WikiLeaks Poll!

So Fox News decided to run a poll on the current WikiLeaks fiasco, asking “viewers” whether they thought WikiLeaks was a “terrorist organisation”. All of the options were loaded questions, although it appears as if around 67% of Fox News viewers believe that WikiLeaks is indeed a terrorist organisation. Whether this tells us more about Fox News viewers than the general opinions of the American public I do not know, though I have decided to run my own poll to see what you guys think….

NUS Leader Responds to Clegg’s Letter

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NUS president Aaron Porter responds to Nick Clegg. You can read the full letter here: NUS response to Nick Clegg PDF. Some extracts from the letter are noted below:

“I am pleased that you have clarified that your recall proposals were to apply to serious wrongdoing. But you should know that we would regard the breaking of signed, individual pledges to vote against higher fees as both serious and wrong. This is not as simple as coalition parties having to compromise.” [pg.1]

“You herald bringing part-time students into the scheme as a success – we agreed on the day Browne was published – but only those studying at 33% or more will benefit from a loan.” [pg.1]

“You trumpet the change in the post-graduation repayment threshold – convenientlyignoring that the £21k level won’t be introduced until 2016, or increased until 2021. If inflation is higher than 2.2%, the £21,000 earnings repayment threshold will not offer any real advantages to graduates by 2015/16.” [pg.1]

“You argue progressivity through the example of a nurse Continue reading

“Progressive” tuition fees hike progressing the wrong way

Portrait of Nick Clegg.

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Despite claims that the proposed cuts in University funding and the hike in tuition fees are “progressive”, a recent analysis of the proposals, published today, argues that the “reform” of funding will limit social mobility and leave around two-thirds of all graduates paying far more for a degree.

The government’s proposals will see tuition fees as high as £9,000 a year, whilst introducing real interest rates for the loans as well as a longer period before the debt it “written off”. Million+, a university lobby group, states that these changes will hit middle-income earners the hardest, running contrary to the numerous claims by the coalition that “we are in this together”, and the statements that those with the broadest shoulders will carry the brunt.

The report also argues that pupils from poorer backgrounds will be deterred from applying to Uni, which is interesting as Nick Clegg is arguing that it is the DEBATE about reform that will put off poorer students. Clegg wrote to the NUS leader, Aaron Porter, urging students not to “distort” the debate over fees, saying that many wrongly believe they will have to pay the fees immediately. I think Clegg is missing the point here.

The report also warns that many women will be ending up in debt for the most part of their working lives, whilst mature students will also be deterred. With state funding for University teaching being cut by a monumental 80% by 2014-15, the government will have to borrow more to fund the higher loans and pick up a bigger bill for those debts “written off” after 30 years. The report argues this will leave taxpayers worse off.

“It is difficult to see how the proposals provide a long-term, sustainable framework for the funding of higher education and universities in England,” the report says. It also accuses the government of using simplistic measures to define social mobility, such as the number of students on free school meals who go to Oxford, rather than assessing whether a having degree helps those from deprived backgrounds get better jobs, the Guardian states.

Some have also claimed that the coalition is trying to push through the legislation before MP’s have had a chance to properly review and debate the proposals. It appears as if the opinions held by Clegg that the proposals are “fair” and “progressive” may be empty rhetoric. Meanwhile, protests are continuing up and down the country on an almost weekly basis, with students clashing with police and occupations of buildings taking place even as you read this. Stay tuned.

“National Security” excuse used one too many times?

Shami Chakrabarti at Humber Mouth on 28 June 2007

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The government has been accused of using the fabled “threat to national security” excuse as a justification to suppress or withhold information that does not, in fact, pose any threat to national security.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the civil rights group Liberty, wrote to the attorney General, Dominic Grieve, stating that ministers and their lawyers were abusing their positions. Chakrabarti stated that increasingly, the government is citing “national security” in court cases to supress information that could be potentially embarrassing.

The “War on Terror” essentially allows governments and ministers to abuse the perpetual hightened security alerts that they themselves implement. The most common excuse used to justify the witholding of information or for persuing a contentious course of action is that it is for the preservation of “national security”. It is difficult to contest this as, typically, one has to take the government’s “word” for it; they cannot show “evidence” for their claims as that, too, could breach “national security”. Which is convenient.

Now, however, the government has come under attack Continue reading

WikiLeaks: Hero or Villain?

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As of 17:26, 29th November 2010, WikiLeaks has released only a “handful” of the 250,000 strong cache of secret US embassy documents – a total of 243 at present. Yet already the international community has been set ablaze, with politicians condemning the release of the confidential reports – some labelled “Not for foreign eyes” (NOFORN).

Across the globe, governments and diplomats are taking action to limit the damage and to preserve foreign relations. Some are attempting to take action against WikiLeaks – Australia has launched a “whole-of-government” investigation into the website, perhaps partly due to the fact that the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is an Australian citizen. Australia’s attorney general Robert McClelland said: “We’re waiting for advice from the agencies as to appropriate course of actions that may be taken in response”. Downing Street has condemned the release, stating that the leaks have damaged “national security”. Pakistan has also criticised the release; it’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, said today: “We condemn the irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents”. China has censored local media, banning any reporting on the subject. The French government has described the leaks as an attack on democracy, pledging their support to the American administration. Naturally, US politicians and diplomats are vehemently condemning WikiLeaks and Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, explained that “there is an active, ongoing criminal investigation” whilst threatening that some members of the media will face “real consequences”. One US official is even calling for WikiLeaks to be branded as a “terrorist organistion”, though it does not appear as if many support this reactionist statement.

But how “treasonous” is WikiLeaks act?  Despite the fact that many of the cables have been marked “secret”, there are approximately 3 million Americans with the clearance to read the documents. It is clear that “secret” is a relevant classification in this sense. Continue reading

WikiLeaks: Cablegate 2010

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Today, Sunday 28th November 2010, WikiLeaks released over 250,000 classified cables leaked from US embassies, a move that’s left the United States in what can only be described as a “diplomatic crisis”.

The controversial site, WikiLeaks, has been periodically released classified documents and secret information pertaining to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been heavily criticised by both government and military leaders. However, today the website has released thousands of documents from United States embassies containing secret information relating to American intelligence gathering, political and military strategies, foreign policies, and details of secret meetings between foreign leaders.

WikiLeaks has leaked the files to five international media publications, including the Guardian, on the condition that the cables are released within common deadlines. At present, 220 cables have been released. The current release is the result of dispatches from over 250 US embassies worldwide, and already the US is scrambling for damage control – alerting allies and foreign diplomats of the potential impact of the disclosures.

The documents that have already been released Continue reading

Minister for Women and Equality scraps Harman’s equality law

Theresa May - Home Secretary and minister for ...

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Theresa May favours “fairness” over “equality”

In a glorious act of doublethink, the Minister for Women and Equality Theresa May has scrapped a key piece of legislation under the Equality Act, favouring a greater emphasis on the dubious word “fairness” rather than “equality”. Perhaps she misread her job title.

The legislation was a legal requirement that would have forced public authorities to take disadvantage and inequalities into account, to assess whether or not they were addressing inequalities when making policy decisions. The measure was an important part of the Equality Act passed earlier this year by Labour’s former minister for equalities, Harriet Harman. Theresa May dismissed the legislation as “ridiculous” and described the measure as “socialism in one clause”.

“They thought they could make people’s lives better by simply passing a law saying that they should be made better”, May said. Clearly Harman had been taking her job title too seriously when she passed the equality measure, a trap May is ensuring she does not fall into. The problem with the word ‘equality’, May went on, “is that it has been seen to mean equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity”. Which is clearly a bad thing. Continue reading