A Hartlepool shipyard is trying to make money out of importing 13 old US warships contaminated with dangerous and banned pollutants such as asbestos. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency says the ships are dangerous, and recommends that the 4,500-mile trip to Britain be put off until further inspections have been made.
Amazingly, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has temporarily lifted the European Union ban on importing asbestos so that the £16 million deal with British company Able UK can go ahead.
HSE documents seen by Socialist Worker say that this move, 'has raised issues of the process by which HSE exercises these powers, and what other factors other than simply worker health and safety need to be taken into consideration'. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency found 'serious corrosion' on the rivets and seals of the ships, and notes that they need welding work done to rudders and propellers.
The ships will be towed unmanned by a single tugboat to the English Channel. Not only are all 13 ships polluted with asbestos, but they are also contaminated with banned PCBs and heavy marine diesel oil.
And it is clear the obsolete warships pose a massive risk to other ships, workers and the environment. But Socialist Worker wonders what these 'other factors'-mentioned in the HSE documents- are?
What mysterious factors could possibly be influencing the HSE's decisions? We hazard a guess at, profits, pleasing the US administration, and keeping in with New Labour.
Figure it out 1%
of Americans (2.8 million people) have more after-tax money than the poorest 40 percent (or 110 million people). This is according to a report by the Centre for Budget and Policy Priorities, based on figures for the year 2000.
Msunderstood & msinformed
YOU MAY be sick of people assuming you're a Miss or Mrs, but York police have taken this annoying practice to dizzying new heights. They assume in criminal vetting that any woman who uses the prefix Ms has a marital history she is trying to hide.
A nun from York was questioned by police over a project helping vulnerable adults when the Criminal Records Bureau returned her form. It implied that she might have an unnamed husband, or husbands, from her past.
Blue in the face of hypocrisy
WHO IS above the law? The police, apparently. Traffic cop Stephen Burgess was cleared of speeding last week after he agued in court that the police were exempt from the speed limits at all times. Burgess was caught speeding in January this year in Blackpool. He was not responding to an emergency. The ruling comes after a police chief in north Wales set up speed traps which caught 102 of his own officers.
Reaping rewards of blood money
SOME PEOPLE are reaping the benefits of the 'liberation' of Iraq. British multinational printing company De La Rue was experiencing big problems after making an operating loss of £5.6 million in the year to 29 March 2003. But the US occupation forces of Iraq awarded a contract, thought to be worth £10 million, to print new Iraqi banknotes to De La Rue.
Profits are 'significantly ahead' of forecasts two months ago, but the company is still undergoing a 'cost reduction programme'.
Thanks to Matt Gordon
Left-right 'hokey cokey'
IF ANYONE thinks the Liberal Democrats were a principled left wing force they should read an official document available at the party's Brighton conference last week. The document, called Effective Opposition, instructs Liberal Democrat canvassers to win elections by posing as anti-Tory in Labour areas and anti-Labour in Tory areas.
It says, 'Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly, and embarrass the administration.'
The Lib Dems oppose ID cards as an attack on civil liberties. But invitations to join the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students group 'as they boogie the night away' at the conference gave another view of the Lib Dems' approach to ID.
The invitation read, 'All guests will be required to produce a passport, Prove It card or photo driving licence along with their conference pass to gain admission to the conference. Random searches may be required as condition of entry.'
IN THIS WEEK Snapshots from history 1973 Building workers staged strikes in support of 24 colleagues put on trial for their part in strike action the previous year involving flying pickets.
Bosses singled the workers out to make an example of them. But building sites in London, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Birmingham shut down in solidarity. And supporters from all over the country poured into Shrewsbury, where the trial was held. Six of the defendants were eventually jailed including Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson who served two years.
THE BUSH family has a long history of disregard for the feelings of indigenous populations. George W Bush's grandfather dug up the bones of Apache leader Geronimo in 1918, and gave them to the US secret Skull and Bones Society. Leaders of Geronimo's Apache tribe have been campaigning to have the bones returned since they heard of the grave robbery in the 1980s.
Despite Skull and Bones Society members, including George Bush's brother Jonathan, saying they had Geronimo's skull, they refused to return it. Now they claim they do not have it. The Skull and Bones Society is made up of the US rich who are inducted into it at the elite Yale University.
George W Bush said in his 1999 campaign autobiography, 'My senior year I joined Skull and Bones, a secret society, so secret I can't say anything more.' Membership into the Skull and Bones Society ensures financial security for life. 'Bonesmen' are offered jobs at investment banks and law firms owned by fellow members. The society even has its own island.
'BEING over here just a couple of days, seeing how well our troops and the allied troops are being received here, I think the Iraqi people are happy we're here.'
Actor BRUCE WILLIS before admitting that he had not met many Iraqis as he had travelled around Iraq in a US helicopter
'THERE IS quite a bit of business out there. From our point of view, it just gets better all the time.'
HARRY LEGGE-BOURKE of private British security firm Olive on contracts in Iraq
'OUTDATED, circumstantial, piecemeal and fragmentary with significant deficiencies.'
US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on CIA intelligence that claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction
The one word NOT mentioned in the current issue of Inside Labour, the magazine for Labour Party members
'THE survey indicates that the stereotyping of war opponents as young and middle class appears to be a myth. It found that supporters and opponents were fairly evenly spread by age and socio-economic class.'
JUSTIN LEWIS professor of communication at the Cardiff School of Journalism on the results of a survey on opposition to war on Iraq