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How Saddam died on the gallows
Leaked film reveals chaotic end • Taunts and insults hurled • Sectarian backlash fear
Saddam Hussein hanging from a noose after execution in Baghdad early on Saturday, in a photograph seemingly taken by camera phone and obtained from an Arab-language website Photograph: AP
Ewen MacAskill Michael Howard
Camera footage of the final minutes of Saddam Hussein released yesterday shows him being taunted by Shia hangmen and witnesses, a scene that risks increasing sectarian tension in Iraq. As he stood at the gallows, he was tormented by the hooded executioners or witnesses shouting at him to “Go to hell” and chanting the name “Moqtada”, the radical Shia Muslim cleric and leader of the Mahdi army militia, Moqtada al-Sadr, and his family. The grainy images, which appeared to have been taken on a mobile phone, disclose exchanges between Saddam and his tormentors, the moment when his body drops through the trapdoor, and his body
US death toll reaches 3,000
President George Bush received a harsh reminder last night of the pressing need for change to his Iraq policy with reports that the American military death toll in the country had reached 3,000 since the invasion. The figure, tallied by Associated Press and the icasualties.org website, but disputed by the Pentagon, came a day after the execution of Saddam Hussein. Mr Bush has been consulting with his advisers at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, over the holiday period and is expected to announce a modified US policy on Iraq on January 10.
swinging, eyes partly open and neck bent out of shape. In what Sunni Muslims will perceive as a further insult, the executioners released the trapdoor while the former dictator was in the middle of his prayers. Sunni Muslims, who were dominant under Saddam, but are now the victims of sectarian death squads, will see the shambolic nature of the execution as further evidence of the bias of the Shia-led government. They have repeatedly claimed that the Iraqi government, helped by the US and British, conducted a show trial, based on revenge rather than justice. Saddam’s team of defence lawyers claimed that the hanging had been simply “victors’ justice”. The unruly scenes will also dismay the US and British governments, that are also privately alarmed at the sectarian bias of
the government, led by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The US and Britain believe at least some members of the Iraqi government are complicit in sectarian killings, particularly by members of the police force. The Iraqi government last night denied the execution had been sectarian or designed for revenge. Hiwa Osman, an adviser to the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, told the BBC: “This whole execution is about justice.” As Saddam was buried in this home village, Ouja, outside Tikrit, yesterday morning, the leaked footage appeared on the internet and on Arabic television stations. While Saddam was professing Muhammad as God’s prophet, he was interrupted by shouts. One of the people observing the execution chants “Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada”. Saddam dis-
missively repeats the name Moqtada. The noose around his neck, he appears to smile and shoots back: “Do you consider this bravery?” Another voice shouts at him to “Go to hell”. Saddam, seemingly accusing his enemies of destroying the country he once led, replies: “The hell that is Iraq?" A Shia shouts “Long live Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr,” a member of Moqtada’s family thought to have been assassinated by Saddam’s security services. Another onlooker pleads for dignity: “Please don't, the man is facing execution. Please don't. I beg you, no!” As Saddam continues with his prayers, saying “I profess that there is no God but God and that Muhammad …”, the executioners
Continued on page 2 ≥
Storms sweep away Two killed by Hogmanay revels bombs in Bangkok
London’s new year fireworks, centred on the Millennium Wheel, went with a bang last night, but Hogmanay celebrations for more than 100,000 people in Edinburgh were cancelled after high winds, thunder and torrential rain battered revellers preparing to welcome in 2007. Glasgow, too, was forced to cancel its open air event, which was expected to attract 25,000 partygoers. Firework displays in Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne were called off due to safety concerns, as was an outdoor pop concert for 10,000 people in Belfast. One man is feared drowned after he was swept into the sea off the Cornish coast. A string of nine bombs across Bangkok killed two people and left at least 34 injured last night, including two Britons. Six bombs went off in the early evening, followed by three on the stroke of midnight near a mall popular with foreigners. Nobody claimed responsibility for the blasts, which forced the cancellation of new year celebrations. The capital has rarely experienced deadly bombings, although several small explosives were set off in the run-up to a bloodless coup that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September. Violence occurs almost daily in southern Thailand, the target of Muslim insurgents.
Belarus deal averts Gazprom switch-off
Belarus last night struck an eleventh-hour accord with Russia’s state-controlled energy supplier, Gazprom, which averted the prospect of the former Soviet republic facing a chilly new year. Moscow had said it would stop gas to Belarus today if Minsk did not agree to pay a much higher price. The move threatened to disrupt supplies to Europe and further undermine Russia’s reputation as a reliable energy supplier. The dispute echoed one with Ukraine a year ago when Gazprom cut supplies for several days. The gas operator is trying to bring prices closer to world market levels. Europe imports a quarter of its gas from Russia.
Mourinho’s harsh words – for Chelsea
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has given a brutal assessment of the club after the 2–2 draw with Fulham on Saturday, casting doubt on his managerial qualities, criticising players and intimating that it may not have been his choice to sell William Gallas and Robert Huth. The remarks risk damaging his relationship with his squad and directors. After complaining about having no centre-half strong in the air without the injured John Terry, Mourinho was asked why Huth and Gallas were sold. “Good question,” he said. Asked what a good answer was, he replied: “There is no answer. They are not here any more.”
Sport, 1 ≥
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The final countdown From Berlin to Baghdad, Bird flu to Boy George, we give you the year in numbers Page 7 ≥ Ground war In a fightback against the global spread of the frappuccino and other imitators, Italy has certified what it considers the classic cappuccino Page 17 ≥ Comment The obituarists will not have the last word on Saddam, any more than they did on Stalin, writes Peter Preston Page 21 ≥
How Saddam died on the gallows
≤ continued from page 1 release the trapdoor. There is a shout: “The tyrant has fallen.” Although many Sunni Muslims also suffered under him and were glad to see him go, the manner in which the execution was carried out will have created some sympathy for Saddam. The fact that the execution took place at the start of the main Muslim religious holiday will further inflame Sunni opinion. The tit-for-tat killings between the majority Shias, who suffered badly under Saddam, and the previously dominant Sunnis, has created a de facto civil war that could break up the country. Sunni insurgents, particularly a branch of alQaida, have sought to fan the civil war by carrying out a series of devastating car bomb attacks on Shia population centres, particularly Sadr City in Baghdad and towns such as Hilla and Najaf. The response among Sunnis to the hanging and the video was to swear revenge. A man from Mosul, a mixed city in the north, told Reuters: “The Persians have killed him. I can't believe it. By God, we will take revenge.” He was referring to Iraq's new leaders’ ties to Shia Iran, and the Shia in general. Accusations that the government had mishandled the execution were not con-
Today on Guardian Unlimited
The unselfish gene The human paradox is that it may have been our propensity to murderous violence that caused us to evolve altruism, writes Andrew Brown guardian.co.uk/commentisfree Travel Simon Hoggart joins Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell for an audio tour of their favourite haunts in Brighton guardian.co.uk/travel/ audio Newsblog Simon Jeffery samples the reactions of Arab bloggers to the execution of Saddam Hussein blogs.guardian.co.uk/news Miaow Remember this (or trying to forget it)? Test your memory of the year in and around politics with our quiz guardian.co.uk/politics
First person special How was 2006 for you? For five very different people – from a pregnant teenager to a Kabul doctor who escaped the Taliban – it was the year when everything changed Page 4 ≥ Reasons to be cheerful The world is coming to an end. But it’s not all bad news – there’s a new vaccine for hay fever, Uganda is back on the tourist trail, and Charlotte Church has put her singing career on hold Page 29 ≥
fined to Sunni regions. In the Kurdish region, there was also criticism. “This execution should have been for all of Saddam’s victims, and instead they have hijacked it and turned it into a sectarian event,” said Anwar Abdullah, a student at the technical institute of Sulaymaniyah. Rebwar Suliman, 21, whose uncle and grandfather were killed by Saddam’s secret police in Kurdistan in the 1980s, said: “It does a dishonour to the Kurds.” Saddam was buried in the dead of night, prompting an outpouring of grief and anger from fellow members of his tribe and other Sunni Arabs. His body was flown by US military helicopter to Tikrit and then taken to the village where he was born. Hundreds of mourners visited his tomb inside a marble-floored hall built by Saddam. Others attended the Great Saddam Mosque in Tikrit. The funeral came as it was reported that the US death toll in Iraq since the invasion had reached 3,000. The US military had disclosed yesterday that an American soldier had been killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Saturday, the 2,999th death since the invasion in 2003. But the website www.icasualties.org, yesterday also listed the death of Specialist Dustin Donica, 22, on December 28 as previously unreported, bringing the total to 3,000. George Bush is expected to face renewed domestic political pressure following the latest milestone. Although the 3,000 figure is symbolically important for Americans, Iraqis suffer that rate of casualties on a monthly basis. Tariq Ali, page 20≥ Peter Preston, page 21≥ Leader comment, page 22≥ guardian.co.uk/iraq≥
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‘I have been keeping half an ear cocked for news of the Ashes – did someone really try to sell our bowling plans to the Iranians?’ Martin Kelner. Sport, page 20
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
A tomb in a mosque near Tikrit – which will become a shrine for some
Body flown for private burial in home town Original plan was for secret, unmarked grave
Ghazwan al-Jibouri Awja
Pledging revenge, hundreds of mourners flocked to Saddam Hussein’s tomb in his home village in northern Iraq on Sunday, where the ousted leader was buried in private after being hanged for crimes against humanity. In an outpouring of grief and anger from Saddam’s fellow Sunni Arabs at the Shia-led government that rushed through the execution, mourners knelt and prayed by the tomb in Awja over which the Iraqi flag had been draped. Sectarian passions that have pushed Iraq toward civil war since US troops overthrew Saddam in 2003 could be further inflamed by a video posted on the internet showing Shia officials taunting him as he stood on the gallows on Saturday. “The Persians have killed him. I can’t believe it. By God, we will take revenge,” said a man from the northern city of Mosul, using a term employed by some Sunnis to describe Shia Arabs, who share their faith with non-Arab, Persianspeaking Iran. “All we can do now is take it out against the Americans and the government,” said another mourner who paused by the tomb in a marble-floored mosque hall in Awja, near the Tikrit. A portrait of a smiling Saddam wearing his trademark fedora hat was propped up on a chair. Groups of several dozen mourners took turns to pay their respects. Mint tea and coffee were served in an adjacent room, where Saddam was referred to by many as a martyr against the US occupation. A member of Saddam’s Albu Nasir tribe said there were plans to found a religious school and library at his burial site. “We want to make this place an appropriate and suitable edifice. This will honour Saddam Hussein,” said Muayed AlHazaa, who described himself as a cousin of Saddam. “We want to turn the place into a religious school and a library.” The government had initially indicated that Saddam’s body might lie in a secret, unmarked grave, fearing it could become a pilgrimage site for Ba’athist rebels and Sunni Arabs. But after lobbying from Albu Nasir for the ousted dictator to rest in Awja, a US helicopter flew Saddam’s body by night to Tikrit, where it was delivered in a coffin to the governor of Salahaddin province, Mohammed al-Qaisi, tribal chieftain Ali al-Nida and other local officials. Saddam’s body was later driven to Awja in a police vehicle and buried in the middle of the night, after it was washed and covered in a white shroud. Saddam’s two sons Uday and Qusay, killed by US troops in 2003, lie in a family plot in Awja’s cemetery. The burial was attended by a small group of people. Symbolic funerals were held in other Sunni towns and cities in Iraq, including the Baghdad insurgent bastion of Amriya. Around 100 of his supporters gathered shouting Saddam-era slogans in Tikrit in a demonstration that was broken up by Iraqi army troops. Ignoring hesitation among Sunni Arabs and Kurdish members of his government, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, rushed through the execution of his former enemy in a move that boosted his authority among fellow Shia Muslims. But many fear it could further exacerbate sectarian passions among Sunnis. Reuters guardian.co.uk/iraq/saddam ≥
Al-Iraqiya TV images of Saddam’s coffin
Gesture of defiance A masked man holds up a picture of Saddam Hussein in Baiji, 112 miles north of Baghdad on hearing news that the former dictator had been buried early yesterday following his execution Photograph: Nuhad Hussin/Reuters
The power of the mobile phone with its shaky, hand-held video footage
Dan Glaister Los Angeles
As TV debated the morals of showing explicit images of what it trumpeted as the Death of a Dictator, the video of Saddam Hussein’s execution was already circulating on the internet. “Awaiting first pictures of Saddam Hussein execution” read the news flash on CNN as an Iraqi government national security adviser who had witnessed the execution told the channel that it would be some time before a decision on whether to release the footage would be made. While CNN was running its Death of a Dictator special, Fox News Channel, the other leading purveyor of rolling news, preferred Date with Death. But neither could keep up with the news. And the debate about the niceties of showing the stark images of death had already been taken out of the western media’s hands. Like so much footage shot on the ubiquitous mobile phone, from acts of police brutality to misbehaving politicians, the raw information had circumvented the traditional instruments of control. First on Anwarweb.net and subsequently shown on Arabic television channels, the video soon spread to file-sharing websites such as Google Video, YouTube and Revver. The shaky, hand-held footage appears to have been shot on a mobile phone. Looking up at the scaffold, the jerky viewfinder settles on the figure of the former dictator. His mouth moves, but his words cannot be heard in the video. Saddam is seen through the red railings of the scaffold, his face illuminated by a light above him and the occasional flash of a camera as the noose is placed around his neck and he begins to recite a Muslim verse: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” His words are interrupted by the opening of the trapdoor beneath and his fall, pixellated by the crude video. A crash is heard, and the camera swings and sways about in the tumult as voices shout in celebration. Seconds later, the camera settles on the image of Hussein’s bloodied head, lying horizontal with the noose held upright by an unseen hand. The amateur quality of the video, with its inadequate, green-hued light, erratic audio and jerky camerawork, seem to add to its authenticity. The video was immediately posted to several websites, endlessly reproducing itself as it was linked from site to site. “I am linking to it, because I believe it is important people have the choice of deciding for themselves [whether to watch the execution],” announced Lostremote.com, after noting that the news channels were showing official footage that stopped at the point when the noose was placed around Saddam’s neck. “The truth is that once the video is out there, everyone will find it.” The news channels concurred, deciding to show fragments of the video. “I want to do this with a measure of taste,” NBC News president Steve Capus told the New York Times, “but I don’t want to stand in the way of history.” While the video is gruesome, it conforms to one of the oldest of dramatic conventions: the act of violence remains offstage. Viewers see the build-up and the aftermath; the moment of death is not captured.
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Deadline looms as US toll reaches 3,000
All eyes on January 10 date for new course in Iraq Disillusion with Shia dominated government
Ewen MacAskill Dan Glaister Los Angeles
As George Bush hacked down brushwood and rode his bike at his Crawford ranch this weekend, he gave the impression of a US president little preoccupied by two Iraq milestones that complicate his deliberations on a change of strategy. The first, the hanging of Saddam Hussein, found Mr Bush asleep, and according to advisers he spent only a short time discussing the execution. The second, the reports of the 3,000th US fatality in Iraq, evinced a only general remark. “The most painful aspect of the presidency is the fact that I know my decisions have caused young men and women to lose their lives,” Mr Bush said at an endof-year press conference in Texas. A White House spokesman added simply that the president “will ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain”. The 3,000 figure was arrived at by the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an internetbased monitoring group, and by the Associated Press, which keeps its own tally of US military deaths. The Pentagon disputed the figures, saying that the total of confirmed dead was 2,983. Nonetheless, the widespread reporting of the grim milestone appeared set to offset whatever boost Mr Bush will get from the news about Saddam’s death. The White House is due to announce a new course for Baghdad on January 10. Time is running out for the US and British governments. The insurgents and those engaged in the sectarian killing can afford to wait. But domestic political pressures put a question mark over American staying power. As a former Texas governor who signed a near-record number of death warrants, Mr Bush will have had few qualms about the execution. There was also a personal element: he blamed Saddam for an assassination attempt on his father during a visit to Kuwait in 1993. But far from marking the closure of an era in Iraq, Saddam’s execution will exacerbate sectarian tensions. The fears of the minority Sunni Muslims will have been increased by the comments of his Shia executioners in support of the Shia militia leader, Moqtada al-Sadr. Mr Bush acknowledged the scale of the Iraq crisis on Saturday in a short statement on Saddam’s death. Abandoning the gungho approach of past years, he cautioned that Saddam’s demise would not halt the violence. “Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead,” he said. A US adviser involved in the talks on a new strategy said: “There is recognition that the present strategy is not working. But alternative options are limited.” The source said there was a general disillusionment in the US administration with the Shia Muslim-dominated government led by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, which is increasingly viewed as condoning — or at least failing to act against — sectarian killing. “It would have been easier to implement a new strategy in 2005. It gets harder every day. We have painted ourselves into a corner with this [Iraqi] government,” the source said. The debate within the administration about what to do next is still to be resolved. Dick Cheney, the vice-president, is leading those in favour of the “surge” approach: sending a further 20,00040,000 US troops to Baghdad to reinforce the present US force of 140,000 in a final attempt to subdue the Iraqi capital. But the White House was given several warnings yesterday from figures across the political spectrum that any change of debate is being conducted against a domestic political background in which opposition to the war is growing. A senior US military source identified the core of the problem as the US pursuit of democratic government ahead of security and economic reconstruction. What Washington had ended up with was an Iraqi government that shared different objectives from America: establishing the dominance of the Shia rather than fostering reconciliation and unity. He said the view of the US military in Iraq is that the police force was so riddled with sectarianism that the only possible course was to disband it and start again; it was also rife in the Iraqi army, a trend encouraged by the Iraqi government. “We are still in charge. The Iraqi government is a facade,” the military source said. “How can our strategy be to accelerate the handover to this government and the Iraq army. This is a rush to failure.” The British government privately shares the US administration’s disappointment with Mr Maliki. Saddam’s execution posed a special problem for the British government, given its opposition to the death penalty. The Foreign Office said it had made repeated approaches to the Iraqi government, making clear its opposition to the execution. Officials had planned a last-minute plea for clemency by the ambassador, Dominic Asquith, to the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and Mr Maliki. But the plan was abandoned. A Foreign Office source confirmed yesterday that no final approach to the Iraqi government was made by a senior British diplomat. Tony Blair, questioned about the prospect of the death penalty in November, proved initially reluctant to denounce it, but eventually did so. On Saturday, the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, reiterated Britain's opposition to the death penalty but welcomed the fact that he had been tried by an Iraqi court. “He has now been held to account." she said.
Mr Bush this week. ‘Difficult choices lie ahead’ he said Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
course in Iraq should be conducted in consultation with the new Congress. Richard Lugar, the outgoing Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, told Fox News that should the administration proceed with any move to increase troop numbers without involving Congress, Mr Bush could anticipate “a lot of hearings, a lot of study, a lot of criticism”. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter argued that only a surge in troop numbers, of 300,000-400,000 would
make a difference. Speaking on CNN, Mr Brzezinski criticised the core group gathered around Mr Bush to determine Iraq policy. With the exception of the new defence secretary, Robert Gates, he noted “a narrow decision-making group embedded in its own opinions … is now making the decision about a change of course.” Also feeding into the White House are the views of the Pentagon, the state department, the intelligence services and, the catalyst for the rethink, the Iraq Study Group report, published last month. The
Dismay among Kurds that genocide case unanswered
Iraq’s Kurds expressed satisfaction yesterday at the death of Saddam Hussein, but their joy was tempered with disappointment that their greatest tormentor would never face justice for what he had done to them. Saddam had been standing trial in a second case on charges of genocide against the Kurds during the Anfal campaign in the late 1980s, during which more than 4,000 villages were destroyed and more than 100,000 people killed in a series of military sweeps in the Kurdistan region that included the regular use of chemical weapons. The former dictator was also due to face separate charges over the gas attack on Halabja in March 1988 that killed 5,000 Kurds. Sources at the special tribunal trying Saddam and six members of his former regime in the Anfal trial said yesterday that proceedings would resume on January 8. The remaining defendants are Ali Hassan Majid, known as Chemical Ali, a cousin of Saddam, described by Kurds as the evil face of the Anfal campaign; Sultan Hashim Ahmad Jabburi Tai, former defence minister; Sabir Abdul Aziz Douri, director of military intelligence; Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a senior military officer; Taher Tawfiq Ani, former governor of Nineveh province; and Farhan Mutlaq Jubouri, head of military intelligence in northern Iraq. Under Iraqi law, all outstanding charges against an executed person must be dropped. Without the interest that would be caused by the presence of the chief defendant, Kurds fear that their past suffering will attract less attention from fellow Iraqis and the international community. A spokesman for the Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, said: “We hope that Saddam’s execution will lead to a new chapter among the Iraqi people, and to ending innocent people’s sufferings.” But he added: “We also wish that the execution not be used as an excuse to ignore the documentation of the enormous crimes committed against the Kurds.” “How can I be sad that the tyrant is gone? It is like a dream come true for the survivors in my family,” said Herro Mahmoud, a primary school teacher in Sulaymaniyah who lost her father and uncle to the Anfal (which means spoils of war). “But I think they should have waited until the other cases had been heard, and all the scale of the other atrocities would be known.” Other Kurds said they felt cheated. “Saddam was hanged for the murder of 148 people in Dujail. But why won’t he face the court for killing hundreds of thousands of Kurds? Do our dead and our traumatised people not deserve to be honoured?” said Bijar Ahmed, an English student at the university of Koi Sanjaq. Mahmoud Othman, a prominent Kurdish MP in Baghdad who survived several assassination attempts by the former regime, criticised the Iraqi government’s apparent rush to carry out the death sentence before the end of the Anfal trial. “It was very important to keep him alive so that we could know the full details of what happened during all the atrocities that were committed,” he said. “We need to know how and why he did what he did and who helped him, by providing political and material support to his regime.” Saddam had taken many secrets to his grave, he said, including vital knowledge about “the foreign companies and countries that supplied the parts and expertise to make chemical weapons.” Additional reporting by Alan Attoof in Sulaymaniya
‘He’s quite handy with his arrers, but he’s a moody bugger and he looks like Bambi’ Sam Wollaston on Robin Hood. g2, page 19
Graves of victims at Halabja, Kurdistan
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Saddam’s family tree
Emotions in Arab world range from elation to outrage
Event underlines division between Shias and Sunnis Timing during holy month is seen as significant
Brian Whitaker and agencies
The Arab world was divided over the hanging of Saddam Hussein, with the Middle East’s two leading satellite TV channels reflecting the divisions between Shia and Sunni Muslims. On Qatari-owned al-Jazeera, a succession of commentators criticised the execution, while its main rival — Saudi-owned al-Arabiyya — provided a platform for Iraq’s Shia politicians to justify their action. Whatever ordinary viewers thought, no one disputed that it was a big moment in TV history: the first televised execution of an Arab leader. “People are confused. This is the end of a tyrant but also of a prisoner of war who fought the west,” Khalaf Alharbi, editor of the Saudi tabloid Shams, told Reuters. Satisfaction at his death was strongest among Shia Muslims. For one Iraqi Shia cleric performing the hajj in Saudi Arabia, the “stoning the devil” ceremony had extra significance this year. “We were also stoning Saddam,” Sayed Hassan Moussawi told the Jeddah-based daily, Arab News. A group of Iranian pilgrims broke into cheers on hearing news of Saddam’s execution, the paper reported. Among Sunni pilgrims from Iraq, the mood was more subdued and many refused to talk about it to journalists. “We're not here for politics, we're here to get closer to God,” Sheikh Khatab Mustafa, from the Baghdad district of Azamiyah, told Arab News. “Saddam can come and go, but God remains eternal.” The official Saudi news agency, apparently reflecting the government’s view, said Saddam’s execution had drawn strong disapproval from observers because it took place during the holy month of Dhu al-Hijjah, and was on the first day of Eid al-Adha, when Muslims slaughter sheep to commemorate the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God. Many saw the timing as symbolic, though they interpreted it in different ways. “This is the best Eid gift for humanity,” said Saad bin Tifla al-Ajmi, former information minister of Kuwait, the oil-rich state invaded by Saddam’s forces in 1990. Others saw it as a mockery of their religion. Pakistani pilgrim Manzar Muhammad Baloch likened Saddam to a sacrificial sheep. “This is a warning to all the leaders in the third world,” he told Arab News. “If America so chooses, this will be your fate too.” In the West Bank, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to mourn Saddam’s death. About 700 held a mock funeral in Jenin and chanted “Death to Bush”, “Death to al-Maliki” (the Iraqi prime minister) and “Death to al-Sadr” (the radical Iraqi Shia cleric). In Jordan, demonstrators from the Palestinian Fatah movement and members of Jordanian Islamic and leftist parties rallied at Baqaa refugee camp on the outskirts of Amman. A statement described Saddam as a “martyr who was killed by the Americans and their allies in the Iraqi government”. A group of Ba’athists in Jordan calling themselves Baghdad's Citizens Gathering pledged allegiance to Saddam's fugitive deputy, Izzat Ibrahim, and named him the “legitimate president of Iraq”. “We vow to liberate our country from the heinous criminals, neo-Zionists and the Persians in order to restore Iraq's unity,” the group said in a statement.
Saddam flanked by his wife Sajiba and Hussein Kamel Hassan, husband of Saddam’s daughter Rana, with (behind left to right) daughters Rana, Raghad and Hala, sons Uday and Qussay, and Raghad’s husband, Saddam Kamel Hassan Photograph: AFP Father Hussein al-Majid. Died either before or shortly after Saddam was born. Mother Sabha. After Saddam’s father died, she remarried, to Hassan al-Ibrahim, father of Saddam’s three half-brothers. Died in 1982.
Half-brothers Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti — presidential adviser, in US custody awaiting trial Watban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti — presidential adviser, in US custody awaiting trial Barzan Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti — presidential adviser, former director of Mukhabarat intelligence service, in US custody, sentenced to hang. Dham Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti — died in the 1980s Wives Sajida (a first cousin) — believed to be in Qatar, daughter of his uncle Khairallah Tulfah According to news reports, Saddam married three other women: Samira Shabandar in 1982. The couple have a son, Ali. She is thought to be living in Lebanon under an assumed name. Nidal Hamdani, probably married in 1990 and Iman Howeid, in 2001 Sons Uday — killed by US troops on July 22 2003 Daughters Raghad, the eldest daughter, living in Jordan where she was granted government sanctuary. Qusay — Saddam’s heir apparRana, living in Jordan. Relations ent, killed by US troops on July between Raghad and Rana and 22 2003 their father were strained after the assassinations of their husAli (with Samira Shabandar) was bands, Hussein Kamel Hassan and never a significant figure in the Saddam Kamel. Saddam was regime, and was not officially accused of being responsible for recognised by Saddam. Thought their deaths. They had called for to be in Lebanon. a revolution. Hala — his youngest daughter, thought to be living in Qatar with Sajida. Hala’s husband, Sultan alTikriti, was deputy head of tribal affairs under Saddam. He was taken into custody in April 2003.
Mourning Palestinians hold pictures of the late Yasser Arafat and Saddam
Battle for new leader likely
The execution of Saddam Hussein could force the Ba’ath party to choose a new leader, sparking an internal battle that could weaken its activities just as it was beginning to re-emerge as a serious force in the Sunni insurgency, a senior Iraqi intelligence official predicted yesterday. “With Saddam gone and the two leading figures fighting over control of Ba’ath party funds, they may tear themselves apart,” the official said in Baghdad. Other Iraqi and western analysts warned that the death of its leader would push the organisation further into the hands of Syria — where key figures in the Iraqi Ba’athist leadership are thought to be hiding — increasing the leverage the Damascus government is able to wield over Iraq’s internal affairs. In what appeared to be the opening shots of a leadership contest, a statement signed by a previously unknown group calling itself the Baghdad Citizens Gathering and handed out at the party’s offices in Amman and Damascus yesterday, pledged loyalty to Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a long-time Saddam confidant who escaped capture after the US-led invasion and is believed to be in Syria. But the Iraqi intelligence official said it was likely al-Douri would face a challenge from younger Ba’athist figures such as Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed, a former Ba’ath party member accused of funding and leading insurgency operations.
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007 National editor: Edward Pilkington Nick Hopkins Telephone: 020-7239 9580 Fax: 020-7239 9787 Email: email@example.com
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party falls foul of atrocious weather as 2007 enters with a blast
Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle events hit One killed, one missing as weather takes its toll
Gales, thunderstorms and driving rain forced major new year celebrations throughout the UK to be cancelled last night as revellers endured a wet and windy start to 2007. Thousands braved a squally London night for a firework spectacular on the South Bank, but more than 100,000 people in Edinburgh had to conjure up lastminute alternatives after the official Hogmanay party was called off because of atrocious conditions. Organisers and partygoers were deflated, but few questioned the move given the sideways rain and squally gusts lashing the Scottish capital. The Edinburgh event was to have featured the Pet Shop Boys and Paolo Nutini. Andrew Holmes, the director of city development, said: “It was clear we were going to have bad weather, but we were confident it would not deteriorate to the extent that we would need to call it off. I recognise the disappointment, particularly to those who enjoyed other Hogmanay events over the past two days." It is the second time in the past four years that the Hogmanay event had to be cancelled in Edinburgh as a result of stormy weather. And it was the same story in Glasgow, where high winds and showers forced organisers to call off the event just hours before the first of the performers were due on stage. Firework displays in Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne also fell victim to the weather, while an open air concert in Belfast was cancelled as winds reached 70mph. Severe winds wrought havoc to motorists on the roads, and police said a number of traffic accidents had been caused in Scotland due to trees felled by the winds.
Security personnel clear Princes Street in Edinburgh last night after bad weather forced the cancellation of Hogmanay celebrations Photograph: David Cheskin/PA
‘There are big black marks on my wall where the lightning hit. I was very lucky’
including Seville Cordoba and Granada
A New Year's Day party in Brighton with DJ Fatboy Slim, and London's New Year's Day parade were set to go ahead. The by now traditional display of spectacular pyrotechnics at the London Eye passed off with the usual oohs and aahs, the 10-minute display this year featuring boats launching fireworks from the Thames itself. The Met Office said a deep Atlantic low was responsible for the savage weather. Gusts of up to 80mph, which can cause damage to buildings, were battering parts of Scotland, northern England and northern and west Wales yesterday evening. Perhaps those who missed out because of the weather were lucky. Research from the Yorkshire Bank suggested that millions of people decided to stay at home on New Year's Eve not because of the weather but because of high prices charged at pubs, clubs, restaurants and taxi drivers. According to the survey, one in three planned to stay at home and watch television and one in five preferred to entertain friends at home. One in eight said they would be in bed before midnight.
Feeling rotten this morning? A breakfast of toast and honey is the ideal hangover cure, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry. Honey — or, if you prefer, golden syrup — provides the sodium, potassium and fructose the body needs after a good night out. The toast is merely something to put it on. Dr John Emsley from the Society, said (the queasy might care to look away here): “A hangover comes from acetaldehyde — the toxic chemical into which alcohol is converted by the body. It causes a throbbing headache, nausea, and maybe even vomiting." The good news: “Generally, it will be gone by midday,” according to Dr Emsley. And the “hair of the dog” theory? More bad news. “It only works if it relieves alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which suggests you are becoming addicted." Steven Morris
One family who wished they could have been tucked up in their own home last night were the Wiltshires. Their house in Elberton, Gloucestershire, was struck by lightning early yesterday, passing through the metal frame of 15-year-old Sophie Wiltshire’s bed. She suffered bruises and an asthma attack, but rubber stops on the bedstead are thought to have saved her from serious harm. She said: “There are black marks on my wall. I just remember falling asleep and the next thing I knew I was outside the house. I was very lucky, but it's all a bit strange." Sophie's mother, Judy, 48, said: “It was terrifying. It sounded as if a bomb had gone off." The family were taken in by neighbours last night. The storms claimed a number of victims, including Rebecca Smith, 18, who was killed when a tree fell on a caravan in Staffordshire. Two 19-year-old friends were injured. In Cornwall, a young man was feared drowned in Cornwall after he was swept away from a beach near Padstow. Eyewitness, pages 14-15 ≥
Around the world
Lavish show in Sydney, first dawn from Mount Fuji
A vast crowd gathered to watch fireworks lighting up the sky over Sydney harbour, while thousands in Japan climbed mountains to greet the first dawn of the new year. Sydney was one of the first big cities to celebrate, with a lavish firework display marking the 75th anniversary of the opening of one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Harbour Bridge. The bridge, which opened in March 1932, was used as a platform for some of the 100,000 fireworks released yesterday. In Japan, police expected 95 million visitors to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines over the next three days as people offer prayers for peace, health and prosperity. Many Japanese climbed mountains, including Mount Fuji, overnight so they could reach the top in time for sunrise. In New York, at least a million revellers were expected in Times Square for performances by singers Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton, while in Brazil, more than 2 million people were ex-
7 days from £499 Departures on selected dates March - June and August - October 2007
Andalucia is simply one of the most beautiful corners of Europe. It’s a land where the excesses of the 20th century seem not to have taken root and where travellers are genuinely welcomed as honoured guests, rather than as tourists. This is the land immortalised by the writings of Ernest Hemingway and beloved by Orson Welles. It’s the real Spain of Carmen, Figaro and Flamenco. Rich with the legacies of the Moors and the Romans, its charm and sheer delight are captivating.
Fully escorted price includes: • Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, East Midlands, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds/Bradford, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Durham Tees Valley, Edinburgh and Glasgow • Excellent quality 3 and 4-star hotels • Tour of Seville • Tour of Granada, including the stunning Alhambra Palace • Visit to Cordoba and the Mezquita, one of the finest mosques ever built • Services of an experienced tour manager
pected at the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to watch a firework show and concerts by Brazilian and foreign musicians, including the Black Eyed Peas. In India, police arrested two suspected Islamic militants at a busy railway station
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Taipei’s 101 tower was used in display
in Delhi. The pair were less than a mile from the site of the Indian capital’s main New Year’s Eve celebrations. Chinese authorities deployed nearly a quarter of a million police in Beijing to prevent New Year fireworks accidents. The government lifted a 12-year ban on firecrackers in the inner city last year but the ban remains in force around cultural sites, stations, the airport and hospitals. In the Philippines, the popularity of firecrackers proved hazardous for nearly 300 people who were injured by fireworks and celebratory gunfire in the two weeks ahead of New Year’s Day, a 75% increase on last year. Across South-East Asia, stormy weather and powerful waves in coastal areas dampened festivities. Romania and Bulgaria were celebrating joining the European Union from today. In Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, organisers set up stages for a fireworks show and an outdoor party that was expected to draw 40,000 people. The blue and gold EU flag fluttered across Bucharest, the Romanian capital, and strobe lights flashed through the sky.
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
2006 in numbers
Profit made by German football authorities from hosting the World Cup
Amount Jackson Pollock's No 5, 1948, fetched in a private sale, the most paid for a painting to date
Approximate amount so far recovered following the £53m heist at a security depot in Tonbridge
Number of British adults who would struggle to read the lyrics to Robbie Williams's Angels because of poor literacy skills SOURCE: DFES
Baby boys named Jack this year
Number of ‘bomblets’ from cluster bombs fired by Israel into Lebanon during the July/August conflict
The cost in pence each Briton has spent to support the Royal Family for the year
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimate of the number of Iraqis killed as a result of 2003 invasion
Number of articles in UK national newspapers mentioning video-sharing website Youtube in the first half of 2006. 905 Number in the second half of 2006
Number of tickets sold for a Bob Geldof concert in Milan – he pulled out of the performance at the 12,000 capacity venue
Number of people who died in the Java earthquake in July
Approximate number of crew and passengers killed after an Egyptian ferry sank in the Red Sea in February
RESEARCH: ALAN POWER
Percentage of British office workers who hate their workmates SOURCE: PARTNERS STATIONERS
Percentage of British families who eat every evening meal while watching TV SOURCE: GREAT BRITISH CHICKEN SURVEY
Average yearly income in pounds sterling for British children through pocket money and financial gifts SOURCE: CARTOON NETWORK
17.8C (64.04F) Average night and day temperature for the UK in July — the hottest month since such records began in 1914
Number of British troops killed in the Nimrod MRS aircraft crash in Afghanistan —the biggest single loss of life in conflict since the Falklands
Number of days Boy George spent sweeping New York streets as part of a community service sentence
The exact time in the afternoon that people in Britain have least amount of energy to carry out a task SOURCE: TYPHOO
Number of outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu in Britain (virus found in a dead Whooper Swan in Cellardyke, Scotland)
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Murder hunt after man, 83, is beaten to death in break-in
Police check CCTV after attack on London estate Neighbours claim gang has intimidated residents
Police yesterday launched a murder inquiry after a pensioner was found beaten to death on an east London estate where neighbours claimed a gang of youths has been intimidating residents. Ferozur Rahman, 83, was found unconscious with head injuries on Friday and died in hospital on Saturday night. Mr Rahman, a father of seven, had lived on the Toynbee estate in Bethnal Green for 20 years and knew the disgraced cabinet minister John Profumo, who worked on the estate after he quit his job in 1963. Detectives visited local businesses yesterday to check for CCTV footage and appealed for witnesses. His attackers may have been trying to burgle his groundfloor flat but police said it was unclear whether anything had been stolen. Residents say they have campaigned for better security measures. Dennis Delderfield, who chairs the residents’ association, said: “Flats are constantly burgled and a blind woman was attacked here two years ago. It's a very scary place to live and we always get abuse shouted at us and spat on.” Arthur Rumble, 79, said: “Normally there are six or seven of the gang members hanging around here. They cause havoc. They drink, shout abuse and do drugs. I have been here for five years and the first night I came here I was mugged, and I haven't been out after 3pm since.” Mr Rahman’s son-in-law Abjal Hussain, 43, said he was not aware of any recent problems with antisocial behaviour. “This happened a long time ago, as far as I can remember, but not recently. There was a problem in the area but not with him particularly. Apart from that, I don't know." Describing Mr Rahman, he said: “He was a good man who was likely to help everyone. He was like a community worker … When I think about what happened I am very shocked. We are not really taking it in." Despite being invited to move in with relatives, Mr Rahman had preferred to live on his own after the death of his wife, Mr Hussain said. Detective Inspector Larry Smith, heading the murder investigation, said: “Mr Rahman was a frail, elderly man. He was last seen alive at 9.30pm on Thursday and unfortunately he was found by his 17-yearold grandson on Friday at 2pm. “There had been a forced entry into the flat and he had suffered a head injury.” A postmortem is to take place today. Mr Smith said: “Someone must have seen something. There would have been a lot of noise and someone must have put their head out the window and seen someone running off. We are still in the early stages of the investigation and can't say if anything was taken from the flat or what the motive may have been. “This was a ghastly crime. Why would you assault an 83-year-old when you could just run away?" The Toynbee Hall complex, which runs social projects, is best- known as the place where Mr Profumo worked after he resigned from the Macmillan government over his affair with Christine Keeler. Anyone with information should contact the incident room on 020 8345 1585 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
‘999 adverts’ to help young tell on website paedophiles
Bobbie Johnson Technology correspondent
Social networking sites such as MySpace may be ordered to play adverts for the emergency services — including the number 999 — on their pages under plans being considered by the Home Office. The tactic is one of a number of recommendations being considered by ministers in a document seen by the Guardian. According to the document, officials believe that websites should be doing more to safeguard children on the internet. Draft guidelines for good practice among internet companies suggest that they should be working harder to prevent images of nudity being placed online. The Home Office believes that advertising the 999 emergency number will encourage young surfers to report suspicious encounters directly to the police. Other options include more stringent checks on age and identity, which would help to deter older users from masquerading as children. Online groomers often pretend to be a child to befriend potential victims. Most social networks only require an email address for membership. The paper also suggests ways of providing better protection for young internet users. Age restrictions could be used to prevent them being contacted by older users, or to prevent them from accessing material deemed unsuitable for children. “Young people on the whole use the internet positively, but sometimes in ways that may place them at risk of harm,” says the document, drawn up by a working group of representatives from the government, internet companies and child protection organisations. “Service providers should, where possible, request and validate personal information from users … to minimise the risk of impersonation.” The perceived danger of this has grown over the past year as social websites have grown rapidly. MySpace — the huge networking site owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation — last month overtook Yahoo to become the biggest site on the internet. But such sites have also come under fire for what some have claimed is a lax approach to safety. In America MySpace was accused of inaction after it mistakenly allowed a number of registered paedophiles to use its services to contact children. The site now has a filtering system to exclude sex offenders. It is not just MySpace which is targeted in the government consultation, however. The Home Office document also points towards popular sites including Facebook, Xanga, Piczo and Faceparty. Law enforcement officials believe the inability to prove people’s identity online is a barrier to protecting younger users. MySpace — the internet’s biggest site — was accused of inaction after mistakenly letting paedophiles use its services “The problem is that identity as we understand it is changing,” said Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which tracks down abusers and focuses much of its effort on the internet. “It used to be that we took people’s names, date of birth, and their address. Now people identify themselves in a different way — their internet address, username, email.” This has forced investigators to come up with hi-tech information tracking techniques to track down offenders who use the net. Alex Hewitt, the founder of NetIDme, which sells online age verification services, said traceable identities would help to prevent attacks. guardian.co.uk/technology ≥
Ferozur Rahman, and police officers at the Toynbee estate where he lived
US navy names sailors who died after being washed off deck of sub
The US navy yesterday named the two sailors who died after being washed off the deck of a nuclear submarine at Plymouth. British safety experts have begun an investigation into the deaths of the two American sailors. Specialists from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) are to interview two other sailors from the USS Minneapolis-St Paul who survived the accident with minor injuries. The submarine has continued on its voyage but its skipper, Commander Edwin Ruff, and his officers will be questioned when it returns to port. The US navy named the two victims as Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas E Higgins, 45, of Paducah, Kentucky, and Petty Officer Second Class Michael J Holtz, 30, of Lakewood, Ohio. The Americans have also started an inquiry into the accident, which happened as the crewmen were clearing the deck of the submarine as it left Plymouth Sound on Friday. Lieutenant Chris Servello, of the US 6th fleet headquarters in Naples, said: “The cause of the accident remains under investigation.” The British inquiry is being conducted jointly by the police and the MAIB, who will also be interviewing the crews of two British boats that helped in the rescue. The American crewmen were hit by breaking waves as the ship left the shelter of the harbour and were exposed to the full force of the sea and the wind. They were on deck wearing lifelines, which kept them attached to the ship after they were swept into the sea. They were dragged behind the submarine as it slowed and were rescued by British sailors from a pilot boat and two launches that were escorting the boat out of harbour. They were taken to Derriford hospital
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Speed of wind in knots which the submarine encountered after leaving the shelter of Plymouth harbour
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in Plymouth, where two died and two others were discharged to the sick bay at the HMS Drake base in Plymouth. Coastguards said there was a severe gale force-nine at the time with winds gusting to 47 knots, and the sea was very rough. The 6,000-tonne USS Minneapolis-St Paul was launched in 1983 and has a top speed of more than 25 knots. It is nuclear powered and in 1992 became the first submarine to fire a Tomahawk cruise missile.
Transit van excavated as a relic
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‘Without my baby I know I would still be smoking 20 a day and binge drinking on cherry Lambrini’ g2, page 7
British archaeologists have found a new relic of the past to dismantle: a 1991 Ford Transit van. Three months of painstaking research has seen the light van broken up into hundreds of ‘finds’ and archived. Chosen to test techniques on “a common and characteristic part of contemporary life,” the vehicle was given to Bristol university by the Ironbridge museum in Shropshire. Everything from a Victorian threepenny bit, dropped down a crack in the floor of the van, to crude spot-welds have been scrutinised and recorded. “In many ways it has been like a conventional study in field archaeology,” said Cassie Newland, a doctoral student at Bristol who organised the project as a trial of
archaeology’s potential to help in the analysis of modern British society. Three separate layers within the van were then carefully excavated, yielding lost pencils, dog hair and confetti from a distant museum party. Fingerprint dusting proved that the Transit was one of Ford motor company’s first British vehicles made by robots — “a discovery reflecting a huge social change in employment,” said Ms Newland. All finds are to be reported in British Archaeology magazine and other data on the Transit, one of only 191 surviving models of its type and year, will be kept at Bristol for future study. Ms Newland said: “Archaeology concerns the interpretation of material culture in pursuit of understanding. That material can be van just as a prehistoric ditch or settlement.”
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
BNP ballerina defies rising clamour to sack her
I know I’m right, dancer named by Guardian says English National Ballet faces calls for dismissal
Officials from the English National Ballet faced calls to sack one of their leading dancers yesterday after Simone Clarke defied criticism and gave a detailed interview defending her support for the British National party. Two weeks after she was named by the Guardian as a card-carrying member of the far right group, the ballerina hit out at her critics, voicing her belief that the BNP seemed to be the only party “willing to take a stand” against immigration. She claimed that her boyfriend Yat Sen-Chang, who is also an acclaimed lead dancer, encouraged her to join the BNP. SenChang is of Chinese-Cuban extraction. Clarke, 36, who will take the lead in the ENB’s production of Giselle at the London Coliseum next week, said she had been called a “racist and a fascist” since her decision to join the BNP 18 months ago became public. One report claimed that following the Guardian’s revelations, fellow dancers confronted her before a matinee performance of The Nutcracker. But she said: “I’ve never been clearer in my head that I’m moving in the right direction and at the right time. I’ve had nearly 300 emails supporting me from all over the UK and from as far away as Australia, America and New Zealand.” She told the Mail on Sunday: “Everything will be different now. I will be known as the BNP Ballerina. I think that will stick with me for life.” But she added: “I don’t regret anything. I will stay a member.” The interview has caused fresh difficulties for the ENB, which was able to deflect criticism about Clarke’s BNP membership by insisting that her stance was an entirely private one. The company, which is publicly funded and is therefore obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations, will be asked to explain how one of its highest profile employees was able to use her position as a platform for the far right party. Her views and policies espoused by the BNP appear to conflict with equality policies that operate in the company itself and those laid down by Arts Council England, which subsidises the ENB to the tune of £6m a year. Its policy says funded organisations “must be aware of how their work contributes to race equality and promoting good race relations”. Prior to the interview, the ENB had said it hoped to talk to its dancer before deciding “what action to take”. Lee Jasper, equalities director for the mayor of London and chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism, said: “The ENB must seriously consider whether having such a vociferous member of an avowedly racist party in such a prominent role is compatible with the ethics of its organisation. I seriously doubt for Racial Equality, which polices race relations legislation, said it was monitoring events. “We will be interested to see what action the ENB takes given that it has a member expressing such views in public.” An ENB spokeswoman said the company was not yet in a position to comment. Clarke’s membership became public in reports by Guardian reporter Ian Cobain, who used a pseudonym to join the far right party and was quickly selected to become its central London organiser. During his seven months undercover, Clarke told him that immigration “has really got out of hand”. She told the Mail on Sunday how she travelled to London from her home in Leeds aged 10 to begin her training at the Royal Ballet School after winning one of 23 places sought by 4,500 entrants.
‘I will be known as the BNP Ballerina. That will stick with me for life’
‘Her position should be immediately reviewed. She should be sacked’
‘This will taint the ENB in the eyes of many minority communities’
Her conversion to the far right was prompted by watching the television news and then reading the BNP manifesto. “I am not too proud to say that a lot of it went over my head but some of the things they mentioned were the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes. I paid my £25 there and then,” she said. She protested that it is “really silly” to point to her partner’s non-English origins, adding: “It is not about removing foreigners. It’s about border controls.” Nine of her 10 principal dancers at the ENB are immigrants and she suggested that this may have muted the internal response, adding: “There are a lot of foreign dancers who have probably never even heard of the BNP.” ‘I don’t regret anything.’ Simone Clarke performing in Westminster Abbey in 2005 Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA guardian.co.uk/farright ≥
that it is and that should lead to her position being immediately reviewed. I think she should be sacked.” He called on funders and David Lammy, the arts mnister, to intervene. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said people had a right to their private political views but added: “This will taint the ENB in the eyes of many minority communities. Questions need to be asked about how someone in that position can be allowed to abuse that
position to promote the BNP.” Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham in east London, where the BNP forms the official opposition on the council, said: “We need to know how these statements square with the more laudable positions taken by the ENB and other leading arts organisations. What she completely ignores is the underbelly of the BNP in terms of the violence, the physical attacks and the criminality of many of its supporters.” A spokeswoman for the Commission
Doctors claim study on patient choice suppressed
John Carvel Social affairs editor
The Department of Health appears to have removed a research report from its website because the findings would have discredited the government’s programme aimed at giving NHS patients more choice, doctors’ leaders claimed last night. The research, commissioned by the department, found that people did not want to have to select a hospital while they were seriously ill, preferring such decisions to be made by a trusted GP. It said there was no evidence that greater choice would improve quality of care, and good reason to fear it would benefit only the wealthy and articulate. The British Medical Association took copies of a summary of the research that appeared on the department’s website last month under the department’s official logo. It made them available to the Guardian after the online version disappeared. The study was commissioned in 2004 by the health department’s research arm, the NHS service delivery and organisation R&D programme. Its summary found that patients wanted better information about treatment options but thought they were given too little information to be able to exercise choice effectively. But a department spokesman said: “The views they came up with were not those of the [department] and the logo was used without our permission. We raised the issue of the logo and asked for it to be removed. We were not aware that they would take the whole thing off.” Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, insists patients using NHS services desire more choice in how and where they are treated has insisted over the past year that patients want more choice. By 2008, patients needing non-emergency treatment will be entitled to choose any NHS hospital in England and any private hospital that meets NHS standards. But according to the commissioned study, by researchers at Manchester and Cardiff universities: “Most severely ill patients face complex treatment options and prefer decisions to be made on their behalf by a well-informed and trusted health professional. Evidence that patients want the opportunity to select a distant hospital for non-urgent surgery is limited to situations where [they] face a long wait for a local hospital appointment and where there is a history of poor service.” Their summary said: “Wealthy and educated populations will be the main beneficiaries of a policy of extending patient choice, unless measures are introduced to help disadvantaged groups.” Hamish Meldrum, the BMA’s GP chairman, said: “The paper supports a lot of what doctors knew instinctively about patients and choice. At times when patients’ needs are not particularly urgent they may appreciate choice … in an emergency, patients tend to want to go where their doctor recommends.” The department spokesman said a full version of the research was published a year ago. “The summary paper reflected the personal view of the researcher and did not present a balanced summary of the actual research, which does not find that offering choice is misguided.” SocietyGuardian.co.uk/health ≥
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Accident Teenager dies in stolen car veering off road
The driver of a stolen car died in a crash in Cambridge just after 5am yesterday. A second man and a woman were hurt. Police said the stolen grey Vauxhall Nova left the road shortly after officers in a marked patrol car attempted to stop it. It was not clear whether the car was being chased when it crashed. “When signalled to stop by police officers the Nova is believed to have driven off at speed ... crashing a few moments later,” police said. The occupants were thought to be all teenagers. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate. Press Association
Science Gene that doubles breast cancer risk is identified
Scientists have found a gene that doubles a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, if damaged. The gene, PALB2, has also been implicated in a newly identified disorder that causes tumours in children. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and around 44,000 women are diagnosed each year. The Institute of Cancer Research estimates that faults in the PALB2 gene contribute to around 100 cases of breast cancer in the UK each year. One of the 10 breast cancer cases identified as being linked to PALB2 was a male breast cancer. Around 300 cases are diagnosed each year. Alok Jha
Transport Strike forces rail operator to cancel most services
Hundreds of senior train conductors began a second wave of strike action yesterday, forcing Central Trains to cancel more than half of its services. The Birminghambased operator said it was running around 400 of its 1,200 services planned for New Year's Eve and would restrict services to “key routes" on New Year's Day. The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it expected solid support from its members for the 48-hour strike, which follows a 24hour stoppage on Christmas Eve. The dispute is over pay for working on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and the introduction of a computerised rostering system.
Courts George Michael charged with being unfit to drive
Pop star George Michael has been charged with being unfit to drive after an incident in which he was found passed out in his car, police said yesterday. The singer will appear at Brent magistrates court in London on January 11 after he was arrested in north London in October. Michael, 43, was found by officers after motorists dialled 999 to report his car was causing an obstruction at traffic lights in Cricklewood. He was arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive and for possession of what was believed to be cannabis. The singer was taken to hospital before being cautioned. Press Association
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Fire at flats kills two in Scottish fishing town
Two people were found dead yesterday after a fire at a four-storey tenement in Fraserburgh, a fishing town in the northeast of Scotland. Emergency services received a call about the fire at midday. Three men and a woman were rescued from the block of flats by Grampian fire and rescue service and were taken to hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation. Grampian police said: “We can confirm two bodies have been found within the scene. Inquiries are at an early stage and no details of identity will be released at this time." Press Association
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Parents could be paid to get their children to cycle to school rather than take the bus, under plans to tackle obesity in government guidance to councils piloting school transport schemes. The guidance said the proposals would improve school transport, cut congestion and encourage children to lead more active lives. But parents' groups raised concerns about the safety of children cycling up to three miles to school each day, and said that the payments would “send the wrong message”. Government figures show that more than a million children will be obese by 2010. Press Association
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McKellen and council cross swords over plaque
The tussle between Gandalf (aka Sir Ian McKellen) and Burnley borough council intensified yesterday when the Lancashire town produced a birth certificate to defend its siting of a commemorative birthplace plaque for the actor. Last week Sir Ian said he was not born at the site, 25 Scott Park Road, Burnley, which attracts many Lord of the Rings pilgrims. His claim that the council got it wrong has now gone back to court, with a 1939 certificate giving the address as the birthplace of one Ian Murray McKellen. Sir Ian has given Burnley hospital as the place of his arrival. Martin Wainwright
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Stern jobs warning as Bulgaria and Romania join EU
Workers face £1,000 fines if they breach restrictions Visitors will have access to free NHS treatment
Patrick Wintour Daniel McLaughlin Bucharest
People from Romania and Bulgaria, which join the EU today, were given a stern warning by the Home Office yesterday that they would face £1,000 on-the-spot fines if they breached the restrictions that prevent their working except in some seasonal agricultural work and a small number of highly skilled jobs. But the Department of Health confirmed that, in common with other citizens of EU member states, all Romanians and Bulgarians will have access to free NHS treatment while visiting Britain. Previously visitors from the two countries had needed a visa. A health department circular a fortnight ago stated that Romanians and Bulgarians were to get free health treatment in line with other EU member states and would need to show their passport to gain medical assistance. However, elective treatment and any treatment for pre-existing conditions that could be dealt with in their home state would be excluded. It is the first time that Britain has imposed labour market restrictions on citizens from an EU member state. It follows intense cabinet debate on the “political dangers” of allowing Romanians and Bulgarians to seek work. The two have a combined population of about 30 million. Only Ireland has so far followed suit with similar restrictions. The government underestimated the number of citizens it thought would come to Britain for work in the first wave of eastern European accession states in 2004, and how many would elect to work here before its door closed, at least temporarily. The Romanian prime minister, Calin Tariceanu, drank a toast at midnight with counterparts from several other European states and top EU officials. The Romanian president, Traian Basescu, marked the arrival of 2007 in Bucharest’s University Square, which has been a traditional centre of the city’s new year celebrations since the revolution of 1989 which toppled Nicolae Ceausescu. In Transylvania, the medieval city of Sibiu celebrated the start of its year as a European capital of culture. The average Bulgarian earns £130 a month. The populations of the two countries make up the poorest in the EU. Poles were fleeing up to 20% unemployment at home, but the economies of Romania and Bulgaria have been booming. The number in thousands of lowskilled Bulgarians and Romanians gaining the right to six months’ farm work in the UK
A man buys a European flag from a street vendor in Sofia Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
for an extended time. It is still not sure what the longterm impact of the cheap labour might be on inflation and employment in the UK. Ministers are allowing up to 20,000 low-skilled Bulgarians and Romanians a right to six months’ employment in agriculture — work previously undertaken largely by Ukrainians. Otherwise they will have to seek work permits for specific highly skilled jobs, or where there are
specific jobs for which no UK applicants are available. A worry for the government is whether these rules will be widely breached. In Bucharest, on the eve of joining the EU, most people dismissed predictions of an exodus of young talent to Britain or other EU states, saying instead they wanted to make the best of EU membership at home. “I want to stay here. If can’t make it at
home, I won’t make it anywhere,” said Razvan Popescu, a tourism student at the University of Bucharest. “I would like to stay here and make a business with European Union funds. We are not expecting a miracle — people know the EU is not a land of dreams.” Relief in Romania and Bulgaria at becoming the 26th and 27th members of the EU was palpable last night, as the countries’ leaders celebrated joining the bloc
Unemployment is low and labour shortages are leading firms to hire workers from China, Turkey, Ukraine and Moldova. “Most people who wanted to leave have already gone,” said Ionel Danca, chief editor of Romania’s Eurolider political magazine. “I don’t think we will see a big change now — in fact, many people might see opportunities here and come home after spending years abroad.” Mihail Arghiropol, who works for a Bucharest advertising firm, said that Romanians from poor, rural regions might head west, but he did not think there would be a brain drain. “The biggest mistake now would be to leave,” he said. “The market is saturated abroad and lots of multinationals are coming here. For us, the future is Romania.” guardian.co.uk/immigration ≥
Legal age for buying tobacco raised to 18 from October 1
Patrick Wintour Political editor
Under-18s will be banned from buying cigarettes in England and Wales from October 1, the public health minister Caroline Flint confirmed yesterday. In Scotland the ban comes into force in March. Shops that break the new laws could lose their licence to sell tobacco for as long as a year. Lifting the legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18 brings the law into line with rules on the sale of alcohol. A ban on smoking in enclosed public places comes into effect on July 1, with ministers setting aside £29.5m for local authorities to enforce the law. A council such as Manchester will receive £263,000. Smoking will be banned from NHS and government buildings from today. The move came as Hazel Blears, the Labour chair, admitted that the loosening of the licensing laws would not halt Britain’s drinking culture. She suggested Britons enjoy getting drunk because they enjoy risk-taking. “I don't know whether we'll ever get to be in a European drinking culture, where you go out and have a single glass of wine. Maybe it's our Anglo-Saxon mentality." She was Home Office minister when the drinking hours were introduced in 2005. Anti-smoking campaigners welcomed lifting the legal age for buying cigarettes. Government statistics show that 9% of young people aged 11 to 15 smoke, down from 13% in 1996. Most buy cigarettes from small corner shops. A trading standards survey in 2005 found that 12% of shops were willing to sell tobacco to children clearly under 16. Ms Flint said: “Smoking is dangerous at any age, but the younger people start, the more likely they are to become lifelong smokers and to die early. “Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late 20s. Buying cigarettes has been too easy for under-16s, and this is partly due to retailers selling tobacco to those under the legal age. Deborah Arnott, director of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), welcomed the change but said the current fines on retailers were pitiful, with most given a verbal warning. Only 23% of under-16s trying to buy tobacco found it difficult to do so, according to a previous Department of Health study. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which represents around 32,500 shops, called on the government to invest heavily in a campaign to explain the change to consumers. guardian.co.uk/smoking ≥
Tories ‘party of working people’
The Tories are to make an audacious bid to show they are the party of working people by looking at measures to help the poor rise up the social ladder. David Cameron said yesterday: “We must show that unlike Labour, we will be a party that is for working people, not rich and powerful vested interests.” He has also asked shadow home secretary David Davis to head a new Conservative taskforce to look at ways of ending the slowdown in social mobility that has occured under the Labour government. The move, part of an attempt to show the Tories are no longer simply the mouthpiece of big business also follows the recent Tory assertion that relative and not just absolute poverty must be cut. Mr Davis’s taskforce, appointed by Mr Cameron, will be separate from the work being undertaken by the social justice policy commission headed by Iain DuncanSmith. It underlines the extent to which Mr Cameron is going to face a formidable challenge next year in marrying the conflicting polices likely to emerge from his various working groups in the autumn. Mr Davis has been chosen to lead the taskforce partly since he himself symbolises the value of meritocracy. He was raised on a council estate and went to a comprehensive school before developing a successful business career. Leader comment, page 22≥
Are you really too sick to work? The rise of ‘party flu’ g2, page 3
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Lost tape could be Hendrix version of Welsh anthem
He famously played his own screeching version of the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock but it has emerged that Jimi Hendrix may also have had a bash at another national anthem: the Welsh one. The version of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Land of My Fathers, was discovered on the end of a dusty eight-track tape which had languished for years in a forgotten tea chest in a north London recording studio. Experts believe the ear-rattling rendition may be Hendrix as the track appears on the end of a recording by a group which features a friend of his. He is believed to have been in London when the tape was made. And it does sound rather like him. The recording was found when Dave Chapman, a producer, was sorting tapes discovered at the studio on Crouch Hill. Most turned out to be unremarkable demos by little known bands but at the end of a recording of a group called the New Flames, a wild, distorted version of the Welsh anthem screamed out. Mr Chapman had left the control room, thinking the New Flames recording was over. But he had left the door open and suddenly heard Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau belting out. Friends said it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. A little detective work established that the New Flames' bass player, Viv Williams, had known Hendrix well and lived round the corner from the studio. The recording’s owner, Martin Davies, a record producer and writer, said he was keen to establish if it was by Hendrix. It may be particularly valuable because it would be among the last recordings he made before he died in 1970, aged 27. Mr Davies said: “We would know exactly who made the recording if we could find Viv Williams. He must now be about 64 years old. If anyone knows his whereabouts, please let us know." The recording can be heard at www. thereddragonhood.com/pages/jimi.html
Jimi Hendrix: did he record Land of My Fathers? Photograph: Ray Stevenson/Retna
No religion and an end to war: how thinkers see the future
Alok Jha Science correspondent
People’s fascination for religion and superstition will disappear within a few decades as television and the internet make it easier to get information, and scientists get closer to discovering a final theory of everything, leading thinkers argue today. The web magazine Edge (www. Edge.org) asked more than 150 scientists and intellectuals: “What are you optimistic about?” Answers included hope for an extended human life span, a bright future for autistic children, and an end to violent conflicts around the world. Philosopher Daniel Denett believes that within 25 years religion will command little of the awe it seems to instil today. The spread of information through the internet and mobile phones will “gently, irresistibly, undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and intolerance”. Biologist Richard Dawkins said that physicists would give religion another problem: a theory of everything that would complete Albert Einstein’s dream of unifying the fundamental laws of physics. “This final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue death blow to religion and other juvenile superstitions.” Part of that final theory will be formulated by scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator at Cern in Geneva, which is to be switched on this year. It will smash protons together to help scientists understand what makes up the most fundamental bits of the universe. Leading thinkers argue that people’s fascination with superstition — and religion — will disappear within a few decades Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University, highlighted the decline of violence: “Most people, sickened by the bloody history of the 20th century, find this claim incredible. Yet, as far as I know, every systematic attempt to document the prevalence of violence over centuries and millennia (and, for that matter, the past 50 years), particularly in the west, has shown the overall trend is downward.” John Horgan, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey, was optimistic “that one day war — large-scale, organised group violence — will end once and for all”. This will also be the year that we get to grips with our genomes. George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, believes we will learn “so much more about ourselves and how we interact with our environment and fellow humans”. Simon Baron-Cohen, a psychologist at Cambridge University, focused on autistic children, saying their outlook had never been better. “There is a remarkably good fit between the autistic mind and the digital age,” he said. “Many develop an intuitive understanding of computers, in the same way other children develop an intuitive understanding of people.” Leo Chalupa, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Davis, predicted that, by the middle of this century, it would not be uncommon for people to lead active lives well beyond the age of 100. He added: “We will be able to regenerate parts of the brain that have been worn out. So better start thinking what you’ll be doing with all those extra years.”
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Law Writ large New law lord took defiant stand on torture evidence
ad it been the US supreme court, it would have been front page news and he would have become a household name. But as we’re talking about our own top court his appointment has been announced with a minimum of publicity. There is a new law lord, David Neuberger, whose appointment will be much welcomed in civil liberties circles, mainly for a judgment he gave in 2004, when he was in the court of appeal. The issue was whether evidence obtained by torture could be taken into account by the home secretary to detain suspected terrorists. Two of the three appeal judges said yes. The third, Neuberger, took an impassioned stand against the majority. He said that “democratic societies, faced with terrorist
threats, should not readily accept that the threat justifies the use of torture, or that the end justifies the means. It can be said that, by using torture, or even by adopting the fruits of torture, a democratic state is weakening its case against terrorists by adopting their methods, thereby losing the moral high ground an open democratic society enjoys.” On a less serious note, I can safely say that Neuberger is the first law lord in history to have a sister-in-law who is both a rabbi and a member of the house of lords, Baroness (Julia) Neuberger. There is only a month left for budding QCs to send in their applications and they are going to need every moment (plus just under £3,000 for the privilege of being allowed to apply). It’s just possible that there exists, somewhere in the world, an application form longer than the 118 pages they need to complete
(the guidance on how to fill it in takes 16 pages). But I cannot believe that anyone else seeking advancement has to provide so many referees. Twenty-four of them. But not just any old 24. Twelve of them have to be judges or arbitrators; six practitioners and six clients. But just to introduce a touch of lottery about the process, only nine of the 24 will actually be asked to give their opinions to the selection committee; how the lucky nine will be chosen is a mystery. I mention these procedures in order to ask: is this not making the QC contest an absurdity? For heaven’s sake, it’s not even a job these people want, only the right to put two letters after their names and earn a lot more money as a result. It almost (but not quite) makes you wish for the good old days when QCs were chosen because someone had whispered to the lord chancellor that they were good chaps, not too bad at their work.
What awaits our legal ministers in 2007? Gordon Brown, of course, but how will he shuffle his pack of lawyers? There’s a general feeling that Tony Blair’s friend Charlie Falconer will not survive as lord chancellor and chief of the Department for Constitutional Affairs. For the first time, according to the recent, controversial Constitutional Reform Act, the lord chancellor will no longer have to be a lawyer, nor indeed a member of the House of Lords. Will Mr Brown have the courage to give the most ancient and glittering office in the land, once held by Thomas More, to an ambitious party apparatchik who may, in his or her past life have been — an anguished gulp from the lawyers — a teacher, social worker or local authority official? I think not, and here’s a way out for him. Make Lord Goldsmith the lord chancellor and DCA boss, and Harriet Harman the attorney general.
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Compensation warning over forcing workers to retire at 65
Clare Dyer Legal editor
Lawyers are warning employers that they could face compensation claims if they force workers to retire at 65 — even though compulsory retirement at that age is lawful under UK legislation. Legal experts expect employment tribunals to “bank” any claims by employees made to retire at 65 against their will, pending the outcome of a challenge to the mandatory retirement age at the European court of justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg. The ruling could take as long as two years but if the challenge succeeds, unfair dismissal and age discrimination claims are likely to be allowed to go ahead as long as the employee filed the claim within three months of being made to retire. The UK was required by an EU directive to bring in regulations, which came into force last October, banning discrimination against workers on the grounds of age. Employees can ask to stay on after 65 and employers have an obligation to consider the request in good faith but have the right to turn it down without a reason. Heyday, a sister organisation to Age Concern, launched a high court challenge to the rules, arguing that by keeping the mandatory retirement age ministers had failed to implement the directive properly. The government agreed to allow the question to go straight to the European court for a definitive answer. If the court agrees with Heyday it will mean the regulations were wrong all along and will open the way for compensation claims from anyone forced to retire at 65 Proportion of the 56,000 surveyed by Heyday, backed by Age Concern, who said they would like to carry on working after 65
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since October 1 2006. With people living longer and healthier lives but with the prospect of smaller than expected pensions, the numbers wanting to stay on could be large. When Heyday surveyed more than 56,000 people in their 50s and 60s, 58% said they would like to be able to work after the state pension age. One in four said they had already been forced into retirement by their employer. Employers will be able to avoid claims if they can produce a good reason other than age for making a worker retire, but this may not be easy. Some businesses are considering abandoning the compulsory retirement age, according to Nabarro Nathanson, a City employment law firm. Its latest briefing on age discrimination for clients warns: “Employers should review retirement policies and related decision-making procedures. To maintain a compulsory fixed retirement age could lead to a long period of uncertainty and a large number of potential claims. “On the other hand, to attempt to justify each retirement on objective grounds is a complex process, which many employers had hoped to avoid … In the face of such uncertainty, some businesses are now considering abandoning a compulsory retirement age altogether.” Sue Ashtiany, head of the firm's employment group and a discrimination law expert, said: “I'm advising employers that if they make people retire at 65, they'd better have a good objective reason for doing so other than the age itself.”
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Eyewitness 00.10am 01.01.07 London
In with the new Fireworks explode above the London Eye in central London this morning to mark the beginning of 2007. The display, now a traditional part of the capital’s revels, rivalled celebrations across the globe and was largely unaffected by poor weather that hit the rest of the UK. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007 Foreign editor: Harriet Sherwood Telephone: 020-7239 9549 Fax: 020-7239 9787 Email: email@example.com
Series of bombs in Bangkok kill two and injure at least 30
Britons among those wounded in blasts Motive unclear as police impose security lockdown
Jonathan Watts Bangkok Associated Press
A volley of nine bombs shattered year-end celebrations in Bangkok last night, killing two people and wounding at least 34, including two Britons. Six near-simultaneous bombs at various points across the capital in the early evening were followed by three explosions shortly before midnight at Central World Plaza, a chic shopping mall with designer stores popular with expatriates. The location was close to where the main countdown celebration for New Year had been due to take place before officials called it off. The injured Britons were named as Alistair Graham, 47, and Paul Hewitt, 55. Mr Hewitt told the Guardian he had been hailing a taxi when an explosion ripped across the street. “There was a huge flash and then I saw blood pouring out of my arm,” he said. “Funnily enough I didn’t feel anything.” Neither was seriously hurt. The other injured foreigners were a Hungarian, an American and two Serbs. Such episodes are a rarity in Bangkok, though the blasts came at the end of a year of unrest in Thailand, including a military coup that ousted the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, three months ago and an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency in the south of the country. Nobody claimed responsibility for the blasts, which sparked a big security clampdown across the city after the first bombings. At least five of the first six bombs were detonated by timers within a 15-minute period in areas of the city not normally frequented by foreigners. The bombs, some stuffed with nails, wounded about 20 people seriously while the rest returned home after treatment at hospitals, said the health minister, Mongkol Na Songkhla. The final three bombs, left in bags at the side of the road, went off close to midnight in a more touristy part of the city. A 10th device was found unexploded in a hotel toilet. An eyewitness, Klaudiya Tus, 32, from Croatia, said: “We were sitting in a restaurant, we heard a bang and we thought it was fireworks because it was just about midnight. But then a lady came running and said ‘It’s a bomb, it’s a bomb, it’s a bomb, run’. So we fled. It was very scary, everyone was jumping on top of each other, then we saw people with blood on their faces running out.” An investigation was launched, but the national deputy police chief, General Ajirawit Suphanaphesat, said separatist insurgents were probably not behind the attacks. Apirak Kosayothin, Bangkok’s mayor, expressed shock at the extent of the attacks and cancelled the city’s two big public New Year’s Eve countdown celebrations and other smaller ones. A receptionist at the Saxophone bar near the Victory Monument, another target of the bombings said: “I heard a loud explosion and I thought it was fireworks. I ran there and saw a bleeding woman at Thailand’s prime minister General Surayud Chulanont visiting people injured in the series of bomb blasts yesterday the bus stop,” said Somrak Manphothong. Police cordoned off bus stops in the area. At a vegetable market in the Klong Toey slum, where another bomb had exploded, a pool of blood and egg yolks covered the roadside next to an overturned motorcycle. Hotels stepped up security, searching cars on their premises, and some cancelled their expensive New Year’s Eve dinners. A big public celebration was also called off in the northern city of Chiang Mai. “It is not worth risking,” said Major General Bandop Sukhonthaman, the provincial police chief. Police and soldiers with assault rifles guarded some entertainment venues, subway and light railway stations and busy roundabouts. Roadblocks were erected on some streets. The nationals of several embassies were advised through websites to avoid Bangkok’s city centre, with the British embassy urging Britons “not to travel into
‘I feel very anxious and apprehensive’
Paul Hewitt, 55, a retired airline employee from West Sussex, was one of two Britons injured in the bombings. He told the Guardian how the last few minutes of 2006 were the most eventful of his year “I was at a party at the Amari Watergate hotel and had left and was trying to hail a taxi when almost exactly as the clock struck new year there was an explosion on the other side of the road. “It all happened so suddenly; there was a huge flash and then I saw blood pouring out of my arm. Funnily enough, I didn’t feel anything. The police told me the bomb may have been in a telephone kiosk or a car, but they are not sure. The hospital are looking after me well. They have found a piece of shrapnel in my left arm. “I arrived here in November, a few months after retiring. I came here to enjoy life and on January 3 I was going to go to Krabi and then later Australia, but I’m not sure now. “I feel very anxious and apprehensive. I’m not sure what’s going on in Bangkok. I have always considered Thailand to be one of the safest countries, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Let’s just say it was a bad end to last year and I’m hoping for a better start to the new one.” Jonathan Watts
Thai bomb experts inspect the scene of one of the bomb blasts at a bus stop near the Victory Monument in central Bangkok Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA
the city until further notice”. But one Briton ,Keith Waters, said: “No, I’m not scared. I’m from England. There are bomb scares all the time.” He nevertheless expressed disappointment since he had been looking forward to ringing in his first new year with his Thai wife. Bangkok has been largely insulated from the violence in southern Thailand that has claimed 1,200 lives in the past three years. But several small explosives were set off during recent political turmoil in an apparent attempt to create a sense of instability, not to cause casualties. Mr Thaksin still has widespread support, and a number of arson attacks in provincial areas have been blamed on his followers. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said: “There are two suspects: Muslim insurgents and Thaksin’s residual power. I tend to think it’s residual power. I suspect the previous regime. The coup was not done right. If there had to be a coup, they had to put away Thaksin and his cronies.”
Rallies across Spain condemn violence after airport bombing by Eta leaves two missing
Dale Fuchs Madrid
Thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Spain yesterday as rescuers searched for two people missing after the Basque separatist group Eta exploded a 500kg bomb at Madrid airport, ending a nine-month-old ceasefire. “Eta has chosen the worst path, which only has one end — jail,” said the governing Socialist party spokesman, José Blanco, after a moment of silence in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. “Events like yesterday show yet again that all Eta wants to do is kill,” Francisco José Alcaraz, president of an association of victims of Eta violence, told Associated Press. Spain’s prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, called off talks with Eta following Saturday’s attack in the car park of the airport’s new terminal, ending the ceasefire that had stirred hopes of a peaceful solution to the Basque separatist conflict, in which Eta has claimed responsibility for taking 800 or so lives over the years. “Today’s step is the most mistaken and useless that the terrorists could take,” Mr Zapatero said at a press conference. However, his ambiguous words were interpreted by many observers to mean the door had not been shut completely on negotiations. Two people were reported missing and about 20 others were injured in the blast at 9am, which destroyed five stories of the carpark and caused chaos at the airport, which was filled with thousands of New Year travellers. Passengers were evacuated after Eta gave three warning calls indicating the bomb’s location and timing. Arnaldo Otegi, leader of Eta’s political arm, the banned party Batasuna, blamed the return to violence on the government’s failure to make a single gesture of good faith, such as moving jailed Eta members, now dispersed throughout the country, to Basque prisons. “There has not been one gesture from the government,” Mr Otegi said. He added that “Zapatero even bragged that he conceded less than Aznar”, referring to the failed peace talk in 1998 under the then conservative prime minister, José María Aznar. An editorial in La Vanguardia yesterday accused Batasuna of ensuring failure of the process by refusing to renounce violence: “What Otgei and his partners should know is that the only obstacle to peace for the last nine months is, precisely, its refusal to condemn violence as a condition for talks with the government.” Mr Zapatero had expressed optimism about the peace process despite escalating street violence and mounting warnings from Eta and sympathisers that negotiations were floundering. In his yearend address on Friday he even predicted progess. “In one year we will be better than today,” he said. But last week police discovered a stash of weapons, and in October Eta members were accused of stealing 350 pistols, a sign that the group was rearming. After the bombing, the conservative opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, repeated calls to end the “ill-named peace process” with the Eta “assassins”. He accused Eta of using the ceasefire as a ploy to reorganise, with hundreds of its members in jail and its financial network crippled. The only solution to the conflict, Mr Rajoy argued, was police action. guardian.co.uk/spain ≥
Spaniard, 67, becomes oldest new mother with birth of twins
Dale Fuchs Madrid
A 67-year-old woman who gave birth to twins in a Barcelona hospital at the weekend, becoming the oldest new mother in the world, is expected to leave hospital in the next couple of days after the normal recuperation time for a caesarean birth, a hospital spokesman said yesterday. The woman and her sons are in good health after a smooth delivery, said a spokeswoman for the Sant Pau hospital. The hospital would not reveal the woman’s name or other personal information, but the newspaper La Vanguardia yesterday said that she had had in-vitro fertilisation treatment in the US. Other reports said she had received the treatment in Latin America. The twins were placed in an incubator, the newspaper added. The woman, who comes from Andalucía, had been pregnant for the first time. She gave birth at the Barcelona centre because it specialises in high-risk deliveries, a term that usually refers to pregnant teenagers, or women who suffer an illness, the hospital spokeswoman told the Guardian. She is expected to be discharged tomorrow or Wednesday. The oldest woman in Britain to have had a baby is Patricia Rashbrook, a 63year-old child psychiatrist, who gave birth to a 6lb 10oz boy this summer after receiving in-vitro treatments in eastern Europe. That pregnancy provoked criticism from groups who said she was too old to raise a child. A retired university professor in Romania, Adriana Iliescu, gave birth to a daughter at the age of 66, in 2006. She was thought to be the world’s oldest mother until this weekend’s arrival. In 2003, a teacher in India had a baby boy at the age of 65. Clinics in the UK and many other countries will not help women conceive after a certain age in the belief that it is unfair to the child. But many people argue that men and women are living longer and remain more physically fit than people of previous generations. Some women hide their age to qualify for fertility help. To get treatment, a 60year-old British woman, who gave birth to a son in 1997, told a UK fertility clinic she was 49. Many couples solve the problem by going to countries where the rules are less strict, a practice now known as “fertility tourism”. British authorities have warned couples that some clinics abroad allow practices banned in the UK, such as implanting five embryos at once. The mature mothers join other controversies over reproductive techniques, such as the selection of embryos to save a sibling who is ill. The Spanish government passed a law this spring to allow the technique in extreme cases, and the first three families were recently given approval to start treatments. guardian.co.uk/spain ≥
Protesters in Madrid after Eta’s attack
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Italy puts froth back into cappuccino
Patients die as Sicilian mafia buys into the hospital service
Tom Kington Rome
A wave of deaths in Sicilian hospitals has highlighted a crisis in the island’s health service, linked by a senior politician to the draining of public funds by the mafia. Three suspicious deaths of patients in three days over Christmas have raised alarm. A 78-year-old woman died of a heart attack in a Palermo emergency ward on December 28 after waiting four hours to be seen. The ward has no triage, or system for prioritising patients. Earlier, a pregnant woman delivered a stillborn child after doctors declined to carry out a caesarean section, while the parents of a newborn son who died in hospital have accused doctors of malpractice. “Cosa Nostra is investing heavily in private health centres in Sicily which are subsidised by the state,” said Francesco Forgione, the head of Italy’s parliamentary anti-mafia commission. After drug trafficking, the control of public and private contracting is the second most lucrative activity for organised crime in Italy, amounting to a turnover of about €17.5bn (£11.8bn), of which the Sicilian mafia is responsible for €6.5bn. Sicily has about 1,800 private health centres compared with 150 in the rich northern region of Lombardy, said Mr Forgione. Such clinics offer government-subsidised services in order to reduce the workload for public hospitals. “But that has diverted funds from public hospitals, which are falling into a state of disrepair,” he said. “Sicily is the first region in Italy
Italians are trying to preserve the perfect cappuccino, an important part of the country’s ‘national gastronomic culture’ Photograph: Matthew Klein/Corbis
Tom Kington Rome
In a fightback against the global spread of super-sized frappuccinos and iced cappuccinos, Italy has certified what it considers the classic cappuccino. In a snub to the Starbucks-driven craze for loading gallons of hot frothy coffee-flavoured liquid into cardboard pots, Italy’s National Institute for Italian Espresso is defending the traditional squirt of steamed milk over a shot of espresso that is knocked back by millions of Italians every morning at zinctopped bars up and down the country. The newly certified milky coffee, weighing in at only 150 ml and served in a ceramic cup, was offered to MPs and ministers at a Christmas event sponsored by the Italian parliamentary culture commission. The institute has already given a government-backed certification to the perfect espresso coffee and yesterday the organisation’s president, Marco Paladini,
Italians are very proud of their traditional coffee, and even have a National Institute for Italian Espresso. Use the following recipe to make your own perfect cup. Ingredients 125ml milk, no warmer than 3-5C, containing a minimum of 3.2% protein and 3.5% fat 25ml shot of hot espresso coffee Directions Add coffee to a 150-160ml capacity ceramic cup Froth milk with steam to a temperature of 55C, and add to cup Add sugar and stir gently
stood up for the beleaguered cappuccino, promising “to protect this important expression of our national gastronomic culture... A great success abroad, but not always made with adequate sensory quality”, the newspaper Il Giornale quoted him as saying. More froth than liquid, the Italian cappuccino can be swallowed in seconds, and according to purists should leave a smear of milk on the inside of the cup. Stirring the beverage to mix the milk with the coffee that lurks in the bottom should not produce an overall brown colour, but streaks of coffee in the pure white foam. A white moustache is de rigueur after drinking. According to many Italians, the light brown colour is similar to that of the robes worn by Italy’s Capuchin monks, hence the name, while others credit Capuchin monk Marco D’Aviano with the invention of the drink, after he discovered a sack of coffee captured from the Ottomans during the battle of Vienna in 1683. D’Aviano was beatified in 2003 for
his missionary work and miraculous power of healing. There is no debate over when a cappuccino is drunk. Italians line up every morning in bars before steaming, shiny coffee machines to gulp down their coffee, possibly returning for a another cappuccino after a late night. One allowed variant is the caffelatte, usually served in a tall glass, with extra milk added. Only tourists take a cappuccino or caffelatte after lunch, as Italians believe the milk plays havoc with digestion. Nescafé may be making inroads in Italy through advertising of its instant granules, but Starbucks and other global coffee chains have yet to set foot in the bel paese. And if they did, they might find their margins shrinking. An average cappuccino, drunk standing up at a bar in Rome, costs around 78 pence, an espresso 47 pence — although prices may rise by 100% if the drinker takes a seat and waits to be served. guardian.co.uk/italy ≥
The Mafia’s turnover in public and private contracting in Sicily alone. In the whole of Italy the figure is €17.5bn
Mugabe attempts to close last remaining newspaper opponents
Andrew Meldrum Johannesburg
Robert Mugabe’s government has moved to close Zimbabwe’s remaining independent press by stripping newspaper owner Trevor Ncube of his citizenship. The action against the publisher comes as Mr Mugabe, 82 and president for 26 years, pushes for an extension to his term of office by a further two years. Frustrated by unprecedented resistance from within his Zanu-PF party, he appears to be trying to silence all of his critics. Yesterday an outspoken opponent, Lovemore Madhuku, accused the police of failing to investigate a fire at his home, which he said was arson. “It is very clear that the government is trying to silence all critical voices, including Trevor Ncube and his newspapers, and me. We are all opposed to Mugabe’s attempts to extend his rule to 2010,” said Madhuku, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. Senior government officials said Mr Ncube, the publisher of two weeklies, the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard, was not entitled to Zimbabwean citizenship because his father was Zambian. Zimbabwe’s strict media laws require newspapers to be owned by Zimbabwean citizens. If the Mugabe government succeeds in withdrawing Mr Ncube’s citizenship, it is expected to swiftly close his two papers, which are staunch critics of Mr Mugabe’s policies. Mr Ncube told the Guardian yesterday that he would go to court to retain his citizenship: “I am a Zimbabwean. I was born and bred in Zimbabwe and I have no other citizenship. “I am confident the courts will uphold my rights,” he said. Mr Ncube’s father was from Zambia but held Zimbabwean citizenship by the time his son was born, according to court papers. A year ago the government seized Mr Ncube’s passport but the courts ordered that it be returned to him. He publishes Zimbabwe’s last remaining privately owned newspapers. The government has closed down the Daily News and three other papers since 2003. Despite numerous arrests and threats of violence, the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard have continued to expose corruption and human rights abuses. Most recently Mr Ncube’s newspapers were the only publications to reveal that Mr Mugabe’s efforts to extend his rule until 2010 were rejected at the Zanu-PF party conference in mid-December.
for the financing of private health centres and the first for patient deaths.” Mr Forgione, who was appointed to head the anti-mafia commission by the centre-left government of Romano Prodi, has said that investigating mafia penetration of the health business will be a priority in Sicily and Calabria. In 2005 Francesco Fortugno, number two in the regional assembly, was murdered by the ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate while investigating the awarding of hospital contracts. In Sicily, the mafia is not only investing in private clinics but is also involved in steering public health contracts towards friendly companies, said Mr Forgione. “During the hunt for mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano it was even discovered that some Palermo neighbourhood bosses were themselves doctors or lawyers, part of a new mafia bourgeoisie.” Giuseppe Guttadauro, the jailed boss of Palermo’s Brancaccio district, was a high profile surgeon. Police listened in as Guttadauro discussed political appointments with the city’s public health assessor Domenico Miceli, himself a doctor. Miceli was in turn sentenced to eight years for mafia association in December. As the Sicilian mafia moves into low key businesses like healthcare, a more traditional Cosa Nostra calling card has however recently resurfaced in Sicily. A severed goat’s head was delivered to Rino Foschi, sport director of Palermo football club, on December 22, possibly as a protest against a clampdown on the free distribution of tickets to games. The city’s cultural assessor also received a goat’s head.
France 2006 was deadly year for journalists, says watchdog
At least 81 reporters were killed in 2006, the most for more than a decade, with Iraq again the deadliest place, the media watchdog Reporters without Borders said yesterday. In its annual report, the Parisbased group said 32 media assistants were also killed, at least 871 reporters arrested and at least 1,472 attacks or threats against the media registered around the world — a new record. It was the worst year for journalists since 1994, the year of the Rwandan genocide. For the fourth year running, Iraq claimed the highest number of deaths, with 39 journalists and 25 media assistants killed there. Reuters Paris
Indonesia Ferry survivors found but hundreds missing
Rescuers have found nearly 180 survivors from the ferry which sank in the Java sea last week, and say there is hope of dozens more — after life rafts were spotted with people in them. However, hundreds are still missing after the capsize around midnight on Friday. Helicopter crews dropped food and water to a group of 30 survivors drifting in lifeboats after heavy waves prevented rescuers getting close, said Hatta Radjasa, the transport minister. The 2,178-tonne ship, reported to be carrying 628 people and crew, was heading from Kalimantan, Borneo, to Semarang, Java. Reuters Rembang
Cuba Castro denies US claims that his health is failing
Fidel Castro has rebutted American claims about his health failing, saying his recovery was far from being a “lost battle”. In his traditional new year’s address, commemorating the 1959 revolution on the island, the 80-year-old Cuban leader (pictured in October) said in a statement read by a radio newsreader that he was grateful for the people’s “affection and support”. He added: “Regarding my recovery, I have always warned that it could be a prolonged process, but it is far from being a lost battle. I collaborate as a disciplined patient, attended by the devoted team of doctors.” Duncan Campbell
United States Celebrity nicknames that should be cut from a list
It would be “awesome” if “TomKat” (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) and other nicknames for celebrity couples “went missing” in the new year, according to Lake Superior State University’s 32nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. How would “Lardy” have sounded for Laurel and Hardy, or “BogCall” for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall? the list’s compilers asked. The university chose its 16 cliches from 4,500 submissions. Many wanted a stop to the onslaught of “awesome”, and banishment of “gone missing”. Reuters Chicago
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007 Business editor: Deborah Hargreaves Telephone: 020-7713 4791 Fax: 020-7833 4456 Email: ﬁnancial@guardian.co.uk
Belarus avoids cold new year by bowing to Gazprom demand for price increase
Eleventh-hour agreement averts gas switch-off Russia’s tough line adds to Europe’s energy worries
Nabi Abdullaev Moscow
Belarus narrowly escaped a winter energy crisis last night after a last-minute deal on gas prices was struck with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom. Gazprom had said it would cut off supplies to Belarus, also threatening fuel supplies to European countries served by the Belarus pipeline, if a deal was not reached by midnight last night. The five-year contract will require Belarus to pay $100 per 1,000 cubic metres, a steep rise on the previous tariff of $45, but a reduction from the $105 that Gazprom had demanded. The agreement requires Belarus to pay gradually increasing prices after the current contract until world market levels are reached by 2011. “A mid-term agreement was reached on gas prices to Belarus and on transit shipments to Europe,” Gazprom boss Alexei Miller told a press briefing at the Russian gas monopoly's headquarters. Gazprom will also be required to buy 50% of the shares in Beltransgaz, the Belarusian pipeline network. Gazprom had stipulated that Belarus pay $30 of the new price in Beltransgaz shares, but under the new contract Belarus will pay for the gas in cash and Gazprom will buy the pipeline shares in cash. On Friday, Belarus's president, Alexander Lukashenko, vowed that Minsk would not pay more than Russian consumers, saying that the two countries were members of a customs union. If no agreement had been reached, Gazprom said it would stop gas supplies to Belarus at 10am today. Minsk had threatened to freeze the transit of Russian gas to Europe through Belarus on the same day. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov and Alexander Timoshenko, spokesman for the Belarus prime minister, had both committed to continue talks right to the deadline in order to resolve the crisis. Gazprom is trying to end heavy discounts to former Soviet republics and bring gas prices closer to world levels of about $230 per 1,000 cubic metres. Georgia recently agreed to raise the price it pays, but Azerbaijan is looking to buy Iranian gas instead. Mr Kupriyanov also stressed that the Yamal-Europe transit gas pipeline which runs across Belarus was the property of Gazprom, and that Minsk was obliged to allow unhindered transit of gas to western Europe. Two-thirds of the 45bn cubic metres of gas that Gazprom sold to Europe last year was pumped via Belarus through the Yamal-Europe pipeline.
Tesco’s £80m price cuts put new pressure on rivals
Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, is further turning the screws on its rivals by triggering a price war. It is permanently cutting prices on 600 key items by a total of £80m. The move will be viewed by critics as another example of how the increasingly dominant retailer is flexing its muscles against smaller competitors. A report published yesterday appeared to underline its strength, suggesting that the grocer took up half of all the new shopping space in Britain last year. The data, collected by Verdict Research, said Tesco opened 2m sq ft, more than the entire Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. It currently has around 21.6% of the grocery market in Britain, according to research firm Planet Retail, followed by Sainsbury with 11.8% and Asda at 10.1%. Tesco is cutting up to 30% off the price of a range of everyday items including ketchup, tea bags and fruit juices, as well as more than 100 health and beauty products. In addition to the more long-term cuts, it will be pushing more than 100 half-price promotions within its stores. It is a move that is likely to refocus the minds of rivals on price, after a year in which the chains were battling it out on green credentials and quality. However, few retail analysts expect any slowing in the trend towards sales of organic and higher-quality food products among Britain’s middle classes. Sainsbury is in the midst of a programme of cutting £400m from prices to make it more competitive — regular surveys in The Grocer magazine showed Tesco was significantly cheaper on a basket of items. It appeared to be paying off with profits heading back up. In November, it reported like-for-like sales were ahead by 6.2%. The Tesco cuts come ahead of publication of the anxiously awaited initial findings from a Competition Commission inquiry into the grocery sector. The Office of Fair Trading referred the inquiry to the commission in the summer, and the early findings are due to be published this month. In its submission, Sainsbury warned that Tesco could have up to 43% of the grocery market within four years if the watchdog failed to take action to curtail its growth. At the time, Sainsbury said that Tesco had more than half of all the sites that were being developed into grocery outlets. Sainsbury, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda want changes to the planning regime to allow them to compete more effectively. In October, Tesco chalked up half-year profits of more than £1bn — only four years after first breaching the £1bn level for a full year.
Stocking up on firewood in the Belarus village of Kopeinoye, south-east of the capital of Minsk Photograph: Sergei Grits/AP Some 20% of Russian gas exports to Europe — mainly to Poland, Lithuania and Germany — passes through Belarus. The other 80% flows through Ukraine. About one-quarter of natural gas consumed in Europe comes from Russia. Last year, in a similar dispute, Russia briefly shut off gas supplies to Ukraine, which led to supply disruptions to Italy, Austria and Hungary — for the first time since the 1980s when the Soviet Union first signed major contracts with European governments. That episode undermined Russia's reputation as a reliable supplier. In November, Richard Lugar, head of the US Senate's foreign relations committee, described Russia's energy policies regarding former Soviet republics and eastern European countries as “geo-strategic blackmail”. Meanwhile, Belarus has reportedly been stockpiling oil and coal in recent weeks, which would have allowed its power plants to run without Russian gas for a while. “We will live in dug-outs but we will not surrender to blackmail," Mr Lukashenko said on Friday. Although the price demanded by Gazprom is well below world market prices for natural gas, it still is likely to be a tough blow to Belarus. The country retains a mostly centralised, Soviet-style economy, and its industries depend on cheap Russian gas to be competitive.
European bank could scrap loan
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development may pull out of the Sakhalin-2 liquefied gas project in Russia in a further blow to a scheme already mired in controversy. The bank, which invests in countries from central Europe to central Asia with the aim of building up market economies, had been in discussions with shareholders Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi about providing a $300m (£150m) loan for the $20bn project, with a further $300m coming from a loan syndicated to other financial institutions. But Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy giant, wrested control of the project less than two weeks ago when it negotiated a stake of 50% plus one share in the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, forcing the other three groups to halve their own interests. A spokesman for the EBRD said: “New developments make things more difficult, and, one could say, may make the bank less needed for the project.” He insisted that a final decision had not been reached. The bank prefers to finance projects in the private sector, but Gazprom’s controlling stake effectively means the scheme now has a majority state interest since Gazprom is controlled by the Russian government. A spokesman for Shell refused to comment on the specifics, saying: “Gazprom is a valuable partner to the project and we will now determine the next steps and engage with lenders.” The controversial deal with Gazprom, announced on December 21, came after Russian environmental regulators criticised the project in eastern Siberia. They threatened to stop the scheme and impose fines of up to $30bn on Shell and its two Japanese partners. The allegations were denied by Shell, which described some of them as “unsubstantiated attacks containing exaggerations and distortions”. After Gazprom finally took control of the project, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said the environmental concerns had been settled. The EBRD’s planned loan is relatively small compared to the overall cost of the project. But its support is important from an environmental perspective, as it has studied the impact of the scheme.
Property companies rush to become savings trusts Thieves target power stations for lorry-loads of precious copper Phillip Inman and Tony Levene
Britain’s biggest commercial property owners will today ditch their corporate status and turn themselves into investment trusts. British Land, Land Securities, Brixton Estates and a dozen other firms will become real estate investment trusts, or Reits, following a change in the law allowing them to own property and distribute the gains tax-free. Within months, hundreds of the newstyle property trusts are expected to be up and running with the result that much of Britain’s commercial property, and eventually residential as well, will be held in vehicles that avoid corporation tax and capital gains tax. The end of this “double taxation” will allow dividends to be paid out of untaxed income from the coming year provided at least 90% is distributed to investors. To convert to a trust companies must pay a one-off charge to the Treasury equivalent to 2% of the value of their property portfolio. In British Land’s case the fee would equal one year’s corporation tax bill, about £300m. After that it will be free to expand its portfolio with little hindrance from the tax authorities. The changes are expected to attract new investors. One study reported that 44% of What is a Reit? It’s a new type of company that allows investment in commercial or residential property to produce taxefficient rental income. Ninety per cent of this income must be distributed to shareholders of the UK-Reit and, in return, the company is exempt from corporation tax and capital gains on property sales. Who can invest in a Reit? Anyone can buy shares in a Reit, much like a unit trust. Why invest in a Reit? Stephen Herring of accountants BDO Stoy Hayward says not only can the Reit avoid paying corporation tax and capital gains, but the investor can also avoid paying tax on their dividend income if their shares are held, say, in an ISA or a self invested personal pension (SIPP). Any potential pitfalls? Some experts argue the property market is nudging its peak so investing now might prove to be a mistake, despite the attractive tax breaks. financial advisers planned to add Reits to their clients’ investment portfolios. But many experts are sceptical. Janet Measom at Morley, Norwich Union’s investment arm said: “Commercial property can’t continue to perform as it has done over the past five or so years. It has got to come down to earth”. The 15-yearold Norwich Property Trust hit £3bn in August, with over £1bn coming in over the past 12 months alone. In the run-up to the introduction of Reits property shares have made huge gains with sector leaders such as Land Securities and British Land rising by around 50% since last winter. The new Reits are also expected to attract investors in residential property. The rules for holding residential property within the new trusts are complicated, but still likely to prove enticing to investors. Francis Salway, chief executive of Land Securities, said Reits will prove more attractive than buy-to-let. While buy-to-let has had a strong run, he pointed out that short tenancies can, if there is a sudden excess, leave investors with unoccupied properties for lengthy periods with no rental income. Land Securities has average unexpired lease terms of around 10 years and no property is worth more than 4% of the total portfolio value. “So, in terms of risk, we offer significant diversification benefits,” he argues.
Booming copper prices have triggered a series of break-ins at power stations around the country forcing electricity providers to increase security at local substations and cut off power during repairs. Thieves have cost the industry £5m this year by stealing the metal, used for earthing high-voltage equipment, according to the Energy Networks Association. “This is not only very costly to the power companies and the wider community but it is very dangerous. Two people have already been killed this year and others badly injured trying to steal copper,” said Neil Grant, a spokesman for the association. The number of incidents rose dramatically in 2006 after much publicised increases in the value of copper and precious metals, Mr Grant said. “We do not like to give much publicity to this for fear it will just encourage others but in the main these break-ins are being perpetrated by organised gangs using lorries and other equipment.” Repairing substations that have been broken into often involves the operator having to cut off power to homes and po-
tentially to doctors’ surgeries and emergency services. Electricity companies are introducing stricter monitoring systems and experimenting with water-based adhesives which can be sprayed over facilities. These leave a print on hands, clothes and anything else that comes into contact with the copper, making it easier to trace the thieves and the stolen metal. E.ON, the group that owns Powergen, confirmed that it was one of the many companies that have been hit by this kind of crime, most recently in Dudley, in the midlands. The company said thefts and attempted thefts of copper had trebled. “We are working with Crime Stoppers and local police forces to try to get the message over to the local community that this is very damaging to customers and potentially fatal for those breaking in,” said an E.ON spokeswoman. E.ON has been checking its huge network of substations around the country to ensure they are as secure as they can be. The railway industry has also been plagued by thieves looking for copper. The price of copper has risen fivefold since 2001 to around $6,700 (£3,420) a tonne with rising demand from the industrialisation in China and strong demand elsewhere in Asia.
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
If you don’t remember the 1960s, this year may help you
The world economy looks like continuing a boom that equals the postwar heyday
The world economy, including Britain’s, looks set for another year of robust growth. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that the impressive performance of the past few years, since the world emerged from the mess of the dotcom bust, will continue uninterrupted this year and possibly for the rest of the decade. Having grown by an average of more than 3% a year so far this decade, the noughties look set to be the world economy’s best decade on record, eclipsing even the golden years of the 1950s and 1960s. There are risks of course. Doomsayers continue to warn of a slump in the dollar, a renewed surge in the oil price or a collapse in the US housing market that could throw the world off course. They are right that the risks exist, but the world economy has proved its resilience admirably in recent years. Who would have thought, for example, that the tripling of oil prices in the past three years would fail to tip the world into a recession combined with soaring inflation? In those three years the world economy has grown by almost 5% annually — the fastest for more than 30 years. World stock markets are booming as investors show their confidence. other parts of the US economy appear to have taken up the slack. Exports are healthy, thanks to a strong world economy and a weaker dollar; business investment and nonresidential construction are also doing well. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development expects US growth to slow to 2.4% this year, from 3.3% in 2006. It expects a sluggish first half of the year before a rebound later in the year. It does not predict a US recession, nor does the International Monetary Fund, which is forecasting growth of close to 3% for the US this year.
Out of the cold Emerging economies such as China now make up 70% of the world’s growth and are forecast to continue powering world markets once again through the coming year Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters
Indeed, the Federal Reserve, which raised interest rates from their low point of 1% in 2004 to 5.25% last August in an attempt to rein in the frothy housing market and keep inflation in check, still thinks high inflation is more of a danger than slow growth. Last week, news from the US showed sales of homes had begun to rise again and stocks of unsold homes had started falling. If the housing market recovers, the US economy could even return to surprisingly robust growth in 2007. The Fed looks likely to keep interest rates on hold for the foreseeable future, but it has room to cut them if the economy looks weak. The eurozone, long the sick man of the world economy, turned in a surprisingly respectable performance in 2006, growing by around 2.6%, well above 2005’s rate of 1.4%. The OECD and IMF expect growth to be closer to 2% this year and next, partly because the European Central Bank has made it clear it intends to continue raising interest rates from their current 3.5%. That growth rate may sound paltry, but it is decent by the standards of recent years. Germany has been the particular star in Europe, as its companies have responded to the strong world economy by raising exports, although questions remain about the strength of domestic demand. Wage growth has been sluggish as firms have used the threat of moving production abroad to keep pay rises to a minimum. A rise in VAT today from 16% to 19% is not going to help consumer spending, but is unlikely to derail the economy. Spain and Italy look a little less secure, with the former experiencing a property market bubble which looks vulnerable to a burst while the latter is suffering from a lack of competitiveness and high inflation. There are also some question marks over the strength of the French economy. Few such doubts exist over China. Its economy is likely to grow by 10% again this year, as it has done for many years, taking it to number four in the world economy ranking. It is now big enough to make its growth matter for the whole world. Taken together, emerging markets including India, Russia and Brazil now account for 70% of world growth. They accounted for 50% a
World economy Growth to steam ahead...
Annual % change, GDP
...and become better balanced
Annual % change, GDP 10 10
The main reason for optimism is that growth has broadened out from relying on the good old American consumer who, boosted by the ultra-cheap money and rising house prices of recent years, kept the world economy motoring while regions such as the eurozone and Japan were sluggish. Now both of those regions, along with China and India and other emerging economies, are performing well. They should be able to withstand the slight slowdown that many analysts are expecting in the United States. In short, the world is rebalancing. The US economy, still by far the largest in the world, looks certain to slow this year. Its housing market slipped last year and the house price boom of recent years is a distant memory. Housebuilding has slumped, prices are down everywhere and a lot of newly built homes are standing empty. But
5.5 5 4.5 4 3.5 3 2002 03 04 05 06 07 08 Forecast
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decade ago. The world is much less dependent on the US than it used to be. Japan, still the world’s second largest economy, seems to be recovering steadily from its decade-long slump although there are still concerns about whether its deflation problem has been solved in spite of rock-bottom interest rates of just 0.25%. Which brings us to Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy. Here, too, things look solid. Growth was better than expected last year, at around 2.6%, and
the economy looks to have powered into the new year in rude health. The Bank of England, which raised interest rates twice last year to their current 5%, may even be tempted to nudge them up again, although I am not convinced it will have to. The year here is likely to be dominated by the rise and rise of house prices, particularly in London and the south-east. At some point the great noughties housing boom will have to end. Another interest rate rise or two
might just be enough to do that, given how indebted the average Briton has become. That could turn out to be the nasty surprise of this year. There will also be the small matter of a change of the guard at the Treasury, as Gordon Brown looks set to move to Number 10 in the first half of the year. His March budget is likely to be his swansong after a decade as chancellor. All in all, it is a pretty rosy scenario for the world and one which will allow company profits to keep increasing. The main cloud on the horizon is not the US current account deficit or a potential run on the dollar (it is likely to continue to slide, but not crash) but rather the emerging crisis surrounding Iran. If the country’s bellicose leadership continues to defy the United Nations with its nuclear programme and responds to sanctions by carrying out its threat to shut the Straits of Hormuz and prevent a fifth of the world’s oil getting to market, the price of crude could easily shoot through $100 a barrel and finally rattle the confidence of world stock markets. firstname.lastname@example.org
Britain joins international efforts to give a ‘kiss of life’ to stalled Doha trade talks
Larry Elliott Economics editor
A flurry of diplomatic activity from Washington to New Delhi and on to the alpine ski resort of Davos will mark the first month of the new year as one final attempt is made to provide a kiss of life to the failing Doha trade talks. Amid concern that only three months are left to save the package of liberalisation measures, pressure will be put on the main protagonists — the United States, the European Union and India — to settle their differences. Downing Street sources said Britain has not given up hopes of a deal, despite the breakdown in the World Trade Organisation talks last July. Tony Blair has been urging George Bush, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and President Lula of Brazil to give a political push to the negotiations, and two senior cabinet ministers — the chancellor, Gordon Brown, and the trade and industry secretary, Alistair Darling — will visit India later this month. Trade ministers from around 20 countries will then hold talks at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in late July, although trade experts believe a more significant event will be the swearing in next month of the new Democrat-dominated Congress in the US. The WTO’s director-general, Pascal Lamy, has called 2007 a “defining year”, and in Geneva it is recognised that the next few months will be crucial both for the Doha round and for the credibility of the WTO. No trade round has failed since the protectionist decade of the 1930s. With 2008 seen as a write-off because of the US presidential election, the WTO says that if there is no deal in 2007 it will be mid-2009 before negotiations can resume. The talks involve plans for freer trade in agriculture, tariff cuts in manufacturing and the opening up of global trade in services. President Bush now has a number of important decisions to make, Mr Lamy believes. Firstly, he has to decide whether he is serious about a global deal or not; if so he has to make bigger cuts in subsidies to US farmers than currently offered. Secondly, he has to face down demands for a new farm bill when the current package of support runs out this year. WTO sources said a new farm bill would spell the end of the Doha round. Finally, Mr Bush has to avoid partisan warfare in Washington between a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress. Mr Bush will lose the ability to fast-track a trade bill through Congress under his Trade Promotion Authority unless legislation is tabled by the end of March. That, however, would require negotiators to show a degree of urgency lacking since the talks were started in the Qatari capital in November 2001. Peter Mandelson, Europe’s trade commissioner, believes that the way to unblock the round would be for the US to put a ceiling of $15bn (£7.6bn) on subsidies, compared to current spending of $19bn. An EU trade source said: “Doha is not dead: definitely. There is a very narrow window to pull it off, and the politics are difficult. But some of the political stars are coming into alignment.”
The annual amount that US spends in subsidies. It is among issues that have stalled the current trade talks
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Madeleine Bunting Two anniversaries will feed into our national sense of self-doubt this year, but also oﬀer a chance for a reality check
spate of soul searching is guaranteed by two major anniversaries that loom this year: the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire in 1807, and the Act of Union of England and Scotland in 1707. Both will feed into Britain’s nagging sense of self-doubt: who are we? As the debates around integration and multiculturalism show no sign of ﬂagging, both anniversaries will be mined for their contemporary relevance. Add the imminent arrival of a Scot as prime minister — and one who has invested time and energy into mastering the history of British identity — and the stage is set for intense national introspection. Television programmes, books, ceremonies, conferences and newspaper supplements have been in the planning for months. Some might regard this self-referentialism as tedious; they might advocate an apology for the slave trade and let’s be done with 2007’s anniversaries. But our reckoning with British history has been so limited that these two anniversaries provide us with a good opportunity for an overdue reality check. Any chance of reinventing a plausible national identity now (as many are keen to do) is only possible if we develop a much better understanding of how our nation behaved in the past and how nationalisms (English, Scottish and British) were elaborately created over the past few hundred years — and how incomplete and fragile that process always was. In how many other countries do children grow up uncertain of what to call their country, or adults hunt through those drop-down menus on the internet, uncertain whether their country is listed as the UK, Great Britain, Britain or England? The coincidence of these two anniversaries is fortuitous. The abolition of the slave trade is a painful reminder of British imperial history, which we have, incredibly, managed to largely forget. Who remembers the Bengal famine or Hola camp, the empire’s opium trade with China or our invention of concentration camps in the Boer war? We too easily overlook how empire was a linchpin to British national identity, vital to welding Scotland and England together. Indeed, historian Linda Colley suggests three ingredients for British identity: “Great Britain is an invented nation that was not founded on the suppression of older loyalties so much as superimposed on them, and that was heavily dependent for its raison d’etre on a broadly Protestant culture, on the treat and tonic of recurrent war, especially war with France, and on the triumphs, profits and Otherness represented by a massive overseas empire.” These three props for Britishness have collapsed: Protestant Christianity
Tariq Ali Saddam committed most of his crimes when he was an ally of those who now occupy his country
t was symbolic that 2006 ended with a colonial hanging — most of it shown on state television in occupied Iraq. It has been that sort of year in the Arab world. The trial was so blatantly rigged that even Human Rights Watch had to condemn it as a travesty. Judges were changed on Washington’s orders, defence lawyers were killed and the whole procedure resembled a well orchestrated lynch mob. Where Nuremberg was a relatively digniﬁed application of victor’s justice, Saddam Hussein’s trial was the crudest and most grotesque to date. The great thinker-president’s reference to it “as a milestone on the road to Iraqi democracy” is as clear an indication as any that Washington pressed the trigger. The leaders of the European Union, supposedly hostile to capital punishment, were passive, as usual. Although some Shia factions celebrated in Baghdad, the ﬁgures published by a fairly independent establishment outﬁt, the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, reveal that more than 80% of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before it was occupied. (The ICRSS research is based on detailed house-to-house interviewing carried out during the third week of November.) Only 5% of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003; 12% felt things had improved and 9% said there was no change. Unsurprisingly, 95% felt the security situation was worse than before. Add to this the ﬁgures supplied by the United Nations high commissioner for refugees: 1.6 million Iraqis (7% of the population) have ﬂed the country since March 2003, and 100,000 leave every month — Christians, doctors, engineers, women. There are 1 million Iraqis in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 150,000 in Cairo. These are refugees who do not excite the sympathy of western public opinion, since the US — EU-backed — occupation is the cause. Perhaps it was these statistics, and estimates of a million Iraqi dead, that necessitated the execution of Saddam. That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who are now occupying the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington and the poison gas supplied by what was then West Germany that gave him the conﬁdence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this. The double standards applied by the west never cease to astonish. Indonesia’s Suharto, who presided over a mountain of corpses, was protected by Washington. He never annoyed them as much as Saddam. And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Falluja; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad; the Kurdish prison boss who boasts that his model is Guantánamo. Will Bush and Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful. And former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar? He is currently employed as a lecturer at Georgetown University, in Washington, where the language of instruction is of course English — of which he hardly speaks a word. Saddam’s lynching might send a shiver down the spines of the Arab ruling elites. If Saddam can be hanged, so can the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, the Hashemite joker in Amman and the Saudi royals — as long as those who topple them are happy to play ball with the United States. Tariq Ali is the author of Bush in Babylon: the recolonisation of Iraq email@example.com has declined sharply, war with France is the pastime only of a few drunken football fans, and the empire is no more. No wonder Britishness is on the decline; over the past couple of decades, people have become increasingly likely to deﬁne themselves in polls as English or Scottish rather than British. This is the social trend in deﬁning identity that politicians such as Gordon Brown watch closely. Could this re-emergence of the older loyalties to which Colley refers have political consequences? Could the Scottish National party translate that into signiﬁcant electoral gains in the Scottish elections only a few days after the oﬃcial commemoration of the Act of Union in May? It’s not just the Scots who could decide they’ve had enough of the English — the feeling could become mutual. The grumbles are getting louder about Scottish MPs who vote on legislation aﬀecting the English and the disproportionate amount of public spending swallowed up by the Scots. Brown clearly has a vested interest in stilling such complaints. He’s been at the forefront of an establishment attempt to redeﬁne Britishness on the grounds of “common values” such as fair play and tolerance. But talking about fair play in May at the anniversary of the Act of Union will look more than a little hollow less than two months after the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in March and its reminder of the savagery of Britain’s imperial record. “Fair play” is one of the fondest of British delusions; it rests on a very partial reading of history. As Britishness recedes and older loyalties such as Englishness re-emerge, this is where the battle now is. Who is going to deﬁne Englishness? Julian Baggini has a stab at it in a book to be published in March, Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind. He spent six months living in Rotherham to get beyond the metropolitan, liberal elite’s perceptions of Englishness — all country cottages, picturesque landscapes and organic lamb joints — and establish what most people (ie the white working class) understand by their Englishness. Parochial, tightly knit, focused on family and local communities; nostalgic, fearful of the future and insecure; a dogged belief in common sense: these are his conclusions. For Rotherham, the good life is comfort, convenience and familiarity; not the ambitious, stressful striving of the urban middle class so heavily promoted by New Labour. Baggini confesses to feeling that his six months in Rotherham was like visiting a foreign country, and no doubt many of the people he met would regard six months in London as profoundly alienating. How do you weld national identities out of global metropolises disconnected from their hinterland? Englishness is riven with huge regional and class divides. The stakes are high — for example, a rising BNP vote, a fear of asylum, and hostility to Islam. The anniversary of the Act of Union will provide a stage for all this to be played out. It’s just as painful a commemoration for the English as for the Scottish. It required one nation to lose its sovereignty and the other its identity. firstname.lastname@example.org
ILLUSTRATION: SIMON PEMBERTON
Don’t overlook the impact of empire on our identity
The abolition of the slave trade is a painful reminder of our history, which we have managed to largely forget
The shifting of history
Peter Preston Newly deceased leaders have rarely received the obituaries that they deserve
here was something curiously cuddly about the man Churchill called “Uncle Joe”. He may have been a blooddrenched tyrant — obliterating his own people by the million — but he also had a jovial way with a vodka bottle. He was a joker, a shrewd practical thinker, and a politician other politicians held in awe. Without his charisma and grit, indeed, the second world war would have turned out very diﬀerently. Which brings us to Saddam Hussein. Saddam has not got much joy from the obituary writers these past couple of days. He is hanged by the neck, and his death brings no mourning. Wrap the corpse in a ﬂimsy sheet and bury it deep. But there’s a problem to confront openly here: what the obituaries say today is almost certainly not what they’ll say tomorrow. Just look at the chaos of Iraq as 2007 begins. Does anyone for a second believe that the execution of Saddam will bring calm to the land he ruled? Forget it. The genies of religious and racial hatred are out of the bottle now in a fashion that Saddam never allowed. His followers killed hundreds of thousands who moved against them. They gassed
and they bombed and burnt alive. But they kept their benighted land together, united in glum acquiescence. Look back on that Iraq in, say, 30 years, and you may have to ask the question that some brave historians ask today about Stalin. Where did the greater evil lie: in suppression or chaos? Nothing can wipe away the memory of what he did. Without him, though, we can also glimpse why he did it. And there, of course, is the shifting context of history — not the instant verdict delivered as a noose jerks tight. Consider, by contrast, the other big death of the past few days: that of President Gerald Ford. No close comparisons possible, of course. But you can reﬂect with mild derision on the obituary gush that signalled his passing. Payers of tribute (from White House to leader writing rooms) spoke eloquently of his “wisdom” and “benignity”, hailing a “healer” who helped “bind the wounds of a nation”. That’s a point of view, to be sure: but surely it also wraps the 38th president in too much panoply. Gerald Ford was an accident that happened when Spiro Agnew fell down a pit of his own digging and Richard Nixon toppled after him. Mr Ford progressed by chance and party decree: a nice, slightly stolid chap who
was no threat to anyone, a country club golfer set down in the Oval Oﬃce. And, even with every inherited advantage in town, he couldn’t survive two years later when a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, came to Washington. Why garland him in such adulation, then? The reality of his abbreviated term didn’t deserve it. But in America the oﬃce makes the man. Ford’s modest achievement was keeping that myth of the oﬃce alive — which is why, 30 years hence, he’ll still have his niche, and see the others who came after him bathed in a similarly roseate glow. What, for instance, will the obituarists make of the 43rd president, George Walker Bush? Will he be a “valiant ﬁghter for democracy and Rumsfeld prize winner” in the New York Times? A “humble, much undervalued friend of freedom” in the Telegraph? A “favourite son who found God and charted a new course for the 21st century” (the New York Post, or maybe the Sun)? You wouldn’t bet against any of that. Nor, alas, would you bet against the eventual rehabilitation of Saddam. What goes down in the prison yard has an odd way of coming up again years later. email@example.com
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007 Comment editor: Seumas Milne Telephone: 020-7713-4995 Fax: 020-7837-4530 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The comfort of deja vu
David Thomson We say we go to the movies to hear new stories, but in practice we prefer the familiar
ix out of Hollywood’s 12 biggest hits last year were sequels. Next year, the proportion could be higher. A part of us is expected to nod at this news and say: “Business as usual.” Another part is asked to sigh at the falling back on old habits. Whatever view you care to hold, there are so-called laws waiting to serve you — that every sequel earns less than the original; or: if you’ve got something that works, why throw it away? But no one in Hollywood trusts anything, and that’s why they like to talk in rules — it’s a protection against insecurity. I have a friend, a retired projectionist — not that they really use projectionists any longer. But he projected pictures in the 40s, in packed houses, in the days when people went to the pictures, and not to see a particular movie. Anyway, my friend used to read the things I wrote about the movies and he told me I was complicating the matter. “All this fancy commentary on a picture. Let me tell you what happens: I turn the house lights out; I turn the projector on; the story starts; people see something they never saw before; but they see a story just like all the others they ever saw. They are moved. They laugh. They are scared. I turn the projector oﬀ. I put the house lights on. They go home. Next week they come back.” I like that idea. The movies are a habit, and a big part of us just wants them to be like they were before. Surprise me, we ask, show me something new — but let me recognise it. Jean Renoir said that a ﬁlm-maker made the same ﬁlm over and over again. He tried to change, but he couldn’t help it. He had his story. Orson Welles shocked everyone with Citizen Kane so they said they’d never seen a ﬁlm like it. But then over the years, he used the same images — the way painters do — and he had this recurring situation of a powerful man being investigated and found out — The Stranger, Mr Arkadin, Touch of Evil. When the old studios had people under contract that the public loved, they made vehicles for those stars. So a Joan Crawford might curse the system and beg for something fresh, but the studios said: “Joan, dear, you’re always best as Joan.” And in the end, she was “Joan Crawford” with those big staring, lost eyes, and every real person she’d ever tried to be had faded away. And you don’t put Lassie in a Crawford picture, or vice versa. It’s a business, and if the public like a personality, you tell the stories that make the personality look good. A mythology develops, a whole set of legends — we call it the star system and the code of genres. And we enjoy these rules because they are the schemes by which we know we should be wary of Peter Lorre or Sydney Greenstreet but trust Bogart and Bergman. You see, we say we go to the movies to hear stories we never heard before. But in practice we like it when the whole thing is close to deja vu, because then it seems to conﬁrm the old dream. It’s fun at the movies because it used to be. Of course, the movies are changing. Many of the old rules are crumbling. And there are artists ready to test us in new ways. But as soon as the new ways work, they become institutionalised. No one thought The Godfather would do well. It became the most successful ﬁlm made in 1972. So they let Coppola make The Godfather: Part II. It did far less well, but it’s a better ﬁlm because in doing part one Coppola had learned new ways of doing a story, and the uneasy possibility that at the end a villain could be left in charge. That was new for a moment. Now everyone does it. David Thomson is the author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film email@example.com
Jackie Ashley The new year holds great promise: a new prime minister, an invigorated opposition, and a turning away from excess
Get ready for a gust of optimism on all fronts
elcome, blustery and wild 2007. This is going to be a good year for those of us who still believe in politics. It is going to be good not because Gordon Brown will alight from his chariot and save the Labour party — though I hope he does — but for bigger reasons. We are going to have a new prime minister, with a workable majority, who knows he cannot thrive by spin or charisma, only successful policies. He faces an invigorated opposition, tackling the serious issues. It is going to be a year when we turn to Westminster with revived interest. Maybe it will be better than that. Perhaps we will ﬁnd some of our rancid cynicism about public life draining away. Brown has ﬂaws, but he is not cynical and he retains an energetic optimism about the possibility of human improvement. David Cameron may be an Old Etonian with posh chums and a weakness for glib photo opportunities, but he is also a serious man who has tried to take the Tory party towards mainstream policies on poverty and public services. Around them are other leaders who are also the reverse of cynical, from the earnest and intelligent Menzies Campbell to the rumbustious Scottish nationalist Alex Salmond. Ministers we can expect to hear a lot of this year include the likes of Ed Balls, David Miliband, Douglas Alexander, Harriet Harman, Jon Cruddas and Hilary Benn — seriousminded, hardworking people who believe in public service ahead of ﬂashy self-advancement. Politicians will face new issues too. Two very diﬀerent, equally unpleasant, new year images should help close a door on the recent past. The ﬁrst was the hanging of Saddam Hussein: if there are any liberals out there having second thoughts about bringing back the death penalty, then the grisly, drooling voyeurism of the last moments of that tyrant gives them the reminder they need. The second was the public ritual of Tone and Cherie’s holiday junketing, which is becoming a parody of itself. It is demeaning having the prime minister taking showbiz freebies. The bloodsoaked catastrophe of the Iraq invasion will not fade from the front pages and television screens because Saddam is dead. Nor should it: even as British troops begin to return later this year, our debts to that wrecked place are huge. And Blair, that politician of stupendous gifts who blew so much of our hope for New Labour when he led Britain into Iraq, will be in oﬃce for some months to come. Yet an era is ending. It is worth remembering that this age of Blair was, for many, also an age of plenty. For the working, home-owning majority, the past decade has been a time of ever greater self-enrichment. On the back of rocketing property prices, low inﬂation and easy credit, the British have travelled the world and ﬁlled their homes with gizmos that would have made Nero or Louis XIV goggle with envy. The strange thing is, this age of plenty has not produced a happier or more stable country. A YouGov poll, published yesterday, showed a vast gap between people’s assessment of their private position and their beliefs about the country. Whereas 40% said 2006 had been a good year for them personally, and only 24% said it had been a bad one, just 7% thought it had been good for Britain as a whole, and 55% thought it had been bad. Asked if Britain was better or worse to live in than it had been ﬁve years ago, 62% said worse. Asked to give their guess about ﬁve years’ time, just 11% thought things would get better, and 53% were pessimists. These ﬁgures show the scale of the job facing political leaders. But they also conﬁrm that riches have not made us more optimistic. People have the new kitchen or the new car, bought on credit, but they look out of the windows and they do not see a fairer, more stable, more secure country. In the old days, at the end of the Thatcher boom, the left said the Tories had created a country of private aﬄuence and public squalor. Well, after a decade of New Labour, some of that squalor has been dealt with — there have been real improvements in schools, hospitals and once derelict city centres — but the sense of imbalance remains. It’s less mass unemployment that worries people than immigration and crime. We don’t fear nuclear annihilation, but we do worry about terrorism. This is a failure of politics. We had hoped that a New Labour time would revive conﬁdence in the public realm. So much has been frittered away. Some of it can be won back by the more austere, serious administration that Brown promises. But the real change, the reason that 2007 should mark a turning point, is that the public mood is turning away from hollow-hearted consumerism, if only for environmental reasons. he greatest challenge is global warming. This isn’t only about tax rates, car travel or cheap ﬂights. It is about the culture of wastefulness and excess. It is about the droughts and famines that are provoking the wars and migrations that, in turn, provoke the pessimism recorded in the YouGov poll. It can only be matched by a revival of politics, not simply as the act of a few at Westminster but as a system we support and believe in. In their diﬀerent ways, both Brown and Cameron know this very well. The years ahead are not going to be hairshirt years. This is still going to be a remarkably well-oﬀ and lucky country. But the party is over. It is time to look around at all those who were never invited to it in the ﬁrst place; to end the habit of waste. Far from being a gloomy prospect, it is likely to revive and enthuse anyone with public spirit. In the past few years, politics has been degraded into a grimy suburb of celebrity culture, which provided fuel for comedy but which ordinary people stopped taking seriously. Iraq gave all that an angry edge, reminding everyone that political decisions could still have terrible consequences. Now, in this new year, we have the chance to move on. No doubt there are plenty of follies and failures just around the corner. There always are. But 2007 should be, and can be, the year when a gust of optimism blew into town. firstname.lastname@example.org
This age of Blair was also an age of plenty, but that has not produced a happier or more stable country
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Founded Number ,
Iraq after Saddam
Milestone on the road to nowhere
Saddam Hussein’s execution is likely to make little diﬀerence to the fate of the country he ruled so cruelly for more than two decades. Few can now doubt that he was guilty of terrible crimes against humanity — his own people and others — and showed not a shred of remorse. Millions around the world were able to watch the grotesque, sordid spectacle of his ﬁnal, deﬁant moments, cursing “Americans, spies and Persians” to the very end. It is hard to imagine that Iraq’s bloody divisions could get very much deeper. Reactions there — and there can be no mistaking the jubilation alongside the apathy and the fury — have predictably been split entirely along sectarian lines. The spate of killings that followed was equally predictable; Saturday’s 90 or so dead was a fairly average daily toll. Even with Saddam buried, the violence seems to have an unstoppable momentum of its own. Nuri al-Maliki’s government signed his death warrant, but it has been unable to defuse or crush the Sunni insurgency, end the routine suicide bombings, kidnappings and murder, or ensure that its own Shia security forces do not act as sectarian death squads. A government whose writ barely runs beyond Baghdad’s Green Zone and whose commitment to justice consists of little more than killing the tyrant is hardly a government worth the name. It could have been done differently. The twisted politics of war and occupation poisoned the judicial process that allowed hooded thugs to place the noose around Saddam’s neck, taunting him as they did. That process was fundamentally ﬂawed. Neither judges nor lawyers showed an understanding of international criminal law. Witnesses testiﬁed anonymously, defence lawyers were murdered and a judge was removed under government pressure. A UN or international tribunal in a neutral venue would have been better. It bears repeating that the death penalty remains a cruel and unusual punishment. It was only a matter of time before the lightly sanitised oﬃcial version of the execution was supplemented by uncensored mobile phone pictures of the whole tawdry event — snaps from the scaﬀold for our digital age. Perhaps (an unintended useful consequence?) they will win new recruits to the abolitionist cause. Saddam went unrepentantly to the gallows because of one atrocity: the killings of 148 Shia villagers after a failed assassination attempt in Dujail in 1982. But justice, and the memory of his many thousands more victims, would have been better served if had stood trial for the “Anfal” campaign against the Kurds for which he and his accomplices were accused of genocide. The same is true for the crushing of the Kurdish and Shia rebellions after the 1991 Gulf war, and for his invasions of Kuwait and Iran. It may be naïve to believe that a diﬀerent judicial course might possibly have served some putative process of truth and reconciliation to help heal Iraq’s wounds. But it is certain that nothing but vengeance and retribution are served by the brutal and public manner of his end. The hanging took place as President Bush (breathtakingly hailing it as “a step towards democracy”) was consulting advisers at his ranch to plan his next Iraqi move — anticipating the moment when US fatalities, which have already surpassed the dead of the 9/11 attacks, reach 3,000. At least there was no American awkwardness at the use of the death penalty. That had a squirming Margaret Beckett repeating Britain’s principled opposition to it but bizarrely “respecting” Iraq’s sovereign right to use it. Saddam’s crimes were committed in the name of sovereignty too. His execution can only augur badly for the future of a ruined country that is now worse oﬀ in so many ways than it was in the darkest days of his dictatorship. The condemned man boasted he was prepared to die as a sacriﬁce for Iraq. But this ghastly milestone of his death will do it no good at all.
The aftermath of the Tay bridge disaster
Dundee, Wednesday evening. The work of exploring the wreck of the North British train now lying in the river Tay has been prosecuted with great vigour today, and has resulted in important discoveries. It must be admitted that operations hitherto have been slow, but, three divers having been employed, only two could work at one time, owing to the provision of but two diving vessels. The Government have evidently taken notice of this, for the Admiralty sent to Dundee the district coastguard to investigate matters and order assistance if he deemed it necessary. The people of Dundee heard tonight with satisfaction that increased eﬀorts to discover the bodies will be made tomorrow However, up to the present time it is clear to all that the bodies of the human beings who occupied the ﬁrst part of the train on Sunday have been washed away and may never be recovered. Major Marindin, Government inspector, observed today that, even supposing any are among the debris, the probabilities are that they have been crushed to such an extent as to be beyond all recognition. The search party started at eight o’clock in the morning, long before it could be said to be light. The scene of the disaster was reached by 8.30 and the barge and the launch were moored between the third and the ﬁfth demolished piers. A third-class carriage, with its roof oﬀ, was standing on its wheels, a fact attributed to the action of the current when the vehicle ﬁrst entered the water. The diver searched the carriage on his ﬁrst errand but found no trace of human remains or personal baggage. [One diver reported] his hand had come into contact with some form of substance, and there were objects ﬂoating about which he believed might be corpses. Probing with a boat hook, the diver found that it stuck into something he found to be a railway carriage cushion, which was followed by a quantity of horse-hair padding. The man alleged that he caught hold of something which seemed to him to be the dress of a female. [Other evidence was found] pretty plainly showing that it could not have been owing to the train leaving the rails and colliding with the ironwork that the bridge fell, a theory previously much in vogue. After the ﬁnding of the engine, the locomotive superintendent suggested that if the diver went down again he might ﬁnd the bodies of the driver and the stoker. At a meeting convened by the Provost of Dundee the sum of £1,800 was raised for the suﬀerers, the North British Railway Company subscribing £500, the Directors £500, and Thomas Bouch, engineer of the bridge £250. [Sir Thomas Bouch’s] view is not that the fall of the bridge was the direct result of the force of the storm exerted with overpowering violence upon bridge and train together but the indirect result of that force exerted upon the travelling train. The hypothesis is that the carriages were by a sudden gust of wind tilted against the girders with a force which, Sir Thomas says, no girders are intended to withstand. More than 75 passengers died when the centre of the Tay bridge collapsed under their train in a violent night storm on December 28 1879. An oﬃcial inquiry found against Sir Thomas Bouch’s design and construction. He died within a year.
The world in
The era of weak governments
Twelve years ago Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. A dozen years on, it is not obvious that he got it right. Since 9/11 in particular, the US federal government has grown not shrunk, while on this side of the Atlantic governments are either spending more heavily than before on domestic programmes — as the Blair government has been doing — or are agonising indecisively about whether and how to wield the knife on historically large ones — as Angela Merkel is doing in Germany. The rhetoric of big government solutions may have declined, but much of the reality of it remains, though whether for good, for ill, or for both, remains a matter of lively argument. A much more clear-cut change in the years since Mr Clinton’s pronouncement would be the end not of big government but of strong government. Looking around the governments of the developed and democratic world on this ﬁrst day of 2007, the most striking common factor is their political weakness. In the US, George Bush’s power has been crippled by last year’s midterm elections and the strategic failures of the war on terror. In Canada, Stephen Harper’s minority government, elected less than a year ago, may not see out 2007 without a fresh mandate. In Germany, Ms Merkel’s grand coalition of left and right has run into increasing domestic political diﬃculties. In France, Jacques Chirac’s government is limping towards the electoral ﬁnishing line in May, with no guarantee that its replacement, whether from the left or the right, will have much greater authority. In Italy, Romano Prodi governs on that country’s traditional knife-edge. In Britain, Tony Blair is a deﬁant but unmistakably lame duck. The G7 may dub themselves the world’s economic great powers, but they are not great power governments. Only in Japan does one of them have a government with anything much resembling a political future this year. Part of this is circumstantial. A few rolls of the electoral dice could result in a set of governments with clearer mandates by 2009. But the real weakness runs deeper. Modern governments do not shape the world as they once did, but nor do they shape their own societies either. Faced with globalisation, modern media and democracy, national governments ﬁnd it hard to get results and re-elected. The nature of leadership has changed — and so has the nature of what it means to be led. Messrs Bush and Blair often describe themselves as strong leaders, but their low public esteem reveals a huge gap between their sort of strength and true eﬀectiveness. Their successors will promise to do better. But the art of combining small government with strong government is likely to remain as elusive in 2007 as it was in 2006.
In praise of… vegetarianism
What with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s realmeat mincemeat and Nigella Lawson’s goose fat, Christmas 2006 seemed at times to be one of the meatiest. A week after the event, many Britons are still recycling the Yuletide bird and pulling the stringy bits from between their teeth. Yet a large minority also eschewed the Christmas ﬂesh-fest in favour of alternatives that have come a long way since the days of textured vegetable protein. Humane meat is now more popular than ever, representing a huge break from the cruelty of the factory farm, but vegetarians still look elsewhere. Ethical doubts about meat date back to Plato. Now environmental concerns are entering the equation too: when it takes 10 kilos of feed to make one of beef, cattle-farming swallows land and all too often forest. Like most human ideas, vegetarianism is rarely applied with perfect logic. Vegetarian Hindus in Kerala justify eating ﬁsh by labelling it a type of egg laid by the sea. Vegans object that those who continue to chomp on cheese and eggs collude with an industry that continues to kill animals. It is also true that there are ethical dilemmas about many nonmeat foods in the modern world — like the fruit and vegetables ﬂown in from distant continents at the expense of the ozone layer. For all that, vegetarianism confronts ethical questions that a lot of us prefer to ignore. And, on a day when new year’s resolutions are being set, it is likely that more people than ever will decide that this seasonal turkey will have been their last.
and head performing a lifeless arc to one side. I tried to imagine the moment of impact, with the pigeon pinned hopelessly down, the hawk’s yellow eyes staring into the wood’s middle distance as it made that funny kneeding action with the talons, slowly massaging the life from its prey. When I walked out on to the marsh there were two other predators at work. A wildfowler was already scattering grain along the dyke in preparation for the duck at nightfall. Beyond him, dissolving in the haze of late afternoon, a barn owl was patrolling its beat. I too was made to feel like a predator when a Chinese water deer, alarmed by my silhouette, charged away across the ﬁeld and lay down in a hollow. Only its head was visible and while it stared in my direction, I knew it couldn’t see me. Chinese water deer are short-sighted creatures and within 15-minutes of complete stillness I was rewarded by the deer’s nervous return. It alternated between an anxious grazing and even more edgy pauses, when it would sniﬀ the air and stare towards the site of its original alarm. Chinese water deer are Asian imports to the UK that have established a self-sustaining population. They bring a hint of exoticism to the Broads. One friend suggested they had something of the hyena about the head. To me the facial expression — the black button nose and round furry ears — seems rather ursine or, at least, teddy bear-like. Yet the tusks on the males (a protruding pair of canines) don’t quite ﬁt the otherwise cute image. My male soon abandoned all fear of me and, in fact, abandoned thoughts of predators altogether, in favour of that other great transaction of the dark. His looping trot took him straight to another deer of smaller and more delicate build. She stopped grazing and sniﬀed him, their necks brieﬂy entwining, before she turned away and he rose up. Through the gloom I could just make out their single silhouette at one with the night. Mark Cocker
At dusk it was the murder scene in the woods that got me thinking about predator-prey relations. Across the leaf litter were the typical remains of a sparrowhawk kill — a wild corolla of plucked pigeon feathers scattered around a central carcass. At its epicentre was the exposed breast bone of the victim, the neck
Corrections and clariﬁcations
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
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Letters and emails
Flawed justice and the death of a dictator
Though few people in the world will miss Saddam Hussein (Saddam executed, December 30) and his vile crimes, we are opening up a Pandora’s box of legal and other issues that will result from his execution by a government that many see as an illegitimate puppet of the US and Britain. Iraq has yet to become a stable, democratic nation with a properly functioning government that serves and is respected and trusted by all Iraqis. Saddam’s trial by a dubious court, similar to the trial of Slobodan Milosevic by a non-Yugoslav kangaroo court, will be seen by many Iraqis as a farce; and Iraq’s former leader (just like Milosevic) will be seen by many as a martyr who was executed because he resisted the Bush family and US/British imperialism. Prepare for much more violence in his name. Dr Michael Pravica Henderson, Nevada, USA • The sectarian overtones to the timing of Saddam Hussein’s execution should not be overlooked. In foreign secretary Margaret Beckett’s characteristically awkward phrase, he was “held to account” for killings carried out in Dujail, following a 1982 assassination attempt against him. The tribunal found the Dujail killings to be a crime against humanity, a conclusion it did not stoop to justifying with a written judgment. Dujail was the predicable outcome of the failure of an assassination bid staged by the Dawa party. That party is represented in the current Iraqi government by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. By pushing Saddam on to the gallows, Maliki closed the dossier on Saddam’s much bloodier and arguably much more serious war crimes against Iran, Kuwait and his genocidal campaign against the Kurds. The execution is tainted by the involvement of Maliki’s party in the terrorist campaign that provoked the Dujail reprisals. It is all a very long way from the justice Saddam deserved. John Spencer London • I listened to the news of Saddam Hussein’s execution with tears of frustration welling in my eyes. This is what has been achieved by the regime that governs my country. It is not just that such judicial murder is a symbol of brutality and immaturity of spirit, but that it is so obviously foolhardy. Tony Blair has never understood the reaction of millions in this country before the war of 2003. They thought about the consequences of the invasion of Iraq and saw it as utterly mad, releasing untold death and misery in the region and incalculable national and international harm. The execution of Saddam, following the narrowly conceived and ﬂawed trial of this dreadful man, follows the same thought pattern. Now we have helped to create Saddam the martyr. How many additional deaths will happen as a consequence? What further horrors must we now lay at the door of Blair’s regime, which has so betrayed the interests of the British people it claims to serve? Professor Tony Booth Canterbury Christ Church University • The judicial murder of Saddam Hussein, ﬁnally stripped away the last shred of morality from those who pathetically try to defend the illegal invasion of Iraq. The special court was established by the US speciﬁcally to try Saddam Hussein and his regime members. The whole process was eﬀectively controlled by the US. The outcome of this trial was pre-determined. Ramsay Clark, once US attorney general and member of Saddam’s defence team, described the trial as “an assault on truth and justice”. However, as grubby as this trial was, it wasn’t the grubbiest injustice. This was the policy imposed by the US and supported by the UK, to ensure that Saddam’s trial was held in Iraq and not at the international court of justice, and to limit what he was charged with to a crime that didn’t allow for a revelation into how the US and UK governments, along with businesses from those and other countries, had supported and traded with Saddam, even while he was carrying out the most murderous atrocities. Brian Abbott Cork, Ireland • At the end, Saddam Hussein lived up to the horror comic of his life and murders. He traded insults with his executioners. But who were they, behind their masks? Oﬃcialising, as George W Bush might put it, in absentia, were himself, long a believer and deliverer of statesponsored death, and Tony Blair, whom we might have assumed reﬂects Britain’s rejection of the death penalty. How wrong we are. Whatever else this travesty has been, it is the ﬁrst case in more than 40 years of our government’s collusion in an execution. And, so far, we have heard no regrets. Tim Llewellyn London
Green light for a food ﬁght
The reason why many leading food manufacturers and retailers are opposed to the Food Standards Agency’s call for a traﬃc lights system for food labelling is because it will work (Food agency takes on industry over junk labels, December 28). Industry leaders should be ashamed of themselves for resisting the introduction of this simple and quick tool to help people make an informed choice about what they buy. If companies such as Kellogg’s are concerned about the eﬀect on the sales of their products, then they should make those products healthier, not try to keep consumers unaware of what they are eating. The Food Standards Agency must not give in to this cynical industry campaign. Richard Mountford Tonbridge, Kent • The Food Standards Agency’s “trafﬁc lights” scheme for food labelling is over-simplistic, while the complex set of guideline daily amounts (GDAs) proposed by the food industry is, perhaps deliberately, impenetrable. So how about combining the basic elements of each? You could retain the GDA listings, but simply colour the tags when they reached certain levels, as proposed by the FSA’s nutritional experts. Once salt levels reached, say, 5% of the GDA, the tag could be yellow, over 10% red, and so on for the other “bad” components such as unsaturated fats, sugars etc. This would satisfy those wanting the details, while making it relatively easy for the rest of us to avoid foodstuﬀs with red as the most prominent part of the label. David Reed London • In February the government is to announce the ﬁndings of its “people’s panel”, recommending that the obese do not get priority NHS treatment. Yet the food industry seeks to block the correct labelling of its products, which would make it much easier for people to avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods, ie those contributing most to obesity. How are people to avoid obesity if the major industry food producers and retailers prevent them getting basic knowledge about the food’s contents? The article quotes Alastair Sykes, chief executive of Nestlé UK. “We’re driven by consumers and what they want, and much of what we do has been to make our products healthier,” he said. Is he claiming consumers previously demanded unhealthy foods? Does it not bother people that supermarkets and food producers market “health foods”, a tacit admission that the rest of their output is unhealthy? How has it come to pass that supermarkets and processed food producers dominate the food chain in this country when they peddle unhealthy foods? Robin Tudge London
Arise, Sir Oscar
So, the media is getting excited about the prime minister’s holiday (Leaders, December 29). But what of the free holidays that inform many travel features? I have also heard journalists boast about the plays, ﬁlms etc they gain free admission to “because we are press”. David Wotherspoon Downholland, West Lancashire • A newspaper editor can go on holiday without worrying about political assassination, the lenses of the paparazzi or being buttonholed for his opinions. If a millionaire’s mansion is the only place Blair and his family can get some peace and quiet, good luck to them. Chris White London • As a 50-something, I have Ezio and Bruce Springsteen on my iPod, but no Cliﬀ or Bee Gees music, although I’d accept a free holiday from them (The secrets of Blair’s iPod, December 29). Linda Bristow Oswestry, Shropshire • My friends, family and I have been walking in the countryside, going to the cinema, lunching in cafes, talking and socialising (Life without a parachute, December 30). Shopping has featured nowhere during these precious days. Claire Salisbury Derby • Are the new year honours the new Oscars? After all, entertainers need all the recognition they can get for their unsatisfying, arduous, poorly rewarded work. John Davies Kirkby-in-Cleveland, North Yorks • Forget the stolen bowling plans (Sport, December 28). England has won a psychological advantage by not batting to any plan. Philip Johnson Barnsley
Illustration: Mr Bingo/Zeegan Rush
Unfair scorn for Duke Hussey
If Duke Hussey had never done anything other than be still standing on two feet into his 80s despite the appalling wounds he suﬀered during the second world war, he would have deserved better than Dan van der Vat’s sneering obituary (December 28). As it is, that outpouring of snobbish bile dishonoured the memory of a truly decent and courageous man who held the chairmanship of the BBC through 10 diﬃcult but successful years. It ignored his wicked sense of humour, his inﬁnite concern for the personal wellbeing of all manner of people he came into contact with and his passionate love of and defence of public service broadcasting. By circumstance Duke Hussey could easily have been the caricature Van der Vat portrays — stupid, snobbish, in thrall to powerful governments. In fact, he was none of these. Those of us who worked closely with him during his BBC days have cause to mourn a brave man and a faithful friend. Everyone who still enjoys a BBC that is strong, independent and free of party political trammels owes him better than Van der Vat’s mean-spirited piece. Liz Forgan London
The destructive forces unleashed by the widening pay gap
Brendan Barber is right to ask if the pay gap between top executives and workers is having a “divisive eﬀect on society” (Report, December 28). If he reads research by Richard Wilkinson into the eﬀects of inequality, he would reach a clear answer: “yes”. Inequality kills. Wilkinson discovered that inequality has a negative impact on both our physical and mental health. The wider the income gap, the worse the impact. Although the poorest suﬀer most in an unequal society, everyone’s health gets attacked by stress and anxiety. Wilkinson’s research for his books Unhealthy Societies and The Impact of Inequality is breathtaking in its thoroughness and ability to refute alternative explanations of such things as health problems. We also now know from other research that levels of trust are higher in more equal societies. Social mobility is also improved in an egalitarian state. For instance, Denmark has better social mobility than the US. Equality is simply better for democracy. If a society is seen as being just or fair, people join in. The research backs this up: unequal societies eat away at the social fabric. Perhaps Barber needs to visit the Nordic countries for a few answers? Graeme Kemp Wellington, Shropshire • The damage wrought in human terms by the obscene City bonuses, recently highlighted in the media, is real enough, but the left would make an enormous mistake by bringing back “the politics of envy”, as advocated by Peter Wilby (Comment, December 29). To do so would simply reinforce the image of the left as being reactive and negative rather than creative and positive. Thus the antisocial increase in house prices that results from these inﬂated payments can be countered by a vast increase in public home-building. The criminality that results from the widening gap between rich and poor can be remedied by stimulating investment outside the home counties. And the best way to nullify the impact produced by the super-rich buying themselves into the best education and medical care is to set our schools and hospitals free from the stultifying bureaucracy that prevents them from giving the best possible service to the taxpayer. Walter Cairns Manchester • Peter Wilby is right but he does not go far enough. The massive sums awarded to fat cats are not unconnected to real activity. Each £1m bonus equates to the production of at least 10,000 laptops in China or 450 Nissan Micras in Sunderland — all of which produces the emissions that are killing the planet. These people are driving the demands that rack up unnecessary production, fuel unnecessary consumerism and leave the unhappy masses turning to junk food for consolation. When will politicians realise the link between growing inequality, environmental destruction and the obesity epidemic? Dr Tony Morgan Cambridge
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
An opportunist and brutal dictator, he wreaked havoc on Iraq, the Middle East and the world
he Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was executed early on Saturday morning at the age of 69, may not yield many general biographies — he was personally too uninteresting for that — but he will be a case study for political scientists for years to come. For he was the model of a certain type of developing world despot, who was, for more than three decades, as successful in his main ambition, which was taking and keeping total power, as he was destructive in exercising it. Yet at the same time, he was commonplace and derivative. The Soviet dictator Stalin was his exemplar. The likeness came from more than conscious emulation: he already resembled him in origin, temperament and method. Like him, he was unique less in kind than in degree, in the extraordinary extent to which, if the more squalid forms of human villainy are the sine qua non of the successful tyrant, he embodied them. Like Stalin, too, he had little of the flair or colour of other 20th-century despots, little mental brilliance, less charisma, no redeeming passion or messianic fervour; he was only exceptional in the magnitude of his thuggery, the brutality, opportunism and cunning of the otherwise dull, grey apparatchik. His rise to power was no more accidental than Stalin’s. If he had not mastered Iraq as he did, someone very similar probably would have, and very probably also from Tikrit. Saddam’s peculiar fortune was that, on his political majority, this small, drab town, on the Tigris upstream from Baghdad, was already poised to wrest a very special role in Iraqi history. Saddam was born in the nearby village of Owja, into the mud house of his uncle, Khairallah Tulfah, and into what a Tikriti contemporary of his called a world “full of evil”. His father, Hussein al-Majid, a landless peasant, had died before his birth, and his mother, Sabha, could not support the orphan, until she took a third husband. Hassan Ibrahim took to extremes local Bedouin notions of a hardy upbringing. For punishment, he beat his stepson with an asphalt-covered stick. Thus, from earliest infancy, was Saddam nurtured — like a Stalin born into very similar circumstances — in the bleak conviction that the world is a congenitally hostile place, life a ceaseless struggle for survival, and survival only achieved through total self-reliance, chronic mistrust and the imperious necessity to destroy others before they destroy you. The sufferings visited on the child begat the sufferings the man, warped, paranoid, omnipotent, visited on an entire people. Like Stalin, he hid his emotions behind a facade of impassivity; but he assuredly had emotions of a virulent kind — an insatiable thirst for vengeance on the world he hated. To fend off attack by other boys, Saddam carried an iron bar. It became the instrument of his wanton cruelty; he would bring it to a red heat, then stab a passing animal in the stomach, splitting it in half. Killing was considered a badge of courage among his male relatives. Saddam’s first murder was of a shepherd from a nearby tribe. This, and three more in his teens, were proof of manhood. The small-town thug possessed all the personal qualifications he might need to earn his place in the 20th-century’s pantheon of tyrants. And the small town of Tikrit, lying in the heart of the Sunni Muslim “triangle” of central Iraq furnished the operational ones, too. Orthodox Sunni Arabs are only a small minority, 15% at most, of Iraq’s population, outnumbered by the Shias of the south, 60% at least, and the Kurds of the mountainous north. Yet they always dominated Iraq’s political life. Thanks partly to the decline of traditional river traffic, Tikritis had taken to supplying the Britishcontrolled Iraqi state with a disproportionate number of its soldiers. With time and plentiful purges, they emerged within the army as a distinct group; a preponderance which had been fortuitous at first finally became so great they could deliberately enlarge it. A close-knit minority within the Sunni minority, they exploited ties of region, clan and family to seize control of the army, then the state. Saddam, perfect recruit to the sinister, violent, conspiratorial underworld that was Iraqi politics, positioned himself at the heart of this process. He himself was never a soldier, but he used a formidable array of Tikritis who were, and Ba’athists to boot. Ba’athism was a radical, pan-Arab nationalist doctrine then sweeping the region. Though doubtless impelled in that direction by the extreme, chauvinist beliefs of his uncle Khairallah, who had been dismissed from the army and imprisoned for five years for his part in a 1941 attack on an RAF base near Baghdad, it was mainly out of convenience, not conviction, that Saddam joined the party; strong in Tikrit and the Sunni “triangle”, dedicated to force not persuasion, it readily appealed to a man of his ambition and temper. In theory he remained a Ba’athist to his dying day, but for him Ba’athism was always an apparatus, never an ideology: no sooner was command of the one complete than he dispensed entirely with the other. For next to brutality, opportunism was his chief trait. Not Stalin himself could have governed with such whimsy, or lurched, ideologically, politically, strategically, from one extreme to another with quite such ease, regularity, and disastrous consequences, and yet still, incredibly, retain command to the end. The Ba’ath, and other “revolutionary” parties, had come into their own with the overthrow, in 1958, of the “reactionary”, British-created Hashemite monarchy. They quickly fell out with General Kassem’s new regime and with each other, rivalries that expressed themselves mainly in streetfighting and assassinations. That was the way of life that Saddam fell into as a street-gang leader, after going, in 1955, to live with his uncle in Baghdad to study at Karkh high school. Saddam first achieved national prominence in 1959 with a bungled attempt to kill Kassem. He seems to have lost his nerve and opened fire prematurely. But though his role was less than glorious, it became an essential component of the Saddam legend — that of the dauntless young revolutionary extracting a bullet from his leg with his own hand, and, with security forces in hot pursuit, swimming the icy waters of the Euphrates, knife between clenched teeth, before galloping to safety across the Syrian desert; eventually fetching up in Cairo, where his university law studies were terminated by the next political convulsion back home — Kassem’s overthrow in February 1963. Securing a share in the new regime, the Ba’athists lost it the following November when they fell out with the other parties. Pushed back into the underground, Saddam took what subsequently turned out to be his first, concrete step towards supreme office. In 1964, he formed the Jihaz al-Hunein, the Instrument of Yearning, the first, embryonic version of a terror apparatus of which, in its full fruition, Stalin would not have been ashamed. It was an outgrowth of the party. That meant that, through it, Saddam, though not an officer, could now see his way to the summit. But at this stage his main asset was his collaboration with his fellow-Tikriti, Brigadier Ahmad Hassan alBakr. Thanks to a combination of Bakr’s traditional military means and Saddam’s new, “civilian” ones, the pair pulled off the “glorious July 1968 Revolution”. t 31, as deputy secretary general of the Ba’ath party, Saddam was the power behind President Bakr’s throne. But at ﬁrst he assumed, like Stalin in his similar period, a disarmingly modest and retiring demeanour as he lay the foundations of what he called a new kind of rule; “With our party methods,” he said, “there is no chance for anyone who disagrees with us to jump on a couple of tanks and overthrow the government.” Gradually he subordinated the army to the party. There was nothing modest about the Ba’athists’ inaugural reign of terror; few knew it then, but it was chiefly his handiwork, and quite different from anything hitherto experienced in a country already notorious for its harsh political tradition. Saddam’s henchmen presided over “revolutionary tribunals” that sent hundreds to the firing squad on charges of puerile, trumped up absurdity. They called on “the masses” to “come and enjoy the feast”: there was the hanging of “Jewish spies” in Liberation Square amid ghoulish festivities and bloodcurdling official harangues. That was the public face. Behind it were such places as the Palace of the End. So called because King Faisal died there in the 1958 Revolution, it was now more aptly named than ever. Saddam’s first security chief, Nadhim Kzar, had turned it into a chamber of horrors. But Kzar, a Shia, nursed a grudge against his Sunni patrons; in 1973, he turned against them; Saddam, Bakr and a host of top Tikritis had a very narrow escape indeed. Thereafter the badly shaken number two relied almost entirely on Tikritis; the more sensitive the post, the more closely related its incumbent would be to himself. Meanwhile, with guile and infinite patience, he worked his way towards his supreme goal. Purge followed judicious purge, first aimed at the Ba’athists’ rivals, then the army, then the party, then influential, respected, or strategically located people whom he deemed most liable, at some point, to cry halt to his inexorable ascension. When, in June 1979, all was set for him to depose and succeed the ailing Bakr, he could have accomplished it with bloodless ease. But he chose blood in what was a psychological as well as a symbolic necessity. He had to inaugurate the “era of Saddam Hussein” with a rite whose message would be unmistakable: there had arisen in Mesopotamia a ruler who, in his barbaric splendour, cruelty and caprice, was to yield nothing to its despots of old. Only now did he emerge, personally and very publicly, as accuser, judge and executioner in one. He called an extraordinary meeting of senior party cadres. They were solemnly informed that “a gang disloyal to the party and the revolution” had mounted a “base conspiracy” in the service of “Zionism and the forces of darkness”, and that all the “traitors” were right there, with them, in the hall. One of their ringleaders, brought straight from prison, made a long and detailed confession of his “horrible crime”. addam, puﬃng on a Havana cigar, calmly watched the proceedings as if they had nothing to do with him. Then he took the podium. He began to read out the “traitors’” names, slowly and theatrically; he seemed quite overcome as he did so, pausing only to light his cigar or wipe away his tears with a handkerchief. All 66 “traitors” were led away one by one. Thus did the new president make inaugural use of that essential weapon of the ultimate tyrant, the occasional flamboyant, contemptuous act of utter lawlessness, turpitude or unpredictability, and the enforced prostration of his whole apparatus, in praise and rejoicing, before it. Those of the audience who had not been named showed their relief with hysterical chants of gratitude and a baying for the blood of their fallen comrades. Saddam then called on ministers and party leaders to join him in personally carrying out the “democratic executions”; every party branch in the country sent an armed delegate to assist them. It was, he said, “the first time in the history of revolutionary movements without exception, or perhaps of human struggle, that over half the supreme leadership had taken part in a tribunal” which condemned the other half. “We are now,” he confided, “in our Stalinist era.” But in one way he had actually surpassed his exemplar. Upon entering the Kremlin, the former Georgian streetfighter had at least kept himself aloof from his “great terror”. Not Saddam. Newly exalted, he was to remain downto-earth too; new caliph of Baghdad, but, direct participant in his own terror, very much the Tikriti gangster, too. The “Leader, President, Struggler” now emerged as a regional and international actor with the disproportionate capacity for promoting well-being and order or wreaking havoc which Iraq’s great strategic and political importance, vast oil wealth, relatively educated citizenry and powerful army conferred on him. With U-turns, blunders and megalomaniac whimsies, he chose havoc; he wreaked it on the region and the world, but above all it descended on the land of Iraq itself. In September 1980 he went Saddam Hussein ﬁres shots into the air to mark the start of a military parade in 2000, during which 1,000 Russianmade tanks rumbled through Baghdad. Photograph: Faleh Kheiber/Reuters secured the Arabs’ eastern flank against the Persians, he was now turning his attention westwards, with the aim of settling scores with the Arabs’ other great foe, the Zionists. He threatened “to burn half of Israel” with his weapons of mass destruction, thrilling large segments of an Arab public desperately short of credible heroes. But instead of Israel, it was Kuwait which, on the night of August 2 1990, Saddam attacked, or, rather, gobbled up in its entirety. Hardly had he done that than, to appease Iran, he unilaterally re-accepted the Algiers agreement on the Shatt al-Arab. It was the most breathtaking of his volte-faces; even as he dragged his people into another unprovoked war, he was in effect telling them that, in the first, they had shed all that blood, sweat and tears for nothing. The Kuwait invasion was the ultimate excess, whimsy and Promethean delusion of the despot: the belief that he could get away with anything. Yet nothing had encouraged this excess like the west’s indulgence of his earlier ones. Sure, it had never loved him. But neither had it protested at his use of chemical weapons against Iran. It had contented itself with little more than a wringing of hands when he went on to gas his own people. In March 1988, in revenge for an Iranian territorial gain, he wiped out 5,000 Kurdish inhabitants of Halabja; then, the war over, he wiped out several thousand more in “Operation Anfal”, his final, genocidal attempt to solve his Kurdish problem. In effect, the west’s reaction had been to treat the Kurds as an internal Iraqi affair; exterminating them en masse may have briefly stirred the international conscience, but it tended, if anything, to reinforce the existing international order. But now that he was so ungratefully, so shockingly threatening this order itself, the west finally awoke to the true nature of the monster it had nurtured. Before long, Saddam faced an American-led army of half a million men assembled in the Arabian desert. He did not blench. And for a few months he won adulation as the latter-day Saladin, who, after Kuwait, would go on to liberate Palestine. He said his army was eagerly awaiting the coalition’s great land offensive to reconquer Kuwait; in “the mother of all battles”, Iraq would “water the desert with American blood”. But he stood no chance. For a month, allied aircraft rained high-tech devastation on his army, air force, economic and strategic infrastructure. He panicked, ordering his army’s withdrawal from Kuwait. It was not enough for the allies. As their ground forces swept almost unopposed through Kuwait, then into southern Iraq, the withdrawal became a rout. They could have marched on Baghdad. He caved in utterly, accepting every demand that the allies made. Only then did they cease their advance. They had shattered most of his “million-man army” except for its elite Republican Guards, held in reserve to defend the regime against the wrath of the people. And this time their wrath was truly unleashed. The two oppressed majorities, Shias and Kurds, staged their great uprisings. These began spontaneously, when a Shia tank commander, having fled from Kuwait to Basra, positioned his vehicle in front of one of those gigantic, ubiquitous murals of the tyrant and addressed it thus: “What has befallen us of defeat, shame and humiliation, Saddam, is the result of your follies, your miscalculations and your irresponsible actions.” But the uprisings foundered on the rock of Saddam’s residual strength, western betrayal and, in the south, their own disorganisation, vengeful excesses and failure to distance themselves from Iranian expansionist designs. Exploiting the Sunni minority’s fear that if he went, so would many of them, in the most horrible of massacres, Saddam sent in his guards. Dreadful atrocities accompanied the slow reconquest of the south. And when the guards turned north, the whole population of “liberated” Kurdistan fled in panic through snow and bitter cold to Iran and Turkey. The television images of that grim stampede caught the measure of western betrayal. Four weeks previously, President George Bush senior had urged the Iraqis to rise up. But when they did so, he turned a deaf ear to their pleas for help. “New Hitler” Saddam might be, but he was also the only barrier against the possible breakup of Iraq itself. Saudi Arabia, for one, could not tolerate the prospect. It told the US it would work to replace Saddam with an army officer who would keep the country in safe, authoritarian, Sunni Muslim hands. Saddam was saved again. And for 12 more years he hung on, as his people sank into social, economic and political miseries incomparably greater than those which had propelled him into Kuwait. Tikriti solidarity continued to preserve him against putsch and assassination. And never again would the people stage an uprising without assurance of success. Only the west could provide that. But the west, preoccupied with other crises, was paralysed. It would, or could, not withdraw from what, after the Gulf war, it had put in place, a curious, contradictory amalgam of UN sanctions that penalised the Iraqi people, not its rulers, a moral commitment to safeguard “liberated” Kurdistan, an ineffectual “no-fly zone” over the Shia south. But it also feared to go further in and, completing the logic of what it had begun, join forces with a serious Iraqi opposition that could bring the tyrant down and keep the country in one piece thereafter. This was inertia, which, the longer it lasted, the more dearly the west would pay for in the end. Every now and then confrontations erupted between the world’s only superpower and this most exasperating of “rogue states”; they arose out of Saddam’s attempts to break out of his “box”, via some renewed threat to Kuwait, an incursion into the westernprotected Kurdish enclave, or — most persistently — showdowns over the UN’s mission to divest Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. In the last of them, in 1998, his elite military and security apparatus took a fourday pounding from the air. Heavy though this was, it proved to be the last, symbolic flourish behind which the Clinton administration acquiesced in what, with the expulsion of the arms inspectors, was a diplomatic victory for Saddam. In the end, it was less his own misdeeds that brought the despot down, but those of the man who, for a while, supplanted him as America’s ultimate villain, Osama bin Laden. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, but he fell victim none the less to the crusading militarism, the new doctrine of the preemptive strike, the close identification with a rightwing Israeli agenda, that now took full possession of the administration of George W Bush. Iraq became the first target among the three states (with Iran and North Korea) that it had placed on its “axis of evil”, and with the launch of the invasion by the US, UK and their allies in March 2003, Saddam’s days were numbered. owever, three years passed between his capture and his execution on Saturday. In December 2003, following a tip-oﬀ from an intelligence source, US forces found him hiding in an underground refuge on a farm near Tikrit, where his life had begun. It was the middle of the next year before he was transferred to Iraqi custody, and in July 2004 the former president appeared in court to hear criminal charges. Another year passed before the prosecution was ready to proceed with counts related to the massacre in the small Shia town of Dujail in 1982. The trial at last opened in October 2005 and the proceedings were immediately adjourned. Saddam, who two months earlier had sacked his legal team, pleaded innocence. A second trial on war crimes charges relating to the 1988 Anfal campaign opened on August 21 this year. He refused to enter a plea, and episodes of black farce, which characterised his earlier appearances in court, recurred, with the judge switching of his microphone because of his interruptions, and ejecting him from the court four times. The trial was adjourned on October 11, but on November 5 the court handed down a guilty verdict and sentenced Saddam to death by hanging, a sentence conﬁrmed by Iraq’s highest court on December 26. Saddam married Saida Khairallah in 1963. Their sons Uday and Qusay (obituaries, July 23 2003) were killed by American forces; they had three daughters. David Hirst Saddam Hussein abd al-Majid, politician, born April 28 1937; died December 30 2006 This obituary appeared in Saturday’s late editions
to war against Iran. It was known as “Saddam’s Qadisiyah”, after the Arabs’ early Islamic victory over the Persians. His official, strictly limited war aims revolved round the Shatt al-Arab estuary and his determination to renegotiate the “Algiers agreement” he had concluded a mere five years before. A dire emergency had forced that humiliation on him: the Iraqi army had been close to defeat in its campaign to suppress the last great, Iranian-backed Kurdish uprising led by Mullah Mustafa Barazani. The quid pro quo for Algiers had been the Americaninspired withdrawal of the Shah’s support for Barazani. His “Qadisiyah”, first of his spectacular volte-faces, was now to avenge the humiliation. But he also had a higher, unofficial aim: to weaken or destroy the Ayatollah Khomeini’s new-born Islamic Republic, or at least its subversive potentialities in Iraq itself. For Iraq’s Shia majority now saw in their Iranian co-religionists a means of bringing down Sunni minority rule. Hitherto closely bound to the Soviet Union, Saddam now bid for the west’s favour as the Shah’s natural heir as the “strong man” of the Gulf. n the terrible eight-year struggle that followed, the Ayatollah’s Iran remorselessly turned the tables on the Iraqi aggressor, recovered all its conquered territory, and, in a series of fearsome “human wave” oﬀensives, tried to conquer Iraq, and turn it into the world’s second “Islamic Republic”. That would have been a geopolitical upheaval of incalculable consequences. To forestall it, the west, beneath a mask of outward neutrality, put its weight behind one unlovely regime because it found the other unlovelier still. While the frightened, oil-rich Gulf furnished cash, the west furnished conventional weapons, and the means to manufacture a whole array of unconventional ones: nuclear, chemical and biological. Almost miraculously, Saddam held out, until, in July 1988, Khomeini drank from what he called “the poisoned chalice” of a ceasefire. Of course, Saddam hailed this, his “first Gulf war”, as a victory. Though what possible victory there could have been in an outcome which, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dead, wounded and captured, immense physical destruction and economic havoc, left Iraq on a permanent war footing, still seeking to renegotiate the status of the Shatt al-Arab? Even if he could not officially admit it, he had good reason to give his people some recompense for their sufferings. He made as if to offer them two things, material betterment and some democratisation. But he cannot have been serious about either. Thanks to the ravages of his “Qadisiyah”, he had no money for economic reconstruction. And, in another great volte-face, he staged a virtual counter-revolution against the one ideal of Ba’athism, its socialism, which he had made a passable attempt to put into practice. Worse, the main beneficiaries of the economic revisionism were the Tikriti pillars of his regime, now corrupt as well as despotic. With the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, the east European dictator he most closely resembled, Saddam abandoned talk of “the new pluralist trends” he discerned in the world. Indeed, he persisted, more surrealistically than ever, in the despot’s law: the more disastrous his deeds the more they should be glorified. His cult of personality expressed itself most overbearingly in monumental architecture, where the public — an amazing array of bizarre or futuristic memorials to his “Qadisiyah” — merged with the private (his proliferating palaces) in grandiose tribute to all the attributes, bordering on the divine, ascribed to him. It reflected a degree of control that enabled him, amazingly, to embark, within two years of the first, on his “second Gulf war”, and then, more amazingly still, to survive that yet greater calamity in its turn. It was a resort to the classic diversionary expedient, a flashy foreign adventure, of the dictator in trouble at home. He cast himself once again as the panArab champion, boasting that, having
Saddam was nurtured in the bleak conviction that the world is a congenitally hostile place
The west contented itself with little more than a wringing of hands when he gassed his own people
China and its wild Giant Pandas
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March, April, May, September, October & November, 2007 Departing from London Heathrow
Experience the wonders of this spectacular country - Beijing, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, Shanghai, cruising on the Yangtze River - and be amongst the first to see giant pandas in the wild!
China offers the visitor one of the world’s great holiday experiences. Its renowned sights, such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors in Xian and the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River fully justify their amazing reputations, and the pleasure of observing a totally different way of life will remain with you for many years to come. Exclusively, this holiday also offers the opportunity to spend time in the Qinling Mountains, the only area of China where you are able to see wild giant pandas living in their natural environment. Every day of this fully escorted tour offers a new and wonderful experience.
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excellent standard hotels in Beijing (3 nights), Xian (2), Zhouzhi (1) and Shanghai (3) and at simple lodges in Qinling Mountains (4)
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The Guardian | Monday January 1 2007
Around the UK and Ireland
Sun Rain Temp (°C) Weather hrs mm High/Low (day) Sun Rain Temp (°C) Weather hrs mm High/Low (day)
Air pollution UK and Ireland Noon
low low low low low low low low low low low low low low low low
Key 992 Wind Sunny intervals 6 996 Showers Partly cloudy Light rain Rain 1000
Aberdeen Anglesey Aviemore Belfast Belmullet Birmingham Bognor Regis Bournemouth Bristol Buxton Cardiﬀ Clacton Colwyn Bay Cork Cromer Dublin Eastbourne Edinburgh Eskdalemuir Falmouth Fishguard Glasgow Guernsey Hastings Hayling Island Herne Bay Hunstanton Isle of Man Isle of Wight Jersey Keswick Kilkenny
0.0 9.9 0.1 2.0 0.0 13.2 0.7 4.1 2.8 22.4 1.4 5.1 0.0 0.8 0.0 5.1 0.0 7.9 0.5 1.3 0.0 0.3 0.6 6.1 1.3 8.9 0.0 13.5 3.9 2.0 0.0 3.0 0.0 5.1 0.0 12.4 0.0 8.4 0.0 5.3 0.0 15.2 0.0 1.0 0.0 3.0 0.0 4.1 0.0 1.0 0.0 22.9 0.0 6.6 0.0 1.5 0.9 0.8 – 1.8
7 11 6 11 9 11 11 13 12 10 12 n/a 12 8 9 9 13 10 8 12 11 8 14 12 12 12 11 12 12 13 n/a 9
1 9 2 4 6 6 10 9 7 4 9 8 4 6 6 10 5 4 10 7 5 9 10 9 9 6 8 10 10
Gales Gales Gales Showers Showers Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Cloudy Rain Fair Cloudy Sunny Rain Gales Gales Rain Rain Gales Cloudy Rain Rain Cloudy Cloudy Rain Rain Rain
Kinloss Knock Leeds Lerwick Leuchars London Lowestoft Malin Head Manchester Margate Newcastle Newquay Norwich Oxford Prestatyn Ross-on-Wye Rosslare Saunton Sands Scarborough Shannon Shrewsbury Skegness Southend Southport Stornoway Swanage Teignmouth Tenby Tiree Torquay Valentia Weymouth
0.0 3.8 3.7 7.1 – – 0.7 4.3 0.0 5.6 0.0 9.4 0.4 2.0 1.9 7.1 0.0 1.5 0.0 0.8 – 4.1 0.0 4.8 – – 0.0 7.6 1.3 1.3 0.0 8.6 1.6 22.1 0.0 3.8 0.0 1.0 2.5 5.3 0.4 7.1 – 5.8 0.0 0.3 0.0 5.3 0.0 6.3 0.0 6.6 0.0 7.9 0.0 12.7 0.0 12.2 0.5 9.9 0.0 5.3
8 6 11 7 8 12 11 7 11 12 10 13 10 12 13 12 10 13 10 9 11 n/a 12 12 8 13 14 12 9 14 10 12
4 3 6 4 3 9 7 5 6 8 5 8 8 6 8 7 8 8 4 6 6 8 6 4 9 9 9 5 8 7 7
Rain Showers Gales Hail Thunder Rain Cloudy Fair Gales Dull Gales Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Showers Rain Dull Cloudy Rain Cloudy Showers Gales Showers Rain Showers Gales Showers Showers Showers
London SE England SW England S Cent England Channel Islands SE Anglia NE Anglia E Midlands W Midlands S Wales Cent Wales N Wales NE England NW England Scotland N Ire/Ireland
London, E Anglia, E Midlands, Lincolnshire Mostly dry with sunny spells and the odd shower. Brisk westerly winds. Max temp 7-10C (45-50F). Tonight, dry. Min temp 3-6C (37-43F). England, Cent S England Sunny spells with scattered showers mostly on the south coast. Fresh westerly winds. Max temp 8-11C (46-52F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 4-7C (39-45F). W Midlands, Yorkshire, NE England Sunny spells with blustery showers mostly in the west. Brisk westerly winds. Max temp 6-9C (43-48F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 2-5C (36-41F). Channel Is, SW England, Wales, NW England Heavy showers, some with hail and thunder. They will be wintry on the high ground. Fresh to strong westerly winds. Max temp 8-11C (46-52F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 4-7C (39-45F). Northern Ireland, Ireland Sunny spells with showers. Some will be heavy with a risk of hail and thunder. Brisk to strong westerly winds will strengthen in the west later. Max temp 6-9C (4348F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 2-5C (36-41F). SW Scotland, NW Scotland, W Isles, N Isles Showers, some heavy with hail and thunder. They will fall as sleet or snow on the hills. Fresh to strong westerly winds. Max temp 5-8C (41-46F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 2-5C (36-41F). SE Scotland, NE Scotland Showers, mostly aﬀecting the Central Belt and the west. Brisk westerly winds. Max temp 5-8C (41-46F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 0 to 3C (32-37F).
Grains of weed pollen per cubic metre of air: low (0-20); moderate (21-40); high (41-100); very high (100+)
33 Very rough 1004 7
Belfast Birmingham Bristol Dublin Glasgow London Manchester Newcastle 1608 to 0846 1604 to 0818 1612 to 0816 1616 to 0840 1554 to 0847 1602 to 0806 1600 to 0825 1549 to 0831
8 1008 6 33 Rough
35° 30° 25°
Sun & Moon
Met Oﬃce report for 24 hours to 6pm yesterday. Irish locations (sunshine from previous day) supplied by MeteoGroup
Aberdeen Avonmouth Belfast Dover Galway Greenock Harwich Holyhead 1127 4.0m 2350 4.0m 0451 11.3m 1725 11.6m 0854 3.3m 2124 3.3m 0848 6.1m 2128 6.0m 0251 4.7m 1518 4.7m 1015 3.2m 2254 3.2m 0917 3.5m 2158 3.5m 0819 5.1m 2042 5.2m Hull Leith Liverpool London Bridge Penzance Scrabster Weymouth Whitby 0349 0002 0912 1143 0226 0648 0427 0131 6.8m 5.0m 8.5m 6.4m 4.9m 4.6m 1.9m 5.0m 1636 1239 2136 – 1452 1908 1659 1408 6.7m 5.0m 8.7m – 5.0m 4.7m 1.8m 5.0m
Sun rises Sun sets Moon sets Moon rises Full moon 0806 1602 0633 1328 January 3
5° 0° -5° -10° -15°
Around the world
°C Ajaccio 17 Algiers 17 Alicante 19 Ams’dam 11 Athens 10 Auckland 17 B Aires 28 Bangkok 31 Barcelona 15 Basra 10 Beijing -3 Belgrade 3 Berlin 10 Bermuda 21 Bordeaux 15 Boston 2 Brussels 9 Budapest -2 Cairo 16 Calcutta 24 Cape Town 18 C’blanca 17 Chicago 8 Christ’rch 9 C’hagen 8 °F 63 63 66 52 50 63 82 88 59 50 27 37 50 70 59 36 48 28 61 75 64 63 46 48 46 Weather Sunny Sunny Sunny Cloudy Fair Fair Sunny Sunny Sunny Sunny Fair Fair Cloudy Fair Cloudy Snow Cloudy Fog Rain Fair Fair Sunny Fog Fair Showers °C Corfu 13 Dakar 30 Dallas 12 Denver -8 Dhaka 22 Dublin 11 Faro 18 Florence 15 Frankfurt 10 Funchal 21 Geneva 12 Gibraltar 15 Harare 26 Helsinki 5 H Kong 22 Innsbruck 4 Istanbul 7 Jerusalem 11 Jo’burg 23 Karachi 27 K’mandu 16 Kingston 33 K Lumpur 29 Larnaca 14 Lima 24 °F 55 86 54 18 72 52 64 59 50 70 54 59 79 41 72 39 45 52 73 81 61 91 84 57 75 Weather Sunny Fair Cloudy Fair Fair Showers Sunny Drizzle Cloudy Sunny Cloudy Fair Fair Drizzle Sunny Sunny Sunny Rain Sunny Fair Fair Fair Fair Cloudy Cloudy °C Lisbon 14 London 12 L Angeles 16 Lux’bourg 8 Madrid 8 Majorca 17 Malaga 16 Malta 17 Melb’rne 28 Mexico C 24 Miami 27 Milan 8 Mombasa 32 Montreal -8 Moscow -2 Mumbai 30 Munich 10 Nairobi 20 Naples 13 New Delhi 16 N Orleans 22 New York 6 Nice 15 Oporto 16 Oslo 1 °F 57 54 61 46 46 63 61 63 82 75 81 46 90 18 28 86 50 68 55 61 72 43 59 61 34 Weather Fog Fair Sunny Cloudy Cloudy Fair Sunny Cloudy Fair Fair Fair Sunny Sunny Snow Fog Fair Sunny Cloudy Sunny Fair Cloudy Cloudy Sunny Cloudy Fog °C Paris 10 Perth 35 Prague 9 Reykjavik 2 Rhodes 13 Rio de J 23 Rome 13 Shanghai 12 Singapore 30 St P’burg 2 Stockh’m 5 Strasb’g 13 Sydney 24 Tel Aviv 11 Tenerife 23 Tokyo 9 Toronto 0 Tunis 16 Vancouv’r 5 Venice 5 Vienna 0 Warsaw 9 Wash’ton 6 Well’ton 12 Zurich 11 °F 50 95 48 36 55 73 55 54 86 36 41 55 75 52 73 48 32 61 41 41 32 48 43 54 52 Weather Cloudy Sunny Sunny Sunny Sunny Rain Cloudy Cloudy Cloudy Cloudy Sunny Sunny Cloudy Rain Sunny Sunny Mist Sunny Sunny Fair Fog Cloudy Fog Fair Sunny
UK and Ireland Five day forecast
Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Atlantic front Noon today
L L LN
976 968 976 LQ 984 992 1008 1000 1016 1032 1032 Cold front Warm front Occluded front T h 1024
L 992 984 1000 H 1040
Low 6 High 10
Low 5 High 12
Low Q will move east. Low N will move south-east.
It came as a shock to travellers before Christmas that the weather, particularly fog, could disrupt their holiday plans. Even so it was not the inability of aircraft to land or take oﬀ that was the problem but the extra space and time needed by aircraft to avoid crashing into each other while parking at the terminals. Before today’s advanced electronic wizardry, fog was the pilots’ and passengers’ worst enemy. The only way to land then was by human eyes seeing the runway. Commercial airliners were frequently diverted large distances to any airﬁeld that was not fogbound. Then along came Fido, military shorthand for Fog Intensive Disposal Of. Trenches were dug either side of the runway into which aircraft fuel was piped. In fog this was set alight, heating up the air so fast it absorbed the fog and allowed clear sight of the runway for approaching planes. In the latter part of the war it was a matter of life or death for returning bomber crews short on fuel and was installed at 11 UK military airﬁelds. Fido is said to have saved the lives of 15,000 men and 2,500 planes returning to fogbound Britain from raids. The cost of 200,000 gallons of fuel an hour, and the potential hazards involved, made Fido an expensive option for civil airlines, but the system was frequently used in fogbound locations for decades after the war. Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris still had a Fido for emergencies until 1988. Paul Brown
Reports for noon yesterday (previous day in the Americas)
Greater London Kent, Surrey & Sussex Dorset, Hampshire & IOW Devon & Cornwall Wilts, Glos, Avon & Somerset Berks, Bucks & Oxon Bedfordshire, Herts & Essex Norfolk, Suﬀolk & Cambs South Wales Shrops, Hereford & Worcs 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
10-day regional outlook forecasts – 0901 471 00 + area code
West Mids, Staﬀs & Warks Notts, Leics, Derbs & Northants Lincolnshire Mid Wales North Wales North West of England Yorkshire & York North East of England Cumbria, L’District & I’ of Man 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Dumfries & Galloway Central Scotland & Strathclyde Fife, Lothian & Borders Tayside Grampian & East Highlands West Highlands & Islands Calthness, Suthlnd, Orkneys & Shetland Northern Ireland 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
10-day regional forecasts by fax – 09065 2600 + area code
South East South West Wales North West North East 91 92 93 94 95 Scotland Northern Ireland Midlands East Anglia 96 97 98 99
5-day holiday sun forecasts – 0901 471 0028
0901 costs 60p/min. 09065 costs £1.50/min. iTouch (UK) Ltd. EC2A 4PF. Helpdesk 0871 200 3985
disc through a telescope. Its globe is set like a slightly yellowish bauble within rings that reach across 45 arcsec and have their S face tipped 13 arcsec towards us. Venus is brilliant (mag -3.9) but low down in our SW evening twilight, though its altitude at sunset does improve from 7° to 15° during the month. By the 31st it sets in the WSW 2 hours after the Sun and serves as a guide to Mercury, 7° belowright of Venus and easy to spy through binoculars at mag -0.9. Jupiter is conspicuous before dawn though it, too, is very low down. It rises in the SE at about 06:00 tomorrow and 04:30 by the 31st, climbing 10° to 14° high in the SSE by dawn. At mag -1.8 to -1.9, it tracks eastwards in Scorpius from its place some 5° N of the red supergiant Antares in Scorpius at present. Mars, relatively dim at mag 1.4, hugs the SE horizon before dawn but is unlikely to be seen in the twilight. Moonlight swamps the Quadrantids meteor shower which is active until the 6th but peaks sharply on Wednesday night. Its meteors diverge from a radiant that follows the Plough as it climbs through our NE sky later in the night. Alan Pickup
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 House gets money owing back for nursery (6) 5 The problem of race? (8) 9 Freshly minted trademark three quarters ﬁnished (5-3) 10 Royal house, divided internally, naturally (6) 11 Oscar’s tiptop variety of bar snack (6,6) 13 Big name in the performing arts (4) 14 It’s slung out when scrapping (8) 17 Again, but for the last time? (4,4) 18 Slough outbuilding (4) 20 Party under cover? (12) 23 Potency of port half an hour later (6) 24 Such tolerance may be a matter of degree (8) 25 Tyres can burst in race (8) 26 Neglect order issued (6)
11 12 13 16 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 18 14 15
12 A tenor isn’t out to be loud (10) 15 Cobbler’s farewell ceremony? (4,5) 16 The Scriptures completely recorded, it’s reported (4,4) 19 Revised point I’d raised with Edward (6) 21 Perfect way to make a hole (2,3) 22 Roman day that is endless (4)
n tur Sa
Those who brave the chill nights of January enjoy some of the best night skies of the year. Orion stands in the SSE at our map times encircled by a cohort of bright stars and ﬁne constellations. Sirius, the brightest star in our sky after the Sun, twinkles feverishly low in the SE while the Pleiades glimmer high on the meridian. The Moon, near the horns of Taurus tonight, returns to hide some of the cluster’s stars on the 27th, though the occultations end by nightfall over the UK. Saturn shines brightly low in the E at our map times, having risen in the ENE 70 minutes earlier. At mag 0.2, it is edging away from Leo’s brightest star Regulus as they climb together to pass high in the S another 6 hours later. Look for the Moon sandwiched between Saturn and Regulus next Saturday evening when Saturn lies 1,254m km away and shows a 20 arcsec
No 23,962 set by Rufus
R U S T P R O O F S E L L B Y D A T E S O S M N O K H I N R G L U N T A R A M E O D E M I I T R R P E E B O U T T L O M Y S T E R R V A E N T Y S E T O A N E A R U G O T O S T H H E W A L E L T D M O M R I N I A T H E S O H R R U U N H A R M E D P E X S U B B T E R I A N I T G I D E C A T H T L O I N A S T R E T T H O S C I O P P E I R O O B O H R A A N T G E B A T R H I P L N U G N R C O O N F W E D E E R T A C L Y L O B H E R P O N G B Q U L O L O C K B H S E L E N S A S S O M E U S E U S D T L Y T A R A M I D O S I N C E S E A T E D E O R G I N P U C K P E A T E R R A G E U S N E N D E R
3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 11th 15th 19th 20th 25th 14h Full Moon. 00h Peak of Quadrantids meteor shower. 04h Jupiter 5° N of Antares. 18h Saturn 0.9° S of Moon. 06h Mercury in superior conjunction. 13h Last quarter. 17h Jupiter 6° N of Moon. 04h New Moon. 17h Venus 0.8° N of Moon. 23h First quarter.
I N O G R T T H I U S L A N A D
Winners of Christmas prize puzzle 23,957. The winners of a Collins English Dictionary are D and G Price of Market Lavington, Devizes; D J and B A Taylor of Carsluith, Newton Stewart; M and J Georgeson of Birmingham; A F Roberts of Barnston, Wirral; M Tomkins of Devon; D and S Dare of Edinburgh; A E Knight of Caversham, Reading; J Poarch of Bradley Stoke, Bristol; Mrs A Pocklington of Swanage, Dorset and M Doherty of Newtonabbey. Please allow 28 days for delivery
2 I got up to receive the king — a terrible person (4) 3 One tap bar drunk may think himself Napoleon (9) 4 Give fellow a note (6) 5 Timothy and Helen, two combining in aria (2,4,3,6) 6 How bookies pay place money? (4,4) 7 On which adders slide to and fro? (5) 8 He turns on a spider, perhaps (3,7)
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