Patrick Ward

La Hain

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"The party can only win the election by putting forward radical socialist policies," claimed a Labour MP in the October 1994 issue of Socialist Review.

"It's not just a demand from the left; it's an essential prerequisite for victory."

How times change. Peter Hain (for it was he), now work and pensions secretary in the Brown cabinet, has had plenty of opportunity to push such policies through government. His latest contribution has been to declare his intention to snatch incapacity benefits from one million people, forcing them into jobs which otherwise might be occupied by migrant workers.

Afghanistan: the other lost war

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Against the backdrop of failure in Iraq, Afghanistan is often promoted as the enduringly justifiable, and winnable, war. Jonathan Neale explains why this is not the case, while former US infantryman Johnny Rico speaks out about his experiences on the Afghan frontline

This is the fifth Afghan War. The first Afghan War was in 1838, when the British invaded to make Afghanistan part of the Indian empire. The Afghan barons and warlords did not resist. It was the ordinary people who rose up under the leadership of the village mullahs and slaughtered a whole British army. The British left.

MySpace, my rules

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"I don't think anyone got killed there!" responded Wendy Deng, wife of Rupert Murdoch, when asked about China's treatment of the people of Tibet.

"Everybody in Tibet has mobile phones and the ability to send a message."

Not so if you try sending a message on MySpace China, part of the Murdoch empire. The social networking website does not allow topics to be posted on subjects such as the Dalai Lama or Tibetan independence.

Just to be sure, the website also encourages users to report "misconduct" should anyone be "endangering national security, subverting the government, and spreading rumours or disturbing the social order".

Traditional values in a modern setting

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"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Thankfully, Jane Austen's comment on Edwardian society has been brought bang up to date by the Learning and Skills Council - the government funded quango responsible for post-16 year old education.

It has decided that the best way to attract women into education is the "fact" that footballers prefer women with a few qualifications. It seems obvious, doesn't it? Their groundbreaking research found that nine of the 12 most highly gossiped about "WAGs" have five or more A*-C grade GCSEs.

Jesus Camp

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Directors: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady; Release date: 23 November

In the US 25 percent of the population describe themselves as evangelical, and are viewed as a loyal voting block for Republican politicians. It almost seems like a no-brainer to suggest that a self-described "army" of the enlightened, that militantly battles the "evils" of abortion, evolution theory and even the concept of climate change, is something that should be attacked outright. But this documentary makes you realise that it is not quite as simple as that.

Intergalactic market

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If you want to boldly go where no market has gone before you'll need a way to pay for it.

Travelex, the foreign exchange company, has developed a currency for space. The Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination ("Quid") - which looks a little like a squashed Teflon egg - avoids the problems of coins (sharp edges), bank cards (allergic to cosmic radiation) and credit transfer (shops selling tourist tat on Mars would have to wait an hour to contact your local bank). Travelex has also thoughtfully applied to open a bureau de change on the moon.

The Conservative Future isn't so bright

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Last month, stories about naively bigoted Tories hit the newsstands quicker than you could say "political correctness gone mad".

First up was the "hilarious" Facebook website of young Tory parliamentary worker Philip Clarke on which a colleague is pictured "blacked up" by Clarke. Clarke first claimed he couldn't remember whether he had written the racist captions on the photos. Eventually his memory returned and he apologised.

Parliamentary privileges

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MPs have just been awarded an extra four days of holiday for 2008, taking their total to 91.

This surely means that they have far more work to fit into their increasingly limited working days.

Perhaps as a result, the Commons authorities have ordered that "staff and other users should be prepared to give way to members when queuing for retail and catering services, the post office, travel office or when using other facilities such as lifts, photocopiers, telephone cubicles, etc."

The global economy - solid as a rock?

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The recent ructions in financial markets and the collapse of Northern Rock have a familiar ring.

Whether it is the crash of 1987, the housing slumps of 1989-90, Asia in 1997, the hedge fund LTCM in 1998 or dotcom meltdown in 2001, the world economy has been grappling with a succession of financial crises.

And yet, each time the global financial apparatus has withstood the onslaught and, it appears, come back stronger and more robust than before. Encouraged, the major actors in this evolution of unfettered markets - financial institutions and their shareholders - have taken on bigger, bolder and more aggressive bets.

Raising the dead

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According to an Associated Press poll in February, the average US citizen believes the Iraqi death toll to be just 9,890.

This is not necessarily surprising, when the mass corporate media routinely downplays the figure (ABC News, for example, regularly claims the figure stands at just 60,000).

Since General Tommy Franks announced that "we don't do body counts" the inability to prove the extent of deaths has been a useful tool for the occupying forces.

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