Category Archives: UK

Is the Bilderberg Group Picking Our Politicians?

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes:

clinton-thatcher‘When it comes to the secretive meetings of the world’s financial, corporate, political and technocratic elites at the annual Bilderberg conferences, a common criticism from conspiracy theorists and others is that the group pre-selects major politicians – choosing presidents and prime ministers in private before populations have a chance to vote themselves.

Bilderberg participants contest this framing, suggesting that Bilderberg participants simply invite up-and-coming politicians who appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

The truth is that it’s a bit of both. Bilderberg invites politicians who appear to have an influential future in their respective nations, but their attendance at the meetings (depending on their ability to impress Bilderberg members and participants) can itself have a very significant influence on their political futures. This is because the industrialists, bankers and media moguls in attendance hold significant individual and collective power over the political processes across much of the Western world.’


“When they say effective, they’re talking about the killing of civilians” – Interview with John Hilary on Drones

‘John Hillary, director of War on Want, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about drones. The UK is working with Israel, who are now the largest exporter of drones around the world, to develop drones.’ (Going Underground)

Outsourced and unaccountable: This is the future of local government in Britain

Aditya Chakrabortty writes for The Guardian:

'Whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband get in will make little odds for town halls.'‘[…] Between January 2012 and October 2013, Barnet farmed out its care for people with disabilities, legal services, cemeteries and crematoriums, IT, finance, HR, planning and regeneration, trading standards and licensing, management of council housing, environmental health, procurement, parking, and the highways department.

This evening [Monday 15th], a full council meeting will vote on whether to consider cuts and “alternative delivery models” for another tranche of services, including libraries, rubbish collection, street gritters and children’s speech therapy, among others. Should they go the way of the rest and be outsourced, the local Unison branch calculates that Barnet council will shrink from having 3,200 staff in September 2012 to just 332.

That is one hell of a municipal disappearing act. Residents now find it easier to list what their council doesn’t directly provide than what it does. Which means that if you want to see what the next five years of cuts hold for your local services – whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband get in will make little odds for town halls – you’d best pay close attention to what Barnet is doing.’


G4S guards found not guilty of manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga

Matthew Taylor and Robert Booth report for The Guardian:

Jimmy Mubenga‘Three private security guards who restrained the Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga have been cleared of manslaughter by a jury at the Old Bailey.

The 46-year-old died after being restrained by the G4S guards on a British Airways flight on 12 October 2010. Terrence Hughes, 53, Colin Kaler, 52 and Stuart Tribelnig, 39, were accused of manslaughter by forcing Mubenga’s head down and restricting his breathing as the flight prepared to take off at Heathrow airport. The jury cleared them of the charges on Tuesday after a six-week trial.

The court had heard how fellow passengers said they heard Mubenga cry out: “I can’t breathe” as he was pinned down in his seat, despite already being handcuffed from behind with his seatbelt on.’


David Cameron: I am not in control of when Iraq war report is published

Rowena Mason reports for The Guardian:

‘David Cameron has conceded he has no control over when the Chilcot report into the Iraq war will appear after previously urging the inquiry to publish before Christmas.

[…] There have been lengthy delays to the five-year inquiry because of diplomatic negotiations between the US and UK about what can be revealed from correspondence between Blair and former president George Bush.

There have been reports, however, that Blair and others criticised by the inquiry have now received official notifications of what it will say about them and been given the chance to respond.

Blair’s office insists that he has no interest in delaying publication and he would like the report published so he can justify his actions in the face of claims that he misled the public about the reasons for going to war.’


US believed FBI mole passed secrets to IRA in Thatcher murder plot, files reveal

Jon Swaine reports for The Guardian:

‘The US government suspected that a mole inside the FBI was passing secrets to Irish republican militants who repeatedly plotted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and 90s, files released to the Guardian showed on Monday.

A series of investigations by federal agents into alleged plots to murder Thatcher during visits to the US are detailed in hundreds of pages of FBI files involving the former prime minister, which were made public following a freedom of information request made after her death.

One trusted source told the FBI that a “female, secretary type” in the agency’s New York bureau was giving the provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) “access to computers, name checks and ID” – a claim that agents said tallied with independent allegations of a leak.’


Building a British naval base in Bahrain is a ‘symbolic choice’ – for no clear reason

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

‘[…] The most powerful figure in Bahrain is widely regarded as being not King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa but the Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa who has held his office since 1970. Calls for his resignation were one of the main demands of demonstrators three years ago, but he has steadfastly refused to step down.

Bahrain was a British protectorate from the 19th century until independence in 1971, ruled by the al-Khalifa dynasty that has long looked to Britain to shield it from international reaction against domestic repression. From the mid-1960s the head of security on the island was Ian Henderson who had played a role in the suppressing the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s. Successive periods of protest were harshly dealt with. Since 2011 Britain has played a role in muting the international reaction to the suppression of the protests by emphasising that a dialogue is under way and reforms are being introduced, though nobody else sees any sign of these going anywhere. It has played along with Bahraini government claims that Iran is orchestrating Shia dissent on the island though there is no evidence for this.’


British military base in Bahrain is a ‘reward’ for UK’s silence on human rights, say campaigners

Jamie Merril reports for The Independent:

‘The Royal Navy will set up a permanent base in Bahrain, to the dismay of human rights campaigners who say the base is a “reward” for the British’s government silence over torture, attacks on peaceful protesters and arbitrary detention in the tiny kingdom.

British minesweeper vessels have operated from temporary structures at Mina Salmon port for several years, but speaking in Bahrain the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced a new deal with kingdom for a £15m naval base. It will be able to host destroyers and the Royal Navy’s powerful new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers, which are currently under construction in Scotland.

Britain closed all is major bases east of the Suez canal following major defence spending cuts in 1971 and while the return to the region has been welcomed by defence sources, it has been widely condemned by Bahraini human rights activists who have attacked the British Government’s ongoing support for the “repressive regime” in Manama.’


Tony Blair: ‘I’m worth £9.5m not £100m and, like role model Henry Kissinger, will not retire’

Lewis Dean reports for the International Business Times:

‘Tony Blair has cleared up the issue of his wealth by claiming it is equal to what he has donated – about £9.5m. Since leaving Downing Street in 2007, reports have estimated the former prime minister’s wealth as being up to £100m. But in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Blair said his wealth had been overestimated.

[…] During a wide-ranging interview, Blair, who led Labour to three consecutive election successes between 1997 and 2005 and cast a looming shadow over the Labour party and British politics, named former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres as his role models.’


At Global Climate Conferences, Spying Is Just Part of the Woodwork

Alleen Brown writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] The resigned attitudes toward spying at the climate talks signal a normalization of broad surveillance by states like the U.S. and Britain. It seems that spying has become part of the woodwork of international ecological negotiations.

Intelligence gathering is fading into the background in part because it has become so ubiquitous, expanding well beyond traditional redoubts like diplomacy and military affairs into corporate operations, political activism and, yes, environmental affairs. Faiza Patel, who helps lead efforts against surveillance overreach at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, says, “The big point of this story for me is the fact that both the GCHQ and NSA shroud their actions as if it’s all about national security, when what we’ve seen over and over again is that it’s not.”’


On ‘the menace of Memes’ Spectator piece: Why you should use your critical thinking skills, whatever the information source

Another Angry Voice writes:

‘I’ll begin this article with an admission that I made a mistake. I always try to be careful that the infographics I create for social media are completely accurate (or clearly marked as satire when they’re jokes), however on Sunday 30th of November 2014 I shared an infographic made by someone else without properly fact checking it (the one in the article header).

It turns out that the image I shared was slightly misleading. The nine images of incredibly sparsely attended debates in parliament were perfectly accurate, but the two below claiming to be debates about MPs pay and expenses were just stock images of the House of Commons. The infographic in question was then cited in a Spectator article by Isabel Hartman entitled “The menace of Memes: How pictures can paint a thousand lies”.

I apologised as soon as I realised that I’d made a mistake in sharing a partially inaccurate image, but also took note of the fact that Isabel Hartman’s article was also misleading for the fact that that it implied that the image was deliberately inaccurate (made in bad faith), rather than the result of a quite obvious mistake (made in good faith), and also because it made the ludicrous argument that so few MPs bother to turn up to some debates because “it is more constructive to be outside the Chamber during those sessions”. The author casually dismissed all of the perfectly accurate pictures of incredibly sparsely attended parliamentary sessions (on the war in Afghanistan, child sex abuse, preventing knife crime, drugs laws, the effects of Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal welfare “reforms” on disabled people, the living wage, recognition of Palestine, tenancy reform, and Syrian refugees) as if they were probably just unconstructive waste-of-time type debates that might have been better had nobody bothered to attend them at all!

Had Isabel Hartman done the vaguest research on how someone might have mistakenly concluded that the two stock images were what they were claimed to be, she would have easily found this article on the BBC News website, and this article on the Daily Telegraph website which both lazily used old stock images to illustrate their articles about parliamentary debates on MPs pay and MPs expenses.’


Most Brits don’t eat five a day (unless you count chocolate)

Georgie Keate reports for The Times:

Fruit and vegetables‘More than three million people have not eaten any greens in the past week with most of them believing chocolate, cheese and meat are part of their five fruit and vegetables a day.

A recent study has found that despite the Department of Health issuing guidelines in 2002, men eat only 2.4 portions a day on average, while women are only slightly healthier, eating 2.7 daily portions.

Birds Eye, which commissioned the reserach, discovered that 10 per cent of adults were earting fewer greens than they did as a child, while 11 per cent claimed bad memories of school dinner.’


Who Does David Cameron Really Work For? Russell Brand Talks To George Monbiot About TTIP

Andy Coulson leaves prison after serving five months of 18-month term

Mark Sweney reports for The Guardian:

Andy Coulson‘Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications boss, has been released from prison.

He served less than five months of an 18-month term imposed in July after he was convicted of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.

Coulson, 46, said nothing to reporters as he left Hollesley Bay, an open prison in Suffolk, at 8am . It is understood he will have to wear an electronic tag until he has served half of his full sentence as a condition of his early release.’


Pessimistic UKIP voters yearn for something they can’t have

Sam Coates reports for The Times:

‘Ukip voters are more pessimistic and want the impossible, according to detailed research into the party’s support which suggests that most want to turn the clock back 30 years.

Research from YouGov suggests that two thirds of Ukip voters firmly believe that Britain is in decline, setting them apart from the more optimistic outlook of most other categories of voter.

A Ukip supporter will typically believe that crime is rising, education standards are falling, Europe is hurting Britain’s economy and Britain’s big cities have becomes less interesting and enjoyable places.

Some 68 percent of Ukip voters would like to turn the clock back to how Britain was 20-30 years ago.’



Begging prosecutions increase dramatically across England and Wales

Rob Waugh, and Helen Pidd report for The Guardian:

‘The number of cases brought to court under the 1824 Vagrancy Act has surged by 70%, prompting concerns that cuts to support services and benefits are pushing more people to resort to begging.

Some areas have spiked spectacularly. The number of charges for begging in the area covered by Merseyside police rose nearly 400% from 60 cases to 291 in 12 months, while Thames Valley, which covers relatively prosperous Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, showed a similar rate of increase from 20 cases to 92.

Numbers more than doubled in Greater Manchester, a rise the local force attributed to a change in policing strategy. In Manchester city centre, community support officers have been trained to issue court summonses. Local businesses have also been encouraged to report homelessness and begging.’


FIFA: Further Allegations of Impropriety Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids Emerge

Mark Hanrahan reports for the International Business Times:

fifa.jpg‘Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, which has published a number of stories alleging that the bidding process for the two tournaments was corrupt, has turned over a cache of previously unpublished material to a committee of the U.K. parliament.

The material reportedly includes allegations of vote buying and vote trading between Russia and Qatar; that Russia gifted paintings from the archives of a museum to key voters and that former German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer’s vote was allegedly offered for sale by associates in exchange for millions of dollars worth of consultancy fees, according to the paper.

The material was sourced by England’s Football Association, which was responsible for running the country’s unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup. The organization collected a database of rumors and intelligence, gathered by private companies, British embassies around the world, and former agents of the U.K. intelligence agency MI6, who were hired to spy on rival bidders.

The paper describes the allegations contained in the dossier as “unproven,” while a report from the BBC said that there is not clear evidence to support the allegations.’


The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display

Cahal Milmo reports for The Independent:

‘The Tower of London has been accused of “crass insensitivity” by hosting a £240-a-head networking dinner for arms manufacturers days after its hugely popular sea of poppies made it the focus of the First World War commemorations.

Nearly 200 representatives of Britain’s arms industry, along with senior Ministry of Defence officials and foreign defence attachés, attended the unpublicised London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) event on Tuesday night.

The annual dinner, described by organisers as “acclaimed and influential” and a chance to “make new business connections”, was co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence company. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, was the guest of honour.

In an apparent attempt to prevent the gathering becoming a focus for protests, the venue for the LCCI Defence and Security Dinner was kept quiet. Corporate guests paying up to £3,000 per table were told they would be advised of the location “upon registration”.’


It isn’t Facebook that feeds terror, it’s war and tyranny

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

‘It takes some mastery of spin to turn the litany of intelligence failures over last year’s butchery of the off-duty soldier Lee Rigby into a campaign against Facebook. But that’s exactly how David Cameron’s government and a pliant media have disposed of the report by Westminster’s committee of intelligence trusties.

You might have expected Whitehall’s security machine to be in the frame for its spectacular incompetence in spying on the two killers: from filling out surveillance applications wrongly and losing one suspect’s house number, to closing down the surveillance of another – just as the pair were preparing the Woolwich attack.

Centre stage might have been the admission that British intelligence could have been “complicit” in Michael Adebolajo’s torture in Kenya, and tried to cover that up. There is evidence that MI5’s attempts to recruit the Muslim convert on his return to Britain played a part in triggering the killing – though the trusties thought better than to inquire too closely into the matter.

Instead it was the US internet giant, Britain’s prime minister insisted, that was really to blame. Facebook had “blood on their hands”, the Sun declared, as the Daily Mail denounced the Mark Zuckerberg corporation’s “twisted libertarian ideology”.’


Theresa May and her worrying enthusiasm for so-called ‘not-spots’

Comedian David Mitchell wrote for The Guardian earlier this month:

Theresa May‘[…] Like Theresa May, many totalitarian governments have noticed how tricky it is to monitor millions. It’s even harder than keeping count of a flock of sheep, because not only do humans move around even more than livestock, some of them actively don’t want to be counted. Only terrorists and criminals, of course – Ms May is clearly convinced of that. So much so that she believes the undoubted convenience to customers of being able to use more than one phone network – this clear and beneficial correction to the market – should be sacrificed because it would play havoc with spies’ admin. It would make it harder to snoop on everyone.

But there are so many other things people do that make surveillance harder. We move house whenever we want, we travel wherever we like – at the drop of a hat, without telling anyone. What honest person needs to do that? Why not register our movements – submit them to a brief and streamlined vetting process – just to help the security services keep us safe? What’s the harm? Why the need for secrecy? Other than the security services’ secrecy of course – which is vital to national security and in all of our best interests. Why would anyone want to whisper unless they’d got something to hide? So let’s speak up loud and clear into our trustworthy guardians’ microphones.’


Theresa May is gradually building a surveillance state in bite-sized chunks

Mike Harris, Campaign Director of Don’t Spy On Us, writes for The Independent:

‘[…] Keeping track of suspected terrorists will keep us safe. Mass surveillance of the entire British population simply won’t. In a telling passage in the report, the ISC admits to the existence of theTEMPORA programme – the tapping of undersea cables off the coast of Cornwall to harvest the communications data of every UK internet user. As you can see in film Citizenfour, Snowden originally revealed this as the world’s first “full take” of the internet in 2013. As the ISC admits, even capturing the internet didn’t work as Adebolajo wasn’t on a target list at this point. You have to wonder how much the useless TEMPORA project is costing us.

Backing the endless expansion of the surveillance state is Theresa May. May is right to take the threat from radicalised jihadists seriously. She is wrong to think that placing ordinary citizens under surveillance is the answer. Parliament rejected the draft communications data bill saying mass population surveillance is expensive and unnecessary. May isn’t listening.’


Theresa May to publish new anti-terror powers

BBC News reports:

An armed Metropolitan police officer outside the Houses of Parliament‘New measures to tackle terrorism are to be unveiled by the home secretary, days after she said the UK faces a “greater” terror threat than ever before.

Theresa May is to publish a new counter-terrorism bill, which includes a requirement for schools, universities and councils to counter radicalisation.

But plans to stop some UK fighters returning have been questioned by the independent reviewer of terror laws.

Campaigners have also warned the bill threatens civil liberties.

It comes as a week-long counter-terrorism awareness campaign enters its third day.’


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

Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


The Coming Blackout Epidemic

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

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

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

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


The siege of Julian Assange is a farce

John Pilger writes:

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

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

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


Vodafone-Linked Company Aided British Mass Surveillance

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

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

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

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


Police face legal action for snooping on journalists

Rob Evans reports for The Guardian:

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

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

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

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


Emotional abuse ‘set to become a criminal offence’

Channel 4 News reports:

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

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

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