Obama and Cameron pledge to pour billions into Egypt and Tunisia

David Cameron and Barack Obama are to back multibillion-dollar plans “to pour greater international financial and political support into Egypt and Tunisia in a bid to stabilise political reform,” the Guardian reports.

Obama has already called on Congress to waive as much as $1bn in debt owed by Egypt. However, he has also asked to provide loan guarantees for up to $1bn in new borrowing. The multibillion-dollar plans seem to in actuality be multibillion-dollar loans; Cameron and Obama have also shown support for plans to widen “the remit of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to offer billions in loans, two decades after the bank was set up to foster market economies in Eastern Europe,” the Guardian continues.

The two leaders are keen to show their support for stabilising Middle Eastern countries, and have stated that they will work with any democratic governments in the region, yet they are concerned with signs of political instability in Egypt.

Will loaning these countries billions of dollars actually help them to develop? Or will it keep them tied to repayments for years to come? And can Cameron afford (in more ways than one) to endorse such support in the face of the sweeping public cuts at home?

There are some skeptics. The Guardian posted a link to their article on Facebook, and as usual multitudes of comments are already appearing. Here are some of the more cynical comments:

Heba El-Mongy we don’t need anything from you, please take care of your people and leave us alone, an Egyptian

Just Michael David Cameron and Barack Obama are to back multibillion-dollar plans to finance political groups in Egypt and Tunisia in a bid to reverse political reform taken place.

Hiba Halabi funny …all of what we need from u is to leave us alone ..we Know how to build our countries and we don’t need ur money or aids…we dont believe in ur Democracy or freedom….Palastinian girl
(Damascus, Syria)

Med Salem for sure we TUNISIANS DON’T NEED neither your back up nor your money feed ur depraved people and give rights to the Native Americans who still live under your arrogance and tyranny.

Lili Carrascalão-Contreiras WHY exactly are they so generous? In this case it has nothing to do with our Greek friends but a very old phrase comes to mind: “Timeo danaos et dona ferentes.” (“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.)
(Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

Andrew Biscuitpandasimonmottom Cottrell I’d rather have a working NHS thanks.

Step von Hahn And Syria ? And Yemen ? and so forth and so on…

Jay Edwards Don’t worry everyone we along with America can just print money on the press and hand it out. Don’t worry about it being not worth anything people are still buying into the ponzi scheme.

Leave the Egyptians alone to rebuild the country themselves. They don’t need another western backed dictator to pussyfoot around Israel and they certainly don’t need the imf to loan them money and enslave them for ever.

Mostafa Mohamed Abohelwa we don’t want anything from those hypocrites.
(Alexandria, Egypt)

Cris Aloha It’s nothing to do with supporting middle-east countries, is to do with “buying” their policitical and economic systems and setting up “controlled” democracies… Like many other people, I don’t trust their international aid, investments or goodwill plans…

رولا مور Please keep your money to yourself. You’ve done enough damage to our homes with your Arab dictators. NO MORE ARAB PUPPETS!!!! Enough is enough! I think we made that clear in our demonstrations

Susan Clark How can this be right if we are losing jobs elderly disabled losing services all 2 do with us cutting the debt .wheres this money coming from?thought we had no money.havent we learnt from iraq or afghtan we cant rule the world by money.

Barack Obama: Nobel Peace Winner. War President.

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

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“I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank” (Obama, 2007)

Hope. Change. Peace.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign focused on the principles that changes were needed, and if he were given the chance, it would be possible under his leadership. He promised a ‘change’ from the Bush-era politics, an end to the Middle Eastern wars, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. The emphasis was on hope. The emotive theme was peace. His inspirational rhetoric echoed around the world. The focus was not on the fact that he was the first black president of the USA, but rather that he was so vastly different from the militaristic George W. Bush. Whereas Bush inspired anger, even ridicule towards the end of his office, Obama inspired hope in millions simply through his rhetoric. In October 2009, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a gesture that would never have been given to his predecessor.

Yet beneath all the spin, the PR tactics and the powerfully emotive rhetoric encompassing such  words as “hope” and “change”, Obama’s policies are not so dissimilar to those that the Bush-era enacted. Some even claim that Obama may even be worse. He is certainly more charming, intelligent and emotive than Bush ever was, and this may be why he is able to captivate people’s hearts so. His eloquence with words and his calm, rational demeanor can potentially be very disarming; and if his policies are not so dissimilar to his predecessor’s, then his ‘promises’ for change are simply empty rhetoric, possibly designed to provide a smokescreen for what is essentially a continuation of the Bush-era politics that many Americans began to despise. Continue reading

Disney trademarks “Seal Team 6″

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Disney has trademarked the name “Seal Team 6″, just two days after President Obama announced that Navy SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden.

The trademark application came on May 3, just two days after the bin Laden killing was announced, so it is safe to assume that this is not a mere coincidence.

CBS news reports that: “In addition to “entertainment and education services,” they cover toys, games and playthings (including the legally all-embracing “hand-held units for playing electronic games other than those adapted for use with an external display screen or monitor”); gymnastic and sporting articles; clothing, footwear and headwear; Christmas stockings, Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; and – no doubt ideal for depicting raids in Pakistan – snow globes.”

I wonder if they are going to make an animated film about the SEAL Team 6 killing of bin Laden?

Iraq dossier was… a work of fiction?

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The UK government has had a hard time convincing the public of the necessity of the Iraq War in recent years. In 2003, over 1,000,000 people marched against the proposed military action Iraq, yet the government ever since has stuck by the rhetoric that the war was necessary for national and international security.

The public was told time and again that Saddam Hussein had WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), though these WMDs have never been found. The UK government has been accused of entering an ‘illegal’ conflict and of spinning the truth to convey the need for military intervention. Even now, there are still debates as to whether or not the UK was justified in the drawn-out war, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and the displacement of many innocents.

The Chilcot Inquiry was convened in 2009 as a public inquiry into the UK’s role in the Iraq War, to determine the what happened in the run-up to conflict and to establish the way decisions were made. Newly released evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry suggests contradictions between what the Blair government told the public, and what actually happened. Particular focus is on Alastair Campell, the former chief spin doctor for Blair, who stated that the purpose for the Iraq Dossier was not to make the case for war. Now it is emerging that the dossier was intended for exactly that purpose. The dossier has been contested in recent years and the previous government has been accused of ‘sexing up’ the document to make the case for war seem more legitimate.

Major General Michael Laurie, a military intelligence official, has submitted secret evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry which has recently been made public. Laurie has suggested that the dossier on Iraq’s weapons programme was primarily drawn up to “make the case for war”, contradicting previous claims by the Blair government.

Laurie said: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care.”

According to the Guardian, this is “the first time such a senior intelligence officer has directly contradicted the then government’s claims about the dossier.”

Laurie said in evidence to the inquiry: “I am writing to comment on the position taken by Alastair Campbell during his evidence to you … when he stated that the purpose of the dossier was not to make a case for war; I and those involved in its production saw it exactly as that, and that was the direction we were given.”

“Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not ‘to make a case for war’. I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used.”

Major General Michael Laurie was director general in the Defence Intelligence Staff, and was responsible for commanding and delivering raw and analysed intelligence, the Guardian reports. Laurie said that Air Marshal Sir Joe French, the chief of defence intelligence, was “frequently inquiring whether we were missing something” and was under pressure. “We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD [weapons of mass destruction], generally concluding that they must have been dismantled, buried or taken abroad. There has probably never been a greater detailed scrutiny of every piece of ground in any country“, the Guardian continues.

Other Chilcot documents include top secret MI6 reports, “warning of the damage to British interests and the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the UK if it joined the US-led invasion of Iraq.” However, on the flip-side to this, it appears as if the the UK was worried that the US would “feel betrayed by their partner of choice”, Britain, if we did not join them in the invasion, according to Sir Kevin Tebbit, then a top official at the Ministry of Defence, in a warning to the defence secretary Geoff Hoon in January 2003.

It seems as if Britain was torn between damaging British interests and increasing terrorists attacks in the UK, or “betraying” the US opinion of Britain. Hmmm… tough choice.

MI6 also allegedly told ministers before the Iraq invasion that removing Saddam Hussein “remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies”.

Increase in passengers’ details to be stored, including what they ate for lunch…

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The surveillance state is increasing. Under new terrorism plans, airlines will be forced to hand over information including names, addresses, credit card details and travel partners to immigration and police authorities. The data includes what a passenger ate for lunch, where they sat, and whether they were flying on to another destination, the Telegraph reports.

These additional pieces of passenger information includes passenger’s phone numbers and how they paid for their ticket. This data could then be handed over to any other EU country in which the plane lands.

Britain already collects data on passengers’ passports, such as name, D.O.B, gender etc., but the new terrorism proposals will mean that at least 19 extra pieces of data will be collated and can be shared across Europe.

The draft directive initially applied only to flights in and out of Europe, however Britain wants the power to include flights within Europe as well, and has proposed an amendment to this opt-in directive.

The coalition has previously attacked Labour for its database/surveillance-esque state, and critics have attacked the Government for “signing up to a diktat that could see details of Britons handed around Europe without proper parliamentary scrutiny.”

Damian Green, the immigration minister, told the Commons that Britain would opt-in to this EU directive, which is not mandatory. Green said: “Opting in to this directive is good to our safety, good for our security and good for our citizens.”

Clearly, knowing what passengers’ had for lunch on their flights will be an enormous help in the “War on Terror”.

Stephen Booth, research director of Open Europe, said: “Despite their tough rhetoric in opposition, Conservative ministers have handed over crime and justice powers to Brussels at an alarming rate.”

Open Europe is an independent think tank that “believes that the EU must have “a looser and more flexible structure, and greater transparency and accountability”.
Passengers’ data will be stored for up to five years. Details will become anonymous after 30 days but certain cleared individuals can read the information for crime/security purposes.

UK Met Police to use lethal “hollow point” bullets that are banned in warfare

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The Metropolitan Police is to arm all of its firearms officers with a lethal type of ammunition known as “hollow point” bullets which flatten and expand upon penetration, causing maximum damage to tissues and vital organs. The use of these rounds are prohibited in warfare under the Hague Convention.

Wikipedia describes hollow point rounds as being “intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target in order to decrease penetration and disrupt more tissue as it travels through the target.”, “maximizing tissue damage and blood loss or shock.”

The Met says that the rounds are less likely to harm bystanders, as the bullets are less likely to over-penetrate and harm others when used in crowded spaces. These special rounds were used in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian who was falsely identified as being a suicide bomber, and was shot dead in 2005. The BBC says: “After it emerged he was killed with the ammunition, cousin Alex Pereira said: “I am shocked and angry. I had no idea. How can the police in the UK use bullets that the Army is not allowed to use?”

According to Channel 4 news, “talks have begun with other police forces to make this type of bullet standard issue in time for the 2012 Olympics.” The head of the Met’s Firearms Unit, Commander Jerry Savill, said he was confident that it will be standard among all UK police forces by next summer.

These special rounds are already standard issue in France, though whilst being used in police ammunition, hollow point rounds are prohibited in warfare under the Hague Convention, due to their being seen as inhumane to opposing soldiers.

David Dyson, a barrister and ballistics consultant, commented on the use of the ammunition. Asked whether the rounds were unsurvivable, he said: “Yes. They don’t use these bullets in the anticipation that people will survive. They expand, so you get the mushroom effect when the bullet hits the body.”

“Much more energy is being imparted into the victim.”

Mr Dyson added that deer stalkers are compelled to use them because they do not go right through the animal.

Outcry from civil liberty groups as Police buy digital tracking software

One Nation Under CCTV

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The Metropolitan Police have bought a security programme which can track suspects and their associates in the digital world, prompting a backlash from civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners, the Guardian reports.

The Met, Britain’s largest police force, has its hands on Geotime, a security programme used by the US military. It can collate digital data and can be used to generate a three-dimensional graphic,  showing an individual’s movements and communications with other people. It can collect the information from social networking sites, satellite navigation equipment, mobile phones, IP logs, and even financial transactions.

Given the contention with the Met’s policing of the recent demonstrations, it is natural that there would be an outcry against such a purchase. It is emerging that the Met has been keeping tabs on “domestic extremists” – ordinary citizens who attend peaceful demonstrations or affiliate with activist groups. A recent example has been that of John Catt, an 86 year old man, who has had his presence at peaceful protests and demos logged in secret by police units over four years. He is currently attempting legal action against the police. He has no criminal record, yet has been systematically stalked by police units.

There has also been an outcry against the infiltration of green activist groups by undercover police of late. Civil rights and privacy campaigners and lawyers are expressing concern at how the software could potentially be used to monitor innocent parties, in breach of data protection legislation. As their current track record is not immaculate, these concerns are potentially very valid.

Alex Hanff, the campaigns manager at Privacy International, said: “Once millions and millions of pieces of microdata are aggregated, you end up with this very high-resolution picture of somebody, and this is effectively what they are doing here.”

“We shouldn’t be tracked and traced and have pictures built by our own government and police for the benefit of commercial gain.”

Sarah McSherry, a partner at Christian Khan Solicitors, which represents several protesters in cases against the Metropolitan police, said: “We have already seen the utilisation of a number of tactics which infringe the right to peaceful protest, privacy and freedom of expression, assembly and movement. All of these have a chilling effect on participation in peaceful protest.”

“This latest tool could also be used in a wholly invasive way and could fly in the face of the role of the police to facilitate rather than impede the activities of democratic protesters.”

The Met has confirmed that Geotime has been paid for, yet has declined to give a figure. Several possible uses for the software are being assessed, yet there has been no comment on whether the software might be used during investigations into public order offences.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Met stated: “We are in the process of evaluating the Geotime software to explore how it could possibly be used to assist us in understanding patterns in data relating to both space and time. A decision has yet to be made as to whether we will adopt the technology [permanently]. We have used dummy data to look at how the software works and have explored how we could use it to examine police vehicle movements, crime patterns and telephone investigations.”

Alongside the Met, the Ministry of Defence is also examining Geotime. A spokesman said: “The MoD is assessing Geotime as part of its research programme but it is not currently being used on operations.”

Head of tobacco company states that tobacco “is not that hard to quit”

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The CEO of international tobacco company Philip Morris International Inc. told a cancer nurse that cigarettes are not that hard to quit, the Associated Press reports.

CEO Louis C. Camilleri‘s statements were made at an annual shareholder meeting in New York, where executives from tobacco corporations such as Marlboro and other brands clashed with anti-tobbaco groups and other ‘corporate accountability groups’. A nurse identified as Elisabeth Gundersen cited statistics regarding tobbaco use, such as the fact that tobacco kills over 400,000 Americans and more than 5 million people worldwide each year. She also said that a patient remarked that out of all the addictions he’d beaten, including crack, cocaine and meth, cigarettes had been the most difficult. Gundersen is a member of the Nightingales Nurses, an anti-tobacco activist group that focuses on raises public attention on the tobacco industry.

Camilleri, described by Associated Press as “often-unapologetic”, replied to the nurse’s statements by belittling tobacco’s addiction. He stated: “We take our responsibility very seriously, and I don’t think we get enough recognition for the efforts we make to ensure that there is effective worldwide regulation of a product that is harmful and that is addictive. Nevertheless, whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit… There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers.”

Philip Gorham, Morninstar analysist, said it is the addictiveness that makes the tobacco industry such a profitable business, saying: “It’s in the interest of executives to give the impression that they don’t want new smokers to take up smoking, that they believe that people who do, can quit, but the statistics tell another story.”

Following Camilleri’s statement, Philip Morris International came back with its disclaimer that “tobacco products are addictive and harmful.”

The U.S. Public Health Service says around 45% of U.S. smokers try to quit each year, yet only  4 to 7%  of them are successful.

Camilleri also talked about the challenges that the tobacco industry is facing during the shareholder meeting, describing how tax hikes, increased regulation, bans on product displays and ingredients and further restrictions could impede competition and add costs for retailers. Last year, Philip Morris International’s profits rose by 14.5%. The company has raised prices and focused on emerging markets for growth as cigarette demand falls, the Associated Press writes. Philip Morris International is the world’s largest non-governmental cigarette seller, selling such big brands as Marlboro and L&M.