Thursday, November 30, 2006

The State of Blair's Britain

Lucy Mangan
Thursday November 30, 2006


Evicted (BBC1) was a documentary forming part of the BBC's No Home initiative, looking at poverty and homelessness in Britain. It focused first on 13-year-old Charlotte and her family - three siblings, a mother suffering from depression and literally tearing her hair out, and a father who had had to stop work as a bus driver to look after his wife and children. They were evicted from their house by a landlord who wanted to sell the property. Then they lived in two B&Bs and a hostel. When the latter closed down they were truly roofless, and were taken in by a friend - nine people in a two-bedroom house. Charlotte did her homework on the bathroom floor and cried herself to sleep "most nights". Then the friend's housing association found out about the sharing and threatened to evict both families if they didn't leave within seven days. The greatest fear was that the children would get taken into care. Four-year-old Conor homed in, as four-year-olds will, on the practical aspects of the possibility. "What would they take us in, though?" he asked Charlotte and his big brother. "How do they get us there - do you know?" They laughed uneasily. He turned to the camera crew instead. "Do you know? Do you? Do you?"

There was a lot I didn't know. I didn't know, for example, that if one council department fails to pay a family's housing benefit on time, another department will apply to the court to have them evicted and that the court will then do so, without letting the family take nappies for the baby or a child's medication before they change the locks. I didn't know that it was the family's responsibility to try and counteract this mind-boggling lack of communication by running between god-knows-who, trying to explain the situation to everyone's satisfaction. Chloe's family didn't know that either. So they spent weeks living in a B&B after being found, in a moment of injustice striking even in a programme filled with such moments, intentionally homeless. Or, as the woman from the council put it, "The decision we are looking at is intentionality." Always a useful distancing device, jargon, when you have something devastating to say.

Still, at least the advent of Chloe and her brothers and sisters gave 14-year-old Sarah someone to play with at the B&B. She is an old hand there now. She knows that if you put a tin of beans on the radiator in the morning, they will be warm enough to eat for tea. I didn't know that, but that's maybe because I didn't know that you're not allowed to have a microwave - or any other cooking facilities - in temporary accommodation. These are Sarah's GCSE years and she would like to be at school, but it would mean four buses a day and her mum doesn't have the money.

Charlotte et al make the three-hour, 50-mile round trip every day to their school in Minehead from their emergency accommodation in Taunton, found for them by a local authority after the charity Shelter threatened to sue the authority. For the first few days, they don't know whether they will still have somewhere to stay by the time the afternoon bell goes. Meanwhile, Chloe's school won't send her any homework while she waits for a place at a new school near her temporary housing. It's the insults added so casually to injury that make you want to batter the screen.

Eventually, Chloe's family finds a private let that is willing to take DSS. Between the two parents and four grandparents they scrape together the £450 deposit required and move in. Several months later, the council admits that it should never have evicted them in the first place. This doesn't seem to be followed by any compensation or restoration of their far more affordable original house.

After two years and eight moves, Charlotte and her family are given a council house. They get their stuff out of storage and Charlotte looks forward to life without being called a tramp and a low-life by other girls at school. Sarah, seven months on, is still in temporary accommodation, has missed her GCSEs and still hasn't returned to school. It is more than likely that the cracks Sarah fell through have widened into a chasm from which she will be lucky ever to climb out.

This was a brilliant, understated film by Bafta-winning director Brian Woods, and it made you want to scream and scream and scream. Somebody should. The families themselves really don't have the energy any more.

Unless families like this are saved from being treated worse than stray dogs, the country will continue its rapid decline. The system fails but nobody is ever accountable. I have come across poor kids who go to school after being forced to look after disabled parents at home, without any help. Traumatised and depressed, they wander the corridors avoiding the misery of being bullied by other kids. They often smell as they are unable to maintain their own personal hygiene and this makes the bullying worse. Schools bracket them as SEN and provide some school facilities and attention, but sadly can do little to counteract the massive psychological damage they are already suffering in their private life. It is a criminal failure by the authorities in their duty of care towards the poor and their children. For all the hype and good intentions of the 'Every Child Matters' agenda, it will not be worth a jot if it cannot counteract this basic failing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Standards of Evidence

The government's chief propaganda service, the BBC has persistently misrepresented the position of Iran and it's president. The main issue has been the non-existence of Iranian nuclear weapons. The media have persistently referred to Iran's nuclear weapons programme instead of civil nuclear power programme. This blatant misrepresentation on behalf of Washington and London is bad enough but they also painted the president of Iran as a killer who would 'wipe Israel off the map' at any opportunity. Debates over on MLMB and POV and clarifications from Iranian translations made it clear that he had quoted Khomeini's prediction that the zionist reshime would vanish from the page of history/time. In fact this is no bad thing and that the disappearance of a rabid extremist racist reshime from the middle-east would be welcomed by the majority of countries who are worried by Israeli extremism and nuclear weapons. That is completely different to wiping a country off a map but the media insist this is what is meant, despite Iranian clarification. The Israeli nuclear weapons must never mentioned of course although the Iranian non-existent ones must be referred to continuously, preferably in every bulletin. The Iranian chief nuclear negotiator clarified this issue in a recent interview:

Q) President Ahmadinejad raised the issue of wiping out Israel off the map at a time when Iran was under pressure for its nuclear programme. Do you think this made the situation more dangerous?

A) This was part of a propaganda campaign. Our position vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue is clear. We believe in a democratic solution and that the Palestinian people must vote to elect their ruling system. He (the president) meant a democratic change involving all Palestinians, including those inside and outside Palestine.......
Some two years ago, they forced us to resume work on our peaceful nuclear programme. But their disturbances continued over the past one and a half years. Under the present circumstances, we are working under supervision of the IAEA. We are committed to NPT and the IAEA inspectors visit Iran. There is nothing to hide................I appreciate stances and supports by your people and government. We signed NPT from the very beginning and in our national security doctrine there is no room for atomic weapons. We believe that a nuclear weapons rivalry would not benefit the region and has lost its deterrent effect. So, we are struggling for peaceful nuclear technology. The West's problem with Iran's nuclear programme is rooted in other things. By West, I mean a few countries not the whole bloc. These are the countries which have atomic bombs, have created crisis in our region and have killed the people of Iran and Afghanistan.

They created such a fiasco in Iran. Their military commander said the day the Americans occupied Iran, they will create a democracy tower there. This is the democracy tower which they have built. They saw the outcome of their attitudes in their recent elections. They want to establish a feudal system at the international level. They did not want Muslims to be free and make progress and resolve their problems.

Ahmadinejad is always referred to as a hardline president whilst Olmert, Bush and Cheney - the people responsible for countless deaths, are never referred to as hardline. Time and again the criminals responsible for the Iraq war, people like Richard Perle and others march into BBC studios and spout more lies and smears without fear of challenge. Contrast this to the treatment of mavericks such as George Galloway who is immediately confronted and often smeared before being allowed a brief slot to explain his position. Other deceptions include the repeated lie without evidence that Iranians are giving technology to insurgents. Time and time again, the BBC have repeated this allegation without a sniff of proof yet they have the chutzpah to declare that they are committed to 'evidence-based journalism'. The standards of evidence appear to be variable indeed. If they information is provided by British or US authorities then that is treated as almost concrete proof. Look no further than the killing of another anti-syrian minister last week. The blood was hardly dry before the Syrians were accused by one news agency after another of another 'murder'. Rupert Murdoch's Scum declared that despite hopes that Syria would play a more positive role in the region, Damascus had ordered the killing. No room for doubts there, or any necessity for requiring evidence for an outrageous charge. Of course their is no danger of a successful legal action against Murdoch's organ particularly when one of Murdoch's minions is the Prime Minister. The evidence against the media is clear and it is only those who are committed to supporting the Islamaphobic output of the media who deny that the media is biased.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dirty Aid, Dirty Water

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bitter paralysis

I commend this excellent article from Jonathon Cook. Cook is probably the best western journalist in the region at the moment. He dwells on the nature of the Israeli 'peace camp' and examines their policies and aspirations with incisiveness and honesty. He argues that people like Uri Avnery relied on having someone such as Arafat to pull the Palestinian side together. Someone they could do business with. With the Palestinians disunited and in factions, the vision of these 'peaceniks' is under threat.

One aspect of the factionalism on the Palestinian side that Cook does not go into detail about, is the deliberate intervention in Palestinian affairs by Israeli agents in order to keep them disunited and to stoke disputes. Of course the fault is not entirely due to Israeli agents but it has been encouraged and exploited. Using blackmail they produce informers. These informers serve a dual purpose. They inform the Israelis about the whereabouts of people on the hitlist for murder. Secondly, they are made to carry out acts designed to stoke fighting between Fatah, Hamas and other parties. The rivalries were preexisting and well-known but were largely kept under control by the leaders of the parties. With Gaza in the paralysed brutalised state it is, it does not take much for tensions to boil over trigger feuds. It says much for the endurance and courage of the people that they can still come together to help one of their own from being blown to bits by an Israeli missile as they did today in Gaza. The Israeli state though it is powerful and brutal, is also paralysed for a different reason. They desperately want to carry out the last genocide, to wipe the slate clean and erase any remnants of Palestine from history. Yet with the world watching wearily and warily, it cannot bring itself to do the final wholesale massacre to kill or drive out the Palestinians once and for all. Some Palestinians in despair wish the end would come soon, longing for an end to the bitter lingering enduring tortured rape of their society.

If they were evicted, where would they go? Not Eygpt, not Jordan, not Syria and probably not bomb strewn devastated Lebanon. Perhaps the rich ones could emigrate but the majority are trapped. Nowhere to go, no-one to turn to but each other and god. It is not the militants who are fighting the zionist enemy, but the whole Palestinian people. The media can pretend there is a difference( usually in order to help Israel justify its murder), but there is not. Man, woman and child knows, this is about survival. To the zionists, all Muslims are enemies direct or indirect. They are people who stand between them and a racially pure Jewish state. They are people who claim the holy places as their own. Palestinian Christians also fall into this category. But this is one group of Christians that Bush and Blair do not speak out for.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

AJ goes English

Al-Jazeera TV, have launched their English news service amidst much publicity from both rivals and broadsheets. Tuning in for research purposes, it feels no different to the other offerings, except for the obviously flaunted tinge of Arabic influence. The graphics are slick and the presenters are slicker. Many of the faces are familiar too. Mercifully, I haven’t seen Frost on it, otherwise the slick would have been covered in sick.

AJ the corporation, have been bullied mercilessly by Western governments for the last few years. After 11/9/2001, their reporters were frequently targeted by US forces and their offices in Afghanistan and Iraq bombed. One reporter is still a prisoner of the US torture camp in Cuba, some have been killed. They were accused by Rumsfeld of transmitting propaganda for Al-Qaeda and allegedly the Shrub almost authorized the bombing of their headquarters in Qatar. It looks like the pressure has paid off. The restructuring and content now conforms to 'western standards'. That was the only way they were going to achieve access to the western market. Like any business they cater for their customers and advertisers. Once upon a time, they provided a radical or more accurately a novel alternative source for Arab customers. This helped them capture a good share of the market because of the different approach and the enormous Arab anger at the West and their own governments. It was nothing but a marketing ploy and succeeded because they were competing against weak competitors. They are seeking to compete with Sky, BBC etc, therefore they appear to be positioning themselves to be less controversial in order to capture the 'mainstream' audience, whilst appealing to their 'radical credentials' of the past. I don't mind the extra coverage of the middle-east particularly because the BBC are regularly failing to report daily Israeli atrocities. On the downside, we get to see more of criminals like Shimon Peres on the screen. Perhaps they will carve out a share becoming another 'eastern' channel on the digital service menu but the odds are against them. It's hard to please everybody all of the time but I cannot see how this channel will please anybody or exactly what purpose it serves.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

14 million orphaned by AIDS

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Prisoner of the Bride

Radical Cleric Details CIA Abduction, Egyptian Torture

Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 10, 2006; Page A23 (link)

MILAN, Nov. 9 -- In an account smuggled out of prison, a radical Muslim cleric has detailed how he was kidnapped by the CIA from this northern Italian city and flown to Cairo, where he was tortured for months with electric shocks and shackled to an iron rack known as "the Bride."

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, wrote an 11-page letter describing his 2003 abduction at the hands of the CIA and Italian secret service agents. He somehow transferred the document out of Egypt -- where he remains in custody -- and into the hands of Italian prosecutors who are investigating his disappearance.

The Milan public prosecutor's office on Thursday confirmed the authenticity of the letter, the existence of which was first reported by the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The document has been submitted as evidence to defense attorneys representing 25 CIA officers, a U.S. Air Force officer and nine Italian agents who have been charged with organizing the kidnapping of Nasr, an Egyptian national, in February 2003.

A copy of the document, handwritten in Arabic, was obtained by The Washington Post. Undated, it reads like a homemade legal affidavit, outlining how Nasr was seized as he was walking to a mosque in Milan, stuffed into a van and rushed to Egypt in a covert operation involving spies from three countries.

"I didn't understand anything about what was going on," Nasr wrote. "They began to punch me in the stomach and all over my body. They wrapped my entire head and face with wide tape, and cut holes over my nose and face so I could breathe."

Upon his arrival in Egypt hours later, he said, he was taken into a room by an Egyptian security official who told him that "two pashas" wanted to speak with him.

"Only one spoke, an Egyptian," he recalled. "And all he said was, 'Do you want to collaborate with us?' " Nasr said the other "pasha" appeared to be an American. His captors offered a deal: They would allow him to return to Italy if he agreed to become an informant. Nasr said he refused. As a result, he said, he was interrogated and physically abused for the next 14 months in two Cairo prisons.

Italian prosecutors charge that the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi collaborated to kidnap Nasr, who was known for preaching radical sermons in Milan and railing against U.S. policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East. According to prosecutors, the abduction thwarted a separate Italian police investigation into Nasr's activities and jeopardized a surveillance operation concerning other radicals in Milan.

Court papers allege that the kidnapping was orchestrated by the CIA's station chief in Rome and involved at least two dozen CIA operatives, most of whom arrived in Italy months before to lay the groundwork. Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for the CIA officers and have pledged to try them in absentia if necessary.

Although the case has caused a furor in Italy, the U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied playing a role in Nasr's disappearance. Egyptian officials have also remained silent. A CIA spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Nasr's wife and his lawyer in Cairo have said the cleric is still imprisoned in Egypt, although he has been released under house arrest for brief periods. It is unclear how Italian prosecutors received a copy of his letter. Investigators said handwriting experts have verified that Nasr was the author.

Prosecutors in Milan are also investigating allegations that Italian spies offered to give Nasr $2.5 million if he would sign papers saying he had left Italy voluntarily and was not kidnapped, according to Italian news reports.

The imam of a Milan mosque where Nasr preached on occasion said he also recognized the handwriting as the Egyptian's. "This is his writing, I know it for sure," said the imam, Arman Ahmed al-Hissini, who is known locally as Abu Imad and runs the Viale Jenner mosque, a few blocks from where Nasr was kidnapped.

Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Center in Milan, said he was worried that the public disclosure of Nasr's letter could jeopardize his life, or at least dash any chances that he might be released. "What are they going to do with him now?" Shaari said. "He's a problem for the Italians, the Egyptians and the Americans."

In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."

He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.

On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner's shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Magical Rebab of Amir Hamza

The rebab is part of the lute family of instruments. It originated in Afghanistan around the 8th century or earlier. Here the plucked rebab is masterfully demonstrated by Amir Hamza who is also from those parts. Some versions are played with a bow. Variations are used in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Circus of Lies

Yet again BBC Radio 4, five o' clock news covers a terrorist attack by Israel costing innocent Palestinian lives but immediately sets about helping Israel 'explain' its 'mistake'. Every single time Palestinian lives are lost, they are explained as being a result of retaliatory action against rockets or a 'mistake'. There is absolutely zilch critical analysis, except from the viewpoint of the 'powers', or from the standpoint of Israeli politics. They reckon, Olmert is now a weak PM because of the war on Lebanon and therefore he cannot 'do peace'. What fucking effort did he make towards peace in the first place before the attack on Lebanon? Why not ask the obvious fucking question?

There is a brief mention of international condemnation led by Arab countries and EU 'concern' at unacceptable actions. That is their sole concession to broadcasting opposition to the terrorist state of Israel. It is all they are prepared to broadcast from the critical viewpoint. They interviewed a Rabbi and Israeli residents about fucking ROCKETS and the peace process (as if one existed). There were no Palestinian voices on the Beeb yet again!! Not one mention of the word: OCCUPATION! This is the 'O' word that the media will not utter. In fact they sometimes mention 'reoccupation' of Gaza as a possibility. As if they had actually stopped the occupation. As if the zionazi had not kept up their blockade of Gaza (including food and medicines) and imprisoned the entire population within a giant area. The news has become a pantomime led by clowns from the circus of media lies. This constant framing of everything in the light of 'rocket attacks' by the BBC is taken directly from the Zionist propaganda manual. This is not passive transmission of lies but active and deliberate collaboration with the propaganda machine of the occupier. Of course the Beeb argues otherwise. They do have for instance an article by Matthew Price in the middle-section with testimony from some people from Beit Hanoun. But typically this article does not miss the opportunity to mention rockets as well as a denial from people that rockets had been fired from the area. So an article meant to show the Palestinian point of view, becomes another covert article explaining Israeli actions. Following the usual MO of Beeb reporters Price finishes with a mention of the appearance of a 'militant' in the area.

Zionist warplanes also continue to terrorise the population of Lebanon. In fact the French troops in Lebanon, have protested that they had nearly fired upon the planes that had swooped down upon them. The zionist lie machine insisted that the French has 'misunderstood' the manoeuvres of the planes and that they were carrying out reconnaissance. That's right folks, now even professional troops can't even tell the difference between a plane practising a bombing run and spying.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Tony Pinnochio said today he was opposed to the death penalty, even in the case of Soddem Hussein. But he said that decisions on when the former dictator should be executed for his crimes were for the Iraqi courts to make as long as they did it in a timely manner to help George win the elections.

Speaking at his regular monthly press conference at 10 Browning Street, Mr Pinnochio repeatedly attempted to bat away the question of whether he wants to see Soddem hanged. But he finally told reporters: "We are against the death penalty, whether it's Soddem or anybody else. "However, what I think is important about this is to recognise that this was a trial of Soddem, which has been handled by the Iraqis themselves with US soldiers in court and clear instructions from the White House, but they will take the decision about this and it does give us a very clear reminder of the total and barbarous brutality of that regime particularly the way they invaded Iraq or was it Kuwait.

"That does not alter our position on the death penalty at all, but it simply does give us a reminder of that wonderful game Hangman that Cherie and I used to play with Euan before we sent him to the Betty Ford clinic."

There were "other and bigger issues to talk about" in Iraq than the possible execution, he said particularly whether the time was right to invite Mr Al-Maliki over for a good Christian meal over Christmas. "I wonder if we have Halal Turkey locally, otherwise Mrs Beckman-centrifuge will have to go shopping again."

The death sentence was handed down in dramatic courtroom scenes yesterday, with Soddem defiantly shouting "Soddem is great" and "You are servants of the fire, dark lords of Mordor" as the judge told him he would be hanged by the Palanthirs, whilst laughing in a theatrical ghoulish manner.

The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckman-Centrifuge, said it was "right" that Soddem should face "infinite injustice, desert storm, desert fox or whatever this US operation was called". "It is absolutely the case that we do not approve of the death penalty, never have and always try to persuade others not to use it and us jumping up and down yesterday was in excitement at the fireworks that we had to celebrate the death of that Iraqi dictator Guy Fawkes. Asked at today's press conference if he felt Soddem should be executed, Mr Pinnochio said he had "nothing to add".

"She spun out the position for the government yesterday and that's all I want to say on it. Our position on the death penalty is well known: we're opposed to it ever since yesterday when we all welcomed the stringing up of that horrible man”.

"Obviously, since we're opposed to the death penalty, we're in exactly the position that she described from Alastair’s script, whatever that was."

Asked once again, he retorted: "That is just enough, thank you very much. I happen to want to express myself in my own way if you don't mind. If that means supporting George Bush, whilst opposing ceasefires, then so-be-it”.

He added: “The trial of Soddem gives us a chance to see again what the past in Iraq was: the brutality, the tyranny, the 600 hundred plus thousands of people that we killed, the wars in which there were a million casualties including the great war and the great bore war”.

“It also then helps point the way to the only future which, for all the challenges, is the one of a non-sectarian Iraq in which people from different communities live together (even whilst blowing up local houses with rockets) and decide their future through exciting democracy, giving them the chance to vote for all the people they never see hiding away in the Green Zone. Obviously things are moving in the right direction, with the sectarian cleansing which will eradicate non-sectarianism. Isn’t it marvelous, how I can convincingly say two opposite things in one sentence, without you gentlemen saying anything at all particularly on important issues?”

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Catchphrase; it's good but it's not right!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Kasur Needs Safe Drinking Water

An increasingly common problem in South Asian cities