Columnists

Here and Now

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Sometimes when advertisers stop attempting to sell us that brand of toilet paper or this brand of baked beans and apply their creative energies to a more needy and worthwhile cause they can produce stunning pieces of visual communication.

This campaign for Amnesty International called "It's not happening here, but it's happening now" is by the Walker advertising agency in Switzerland. It uses a trompe l'œil technique to produce the effect of transparent billboards, so that various human rights abuses around the world can be brought right to your local high street.

Students and the Working Class

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Something old occurred in a number of countries in the last year, and often seemed like something new. Students' strikes, demonstrations and occupations swept Italy, France, Chile and Greece.

The reaction of the media was to claim these were the actions of a privileged social layer, whose victories would come at the expense of the mass of working class youth, who would never get near a university. So in France they claimed that the students' demand for the end of the CPE law to take away employment rights from young people would make it more difficult for unemployed youth in the suburbs to get jobs.

New Friends, Old Enemies

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We should welcome new supporters of the Stop the War Coalition who have learnt that they were wrong through bitter experience.

There are times when what was bearable suddenly becomes unbearable. The war on Lebanon was one of those.

Suddenly Labour MPs, councillors and party members, who accepted and even applauded Tony Blair's dogged devotion to George Bush's foreign policy and the war on terror, could stand no more. The blockade and bombing of Lebanon, the destruction of homes, schools, roads and petrol stations, and most of all the deaths of more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians, led to calls for an immediate ceasefire.

A Glittering Career Launched with a Cover-Up

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I wonder if Sir Michael Jackson permitted himself a wry smile about atrocities as he retired last month as Chief of the General Staff.

Stepping down after three years, Jackson's mind may have drifted back to the Bogside and Bloody Sunday - the day he began the rise through the ranks that was to take him to the top.

The exposure of Jackson as the man who masterminded the cover-up of the Derry massacre has never hit the headlines. It appears to have gone unmentioned in any of the biographical pieces which marked his retirement. But it may figure prominently in the long-delayed report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry under Lord Saville. If it doesn't, people in Derry will draw certain conclusions about Saville.

Don't Go, Don't Rush, Don't Spend

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Cesky Sen (Czech Dream) is a film that documents the largest consumer hoax the Czech Republic has ever seen.

Filip Remunda and Vit Klusak, two young Czech student documentary filmmakers, in co-production with Czech Television, set out to explore the psychological and manipulative powers of consumerism by creating an advertising campaign for something which doesn't exist.

The Ruling Class, its Police and the Left

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One of the most disgusting spectacles last month was that of Ken Livingstone defending Ian Blair, head of the Metropolitan Police, after his force shot the second innocent person in 11 months.

For Livingstone, it seems, the man who oversees such things is a "progressive" chief constable.

But Livingstone is not alone in confusion over the role of the police. Even people who have not made their peace with New Labour were sometimes slow to back up Yvonne Ridley when she said Muslims should withdraw cooperation with the police so long as they continued to behave like that.

Danger to World Peace

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Why is it a surprise to anyone that the public fear real wars more than the hypothetical possibility of attack?

George Bush is apparently furious at Europe - again. This time it's the result of a poll which found that Europeans consider the US more of a danger to world peace than North Korea or Iran.

That's the North Korea which, according to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Authority, is estimated to possess enough reprocessed plutonium for up to six bombs - hardly in Bush's league. And that's the Iran which by general agreement has no nuclear weapons at present, although it is developing nuclear power, as it is legally entitled to do under international treaty.

When Getting it Wrong is Part of the Job Description

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Who'd have thought the day would come when the police spoke with affection about the IRA?

But the official police line now appears to be, "You have to realise we are facing an entirely new threat. Today's terrorists are far more dangerous than the IRA, you know." They seem on the verge of saying, "At least the IRA had manners. Our surveillance teams noted that when procuring weapons they'd say, 'I'd like a pound of your finest Semtex PLEASE, and I bid you a fine afternoon sir'." Maybe this explains why so many of them blew themselves up with their own bombs.

Time for a Commercial Break?

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Have you found that while waiting for the 73 bus you hear voices?

Or have you come away from the stop for the 149 smelling of the latest fragrance from Givenchy?

Well, fear not, you're not going insane - these are just a few of the bus stop shelter "innovations" that companies like JC Decaux are promoting as outdoor advertising gimmicks to try to tempt the pound from out of your pocket.

Plays for Today

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Playwright Henrik Ibsen was more than a pioneer of modern theatre: he carried a torch for all those who fight for women's liberation.

I was once told by one of my school teachers that he loved Shakespeare's King Lear because "everything is in there". By which he meant murder, adultery, pride, jealousy... you get the idea. I feel much the same about Henrik Ibsen. The Norwegian playwright, who died 100 years ago, wrote a body of plays which can rightly claim to have heralded modern theatre. They continue to have a profound social impact.

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