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Weapons: Smoke and Mirrors

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The US, which claims to be going to war against the scourge of biological and chemical weapons, is preparing to use such weapons in the prosecution of that war.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld is planning to arm special forces with toxic agents similar to the 'non-lethal calmatives' that killed 120 hostages in the Moscow theatre siege last year.

The Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, a US military body, has overseen the development of these weapons--only allowed by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) for internal 'law enforcement'--for use in mortar shells. New drugs that incapacitate the human nervous system are being produced. Suddenly George Bush's promise to 'smoke out' his enemies takes on a more literal meaning.

Between the Lines

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Phone number sold for £1 million - Trains from Paddington to New York? - Oil and the 'Economist' - MPs' Email Problems

Cable & Wireless must be feeling the pinch. It has just sold a single telephone number (118 888) to directory enquiries firm Conduit for an estimated £1 million.

Beware the PFI financed information board at Paddington station. Passengers were surprised to see destinations for a train at platform 4 recently to be Manhattan and Wall Street. In fact the train only made it as far as Newport.

United Nations: Coalition of the Killing

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The next few weeks will see a mixture of bribery and coercion as George Bush and Tony Blair attempt to veil military self aggrandisement in the language of coalition.

Whether it takes place through a 'coalition of the willing' or under the cover of the UN, the manoeuvres that have characterised the build-up to war should dispel any illusions of an 'international community' of our rulers.

Still Producing Hot Air

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'Green Monday', went the Downing Street spin last month as Tony Blair introduced the government's new energy white paper. Unfortunately there was enough hot air in it to power a turbine.

The media headlines were filled with a government commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This waste product--caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal--is one of the major causes of the 'greenhouse effect'. This warming of the earth's atmosphere produced a 0.6°C average temperature rise last century, and this could increase by a further 6°C by 2100-- leading to devastating floods, hurricanes and droughts--unless urgent action is taken. Unfortunately, the white paper was vague on urgent action.

International Protests: The Next Step to Stop the War

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Where do you go when you've brought 2 million onto the streets?

That's the challenge facing the anti-war movement in the weeks following the great international protests of 15 February and as we face an increased build-up to war. The Stop the War Coalition hosted an international meeting of anti-war activists on 1 March to discuss this question, which called for a rolling programme of activity.

Between the Lines

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Kansas creationists - Over 7 million pay too much for mobiles - Amazon.com recommends anal sex to Christians

In the US state of Kansas a 'one size fits all' answer for school children makes scientific controversy a thing of the past. In response to religious right challenges, if a child asks why scientists and ministers disagree on the age of the earth, how the Grand Canyon formed, or whether light was refracted before Noah, the curriculum tells teachers to give the simple reply 'just because'.

Firefighters: Reignite the Anger

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is committed to two 48-hour strikes from 28 January and 1 February should talks with the employers set to take place in January fail.

The government is determined to impose the attacks that are contained in the Bain report, released shortly before Xmas. The report suggests large job losses and attacks on conditions and fire cover as the future for the fire service. The solid strikes before Xmas along with a high level of popular public support points the way to a firefighters' victory. With the employers still appearing set on taking a hard line, and with many firefighters angry and determined to achieve a decent pay rise, this is a dispute that is far from over.

Anti-War Demonstration: A Day to Change the World

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In a time when politicians and advertisers have devalued the word 'historic' to another piece of hyperbole, 15 February looks set to reclaim it with full force.

On that day hundreds of thousands of people will protest in London against war on Iraq. As if potentially the largest demonstration in British history was not remarkable enough, it takes place as part of an international day of action encompassing millions of protesters in 57 cities as we go to press.

The scale of the mobilisation has forced the media to acknowledge 15 February in a way that it has not done for a demonstration in years. This has included a Guardian leader column and an active campaign and petition by the 'Daily Mirror'.

Tube: Problems Underground

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Years of underfunding combined with New Labour's obsession with privatisation are to blame for the near disaster when a London Underground train derailed at Chancery Lane last month.

The RMT and Aslef have been warning for years that the disasters we've witnessed on the privatised national rail network will replicate themselves on the tube. Both unions have also taken industrial action over the issue of safety and privatisation. Staff have been reporting suspect motors--the cause of the Chancery Lane incident--for a long time. Indeed last year there was a similar derailment at Loughton.

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