh Nimr – we can be sure that Dave Cameron would have been tweeting his disgust at so loathsome an act. But the man who lowered the British flag on the death of the last king of this preposterous Wahabi state will be using weasel words to address this bit of head-chopping.


Why police don’t pull guns in many countries

Sara Miller Llana reports for Christian Science Monitor:

The officer, alert but cautious, pounds on the suspect’s door. “Polizei!” he says forcefully, in his native German. A man thrusts open the door and walks out. His hands are at his side, but the policeman notices a gun tucked into the man’s belt. He pulls out his own firearm in response. He then moves briskly backward, coaxing the man to place his weapon on the ground.

The cop is commended for his actions.

The next officer up bangs on the same door. “Polizei!,” he says. This time the person walks out carrying a baton, not a gun. So the cop doesn’t pull out his pistol. He brandishes instead a can of pepper spray – a reflex response that also garners praise afterward.

The scene here in what looks like an outdoor movie set seems as if it would be basic enough training at almost any police academy in the world. But today’s course for the new recruits in the Ruhr Valley in western Germany represents just one small part of an educational process that will last for three years, during which the officers will be drilled in alternatives to pulling a trigger. Today’s shooting training is subtitled, tellingly, “Don’t shoot.” And it’s far from the only lesson they’ll receive in restraint. Each recruit earns a bachelor’s degree as part of basic police training – a requisite before getting a badge and a beat.


House of Lords just a dumping ground for party cronies, SNP analysis claims

Daniel Boffey reports for The Guardian:

Nearly three quarters of the peers created since the general election are party political apparatchiks, including former MPs, special advisers and party aides, a new analysis reveals.

Since May’s general election, 62 new peers have entered the Lords, including four hereditary peers and two bishops. However, by far the largest group of new peers are retiring, former or deselected MPs and MEPs – 28 of the total, according to an analysis by the Scottish National party.

Four former government special advisers and a number of Conservative party officials have also been introduced to the Lords.


Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

When people say they have no politics, it means that their politics aligns with the status quo. None of us are unbiased, none removed from the question of power. We are social creatures who absorb the outlook and opinions of those with whom we associate, and unconciously echo them. Objectivity is impossible.

The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms. But until I came across the scandal currently erupting in Canada, I hadn’t understood just how quickly standards are falling.

In 2013 reporters at CBC, Canada’s equivalent of the BBC, broke a major story. They discovered that RBC – Royal Bank of Canada – had done something cruel and unusual even by banking standards. It was obliging junior staff to train a group of temporary foreign workers, who would then be given the staff’s jobs. Just after the first report was aired, according to the website Canadaland, something odd happened: journalists preparing to expand on the investigation were summoned to a conference call with Amanda Lang, CBC’s senior business correspondent and a star presenter. The reporters she spoke to say she repeatedly attempted to scuttle the story, dismissing it as trivial and dull.

They were astonished. But not half as astonished as when they discovered the following, unpublished facts.


David Cameron Tells UK’s Flood Victims He’ll Do ‘Whatever Is Needed’ Despite Cutting Flood Defence Spending In 2011

Jack Sommers reports for The Huffington Post:

David Cameron’s pledge to send more troops to “do whatever is needed” to help flooding victims has not convinced people with memories long enough to recall flood defence spending was cut four years ago.

Thousands of people are fleeing their homes after “unprecedented” levels of rain caused rivers to burst their banks and left homes under water in York, Leeds and Manchester.

Cameron chaired a conference call on Sunday morning of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee as ministers worked to tackle the problem, while the Government has vowed to review flood defences as the army was mobilised this morning to help emergency services.

[…] But in 2011, the Coalition Government announced it would spend 8% less on flood defences – £540 million – over the next four years compared with the previous four years.


Think Tank: Most Syrian Rebel Groups Ideologically Similar to ISIS

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A new report from the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, a think tank that is part of the “Tony Blair Faith Foundation,” is warning that the military defeat of ISIS, while nominally desirable in and of itself, will do materially nothing to stop the Islamist takeover of the region.

The report says a third of the rebel factions, representing roughly 60% of rebel fighters, are ideologically similar to ISIS, and that 15 different rebel factions would eagerly step in and fill the vacuum if ISIS was defeated militarily.

Exactly how broadly they define “ideologically similar” is unclear, but the report appears to focus on Salafist movements, which would include several major rebel factions, including al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra and the Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham.

Ironically, at times a lot of these Salafist groups have been presented by Western officials as “moderates,” and as the allies who could be used to defeat ISIS. While that may be technically true, the think tank warns the defeat of ISIS doesn’t really end anything, but simply props up another, ideologically compatible faction in their place.


David Cameron’s ‘counter extremism’ experts work with far-right Donald Trump sympathisers

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

Last week, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump provoked global outrage with his call for a ‘temporary’ ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States.

His remarks also sparked enthusiastic support from neo-Nazi white supremacists, triggered a spike in campaign donations, and maintained his 35% lead in the Republican campaign race.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron described Trump’s proposal as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”

Since then, over half a million Britons have signed a petition demanding the government to ban Trump from entering the UK, making it the most signed UK government petition ever.

But Trump has unlikely allies in Britain — some with close links to the Tory government.

Far from simply popping out of nowhere, Trump’s ideology of hate has been incubated by a trans-Atlantic network of rightwing lobby groups and think-tanks, members of which have advised David Cameron himself.


Syria in 2016 will be like the Balkans in 1914

Patrick Cockburn, author of Chaos and Caliphate, writes for The Independent:

Adwo / Shutterstock.comThe CIA analyst is confident about what is likely to happen in Syria. He says that “Assad is playing his last major card to keep his regime in power”. He believes that the Assad government will step up its efforts to prove that its enemies “are being manipulated by outsiders”. The probable outcome is a split within Syria’s ruling elite leading to Assad being ousted, though he admits that there is no obvious replacement for him.

The reasoning in the CIA special analysis, entitled “Syria: Assad’s Prospects”, is sensible and convincing, though overconfident that Assad’s days are numbered. The extent of this overconfidence is highlighted by a glance at the date of the document, which is 17 March 1980, or 35 years ago, and the President Assad, whose imminent political demise is predicted as likely, is not Bashar al-Assad but his father, Hafez al-Assad, who died in 2000. The analysis was released by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act in 2013.

The CIA paper is an interesting read, not least because it shows how many ingredients of the present crisis in Syria have been present for decades, but had not yet come together in the explosive mix which produced the present horrific war. In 1980, the writer assumed that Syrian politics revolved largely around the sectarian differences between the Alawites, the Muslim sect to which the Assads and Syria’s rulers generally belong, and the Sunni Arab majority. The analysis is written in an upbeat tone as it forecasts that splits between the two communities may bring Assad down.


The Great Tory Power Grab: How They Plan to Rule Britain Forever

Andy Beckett reports for The Guardian:

The British chancellor George Osborne.Two months ago, the chancellor and would-be prime minister George Osborne invited an unusual visitor to Downing Street. Robert Caro, the American biographer of Lyndon Johnson, US president half a century ago, had dinner and answered questions from Osborne and selected Conservative MPs.

Johnson was a Democrat, and one of America’s most left-leaning leaders. But he was also famously ruthless. “I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me,” Caro’s biography quotes him saying. “I know where to look for it, and how to use it.”

Osborne, too, is even more interested in power than most politicians – the accumulation of it for him and his party, the denial of it to others. “Osborne is a political chess player,” writes his biographer Janan Ganesh. The chancellor’s “grand strategy”, Ganesh continues, is “the calculated use of [government] policy” to alter Britain permanently in the Conservatives’ favour. Since school, Osborne has been a keen reader of political history books. His favourite, reportedly, is Caro’s Johnson biography.

A few weeks after Osborne met Caro, on 25 November, the chancellor produced his latest economic and political blueprint, the 2015 autumn statement. Half-hidden within it, and not mentioned by Osborne in his accompanying speech to parliament, was a proposed cut in “Short money”, state funding for all opposition parties, of 19%. “It came out of the blue,” says Katie Ghose, head of the pro-democracy pressure group the Electoral Reform Society. “The cut could make a huge difference to the capacity of opposition parties to operate.”


UK Citizens May Soon Need Licenses to Photograph Some Stuff They Already Own

Glynn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

Changes to UK copyright law will soon mean that you may need to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects even if you own them. That’s the result of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which extends the copyright of artistic objects like designer chairs from 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. In most cases, that will be well over a hundred years after the object was designed. During that period, taking a photo of the item will often require a licence from the copyright owner regardless of who owns the particular object in question.

The UK government is holding a consultation into when this change should enter into force: after a six-month, three-year, or five-year transitional period. An article in The Bookseller puts the starting date as October 2016 without citing a source. In any case, the change is definitely coming, and it’ll likely be quite soon.

Similar to the recent announcement that it is once again illegal to make private copies of music you own, it is unlikely the public will pay much attention to this latest example of copyright being completely out of touch with how people actually use digital technology. But for professionals, the consequences will be serious and not so easily ignored.


Chancellor George Osborne says Britain has ‘got its mojo back’ with Syria air strikes

The Scottish Herald reports:

the Chancellor said it was a Britain has “got its mojo back” and stands alongside the United States in the fight to “reassert Western values”, George Osborne has said.

Speaking in the US, the Chancellor said it was a “source of real pride” for him that MPs had overwhelmingly backed air strikes in Syria against Islamic State.

Mr Osborne said Britain, in partnership with the US, was taking the fight to IS by cutting off financing and tackling extremist ideology.

He told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank: “Britain has got its mojo back and we are going to be with you as we reassert Western values, confident that our best days lie ahead.”


Defense Contractors Cite “Benefits” of Escalating Conflicts in the Middle East

Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report for The Intercept:

Major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors at a Credit Suisse conference in West Palm Beach this week that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East.

Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner told the conference his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

The incident, Tanner said, heightens the risk for U.S. military operations in the region, providing “an intangible lift because of the dynamics of that environment and our products in theater.” He also stressed that the Russian intervention would highlight the need for Lockheed Martin-made F-22s and the new F-35 jets.

And for “expendable” products, such as a rockets, Tanner added that there is increased demand, including from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia because of the war in Yemen.