Judith Orr

The Naked Truth

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Review of 'Uncovered: The War on Iraq', director Robert Greenwald

The flow of hard hitting and powerful documentaries coming out of North America seems unstoppable. In Uncovered: The War on Iraq Greenwald (maker of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism) looks at how the US government used the events of 11 September 2001 to justify the war on Iraq and pulls apart piece by piece the whole defence of the drive to war.

Interview: Fame and the Famine

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Star of the Sea, a great political novel set at the time of the Irish famine, has been a runaway bestseller. Author Joseph O'Connor spoke to Hazel Croft about its success and why he wrote the book.

Have you been surprised at the success of Star of the Sea? Why do you think it's been so popular?

I've been amazed at its success. I wouldn't have thought a book on such a subject would have been successful on a commercial level. I'd go so far as to say that I thought it would have been a book my career would have to recover from in sales terms. It was a book I wanted to write, but I didn't expect it to do well.

The Politics of Terror: The Threat to Freedom

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Our civil liberties are being eroded in the name of anti-terrorism.

Bush and Blair say the war on terror is a war to defend freedom. Some freedom. Over 700 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, and many more have been harassed and threatened with detention. Only about 70 of them have been charged - mostly with immigration offences. By December 2003 just seven had been convicted. None of these were found guilty of planning or carrying out specific 'acts of terror'. Almost all of the people arrested and harassed have been Muslims, but only two of the people convicted were Muslims.

Northern Ireland: State Sponsored Murder

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'A service to be proud of' declares the Police Service of Northern Ireland website. The RUC may have been renamed, but the 'service' this force provides is one of which only sectarian bigots can be proud, as the recent Stevens report concluded.

That collusion existed between Loyalist paramilitaries and the RUC is no surprise to anyone familiar with the British state's role in Ireland, but to read the clipped tones of one of its high ranking officers spelling it out is a revelation.

Scottsboro

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Ellen Feldman, Picador, £7.99

The Scottsboro boys were nine young black men wrongly convicted of the rape of two white women on a train in Alabama in 1931 and sentenced with the death penalty. Their fight for justice became a worldwide cause that saw Clarence Norris, as the last living defendant, receiving a pardon from the notorious governor of Alabama, George Wallace, only in 1976.

The Way We Think Now

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Review of 'British Social Attitudes', National Centre for Social Research, Sage £37.50

There are always nuggets of fascinating information in the annual British Social Attitudes surveys. What is interesting about this year's is the themes that develop through some of the studies. One is the growing liberalism expressed by the findings on race, sexuality and drugs. The other is the gap found between some of New Labour's flagship policies and popular opinion.

'Halte au fascisme, halte au capitalisme!'

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They came in their tens of thousands, young and old, black and white. Within hours of the news that Le Pen had come second in the first round of the presidential election, the boulevards of central Paris were filled with protesters.

Many were in tears of shock and emotion. One young woman had painted 'J'ai honte' ('I am ashamed') on her forehead.

I was on a feeder demonstration that marched first to the Place de la Republique on its way to the traditional gathering place for protesters, the Bastille. As we passed metro stations and cafes people responded to the call 'Dans la rue!' ('Onto the street!') and joined the march. Demonstrators hugged each other as they found friends in the crowd--they were on their mobile phones--'We're going to the Bastille. You must come'.

Bursting the Dam of Dissent

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Review of 'Power Politics', Arundhati Roy, South End Press £7.99

'To be a writer--supposedly a famous writer--in a country where 300 million people are illiterate is a dubious honour,' writes Arundhati Roy in this latest collection of her essays. Roy's way of addressing this contradiction has been to use her fame to give a voice to those who feel they have no power. She has obviously been effective, for she faced a prison sentence this year for standing up to the Indian High Court which had allowed a massive dam project to go ahead that will mean 25 million people losing their homes and livelihoods.

Labour and the Unions: Byers and Sellers

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Judith Orr explains why the state of Britain's railways is producing a political crisis for New Labour, while Gareth Jenkins blames years of underinvestment.

It was only 2,000 workers. Hardly enough to shake a majority government off course. Yet within days of the first South West Trains strikes the air of crisis around the government threatened Stephen Byers' position. ScotRail drivers refused to work rest days and stopped one in four trains running. Arriva train drivers returned a 17 to one vote for strike action, and even commuters are planning a passenger strike on 1 March . The media was suddenly full of talk about a return of the 1970s.

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