Archive for January 6th, 2010

Ballot for tickets to see Blair at inquiry

Independent: Demand for a seat to watch Tony Blair give evidence to the Iraq inquiry has been so high that a public ballot is to be held to allocate the limited places.

The ballot, similar to ones used for World Cup tickets or Glastonbury, will see a maximum of just 120 people handed the chance to witness the former prime minister deliver evidence in the flesh, meaning thousands of others will be disappointed.

The audience promises to be a tough one for Mr Blair as one-third of the seats will be reserved for the families of soldiers killed during the Iraq campaign.


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Police fear ban on Islamic extremists’ march will inflame protests

Independent: Politicians, police chiefs and Muslim groups yesterday added their voices to the controversy surrounding the threat by a group of Islamic extremists to march through Wootton Bassett, the market town which has become the grieving focal point for Britain’s war dead.

Plans by Islam4UK to parade through the town carrying empty coffins to symbolise those “mercilessly murdered” in Iraq and Afghanistan have outraged the Home Secretary so much that he said he would have no hesitation in backing any request by Wiltshire police and the local authority to ban the march.

No date for the march has been set, but Islam4UK said it would make an application to police “in the next few days”. If officers feel it could spark violence the force can apply to the local authority for a ban. The final decision to ban rests with Alan Johnson.

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Judges examine rise in complaints against MI5

Independent: A record rise in the number of complaints against MI5 and other bodies authorised to spy on the public is being investigated by judges appointed to oversee the use of surveillance powers in Britain.

Some of the allegations brought to the attention of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, include claims of harassment against officers working for the Security Service, MI5. Others concern the alleged misuse of surveillance by local authorities.

The tribunal judges, who oversee the work of MI5 and other law enforcement agencies authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, confirmed yesterday that they were looking at why the number of complaints had more than doubled from 66 in 2007 to 136 in 2008.

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Israeli army officers fear arrest in UK

Independent: A group of Israeli army officers has cancelled a visit to Britain because London was unable to guarantee they would not be arrested for alleged war crimes under universal jurisdiction provisions, Israeli officials said yesterday.

Four officers, including a major, a lieutenant colonel and a colonel had been due to visit last week at the invitation of the British Army.

An Israeli official declined to specify the purpose of the visit but said that Israeli officers are invited to Britain “to assist in defensive technology in the military arena”.

The incident has fuelled Israeli anger at the British Government for not yet following through on promised changes to the law so that Israeli officers and officials do not run the risk of arrest on UK soil. There have been several incidents in which visiting Israelis have been vulnerable to arrest.

The announcement of the cancellation came as the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, was in Israel on a private visit where she met the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon. “These officials were invited by Great Britain, but they will stay in Israel as long as we do not have a 100 per cent guarantee that they will not become objects of criminal lawsuits in that country,” Mr Ayalon said. “This matter will shake the good relations between the two countries that share values and far-reaching interests. The British must remember that such visits serve both countries.”

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Official: 2,500 ex-servicemen are in prison

Telegraph: The news comes amid fears that the number could rise as troops quit the forces with post-traumatic stress after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and then find themselves getting into trouble with the police.

Maria Eagle, a justice minister, told MPs that three per cent – nearly 2,500 prisoners – had served in the armed forces.

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Barack Obama criticises CIA failures over Detroit bomb plot

Guardian: Long-term weaknesses in US intelligence-gathering have been ruthlessly exposed over the last fortnight by the Christmas Day airline plot and the Afghanistan suicide bombing which killed seven CIA officers, according to former and serving intelligence officers.

Barack Obama joined the criticism yesterday, slamming the agencies for a near-catastrophic intelligence breakdown over the 25 December bomb attempt.
Speaking after a White House inquest to which he called all the agencies involved, he expressed frustration and anger at the way the bomb plot had been handled: “The system has failed in a potentially ¬≠disastrous way.” In a departure from his normally cool public demeanour, the president said that the intelligence services had had all the information they needed about the plot and the Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, but they failed to connect the dots .

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Care homes forcing elderly to have feeding tubes fitted

Guardian: Thousands of elderly people are being forced to have tubes fitted so they can be artificially fed if they want to be admitted to a care home, a major report warns today.

There is no evidence that tube feeding prolongs life, and it deprives patients of the pleasure and social contact involved in normal eating and drinking, says a Royal College of Physicians working group which recommends that artificial nutrition should only be used as a last resort.

The report found that many care homes across the country are making it a condition of residence that people, often in the advanced stages of dementia, have a tube fitted into their abdomen.

“This is an invasive procedure with a risk, so it should not be undertaken lightly,” said Dr Rodney Burnham, chair of the working group. “One of the concerns we had was that we felt in many places there were cases where this was done without proper thought.

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