Strike Culture

Dave @ Complex System of Pipes has a great report of strike action happening today, he tours around Manchester and gets the goods-

First we went to a council office in Gorton.  Unison steward Phil Moth said they’d had a very good response to the picket line.  This was borne out by the honking of supportive horns from virtually every other car or van that drove past, and hte near-emptiness of the car park.  One first-time striker said she was shocked by the level of hostility they received from some of the non-unionised workers; another steward commented that those scabbing were almost all at the higher end of the pay scale.  Several of the workers that did come in expressed an interest in joining the union – membership has apparently been surging in the run-up to the strike.  One visitor to the offices – a member of NAHT – said he wasn’t about to cross the picket line, and turned right around to leave, boosting the morale of the picketers considerably.

Here a number of schools and council run facilities have closed down for the day.

Janet Ryder [Plaid AM] said:

“The 2.45% pay offer is clearly below the current inflation rate of 4% , meaning that council workers are set to lose out in real terms. This comes at a time when fuel costs are escalating at an alarming rate, meaning that many of these workers will be far worse off in future compared to their previous position. The lowest paid – many of whom are barely above the minimum wage – will be hardest hit.

“Council staff provide key services to our local communities the length and breadth of Wales, and this has become evident with the strikes. We rely on these workers in our everday lives. However inconvenient, I would call on the public to think about the predicament that the workers find themselves in and offer them their support.

“It is unfair that local government workers are being asked to bail out UK Labour’s failed economic and spending decisions. While the Labour Government is happy to spend billions of pounds on a continuing war, an escalating Olympic Games bill and a mutli-billion pounds nuclear system, they are not prepared to help council workers in Wales who are facing hardship in paying their monthly bills.”

To demonstrate the climate this is happening in- I am told the leisure centre in Holyhead is being closed and no replacement built, the land sold off to developers apparently with some rumour of a private health club maybe being built somewhere. So if you must teach your children how to swim (sort of handy on an island) you could pay through the nose there… if it is built. Perhaps though an organised movement to get a new leisure centre could prevail… School meals were privatised on the island to a corporation that provides them for many councils, the local Gwynedd council run facility having lost the contract will have to fire workers. The council say they will monitor the new suppliers who say they will look to source local produce, that remains to be seen, even so the food is now provided for profit. Related to council activities- The theatre in Bangor has just been closed, the University that owned it is not well developed in arts or cultural studies and not having a theatre/cinema doesn’t help improve that, 12 people have lost their jobs. Vague mentions of a new arts centre have been used to placate some, but there is no commitment and already some pledges have been abandoned (call me crazy but if you were serious you would build the new before closing the old, or at the very least have a commitment and plans ready to break ground). There is now no theatre facility in Bangor or within a reasonable distance, I have seen three of my nieces perform there in schools and performing arts society productions, now they have no venue. It is indicative of the way facilities run for the common and cultural good are being closed and private space encroaching on the civic infrastructure. However the councils have millions to spend on management consultants, I would tell you how much ours spent but…they didn’t answer the FOIA request.

Still look on the bright side, crappy Euro-pop videos use the area as a cheap substitute for Spain. Culture!

Britain’s Colonial Torture Program

First the reason why it is so important our spooks and the government deny this to their graves-

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 it is an offence for British officials to instigate or consent to the inflicting of “severe pain or suffering” on any person, anywhere in the world, or even to acquiesce in such treatment. Any such offence could be punished by life imprisonment.

And what John McDonnell and others are finding, more cases of our agents being at Pakistani torture centres-

MPs are calling for an investigation into allegations that British intelligence has “outsourced” the torture of British citizens to Pakistani security agencies after hearing accounts of people being abducted and subjected to mistreatment and, in some cases, released without charge.

John McDonnell, the Labour member for Hayes and Harlington, and Andrew Tyrie, Conservative member for Chichester, say the allegations should be examined by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), the Westminster body that oversees the Security Service, MI5, and the Intelligence Service, MI6.

In a statement to the Guardian, released via the Home Office, the Security Service insisted it did “not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture”. However, details of three new cases have raised concerns among MPs.

McDonnell says he wants to know whether British officials colluded in the abuse of one of his constituents.

The man, a medical student, said he was abducted at gunpoint in August 2005 and held for two months at the offices of Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau opposite the British Deputy High Commission in Karachi. The student, who has not spoken out before, has described how he was whipped, beaten, deprived of sleep, threatened with execution and witnessed other inmates being tortured. He was questioned about the suicide attacks on London’s transport network in July of that year, and says that after being tortured by Pakistani agents he was questioned by British intelligence officers. He was released to his father, who says he received a personal apology from the director of the Intelligence Bureau.

The student returned to his London teaching hospital, qualified last year, and is now working in a hospital in the south-east of England. He remains terrified of both Pakistani and British intelligence agencies, however, and has asked not to be identified. A second Briton, Tariq Mahmood, 35, a taxi driver from Sparkhill, Birmingham, has said he was abducted in Rawalpindi in October 2003 and released without charge about five months later.

He is thought to have been held in a prison run by a different agency, Inter-Service Intelligence, where a number of other Britons have also been held and allegedly tortured before being flown to the UK to stand trial. Mahmood’s family say he was tortured, and that MI5 officers and American intelligence officers had a hand in his mistreatment. They have declined to issue any detailed allegation, however, apparently fearing for the safety of relatives in Pakistan.

A third Briton, Tahir Shah, 41, an author from London, was held for 16 days in 2005. He says he was interrogated about the July 7 bombings in what he describes as “a fully-equipped torture chamber”, with mangles, whips and electrical equipment.

He says he was hooded and shackled for long periods and deprived of sleep. He does not allege that British officials were involved, but believes it is unlikely they would not have been informed. He was eventually bundled aboard a scheduled flight to Heathrow, where his passport was returned by an unnamed official whom he believes to have been from MI5.

Allegations of collusion in torture could be examined by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, established eight years ago with a remit to investigate complaints against MI5 and MI6. Another possibility is that the ISC could look into the claims.

McDonnell said of his constituent: “I believe that there is now sufficient evidence from this and other cases to demonstrate that British officials outsourced the torture of British nationals to a Pakistani intelligence agency.

“This warrants the fullest investigation by the ISC, which is best placed initially to undertake such an inquiry. I would expect the government to cooperate fully with such an investigation and eventually for the prime minister to make a statement to parliament on how this practice has been allowed to develop and what action is to be taken.”

Earlier this year representatives of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch told another Commons body, the Foreign Affairs Committee, they believed British intelligence officers were colluding in torture.

Tom Porteous, London director of Human Rights Watch, told MPs: “It is pretty clear the US and the UK are relying rather heavily on the well-known abusive Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, in the counter-terrorism operations. It is one of the most brutal intelligence agencies in the world.” He added that British interrogations of people being held by this agency “seem to amount to complicity and collusion in the mistreatment”.

In April the Guardian reported that four other British men, who had been detained in Pakistan during British-led counter-terrorism operations and held illegally for several months without access to a lawyer or court, had each alleged that British officials colluded in their torture. (ht2 Stephen Soldz @ Psyche, Science, and Society)

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Meet Nukie, The Iranian Nuclear Spaghetti Monster

Let his creator Cyrus Safdari explain-

I have been thinking of the “Laptop of Death” alleged evidence about the alleged nuclear weaponization work in Iran which (finally) has been selectively provided by the US to the IAEA, to be used to confront Iran.

The IAEA has now asked Iran about these allegations, but the IAEA wasn’t actually “permitted” by the US to show the documents to Iran.. Iran is nevertheless expected to prove that it doesn’t secretly intend to make nukes as these alleged documents allegedly allege.

Now, imagine that using my computer, I draw you a picture of a nuclear spaghetti monster. Then, I show it to you – partially — and demand that you prove that you are not secretly intending to make one these things in the indefinite future. How is this any different from what the IAEA is demanding of Iran?

Meet Nukie!

Who knew the Bush regime were pastafarians. Meanwhile also via Iran Affairs an Anti-War takedown of the ‘liberal’ media’s war pimping

What’s NOT in the IAEA Iran Reports
by Peter Casey

Peter Zimmerman carries august credentials. He is a nuclear physicist. He has degrees from Stanford in experimental nuclear and particle physics. He was the top scientist for arms control at the State Department for a number of years. He later served as chief scientist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has written scores of papers on nuclear arms and arms control. He is currently emeritus professor of science and security at King’s College in London. All in all, he sounds like someone who knows about nuclear technology, including nuclear weapons, and has the time to think carefully about anything he might write on the subject.

Or so you would think. But on July 6, 2008, Zimmerman published an opinion piece in the Boston Globe entitled “Time for Iran to Face More Sanctions,” a screed that badly misuses the International Atomic Energy Agency’s May 2008 report on its monitoring of Iran’s nuclear power activities. In his piece, which was later republished in the International Herald Tribune, Zimmerman blatantly tries to terrify Americans about an Iranian nuclear menace that does not exist, may never exist, and poses no realistic threat whatsoever to the United States in any case. His commentary is also solid evidence that the New York Times, which owns both the Globe and the Tribune, is intent on once again disseminating the same sort of nonsense that facilitated a “case” for the Iraq invasion. Read the rest of this entry »

Imperial Disneyland

Yes today you can see people in costumes promoting war, they are ‘among us‘.

Territorial Army soldiers from across the UK have been arriving at their day jobs in their military uniforms. Uniform to Work Day celebrates 100 years of the TA and is designed to make the contribution of the part-time force more visible. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is holding a reception at 10 Downing Street to mark the day.