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Between the Lines

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Coke Sacks Worker - Coke Attempts to Fiddle Market Testing - Paul Boateng Praises PFI in South Africa

'Reward your curiosity', the advert for Coca-Cola's new vanilla flavour encourages us.

It wasn't the company's response to an employee of 12 years service, who it sacked recently for the heinous crime of drinking Pepsi.


Apparently doing its best to build the day of action against Coca-Cola on 22 July, the hard-nosed soft drinks manufacturer has also been caught fixing a market-testing exercise.

Refugees: Criminalising the Persecuted

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Although Britain hosts just 2 percent of the world's refugees - 0.3 percent of its population - the asylum debate is imbued with a dangerous hysteria.

The 'Sun' describes asylum seekers as 'a sea of humanity polluted with disease' and the 'Mail' writes that Britain is 'a haven for Albanian gangsters, Kosovan people smugglers and Algerian terrorists'. The tabloid articles, however, represent the poison stirred up by the deeper currents of government policy. In a recent interview cabinet minister Peter Hain wove terrorism, drugs smuggling and asylum into a single soundbite, paving the way for remarks by one of Britain's most senior police officers.

Corruption: Who Said Crime Doesn't Pay?

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The last time there was a crisis in the international stockmarket they made a film about it.

It was called 'Wall Street'. Michael Douglas played Gekko, the intended villain of the piece, a greedy gambler who had made a fortune on the stockmarket chiefly by buying and bribing inside information, and then betting on it, knowing it to be true. The film was such a realistic indictment of the market and its values that it quickly became a cult movie for thousands of yuppies swarming like bees round the honey of the stock exchange. When Gekko is finally captured by the regulators of the Securities Exchange Commission, most of his admirers felt sorry for him.

Between the Lines

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Supermarket labelling - Saddam Hussein's banjo sold on the internet - CBI's fat cat jargon - Tory website bargains

Beware supermarket labelling, warns the Consumer Association. Tesco's finest range prawn, squat lobster, lemon and parsley terrine slices contains just 6 percent prawn and 2 percent lobster. And guess how much maple syrup there is in Asda's maple syrup creams? There is none.

Europe: Enter at your Peril

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Tony Blair's government was due to announce the result of the Treasury's 'five economic tests on the euro' on 9 June, after bitter rows within New Labour.

We have come a long way since the Tories seemed to have a monopoly on being torn apart by arguments over the euro and Europe. Labour's official policy is that it will call a referendum and then argue for entry if it is 'in Britain's economic interest to do so'. The problem is that this supposedly 'economic' judgement on the five tests is in fact also about politics. And there are three deep splits behind the reluctance either to decisively reject the euro or to leap into the unknown of a referendum.

Prisons: Locked in a Crazy System

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The rooftop protests at Wealstun and Maghaberry prisons in June - although relatively minor and isolated - are expressions of a deeper, more general malaise gripping Britain's jails.

The prison population is growing at such a rate that the system is struggling to cope. It is currently 7,000 over capacity. The scale of the crisis has provoked dire warnings from organisations as diverse as HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Prison Officers Association and the Prison Reform Trust.

Palestine: No Sign of Justice Yet

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Has US victory in Iraq set the scene for a revival of the misnamed Middle East 'peace process'? Although both Israeli and Palestinian governments have agreed to abide by the 'road map' peace plan, the chances of this latest round of negotiations producing lasting peace are very slim.

Many of the reasons lie in the 'road map' itself. The document sets out a three-phase plan for achieving 'a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict'. May 2003 was the target date for the completion of the first stage, which envisaged sweeping reforms of the Palestinian authority, including the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister for the first time, the dismantlement of all Israeli settlement outposts erected since May 2001, and an 'end to violence and terrorism'.

Education: Time to Teach Clarke a Lesson

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Education minister Charles Clarke's idea of school life as a 'magical experience' is not one that many school students - or their teachers or parents - would recognise.

His vision of education as a narrow instruction in the needs of big business lies behind both his attack on 'irrelevant' medieval history and his obdurate defence of Standard Attainment Tests (Sats).

Northern Ireland: State Sponsored Murder

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'A service to be proud of' declares the Police Service of Northern Ireland website. The RUC may have been renamed, but the 'service' this force provides is one of which only sectarian bigots can be proud, as the recent Stevens report concluded.

That collusion existed between Loyalist paramilitaries and the RUC is no surprise to anyone familiar with the British state's role in Ireland, but to read the clipped tones of one of its high ranking officers spelling it out is a revelation.

Israel: On a Road to Nowhere

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Yasser Arafat's appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister, and the acceptance of his demands for the make-up of the cabinet, have removed George Bush's last remaining excuse for not publishing his 'road map' for the Middle East peace process.

But while the hackles of some Zionists will inevitably be raised by the semantics of the deal, this is not a process designed to deliver the Palestinians the justice they have long fought for.

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