RT, May 24
Britain is ramping up its military rhetoric, sending its biggest warship for NATO drills in the Baltic, right off the Russian coast, in this latest show of force. The drills kick off on June 5 and will last for two weeks.
The helicopter carrier HMS Ocean is expected to reach Russia’s city of Kaliningrad sometime this week, carrying aboard about 80 Royal Marines who are to join other NATO troops in Poland, the Sunday Times reports.
Named ‘Baltops 15,’ the games’ objective remains, as before, to test battle-readiness and in so doing continue to voice disapproval over the situation in Ukraine. The Baltic nations believe Russia poses a military threat to Europe and are using its alleged actions in Ukraine as pretext to show off their own military prowess and push for increased NATO presence in the region.
Prime minister will announce counter-terrorism bill including plans to restrict harmful actions of those seeking to radicalise young people
The Guardian, By Patrick Wintour, May 12
A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.
The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.
The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.
The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.
They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.
Exclusive: Former prime minister is being paid to advise the Colombian government on how it spends £2 billion earned from mining deals
The Telegraph, By Edward Malnick, Robert Mendick and Harriet Alexander, April 18
Tony Blair is facing fresh accusations of a conflict of interest over his business affairs after it emerged he signed a controversial contract overseeing mining deals in Latin America.
Mr Blair is being paid to advise the Colombian government on how it spends £2 billion earned from mining deals.
The contract, obtained by The Telegraph, reveals that the Colombian government does not pay any fees for his services. Instead, the fees owed to Tony Blair Associates (TBA), Mr Blair’s consultancy firm, are paid for by an oil-rich Gulf state where Mr Blair has developed close links.
The deal raises questions over Mr Blair’s role as a Middle East peace envoy and whether he has used that position to befriend wealthy rulers in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are now funding his private consultancy work in Colombia, among other countries.
The disclosure will add to pressure on Mr Blair to quit as envoy. According to one well-placed source, he is expected to announce his resignation from the role in the coming weeks.
Reuters, By Andrew Osborne, March 23
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the United States on Monday his country would always be at Washington’s side on the battlefield “when the chips are down,” part of a concerted campaign to assuage U.S. fears over British defense spending.
The U.S. army’s chief of staff said earlier this month he was very concerned about the impact of spending cuts on British defense and future cooperation with London, traditionally a staunch U.S. ally.
Ahead of an unusually close national election on May 7, Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party are under pressure from lawmakers across the spectrum to commit to protect defense spending after the ballot. Both have dodged firm pledges.
How Britain’s new police state will radicalise us all
Medium, By Nafeez Ahmed, February 13
In the UK, an insidious secret network of violent extremists is plotting to subvert democracy. The members of this network detest our way of life, and hate our freedoms. Walking amongst us, this dangerous fifth column is exploiting the very laws we hold dear to campaign for the establishment of an extremist, totalitarian state that would police every aspect of our lives based on a fanatical ideology that is devoid of reason.
No, the ‘Islamic State’ is not about to conquer Great Britain. But the neocons in government and industry who profit from fear might well be.
In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.
Fox News, February 11
The State Department announced late Tuesday that the U.S. Embassy in Yemen had been closed and evacuated after much of the country was taken over by Shiite rebels last month.
Hours later, Britain and France followed suit and ordered their citizens to leave Yemen as soon as possible.
The U.S. embassy had already been operating with severely reduced staff for several weeks. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said remaining diplomatic personnel had been relocated “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.”
Al Arabiya: France, Britain suspend embassy work in Yemen
Properties worth over £1bn will be lost to coastal erosion in England and Wales over the next century, with no compensation for homeowners, as it becomes too costly to protect them.
The Guardian, By Damian Carrington, December 28
Almost 7,000 homes and buildings will be sacrificed to the rising seas around England and Wales over the next century, according to an unpublished Environment Agency (EA) analysis seen by the Guardian. Over 800 of the properties will be lost to coastal erosion within the next 20 years.
The properties, worth well over £1bn, will be allowed to fall into the sea because the cost of protecting them would be far greater. But there is no compensation scheme for homeowners to enable them to move to a safer location.
In December 2013, a huge tidal surge flooded 1,400 homes along the east coast and saw numerous homes tumble into the ocean. Earlier this month, the environment secretary, Liz Truss, visited Lowestoft on the anniversary of the surge, which flooded the town.
Bookies off the mark as Church of England names the Rev Libby Lane as its first female bishop in Stockport, Greater Manchester
The Telegraph, By John Bingham, December 17
A parish priest from Hale has made history as the first woman to be named as a bishop in the Church of England.
The Rev Libby Lane, a 48-year-old mother of two, is to be the next Bishop of Stockport in Greater Manchester.
It comes more than 20 years after the ordination of the first female priests in the established church and almost a century after the first attempts to open the ministry to women.
After the announcement, she said: “This is unexpected and very exciting.
The appointment, which was kept a closely guarded secret, is being formally announced by Downing Street after being approved by the Queen.
The Established Church is now the last great institution of public life in Britain to open its upper reaches to people of both sexes.
The milestone is expected to be the first of a handful of announcements in the coming months of women being admitted to the episcopate.
It comes as ministers also prepare to introduce new legislation to fast-track women bishops into the House of Lords.
They hope it will mean the first female clerics will be taking their places among the “Lords Spiritual” of the Upper Chamber before the General Election.
Hundreds of British troops will be sent to Iraq in the New Year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
BBC, December 13
The deployment – to help train local forces – will be in the “very low hundreds” but could also include a small protection force of combat-ready soldiers, he said.
About 50 UK troops are already training Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.
The Ministry of Defence said the move had not yet been formally approved.
An MoD spokesman said: “No decisions on troop numbers, units or locations have yet been made”.
However, speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Fallon said the fresh troop deployment would be made in January and would be to four training centres that US forces are establishing.
Regulators in US and UK mete out record fines after finding a ‘free for all culture’ on currency trading floors at RBS, HSBC, Citibank, JP Morgan and UBS
The Guardian, By Jill Treanor, November 12
The corruption of the world’s biggest currency dealers was laid bare on Wednesday when regulators imposed £2bn of fines on five major banks for rigging the £3.5tn-a-day foreign exchange markets.
Regulators said they had found a “free for all culture” rife on their trading floors which allowed the markets to be rigged for five years, from January 2008 to October 2013.
The much-anticipated record settlement with US and UK regulators did not include Barclays, which remains in discussions with other regulators.
Each of the fines imposed on Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Citibank, JP Morgan and UBS were records for the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), smashing the penalties imposed over the last two years for Libor rigging.
The government welcomed the action. The chancellor, George Osborne, said: “Today we take tough action to clean up corruption by a few so that we have a financial system that works for everyone. It’s part of a long-term plan that is fixing what went wrong in Britain’s banks and our economy.”
BBC, November 10
A recorded conversation between an apologetic Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher over the invasion of Grenada has been published for the first time.
“We regret very much the embarrassment that’s been caused to you,” the US leader said during the call.
Baroness Thatcher was angered that she was not consulted before the Americans invaded a Commonwealth state.
United States troops were sent to Grenada in 1983 to topple the Caribbean island’s Marxist regime.
While US forces were still in action, the president phoned Lady Thatcher to explain the action he had taken.
“If I were there, Margaret,” he said, “I’d throw my hat in the door before I came in.”
PressTV, November 5
People in the British capital of London are preparing to stage a protest rally against the government’s austerity measures, mass surveillance programs, and human rights abuses.
The rally, organized by a group called Anonymous, is referred to as the Million Mask March, in which the participants hide their faces to protect their identities, and will begin from Trafalgar Square and end at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.
Similar demonstrations will be held in hundreds of cities across the globe.
The organizers have set up pages on social media networks, urging people to attend the rally.
They predict that thousands of people will take part in the demonstration.
The Mirror: Anonymous ‘Million Mask March': Huge police presence as thousands of masked protesters gather in central London
Ria Novosti: Tens of Thousands Protest Against Government’s Austerity Measures in Belgium
Presse Canadienne: More anti-austerity protests coming, union and student groups warn
German Chancellor Merkel warns Britain over plans to try curbing EU immigration from other member states
Al Jazeera, November 3
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned British Prime Minister David Cameron that putting limits on immigration from other European Union nations would be a “point of no return” that could sharply increase the risk of Britain leaving the European Union.
The German newspaper Der Spiegel, citing unnamed sources in Merkel’s office and the German foreign ministry, reported on Sunday that Merkel was becoming worried, for the first time, that a British exit from the EU — often dubbed “Brexit” in the media — was a real possibility.
Under growing pressure from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of a May 2015 national election, Cameron’s Conservatives have said they would try to cap immigration from certain EU member states if they are re-elected.
The EU, a bloc of 28 countries, was formed in the aftermath of World War II with the aim of preventing future conflict by increasing economic and political integration between member states. EU citizens are allowed to stay in another member country for up to three months without registration, and to live there indefinitely if they are financially independent. The same right applies to their family members, according to Migration Policy Institute Europe (MPI), a Brussels-based research group.
Department says helping vessels acts as ‘pull factor’ but rights groups say escaping war and famine is more likely motive
The Guardian, By Alan Travis, October 28
The Home Office has defended its decision to end British support for search-and-rescue operations for migrants in danger of drowning in the Mediterranean, after criticism that it marked an ethical nadir for Britain.
A statement said the decision agreed by the home secretary, Theresa May, with other European interior ministers this month had been taken because the rescue operations, which had so far saved the lives of more than 150,000 migrants, were acting as a “pull factor” for illegal migration.
“Ministers across Europe have expressed concerns that search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean … [are] encouraging people to make dangerous crossings in the expectation of rescue. This has led to more deaths as traffickers have exploited the situation using boats that are unfit to make the crossing,” the statement said.
But Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen, denied that saving lives was a pull factor and said history would judge May’s decision as unforgiveable. “This is a very dark day for the moral standing of the UK. When the hour came, the UK turned its back on despairing people and left them to drown.”
CBS/AP, October 26
London – Britain has ended combat operations in the Helmand province in Afghanistan, defense officials said Sunday.
U.K. troops have witnessed the lowering of the Union flag for the last time at the Camp Bastion complex in Helmand, which they shared with U.S. Marines, who also folded up operations in Afghanistan in a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck on Sunday.
Every single combat Marine and British troop will soon board planes to head home – the exact date has been withheld for security reasons, reports CBS News’ Erin Lyall. It’s a milestone in Helmand, the deadliest province for coalition forces throughout the war, with more than 940 troops killed, including 360 Marines. Five have died this year.
U.S. and Afghan soldiers witnessed the British ceremony, which marked the end of operations for the Southwest Regional Command, a U.S. and U.K. coalition operating under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, British officials said.
U.S. ends operation at Camp Leatherneck Afghanistan
Base to be handed over to Afghan military control
NBC, October 26
American combat operation have ended in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
A ceremony at the Bastion-Leatherneck military complex Sunday marked the official end of the operations in Helmand. The US and British flags were lowered and folded up at the regional headquarters of the international military.
Reuters: Britain ends combat role in Afghanistan, last U.S. Marines hand over base