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War Profits: Troops In, Contracting Out

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There may be profits to be made from securing control of Iraq oilfield at the end the war, but US companies are already cashing in as they queue to secure contracts to repair infrastructure currently being destroyed.

One of the first was Stevedoring Services of America, which is a major donor to the Republican Party and was given a £3 million contract to administer Iraq's ports, including Umm Qasr. The contract was awarded even before the British gained control of the port.

Between the Lines

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Political correctness myths - Blunkett takes on children - No insurance in the Tower of London

The 'Sunday Telegraph' and the 'Sun''s campaign against 'political correctness' continues. 'Nobody', fumed Richard Littlejohn in the Sun, 'confronted with a proposal to remove hot cross buns from school dinner menus [for being offensive to non-Christians] has turned round and said: "Don't be so bloody ridiculous".' For good reason--no council has made such a ban.

David 'zero tolerance' Blunkett was in action again recently, valiantly fighting anti-social behaviour by phoning the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to shop local children for playing 'knock down ginger'.

On Guard for Strikebreakers

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Train guards began their first national strikes since privatisation at the end of last month in response to persistent attempts by train operators to diminish their safety role.

Strikes are under way at nine of the companies that have refused to implement rulebook changes recommended in a study commisioned by fellow train operator GNER. The regulator, the supposedly neutral Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), has responded by funding the recalcitrant train operators £10 million to take on the unions .

Labour's Welsh Roots are Withering

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The crisis that has engulfed Blair and New Labour will be exposed in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections in May.

There are signs of real desperation within Wales's New Labour ranks. First Minister Rhodri Morgan has stated that there is 'clear red water between Cardiff and London'. Ron Davies, the former Welsh secretary, has weighed in with a warning that Labour could lose the election to Plaid Cymru, stating that if the Labour manifesto is not radical enough they will face meltdown in the polling booths.

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'.

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