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Latest crime figures

Following the release of the latest crime figures, BBC1 Ten O'Clock News (19/7/07) announced: "Crime is at a historically low level..." This was a first for BBC1 news. As we've indicated in detailed complaints to the BBC, their headline announcements have, for years, cherry-picked rises in crime. The headline was followed by an informative report by Mark Easton which dispelled some myths about violent crime. He pointed out, for example, that "half of it [violent crime] involves no injury, and it includes crimes like bigamy". He also commented on the example of a 77 yr-old woman, petrified of crime: "Isabel's chances of being involved in a violent attack are extremely remote, but that's not what she reads in the papers".

For details of our previous complaints on BBC News, and our past correspondence with Mark Easton, see:

Students force HSBC into rethink

One of the 'big five' banks, HSBC, was "forced into a dramatic U-turn" after a web-based protest by students. HSBC had planned to cancel interest-free accounts for graduates - until thousands of students signed up to the Stop the Great HSBC Graduate Rip-Off campaign. The bank's hasty re-think led to a leading article in the Independent celebrating "a victory for people power". (Independent, 31/8/07)

Government to use lie detectors on benefits claimants

The UK government is set to make countrywide use of lie detectors in a "crackdown" on benefits fraud. The Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) technology works by measuring fluctuations in the voice that indicate stress and "an attempt to deceive". The Observer newspaper (2/9/07) quotes a government spokesperson: "Operators trained in intelligent questioning and behavioural analysis will use the system to identify suspect cases at the start of the claim process...". http://society.guardian.co.uk/crimeandpunishment/story/0,,2160874,00.html

Single Working Age Benefit proposed

The Citizen's Income Newsletter has spotted that a recent Work and Pensions Select Committee report, 'Benefits Simplification' (26/7/07) contains a detailed proposal for something called a Single Working Age Benefit (SWAB), which would replace benefits for both the employed and the jobless. They argue that a SWAB is "nine tenths of the way to a Citizen's Income".

Majority of super-rich pay no income tax

HM Revenue figures, recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, suggest that only a fraction of those earning £10m or more in Britain pay income tax. Prior to the 1997 general election, Gordon Brown promised to end "the tax abuses which reach to the heart of our public finances by indulging the super-rich at the expense of the rest of us". A decade later, The Independent newspaper (22/6/07) describes Britain as "a haven for the super-wealthy". http://money.independent.co.uk/personal_finance/tax/article2692509.ece

One wage not enough to live on

Nearly half of all UK families need two or more salaries to cover their bills, according to a recent survey. "Over 11 million UK households are dependent on more than one salary". (BBC News Online, 4/5/07) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6624047.stm

BBC removed details of Director General's pay

The BBC Director general, Mark Thompson, "was paid a total of £788,000 in the last financial year" according to a recent BBC web page, which, oddly, no longer contains this information – although it was still appearing in Google search results when we checked:

Fighting fund announced for battling the banks

Despite two apparent set-backs in which local courts found in favour of banks, the campaign against the banks' profiteering from excessive (and arguably illegal) charges is gaining momentum. A £100,000 fighting fund has been set up by consumer groups and private individuals, to encourage people to launch legal challenges against the banks. Commenting on the coverage surrounding the banks' first court victory, Martin Lewis (who announced the fund), said: "This case has no bearing in law and in practice sets no precedent [...] This is a desperate attempt to scare people away and it is important that we do not allow their spin and spiel to put people off". (The Scotsman, 4/6/07) http://business.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=869502007

The most prominent case is that of barrister Tom Brennan versus National Westminster Bank. Brennan has set up a website to provide updates: http://www.tombrennan.co.uk/

Jobless level is treble the official figure

The real level of unemployment in Britain is almost three times as high as the official figure, according to a report quoted by the Guardian. The reason for the discrepancy (between the 900,000 official "claimant count" and the report's figure of 2.6 million) is that many jobless people are diverted onto other benefits or out of the welfare system altogether. (Guardian, 13/6/07) http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2101437,00.html

Alternative currency flourishes in New Age town

There are about 844,000 "BerkShares" in circulation in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Worth $759,600 at the fixed exchange rate of 1 BerkShare to 90 US cents. In their 10 months of circulation, they've become a regular feature of the local economy. (Reuters, 19/6/07) http://tinyurl.com/28nvwa

Gap between rich and poor wider than ever

Inequality in Britain is at levels "not seen for over 40 years" according to new research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The widening gap between rich and poor has meant that 'average' households (neither poor nor wealthy) have been decreasing in number. (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 17/7/07) http://www.jrf.org.uk/pressroom/releases/170707.asp

Media hysteria over disappearance of child

The Independent newspaper has best summed up the media coverage of the disappearance of 4-year-old Madeleine McCann:

"The hysteria created by the reporting of this and similar cases does no service to anyone. It will lead only to children being wrapped in cotton wool and prevented from developing the social skills and independence they need to survive. Far from offering a shared catharsis, all it does is spread the virus of fear." (Independent, 15/5/07)


Average cost of a house rose £20,000 last year

The cost of an average home (in Britain) rose by £2,000 in March to reach £206,890. This figure is £20,000 higher than a year ago. The average price of a London home has jumped by £42,000 in a year. (Guardian, 15/5/07) http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2079579,00.html

Police report "ludicrous arrests"

The Police Federation claims that "ludicrous arrests" result from the police trying to meet government targets. They quote examples of such arrests:

• A man cautioned for being "in possession of an egg with intent to throw".
• A woman arrested on her wedding day for damage to a car park barrier when her foot slipped on her accelerator pedal.
• A child arrested for throwing cream buns at a bus.
• A 70-year-old arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour's conifers too vigorously.
• Two children who were arrested under firearms laws for being in possession of a plastic toy pistol.

(Press Association, via Independent, 15/5/07)

Soaring antidepressant prescriptions

The number of prescriptions for antidepressants in England has hit a record high. More than 31 million prescriptions for drugs such as Prozac were issued in 2006 – a 6% rise on the year before. (BBC News Online, 24/5/07) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6653013.stm

Road crashes the leading cause of death

Road crashes are the leading cause of death among young people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 400,000 people under the age of 25 are killed in road traffic crashes every year. Millions more are injured or disabled. (WHO, 19/4/07) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2007/pr17/en/index.html

Dramatic change in working habits needed

A Guardian news story titled 'Work at home, drivers told' mentions a report by the RAC which claims that: "Only a dramatic change in working habits would prevent implementation of pay-as-you-drive schemes". (Guardian, 14/5/07) http://www.guardian.co.uk/transport/Story/0,,2078875,00.html

Setback for anti-bank-fees campaigners

Lloyds bank has won a "landmark victory" against a customer who was claiming a refund of "penalty" charges. This is a setback for the campaign against such charges. However, Martin Hickman, of the Independent says that the ruling "does not mean that if you are claiming back your bank charges, you should abandon your case [...] All the campaigners say that you should continue and that you still have a very high chance of winning". A test case involving a barrister, Tom Brennan, should shed further light on cases later this year. (Independent, 16/5/07)

Benefit claimants to face lie detector tests

Benefit claimants will face lie detector tests, in a "crackdown on fraud", the government says. (Such fraud is currently worth £0.7 billion per year, compared to £14 billion in business fraud and £85 billion in corporate tax avoidance). Voice Risk Analysis technology picks up signs of stress when telling lies. These are measured against the "normal" voice, "ensuring that nervousness or shyness is not a trigger". (Guardian, 5/4/07) http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2050811,00.html

Talking CCTV to apologise

The UK's "Talking CCTV" scheme got off to a bad start, when a camera's loudspeaker wrongly accused someone of littering outside a McDonalds. (Guardian 12/4/07) http://society.guardian.co.uk/crimeandpunishment/story/0,,2055057,00.html

One man's fight for justice over bank fees

Britain's banks will finally have the legality of their excessive "penalty fees" challenged in court later this month (30 April). Barrister Tom Brennan is reportedly risking his professional career to prove the banks are acting illegally (and since they currently make an estimated £4.7 billion per year from the charges, this almost sounds like John Grisham territory). (Independent, 14/4/07) http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article2447665.ece

Bank interest charges "cannot be trusted"

Banks and credit card companies have been issued a "super complaint" over interest charges and face an inquiry from the Office of Fair Trading. A consumer watchdog (Which?) has warned that interest charges "cannot be trusted". (Independent, 1/4/07) http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article2411248.ece

Office jobs are big polluters

An article in the Independent points out the environmental cost of working in offices. A typical office building is cited as using (per employee) three times the amount of electricity as the typical person consumes at home. Another good reason to work from home. (Independent, 25/3/07) http://news.independent.co.uk/business/comment/article2390840.ece

Average house price eight times average wage

The average price of a house in Britain is £192,200 - over eight times the average wage (less than £24,000). In the 1930s the average house price was around £600 - three times the average wage (around £200). In other words, the average earner would have to earn £64,000 a year to match the house-purchasing power of someone with a similar job in 1930 (not taking into account other expenses such as food, consumer goods, etc, whose prices have fallen in real terms since 1930). (Guardian, 18/12/1999; Telegraph, 10/3/2007)

Alcohol worse than ecstasy on new drug list

Scientists (including members of the government's top advisory committee on drug classification) have produced an assessment of the harm caused by 20 substances, and have rated alcohol and tobacco as more dangerous than cannabis, LSD and ecstasy. The rankings take into account the stronger cultivated "skunk" cannabis (which has been the subject of recent media scare stories).

The researchers say the existing drug classification should be scrapped and replaced with one based on evidence. Ecstasy is shown to be one of the least harmful substances, causing fewer than 10 deaths a year. One person a day is killed by acute alcohol poisoning and thousands more from chronic use. (Guardian, 23/3/07) http://politics.guardian.co.uk/constitution/story/0,,2040890,00.html

Rise in UK child poverty

The number of children living in relative poverty rose from 3.6 million to 3.8 million last year. (BBC News Online, 27/3/07) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6497981.stm

UK's child mortality rate is linked to inequality

Britain has the second highest child death rate among the 24 richest countries in the world. A new study claims this is linked to the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" which is the third biggest among the 24 countries. (Independent, 1/4/07) http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2411397.ece

Talking CCTV

The Times (4/3/07) reports a case of two teenage girls happily ripping up a magazine and littering the area with it, when a voice from a nearby loudspeaker announces: "You two girls have been witnessed on CCTV camera dropping litter. Pick it up and put it in the bin provided". Later this month the Home Office is expected to announce a nationwide scheme to introduce “talking CCTV”. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1466734.ece

MI5 trains supermarket staff

The security services are advising food retailers on how to identify "extremist shoppers". Supermarkets are apparently an attractive target for terrorists – but the only example provided in this news story is of three Palestinian-Americans arrested in Texas "after staff spotted them bulk-buying mobile phones". (Independent, 4/3/07)

Government uses terror plot for political purposes

The police have accused the UK government of using a recent "terror plot" to divert press attention from the "cash for honours" scandal. (New Criminologist, 4/2/07)

DPP: "There is no war on terror"

The Director of Public Prosecutions has warned that a "fear-driven and inappropriate" response to the terrorist threat could lead Britain to abandon fair trials. He was also reported as denying that there is a "war on terror". (Guardian, 24/1/07) http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1997246,00.html

Drug laws driven by "moral panic"

A report from the RSA commission on illegal drugs says current drug law has been "driven by moral panic", and that the evidence "suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others". (BBC, Guardian, etc, 8/3/07)

American estimates of Iraqi deaths

According to a recent AP/Ipsos poll of 1,002 American adults, the median estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths since the March 2003 invasion was 9,890. The responses were as follows:

1,000 or less: 8%
1,001 to 5,000: 24%
5,001 to 10,000: 20%
10,001 to 50,000: 21%
50,001 to 100,000: 11%
100,001 to 250,000: 6%
More than 250,000: 5%
(DK/NS): 4%

AP report: http://tinyurl.com/2nbyul
Poll: http://tinyurl.com/2ph3y8 (currently inaccessible)

Police hysteria over terror threat

Police Commissioner Ian Blair claims the UK is facing an "unparalleled and growing threat of a terrorist attack". However, he said there was "no specific intelligence" about an imminent attack. He also asserted (without any supporting evidence) that the threat of terrorism was "far graver" than those faced during World War II or the Cold War. (BBC Online, 22/12/06)

MI5's terror alert email service

Not feeling anxious enough? Now you can receive email terror alerts from MI5, notifying you of changes to the terror threat level. Just the thing to liven up your day, whether you're travelling to work on a crowded train or doing the shopping. A spokesman for the Home Office denied that the automatic alerts would cause unnecessary panic among those receiving them. (Press Association, 9/1/07)

[A problem with MI5's email service was quickly identified. Activists at spyblog.org.uk revealed lack of protection of subscribers' personal details, claiming MI5 sent them unencrypted to commercial third-party email marketing/tracking companies based in America (leaving them open to snooping by, for example, US law enforcement agencies). http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6262719.stm]

MI5: "No imminent terrorist threat"

Prior to the 7/7 (2005) London bombings, The director-general of MI5 told ministers there was "no imminent terrorist threat" to the country. Media response has been: "How could they fail to predict those attacks". Perhaps a better question is: "Why has the assessment of risk changed so much since then?" (Guardian 9/1/07) http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1985970,00.html

[See also our piece on the Misleading Vividness fallacy, which examines the tendency of politicians and media to assume increasing risk whenever a tragedy occurs].

Corporate welfare update

Barclays, Britain's third biggest bank (with annual profits of around £7 billion), has received a £4.2 million hand-out courtesy of the taxpayer (in the innocuous-sounding form of a Regional Selective Assistance grant, to help them "create jobs"). http://tinyurl.com/y9bsjg

£2.3 billion MoD headquarters refurbishment

The cost of refurbishing the Ministry of Defence HQ has been estimated at £2.3 billion. News of this cost came as senior army officers criticised the "cramped and decaying" living quarters of many in the armed forces. (BBC Online, 8/1/07) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6240635.stm

Politicians "exploit" terror fears

Politicians are "exploiting" the fear of terrorism for political gain, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Trust. The report's authors urge the government to abandon talk of a "war on terror".


Meanwhile, an article in the Guardian claims the threat of terrorism has been "wildly exaggerated": "While terrorism can take on different guises, it is not new and is not a threat to human society to rank with a world war or a nuclear holocaust". http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1953857,00.html

An earlier Sunday Times piece (by the same author, Simon Jenkins) criticised "politicians who hold weekly press conferences on 'international threat levels' [...] they seem comfortable only with a perpetual state of emergency." (Sunday Times, 20/8/06) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,23110-2314418,00.html

According to the MIPT terrorism knowledge base, the total number of US and UK (including Northern Ireland) fatalities caused by terrorism in the five years after 9/11 was 74, compared to 68 in the five years before. The corresponding totals for Iraq are 15,763 and 12, respectively. http://www.tkb.org/

Unoriginal advertisers

Following Microsoft's 1990s strapline, "Where do you want to go today?", there were a series of unoriginal variations by (obviously overpaid) advertisers. A recent example was Capital One's "What's in your wallet?" Another is "How Do You Eat Yours?" for Cadbury's Creme eggs. Waterstones, the bookseller chain, has spent a lot of money coming up with the new slogan: "What's Your Story?" But as Private Eye magazine (24/11/06) points out, it's already used by Aldo Shoes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_advertising_slogans

Corporate welfare latest

A Michigan-based glass manufacturer, Guardian Industries, was persuaded to set up in Yorkshire with a £7.6 million sweetener. The justification was the jobs brought to the area. But the company only has 153 workers in the UK – taxpayers have effectively paid £50,000 for each job. (Private Eye, 24/11/06)

Lancet study (on Iraqi deaths) bias?

The research behind a criticism of the Lancet study on Iraqi mortality (which estimated over 600,000 excess deaths since 2003) has now been published. "Main street bias" refers to bias in surveys which sample close to main streets (ie not covering quieter streets with less bombings/shootings). The Lancet study's authors have countered by saying they included "all" streets in their sampling – but this would mean they used a methodology fundamentally different from the account they published (and, to date, they haven't explained how they included all streets).

"Main street bias" research:

BBC cherry-picks crime increases

The latest official UK crime figures show total crime to have fallen 2%, no change to violent crime or burglary, a 6% fall in vehicle theft, an 8% fall in firearm offences and no change in "anti-social behaviour" levels.

But BBC Online's headline reads: "Robbery continues on upward trend". The 5% increase in robbery (mainly teenagers stealing mobiles and MP3 players from each other) is buried away on page four of the official crime report – the above falls are mentioned on the front page.
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs06/hosb1606.pdf (PDF document)

Secret Service grills 14 yr-old girl

US Secret Service agents interrogate 14 yr-old girl about her anti-Bush drawing. Julia Wilson had posted a cartoon-like drawing (which said "Kill Bush") on her MySpace page. The agents called at her home, then visited her school, where she was removed from class and grilled. (Counterpunch 17/10/06)
http://www.counterpunch.org/killbush.jpg ("Kill Bush" Drawing)

Economist pictured on new £20 banknotes

New £20 banknotes will carry a portrait of Adam Smith, the "Godfather of free-market economics", together with an engraving illustrating Smith's notion of "the division of labour", and the words: "and the great increase in the quantity of work that results". (Times, 30/10/06)
http://tinyurl.com/yjk4pb (Image of banknote)

It's a pity they don't use a different Adam Smith quote. For example: "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." (Wealth of Nations, Book 3, Chapter 4)

Virgin's viral marketing backfires

A viral marketing campaign by Virgin backfired after subscribers to the comedy site, b3ta.com, (who were challenged by Virgin to come up with ad ideas for the Virgin Money brand) created images that weren't appreciated by Virgin (and in some cases were illegal). The company has removed all traces of the competition, and requested its deletion from the b3ta.com site. (Inquirer, 26/10/06)

Nuclear test boosts condom sales

Stores across South Korea reported dramatic jumps in condom sales following the recent nuclear test by North Korea. Experts say that the figures cannot be definitively tied to the test but a similar phenomena, dubbed "terror sex", was observed in New York after September 11. (Associated Press, 26/10/06)

Britain a risk-averse nation

A new report claims "Britain has become a risk-averse nation that over-protects, over-regulates". (It's not from the usual right-leaning advocates of "deregulation"). Professor George Gaskell, a risk expert from the London School of Economics, says: "The mass media could be largely to blame. Virtually everything we eat, for example, has at some point been associated [in the media] with carcinogens. But people seem to want to read about new dangers. Maybe we just have a collective interest in finding things to be anxious about." (Guardian, 18/10/06)

"Government scam" to profit from the poor

The Department for Work and Pensions has made £268,000 profit from a helpline giving benefits advice to the poor and unemployed. The practice was exposed by the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Association, using the Freedom of Information Act to establish the department's income from the lines. The government has now promised to switch to a free service. (Guardian, 30/10/06)

Art attack on celebrities

The "guerrilla artist", Banksy, replaced hundreds of Paris Hilton CDs in various stores with his own tampered version which has song titles: "Why am I Famous?", "What Have I Done?" and "What Am I For?" He also changed the artwork – one picture showing the US socialite with a dog's head. (BBC Online, 3/9/06) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/5310416.stm

"Welfare cheats" latest

Fewer than 1 in 300 "tip-off" calls to the Benefit Fraud Hotline result in a conviction. The hotline is part of the government's multi-million-pound drive to convince newspaper editors that it's tough on spongers. (The Scotsman, 31/8/06) http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1284472006

Bank "late payment fees" unlawful

Several banks have reduced their "late payment fees" on credit cards following an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which found charges over £12 to be excessive. To quote the OFT press release:

"Credit card default charges have generally been set at a significantly higher level than is legally fair [...] this has led to unlawful penalty charges currently in excess of £300 million a year." http://www.oft.gov.uk/News/Press+releases/2006/68-06.htm

See, also, our page on demanding refunds from banks >

False dichotomies in polls

According to Allister Heath (in the Spectator magazine), "Almost three quarters of the British public are now convinced that we are fighting a new world war against extremist Islamic terrorists". This was based on a survey which forced participants to choose between two statements:

A column in the next issue of the Spectator pointed out the distorting effect of having no third option between "global war" and "no real threat". (The Spectator, 28/6/06) http://tinyurl.com/rpdjn

People worried about "lack of respect"

A BBC report (on an ICM poll) claims that Britain is "worse than 20 years ago". Participants in the poll apparently felt the biggest problems facing the country are: "lack of respect", crime and terrorism. (BBC Online, 4/9/06) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5310016.stm

For a historical perspective on "lack of respect", see our article, 8,000 years of antisocial behaviour >

3,200 government PR employees funded by taxpayers

Recently published figures show that Whitehall employs 1,815 press officers and public relations staff, with a further 1,444 employed by quangos and other taxpayer-funded agencies. (Guardian, Independent, 31/8/06) http://politics.guardian.co.uk/media/story/0,,1861596,00.html

Survey links ill health with work

A survey of 2,233 men found the following: "35% suffered from sleeping difficulties that they linked to pressures of work"; "22% said they suffered from depression because of job-related stress"; "17% have visited a doctor to discuss their exhaustion"; "more than one in three relies on alcohol to switch off from job stress". (Guardian, 8/6/06) http://money.guardian.co.uk/work/story/0,,1792697,00.html

UK media attacks ID cards

The UK "liberal" press has published a series of articles criticising the ID card and other "security" proposals. Some have even pointed out how the government falsely lumps together terrorism, crime, "antisocial behaviour", benefits fraud and immigration as if they're all part of one big RISING SINISTER THREAT. For example:

"Like crime, benefit fraud has decreased. But you hear little of this from No 10 or the rightwing tabloid press, because it suits them to keep us in a state of near frenzy about both." (Guardian, 11/7/06)

Government plans to sell your personal
details to private companies

The astronomical cost of ID cards (£19bn according to one optimistic study) embarrasses the government. Gordon Brown (UK Chancellor) plans to make them cheaper by allowing private companies to buy access to the ID database (containing biometric information on the population, etc). (Observer, 6/8/06)

Leaked emails reveal ID farce

Officials in charge of introducing ID cards reveal the "progress" made. The Sunday Times printed leaked emails between the ID card project director and a director at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS - the agency set up to implement ID cards). From one of the emails:

"I do not have a problem with ministers wanting a face saving solution, but we need to be clear [...] a botched introduction of a descoped early variant ID Card [...] could put back the introduction of ID Cards for a generation and won't do much for IPS credibility nor for the Govt's election chances either." (Email, David Foord to Peter Smith, Sunday Times, 9/7/06)
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2261631,00.html http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2262437_1,00.html

UK terror threat level officially "SEVERE"

The official terrorist threat level has now been made public for the first time (by the UK intelligence agencies). It's "SEVERE" (Cue rising organ music). How do they decide the level? They explain:

"It is rare that specific threat information is available and can be relied upon. More often, judgements about the threat will be based on a wide range of information, which is often fragmentary..."

Knife crime hysteria

Despite recent media hysteria over the "wave" of knife crimes in the UK, murder by stabbing has not risen. In 1995 there were 243 murders with sharp instruments; last year there were 236. Not even the weekly average of knife killings (four and a half) rose during this latest so-called crime "epidemic". (Guardian, 9/6/06)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329500440-103390,00.html >
See also: Diary of Distractions >

MI5 secretly vets thousands of BBC employees

In 1983, for example, 5,728 BBC jobs were subjected to "counter-subversion vetting" by MI5. Senior BBC figures "covered up" the link with the intelligence agency – leaked documents refer to a strategy of "categorical denial". (Daily Telegraph, 2/7/06)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/07/02/nspy02.xml >

ID cards latest

"The government is battling to ensure that estimates of the benefits and risks of identity cards remain secret" (BBC online, 5/7/06). The freedom of information watchdog ordered the UK government to publish the estimates, but the government has decided to appeal against this ruling. Why should the public know the benefits/risks of spending GBP 19 billion of taxpayers' money on ID cards? http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5150584.stm >
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-5873651,00.html >

Product placement in blogs

Bloggers are are getting paid by big business to push products. Disclosure is optional. "It's better for a brand to get into a blog than to surround it as a banner or text ad". (Business Week) http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/06_28/b3992034.htm >

Newspaper Meta-headline

The Daily Mail, Britain's "best-loved newspaper" (it claims) had a front-page headline of: 'BEYOND SATIRE' on 26/5/06. It wasn't describing its own contents, but some report of "burglars and robbers being taught costume making instead of going to jail".

Legal highs

The Daily Mail wasn't, however, listed as one of the legal highs now available in this country (by the Independent, 30/5/06). Instead, listed were 'Funk pills' (an ecstasy substitute), kratom leaf and salvia divinorum. BBC1 news ran a scare story about these on the same day. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article621825.ece (subscription)

Pop singer invited to join UFO cult

UK pop singer Robbie Williams Invited To Join UFO Cult. The Church of the SubGenius has invited singer Robbie Williams to join its ranks. In May of 1996, Williams announced his intention to start his own mystical religion dedicated to extraterrestrials. In response to this statement, the SubGenius Foundation has made an offer: "If Mr. Williams wants to join a UFO cult, then have we got one for him!" (ClickPress, 17/5/06)
http://www.clickpress.com/releases/Detailed/12912005cp.shtml >
http://www.subgenius.com >

TV newsrooms use corporate PR as news

The Center for Media and Democracy (USA) found that 77 television stations "actively disguised" sponsored content (PR for General Motors, Intel, Pfizer, Capital One, etc) to make it appear to be their own news reports. (PR Watch, 6/4/06) http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary >

Fake friendliness at work can make you ill

In a large study (involving 4,000 people) by psychologists at Frankfurt University, students were tested in a simulated call centre environment, where they were subjected to abuse from customers. Some of the students were allowed to answer back, while others had to be polite/friendly. The latter suffered more from stress.

The researchers concluded that flight attendants, sales personnel, call centre operators, waiters, etc, who are expected to be friendly all the time, are at risk of harming their health - and need their own space away from customers (ie more time off). (Sydney Morning Herald, 21/3/06). http://tinyurl.com/n2fm6 >

Police warn boys over lamp post

A 12 yr-old boy was stopped by police for photographing graffiti on a lamp post. He was given paperwork reading: "Was seen taking photos of lamp post ... advice given". Two other boys, both 13, were also given an official note by the police: "Hanging around lamp post - spoken to". (The Sun, 23/3/06)
http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2006130721,,00.html >

"Strong" economy generates more heart attacks

Low rates of unemployment are bad for health according to a recent US study. The researchers explain: "When the economy heats up, people often end up working more overtime" (whilst neglecting health). (Reuters, 6/4/06) http://tinyurl.com/oy9lb >

al-Qaeda not linked to 7/7 London bombings

The Observer newspaper (9/4/06) reports that an official inquiry into the 7/7/05 London bombings will say that there was no link with al-Qaeda (despite the claims of Tony Blair immediately after the attack). http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1750139,00.html >

BBC upholds our complaint

We'd complained about a scaremongering BBC1 report which incorrectly said violent crime had "significantly risen". As a result, the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) has found that BBC1 news breached editorial standards on "truth and accuracy", and that there was "no basis" for claiming a significant rise in violent crime.

The Head of ECU said our complaint "gave rise to a good deal of discussion within the BBC" and that it "has made a difference". (More details to follow when the ECU publishes the findings of its investigation). Our original complaint >

Cheapskate Romance

Last month, the supermarket chain, Asda, launched an "economy" Valentine card costing just 8 pence. Their rationale for this was that 30% of people find Valentine's day "too commercial" (according to a survey). There's a marketing "logic" here which is way beyond anything we can grasp. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4706320.stm >

Sonic Teenager Deterrent

A new gadget repels teenagers by emitting a high-pitched noise that can be heard only by under-20s. Police are endorsing the device, according to the Daily Telegraph (16/2/06). It annoys teenagers "intensely" – "they have to disperse and loiter somewhere else". Adults are immune as the "body's ability to detect some frequencies diminishes almost entirely after 20".

Tony Blair's grandmother a "graffiti vandal"

Tony Blair's PR crusade against antisocial youth backfired recently. During a photo-op, he hosed down graffiti and commented that older generations of his family would have abhorred such behaviour. The Daily Mirror (16/1/06) then revealed that Blair's grandmother was a "commie" graffiti vandal.

Blair also talked of a Golden Age when "people behaved more respectfully to one another", but a friend of his late grandmother, Alex Morrison, 86, said: "he is speaking absolute rubbish. Poverty and misery were widespread and it was a violent place as well."

Daily Mirror story: http://tinyurl.com/bjtfy >

UK's richest firm gets £1.2bn in corporate welfare

A provision exists in the UK for writing off tax bills where "strict application of the law would be oppressive and unfair". It's rarely used, but the government – very charitably – used it to write off £1.2 billion (approx US$ 2 billion) from the tax bill of BP (British Petroleum), Britain's richest company. (Daily Telegraph, 11/1/06)

Daily Telegraph story: http://tinyurl.com/anq2a >

More on corporate welfare >

[According to the Guardian (22/1/04), the Duke of Westminster, Britain's richest man, receives a daily handout of £1,000 from the taxpayer. Other big landowners get similar amounts of welfare (in farm subsidies).]

George Galloway & Cary Grant

UK anti-war politician, George Galloway, is now appearing in a popular "reality TV" show. Gone are the days, it seems, when celebrities shunned publicity. Cary Grant always refused to attend the Academy Awards – he'd stay home, take LSD, then watch it on TV while bouncing on the bed for hours, laughing his head off (according to testimony from his third divorce trial). You just don't get that kind of perspective any more.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4587448.stm >

Vampire runs for Office

A "self-proclaimed vampire" is apparently running for political office in the US.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200601/s1547002.htm >
http://www.jonathonforgovernor.us/Home_page.html >

'Number of the Beast' marriages.

Register offices in Holland have been flooded with requests for couples who want to get married on the 6/6/06.
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48182 >

Blair's unnatural Hard Work fetish

In his New Year message, Tony Blair said: "We live in a beautiful, prosperous country where most of us work hard". Nobody in the media (to my knowledge) pointed out that it might be preferable to live in "a beautiful, prosperous country where most of us enjoy lots of leisure".

BBC misreports latest UK crime figures

Fiona Bruce announced on BBC1 news (10.00pm, 20/10/05) that violent crime had "significantly increased". But both the police and the British Crime Survey (BCS) say the "increase" is largely due to the continuing effect of changes in crime recording methods - ie not "significant". (The BCS says violence fell by 7% in real terms over the quarterly period reported).

The BBC's misleading announcement was followed by a report (from BBC journalist Mark Easton) containing no statistics or clarifications, but which did show realistically bloody simulations of violence (apparently from a well-meaning anti-gun video).

I emailed Mark Easton about it (see Diary of Distractions for the email text). For more on the latest crime figures: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hosb1805.pdf (PDF format).

BBC's most important news story

As Orson Welles pointed out in Citizen Kane, the importance of a news story is measured by the size of the headlines. It's also measured by the amount of coverage (eg repetition). So, the most important news recently (judging from BBC coverage) has been the UK Conservative Party's leadership contest. No other story in recent decades has come close in importance.

One example: Last week, Newsnight (BBC's flagship "news" show) had a "headline" story – lasting 20 minutes – about Conservative leadership contender David Davis. It contained no news. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4314130.stm >

Anarchist TV ads watched by a million Germans

In Germany all political parties are given prime-time television slots for their campaign ads. An estimated million viewers watched an ad from the Anarchist Pogo Party (APPD) on public television. Many people were reportedly outraged by the "video montage of drug/booze-induced chaos involving semi-naked revellers".

The Hamburg-based APPD is an officially registered political party. Among its stated goals is "humankind's complete and ultimate return to stupidity." It sells t-shirts that read: "Arbeit ist Scheisse" ("work is shit").
http://www.appd.de/wahlspot/wahlspot.php (APPD website)
http://tinyurl.com/bje5l (Reuters report)

Improve efficiency: work slowly

A British company (a factory based in Oldham) has saved £1 million by getting staff to work slowly. "After just two weeks at the factory, the consultants came to the conclusion that efficiency would improve if staff worked more slowly". http://tinyurl.com/7tzqq

Support for ID cards plummets

The UK government has been claiming "overwhelming public support" for ID cards based on a poll from a few years ago. The Daily Telegraph (4/7/05), however, reports a new YouGov poll showing public support for ID cards has plummeted to 45% (from 78% in the previous poll, cited by the government). We expected this news story to be given headline coverage in the mainstream media, but it was barely mentioned (BBC1 evening news didn't mention it at all).

Majority of UK workers dislike their jobs

More than half (53%) of UK workers are unhappy with their jobs according to a poll of 14,000 people by employment group Kelly Services.
http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4657052 >

Electronic tags turn workplaces into "battery farms"

Thousands of UK workers are being electronically tagged with devices which can monitor breaks and trips to the toilet, according to the trade union GMB. The technology has been imported from the US, and the concept is similar to prison surveillance, says the union. The tags have been used with around 10,000 supermarket and warehouse workers. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1500838,00.html >
http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4654249 >

New report slays myths on "flexible" labour

The TUC has published a report called Slaying the Myths, which "demolishes the myths that are being peddled" about the need for "flexibility" to work long hours: http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-9971-f0.cfm >

See also, on this subject, our latest Rant >

Job satisfaction drops sharply

"On every indicator of job satisfaction in the British workforce, ratings have dropped sharply since 1990: hours, pensions, pace of job and workloads are the obvious ones; but interestingly, for a society that prides itself on being highly individualistic, there has been a marked decline in control over our work."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1469475,00.html >

Leaked memo: "Case for military action thin"

In a high-level leaked memo published by the Sunday Times, the Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw) is quoted as saying: "But the case [for military action] was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." This is contrary to Straw's public statements.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html >

Blair's shifting stance on "regime change"

Tony Blair has become increasingly strident in arguing that it was "necessary" to "remove" Saddam Hussein, even though there was no WMD threat ("I decided we had to remove him" – Blair on Election 2005, ITV, 2/5/05). Prior to the war (25/2/03), Blair said he was happy for Saddam to remain in power if Iraq complied with UN resolutions.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3738988.stm >

Blair's stance seems illegal – for more on this, see our Diary of Distractions >

BBC broadcasts "fake" news reports

The BBC has broadcast pre-packaged Ministry of Defence propaganda as genuine news. Journalists working for the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) have been commissioned to provide segments which the BBC has presented as objective reports. The SSVC is entirely funded by the Ministry of Defence as a propaganda operation. (SpinWatch, 15/3/05) http://tinyurl.com/6zdxm >

Police unhappy with politics of fear

UK police have criticised politicians for exaggerating crime risks. One Chief Constable said, of an election campaign ad, "This misleading advert quite improperly seeks to stir up fear of rising crime when it is a well established that crime has been falling for years".
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1550326,00.html >
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/election/story/0,15803,1450028,00.html >

("Rising" violent crime figures are technically correct, but misleading. In 1999 an attack on 3 people would have been recorded as one crime. But under a new victim-focused system, it's recorded as 3 crimes.)

Graffiti artist infiltrates top NYC galleries

Banksy, a British graffiti artist, has infiltrated his own artworks into four of New York's top galleries. These include a picture of a Tesco value-range tomato soup can, an oil painting of a colonial-era admiral holding a paint spray-can (with a background of anti-war graffiti), and a glass-encased beetle with fighter-jet wings and missiles attached to its body.
http://www.banksy.co.uk/exhibitions/02.html >
http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/03/24/art.prank.reut/index.html >

Tax avoidance by the rich a "growing problem"

$11.5 trillion of "tax avoidance" money has been placed by rich individuals in offshore havens (that's 10 times Britain's GDP). This figure doesn't include the vast amounts stashed in tax havens by multinational corporations. "This is one of the defining crises of our times," says John Christensen, coordinator of the Tax Justice Network. (Observer, 27/3/05)
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/economics/story/0,11268,1446127,00.html >

(Note: prior to the 1997 UK election, the Labour party ran party-political TV broadcasts promising to tackle corporate tax avoidance. Another forgotten promise. UK corporate tax avoidance now costs Britain £85 billion a year, according to estimates in the Guardian (12/4/02) – enough to cure "funding problems" in welfare, public transport, healthcare and education).

Scaremongering latest

"Terrorists might try to target the UK in the run-up to the election", London's most senior police officer has said. But, he also says, "it would be 'unwise' to speculate about whether there was specific information about risks of a pre-election attack". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4295489.stm

In other words: "We'll scare the public shitless with warnings, but we won't provide enough information to let them decide if those warnings are realistic or spurious or made-up fictions".

UK Government lies about Iraq legal advice

The Guardian claims official legal advice given to the UK government on the legality of attacking Iraq was written by... the government.

Media scaremongers on burglary – latest

The UK government has issued a leaflet telling people how much force they can use against burglars. The Daily Mail and Daily Express both had the headline: "You CAN Kill a Burglar!" The media continues to fill peoples' heads with graphic depictions of confrontations with burglars. Meanwhile, domestic burglaries continue to decrease in the UK, with the average household being burgled only once every 50 years (confrontations are even less likely). http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4091306

Media scaremongers on "Yob Crimewave" – latest

According to a government survey reported by the Sun and Daily Mirror, one in four boys aged 14 to 17 could be classified as a "prolific or serious offender". Sounds bad, doesn't it? What the tabloids fail to mention is the misleading nature of bracketing together the categories "prolific" and "serious". "Prolific offenders" actually includes teenage boys who occasionally don't pay their bus fare, or steal sweets from the local shop.

Government shreds documents prior to Freedom of Information Act coming into force

UK Government departments shredded thousands of documents prior to the Freedom of Information act coming into effect on 1st January. Lord Falconer (the government's chief legal officer) explained that it was good document management to destroy files that people wouldn't want to see. (BBC Radio 4 'Today', 1/1/05)

Work is no cure for poverty

Last month, the UK government announced: "More people in work than ever before". Meanwhile, a new study shows 47% of UK employees have wages that, on their own, are insufficient to avoid poverty. Currently, 22% of people live in poverty, compared to 13% in 1979.

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/mediacentre/pressreleases/2004/nov/stat171104-lms.asp >
http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/n64.asp >
http://www.poverty.org.uk >
For more figures on work/poverty see our Subversive Stats page >

New job-creation scheme:
security guards for school toilets

The unemployed in Germany are to be given jobs as school toilet attendants (to guard toilets against graffiti). For this they will be paid an extra euro (about 70p) an hour on top of their regular benefits. Politician Antje Bothe, from the Christian Democratic Union, said the scheme "would help the unemployed feel like they were working again". (Ananova, 9/11/04)

Official: Iraq war killed 100,000 civilians

Around 100,000 Iraqis - half of them women and children - are estimated to have died due to the Iraq invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to a study published in the Lancet. The risk of death from violence for civilians in Iraq is now 58 times higher than before the war, the study claims. http://image.thelancet.com/extras/04art10342web.pdf >

Because of the respected, mainstream nature of the Lancet journal, this story has been widely reported:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3964311.stm >
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1338749,00.html >
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996596 >
http://tinyurl.com/625hc > (Reuters article)

Credit card "fees" scam

Officialdom has woken up to the "late-payment fee" scam run by credit card companies (a scam worth billions, according to the Consumers' Association). The Office of Fair Trading thinks the practice might be illegal. It works as follows: you automatically get charged around £20 if you send your monthly credit card payment a few days late (or if it gets delayed in the post, etc).

The big banks have been accused of using "bogus accounting practices to cheat millions of credit card customers with late payment and other penalty charges." (The Times, 27/10/04)
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1330524,00.html >

BBC deal to "not criticise" UK government

Former BBC Chairman, Gavyn Davies, described a "deal" he made with Tony Blair (after the Hutton inquiry): "we, the BBC, would not criticise the government... and [Blair] wouldn't call for resignations at the BBC".

Davies seemed to think this was OK. He rationalised: "I was happy with that ... I didn't think we were a political party that should criticise the government". As if not being a political party means you shouldn't broadcast critical analysis. As if media organisations without direct political affiliations are automatically "neutral" and thus "uncritical". As if the public consists entirely of morons who will swallow such horseshit. (Source: Channel 4, 'Betrayed by New Labour', 19/9/04)

US Terror alert bogus

The US administration admits that recent warnings of terrorist attacks were based on old intelligence (from 2000/2001). There was no real basis on which to raise the terror alert. The over-hyped scare of the last few days was well-timed for Bush, coming just after the Democratic National Convention. http://tinyurl.com/5jegq (Yahoo news story)

Terrorism at 35-year low

The US State Department has updated figures which show terrorism at a 35-year low. The number of terrorist attacks worldwide has dropped to its lowest level since 1969, according to their latest report. Their graphs are a good antidote to the media hysteria surrounding terrorism: http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2003/31751.htm

ICM accuses Conservatives of inserting
"leading questions" in poll

One of the big polling companies, ICM, claimed that the UK Conservative Party wanted them to ask "leading questions" in commissioned polls, with the effect of showing Conservative policies in a favourable light. (BBC2 Newsnight, 27/4/04)

Blix: Iraq worse off now than under Saddam

Hans Blix has said that Iraq is worse off now than with Saddam. He told a Danish newspaper: "What's positive is that Saddam and his bloody regime is gone, but when figuring out the score, the negatives weigh more". (Associated Press, 6/4/04) http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0406-01.htm

Aero Shit Bars

Thousands of Nestle's Aero chocolate bars were found to have a "rude message" printed on their wrappers. The message was quoted as: "S**t bar" [not our censorship, a direct quote]. (Ananova, 31/3/04)

Government blunder on "Fat Welfare"

The UK government complained that 900,000 people receive incapacity benefit for obesity, costing millions of pounds per week. But this was a "blunder" – only 900 obese people receive the benefit (costing a thousand times less than claimed). The government apologised and abandoned its plans to introduce a tax on junk food. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3506507.stm

Brazil introduces Basic income

Brazil has become the first national government to introduce a Basic Income guarantee. On January 8th, 2004, President Lula signed a law decreeing the gradual introduction of a universal Basic Income for all Brazilian residents. The phase-in will begin in 2005, starting with those most in need by consolidating existing federal income support programs. Philippe Van Parijs, the Belgian activist and Basic Income campaigner, attended the signing and said it was a "day of glory" for Basic Income.

Welfare for the very rich

The Duke of Westminster, Britain's richest man, receives a daily handout of GBP 1,000 from the taxpayer. Other big landowners get similar amounts of welfare (in farm subsidies). The Duke's PR head said the subsidy "protects" the jobs of 100 employees. (Guardian, 22/1/04)

Previous bulletins:

Bush demanded excuse to invade Iraq in January 2001, says ex-treasury secretary

The Bush administration started making detailed plans for the invasion of Iraq within days of coming to office, with the President himself anxious to find a pretext to overthrow Saddam Hussein, according to former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill (The Independent, 12/1/04)

Pentagon Cooks the Books – Big Time

The Pentagon's auditors spent 1,139 hours doctoring their own files in order to pass an internal review, say investigators. This fabrication "certainly violates the spirit and intent" of government auditing standards and rules on ethical conduct, said the inspector general's report. (The Independent, 12/1/04)

See also: our report on how the Pentagon admitted to "misplacing" $2.3 trillion: http://www.anxietyculture.com/cbs.htm

Average UK household debt reaches £6,800

Average debt per UK household is £6,800 (excluding home mortgages). One in 5 people are using credit to pay their household bills. The number of households experiencing "financial difficulties" (ie unable to service their debts) will shortly rise to 1 in 3, according to BBC1 Panorama, 30/11/03. (Source for average debt figure: BBC Radio 4 'Today', 19/11/03)

People choose free time in preference to money

A recent study shows that more than 1 in 4 British adults (aged 30-59) choose lower paid jobs, or "downshifting", in order to have more free time. (University of Cambridge, 1/12/03)

Iraq war killed 55,000, claims report

Up to 55,000 people died as a direct result of the Iraq war, according to a report from Medact (an organisation of health professionals). Their figure is based on several sources, including the civilian death figure from IraqBodyCount.org and press reports of Iraqi armed forces deaths.

They also mention the psychological aftermath of war creating "enormous anxiety" and leading to increases in mental disorders, suicide, drug/alcohol abuse and social/domestic violence. (Associated Press, 12/11/03)

More police = raised fear of crime,
study shows

More police doesn't mean less crime, according to the results of an experiment to increase police presence on the streets of a Yorkshire village. Contrary to expectations, crime and fear of crime increased. Professor Adam Crawford, co-author of the experiment's report, said that "trying to tackle local order problems through policing and security alone can have the opposite effect."

Despite historically low levels of crime, the government recently employed 4,000 new officers. The Conservative Party pledges to put an extra 40,000 police on the streets.

Public anxiety increases

Research has found that nearly 4 million Britons suffer from anxiety, depression or bad nerves - a rise of 60% from 2.4 million a decade ago. The authors of a new book, Complicated Lives, say many anxieties are based on myths because people worry about things such as crime getting worse when in fact they are improving. "People have absorbed a host of depressing falsehoods" said William Nelson, the book's co-author.

1000 Iraqi civilians dying each week

According to Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the Independent newspaper, 1000 Iraqi civilians are dying each week, either at the hands of the occupation forces or as a result of the general social disintegration caused by the war.

New confirmation of dire poverty in UK

One in five UK households cannot pay their water bills, according to the National Consumer Council (NCC). Millions of households can't afford basic services (electricity, gas, water, phone) and are in debt to utility companies. Deirdre Hutton, NCC chairman, said: "The current system fails the poorest because of inappropriate regulation of the privatised utility companies [...] and an income support system that is out of step with reality."


US Government "misplaces" $3.3 trillion

Beyond Enron and WorldCom lies a much bigger scandal: the "misplacement" of over $3 trillion of taxpayers' money by the US government. This story hasn’t gone completely unreported. For example, CBS News quoted Donald Rumsfeld as saying, "according to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions."

According to Catherine Austin Fitts, former Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), "total undocumented accounting adjustments [...] for the Department of Defense [and HUD for fiscal 1998-2000] amount to a whopping $3.3 trillion, or $11,700 for every American." More >

Blair faces lawsuit for war crimes

Legal action against Tony Blair and the UK government, for "crimes against humanity in Iraq", was taken (on 28/7/03) at the International Criminal Court in Hague, by the Athens Bar Association (ABA). This concerns 22 war crimes, breaching the UN charter and the Geneva Conventions, including the killing of civilians and human rights violations. The ABA believes it has strong evidence and is seeking the indictment of Mr Blair, but there are several hurdles to clear (including, presumably, political ones) before the case proceeds.

George Bush claims to hear God

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quotes Bush's exact words (from his recent summit in the Middle East): "God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did".

So, the man with his finger on the nuclear button hears voices in his head. (Moscow Times, June 27, 2003)

UK forces illegally used cluster bombs on civilians

Adam Ingram, the UK Armed Forces government minister, admitted in a BBC interview that UK forces dropped cluster bombs in civilian areas. Richard Lloyd, director of the charity Landmine Action, said the admission proved the UK government knowingly breached Geneva Conventions. (Independent, 30/5/03)

Adbusting in The Washington Post!

A full-page ad containing very strong dissent was placed in The Washington Post on May 16th. It was funded (over $20,000) by a retired business executive after he saw an "alternative" video about 9-11. Full story plus downloads of the ad at:

Pope thinks Bush is the Anti-Christ

The political magazine, Counterpunch, reports that people close to the Pope say the Pontiff "wishes he was younger and in better health to confront the possibility that Bush may represent the person prophesized in Revelations".

And, according to journalists close to the Vatican, the Pope is also concerned that the 9-11 attacks were known in advance by senior Bush administration officials. There is a perception within the Roman Catholic hierarchy that a coup d'état was implemented, giving Bush near-dictatorial powers. http://www.counterpunch.org/madsen04222003.html

BBC Bias over Iraq Confirmed

The BBC's claims of impartiality over Iraq look dubious according to David Miller of the Stirling Media Research Institute. He quotes a study of media coverage of anti-war dissent in five countries showing the BBC featuring the lowest level of dissent of all. Its 2% total was even lower than the 7% found on the US channel ABC. The empirical evidence "suggests a pro-war orientation" in the BBC, he says.

Miller mentions coverage of the coalition victory as an example:

"As Baghdad fell on April 9, BBC reporters could hardly contain themselves in their haste to endorse the victors. This was a "vindication" of the strategy and it showed Blair had been "right" and his critics "wrong". Here the BBC enunciated a version of events very similar to that of the government. According to the BBC, "dozens" witnessed the statue pulled down by US marines in Baghdad on April 9, while "thousands" demonstrated against "foreign hegemony" in the same city on the 18th. Yet the footage of the former was described as "extraordinary", "momentous" and "historic", while the larger demonstration was greeted with scepticism. Are they "confined to a small vocal minority", the newscaster asked." (Guardian, 22/4/03)