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Civil liberties - The Big Brother House in Westminster

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New Labour likes to vaunt its modernising project--particularly when it comes to the rights of the individual. Yet its obsession with the right wing agenda--particularly crime, benefits, asylum seekers and now terrorism--pushes it in the direction of strengthening the state and eroding civil liberties.

Last month Tony Blair promised a new white paper, the eleventh piece of criminal justice legislation since Labour came to office in 1997. It would ditch the double jeopardy rule that prevents people being tried twice for the same crime--even though the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence rejected the move.

There would be a new intermediate tier of justice, where a judge sitting with two lay magistrates tried cases too serious to be tried by magistrates on their own, in practice imposing even tighter restrictions on the right to jury trial.

Anti-capitalism - Florence: planning the shape of Europe's future

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The echoes of last year's anti-capitalist protests in Genoa are still being felt all over Italy.

They were heard quite literally last month in Florence, during the first showing of the film Carlo Giuliani ragazzo, a documentary about the last day in the life of the protester who was murdered by the police. Some 2,000 people packed into the city's largest theatre and gave the director a standing ovation.

Between the Lines

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Website charts dot.com collapses - Girl scouts introduce stress management badge - Drugs companies push for relaxation of testing rules

One dotcom company that has not suffered from the stock market collapse is the website www.fuckedcompany.com which is one of a tiny handful of dotcom companies making a fortune. The site has been the premier information resource on the demise of the web revolution.

Middle East: Bush's Empire Backs Sharon

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Yes, it does mean a 'bloodbath'. Even Shimon Peres, Israel's hapless foreign minister, said it in response to Bush's infamous Palestine speech. But the wider and even more frightening possible implications were missed.

Dangling the prospect of a Palestinian state sometime in the future, while imposing the deliberately impossible demand that the Palestinians change their leadership first, is a recipe for chaos.

Fire Down Below

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The pressure for strikes is rising and could lead to major confrontations with the government this autumn.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), with 55,000 members, is in the middle of a deadly serious pay fight, which is set to lead to the first national strikes in the service for 25 years. A series of big FBU demonstrations in the summer--12,000 in London, over 5,000 in Glasgow, over 1,000 in Swansea, 2,000 in Belfast--were marked by a spirit of confidence and determination. A special FBU conference on 12 September was due to agree a ballot for national strike action.

Put the Politics Back into Pride

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The future of London's annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras is in doubt. Organisers claim it lost nearly £450,000.

They are now talking about selling the Mardi Gras to another company. This should come as no surprise--they did consider the idea of copyrighting the word 'Pride' a number of years ago.

This year's gay and lesbian Pride demonstration was one of the smallest for many years. Ten thousand marched in central London in July while 27,000 attended the Mardi Gras festival at Hackney Marshes. It was only five years ago that 50,000 marched and over a quarter of a million attended a free festival at Clapham Common.

Anti-capitalism - Out of the Bars and Onto the Streets

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One minute past midnight, 20 June in Seville, and we were witnessing something strange. Some 200 young activists were marching round the packed old town waving red and black flags, chanting that the general strike had started, and demanding the bars close. Many landlords obeyed, shutters slammed down, and drinkers went out onto the streets with a smile.

In the morning almost everything was shut. Most had stickers or posters proudly displayed in the window saying 'Closed for the general strike'. At 5am there were 50 pickets at our local bus garage, barricading the entrance. By 7am there were 300 pickets outside the main Seville hospital. The streets were littered with strike leaflets. By midday strikers and supporters were gathering for the strike demonstation.

Media Ownership: The Sky's the Limit for Broadcasters

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'Culture' minister Tessa Jowell's new media bill, released last month, lets the market rip through the television industry, with Rupert Murdoch set to benefit.

Jowell launched the bill just as her previous free market prescription for our screens, digital television, collapsed, leaving behind bad debts, and the bad memory of Johnny Vegas and his monkey.

Jowell's new bill is trumpeted as 'a significant deregulation in media ownership to promote competition'. The deregulation lets Rupert Murdoch bid for a free to viewer television station, Channel 5, to add to his satellite and newspaper empire. It also allows regional television firms like Granada and Carlton to merge.

Between the Lines

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Nigerian electricity company begs for calm - Far right Colombian paramilitaries launch complaints website - Nasa advertises on internet for space shuttle spare parts

Nigeria's privatised power company, the National Electric and Power Authority (or NEPA, referred to by Nigerians as Never Enough Power Anywhere), has placed advertisements in newspapers begging for calm in the event of power failures interrupting World Cup games. 'If you go on an orgy of destruction simply because there was a failure during a match, you will not be helping matters,' it pleads.

Civil Servants: A Very Uncivil Coup

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In the trade union equivalent of a right wing coup, Barry Reamsbottom and his 'moderate' cronies on the PCS union national executive (NEC) are attempting to sack the democratically elected general secretary, Mark Serwotka, and prevent the president, Janice Godrich, from carrying out her duties.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the events that led to Mark Serwotka being elected.

The 2000 PCS conference voted to hold an election for general secretary. This was endorsed both by the NEC and a ballot of all members. On a high poll the ballot recommendation was supported by 62,296 to 2,766. Reamsbottom, together with Blairite Hugh Lanning and Mark Serwotka, signalled their intention to stand. Unfortunately for Reamsbottom he failed to get the 50 branch nominations required to stand (he got a pathetic 19).

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