Patrick Ward

War with No End

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Various, Verso, £7.99

Verso, in collaboration with the Stop the War Coalition, has produced an excellent summary of the state of the "war on terror" in a new collection of articles, its release timed to coincide with the 8 October Troops Out demonstration in London. It also marks the six-year anniversary of the US led invasion of Afghanistan.

Shocking behaviour

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Students are not allowed to talk to one another unless they have been noted as having been very well behaved. As the children suffer serious behavioural problems this reward does not come often.

More often than not they will be given an agonising electric shock.

The Rotenburg Centre, near Boston in the US, hosts children as young as nine years old wearing ten pound backpacks, with wires leading to their limbs and torso. Misdemeanours such as swearing or shouting can be punishable with a shock. One journalist who tried the "therapy" reported that it felt like being attacked by a swarm of wasps.

Sugarhouse

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Director: Gary Love; Release date: out now

If experience has taught me anything it is to be wary of films about East End gangsters. I never quite regained faith in the genre after watching Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. But, thankfully, Gary Love's Sugarhouse is nothing like that, and it almost feels like an insult to mention both films in the same paragraph.

Jumping one sinking ship for another

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"Quentin Davies is a senior parliamentarian and he commands respect on all sides," said Gordon Brown of the ex Tory minister's defection to the Labour benches, "I welcome him to the new Labour Party."

Davies voted against lowering the age of consent for same sex couples and the repeal of Section 28. He also opposed the ban on fox hunting and was convicted on two counts of cruelty against sheep in the 1990s.

Brown's excitement at the defection may be due to him "becoming so cut off that he is beginning to underestimate the intelligence of the electorate". At least, that was the charge levelled against him two years ago by a certain Quentin Davies MP.

Dubious role model

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The prime minister has asked Commission for Equalities and Human Rights chair Trevor Phillips to organise a strategy for tackling the appeal of gangs by using senior black military figures in the belief that teenagers will look up to them as role models. The logic seems to be that it is far better for them to get shot in Basra than in Brixton.

One of those invited to make a contribution to the scheme is Tory MP Patrick Mercer. Mercer was sacked from the Tory front bench in March for saying that "idle" black soldiers used the excuse of racism as a "cover". He also said that during his time in the army it was perfectly normal for a soldier to be called a "black bastard".

Taking the Wiki

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Readers may remember a story in the July/August edition of Socialist Review about a campaign by McDonald's to change the dictionary definition of "McJob" to something a little more PR friendly. They have, however, found little success.

Luckily for them there is an easier way of editing the dictionary. For several years Wikipedia, the user generated online encyclopedia, has allowed apparent anonymity to anyone wishing to edit its entries. Anyone with an internet connection can do this.

Unfortunately for them, a new website called WikiScanner gives the game away. It allows you to type in the network (IP) address of any company, organisation, political party (or whatever), and see the anonymous edits of the site made from their computers.

Macbeth

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Director: Geoffrey Wright, Release date: 13 July

One of the problems with critiquing adaptations of Shakespeare is that - unless you really don't like his work - it is difficult to fault the script. For this reason I was pretty much torn about the latest film version of Macbeth, directed by Geoffrey Wright whose previous work includes Romper Stomper.

Taking the McKey

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At last, someone is standing up for fast food workers. Safe working conditions, reasonable pay and respectful management are mere side issues to the real problem facing McDonald's staff right now: their careers are lumbered with the unfortunate title of "McJobs".

McDonald's claims the phrase is "out of date and insulting" (while not clarifying when, exactly, it was acceptable to use the term).

McDonald's says that in its staff surveys 90 percent of employees agree they are given valuable training that will be of benefit for the rest of their working lives, and 82 percent of its workers say they would recommend working at the company to their friends. Far be it from us to dispute the validity of these surveys - how could anyone earning the minimum wage not be appreciative?

Labor, Free and Slave

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Bernard Mandel, University of Illinois Press, £14.99

Bernard Mandel was part of a response to a school of thought best summarised in the words of scholar William E Woodward: "American Negroes [were] the only people in the history of the world... that ever became free without any effort of their own."

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