Andy Coulson Is A Bully

A News of the World reporter who suffered from a culture of bullying led by former editor Andy Coulson, who is now David Cameron’s head of communications, has been awarded almost £800,000 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

Matt Driscoll, a sports reporter sacked in April 2007 while on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression, was awarded £792,736 by the east London employment tribunal. It is believed to be the highest payout of its kind in the media, and legal costs could take News International’s total bill well over the £1m mark.

The award will cause fresh embarrassment for Coulson, who resigned in January 2007 from the newspaper after the former royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for hacking into the phone messages of aides to the royal family.

Earlier this year, Coulson faced renewed pressure, after the Guardian revealed that the News of the World’s owner, News International, had paid out £1m to settle claims from Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, and other victims of phone hacking.

Driscoll, who has not been in a full-time job since his dismissal, said the award reflected the severity of the case. (ht2 Anton Vowl)

So the Tories have a problem, their top spin doctor is shown in court to be a bully, not just an also ran but the ring leader, how can any schools operate an anti bullying strategy under a Conservative government that employs a proven bully in a senior position? What message does it send, for all the fine words Cameron and chums might speak over bullying, until he fires Coulson his actions clearly say- bullying is ok with me and I reward, at the highest level and value, bullies in my team, bullying will get you where you want to go. Not to mention bugging.

Just how many ‘second chances’ will Cameron give, and anyway a second chance is what you give someone who shows genuine remorse and contrition, none so far has been forthcoming from Coulson. Now this is all pretty well much unsurprising, people are not shocked Conservatives are bigots, crooks and bullies. Yet it is unfair and wrong to hold that as a prejudice, so here’s a chance for Cameron to show they are not unremittingly awful human beings by firing Coulson, however I would advise him to ensure Coulson has proper medical help. We can’t know why Coulson has this problem, maybe his mother abused him or his father hated him, maybe he is a sociopath, superficially charming yet unable to feel empathy or a wide range of normal human emotions. Maybe a physical malformation of parts of his brain are its cause. While he is in positions of power his personal failings are a source of concern and great potential harm to those affected by his actions, when properly kept in a situation where he cannot harm himself and others he should have our sympathy. Perhaps this will lead to Cameron committing to tax the vast unearned wealth of his supporters to fund proper mental health provision under the NHS, so that Andy might no longer cowardly victimise others, avoiding responsibility for his actions while his underlying personal and mental problems go unaddressed. For those having to work with Coulson, solidarity is the key tactic for deterring bullying, forming strong supportive co-operatives or unions will defeat the bully.

Who said satire was dead?

Press Corruption Club

So what sort of person should regulate commercial media? Would your answer include any of these-

*Enthusiastic & highly active member of the Conservative party who in her debut PCC speech makes clear her allegiances to Cameron’s tribe, so press regulation under a tory government, hmm do you suppose it might favour the ruling party while allowing attacks on opponents?

*A Baroness, oh what a democratic meritocracy we have…

*A former Chief Executive of the Advertising Association of who fought to make the media more useful to advertisers (and more hostile to those without a profit motive, y’know, health & welfare of human beings and the planet kinda thing) working with another tory who also worked for News International-

Vigorous campaigns by highly organised pressure groups such as Sustain have questioned the way young people are targeted by advertisers. Then there are Ofcom’s new TV advertising rules on promoting HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar) foods to children. These already apply to under-nines. Next year this will extend to under-16s.

The advertising of toys to children is widely believed to be the next target for campaigners and the rise of the environmental lobby means car ads are coming under scrutiny too.

So the £16bn industry is hitting back, and the AA is leading the charge. In addition to Buscombe, the AA has brought in Jonathan Collett, a veteran of both the Tory party and News International, to fill a newly created comms and strategy adviser role.

Buscombe says: ‘Political correctness makes us a diminished people: we shy away from what needs to be said. There’s a “PC creep” that has come in. We’re frightened of being misunderstood. This means private prejudices could be entrenched – the classic one is immigration.’ A pause. ‘But we’re getting off advertising.’

Ooh, she’ll be oh so effective when the tabloids stir up race hatred with migrant bashing, won’t she? Collett is being brought in by Buscombe to the PCC-

Jonathan Collett takes up his position -Director of Communications- on 23 November, having worked as head of comms at the Advertising Association for two years.Collett was formerly public affairs manager at News International. He has also been press spokesman for Michael Howard, when he was leader of the Conservative Party.

So that’s pretty well much a takeover of the PCC by advertising, Conservatives… & Murdoch? (also makes the theory that Cameron has agreed a shopping list of Murdoch wants to implement when in power in return for support from Murdoch’s media seem not so far fetched) But really, conflict of interest much? She was a partisan for -right wing- business interests and now sits in judgement on the media.

*Wealthy, this ones sort of goes without comment most of the time, in a country with a Royal Family going on about class or money is such bad manners, but status subtly informs its own biases, wealthy people by and large do not empathise with poor, sick or unemployed people. So the press coverage that attacks them will similarly continue to go unchallenged in any official capacity, added to that she has an ideological enmity for marginalised groups, it’s a perfect storm of corporate business as usual.

So the largely ineffectual PCC will be even more ineffectual under Baroness Peta Jane Buscombe, giving us less redress against bad reporting and corporate bias while at the same protecting the Conservative party, probably as it gives Murdoch most of what he wants. In fact she’s so unsuitable there are already calls for her to resign-

A lawyer who gave evidence to the parliamentary committee investigating press behaviour, today called on Baroness Buscombe, the chair of the Press Complaints Commission, to resign. He claimed she had published what were termed “extremely serious” false allegations against him.

Solicitor Mark Lewis earlier this year, in testimony to the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, gave an account of a conversation he had with police, alleging that “thousands” of people were targeted by phone hacking.

Buscombe claimed at the weekend that police had been misquoted in oral evidence to the committee. She said: “Any suggestion that a parliamentary inquiry has been misled is of course an extremely serious matter.”

In a letter to Buscombe and to the chairman of the parliamentary committee, Lewis said today: “You have betrayed any semblance of impartiality and regrettably ought to find yourself in a position where the honourable action would be for you to resign.”

He said the discussion he had with Det Sgt Mark Maberley, from the team investigating the tabloid’s behaviour, had been witnessed by two others, including a barrister who was acting for his client at the time, one of the paper’s victims. Maberley told him there were 6,000 instances of phone hacking, although only one case had been prosecuted, involving the royal reporter Clive Goodman, who subsequently went to jail.

“I am deeply concerned that you have thought it proper to criticise my evidence to the select committee without either having the courtesy or the propriety to put the allegations to me first,” said Lewis. “I regret that your failure to act properly has compromised any veneer of impartiality that you sought to create.”

Lewis added: “My evidence was clear. DS Maberly had told me the 6,000 figure.”

Buscombe said she received a letter from Metropolitan police lawyers, which she did not publish or quote directly. She claimed that it said Maberley, who has not testified either to the PCC or to the parliamentary inquiry, was “wrongly quoted”.

She delivered her allegations while seeking to defend the Press Complaints Commission, which she chairs, at a weekend speech to the Society of Editors. The allegations were held back from a previously circulated text of her speech, and then issued as a public statement at short notice last night.

The PCC has been facing accusations of a whitewash, since it refused to accept new evidence supplied to the parliamentary committee by the Guardian and others, which alleged the News of the World was involved in more instances of phone hacking than merely the Goodman case. In a recent statement, the PCC denied that it had been “materially misled” by accepting previous assurances from the News of the World that Goodman had “acted alone”.

Begins to get a bit more sinister when you factor in she covers up for massive spying by corporations that has yet to be properly investigated (of course surveillance creates its own insurance, when you get the dirt on powerful people they are less likely to have you exposed and banged up). Murdoch, Cameron, Buscombe. The lies about Iraq will seem like the golden days of press truth at this rate.

Update: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger resigns from PCC code committee I think like the government’s Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs the PCC is now a very lame duck. It’s a good sign, that some are not quite at the point where we give up all semblance of an informed democracy in order to venerate power and demagoguery.

Some Released

Iranian authorities have released 140 people detained during a crackdown on protesters following last month’s disputed presidential election. The detainees were freed on Tuesday during a visit to the Evin prison in the capital, Tehran, by a parliamentary committee investigating prisoners’ conditions. The protesters were among at least 500 people believed to have been arrested during demonstrations…

The move on Tuesday followed an order from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, to close a second detention centre where opposition protesters were detained. Iranian state media said the Kahrizak centre was closing because authorities there were unable to preserve detainees’ rights. Alireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tehran, said the parliamentary committee was initially motivated to launch its investigation after reports of mistreatment and abuse of the prisoners.

“But what appears to have been the main reason for the investigation was the death of the son of a highly respected conservative politician,” he said. Mohsen Rouhalamini, who was arrested on July 9, was said to be killed in prison. Authorities said he had died from meningitis, but there were reports that his teeth were smashed. The news was taken very seriously by the conservatives as it revealed that the violence was spiraling out of control.”

In a roundabout way it’s testament to the lack of empathy/imagination/ethics of conservatives, it took the death of one of their children to change their response.

Shock Doctrine

Nice they admit they are just trouble-shooters for the financiers though…

David Cameron may be forced to stage a rapid post-election budget to calm the markets and prevent a drop in Britain’s credit rating in the first days of a Tory government, Philip Hammond, the shadow Treasury chief secretary, warns in a Guardian interview today.

Anticipating an era of deep short-term cuts in public spending, Hammond urges voters to give the Conservatives a big majority so a new government can act boldly to cut the public debt, warning that the public finances are in such a state “the worst outcome for Britain would be an unclear political result at the election”.

Hammond, destined to be the man to rein in public spending if the Tories gain power, also concedes he is “likely to become a great figure to pin up on the dartboard, and throw darts at. I am sure there will be short-term pain and brickbats.”

But he argues: “It is absolutely not the case that people in the public services are dreading this, or saying ‘oh my God, what is going to happen?’ ” He claims civil servants are preparing to make cuts without waiting for instructions from on high. “There is a sense of liberation that we are going to empower public sector professionals to undertake the reform.”

Setting out Tory ideas, Hammond discloses there will have to be a budget either soon after a spring election, or in the autumn, so the Conservatives can start to rein in public spending next year.

He warns that Britain’s credit-worthiness could be downgraded, pushing the economy into crisis. Such a move, which has been threatened by the international credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s, would make it much more expensive to pay back the national debt, which this week reached a record £799bn.

Vote Conservative, Vote for Rape!

Boris Johnson was ambushed by female protesters who barracked him over his failure to “keep his promise” over the funding of four rape crisis centres across London, a video posted on YouTube reveals today.

Yet BBC soap Eastenders is going to help with this chumps public image-

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is to make a guest appearance on the BBC soap EastEnders later this year.

The deceit in not providing funds also demonstrates the lies Conservatives and neoliberals engage in during electoral sales pitches when they claim to be able to spend more by making ‘efficiencies’ and keeping tax low non-existent for the wealthy (sorry ‘wealth creation policies’). They are all just lies to hide their actual plans- cut public spending and help the rich get richer, and in this particular case make it easier for rapists to operate while their victims are silenced.

Johnson has criticised the paucity of services for women in the capital experiencing sexual violence and used his mayoral campaign to promise £744,000 annually to fund both the only rape crisis centre in the capital, situated in Croydon, south London, and establish a further three centres across the Greater London area to cater to the needs of the capital’s female population, which numbers 3.9 million. Though Johnson had envisaged securing this level of funding by cutting the media and marketing team he inherited from Ken Livingstone by 20%, he prompted widespread criticism last autumn by putting forward just £220,000 – around a third of the promised money. Johnson, who launched a strategy on tackling violence against women in April, subsequently pledged a further £700,000 from efficiencies to boost the money available to £1.4m over three years – equivalent to around £450,000 a year – but critics say this is still short of the £2.2m originally promised. The number of reported rapes in the capital shot up by 14.5% last year and domestic violence incidents rose by 4.4%. Yet only an estimated 10% of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted report it to the police and only 6% of all rape cases end in a conviction.

(ht2 HarpymarxEarwicga)

Canada’s Neocons Privatise Nuclear Industry

The federal government will announce today a plan to seek buyers for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s nuclear reactor business, and bring in private-sector management for AECL’s problem-plagued Chalk River facility. After a two-year review of Ottawa’s flagship nuclear company, Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt will launch a sale process with the aim of finding a major international partner for AECL to help boost global sales of its Candu reactors.

This as the federal government looks to raise money from asset sales to reduce its soaring deficit. The effort is hampered by depressed real estate prices.

It is worth pointing out the review was undertaken by the National Bank of Canada which looked for buyers. Thus we see some standard Shock Doctrine, facts being fixed around a policy by complimentary ideologues leading to a privatisation in time of crisis-

 The government’s decision to restructure AECL is its response to a report it commissioned from the National Bank of Canada last year to advise it on what, if anything, it ought to do with the Crown corporation. The bank advised that it should sell at least 51 per cent of AECL and encourage it to strike new deals with international players to help it make new sales in international markets. Government officials said National Bank found significant interest in buying a chunk of AECL although the bank’s discussions with potential buyers concluded in the first half of 2008. Government officials conceded that market interest may have withered because of the onset of the global recession.

Or put another way- the price will be low for the buyers they are lining up- expect some revolving door consultancies and directorships. As for the Tory Minister Lisa Raitt, she sued public groups to stifle their free speech when head of the Toronto Port Authority and celebrated how climate change would be good for Canada. The NRU unit at Chalk river that provides medical isotopes (one third of world supplies) will remain in government hands, it is currently shut down, leaks and is 51 years old. Thus liabilities remain on public hands even as they look to install a private sector manager for the plant, US style. A Canadian blogger writes-

Lisa Raitt’s Nuclear Yard Sale- My husband studied physics engineering at McMaster University, and worked at the accelerator lab there as a nuclear safety technician. So he knows his nukes.

He’s yelling at the TV right now.

Not surprising when-

Ottawa will continue to fund research to support AECL’s commercial business, and could be left with legacy costs from the firm’s need to deal with nuclear waste.

It’s a corporate neoliberal wet dream!

Who Else Uses ‘Marxist’ As A Smear?

Carlos Portales, a lawyer representing the accused, used a recent celebration of the Pinochet coup ‘and the things that happened afterwards’ to claim that the courts were now in Marxist hands. ‘With Marxists there is no way of reaching an honourable understanding,’ he said. ‘We need to change the way we act. We have been too passive.’

Sounds like any number of US rightists…so what is that lawyer defending, who thinks ‘We have been too passive.’ ?

Michael Woodward was an idealistic young Englishman, a Roman Catholic priest swept along by the hopeful currents of a new radical ‘liberation’ theology…

His ordeal began almost immediately. Witnesses now say that they saw him at the university detention centre. There he was subjected to torture sessions in the swimming pool. ‘There were witnesses to say he was sunk and lifted inside the pool,’ said his sister.

From there he was taken to the Navy War Academy. ‘That is where he got most of the torturing,’ Bennetts said. ‘He was tied to a chair and tortured for an hour with lots of people looking on to see how it was going.’ Torturers wrapped their fists in damp towels so that the beating left fewer external marks.

He was eventually taken to the Esmeralda. ‘There was violence 24 hours a day. Prisoners were taken out, beaten and tortured, returning bruised and vomiting blood,’ a former detainee, María Aliane Comene, said. ‘They took me out every night to interrogate me. They hit me on the ears with their hands, they applied electric currents to my tongue and my vagina. They took us out to amuse themselves, to abuse us sexually. They raped us.’ Sergio Vuskovic, a former Valparaíso mayor, was tortured for seven days. ‘They applied electrical discharges to my penis, my testicles, my torso and my back,’ he said.

Captain Carlos Fanta, the senior naval officer in Valparaíso on the day Woodward died, has admitted that a navy doctor ordered his evacuation from the Esmeralda after certifying that he would die of the internal bleeding caused by his beatings. By then, Chilean navy officials had planted a newspaper story claiming that the ‘pseudo-priest took part in various attacks on police… and sexually abused an indeterminate number of young girls’. On the same day a death certificate was signed, saying Woodward had died of a ‘cardio-respiratory arrest’ on a road.

There are still an old guard of tories who, like Thatcher, supported Pinochet. Read the full piece-

My 35-year fight to find Pinochet torturers who killed my brother: Patricia Bennetts tells Giles Tremlett how she defied intimidation and threats from the former Chilean dictator’s supporters to bring his henchmen to trial.

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