18 November, 2006

NICE refuses to explain Alzheimer's decision.

Back in October, I linked to a Guardian story that the NHS was refusing give to elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer's Disease a drug because, at £2.50 ($4.8) a day, it was considered too expensive.

Now, the Mail on Sunday reports that NICE, the sadly misnamed government body which made the decision is refusing to explain why.

I know it is claimed that NICE is independent of government but that is stretching credulity just a little bit too far.

Tony Blair in Pakistan.

Tony Blair has gone to Pakistan bearing gifts for President Musharraf. According to the BBC:

It is expected that security in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism co-operation will be on the agenda.

Mr Blair will also pledge to double the UK's development aid for Pakistan to £480m ($960m), UK officials said.

The money over three years will be used to support Gen Musharraf's educational reforms which aim to counter the influence of Islamic religious schools, or madrasas, seen as a breeding ground for militancy.

"It is not just designed to counter radicalism but also to train people in the skills which allow the Pakistan economy to develop," Mr Blair's spokesman told reporters.

There will also be a counter-terrorism package of technical assistance, worth some £8m ($15m), UK officials said.
No doubt Taliban infiltration into Afghanistan from its safe bases in Waziristan will be on the agenda.

The International Herald Tribune reports that Musharaff is calling on the international community to re-evaluate its strategy in Afghanistan. In an interview with a German magazine the president,
warned that disappointment with the Afghan government could translate into popular support for the Taliban among ethnic Pashtuns.

"Before it is too late, we must win over the non-militant Pashtuns and separate them from the others," Musharraf was quoted as saying in an interview released ahead of publication on Monday.

Musharraf also insisted Pakistan's secret service was not helping the Taliban.

"Pakistan is not a banana republic. We have an extremely loyal and disciplined army. The secret service is made up mainly of military men," he reportedly said.

Waziristan: haven for jihad?

The Fourth Rail links to a CBN item in which Bill Roggio and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross examine events in Waziristan, along with a video report.

More from Gartenstein-Ross and Roggio on Pakistan's surrender of the area to the Taliban from from the Weekly Standard

Broken link fixed.

Professor Southall 5:

Professor David Southall's controversial research from 1997, that I reported yesterday, was a continuation of earlier research from the 1980s in which Southall also experimented on babies by depriving them of oxygen. Moreover, Southall subsequently classified the research data as confidential in an attempt to keep it out of the public domain. On 23 August 2006, John Hemming posted the gory details:

The experiments based upon protocol 85.02 involved firstly stopping babies from breathing in when at “Functional Residual Capacity” (when they have breathed out) for 10 seconds on 10 different occasions. This was done with a face mask. It was done in both of two sleep states. The babies were subjected to 1.5% CO2 for 5 minutes in each sleep state. (normal CO2 level in air is 0.04%). Then they were given a 5 minute rest. Then the babies were subjected to 15% oxygen for 5 minutes. Normal atmospheric Oxygen is just under 21%. After this they were given 4% CO2 and the time was measured until they woke up or changed state."

"These experiments performed mainly on babies were not for the benefit of the babies, but to find out what effect it had. We have not been able to find any published results as to what happened to all of the children in Professor Southall's experiments and what overall impact the experimentation had on the babies and young children involved."

"Professor Southall has kept secret files known as Special Case files. These included medical records. This information needs to be transferred into the patients' medical records so that all the diagnoses are kept in one place and is available to benefit the patients."

See also: Mothers Against Munchausen Syndome By Proxy

I think it is possible to separate out at least three distinct areas of concern raised by this case. Firstly, the ethics of Southall's research, an issue which is a significant aspect of much wider debate on medical research. Secondly, the long- and shot-term consequences for the individuals concerned of the misdiagnosis of child illness or death and subsequent serious allegations against parents which can follow. Thirdly, something which I have only touched on tangenitally, the question of secrecy in family courts.

Olympian overspend.

Continuing the occasional series celebrating the Herculean over-spending, over-taxing, over-budget extravaganza that is the 2012 London Olympics.

At a total cost of £5bn, the project is already about £1.6bn over the original budget of about £3.4bn (not £5bn over-budget, as I mistakenly wrote yesterday, for which apologies), a shortfall ministers have met by raiding National Lottery funds intended for charities, the arts, heritage projects and sports. As the Daily Telegraph reports, the Mayor of London is refusing to raise Council Tax to pay for the overspend and the Treasury is definitely not going to bail out the project. So, ministers are going to raid the Lottery again.

Last night well-placed Treasury sources ruled out any bailout from general taxation.

"Put it this way – we are not putting up taxes," one source said.

A final budget is not now expected until crisis talks between the Treasury, Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Olympic Delivery Authority are concluded in the New Year.
I think that is "final" as in the sense of the last until the next crisis.

DfES guidance to higher education on Islamic extremism

The Department for Education and Skills has published guidelines to help universities and other higher education institutions tackle Islamic extremism on campuses. As the Times reports, reaction to the advice has been mixed, with some universities criticising the document's emphasis on Islamic terrorism.

Further Education News has a link to a text file containing the guidelines. Click here to access the file directly.

Essentially the guidelines identify a number of areas which universities should especially keep an eye on - student societies, literature, outside speakers, internet use - and, if they spot anything suspicious, inform the police. Having worked in higher education, I can confidently predict that most, if not all,universities will issue reams of internal guidance as to how the guidelines are to be interpreted, probably along the lines of: if you have any suspicions, inform a senior staff member in your department who in turn will pass the information to somebody higher up the hierarchy, they then, in turn, will pass it up even higher and so on until it reaches the top.

Tony Blair calls Iraq a "disaster".

The main news story in the UK this morning is Tony Blair saying on al Jazeera that invasion of Iraq is a "disaster". The BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian and the Times all cover the story.

Strangely al Jazeera itself emphasises Blair's remarks that if Iran changes its ways, it could play a role in the Middle East. I say strangely because for once Al Jazz, rather than the British media, seems to have got the perspective right. Blair's linkage of Iran with the ME is the key story because of the future problems it could cause for Israel and, indeed, the west. The UK is only playing a limited role in Iraq which remains a predominantly US operation. The Americans are finding Iraq difficult, as was always going to be the case, but that is not the same as saying it is a disaster. It is not. Good progress has been made and, although terrorist insurgents remain a problem, all remains to play for. The Democrats have not yet turned Iraq into a disaster.

The question the UK press should be asking is , if it is such a disaster why has the government still got British troops in the country? No, although there is clearly potential for things to go badly wrong, there is, as yet, no disaster in Iraq. Rather, this is probably part of a strategy I noted earlier this week of Blair distancing himself from Bush in the wake of the US election results. The headlines should read, "Bush stabbed in back by Blair". Or, if you prefer the tabloid version, "British rat leaves sinking US ship".

17 November, 2006

Professor David Southall, 4: the research.

Following yesterday's post on Professor David Southall, I have been pointed in the direction of Southall's controversial research and I can hardly believe what I have unearthed. I originally thought the research was focused on secret video surveillance of mothers and children. Instead, I find, that at least some of the research of Southall and his fellow researchers was into the effect of high altitudes on babies,with some reference to sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).

The research methodology (how they did it ) involved subjecting healthy babies to oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) and administering carbon monoxide to induce cessation of breathing (apnoea). The results were reported in the British Medical Journal 1998 March 21; 316(7135): 887–894. I have come across similar high altitude research before, in accounts of Nazi experiments in concentration camps.

The BMJ reports that a follow up study found no long term damage had been done to the children involved and that the original researchers, indeed many in the medical profession, do not think the research was unethical. On the former, I wonder. Looking back at the link in yesterday's post to Lawrence Alexander's website, I would say the research has left behind a few mental scars on at least one individual. On the latter, I am not surprised.

Putting my academic hat on, I will say that I am basically an historian with a scepticism about any field of quantitative research. I have had the ethical argument with research scientists on more than one occasion and their line is always the same: complex safeguards are very carefully built in and the work is necessary to save lives. Southall appears to me to be entirely typical of a scientific arrogance which rejects any personal moral or ethical responsibility for any potentially fatal or damaging consequences of medical research. That arrogance over the right to carry out whatever research they, the medical research establishment, deem necessary is so engrained that I fear John Hemming will not get very far in his admirable attempt to reform the ethical controls on research.

NOTE: I Googled "Southall, research" but it was not till I added oxygen that I came up with the sources for the above. Google search results for Southall+research+oxygen.

Mirza Tahir Hussain: new developments;

The Pakistani newspaper, Dawn reports that the family of the murder victim in the Mirza Tahir Hussain case is to appeal against the pardon.

Family members of a taxi-driver killed 18 years ago by a British national have expressed outrage at President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to commute his death sentence and said they would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. President Musharraf commuted Mirza Tahir Hussain’s death sentence on Wednesday following a well-orchestrated campaign by his family, friends and politicians in Britain. The move came after a series of negotiations by Pakistani officials to persuade the victim’s family to reach a settlement failed.

“It is an unfair and unlawful decision,” Abdul Ghani, father of the taxi-driver, Jamshed Khan, told Dawn. “Not only all the courts in the country had upheld the death sentence but even the president had turned down the mercy petition of the accused earlier this year.”

Mr Ghani said in the present situation all he could do was to … seek justice from the apex [supreme - HB] court.

Advocate Malik Rab Nawaz told Dawn that the taxi-driver’s relative Sobhat Khan had contacted him regarding the appeal and added that they would contend in the appeal that the president did not have powers to commute the death sentence and it was the prerogative only of the heirs of the deceased to pardon the killer or reach a compromise.
The British High Commission is refusing to comment but, according to Reuters India, a British diplomat has confirmed that Hussein has already left Pakistan. Just as well, perhaps. I have an uneasy suspicion that, given Musharraf's political problems with Islamic extremists, we have not heard the last of this case.

News, errors and a video from Panjawi.

In Afghanistan, the Panjawi district of Kandahar province has been the scene of heavy fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban, with repeated coalition air strikes against the terrorists taking an unfortunately heavy toll in accidental civilian casualties. Now, according to al Jazeera, negotiations between tribal leaders and NATO commanders are underway to try to establish a truce in Panjawi. Al Jazeera continues,

A similar deal was recently struck with the British in the neighbouring town of Musakala in the southern province of Kandahar.
We all make embarrassing errors from time to time but you really would think a major news organisation like al Jazeera could locate the British army. The British have in fact been next door in Helmand, where they did indeed arrange a truce at Musakala (or Musa Qala).

It is the Canadians who have been in action in Panjawi and here is a link to a video of troops from Alpha Company, 2nd Platoon, "Red Devils" from Edmonton engaging in a fierce firefight with Taliban insurgents on July 8, 2006.

"Fiasco Royale": Labour's counter-terrrorism strategy.

In the Spectator, Fraser Nelson examines in depth the government's counter terrorism policy and his conclusions do not make comfortable reading.

Fraser calls Tony Blair's counter-terrorist strategy a "fiasco". The government's approach is still rooted in the days of Project Contest, when Islamic terrorism was viewed as a sociological problem. The level of present funding is not the problem; the Treasury is now providing all the finance MI5 can use but the agency is still suffering from being squeezed in previous years, before the government had fully woken up to the terrorist problem. Neither do the intelligence services favour the police's favoured prescription of changes in the law to allow suspects to be detained for 90 days; rather, they want to able to interview suspects after they have been charged. The major problem is ministerial dithering and inaction.

According to Nelson, five years after 9/11, and 16 months after the London bombings, only now is the current Home Secretary, John Reid, working with MI5 and MI6 to try to fashion a coherent policy out of a terrorist strategy he inherited "that was no more fit for purpose than the rest of his dysfunctional department". In a series of Thursday afternoon meetings, Reid, his officials and the intelligence agencies are trying to rework Project Contest into an effective counter-terrorist strategy.

Nelson has been told by those intelligence officials he has talked to that in her recent speech, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5 "was trying to make two points by implication".

The first is that the typical homegrown Islamic terrorist is far more dangerous than the public understands: he is not the young, amateur extremist talking wildly about making fertilised bombs in his bathtub. Now, the suspects categorised as ‘essential’ by MI5, the highest risk of the three categories, are more likely to be trained by al-Qa’eda professionals — and seeking chemical weapons. Qualitatively and quantitatively, the threat is of a different scale...

...Her second point was to prepare the public for a terrorist success. When she gave the figure of 30 separate terrorism plots being kept under surveillance, those familiar with MI5 idiom knew what she was really saying. If one plot is considered active, as the Heathrow plot was in the summer, it consumes literally half the manpower of MI5. If three or four plots go live at the same time, the agency would be overwhelmed.
One implication of Manningham-Buller's remarks is that if the terrorist do succeed in perpetrating another atrocity, it is the politicians, rather than the intelligence community, that should take responsibility. I am inclined to agree.

Bush Magic.

Via Pajamas Media: an Indonesian witch doctor used a Black Magic voodoo ritual to jinx President Bush.

Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throat of a goat, a small snake and stabbed a black crow in the chest, stirred their blood with spice and broccoli before drank the "potion" and smeared some on his face...

...He said the jinx would sent spirits to posses Secret Service personnel guarding Bush and left them in a trance, leading them into falsely thinking the President was under attack, thus eventually causing chaos in Bogor Presidential Palace, where the American leader was scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday.
Perhaps an idea worth considering by Tony Blair's enemies in the Labour Party?

Child non-protection forces

If it were not so serious it would be laughable. The Home Office and the police have lost some more dangerous individuals. This time it is not terrorists but paedophiles. A number of dangerous child sex offenders have gone missing and, as the Daily Telegraph reports, the authorities would like to find them, again. To this end, the CEOP has posted, on its website, pictures of the most dangerous missing individuals.

Part 2 of the The Sexual Offences Act, 2003 requires convicted paedophiles to notify the authorities of their whereabouts so that the police can keep track of them and thus protect children. In addition, the Home Office has established established a quango, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to assist in defending children from sexual abuse, especially through the internet.

Police supervision could indeed restrict the sex offenders' opportunities to access children, so many offenders get round the problem simply by not notifying the police of their whereabouts. The police do not seem unduly concerned and only get worked up when the people threaten to sort out the problem themselves. Pc Plod then immediately springs in action and defends the paedos with threats that vigilantes will not be tolerated, a sentiment echoed by the COEP. If the police did their job properly, they would not have to worry about vigilantes.

Here is a revolutionary idea for child protection. Get Plod out of the police stations and onto the streets. If regular beat bobbies were on patrol, they would know the local pervs and be able to keep a sharp eye on them. That might help keep children safe.

Mirza Tahir Hussain released

The Times reports that Tahir Mirza Hussain has been released from prison in Pakistan. Last month, a Times reporter spoke to Hussain.

The BBC and the Independent also have the story.

Update 2 18.11.06@14:42

The Yorkshire Post has said it will give the story full coverage tomorrow but there is nothing online, as yet.

The regional BBC programme, Look North currently has a video report, which will probably be gone tomorrow.

16 November, 2006

Mirza Tahir Hussain reprieved. (updated)

Mirza Tahir Hussain is the British citizen sentenced to death in Pakistan by a sharia court after being found not guilty by a criminal court. Now, following a behind the scenes intervention by Prince Charles, President Musharraf has commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. According to The Nation:

Musharraf commuted the sentence under Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan that states: “The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by a court, tribunal or authority”.
The BBC says that Hussain, who has now spent 18 years in jail, could now be eligible for release. The Times reports that:
The decision to show mercy comes shortly after the Prince of Wales took the rare step of appealing to President Musharraf for Hussain’s life when he visited the country last month. The request was reported to have come in an informal moment as the two men walked to the Prince’s car after their official meeting in Islamabad on October 30. The formal announcement, expected today, will be in time for Tony Blair’s arrival next week.
The "informal moment" is a clever propaganda touch but a British embassy official let slip to an Asian journalist that negotiations have been going on over Hussain's future.

Perhaps Blair's visit will provide a politically circumspect occasion for Hussain's release.

It remains scandalous that the religious police can convict an individual for a crime of which he has already been found innocent by the legal system.

Update 16:11:06@21:21
The Pakistan Times reports the release without comment and notes that the manner and date of Hussain's release is a matter for the Law ministry. At the time of posting, neither the Daily Times nor Dawn references the story. Lahore Press links to an extensive set of links at World News If anybody is interested in rooting around further, here is the list of press links I use for Pakistan. I suspect the issue of Sharia law is currently so sensitive in Pakistan that the Pakistani press are working on the principle of leave well alone.

AC Yates counter-attacks.

In the Cash for honours saga, after the government fightback, the police has launched a counter-attack. Assistant Commissioner Yates has said that there has been "major developments" in the inquiry. AC Yates is not saying what the "major developments are" and cites the lack of leaks about them as evidence that the government's criticism of the inquiry's security is unjustified. The inquiry may be coming to its close. From the BBC:

The policeman heading the cash-for-honours probe says he expects to pass a file to the CPS in January...

...Describing the investigation as being in the "final stages", Mr Yates also said the timetable for reporting to the Crown Prosecution Service could change due to factors beyond his control.

"It is also subject to any additional lines of investigation that may result from the inquiries I am about to undertake," he said, but did not provide details.
The Daily Telegraph speculates that the reference to new lines of inquiry might indicate he is about to interview Tony Blair.

I look forward to reading about the major developments in the weekend press.

Update: 17.11.06
This morning's Guardian has the full text of AC Yates' letter to the House of Commons public administration committee, referred to in the above links.

Blair of the Yard's speech in Berlin

Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has been in Berlin giving a speech on the dangers posed to the UK by terrorism. In the speech, there is: some political toadying, especially support for the government's vacuous waffle about building a narrative of Britishness; a great deal of self-congratulation on how effective the police have been in fighting terrorism and crime in London; yet another demand for more police powers to deal with terrorists; and an interesting insight into how our senior policeman views the war on terror.

According to Blair, the War on Terror has three parts: the "real war" in Afghanistan and Iraq; the "intelligence war" between a number of states and terrorist groups such as al Qaeda; and a "war of ideas" between western and extremist Islamic values. Blair goes on to say that,

What we have to get over is the message that this is not a clash of civilisations, because tolerant and compassionate ideas are the fundamental underpinnings of all three of the Abrahamic faiths, including Islam and, indeed, of all the other great religions of the world.
At least twice before I have rehearsed the far from original view that the conflict is in fact a kulturkampf, a war between civilisations in which Islam is posing a threat to the Western way of life. Indeed, as I have pointed out previously, the UK's senior professional soldier, Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said as much when he described the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as the foreign dimension to Islamist challenges to our way of life.

Unless the police discern the obvious clash of civilisations and also the existence of a far from obvious internal kulturkampf within Islam (between two conflicting views characterised as orthodox and radical), they arguably will never fully understand the complexities of the problem they are trying to deal with. Certainly, Blair appears to have little understanding of contemporary Islamic theological debates.

NATO, Pakistan and the Taliban

Since the US elections, there seems to have been an increase in the amount of criticism of the War on Terror coming out of Asia. Reporting that NATO's ISAF Commander, General David Richards, is currently in Islamabad, the Asian Tribune joins the growing chorus with an article on NATO facing defeat in Afghanistan. The Tribune identifies the main problem facing the US and NATO in Afghanistan as Pakistani support for the Taliban. Indeed, the article sees the Pakistani surrender in the Waziri Accord as a possible precursor to a series of similar deals with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Certainly there must be a strong possibility that the forthcoming jirgas will move in that direction.

...how have the Taliban, considered five years ago to be on route to extinction, regrouped and emerged much stronger than anyone could have thought? The answer is clear: with the help of Pakistan, especially its army’s intelligence network called the Inter Services Intelligence, which had initially raised the Taliban with generous gift of arms from the US and sacks of Saudi money. Every military commander who has served in Afghanistan affirms that insurgency in that country would not have been possible without help from Pakistan. Western intelligence reports say so; the entire strategic community in the West thinks so and, not the least, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has any doubt about it.

The evidence of Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan’s troubles must be so overwhelming that at times even die-hard Musharraf fans in Washington are obliged to tell the latter on his face that he need to do ‘more’ in the fight against terrorism. Musharraf’s stock retort that ‘nobody has done more than Pakistan’ in this fight has not helped him much because the more he repeats this line the more it will become evident that he had to do whatever he did because the terrorists are concentrated in his country. The world is also now alive to the reality that nearly all the major terrorist acts carry a distinct Pakistani stamp. For terrorist around the world a visit to a Pakistani training camp is like a pilgrim’s journey to a holy place.

Yet, western leaders like Bush would not act tough with Musharraf publicly because they have presumed that they would not be able to find another Pakistani poodle. They do not appear to bother about the baleful effect of their double standards in treating Musharraf as the solution while knowing full well that he is the problem.

Musharraf recently struck a deal with the Taliban in the North Waziristan region after he realised that his military does not have the will to fight them. He presented his agreement with the North Waziristan Taliban as a great political feat that would ensure ‘peace’ in the region. Nearly everyone in the world, including Western intelligence agencies and politicians, disagreed with what Musharraf said. Bush lost no time in ratifying this fiction when Musharraf was on a book promotion tour of the White House.

An emboldened Musharraf is now urging his American patrons to urge Karzai to strike a similar deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has been telling captive audiences that his strategy in Waziristan has proved to be a ‘success’ as it has helped him win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Taliban. He is certainly right for a change: his new ‘strategy’ in North Waziristan has resulted in a three-fold attack by the Taliban inside Afghanistan not on Pakistani targets.

Karzai is opposed to Musharraf’s recipe for solving the Taliban problem, at least for now. But Musharraf would not give up and go on pressurising Washington to make Karzai change his mind. After all Pakistan had taken on the role of raising and nurturing the Taliban back in the 1980s not only to install a puppet government in Afghanistan but to achieve a ‘strategic depth’ in its West to carry out its aggressive designs on its eastern borders with India. A moot question is will President Bush, whose Iraqi policy became an albatross for the Republican party in the latest Congressional elections, go along with Musharraf.

India and the Taliban.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is in India, attending an economic conference with the aim of attracting investment to his country. Writing in Rediff News M K Bhadrakumar is not impressed by the "hype" surrounding the conference and compares it to "Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark", with the major players staying away. It is, Bhadrakumar argues, a missed opportunity for India to reassert its traditional policy in Afghanistan and withdraw from the War on Terror. Political accommodation with the Taliban is an essential part of any settlement and, in getting dragged into the conflict with the Taliban, India is getting drawn into Afghanistan's fratricidal conflict, thereby giving Pakistan opportunities which it has exploited. To begin to rectify this,

At the conference, therefore, India must revert to its exclusive focus on people-to-people relations and our economic, cultural and historical bonds with the Afghan people. Second, Delhi must resist the temptation to be drawn back into a zero-sum game with Islamabad vis-a-vis the Afghan problem.

As it is, Indo-Pak differences are not lacking in variety. Our triumphalism over the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001 was untimely; our certainty over the inexorable loss of Pakistani influence in post-Taliban Kabul was plain unrealistic (by the dictates of geography, ethnicity and geopolitics); our exhibitionism in maintaining four consulates and a full-fledged embassy in a tiny country such as Afghanistan was simply incomprehensible.

We must visualise that ultimately, Islamabad is involved in a wasteful extravaganza, conjuring up grand visions of 'controlling' Afghanistan. After all, it took only three months for the Afghan interim government in Kabul that followed the Mujahideen takeover in 1992, to reach out to Delhi as a counter to Pakistan's hegemony.

There are signs galore already that Islamabad cannot be prescriptive or selective toward Kabul on what constitutes good-neighbourliness. Clearly, Afghans resent Pakistani interference and there is growing international awareness of Pakistan's diabolical role.

We would also do well to take note that in all these years of mutual acrimony, despite India's overt and covert indulgence in activities aimed at bleeding the Taliban, the latter never ever carried the fight to Indian soil.

In a nutshell, the Taliban's message to Delhi has consistently been: 'Leave us alone, stay out of our domestic problems'.

Lastly, it is abundantly clear by now that no tangential gains will accrue to the US-Indian strategic partnership by virtue of Delhi soldiering in the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, Washington itself is caught up in a time warp and a conceptual impasse over what constitutes the 'war on terror'.

Tackling domestic terrorism: a Jewish perspective.

In the wake of Eliza Manningham-Buller's (head of MI5) speech this week, the Jewish Press makes some interesting observations on the west's reactions to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

Dame Manningham-Buller’s comments came as some startling statistics about ongoing Muslim terrorism in France seeped into the mainstream media. Reuters reported that in the first six months of 2006, some 21,000 cars were burnt and 2,882 attacks against police, fire and ambulance services were logged. France is under constant attack from segments of its five-million-strong Muslim population. And it continues unabated and largely unchecked.

What is happening in Britain and France cannot be viewed within the prism of traditional law enforcement. Plainly, something new is in play. We need to recognize that conventional notions of civil liberties no longer work. Perhaps Mr. Bush has to reconsider some of what he has urged in the past. But it seems more urgent that his critics take a long, hard look at the situation as it exists in what’s becoming a scarier world by the day.

15 November, 2006

New weapons for the Royal Marines.

From December, British troops in Afghanistan are to be armed with Automatic Lightweight Grenade Launchers. The Ministry of Defence is waxing lyrical about the effectiveness of the weapon. A Colonel Alec Bain, said,

"The Royal Marines who will be receiving them have already been trained on the weapons, and are looking forward to getting their hands on them.

"They will be force protection systems which can be used day and night. They will be used predominantly on the back of Wimik Land Rovers, but they can also be tripod mounted for ground use."
Let us hope that they are as effective in protecting the troops and saving lives as the MoD's rhetoric seems to claim.

Professor Southall 3:

Nothing new showing on Google News about Professor David Southall's disciplinary earning before the General Medical Council. However, I can add some further context to add to yesterday's post.

John Hemming, MP, is, quite rightly, being critical of the GMC for preventing five families involved in the case from speaking to the press. Hemming provides a link to the website of Lawrence Alexander. Alexander writes of,

...my parents being falsely accused of harming me and faking illness and my being subjected to, in my view, harmful and dangerous research by "world cot death expert" Professor David Southall when I was a baby, using his "state of the art" equipment.
Alexander is keeping a comprehensive database of press reports. I am sure that most people will wish him luck in his battle with the GMC.

The research referred to by both Hemming and Alexander appears to be Southall's so-called pioneering work, in an eight year study, with video surveillance in hospitals. From the BBC in 2004:
Professor Southall pioneered the use of covert video surveillance to detect cases of Munchausen's.

The eight-year study, which started in 1986, found that youngsters aged between two months and 44 months were being deliberately injured in cruel and sadistic attacks by their parents or step parents while in hospital.

The most common method of abuse was suffocation, but deliberate fractures and poisoning were also uncovered by CVS.

Following detection of the abuse, 23 parents or step-parents of the 39 children identified as at risk by doctors, social workers and psychiatrists, were found to be suffering from the attention-seeking disorder Munchausen's.

But despite Professor Southall, himself a father of four, being praised by a judge following a successful court action against one abusive mother, his efforts raised difficult ethical issues and sparked an angry response from parents.

Some parents complained that the hospitals involved - the Royal Brompton, in London, and the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, Stoke-on-Trent - were operating a policy of entrapment.

Covert filming led to a total of 33 parents or step-parents being prosecuted.

Seven complaints, believed to relate to cases where children were removed from families after Professor Southall diagnosed Munchausen's, are due to be heard by the GMC in January.

His research into CNEP ventilators at North Staffordshire has also provoked intense scrutiny because parents claimed they did not give consent to their children taking part in the trial and they claim their signatures were forged.
That is a lot of grief and suffering for a lot of probably innocent people, all caused by an epistemologically arrogant medical profession.

The world according to R. Fisk.

Not many people know that, in the Lebanon, Hezbollah is defending UN forces (which are really NATO forces), from attacks by al-Qaeda and at the same time, UN (NATO) forces are defending Israel from attacks by Hezbollah. The Israelis, defended by the Americans, attack everyone.

You will only know these things if you read Robert Fisk in the Independent.

British Shatt Al-Arab casualites named. (updated)

The names of the four most recent British armed forces' fatalities in Iraq have been released by the Ministry of Defence. The MoD site has short obituaries, and tributes from their commanding offiers. The deceased are:

Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliott from Ipswich: Daily Mail; Evening Star

Warrant Officer Class 2 Lee Hopkins from Wellingborough: Evening Telegraph;

Marine Jason Hylton from Burton-on Trent: BBC;

Corporal Ben Nowak from Liverpool: BBC; The Age: icLiverpool.
Also: BBC;
Daily Telegraph;

They are out of the battle now and can rest in peace.

Cash for honours: the empire strikes back.

The government has clearly launched its counter-offensive in the cash for honours scandal. On Sunday, by way of an opening barrage, it was a political attack on the police investigation. Today, reports the Daily Telegraph the legal forces are preparing to to over the top and challenge the legality of the police investigation. Downing Street has denied the claim to the Evening Standard.

Meanwhile, some of the businessmen involved have been blowing holes in Tony Blair's defensive line, spun to Labour's National Executive: that the loans were kept secret because the donors asked for secrecy.

Both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have stories that a Labour member of the Scotch parliament is danger of being dragged into the police inquiry into the affair.

I have no doubt that Tony Blair will never appear in the dock. If it was in the US, he might, but in the UK the legal system is an integrated part of government and the upper echelons of the country's political and social life. Although, under the influence of the European Union, the British judiciary is slowly developing a genuine independence from the politicians, in highly charged political cases such as this Governments can always find a friendly judge when they need one, an old school chum perhaps.

Al Jazz

The Guardian is getting excited about today's launch of al Jazeera's (link updated: 15.11.06 @ 17:10) English digital TV station.Very excited. Al-Jazeera has signed up David Frost, and

a string of other big names, including the former BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar and ex-BBC One O'Clock News anchor Darren Jordan.
As an interviewer Frost was such a soft touch that politicians queued up to get on his lightweight "Breakfast with Frost" programme. Omaar is best known for his blatantly anti-American reports from Baghdad during the US invasion, which were remarkable even by the BBC's standards of anti-US bias. At the time, I thought he had something going with Comical Ali. Of Jordon I know not. The Guardian interviews Frost.

Though rather less excited, the BBC is still fairly enthusiastic but not as much as the Independent, although the Indy does raise the some of the problems al-Jazeera has been struggling with.

Given this is the same al-Jazeera that has nothing but contempt for the bodies of dead British soldiers, why are the Guardian, Indy and BBC so enthusiastic?

Little Green Footballs has a more less enthusiastic, but more rational, perspective from America.

14 November, 2006

The EU and Afghan reconstruction

At a meeting of the European Foreign ministers, the British and Dutch asked the EU to contribute more to building up Afghanistan's police and judiciary. This seems to be a follow up from an earlier request by NATO for the EU to make a greater contribution to the civilian reconstruction of Afghanistan. The response has been sadly predictable.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the French were lukewarm and would agree only to a (yet another) fact finding mission.

"It seems to me that before launching into such an operation, it would be a good idea to be a bit more clear and to not do something is not coherent or logical," said French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. "That is why I gave my agreement to a fact-finding mission and that's all for the moment."
Translation: France will evaluate the possibility of trade deals and will join in only if it is both safe and potentially profitable.

Online - Pakistan summarises the EU's contribution to Afghanistan reconstruction to date, and provides a candidate for amazing comment of the week:
...a European Commission spokeswoman brushed aside the criticism, from NATO, saying the commission had a record it could be ’very proud of’ in Afghanistan.

'We made a pledge back in 2002 to spend one billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) over five years. We have overshot that target in the work that we have done in Afghanistan,’ said Emma Udwin, spokeswoman for external affairs.

’We have spent very substantial amounts of money given our overall budget and we have been very effective in making that money work in the interests of the population,’ she said.
That record would seem to be a number of fact finding missions, some ineffective Afghan police training by Germany and, from Italy, even less effective reform of the Afghan judiciary. Neither is the financial contribution all that impressive. The total EU budget is somewhere in the region of just over 100bn euros a year.

Jirga News.

Noblesse Oblige notes that cross-border tribal jirgas between Afghanistan and Pakistan have begun and this probably marks the beginning of a process which will culminate in the forthcoming jirga which the Afghan and Pakistan presidents are expected to attend. The Pakistani Daily Times also carries the story.

Afgha.com has an article locating both the jirgas and the fluid Afghan-Pakistan border in an historical context, from the days of the Great Game.

A Border That Does Not Exist. Dr. G. Rauf Roashan

The Afghan government’s proposed meetings with tribal chieftains on the Pashtun belt in an area around an arbitrary border line, if successful would be of significant importance in dealing with a variety of issues. It would restore, to some degree, the popularity of the Afghan President that has recently and gradually eroded due to a variety of reasons among them deteriorating security situation, lack of luster in reconstruction efforts, slow pace of nation building exercise and a slower pace of building up of military and police force. Afghanistan as well as many international sources have claimed that part of the reason for increased violence in Afghanistan is the fact that terrorists are allowed to infiltrate Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan. This article tries to shed light on the history of the region, its political significance and some expectations from the meetings emphasizing the need for a thorough preparation prior to the actual meetings.

There is a long stretch of land extending from the peaks of Western Himalayan Branches near Pamir to the southwest all the way to the Solomon Mountains and the dry deserts of the Siestan Basin in southwestern Afghanistan. The area is located on the western bank of the famous River Indus that originates from the northeastern peaks of the mountain range that extends its many arms into what are Pakistan, Kashmir, China and eventually Nepal farther east at the foot of Mount Everest.

Pashtun tribes, who have flourished in the confines of the mountains and their harsh geography for thousands of years, populate for the most part, the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Historically the area was part and parcel of Afghanistan specifically after Ahmad Shah Abdali, founded one of the most unified governments in Afghanistan in 1747 which makes even the new Afghanistan, 29 years older than the United States of America. Then Afghanistan was much larger in size consisting parts of eastern Iran, the whole area of Pakistan today including Kashmir and even extended to Delhi, which is the capital of India today.

The British occupation of India prompted Great Britain to attempt conquering Afghanistan and using it as a strong gate against invasions from the north by Russia. Three Anglo-Afghan wars convinced the British that Afghanistan was a land that could and was used by many but was conquered by none. Therefore it played all its cards and used all its expertise in the management of its colonies upon which the sun never sat to limit the Afghan independence by manipulating its administration, its power thirsty princes and kings and kingpins. In addition it tried successfully to cut limbs from the body of the land of the Afghans and finally when Britain had to leave the sub-continent in 1947, it provided for giving of the cut parts of Afghanistan to the artificially created country of Pakistan. To do this it relied on one of her previous efforts when during the reign of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan she had deputed Sir Motamer [ie. Mortimer- HB] Durand from the British Indian Foreign Service to draw a line separating the land of the Afghans, mostly in an arbitrary manner, in 1893 from what was then the British colony of India. The line originally drawn was to be in effect for 100 years. Historically the line did not receive the blessing of any Afghan legislature and was never recognized officially by successive Afghan governments. The newly created Pakistan counted on this imaginary line as its official border with neighboring Afghanistan while in practice even today many parts in the area are called as semi-autonomous districts and are accorded administrative freedom by the government of Pakistan.

Yet, on paper the line existed and arbitrarily defined jurisdiction of the Afghan government in relation to those of the semiautonomous regions called by many names among them Pashtunistan, Pashtunkhwa , Northwest Frontier and Free Border. It never functioned as a true border between two countries. For example at a so-called crossing point from Nangrahar Province in Eastern Afghanistan into Northwest Frontier there was, as it still is, a bridge over a dry creek on each end of which sentries in different uniforms keep a semblance of a gate. While travelers wait for the gates to open for the passage of vehicles, you can always witness a stream of pedestrian passengers sometimes together with their beasts of burden walking under it to either side, unhindered by any soldier or civilian employee of either government.

In actuality there is no border between Afghanistan and what is called Pakistan today. People on either side of the arbitrary line belong to the same families. Parents and children, and siblings living on both sides continuously traverse the area unaware of borderlines and or artificial barriers. However, the area in general has gained more importance recently because in some of the regions Pakistan considers its land, she has allowed, by a treaty, freedom to chieftains who allow extremist elements freedom to received training and organize for a so-called jihad against the government and people of Afghanistan. Although Pakistan claims that the treaty signed in return for the tribal chieftains not attack government military establishments, and that according to Pakistani government it will prevent excursions by extremists into Afghanistan, yet conditions on the ground show considerable liberties taken by Pakistani Taleban and their Madrassa students including some from Afghanistan to propagate extremist tendencies and even to adopt extremist justice free of the Pakistani legal system.

Now Afghanistan and its president whose popularity is gradually eroding due to a lack luster claim on reconstruction, deteriorating security situation and lack of significant political achievements, have a chance to meet in traditional jirgas or tribal meetings with tribal chieftains of this traditionally independent area and to make a case so that the Pashtun motherland and generally all Afghans are safeguarded against imported terrorism.

The meeting scheduled for December 2006 or January 2007, may bring some semblance of a direction in efforts to deal with this age old regional problem and would tackle also the issue of the otherwise expired one sided document called the Durand Line.

President Karzai would need a coherent and orchestrated planning for the meetings to expect desirable results. He needs a more active, resourceful and experienced diplomatic input for the preparations. He needs to meet beforehand with representatives of the people of Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s intelligentsia, Afghan international affairs experts, and even some relevant United Nations system authorities. President Karzai should make sure that undesirable personalities that do not enjoy the confidence of the nation should not find their way as members of his delegation to these talks. On the other hand, he would need on his team enlightened reputable religious leaders who would be able to interpret religious tenets, denounce extremism, suicidal violence and the killing of innocent Moslems including women and children and the need for unity for the followers of the Islamic faith so that it would further prosper.

Such a team would also have the task to regain the international prestige and honor due the sacred Islamic faith and which prestige has been damaged by futile extremist activities that make little sense to the world public.

The meetings called “Jirgas” in their traditional connotation, should also make an effort not only to bring peace to the region but also to provide for expanding of social and economic services to the Pashtun belt living around an arbitrary border line in a border region that in reality does not exist.

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Professor Southall before the GMC: 2

Day two of the General Medical Council's hearing into the dodgy doctor, Professor David Southall. A mother, falsely accused of murdering her son after he committed suicide, has been giving evidence. The GMC heard that Southall, who alleged the mother was suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, made her use a pencil and shoe-lace to demonstrate how her son had hung himself. The Daily Mail and the BBC have reports. The case continues.

Meanwhile, John Hemming, MP, has referred the GMC's conduct of the Southall case to the CHRE, a government advisory body, on the grounds that it is paying insufficient attention to the research issues surrounding Southall. I am not altogether clear what his point is. I think he is referring to the GMC's lack of interest in the research on which Southall based his accusations.

The French get annoyed, again.

The European Defence Agency is embarking on a research programme into methods for protecting soldiers in urban environments. The French are annoyed because the British government is refusing to throw money down the drain of this project, arguing it would merely duplicate existing UK research programmes.

The UK actually uses its defence budget for defence,that is, to participate in military operations with its NATO allies in places like like Iraq and Afghanistan. France and most of the rest do not; their politicians ensure that their armies avoid combat. The main exception amongst the rest is Netherlands. It was with some justification, therefore, that at the last EDU meeting, the Dutch defence minister complained that, whereas NATO should be the main focus of European Union security, the French defence minister,

...had given an introduction during the meeting about citizens expecting security provision from the EU but without hardly mentioning NATO.

"She completely puts the accent on the EU. The Netherlands and other countries have tried to look at this also on the other side."

He went on to say that he himself had reacted with a plea that NATO is the main security provider.

Blair : foreign policy speech,

Last night in his speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London, Tony Blair advocated solving the problems of the Middle East, including both Israel and and Iraq, by enlisting Iran and Syria as partners for peace.

The purpose of ideological terrorism, Blair said, is "now plain:" it is,

to provoke civil war. The violence is not therefore an accident or a result of faulty planning. It is a deliberate strategy. It is the direct result of outside extremists teaming up with internal extremists - Al Qaida with the Sunni insurgents, Iranian backed Shia militia - to foment hatred and thus throttle at birth the possibility of non-sectarian democracy. These external elements are, of course, the same elements driving extremism the world over.
The Prime Minister said terrorism is a global problem which needs to be approached through a "whole Middle East strategy". In the key passage of the speech, linking the problem of Islamic terrorism directly to Israel and Palestine, he continued,
There is a fundamental misunderstanding that this is about changing policy on Syria and Iran. First, those two countries do not at all share identical interests. But in any event that is not where we start.

On the contrary, we should start with Israel/Palestine. That is the core. We should then make progress on Lebanon. We should unite all moderate Arab and Moslem voices behind a push for peace in those countries but also in Iraq. We should be standing up for, empowering, respecting those with a moderate and modern view of the faith of Islam everywhere.
The British government will not be seeking a military solution to the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Instead, the Iranian government will be offered "a clear strategic choice": Iran can either accept a partnership in the Middle East peace process and the fight against terrorism or face isolation.

Wow. Isolation , with presumably the implicit threat of United Nations sanctions. The policy outlined in the speech is exactly what had been signalled earlier. It is hard to resist the conclusion that, in the US elections, Bush was holed below the waterline and now the British rat is leaving the sinking ship. As a Daily Telegraph leader observes, the lunatics have been invited to run the asylum.

In the UK press: the Guardian emphasises the shift of focus to the Palestinian problem; the Times headlines the Syria and Iran angle; and, for a headline,"Our new friends in the Middle East" the Independent renames some of the paper's very old friends.

Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph reports that Blair's new Iranian friends are plotting to replace the ailing al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, with individuals sympathetic to Iran. As the paper observes, before moving on to analyses Blair's speech,
The revelation will deal a major blow to Tony Blair's hopes of establishing a "new partnership" with Teheran.
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13 November, 2006

Neobans and Neocons

News Central Asia has an article entitled "The Neobans and the Neocons" which examines what the author, a Karachi lawyer, calls the USA's "aggressive and expansionist agenda in the South and Central Asia and Middle East." Essentially, it is a potted Pakistani history of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Waziristan, covering al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Waziri Accord; it refers to the latter as the MiramShah Agreement, after the place where it was signed.

It contains nothing startlingly new but it does provide a useful historical time-line and general reference to past events. Moreover, it is both interesting and instructional to view those events, and the roles in them of al Qaeda and the Taliban, from a Pakistani perspective. The fairly long article is split into four parts.

Part One;

Part Two;

Part Three;

Part Four.

The term "neoban" does not appear outside the title and I can find no relevant reference to the word , so the author may be victim of a sub-editor and a fairly awful pun on Taliban.

Merry Christmas, Happy Eid (updated)

It is not just Christians fighting back against the denigration of Christmas by secular multi-cultural extremists. Now, Muslims have joined the argumentby joining an inter-faith call for the atheist rabble to keep off all religious festivals. I came across the story in the print edition of this morning's Daily elegraph. Strangely, given the press coverage the issue has generated, at the time of this post, Google News gives only one other reference: the Sun.

The call was made by the Christian-Muslim Forum, a body set up earlier this year to encourage greater co-operation between the faiths for the good of the whole community. The BBC has the background and details.

Here is the (reformatted) statement in full:

Religious Festivals and Celebrations

We have faced various calls over the past few years for the secularisation or de-Christianisation of certain religious festivals. In particular, certain local authorities have decided that Christmas shall be called by another (non-religious) name. The reason usually given is that to use a specifically Christian name for this festival offends members of other religious traditions.

As Muslims and Christians together we are wholeheartedly committed to the retention of specific religious recognition for Christian festivals. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. The desire to secularize religious festivals is in itself offensive to both of our communities. We believe that the only beneficiaries of eroding the residual Christian presence in public life are those committed to a totally non-religious standpoint. We value the presence of clear institutional markers within society which embody the reality and mystery of God in public life rather than evacuating the public space of any such reminder.

We believe that our open and democratic society should promote freedom of religion in the public space rather than negatively restrict its observance. We welcome, for instance the public recognition of Eid al Fitr, as Muslims celebrate together at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan. We value the partnership evident in some local communities which gives opportunity for others to share with Muslims at this time of celebration. This is a positive way of affirming the public contribution that people of different religious traditions bring to our society. We believe that any attempt to privatise and hide the celebration of religious festivals promotes frustration, alienation and even anger within religious communities. Such negative approaches devalue religion and undermine the positive contributions that faith communities bring to society.

We also rejoice in the contribution and value of all religious communities in our country ­ Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others. It is important for the integrity of all religious traditions that we recognise the centrality of major festivals within each community. In our increasingly diverse society we need to foster a mature and healthy approach to religious diversity which both recognizes the specific Christian heritage of this country and welcomes the important part that other religious traditions increasingly play within our culture. This demands a greater religious understanding on the part of government and local authorities than has been evident or necessary in the past.

We are thankful for those policies and actions which are responding helpfully to our changing religious environment. On the other hand we are concerned that those approaches which are based on anti-religious philosophies or a fear of religion are in danger of causing alienation in a wide variety of communities and fanning the growth of extremism.

Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianise British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda which they do not hold.

Human beings require occasions for festival and celebration and, for many in our society, these opportunities are fundamentally religious and spiritual in nature as we mark the high points in our different traditions.

We call on all with responsibility in national and local government to give space and encouragement to an open and welcoming space for religious festivals as part of a positive contribution to community cohesion.

Released by Bishop David Gillett, Chair of the national Christian Muslim Forum and Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, Vice Chair of the Forum.

Update 13.11.06 @19:45.

Reuters has picked up the story, so it is starting to circulate round the world.

A good article from the Times of India.

More false child murder accusations before the GMC.

Here we go again. Another case of false accusations of infanticide is up before the General Medical Council's disciplinary body. This time it is Dr David Southall, for whom it will not be a novel experience. You may remember Southall as the doctor who initially accused Sally Clark of child murder. Clark was cleared on appeal and, despite being censured by the GMC, Southall was not struck off but allowed to continue as a doctor with some restrictions. That was one of the cases through which Roy Meadow came to prominence. Now Southall is up for more arrogant incompetence. The Evening Standard:

A leading paediatrician accused a grieving mother of drugging and murdering her son, a disciplinary panel heard today.

Professor David Southall abused his professional position and acted inappropriately when interviewing the mother, called Mrs M to protect her anonymity, about the death of her 10-year-old son, who hanged himself in June 1996, it heard.

Prof Southall, who was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2004 after accusing solicitor Steve Clark of murdering two of his sons, faces fresh allegations today. They relate to several children in his care in the 1980s and 1990s.
The core of the story is that Southall made serious allegations based solely on his opinion.

The Guardian is also covering the story: here and here.

Hard drugs: now you know it makes sense.

The Home Office is to pay tens of thousands pounds to heroin-addicted criminals for the distress they suffered through being deprived their fixes when in jail. Criminal heroin junkies are using public money to sue the government under Human Rights legislation and, rather than fight the case, the Home Office has agreed to settle out of court. Up to 200 addicts could be involved. For legal anoraks, the Daily Telegraph has the relevant articles of the European Convention on Human Right.

David Davies, shadow home, secretary estimates the bill could be at least £2m. There must now be some very happy heroin dealers.

Labour goes to war.

Yesterday's highlight of the Labour Party's internal electioneering battle was Harrriet Harman, the Constitutional Affairs minister, trespassing on Foreign Office turf with some not very helpful anti-American rhetoric.

Today belongs to finance minister, Gordon Brown, who is trying to further his ambitions to be Tony Blair's successor by trampling on the Home Secretary's ground. Brown has publicly endorsed a controversial police demand that they be allowed to detain terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge, rather than the current 28. According to the Daily Telegraph:

Home Office insiders last night underlined the simmering tensions between the two men by playing down Mr Brown's intervention. "We welcome any contribution to what is an important debate," said one official.
Meanwhile, the Home Secretary, John Reid, is busy conducting his own campaign to thwart Brown so that he, Reid, can succeed Blair as Prime Minister. The Daily Express reports:
The Home Secretary shattered the truce over the Labour leadership with plans for a fresh assault on terrorism and crime in this week’s Queen’s Speech.

The aim is to show that he, rather than Chancellor Gordon Brown, is the best man to lead a nation under threat. The move came as the country’s top policeman [again demanded a 90 day detention period and so] cranked up the already tense atmosphere over security policy.
It is hard to see how the government can effectively combat terrorism when it is consumed by electioneering, both internal and party political. Indeed, a report, published today, for the leftish Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, The Rules of the Game: Terrorism, Community and Human Rights concludes that, as the Daily Telegraph puts it, that
the Government's anti-terrorism policy is being damaged by party political interests and vote-seeking on the part of ministers...
...It also accused Tony Blair and John Reid, the Home Secretary, of playing to a "tabloid agenda" and "trying to win over the white working class vote."

Sensible plans to combat terror are now being "submerged by the Government's 'electoral motives'" according to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

British fatalities in Iraq: (updated)

The Ministry of Defence has announced the death of four servicemen in Iraq, after an attack on a patrol boat. Three others are seriously injured.

The attack took place on the Shatt Al-Arab waterway in Basra city at around 1300 local time on Sunday 12 November 2006.

The injured personnel have been medically evacuated to Shaibah Logistics Base by helicopter. No further details will be released until the next of kin have been informed.
The total of UK fatalities in Iraq is now 125.

Reuters reports:
The routine patrol was caught in an explosion caused by an improvised bomb, a [MoD] spokesman said.

Captain Tane Dunlop, the Multi-National forces spokesman in south Iraq, told the BBC: "The use of improvised explosive devices is very common in Iraq. It is slightly unusual in that this time it was targeting a boat." Britain has some 7,000 troops in southern Iraq, which has generally been calmer than the centre and north of the country, and 125 British armed forces personnel have died since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
From the BBC:
British military personnel have been patrolling the waterway, which borders with Iran and is considered a vital supply line, since 2003.

The attack took place at 0950 GMT (1250 local time) on Sunday and is thought to be the first such attack on a patrol boat.

BBC correspondent David Loyn, speaking from Baghdad, said: "It was quite an extraordinary attack.

"The boat was on the water with at least seven military personnel on board. We don't know if they were marines or soldiers."
Update 13.11.06 08:30

From the Guardian:
Two of the soldiers killed were from 45 Commando Royal Marines and one each was from the Royal Signals and the Intelligence Corps, the Ministry of Defence said.

An MoD spokesman said the families of the soldiers killed and injured have now been informed, but some had requested a period of 24 hours before their names were released.

He anticipated they would be named on Tuesday morning.

He said the condition of one of the three men hurt had "improved significantly", although two remain very seriously injured.
More from the Times


Archbishop of York on secularism:

Hitherto, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has been most notable for shaving his head and spending a holiday in a luxury tent in York Minister as some kind of peace protest over events in the Middle East.

Now the Ugandan-born prelate has entered the domestic political arena. In an interview with the Daily Mail Dr Sentamu lays into the secularism of the chattering classes.

...this country disbelieves in itself in an amazing way.

It almost dislikes its own culture, it doesn't realise that the arts, music, buildings have grown out of a strong Christian tradition....

...The Archbishop blames the wilfulness of the 'chattering classes' for its destruction. 'They see themselves as holding the flag for Britain and that Britain is definitely secular and atheist. I want them to have their say but not to lord it over the rest of us.'
Other targets include PC opposition to Christmas, the BBC's selective attacks on Christianity but not Islam, Muslim veils and what he calls the the four great demons in our society: Idolatry, Militarism, Materialism and Racism.

12 November, 2006

Monckton debunks climate change: part 2.

The Sunday Telegraph has Part 2 of Christopher Monckton's demolition of the Stern report on global warming, climate change and the end of life as we know it.

Last week I linked to part one and Monckton's detailed references and calculations.

Harriet Harman: foot in mouth disease.

Harriet Harman, the Constitutional Affairs minister, has been sounding off about foreign policy and defence matters. On GMTV this morning, she laid into the US military for refusing to send witnesses to the inquests for British soldiers killed in Iraq. The Guardian reports:

...she said she was seeking a meeting with senior Washington officials in a bid to persuade them to meet families' wishes by providing servicemen and experts to give evidence.

"We have got an expectation that they should come, so that the bereaved relatives of the deceased servicemen can actually ask questions of what happened," she said in an interview for GMTV's Sunday programme. "When they don't come that's not acceptable and we are prepared to say that's not acceptable."

She is taking action after the coroner investigating British deaths in war zones expressed his frustration that American witnesses are not made available.
The coroner in question would be Andrew Walker, of Terry Lloyd inquest notoriety, the Deputy Coroner at Oxford.

There is little to say about the inquests that has not been said before: unfortunate tragedies happen in war and nothing is gained by seeking scapegoats. There is also little to be said about Harman, except that she personifies the dismal quality of too many ministers in Blair's government.

The significant issue raised by the story is why is Harman intruding into territory which is normally the preserve of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence? Do the current holders of those traditionally major offices - Margaret Beckett, foreign secretary, and Des Browne, defence minister - really exert so little influence within the government that they cannot prevent a relatively junior Cabinet figure trampling all over their turf and creating who knows what problems for their departments to deal with? Unfortunately, that appears to be the case.

Harman is undoubtedly electioneering, playing to the Labour left's anti-American sentiment in the hope of becoming the next deputy leader of the party. It is just another example of how this government is sinking into disarray, as ministers give less attention to their departmental business and spend more time and effort positioning themselves for the post-Blair era.

Related link: BBC

Even yet more on cash for honours.

Like old man river, the case keeps rolling on and the politicians are beginning to show-boat.

The Independent reports that Scotland Yard is now investigating allegations that Blair and friends did not tell the Labour Party's auditors about £12m worth of donations related to the cash for honours scandal; consequently, the auditors signed off the party's 2004 accounts unaware that they were seriously inaccurate. This takes the investigation to a new level. Flogging gongs and seats in the Lords is illegal but the worst-case fall out is likely to be no more than a fine and a lot of political damage. Cooking the books is a more serious criminal matter, as the the many businessmen currently in gaol for returning deliberately inaccurate accounts can testify.

No wonder Blair and friends are going on the offensive against the police. The Daily Mail has been fed the story; ministers do not like the way they have been interviewed, the police have been leaking to the press, etc, etc. A former copper, Labour peer Lord Mackenzie, an ex-head of the Police Superintendents' Association, knows their game. He told the Mail on Sunday,

The common ploy by criminals through the ages is to get their retaliation in first and make a complaint against the police to divert the attention of the authorities and put the heat on the police...

But historically it rarely works. If Downing Street is considering attempting to do this they are making a catastrophic mistake. The police have to do their duty and must not be deterred from doing so.
Meanwhile, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, the officer in charge of the investigation is covering all bases. He is trying to rule out all innocent parties now so that nobody can suddenly fall on their sword for Blair later.The Sunday Telegraph has been given the story:
A source close to the inquiry said: "What Yates is trying to do is to ensure that no senior figure is able to take the rap for the nominations at a later stage in the inquiry, saving Tony Blair and his inner circle."

Mr Yates is understood to have been bruised by his experiences during the prosecution of Paul Burrell, former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales, whose trial for stealing some of her possessions collapsed after a dramatic intervention by the Queen. The Queen confirmed a claim by Mr Burrell that she had effectively given him permission to keep the possessions, a claim that was found not to have been investigated properly by the police inquiry, headed by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Yates.

The source said: "Yates is going to make damn sure nothing similar happens here. He does that by getting the Cabinet to deny, in writing, that they had anything to do with the nominations.