Afshin Rattansi speaks to former Shadow Schools Minister Nic Dakin, and upcoming member of Labour’s NEC Claudia Webbe, about Britain’s Labour Party leadership contest and who will be leader of the party when the votes are counted this weekend. (Going Underground)
For three decades, a bizarre offender has racked up dozens of court appearances and several spells in prison over a strange fetish that drives him to touch young men’s muscles.
Across the North West, Akinwale Arobieke has become a modern-day bogeyman and an internet sensation, and now a court order that curtailed his activities has been lifted.
Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on Whether War Should Have Waged on Libya
Afshin Rattansi speaks to British MP Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, about the new report on the 2011 military intervention in Libya. (Going Underground)
David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.
The failures led to the country becoming a failed a state on the verge of all-out civil war, the report adds.
The report, the product of a parliamentary equivalent of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, closely echoes the criticisms widely made of Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, and may yet come to be as damaging to Cameron’s foreign policy legacy.
It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was “a shitshow”, and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown. The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US secretary of state.
- Cameron ‘ultimately responsible’ for Libya collapse and the rise of Isis, Commons report concludes
- UK must do more to stop migrants from Libya drowning due to its role in country’s collapse, say MPs
- Libya mission failed because West didn’t intervene enough, says former UK army chief
- Libya is another tragic example of Cameron’s folly. History will not judge him kindly
- I watched from the ground as a British PM with no plan led a country into anarchy
- How Libya is slowly becoming ‘Somalia on the Med’
[…] The post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought in the full glare of the media and came to haunt the politicians who had initiated them. Despite this, Britain continued to invest in war – politically, technically and financially – as a means of projecting power and securing influence among key allies, and also, it seemed at times, in an attempt to impose order and a degree of familiarity upon a chaotic and unpredictable world.
But could this be done in secret? Surely, in the age of global media, 24-hour rolling news, social media, and the troops’ own ability to record and instantly share images of conflict, it would be impossible for a British government to go to war and conceal its actions, in the way that Britain’s war in Dhofar was hidden from the public for six-and-a-half years? Tony Jeapes, who commanded the first SAS squadron that was covertly deployed to Oman, considered this question, and concluded that while such secrecy was “an ideal state of affairs”, it would probably be impossible to repeat.
In the years since the Dhofar war, the UK’s special forces have been gradually expanded, and since 1996, all its members have been obliged to sign a confidentiality agreement. This has reinforced the discretion with which members of elite units within the military traditionally perform their duties, and it has rarely been broken.
Meanwhile, the evolution of successive generations of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has presented military planners with greater opportunities to mount operations that could remain unknown, other than to those who are ordering, planning and executing them, and to those on the receiving end.
The reliance of modern societies on the internet and the increasing frequency with which states probe and attack each other’s cyber defences have led some analysts to talk of a hybrid warfare, much of which is shrouded in deniability. The result is that the line between war and peace is increasingly blurred.
The radical shift in the NSA’s surveillance strategy to “collect it all” began in the UK, according to new revelations in the latest cache of documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
During a June 2008 visit to the Menwith Hill monitoring station in North Yorkshire, then-director of the NSA Keith Alexander asked: “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time?” He went on: “Sounds like a good summer homework project for Menwith!”
Menwith Hill Station—which formerly monitored Soviet signals and is now the NSA’s largest overseas spying base—expanded greatly in the wake of Alexander’s challenge, as The Intercept reports in its coverage of the new Snowden documents.
[…] Top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept offer an unprecedented glimpse behind Menwith Hill’s razor wire fence. The files reveal for the first time how the NSA has used the British base to aid “a significant number of capture-kill operations” across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by powerful eavesdropping technology that can harvest data from more than 300 million emails and phone calls a day.
Over the past decade, the documents show, the NSA has pioneered groundbreaking new spying programs at Menwith Hill to pinpoint the locations of suspected terrorists accessing the internet in remote parts of the world. The programs — with names such as GHOSTHUNTER and GHOSTWOLF — have provided support for conventional British and American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they have also aided covert missions in countries where the U.S. has not declared war. NSA employees at Menwith Hill have collaborated on a project to help “eliminate” terrorism targets in Yemen, for example, where the U.S. has waged a controversial drone bombing campaign that has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.
The disclosures about Menwith Hill raise new questions about the extent of British complicity in U.S. drone strikes and other so-called targeted killing missions, which may in some cases have violated international laws or constituted war crimes. Successive U.K. governments have publicly stated that all activities at the base are carried out with the “full knowledge and consent” of British officials.
The number of prosecutions relating to violence against women and girls in England and Wales reached a record level last year, the director of public prosecutions said, as she warned of the increasing use of social media to threaten and control.
Alison Saunders said the ease with which such crimes could be committed online was contributing to the increase in prosecutions. The number of offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults, rose by almost 10% to 117,568 in 2015-6.
Speaking to the Guardian as the Crown Prosecution Service published its annual report on violence against women and girls, Saunders said: “The use of the internet, social media and other forms of technology to humiliate, control and threaten individuals is rising and it is something that we will possibly see increase further. It is undoubtedly easier to commit a lot of these crimes online, people do it without thinking, it is more immediate and it is about the reach and ability to communicate to so many more people.”
[…] Middle East Eye travelled to Yemen as part of our own assessment of breaches of humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition.
We discovered indisputable evidence that the coalition, backed by the UK as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is targeting Yemeni civilians in blatant breach of the rules of war.
We saw evidence of the pitiless destruction of Yemeni homes by Saudi air strikes. We spoke to many of the survivors of these air assaults from the Saudi-led coalition, hearing harrowing stories of how they fled from their homes.
We also saw first-hand how the Saudis are carrying out sinister “double tap” air strikes.
This euphemism describes the practice of launching a preliminary strike, then launching a fresh attack when the emergency services come to pull the wounded from the rubble. This cruel strategy makes civilians victims twice over and kills them at the precise moment when they hope for rescue.
We were also told by doctors that the blockade of Yemen, legitimised by the United Nations Security Council, and backed by Britain and the United States to prevent arms supplies reaching the warring sides, has also prevented vital drugs and medical equipment from reaching the country.
Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East.
Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.
A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West.
Meanwhile statistics collated by UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports abroad, show the UK has sold more arms than Russia, China, or France on average over the last 10 years. Only the United States is a bigger exporter.
A BBC investigation has uncovered a catalogue of safety concerns at the UK’s most hazardous nuclear site.
Panorama found parts of Sellafield regularly have too few staff to operate safely and that radioactive materials have been stored in degrading plastic bottles.
The programme was told that parts of the facility are dangerously rundown.
Sellafield says the site in Cumbria is safe and has been improved with significant investment in recent years.
The Panorama investigation was prompted by a whistle-blower – a former senior manager who was worried by conditions.
Populism is rampant. Donald Trump is a contender for the US presidency. Marine Le Pen fancies her chances in France. Across Europe and beyond there is a powerful sense of mainstream politics reaching a state of abject failure. These are volatile, dangerous times: what with all that shouting about greedy, cosseted elites, people close to the summit of power and influence surely ought to be very wary of playing to type.
But just look. This week the petition protesting at José Manuel Barroso, a former president of the European commission, taking a new job as a nonexecutive chairman and adviser to Goldman Sachs International surpassed 75,000 signatures. It is the work of employees of the EU, whose horror at Barroso’s move is captured in its preamble, and reference to the “European project’s deteriorating image among our families, friends and neighbours as well as the many citizens we encounter all over Europe”. They are aiming at 150,000 signatories, and want the appointment to be referred to the European court of justice, which could theoretically take away Barroso’s €100,000-a-year pension.
How much he’ll be paid is unclear. But in a role partly built around advice about the consequences of Brexit, Barroso will be working for the bank that played a key role in the US subprime crisis, and helped Greece mask its fatal debt problems. The whole spectacle suggests a man gleefully posing for his own caricature, and it is hardly unique: indeed, highlighting a revolving door that never stops turning, his predecessor at Goldman Sachs International was Ireland’s former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.
[…] During the fascist regime of General Franco in Spain, to display the Catalan flag was to risk death or imprisonment. The only place where the Catalans could safely fly these fags was Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. Barcelona FC now embodies Catalan identity and pride. Wherever there is oppression in the world, football, by its very nature, can provide a vehicle for expressing pride in a national cause. It was never only ever about football.
Celtic supporters know this too. Their club was founded in 1887 and played its first game in 1888 to raise funds for the relief of the poor Irish who had gathered in the East End of Glasgow. When they arrived in the city they initially faced resentment, discrimination and squalor. Every time Celtic won a game their suffering was eased a little.
In Scotland, those days are long departed. In Palestine, though, another oppressed people is suffering. Perhaps now because of a simple act of solidarity and generosity, they will know that they don’t suffer alone.
- Palestinian refugees record thank you video for Celtic
- St Etienne follows Celtic in staging Palestine flag display
- How deep is the connection between Celtic fans and Palestine?
- Celtic fans raise more than £130,000 for Palestinian charities after flag protest
- Celtic fans share their views on Uefa fine and fundraising for Palestinian charities
- Celtic fans warned not to fly Palestinian flags at match in Israel
What a thrill to see new life breathed into the buddy demagogue movie in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday night. You only had to look at Nigel Farage’s little face to see how thrilled he was at the chance to play the Danny Glover to Donald Trump’s Mel Gibson. As for Trump, he was all over Nigel’s cheap suit like a cheap suit.
I still find it impossible to imagine Trump touching anyone except his daughter without pulling the full Mariah Carey and screaming for the hand sanitiser the second he’s offstage. But Mr Soon-They-Will-Be-Calling-Me-Mr-Brexit made an excellent fist of embracing Mr Brexit for his crowds of occasionally bemused supporters. A fanfare for the little people ensued.
I’m sure Farage’s life wants him back and everything, but duty calls.
This week found the outgoing Ukip leader shaving off his gap year moustache and going all the way to that America. He was joined by his backer, Arron Banks – still growing into the role of kingmaker, it must be said – though the pair left their immigrant wives at home, so we were denied the spectacle of a bilateral with Melania. (Incidentally, why do so many of our most frothingly anti-immigrant elite populists seem to have immigrant wives? I find all my non-scientific answers to be entirely unprintable. Perhaps an academic study could put it mildly.)
Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas.
Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology.
“At a time when the use of these surveillance tools is still highly controversial in the UK, it is completely unacceptable that companies are allowed to export the same equipment to countries with atrocious human rights records or which lack rule of law altogether. There is absolutely a clear risk that these products can be used for repression and abuses,” Edin Omanovic, research officer at Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email.
Europe is heading towards a “cataclysmic event” that could lead to the collapse of the euro and the end of the European project as we know it, according to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
In an interview with Business Insider following the launch of his latest book “The Euro: How A Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe” — which argues that the European single currency will inevitably cease to be at some point in the future unless drastic changes are made — Stiglitz said that a “disastrous” political event similar to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union could trigger such a collapse.
“I think the most likely thing is something along the lines of a political cataclysmic event like Brexit. In other words, the eurozone’s member countries are democracies and one sees increasing hostility to the euro, which is unfortunately spilling over to a broader hostility to the broader European project and liberal values,” Stiglitz told BI from his office in New York.
Stiglitz continued: “That’s going to be the end. What’s going to happen is that there will be a definite consensus that Europe is not working. The diagnosis will be to shed the currency and keep the rest, or that Europe is not working and a broader rejection — like in the UK.
“So my worry that this is precisely that kind of political event [something like Brexit] is that is what will be the catalyst for change.”
- Renzi: ‘This is my priority, my dream, and my nightmare’
- Italy is imploding in slow-motion — and it could signal the end of the euro
- Forget Brexit — Italy is poised to tear Europe apart
- CEO of the world’s oldest bank is reportedly under investigation for market manipulation
- The European bank stress test just revealed how awful things look for the world’s oldest bank
- The oldest bank on earth just agreed a rescue deal backed by JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank
- Italy is putting €5 billion behind its weakest banks to spur new lending
A powerful coalition of Manchester’s political and civic leaders have used the anniversary of the bloody Peterloo Massacre on 16 August to confront Manchester City Football Club’s Emirati owners over human rights abuses in the oil-rich kingdom.
In an open letter published on Tuesday, Manchester-based politicians, legal experts and campaign groups wrote to the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, demanding the UAE release political prisoners, investigate allegations of torture and commit to respecting human rights.
The UAE has had close financial ties to Manchester since Mansour purchased the football club in 2008. He has since invested more than £1bn ($1.3bn) in the team, as UAE-backed firms signed a string of deals in the city, including a $1.3bn regeneration partnership with Manchester City Council.
However, rights groups and senior figures in Manchester, including local MPs and two high-profile barristers who represented some of the families in the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster, are increasingly concerned about the financial ties to one of the city’s Premier League clubs, given the deteriorating human rights situation in the UAE.
Jeremy Corbyn has won local party nominations by a landslide in the Labour leadership contest, with 84% of constituency nominations at the final count.
The Labour leader won the support of 285 constituency Labour parties (CLPs), with his rival, Owen Smith, taking just 53 nominations.
Corbyn has more than doubled his support among local parties since the 2015 contest, though there were four candidates then rather than two. In 2015, he won support from 39% of CLPs.
Since then, he has taken support from CLPs who nominated all three other candidates in 2015 – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall – across the political spectrum in the party.
Liam Fox and Boris Johnson are locked in a bitter Whitehall feud over who controls key parts of Britain’s foreign policy, a leaked letter seen by The Telegraph reveals.
Just weeks after the two men joined the Government, Dr Fox sent Mr Johnson the terse letter, which he copied to Theresa May, effectively demanding that the Foreign Office be broken up.
Dr Fox, suggested that British trade with other countries would not “flourish” if responsibility for future policy remained with the Foreign Office.
He also listed a series of economic statistics which called into question the Foreign Office’s ability to boost Britain’s economic ties with other countries and suggested that Mr Johnson focused instead on “diplomacy and security” including overseeing MI6 and GCHQ.
Britain could remain in the EU until late 2019, almost a year later than predicted, ministers have privately warned senior figures in the City of London.
Theresa May has been expected to enact article 50 in January, setting in train the formal two years of negotiations before Brexit.
Despite great political pressure to stick to that timetable, she may be forced to delay because her new Brexit and international trade departments will not be ready, City sources said.
French and German elections are also being cited as a cause for delay.
On Monday August 8th 2016 the High Court ruled that the Labour Party NEC had unlawfully blocked members from voting because retroactively redrawing the voter eligibility rules to bar 130,000+ people from voting in leadership elections was a breach of contract.
The Labour Party NEC then decided to challenge the ruling in the Appeal Court in a case that was heard just a few days later. The Labour NEC’s argument was that they were entitled to retroactively redraw the rules in order to disenfranchise party members because there was nothing in their rule book saying that they couldn’t make up the rules as they go along.
There was much disdain for the argument that contracts can be retroactively altered as long as whoever issued it hasn’t specifically barred themselves from retroactively tampering with the contract in order to suit their own interests. The interest in this case being to rig the Labour leadership election in favour of the Anyone But Corbyn candidate.
BBC must end ‘he said, she said’ approach to coverage of government statistics and scrutinise claims, says Trust report
The BBC is guilty of quoting government statistics without holding them up to sufficient scrutiny, according to a report by commissioned by the BBC Trust.
The report also found that 73 per cent of statistical references in the news come from Conservative politicians.
The BBC Trust has commissioned an impartiality review into how the corporation presents facts and figures in its news stories.
It said its presenters should be in a better position to challenge numbers, especially when interviewing guests.
The High Court has ruled that 130,000 people who recently joined the Labour party could be allowed to cast a vote in the upcoming leadership election, in a move that many expect to be advantageous to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign.
Lawyers representing a group of five, who have argued they have “paid their dues”, claimed their clients had been unfairly excluded from participating in the labour leadership contest. Stephen Cragg QC accused the party’s governing body, the National Executive Committee, of unlawfully “freezing” them and many others out of the election process between Mr Corbyn and his challenger Owen Smith, the former shadow work and pensions secretary.
The case was triggered by an NEC decision last month that full members would not be able to vote if they had not a least six months’ continuous membership up to July 12 – the so-called “freeze date”. The five members, who have crowdfunded their legal fees, are making the case on behalf of the 130,000 Labour supporters affected by the NEC decision.
[…] How history judges Cameron – between hapless victim and appalling bungler – will not have a huge impact on our political landscape; the verdict on Gove, even less. There will be some lasting effect on Labour’s truths and confidence from an analysis of Corbyn, but we can’t hang anything off his performance during the referendum until we accept that both sides are right: he was beset by a hostile media and he was ambivalent.
This story about the deprived north, however, will have lasting and profoundly misleading consequences for the political landscape, if we don’t think more deeply about it.
The prevailing assumption is that the vote was one in the eye for metropolitan elites, and that the white working classes, the disenfranchised and unheeded, the voters hidden on estates, had finally given a message to the Westminster bubble that knew nothing and cared less about their concerns. In fact, most leave voters were in the south: the south-east, south-west – indeed the entire south apart from London voted leave.
They did so by slightly smaller margins – though it is interesting to note that Wales, apparently the hotbed of a self-sabotaging leave movement, driven by a deprivation that only the EU was interested in alleviating, voted out by a smaller margin than the south-west. Yet southerners voted in greater numbers; their votes were decisive. Furthermore, most leave voters are middle class, or at least were of the generation whose housing and pension windfalls put them squarely in the category of wealth.
In 2013, Dr Liam Fox – he insists on the “Doctor” – published a book on the challenges of globalisation, which read as if he had dictated into his phone between meetings. Rising Tides was a meandering work. It took a long time to say little and did as abysmally as you would expect. Nielsen International, which monitors book sales, told me the English edition had sold a mere 1,723 copies in the UK and 1,876 copies in the English-speaking foreign markets it watches. (Most were probably in the US, where Dr Fox has a small following in America’s raging right wing.)
In 2014, Dr Fox received news that he was the beneficiary of a stroke of good fortune. Our new secretary for international trade may be hopelessly unqualified to deal with the dangerous pass he helped bring Britain to by agitating for Brexit, but he can trade on his own account.
The register of MPs interests shows that the oil-rich dictatorship of Azerbaijan, via its London lobbyists, paid Dr Fox £5,700 for the right to translate Rising Tides into an Azerbaijani Turkish edition. The generosity of Azerbaijan’s rulers did not stop there. On 1 February 2015, the regime flew him and an aide to Istanbul to launch the book and put them up in a luxury hotel. . The cost of the four-day trip was £3,579.94.
As tensions continue to escalate with Russia, increasing attention is being paid in western media to what are frequently described as the “propaganda” activities of Vladimir Putin’s regime. The Sun headlines“Putin’s glamorous propaganda girls who front a new UK-based news agency ‘that aims to destabilise Britain’” in reference to the recent establishment of Sputnik News in Edinburgh, while the Mail describes how “Vladimir Putin is waging a propaganda war on the UK”.
Most recently in the Times, a study by an MPhil student at the University of Oxford, Monica Richter, is reported to confirm that people who watch the 24-hour English-language news channel Russia Today (RT) are more likely to hold anti-western views. The tone of the Times article is clear: RT uses unqualified and “obscure” experts, is frequently sanctioned by Ofcom for bias and failure to remain impartial and, worst of all, actually seems to be “turning viewers against the west”. Perhaps the intended subtext of this particular news story is to warn people off watching non-western media for fear of betraying their home country in some way.
Whatever the accuracy, or lack thereof, of RT and whatever its actual impact on western audiences, one of the problems with these kinds of arguments is that they fall straight into the trap of presenting media that are aligned with official adversaries as inherently propagandistic and deceitful, while the output of “our” media is presumed to be objective and truthful. Moreover, the impression given is that our governments engage in truthful “public relations”, “strategic communication” and “public diplomacy” while the Russians lie through “propaganda”.
Had you told Bob Diamond that Mervyn King was off to work for a bank, you’d have got a snort of disbelief.
Lord King, former governor of the Bank of England, was notoriously disdainful of banks, keeping his contact with them to a minimum.
He particularly abhorred investment banks of the kind built by brash Americans, like Mr Diamond at Barclays.
His experience of the financial crisis, and the scandals that emerged in its aftermath, only hardened his resolve to drive an overhaul, particularly at Barclays. Following the Libor rate-rigging scandal in 2012, he ousted Mr Diamond.
A few years on, Lord King has apparently softened. As the Financial Times revealed on Friday, he has emerged as a senior adviser to Citigroup. Lord King did not respond to a request for comment, so we can only guess at his motives.
The BBC is to spy on internet users in their homes by deploying a new generation of Wi-Fi detection vans to identify those illicitly watching its programmes online.
The Telegraph can disclose that from next month, the BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to “sniff out” those who have not paid the licence fee.
The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use the new technology, which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies, to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via the iPlayer must have a TV licence.
The disclosure will lead to fears about invasion of privacy and follows years of concern over the heavy-handed approach of the BBC towards those suspected of not paying the licence fee. However, the BBC insists that its inspectors will not be able to spy on other internet browsing habits of viewers.
The existence of the new strategy emerged in a report carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Tim Newburn, the LSE professor of criminology who researched the UK riots of 2011, has said many of the underlying conditions that helped cause them have now worsened.
Prof Newburn, speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of disorder in London, which then spread around the country, said there had not been enough improvement.
“The underlying conditions for those riots still persist,” Newburn told the Guardian on Friday, before describing the conditions: rioters were drawn from the poorest communities, had a sense of being constantly harassed by the police, felt that their opportunities were limited and shrinking, and that the dearth of services and chances around them was the result of deliberate political choices, made by rich people who behaved with impunity.
“There’s no real sign that things have improved for the lives of the kinds of people who were involved and caught up in the riots. Certainly it’s not implausible that there could be more riots. But that’s not the same thing as expecting riots,” he said.